Bike 851–900

Wuthering Dormice

(aka Easy As Falling Off A Bike)

Parts 851–900

by Angharad

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Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 851

I changed into a fresh pair of trousers and top, grabbed my jacket and after asking Stella to look after the girls, jumped in the car and carefully negotiated my way along the rutted, slushy roads towards the hospital. I had thrown a folding shovel and my wellingtons into the boot of the car in case.

The sun had gone in and there was a hint of moisture in the air—rain, I hoped not more of the white stuff. The car radio has this system where every time there’s a traffic alert on the BBC or other stations, it cuts into whatever I’m listening to. Normally I find this intrusion an annoyance, today I found it a bit more useful, except the bits when Radio Surrey kept intruding—I really didn’t care if the people of Guilford were being eaten by Zombies, let alone snowed in. Actually, they probably are zombies anyway, who happen to be snowed in, and as for Reading, well they probably went to Guilford from there.

Thinking such silly things distracted me from worrying about this boy, who was officially in my charge, and whom I’d failed. I hoped to goodness that his injuries were minimal and that he’d make a full recovery.

I was trying not to brake or accelerate too quickly, which was probably what the four cars had done which were now pushed off the road with bits missing from their bumpers and radiator grills. Most drivers don’t seem to know how to drive on a clear dry road, they drive too fast and anticipate too slow—if at all.

At one roundabout, there was a car perched in the middle on its roof, how had that got there intrigued me, then I nearly shunted the car in front while looking at it, and exactly that happened to two cars across the junction. I got away as gently and hastily as I could.

I finally made it to the hospital and then took ten minutes to find a parking space and a ticket machine that worked—one looked as if a car had hit it, and unsurprisingly was no longer working.

I knew where A&E was, I’ve been there so often, I half expect to be invited to their Christmas party. “I’m looking for a young lad who got hit in the eye with a snowball.”

“Name?” asked the harassed looking clerk.

“Catherine Cameron.”

“Is that missus?”

“Actually it’s Lady Cameron,” I thought, sod you.

“Child’s name?”

“Danny Maiden.”

“Can you prove an interest in the child?”

“Only that he’s staying with me over Christmas.”

“Can you prove that?”

“My husband happens to be with him,” this woman was beginning to really annoy me, I looked around and I saw Simon and the two boys walking back into the waiting area. I looked at the woman and said, “Don’t bother, I hope you have an interesting Christmas.”

Before she could respond to my two edged seasonal greeting, I was off to meet up with the boys. “Babes?” said Simon as I hove into view and I walked briskly up to him. “I was wondering how we’d get home.”

“I brought your car,” I stated nonchalantly. He paled until I sniggered and blew it. “How’s the eye?” I enquired of Danny.

“It ’urts, Auntie Cathy.”

“C’mon let’s get you home and make you some lunch.” I put my hand on his shoulder but felt nothing unusual happening. Maybe I’d lost it. His clothing was soaking and I hoped he hadn’t caught a chill to add to his misery.

“The doc said to make him rest and it’ll improve in a few days.” Simon gave the instructions he received, “Oh and these drops,” he handed me a tiny bottle, “twice a day.”

“You could do this just as easily as I can,” I protested to Simon.

“No, Babes, your fingers are smaller than mine.” The relevance of his comment or should I say excuse escaped me.

The drive home was slow and I noticed a few more abandoned and damaged cars. In Surrey, apparently people were leaving cars on their drives with the engines running, and three had been stolen that morning. Probably Guilford.

We did get home and I took Danny up to his room to change and he asked if he could go to bed. “Don’t you want any lunch?”

“Not really.”

“Okay, have a little snooze and I’ll have a sandwich waiting downstairs for you.” I helped him change into his pyjamas and he climbed into bed, I tucked him in and kissed him on the forehead. “If you need anything, just yell.”

He half nodded and lay down, so I left him to it. I’d check him in half an hour and make sure he was okay. Downstairs, Simon was telling the others how it happened, helped by Billy who did the actions. They way he threw himself backwards upon the impact of the dirty snowball, made me think he’d been hit by a rocket-propelled grenade rather than an ice-covered stone.

I left them to it and started to make sandwiches, I’d need to make some more bread later. Half an hour later I called them for lunch and Trish who’d helped me lay the table asked if she could help.

“Can you pop up and see if Danny wants a sandwich now?”

She gave a very uncertain look, “Do I have to?”

“Go on, grasp the nettle,” I exhorted. She sighed and went up the stairs.

I had to save two more sandwiches from the pile before Simon and Billy ate them all, where was Trish? I hoped he hadn’t hurt her. I excused myself and practically flew up the stairs to the attic room. I paused at the door, hearing voices from within.

“Does that feel any better?” said Trish’s voice.

“A bit, it was nicer before.”

“Okay, I’ll do that again.”

“Does your mum know you’re doing this?”

“No.”

“Oh that is so good, oh yes—more, more…” At this point I strode into the room to find Trish standing by the bedside with her hands clasping Danny’s head.

“Mummy?”

“What are you doing, sweetheart?”

“Helping Danny’s eye.”

“And how are you doing that?”

“The blue stuff, Mummy.”

“I see,” and when I looked, I could too. “Does it feel easier, Danny?”

“Oh yeah, all these amazin’ colours.”

“What about the pain?”

“Oh that’s much better. She’s amazin’ in’t she?”

“Oh yes, you could say that again.”

“My mummy can do it, she says it’s something everyone can do—don’t you, Mummy?”

“That’s what they say, but some people seem better at it than others. Did you ask Danny if he’d like a sandwich?”

“Um—no, I forgot.”

“Would you, Danny?”

“Yeah, I would.”

“Thank you,” hissed Trish.

“Oh yeah, thanks Auntie Cathy.”

A few months ago, Trish wouldn’t have weed on Danny if he’d been on fire, now she was staying with him to give him healing. I wonder what happened—be fun finding out.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 852

I took them both up a sandwich, a drink and some crisps. To my astonishment, Trish was sitting on the edge of the bed and chattering with Danny. I couldn’t get over the change in the pair of them, talk about Pauline conversions. I left them chatting and eating and hoped it would last for the whole of the boys’ visit.

Going back downstairs, I wondered if this is what the energy had done—it had taken away their respective barriers, enabling them to have a reasonable friendship. There was still a discrepancy in their ages, although girls mature earlier than boys, it would be nice to see Danny acting more like a big brother than an enemy.

Downstairs I found Billy and Livvie playing tiddlywinks in great competition, Meems was watching very closely, almost as if she was some sort of referee. Billy seemed to have the edge on the younger girl, but she was trying as best she could.

“You were a long time, Mummy,” noted Livvie.

“Was I? I had to take them up some lunch.”

“Is Danny better?”

“I don’t know, sweetheart.”

“Didn’t you do…you know?”

“No, sweetheart.”

“Why not?”

“It didn’t seem appropriate, it decides where it’s going to work and how.”

“Oh, okay—yippee,” she yelled as she managed a long-range wink into the collecting pot.

“I’m gonna try vat,” said Billy and pinged his counter under the settee.

“How are you going to play that now?” I asked him.

“Um—I dunno, Auntie Cathy.”

“I suggest you have a rule whereby anyone who has one go under a piece of furniture, lets them bring it out and play from there.”

“Okay, Mummy, right can you get my counter out too,” said Livvie.

The two kids from upstairs came down, Danny still had his bandage around his eye and when I asked to have a look, his eye was still red and sore.

“Get, Mummy to have a go at it,” suggested Trish.

“I think we’ll leave well alone,” I replied, the last thing I wanted to do was to upset the truce they seemed to have.

I glanced out of the window, it was snowing again. I wondered if it would be a white Christmas, the experts thought not. They were probably correct.

The experts were correct, it had turned to rain and was washing away the white-stuff quite rapidly. The roads would be treacherous if it all froze.

For the next two days, Danny had the drops put in his eye twice a day, although they didn’t seem to be helping too much. Trish came up to me and asked if I could help Danny’s eye, she’d tried again and nothing happened.

“Perhaps all that’s supposed to happen already has.”

“Will you please try, Mummy?”

“Okay,”—I’d just turned out a loaf from the machine and reloaded the next mix into its chamber—“just let me finish this.” The other children were in the lounge playing quite happily together—they’d earlier walked around the garden in between showers.

We went into the dining room, and I explained that I might be able to help but I couldn’t guarantee anything. Danny seemed okay with that. I got him to sit down and placed my hands on his head, or where the energy seemed it needed to go.

“Wow, my head is feeling really warm, Auntie Cathy.”

“Say if it gets uncomfortable, won’t you?”

“Yeah, okay.”

A moment later he started talking, but not to either Trish or me. Trish looked quite worried, so I sent her out of the room.

He seemed in some sort of a trance: “Daddy, I don’t like you touching me there—it’s not nice…” he went on in this vein for some minutes, as if he was reliving his ordeal. I simply held him and when he seemed to be trembling, I spoke quietly to him.

“Danny, it’s Auntie Cathy, I’m not going to let anyone hurt you, sweetheart, so I want you to see these nasty people who hurt you, being locked in a cage, where they can’t hurt you ever again. See them in the cage and you turning the key——”

“I can’t,” he said, “they’ll grab me.”

“No they won’t, Danny, I’m here and I won’t let them. Feel the energy feel it surrounding you like a blue flame, can you see it?”

“Yes, Auntie.”

“Right, feel it burning anyone who tries to grab or attack you.”

“Ha ha, it burnt their fingers, go on, try again—they’re frightened of me because the fire burns them but not me.”

“It will help to protect you, Danny, it will help you to overcome the painful memories from the past when those people you trusted, hurt you. Providing you use it for good things it will always help you by protecting you from those who would do you harm. If you try to use it for your own desires, it will leave you—forever. Do you understand me?”

“Yes Auntie.”

“Have you locked the cage?”

“Yes Auntie.”

“If you look behind you, you will see a very strong box with a lock on the front. Inside that are all your painful memories, I want you to put the key to the cage in the box and lock the box. Can you do that?”

“I’ll try, Auntie.”

“Good boy.” I waited and asked him, “Have you done it?”

“Yes Auntie, there were some horrible things in that box.”

“I know and you were very brave, but remember, I’m here and so is the blue flame, we’ll protect you.”

“Yes, Auntie.”

“Now lift the box and carry it to the hole you can see to your right. Tell me when you are there.”

“I’m there, Auntie.”

“Be careful, but look down the hole, you can see it goes right down to the centre of the earth, you can see the flames from the magma—the molten rock that comes out of volcanoes. Now you can see the box is wooden, so if you dropped it down the hole, it would burn and so would all the stuff inside, including the key you put in there.”

I let him think about things for a moment. “I can feel it’s very hot, Auntie.”

“It’s about ten thousand degrees, Danny, hot enough to burn anything, including rock. I’m going to let you choose—you can drop the box and the key you have in your hand down the hole and everything in there will be destroyed, so the cage can never be unlocked.”

“Won’t they die if they’re locked in the cage forever?”

“No, it’s not the real people, just their badness, what they did to you and possibly others, if that is locked in there, they can’t do it to you or anyone else.”

“Can I really drop this box and be rid of all the badness?”

“Yes, Danny, I promise—but it’s up to you, it’s your decision, you can keep it if you wish, but I warn you, it will grow heavier with every day that passes. Is it heavy now?”

“It’s getting heavier, Auntie Cathy.”

“So what do you want to do?”

“It’s getting too heavy, I’ll have to put it down.”

“You can’t put it down, Danny, you either carry it with you for the rest of your life or you throw it down the hole and be rid of it forever.”

“It’s so heavy, Auntie Cathy, can you help me carry it?”

“I can’t, Danny, it’s for you to carry or throw away, you must choose.”

“You promise me it won’t come back and the people in the cage will be all right?”

“I promise, Danny.”

“Okay, I’m going to throw it down the hole,” I felt his body heave as he released the box. “Cor, it’s burning with big blue flames—now it’s exploded into a huge yellow flame.”

“Stand back, Danny, the hole is going to close, so your pain can never get out of the earth and trouble you again.”

“Wow, Auntie Cathy, the hole just closed over—can I sit down now? I feel so tired.” He seemed to fall into a deep sleep and with difficulty, I managed to pick him up and place him on the settee. I sat with him for over an hour. Trish came in and asked if she could have a biscuit and a drink and I asked her to take one for the others as well.

“Is he all right?” she asked.

“He’s fine, I hope soon he’s going to be very much better.”

“He’ll still be a dumb boy, won’t he?”

“No.”

“What he’ll be a girl?”

“No, Trish, he’ll be a much happier boy—not everyone wants to be a girl.”

“Yeah—dumb boy,” she poked out her tongue at me and scampered out of the room.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 853

The next day was Christmas Eve, and I rushed out early with Trish and Livvie to finish the food shopping, grab a Guardian and so forth. We were back by eight and making breakfast for Meems, Simon and the two boys. I did a very unhealthy fry up of bacon, sausage, hash browns, beans, tomatoes and mushrooms. We all indulged and they all helped clean it up. I announced that lunch would be a very small snack and dinner would be light as well—hence the morning blow out. Simon and Tom took the boys, Livvie and Meems out to visit some aircraft museum near Southampton.

Trish feigned a tummy ache not to go. I let her stay with me and set her work vacuuming—she seemed quite happy to do chores. “Now tell me the real reason you didn’t want to go.”

“He knows.”

“Who knows what?”

“He knows who I was?”

“Danny?”

“Yes, Mummy.”

“Oh, sorry, darling.” I gave her a hug, “I did try to put him off the scent.”

“I know, Mummy.”

“What do you need me to do?”

“I don’t know—he said he wouldn’t tell anyone.”

“Why the change of heart?”

“He said he could see I really was a girl, and we’ve all been so kind to him. He really likes you, Mummy, said he wished he had a mummy like you.”

“Don’t tell him where I live,” I said and realised from her expression that it had gone right over her head.

“He knows where you live, Mummy.”

“Never mind, kiddo, let’s have a quick cuppa and”—the doorbell rang and I didn’t get to finish my sentence.

It was the van from the bike shop, we unloaded the three boxes into the garage cum workshop, the driver admired my set up, “No wonder you didn’t need us to assemble them. What no wheel truing jig?”

“Behind the door,” I pointed and he pulled back the door.

“Not many women like to get their hands dirty,” he remarked.

“I like to be different,” I smiled and we leant the boxes against the wall I’d cleared earlier. For those who’ve never bought a brand new bike, they are delivered in a box that looks big enough for a child to live in. These were smaller boxes because they were all children’s bikes, so I let the deliveryman carry them himself.

“Crikey, are these all Park tools?”

“Yes, on that wall, over here are those I’ve collected over the years.”

“Your workshop is as good as ours.” He stood looking round and shaking his head. “It is you who uses these—not your husband?”

“He has been known to borrow the odd screwdriver, but this is my workshop.”

“And your bikes?”

“Those three are mine, that one is Simon’s, that belongs to his sister Stella and the children’s bikes are fairly obvious.”

“A family which cycles together, stays together?” he posed.

“Something like that.”

“Do you race?”

“Nah, not good enough.”

“I’m sure the local club would disagree, I can give you their number…”

“No thanks, I don’t have time these days, the children see to that.”

“Okay, well Merry Christmas,” and he got back in his van and drove off. Trish came out carrying a mug of tea, and a mince pie.

For the next two hours, we opened boxes and assembled bikes. I’d bought the two boys bottom of the range of decent mountain bikes from Giant—they seemed as good as any and I managed to negotiate a decent price. I also got Meems the same bike as Livvie and Trish had. Trish was really pleased for her. She helped me tidy up afterwards and talked constantly while I was working.

Finally she brought the conversation back to Danny. “He said he felt much better after what you did last night.”

“Good,” I said checking the alignment of some forks.

“He said a weight had been lifted off him, what does he mean, Mummy?”

“Sometimes carrying an emotional pain feels every bit as bad as carrying a physical weight, it can even make people curl up as if they had a heavy bag on their back.”

“And you helped him with the weight?”

“Looks like it—pass me that spanner, will you? No, the big one, that’s it.”

She ran and hugged me, “You’re a wonderful Mummy,” she said then burst into tears.

“What’s the matter?” I hugged her trying not to get my oily gloves—yes I wear vinyl gloves to tinker with bikes these days—on her clothing.

“I don’t know,” she sobbed hugging me tightly.

“Is it Danny knowing about you?”

“I don’t know, he said he wouldn’t tell anyone.”

“But you don’t trust him?”

“I don’t know.” She continued sobbing and holding on to me.

“Okay, I’ll speak with him.”

“Will that help?” she cried.

“I honestly don’t know, but at least I can put him in the picture and say we have doctors who believe you are female, so we’re waiting for the time for your body to stop growing to put the little anomaly right. D’you think that would help?”

“I don’t know.”

“Nor do I, darling, but whatever he says, it won’t actually change anything, you’re still living as a girl and that’s what counts. Personally, if he said he won’t tell, I believe him.”

“He’s so much bigger than me, he frightened me.”

“When?” This sounded more serious.

“When I was Patrick.”

“He hasn’t done so since?” I held her by the upper arms and looked into her eyes.

“Only that he might recognise me—and he has,” she sobbed again.

“Trish, it’s one of the prices we pay for being true to ourselves—that someone can at any point in time produce information or accusations of a past identity. If you really want to live as the girl you tell me you are, you have to learn to cope with it.”

“I don’t want to, Mummy, it’s horrible.”

“Do you want to go back to being Patrick?”

“No, Mummy, I’d die.”

“You have to be brave, my darling, be brave and grow stronger from the experience.”

“I’ll try.” She wiped her eyes.

“Good girl, remember all those bad things happened to Patrick, not Trish. Trish has the support of the whole family. We’ll help you, you won’t be alone—I promise.” I hugged her and kissed her.

“C’mon girl, let’s go in and change into something tidier and you can wash your face and help me make some mince pies.” I took her hand and after locking the garage walked with her into the house.

At about five, the expedition to Southampton returned to warm mince pies and hot chocolate for the children and Simon and Tom as well. Stella came down with Puddin’ and partook of our feast and we listened to some carols on the radio.

The house felt full and had we been eating canapés and drinking mulled wine it would have been a real traditional Christmas scene, but to us unbelievers, it was one of nostalgia rather than religion—but it was still nice.

Tom took me to one side and apart from snaffling another mince pie, he said, “I lang dreamt o’ this place full o’ bairns at Christmas, and ye’ve made it happen fae me. Thank ye, Cathy.”

“Just wait until tomorrow, Daddy, we have another two coming with Pippa.”

“Och, tha’ll be brilliant, jest brilliant.”

“I hope so, Daddy—I really hope so.”

“Ach it will, I trust ye implicitly.”

“I hope so.”

A little later I managed to grab Danny and took him into the utility room and shut the door behind us.

“’Ave I done somethin’ wrong?” he asked.

“I don’t know—yet. Trish says you told her something earlier.”

“I told her lots of thin’s.”

“Come off it, Danny, don’t mess me about—I’m too busy to play games with ten year olds. So give.”

“I promised I wouldn’t tell no one.”

“I think I might be the exception there, and as she is my responsibility as my daughter, I think you’d better tell me.”

“I said I’d tell nobody.”

“So that includes me?”

“Yeah, you’re like someone in’t you? So yeah.”

“I could make one phone call and have you sent to a children’s home tonight.”

“Yeah, so? I ain’t gonna tell you.”

I smiled at him. “Can you honour that pledge forever?”

“Wossa pledge?”

“A promise.”

“Yeah, I s’pose so.”

I hugged him—“Trish is a very special little girl, she deserves to be allowed to live her life in peace. Thank you.” I kissed him on the forehead.

“WhattidIdo?” he exclaimed.

“You proved that you have started to heal the past, young man—and I’m very proud of you. I hope your confidence in this matter won’t mean you tell Billy anything about this?”

“Nah, if he can’t see it for ’imself, tough innit?”

“Good man.” I patted him on the shoulder and we went back to the party.

“Auntie Cathy, do you think someone will eventually be my family?”

“I can’t answer that, Danny, but from what I’ve seen of you recently, I can’t see why not. You’re an okay kid.”

He squeezed my hand and I felt my throat form a lump—I can’t, I don’t have time or the energy—I really don’t.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 854

That night we worked damned hard after getting the kids to bed. The boys were messing about and the girls wanted another story—a Christmassy one. I did the girls and made up some tale about a dormouse who couldn’t sleep so didn’t hibernate—you know the sort of stuff. Eventually they quietened down.

Simon went up to sort out the boys, after I put the drops in Danny’s eye—it was improving but still rather bloodshot, but at least he didn’t need to cover it. I’m not sure what he did—Simon that is—but he was with them equally as long as I was with the girls.

We had a cuppa and checked on our charges, they were all asleep. Then it was getting the presents put out by the tree but far enough away from the fire to stop them being damaged by the heat.

They each had an MP3 player and some CDs courtesy of Tom, Simon and I gave the girls a laptop each, and Mima had a bike instead, as did the boys. Plus loads of little things like soft toys and balls, puzzles and books, some chocolate and a small bottle of drink.

I’d had the double delight of getting something from the girls for Simon, I knew he wanted a new leather belt, so Trish gave him that, Livvie gave him a new ball pen and Meems a digital tyre pressure gauge. They all clubbed together to give Tom a new printer for his computer, and I gave Tom a new cardigan with suede bits in the front of it.

As for Simon, well he wanted some new shirts—so I had some made for him: don’t ask what they cost, but it was more than one of the boy’s bikes. Everything except the bikes had been wrapped, they had been labelled and deposited around the Christmas tree. We were at it until after eleven, when I decided I’d had enough and went to bed, Simon and Tom were watching the end of a film—they’d helped—for a few minutes.

Stella decided to turn in about the same time, I’d got her a new nightdress and peignoir, I hoped she liked them, and Puddin’ had some new clothes and a few toys. I’d tried to be careful, but had still spent a fortune.

I was asleep before Simon came up to bed and I hardly stirred when he did, I was so tired. I did wake once in the night needing a wee, but I went straight off again—Simon was snoring like a lawnmower, a sharp elbow in the ribs stopped him and he turned over on his side and I went back to sleep.

The first we knew of Christmas was the invasion by the aliens—why do they all have cold feet on the planet Zog? And, do they all have cold hands too? I know that two pairs of both were held against my body until I awoke, despite my resistance.

“Mewwy Chwistmas, Mummy,” said a cold handed alien whose voice seemed familiar. A cold nose accompanied a very wet kiss which for a moment I thought might be the blessed dog. It wasn’t.

I had asked Simon and Tom to shut and lock the lounge door last night in the hope I could get the children to eat some breakfast before they opened their presents. Of course they forgot and I had to intercept Livvie, who was about to go into the lounge as it’s the room with the chimney and fireplace.

I wanted the children to have a good breakfast before they started on the Christmas day festivities, I also had loads to do with the dinner, which we were going to have at about one pm. The boys must have heard the girls about, because they were down within moments of us being up. (That sounds total gobbledygook, but I expect you know what I mean—if not get Mima to translate).

Simon, who normally stays in bed until after the breakfast mêlée, actually got up when I asked him, so he supervised—sort of—the breakfasting of the children, while I got a twenty-pound turkey prepared for the oven. I won’t bore you with the details but it involved slices of bacon, garlic, and sausage meat. Tom was insistent on the latter—he nearly got stuffed himself as my stress levels began to rise.

Trish was going to help me make the chestnut stuffing and Livvie and Danny were going to do the potatoes, while Mima washed the cabbage—okay broccoli, and a few sprouts—Simon loves them, it’s me who nearly gets gassed in bed!

Billy was going to help Simon light the fire and carry in the wood from the woodshed, and Tom was going to make his coffee and stay ‘oot a ma way’ or he would get stuffed!

I managed a few cornflakes and a banana for my breakfast before getting back into the dinner preparations. We did the stuffing, the veg got prepared and the fire was lit—Billy was left stacking wood in the shed and not allowed into the lounge until everyone was ready.

I’d laid up the table as much as I could the night before, so the dining room should have been clean and tidy. I checked—it was. Simon had lit the fire and was standing in front of the lounge door keeping out invaders.
We had now been up over an hour, and the breakfast crocks were in the dishwasher. I nodded to Simon, who opened the lounge door and the kids all dashed in. They were all gobsmacked at the sight before them. Then they all squealed and talked at the same time and fell upon the presents.

It’s impossible to describe the scene, of excitement and disbelief—the boys couldn’t believe they each had a bike—and a decent one. The girls were ripping paper off like wild animals and squealing with delight at each new revelation. I’d spent hours wrapping things, which they tore into like maniacs.

Simon and I stood by the door, watching the excitement, his arm around my shoulder, and mine around his waist. We squeezed each other, “Merry Christmas, Lady Cameron,” he said and kissed me.

“Merry Christmas, your Lordship,” I replied and kissed him back.

We watched the pandemonium for a bit longer when he said, “You know, I haven’t seen so much madness since it was rumoured one of the boys on my dormitory had pictures of the headmaster’s daughter with no clothes on.”

“It wasn’t you, was it?”

“Yes,” he said blushing, “but she was only three months old at the time and was lying on a bearskin rug—I was president of the camera club and he asked me to take them.”

“You have led an exciting life,” I said and he looked at me and we both snorted with laughter.

“This is for you, Mummy, from Daddy.” Trish produced a small package and handed it to me. I looked at her and then at him.

“Well open it then?” he urged, so I did. Inside was a diamond necklace and matching drop earrings. The way the stones sparkled was breathtaking.

“It’s beautiful,” I said, and kissed him.

“It’s insured,” he said, “Do you like them?”

“They’re beautiful.” I kissed him again.

Trish now arrived with a parcel for Simon. He opened it and looked at the shirt. “Goodness handmade, thank you, wife.”

“You’re welcome, husband—oh and there’s another five upstairs for you.”

“My goodness—you spoil me,” he said blushing.

“I try, when I can.” I winked and he kissed me again, this time to loads of noise from the assembled children, who groaned and whistled.

“Can we go out on the bikes, Auntie Cathy?”

“Did you find the helmets, Auntie Stella gave you?”

“Yes, Auntie Cathy.”

“Let’s see if they fit.” I adjusted each one and after they promised to wrap up warmly, they all went out on their bikes. I asked them to keep on the pavement on the main road or to stay near the drive. I knew I was wasting my time, but it is Christmas.

Then it was more chores as I got on with the dinner and Stella and Simon collected up all the wrapping paper in a rubbish bag. Sadly most of it won’t burn, so it has to be dumped.

I had a CD of carols from King’s College playing in the kitchen as I did the dinner and Tom came out. “I thocht ye’re an agnostic?”

“I am, why?”

“Listenin’ tae carols.”

“I used to sing them when I was a kid, Daddy, I was in a church choir.”

“So why d’ye listen tae them noo.”

“I like them, it doesn’t mean I agree with the message, and let’s face most of it is total poppycock, but it’s part of Christmas.”

“Aye it’s that alricht.”

“More coffee?”

“Not jes’ the noo, I wanted to gi’ ye this.” He handed me a small package.

“What is it?” I asked as I opened it and inside found a small ring box which upon opening held a beautiful diamond ring.”

“This looks like an engagement ring,” I said.

“Aye, it wis Celia’s.”

“I can’t take this, Daddy, it’s far too precious.”

“I want ye tae hae it, and I ken Celia wid tae. It wid hae gone tae ma Catherine, but noo ye’re ma dochter. Ye’d hae got it when I wis deid, an’ I’d like ye tae hae it the noo, while I can gi it tae ye in person. Please accept it.”

“How can I say no, it’s absolutely beautiful. Thank you, Daddy.” I kissed him and felt the tears form in my eyes. I slipped the box into my pocket and said, “I’ll put it safe when I go up to change later. I’ll treasure that forever, Daddy.”

“Och weel,” he said and shuffled out of the kitchen, while I sniffed over the onions I was chopping for the sage and onion stuffing.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 855

I finished the food preparation and checked on the children, the boys were racing up and down the road, while the girls were riding around with Mima, who still had stabiliser wheels on her Barbie bike. They seemed happy and everything was going pretty well as it should.

It was now after ten, and I went and spoke to Tom. “Daddy, I have some flowers in the shed to keep them cool, would you like to walk up to the grave with me?”

“Hae ye got time?”

“If we walk briskly, we should have.”

“Aye, a’richt.”

A few minutes later, we were sneaking away from the house. I’d asked Simon to keep an eye on the dinner, we’d be half to three quarters of an hour.

We walked arm in arm, me carrying the flowers in my other hand, Tom with the dog’s lead in his other one. We talked about the weather which was amazingly mild and sunny. There was still a little bit of snow visible up on the downs, but the rest had gone.

Fifteen minutes later, we were at the outskirts to the cemetery and I felt a bit embarrassed. I mean, I’d taken the place of one of these poor women, and now had the engagement ring of the other—which should have gone to the first one. I know they were both dead, but even so, I felt guilty.

I handed him the flowers and offered to take the dog for him. “Whit fa? Ye’re family noo, nae need to feel embarrassed.” He held my arm tightly and we walked to the grave. He obviously came up here regularly—it was immaculate. He removed the flowers from the vase and took them to the rubbish bin, he emptied the old water out of the vase and washed it out and refilled it. Then he placed the small bouquet I’d bought into the vase and rested it back in its place on the grave.

“Thae flooers are frae Cathy, fer some reason she feels embarrassed to be here. I’ve telt her nae tae be, as she’s family thae noo. I ken, ye’d welcome her if ye cud,” he put his arm around my shoulder, “an’ I ken ye’d be sae prood o’ her as a dochter.”

I wiped away the tear which had escaped my eyes, and wished the grave and its occupants, a Merry Christmas—stupid, I know, but I felt very emotional and it was embarrassing me. I took the dog and said I’d give him a few minutes on his own. I wandered around looking back every so often to make sure he was okay and also to keep an eye on the time.

Five minutes later he walked away from the grave and we tramped back to the house, by which time I’d recovered enough to smile at him. He squeezed my hand and thanked me, so I kissed him on the cheek.

Then it was all systems go. I checked the turkey—it was doing just as it should—popped in the stuffing and roasting potatoes, and dashed up to shower and change. I called the girls in and washed them and their hair. They were all to wear dresses for dinner.

Finally, I got the boys in and sent them up to shower and change into the shirts and trousers I’d got them. I asked Simon to make sure they did as I asked. I threw on some makeup and did my hair, sent the girls to Stella, who did their hair nicer than I can.

Then it was on with my best pinny and back to the food. By twelve Pippa had arrived and offered to help me. I gave her a pinny and asked her to whip some cream for the Christmas pudding and trifle. Her boys and the two tearaways I had seemed to get on well together and they went off to watch a video of some cartoon.

At half past twelve, Tom arrived with Leon and his mother. I introduced them around and went back to the kitchen. Simon was in charge of drinks and he welcomed them warmly.

A quarter of an hour later I was shocked to discover that Henry and Monica were walking up the drive, laden with presents. We’d need to lengthen the table and grab some chairs from the spare room. I sent Trish up with Leon to get them, some folding wooden chairs. I also got them to bring down the card table and decided, the kids could eat at the card table end and I’d move everyone else down a bit. There was just enough cutlery for two more places.

The girls were all over their other ‘grandparents’ and were rewarded with a present each. I hugged and kissed them both and asked if there was anything they didn’t like.

“Oh, we’re not staying,” said Monica.

“Oh yes you are,” it was beginning to sound like a panto script.

“We are?” said Henry.

“Yes, no one gets out of this house unfed at Christmas.”

“But we only called by with the presents,” he protested.

“So? That’ll teach you,” I winked and he beamed a smile back at me and shrugged.

Stella, Simon and I loaded the table with food and Tom stood by to carve the enormous turkey Simon carried in and laid before him.

Tom asked that we be upstanding. “I’ll say a short grace,” he said and I sighed but accepted it.

“Some hae meat and canna eat,
Some canna eat that want it:
But we hae meat and we can eat,
Sae let the Lord be thankit.”

Even I knew it as Burns’ Selkirk Grace, although I learned later its proper name is the Kirkudbright Grace. Henry is a mass of information.

Henry smiled at Tom and they touched glasses and we all toasted Christmas, then to my embarrassment, they toasted the cook—I blushed redder than the cranberry sauce, although the traditionalists actually had bread sauce instead—I hoped there was enough.

Tom carved and I ladled on vegetables of various kinds: boiled potatoes, roasties, carrots, sprouts, roast onion, mushrooms, tomatoes—okay technically a fruit—but so what?

Gravy was poured and stuffing of four different types was passed around the table. Simon filled glasses and I kept doing veg. Eventually we sat down and tucked in. Apart from some conversation, the major sound was cutlery against plates and mastication.

Finally, everyone had had enough, and Henry said loudly, “Cathy, that was every bit as good as our professional cooks could make. Thank you so much for inviting us to stay for dinner.”

“Pudding, anyone?” I asked but all I got was groans in reply.

“Mebbe in an ’oor or twa,” said Tom and the others agreed. The children were excused and went off to play with their newest toys. Henry had brought presents for all the children, even Pippa’s boys—admittedly they were a little stereotyped, dolls for the girls and cars for the boys, but it kept them busy.

I asked Trish to get Henry and Monica’s present from under the tree. It was officially from the girls, Henry had a new wallet and Monica a new purse. They seemed pleased enough with them.

After clearing away the dirty plates, we adults settled down for a chat and a glass of wine. Leon had gone with the boys and wanted to watch the DVD I’d given him, his mother was pleased with the little gold earrings I’d got her. I gave Pippa a bracelet to match one she already had.

“How are the boys getting on with the girls?” asked Henry.

“Fine, we were a little apprehensive, but they get on fine.” I responded. More chitchat went on with Tom and Henry nattering and Stella and Monica. Simon poured more wine and the conversation flowed.

“Oh, Cathy,” said Henry.

“Yes, Pa in law?” I replied, having had a glass and a half of red wine.

“The board of the High Street Bank PLC, has asked me to convey something to you.”

I wondered what this could be, surely he wasn’t going to sack me—was he? “And what’s that, Henry?”

“They were absolutely delighted with your dormouse film, and want you to press on with the harvest mouse one. The way it reflected on the bank was considered by all to be very positive and they all thought that it was very good value for money.”

“I don’t know what to say—I—um, don’t know what to say, except harvest mice will be more difficult and I don’t know how much time I’ll have to do it, what with three children.”

“I counted seven plus a teen,” said Henry.

“Ah, two of those are mine,” said Pippa, “I could donate them if you’re collecting—but I suspect you might have enough with your five.”

“Five? No—three, the boys aren’t staying.”

“I’d like them to, Mummy,” said Trish.

“I think I’d better sit down,” I said and flopped down on my chair.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 856

The conversation seemed to go quiet after Trish spoke. “Can we talk about this later?” I said to her.

“Sure, but I’m not going to change my mind.”

“Fine, but you’re not the one who decides who lives here—this is Grampa’s house.”

“Och, dinna involve me,” Tom shrugged.

“Okay, we’ll talk later, young lady, now go and play—oh, and shut the door, please.”

“The prophecy asserts itself,” said Simon, having a little too much to drink.

“C’mon, Si, that’s total rubbish and you know it?”

“What’s this about a prophecy?” asked Monica.

“Oh, Cathy had a dream a while back.”

“And…?” she urged

“Her mother appeared and told her she’d have a large family.”

I sat there blushing—why did he have to open his big mouth?

“Ooh, dreams can be quite prophetic,” cackled Monica.

“Yes, but most are total nonsense—which is what I feel this one was.” I blushed and felt very hot as I issued this denial.

“Leave da poor girl alone, she one special lady.” Theresa joined the conversation, she winked at me and I don’t know if she was siding with me or dropping hints that she knew what I was—a total fraud.

“Goodness, we’re going to run out of titles,” said Henry and Simon laughed too loudly.

“Not if I murder your son,” I said quietly, but loudly enough for Henry to hear.

“I’ll help you dispose of the body,” he said behind his hand and winked at me.

“If you takin’ kids, you can have my Leon any day,” said Theresa and snorted.

“Whose side are you one?” I pretended to glare at her and she snorted with laughter. “Any more trouble from you and I’ll let your tyres down.” She roared at this remark, maybe I’d get Simon to stop pouring drinks.

“Anyone for…” I started.

“Tennis,” said Simon and laughed at his own joke.

“Och, the tennis court has no been useable fa years,” Tom volunteered.

Before my tiddly husband could open his mouth and shove in both feet up to the knee, I said, “I was going to ask if tea or coffee was required by anyone?”

“Hmm, I fancy a good cup of coffee,” said Stella, c’mon, I’ll help you make it.”

We adjourned to the kitchen. “You’re not seriously going to take those boys are you?”

“I don’t intend to,” I replied.

“So what are you going to say to Trish? I mean didn’t one of them push her down the stairs or something?”

“I think so—as to what I tell her—I’ll just have to say, it’s not possible. I mean I have a career to pursue as well as looking after the girls. Besides, I have no idea how to bring up boys.”

Stella thought this was amusing, I didn’t. I poured the boiling water on the coffee and the smell was wonderful.

“You don’t think it’s ironic that someone who was raised as a boy has no idea how to raise boys?”

“It may well be ironic, it isn’t necessarily, funny. My childhood was at times very difficult—I don’t want to pass those experiences onto the boys.”

“See you’re already considering their well-being.”

“I have to, I’m legally responsible for them until Nora comes back to collect them.”

“When’s that?”

“January the fourth.”

“By that time, you’ll have been able to decide if you want to or not.”

“Decide what?”

“Whether you want to keep them.”

“Stella, why is no one listening to me? I don’t want to keep them—I can barely cope with three girls and Simon.”

“Fair enough, but Trish is going to be broken-hearted.”

“That’s her problem, Stella, she’s brought it upon herself.”

“Yes, but she’s coped wonderfully, hasn’t she?”

“Yes, but so have the rest of us, reassuring her and backing her up at every moment.”

“Isn’t that how parents are meant to be?”

“Probably, look I don’t know—mine weren’t, okay—so can we please drop this subject?”

She looked suitably chastened. “Yeah, fine—it wasn’t me who raised it in the first place.” She sauntered out of the kitchen and I felt like hurling the coffee pot after her. Instead I put some cups and saucers together and was about to struggle out with them when Henry appeared.

“Need some help?”

“Yeah, know a good psychiatrist?” I asked grinning.

“For you or my children?”

“Good question—could you take the tray, please?”

“Here, that’s heavy, girl, you’d have hurt yourself lifting this.” He picked up the tray and carried it through to the dining room; I followed behind with a coffee pot and some milk.

“What no cappuccino?” said Simon.

“You want it, you make it, darling,” I said through gritted teeth.

“You heard the lady,” Henry snapped.

“That was no lady…” I felt myself get very hot, “…that was my wife,” he laughed loudly again.

Henry put the tray down loudly, “I think you could finally be the proof that hereditary peerages have had their day.”

Simon laughed loudly at this, “That is so funny, Dad.”

“I didn’t actually mean it as a joke, son.”

“That’s even funnier,” roared Simon.

I noticed that the rest of the table were becoming embarrassed by this conversation.

“Coffee?” I said loudly and Henry handed me a cup to fill.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 857

Things improved a bit later when Simon fell asleep on the sofa in the dining room and we left him there on his own. The rest of us decamped to the lounge, which is where the Christmas tree is. As far as I was concerned the present giving was over, and I was happy to settle down in front of the huge log fire which burned in the large stone fireplace.

The lounge in the farmhouse, is quite big, easily thirty feet by thirty feet, so the children were mostly playing down the other end while we adults sat near the fire eating our puddings and drinking tea or coffee.

I’d just cleared up the dirty dishes again, when Henry brought in some more wood for the fire for Tom to stoke. No one else could get it to burn like Tom, with the tree in the corner and everyone feeling replete and more or less happy, it felt mellow. The conversation was quiet and I had the carols on quietly in the background. The atmosphere was one of an old-fashioned Christmas—one that never really happened, where miracles such as the turning of Scrooge from miser to philanthropist, occurred.

“Hmmm, I could sit here like this forever,” said Monica.

“You’d smell after a while,” offered Stella, who was sitting next to her stepmother.

Tom nodded to Henry and they disappeared to the study to have a crafty nip of Tom’s twelve year old malt. I made some more tea and then settled back down to enjoy the atmosphere, Silent Night was the carol being sung and I remembered singing it myself as a chorister, what seemed like a lifetime ago.

“You got nuthink to say, Cathy?” said Theresa.

“Sorry, I was away in dream, listening to the music, thinking about when I sang this in a church choir.”

“Yo life was different den?”

“Only completely, to start with I could sing then, I can’t now.”

“I’ve heard her singing in the shower, sounds like someone doing nasty things to a tomcat.” Trust Stella to bring the conversation down.

“We all change as we get olda, and not all de changes is for de good. Look at me, twenty years ago, I could do any-ting, now I is stuck in dis chair. I still manage to do tings, but it take longer dan it used to, and Leon has to help me when he’s dere.”

“What put you in the chair?” asked Monica, but in a friendly rather than intrusive manner.

“Oh de multiple sclerosis, and my stupid legs, dey folded on me, and like de Humpty Dumpty, I had a great fall. Damaged my spine, I never walked proper since, and standin’ is now very hard.”

“You need Cathy to work one of her miracles.” Stella never seemed to learn about putting a sock in it. Maybe this indiscretion ran in the family—then thinking about Henry, maybe it’s only the modern generation.

I was still out of things, relaxing after running a meal for about fifteen people, to which Stella had contributed very little. I heard my name mentioned, but I wasn’t really listening.

“Oh dat lady, she has da powah, I could feel in me limbs as soon as she come into de house.”

“She did do something remarkable for Henry,” said Monica, “d’you think she’d give us a demonstration?”

“Why not, there’s nothing on telly, except Dr Who,” said Stella. “What about it, Cathy?”

“What about what?” My mind was with the Holly and the Ivy, of which I’d sung a verse as a soloist when I was a kid.

“Giving us a blue light special, on Theresa, here.”

“I don’t think so.” I felt a bit annoyed, the mellowness of my evening was being disturbed by someone who should know better.

“Go on, show ’em how it’s done—she’ll have Theresa running about in no time.”

“Why don’t you do it?” I rose from my chair, “I have to empty the dishwasher.”

“Oh no, I’ll do that,” Stella positioned herself between me and the door.

“Won’t I need to show you the first time?” I said acerbically.

“Oh very good, Cathy, but if you recall, I emptied it last Christmas for you.”

“Did you? Sorry ladies, I’ve just remembered something—gotta go.” I feinted to the right and sidestepped Stella as she moved to block me.

I went out to the kitchen, Stella stormed in behind me. “Thank you for showing me up, back there.”

“I didn’t do anything, you were managing fine by yourself,” I spat back at her.

“I was what?” she glared at me.

“You brought up the subject of healing, I didn’t.” I felt really cross with her and was struggling to keep my temper.

“Monica did, actually, and Theresa agreed, she said you had the power, or some such thing.”

“So you three appointed yourselves, did you?”

“What d’you mean?”

“I don’t know how many times you’ve embarrassed me over this, I keep saying, I’m not doing any more of it.”

“Oh, I’m an embarrassment, am I?”

“For an intelligent woman, you don’t seem to use your brain when talking.”

“How dare you?” she turned and stormed out of the kitchen, leaving me feeling very churned up. I virtually threw the dishes into the machine, I was so angry. It’s bloody Christmas and all we’re doing is fighting, where’s the good will towards man?

“Trouble?” asked Henry, poking his head around the door.

“No,” I lied, “just sorting the washing up.”

“I meant with the other of my idiot offspring.”

“Oh that? It’s just a spat with Stella, we have them now and again, two women in one kitchen, that sort of thing.”

“Cathy,” he said closing the door, and I felt a little anxious—his reputation as a roué and a few drinks—did little for my confidence. Also the way things were going with my in-laws, I didn’t need discussions with another. “Cathy, you’ve put on a wonderful spread for us, I’ve also never thanked you for saving my life—I’d never have made it without you.”

Making light of it, I joked, “Oh, I don’t know, you Camerons are pretty tough, you’d have come through it without me.”

“That isn’t what my surgeon said, he’s a real fan of your magic touch.”

“I wouldn’t listen to him, he’s easily led.” I tried to joke my way out of what was feeling increasingly uncomfortable.

“I am so grateful to you, Cathy,” Henry advanced closer.

I glanced behind him, “Oh goodness look at the time, I must get the girls up to bed.”

“It’s Christmas, Cathy, lighten up a little.”

“I have things to do, Henry, this house doesn’t run itself.”

“It looks magnificent, you really do a wonderful job, we’re so lucky having you in the family.”

“No it doesn’t, we need to get some major redecorating done in the spring, and we could do with new cupboards and a new sink out here.”

“Wherever you go, Cathy, you take the eye away from the inadequacies—your natural charm and integrity shines through. I’m so proud to call you my daughter-in-law.”

“I’m pleased to have you as a father-in-law, Henry, but I still have things to do. Can you put the kettle on and I’ll go and collect the dirty cups.” I stepped around the table and nipped out the door before he could do anything else.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 858

I was in my bed at last. It was nearly midnight. Simon was still zonked on the sofa with a blanket over him, the guests had all left having as they said a good time. The dishes were all clean—courtesy of an overworked dishwasher, but tomorrow I’d have to start tidying up the rooms again—the downside of entertaining.

Theresa had forgiven me for not displaying my talents in healing—I’m not sure I actually possess any—it’s possibly just psychosomatic and suggestibility on the part of my patients. However, she said she felt much stronger for just being near me. That is frightening—sounds like something from the New Testament—I am definitely no Messiah. Messy—maybe at times, but, Messiah—no!

I settled down to look at the book that fell out of from under Trish’s mattress when I tucked her in. It was an exercise type book with hard covers.

