Bike 901–950

Wuthering Dormice

(aka Easy As Falling Off A Bike)

Parts 901–950

by Angharad

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Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 901

It took ages to stop Julie’s tears. She was still crying when I went to get the girls from school. Effectively, the person who stopped them was Trish. I had primed them that Julie was very upset after bumping into her old parents, so when we got home, the three musketeerettes(?) went rushing straight up to her bedroom. I had actually suggested it wasn’t a good idea, but when has anyone listened to me?

I had agreed with the police that some sort of doorway needed to be kept open for her should she want to stay in contact with her parents—but given the current high feelings, that seemed unlikely to happen soon.

Andy Bond called to say that given the violence inherent in the car park confrontation by her parents, Social Services were happy that she stay with me, especially as I’d arranged a visit from Stephanie for early evening, and as Dr Caudwell was respected by the child welfare services—once she had sanctioned the child staying with me, it became accepted wisdom.

On reflection, I could see how her parents could be upset—for them read my parents, and probably many other transgendered children’s parents. If it challenges some of your basic values and principles—it must be difficult to get your head round. Were I normal, would I find it so easy to understand? Dunno and as that’s never going to happen, I won’t wear out any more brain cells worrying about it.

Anyway, she got out of cooking the chicken—that fell to me, so after a quick mustard and lemon glaze, topped off with paprika, and stuffed with chopped Spanish onion and garlic, I whacked it in the oven while I parboiled the spuds for roasting.

I had the boys help me with the vegetables, one trimming cauliflower and broccoli and the other peeling and slicing carrots. They were angry that Julie had been upset by her parents and quick to suggest I was the Queen of foster mothers, but I suspect that might have had more to do with ice cream sodas for afters.

Essentially, this was a bit like knickerbocker glories, without the cream—in my version, ice cream and fruit are layered in a deep glass, then ice cream soda pop is poured over it, and it goes all frothy—like Julie’s dad—and gooey, they love ’em. Danny did the fruit when he finished doing the carrots—some strawberries, grapes and banana. The boys really seemed to enjoy helping in the kitchen, so I made a mental note to include them more often.

Mima was the first of the female coalition to come down—she wanted a biscuit and a drink. She got the drink—by this time the roasties were in the oven and the chicken had about half an hour to finish cooking. We could have roasted the carrots as well, but I don’t like too much greasy food and boiled veg are probably healthier.

Next down was Livvie, who also wanted a drink—neither she nor Mima told me anything about what was going on upstairs. So I went up to see for myself, if Trish was blue lighting her, I was going to be cross, especially as Stephanie’s visit was likely to cost me a hundred or two, the last thing I needed was Julie to be zonked, which the healing often does to the patient.

Instead I found them talking about different things, I listened in for a moment. “Do you like those tights?” asked Julie of Trish’s school issue tights.

“They’re okay, better than having to wear trousers like I would if Mummy hadn’t rescued me.”

“Yeah, she’s pretty amazing isn’t she?”

“I think pretty and amazing,” said Trish chuckling.

“I wonder if she could use her power to turn my dad into a frog or something.”

“She’s not a wicked witch you know.”

“Yeah, but it must be tempting.”

“No,” said Trish firmly, “the energy must not be used to do bad—it won’t let you anyway. When Mima took my favourite book and scribbled in it, I wanted to make her jump out of the window…” I was horrified at this. “…But the energy wouldn’t do anything, instead it made me see that she wasn’t doing nasty things to me, because she didn’t know any better. Besides, Mummy helped me rub much of it out so it wasn’t too bad.”

“Yeah, I s’pose you’re right, and why I don’t get the blue light power—I’d be zapping everyone, whether they wanted it or not.”

“Oh you can’t do that—you’d lose it within a week and you’d be very frazzled yourself.”

“I feel pretty frazzled now.” Julie sounded tired.