I looked inside feeling rather awkward once I saw in her hand:

tricia watts,
her dairy,
keep out.
no peping.

Much of it was the usual stuff, the day she started school and what she thought of it—she actually enjoyed it.

started scool tody i like coming to scool as a girl much mor than i wood as a boy the other girls are kwit nice and I made frends with a girl called Livvie she came here to nursry and noes evrywun the teechers are nice and i speshal like the head mistres sister maria.

In another entry, they seemed to get longer as her writing skills improved, although some of her grammar and spelling leave room for improvement—then she is only five.

my sister mima mummy calls her meems, had been norty all day, steelin my toys and hiding them i told her i don’t like her enymor.

A bit later on, after that domestic incident, she wrote:

livvie has come to live with us her mummy and daddy are dead my mummy says she can be my sister like meems is i think thats a good idea, so does mima i wish my first mummy was dead to then mummy cathy could adopt me id be a orfan thade have to let her adopt me cos id need a mummy i hop mummy cathy can adopt me.

I had some tears blurring my vision as I read on:

my birthday was nice i had lots of prezents. wot i want mostest is for mummy to adopt me proper i don’t never want to leeve her

I began to wish I hadn’t opened up this Pandora’s Box, and the more I read—it was compulsive—the worse it got.

it wood be nice if mummy can adopt orl us girls we orl need a mummy proper we orl luv mummy and daddy so much and grampa tom anty steler is orlrite two and her babey

There was comment on her relationship with the moocows, I mean Browne-Cowards.

Petoona cowerd is a pig she doesn’t like me an i don’t like her shes a cow a silee moo mummy calls them the brown cows she tells lise about me ses i see a docker cos im mad i hate her

It went on in this vein for several pages, her spelling was creative, to say the least although I suppose I was understanding what she was writing, so in that regard it was mission accomplished.

I recalled a journal I’d kept as a girl—yeah, as a girl. I made my already feminine handwriting even more flowery, quite deliberately, and wrote about my dreams of being allowed to be myself one day. I used to pour out my heart into those pages—I suppose I was about twelve at the time. My mother found it along with one or two of my treasures—one of her old bras, which was far too big for me; and old pair of her knickers, and tights and a pair I’d bought myself—they were yellow nylon cut in a French knicker design—so she knew they weren’t her old ones. I also had a dress I’d found in a rubbish bag somewhere, which astonishingly fitted me, more or less.

My father gave me a hiding and I was made to put each item into the incinerator we had in the garden. Maybe my evil thoughts helped to cause his stroke, I certainly wished him plenty of horrible things. I actually told him, “I hope you die,” so he beat me some more until I apologised. I’d called myself Charlotte in those days, it was the feminine form of my then name. I’m glad I changed it to Catherine or I’d still be called Charley, albeit spelt slightly differently.

The most recent items in Trish’s diary were:

Chrismas is coming i wunder wot ill have mima is haveing a new bike witch shell like wants to ride mine but so do i iwunder wot livvie and me will get mummy is a good present byre.
the two boys from my old home are not as bad as i thort theyd be danny got hit in the eye by a stone an i hop hes gonna be orlrite i kwite like him and hop mummy can adopt him an billy two thay use to beet me up wen i wos Patrick i noed i wos a girl thay use to laff at me an hit me i dident like them but now i do id like a big bruther like danny i do hop mummy wil let them stay thay ar mush niser nowan don’t wanna beet me up i like them so do livvie an mima
havein a big buther wood be a niset present for chrismas

I’m beginning to wonder what we pay for at that school—how come she can read beyond her age yet can’t spell when she writes? As for the content—oh dear—it plucks at my heart. Why did I have to find this book?

I keep my resolve firm, I have a life which I make decisions about, I don’t let a five year old tell me what to do—unless he’s called Simon and happens to be my husband—and then I ignore him. Seriously, this has got me very worried and feeling very guilty.

The boys have been good, I wonder how long that would last. Danny may not mock Trish now, but who’s to say Billy won’t, and would Danny then renege and go back to his old habits?

I wonder if Trish will ever discover punctuation and capital letters? I slipped out of bed and pushed the book back under her mattress, she stirred slightly and I kissed her and told her to sleep. She very sleepily muttered, “Mummy,” and sighed, a tear actually dropped on her pillow before I could stop it. I was sniffing heavily by the time I got back to my room.

I felt like Hamlet and his famous soliloquy To be or not to be, in my case it was about fostering extra children. Why does life always pose such awkward questions?

My gut feeling was to say no when Nora comes back for them. I would discuss it with Simon and Tom. I think I know where Stella stands, but it’s all right for her, it’s me who has to look after them. I suppose I can cope for another week or so, especially as Trish seems more happy with them—I just don’t know what to do.

I mean, that prophecy nonsense—a funny dream and they suggest it’s like something out of a Greek tragedy. Mind you Hamlet saw ghosts too, then he topped himself—I hope I don’t get like that, but I can see how attractive it might be for some people.

…to sleep, to dream no more… powerful stuff, I wonder how Dr Who will get on playing him—according to the critics, David Tennant did really well, maybe I’ll have a look later, except it’s three hours long and I can’t see me getting that long to myself, unless I record it. Now’s there’s a thought. I wonder if I can work the new machine?

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 859

Boxing Day—for the uninitiated, the day after Christmas Day, was when servants were given their Christmas boxes or presents by their employers. It has absolutely nothing to do with two full-grown men pulverising each other in a square made up of ropes, which they call a ring—it has to be a British invention, and it is in its modern form which is fought to the Queensbury rules. The Marquis of Queensbury was the man who caused Oscar Wilde to be jailed for having a sexual relationship with his son, Bosie.

We had been invited to the hotel at Southsea by Henry and Monica for luncheon and to use the facilities—swimming pool or gym if we wished. The kids were all up for the pool and Simon fancied a workout in the gym. Tom fancied getting shot of the lot of us for a few hours so he could drink his Scotch and sleep afterwards. He’d also get a chance to do one of his curries with some of the left-over turkey. Sort of leftovers and hangovers, each to his ain, I suppose. I bought him a couple of bottles of his uisge beatha (water of life), so I shouldn’t criticise—and what else do you give someone who is seventy, has all he needs and most of what he wants? Obviously—something to eat or drink. Simon gave him a large and very smelly Stilton cheese, which I made him keep in one of the sheds—not my fridge. Hey, it’s only his house, it’s my kitchen.

Stella and the baby, who increasingly resembles a little pudding, are coming with us—so Simon is borrowing Tom’s car, and will take the boys and Stella and Pud, and I’ll take the girls in mine. Should be fun—part of me would rather be home with Tom and chilling out, but I’m a parent now and responsible for half the waifs and strays in Portsmouth by the feel of it. I enjoy having them really, I’m just very tired.

The plan was to get breakfast over with and then do a big clear up from the day before. My role was slave driver in chief, and it never fails to astonish me why everyone else isn’t as motivated as I am.

Simon cleaned out the fireplace, or would have done except it was still alight—the fire, so he stuck a log or two on it and with a bit of encouragement from the bellows fan, got it going again—Tom would be glad of that later.

Trish vacuumed—she’s good at that, Livvie and the boys polished and dusted and Meems helped me in the kitchen putting the pots away. I then mopped the floor and made the oldies a cuppa and drinking chocolate for my child labourers. We disposed of a few mince pies too.

Billy sat alongside me, and I asked him if he was enjoying Christmas. His response was emphatic to say the least.

“W-h-a-t? Oh yeah, Aun’ie Caffy, it’s totally, like brill.”

One day children will speak the same language as their elders, but not at the present time, sadly. However, I did understand some of what he said and I think caught his drift, so to speak.

“How was it different to last Christmas?” I was trying to learn about his past and about him.

“Ten times berrer, easy.”

“What was last year’s like, then?”

“Okay, we got a few prezzies, but like no bike, like you an’ Uncle Si give us.”

“What about the food?”

“We ’ad turkey, but not like the way you done it. That was totally awesome.”

Maybe I should get this in writing so I can show it to my detractors when they criticise my cooking—as happens from time to time. I usually put down the mutiny by asking the complainants to take over the duties of cook—they always withdraw the complaint—cowards.

“How long have you been in the home?”

“Two years, I fink.”

“What happened to cause that?”

“Me mum started drinkin’ after she split up wiv me dad—he used to ’it ’er. She loved ’im though an’ missed him, I ’spect. She’d go down va pub and forget about me, va neighbours complained ’cos I’d be vere on my own, and va council took me inta care—like, ended up at ve ’ome. Vis is berrer, much berrer, best Christmas I ever ’ad, fank you Aun’ie Caffy.”

“I’m glad you’ve enjoyed yourself.”

“Me an’ Danny…” he said looking at the floor, finding the carpet suddenly very interesting.

“What about you and Danny?” I knew what was coming but I had to hear him say it, even though I knew I’d reject him.

“We couldn’t like stay ’ere, could we, like va girls do?”

“I don’t know, Billy—the arrangement was you’d stay until January the fourth, by which time the home was supposed to have found an alternative to you having to go to Wantage. It isn’t in my power to say yes or no—it’s up to the council and the charity who run the home.”

“Well, like Trish was sayin’ vat Livvie was like, stayin’ wiv you when ’er parents died and she’s still ’ere.”

“It wasn’t quite like that, Billy, her parents asked us to look after her before they died. The council agreed and that’s why she’s still with us, I’m her official guardian and foster parent.”

“Can you be me an’ Danny’s foster mum or grandian?”

“Guardian—it’s a term used by the courts to designate a suitable person to look after the interests of the child on its behalf.”

“Oh?” his glazed look showed me he hadn’t understood a word of it.

“You didn’t understand, did you?”

“Not really.”

“Okay, the court—that’s a judge, a very wise and powerful man or woman, decides if the person asking to be the guardian or protector of the child, is suitable to do the job.”

“Do vey pay you ven?”

“Not really, they do give some expenses, but it’s never enough to do the job properly. The three girls go to a private school, which Simon and I pay for.”

“Cor, me mum never paid for me to go to school, is vat why I’m stupid?”

“I don’t think you’re stupid.”

“Well I’m no good at sums or writin’, not much good at readin’ eiver.”

“That isn’t always a sign of being stupid, Billy, there are all sorts of reasons why children aren’t as clever in schools as we’d like, and some of that is because of the teachers or their home lives. You’ve already said, home was difficult.”

“Yeah, it like was.”

“Maybe, when I get the girls to read to me, you can come along too and practice with us. Would you like that?”

“I dunno, vey might be berrer van me.”

“Does that matter, if it helps you?”

“Dunno,” he blushed and skipped off to play on his bike with the others.

“Looking at the next intake are we?” Simon said sarcastically as he took Billy’s seat.

“What d’you mean?”

“Well it’s obvious, you’re eyeing up the next candidates for fostering, aren’t you?”

“No, I just told him I couldn’t say that, and I offered him the chance to come and sit in with the girls when I do the next reading session with them.”

“Oh—I got it wrong then, I just thought you were getting into maternal mode again.”

“Yes, you did get it wrong, the boy was telling me about his previous home life and how much he’d enjoyed this Christmas.”

“So you weren’t getting all soppy then?”

“No, I was paying him attention. Children need attention from their carers, whether it be their parents or locums.”

“Yeah, okay—don’t go all pious on me—just let me know before we take on any more permanent liabilities, won’t you?” he slipped away to supervise the kids on their bikes before I could think of a suitably robust reply.

“You know what his problem is, don’t you?” said Stella

“I wish I did.”

“He’s jealous.”

“Jealous? Of what?”

“Of your relationship with the girls.”

“But he has a good relationship with them too, they love him to bits and he idolises them. So how can he be jealous?”

“You do girly things with them.”

“He does other things with them, that dads do.”

“But he can’t do boy things with them, can he?”

“No but he can do that with our two guests?” I suggested.

“Exactly.”

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 860

The meal at the hotel was delicious—I had tuna steak with salad, and a fruit salad for desert. The boys had small steaks, the girls had chicken—they each followed Livvie who decided she wanted chicken and chips—in a four star restaurant, I ask you? Simon had lobster—I nearly threw up when I realised it was alive when he chose it from the tank. Stella had some salmon concoction—which I thought I’d done at home before now, and mine wasn’t as portion controlled. Puddin’ had some jars of food I’d made and blended for Stella.

Henry had steak and kidney pudding, and Monica a shark steak with salad. Monica’s choice seemed somewhat Freudian to me, but maybe I’m just hypersensitive—certainly she hasn’t tried it on with me since and I suspect the kids are all safe with her. She may be predatory but not paedophilic, that was Simon’s opinion and I assumed he was right. If I ever found that she’d made improper advances or contact with any of the children—I’d be defending a murder rap, and she knew it.

The children were made to sit quietly for an hour or so after eating, then we went off to the pool. For an hour, they splashed and played in the water. I was pleased that the two boys could swim after a fashion and the lifeguard there coached them a little so they were doing even better afterwards. I encouraged Meems to try and swim a bit but she decided after her previous experience, she wasn’t going to. Monica sat with her in the paddling pool and eventually Stella came in with Puddin’ who squealed and giggled in the water.

I did manage a couple of lengths and became quite out of breath quite quickly—reminding myself how unfit I was. The boys still with the swimming coach and Monica and Stella happy to see to the girls, I dried and changed and went to the gym. It didn’t take me long to goad Simon into racing on the stationary bikes, without traffic to distract him and little chance of falling off, he gave it his best shot and for a while he was ahead. We were on these posh ones with the computerised screen so you can race, the bike adjusts for the supposed course you are riding—we were doing one from the Tour de France, although I’m not sure if Simon realised it. Once we got into the hill climbs, he fell behind and stayed there. We didn’t finish the ride—it was nearly two hundred kilometres and neither of us were up to more than half that. So my first attempt at an etap de Tour failed miserably.

“Are we going to take these kids then?”

“Take them where?” I asked my husband, who could occasionally be obscure.

“The boys—like foster them?”

“I don’t know, why?”

“I’m just asking, that’s all.”

“Why does everyone want me to foster them?”

“They seem nice enough kids—so they’ve had problems in the past, maybe we could help get them on the straight and narrow.”

“Simon, we’re a family not the probation service.”

“I know, and they are getting attached to us—especially you.”

“Me? Why me?” I felt myself blushing.

“Sounds like you’re the first real mother they’ve had.”

“Maybe it’s a father figure they need?” I retaliated.

“Could be, or just balanced parents?” he mused and I pretended to have a twitch and a limp—he sniggered, “You can’t get out of it that easily.”

“Simon, this is serious stuff, I mean if they were to stay with us permanently, what would happen to the girls with regard to inheritances?”

“Dunno—maybe they’ll be a thing of the past by then—I mean they’re hardly important now are they, unless you want to book a restaurant table.”

“I don’t know, both the boys are older than the girls and theoretically would inherit first.”

“Oh God, what a can of worms that would be—Malcolm the second tried to resolve it a thousand years ago because he had two daughters and no sons and they were still squabbling about it hundreds of years later. Couldn’t we just adopt the girls and foster the boys—I mean if they stay with us we could help to set them up when they leave school or do university?”

“Aren’t we doing double standards then? Favouring the girls over the boys? Won’t they resent it if they found out?”

“Tell them from the beginning—you can stay with us if you want, but we’ll only ever foster you not adopt you. See they’ll understand—after all with you there, they’ll have a more comfortable billet than they would with their charitable homes or council-run places.”

“Yes—but it’s still double standards, which when they realised were happening, they’d consider we didn’t love them as much as the girls.”

“We don’t—leastways, I don’t.” Simon seemed happy with what to me was a time bomb.

“We’d be setting ourselves up for all sorts of things later on—they could go right off the rails because we’d be doing exactly what their previous parents had done, put their own needs first. It’s effectively, a massive rejection. Just imagine what would happen if Stella had become the crown princess to your estate usurping your claims.”

“I’d do what my ancestors did.”

“Which was?”

“Kill her and take it.” He sniggered, “Crude but effective.”

“I don’t think that’s allowed even in Scottish law, is it?”

“It worked for Robbie Bruce.”

“I think the law might have been different in those days, and Edward the second isn’t on the throne any longer. Wasn’t he the one killed at Berkley Castle?”

“With a red hot poker up his um—you know,” Simon smirked.

“That’s according to Marlowe, I saw a film of it once, years ago. I expect the evidence is scant, and even a modern forensic team would have difficulty investigating that, assuming his burial site is known.” I paused, “Simon, all this stuff about Edward and Robert Bruce is all very interesting, but it doesn’t move us very far forward does it?”

“Bruce outmanoeuvred Edward every time, at Bannockburn he surprised the English and caught them on ground favourable to his smaller lighter army.”

“That’s all fine and well, Simon, but what has that got to do with our little dilemma.”

“How do I know? I do what you tell me to do.”

I blushed and snorted, “Since when?”

“Okay, most of the time.”

“What time is that, Simon, Pacific Standard Time? It sure isn’t GMT.”

“Ooh, Cathy, you wound me to the heart.”

“Rubbish, you’re a banker they have them extracted at an early age—just before the lobotomy.”

“Hey, I resemble that remark—what’s a lobotomy, ever since my operation, I can’t remember things…” he sniggered and began walking like Boris Karloff’s Frankenstein.

I shook my head, we were no closer to resolving this matter—we’d need to consult Henry. So I steered my idiot husband towards the family suite. Henry wasn’t there, he was watching the kids in the pool and took some finding until I called his mobile.

“You can’t escape with these bloody things, can you?” he waved his cell phone before putting it back in his jacket pocket.

“Henry, dearest Pa-in-law…” I began and he rolled his eyes.

“Cathy, when you purr and rub yourself against my legs I can deny you nothing.”

I blushed and Simon who was having a drink nearly choked himself. “Oh great leader of men and commerce, guide us with your wisdom…”

“You are setting me up, you bitch, aren’t you?” he gave me a wink.

My expression was one of pure innocence—which is my usual state, mainly because I’m oblivious to what is really happening—“Who me? How can you assert such a charge?” I feigned indignation—Simon was still choking, at this rate we could well find out about inheritance laws in a very short time.

I explained our predicament and he sat watching the children play for several minutes. “Do you know, I haven’t a clue—thank goodness we did our expansion the old fashioned way.” I winced at this, and he apologised for his insensitivity. “I’ll make some enquiries; we could always abolish the titles through the House.”

“House of Lords,” said Simon seeing the perplexed look on my face.

“That would be a solution, but it seems a rather blunt instrument for such a delicate matter.” I shrugged, we were no further forward and I suspected the legal situation would be a rather complex one seeing as none of the children were actually ours, in fact or law yet.

I suggested we invited the boys to stay longer if the option was permissible by the charity and the council, to play for time. Why do today what you can delay indefinitely with the help of a few lawyers? Oh boy.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 861

The return to Chateau Agnew was quieter than the out-trip, sleepy bodies drooped over the child car seats, I wondered if there was any more life in Simon’s car—if so, we hadn’t done our jobs properly and tired the little buggers out.

I parked in the drive and three little bodies shuffled into the house, had a drink and a biscuit, cleaned their respective toothy pegs and fell into bed—I didn’t even need to read them a story.

Simon brought the boys in and they were equally tired and went to bed without anything to eat—I began to wonder if they weren’t well. When I asked Simon, he just smiled and told me that the hour in the gym before we came away had drained the two boys completely. I wasn’t with him then, I was sitting with Meems on my knee, reading with her in the lounge of Henry’s private suite, while Trish and Livvie played on a computer.

“You’ll make some enquiries then, Henry?” I asked him.

“I will, I’ll let you know when I have something, but no point in doing anything until after Hogmany and New Year.”

“I thought they were the same?”

“Lots of people do, Hogmanay is New Year’s Eve, New Year is after midnight—plus parties back home, sometimes go on for a couple of days.”

“Crikey, I’m glad I live down south then, never was a big party goer. There’ll be a New Year’s Eve one here if you want to come, beautiful ladies are always welcome.”

“Do you never go home to Stanebury for New Year?”

“It isn’t the same when you get older, when I was Simon’s age, you wouldn’t have been able to stop me and besides, warming the place up and organising everything is too much now—sorting out your wedding rerun will be bad enough and you’re doing that with Stella.”

“We’ll wait until it’s a bit warmer anyway,” I smiled at him, I wasn’t really looking forward to it. “Part of me would love to cancel it—I just don’t do big formal things.”

“Well, Cathy, you may have married into the wrong family; it’s part of the family duty to attend big occasions and invite others back to one’s own.”

“But it’s stuff and nonsense?”

“Of course it is, but it’s how things are done.”

“Isn’t it about time they changed then?”

“No, because I can do thousands of pounds worth of business during one of those or a grouse shoot.”

“Have you asked the grouse if they would invest in your bank instead—you know put their nest eggs in it?” I was winding him up but all he did was smile.

“You don’t like huntin’, shootin’ an’ fishin’, do you?”

“Unless it’s to put things directly on the table, most emphatically, no.”

“Aren’t people entitled to enjoy themselves?”

“Killing things is fun? Henry, it’s seriously scary.”

“It’s not people they’re killing, is it?”

“Statistically, I believe Italians and Japanese are best at shooting each other at game shoots.”

“Perhaps, but your point is?”

“I find it primitive and disgusting.”

“Oh, well that’s pretty straightforward. You appreciate that grouse shooting preserves the moors for other creatures, including birds of prey.”

“Assuming gamekeepers and junior members of the Royal Family, don’t shoot them.”

“Mine don’t.”

“As far as you know.”

“All right, as far as I know—but I make it known that it would incur my acute displeasure.”

“I’m glad you do.”

“To me, someone with a gun who doesn’t know his grouse from his red kite is dangerous and stupid, and shouldn’t be in possession of a gun.”

“I agree, but I’d go farther—I wouldn’t allow anyone to have a gun until they could justify needing one—killing things for fun wouldn’t be good enough.”

“You’d stop fishing too, although you’ve eaten loads of tuna and other fish?”

“I don’t know—except I’d put a tax on fishing as a hobby to pay for people to clean up the lead shot they used for weights and all that waste line they abandon, which kills loads of birds and small mammals.”

“What about the mass of netting lost or abandoned at sea?”

“All of it should have the name of the boat on it, so if they lose it, they can be billed if it kills seabirds or seals and so on. I’d also outlaw various types of fishing—deep trawling, where they destroy the whole seabed for miles.”

“People wouldn’t get scallops then.”

“I’m sure ways could be found to alternatively harvest them.”

“Aren’t they farmed anyway?”

“Some are, but look at the way the cod is nearly extinct and yellow fin tuna is heading the same way. Spanish, Italian and French trawlers are stripping our waters of everything, because they’ll eat anything.”

“You looked upset when Simon ordered lobster?

“I was, the poor thing was boiled alive.”

“Such is life.”

“Yes, but the most recent research tends to indicate that the lobsters feel pain when boiled. Why can’t they electrocute them first and then cook them?”

“I don’t know—maybe there is a reason, I can ask our head chef if you like?”

“No, don’t bother, it won’t stop them doing it. I just get so cross with the way we take the planet for granted and all its denizens. The Old Testament has a lot to answer for, dominion over all the beasts and the plants. Why? We’re just clever apes.”

“Ah but only some have a conscience,” quipped Henry, “You, dear girl, are our conscience—I’m glad to hear it’s alive and well and in good voice.”

“Henry, does that mean I’m a sop to conservation or do you actually take notice of what I say?”

“Personally, dear girl, I hang on every word.”

“Henry, behave—you know perfectly well what I mean.”

“The bank takes note—we pay you rather a lot of money to ignore.”

“For what I actually do, I feel overpaid.”

“It’s the going rate—except we’re the only bank who has a paid ecologist as adviser, and our dormouse advertising did do handsomely, especially after your film. You need to get off your bum and do the harvest mouse one, so we can do some more synchronised advertising. High St, the green bank—investing with us is investing in your future and that of your planet. Save with us and save the dormouse.”

“I know, I know—every time I go in there I see my face peering back at me from one of those posters.”

“Well it could be worse, darling, it could be my ugly mug, or Tom’s,” he laughed and I smiled back at him.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 862

The children slept like logs, they were all fast asleep when I checked them before going to bed myself—Simon came with me, which is unusual.

“You don’t like the boys as much, do you?” he said bluntly when we got into our bedroom.

“I’m trying not to get too fond of them before they go.” I avoided eye contact with him.

“You’ve decided then, you don’t want them?”

“I never have,” I felt tears in my eyes, “as soon as I offered to have them, I knew it was a mistake. I’ve tried to be nice to them and give them things they might not have had before, including some attention. But I understood this to be a temporary thing.”

“So, you’ve given those kids a taste of the good life and now you’re going to dump them? Just like everyone has before.”

“I’m sorry.” Tears were running down my face and I felt disgusted with myself. He was right, he was throwing back arguments I given to him. I was no better than any of the others those two boys had experienced. What would that tell them? They were no good—no one wants them. It would guarantee they went off the rails almost as much as taking up a section of the track.

No one is born wicked or bad, it’s something we learn. Our parents screw us up—or in the absence of them, other adults, then our peers finish the job and we go on to damage others in the next generation.

Simon came around to my side of the bed and crouching before me put his hands on my knees and said, “You’ve brought them both on so much—they have both had traumatic short lives—the love and generosity they’ve encountered here has shown them there is another way.”

“What d’you want me to do?” I sniffed.

“I don’t know. My heart is with my three girls too—I really hope we can adopt them properly, they all have such potential and I’m excited at helping them fulfil it. I know you have a special relationship with Trish, but I know you love the other two just as much.”

I nodded, “Trish is special—she’s me a long time ago—only I’m not going to reject or punish her for being different, I’m going to love her instead. I’d like to do that with the boys as well, but I really don’t know if I can.”

“Can or want to?” Simon asked, showing more insight than he usually has—he’d obviously been thinking about this.

“I don’t know—probably a bit of both. I want some of my life back too—it’s all right for you, you go off to your office and play with the markets, make millions and come home at weekends. I’m stuck with them every day. I don’t think I could handle five kids.”

“What if we got some help in?”

“We’ve discussed this before—I don’t know, we’d have to deal with Trish’s secret—another one to risk disclosure from.”

“I’m sure we could tie that up legally, plus if we were betrayed—I’d pay someone to track them down and destroy them via the courts.”

Simon—be careful to whom you say such things, we might be found lacking in suitability to adopt anyone, except Tom.”

He smirked, “I’d be nearly as ruthless as you in protecting those I see as my children. You’d kill them.”

“That makes me seem like a psychopath.”

“You are when it comes to protecting your brood—a veritable tigress.”

“Look this talk is getting silly; one of the complications would be the boys inheriting over the girls if we were able to adopt them.”

“Aren’t we assuming quite a way down the line here? It might well be that a year or two from now, they might not want to stay with us.”

“Si, how is that going to happen—what are you going to do, start beating them or making them wear girl’s clothing? Don’t be silly. We’d be doing our best for them as foster children—trying to help them grow up to be independent and balanced adults.”

“How will we do that, we’re both barmy.”

“No—we’re both half crazy—so we complement each other—we make one nearly grown up whole.”

“Ah, that explains it—together we make a one parent family. Excuse me a moment.” He groaned as he stood up walked over to the wall and banged his head three or four times. He came back rubbing it.

“Feel better?” I asked sniggering.

“Not really, it bloody hurt—but it made more sense than your double single parent thing. Shift over,” he sat alongside me.

“We could talk about this actually in bed, couldn’t we?”

“Are you getting cold?”

“A little,” I admitted.

“I wondered why you were going such a nice shade of blue.”

“Well the heating went off a couple of hours ago.”

“Come on then, let’s get ready for bed and continue from there.”

“I’m only saying that because I’m cold—okay—no hanky-panky.”

“We are actually married, Cathy.”

“Yes I know, Si. I thought people stopped doing it after that.”

“What sort of honey trap, then once you got what you want—stop?”

“Yeah, it happens all the time in books.”

“But you didn’t particularly want to get married, just yet, did you?”

I blushed, “Um—not really—so—rr—ee.”

“So your theory falls apart doesn’t it?”

“Yeah, I guess it does. I’ll have to have one of my headaches instead.” I sniggered and ran off to the bathroom.

“You crazy cow,” he hissed and ran after me—I was laughing so much that I couldn’t lock the door and he pushed in and kissed me while I was trying to wee. After I’d finished, and cleaned my teeth, I kissed him back.

“So, what are we going to do?” he asked as I snuggled down against him under the duvet.

“I don’t know—what d’you want to do?” I asked him back.

“That’s a domestic matter, I let my wife deal with those while I decide which country I’m going to bankrupt or back.”

“I see, so I get to make the important decisions?” I joked poking him.

“Absolutely,” he stroked my nipple and I knew that in a moment I was going to be unable to think about anything much at all.

“Simon—we need to decide what we’re going to do about the boys.”

“Shouldn’t we involve them, in making it?” he said.

“Maybe, but haven’t we got to get our side sorted out first?”

“If that’s first, what’s second?”

“You shagging me, I suppose,” I said quietly.

“I move next business,” he said and lay on top of me…

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 863

Despite Simon giving me a good seeing to before I went to sleep, I awoke early mindful of the need to check the dormice. Really, there wouldn’t be much to do—they were all hibernating and buried in their nests at the bottom of the cages. We try to make it as real as possible for them, and even Spike had gone back into the cycle of hibernation in winter. So all I had to do was check the cages for their settings, see that the temperature and humidity had been maintained at the low settings and make sure none had croaked and need removing. You can usually smell it as soon as you get near them—a sort of sickly smell of death.

It was six when I slipped out of bed. I showered quickly, and dressed in the bathroom after combing my hair and popping some moisturiser on my face and legs. Downstairs, I had a quick cuppa while I dried my hair in the kitchen and tied it back in a ponytail. I had a mince pie and banana for my makeshift breakfast and after lagging myself in a thick fleece jacket, scarf and gloves grabbed my bag and headed for the university. Yeah—sure, once I’d got the frost off the car windows.

I drove carefully to the university and was in the labs no more than fifteen minutes, everything was as it should be, I signed my name on the rota—I had to do tomorrow as well. Could be worse I supposed and left.

Driving back I wanted to use the hole in the wall to get some cash from the bank , so headed towards town. The roads were frosty and not much traffic was about, so I was driving much more slowly than I normally did. Going through a less than salubrious part of town—okay, the red light district—I wasn’t sure why I turned down this way, it wasn’t the quickest by any means, but here I was. I drove past a gap between the houses and it was just beginning to get light—was that a bundle of rags? I glanced in the mirror: nothing behind, so I reversed back a few yards.

I looked again—funny sort of shape for rubbish—oh shit, it’s got legs. I got out of the car and walked towards the bundle. It was a young woman with blonde hair and bruising to her face. Probably my age or younger—too much makeup. I kicked her foot—she could just be drunk, although she could also be hypothermic or even dead—maybe I should just get back in the car and go after calling the police.

On my kicking her booted foot—some rather high heeled, over-knee boots—her eyes flickered, she was alive. “Are you okay?”

“Help me,” she croaked and passed out I think.

I opened my bag—oh no, my mobile wasn’t there—damn, I’d left it on the dining room table last night to recharge. Shit! “Where are you hurt?” I asked the young woman.

“He beat me up and robbed me,” she whispered.

“We need to get you to a hospital, have you got a phone?”

“No, he took it.”

“Can you make it to my car?”

“I can’t go to hospital.”

“Why? You need to be checked out, c’mon before you freeze to death.” I then did what you shouldn’t do with any casualty, I pulled her into a sitting position, crikey her skirt was short—a lady of the night? She gasped and moaned but I dragged her to her feet and sort of humped and hauled her to my car.

Her clothing was torn and soiled and I did worry about my seats for a moment, before shoving her in the front passenger seat, wrapping my car blanket around her and pulling on her seat belt. I hoped she wasn’t going to be sick.

“What’s your name? Mine’s Cathy.”

“Julie,” she whispered, “God, it’s cold.”

“I’m sorry, I don’t have a hot drink or anything. Let’s get you to casualty.”

“No, please don’t.”

“Why not?”

“I can’t go there—I just can’t.”

“Why can’t you? You’ve been assaulted, possibly raped and robbed. Surely hospital is the best place to go, and it’s warmer than my car.” I had ramped up the heater but she was still shivering.

“I’ll be all right, just take me to the motorway.”

“Motorway? No way—dressed like that, unless you want the police to pick you up—assuming you don’t get hypothermia first.”

“I can’t stay in Portsmouth, he’ll get me again.”

“Let’s go to the police then and let them deal with this bloke.”

“I can’t.”

“Why not?”

“You don’t understand.”

“Okay, make me understand why you can’t go to the hospital or the police or stay in Portsmouth?” I was beginning to wish I hadn’t picked her up. “Was it your pimp?”

“What? God, no.”

“Are you a prostitute?”

“Not a very good one.”

“So why can’t you go to the QA?”

“I can’t.”

“Why? I’m sure they dealt with failed ladies of the night before.”

“That’s the problem.”

“What is?”

“I’m not—am I?”

“You’re not what? Please tell me the truth, because none of this is making sense. Either you are a bloody tart or you’re not, which is it?”

“I can’t tell you.”

“Geez-uz! I’m sorry but I’ve had enough, either you tell me now this instant or you can tell the police, because, missy, that’s going to be my next stop.”

“All right,” she sobbed and I sat there poker faced and stony hearted. “I’ll tell you.”

I maintained my severe look in the hope she didn’t feed me a load of lies. For all I knew she was Hepatitis or HIV positive, and druggy to boot. They can be very manipulative and practiced liars.

I stared at her, and revved the engine. “Okay, okay—I’m not really a girl—okay, satisfied now?”

I was very surprised, verging on speechless. Why hadn’t I noticed? I can usually spot a tranny two miles away in the dark—so why didn’t I?

“How old are you?” I asked when my mouth finally shut and opened again for business.

“Nineteen.”

“Sure you are, now how old are you really?”

“Sixteen.” She hung her head and sobbed.

“Do your parents know?” She shrugged—which could have meant anything.

“Are you taking drugs?” I asked and she shook her head.

“I hope you’re telling me the truth.” I tried to sound hard-bitten but genuine—inside my guts were doing a tango, but I had to hide it.

“I am,” she sniffed.

“Is there anywhere safe I can take you?”

“I’ve got a friend in Brighton.”

“Who presumably knows about your—um—situation?”

“Yeah, we chat on the internet.”

“How are you going to get to Brighton?”

“I’ll hitch if you could drop me at the motorway.”

“Julie, or whatever your name is, I cannot leave a half-naked cross dressed child on a motorway junction. I’d be guilty of aiding and abetting in your disappearance.”

She sighed and shrugged again, tears rolling down her face.

“So there’s nowhere safe round here, then?”

“No,” she shook her head and sobbed.

“You need to be checked over by someone and you need some ice on that bruise.”

“I can’t go to hospital, they’ll call the police.”

“So?”

“My boyfriend will find me.”

“Doesn’t he know.”

“He didn’t, he does now.”

“So he did this to you?”

“Yeah,” she said weakly and began to cry.

“How will he know if you go to the police apart from them banging on his door with a warrant?”

“He’s one of them.”

“What he’s gay?”

“No—he’s a copper.”

“A gay copper?”

“No—he isn’t gay—just a copper.”

“I’m going to take you to my house, I have five children there, they are going to be freaked if they learn about what happened to you. I’ll see if I can find you some clothes of mine to fit. My sister-in-law is a nurse. I want you to let her check you over, and if she thinks you need to see a doctor—you see one—and no buts, missy. Okay?”

“All right,” she shrugged and I handed her some tissues, then started up the car, I never did get to the bank.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 864

“Wait here,” I instructed Julie when we got into the drive. I ran into the house and found Stella who’d just come out of the shower. I quickly explained the situation to her, watching her eyes get bigger and bigger. I then asked if she’d examine the hapless teenager. She reluctantly agreed.

The kids were still in their respective bedrooms and I told them to stay there. Once the way was clear, I brought in the underdressed teen and escorted her up to Stella’s bathroom. Stella took one look at her and shook her head. “Strip, get in the shower and call me when you’re ready.” Julie nodded and began to strip.

Feeling embarrassed I made my excuses, but Julie asked me to stay. “Julie I’ve got five kids to organise breakfast for.”

“Just five minutes, please, your sister scares me.”

“She frequently terrifies me, okay five minutes.” I watched as she turned her back to me and pulled off the boots, the patterned tights, then a skirt and panties—a thong, there’s a surprise—and finally a bra with breast forms in. The hair was real. She stepped into the shower and ran the water then washed herself. A few minutes later I handed her a towel for her hair and bath sheet for her body.

Stella was summoned and checked out the various bruises. I’d mentioned the facial bruising, there were blue and black patches all over, ribs arms and legs, back and genitals. At least Stella was an expert there. Her opinion was it was mostly superficial although sex or peeing would be painful for a few days and if any significant blood was passed to seek urgent medical advice.

I thanked her and so did Julie, who was at least able to move about now. “What size are you?” I asked.

“A ten.”

“I’m a twelve, okay I’ll see what I’ve got—it might have to be a skirt, ’cos my bum’s bigger than yours.”

“I’m grateful for whatever you do to help me.”

I shook my head and left her in the bathroom; Simon was still in bed reading. “Could you get the girls started on breakfast, Si?”

“And the boys, I suppose—where have you been?”

“The university and a long story, can you lay an extra place?”

“Are we having a visitor?”

“She’s here.”

“Oh, anyone I know?”

“No, she’s called Julie and she’s had a hard time—so not too many questions, okay?”

“As if I would?”

“Yes you would.” I grabbed some clothing, panties—my bras would be too big—an old denim skirt with a belt, some tights, an old blue jumper and some knee boots. I dashed off to Stella’s bathroom and gave her the clothes.

I watched as she reused her bra and placed the silicone inserts into the cups—how that took me back—then she pulled on the panties and tucked herself back—more memories. The top fitted quite well, it was getting too small for me, and the skirt wasn’t much too big either. The tights were a bit long—my arse usually takes up quite a bit of them, but they were thick ones and should help keep her warm. It seemed she was the same shoe size as me. So she zipped up the boots and after combing her blonde tresses pronounced herself ready.

I shoved the boots and her other clothing in an old shopping bag, and hid it in the back of my wardrobe until she went. I’d need to look out a few more things if she was going to Brighton, but I could sacrifice some and put her on a train—end of problem. At least she looked like an ordinary teen, not a hooker.

“What’s your surname?” I asked as I led her down to the kitchen, from where came sounds of children’s voices and Simon trying to keep order.

“Kemp.”

“Okay, I’ll introduce you as Julie Kemp, and say you’ve been mugged, okay?” She nodded.

“Thanks for all your help, I don’t what I’d have done without it.”

“I’ll give you a reasonable breakfast and sort you out a couple more things to wear, and send you off to your friend in Brighton.”

“Thanks, that’ll be great.” The look in her eye or tone of her voice told me something wasn’t quite right, but I’d probe a bit more after breakfast.

“Gosh, how big is this place?”

“It has six functional bedrooms plus two more attic rooms, three reception, a huge kitchen and is full of lunatics.” I got a smile for that remark.

“I should feel at home then.”

“Perhaps, let’s go in.” I pushed her through the door and the noise stopped—in fact you could have heard a spoon drop—Danny was the one who dropped it. “Right, everyone, this is Julie. From the right going anticlockwise, that’s Livvie, Billy, Trish, Mima, Danny, the big one is Simon—he’s my husband, the wrinkled one behind him is Tom or Gramps, Stella you’ve already met.

“Right folks, Julie met with a bit of an accident early this morning, but she’s feeling better now. So please give her some space, not too many questions you nosy lot. Billy if you shove any more cornflakes in that dish there won’t be any room for milk, will there? C’mon use your loaf.”

Just then the toaster pinged and Simon pulled out the charred bread and popped in two more slices. I decided we needed a bigger toaster.

Danny suddenly became very chivalrous and helped her to a seat next to his; he got her a dish and a spoon and passed her some cereal. He even went and got her the milk and later some toast. She ate like she hadn’t for a couple of days.

I made some tea and poured out half a dozen mugs of the hot fluid. Julie had one with sugar. I re-boiled the kettle and set another pot to brew, eating a slice of toast while I did so.

I watched the interaction between the teen and the other children, it was quite interesting—they were all bursting to ask her questions but respected my request to give her some space.

“That’s a nasty bruise on your face,” said Trish, unable to keep her peace any longer.

“I fell on the ice,” said Julie, in a very female voice.

“Yes, it can be very slippery, can’t it?” added Danny—he fancied her. I nearly choked on my toast.

After breakfast finished and we cleared up the kitchen, I took Julie into Tom’s study—with his permission. The kids all went out to ride their bikes with Simon going out on his—my God! I nearly fainted, until I realised he’d only be going up and down the road, probably racing the boys.

“Right, Julie Kemp, sit and please answer my questions.”

“I thought you were going to send me to Brighton?”

“There’s time for that. Now date of birth?” I waited while she told me, December 9th 1993. She was barely sixteen. It came out too quickly for it to be a made up job.

“Do your parents know where you are?”

“I doubt it.”

“Why?”

“They more or less kicked me out.”

“They can’t at sixteen.”

“No but I can leave—so I did.”

“For where?”

“I changed at a friend’s house.”

“From boy clothes?”

“Sort of, they were girl’s jeans and fleece with a tee shirt.”

“Who’s this friend?”

“No one you’d know.”

“I thought about getting your clothes back.”

“Oh, might be able to.”

“What were you planning on doing?”

“I wanted to experience life as a girl, went to a club—it was great fun.”

“Is that where the bloke who assaulted you picked you up?”

“Yeah, he was good fun, bought me drinks.”

“Did he know how old you were?”

“I told him I was eighteen.”

“Still, supplying alcohol to a minor is an offence.”

“When did he try it on?”

“In his car—at first it was like, just kissin’ an’ things. Then he shoved his hand up me skirt and…” she looked down at the floor and tears began to flow.

“He discovered your little secret?”

She nodded her answer and grabbed a tissue from the box I pushed over to her.

“Then he called you names, hit you a few times and kicked you out into the cold.”

She nodded again.

I shook my head, “Julie, please promise me something…”

“What?” she sniffed.

“Don’t go trying to pick up boys or men until you’ve got a bit more to offer them. It’s not a game to play unless you know the rules—and that takes experience. Promise me?”

“Yeah, promise.”

“So you can’t go home?”

“No, my dad’ll kill me.”

“Why?”

“He thinks I’m a poof.”

“Even if I took you?”

“He’d wait until you were gone, if he let me in at all.”

“How long have you been dressing as a girl?”

“Not as long as I’d like, but I’ve been buying the odd thing for a year now. I started growing my hair about two years ago.”

“It looks very nice.”

“I got a salon to bleach it for me yesterday.”

“So your father wouldn’t recognise you?”

“Not at first, then he’d beat me up.” I knew that experience.

“What about your mum?”

“She does what he tells her.”

“Officially, I should hand you over to the police or social services.”

“You wouldn’t would you?” she had real panic in her voice.

“Relax—I said I should, I didn’t say I would.”

She sat down again, “What are you going to do with me?”

“I don’t know. What about this friend in Brighton? Tell me about them.”

“He’s about twenty, likes girly-boys and we chat over the Internet.”

“I don’t think he sounds particularly suitable. What about school?”

“I wanted to do an apprenticeship.”

“In what?”

“Hairdressing.”

“Okay, that sounds reasonable, but you’ll need to register with a college or something.”

“I’d have to do that as a boy—I’d rather die.”

“Julie—the way you’re going, that’s a distinct possibility. You have nowhere to go, your parents don’t know where you are and neither do the powers that be. Right, we need to try and find somewhere for you to stay but first, you must speak to your mother and tell her you’re safe.” I handed her the phone—“Here, don’t worry it’s an unlisted number.”

She took the phone and dialled. “Hello Mum, it’s me—yeah I’m okay, I’m staying with friends. Dunno, maybe never. Bye.” She rang off before I could grab the phone.

I took it and hit redial, she looked astonished. “Hello, this is Cathy. Look I picked up your child in a back street in Portsmouth in the early hours, he’d nearly frozen to death.”

“Was John dressed as a boy or a girl?”

“A girl, and he’d been assaulted.”

“Oh my God, I kept telling him to stop it, his dad’ll kill ’im when ’e finds out.”

“So don’t tell him.”

“I’ll ’ave to.”

“Why, I’m sure this won’t be the first secret you’ve kept from him, will it?”

“No, I s’pose not.”

“Right, has John been to see a specialist in gender matters?”

“No, why should ’e?”

“Because he thinks he’s a girl, and at this moment, I’m inclined to agree with him.”

“What sort of woman are you—leadin’ my boy on like that?”

“I’m going to ask him to see a friend of mine, who happens to be a very well qualified psychiatrist with experience of transgender children.”

“How dare you—you bring ’im ’ome, you ’ear me?”

“What so you can beat him up, or let your husband do such a thing? I’ve a good mind to report you to the NSPCC, if I do—they’ll be very interested in you both. So will social services.”

“You bring ’im ’ome, you pervert, I’ll report you to the police for kidnapping.”

“Not before I report you for child abuse, and I think they’ll pay me more attention than you.”

“Just because you sound posh, don’t mean you’re right.”

“John didn’t want to call you, I can see why now. I shall be speaking with social services later,” I glanced at Julie and she went quite pale. “So don’t worry, your child will be quite safe in my house, and is free to go if she pleases.”

“She—he’s a bloody boy, you pervert.”

“Goodbye, Mrs Kemp.” I cut off the call, “I see what you mean.”

“You’re not gonna tell social services are you?”

“I have to, Julie. If they’re happy, you can stay here until we find you somewhere more appropriate.”

“What? I can stay here? As a girl?”

“Yes—is that a problem?”

She just burst into tears, and threw herself at me, “I don’t know what to say,” she hugged me, “Thank you so much.”