“Maybe we should see if dinner’s ready, I could eat a horse—except for the shoes, of course.” Trish giggled at her own joke and Julie laughed as well. I sneaked back down the stairs and started making the gravy.

Stephanie arrived just as I was finishing the gravy—she got invited to dinner and immediately the meal was finished, took Julie into Tom’s study. They were there for an hour, during which time, the rest of us began to clear up the kitchen.

Steph went after more coffee—she’s an addict—and things settled down for the evening. The girls went to bed and I read them a story, then the boys went and I read to them as well, finally Julie went up and I half-expected to find her in my bed later on. Only this time, I’d let her stay without comment.

In fact she didn’t—or put it this way she hadn’t when I took some ironing up to the boy’s room, she was in her own bed, listening to her MP3 player and reading at the same time—multi-tasking? I doubt it—besides scientists have proved it’s a myth—no one can do it properly.

I dumped her fresh ironing on her bedroom chair and she hardly noticed me going in and out. I didn’t know if that was good or bad. Steph had given me a few sedatives if Julie had trouble sleeping, but that was all, and I had them safely tucked away. The nice surprise was she declined to bill me for the visit—saying she enjoyed eating with a family, even if it was one of chimps.

At eleven, the phone rang. I answered it expecting it to be Simon, and I was wondering how I’d describe the events of the day. It wasn’t, it was Ken Nicholls calling from the QA.

“Cathy, can you help us? I’ve got a bloke here with a myocardial infarct and multiple fractures where he fell down the stairs when his heart gave out. He’s not going to last the hour, let alone the night without some special help.”

“I thought we’d agreed that I’d done my last healing for you?”

“I know—look Cathy, this guy has got no chance with conventional medicine—he’s gonna die for sure—you’re his one and only chance. I’ve got his wife outside almost in an hysterical collapse, apparently they lost their only child earlier and the police said it was their own fault. So they’re having a pretty shitty day, to lose one rellie is unfortunate, to lose two verges on carelessness.”

“Okay, I’ll come if you promise not to quote any more Shaw at me?”

“Is this a dagger, I see before me…”

“Ken—shurrup, or I’ll tell everyone you’re a closet thespian.”

“Get here quick, need a police escort?”

“I’m on my way—but this is the last time.”

“Okay, I promise guides honour.”

“How long were you in the Girl Guides?”

“Until they did the medicals,” he sniggered.

After telling Tom and Stella where I was going, and evading their protests, I jumped in the car and hammered down to the hospital, parked the car near the ICU, and ran in. I passed some woman who was being comforted by a nurse, though she had her back to me so we neither saw each other very much. Ken was waiting for me and took me to the edge of the cubicle.

“He’s very badly injured, fractures of skull, three vertebra, suspected bleed in the spleen and an MI—how he’s still alive is a mystery, but you’re our only hope, unless God comes by, in which case I’ll let you know.”

“Yeah, I’d appreciate that,” I jibed back—neither of us believed in deities of any sort, other than man-made ones.

“What’s his name?”

“Bradley.”

“Like Wiggo?”

“No Bradley and Wiggo are very different names, in fact Wiggo sounds like a made up name.”

“Ken, have you never heard of Bradley Wiggins?”

“No—in what context would I have heard it?”

“Cycling—track and road, Olympic champion, fourth in the TdF.”

“No, never heard of him.” Then he snorted and I knew he was winding me up.

I went into the cubicle, I could hardly see the man for tubes and machines, the energies didn’t feel good—he was definitely dying and I somehow doubted I could do much—maybe it was his time to go, if there is such a thing.

I sat and tried to zero in on his injuries, except he felt completely covered in a blanket of blackness which was wrapping itself tighter and tighter around him. I took his hand—it felt cold and something else, which I couldn’t identify.

I pulled down a white energy to protect myself and also to counter the blackness which was trying to swarm over me as well. “Bradley, listen to my voice, tune into it and let me help you out of this darkness. Follow my voice and come towards the light it carries. Concentrate as best you can—come towards me, see the light, feel the light—focus on me and my voice—my name is Catherine, come towards me now look for the white light, I’ll be there to help you.”

I pulled down a whole sun full of light and surrounded myself—this man was covered in something not nice. It was going to be a battle, a real fight all the way. I centred down and began to pour light into him, it was like boring into stone—the blackness was so established.

I don’t know how long I was there, Ken came and helped me away about four o’clock I was shattered and felt like I’d run a marathon in lead boots. I also felt in need of a shower, which I had at the unit. It was only after that that I learned of the man’s fate.

“So how is he?” I asked expecting to be told he was dead.

“You’re amazing, Cathy, he’s stabilised—good cardio output, his kidneys are working okay, and the bleed in his spleen—seems to have stopped. I won’t know about the fractures until we can scan or X-ray him, but he’s got a chance now. Thanks so much, I know how much this affects you.” He gave me a huge hug and pecked me on the cheek.

I was led out of the unit and the woman turned to face me. “What’s she doing here?” It was Mrs Kemp, my tummy flipped—I’d just spent most of the night trying to rescue Julie’s dad. Oh shit!

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 902

“She’s the one who took my son—turned him into a girl, or is trying to.”

“Mrs Kemp,” said Ken Nicholls rushing into the room, “this lady has just saved your husband’s life.”

“Huh—a likely story, she’s the one who caused his heart attack in the first place.”

“Your husband’s heart attack was caused by his arteries being furred up with plaque, which is more likely due to his diet than his encounter with Lady Cameron.”

“Lady Muck, huh, no wonder you enticed my John away from me—an’ now you’re trying to take my ’usband.”

“I’m sorry you feel that way, Mrs Kemp.”

“So am I, an’ it’s all your fault—you—you rich bitch.”

“I’m not going to argue with you, Mrs Kemp.”

“No—because I’m right, inni?”

“Actually, no; I’m not arguing with you because you are upset, it’s been a long day and I might be tempted to knock your fatuous, moronic, insolent head off its shoulders. Good night to you, Mrs Kemp—I’ll give your love to Julie.”

“His name’s John you—you—pervert.”

“Please keep this attitude up and you’ll drive her even further away from you. It’s not me who’s keeping her from you, it’s your hostile, self-righteous bigotry.” I turned on my heel and walked away back to my car. I wanted to get home, have a cuppa and get to bed.

After my tea, I went upstairs and sure enough someone was sleeping in my bed. I didn’t want to disturb her, but it is my bed and I have a right to be there. I got ready with just the light of the bathroom shining into the bedroom. I cleaned my teeth and slipped into bed, first putting on the bedside light so I wouldn’t frighten her in the dark. It was a good job I did.

“Oh!” she squealed, “Oh it’s you.”

“Who were you expecting to be getting into my bed?” I was very tired and becoming irritable. If I was lucky, I might get two hours sleep.

“Sorry, Mummy—I was fast asleep.”

I kissed her on the forehead, “Go back to sleep.”

She did in moments—I lay there thinking that life was so ironic, it couldn’t be any more so if it was scripted by Graham Greene, or that woman with the strange name who writes that endless serial thing on the Internet.

I would have been tossing and turning—no not that sort of tossing—honestly. I’d have been restless, were it not for worrying that I’d disturb Julie, who was now laying her head on my shoulder and mumbling in her sleep.

I eventually fell asleep because I woke up at seven needing a wee. I staggered to the bathroom and washed hoping it would wake me up. I woke the girls and then asked Julie to get the boys up and to stay up herself—I needed her help.

“What time did you get home?” asked Stella.

“I don’t know,” I yawned in reply.

“Well, I went for a pee at four and your car wasn’t home then. Well—spill the gruesome details, demanded Stella.

“MI and fell down the stairs.”

“Oh, nothing difficult then?”

“Not for your average miracle worker.”