I put my arm around her, “It’s okay, Julie, it’s okay.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 865

Just what I needed—not—a homeless teenager. I managed to calm her down and sent her out to the kitchen to make us some tea. I told her I needed to speak to the police and also to social services. It was going to be a fun morning.

I called the local plod and asked to speak with PC Andy Bond. He wasn’t on until the afternoon shift. I left a message for him to call me, urgently. Next I called social services. I explained what had happened to a woman whose hair I imagined was getting curlier by the second.

She wasn’t sure what to do. I explained that I was making contact with the police and I had held nothing back from her, including Julie’s legal gender and the beatings by her father and the assault by the man who picked her up in the club. I was happy for them to come and interview her whenever they wanted, although she might not share that enthusiasm, I would do my best to have her available.

“What’s your name again?”

“Cameron, Catherine.”

“Is that Mrs?”

“Either that or Lady.”

“Sorry—I don’t understand.”

“I’m married to Lord Simon Cameron, so I’m entitled to use the title Lady.”

“So you’re Lady Cameron.”

“Yes.” I think I’d made her brain explode or something.

“I’ll speak with the duty manager and ask her to call you back.”

“Fine, I’ll be here after two if that’s okay—I need to get this child some more clothing, she’s having to borrow mine, which is a little big.” Little big? Perhaps my brain had exploded too.

Julie came back with the tea—it was pretty gruesome, I’d need to give her lessons on that too, if she stayed. It would soon be out of my hands. I phoned around a few colleges and things to find out about apprenticeships—the one which was most helpful promised to send me a prospectus—could they take my name?

“Yes, It’s Cameron, Lady Catherine.” I followed this with the address and phone number. Julie was sitting opposite me and her mouth was wide open.

“You’re a lady?”

“You’d noticed—it’s the lumps in my jumper and the big bum which gives it away,” I joked.

“No, you’re Lady Cameron?”

“Yes—is that a problem?”

“No—I just never met a real live lady before.”

“You’ve met two here, my sister in law is also a titled woman.”

“Cor—like bloody ’ell.”

“Julie, it’s not very ladylike to swear.”

She blushed, “I’m sorry, Cathy, I’ll try not to.”

“Good girl,” was all I said yet the effect was akin to a dog with its tail between its legs being patted on the head and suddenly wagging its tail and bouncing about the place.

“Has nobody said that to you before?” She shook her head and sniffed back the tears. Oh boy, it takes me back a bit.

I squeezed her shoulder and the next moment she was hugging me and crying all over me. “What’s the matter?” I asked, putting my arm around her shoulders.

“I’m just so happy—I just like wish it would last forever.”

“Sorry, missy, but I have things to do—you can stand here forever if you like, but I’ve got a life to lead.” She looked at me in astonishment—it seemed she had yet to get used to my humour.

“It’s a joke,” I said smiling at her. Her face went blank and then she smirked and blushed at the same time.

I gave her a little hug and then said to her, “C’mon, we need to get a few things for you, whether you stay here or somewhere else.”

I loaned her a coat which wasn’t much too big for her, and small shoulder bag I no longer used. Trish spotted us getting into the car and moaned because she wasn’t coming with us. I said I’d bring her back something and she eventually gave up and went back to playing with the others.

“How will we pay for this?” asked Julie.

“We haven’t actually bought anything yet—are you comfortable going out like this?”

“I’d be terrified if I was on my own, but with a real woman with me, I feel good about it.” I smiled rather than say anything.

“What happened to your makeup?”

“I borrowed that from my friend.”

“The one you left your jeans at?”

“Yeah, the same one.”

“Oh, for some reason I assumed that would be a boy,” I blushed at my mistake.

“No, I avoid boys like the plague—all they want to do is duff me up, or pull my hair.”

“I’m sorry, I should have known better.”

“That’s okay.”

We parked the car and went into New Look—a shop which specialises in cheaper fashion clothes, mainly aimed at the young market. The fact that she was able to look through things and hold them up to herself, had her grinning like a Cheshire Cat. I did have to exercise some parental control or she’d have ended up looking like a teenage tart again.

I bought her some trousers, two skirts, four tops some tights, some socks, some knickers and another bra. We found a winter coat, a couple of nighties and slippers, a dressing gown, and two pairs of shoes—one flat like ballet pumps, and the other with a small heel. Finally, I bought her some cheap jewellery and a watch, and some makeup. Again we had to compromise as I didn’t think she needed Cheryl Cole false eyelashes.

I’d spent over two hundred pounds and we’d gone back to the car twice as the bags were getting too heavy to cart about with us. She had a lot to learn about being a girl, and whilst I wasn’t the best exemplar, I could at least look neat and tidy and I hoped for Simon’s sake, occasionally sexy—maybe I should get the fake eyelashes?

I bought each of the girls a bracelet—only cheap paste stuff, but they’d enjoy wearing it, and I bought the boys a pair of boxer shorts each with cartoon characters on them. I bought some for Simon and Tom as well, and Stella, she got a book I spotted that she’d told she wanted to read.

We arrived home about midday, and five kids appeared to help us carry things in. Danny was very attentive of Julie—mind you even without makeup she looked very girlish.

Simon carried in the groceries we also bought and I apologised that we’d have to eat store baked bread because I didn’t have time to bake it myself. He gave me some long glances about all the stuff I’d got for Julie. I whispered as I walked past—“My money,” and poked my tongue out at him. I didn’t wait for his reaction.

I took Julie up to the spare bedroom—across the landing from the boy’s room. “Be careful—if they find out you’re not a girl—they are not going to be very pleased, and stop smiling at Danny and looking away, he thinks you fancy him.”

“But he’s only a kid?” she protested.

“Obviously, his puberty is starting to kick in—so please be careful.”

I handed her some sheets, a duvet cover and some pillowcases—“Here you go, make up the bed and hang up your new clothes.”

“I can’t believe I tried it all on—it’s like a dream come true.”

“Well, don’t get too carried away—we don’t know what the police or social services are going to say, yet, do we?”

“Oh, no—I’d like, forgotten about them.”

“Tidy up here, and I’ll show you how to do some makeup after lunch—hopefully before they all start calling us back.” I went downstairs leaving her to enjoy her dream come true before the colours started to fade and real life intruded, like it does. Descending the stairs, I felt she had at least had some experience of harmless girldom, which even if she had to revert back to being a boy again, she’d savour for a long time to come. By the time I got to the kitchen I was feeling quite pleased with myself.

I made soup for lunch—I know, same old same old—but it was quick and filling. I managed to shoo the girls out of the kitchen by giving them their presents; the boys were still riding their bikes so weren’t a problem. I spoke quickly and quietly with Simon and Tom, asked them both if we might allow her to stay for the moment, until some more suitable accommodation could be found. They both nodded their support and Simon then said something which nearly knocked me over.

“How old is she?”

“Sixteen.”

“Is she still in school?”

“She wants to be apprenticed as a hairdresser.”

“Can she do that at sixteen?”

“I think so, why?”

“So she’d need to get a college place?”

“Yeah, if we can find her one?”

“What will she get as an apprentice?”

“Hopefully a career doing something she wants to do, why?”

“I meant pay.”

“Two used teabags and an old comb, why?”

“Well if she helped you around the house with the kids and doing some cleaning and so on, I’ll pay her—what—a tenner an hour? Is that the going rate?”

“I’m sure she’d be pleased to do that at that scale of pay—I suspect there is a limit as to the hours she can do, and we’d have to do up a contract and so on. I’ll sus out social services and ask her as well. Thank you, darling,” I pecked him on the cheek.

“I was just thinking, she’s not gonna blab about Trish is she?”

“I doubt it, living in glass houses et cetera.” I smiled at him again, perhaps he wasn’t as simple as his name suggested.

It was far from cut and dried: we had to get the girl’s agreement to start with, then the powers that be, then our kids—however many we have—and then we had to cope with yet another child in the house, who’d be looking for me to teach her about being female—talk about the blind leading the blind. Good job we have Stella and Livvie, oh and mustn’t forget Kiki.

Once I have agreement from all parties that Julie can stay here, even if only temporarily, I need to get her an appointment with a doctor—this needs to be legitimised if only as an experiment for the child, and she needs to know she can revert back if she wishes.

We ate lunch and cleared up—all hands to the pumps. It was only half past one. I went up to her room with her and I explained a few things about makeup. I’m aware that much of it is by experimentation and practice, but some advice also speeds up the process and most of her peers would have up to six years experience on her.

I agreed she could wear eyeliner, mascara and lip gloss in moderation. I tried to explain that less is more, but I think that went over her head. I also laid some ground rules about bathrooms—always sit on the loo, never let the others see her without clothes on, no leading on the boys and to be careful around the girls, they’d sus her in no time, especially Trish. Transgender people monitor others all the time—it’s like gaydar or whatever they call it with gay people, they pick up things the rest of us miss.

I left her to play with her new toys and went back downstairs—I wondered how many more transsexuals there could be in Portsmouth, or were they all living here already?

The phone rang and I answered it moments before Simon could get there. “Hello?”

“Hello, it’s Andy Bond, can I speak to Cathy Watts?”

“There’s no Cathy Watts here now.”

“I’m sure she gave me this number—who are you?”

“Cathy Cameron.”

“Changed your name have you?”

“Well it tends to be the tradition when you get married.”

“Bloody hell—I mean congratulations, so that really does make you Lady Cameron?”

“’Fraid so, so it’s tradesman’s entrance for you from now on.”

“As if I cared, so what did you want me for—sounds like it’s too late for a wedding invite?”

“Not entirely, we’re having a rematch in Scotland in the spring—I’ll add you to the guest list.”

“Wow—you joking?”

“Not about that, no I mean it, you’ll get an invite nearer the time—but the bridesmaids have already been booked. So you’ll have to just wear your best dress.”

“Will do. Now what else did you want?”

“It’s like this, Andy…” I spent half an hour explaining the situation and the bit about the beating by someone who claimed to be a copper.

“I wonder who that was? You’ve contacted social services?”

“Yeah, I’m waiting for them to get back to me—they’re probably ordering in their crucifixes if they’re coming to see me again.”

“It’s not that bad is it?”

“They were cross last time that they weren’t able to stop me annexing Poland, so when I go to conquer the world—you know?”

“Can we stop the flippancy? I’ll get the family liaison officer to come out with me. I know you, so I can reassure her that—Julie, is it?—is perfectly safe in the interim, and with an expert on gender changing.”

“Expertise with dormice, I can accept—bugger, I have to go to the university, I’ve just remembered.”

“I’ll give you a ring tomorrow, Lady Cameron—cor that feels good to say and mean it.”

“Thanks, Andy. I look forward to hearing from you.”

My ear was going numb, when the phone rang almost immediately after I replaced it. This time it was social services. They would be out in an hour’s time; I was to make sure the child was available. I nearly asked if I was expected to supply thumbscrews and a bath for rafting or whatever they call it when they pretend to drown someone to extract confessions or information.

I went to warn Julie. “Wear your jeans and a plainish top and the ballet pumps.”

“Why? I’d feel happier in a dress.”

“Do as I ask please—I know these characters better than you.”

“Oh all right.”

“Julie, I expect to have the odd argument about dress and makeup with any young woman I’m acting in loco parentis for, but I also expect them to respect my opinion. As soon as you came into this house, I became responsible for you—I’m sticking my neck out a long way for you. Your parents are unlikely to let this rest, so if they ask you for family history, I don’t want lies or exaggeration, but I certainly don’t want you to understate the experiences you had, okay.”

“I’m sorry, Cathy, I’ll get changed.”

“Understand this—these people have the power to remove you from this house, and I can do nothing about it. If they think I’m encouraging you to cross dress, they’ll consider it. I consider I am respecting your life choices, which at present are to try living as a girl. If you change your mind, that’s okay too.”

“Change my mind—about what?”

“You decide you want to go back to being John again.”

“No way. I love being Julie, I’ve only been with you a few hours and I really feel so much happier.”

“Happiness is such a transient thing, Julie—enjoy it while it lasts. Social services will be doing all they can to shatter your dreams—while believing they are acting in your best interests.

“If they allow you to stay for a bit longer, I want you to see a doctor I know.”

“Will you come with me?”

“Of course.”

“Thank you. I’ll get changed—why the jeans?”

“I want them to see how girly you are in relatively neutral clothes.”

“I’m glad you’re on my side, Cathy.”

“I have to use cunning—they have all the bullets.”

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 866

The doorbell and the phone rang at the same time; I grabbed the phone in one hand and the doorknob in the other. “Yes?” I said down the phone.

“Cathy?”

“Yes, who’s that?”

“Andy Bond, I’ve managed to find the Family Liaison Officer and she’s free for an hour or so, we’re on our way over. Just thought I’d let you know.” He rang off before I could say anything, let alone—no. Oh well, this could be an interesting afternoon.

I showed the Social Services people, all three of them, into the dining room and sent Julie to find Simon, tell him they were here and to come as soon as he could and for her to make us a tray of tea and biscuits. She ran off to find Simon.

I went back to the dining room where the three witches—obviously Macbeth wasn’t playing until the evening—were pulling out sheaves of notes and laying them down in front of them. It looked like a cross between an employers’ and union negotiation and a meeting of the UN Security Council.

I told the three women that tea was being organised and that Simon was being found to be informed of their arrival. They nodded at me.

“I see you’re calling yourself Lady Cameron now, Miss Watts.”

“Why shouldn’t I use my married name?”

“A civil partnership no doubt?”

“That was uncalled for, I’d like a retraction of that remark and an apology.”

“Retract the truth? Two men cannot get married in the UK.” Her two companions were aghast at this full frontal attack.

“I think you’ll find that a Church of England priest was quite happy to marry a man and a woman.”

“Who was the woman, you married?”

“I’m sorry I didn’t catch your name?”

“Dorrit, Mrs Amy Dorrit, locality manager children’s services.”

“I am Lady Catherine Cameron, I have a bona fide marriage certificate to prove the point. I am disgusted by your remarks and I am going to ask you to leave this house immediately.”

“I’ll take the boy with me.”

“Which one Danny or Billy?”

“No, the one you’ve probably got all tarted up like a dog’s dinner by now—you people disgust me.”

“On what grounds?”

“Lying to social services officers, and trying to turn boys into girls—you’ve got one, that your money managed to buy you, you’re not getting another, you bloody fairy.”

The faces of her two colleagues were red with embarrassment. The doorbell rang again and someone opened it, “Cathy, it’s the police.”

“Good, send them in,” I called back.

“Hi, Cathy, this is Denise Miller—oh, you’ve got company.”

“Come in, please. This woman has been making unsubstantiated accusations about me in front of two witnesses.”

“Sorry?” said Andy, looking confused.

“These three are from social services; their leader has just accused me of being a homosexual male, and trying to pervert young children into changing their gender.”

“Is this true?” asked Andy. The Dorrit woman went as red as a pillar-box and the anger was making her tremble very slightly. I tried to stay calm—I was going to win this round.

The two other social services women nodded. “I have it on my mobile phone,” which I’d used as a voice recorder. Dorrit went from red to white. “Could you please ask her to leave my house, PC Bond? I’ll speak with her two colleagues about my temporary accommodation for Julie.”

Without further ado, Andy escorted the woman out of the house, her protesting loudly while he was trying to calm her down. There was the sound of a loud slap and his voice saying, “That was a silly thing to do, I shall now have to arrest you for assaulting a police officer. You don’t have to say anything but anything you do say will be taken down and may be used in evidence against you.”

The other two looked perplexed and the other policewoman looked very concerned. The front door opened and shut and a moment later Simon came in—“Andy has just taken some woman away in handcuffs, he said he’d be back in half an hour.”

Her two colleagues smirked and when he asked who she was, they said, “Our boss.”

At that moment, Julie walked in with a tray of tea and chocolate biscuits. “Do you mind if I make a quick phone call, Lady Cameron?” asked the older of the two women.

“Please do, there’s a phone in the hall or if you want to use you cell phone, do use the lounge.” I showed her into the lounge.

“What was all that about?” asked Denise.

“We clashed swords in court over the custody of Trish—she lost and the judge gave her a dressing down. She came out fighting when she saw my name on the case notes.”

“Oh, and who is this young lady?” asked Denise.

“This is Julie, about whom this case meeting was set up.”

“Oh I see, nice to meet you Julie, I’m Denise, the Family Liaison Officer, Hampshire Police.”

Julie went momentarily pale but recovered to give her a real wet fish handshake and nod. “Who are you?” Denise asked the other social services woman.

“Dilys Watkins, I’m a trainee social worker and probably will be allocated to this case.”

“Who’s your friend?” continued Denise.

“That’s Shannon Pensfold, senior social worker.”

With that, Shannon came back in, “I’ve spoken to the area manager, I have authority to act for the team.”

“In lieu of your recently removed leader?” I asked.

“Yes.” She smirked at my remark but managed to hold it back enough not to lose the initiative.

We all gathered around the table and after tea and biscuits were consumed, began the meeting. I explained what had happened that morning, so did Julie. Simon went and got Stella who had actually made some notes after her examination of Julie and she gave a copy to the police and social services. She then answered a few questions, such as were the injuries consistent with a beating up? In her opinion they were. Could I have administered the beating? She thought it unlikely, as the bruises looked several hours old.

Denise took copious notes and asked loads of questions, so did Shannon.

“You were dressed as a girl when Lady Cameron found you?”

“Yes, I was lying injured on some bin bags unable to move when she found me.”

“She hasn’t encouraged you to wear girl’s clothing or to act like a female?”

“No way, she told me while I stayed here, I could have the space to explore being a girl if I wanted or I could go back to being a boy. I’d rather die than go back to being a boy.”

“How old are you, Julie?”

“Sixteen. My birthday was in December.”

“Do you feel in any way forced or coerced into staying here?”

“No, but I wish I could stay here, Lady C is wonderful.”

“Do you mind if I say something?” asked Simon, who’d watched all the goings on with great patience. “I discussed with my wife the prospects for Julie to get an apprenticeship in hairdressing, which my wife is currently exploring on Julie’s behalf. At the moment we have five children staying here with us, so I offered to fund Julie’s studies and give her pocket money, if she agreed to assist my wife in running the house and caring for the children—Cathy has a successful teaching career and has been asked to make another documentary film.”

“Is she going to have enough time to supervise, Julie during this period of vulnerability?”

“Oh yes, she works from home plus the occasional session at the university, besides my sister, Stella, is here so could help Julie’s supervision—actually, she did hairdressing before becoming a nurse.”

“Have Julie’s parents been informed?”

“I tried to inform them that she was safe, and she spoke to them this morning. I spoke with her mother who was not terribly helpful and as good as threatened physical violence upon Julie and myself. There is a history of beatings by her father.”

“Is that so?” asked Denise.

“Yeah, he beat me up if he caught me wearing anythin’ slightly girly.”

“What about your hair?”

“I got this done when I left ’ome yesterday.”

I added, “When I found Julie, she was to my mind inappropriately dressed for her age, which possibly helped to precipitate the assault by the man who picked her up at the club and who bought her several drinks.”

“He claimed to be a police officer?” asked Denise.

“Yeah, his name was Arnie something.”

“Not Arnie Ditchley?”

“Yeah, could be.”

“If it is, he was removed from the force six months ago for assault.”

“Is that the one who beat up the gay bloke down by the Spinnaker?” Simon queried. Denise nodded.

“That would explain a lot, you were lucky he didn’t kill you—nasty piece of work.” Simon had remembered more than I could from seeing the local news. “I only remember because I used to travel up to Town on the same train as the victim’s dad—nice chap, worked at the Stock Exchange.”

Simon and Denise were chatting about the case while the two social workers were talking very quietly, there was much nodding and they pointed to various bits of paper and nodded again. Finally, Shannon spoke.

“We’ve decided that once we’ve examined Julie’s personal accommodation—given her situation, we feel sharing a room would not be appropriate—and your efforts to get her to see a doctor who specialises in gender variant children, and some effort to get her into a suitable educational establishment to pursue her chosen career—she can stay. My colleague will arrange to visit you in a month’s time to check on your progress. I must point out that both Lord and Lady Cameron must be supportive of you if you decide you wish to revert back to a boy. Is that understood?”

Simon and I said it was and Julie was dancing around the room with tears and smudged mascara down her face. “This is the best day of my life,” she said and hugged me tightly, “thank you, so much.”

I calmed Julie down and sent her to show the two social workers her bedroom and en-suite. I was sure that it was perfectly fine for the purpose.

“I can’t think of any reason for me to be involved any longer. Andy may call by with some photos for Julie to look through. If it was Ditchley, then we might have a case against him. You don’t still have the clothing, do you—could be some of his DNA on them.”

“I do.”

“Give them to Andy. Then it’s up to Crown Prosecution if we go for it or not. If we do, it would mean Julie going to court, unless we got a confession from him.”

“I’ll get you a confession,” said Simon smacking his right fist into his left palm.”

“I don’t think we’d be able to use it—if we could, I suspect there’d be a few people about who’d want to help you.”

“I wouldn’t need help—I don’t like bullies who go beating up young women.”

“I don’t think many people do,” agreed Denise.

“What about Julie’s parents?” I asked.

“I can visit them if you like and say she’s safe.”

“Will they need to know where she is?”

“As there are accusations of violence against the father, they won’t be told. They will also be cautioned that any future threats or actual violence will be dealt with severely.”

“So you’re happy with Julie staying here pro tem?”

“Yeah, just let us know if she moves from here.”

The two social workers and Julie returned from her room—“The room is perfectly suitable. If you can keep details of any medical appointments, and the names of the doctors so we can get reports from them, or any educational or training appointments you make.”

“I will,” I said feeling like I was at the altar again.

“I can really stay here?” Julie was still so excited.

“Yes,” three of us said at the same time.

“Yippee!” she yelled and nearly deafened us.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 867

After I had calmed Julie down and sent her off to tidy her bedroom, so I had enough space to think, I found my address book and called the number I was looking for.

“Hello, it’s Cathy Cameron, could I leave a message for Stephanie.”

“Dr Cauldwell is in her surgery at the moment, I’ll see if she’ll speak to you.” I waited for a moment wondering if she’d recognise my name, she may not.

“Hello, this Dr Cauldwell, do I know you—um—Mrs Cameron?”

“Yes, but not as Cathy Cameron, as Cathy Watts—you helped Trish.”

“Oh yes, the little transgendered kid—is it about her?”

“Yes and no, it might be good for someone to see her again, she hasn’t been seen for several months.”

“Might be an idea, what was the ‘no’ about?”

“You won’t believe it but I seem to have acquired a sixteen year old kid, with the same problem.”

“What? These children are as rare as hen’s teeth and you’ve found another? What do you do, go out looking for them?”

“No, they seem to find me—or coincidence puts us together.”

“You know that Jung suggested there was no such thing as coincidence?”

“Yeah, but he was barking anyway.”

“True: I have an hour before lunch tomorrow—I could do a quickie on both of them for you. Do you have a referral for the older one?”

“Not yet, she only happened into my life a few hours ago.”

“Are you sure she’s the real McCoy?”

“I think so: put it this way, she hasn’t recognised Trish yet and vice versa.”

“So they don’t know about each other?”

“No.”

“What about you? Do they know about you?”

“I did tell Trish once, but she seems to have forgotten or ignored it.”

“Probably the latter, is she still calling you, Mummy?”

“Yes, so do Livvie and Mima. The two boys call me Auntie Cathy.”

“Are these all foster kids?”

“Yes, at present. I’m hoping Julie—the latest entrant to my little zoo, will help me run the place.”

“Hmm, I’m intrigued—what about social services?”

“I’ve managed to cut a deal with them for a month, if we seem okay, then hopefully she can stay a bit longer.”

“What about natural parents?”

“Don’t accept Julie as their daughter.”

“I’m intrigued—look, I’m free at four thirty, if you could get down here by then with both of them, I’d have a bit longer for the interviews. I suspect the SS will want chapter and verse?”

“They did mention something along those lines.”

“So why the change of name?”

“My husband prefers it.”

“You got yourself married—woo woo, good for you girl. This is private I’m afraid, the NHS list is so long. Is that okay?”

“Yes, that’s okay. I’ll take today’s appointment. Be there as soon to time as I can.”

I ran off to look for Trish, who was all dirty after messing about with the boys on their bikes. I grabbed her and rushed her up to the bathroom and put her through the shower faster than any car wash.

While she dried herself, I told Julie to get herself smartened up in a dress or skirt and top and to stay clean, we had to go somewhere. She squeaked and ran to her wardrobe—I knew exactly what she’d wear.

“Can I do my makeup a bit more?” she called back to me.

“No—that’s fine. Just be ready by four.”

“Yes, Mum,” she called back and I smiled to myself.

“Mummy, why are you doing my hair?”

“Do you remember Dr Stephanie?”

“Yes, she was nice, she helped you beat the nasty people in court.”

“Well I want her to have a look at you and I want her to have a chat with Julie, too.”

“Why? Wossrong with Julie?”

“Nothing, but she’s had problems with her natural parents, so I’d like to make sure it hasn’t hurt her.”

“I like Julie, it’ll be nice to have a big sister, Livvie and Meems think so too.”

“We’ll see, her staying here is only temporary at the moment.”

“Oh.”

“C’mon, Missy, let’s get you dressed—hmm—I’m tempted to put you in school uniform, but I won’t—okay, put your red skirt and top on with the red tights and black shoes.”

“Can I wear my new bracelet?”

“If you want, put on a vest under the top and petticoat under the skirt. Hurry up then.”

While Trish dressed herself, I changed into a suit with boots—a brown velvet suit with a beige roll neck jumper and brown boots. I threw on a bit of makeup—when I think how a couple of years ago, this would have taken me all afternoon—now it’s second nature.

I put on a gold bangle and matching gold chain around my neck with dangly gold earrings, some perfume and a paperback book, and I was ready except for my top coat.

I finished Trish’s hair, two pigtails with red ribbons—she looked lovely. Then I went to check on Julie—she was getting her knickers well and truly twisted because she’d laddered her tights.

“It happens, now just calm down and put some new ones on.”

“But I’d not really worn them, I just got them up my leg and put my thumb through them and it ran like mad.”

“Ten denier are a bit thin for this weather—put the ribbed ones on and make sure you pull them well up or they’ll fall down when you start walking.”

“Don’t girls sometimes wear a pair of knickers over the top to keep them up?”

“Sometimes—do that if it makes you feel safer. But hurry, we have ten minutes.”

“Where are we going, Cathy?”

“To see someone.”

“Not my parents?”

“Good gracious, no. Just someone I’d like you to meet.”

“Oh, is it a man?”

“I beg your pardon?”

“Well I just wondered,”—she blushed and apologised.

“Julie, chasing men got you the black eye you have and the bruises elsewhere—I think you need to learn to walk before you can run.”

“You sound like my mother.”

“At this moment, I’m standing in for your mother—I’m trying to protect you whilst you have a little freedom. You’re only sixteen—and in girl terms, you’re only a matter of hours old. You have a lot to learn about being female.”

“I know—but you’ll teach me, won’t you?”

I looked at my watch, it was five to four. “Come down to my room as soon as you’ve done your tights—wear your boots, the ones I gave you.”

“Yes, Mum.” That was twice now—I wonder if she’s winding me up or what?

I went down and finished off Trish with some clear lip-gloss, she strutted about like a model on the catwalk. Julie came down, “Wow, you look nice, Trish.”

“Thank you, Julie, you look nice too.”

I rolled my eyes, “Never mind the mutual preening, sit here.” I pulled out a chair for Julie and ten minutes later had her hair up with a fall of blonde curls bouncing on top of her head when she walked—her mouth dropped open.

“Cannive mine up too, Mummy?”

“No, Trish, c’mon, we’ve got to run.”

Julie was admiring herself in my mirror. “This is like, amazing,” she repeated to herself.

I tapped her on the shoulder and said, “Never mind that, we have to run, I’ll show you how to do it another day.”

She grabbed her coat and bag and followed me down the stairs. “Where you goin’?” asked Livvie.

“Out, we’ll be back teatime; I might bring back some pizzas.”

“Yesssss,” said Livvie and Trish and high fived each other, I just gasped in surprise.

“In the car you two.” I pushed them both towards the door.

“Geez, girl, you look like, brill,” Danny all but drooled at his new love interest. I hoped I could nip this in the bud.

“Why thank you kind sir,” said Julie and wiggled her bum as she went out the door, Trish of course copied her, and Danny just said , “Phwoarrr.” I was going to have to have a serious word with this child.

“D’ya know where we’re like, goin’?” Julie asked Trish.

“To see my doctor.”

“What have you got to see a doctor for?”

“I’m not a proper girl yet, but Mummy has promised I can have the operation when I’m old enough.”

“What? You’re like not a real girl?”

“No, I’m not like you, Julie, but I will be one day.”

“This is like crazy,” she said to herself.

“I’m a girl with a plumbing problem, Mummy says.”

“So am I, Trish.”

“So are you what?” Trish looked confused.

“I’m a girl with a plumbing problem, too.”

“What?” gasped Trish, “I thought you were a real girl.”

“I thought you were, too. This is like amazin’.”

“Right now you both know, keep it under your hats, okay?”

“Yes, Mummy,” they both answered together.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 868

I parked the car in the clinic car park. “Oh, we don’t usually come here, do we, Mummy?” Trish observed.

“We have done, sweetheart.” I took her hand and Julie took the other as we walked into the reception area.

“Cathy Cameron to see Dr Cauldwell.”

“Two youngsters? Oh yes, she’s put a note on the computer, please take a seat.”

“I remember the toy box now, Mummy, may I go and look?”

“If you wish.” Trish walked over to the toy box and started pulling things out and looking at them. It seemed strange that toys which were designed for much younger children suddenly took her eye and she played with them. She eschewed the obvious boy’s toys, such as cars and guns.

“I didn’t realise Trish was like me,” Julie said so quietly I could hardly hear her.

“Life is full of surprises,” I smiled back to her.

“No wonder I didn’t shock you.”

“I’ve seen a bit of life,” I smiled again—it was a total fib, I’d lived probably a quieter more sheltered life than the average mole.

“I feel quite nervous—will you come in with me?”

“I can’t really, Julie, I have to watch Trish, I think she’s a bit more vulnerable than you are, don’t you?”

“Yeah, I s’pose,” she looked forlorn.

“I’ll introduce you to Dr Cauldwell, who I’m sure you’ll like, she’s very nice and experienced in transgender children.”

“I’ve like never told anyone, like an adult, before ’cept you of course, but I feel safe with you.”

“I’m glad to hear it.”

“I wish I had a mother like you.”

“What nine or ten years older than you? I think even Mary was older than that when God got her up the duff.”

Julie thought that was very funny and giggled like a much younger child—nerves I suppose.

“That is so funny, Cathy.”

“Why do you think they call him God the Father?” She laughed loudly again, before I could continue my abuse of the New Testament myths. “Actually, it was the Holy Spirit who was named in the subsequent paternity suit.”

“I wish you’d taught me R.E. at school, I might have come more often. We ’ad some crusty ol’ vicar—he was at least forty—an’ all he’d do all day was go on about the Israelites bumbling about in the desert and ’ow He fed them when they ran out of food.”

“Like Bob Geldhoff?” I said smirking.

“Hey that’s good, I think Bob Geldhoff had the better bands,” she said still laughing.

The door to Stephanie’s consulting room opened and she came out with a woman of about thirty something and a youth of about twelve. They chatted for a moment or two before she wished them adieu and they went to make another appointment. She glanced around the waiting area and saw Julie and I sat together.

“Lady Cameron, heow naice to see you, simply spiffin’ old gel.”

“Stephanie Cauldwell, behave yourself in front of the children”, I pretended to cover Julie’s eyes to protect her.

“So, how’s married life?”

“Not much different to pre-marital life, except I can get a table in a restaurant quicker; well that and I can get headaches for England.”

She laughed and said, “Hello, young Trish, enjoying my toy box?”

“Yes thank you, Dr Stephanie, aren’t you a bit old for some of these toys?”

Julie and I smirked, while Stephanie smiled and out of the corner of her mouth almost whispered, “There’s always one isn’t there?” Then said to Trish, “Yeah, I suppose I am, are you?”

“Probably,” replied Trish, “but my mummy won’t buy us some of these so I’m playing with them now.”

“You mean old mummy,” Stephanie pretended to scold me.

“Hey, less of the old,” I shot back.

“This I take it is Julie?” she said looking the teen up and down. “Good taste in clothes for teenager, or is this with her ladyship’s assistance?”

“Yeah,” blushed Julie.

“Who are you going to see first?” I asked.

“Are you happy to continue playing in the toy box, Tricia?”

“Yes, thank you.”

“We’ll start with you then, Julie, in there please,” she pointed to the open door. Julie hesitated. “Is there a problem with that?”

“Um—can Cathy come in with me?”

“It’s not what I usually do with older boys and girls—how about she comes in while we have a quick chat, and once you decide I’m not going to eat you, she can come and play in the toy box with Tricia?”

“Yeah—I mean, yes, thank you.”

“What about Trish? I can’t leave her out here, she’s only five.”

“Going on twenty something,” muttered Sephanie. “Zilla, will you keep an eye on this tiny wee one for a few minutes?” she called to the receptionist.

“’Course, Dr Cauldwell.”

“Trish, don’t talk to strangers and don’t leave this room without telling me,” I said as seriously as I could.

“I am five,” Trish said indignantly, “I think I can take care of myself, Mummy, I’m not silly, you know?”

“You better believe it, kiddo,” Stephanie said quietly and sniggered as she followed Julie into the room.

“I’ll sit at the back then,” I volunteered.

“No, you sit where Julie can see you. Julie, you sit over there. Cathy, I’d be obliged if you don’t interrupt without one of us asking you to.”

I nodded, trying to show I can keep my mouth shut. All the time we were there I was more worried about Trish than Julie. I knew the latter was safe with Stephanie but Trish was out of my sight.

“So, Julie, how did you meet the Lady Cameron?”

Julie gave her the same sort of description she’d shared with the police and social services, including the sort of clothing she was wearing.

“Let me get this straight, you wanted to experience being a girl by being with a man?”

“Sort of, I just wanted to have fun as a girl, go dancin’ and stuff like, an’ this bloke picked me up; said he thought I was older than I was.”

“So you’d put on loads of makeup had you?”

“Yeah, my friend helped me.”

“What’s this a girlfriend or boyfriend?”

“Girlfriend, I’d never thought of her as a girlfriend before.”

“Girls have loads of girlfriends, it doesn’t mean they’re gay or anything, in fact it’s boyfriends who are usually in single figures with most girls, unless they go out in a big gang.”

“I don’t—it’s just Michelle and maybe Tracie. I don’t have many other friends.”

“But they didn’t go out with you last night?”

Goodness, was it only last night all this started, or even this morning? I suppose it was—seems such a lot has happened since.

“Nah, I went on my own.”

“Pity, they may have kept you safer. Okay, would you like to add anything, Cathy?”

“No, except to say she had been quite badly beaten and her makeup and clothing were a trifle suggestive. Having said that, I don’t believe anyone has the right to try and make another individual do anything they don’t want to do, and as for doing it with a child—however old she looked, words fail me.”

“Quite, now, Julie, how long have you been dressing as a girl?” I drifted off into a sort of dream imagining the sort of scene that took place when Ditchley discovered his mistake. I found myself shuddering.

“Are you okay?” asked Stephanie.

“I’d like to go and check on Trish, if that’s okay?”

“Fine with me, and you, Julie?” Julie nodded, “off you go then.” I left the room and was pleased to discover Trish had spotted the rocking horse and was trying to win the Derby on it.

“She’s been no trouble at all,” commented Zilla.

“She’s pretty good, aren’t you, sweetheart?”

“I’m a good girl, I am,” she said and I nearly fell about laughing.

“Okay, sweetheart, I’m going to read my book.”

I was well into chapter two and the murder had been committed, when someone tapped my arm and I jumped and dropped my book.

“Sorry, Cathy, Trish has gone in.”

“Oh, oh okay. Stephanie didn’t say she wanted me to go in, did she?”

“No, not as far as I know.”

“Oh well, she knows where I am. How did you get on?”

“She’s really nice; you said I’d like her.”

“So she didn’t ask you any awkward questions, then?”

“Oh yeah, loads of them, like, but I wanted to tell her the truth—like lyin’ would have betrayed her trust.”

“Yes, it would, not only that but you’d be cheating yourself.”

“Yeah, I would, wouldn’t I?”

“So when have you got to come again?”

“Next week.”

“I suppose it would be fairly intensive if you’ve just started on your journey.”

“She said she wanted to see me every week for a month—is that all right?”

“Yes of course it is, why shouldn’t it be?”

“She let slip you’re payin’ for all this.”

“So, that was my decision.”

“I wanna pay you back like, when I can.”

“Julie, if you really want to repay me—be true to yourself, but do it with dignity not like a slut, and help me with the other kids and the house as best you can.”

“Don’t worry, I will, I promise.” She paused for a moment and said, “All the other kids call you Mummy or Auntie Cathy?”

“Yeah, so?”

“Can I call you somethin’ like that, too?”

“Why? You’re going to be working with me?”

“Yeah, but I don’t have any parents now and I’d like…”

“Your parents aren’t dead, Julie, there’s always hope of reconciliation.”

“So can I call you, Auntie Cathy, too?” She had a tear running down her cheek.

I put my arm about her shoulders and pulled her close to me—“What provoked all this?”

“We talked about my mum and dad, and I realised I loved you more than I did them because you’d shown me more love than they ’ad.”

“Hang on, they’ve looked after you for sixteen years, I’ve done so for five minutes—don’t write them off because of recent events—it’s a lot to cope with, not everyone could.”

“They didn’t even wanna try. You’ve bought me clothes ’n’ stuff, taught me how to be a girl and even offered me a job. I’d like to call you, Mum, but I guess that wouldn’t be right, would it?”

“No, Julie, you already have a mother, and as I said, one day things might be easier than they are now.”

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 869

Julie looked at me thoughtfully and then said, “If we can have two grandmothers, why can’t we have two mothers?”

Logically, apart from the title given to the woman who bore us and there can only be one of those, however, surrogacy and adoption and all sorts of other complications can arise, so even that isn’t clear-cut. I had no answer to this except to say, “I don’t know.”

“Good, I’ve just adopted you as my second mother, Mummy.” She linked her arm in mine and held on tight.

“I hope you’re not just saying this because I’m the first adult who’s actually let you have your own way, are you?”

“No—I think you’re the nicest lady I’ve ever met, and far less scary than your sister.”

“You haven’t seen me angry yet.”

“You won’t be cross with me for wanting to be your daughter, will you?”

“I don’t know, that depends upon how much you’re trying to be genuine or manipulate me.”

“You’re far too clever to be manipulated by little ol’ me?”

“I’ve been around too long to be flattered into doing what others want.”

“Is that what you think I’m, like doing?”

“Is it what you’re like, doing?”

“No, course not. I feel better since I’ve been with you, than I have for years.”

“That’s a suspicious statement, Julie, you haven’t been here that long, and you’ve only known me since breakfast. How do you know I’m not a nasty piece of work who has tantrums and beats people?”

“Trish woulda told me.”

“Would she? Perhaps she wants someone to protect her from my anger?”

“She has Simon—do you think he’ll mind me calling him daddy?”

“You’ll have to ask him, won’t you? Something you’re going to have to stop doing is flirting with everything you see in trousers. Those boys are going to be very upset if they find out the subject of their wet dreams has the same in her knickers as they do.”

“Aww it’s just a bit of fun.”

“Both of them have problems; at the moment they’ve stabilised, I don’t want you destabilising them. Nor do I want you queering Trish’s pitch with them later on. Don’t you see how she copies you? Now you’ve got the big sister role, you’re going to have to be very careful how you behave when she’s around.”

“I hadn’t thought of that.”

“Everything has consequences, including letting you call me mother or mummy or whatever.”

“I don’t like whatever—I much prefer, Mummy. It feels nice and girly.”

“What did you call your real mother?”

“You don’t want to know.”

“To her face, and I do want to know.”

“Mum. So if I call you, Mummy, it’s different.”

“Did Trish tell you what to say?”

“A five year old—tell me what to do? Huh.” She blushed then said, “How did you know?”

“I know Trish,” I answered and smirked. It will do Julie good to realise that although she’s bigger than Trish, Trish is very smart for her age.

“Dr Stephanie gave me some pills.”

“Oh, what are those?”

“Hormones, I think—I hope.”

“That’s very unusual—don’t tell Trish.”

“Of course not—Mummy,” now it was her turn to smirk. I was a bit concerned by this. I decided I would query this with Stephanie afterwards. We chatted about this and that, including getting her clothes back from her friend’s house. Although she had more than she started with, she didn’t have much and I didn’t want to spend more than I had to for the moment.

Julie promised she would call her friends—she asked if she could invite them round, and I had no objection providing she didn’t say anything about Trish or the other children, and they all behaved themselves. She promised they would. I told her I knew that, because I’d chuck them all out if they didn’t.

Trish eventually came out with Stephanie; I asked Julie to watch her while I spoke with the good doctor. “You looked exercised about something, Cathy?”

“I am, you’ve given Julie hormones.”

“Yes.”

“Why?”

“Because that’s my recommended treatment for the moment.”

“Is it wise—I mean, she’s only been wearing skirts for a few hours?”

“Sit down, Cathy. Look—they are very low dosage, so all they’re going to do is calm her down and cut her libido.”

“Cut her libido?”

“Yes, I’m not sure of her sexuality at the moment.”

“Does that matter—I mean, hasn’t she got time to develop that. I didn’t know which way I swung until I was past twenty—until then, I didn’t actually swing at all.”

“No she has plenty of time, but I’m concerned that she seems to want to attract the wrong sort of partner. Also sometimes, when the libido reduces so does the desire to dress up.”

“I hate to say it, she only has girl’s stuff to wear—she didn’t bring any boy’s kit with her—and all I’ve bought her is girl stuff.”

“Yes, I recognise your hand in choice of clothing, Cathy, which is impeccable as ever. Maybe you should give dormice a rest and go into style creation.”

“No thanks, I have enough problems looking after three girls and two boys.”

“I think that’s four girls now, isn’t it?”

“She insists on calling me Mummy.”

“You must be giving her something she needs for that sort of bond to develop so quickly.”

“I’m a little suspicious, it seems to be growing a bit too fast for my comfort.”

“You think she’s doing a number on you?”

“In a word, yes. Oh, I don’t know.”

“Oh well, Mummy Cathy, is that all?”

“So how long will you try these pills?”

“A few months if she lasts the course.”

“You have doubts?” Maybe I wasn’t alone in my suspicions.

“Not sure—classic transgender—transsexual presentation, but that can be got from books or the Internet. It will be interesting to see what the pills do; they’ll also stop any further masculinisation while she’s taking them.”

“And feminisation?”

“A tiny bit, enough for her if she’s genuine to feel happy that something’s happening, but not enough to make a lot of difference if she reverts back—they do you know.”

“What, revert?”

“Yes—discover it wasn’t quite what they thought it would be, or they decide they’re going to be camp boys instead.”

“I don’t have a problem with any of that as long as she tells me what she really wants when she realises it. I’ll support her as best I can.”

“I know, Cathy, why do you think she wants to call you Mummy?”

“Oh shut up,” I sighed and she chuckled. “Why is it always me?”

“Because you care. If you hadn’t found her, just think what would have happened? Hypothermia? Serious sexual assault or even murder?”

“If only I’d remembered my mobile, I’d have called the paramedics and let them deal with it.”

“And what would have happened next?”

“How do I know?”

“They’d have sent for her parents and she’d have got herself another beating—that would have done a lot of good wouldn’t it?”

“Are you trying to tell me that the universe or whatever, organised all this so I’d find her first?”

“Who knows?”

“Stephanie, that is sentimental hogwash and you know it.”

“Is it? Think about things for a moment—you’d taken an early start to see the dormice; you forgot your phone; you absent-mindedly took a detour and ended up in a part of town you don’t normally visit; you spotted the bundle of rags; you stopped to look again.”

“Coincidence, coincidence, coincidence—that’s all it was, pure bloody coincidence.”

“Not according to Jung.”

“That’s all bollocks, Steph and you know it. They use poor old Jung to justify a belief in astrology or UFOs.”

“What if she was calling you?”

“She could barely speak when I found her.”

“No—what if you and she are on a similar wavelength—let’s call it a transgender one, and her distress, somehow acted like a homing beacon for you—and so you couldn’t avoid finding her?”

“Are you trying to tell me that’s what got me up early and off my normal routes?”

“Yeah.”

“Bollocks.”

“Why? It could have happened that way.”

“Total codswallop, if that was the case how come I haven’t been directed to find all the suicidal trannies or assaulted ones that must have passed through Portsmouth in the last couple of years? Why should it start now?”

“Maybe the time wasn’t right before, or you weren’t?”

“Me? What’s wrong with me?”

“Nothing, but you weren’t perhaps as secure as you are now? You’re married to a wealthy man, and live in a big house.”

“So I can fill it full of transgendered children? Pull the other one, Steph—look, there is no God, except in wishful-thinker’s thoughts and the universe is a dangerous place for ordinary people, so I can’t believe it would be interested in a tiny minority who can’t even biologically reproduce, so are a real evolutionary blind alley.”

“You sound like Professor Dawkins.”

“Hey, thanks, Steph, that’s made my day.”

“It was meant to be an insult—Mummy Cathy!”

“Now that is—round two next week?”

“Yes, see Zilla.”

“What about Trish?”

“She’s doing fine, but then I knew she would under your care. You’re a natural mother, Cathy.”

“There’s an irony there, somewhere?”

“Perhaps—or does the universe know what it’s doing after all?”

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 870

I have been told I overanalyse—I’m a scientist—or was until the population explosion caught up with me. Oh well, at least I won’t be lonely, will I?

Julie had asked if she could invite her friends round, and I had agreed, albeit with misgivings. She phoned them as soon as we got back and they agreed to come over that evening, especially when they found she was still Julie. I presume they wanted to see this bunch of loonies who aided and abetted her delusions.

We brought back several pizzas with us, and everyone tucked in—even I had a little bit, although they are to my mind a total con. If people want to eat Italian, why not pasta—at least that is real food, not this manhole cover with cheese on the top. The kids love this crap, and I had to speak to the boys who were shoving it down their gullets so fast they were in danger of choking themselves. We also had half a sack of cardboard boxes to recycle at the end of it, and the food wasn’t cheap—for the cost of that little lot, I could have done a whole roast leg of lamb with all the trimmings. I must be getting old.

Dessert or pudding, depending upon whence you come, was very simple—while they were all gorging on cardboard with its cheese and other toppings, I knocked up a quick fruit salad and some ice cream. I ate more of that than the fake Italian food.

All hands to the pumps, meant we cleared up before Julie’s guests arrived and we all sat down to have a cuppa or other drink when the doorbell rang.

I answered the door—I insisted; outside stood two young women about fifteen or sixteen, both wrapped up like Eskimos in fake fur coats and jeans and Ugli boots, their eyes heavily made up peering out from under Peruvian knitted hats and woolly scarves.

“Hello,” I said.

“We’ve come to see Jo—I mean Julie,” said the one correcting herself with help from a thump by her colleague—then they both started giggling.

“You’d better come in—Julie, your friends are here,” I called to the dining room.

Julie walked out to the hallway with a mixture of cockiness and nervousness, she laughed awkwardly when her friends came in. I told her they could use the dining room as Simon was watching the telly in the lounge.

I watched them go off giggling and went into the kitchen, warm from the Aga, and loaded the bread machine while I was out there. While that was working, I kept a wary eye on the dining room door to stop any unwarranted intrusions by the girls or the two boys.

Danny was kicking himself that he missed two dolly birds coming into the house and Billy was ribbing him about that. I called Danny and told him to knock on the door and ask if the girls wanted a drink to warm them up or even to cool them down. Judging by the giggling that was emanating from the dining room, the latter might have been more useful.

Of course Danny jumped at the chance to girl-watch—his hormones seemed to be early and in full working order. He came out from the room blushing but full of himself. “They want Coke, Auntie Cathy.”

“Okay, I’ll take some in.”

“No, I’ll do it, Auntie, I can see you’re busy.” Danny had suddenly become very thoughtful or devious. I suspect the latter.

I poured out three glasses of cola and put some small bags of crisps and chocolate bars on a tray and told him to take it through. He needed two hands to open the door, so Billy dashed ahead of him and opened it, walking inside to let Danny in and to do his bit of talent spotting. I really smiled at their clumsy efforts to be discreetly nosy.

Of course, he wanted a drink and bag of crisps as well, so did Billy and I knew, three little maids from school would as soon as they saw the others with snacks. Within five minutes, my kitchen bore a full-scale invasion, including Simon who came looking for a drink of some sort and a snack.

“Half an hour and you girls have to go to bed, an hour and you boys have to go.” This curfew warning was met with groans and cries of ‘not-fair’ much as I expected. I set up my laptop and opened my emails.

One was from a boy I knew at Sussex, what did he want, and how did he find me? I opened it with great caution in case it was a virus or other nasty—it wasn’t.

Hi Charlie, or is it Cathy now?

Remember me, we used to ride a bit together and talk about mammal ecology—you on dry land, me with seals and other marine mammals. I’ve got myself a slot at Southampton – starting after New Year. It would be good to see you again—though I suspect you might look a bit different if all the rumours I’ve heard are true—is that really you on YouTube? If so, what a cracker you turned out to be.

Be really good to meet up again, do you still cycle?

Let me know if you can make it.

Regards,

Luke Perryman.

PS I got your email addy via the mammal survey data.

His PS explained how he found me—a blast from the past. Here I am hiding things from my ‘children’ and up it pops to scare the living daylights out of me. Oh dear, what do I say? Maybe I’ll speak with Si before I answer it.

The email left me all of a twitter—not the online form, but a previous use of that word. I missed the time for the girl’s bedtime until Simon reminded me. When he came out to the kitchen I showed him the email.

“What do you want me to do, come with you?” he asked.

“That would be nice, Si.”

“Yeah, boring the pants off me while you two reminisce about old times. Nah, I think you’re probably safe to go—unless you want to invite him here, for dinner or something?”

“What?” I squeaked, “So he can see I run a small children’s home?”

Simon roared at this, “Yeah, Cameron’s Waifs and Strays.”

“Be serious, you big lump, is it a good idea—why can’t my past stay dead? None of them were interested in me while I was there.”

“I don’t know, he used to cycle with you, didn’t he?”

“Only when he couldn’t ride with anyone else, when I got a bit more serious and put in the miles, he tended to come even less, a real fair weather friend. I suspect he’s been put up to this by some of his mates—you know laugh at the freak stuff.”

“In which case, you go—get your hair done and whatever—buy yourself a new outfit, on me—and knock his eyes out. He won’t be laughing, he’ll be wanting to get his leg over—and if you want to wind him up a little feel free, I know I can trust you.”

“He might be married for all I know.”

“So? I’ll bet it isn’t to Megan Fox or Beyonce Knowles—in which case, you go ahead and show him what a fox you are.”

“Simon—I’m not sure I want to see him, let alone tease him.”

“He’s seen the clip on the net, so he already knows a bit about how you look, you look even better now.”

“What? I’m half a stone heavier.”

“Yeah, in all the right places,” he swatted my bum as he went out. “Girls—c’mon bedtime—your mother is on story duty tonight. C’mon, now please, put your toys away and up to bed—NOW.”

I followed them upstairs and read them a story, all the while thinking about my email. Part of me wanted to ignore it or reply, that I was too busy—another wanted to do just as Simon suggested, and see if I could make him mess his underpants without actually doing anything more than teasing him. Serve the bugger right.

When I got downstairs, Simon was sending the boys up—some days he’s actually quite the master of the house—others, he’s a waste of time. The girls came out of the dining room.

“We have to go to catch our bus, thanks for the drinks an’ things, Lady Cathy.” The one who spoke was the blonder of the two, “You have a lovely house, such a big one.”

“Ah, it’s not mine, it’s my father’s—and which one are you, Michelle or Tracie?”

“I’m Shelley.”

“What time is the bus?”

“Five minutes, if it runs.”

“Julie, get your coat on and go with the girls to the bus—if it isn’t here in by quarter past let me know.”

“Yes, Mummy,” she smirked at me, and I glared back, her two companions giggled.

Of course the bus didn’t run, so I had to de-ice the car and take them home. Actually, they weren’t too bad once they’d settled down. At least Julie had got her own jeans back, plus a sweat shirt and tee. It wasn’t much but it added to her meagre wardrobe.

On the way back we talked about the Curse of the Mummy, not the horror story, but her reference to me as such. I wasn’t comfortable with someone only ten years younger calling me mummy.

She started to sniff and apologised—then she started to sob. I knew I was being manipulated, but she got through my defences. I stopped the car in a lay-by. My eyes were moist as well—dammit.

“Okay, you can call me it for a while, if I still feel as uncomfortable then, you’ll have to stop—okay?”

“Thanks, Mummy, you’re so good to me.”

“Yeah—dammit.”

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 871

I tossed and turned that night; the idea of meeting up with Luke worried me. We had nothing in common except biology, and I was essentially an ecologist, while he was a hands on, cut ’em up and see type of marine biologist. Last time I saw him, he was in his element—inside the body of an elephant seal he was dissecting. Simon’s offer was very attractive, I could do with a new outfit, but Julie needed new clothes more than I did.

I resolved to turn him down the next day when I had time. Of course I forgot—well I got bogged down in life—with six kids, things tend to be a bit fraught, and Julie wasn’t being as much help as I’d hoped—in fact she had more needs at times than those she was supposed to be looking after. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say she had more issues than Reader’s Digest.

It might also be worth mentioning that once or twice I saw Trish counselling Julie—she had more experience of living the life test, which is essentially what Julie was doing—although nobody had said so in such direct terms.

I think she was learning from Livvie, too—I watched her copying how Livvie did things. Maybe I should be an anthropologist—although what are they but biologists who are too posh to admit they only study one ape?

The days passed quickly, probably because I was so busy looking after six kids. Any plans we’d had for New Year went by the board—we had too many children to make it viable to plan anything.

I know that’s no excuse, and we could have a proper Hogmanay if we planned it properly. I mean, it’s not as if I don’t have enough expertise in the family. In all fairness, we were invited to a party at the hotel in Southsea, and I urged Tom and Simon to go and take Stella, and I’d look after the baby. They wouldn’t go without me, and I wasn’t going to let the youngsters stay up that late. I suppose Julie could have gone, although I’d have been worried if she had gone: she was still a work in progress and her gesture and attitude was sometimes inappropriate for her apparent role.

Next time, I decided, we’d try and plan a proper Hogmanay party and invite some people round as well; get some records of Scottish country dance music and get some lessons for the girls and myself so we can all have fun.

Instead, what we did was open a bottle of sparkling wine—Asti Spumante I think, and drank a quick toast at midnight, then we went to bed. I did allow Julie to partake—she was miffed that I wouldn’t allow her to go to meet her friends in the town centre and she sulked most of the night—texting and talking to Michelle and Tracie until just before midnight.

It was as we went to bed on New Year’s morning that Simon reminded me about Perryman. “When are you going to see your old friend at Southampton?”

“Who?”

“The one I told you I’d buy you a new dress for.”

“Oh him—I haven’t spoken to him since.”

“Why not? Go on—knock him dead.”

“I don’t know about that; if he’s just curious about meeting up with someone who’s changed over, I’m sure there are plenty in Southampton for him to ogle.”

“Send him a copy of your film.”

“Of course—Simon, you are a genius.” I hugged him and even kissed him—well he is my husband. I resolved to send him a copy of my dormouse film, which he should have seen if he was a real biologist—if only to criticise.

Simon started stroking my breast and I ignored him; when he started on the other one, I turned over—I was knackered. “Huh—even us geniuses have physical needs you know,” he sighed and I giggled myself awake—so the bugger got his wicked way, but only by promising to do the breakfast.

I think he did it with Danny and Billy, with Trish and Livvie coming in to me for a cuddle. Not sure where Meems was—possibly downstairs—she does like being with Simon. I knew that Julie wouldn’t be up for several hours—a la teenager. Hence my disappointment at her level of help. I wondered if this was what was to come with the others?

I sent Luke a DVD of my film courtesy of the university at Southampton and hoped he’d get it before too long.

I then sent him an email.

Dear Luke,
Thanks for contacting me. You were wondering how I was these days. If you’d watched my dormouse film on BBC, you’d have known and what I was doing. I’ve sent you a copy of the film on DVD.
I wish you well in your new job, but feel that the past has little relevance to me these days, so I won’t be accepting your offer to meet.

Yours,

Cathy.

So I didn’t get to buy a new dress courtesy of Simon. Oh well another time.

I took the girls to school on the fourth of January and was relieved to discover I had some time to myself—until I realised I had an hour to get Julie up and to Stephanie’s clinic.

“Oh, Mummy, it’s so early.”

“You have five minutes to get into the shower and get yourself dressed unless you want to run out of hormones?”

“No—I don’t.”

“You have to see Dr Cauldwell in less than an hour.”

She fairly flew out of bed and into the shower and was out and drying herself twelve minutes later. I helped her with her hair—mainly for time’s sake, she threw on some clothes and ate her toast as I drove her towards the clinic. She actually did her makeup in the car park—I wouldn’t wait for her.

On the drive there—I laid down some ground rules. “You are going to cease this laziness immediately, or you’re no use to me.”

The look on her face was priceless. It was sheer horror. “What d’you mean, Mummy?”

“I mean that I shall send you back to your original parents. You were meant to come to my house to help me, but you’re less help than even the boys are. So from tomorrow, you’re going to change that, or next week you’ll be back with your birth mother.”

“You wouldn’t, would you?” Moisture was beginning to pool in her eyes.

“Try me.”

“Okay, Mummy, I’ll do anything, just don’t send me back there.”

“Promise?”

“Absolutely, I promise.”

“Actions speak louder than words, we’ll get you an alarm clock for tomorrow—one that wakes the dead—no, better than that—one that wakes teenagers.”

Stephanie seemed pleased with her progress, it was me who wasn’t, but maybe that was in hand. While we were having a coffee in a well known chain of supermarkets’ coffee shop, my phone rang.

It was Tom, which was unusual in itself. I was quite concerned but he reassured me that he was okay, it was the mammal survey. “There’s a big meeting here tomorrow, Southampton are smelling blood and as we get government funding, they want some of thae action. I need ye here tae fecht oor corner wi’ me.”

“Of course, what time?”

“The meetin’ is frae eleven, so I’ll need ye here wi me when I go in to work.”

“I’ll need you to see the girls off tomorrow to school, I have to go to a meeting all day. I’ll leave you a list of things I want you to do, okay?” I said to Julie.

“Yeah, sure, Mummy.”

“I’ll arrange for a cab to take the girls to school, the boys go on the bus anyway,” I said to Tom.

“Sorry, hen, ye culd tak them first, then come on tae thae university.”

“Okay, we’ll do that then. I suppose you’ll want me dressed tidily?”

“Och, o’ course I dae, ye’re Lady Cameron thae noo, I expect ye tae show it.”

“Yes, Daddy.” I sighed and shut my phone. “C’mon kiddo, I need a new suit and shoes or boots.”

“Yay, canni’ve a new skirt, Mummy?”

“We’ll see.” We walked quickly to the car and had we had more time, I’d have liked to go to Salisbury or even Southampton for a change, instead we headed for the town centre and the best Portsmouth could offer Simon’s credit card—it had been burning a hole in my pocket for days.

In a small boutique down towards the quay I found a delicious crushed velvet suit in a deep rose pink, it was seemingly made for me, and with a grey silk blouse it looked absolutely perfect. I matched it with some grey court shoes and a pair of grey high heeled boots. Julie was in awe of my taste and spending power, and she profited by a red mini skirt for behaving herself.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 872

Southampton is a bigger university than ours, or south tampon, as one of our students described it. Their biology department is mainly marine oriented and is very involved with monitoring the effects of oil spillages at sea and so on. As I drove home I pondered about our meeting tomorrow. I wasn’t sure how useful I’d be not having had much to do with teaching for several months. I suppose I would be some moral support for Tom, for what that was worth.

Julie could see I was worried, and being a teenager, assumed she was the cause of it. “Don’t worry, Mummy, I will do better tomorrow—in fact when we get home tonight, I’ll give you lots of help.”

“Oh good,” I said rather dismissively—why did I take on a teenager? I’ll definitely leave the next one to freeze, or at least remember my mobile phone.

I remembered that we had to collect the girls there should be enough room on the back seat for them. I headed for the school. The headmistress, Sister Maria, was waiting with them as we walked through the playground towards the entrance. Julie had insisted she came with me.

“Juuu-leeeee,” yelled Trish and ran to embrace her newfound fellow conspirator.

“Another waif or stray?” asked Sister Maria.

“Yes, ’fraid so—I now know how the RSPCA feel after Christmas.”

“Full house?”

“Very, that’s number six.”

“Jesus, Mary and Joseph!” she exclaimed, “And you’re not even Catholic?”

“No—definitely not.”

“Ah, ’tis a pity, so it is. You’d have made a wonderful nun.”

“How can you possibly know that?” I wasn’t sure if I was more intrigued or horrified by her statement.

“Ah, I know dees tings,” she said in her very lilting Irish brogue.
Her accent had become more pronounced. I wondered, “Have you been away over the holiday.”

“I did indeed, so I did, went home to see me mudder and fadder. How did you know?”

“Your accent is more pronounced, as this happens with people who return to their roots or their family, I wondered if this was the case.”

“Miss Marple stroikes again,” she said and laughed.

“Oh no, more Lady Molly Robertson-Kirk.”

“Who?”

“A character created by the Baroness Orczy, otherwise known as, Lady Molly of Scotland Yard.”

“A sort of Scottish pimpernel?”

“I think she did the seeking, rather than the Frenchies.”

“Are we going home, Mummy?” asked Mima who naturally hadn’t understood the references to The Scarlet Pimpernel, Orczy’s greatest hero, immortalised in film by various stars including Leslie Howard—the other male star in Gone With The Wind, which to me always sounded like a jingle for an anti-flatulent.

“Yes, dear, say goodbye to Sister Maria.”

“Bye,” she said and taking my hand started to pull me towards the car park.

After dinner, we cleared up and I had a short meeting with Tom, then put the girls to bed and read them a story. Thankfully they went to bed quite easily and seemingly straight off to sleep. I missed Simon, who had returned to London especially when I had to supervise the boys going to bed. Julie was slightly more help, but I don’t think she had much idea about anything domestic. On my enquiry, it transpired that her mother did everything for her—I’m not, if she wants to be a girl, she can take the rough with the smooth, and I don’t mean her bristly legs.

Later Tom and I agreed how we’d play it tomorrow—least as far as we knew—allocations had to be agreed by the Department of the Environment, by Friday. Tomorrow was Tuesday. We had our application in, if Southampton didn’t get theirs in, in time, tough tittie.

During the night, when I was sleeping alone I had a flashback to my encounters with nasty Russian men, several of whom I’d terminated, and was now being tried for by a Russian court. I couldn’t understand the language or the charges and felt frightened and frustrated. When some Russian cop turned up, looking like Luke Perryman, and pointed the finger at me, I lost it and screamed at him. I woke up with Stella asking if I was okay. Next thing I know, she’s in bed with me and I slept soundly afterwards.

I was mildly puzzled when I woke up with something softer than Simon lying against me and saw Stella there. She explained I was screaming in my sleep and she came in to comfort me. I couldn’t argue could I?

I pulled back the curtains, ready to go into the shower and gasped.

“Wassermatter?” asked Stella.

“We have rather a lot of snow out here.”

“What about your meeting?”

“Exactly—what about our meeting?”

“If you can’t go, you can’t go.”

“I don’t think we have any option. If necessary we’ll have to walk it. The kids will have to stay home.”

“I expect they’ll want to get off sledging,” suggested Stella.

“Is Julie up to supervising them?”

“With the boys, she should be—shouldn’t she?”

“I don’t honestly know, Stel—if I had to guess, I’m inclined to doubt it, and will the boys be a help or a hindrance?”

“Don’t ask me, I’ve got less experience than you.”

“Tom’s up,” I said, watching him from the window. “God, he’s trying to dig out his car.”

“I’ll go and stop him,” she said.

“I’ll go and get two or three lazy buggers up and into action.” I ran upstairs and dug the boys and Julie out of bed. I told them to get dressed and help Tom get his car out of the snow. Julie protested that it was a boy job. I said very quietly to her, “So are you officially, get digging.” She wasn’t impressed.

Neither was I when I saw her messing about with a shovel rather than trying to use it properly, while Danny did most of the work. I called her in and in the privacy of the dining room, pretty well bawled her out.

“Julie, you are a lazy good for nothing and I’m sorry but you have no place in this house. I’m therefore going to try and get you relocated or sent home.”

“What? You can’t.”

“I can and I’m going to. I’ve given you several chances to show you can change more than your clothes—you haven’t, you’re just an idle good for nothing.” She broke down in tears but I carried on my tirade. “I told you that actions spoke louder than words, but you couldn’t take the hint. I have an important meeting to attend with the professor, which was why we needed your assistance. You withheld it so I’m doing the same with my hospitality.”

“I’m sorry, Mummy, but I’m no good with a shovel,” she sobbed.

“You’re apparently no good with anything, sorry kiddo, but I don’t have room for teenage passengers. We’ll discuss when you go, after I get home tonight.”

“But you can’t, Mummy, please don’t do this to me.”

“I’m not your mother, and I can do this.” I walked away to shower and do my hair.

I left the place under Stella’s command, informing her about my conversation with Julie. She was suitably horrified. “She’s a lazy cow, and makes promises she doesn’t intend to keep, so why should I?”

“Because you’re an adult, perhaps.”

“It doesn’t work like that, Stella, and you know it.” I told her where the sledges were and agreed that she could decide if and when the kids went out with them. I would phone her later when the meeting was over and we were on our way back.

Tom and I walked into the university, me carrying a rucksack with my change of clothes, makeup and other goodies like a comb and brush. He had his suit in a similar bag on his back.

The journey was treacherous and we both fell more than once in the slippery snow and ice. It took us well over an hour to cover the three miles involved and I was really pleased to see the university getting closer.

We had some hot drinks and listened to the excuses of staff who couldn’t get their cars out—two lived closer than we did. About an hour before the meeting was due to start and I was thinking about getting changed, Tom took a call.

“They’re not coming,” he said and shrugged.

“I’m not entirely surprised, in this. According to the net, the trains aren’t running and the motorway is bedlam with accidents.”

“Och well, we’ll jest hae to run oor ain meetin’ won’t we?”

“No point in me changing is there?”

“Unless ye want make the place look mair bonnie.”

I felt the mobile phone vibrate in my trouser pocket. Pulling it out I could see it was from Stella.

“Hi, Stella, how’s it going?”

“We have a situation, I can’t find Julie.”

“Have you searched the whole house?”

“Yes, twice and the boys have even looked in the outbuildings.”

“I’ll come home, if she turns up meanwhile, keep her in view—is anything missing?”

“Like what?” asked Stella.

“Money, clothing—if she’s legged it, she’d need a few things.”

“I’ll check.”

“I’ll get back as soon as I can.”

“Problems?” asked Tom.

“Yes, Julie’s gone missing—she’s beginning to be more trouble than she’s worth.”

“I used tae think that aboot ma Catherine.”

“Okay, okay, point taken—I’ll give her one more chance.”

“Ye’re a guid lassie.”

“Sometimes,” I said back and he winked at me.

“Often enough fer me,” he smirked.

“Daddy, if you’d only kept that ancient Land Rover taxed and insured, we could have driven in,” I complained.

“Go on, ye’ll be hame in nae time withoot me holdin’ ye back.”

“I’ve got a feeling this is how Captain Oates felt,” I said donning my coat, hat and backpack. “I’m just going outside, I might be some time.”

“Aye, let me know when ye get there.”

“I will, Daddy.”

I began the long trudge home, in no time I was very warm and certainly moving faster than I had with Tom’s company. I wasn’t sure if my anger was driving me or my anxiety about what the silly child was up to. If she was yanking my chain—I’ll flush her away once and for all.

Stella phoned again—still no sign of her and nothing missing. Her nightdress was on the bed so she’d dressed in her original jeans and top. I wondered if that was symbolic—she was leaving as she arrived, more or less—taking nothing from me. If she went out in just a tee shirt in this, she’d get very chilled very quickly. As long as she kept moving she’d be okay, but once she stopped—she’d cool very quickly and become hypothermic. Shit! I tried to walk more quickly.

“Are you all right?” Asked a young man as my rapid walking found a piece of ice and I went flying face first into the snow. Thankfully I was and I set off again after thanking him—I was even hotter now with embarrassment.

Finally the house hove into view, and I crawled in the door—I was exhausted. The boys and girls made a fuss of me. I had to ask them to calm down. No one remembered seeing Julie after I’d told her off. Oh great—just what I needed and that was nearly two hours ago.

I would search the place myself and if I could find no sign of her, I’d call the police and ask for their help—as if they hadn’t got enough to do. She’s got to go, my nerves won’t stand much more of this.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 873

After removing my coat and backpack, I rushed upstairs calling the teen—I searched all the rooms, looked in wardrobes ,under beds, even the pantry. She wasn’t in the house. I had a quick drink and told everyone to stay indoors. Then I searched all the outbuildings, they too were signally lacking in teenagers.

I examined the footprints, they were quite a mess. However, I persevered and eventually found some that were of a single person walking away from the house, and they looked like trainers. The snow had eased, so they weren’t completely buried.

I walked after them as quickly as I could—what was she thinking of? She was heading into the fields behind the farmhouse. Did she know this area? Did she have a mobile? Not that I knew of, and mine was in my pocket.

I followed the footprints, they were starting to circle around—what did that mean? I began to run and the prints began to look a bit fresher—was I gaining on her?

Suddenly, I caught sight of something up ahead of me. Something was hanging from a tree—oh my God. I sprinted as best I could, grabbing the limp body, and trying to unhitch the rope from around her neck.

Her lips were turning blue but there was a pulse—faint but there, she must have only just now stopped breathing—I dropped her gently on the ground and began mouth to mouth. After the second breath, she coughed and sucked in a lungful of air. She was very cold and trembling.

I pulled her into a sitting position and wrapped my coat around her. I called home instructing them to boil the kettle for hot drinks. I’d be back as soon as I could. Somehow I managed to hoist her into nearly a standing position, and fold her over my shoulder in what they used to call a fireman’s lift. I then began to struggle back to the house.

Once or twice I had to stop to rest—on one such occasion, she was sick all down my back and leg, but judging by the groaning she was alive. The number of times I had to slow down because the way was slippery were too numerous to count—but then before me loomed the house and I struggled on with renewed vigour. Stella saw me coming and opened the back door.

We got her upstairs and after stripping her plonked her on the shower seat and ran a warm stream of water over her. She opened her eyes and looked vacantly at me. As she warmed so she recognised me and I half expected a load of invective, instead she said,” Mummy? Is that you?”

“Yes, sweetie-pie,” I hugged her in the shower and she began to cry.

“I’m sorry, Mummy, I couldn’t bear to leave here. I’m so sorry.”

In the background I could hear Stella asking everyone to stay away, and give Julie some space. Good ol’ Stella, I thought.

“I’m really sorry, Mummy—will I have to leave here now?” She was sobbing nearly as much water as the shower. My clothes were wringing wet.

“It’s okay, Julie, it’s okay, no one is going anywhere.”

“Mummy, I’ll behave in future, I promise.”

“So will I, sweetheart. C’mon, just get yourself warmer and we’ll talk it out over a cuppa—okay?”

She nodded, “Yes, Mummy.” She was still crying but could now stand by herself and was able to turn up the temperature on the water. I started to strip off in front of her, my clothes were soaking and my jeans bore the remains of her breakfast.

Maybe she hadn’t seen a naked woman before but she seemed transfixed staring at me. “It’s rude to stare,” I joked.

“I wish I looked like that, Mummy?”

“Hopefully, you will before too long.”

Stella entered the room and asked if we were holding a naturist conference and could anyone join in? Julie and I laughed at this so Stella began to strip off as well, until I stopped her. “You’re only jealous of my stretch marks,” she said and redressed herself. In some ways I suppose I was.

Wrapped in towels, I went to shower in my own room and dried and dressed as quickly as I could. By the time I returned to Julie’s room, Stella had helped her to dress and apart from the bruise around her throat, she looked reasonably well.

I shivered when I thought that if I’d delayed a few more minutes or if she’d moved faster to her hanging tree, she’d be dead now and I’d be explaining some awkward things to a host of police officers and social workers and possibly losing custody of the ones I already had. What was it Wellington said at Waterloo?—‘It was a close run thing’—now I know the feeling.

We had a drink of tea with the others after I’d given Julie a chiffon scarf to put around her neck to hide the mark. There were all sorts of questions but we evaded most of them. Then once again, Stella did a quick exam of the teen and pronounced her well enough to stay home—not needing to visit a hospital.

I made her go upstairs for a rest, to which she agreed if I’d go with her—Stella nodded her concurrence, so up I went. We lay together on her bed, her crying silently and me wanting to make it all better—but I couldn’t, she had to heal herself, all I could do was support the process.

“Have you tried that before?” I asked meaning the suicide.

She cried more pitifully than ever, and nodded.

“With a rope?”

“She nodded again.

“What happened then?”

“The string snapped.”

“Good, I’m glad. If it hadn’t then I wouldn’t have had the chance to be your foster mother, would I?”

She laughed, still with face wet with tears, and shook her head. “Will you be my mummy?”

“On one condition,” she looked up at me. “You don’t do anything like that ever again—you come and talk to me. Agreed?”

She nodded, and I held her—“Never do that again, think what it would do to Trish.”

“I’m sorry, Mummy.”

“So am I sweetheart, that I somehow caused you to think like that. Suicide doesn’t solve anything, it just makes everything harder for everyone else.”

“I wasn’t thinking, Mummy, I just hurt so much inside and I wanted it to stop,” she hugged me, “Please let me stay.”

“As long as you want to.”

She hugged me very tightly, “Thank you sooo much, Mummy.”

“The pleasure is all mine.” I kissed her on top of the head.

A while later I woke up, Julie was still fast asleep and I was stiff and my hair had dried all lopsided where I’d lain on it. I slipped out from Julie’s grasp, covered her over with the duvet and left her to sleep.

I went back to my room and ran a bath, jumping in the hot water to ease my muscles—which seemed to be aching everywhere. Trish came in to me and washed my back for me.

“Is Julie going to be all right, Mummy?”

“I think so, why?”

“Did you use your magic powers on her?”

“Darling, I don’t have magic powers.”

“Oh, shall I try and see if mine work?”

“Not now sweetheart, what she needs is rest and perhaps a chat with Dr Stephanie.”

“She’s nice, I like her.”

“That’s good, she likes you too.”

“Did she say so?”

“Oh goodness, each time she sees you, she says what a polite young lady you are and how she’d be proud to have a daughter like you.”

“Gosh, did she?”

“Would I lie to you, already?” I said in my best Barbra Streisand voice. Sadly Trish was oblivious to my talents as an impersonator—except those of a mummy impersonator—no, not the Egyptian type.

“You were cross with Julie, weren’t you?”

“I was but I’m not now.”

“I’m glad about that. Was she naughty?”

“No, Trish, we had a misunderstanding, and that’s all cleared up now.”

“Oh good, I’m glad you’re not cross with her anymore. We all get scared when you’re cross.”

“Scared of what?” I was beginning to find this conversation alarming.

“That you might send us back to the homes.”

“I’ve already told you I won’t ever do that, in fact I’ve promised I won’t unless you want to go back.”

“I don’t—can we keep the boys, too?”

“Looks like we’re stuck with them for the moment at any rate, or are they stuck with us?”

“Oh goody, I like having the boys here, they’re nearly as good as girls.”

“No one is as good as you, sweetheart.”

She hugged my head and kissed me. “You’re the best mummy in the world.”

I felt a tear roll down my cheek—“If I was, Trish, this thing this morning, wouldn’t have happened.”

“Well, I think so,” she asserted and hugged me again.

I don’t know if Trish was working her magic on me, but my aches and pains seemed to soak away into the warm water and when I rose from the bath, I felt relaxed in body and mind. I dried myself, dressed and dried my hair. I checked on Julie, she was still sleeping.

Once downstairs, I thanked Stella for coping without much help for me, she smiled and told me how much I obviously did every day, and which is largely unappreciated. I reminded her that most women’s contributions in terms of labour, were largely unrecognised, taken for granted and denigrated.

“Are you going all feminist on me, Cathy?” she smirked at me.

“No, I’ve been that way for a long time—at least since I realised the role women play in family life—sadly it was too late to appreciate how much my own mother did, but I do now.”

“Um—yeah, it seems to be that way. Maybe you can teach the girls to avoid some of the pitfalls.”

“Yeah, maybe—once I learn how to do it myself. At the moment, I feel like I could do with a course in practical parenting myself.”

“Do I feel a chance to beat yourself up, coming on?” Stella smiled.

“Yeah, probably.”

“Look, we’re all learning how to gel as a family, you’ve never had a teen under your control before—it’s all new.”

“I’ve spent two years teaching them.”

“That’s not the same as mothering them. You’re a natural nurturer—God, that’s a mouthful—but it’s what you are. Remember, Julie is just as unaccustomed to her part of the equation as you are. You need to work on it between you, maybe start to teach her some of your amazing kitchen skills—like you’ve taught Trish and Meems and now Livvie.”

“But they wanted to learn,” I protested weakly.

“So will Julie, when she realises how irresistible those skills are in attracting boys.”

“Oh wonderful, she’s oversexed as it is, all I need is to teach her how to make a bigger mess of her little life.”

“I’m only joking—besides, it’s attention she lacks, or has lacked. Her flirting is symptomatic of that.”

“Okay, I’ve promised to try harder with her and I hope by doing so, she’ll reciprocate. We’ll have to wait and see, won’t we.”

“Indeed we will—now, what’s for dinner, Watts?”

“How about minced morsels of Cameron, Cameron?”

She poked her tongue out at me and fled the kitchen, chuckling as she went. They’re all mad—the whole bloody family—completely barking. I wonder if that’s why I fit in so easily.

The phone rang, it was Tom, he was getting a lift home from a colleague with a 4×4. The snow had stopped, so hopefully they’d be fine. I went into the kitchen, and was just looking in the fridge to see what I could turn into a reasonable meal with minimal effort when I felt someone at my elbow—I glanced around.

“You gonna teach me to cook then?”

I put my arm around the still sleepy looking teen, and kissed her forehead. “Looks like it.”

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 874

I found enough bits of dead animal and vegetables to put together a stew. I showed Julie what I was doing when ‘frying’ the meat to seal it, before stewing it. I gave her the chance to add bits of finger with the chopped onion, but she managed without any amputations, although she had tears down her face before it was done.

“Do they always sting like that?”

“’Fraid so, the chopping or even peeling liberates a gas which is irritant to the eyes and they water.”

“Sort of tear gas,” she said smiling.

“Far less harmful than tear gas—no lasting effects, except to flavour our stew. Do you know how to peel mushrooms or chop garlic?”

She shook her head—so the stew took longer to prepare, but she’d learned a few things, including use of handcream after scrubbing or peeling spuds and a bit of hand hygiene before food preparation.

I tried to explain about using different knives for different things to avoid contamination, or washing them in between uses. I think she got the message but queried the need as the food was being cooked anyway. I pointed out it’s more than the food being cooked that can be contaminated, and also that cooking doesn’t always kill all the bugs.

However, the main purpose as far as I was concerned was bonding with her—to make her feel part of the family and household. While I was emptying the dishwasher, she seemed preoccupied with something.

“Anything wrong?” I asked, as if all her problems would be solved by making a stew with me.

“I was wonderin’ what to tell the others.”

“About what?” I asked, knowing full well what she was talking about.

“This mornin’,” she blushed.

“What do you want to tell them?”

“I feel ashamed of what I did.” She looked at the floor.

“I think that goes for me, too. The adults will have to be told.”

“Does that include Dr Stephanie?”

“If you don’t tell her, I will.

She looked at me in surprise, “Oh?”

“She needs to know exactly what she’s dealing with.”

“But it was a mistake, Mummy.”

“So tell her that.”

“She’ll put it in my notes, Mummy.”

“Yes, I expect so; it was a significant event—or could have been.”

“But everyone will know?”

“She’s putting it in your notes, not the local echo.”

“But other people will like, read them.”

“Who exactly are these other people?”

“The receptionists and stuff.”

“Stuff or staff?”

“You know.”

“I know that all the staff employed there are bound by a confidentiality clause. They can be prosecuted if they breach it.”

“Oh, I didn’t know that.”

“Besides, you can’t keep everything secret—some time, somewhere, someone will either know or find out and drop you in it.”

“But this could stop me having surgery.”

“I doubt it—if you’d succeeded, it would have done.”

She looked at me in disbelief, then realised I‘d made a joke before she smirked and said, “That was a dreadful joke,” and smirked some more.

“You’ll eventually learn that the only thing worse than my temper is my sense of humour. I can eventually laugh at most things that happen to me.”

“Oh, so are you laughing at me?”

“No, that isn’t what I said, I said I laugh at the things that happen to me, not at others, even if sometimes they deserve it.”

“Did I deserve it then?” I could feel her hackles rising—teens can be incredibly thin-skinned.

“Why should you think that?”

“Because you laughed.”

“So did you.”

“That’s like, different.”

“If you say so. I can’t help the things which tickle my funny bone, but I do try to avoid those which hurt others. I get no enjoyment from the pain of others—I’ve never found the custard pie very funny and the chair pulled away, is anything but funny. I find clowns frighten me.”

“I don’t like clowns, although I did like the fact they could use makeup in front of others.”

“So can you.”

“Yeah, now I can, thanks to my Mummy.”

“I didn’t do very much.”

“You bought it for me.”

“That’s not a lot.”

“It’s better quality than the stuff, Shelley and Tracie use.”

“I probably have access to a bit more cash than your girlfriends.”

“You also like, showed me how to use it.”

“It’s what mothers do with daughters.”

She walked over to me and hugged me—“You’ve done so much for me.”

“Julie, you’ve done it all for yourself—all I did was give you the opportunity. Hmm, that bruise on your neck has nearly gone—I wonder, has Trish been near you?”

“She rubbed some cream into my neck, said it was arnica or something, why?”

“Nothing—you obviously heal faster than I thought—which is a good thing, of course. What did you tell Trishlock Holmes?”

“About what?”

“This,” I said rubbing the bruise and seeing it fade as I did so—Trish isn’t the only one—so there.

“Oh, I told her I probably caught it on a branch or something.”

“Okay, I won’t say anything.”

She hugged me again, “Thank you, Mummy.”

“What, for keeping mum?”

She looked up at me and groaned.

“I did say my sense of humour was dreadful.”

At this she laughed and so did I. Talk of the devil and he appears, in which case we got it wrong, our little angel walked in. “How long is dinner going to be, Mummy?—oh hi, Julie.”

“Hi, Trish.”

“Julie helped me cook it,” I beamed at her.

“Ugh!” She put her hands to her throat making funny noises and collapsed on the floor.

“There are people with worse senses of humour than mine,” I said and snorted, Julie laughed, and I was pleased that she hadn’t seen the throat business as relating to her close encounter with the rope, but Trish’s awful attempts to demonstrate poisoning.

Trish got up in high dudgeon, “Huh, no one worried about me being poisoned,” she huffed.

“Actually sweetheart, I did, the ground is too hard to dig any holes so we’d have to pop you in the freezer.”

“In the freezer? I’m not ice cream, Mummy.”

“No darling, you’re sweeter than even Haagen Daas.”

She ran up and hugged me, “I know, Mummy and I won’t make you fat.”

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 875

I sent Julie in to check on Livvie and Meems, while Trish laid the table for me. “So you just had to go and see Julie, even though I asked you to leave her alone?”

“Um—yes, Mummy,” she blushed a lovely shade of strawberry pink, “I wanted to see that she was all right.”

“Was that for her sake or to sate your curiosity?”

“What does that mean, Mummy?”

“You were itching to see she was okay, so you followed your nose.”

“Um—unless I walk backwards, Mummy, I always follow my nose.” She looked perplexed and I never learn that it’s impossible to have deep meaningful discussions with a five year old.

I’d lost the initiative, so changed the subject slightly. “You did some healing on her?”

“Sort of, I offered to rub some cream you use to heal things, on the bruise on her neck—it faded quite a bit.”

“Two things, Missy. When I tell you not to do something—don’t go ahead and do it; next time I shall be cross.” I watched her colour rise even her ears were bright pink. “And secondly, don’t use things like creams without checking with me first—unless you know what they do.”

“Yes, Mummy,” I could see she was itching to escape my chastisement.

“Finish the table and then go and read for a while; ask Julie to listen to you.”

“Yes, Mummy,” she sighed and after a moment at the table was gone.

Am I turning into a crabby old git? Two of my kids might think so, however, I don’t give them many instructions, so when I do I expect them to be understood and followed. At least she didn’t cry this time, or talk back.

I checked the stew, it was time to put on the vegetables to boil, those that weren’t already in it. I looked at the clock, Tom should be here by now. I called his mobile.

“We’re stuck ahent a muckle great van, who’s gone sideways blocking yon street.”

“Dinner will be ready in twenty minutes, does your lift want to eat with us?”

“Och, I’ll ask him,” there was a pause and some muffled voices. “Whit is it?”

“Steak and kidney stew.”

More muffled voices followed, “Aye, that’ll be twa fer dinner, then.”

“See you when you get here.” I clicked off the phone.

Desserts? I know one day I’ll get my just pudding—doesn’t sound the same does it? The locusts in the other room will clean up a pudding faster than a swarm of army ants. I quickly made up a sponge mixture and slung it in the oven over some chopped and sweetened apple. By the time we eat dinner, it’ll be well cooked. Now, do we have enough milk for custard, or Sauce Anglaise?

The Land Cruiser turned into the drive as I was killing the gas under the spuds—good ol’ Tom, right on time. Who was the driver? Someone well wrapped up against the cold. Hmm, taller than Tom. Who can it be?

The doorbell went and there was a flurry of children in the hall to open the door. I stayed in the kitchen out of the way; there were enough mobile hazards in the hall by the sound of it.

“Whaur’s yer Ma?” I heard Tom ask one of the kids.

“In the kitchen I think, Gramps.”

I of course was combing my hair and checking myself—I was a total mess.

“Cathy, whaur are ye?”

I went out to the hallway and standing there alongside Daddy was a most beautiful man. Talk about tall, dark and handsome—he was tall, dark and absolutely beautiful with two brown eyes like velvet chocolate, which were calling to me to try.

“Cathy, I wis tellin’ ye this is Gareth. Cathy—if ye please.”

“Oh—um, sorry, Daddy.” I held out my hand which I hoped wasn’t trembling too much.

“Nice to meet you at last. I got held up getting to the meeting this morning.”

Back on planet earth, I tried to focus, “You got to the meeting?”

“Yes, I was staying at a hotel in town, so didn’t have to come that far.”

“It’s very good of you to give Daddy a lift home,” I smiled at him but wanted to taste that forbidden delight.

“Well, actually, I wanted to meet you.”

“Me?” I gasped, he wanted to meet me—wow, have I died and gone to heaven?

“Yes, I’m concerned by the way Southampton are trying to muscle in on your project—Tom tells me, you’re the main architect of the survey.”

“Mummy,” Trish was yanking at my top.

“Just a minute, sweetheart, I’m talking.”

“Mummeee”—she yanked extra hard.

“What?” I snapped at her.

“The kitchen’s on fire.”

“Oh my God,” I dashed into the kitchen where smoke was coming from the oven. I immediately switched it off and opened the door—the smoke alarm started its shrill peeping which added to my stress.

The sponge, thankfully was okay, so a little brown on top, but the custard would cover that and it shouldn’t break too many teeth. I’d covered it with some greaseproof paper and that had fallen off and ignited in the oven.

Once everything and everyone had calmed down, I dished up dinners for everyone including Stella who was now openly flirting with wotsisname. Huh, bloody trollop—I’m a happily married woman—but those dreamy brown eyes were doing something to my tummy—like cartwheels.

Stella made the mistake of sitting next to him, I was opposite—God, he is absolutely bloody gorgeous. It transpired that he was the Natural England field officer for Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, Sussex and Surrey: which explained his interest in meeting me, and why he was coming to the meeting.

Stella was really pissed when we three scientists decamped to the study, and Julie was flirting with her eyes over the table but Gareth was ignoring her—serve the little tart right.

The meeting was very useful and Gareth was really supporting us, and would be at the next meeting. At nine he said, “Well, I’d best try and get back to my hotel…”

“You can sleep with me”—My God, what did I just say?—“I mean you can stay here tonight, it’ll give the snow ploughs and gritters a chance to shift some of the white stuff.”

His eyes widened to saucers at my initial remark, he smiled when I got embarrassed and flustered, then finally got it together.

“I’d love to sleep with you, Cathy, but I suspect your hubby would be far from thrilled.”

I blushed like a tomato, in fact you could probably cook one on my face, I felt so hot—matched only—by how stupid I felt: yet something inside me felt this frisson of excitement make my whole body buzz.

“I’d better go,” he winked at me. I helped him on with his coat and tucked in his scarf for him, he hugged me and kissed me on the cheek. “Thanks for a delicious meal.”

Tom saw him off, giving me a scowl as he did so. I retreated to the kitchen and emptied the dishwasher, the stuff was still quite warm.

Tom came into the kitchen and shut the door. “Whit wis all that aboot? Ye can sleep with me?”

“Nothing, Daddy, I was thinking about something else,” talk about Freudian slip, that was more like a full set of lingerie than a simple petticoat.

“Ye’re a newly-wed, hae ye nae shame?”

“Yes, Daddy,” I felt myself blushing again.

The doorbell rang and interrupted Tom dressing me down. “Mummy,” said Livvie, “Dr Gareth is back—his car won’t start.”

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 876

Livvie was standing in my kitchen, smirking, Tom looked as if he was about to become apoplectic and my tummy did a flip and this shiver ran right up my spine.

“Whit?” said Tom, his look of astonishment hadn’t changed.

“Dr Gareth’s car won’t start.”

“We’ll hae tae call the RAC or AA,” said Tom.

“You have to be joking, Daddy, they wouldn’t be here until next week.”

“I’ll hae tae tow him in mine.”

“You’ll do no such thing. To start with, your car is still snowed in despite the boys’ best efforts, and it’s too dangerous. No, he can stay the night,” I smirked at Tom and if looks could kill, I’d have been stone dead before I hit the ground.

“I’m nae happy aboot this.”

“Daddy, don’t be ridiculous—Liv, ask him in, and take him into the sitting room, I’ll be along in a moment—you can’t refuse hospitality on a night like this, it’s going to freeze hard tonight, Daddy.”

He was still scowling at me and muttering in Lallans as I went into the sitting room. “If you could get your battery off, it could charge overnight and you could put it back in the morning.”

“I feel pretty stupid, the car’s only a year old. I think I must have left the interior light on or something.”

“It happens—Danny pop your coat on and help Dr Sage get his battery off and show him the charger in the garage workshop.”

“Yes, Mummy.”

“I’m coming too,” said Billy and I shook my head—some days they were like Siamese twins.