“Outcome?”

“He was alive when I left.”

“Getting the hang of this healing stuff, then?”

“No—I’m totally cream crackered.”

“I’d like to push my dad downstairs,” offered Julie, with malice in her voice.

“How d’you know it wasn’t your dad?”

“Nothing bad ever happens to him—just me,” she sighed.

“Oh so coming here was a bad thing, was it?”

“No—Mummy, I meant until I came here.”

“Don’t wish evil on anyone, it makes you as bad as them,” I lectured my eldest foster child.

“Yes, Mummy.”

“What would you say if I said it was your father?”

“I don’t know, why—was it him?”

“What’s his name?”

“Bradley.”

“Oh, that was this guy’s name.”

“Oh no, was it my dad?”

I nodded.

“Can I go and see him?”

“He won’t want to see you like that, but if you change back—he’s won, hasn’t he?”

“I’m not gonna change, but I wanna see him.”

“If your mother is there, there will be ructions—besides, a while ago you wanted to kill him.”

“No I didn’t—I’m cross with him—I don’t want him or my mum hurt.”

“Okay—neither do I—not unless I do it directly.” I smirked then yawned.

Somehow I got the girls to school and we got home again. Stella promised to take Julie to see her dad. He was still in intensive care, but he’d made a remarkable recovery against the odds. Well that’s what the ICU nurse told Julie when she said she was his daughter.

I went back to bed and slept for four hours, rising at one. I ate some lunch and helped Julie decide what to wear. She wore a mini dress with footless tights, and those ballet pump things all the girls are wearing. She toned down her makeup to just mascara—waterproof—eyebrow pencil and some eye-liner with just a hint of blusher. I did her hair in bunches with red ribbons to match her dress and she wore her black three quarter coat—the one which is very fitted and gives her some hips.

While they were at the hospital, I went to get the girls from school—I was still yawning and promised myself an early night, but that sort of promise rarely comes to pass.

By the time we got home, Stella and Julie were back. “How is your dad?” I asked.

“He’s getting better. He said when he was very ill he heard someone calling his name and leading him back to life.”

“I hope you didn’t tell him it was me?”

“Actually, I did—I didn’t mention the blue light, Auntie Stella and I decided we were going to say you were a scientist and used special experimental techniques. Auntie Stella gave him all sorts of jargon about lasers and things and he accepted it.”

“What about accepting you?”

“He didn’t have the energy to argue, an’ my mum seemed very quiet. They agreed it was better to see me as a girl than not at all—although they didn’t agree with what I was doing. Auntie Stella, told ’em Dr Stephanie is a leading expert in child psychiatry, and an expert in gender identity disorders, and she said I was GID. Mum, she said the police had been very unkind. Apparently the policewoman who came to see me told her that I wasn’t a boy and why couldn’t she see it—everyone else did?”

“So maybe they’re seeing the light—at long last,” I said and we all laughed. “Are you seeing them again?”

“I said I ask you to take me in, because he wants to apologise and thank you.”

“I’ll take you, but I don’t think I want too much contact with him or your mother. At the same time I don’t trust them with you. He might be stabilised, but so are you and I don’t want to risk that.”

“Do you want me to cancel?”

“No, I used to visit my dad even though he’d been very hostile towards me. I suppose I showed him I was making a stand and if he didn’t like it that was his hard luck. He had to take me as I was—he did and eventually, I think he respected me for it.”

“It would be nice if my parents did that.”

“Would you like to go back to them?”

“No way—no, you’re my mother now—they were parents to my boy period, you’re my girl Mummy.”

“Oh well, maybe they’ll come round to accepting you fully one day.”

“That’s up to them—I have my family here, my sisters and my brothers and we all love each other and help each other.”

“Oh crikey, you’re making us sound like the Waltons.”

“Who are they?”

“A sickly sweet American family soap thing, they were all so goody-goody, it almost gave you diabetes just watching it.”