“So am I,” said Julie, fluttering her eyelashes.

“Ah no, Julie, I want you to help me.” I’ll stop your game, madam. She gave me a filthy look so I beamed back a huge smile.

“I’ll help you, Mummy,” volunteered Trish.

“You and Livvie can make some tea for us, Meems, you can tidy up the toys, please. C’mon Julie—we have a guest room to make ready.”

On the way to it, I grabbed a set of bed clothes from the airing cupboard—thankfully, like everything else in this house it was huge—it would need to be with half of Portsmouth seemingly living here.

Once in the guest room, I closed the door and as we made up the bed, I let Julie know, I had noticed her flirting and disapproved of it.

“Huh, you’re only jealous because I’m younger.”

“Julie, when are you going to learn—you don’t make promises you can’t keep. That’s why you were lying on a pile of rubbish bags when I found you.”

“Oh throw that in my face again.”

“It’s true, Julie—you are a sixteen year old, with a boy’s body.”

“But I feel like a girl.”

“I know, but you’re not one yet—not down there anyway—and even if you were, I’d be very angry if you tried to seduce any male guests we had staying here. Your behaviour at dinner was verging on flagrant.”

“What about you and Auntie Stella?” she riposted, “you were both undressing him with your eyes.”

“Don’t be ridiculous—I’m a married woman—a happily married woman.”

“I know what I saw.” The little besom was going to try and blackmail me.

“Do you now. It’s funny, at sixteen I knew everything—at twenty I wasn’t so sure—and nowadays, I know how little I actually do know.” Stick that in your pipe.

“Well I know what I saw, you and Auntie Stella practically raping the poor man with your eyes.”

“Gentlewomen don’t do such things,” I sneered, hoping my nose wasn’t growing any longer—I rubbed it to make sure. Then became aware that I’d just convicted myself by my own actions—apparently, our noses itch when we’re lying—watch Bill Clinton denying his fun with Monica Lewinsky.

“Huh, sez who?” she said as she left the room.

“Julie—Julie come back here this minute.” She of course ignored me and I fumed as I finished putting on the pillow cases and duvet cover.

Stella was pouring out a cup of tea for our guest when I got downstairs. “Where’s mine?” I asked.

“Oh, I didn’t make you one,” she said promptly ignoring me and returning to chatting with Gareth. Julie was in the background trying to catch his eye, pouting and pulling her skirt up above her knee. I shook my head and went to make my tea, Tom had at least left the kitchen, probably in his study having his dram.

It’s a pity Simon isn’t here, he’d enjoy meeting Gareth, whom I think he’d like—and I could wind him up something rotten. I chuckled to myself—I was such a bitch at times—hee hee.

I stayed in the kitchen—it prevented me from watching Julie making a fool of herself, or Stella for that matter. More importantly, it stopped me from doing the same. I filled the bread machine instead—we’d probably need an extra loaf for breakfast.

With my laptop on the kitchen table, I answered a few more emails—mostly about the survey—the weather was playing havoc with some of it and making it easier for other things. Someone had sent in a lovely photo of an arctic hare from the Highlands of Scotland. Part of me wished I was up there at this moment or the Lake District—sometimes I needed the contrast with the woodland or semi-urban environment I lived in most of the time, these days. Even woodland would be a change—mind you, it looked more like tundra outside at the moment.

Then I saw it, another email from Luke Perryman, now using a university address—.ac.uk.

Hi Cathy,

I did enjoy your film—to say you’ve changed a bit since Sussex would be the understatement of the century. I’m impressed, even to the point of nearly fancying you—but, sorry, I can’t forget Charlie—and I’m not queer. I suppose it’s amazing what they can do with plastic surgery and silicone these days.

Sorry we didn’t get to meet again, I believe round two is at Southampton, so I look forward to seeing you then—yes I’m part of the mammal team from here, and as we’re the senior university, I feel we should be running things. It’s a man thing—oh, I forgot, you used to be one, sort of, didn’t you?

Luke.

The bastard, I was right not to go and see him. I went and got Tom and showed him the email.

“Oh sae that’s his wee game—och weel, we’ll jes hae to play a little harder oorsel’s.”

“What d’you mean, Daddy.” I said to his disappearing back.

“Gareth, d’ye mind if I hae a wee word wi’ ye?” I heard him say and by the time I’d got into the hall, they were shutting the study door.

I continued answering emails and trying not to fume at that disgraceful email—plastic surgery and silicone, indeed. The only surgery I’d had was the gender reassignment, there was no silicone whatsoever inside me—it was all home grown, with a little help from some pills.

I got the girls to bed and read them a story. “Mummy, do you like Dr Gareth?” asked Trish.

“Yes, he’s very nice and very good looking, but it’s your daddy I love.” I hoped my answer had circumnavigated any further awkward questions.

“Mummy, what is libido?”

I nearly fell off the end of the bed. Blushing furiously while trying to think of an answer, I asked, “Where did you hear that?” desperately stalling for time.

“Auntie Stella said to Julie that hers was too high.”

“Oh it’s something inside you, don’t worry about it, you’ll understand when you’re older.”

“Julie said her sex drive was normal, and Auntie Stella said, ‘Yes, for an alley cat’. What did they mean?”

“I think they were just joking with each other, sweetheart.”

“It didn’t look as if they were joking.”

“Trish, go to sleep and don’t worry about such things. I’m not going to explain them to you because you won’t understand until you are older.”

“Does that mean after my doodah is cut off?”

“Not necessarily, but it involves things which don’t happen to your body until you’re at least eleven or twelve, in my case I was quite a bit older. When these things start to happen, you’ll be aware and we can talk about it then. Goodnight.”

I left the three of them giggling, although I thought I had escaped reasonably lightly. I sent the boys to bed and then confronted the two women who were the cause of my embarrassment.

“I’ve just had to answer questions on sex drive and libido. Now I’m not going to discuss it, but I don’t want to have to do it again, so please be careful where you have your cat fights.”

Before they could answer, I walked away and back to the kitchen the mumblings behind me tended to mention the word jealous at least once. I gritted my teeth and went back to my emails.

A bit later, Julie went off to bed and said goodnight and kissed me on the cheek as if I was her mother. Stella made some more tea and gave me a cup.

“So after a disgraceful display of unbridled lust, you’re taking the moral high ground are you?”

“Me? Yeah, that just about sums it up. He’s lovely chap with something special about him, but I happen to be married to your brother and would like to keep it that way, period.”

“So you’re leaving the way clear, then?”

“I suppose I am.”

“Hmmm, thank you, sis.”

“You still have a rival,” I smirked.

“What? I don’t think so—after all, she’s at a distinct disadvantage in a vital area. Besides it takes a mature woman to show a man a thing or two.”

“Well I suppose, if maturity is measured in grey hairs and wrinkles—you’ve got it, Stel.”

Watching her nearly choke on her tea was worth the thump on the arm she gave me.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 877

That I slept fitfully probably comes as no surprise, what with the risk of shenanigans in the bedrooms and bad dreams about the forthcoming meeting, I had a rather poor night.

As far as I could tell nothing happened and everyone stayed in their own bed. I was up early; so was Tom, who was muttering about the snow—we’d had more in the night.

Looking at it through the window, I did wonder if even a 4×4 would get through it, so we could be stuck with Dr Sage a bit longer—I suppose as long as no one did any stuffing, in this house at any rate, it could be worse. At least he was decorative.

Tom informed me tersely that Gareth knew of my previous status. I felt that was as good as a slap in the face, so didn’t pursue who had told him. I suppose it was no great secret but it did tend to ensure I’d be out of any running for a bit of slap and tickle. Would Stella do a thing like that? Absolutely.

At least Julie couldn’t tell him—she didn’t know. Did Tom tell him? Was it common knowledge? I was too weary to rack my little brain any further. I poured some tea and sipped it. It was too hot to drink comfortably, but the burning in my mouth made me think of things more immediate.

A fragment of dream I recalled was being humiliated in the meeting by Perryman—who called me Mr Watts, rather loudly, then apologised, ‘Sorry, that was what we always called him at Sussex.’ I shuddered when I thought of it.

“Do you think, Perryman is going to make trouble based upon my past?” I asked Tom.

“If he does, he’ll be in hot water—both universities and DEFRA, hae strong policies against discrimination.”

“It’s funny, I can hardly remember him at Sussex except in the bike rides we did. I don’t remember him with girls or—hang on, he was always with Han Solo.”

“Who is Ham Solo?” asked Tom furrowing his eyebrows.

“Oh we used to call him Luke Skywalker and his friend Han Solo, from Star Wars. Now what was his name—Rod Burgess—that was it. Now, there was something about him in the papers a couple of years ago.”

I sat at my computer and did a search for Burgess—apart from Burgess and Mclean, the spies, it didn’t seem to have too much, then I hit pay-dirt. “Daddy, what do you think of this?”

Tom came and looked at the screen, “Nasty piece of work,” and scrolled down a bit further.

…Burgess admitted twenty five offences of indecency with children, which started when he was at the University of Sussex, studying Child Psychology…
…He was to be further charged with downloading and possession of child pornography, and with distributing such material to a paedophile group based in nearby Brighton…

A second article showed he was sent down for seven years. There was nothing to tie him to Perryman, who was probably innocent—but it showed I wasn’t the only oddball he knew.

Burgess had come unstuck in 2008, just before Christmas, so it was about a year ago—nah—South Tampon would have done a CRB check on him anyway—as he’s working with young people.

Out of pure whimsy I sent an email to a girl I had known at university, hoping her address was still the same—it probably wasn’t. I explained who I was or had been, mentioned the dormouse film and my recent marriage. I also mentioned that Perryman had popped up again and was making unpleasant noises. I said it would be nice to hear she was well and doing okay, then, left it at that. I didn’t expect to get any response.

I’d just finished when the girls came down, then Gareth, followed by the boys and Julie. Breakfast was organised bedlam, but I think everyone had something to eat and drink—except me. I made myself some toast when everyone else had finished, went to move my laptop from the work top and noticed I had mail.

Hi Cathy (you said it was now),

Wow, I saw that film and had no idea it was you—boy, you’re quite a stunner, my partner John was drooling the whole time we watched it.

I remember those two bastards, Perryman and Burgess—were very involved with the local choir if you remember, I’ll bet they were surplice to requirements. How many choirboys did they de-cassock on the hassocks? Pity they only got one of them, but I reckon Perryman was the photographer—remember he always had a camera with him? They never proved anything sadly. 🙁

I’ve got a little girl aged two called Sophie, and I’m working part time as a temp—John’s a solicitor in Eastbourne, so we get by. Be lovely to talk to you and maybe meet up some time if you’re down this way.

Love,

Lizzie.

I told her I was looking to adopt three girls, and was fostering two boys and a teenager. I thought that was probably enough for the moment, as I’d already mentioned the mammal survey in my initial email.

I showed this to Tom, who nodded then shook his head. “All speculation—nae facts. Gimme facts an’ I’ll sink him wi’oot trace.”

“I don’t think there are any, Daddy, he was always too smart to get caught and then let Burgess be the fall guy.”

We heard an engine revving and discovered that Gareth had managed to start his car. The boys were helping him to shovel snow and, surprise, surprise—so was Julie, and she was putting her back into it.

Gareth switched his engine off and came back to the house. “Some garage you’ve got there.”

“Yeah, I like to fiddle with bikes.”

“Impressive hobby for a girl.”

“Well, I like to be different,” I blushed.

“Oh I don’t know, you seem to bulge in all the right places.” He winked at me and I blushed again. “Pity you’re married, we could have gone dormouse spotting together.”

“Stella isn’t married.” I tried to do the decent thing.

“Nah, I prefer outdoor types, especially ones who can make snake and pygmy stew.”

I blushed again. “So you’re off, then?”

“Pretty much, I look forward to working with you on your survey, it’s so important we get this running while we have some momentum. Southampton are very much secondary players in this.”

“Thanks, Gareth, I appreciate your support—though I’m not sure what Perryman is up to.”

“Yes, your father mentioned you knew him in a past life.”

“So he told you about my—um—you know?”

“I already knew—ecology isn’t too big a world is it—besides it’s old news. However, having the eminent ecologist and film maker, Lady Cameron, at the heart of the project—is very important to its success and future support.”

I offered him my hand, which he took and pulled me to him, he kissed me on the mouth and let me go. I was trembling. “Don’t let anyone tell you you’re anything but a very lovely lady, and as sexy as hell.” He winked again and as I stood there blushing and trembling, he walked to his car. “See you at the next meeting, Lady C.” He waved and drove off.

Tom came by a moment later—“Whaur’s he gone?”

“Who?”

“Gareth, who else, ye daft gowk?”

“He’s gone.”

“Damn, he wis goin’ tae gi’ me a lift.”

“He must have forgotten—blinded by my beauty.”

Tom gave me a hard stare, “Beauty—hae ye seen yersel’, ye look like ye’ve been pulled backwards through a hedge.”

“Oh thanks, Daddy, remember I did get everyone’s breakfast.”

“Och, ye lassies are tae thin skin’t, ye look lovely, as ye always dae.” He pecked me
on the cheek and walked off chuckling.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 878

After our visitor left, Tom announced he was buying a new Land Rover. I asked if he was selling the estate car and he said he wasn’t, but he was trading in the old one—which he considered was a collector’s item. It was thirty years old and clapped-out—the only one who might want to collect it was a scrap yard, surely?

He assured me old ’Rovers were very collectable. I’d reserve judgement—perhaps he was talking to a museum?

I was cleaning up after lunch—none of the kids could go to school, so I made them do some schoolwork at home. I set each of them something different, so they couldn’t crib from each other. This took up the rest of the morning, then we had lunch and afterwards, I promised they could go sledging.

I had just finished in the kitchen when the doorbell rang. “Gramps it’s for you,” called Trish.

I looked out the window and a Land Rover Freelander was parked in the drive. Tom pulled on his coat as he walked, almost with a skip in his step, towards the new car. Obviously a test drive—certainly, the weather made it a true test of performance.

I looked at the white stuff blanketing everything and wished I’d learned to ski. I’d done some dry slope practice but never got around to the real thing—oh well, a few more days and hopefully, I can get a bike out again. I should set up the turbo I’d bought back in the autumn, at least I’d get some exercise that way—quite when was another matter.

The kids collected the two sledges we had and the improvised ones I’d been making in the garage. I’d opened up some oil cans, cutting and beating them nearly flat, then put a handle on the front, and screwed a piece of wood for a flat seat. We had effectively four snow play vehicles if the homemade ones worked. I took my camera with me, some hot drinks in a flask and a towel. I also included some chocolate biscuits and of course my phone.

We trekked about half a mile to the same hill where last winter we’d seen the boy hit the tree. I prayed none of mine would be injured, and to try and make sure, I insisted they carry a cycling helmet with them. They grumbled until I reminded them of what happened last year. Trish and Meems remembered and said so. The mutiny quietened after that.

The makeshift sledges actually worked very well provided you didn’t want to go anywhere in particular. They were also faster than the conventional sledges, like those kamikaze luge things, which to me looks like sitting on a dinner plate and sliding at eighty miles an hour down a bobsleigh run. Quite an adrenalin surge I expect, but too risky for me—I’ll stick to bikes, but not on bobsleigh runs.

During our two hours on the hill, we saw a few minor accidents and I was beginning to believe no one was seriously injured when someone on a luge-type sled, shot down the hill at a very fast speed and ended up with a leg either side of a fence post. It was unlikely to help his future prospects in parenthood.

Several people went to assist so I stayed where I was, calling my kids to come to me. However, it seemed as though there were only two adults there, the rest were teens. I made mine stay together with Julie in command. I took one of the sledges and slid down to the accident site. There was quite a bit of blood around, but it might still be relatively superficial. They were going to move him until I told them not to.

The boy was whimpering like a kitten, he was probably about twelve or thirteen, and I was surprised he was still conscious. “Has anyone called for an ambulance?” I asked and it seemed no one had. So I did, explaining the child had injuries to his groin from an impact accident. The ambulance service reported they were under high demand and the road conditions were making things very difficult for attending incidents. They would get there as soon as they could. I wondered if the helicopter might be sent—assuming it was available.

I asked for advice regarding care of our patient and then did what they suggested. Then I knelt by the boy and held his hand, he was drifting in and out of consciousness, and the red area in the snow was getting bigger, despite packing snow around the injury—cold helps reduce bleeding.

I kept talking to him, his name was Nick. Julie sent Trish down to ask if she should take the kids home and I agreed. I gave Trish my key in case Tom was still out and Stella didn’t hear the door—she doesn’t always.

I kissed Trish goodbye and she went back up the slope. I turned back to my patient and talked to him again.

“It looks bad,” said the other adult—a man in his forties. I asked him to keep his opinions to himself as Nick could still hear him even if he was unconscious. “Who are you then—Dr Who?” he laughed at his own joke and I asked him to leave before the ambulance had another casualty.

He stood his ground and swore at me. I did a practice kick at head height in the opposite direction to where he was standing, and he went white. “That’s threatening behaviour,” he blustered as several of the boys laughed at him being intimidated by a woman.

“Actually, you were the one being offensive, now please go,” I exhorted and he took the hint, calling some more obscenities from a safe distance, which included, ‘Toffee-nosed bitch.’

I felt the boy’s body, he was becoming cold, so I stripped off my coat and placed it over him—that wind wasn’t taking any prisoners. It was now about fifteen minutes since I’d called for help then we heard the helicopter, not the air ambulance but the big red and silver search and rescue thing.

I asked one of his mates to go and tell his parents what had happened and to tell them to head for the QA hospital. He trudged off through the snow, another I made wait, to give his details to the helicopter team. Once they were here, I was going to try and catch up my own lot of responsibilities, who had a ten minute start on me, plus a trudge up the hill. At least Trish had taken the sled with her.

The next question was; where were they going to park their chopper? It was soon answered, they touched down on the top of the hill and moments later the lineman came stumbling down the hill pulling a stretcher behind him.

As soon as he arrived he confirmed my diagnosis, the kid was in shock and had lost a significant amount of blood. I helped ease him onto the stretcher and two of the larger boys and I helped carry him back up to the ‘van’ as the crewman called it.

He’d taken details of the boy’s name and address from his friend and then for some reason asked me to go back with them.

“Why?”

“You seemed to be in control there so you can tell the A&E medics what happened.”

“But I’ve told you—why can’t you tell them? If you plucked this boy off a ship or from the sea, you wouldn’t ask a passing mermaid to go with you, would you?”

“Yes I bloody would, always fancied my chances with a mermaid,” he said laughing, “Come on, get in, this kid’s cold.”

Instead of arguing any further I got in the helicopter and sat on a very basic seat strapped in and deafened by the noise of the thing as it heaved it itself skywards.

Thankfully, the flight was a short one and I accompanied the stricken child and crewman into the hospital—only to be asked to wait in the waiting room.

I sat trying to warm up a bit, then remembered I had a hot drink in my rucksack. I had just poured myself a cup of drinking chocolate—I don’t like it really, I’d made it for the kids—but I was cold: I took my first sip of the yucky stuff when I heard a semi familiar voice.

“Lady Cameron, I wondered if it was you?”

“Mr Nicholls,” I replied.

He beckoned me over to the clinical area and I was forced to put my drink down. “I thought it was you—this kid should be dead. He’s got about two blood cells left in his body, so he should be brain damaged as well, plus the fact, I’m going to have to dig his testicles out of his lungs.”

“I hope that’s an exaggeration.”

“He is smashed, his pelvis should be in powder form, but it isn’t, he’s lost loads of blood, so he should be brain damaged but he isn’t. His testicles are damaged but they may survive—dunno if he’ll ever father any kids, but they should be up round his ears by the description of the impact.”

“He was travelling, possibly twenty five or thirty miles an hour when he impacted.”

“That could have cut him in half on a concrete post—make a wish time,” he shrugged. “Then low and behold I find the Angel of Mercy has been holding his hand. It explains why we’re not doing a post mortem and instead waiting for the urologist to come and put his dinky back together—though he won’t be playing with it for a week or two.” He smiled and I gave a nervous chuckle at his graveyard humour.

“Oi tought it was you, how are ya me darlin’?”

“Mr O’Rourke, how nice to see you again.” We shook hands.

“You know Lady Cameron, do you, Mick?” asked Ken Nicholls.

O’Rourke winked at me, “Oi helped her wid a liddle problem a year or two ago. What’s dis, Lady Cameron, did ya marry Soimon efter?”

I nodded, “’Fraid so, one less eligible bachelor to go round.”

“Oi did da same wid Anne.” At the astonishment on my face, he added, “Didn’t she tell ya?”

“No, I suppose it’s none of my business.”

“Oi suppose dat’s one way o’ lookin’ at it.”

“You know this lady has saved you a lot of work, Mick?”

“No, how’s dat?”

“She has this magical touch which heals people.”

O’Rourke laughed, “Dis bugger, is an awfu’ joker, so he is.”

“I’m not joking, Mick—I’ve seen her repair a leaking aneurysm by touching the patient. The guy was down for emergency surgery as soon as the theatre was clear. I did another scan and it was healed.”

“Ya jokin’ Ken, ya got da wrong patient, again,” he winked.

“She removed two bullets out of her father-in-law’s back. She has some magical power. This lad you’re gonna see, he should be dead. He hit a concrete fence post at thirty miles an hour on a luge, his groin stopped him.”

“Oh shite.”

“He’s lost a bit of blood and was shocked, but he should be dead—he isn’t because, Lady C was holding his hand, much longer and I suspect he’d have got up and walked home.”

“Dat’s a bit far-fetched, Ken, oi know she’s beautiful an all dat, but she doesn’t faze me wid her beauty. Whereas, we all know ya’re a fool for a pretty face.”

“I’ve seen her do it, she resuscitated her foster daughter after she had drowned.”

“Small kids do dat, go inta hoibernation mode.”

“She hadn’t fallen through ice—it was a swimming pool. Believe me, Mick, this lady is something very special.”

“Oh oi know dat all-roit.” He smiled at me.

“Can you wait a little longer, Lady C?”

“I suppose so,” I said wishing I had a cup of tea to drink and somewhere to sit, my jeans were still wet from kneeling in the snow.

“Go and sit in my office, I’ll get them to bring you a cuppa—you look cold.”

“I am, thank you, the tea would be much appreciated.”

As I walked to his office, he was telling Mick O’Rourke he should speak to Sam Rose, if he didn’t believe him. I knew what that was about.

A receptionist brought the tea and a biscuit, which was very welcome. I’d barely finished it when the two surgeons came back. “Lady C, can you come with us please?” I put down the cup and went out the door with them. “I know you don’t like experiments, but can you do your magic one more time?”

“What, on that young man?”

“Um—no, we’ve got a baby, who stopped breathing half an hour ago.”

“But isn’t that beyond the possible?” I protested.

“They took that long to get here, stuck in the snow—I can’t do anything for her, she’s clinically dead—maybe you can?”

“But what if I can’t?”

“Nothing is lost is it, but at least then all that can be done has been done.”

“I need to be on my own with the baby.”

“Sure.” He led me to a small cubicle and lying on the couch was a very pale looking infant with blue lips. I felt the tears form in my eyes, I didn’t want to do this, I really didn’t.

I picked her up, she was quite cool. If I succeeded in starting her heart, would she be damaged elsewhere? Was the energy in me enough—I’d been obviously sharing it with young Nick, although I hadn’t even thought about it. The other thing that went through my mind was I knew exactly who they’d compare me with if it worked—all of which was no comfort to either this poor wee soul or her distraught parents—I could hear the mother crying in the next cubicle.

I drew the curtain and sat with the child. “Come on little one, wake up sweetheart,” I held her to me, and blew on her, imagining the air going into her lungs enriched with the magical light. I did the same again, and this time imagined it making her heart begin to beat—gently—the blood oxygenating in her lungs and moving around her body, with a blue fluorescence healing as it went. I spoke to her again gently, asking her to come back to me and her parents and to breathe again. I don’t believe in afterlives and all that stuff, but I hoped there was enough of the essence of the baby still around or in her to hear my plea. I kept on talking to her and visualising her reviving, blowing on her occasionally, I did this over and over again.

After that I don’t remember too much, they came back and found me cuddling the baby who was sleeping with me although I was leant semi-conscious against the couch so as not to fall off the chair.

Sam Rose was summoned and the baby rushed off to ICU, Ken Nicholls and Mick O’Rourke were both rubbing my hands and face and talking to me. “Jesus, Mary and Joseph—dat was a miracle, an’ oi saw it wid me own eyes.”

“Now d’you believe me?” Nicholls was asking him.

“Oi’ll nivver doubt yous again, so I won’t.”

I awoke some hours later in a quiet side ward, lying on top of a bed, still dressed but covered by a blanket. I staggered out of the door and the nurse made me go back to the bed. Mr Nicholls was summoned.

“Why am I here?” I asked.

“You collapsed after saving a teenage lad and a baby girl.”

“Oh yeah, I remember the boy, did you have to operate?”

“No, his penis spontaneously healed while you were still in the hospital. Mr O’Rourke is most impressed.”

“Please you have to swear him to secrecy and the families.”

“How do I do that with the families?”

“Tell them if they tell a living soul, it all undoes and the previous state arises.”

“That’s tantamount to a threat.”

“I know, but we all know what will happen if you don’t—the press will crucify me—like it happened two millennia ago.”

“I see—I’ve asked them to keep it quiet.”

“Please do so more firmly and explicitly.”

“It took a lot out of you this time didn’t it?”

“Yes, I feel exhausted.”

“You’ve slept for four hours.”

“Hell, I need to get home, I’ve kids to see to, of my own.”

“They know where you are and why you’re here. Once again thank you. You’re a very special lady.”

“Yeah, one with a very long walk ahead of her.”

“No, I’ve got a 4×4 ambulance to take you home if you want to go.”

“Please.”

“Okay, I’ll send up a cuppa and the driver when he gets here.”

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 879

Stella and Tom were wonderful—with Julie’s help, they put the kids to bed—so when I got home at nearly ten o’clock, all I had to do was have a snack and go to bed. Tom had bought a demonstrator Freelander and used it to go and get fish and chips for everyone except me. It was just as well, I couldn’t have faced anything bigger than a sandwich if I’d tried.

I was pleased with Julie’s seeming transformation from useless to helpful in such a short time, and I told her so. I also told her that if she kept it up, I’d buy her something nice at the end of the month—such as an iPod. Her face lit up and she asked if she could have an iPhone. I agreed we could look at them and depending upon price we could get one—but she’d have to pay the cost of running it out of her wages from Simon. She seemed pleased with that idea. I smiled because I knew she would want to spend most of that on clothes and shoes and so on.

The only good news was another cheque from Erin saying she’d sold our dormouse film to the US, so I was several thousand pounds better off. I decided that once the shops were accessible, we’d all have a new outfit, including the boys.

I needed to speak to Nora Cunningham about the boys. She’d been supposed to collect them on the fourth and we’d now gone well past that. Okay the snow was a factor but she could have phoned. I was beginning to think I’d been set up—nothing new there then.

Once the future of the boys was decided, we’d have to let them in on Julie’s and Trish’s secret—before things got out of hand. Otherwise the kids seemed to be gelling quite well—at least so far; there were no major fights and they had been indoors quite a long time during the past few days.

I told Tom and Stella what had happened at the hospital; they were both concerned as this sort of thing could be difficult to contain. However, I went to bed and zonked. I was asleep by eleven and didn’t wake until the girls came into me about eight. They knew I was tired so waited a whole extra hour—I think I know why I love them.

At a lazy breakfast, Tom looked quite serious. “What’s the matter, Daddy, regret buying the Land Rover?”

“Nae, it wis BBC Radio Solent, news.”

“Oh,” I understood at once.

At nine I went to listen to the radio, I wasn’t exactly surprised but the pit of my stomach felt a cold sensation.

”The search is on to discover the identity of the Angel of Mercy who has apparently visited the Queen Alexandra hospital again, healing two seriously sick children. The hospital are playing down the incidents, saying that normal clinical protocols were followed and that means total confidentiality regarding any patient in their care. However, we believe that one of the patients was a baby girl who was brought back to life after some time. Dr Samuel Rose, a senior consultant in paediatrics, said, “Such reports are exaggerated, young babies frequently appear to recover some time after they appear to cease breathing or heartbeat. They appear to go into hibernation mode, especially when body temperature drops as low as in this case.”

The situation is complicated by unnamed staff who suggest the baby and the other child, who’d been hurt in a sledging accident and was airlifted into the hospital; had made unexpected recoveries bordering on the miraculous.

So the question on everyone’s lips is—does this apparent miracle worker exist or not? Continue to listen in as we try to discover the facts in this very strange incident.

Is she an angel or even a visitor from another planet, as has been suggested by medium and psychic investigator, Norman Saxon.”

The news on telly was worse, somehow they’d managed to do an interview with Norman Saxon—a name to conjure with—and he is obviously as mad as a hatter.

”These beings from another dimension visit us quite frequently to help individuals who are experiencing problems. They appear as normal men and women but can disappear in an instant, which explains why no one seems to see where this Angel of Mercy goes—Well I can tell you, she returns to her own dimension through a portal—a gateway caused by a rift in time and space. She’s also told me that she will return when the opportunity arises—the portal has apparently closed. Her name is a bit strange but sounded like Herrinder Heilung. If she contacts me again, I’ll let you know.”

“That’s soonds vaguely German,” said Tom watching the broadcast over my shoulder.

“What does?” I asked trying not to laugh at all this loony’s whacky ideas.

Herrinder heilung.” He hummed, “My German is pretty rusty but heilung is something to do with health or healing. Herrinder doesn’t ring any bells—hang on, if he’d said, herrin der as twa words instead o’ ane, that would be somethin’ like mistress o’ healing. Is he clever enough tae think o’that?”

“I have no idea, Daddy, he’s as nutty as a dormouse dinner.”

“That’s a new ane on me,” he said smiling, repeating it to himself as he went back to his study. He’d decided to stay home in case I needed him to fend off the press. It didn’t look likely this time.

The helicopter crew knew who I was; I’d had to give them my name but I’d just said, ‘Cathy Watts’ forgetting until after I’d said it that I was married. It wasn’t a Freudian slip, but maybe a bit of playing things down. If I’d said Lady Cameron, they’d have remembered for certain.

It was very cold outdoors but I allowed the kids to go and play in the garden provided they kept away from anyone who might call. If anyone did visit they weren’t to tell them anything about any of us, but to come and tell Tom, Stella or me, immediately. They were going to build a snowman, so I left them to it—I had bigger fish to fry. I found Nora Cunningham’s mobile number and called it. It rang for quite a while before anyone answered it.

“Hello?”

“Hello, is that Nora?”

“Yes, who is that?”

“Cathy Cameron—remember you left two children here for Christmas?—Well we’ve eaten both of them, got any more?”

She roared with laughter, “I had completely forgotten.”

“What? How can you forget two kids?”

“Very easily—it’s been crazy here since we moved, calming all the kids down and the staff has been a nightmare. Then I was ill with swine flu—I don’t feel right yet. The last straw was my car got totalled in a multiple pile up—I wouldn’t have minded but I was stationary at the time, so between the whip lash and the air bag, which broke my nose, I haven’t felt that special.”

I chuckled at this, “I’m not surprised, Norah.”

“How did you get on with the kids?”

“It was okay, they were quite well behaved and get on with the girls quite well.”

“Could you keep ’em for a few more days?”

“I’ll have to, you wouldn’t get through the snow at present. It needs a four by four to go anywhere, except on foot, ski or dog-sled.”

“It’s not too bad here, just a dusting really, about an inch. So is that all right—I mean them staying longer with you? I’ll increase the grant you get.”

“What grant?” I asked.

“We usually pay a set fee per child per week—you get it for Trish, anyway, don’t you?”

“No—I had a small amount from social services, but nothing much.”

“Oh, I’ll sort that out for you and get it backdated. I’ll let you know when I can come to collect them, is there a better day or time?”

“I think rather than you collecting them, we need to discuss with you and the boys, what they’d like to do.”

“I think I know what that will be.”

“Do you? I don’t—so aren’t you prejudging the issue?”

“Oh come off it, Cathy—where would you rather go, a children’s home in Wantage, or stay with a family whose holiday home is a castle in Scotland?”

“I thought every Englishman’s home was his castle?”

“Very funny—as you’re now at best a sympathiser—at worst a defector—to those ’orrible ’aggis-bashers—that’s rich coming from you.”

“I come from Bristol, remember?”

“Were you born there?”

“Um—no, I was born in Dumfries—my parents were visiting my paternal grandmother.”

“So you’re an ’orrible ’aggis basher yourself?”

“Nah—a Bristolian, whatever gave you that ideal?”

“Don’t you mean idea?”

“That’s what I said, ideal.”

“No, you said ideal but you meant idea.”

“I’m from Bristol, we add an ‘L’ to any vowel at the end of a word. Bristol—a bridge over the Stow, or Bristow, equals Bristol.”

“I thought you lot were Welshmen who couldn’t swim, but it’s worse, you’re beyond the pale—well Hadrian’s Wall at any rate.”

“It’s like I had a choice?”

“Yes, you should have waited until you got home.”

“She was there for two weeks.”

“So, first babies are often two weeks late.”

“I already was.”

“Oh.”

“Mummy,” Trish handed me a business card. I glanced at it and shuddered. John Jackson, Human Interest Correspondent, The Evening Echo.

“I have to go, Nora.”

“Troubles?”

“A bit of pest control.”

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 880

I stood there looking at the card and remembering my last encounter with this man. Putting it plainly, he was a creep and the worst sort of journalist—even the word hack was probably elevating him to heights beyond either his scruples or abilities. That I despised him and everything about him, could have been considered a tiny bit biased, but I was happy to be seen in that light.

“Whit’s that?” asked Tom plucking the card from my fingers. Then before I could answer he added, “I’ll deal with this.” A moment later the kids came dashing in and I could hear raised voices through the open door.

“Who’s that man, Mummy?” asked Trish as the troops assembled around me to hear my response.

“That is Mr Jackson, who works for the local Echo. He makes his living by writing nasty stories about people and much of the time they seem poorly researched and presented.”

“So he’s a bad man is he?” she persisted.

“That may be going too far, but he’s certainly not a nice one.”

We all watched Tom order him off the property. Tom then came in and slammed the front door and much to our delight, the bang caused a minor avalanche of snow to fall off the roof onto the unfortunate reporter.

Tom was confused by our laughter; he was still red faced from his shouting match with the idiot at his door. However, when he looked around and saw the moving pile of snow, he laughed too.

“It wis an accident,” he said smirking.

“If I believed, I’d almost say it was an act of God,” I chuckled back.

“Aye, that’s as guid a proof as ye’re likely tae get.”

I looked out a few minutes later and he’d gone. I expected him or someone like him to be back so we’d be in a state of siege if we weren’t careful.

The phone rang, Julie answered it. “Who wants her?” she asked.

“It’s the Echo, Mummy, shall I tell them to go take a running jump?”

I shook my head. “Cathy Watts, what do you want?”

“Ah so you are there, the nutty professor said you weren’t.”

“He may not have known I was here, I wasn’t earlier.”

“Okay, even allowing for that, did he have to assault my reporter?”

“In what way?”

“He dumped a ton of snow on him.”

“Pity I missed that, but from what he said it slid off the roof onto your man.”

“After he slammed the door to trigger it.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“It was deliberate.”

“How can you say that?”

“It’s obvious.”

“Prove it in court.”

“I will unless you talk with us.”

“What about dormice?”

“Very funny—you know damned well what I want you tell us.”

“I’m qualified to talk about dormice or aspects of mammalian ecology, that’s all.”

“You’re that mystery healer, aren’t you?”

“What mystery healer?”

“The one who healed those two kids.”

“What two kids are you on about?”

“The kid on the sled and the baby—we know you were there, the helicopter bloke had your name—said he took you with them to the hospital.”

“I went to the hospital, but I didn’t stay—I have a several young children staying with me, so I’m going to hang around a hospital aren’t I? I’ve got better things to do, so it wasn’t me.”

“The last time this mysterious woman was there so were you—quite a coincidence, don’t you think?”

“Ask Norman Saxon, he’s the expert.”

“Him—he’s barking.”

“Are you qualified to diagnose mental illness?” I asked.

“In his case, yeah. Now look, your claims of coincidence is like Clark Kent saying he isn’t Superman.”

“There is a slight problem with your example, Superman or Clark Kent are characters from a comic strip—I’m a real person, this is real life. I’m also a scientist and unless I can reproduce it in a laboratory, I don’t believe in miracles. I’m a fully paid up agnostic—so I’m probably the last person to ask about this sort of stuff—I think it’s all codswallop.”

“So you’re still denying you’re Superman?”

“Superman? No I’m Wonder Woman, but only on weekends.” I put the phone down, it immediately rang again and the same withheld number notice came up on the caller display, so I ignored it.

I called the kids together and told them, “Look the press are trying to find someone who did some healing on someone at the hospital yesterday. They seem to think it was me—it wasn’t. Please don’t talk to them if they try to ask you questions.”

“If you say it wasn’t you, Mummy, that’s good enough for me,” Julie said from the back of the group.

“Good enough for us too,” said Danny and Billy agreed.

Trish blushed and jerked Livvie when she was going to say something. The three girls went off and I heard them squabbling a few moments later. Checking that we weren’t overheard, I spoke with them.

“But you do healing, Mummy?” protested Livvie.

“So what do you want me to do—tell them and have photographers and reporters camped outside?”

“You told us to always tell the truth—you told a lie, Mummy.”

“I know, sweetheart and I don’t like doing it, but it’s for the best. If they thought I was involved, they’d stay there until I spoke to them. I don’t want to.”

“Are they nasty men, Mummy?”

“They’re not very nice, Liv.”

“Did you do it, Mummy?” asked Trish, “’coz, I think you might have done.”

“Why do you need to know?”

“Um—I don’t know.”

“Well then, I’m not going to say either way.

“But if you told a lie—that was wrong, Mummy.” Trish seemed a little upset with the whole business.

“If I did, it was wrong but done for a greater good.”

“What does that mean, Mummy?” The three girls looked perplexed as if I’d given them something dreadful to contemplate and I suppose I had. Children see things in black and white, so a grey episode is very difficult for them to understand.

I racked my brains to think of an example—when I did get one it wasn’t very good but I went with it. “Imagine there was a man outside with a bomb and he was going to blow up this house with everyone in it.”

“Ooooh,” squeaked Mima, “Vat’s howwibwe, Mummy.”

“Yes, darling, it is. But a policeman sees him and shoots him before he can explode the bomb.”

“Yay—good policeman,” shouted Livvie.

“But it’s wrong to kill someone, isn’t it?” I challenged.

“But he was going to blow us up, Mummy.”

“Yes, so in killing one person the policeman saved half a dozen or more of us. So we can say although he did wrong, by shooting a man, the policeman acted for the greater good.”

“Is the man wiv the bomb gone, Mummy?” asked an anxious Mima.

“There is no man with a bomb, stupid,” said Trish, “it’s just pretend.”

“I’m not stupid, you stupid,” said Mima and she ran off crying.

“Girls, please no squabbling, things are tough enough without that.” I rubbed my forehead. I don’t usually get headaches, but I was sure I could feel one coming on.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 881

The rest of the day was difficult—I felt edgy and I felt as if I’d created some sort of rift with Trish. She looked as if she didn’t trust me anymore and Meems seemed exercised about someone planting a bomb and being shot by a policeman.

I hid myself away in the kitchen, where at least I was warm. Julie came out to me, “What’s the matter with Trish?”

“We had a misunderstanding and she feels uptight about it. She’ll sort herself out eventually.”

“Do you think I can help?” asked the teen.

“Leave her for a bit, if it continues tomorrow—maybe then. She’s a bright spark so she might sort it out by herself—remember she’s very independent, despite her youth.”

“Okay—anything else I can do for you?”

“It’s so cold outside, how about playing some board games with the children?”

“Yeah, okay.”

“They’re in the big cupboard under the stairs.”

Oh well, the kids would be happier and it’s better than them watching telly or messing about on computers. The dinner was on and all I had to do was dish it up when it was ready—about an hour or so. I’d done a casserole with a real rice pudding for dessert.

While I waited, I did some more work on the survey—which reminded me, we had to go to Southampton the day after tomorrow and deal with that lot. Gee whizz, how much fun should one girl have in a week?

Trish continued to be distant and when I asked them if they wanted Tom or I to put them to bed—they opted for Tom. Containing my hurt, I went back to my survey and after wiping my eyes, continued my university work.

About half an hour later, Tom came into the kitchen and sat opposite me. “Are ye goin’ tell me whit’s goin’ on?”

“What do you mean, Daddy?”

“With Trish.”

“I think we had a slight difference of opinion.”

“Aboot whit?”

“Is it important?”

“I dinna ken until ye tell me, but it sounds as if ye’re avoidin’ somethin’.”

“It’s a storm in a teacup, Daddy. I told a lie and in doing so, have fallen in Trish’s eyes.”

“Whit aboot?”

“Denying I did the healing, she knows I did it. So when I said to the kids and the Echo that it wasn’t me, her opinion of me plummeted.”

“She’s a very serious wee lassie.”

“Who because of her age sees things in absolute terms.”

“I ken someone who’s similar aboot saving thae world, or disbelievin’ thae existence O’God.”

“Okay, I surrender—I made a mistake, I’ll go and self-flagellate out in the snow until daylight—will that make amends?”

“No, but it would gie thae press some wonderful pictures.”

I smiled in a resigned way—I didn’t want this conversation, in fact I didn’t want to talk to anyone, except perhaps Simon. The rock upon whom I build my marriage, only I won’t let him change his name to Peter.

I went to bed myself feeling like a hunted animal who’d been expelled from the rest of the herd. The lions or sharks—choose your own analogy, were waiting for me to break cover but I stayed in the shadows. In that regard the severe cold was keeping the press from the end of the drive rather than my denials. They’d be back in the morning.

I didn’t sleep very well, even after calling Si to tell him the latest. He was up to his eyeballs with bank business and hoping that Cadbury shares stayed at over eight quid because he had a thousand of them which he bought for about half that a couple of years ago.

I felt like accusing him of treason, that was like selling Rolls Royce, but we did that years ago to the Germans. It seems that firms have to get bigger and bigger to prosper in the monetarist model—with which I greatly disagreed, but then I was a liberal-socialist not a capitalist. Even here I was a hypocrite—I was happy to spend Simon’s money, which he worked hard for but no harder than a labourer on a building site or a teacher—he just earned more—lots more.

The news the next morning was awful—an earthquake in Haiti, one of the poorest countries in the world. I lay there listening to reports suggesting thousands had perished. I went down and sent some money to Medecins sans Frontiers at least that would be well spent.

Tom was prowling around, “Hear about Haiti?” I asked him.

He nodded and looked grave. “Aye it’s a richt mess, but it may take the attention off ye.”

“Oh c’mon, Daddy, that’s real news, I’m a column-filler at best.”

“Well thae vultures ’re gatherin’.”

I glanced down the drive and could see activity at the end of it. “They can wait until hell freezes over, I’m not talking to them.”

“I think it may hae already done so, Cathy.”

The morning went on as usual, except Trish was avoiding me. I couldn’t cope with this much longer—should I cancel the adoption? Did she no longer want to stay with me? How do I cope with this—kill myself?

Maybe I should volunteer to go to Haiti and save any dormice they have there? That was a stupid thought and appeared to mock the suffering of thousands. I didn’t mean it like that, but what could I do to redeem myself? Should I even think about it—or merely say to her, get over it. I was a mass of contradictions and self-doubt.

Tom had stayed at home to protect me—I was humbled and embarrassed by his action, but tomorrow we had to get out and go to Southampton, unless the meeting was cancelled. It hadn’t been so far as I knew.

The phone rang, it was Pippa from the university. “Have you seen the Echo?”

“No, why?”

“They say you confessed to being the mysterious healing woman.”

“Me? I denied anything to do with it.”

“The front cover shows a picture of their reporter covered in snow, accusing you of making it happen. They say you said you were the wonder woman. They have a tape of the conversation on their website.”

“It’s been doctored then, because I strenuously denied it. What happened was…” and I related the true account of what had transpired. Then a stupid thought popped into my head, is transpire what cross dressers do in hot weather? Maybe I was losing it altogether.

I thanked Pippa and contacted Henry, or tried to, he was in a meeting. The phone started to ring and I took the plug out of the wall. The nightmare was beginning. How the hell was I going to be fresh to help Tom against the pirates of Southampton? I almost prayed to that God I don’t believe in—then changed it to the universe. There was no flash of lightning, the parasites were still there. Oh bugger.

After breakfast I was clearing up and trying to think of something to do with the kids when I passed the dining room. I could hear two voices, which I identified as Trish and Julie. I know one shouldn’t listen but I was concerned, so I did.

“…but she lied to us all, Julie.”

“Don’t you do that every day when you put on your school uniform?”

“No.”

“So all the boys you know wear skirts do they?”

“I’m a girl,” Trish protested.

“Inside you feel like that, but you’re a boy officially.”

“So are you,” Trish sniped back.

“Don’t I like, know it. I know I’m lying to people until I can sort my body out, but what good would telling the truth achieve? It would just get me a beating. This way, hopefully, I look enough like a girl to pass.”

“I think you look nice,” offered Trish.

“Yeah, so do you—if you hadn’t told me, I’d never have guessed.”

“But Mummy told us we should always tell the truth.”

“I think most of the time, that’s probably right—but sometimes it’s not the best thing to do. If you thought I looked like a pig’s bottom, you’d hardly tell me, would you. You’d either avoid saying anything or tell me I looked okay.”

“I’d try to tell the truth, ’coz I’m supposed to do.”

“But if I was angry and you said the truth, it might make me even worse and I could hit you or hurt you physically.”

“Not for telling the truth?”

“Yes—people don’t always want to hear the truth. When a woman says to her boyfriend or husband, ‘Does my bum look big in this?’ the last thing she wants to hear is yes, even if it is true. So if he doesn’t like it, he’ll say he preferred the other outfit, which is probably the cheaper one.”

“Does my bum look big in this?” asked Trish waggling her wares in the tight jeans she had on.”

“Bloody huge—I’m surprised you got it through the door it’s so big,” Julie teased and Trish laughed.

“Did you know Mummy was the healer?”

“I guessed—as the bruises I had were far worse before I got in the car with her. Didn’t you notice the mark on my face has gone?”

“Oh yeah, so it has and the one on your neck.”

“Yeah, that one too.”

“I healed that one for you?”

“Nah, Mummy rubbed it when she thought I wasn’t looking. It nearly disappeared,” Julie suggested.

“But I’m a healer, too. I started it healing before Mummy touched it?”

“No, she saved me when I tried to kill myself.”

“Oh my God, you tried to kill yourself? That’s like so bad, it’s a mortal sin.”

“Yeah sure, only if you succeed.”

“Did Mummy bring you back to life?”

“Yeah, I reckon I was with my ancestors and she brought me back.”

“Goodness, so she’s rescued three souls from death?”

“Three, me and that kid at the hospital.”

“And Mima, she died and Mummy saved her.”

“Crikey—and she’s okay?”

“Yes, ’course she is.”

“Mummy is quite a lady, isn’t she?”

“I think she’s the best mummy in the world.”

“So why don’t you go and tell her that.”

“I will.”

I slipped into the kitchen moments before Trish arrived. She hugged me around the waist and said, “You’re the best mummy in the world, Mummy—an’ I’m sorry I was a naughty girl.”

“I’m sorry I gave you mixed messages.”

“What does that mean, Mummy?”

Oh shit…why can’t I learn to speak more simply?

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 882

I was waiting with Tom for what seemed like ages. Gareth’s Landcruiser turned into the drive and pulled up as close to the house as he could, Tom and I got into the car. I felt stupid, wrapped up in a coat with a hat and scarf pulled over my face; sunglasses completing the disguise. Mask might be a better descriptor: it was to hide my face from the waiting gang of paparazzi at the entrance to the drive.

I had spoken briefly to Gareth and he understood with minimum data—I liked him more than ever, apart from being drop-dead gorgeous, he had a brain. He also accepted what I told him without any questions, as if he already knew it or trusted me implicitly, or even thought it was irrelevant—maybe that was it, irrelevant, in which case he wasn’t such an atypical man.

The clowns with cameras flashed and attempted to delay our exit from the drive, one nearly got himself run over and another laughed saying, “Don’t worry she’ll fix you.”

I think there was more chance of finding oranges hanging off apple trees in the garden.

Once on the main road, I felt I could relax a little although Gareth suggested there could be a car following us. Because of the weather, I opted to wear the grey boots with the suit and blouse, though walking through the snow and ice to the car posed a small challenge and I was glad of Tom’s arm to steady my balance and reassure myself he was there for me.

“So why are all these imbeciles freezing their backsides off?” asked Gareth.

“I told you, they think I’m some sort of super healer.”

“Why would they think that?”

“I was at the hospital the same time as whoever this mysterious individual is.”

“Oh, you’re the one I saw on the website—now it makes sense.”

“What does?” Now it was I who was confused.

“Well it had two photos, one of the dormouse down your dress and the other of you in a Wonder Woman outfit—it was obviously photo-shopped because Wonder Woman was a bit more endowed in the breast department.”

“Linda Carter, I expect,” I replied, “Oh how I wanted to be her years ago.”

“I think you’re actually prettier,” said Gareth.

“Aye, sae dae I,” agreed Tom nodding to emphasise the point.

“Thanks for the vote of confidence, but she was a very beautiful woman in those days, I was still a sort of boy.”

“I don’t believe you, Cathy,” challenged Gareth, “no one as beautiful as you, was ever a boy.”

“Aye, Simon says thae same.”

“Anyway what was the point of the two photos of from this to this?”

“Oh that’s my fault, the idiot guy from the Echo suggested I was Superman and I don’t think he meant in a Shavian sense. I don’t know if it was a slip of the tongue or what, but that’s what he said, so I corrected him by saying I was Wonder Woman. It was meant as a joke—they took it to mean I was admitting to being the healing person.”

“Which you are, aren’t you?”

“I’m what?” I blushed, was I going to lie to him as well? “What makes you think that?”

“I had a hernia from trying to pull a tree root out of my garden back last summer. I shook hands with you and it tweaked like hell. By the time I left your house, it had healed itself.”

“How does that prove anything?” I was still blushing.

“Scientifically, it doesn’t, unless I could repeat the experiment with the same result. I couldn’t, because the hernia is gone. However, yesterday, I managed to cut myself while doing my impression of Jamie Oliver chopping veg, I chopped my left index finger and thumb instead.”

“Were you doing a finger salad?” I asked with feigned innocence.

“Oh, very good—but—um no, I wasn’t. However, the cuts have healed miraculously—see?” he waved his hand in the air.

“So perhaps it’s Tom who healed you?” I tried to throw in a rather weak red herring.

“No, Tom and I have met before and spent some time together the day I came to meet you. I still had the hernia then.”

I sighed loudly and pouted. Why doesn’t anyone believe me when I lie?

“Look, Cathy, I’m not going to tell anyone, I feel we have enough problems keeping the Pirates of Penzance off our treasure—but thanks, I feel great without that annoyance in my pants.”

“That’s how I felt prior to surgery,” I said offhandedly.

“You what?” he gasped and Tom was chortling.

“Oh nothing,” I blushed again—me and my big mouth.

I took off the sunglasses, it wasn’t really sunny but it at least made it feel like daylight. I noticed Gareth looking at me in the rear view mirror, I pretended not to notice, at the same time I undid the overcoat I was wearing—it was getting quite warm in the car—or I was having a hot flush, perhaps both.

“When did you have the surgery?” he asked.

“A year or so ago, why?”

“I just wondered—I honestly cannot imagine how anyone could possibly want to have that done. Eeewww,” he said pulling a face.

“Think of it as having a noxious growth removed.”

“But it isn’t is it? It’s a functioning piece of kit.”

“I prefer the modified version, an innie instead of an outie.”

“I’m sure you do, but sooner you than me. Couldn’t you have used your miraculous healing powers to spontaneously change your outie into an innie?”

“No, to start with I wasn’t aware of having any such skills. Secondly, it only heals what’s damaged.”

“I’ve just had a silly thought, like you go and have surgery and when the surgeon comes around to check, it’s all grown back again—a sort of groundhog day scenario.”

I shivered, “Perhaps that’s why this thing didn’t happen to me until I was beyond that stage?”

“Whit aboot Trish, she’s got some skills in healing tae.”

“Oh don’t go there, Daddy, it doesn’t bear thinking about. Poor Trish, she’d be beside herself and so would I, for her.”

“So Trish has inherited your powers? That’s interesting, given she’s your foster daughter.”

“I know, but the energy finds what it needs—from patients to healers. It chooses you, not the other way round.”

“So, is this spiritual healing?”

“As an agnostic—I have a problem with that particular term.”

“That’s what I thought. Is this God’s revenge?”

“Don’t even go there,” I cautioned.

“Okay, okay. We’re here folks, do you want me to drop you off and then go and park?”

“No the fresh air will do us good,” I said on both Tom’s and my own behalf.

We walked to the university building, not on the main campus, but in the biological sciences building, which was part of a smaller campus near the harbour. We all walked together, me carrying my laptop, the case of which was stuffed with files, and my handbag. Tom was laden with a large briefcase bulging at the seams and Gareth had a box file under his arm.

“You look every bit the celebrity,” Gareth said to me.

I laughed, “Don’t be daft, I’m a poor working girl.”

“Whose husband happens to be a duke and owns a bank—yeah, poor working girl.”

“Simon isn’t a duke, his dad is only a viscount.”

“Sorry, milady,” he began walking backwards and bowing. Tom was roaring with laughter.

“But look at you, fur trimmed coat and hat.”

“It’s fake fur,” I countered.

“So, it still makes you look a million dollars.”

“No, it keeps me warm.”

“It shows off your figure.”

“Okay, I’ll give you that.”

“And that suit—that is absolutely beautiful—like its wearer.”

“Flattery won’t get you anywhere, Gareth Sage, no matter how many doctorates you have.”

“I know, and I’m glad to hear it.”

Just to confuse him I put my arm in his.

“However, I might still be open to offers,” he said winking at me. Tom looked scornfully at me until I poked my tongue out at him and he knew I was fooling.

We ascended in the lift and a few yards down from there, was a group of people standing around. It looked like someone was lying on the ground.

“What’s happened?” I asked.

“Some fool of a student ran into him pushing a trolley thing.” I worked my way to the front of the group and to my horror saw Perryman, lying groaning on the floor.

“Where does it hurt?” someone was asking.

“My legs, I can’t feel my legs,” he was sobbing.

I shivered—could I help him? Did I want to? Would they let me?

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 883

“Just stay still, mate, ambulance is on its way.”

“I feel cold,” said Perryman and started to shiver. If he was faking it was a very clever act—especially when he closed his eyes and stopped breathing.

“Oh shit, what d’we do now?”

I’d watched in frustration too long. His injury wasn’t spinal, he’d bashed his head—sub-dural haematoma. I barged my way to the front—“Give me room, that means you too,” I told an offended first aider.

On the pretence of giving him mouth-to-mouth respiration, I was cradling the back of his head where the injury was, the energy leaving my hands was freezing cold—usually it’s warm.

I felt his carotid pulse—“His heart is still beating, but he’s not breathing.” I said which meant I blew into his mouth again—he’ll have fit when he knows who did it. The energy was blasting from my hands as if it had to reach a certain level to stop the bleed and disperse some of the blood.

I continued the kiss of life while healing his brain injury. He had a severe concussion with bleed—normally, he’d have been dead by now or a cabbage—instead of the usual turnip! They say a change is as good as a rest.

As I held his head, blowing into his mouth every minute or so, I got a feeling that the bit of brain that was being damaged was that relating to his sexual orientation. If he was a paedo, and we didn’t know for certain, this could prove most interesting. It was almost as if he had been targeted by something to change him. Part of me hoped he became gay—nah, that was wicked of me.

The ambulance eventually arrived, they’d only been sent to the wrong campus—giving me twenty minutes to pour in energy. Just before they arrived his eyes fluttered open, I kissed him once more and his body, including his feet moved a little—he’d be physically okay now.

The paramedics were arrogant and ignored me. They put him in splints and braces before loading him on the stretcher. “Get his head X-rayed, he’s got concussion,” I suggested very strongly.

“The caller said it was a spinal, not head—lost sensation in his feet and legs.”

“That occurs in sub-durals too.”

“How do you know?” he almost sneered at me.

“I’ve seen it before.”

“Yeah, where was that?”

“While you’re arguing your patient could be dying,” I pressed, he wasn’t, I was still maintaining him but they didn’t know that.

“Okay, I’ll bet you a fiver it isn’t a sub dural,” said the argumentative paramedic.

“Done, send it to Haiti appeal and I’ll do the same—but I am a hundred per cent sure of what it is, how sure are you?”

“Enough,” he virtually spat at me.

“Come on Don, she might be a doctor,” said his young female companion.

“Better than that,” said Gareth quietly behind me. “You’ve done it again, haven’t you? Where does the blue stuff come from?”

“The sky?—on a fine day, it’s full of it,” I joked.

“Is this yours?” asked a man who picked up a memory stick from the floor.

“No—all my stuff is in my bag.” I pointed to the pile of stuff which Tom had been protecting whilst I’d worked to save Perryman.

“If I collapse—will you resuscitate me?” asked a wag who’d watched the proceedings on the floor. I blushed, then he said—“I can’t breathe, save me beautiful lady.”

“Let him croak, then we’ll be able to get a word in,” said one of his colleagues.

“Shurrup,” said the one who apparently couldn’t breathe, “I’m seriously dying, here.”

I managed to find a ladies loo and wash my mouth and freshen my lipstick et cetera. I always carry a travel tooth brush in case I get bits of cabbage stuck in my front teeth. Brushing my teeth to rid myself of the taste of Perryman, was a real pleasure.

The meeting only lasted an hour—Dr Sage chaired it and did so very cleverly. A grant would be possible for sea mammal studies, dependent upon costs incurred, but Portsmouth would control the major investment—including the half a million a year from High St Banks—the bank had insisted upon it, apparently.

I’d helped Simon get the bank award for the survey, before we were an item. I’d kept my identity as Cathy Watts—but someone rumbled me.

“Mr chairman, isn’t this all a bit incestuous—isn’t Cathy Watts engaged to Simon Cameron from the bank? How come she hasn’t declared her interest, to the meeting?” mumbles went round the table.

“Cathy is actually the Lady Cameron of Stanebury, however, the award was made before she and her husband were engaged or married. This was done under the auspices of the Under Secretary of State, so unless you wish to query his integrity, I think you can rest assured that the award was made in good faith.”

“But she works for the bank?” protested another.

“No, she owns it,” piped another.

“I am retained as an ecological adviser by the bank—part of which means I try to encourage them to spend money on protecting the environment, funding education and publicity for good causes. I did get them to fund the posters for this survey.”

“Only because you’re on the bloody things.”

“If you think that’s a good thing, you can pose for the next ones—but they like you to do it in a fairly short skirt.” I threw back at the hairy faced ape who’d made the comment.

“Yes, Douglas, I’ll tell them where to contact you—cuddling what—um—a killer whale?” Gareth was very good at the put down.

This sort of banter went on for a while longer, when Gareth closed the meeting—the next would be an ad hoc thing as he decided we needed one, otherwise, Tom was very much in charge. He was, I told him so on the way back—and we all laughed.
As the meeting was finishing, the man who’d found the memory stick asked if it belonged to anyone. It didn’t, so he plugged it into the computer we’d been using for the meeting.

A load of gobbledygook came up first, then an encryption thing—at this point I’d have given up and dumped it. But not the finder—he was a bit of a computer buff and in two minutes he’d opened the encryption there were about a thousand pictures on it, mostly jpegs. He opened the first and we all gasped—the second was a gasp of disgust and the third meant we called the police.

I won’t describe the subjects except to say they were of children—I suspect you’ll know what the rest means. As no one actually saw Perryman drop the stick, unless the police find evidence linking him to it, they won’t be able to prove anything yet again. Hopefully, however, his bang on the head and my subsequent first aid will help him to mend his ways.

It’s ironic that I half expected him to queer my pitch at the meeting, instead I might just have spoilt his takeover bid, with Gareth’s clever running of the meeting helping enormously.

“Should I have declared my interest?” I asked as we drove east to Portsmouth.

“I did on your behalf, if you’d read your agenda and qualifying documents, you’d have been aware of that,” Gareth gently chided me.

“Sorry, been a bit busy of late.” I blushed.

“So I gather. Your father-in-law phoned me last night and asked me to take you to Southsea, apparently your kids are there, Stella has packed a case for you both, and if necessary he’ll send you off somewhere else, safer.”

“Not bloody Scotland, it’s even colder up there.”

“I think ye mean bonnie Scotland,” said Tom loudly, “Och, it’s whaur ma heart is,” he sighed to himself.

“Yep—highest rate of cardio-pulmonary disease in Western Europe,” I said and he gave me one of his porridge-freezing stares.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 884

It puzzled me how quickly the chap at Southampton had cracked the encryption on the memory stick, so I voiced my query.

“Ah, I know the answer to that;” Gareth said smugly. “Two things, it wasn’t a very good stick and the encryption may well have been faulty, and it seems the machine he used was the one it belonged to.”

“So was that Perryman’s?” I asked, almost holding my breath.

“I’m not absolutely sure, but apparently he was supposed to be organising that part of it, so it could be.”

“Ironic, isn’t it, while I think anyone who abuses children needs to be dealt with, I actually feel sorry for him.”

“Cathy, you saw those photos, the three or four we were shown. They were disgraceful.” Gareth was right.

A day or so ago, I’d have agreed, but I suppose he was now a patient of mine, and that altered my attitude to him. As a parent, if he’d done that to any of my kids, I’d have killed him—I think, we can never be sure. Oh stop thinking—just look forward to seeing your children safe and sound, and be glad Tom seems to have won the first battle.

We chatted more about how we could maintain the initiative now we’d taken it, and those two seemed well able to deal with the politics whilst I dealt with some of the overall administration, leading a team who would do more of the day to day stuff and leave me to watch over the science.

I needed to send some data to other species leaders, including someone at Sussex. Then at some point, I’d need to visit those with any problems, which is fine if it’s an hour’s drive away, but not if it’s as far as Glasgow or even Aberdeen, or Aberystwyth for that matter. I had to consider the children as well as my job—even though my interpretation of results was what was hopefully going to get me a PhD—one day.

Once at the hotel in Southsea and settled into our suite—I was able to change out of my glad rags and go to see what my kids were up to. The girls were swimming, each with their own personal coach—I was delighted to see that Mima was able to put her previous experience behind her—the day I discovered how powerful the blue energy could be and how I could actually use it, or it, me. I was never quite sure which did what and who was in charge.

I watched the girls swimming—they were having such fun, and when they saw me they squealed and waved, each running up to me to kiss me and then jump back into the water. It looked very much as if each of them could swim reasonably well or was on the way to achieving it.

I mused some more upon the blue energy or whatever colour seemed to manifest itself. For a moment, I wondered if everything had been planned by something, to test or teach me. It was a tall order for me to even consider such a thing without thinking of the G word and pooh-poohing the whole lot.

In my world Darwin was king, he counted earthworms, disgusted with his beliefs when his daughter died. Mine didn’t die, but I was already agnostic purely on logical grounds. What if we were both wrong? Hmmm, I didn’t like that much—maybe there was some alternative explanation that didn’t involve gods or a whole pantheon of nebulous beings who were as useful as a wet cream cracker.

Nah, there was nothing—the energy was itself, it didn’t need numinous entities, it probably worked on some physical system such as energy gradients—yeah that was it.

Problem solved.

Unfortunately, my monkey mind wasn’t quite finished—how did it know where to happen? It had to be that I was some sort of catalyst, which caused it to come and then it did what it did using me as an aerial or channel. See, easy-peasy. Unless, I was led to do these things as a test or training exercise—my cooperation being ensured by it being needed by Tom, Meems and Henry. If that was true, then I wanted no more to do with it—at the same time, I had to be careful: what happened if one of those already mentioned or another member of my family needed my help and I’d washed my hands of it? No—don’t go there; also it brings it round to a conscious entity and I don’t like that anymore than I like the idea of anything but being in control. Why me? Why can’t I just go and count dormice instead of all these moralistic dilemmas?

God only exists as an anagram of dog—there, I’ve committed blasphemy, I’ll wait for the thunderbolt, Tichfield or otherwise.

I called the girls to finish their swim and get dressed. Once they were ready, I took them with me in search of the boys. The two lads were having a contest on two stationary bikes seeing who could get the furthest on a TdF computerised screen. I think it might be the same one I tried with Simon before Christmas.

I looked for Julie—she wasn’t with them, then the penny dropped. I called the beauty salon and she was there with Stella; Puddin’ being looked after by the baby-sitting service.

“Can we go, Mummy?” asked the girls in unison. I called the salon again, who said they were quiet and could do facials or haircuts for all of us if we liked. I opted for haircuts.

I was informed that Henry and Monica would be arriving later on and Simon was following on as soon as he could. I felt better already. With my trusty partner by my side, life was a great deal easier.

Gareth was invited to stay for dinner and to use the gym or pool if he wanted. He was tempted, but had to get back to the office—they couldn’t live without him—he joked.

We returned from the salon to find the dirty clothes we’d worn that day had been cleaned or laundered and returned—wow, how’s that for five star treatment. Then they reminded me, my pa-in-law owned it.

Henry sent me a text, inviting everyone to dinner in the Green Room restaurant. That meant dressing up. The girls loved it, the boys were half-hearted, Tom was appalled and I was feeling lazy until Stella insisted I wear a very smart cocktail dress. So it was on with the slap—at least my hair was tidy—and polished nails and so on.

While I was doing creative things with my face and being pestered by three young women—Julie had had the works, so looked better than I was ever going to—I had the telly on in the background, not something I usually do.

‘Reports are coming in of a police investigation at Southampton University, where a computer was removed along with several digital memory devices. Police are waiting to interview a member of staff who was injured in an accident on the campus, and who is currently in hospital under police guard about this matter.’

I shuddered, so Perryman was under investigation—I still felt sorry for him, but despised him for what he’d done to me and to all those children. I supposed he had it coming, and this time he’d need to do some seriously clever talking to get out of it.

I had just finished getting ready when I was interrupted by Julie saying there was a policeman who wanted to speak to me. I had no idea what he wanted. All the things I’d been involved with had more or less been resolved. I hoped it didn’t mean something had happened to Simon or Henry and Monica.

“Lady Catherine Cameron?”

“Yes.”

“I’m Inspector Lane, this is Detective Constable Fish.” He introduced himself and a rather plain young woman who was with him. “I need to speak to you about the incident at Southampton University earlier today.”

“Yes okay, please have a seat.”

“We’ve spoken with Luke Perryman. He suggested the memory device was yours. He thought he saw you drop it when you were trying to kill him.”

“Come again?”

“He alleges you dropped the memory stick and tried to kill him to cover your past crimes. I’m afraid that I’m going to have to ask you to come to the police station and make a statement. You do not have to say anything. But it may harm your defence if you do not mention when questioned something which you later rely on in court. Anything you do say may be given in evidence.”

“Is this for real?”

“I’m afraid so, Lady Cameron.”

“I have to ask someone to watch my children—Stella, I have to go down the police station. Can you or Tom or Julie keep an eye on the kids? The boys are still down at the gym as far as I know.”

“What have you got to go down there for? I’ll get Tom.” Stella rushed out of the room.

Tom stormed in, “Whit’s goin’ on here? Are ye arrestin’ ma dochter?”

“No sir, just asking her to make a statement.”

“Aboot whit?”

“The thing with Perryman. He’s accusing me of owning the memory stick.”

“Whit? That’s bluidy ridiculous—he drapped it, it worked on his computer, this is jes’ plain daft.”

“I’m sorry, Professor, I’m just doing my job. This way please, Lady Cameron.”

“Aye, thae concentration camp guerds said the same thing afore we hanged them.”

“There’s no need for that, Professor,” said the inspector.

I pulled on a coat and took my bag with me. “I’ll be okay, Daddy, don’t worry,” I tried to cheer him up.

“If ye’re no back here in half an ’oor, I’ll be doon there wi’ a writ fer wrangfu’ arrest.”

“Stay calm, Professor, we’re just sorting out a few loose ends.”

“Aye, weel Cathy hae better be loose in half an ’oor or I’ll be doon there and yer future career wi’ depend upon hoo mony tickets ye can dispense fer parkin’ offences.”

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 885

“I don’t quite understand why I have to make a statement at the police station,” I said as we walked across to the police car.

“Catherine Watts, aka Catherine Cameron, aka Charlie Watts—I am arresting you on suspicion of attempted murder and possession of child pornography. You have already been cautioned.”

“I want a solicitor.”

“Get in the car, mate.”

“There is some serious shit gonna hit the fan for this.” I spat at him wrenching my arm away as he went to push me in the car.

He grabbed my arm and spun me around so my back was against the car. “Look you fuckin’ little nancy-boy, I don’t like perverts like you—but they do down the nick, especially the body search—you’ll like that. Now get in the fuckin’ car or do you want me to cuff you?”

My eyes watering with anger and the pain in my back I got into the car—my little world was falling apart before my eyes. Instead of living happily ever after and giving a home to six needy children—I could actually be sent down for something I haven’t done.

“Look, there’s been some mistake—call my husband.”

“Husband—what for a freak like you, likes girly boys does he? We all know you bloody weirdos are into children.”

“What do you mean, weirdo?”

“Look under all those expensive clothes, you’re a bloke, so we’re taking you down the nick and if you give us the rest of the names of the ring, and the names of the children you know, we’ll let you pull your little plaything in the cells afterwards.”

“Can you put that in writing?” I said coldly, this guy’s career was history and I just hoped he had a mortgage with our bank.

“For you? Hah, maybe if you tell us what we want to know.”

“Oh, I’ll tell you plenty of things.”

“Nice dress—makes you feel like a woman—does it?” He touched the plunging neckline of my dress and I felt sick. “The implants look pretty good too.”

“Got many years in on your pension, have you?”

“What’s it to you—I can afford a proper woman, not a tranny pervert.”

“I doubt you could afford me, anyway—I only do it for the nobility.”

“Fish, get on to social services—do they know he’s got all those kids there?”

“You leave those children alone,” I said angrily.

“Calm down, Charlie boy, they’ll all be grown up and gone long before you get out of prison. At least we’ll have done one good thing in getting you off the streets.”

“How can anyone be so stupid and still be able to breathe?” I asked and he slapped me across the face—it hurt and caused a small split in my lip—I could taste the blood. Even DC Fish blushed. “That’s right, bigots like you, like to hit women, don’t you?”

He hit me again, this time across the cheek—which would probably give me a black eye—good-oh, it will all feed my case against him. “You’re not a woman, you’re a fuckin’ pervert.”

“Yeah, sorry I forgot.” I said feeling my eye starting to close. He went to hit me again and his colleague stopped him.

“Sir, I wouldn’t if I were you.”

“Scum like that deserve all the shit I can throw at them.” He started the car and screamed out of the hotel car park, just as Simon’s Jaguar pulled in. I hope he didn’t meet this guy—he’d kill him.

“We might have made a mistake, sir.”

“Rubbish—I know a paedo when I see one, and he’s one if ever I saw one.”

“But, sir…”

“Shut it, Fish, let’s go to the station and play.” He laughed and while part of me knew he might hurt me again, he had an awful shock coming and I wanted to be there when he took its full force.

If he queered my pitch with the fostering, I would have him killed—slowly, no matter how much it cost. He was going to suffer, and I would pull every string I could to ensure it went on and on.

I was led into the station and taken to an interview room—my bag had been taken at the entrance and I was given a receipt for it. DC Fish was still with me. I looked at her through my good eye. “Are you having some qualms, about this Constable Fish?”

“I can’t say.”

“I think you are—when the shit hits the fan, his career is over and he’ll be lucky if he doesn’t end up in prison. If you value your own, I’d get the most senior officer you can find to come and speak with me—and I’d be quick about it, if I were you. When my pa-in-law gets here, there will be real trouble.”

“You’re not a transvestite prostitute are you?”

“No, I’m a woman with powerful friends. Get out while you can or you’ll go down with him.”

“Who’s your father-in-law?”

“Viscount Stanebury.”

“That sounds important.”

“He owns the hotel we were in.”

“Wow, like mega-important.”

“He also owns High Street Banks.”

“Oh shit!”

“Trouble?”

“We’ve got a mortgage with them.”

“They’re a good bank—but they can get nasty if you annoy them.”

“I think there might be a chief super on, I’ll go and find out.”

“If you do, I’ll leave you out of the writ and mention your attempt to caution him against violence.”

In walked Inspector Stupid with two men, one of whom was carrying one of those paper boiler suits. “Right strip him down and check all his concealed little crannies, he might have some more evidence secreted there.”

“He looks like a woman, sir.”

“Well he isn’t according to his accomplice, who’s grassed him up.”

“I dunno, sir.”

“Get on and do it.”

I stood my ground—“I wouldn’t if I were you, because I shall accuse you of sexual assault and the charge will hold.”

“He sounds like a woman, too.”

“Perhaps that’s because I am one—and married to a very large man, who is exceedingly strong and aggressive.”

“He don’t frighten me—you fag.” Lane slapped me again and this time I fell over, ripping the dress as it caught on the table.

“Sir, I wouldn’t if I were you,” but he was too late, Inspector Stupid kicked me in the stomach just as the Chief Superintendent walked in.

“LANE, what the hell are you doing?”

“Sorting out a nonce, sir.”

“You’re suspended—now get out.”

“Chief Superintendent,” I groaned, blood dripping from my mouth, “please arrest that man or I’ll sue you for incompetence.”

He walked over to me, “Just who do you think you are?”

“I know who I am—your worst nightmare.”

“Oh yeah, and who is that, when he’s at home.”

“Get my bag from reception, my driving licence is in there as well as my various cards.”

He picked up the receipt and gave it to Fish, who ran off to get it. “You,” he pointed at one of the still shocked looking coppers, “take Lane into custody, then get the police surgeon—better get him checked out.”

“I think she’s a her, sir.”

“What?” I attempted to sit up and my breast came out of the ripped dress and bra, “Oh fuck!” he said very quietly.

Fish came back with my bag and I opened it and showed him my driving licence—one of the new European ones with a photo on it.

“You’re, Lady Catherine Cameron?” I nodded and he scratched his head and muttered, “We are so fucked,” over and over to himself.

I was in total agreement. The settlement would be as large as I could make it and I would donate it to some children’s charity or use it to have Perryman slowly mounted on a sharp stick and put in a museum somewhere.

A young woman constable came in, “Sir, there’s a Viscount Stanebury at the desk insisting he see his daughter-in-law immediately and to speak with you as well.”

“Oh joy,” he said, “have I got time to kill myself?”

“Ah no, sir, he’s quite annoyed and he has a barrister with him, Sir Michael Innes. I think you know him, don’t you?”

“We are so fu…” he muttered as he walked head bent forward towards the door.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 886

The rest of that evening was like a dream—a bad one. I was checked out by the police surgeon, I had some facial and abdominal bruising and nasty split in my lip. I was also very shaken despite my attempt to show otherwise.

One of the Assistant Chief Constables was called in and he the Chief Super, Henry and Sir Michael met with the police, whilst I was deemed fit enough to be sent home with Simon—who was bristling with anger until he saw I needed more TLC than GBH. He’d come in Tom’s new Freelander as the roads were more than a little icy in places. Obviously he wanted to know what had happened but all I could do was cry, I couldn’t bring myself to talk about it.

“Is this all because of that Perryman bloke?”

I nodded, unable to speak about it.

“He’s dead or as good as,” Simon muttered through his teeth.

“No,” I sobbed, “he’s got to be tried and sent to prison—he’ll get his desserts in there.”

“Look, darling, I can make one call and he ceases to be—full stop.”

“No, I want to sue the arse off him—for slander and causing wrongful arrest.”

“Okay, we’ll do that—then kill him.”

“No, Si, I want him to live a long time to reflect on his actions.”

“But he tried to involve you—why?”

“Because he couldn’t cope with me as I now am.”

“That’s ridiculous—what’s it to do with him anyway? It’s your life and your body—can’t you do what you like with them? If you can’t, how can they call this a democracy or a free country?”

“I’ve done what I want—thanks to help from people like you, who accept me and my shortcomings.”

“Shortcomings—you’re as tall as Stella, aren’t you?”

“Si, sometimes you are so…”

“So what?”

“Yeah, so what?”

“No, what—I’m so what? What were you gonna say?”

“How do I know?” I shrugged and smirked and he looked at me shook his head and sighed, “Women?”

“That’s more recognition than Perryman gave me,” I sighed.

“If you’d been about eight years old, he’d have given you lots of attention.”

“Oh don’t,” I shuddered, “the few pictures we saw were of children more Mima’s age.”

“The bastard—he should swing for it.”

“C’mon, let’s get home and see our babies.” I leant against his arm as he drove and he kissed me on the top of my head.

“Nice ride, Tom, thanks,” Simon handed back the keys to their rightful owner.

I hugged Tom and he ran his fingers over my bruised and swollen face. “I hope Henry makes them pay for this,” he said quietly but with an implicit strength which suggested he would if Henry didn’t.

“It wasn’t very nice, Daddy.”

“Aye, I can see that.”

“Sir Michael will extract the required pound of flesh and all their blood.” Simon smiled at Tom.

“Aye, I thocht that wis whit he said.”

“Yeah, Mike Innes is a mean barrister, with an even meaner reputation.”

“Hoo does Henry know him?” asked Tom.

“They were at university together, in the cycle race team.”

“That should please oor Cathy,” said Tom but to be honest all I wanted to do was see the children.

Stella came to see me and was angered by my bruises and the ripped dress. “That dress cost a thousand pounds—make sure you claim it.”

“We’ll see,” I replied after hugging her. “All I want to do is change out of these clothes and see my kids.”

“Geez-uz!” exclaimed Julie when she saw me—“What happened to you—and that dress.”

“I met a homophobic cop.”

“So? Why should he beat you up?”

“He thought I was a paedophile.”

“Why? Didn’t he know who you are?”

“He thought he knew but he was wrong.”

“Geez, if they beat up beautiful women like you—what would they do to me?”

Stella looked at me urging me with her eyes to tell Julie the truth. I indicated that I wasn’t ready to do so and neither must she. I considered that in order to be a maternal figure to her, she needed to believe I was female, whom she could copy as a role model—sort of.

Julie gave me a huge hug, “I hope you feel better soon, Mummy. Let me know if you need me to do anything.”

“A cuppa would be nice,” I smiled.

“Consider it done.”

I changed into a tee shirt and jeans, to go and see the girls. They were still awake, so I pretended to be cross. “We couldn’t sleep, Mummy, we were worried about you.”

“You should have known I’d be all right, no one would want to take on you lot, not if they were in their right minds at any rate.”

“Mummy, what’s wrong with your face?” asked Livvie and in a heartbeat Trish was out of bed and hugging me.

“If those nasty pleecemens were bad to you, I’ll…” Trish was crying.

“Hey, c’mon I think we need an all girl hug, here.” The other two swarmed over me. “Trish, the majority of police officers are trying to do a difficult job as best they can. Only a few are a problem.”

“My old mummy used to hit me, like those nasty pleece.” She was sobbing as I held her.

“Well this mummy, is never going to hit you.” I felt her body judder and she really bawled her heart out and I could feel my energy flowing into her, healing those old wounds, whilst the other girls just surrounded us with love.

I was amazed to find that when I later went to have a soak in the bath, the bruises had gone from my face and body—“This is weird,” I heard myself say as I looked in the bathroom mirror. Did Trish do this or did the energy heal both of us as we hugged—giving us both what we needed—her, the chance to deal with old wounds and me, some recent ones. I even felt relaxed about Perryman—but part of me knew that was in hand.

During the night, I had a most vivid dream—Perryman was standing over me and laughing. Simon had an awful job to calm me down—it was just like he’d been in the room with me—Perryman, I mean; Simon was in bed with me.

The next morning while I was coming to and before the girls jumped on me, the Radio 4 news was on.

”Reports are coming in about a remand prisoner who has hanged himself in the bathroom at Southampton General Hospital. The man concerned was under investigation over the possession of a number of items of images of children and was thought to be a member of a paedophile ring, the other members of which were arrested two years ago in Brighton. No note was found.”

I sat up in bed, “Oh my God, Simon—did you hear that?”

“Hear what?” he sounded sleepy.

“Perryman’s killed himself.”

“Who?”

“Perryman.”

“Yeah, so—good riddance if you ask me.”

“You didn’t set that up did you?”

“No, nothing to do with me—I’m a banker not the godfather.”

“Is there a difference then?”

“What? I’ll show you da difference ya dumb bwoard,” he said before pulling me down and tickling me until I had to jump out of bed and rush to the toilet.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 887

After breakfast, I took the girls to school—it was their first day after all the snow and Simon and I had been out early to get their uniforms. There were no press outside the house and I decided we’d go back home that day.

The story of paedophiles in our universities had the Echo in orgasmic trances and the cash registers ringing. I was consequently left alone—at least until they found out I was there, too. Thankfully it hadn’t dawned on them, all they had to do was follow me round for a few days and some sort of story will manifest itself. I must be nearly as reliable as the prime minister for a history of unfortunate events.

Once upon a time, I thought it was Simon’s family who had brought about all this bad luck, but now I do wonder. I seem quite capable of having it run amok in my own little life.

Back at the house after the school run—everything was as it should be, I made a few calls—our suicide was Perryman and they had found a note. He’d written something on his leg apparently. It was something like, Tell Charlie this is his fault.

If it were true, then it tended to suggest that Perryman had made his own choice not pushed into anything by someone else or even executed by someone. That felt a relief in some ways—it wasn’t Simon or Henry.

I wondered how much pooh the local police would be in—the same division wouldn’t be dealing with Southampton and Southsea which are miles apart. Henry had explained that Sir Michael would be looking to make them pay big time for my assault.

The police surgeon had examined me and taken some photos which I countersigned, it wouldn’t surprise me if the file disappeared before the complaints authority saw it. Even if it did, the police surgeon could be made to testify and other officers who witnessed things could be subpoenaed.

Stella came back later that morning, with Puddin’ of course, and we had a good old chinwag over a pot of tea and some sandwiches.

“Did you say Luke Skywalker wrote something on his leg about you?”

“He was insistent that you are what you were born…”

“So he was born a paedo was he?”

“In his reasoning, I suppose it would follow.”

“I can see that in gender disorders, they possibly are present at birth but take time to manifest, as would sexual orientation—but how can someone be attracted to children in a sexual way—it makes no sense. Young adolescents, maybe—they’d be strong, but children is creepy and would have no biological advantage in breeding would it?”

“Neither does being turned on by fur or high heels or whatever else some people enjoy—but none of that does anyone else any harm, except perhaps the animal the fur came from. I mean, in some ways same sex relationships don’t increase the population, but they may serve some purpose in other ways—we’re not here just to breed are we?”

“If we are, I’m afraid you missed the boat, Cathy—but isn’t this revolutionary talk? Your mentor Professor Dawkins wouldn’t agree with you, would he?”

“I don’t agree with everything Richard Dawkins says, besides he has no experience of my situation, so we have to let our lives inform us as well as our intellects. I suppose I’d be the victim one of his Memes.”

“One of his what?”

Me and my mouth—“Dawkins picked up on the idea that some cultural and intellectual ideas appear to act in an evolutionary manner, like genes do. Some prosper and mutate, some stay the same and others become extinct.”

Stella thought for a moment then said, “Hmm—okay, I can see some sort of analogy there, but how is GID a cultural thing?”

“It isn’t entirely, except we tend to demonstrate ourselves and our identity by the way we dress, behave and adorn ourselves.”

“Unless you’re hiding something—disguising it, like you with your chest bandages.”

“Eh?”

“Well when we first met, you were pretending to be a boy—hiding your light under a bandage.”

“Yeah, so I didn’t want people to see I had boobs until I was ready.”

“So you were disguising yourself—saying what exactly—I’m a normal man?”

“Yeah, I suppose I was.”

“And nowadays you’re saying—I’m a normal woman?”

“I suppose I am—within certain limitations.”

“So what has that got to do with memes?”

“How the hell do I know? God, look at the time—I have three little lambs to collect, can you watch out for the two bigger sheep?”

“Ooh, I might.”

“You are so definitely indefinite, Stel.”

“Absolutely—perhaps.” She laughed and went to vacuum Puddin’ or whatever she does during the mid afternoon.

As I drove to the convent I listened to the radio and was able to escape my mind playing with all sorts of silly ideas. Including memes, which are a variation in some ways, of Paradigm shift. I concentrated on staying alive in the traffic and collecting my girls rather than my thoughts.

They were pleased to see me as I was them, we had loads of hugs and as we got in the car Trish dropped a little bombshell.

“I used the blue light on a girl in my class, Mummy.”

“You did what?”

“I helped a girl who had fallen over and stopped her knee bleeding.”

“Did anyone see you?”

“Some of the girls did, why?”

“Trish, I’ve asked you not to draw unnecessary attention to yourself.”

“I didn’t, Mummy. She fell over in front of me and when I went to help her up her knee stopped bleeding and healed up.”

Oh shit—“Look, sweetheart, please don’t use it for little things, if someone is in real distress, that’s more understandable.”

“I didn’t mean to do it, Mummy, it just happened;” she started to cry and I realised I done it again. Was I really the best person to look after children?

I put my arm round her and hugged her tightly—“Ignore me, kiddo, I’m being silly again—tiredness, I expect.”

“Why can’t I do the blue light thing, Mummy?” asked Livvie.

“I don’t know, darling—perhaps you can—have you tried?”

“Only on Meems, Mummy.”

“What did Meems need healing?” this was news to me and I probably showed it in my reaction.

“She cut her finger, Mummy.”

“When?” This was also news to me.

“This morning. Trish and I saw her at playtime, Mummy and she showed me her finger.
Trish told me what to do—and I tried really, really hard but nothing happened.”

“Did Trish try?” I asked.

“No, she was too busy helping the girl who fell over.”

“Is your finger still sore, Mima?”

“No, Mummy, Twish did it.”

“Did anyone see you, Trish?”

“It’s not my fault, Mummy,” she sobbed from the back seat of my car.

“What happened?”

“About six girls asked us what were doin’ and I told them trying to heal Mima’s finger and they laughed and said it was impossible—Trish said it wasn’t and showed them. They thought it was very clever.”

I hope they don’t start calling her a witch, now—what joy kids are—let’s get home before she turns someone into a toad.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 888

“Ah, Lady Cameron, could I have a word?” Sister Maria caught me as soon as I took the girls into school the next morning.

“Sure,” I kissed them all and they happily went off to their respective classes. I then followed the headmistress down to her office.

“I heard some stories yesterday of some miraculous healing in the playground”—I felt my tummy flip as I listened—“they seemed to centre round young Trish.”

“Oh yes,” I acknowledged.

“So I spoke with her yesterday.”

“She didn’t mention that.”

“I did try to keep it low key.”

I nodded, unsure of what was coming next—but it didn’t sound as if good news was going to be likely.

“She told me that you were a healer as well and saved lots of people’s lives an’ things—her words not mine. She is genuinely proud of you, as I’m sure are all those whom you’ve helped. I’ve seen stories in the press—exaggerated, I expect, but I’m aware of some of the things you’ve done.”

“This is leading up to some point, I take it?” I decided to cut out the beating about bushes and ask her to be more direct.

She blushed, “Yes, I’m sorry, I try to keep these things as amicable as possible.”

“That sounds ominous.”

“Not really—I have to protect this school from any scandal or unhealthy interest by the outside world.”

“So?”

“I need you to make sure Trish doesn’t repeat any of her miraculous cures and that we aren’t linked to the stories in the press. The Governors wouldn’t like it.”

“I shall speak with her—I have already told her she was unwise to do it. She suggested it just happened without her consciously trying to make it. I believe her.”

“I’m sure she is telling the truth but conscious or unconscious, I can’t afford to have rumours of some miracle child in this school.”

The irony of what she had just said didn’t seem to dawn on her—that she and loads more people actively worshipped one such miracle child. I wasn’t about to point it out to her, it would only have made matters worse.

“Exactly what do you want me to do? Ask her not to help any fellow pupil she sees in distress?”

“Um—I know this is difficult.”

“Sister Maria, you possibly don’t know what difficult is—remember we’re dealing with a very good-hearted child, who is already different, but copes remarkably well with it—to be told she can’t help anyone in need is going to break her heart. If this is Christianity in action, then I’m rather glad I’m agnostic.”

“Lady Cameron, please, I don’t wish to upset you, but I have to protect the pupils of this school.”

“So you do this by victimising one of the more Christian-spirited of its pupils.”

“I like to think they are all good Christian girls.”

More delusions, I thought, but said nothing. “Okay, you want me to withdraw the girls from your school?”

“No, just stop her using her powers—we don’t know where they come from—do we?”

“You might not—personally, I know they come from a source of love; so they possibly aren’t Christian.”

“I beg your pardon—Jesus preached love throughout his ministry.”

“I wasn’t complaining about your founder—it’s the followers who are the problem, the same with all religions.”

“Please don’t generalise about my faith.”

“Sister Maria, when I first met you and explained Trish’s little problem, I thought you were a lovely lady, and although I have reservations about church schools based upon my own experiences, I began to believe you were a sincere and good hearted woman and I was pleased to be leaving my daughter in your care. Now, sadly, I’m no longer sure of that.”

“My responsibility is the good name of this school and its pupils.”

“That sounds like pride to me—one of the seven deadly sins. You’re also not admitting it’s part of your job to please the governors.”

“I don’t work to please them, I have a contract with them.”

“It’s been a pleasure knowing you, Sister Maria, I shall collect my three wains and take them home. I shall of course expect a refund for the rest of the term. Goodbye.”

I stood up and walked out before the startled woman could react. I knew the money bit was a bit below the belt, but she wasn’t being honest with me, so they can bloody well pay.

I found Meems and was walking with her towards Trish and Livvie’s classroom when we heard a bit of a rumpus going on. The girls were all standing around in a semi-circle crying and making funny noises. I couldn’t see my two, until I pushed my way in, they were both kneeling over the inert form of their teacher.

“Tell Sister Maria to get an ambulance,” I instructed one girl who was standing near the door crying. Then I bent down to assess the situation—the woman had had a heart attack. Trish was pouring energy into the woman which was probably stopping her from meeting her maker, or wherever ex-nuns go after life.

“She just fell over holding her tummy, Mummy,” said Trish, seeing me arrive.

“Out the way, kiddo—this needs an adult.” I knelt down and began chest compressions—sixty to two breaths. It wasn’t magic just basic first aid training. I was on my second lot of compressions when Sister Maria came in.

“MI,” I said puffing at the effort—CPR is bloody hard work.

“I’ve sent for an ambulance,” she said and stood watching as I performed and Trish sat rubbing the unfortunate woman’s leg.

I could feel something happening and our patient opened her eyes—she had this beatific smile on her face. I stopped compressions but kept touching her, I knew the energy was flowing, I could feel it—someone behind me was also taking some for an asthma condition.

“Oh, where am I?” said the fallen nun.

I stood up and let the headmistress take over. “Sister Clare, you collapsed and Lady Cameron has saved you.”