“Sounds gross,” said Julie making a face.

“We could probably find some of it on YouTube, if you wanna see?” suggested Trish and they all rushed off to use her computer.

“They swallowed the thing with the lasers, then?” I asked Stella.

“Hook, line and sinker—too stupid to do otherwise. I waffled on about penetrating soft tissue with different colours and stimulating endorphins to produce natural pain relief and healing. So you’re an expert on lasers if they ask.”

“Unless they recognise me from the dormouse film?”

“They don’t look like the sort who’d watch that sort of programme; probably all football and soap operas.”

“All good intellectual stuff then?”

“Absolutely—duh.” Stella made a funny face as she said this and we both laughed.

I made a stew with the remainder of the chicken from last night, reminding myself to turn a small part of it into curry for Tom. In the end, I took out a portion for me, and made the rest into a curry. They all ate it and with reasonable relish. The only one who complained—Tom. He said that it wasn’t hot enough. Next time I’ll put his through the microwave before I give it to him.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 903

“D’you think I made my dad fall down the stairs?”

Julie and I were talking in the kitchen before she had her drinking chocolate and went up to bed. I had impressed her that I needed to sleep alone in my own bed tonight—so I wanted no more of the Goldilocks syndrome from her.

“Why, did you push him?”

“No, but I wished it on him.”

“If that was the case, most of us would be dead or injured before we left our prams.”

“But I did.”

“My mum used to say, ‘If wishes were horses, then beggars would ride.’ I’m inclined to agree with her. Wishing something doesn’t make it happen, and whilst you despised your dad, I don’t think you ever stopped loving him, did you?”

She looked at the floor, “He’s my dad,” she began to cry and I had to hug her to stop. “You said I was as bad as him if I wanted him to be hurt. I’m obviously as bad as him, and I deserve to be hurt as well.”

“Bend over,” I commanded releasing her from my hug.

“What?” she gasped.

“Bend over.” She did more out of surprise than anything, and I slapped her quite hard
on the bottom.

“Ouch,” she yelled stepping forward and banging her head on the table.

“Oops, that wasn’t supposed to happen,” I said blushing and kissed her on the head where she’d bumped it.

“What was that for?”

“I was kissing it better.”

“No—the smack on my bottom?”

“You said you deserved to be hurt, I was simply obliging you. Now you’re quits with your dad.”

She rubbed her head, “That hurt more than your smack,” she grumbled and sniggered, “I’m a bit old to get my bum smacked.”

“Not in this house, Gramps has threatened to smack mine more than once.”

“But you’re a grown woman?”

“So, he sees me as his daughter—like a little girl.”

“He didn’t know you as a little girl, did he?”

“No, but he knew his own daughter and projects that onto me.”

“When did she transition—was it young?”

“As a teenager, I think.”

“What about you, Mummy, when did you?”

“I was twenty or twenty one—I think. I’d not long graduated from Sussex and had managed to talk my way into a research position here with Gramps.”

“I’d like to go to university—I’d be the first in my old family to do so.”

“It’s not all it’s cracked out to be, but if you want to go and you get accepted, we’ll help you all we can.”

“Thank you, Mummy,” she hugged me again, “I love you, Mummy.”

“I don’t think you know me well enough to say that, but I’ll accept it as a compliment all the same.”

“I do, Mummy—you’re the kindest, nicest…”

“Richest?” I offered.

“No—yes—oh, Mummy, you’ve spoilt it now, you horrible, Mummy.” She playfully slapped my arm. “How can I tell you how much I love you if you laugh at me? S’not fair.”

“Oh, Julie, what am I going to do with you?”

“Hug me please.”

I opened my arms and she hugged me so tight it felt like I would be flat chested if she continued. I managed to ease her off a little, and hugged her again—gently.

“I’m proud of the way you stood your ground with your parents today.” I rubbed her back as I spoke.