“No, the good Lord saved me, Headmistress, he was here instructing this good lady and her child what to do. He told me it wasn’t yet my time and that I had work to do here, still.”

“I’m sure that was due to your condition, Sister Clare, but maybe the good Lord did visit you as well.”

“I saw him as clear as I see you, He was here with these two, saying they were His children.”

“Which two do you mean?” the headmistress was now walking on very thin ice.

“These two lovely people who came to my rescue. They are true children of God, Headmistress.”

“Aye, I’m sure they are, now just sit still until the ambulance arrives.”

“I don’t need an ambulance—I’m teaching this class about the miracles of Jesus—and I’ve just received one myself.”

“Sister Clare, you’ll need to be checked out by the ambulance,” the sirens sounding the approach of the said vehicle.

“I feel absolutely fine—I don’t need an ambulance. I feel better than I have for years, even my hiatus hernia feels better. I’ve been truly touched by God, through these ladies. Thank you, my children.”

I nodded an acknowledgement, then the paramedics arrived and I made a discreet withdrawal with the three children.

A couple of hours later I received a phone call from a very embarrassed headmistress. “Lady Cameron, please accept my apologies for my seemingly judgemental attitude this morning.”

“You have your job to do, I have mine.”

“Yes, I know—thank you for saving Sister Clare, they took her to the hospital and could find nothing wrong with her—she’s had an hiatus hernia for years—it seems to have spontaneously healed. She had a heart attack—didn’t she?”

“I think so, but I’m not a doctor.”

“Of course—she’s had a bit of angina for years too, but that seems to have cleared.”

“I’m glad.”

“She is adamant that she saw the Lord administering to her through you and Trish.”

“Endorphins I expect, they do strange things to your mind.”

“She will go to her grave believing what she saw is real.”

“Fine—I don’t think I shall agree with her, but if that’s what she wants to believe, I won’t argue with her either.”

“I need to apologise, I was looking at things from the wrong perspective—you were quite right—I should have seen the love with which Trish does things and also yourself.”

“Me? I can be signally devoid of it on occasion.”

“I saw what I saw, the blue energy flowing from your heart into Sister Clare.”

“Oh dear, let’s hope none of the kids saw it.”

“I don’t give a damn if they did, in fact I hope they did—it might be the only time they ever get to see a real live miracle—and maybe they’ll understand the concept of love better than from some old fart spouting from a pulpit or a school teacher’s desk.”

I wasn’t quite sure what to say—so said nothing.

“Could I ask you to reconsider removing your girls from the school?”

“What about the governors?”

“I’ll deal with them—or leave as well.”

“Okay, I’ll bring them in tomorrow as usual.”

“Thank you, Lady Cameron, for my own personal epiphany.”

“No, thank you, Sister Maria, I withdraw some of the comments I made to you earlier.”

“Please don’t, Lady Cameron—it helped me reflect on what I was becoming—and I think you were right—and I didn’t like it.”

“Don’t risk your career for this, Sister Maria.”

“Why not? Sometimes I have to take risks for my faith—to show to myself who and what I am, and what I believe in. Today, gave me that opportunity, I’ve taken it with both hands.”

“I applaud and support your courage as well as your convictions.”

“Thank you, Lady Cameron, coming from a true child of God, that is very encouraging.”

While I was still choking on her epithet, she rang off.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 889

“I knew it,” I said loudly to myself.

“Knew whit?” asked Tom.

“Bloody Sussex—they couldn’t run a bath.”

“If I mind correctly, they could run things well enough tae gi’ ye a degree.”

“That proves my point, doesn’t it?” I said winking at him.

“Aye, if ye say so.”

“Daddy, I’m gonna have to go there: if I drop the girls off to school, could you collect them—pretty please?”

“Och, I suppose sae, seein’ as ye’re on university business.” That was it settled, the day after tomorrow, I was going to travel to Sussex University—somewhere I didn’t expect to go again after I left there—least of all as a female.

Because there will be people who knew me still at the university, I would have to be careful about my appearance. Oh bugger, doesn’t this stuff ever end, without me having to look over my shoulder all the time?

I mean they should have some idea; I’ve hardly hidden myself away, making a film for national TV. So why should I worry? A nice top and a pair of jeans should do.

“A ha’penny for them,” said Tom.

“Eh?”

“Ye’re thochts.”

“The usual rate is a penny,” I complained.

“Aye, but I’m a tight-fisted Caledonian, if ye mind.”

“I was thinking what I’d wear to go to Sussex.”

“Somethin’ tidy if ye’re representin’ ma university.”

“I’ve got some nice jeans somewhere.”

“Och, nae ye don’t, ye’ll wear a suit, preferably with a skirt. I like my women staff tae look like women, no travellers.”

“Oh all right, I’ll wear a skirt suit, except I’ll look more like a rep than an ecology lecturer.”

“Ye’re representin’ thae survey and ye’re hubby’s bank.”

“I’ve said I’ll dress tidily.”

“An ye’re a representative o’ thae Scottish rulin’ classes tae.”

“But you’re a socialist.”

“Aye—I jes’ want them tae see whit a dinosaur looks like.” He dodged the magazine I threw at him.

I sent the email agreeing to the meeting at lunchtime on the Friday. Thursday was busy, getting the kids ready, making food that Stella could warm up for them for dinner, getting all the papers ready for the meeting and sorting out what to wear.

On Thursday evening as I was checking my inbox, I saw one from Sussex: with luck they were going to cancel and reschedule. I opened the email and sighed. They wanted me to speak to their women’s group about making a film.

‘Hi Cathy,

So glad you can make the mammal survey meeting—we’ll talk over lunch, I’ll get some sandwiches sent over.

As you’re making the trek here, any chance you could talk for a few minutes to our Women’s Group about the pros and cons of making wildlife films. The Dormouse was wonderful, and we’re already oversubscribed for places to hear you talk.

Thanks ever so,

Abi Alexander’

Why didn’t they ask about this in the beginning? Bloody wonderful—I had about half an hour to prepare for this and I had no idea how long they want me to talk. Then I remembered the disk of out-takes Alan had made for me, some of which were funny—perhaps the best was one of me walking backwards as I’m about to enter a woodland—it’s shot in infra red, and I fall backwards over a log I didn’t see. In another, I’m once again talking to camera and stepped into fresh air and fell head over heels down an embankment. Plus the infamous YouTube clip, which half the population of Mars had probably seen by now.

I jotted down some notes and thought I could probably entertain them for half an hour or so, which with questions would probably fill all the time they want me to do. I’m by no means a charismatic speaker, but with the funnies, I should be able to get away with hiding my inadequacies. If not—they won’t ask me again—they probably won’t anyway.

Friday came and I was up, showered and dressed early—breakfast and packed lunches were ready for all those who took them. I gave Julie specific instructions about helping Stella and making sure they all did any homework they had to do—especially the boys. I also asked her to get the boys to read to her.

To myself, I made a note to talk to her when I got back about telling the boys about her and Trish. I would keep my own status hidden for now—revealing it would do little to improve things and I was feeling a little fragile about going to Sussex, anyway.

Tempting providence, I wore the suit to drop the girls off, then drove on towards Brighton—Sussex University is a few miles up the road from there, and the closer I got, the bigger the butterflies became. By the time I saw the signs to the university, the butterflies were about the size of Atlas moths and I felt physically sick.

This felt almost like coming out again for the first time. I checked my hair and makeup—they were fine and a little boost to my perfume—Coco by Chanel, also boosted my confidence a little.

I stepped out of the car donning the pink jacket over the grey blouse, then picked out my handbag from inside the car, and my laptop bag with its pockets full of paper, which was quite heavy.

I was early, but that’s better than being late. Unless they’d changed things, I knew my way around the campus and the visitor’s permit felt strange to display in the car.

I walked towards the John Maynard Smith building—where I’d spent many hours—in fact I’d walked down this path often enough, but never in a skirt before. It reminded me of the novelty of this event and how it could be either good or bad. If anyone said anything unhelpful, I’d go straight for the jugular—I’d been the butt of many jokes before with my lack of masculinity, I wasn’t going to take it anymore.

With trembling legs I entered the building which had a strange familiar feel about it and spoke to reception. “Ah, Miss Watts, you’re early—would you like a coffee or something while you wait?”

“If I can have access to the meeting room, I’d like a few minutes to organise myself anyway—set up my laptop and so on—oh and the coffee would be most welcome.”

“Of course—this way.” She took me down familiar corridors.

“God, is that still here?” I asked looking at a photograph which looked awful the first time I’d seen it.

“You’ve been here before, then?”

“Just a few times—I was an undergrad here.”

“Oh goodness—hopefully the coffee’s better.”

“Oh good,” I smiled and blushed at the same time.

I was actually busy with my computer—with luck I’d be able to deal with all the matters they’d raised, without looking too stupid—if I did, I’d just explain I was a product of this place. I didn’t hear the door open or close.

“Cathy Watts, or is it Cameron now—I presume?” I spun around from the desk, nearly dropping a sheaf of notes I had on my lap.

“Abi Alexander, how good to see you again—still as beautiful as ever.” I offered my hand. She was a statuesque blonde, with Scandinavian cheekbones and pointed chin.

“Wow, this is an improvement to that scrawny kid”—she walked around me, “nice suit, what a change, but you know, it makes a lot of things fit into place. Your previous incarnation just had no substance—this feels right. I’m glad you’ve found yourself at last.”

“Thanks, I hope so—if not it’s too late to put the bits back.”

She looked confused for a moment, then sniggered—“Your sense of humour hasn’t improved.”

“No, Simon says it’s awful.”

“Who’s Simon?”

I showed the rings on my finger.

“My God, you’re married—wow—you have found yourself.”

“Like I said, I hope so.”

We continued chatting and then the others came in for the meeting. Including lunch, I managed to sort everything out in two hours. I could relax for a couple of hours—my talk wasn’t until six—so I had time to go and visit Lizzie and her baby, Sophie.

The jaunt to the university had gone as well as I could have hoped—they were a mixed group—two men and three women, all dressed casually as university teachers do—I stood out somewhat, in dress primarily—but I was also the youngest there.

The men, Baz Beaumont and Jim Crawford were teaching when I was a student but they didn’t recognise me, and Abi had said she wouldn’t remind them of my past life. The other women were new, so it wasn’t so much an issue.

I got out the directions to Lizzie’s house and started the car—I was actually looking forward to seeing her again; I hoped it was mutual and that her friendliness wasn’t just politeness. Oh well—one way to find out. I let out the clutch and set off for her house.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 890

I followed the instructions on the sat-nav to Lizzie’s house—a very nice villa in Hove. For those of you not in the know, Brighton and Hove are actually separate towns but like Siamese twins, joined together to form the now, City of Brighton and Hove. Years ago, one of the top UK urologists lived and worked in Hove—and there was a thriving private clinic which did many SRS ops. It’s now a block of flats.

Hove was always the quieter end of the towns—Brighton, despite the Royal Pavilion—a magnificent folly built by George IV when he was Prince Regent, and looks like an Indian palace—it can be a bit noisy and raucous compared to genteel Hove.

I pulled up outside the house and once again checked my hair and makeup. My tummy flipped, why did this still happen? In three or four hours, I’ll be addressing dozens of students, so why does seeing one woman make me feel nervous? I suppose because she knows my past and will make judgements based on it, whereas those who don’t know simply judge what they see.

I freshened my lippy, primped my hair and picking out the bunch of flowers and small doll, went to the house and rang the doorbell. I waited with bated breath.

The door opened and standing behind it was Lizzie, holding a baby girl—“Cathy? Do come in.”

It was a really lovely house, light and airy, with blocked wooden floors and scatter rugs in the lounge and decorated tiles in the hallway. The smell of fresh made coffee made it seem very welcoming.

“What a delightful house,” I mused while looking at the ornate frieze and coving, “The ceilings are beautiful.”

“Yes, we’re pleased with it until it needs decorating—would you like to do the grand tour?” With that, she showed me around the house, which was very tastefully and sympathetically furnished and decorated without compromising the advantages of modern comforts like central heating and fitted carpets—the latter upstairs in the bedrooms.

We eventually settled down in the kitchen when Sophie had been put down for a nap, the coffee was good and I sat and sipped it.

“I can’t believe you were ever Charlie,” Lizzie opined offering me a chocolate biscuit.

“Some days, neither can I—perhaps I wasn’t.”

“Well I know we spotted you wearing a bra occasionally.” I blushed at this; I thought I had it hidden. “The back strap used to show through your pullover.”

“Oh, so my secrets weren’t that well kept then?”

“It was gossip amongst a few of us girls, but as you were such an ineffectual boy, we accepted you almost as one of the girls anyway. They used to call you Charlotte behind your back—did you know that?”

“Sort of—I tried to ignore it.”

“So, now you’re Cathy Cameron.”

“Yes, married to Simon.”

“Congratulations, Mrs Cameron.”

“Actually, it’s Lady Cameron.”

Her jaw dropped—“You’re joking?”

“No—he’s a viscount’s son.”

“Well, well, whodathunkit? The oddball kid done good.” She smiled warmly at me. “How long can you stay?”

“I have to go back to the uni to do a talk for six.”

“You’re talking to six or at six?” she smirked at me.

“I think it might be rather more than six people.”

“What are you talking on?”

“Making a wildlife film—I’m speaking to the women’s group.”

“Damn—I’d love to hear that—wonder if I can get my mother to babysit.” She walked off to make a call and came back a few minutes later smiling. “Good ol’ mum. Whereabouts is it?”

“Somewhere in a back room of Maynard Smith building I expect.”

“Okay, John would love to see you.”

“It said, women’s group.”

“Yeah, but he’s a lawyer, remember?”

“Sophie’s a pretty little thing isn’t she?” I said changing the subject.

“Yeah, ’cept she’s teething at the moment.”

“Which was why she was eating your mobile phone?” I commented.

“Yeah, she’ll chew anything—worse than a puppy at times and she won’t be house trained for a year or two.” She paused then said, “Have you any children? I’ll bet you’d make a super mum.”

“I can’t have children, can I—no breeding bits?”

“Oh no—oh I am sorry, Cathy, I forgot—can’t you adopt?”

“I’m fostering a few at the moment, and hoping to adopt three of them.”

“Wow—fostering a few? How many is a few?”

“Three girls, two boys and teenage girl.”

“Wow—that’s six, jeez girl, that’s a bit of handful isn’t it and you still had time to make a film and run a survey. You don’t have an S on your bra do you?”

“No just a rosebud.” I blushed.

As we relaxed we talked about many things including Perryman. Suddenly it was four thirty and I needed to head back to the university to make sure I could get through the traffic. I also wanted to sort out the room and check on the technology—I hoped we had a projector I could plug my lap top into—or all my funnies would be wasted. I think as well, I simply wanted to sit quietly for a few minutes to compose myself.

Lizzie and I hugged—“I’m going to try and get to hear your talk, and I know John will want to as well. So hopefully we’ll see you later, your ladyship,” she dropped me a curtsey and we both laughed.

I drove back the way I’d come. The traffic was building up and I felt my stress levels rise as I crawled along in the heavy traffic. However, I was still back at the university by quarter past five and looking for someone who could tell me where I was speaking.

Friday and after closing time—not many are going to come, are they? So I expected a general room with hopefully a projector they could bring in. “Ah, you’re in the main lecture theatre.”

“But that holds hundreds?” I gasped.

“Yes—we’ve opened it to the whole university—don’t know quite how many will actually turn up, but we expect at least a hundred or two. Anyone on telly these days is a celebrity it seems.”

I said nothing but followed the woman down to the theatre and set up my laptop on the desk at the front. Last time I was here was to hear David Attenborough talk about saving the rainforests. That was packed, people sat on the steps as well, and stood at the back of the room. I know I won’t get a fraction of that, but even speaking where his holiness, the Attenborough, had been was quite a boost to my confidence.

At twenty to six, Abi arrived and so did the technician, who linked my ’puter with the projector and we ran a couple of bits to make sure it was okay.

“Hey, this looks good, girl,” Abi said as she watched a couple of outtakes.

“I try not to take myself too seriously.”

“Well perhaps it’s just as well, the media like to build ’em up and knock ’em down.”

“How many are we expecting?” I asked.

“Couple o’ hundred, I think.”

“What, for li’l ol’ me?”

“Absolutely—it was one of the best nature documentaries of last year—and certainly the best British one. You’re doing the harvest mouse next, I hear?”

“I might have a friend and her husband coming to hear me, I hope that’s okay?”

“Yeah fine, if there’s any seats left.”

“Eh?”

“You are one popular lady—Lady Cameron.” As if to prove her point people started filing in to the room which was filling up more quickly and more fully than I’d anticipated.

I went off to freshen up in a nearby loo and when I came back, there were at least another hundred in there—oh God, I hope I don’t mess up.

Abi talked about her introduction to me and although I tried to keep a look out for Lizzie and John, I couldn’t see them in the mass of faces.

“Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the John Maynard Smith centre and to its main lecture theatre. Tonight, it is my privilege to introduce an ex-student of this place, who is an integral part of the Mammal Survey of Great Britain, as the main organiser; a teacher at Portsmouth University, where she lectures on field skills and ecology, and with special pertinence for tonight—an award winning nature documentary film maker. I give you, Cathy Watts, writer, director and presenter of The Dormouse.”

I stood and accepted the applause—the place was packed—okay, Attenborough had a few more—but then he sits at God’s right hand.

“Thank you Abi, ladies and gentlemen. I was only asked to do this a couple of days ago, so it’s sort of thrown together, and my film editor wasn’t available to sort it out.

“The last time I was in this room, I was an undergrad watching David Attenborough as he then was—it was absolutely packed, bursting at the seams, little did I think I’d be here talking to this small but intimate audience.” They all laughed.

“I take what I do very seriously, and the conservation of habitats and species is very important, certain ones like dormice are almost indicators of how healthy the planet is. Sadly, the dormouse is doing better than much of the planet and hundreds of species.

“Although my work is serious, I try not to take myself too seriously as this clip will show. It’s on YouTube, is there anyone here who hasn’t seen it?” There were quite a few arms went up and shouts of ‘yes’.

“It features a critter called, Spike—let’s see the film.” I pressed the button and the clip ran. The laughter went on for a several minutes and I blushed as I always do when I see it.

“What you couldn’t see, was she wet herself while she was in there.” More laughter.

“Now, on to the film proper—is there anyone who hasn’t seen it?” One or two arms went up. “Abi—I hope you’ve noted who they are, we’ll use ’em for vivisection later.” Abi nodded and there were more laughs.

“Actually, when you see the rest of these clips—you may wonder how anyone saw the actual film, or how we ever finished it without me in hospital. Sadly, the close encounters with a tawny owl wasn’t filmed, because she chased the cameraman as well, and he dropped his camcorder. However, these slight mishaps were recorded for the benefit of posterity.” I pressed the button and for the next twenty minutes, they watched Alan and I embarrassing ourselves—primarily me, falling over things or having dormice escape me as I was trying to weigh them or record them. A couple of me getting bitten, one of us finding a rat in the box and where we both ran for it. Another of a close encounter with an adder, a roe deer bouncing through the set behind me while I was talking to camera. In another, some guy walked up and asked us what we’re doing, while his dog peed on Alan’s camera bag.

I’d forgotten half of the things that happened, some were really funny—including falling out of a tree when the ladder slipped, looking for a disused ‘nest’ only to have it occupied by a bunch of very angry bumble bees, and crow crapping on me as I stood talking to camera—including the cameraman unable to hold the camera still because he was laughing so much.

The film clips finished and I took a few questions—fortunately, none of them were about my change of status.

To my astonishment, Professor Herbert, head of the department came up on stage to do the vote of thanks.

“Ladies and gentlemen, I’m informed the correct way to address this very talented and self-deprecating young woman, is as, Lady Cameron. So, Lady Cameron, on behalf of this huge and receptive audience, I thank you for pointing out some of the hazards of filmmaking, the bit that David Attenborough left out of his talk in this same theatre.

“It’s obvious that you love your subject, and are I believe, one of the foremost experts on the common dormouse, in this country—and at such an early age. I am astonished that you found time to do this film, set up and run the British Mammal Survey—although my old friend, Tom Agnew, will claim he does most of it—when he’s actually awake.

“I also believe, you’re looking after a houseful of children, plus a husband and Tom. How on earth you find the time?—God alone knows—then to fit us into your busy schedule—is breathtaking.

“Ladies and gentlemen, please be upstanding and put your hands together to show your appreciation of a very remarkable young lady.” The applause went on for a couple of minutes.

“Ladies and gentlemen, I’ve declined a fee for this talk, which is free to you all. However, there are bowls or tins at the exits which will be collecting for…” I did my spiel and I hoped we’d raise maybe a hundred quid or two.

After meeting with Lizzie and John, who both thought it was very good, I was accosted by Professor Herbert again. “I’ve booked a table for dinner—I hope that’s okay?”

I nodded and sent a text to Stella that I was delayed returning.

“I’m sure if I’d had such a pretty young woman in my faculty, I’d have remembered her—and the only Watts, with a fixation on dormice—was one Charlie Watts—any relation?”

“I think you know the answer to that, Professor Herbert.”

“It’s true then?”

“Yes—I won’t deny it, although I was relieved no one asked about it.”

“Well, I think you did the right thing—and that film you did was cracking—had half the male population of England wanting to go dormouse watching in case you were there in your shorts.”

“I leave that to my team these days.”

“And you’re married to Simon Cameron?”

“Yes—he’s been a great supporter of my activities and the film was part-sponsored by his bank.”

“Yes, I noticed that—well, Lady Cameron, let’s away to dinner, shall we?” and he offered me his arm.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 891

Professor Herbert led the way to his car, a Mercedes, a big one. Abi and her partner—a woman named Dilly, got in the back seats and I was left to ride up front.

“Wouldn’t it be easier if I followed you in my car?” I asked the professor.

“No, parking’s tight and I’ll bring you back here for yours later. I hope Italian is all right?”

“Fine with me.”

“So, what’s it like coming back over old ground?” he asked me.

“It feels familiar but different.”

“Is that good or bad?”

“Just different—not sure if either if those words describe it.”

“Is it the new status, that makes the difference?”

“What you mean coming as a woman rather than an adolescent male?”

He nodded.

“It obviously makes a difference—but I suppose it wasn’t so much that as knowing people who knew me before—what would they say?”

“I would hope, only that you are a very beautiful young woman, with a pivotal position in the protection of mammal species in the UK and possibly Europe as the survey widens its scope. That gives you a very important position.”

“Do you not think I’m up to it?”

“I think you were made for it. However, the queen is only as safe as she makes herself—usurpers will try their hand. Rumours are that Southampton were thinking of challenging—didn’t they have some scandal down there recently?”

“Yes—an ex-Sussex graduate too.”

“Really?”

“Yes, Perryman.”

“Wasn’t there some query while he was here—paedophiles and photographs of young children—he was cleared, wasn’t he?”

“Not this time—so he topped himself.”

“Oh—I’ve been in Canada—watching beavers…” this brought roars of laughter from the back seat. “Not that sort of beaver—you dirty little girls.”

“Come off it, Esmond, we know the sort of beaver you’d prefer to watch and it doesn’t build lodges.” Abi laughed as she taunted the professor.

“Travel lodges,” maybe said Dilly, quoting a chain of moderately priced hotels. They both laughed uproariously again. “Watch out, Cathy, he’s looking for his next prey item.”

“This lady is happily married,” protested Esmond Herbert.

“Huh, that won’t stop you,” giggled Abi. I was beginning to feel very uncomfortable and I also wondered if my laptop would be safe in my car’s boot—I hoped so. I’d put it in there very hurriedly, I think I remembered to lock it.

Esmond Herbert was quite a tall man, but very slim. I suspect Simon would make two of him, and I’m sure he wouldn’t want to make an enemy of Si.

“So tell me about your husband,” he continued.

“He’s six feet tall, weighs about fourteen stone, used to play rugby for his school and UCL. He works for a bank.”

“I thought he owned it?” quipped Abi.

“His family do—which means Simon’s important, but his dad, Henry, is the chairman and main shareholder.”

“Is he good looking?” asked Dilly wanting to wind up Esmond Herbert, “I mean, as good looking as Ezzie, here?”

“I think so, but then I love him—so I’m not the best person to ask.”

“Is he a good screw?” asked Dilly.

“I’m not sure that’s an appropriate question to ask or for me to answer.” I blushed and felt indignant.

“Oh c’mon, we’re all big girls—except Ezzie of course—or do you want to talk about stupid dormice all night?”

“I’m happy to talk about dormice all night if necessary, but I’d rather talk about my children.”

“Your children? I thought you’d had the chop—you know down below?” Dilly probed and was beginning to really annoy me—I suspected she’d been drinking.

“I’m adopting three girls, and fostering another three—two boys and teenage girl.”

“Bloody hell—Ma Barnardo? Isn’t that a trifle excessive—or just a compensatory mechanism?”

“Shurrup, Dil,” hissed Abi.

“Nah, I wanna know—she’s a woman isn’t she, like you an’ me—’cept we can have kids and she can’t—not much of a woman, really is she?”

I felt a combination of feelings rising in me—Dilly was absolutely right, I wasn’t as much of a woman in some respects, but in the back of my head I kept saying to myself—‘but I’ve travelled long and hard to get where I am, and no self-centred, narrow minded feminist was going to stop me now.’

“I’d have thought that someone who lives in a glass house shouldn’t throw stones,” I said through a throat which was choking with fury.

“Ooh, take the moral high ground—why don’t you?” Dilly was turning nasty.

“I’ve worked and socialised with all sorts of people—all religions and ethnic types, all types of sex and orientation—and you’re the first woman who’s had a problem with me. Interesting isn’t it? Maybe it says more about you than it does me?”

“Ha ha—bloody little tranny—that’s all you are—giving yourself airs and graces—you’re still a bloody tranny.”

“Stop it,” urged Abi, sounding very annoyed with her partner.

“You know, Professor Herbert, I had lots of aggro when I was here—people thought I was an effeminate man, but very little in Portsmouth. I come here again, as a woman, and I get aggro again. I don’t think I’ll be back somehow.”

“Don’t listen to one jealous lesbian—why don’t you tell her, Dilly—you can’t have children either, can you?”

An imprecation was muttered from the back seat, and I noticed Abi was sulking and refusing to speak with her partner.

“Well here we are, the Travatore.”

“You know, Professor Herbert, I’ve completely lost my appetite—it’s been nice meeting you again, but I think I’ll get off home.” I went to hail a taxi.

“Don’t let one sad woman put you off Sussex, Lady Cameron, a thousand of us loved you tonight—I think that speaks for itself. Now come and eat, and Dilly, behave yourself or I’ll have a second look at your research funding.”

“Big bully,” was muttered from the back seat.

“Come and have dinner—their pasta is exquisite, and their sauces divine—look, if you don’t agree, I’ll call you a cab to go straight to the university. How’s that?”

My tummy rumbled, it was nine o’clock and I was quite hungry—Dilly really worried me, but Abi was nodding at the professor’s exhortations..

“Okay, I’ll stay,” I gave Dilly a daggers stare and she looked away. I wasn’t comfortable, but then neither was she and I was sober enough to think about what I said—she was definitely not.

Despite the pasta being brilliant or whatever, I fancied a risotto, and they did one, so that’s what I ordered after a minestrone soup. It was a mistake—the soup, I mean. It was like a vegetable stew and after eating that, even without bread, my skirt was feeling a bit tight round the waist.

I played with the risotto, which was very good—but I didn’t have the room to store it, so to speak. I did have a latte coffee to help me stay awake on the drive home.

Dilly sulked most of the evening, only speaking when she was asked a direct question—I didn’t ask her any, and if I had I doubted she could have answered me. She seemed full of prejudices, without knowing me—perhaps they were political, like a diatribe twenty or so years ago: The Transsexual Empire. I don’t believe in the exploitation of women, men or children nor of sexual or any other minority—I want to live and let live. I also accept some find me difficult to accept for whatever reason—but that’s their problem not mine.

I got back into my car at eleven that night—with an hour or ninety minute’s drive home. I was tired and saddened—minority groups need each other to be supportive, to change the way society thinks. I was still hurt by the barbs Dilly had thrown at me and no amount of shrugging would stem the wound—the poison had got in.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 892

I drove away from the University Of Sussex, my alma mater, with a mixture of anger, sadness and guilt. If I’d left after my talk—I’d have done so in triumph. How ephemeral are our feelings—in some ways our whole existences—are but a moment in the scheme of things. Except, I don’t believe in any scheme that can’t be explained by physics and chemistry.

I was still smarting after Dilly’s hurtful comments—then I recalled the comment Esmond Herbert had said, about her not being able to have children either. It didn’t excuse her unwarranted attack upon me and criticism of my having too many foster children—but it gave me a little more insight.

Had they tried and failed to adopt or were they too proud to try? Abi had been embarrassed by her partner, so had Esmond—however, the way he dealt with it, seemed to me, to be a regular occurrence. So was she a childish, selfish, git? Or should that be childish, childless, selfish git? I smirked maliciously as I drove out on the ring road back to the A27.

I’d topped up the tank before I got to Lizzie’s, although the cost of fuel was no cheaper than in Portsmouth and at over a pound a litre, it felt like robbery, most of it done by the government in fuel duty.

My mind couldn’t steer itself away from Dilly’s attack and I had to pull over at one point and bawl my head off—why would she say such a mean spirited thing to me? The obvious answer—because she’s mean spirited, didn’t occur to me. I was so offended or hurt because, it seemed most of humanity accepted me as female—except her.

On a good day, the odds of one in three billion women being hostile would be seen as pretty good—well two if we count Janice Raymond, but even so, still pretty good, considering the lottery is one in fifteen million, I think I’m doing okay.

That cheered me up enough to wipe my eyes and continue my drive homewards. It was after I got on the M27 that things began to go wrong—with the car. It’s practically brand new, only done a few thousand miles. Suddenly it started to judder as if there was no fuel getting through, then the engine started cutting out and it began to really worry me.

I managed to coax it to the services area and after calling the AA, went to get myself a cup of tea while I waited. I was sitting on my own minding my own business when a man came and sat opposite me.

“D’you mind if I sit here?” he asked.

I looked around the practically empty restaurant in astonishment.

“Can’t you find an empty table?” I asked sarcastically.

“Actually, I can see you’ve been crying and wondered if I could help?”

I suddenly realised my makeup was probably a total mess. I knew I should have gone to the toilets before I got a drink, but all that crying made me thirsty.

“I doubt it, but thanks for asking.”

“If you want to talk, I’m happy to listen.”

“I think I’m all right, thank you.”

“I’m a vicar, by the way.”

“I’m an agnostic, so you’re wasting your time.”

“I’m not here to convert you, merely to help if you’d like me to.”

“I thought we’d discussed that bit already.”

“Please don’t be so hostile—I’m on your side you know?”

“I didn’t realise there were sides.”

“I mean whatever made you upset.”

“You couldn’t possibly understand.”

“Try me?”

I sat looking at him—he was mid thirties at a guess, married from the ring on his finger, no dog collar, fairly good looking in a gentle sort of way.

“If someone told you, you were less a man than them—how would you feel?”

“I don’t know—I’d need to know more about the context, but probably hurt or angry. Did someone suggest you were less a woman than they were?”

I nodded.

“They must have been positively dripping with oestrogen then, because you certainly look all woman to me.”

“I can’t have children.”

“I’m sorry, but it happens—would fertility treatment help?”

“No, I’ve no womb to have them in.”

“Oh—might I ask why?”

I sat and stared at him wondering how long the AA would be, the call centre had suggested an hour to ninety minutes. I’d been here less than fifteen.

“I’m transsexual—or I should say, I was, my legal status is female now.”

“Ah—I’d never have guessed.” He paused then added, “I presume this woman who denounced you was a biological one?”

“Yes—but it seems she can’t have kids either.”

“There’s an irony there somewhere,” he said, “so she’s effectively the same as you?”

“I suppose so—but it hurt all the same.”

“I’m sure it did. Why did she say it?”

“I’d done a lecture to a group which went down rather well, she was jealous I think and bit tipsy.”

In vino veritas?” he asked.

“Probably, she’s also gay and some have problems with us, although she’s the first I’ve actually met who was hostile.”

“People are individuals; don’t generalise too much. My first bishop was gay and got caught cottaging—you know in a public loo with another man. Got done for indecency—his wife and family were horrified and divorced him, he had to resign—last heard of working in a bookshop in Hay on Wye. Lovely man, we were all devastated and I’d have quite happily stayed working with him. Alas the scandal was too great and he was allowed to resign—priests and bishops must be above reproach you know?”

“I think I read about that, very sad.”

“Indeed—in the end the church was the loser—he was brilliant at his job, his successor is okay, but nowhere near as good. People do strange things on the spur of the moment—and sometimes live to regret them.”

“I wonder if that will be the case with the woman who insulted me?”

“Well you know what they say, God moves in mysterious ways.”

“Only until science explains it,” I smiled back at him.

“You were lecturing—where—university?”

“Yes, although it wasn’t to undergrads—but I do that too—as a day job.”

“Not only beautiful but clever with it?”

“Oh yeah, too clever at times.”

“I think we are guilty of the sin of pride at times.”

“Sorry, don’t do sins—Darwin didn’t include them in his theories.”

“That’s okay, however, I do accept evolution as a likely way of human and other species development. God uses natural processes, you know?”

“If you say so—although I can find more evidence for evolution than I can for God.”

“It’s there if you look.”

“I must have missed it.”

“Have you never been in awe of the beauty of nature, a starry sky or a rainbow—the beauty of a landscape or a sunset—the way that animals have evolved from amoebae to elephants—doesn’t it fill you with a reverence or a wonder?”

“Yes, but…” something was happening. “When did you hurt your back?” I asked him.

“Oh that? Years ago—they tried a laminectomy—it didn’t work—goodness, my back feels as if it’s on fire.”

“It isn’t—but it will feel better.”

“How do you know?”

“Trust me I’m an angel,” I winked at him.

“Good Lord, I think you might be.”

“Close your eyes and imagine a blue light working on your lumbar 4-5 joint.”

“The one they operated on.”

“Give it five minutes of blue light, then try standing up. Do nothing but visualise the blue light or it won’t work. Oh and tell no one of this meeting.”

“Okay,” he said, his eyes tightly closed.

I slipped away as he sat there—this bloody healing business is going to get me into serious bother one of these days.

After a quick wee, I got back to the car—he was still sitting at the table. My car started first time and after I rang the AA to say it was going again, I drove straight home without any let or hindrance whatsoever. Hmmm?

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 893

I awoke to the sounds of the radio, which somehow had become switched to Radio Solent. ‘Now we have the Reverend David Briars who claims an encounter with an angel at the motorway services.’

Suddenly I went from semi-conscious to wide awake in an instant. ‘I saw a pretty young woman sitting all alone and she looked liked she’d been crying—her eye makeup was all over her face—and I felt moved to try and console her. She told me some story which sounded plausible until I thought about it, and which was designed just to test me. I obviously passed the test because the next thing was I felt a burning in my back—which she knew about—and she told me to have faith and I’d be healed. I closed my eyes for a moment and she’d disappeared. It’s a miracle—first night for ten or more years that I haven’t been in pain. She said she was an angel and I just smiled at her—looks as if she was telling me the truth. No human has powers like that, and only one who lived has had them and that was two thousand years ago. I really believe she was an angel and has healed my back—it’s a real miracle. I thank God.’

I lay back on the bed and smiled—I didn’t choose to help him, it happened to him as if the energy chose him and then healed him—weird or what? On further reflection it seemed to heal him only after he’d been supportive to me.

I wondered why the car had played up—and which suddenly seemed okay afterwards—what is
going on here? Am I just putting coincidences together or what?

Then a bad thought—they’ll have video of me going into the service area—bugger, the Echo will be round again trying to disprove my denials.

‘More on that story of the angel of the service area—we asked the service area concerned if they had any film we could examine of the so called angel visiting the centre—seems like their CCTV system went down ten minutes before she went in and came back on-line about twenty minutes after she left—curiouser and curiouser, said Alice. If you think you’ve met an angel let us know on…’

My smile went to full smirk, are they that desperate for news? I was tempted to call in and say I didn’t see anything, including the vicar—but that would be lying and do him a disservice. After this, there’ll be hundreds of people waiting in service centres all along the M27 for this miraculous angel to arrive.

‘Yet more on our angelic visitor—it seems the Rev. Briars is going to hold a service of healing and thanksgiving in the car park of each of the service centres along that stretch of motorway—anyone who wants to attend can contact him through our information line on…’

Gee whizz, first of all the paparazzi now cretinous clergymen—what next? As I contemplated this while listening to Robbie Williams singing, Angel on the radio, I was invaded by aliens.

The rest of the day went as usual—except I got the car checked out and there was absolutely nothing wrong with it. There had to be, it just doesn’t act strangely like that without a reason, so I made them check it again—some electrical fault which would get worse as it got warm. They were very reluctant to do anything until I suggested that if it broke down again, I’d be suing their arses off—it seemed to concentrate their little minds.

Funny that CCTV system failing for half an hour—maybe I have a gremlin following me about?

I’d just got home at lunchtime when the phone rang and Stella answered it. “Cathy, can you take a call from Professor Esmond Herbert?”

“Yeah okay,” I picked up the phone in the bedroom. “Hello, Cathy Cameron speaking.”

“Hello Cathy, thanks so much for your talk yesterday—we had about eight hundred visitors to listen to you—apparently, they put it out on Radio Brighton…” I felt myself go all hot then realised he said Brighton—close shave? “We raised nearly four thousand quid for wildlife charities—once they find out, you are going to be so in demand, girl.”

“I’ll charge for the next one.”

“Don’t blame you. Look, I’m sorry about Dilly last night, she and Abi are going through a rough patch and apparently Abi was talking about you quite a lot, so Dilly got jealous—she’s a nice kid really.”

“What for a psychopath?” I threw in angrily.

“No she isn’t—she really isn’t.”

“So that’s why she was drinking—jealousy?”

“Seems like it was.”

“Well maybe you need to tell her about her behaviour—she isn’t a child—she must be older than I am; Abi is nearly forty for God’s sake.”

“I have told her off and she wants me to convey her apologies.”

“If she can’t do that herself—tell her to stuff them. Thanks for calling, Professor, I have to go.”

“Cathy, wait…” I put the phone down—I’d talked enough.

An afternoon of survey admin and housework followed whilst trying to keep Leon and Julie apart. I sent her off with the girls to go to the cinema to see some strange children’s film—while the boys helped Leon spread manure on Tom’s vegetable patch—they did have a shovel or spade each and not a clue between them. Tom had to go out and show them, then how to dig it in. What do they teach young men these days? How to slit each other up with a knife in ten easy lessons? I went back to my emails.

For dinner I did a huge pot of spaghetti bolognaise and made sure we had plenty of table napkins to save on the washing. It went down well—especially over Leon’s jeans—he was so busy making eyes at Julie, he missed his mouth dropped a forkful of hot pasta on his lap—jumped up and caught the edge of Billy’s plate—which emptied into his lap—Leon’s that is. Kiki thought it was her birthday and she licked up the evidence on the kitchen floor very quickly.

The boys complained that they had to work while the girls enjoyed themselves—as Leon is actually paid to work, I got a bit cross with them—then calmed down and told them, if they got the rest of the veg patch done tomorrow, they could go for a ride with Leon, if he was agreeable. I was pretty sure he would be—he seemed rather pleased to be the object of attention of two younger boys, except he was watching Julie at every opportunity—who did little to discourage him until I told her to. If the other three are as bad when they’re teenagers, I’ll strangle them all.

Of course, all this was new to me—I’d not been bothered with a real puberty or adolescence and certainly didn’t fancy anyone sexually—until it was awakened by that bloke from the garage and I made a small deposit in my knickers. I still think about that from time to time, though obviously, my affection is purely for Simon now, in that respect. He’s supposed to be home a bit later and is taking Monday off for some reason.

I haven’t heard from Nora yet—so I’m not sure exactly what is happening to the children. Mind you I haven’t yet examined the mail which came while I was out this morning.

I glanced through most of it, circulars and other junk mail, then one with a recorded delivery from… I couldn’t make it out, it had ink or something over it. Upon opening it, I discovered that my application to have the boys as foster children had been approved and payments would start very soon. I presumed the Trust which owned the home meant from social services or whatever. However, I hadn’t actually applied for them to be fostered—it was one of those things awaiting doing when I had time. Then again, I wasn’t going to disagree unless the boys felt it was what they wanted—to move on elsewhere.

I was tired—and couldn’t wait to get to bed—although with Simon snoring like a catfish with croup, I wasn’t sure to get much sleep tonight either. Life’s a bitch and then you get married!

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 894

If Simon did snore, I didn’t hear him—we got a trifle affectionate when we got to bed and I fell asleep very quickly after we celebrated our bonding ritual. I didn’t even wake for a wee in the night, which is what usually happens—so when I did wake up, I was all sticky and needed to jump in the shower, much to Simon’s disappointment—but then he wasn’t sore or all gooey. There are definite drawbacks to mating if you’re the female, even excluding the risk of pregnancy.

While I showered I was cogitating on my recent experiences in Sussex—I was still bristling a bit when I thought about Dilly, but she was the saddo, not me. Thinking, that dwelling on these things would make me a grump with Simon, I tried to push them from my mind and when the girls came in to shower with me, I soon forgot and revelled in the joys of parenthood.

They were pretty well old enough to dry themselves and to wash their own bodies with supervision occasionally. I still washed their hair and put in some conditioner, then combed it, styled it and dried it.

Today was Sunday, I wondered if that strange clergyman was holding his service at the motorway service areas. Sounds an appropriate place for it, I wonder what the energy has done to his back—it certainly seems to have affected his brain. It was the headline in the Echo—Simon got one at the station when he came home. His car has been in the garage for the final bit of its re-spray—remember he damaged it when Henry was shot—they couldn’t get an exact match for the colour, so he had to wait until now. He came home by taxi, reading his Echo en route. As soon as he saw the headline, he knew it was me—well Trish, who is probably far more angelic in all aspects than I, is too young to drive—so the odds weren’t exactly in my favour of denying it to him.

He got the truth out of me and we bonked then slept. Okay, I can’t have babies, but practicing the making of them is good fun anyway.

I tidied up the girl’s hair and they went off to dress. The snow was more or less gone now and when they heard the boys would be riding with Leon, they wanted to go as well. I refused them, suggesting that they should try and talk Julie into borrowing my mountain bike and taking them out somewhere on their bikes. That idea grabbed them, so they went off to hound Julie into submitting to their combined will.

Over breakfast, she acceded to their demands quite graciously, especially when learning that Leon was taking the boys out on bikes. What she didn’t know was, she was going in the morning and they were going later, probably after lunch.

I had nice piece of silverside of beef, so was doing a roast lunch for a change. I’d invited Pippa and she was bringing her two boys plus their bikes. Leon was going to be busy supervising four boys—but I thought he was capable, or I’d never have considered it.

Julie and the girls went off after breakfast—she was disappointed—but she covered it well and after I adjusted the saddle a fraction for her and pumped the tyres up to suitable pressure—she followed behind the three minxes, who were giggling and yelling to each other.

I saw Leon cycling towards them from the other direction—of course he stopped and chatted with Julie for several minutes. It was too far away for me hear anything, but once he saw me watching he came on to the house. Once he did, I cautioned him about thinking of Julie as a girlfriend. He gave me an old-fashioned look, but I made up some story about it being part of her fostering that she didn’t have boyfriends, which he accepted with a shrug.

The two boys were already spreading muck on Tom’s veg patch, so all Leon had to do was dig it in. I got on with cooking lunch. I put the joint in the oven and did the vegetables, then made up some horseradish sauce and two kinds of mustard—an English and a milder French sort. I don’t like either, but Tom and Simon do.

After a while I put in the roasties having par boiled them—actually, I did them in the microwave, it’s quicker. Then did the batter mix for the Yorkshire puds. I looked out the window—the sun was shining, but there was no one digging the garden. Just in case they’d stopped for a breather—I waited for a few minutes before going out to see where the boys were.

They were nowhere to be seen, and when I checked, their bikes were gone as well. I would have words with Leon when he came back and also with Julie. I’d have thought the pills would reduce her sex drive—maybe they do the opposite? Either way, she was particularly vulnerable and as I had no way of gauging Leon’s response if he found out—she could be dangerously vulnerable. Leon isn’t the most articulate individual and might therefore translate his feelings into actions with his fists.

I suppose this is why we have childhoods and the transitional adolescence—to learn about ourselves and others. In my case, the latter was wasted, it didn’t really happen and I had to go from boy to woman in one step—at least Trish and Julie will have the chance to transition and evolve into their adult phases at a reasonable rate, not the rush job I had.

I was very frustrated when I went back onto the kitchen and banged a few pots about. Simon wandered in, eventually—he’d been reading the Sunday papers, complaining you didn’t get the same class of pervert exposure you used to.

I walked away from his supposed joke; I wasn’t in the mood for that sort of schoolboy humour. After he wandered off with a coffee, Tom came in and said he’d had an email from Esmond Herbert who was a bit annoyed that I’d put the phone down on him, and suggested I apologise to him.

It was the wrong moment. “If I see Esmond Herbert again, I shall take a pack of Paxo and stuff it where the sun don’t shine,” I glared at him.

“Dinna tak that tone wit me, lassie, or I’ll put ye o’er ma knee and skelp yer arse.” It was a ludicrous thing to say, and I should just have laughed and walked away but I couldn’t could I? I always have to make things worse.

“I doubt you could have done that ten years ago, let alone now, old man.”

“I beg ye’re pardon?” he glared at me.

Fortunately for both of us Simon came in and somehow diffused the situation—“Can I smell something burning?” he asked and I gasped and ran to the oven just in time to save the Yorkshires. By the time I’d finished, he’d walked out of the kitchen with his arm around Tom’s shoulder, presumably smoothing the ruffled feathers.

I did a quick fruit salad and whipped some cream for dessert and had just finished putting both in the fridge when all the kids came back. Then Pippa arrived with her two and their bikes—I told the boys, my boys and Leon, they’d have to ride again with our two guests—they nodded and smiled. Maybe I should get on my bike and do a long ride to calm me down.

Lunch was a reasonable success—the girls quickly laid the table in the dining room while Tom carved the meat—okay, I’m a traditionalist in some ways—while I dished up vegetables and provided condiments.

While the adults boosted their caffeine levels, the boys went off on their bikes—all five of them, the girls I kept behind to help me clear up the kitchen. While the smaller ones were occupied, I took Julie off to one side and gave her a stiff talking to.

“Just what do you think you’re doing with Leon?”

“Nothing why, he’s nice.”

“Nice—I first met him brandishing a knife in this kitchen after he’d broken in, and Simon nearly killed him.”

“Kewl,” she smirked.

“Cool!” I squawked, “Someone could have been killed.”

“I didn’t mean it like that.”

“Look you silly girl—what if he finds out about you? He’s not the sharpest knife in the drawer—he might hit you or worse?”

“He won’t.”

“How can you possibly know that?” I demanded.

“He knows.”

“He knows what?”

“About me.”

“What?” I nearly fell over.

“I like, told him—he’s cool about it.”

“Oh,” was all I could say, and try not to fall over.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 895

“I can’t believe you told Leon without discussing it with me first, young lady.”

“Why? You’re always telling me to behave myself because I can’t deliver the goods I’m like offerin’, so I thought I’d tell him first and see what ’appened.”

“Well please don’t tell anyone else without speaking to me first—okay?”

“It’s nothin’ to get your knickers twisted over,” she cheeked back at me, “I’ve done more or less what you asked me to do—so why are you so cross?”

“Do the other boys know?”

“I dunno—don’t care much—they’re only little kids anyway.”

“They’re nine and ten, and remember we have Trish here as well—I hope you haven’t blabbed her secrets all over the place have you?” If she had, I’d be absolutely livid.

“Not as far as I remember, why?”

“Trish won’t tell anyone unless she checks with me first; she’ll carry your secret to the grave if you ask her to. I hope you’re able to reciprocate?”

“Natch, she’s my little sis, in’ she?”

“I hope so. Just be careful with Leon, I’m not sure how trustworthy he is.”

“He’s all right, he thinks you’re Mrs Wonderful; his mum is walking a bit since you helped her.”

“Is she?”

“So he said; d’you think there’s any chance of me developing this healing power—I mean, I know you’re a woman but Trish seems to be able to do it, and she says she got it from you.”

“I don’t know, Julie, it chooses you not the other way round. I certainly didn’t choose to have it—it’s a major complication at times.”

“So how come Trish got it?”

“She’s a lovely little girl with a very compassionate streak, like most young girls—however, in her it seems more pronounced and the energy seems to have noticed it.”

“What is it God, or something?”

“I don’t know, Julie—I prefer not to consider the G word, but I can’t prove it either way. One day science may understand it.”

“I’d love to have the power to make things happen to people. That’d be way kewl.”

“That would be more magic than healing, by the sound of it.”

“I don’t care what they call it, I just wish I could do it.”

“It isn’t about doing things to people, Julie—it’s about helping others in need.”

“Yeah, that’s what I meant,” she blushed.

“It didn’t sound like it, and I must ask you to keep all the healing stuff under your hat.”

“Yeah ’course. Mummy?”

“Yes, Julie?”

“Could your power, like make me a proper girl?”

“I don’t think so, kiddo, or it would have happened. Being gender confused isn’t exactly a sickness is it—so there’s nothing to heal in the ordinary sense.”

“Yeah—but it isn’t normal, is it?”

“I don’t know, girl, one school of thought happens to believe it just a variation on the norm or that the norm is a spectrum rather than a single colour.”

She looked at me in some confusion.

“We’re very complex creatures, possibly the most complex on this planet and possibly even in the entire solar system. We have all sorts of variations in our genetic and physical bodies while still remaining identifiable as human beings, and probably as male or female ones, too. However, no one is entirely male or female, there are all sorts of variations of genetic mix and also degrees of intersex without it showing so to speak. In some, the influence might be so subtle as to only affect their psychological state—so they have a female or male mind in the opposite sex’s body.”

“But if it’s so normal, why do people want to beat me up?”

“I don’t know—I suspect because they think you’re one thing, and a particular form of that—a nubile, sexy girl who’s available for sex and then they find you’re not quite what they were expecting. It confuses them; it annoys some because they think you’ve deliberately deceived them—which in a way you have—and others it threatens in some way—perhaps their own sense of masculinity isn’t as secure as they thought.”

“But, if I feel depressed ’cos I’m not female—why doesn’t the power work then?”

“If it did, it would be to lift the depression.”

“Like, make me a real girl?”

“No, make you feel better. You are a real girl—or shall we say, you have the opportunity to become one if you really want to.”

“What, I can have the op?”

“If you go through the process that Dr Cauldwell prescribes, that could be the outcome if it’s what is most suitable for you.”

“But that’s like years away—I wanna be a girl now—I want boobs and a thingy.”

“You mean you want sex with boys?”

She blushed—“It’s all right for you, I heard you and Daddy shaggin’ the other night, so you don’t care that I like, have needs, too.”

“I do care—how on earth did you hear us?”

“I went down to get my book—I couldn’t sleep.”

“Look, Julie, this is outside my sphere of expertise. As your foster mum, I’m very concerned that you have these very strong urges, so young…”

“I’m bloody sixteen, Mummy.”

“Keep your voice down, girl.”

“Well, I am—it’s not normal to not have them? Or can’t you remember that far back?”

I gave her a Paddington hard stare, which she ignored. Maybe it’s me who isn’t normal? God, I hope Trish isn’t like this. It just wasn’t an issue for me at her age—jeez—I’d better give Steph a ring and get her an appointment.

“Will you promise me that you won’t do anything until you’ve spoken to Dr Cauldwell, you’re seeing her next week aren’t you?”

“Yeah, day after tomorrow.”

“Will you promise me?” I asked forlornly.

“Yeah, I s’pose,” she sighed.

“Thank you, sweetheart.” I gave her a hug.

A little later after sorting out what we were going to have for tea and spending some time talking about life, the universe and everything with Pippa, I overheard Julie and Leon talking.

“So did you speak to her?” he asked her.

“Yeah, silly old fart—she can’t turn me into a regular girl.”

“Pity—still you got other places.” I nearly dashed out and thumped him as he said this instead I waited for her response.

“It wouldn’t be the same, would it, it would be like two boys doin’ it, an’ I’m a girl even with an outie instead of an innie.”

“Okay—but if you change your mind.”

“Nah—she wants me to bloody wait until they can do the op—could be years.”

“You could always tickle me with your hands…” he said seductively.

That was enough for me, “Isn’t it time you were heading home, Leon? Give my regards to your mother.”

“Um—can’t Leon stay for tea?”

“Not tonight, Julie—oh, can you help me lay the table?” I stared quite hard at her and she decided discretion was the better part of valour—or she’d better keep the silly old fart happy.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 896

The Monday morning saw us back to normal—breakfast, girls to school, boys ready to catch the bus to their school, Simon back to work, Tom back to the university and Julie and I off to do some food shopping after dropping the girls off to school.

I’d got her accepted as an apprentice at a hairdressers but her college course wouldn’t start until September—which was a pity. However, the shop were happy to take her as a Saturday girl from the following week. They didn’t provide uniforms and she had to wear all black clothing, trousers or skirts—not too revealing. She was miffed at that but I smirked, considering she was wearing a very short mini skirt which practically showed her knickers, or possibly would have done were it not for her thick opaque tights.

We went to Asda and added a few inexpensive items to her wardrobe—all in funereal black. She seemed happy enough with the effect. I just hoped she wasn’t going to go Goth on me. They talk about the terrible twos: I think they must be a dawdle compared to the terrible teens—and I’ve missed half of Julie’s already. Mind you so has she.

I allowed her to grab some more makeup as well as the clothing, then we did the food shopping—and I was already nearly a hundred pounds adrift. By the time we’d filled the trolley with food, my deficit was doubled—then, six kids and three adults eat quite a lot of food.

We loaded the car and drove home. Awaiting me was an update on the adoption of the girls, a letter agreeing my fostering of the two boys, and a bill for the car—which essentially explained that they couldn’t find anything wrong. Maybe I should try using the blue energy on it next time?

Thinking about the fostering, when I asked the two boys if they wanted to stay with me, Danny’s reply was typical of him. “That’s a no brainer,” he said and Billy agreed with him.

Before he went back, I’d asked Simon his opinion about coming clean with the kids about my history.

“What’s that going to prove?”

“I know what they might be going through—or two of them, at least.”

“I thought Trish knew, anyway?”

“She seems to have forgotten or maybe didn’t take it on board.”

“Didn’t take it on board? Come off it, Cathy, she’s as bright as a button, if she’s been told she took it on board—however, it might suit her to ignore it, because it might shatter her illusion of you as her perfect mother.”

“That’s a point. What about Julie? Should I tell her?”

“What for? How long have you got to prove anything to anyone—you’ve left all that behind: you’re my wife now, a woman and a foster mum—what would exposing your past do except damage to the children. The girls have seen your body naked—they didn’t notice anything wrong with it—you’re lucky that your hips seemed to spread a bit and your waist narrowed. Let’s face it—without being told no one would think you were ever Charlie, would they?”

“I hope not—I just wondered if it might help Julie learn patience if she knew I’d had to wait as well.”

“Patience—my arse—that girl is a typical teen, everything yesterday if not sooner and then it’s ignored the next day—attention span of a gnat, morals of an alley cat, and lazy to boot.”

“She’s been better lately.”

“She’d better, if she wants to collect her earnings. I mean how much have you spent on clothes for her?”

“I don’t know, I’ve not been keeping account of it.”

“Well I’m going to dock her some of it to help pay you back and some for her reluctance to get off her bum and help.”

“So how much are you going to give her?”

“Nothing—she owes you.”

“Si, you can’t do that,” I wailed.

“If she worked for the bank, we’d have sacked her on the first day.”

“Just pay her, I’ll take the hit for the clothes for now—I’m supposed to be fostering her after all.”

“Only because no one else would take her on.”

“Well, I could be said to be uniquely placed to understand her position.”

“Why were you bone idle, too?”

“No—didn’t get the chance—my father had me up and doing chores or exercising. My only escape was to be studying—fortunately, I was quite good at that.”

“So he did you a favour in a way?”

“Perhaps—I know he was abusive to me for a period, but he was still my dad, and I did love him.” I felt a tear form in my eye which perched for a long moment on the edge of my lashes before plopping down my face.

“Hey, don’t cry—of course he loved you, he told you often enough.”

“Yeah, only because the stroke changed everything. I wonder if he would have without it?”

“That’s a pointless question isn’t it, as we can never know one way or the other.”

“Yeah, I suppose you’re right, Si—so what should I do?”

“Do?”

“Yeah about telling the kids.”

“I told you—don’t.”

“Okay, my lord and master has spoken.”

“Laird, if we’re being technically correct.”

“Bloody porridge bashers,” I muttered less than quietly.

“At least I’m not a bloody Welshman who couldn’t swim,” he retorted and we bickered in fun for a few more minutes, making up insults which became increasingly ridiculous.

“So, you’re sure then?” I asked.

“Sure, about what?”

“Not telling the kids?”

“What do you want me to do—take out a full page advert in the Times?”

“No point, I read the Guardian if you remember.”

“The answer’s still the same—N—O—spells NO.”

“Okay, I’ll think about it then.” I said as I wandered towards the bedroom door and darted out of it when I heard him come up behind me. He chased me down the stairs, catching me only because I couldn’t run and laugh at the same time.

“Huh, and you tell me off for getting physical,” huffed Julie as Simon pulled me to him and kissed me.

“When you’re married, your husband can do with you what he likes,” called Simon.

“Can we start looking for my wedding dress then?” she called back and his face fell.

Back to the present—I reflected on the weekend and resolved to speak with Steph Cauldwell before Julie went in to see her tomorrow—if only to make sure she knew what was happening to my charge.

Almost before I could blink, here I was standing at reception booking Julie in to see her. We sat and waited a few minutes, then she was called. I went with her, and Julie went into the consulting room while I beckoned Steph out to have my quick word.

“No prob—I’ll up the hormones, that should cool it a bit.”

“I hope so—I’m just worried that she’s going to get into a situation in which she’ll get hurt.”

“I thought that had happened once already?”

“Yeah, if I only thought she had learned from it, I wouldn’t be so concerned.”

“Don’t forget, if she thinks she can wind you up, she will—she’s a teenager—all angst and acne,” she winked and went into her room.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 897

Julie and I took the girls to school and the boys as usual caught the bus. Nothing different there, except I needed to check out the houses in Bristol. Stella had agreed to collect the girls and they knew all about it. They all wanted to come with me, but the law says they have to go to school—so that’s where they went.

“You have two houses, Mummy?” said a surprised Julie.

“Yes, my parent’s and one I’m looking after for someone.”

“Looking after?”

“Yes, I’m nominally the owner, but I haven’t decided what to do about that yet.”

“Is it empty?”

“No, it’s rented out, so it brings in an income which is put in a trust fund.”

“You lot have so much money, we used to barely scrape by.”

“That applies to a large chunk of the population. I read somewhere that a quarter of Americans live below the poverty line—and that’s the richest country in the world. So in this country, we have a better welfare system but that may persuade the lazy not to work.”

“We had a bloke across the road from us, never did a day’s work in his life—used to drive my old man wild. There he was working hard, and that lazy bugger had all the latest gadgets and time to play with them.”

“Had—you used the past tense?”

“Yeah, he was claiming some disability benefit and working on the sly—my old man, dobbed him in. He’s in prison now and he has to pay back loads. Serves him right.”

“It does. I don’t mind supporting anyone who can’t work or is temporarily unemployed, but not the inherently lazy—they deserve all they get.”

“What’s your parent’s house like, Mummy?”

I was still a bit uncomfortable at being addressed as Mummy by someone only ten years my junior, but if it kept her quiet, I held my peace. “It’s a four-bedroom detached house in a small close. Why? What was your parent’s home like?”

“A two bedroom terrace.”

“Some of those are like little palaces,” I replied trying to minimise the difference in our origins. “Leon and his mum live in one, it’s really cosy.”

“Compared to the one we all live in?”

“Grampa’s house was far too big for us to begin with. It’s only since we seemed to be collecting children that it’s become cosy. When I first moved in with Tom…”

“Did Gramps adopt you?”

“Sort of, Simon and I were going through a rough patch and then the house was attacked by a group of thugs and we moved in with Tom, who was already acting like my adoptive father.”

“What did your real dad think?”

“I had a difficult relationship with my own father—he wanted a son and got me.”

“Oh—mine got a son, but not a very good one.”

“My father used to be quite abusive to me, and he and my mother were very religious. When I understood a bit more about science and religion, we used to argue a great deal more. I left home when I went to university—or I did effectively. We had a row, he hit me and I tried to kill myself. I was discovered and pumped out—fortunately with very little damage. I had to see a psychiatrist who changed the way I thought about myself and I haven’t looked back.”

“So you tried to kill yourself, too? Wow—it happens to real girls too.”

“Anyone can be pushed to seek a short term answer to a long term problem—it’s usually a mistake, mine certainly was. I lived in a bedsit run by a charity attached to the university, when I met Simon.”

“Was it love at first sight?” asked Julie.

“Not really, I was hit off my bike by Stella, who is—collecting the girls—oh dear.”

“She knocked you off your bike—wow, is she a maniac?”

“Not quite, and it was during a thunderstorm.”

“You could have been killed.”

“I could have been—but I wasn’t, instead she took me back to their cottage—she lived in a cottage with Simon—and sort of patched me up. Simon came home soon after and we went out to dinner—the rest as they say is history.”

“Very romantic,” said Julie obviously seeing it through an imaginary pair of rose tinted spectacles.

“Not really, the first thing I did on meeting him was to trip over and pour a glass of red wine all over his best white shirt.”

“That’s like so funny.”

“Fortunately, he thought so, too.”

“I like him—he’s really nice, isn’t he?”

“You wouldn’t necessarily think so if you were a business rival—he used to play rugby at university level—he can be very tough when the need arises.”

“Wow—Daddy used to play rugger?” It seemed incongruous that a teenager knew nothing about the person she was calling daddy, the same would go for her so called mummy—me. By that same token, I knew very little about her—something I tried to change as we drove.

“So what about you, Julie—tell me about yourself?”

“Um”—she blushed, “nothing to tell—I’ve wanted to be a girl as long as I can remember, and started dressing a few months ago, when I had some money for doing a job in a supermarket at weekends. Mum found it, showed it to Dad—he burnt it in front of me and then beat me up; called me a poof and a fairy.”

I glanced across as her, there were one or two tears on her heavily painted eyelashes, but she choked them back.

“What was the first thing you bought?” I asked trying to change the subject a little.

“Apart from some tights?” I nodded my reply, “A red miniskirt and some black shoes. It was weeks before I had a chance to get a top to go with it and then I had to get some panties and a bra.”

“These days it’s relatively easy to buy stuff, what with chain stores and the Internet, or even mail order.”

“It’s all right for you, Mummy—you could just go into a shop and buy it.”

“I was quite a tomboy when I was younger.”

“Was that to please your dad?”

“Sort of, and I didn’t do girly—except I did like my dolls.”

“I didn’t have any dolls,” she swallowed hard and looked out of the side window.

“Never mind—I’ll buy you one.” I patted her on her knee. She nodded and kept looking out the window. A short while later it was obvious that her efforts to control her emotions had failed and she began to sob. It was a good ten minutes before it was safe for me to pull over and console her.

“I’m sorry, Mummy,” she sobbed and hiccupped.

“Hey, it’s okay—I shouldn’t have asked you about the painful stuff, but I’d like to know more about you.”

She nodded, wiping her nose and eyes with the tissues I gave her. “Good job it’s waterproof,” she said almost laughingly referring to her mascara, before she sobbed again.

“It’s okay—you can be the person you want to be.”

“I don’t know if I want to be a hairdresser—I’m going to be a thicko compared to you and Daddy, and the other girls—they’ll all be going to uni, won’t they?”

“I don’t know—I hope so, but I’m not sure about the two boys—I’d like each of you to do the best you can for yourselves. Being a hairdresser, isn’t being a failure, it’s a very recognised trade and there’ll always be a demand for it. So you’ll always have a job—as long as you’re good enough to attract customers.”

“It’s not as good as being a doctor or a scientist—like you, or even a nurse like Auntie Stella.”

“We can’t all be doctors or scientists, we need skilled trades-people too, plumbers and electricians, hairdressers, dressmakers—people to serve us in shops. It’s about doing something you like and doing it the best you can.”

“I know—but what if I don’t like hairdressing?”

“Then you don’t have to do it—but you’ll have to do something, either go back to school or train for another job. That’s one of the good things about doing this Saturday girl job at the salon, you’ll get to know if you like it.”

“Yeah, I s’pose.” She seemed to perk up and I drove on.

“We’ll go straight to my parent’s house and you can clean up your face there—did you bring any spare makeup with you?”

She nodded and tapped her bag.

“Feel better?” I asked.

“Yes, Mummy—thanks for allowing me to be me.”

“Who else can you be?” I asked in a matter of fact way.

“You know what I mean.”

“You mean a chance to try being a girl to see if you like it?”

“Yes.”

“And do you? If you don’t you don’t have to do it—you know that?”

“I do, Mummy—I like, absolutely love it. I never want to be a boy again.”

“I’ll take that as a yes, then,” I said and winked at her.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 898

Life with a teenager was not going to be easy, and with one as volatile as Julie could be it made things harder. Still we all have our problems, some are long term, some are transient and some are passed on by others.

Part of me wanted to tell Julie about myself—part of me wanted to keep it hidden. It was there if she poked about, but if she did and found out would she forgive me or would she go off on one again?

I can’t remember what I was like at sixteen—I was sitting on a suitcase which was threatening to explode with the frustrations of my life and it was all I could do to keep it closed. Like Julie, I had a few items of female clothing, but once she found them, my mother would go on seek and destroy missions. Much of it was almost unisex—like plain cotton knickers, but she’d find them and replace them with men’s ones when it was time to go back. She only told my father once—and he roughed me up again—after that she worked alone, sabotaging my laundry—which I had to do myself. Her reasoning was that I should be self-sufficient, so she taught me to cook some basic meals, to do repairs on my clothes—patch and darn, redo buttons and so on. This meant that knowing I’d have to repair it, I kept my clothing in good order. I also had to learn how to launder my own clothes—she claimed Dad didn’t know how to open the machine let alone load it or what wash to put it on, and that that wasn’t going to happen to me.

Sometimes I think she was training me to be a wife—because she also taught me about cleaning the house, and even things like shopping for food and household items. I accepted that in her mind she was teaching her son—but to me it went a bit beyond the usual need to know stuff—like making a place look habitable—by this she meant the odd house plant or vase of flowers; matching furnishings and not having it too masculine looking—good curtains and soft furnishings helped soundproof a room or a house as well as keep it warmer.

I got lumbered every year with helping her change curtains—I didn’t just get the job of standing on the ladder to take them down or put up the new ones, she taught me about getting them to hang correctly, and not to have them clash with the carpet or other furnishings, so I was aware of colours too.

I was hoping I could pass some of this on to Julie, as well as the other girls and the boys too, to an extent. It really was a mother-daughter thing, now I think about it but her removing my knickers showed she was ambivalent about it. I also mused on the time she caught me doing the embroidery, and because I cheeked her she told my dad—yet she was the one who’d taught me to sew in the first place. No wonder the other boys in the class laughed when we had some sewing lessons at school—I knew what to do and instead of learning to sew on a button, I ended up making a tea cosy.

We pulled up at Des’s house and Julie loved it. I’d arranged with the current tenant that I’d do my annual landlady’s visit that morning, and she was quite happy with it. I’d arranged for the outside to be repainted, of which she’d approved and seemed happy living there. She signed up for another year’s lease, so she was voting with her feet.

I should say Julie had tidied herself up at the motorway services near the old Severn Bridge, because we went on to Aust from there and Des’s cottage. Next we went to my house and she was again impressed.

I had a woman who came in and checked on it regularly and also did any cleaning necessary. Her husband cut the grass and popped in a few bulbs or flowers to make it looked lived in. Part of me wondered if I should sell it, but sometimes I needed a place of refuge to go by myself, or with the girls.

“This is a lovely house,” said Julie after I’d done the grand tour.

“It’s what I still think of as home, in some ways. I use it from time to time, especially if we’re filming up this way. I’ve also done some teaching near here—so it’s been useful and I have a soft spot for it.

“I wish we’d had a house like this,” she said. “Instead I was shoved in a box room, I didn’t even have a wardrobe, just a suitcase to shove my clothes in.”

“C’mon, let’s go and get some lunch,” I said grabbing my mail.

We ate at a pub on the outskirts of Bristol—she’d never been to the city before, so I thought I’d show her around a little—however, after eating she opted for a shopping trip instead—maybe she really is a girl.

At lunch I opened the letters and saw I needed to go back to the house to deal with the issue it raised; I told her this and she was quite happy about it. Then we went shopping and spotted some lovely nightdresses at half-price. I bought two for myself, and one each for the girls—Julie got two, as we’re still building up her wardrobe. She also managed to sting me for some boots and new skirt and top—‘for work’—a likely tale. Actually it was quite fun, buying things for an age group I’d missed out on. I did draw the line at hot-pants, despite her pleadings.

As we were going back to the house, I got some milk and tea bags and some food to knock up a quick evening meal. She’d bought herself Katie Price’s autobiography, so while I dealt with the house business, Julie was occupied.

It took longer than I anticipated and after eating, it was dark, but we were in good spirits and we cleaned up, locked up the house and got in the car—the heavens opened and a real storm started up. I pushed the starter on the car and nothing happened. The lights worked so did the windscreen wipers—this bloody car, obviously had a fault that that moronic garage had failed to find. I called the AA and was told it would take at least three hours to get to us—they’d been inundated with the sudden downpour.

We went back to the house and I phoned Portsmouth, explaining that we’d had a problem and would be home as soon as possible. Stella told us everything was under control and I spoke to all the children—they were obviously queued up to talk to me—maybe I’m doing things better than I thought. Then they all chatted with Julie, while the rain lashed down against the windows and my immobile car, I stood and watched it from the lounge window and wondered if we were going to be stuck here. It was a fortunate coincidence I’d bought the nighties—I used to leave some clothes up here, but hadn’t for ages now.

It was after ten when the AA man arrived and he couldn’t find the fault—we were stuck, I’d turned the heating up in the house and we had tea to drink and some biscuits, so life could have been worse.

“Best call out a specialist mechanic—they need a computer for these things,” said the damp AA man. I resigned myself to a night in my old home—it was no hardship, but it meant Stella would have to get the girls to school tomorrow. When I called her—she sighed, made a big deal out of it and laughed—she said she’d had fun looking after them and it was no problem. The boys virtually looked after themselves and as she called in pizzas for dinner—they were quite happy to be under her care.

We turned on the television and it went off by itself—I played with it but it wasn’t going to work—I wondered what number three would be. It soon came—Julie reckoned she saw a rat or mouse in her room—and as only two rooms were aired, she had to share mine—great—just what I needed. Technically she was still a boy down below and I doubted the hormones would have disabled her libido yet—at the same time I hoped she would respect me as her foster mother. I told myself that I shouldn’t worry, I was in control—except for things mechanical and I was quite safe. In fact part of me wanted to laugh at my fears, because they were so silly—but then she was a randy little sod, and would be sleeping next to me.

We retired to bed and the rain hammering on the roof meant sleep was going to be a problem.

“Mummy?”

“Yes, sweetie-pie,” I said to the body lying next to me.

“Who is Charlie?”

“Who?” I bluffed hoping I wasn’t blushing too much.

“I found a photo on the floor when I was looking for the mouse or rat—it was under the bed. It said Mum, Dad and Charlie at Weston on the back, ’cos you didn’t have a brother did you?”

“Um—no.” I could have lied—said he’d died or something, but I didn’t. I told the truth. “That was me.”

“What?” she sat up in bed. “You mean you were a boy?”

“Is that what the photo showed?”

“Yeah, you were holding a donkey.”

“I refused to get on the bloody thing—I was terrified and my father made me sit on its back and run up and down. I cried the whole time—I hated it. I didn’t know that photo was still in existence.” I relived the humiliation and fear I’d felt and tears plopped from my face on to the bed linen.

“Don’t cry, Mummy—I won’t tell anyone that you were scared.” She hugged me and I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

“Are you disappointed in me—now you know my murky past?” I was still weeping.

“No—I knew anyway—well sort of—I remember the fuss when you did the thing on telly, and I wished I were you—you looked so beautiful.”

“And all this time you’ve said nothing?”

“No, why should I?” She hugged me again, “You’re like, far too beautiful to have been a boy, and you’re my foster mum, like, that’s why.”

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 899

“So how long have you known?” I asked my teenage foster child, who like most teenagers was full of surprises.

“Since you did that interview with Daddy on the telly, with the BBC. I had to go and watch it in school the next day, because Dad turned it over to another channel after swearing at you.”

“Watch it in school?”

“On the Internet—BBC iplayer thingy.”

“Oh yes, I’d forgotten that. You’re full of surprises aren’t you?”

“Yeah, I’m like, um—like my foster mum.” She smirked and I felt my face get very warm.

“You cheeky maggot,” I swiped her playfully on the arm, “I can’t believe you’ve kept it quiet all this time.”

“I like, couldn’t believe my luck—I get to meet my hero—um, I mean heroine and she offers me a place to live. Wow! I mean that’s like winning the lottery every day.”

“I hope you haven’t spread it too far? I still like to maintain some sort of credibility however hypocritical it ultimately is.”

“I haven’t told anyone ’cept Trish, an’ she like knows anyway.” That answered a question I’d had in my mind a while back. “She tells me that you’re really an angel in disguise, so have never been a man.”

“That’s not a way I’d have described myself—an angel, unless we’re talking fallen variety. I’ve done some dreadful things in my past.”

“Trish told me that you’d had to kill someone to protect them all.”

“I’d rather not talk about it, but I won’t deny it—which makes me less than angelic by anyone’s standards.”

“Mummy, you’re much clever than me, but I see you as only doing things that needed to be done. You’re not spiteful, are you? I mean you tried to help that bloke in Southampton, and he tried to spoil things for you.”

“How do you know about that?”

“Gramps an’ me were talkin’ while you were out.”

“Did you know that Gramps had his own daughter, who was transgendered, but she was killed in a car crash?”

“Yeah, he told me—said you were very much alike.”

“Did he?” I smiled.

“Yeah, he said headstrong and always right.”

“Oh did he now? He’s a fine one to talk, so you can see where we get it from.”

“If he’s not your real dad, how could you get things from him?”

“By osmosis.”

“I thought they made fountain pens.”

“Nah, that’s Osmiroid. I didn’t think you lot knew anything about fountain pens?”

“My gran gave me one when I started school, it got stolen in the first week. I left it on my desk while I went to the loo. It was gone when I came back. I never got another one.”

“As soon as we get the car working tomorrow, we’ll stop and buy you one as well as that doll we forgot today.”

“Yeah, clothes like, seem more important than dolls at the moment.”

“Uh-uh,” I said shaking my head, “Sometimes you need a doll or a teddy you can talk to when things are so bad you can’t bear to tell anyone else, even me.”

“I thought you like said I could tell you anything, Mummy?”

“Sometimes, before that you need to sort things in your own mind—maybe you can’t even put them into words—that’s where a doll or teddy can help you to sort it, then perhaps the next stage is talking to a real person—even a hypocrite like me.”

“You’re not a hypocrite, Mummy, I agree with Trish, you’re an angel, and I love you.”

“That’s very kind of you to say so, sweetheart, but I see the world through less rosy specs than you. I’ve been about a bit longer. We all have flaws, the older you get the more aware you become.”

“I still think you’re one of the nicest people I know, and one of the kindest.”

“Sometimes.”

“But the healing—that seeks out good people—yes?”

“I don’t know what the criteria are for it choosing me or anyone else—maybe it likes damaged people, who appreciate its healing qualities. Oh I dunno.” I shrugged because I honestly didn’t—possibly it came just to make my strange life even more perverse?

“Well I think it does—so there, end of discussion.”

“I beg your pardon? I’m in charge here, Missy.”

“Not this time—see even Paddington agrees with me,” she pointed to the bear Simon had given me years ago and who lies on this bed normally, but was now relegated to the chest of drawers—to make room for Julie. She looked pensive for a moment—“I’ll bet he could tell me all your naughty secrets,” she giggled.

I looked at him and thought he probably could—but as we didn’t have any marmalade to make sandwiches, bribery would be very difficult. Nah, he’d stay quiet. Good ol’ Pad.

“Maybe I should ask him?” she persisted.

“He’s from Peru—unless you can speak Spanish, you’re wasting your time.”

“Hosta la vista babeeeeee,” she sniggered, “that’s about it, I’m afraid.”

“Well watch it then, or I’ll get you transferred to a salon in Seville, that would improve your Spanish no end.”

“You cruel, wicked Mummy,” she said pretending to cry.

“Now you sound as if you know me. It’s after midnight, so shurrup and go to sleep.” I switched off the bedside light and it promptly fell on the floor and broke the bulb. Wonderful, just wonderful.

The next day after a cuppa and a biscuit, we locked up the house after finding the telly worked perfectly and of course the car started first time. Is the universe trying to tell me something? Yeah—get a different car.

On the way back we stopped at Cribb’s Causeway—a large out of town shopping mall where in Toys’R’us, we found a doll for Julie—a large soft one she could cuddle and confide in—I told her I’d put a microphone in it—and she laughed. I was only joking.

In John Lewis, I bought her a fountain pen and also got one for the two boys and the three girls. Meems may be a bit small yet, but I’d like her to at least know a little about them—they are the ultimate word processor, according to Simon—mind you his is worth quite a lot of money—I know because I bought it. The ones today, were expensive enough for there to be capital punishments if they lose them, but I wouldn’t tell them until after they’d accepted them. Mind you it could be hard to write if someone’s cut yer ’ead orff? I sound like the Red Queen in Alice in Wonderland—which reminds me they’re doing the film of that, with Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham-Carter, might take the kids to see that.

We got home in time for me to collect the girls from school—they danced about like they hadn’t seen me for months, not one day. Oh well, the joys of parenthood—and most of the time, I’m actually enjoying it. Julie came with me—she seems to be very clingy at the moment—maybe the extra hormones? Or has she bonded more strongly than I have? I suppose she’s more vulnerable than I am, though all I have to say is, Seville, to get her to behave—hee hee.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike)

Part 900 (75 Dozen)

Getting the girls to bed was difficult—they were clingy with me as well—even after kissing and hugging each one, and the usual story reading—they still wanted me to stay with them. In the end, I had to lie on the bed for half an hour until they’d gone to sleep.

The boys were a problem too—I had to see them to bed and tuck them in, and sit and talk with them for half an hour as well.

Everyone seemed clingy, wanting to spend time with me—I’d only been away one night, for goodness sake. I sent Julie off to bed about ten thirty, and spent an hour chatting with Stella and Tom—neither of whom seemed in a hurry to go to bed. It was I who had to call it a day, when I had a fit of the yawns and went up to bed.

Then I had a surprise, Julie was fast asleep in my bed. This had to stop, but I was too tired for any arguments tonight, so I slipped in alongside her and was soon asleep. Amazingly, I managed to sleep all night without waking for a toilet visit, and when the radio came on at seven, I was surprised to see Julie with me until I remembered the previous night.

“Morning, Mummy,” she purred at me.

“What’s wrong with your bed?”

“Nothin’, Mummy, I just like yours better.”

“This is the last time—okay?”

“But it so much nicer sleepin’ with someone.”

“Tough, you’ve got your teddy, so that’ll have to do.”

“You’re such a hard woman, Mummy.”

“Am I? In which case, why didn’t I throw you out last night?”

“’Cos I’m so loveable?”

“Sez who?” I challenged her cheek.

“Me,” she smirked.

“Well, Miss Loveable, you can get up and help me get the kids ready for school.” I threw back the duvet and she tried to grab it as I pulled it off the bed. However, I was too quick, and I rolled it up and took it into the bathroom with me. When I came back from showering, she wasn’t there. I woke the girls and, as their hair looked okay, I had them wash themselves, whilst I went to get the boys up.

Danny was dressing himself and Billy was in the shower—it seemed Julie had got them up, then gone to her own bed. I gave the boys a wet flannel each and told one to wipe her face and the other to rub her feet with the damp cloths.

The squeals and swearing, plus threats were quite amusing to hear. The boys came dashing out with Julie in hot pursuit still yelling at them. Once she saw me waiting, she stopped and began laughing.

“You, Missy can get yourself organised and help me get breakfasts ready.” I was downstairs making tea when she finally arrived—she did make sandwiches for the boys, but with some reluctance.

She came with me to take the girls to school, and helped me with the food shop afterwards. I informed her that she was cooking dinner and what did she want to make?

“I can’t cook, Mummy.”

“It sounds like it’s time you learned then.”

“Will you help me?”

“Yes, but you do all the work.”

She gave me a sour look but nodded. “What shall I do?”

“What d’you fancy eating?” I asked.

“Something easy.”

“Easy to what—digest?”

“No easy to make.”

“Like what?”

“I don’t know, Mummy, you’re the expert.”

“Only because my mother made me do it.”

“Oh I see—come from a long line of child abusers, do you?”

“Ha ha, now what are you going to cook?”

“I dunno—you suggest something.”

“Beef stroganoff and raspberry roulade for dessert.”

“Very funny—how about something easy, like egg and chips?”

“No, no chips.”

“Boiled egg?”

“This is dinner, the main meal of the day and you’re proposing boiled eggs?”

“Yeah, lots of ’em—that’d fill you up.”

“Try again,” I insisted.

“I dunno—um not eggs—um, how about chicken something?”

“Coq au vin, chicken chasseur, chicken curry, chicken stew, roast chicken…”

“Um—how difficult is roast chicken?”

“For the chicken—very traumatic, for the cook quite simple, unless you get into complicated glazes or stuffings.”

“Um no—simple roast chicken.”

“It’s easy, so is that it—roast chicken?”

“Yeah.”

“What veg are you doing?”

“I don’t know, do I?”

“What do you normally eat with a roast dinner?”

She scratched her head, “Um, spuds, carrots, cabbage?”

“Roast or boiled potatoes?”

“Which is easier?”

“Neither are rocket science—which do you prefer?”

“Um roasties.”

“Okay, we’ll do roasties.” It was like pulling teeth, but it was a new experience for her and required some cajoling to make her believe she could do it. We chose the vegetables, carrots and cauliflower with some broccoli. I also got some mushrooms to roast with the meat and some Spanish onions.

“You’ll have to show me what to do, Mummy.”

“I’ll watch you—I’m not here to humiliate you, I’m here to teach you. While that’s cooking, you can help me with the ironing.”

“What? Do that as well?”

“Yes, it’s what housewives do all the time—so unless you can afford to pay someone to do it for you, you’d better start learning quickly, hadn’t you? It’s the joys of womanhood.”

“Um—what if I went back to stay as a boy?”

“I’d still make you do it—the boys will learn basic housekeeping too—I won’t be there forever to look after them, and it’s a good thing to know.”

“Okay, I surrender—but you will watch me, won’t you?”

“I just said so, didn’t I?”

She nodded but looked excitedly anxious. I remembered when I started, I used to get anxious, but there was also an excitement in learning something new which involved a risk of spoiling it. I think that was where she was at that moment. Before we left the supermarket—a large Morrisons—I got her to choose an apron, which would be hers to wear when she was cooking or cleaning.

We were busy pushing the trolley out to the car when we literally bumped into someone else’s trolley. Julie was pushing it, still complaining about cooking when going down a small slope in the car park, she let it nudge into someone else’s trolley, an empty one but which was being pushed up the hill.

It was a middle-aged couple whom I didn’t know from Adam—but Julie did. “Oh shit,” she said.

The bloke at first said, “Careful love,” then paused after Julie spoke and said, “John, is that you?”

There was an uneasy silence, then the insults began. “What are you doing dressed like a girl?” he said loudly—loudly enough to attract the attention of passers-by.

“Julie, who are these people?” I asked stepping next to her.

“Who are you? Some sort of pervert, dressing my son up as a girl. Call the police someone.”

“Mr and Mrs Kemp, I presume? How nice to meet you.” I extended my hand hoping it wouldn’t be accepted unless I had somewhere to wash it afterwards. I was however determined to stay calm.

“I want my son back—not some bloody queer—what sort of woman are you?”

Julie had burst into tears and to their disgust she reached for me to console her not her parents. “A woman who has a bit more understanding and sympathy for your child than you do.” I replied calmly but coldly.

“You should be ashamed of yourself,” added Mrs Kemp.

“For what? Rescuing a child who’d been beaten up, and who faced another beating if she went to her parent’s house? If that constitutes a shameful act, then yes, I’m guilty as charged.”

“You should be charged as a pedowotsit.”

“I think not—I’ve been vetted by the CRB, have you?”

“You stole our son.”

“No, I gave refuge to your daughter.”

“That’s a boy—not a friggin’ girl, do you need your eyes tested,” her father looked as if he was about to pop a blood vessel, he was so red faced.

“I can’t see a boy there, can you?” I asked a passerby who walked even faster after I spoke to them.

“You bitch, you know I’m right—you’ve enticed him away, you bloody pervert.” Mr Kemp was nearly apoplectic and his spittle was frothing a little.

“Nice to have met you, Mr and Mrs Kemp—come along, Julie, let’s go home.”

Kemp made a grab for her or maybe even me, but I pushed his arm away and pulled the trolley between us. A small crowd was gathering and I drew Julie way with our groceries to our car. Mrs Kemp, kept her husband from attacking me, and the crowd parted to let us through.

I quickly dumped the stuff in the car and abandoned the trolley. Julie was very distressed as one would expect and she was sobbing loudly.

Kemp came rushing towards the car and I started it and drove off just before he got there, narrowly missing another car as we moved towards the exit.

Once free of the irate pair, I was able to pat Julie on the knee and say comforting things. “We’ll be home soon, I’ll make us a nice cuppa and you’ll feel better.”

She simply sat and sobbed. “Why does he always have to spoil it?”

We got home and an astonished Stella stood by the door as I threw her my keys and said, “Can you unload the shopping?” before following the sobbing teen up to her room. She lay on her bed and hugged her teddy, weeping profusely. I felt sad and angry at the attitude of her ignorant parents. How I felt like thumping him, even though I knew it would serve no useful purpose apart from personal satisfaction.

I half expected a visit from the plod—he’d have seen my car registration. So I asked Stella to sit with her when she came up to see what was going on. “We bumped into her parents in a supermarket car park—quite literally.”

“Oh—I see, I’ve put the kettle on.”

“Sit with her will you? I’m going to try and get hold of Andy Bond.” I ran down to the phone and called the local cop-shop, they promised to get him to call me back.

He did about ten minutes later, and whilst I was talking to him, I saw a plod mobile turn into the driveway. Andy said to ask them to wait, he was on his way.

The doorbell rang and I opened it, “Tea or coffee?” I asked as I opened the door.

“What? Exclaimed the young policewoman.

“Would you prefer a cup of tea or coffee?” I repeated.

“I’m sorry, madam, this is a serious matter.”

“What choosing between tea and coffee, I agree absolutely.”

“Is that your Audi A3 outside?”

“Yes, but you know that from your computer link.”

“Exactly, a woman matching your description has been reported abducting a teenage boy dressed as a girl from a supermarket, and driving away in that car.”

“Do come in, I have spoken with one of your colleagues who knows the background to this—he’s on his way, so shall we have a cuppa while we wait for him?”

“You realise these are serious charges against you, um Lady Cameron?”

“That’s me.”

“Aren’t you the one who did that film on dormice?” asked her colleague.

“Yes, I plead guilty to that, but not to abducting anyone. The young lady concerned is upstairs with my sister-in-law who is a nurse.”

“The Kemps said the child was a boy—their son.”

“He’s GID.” At the look of confusion on both of their faces, I explained. “John, who prefers to be called Julie, by the way, is gender dysphoric—transsexual?”—they nodded.

“So he wants to be a woman?” asked the WPC.

“Yes. I found her some weeks ago lying beaten up on a rubbish dump while dressed provocatively as a female. I brought her home because she wouldn’t allow me to take her to a hospital. It was freezing at the time and I couldn’t leave her there. This is all documented by the way it involved and ex-colleague of yours as the attacker. After I checked she was physically okay, I spoke to the police and social services. They were both in agreement that she should stay with me as her parents were very unhelpful regarding her gender status—her father has beaten her several times.

“So the only people who might need to know, who didn’t, were her parents. I did phone them, with Julie, as I wanted them to know she was all right. They swore at her over the phone and also at me. So I disconnected the call. We’re ex-directory so they couldn’t trace us.”

The two coppers were looking totally out of their depth when Andy Bond arrived. “Lady Catherine, how nice to see you again.” He nodded to his colleagues. “Where’s Julie?”

“Upstairs, crying on her bed. Stella’s with her.”

“Okay, can Rita go and check she’s not here against her will or has been injured?”

“That’s me,” said the WPC.

“Sure, Andy the kettle has just boiled, can you make the tea while I show Rita up to Julie’s room.” I led the young woman up the stairs.

We entered Julie’s room, where Stella was hugging the distressed teen. “Julie, we need you to speak with this police officer.”

Julie clung on to Stella even tighter and shook her head.

“Julie, please talk to this nice young lady—she’s very worried that you’ve been kidnapped and are being held against your will. I need you to talk to her or she’s likely to arrest me, and you’ll have to cook the dinner.”

Slowly she released Stella, and we both left the room to the two youngsters.

“Are you going to call Stephanie?” asked Stella.

“I could—I wonder if she does visits?”

“For a fee—you bet.”

“Let’s see what happens next, oh Andy Bond is here and is making the tea, I’d better go and see to things. Can you be ready to hug Julie again if necessary?”

“As long as Pud doesn’t need me.”

“She won’t, I strangled her earlier.” I smiled sweetly and dashed downstairs.

The two men were chatting amicably and sipping mugs of tea. “I hope there’s some left for the workers?” I said as I went into the kitchen.

“Plenty,” he said ignoring me and continuing his conversation—which transpired to be a joke.

“Have you brought your colleague up to speed?” I asked.

“Yes thanks, Lady Catherine, we’ll have to check with Social Services but otherwise everything’s okay.”

“Cor, she is upset,” said WPC Rita as she came back downstairs, “she’s here because she wants to be, says Lady Cameron is her foster mother, and she hates her father, who used to hit her for being a poof.”

“I’m glad you called her by the preferred pronoun, it’s so important to her.”

“That’s no boy, I don’t care what her parents said—oh—she also said I can talk with her psychiatrist, Dr Stephanie something.”

“Steph Cauldwell, yes, I can give you her number, in fact I think I might ask her to pop by and see Julie.”

“Is that NHS?” asked Rita.

“No—an arm and a leg job. The state she was in when I found her couldn’t wait until the NHs could supply a shrink with experience of gender dysphoria or transgenderism. So I went private.”

“I know where I’ve seen you—in the bank,” Rita declared with glee.

“Yes, on the poster holding a dormouse.”

“Her father-in-law owns it,” offered PC Bond.

“What the poster?” asked a perplexed Rita.

“No you twit, the bank—her husband is Simon Cameron, the banker.”

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