“Thank you, Mummy,” she hugged me boob squashingly tight again—“I could only do it because I knew you were supporting me, and so was Auntie Stella, ’n’ everyone here.” She started to cry, and I cooed to her and continued rubbing her back. “I’ve never been so frightened in my life.”

“What, of Stella?” I joked, “She can be a bit fearsome.”

“Silly, Mummy—no, of my old parents—I mean, they’d been so cross with me before an’ what if ’e’d had another ’eart attack? That woulda been my fault.”

“I think it’s more likely to be due to his clogged up arteries.”

“They said his arteries weren’t furred up.”

“Ah—I might have had something to do with that,” I blushed. I’m going to have to have a serious talk with this energy stuff—it makes people healthier than before their crisis event.

“He’s gonna be on a different ward tomorrow.”

“I see.”

“Did you fix his arteries?”

“Not directly—but yes, I guess I did.”

“Mum was all of a twitter, she couldn’t understand why the heart bloke…”

“The cardiologist,” I suggested.

“Yeah, him as well, they couldn’t find anything wrong with his heart and his tests were all different to last night.”

“Okay, so I do a good job.”

“Good job—you’re, like, absolutely brill, Mummy. Instead of going to a funeral, I like got to see my dad while he was still alive.”

“I wish, I could have done that with my mother.”

“Oh—did she die?”

“I’d just transitioned a matter of weeks, and she died. I got to see her before she died as I am now, and she didn’t really recognise me or Stella. She died while I was with her—called me an angel—she was delirious.”

“No—she was right—you are an angel, you’re far too nice to be an ordinary person.”

“Julie, if ever I find those rose tinted specs of yours, I’m going to confiscate them until you see me as I really am—just an ordinary woman.”

“You’ll always be special to me an’ all the other kids you look after.”

“C’mon, make your chocolate and up to bed. I’m not looking forward to seeing your parents again.”

“But you will come—won’t you?”

“I said I would—I try to keep my word.”

“Thanks, Mummy.”

She had her drink and went off to bed, I made some cocoa for Tom, and tea for Stella and I. We chatted about Stella’s perceptions of the hospital visit.

“So they don’t think anything metaphysical happened?” I asked.

“Nah, I baffled ’em with pseudoscience, and Julie was nodding at everything I said.”

“I’m just worried that if they knew I was the demon healer, they could make life awkward for all of us.”

“They were more focused on their daughter,” Stella made those irritating inverted comma signs with her fingers.

“An’ hoo did that go?” asked Tom.

“Yeah, as well as could be expected—her mother kept staring at her, trying to spot faults, but apart from saying, that, ‘She wouldn’t have let her dress like that,’ it went okay. Her dad said very little, mind you he looked washed out.

“Let’s face it, he was practically dead when I saw him.” I sipped my tea—I wondered if he’d had a change of heart, from my ministrations and his near death experience. I knew if he changed his attitude, so would mother. It was still a long shot.

“Well, I dinna ken aboot ye twa, but I’m awa’ tae ma pit.” Tom excused himself and kissed both of us on the cheek before he left.

“D’you think Julie will ever get back with her parents?” asked Stella.

“I don’t know—if she does, she may have to ultimately give up her desire to be female.”

“What even if they accept her?”

“I don’t think they ever really will—they’ll just tolerate her.”

“Isn’t that more or less the same?”

“No, it means that she would feel unwelcome in her new gender and would be under unconscious pressure to change back.”

“What after all she’s gone through with them?”

“Essentially yes—I don’t mean it unkindly, but I don’t think they have the capacity to make such a sea-change. They’re rooted by their ignorance.”

“What even after your blue light special?”

“Even then—I don’t have the capacity to change people or how they feel about things—and besides, what I do isn’t what Julie is. They don’t know me, other than the person who took their child and changed him against their will, and apparently as some nutty scientist who may or may not have saved his life.”

“Oh, I see what you mean. I had hoped she could make her peace with them.”

“I think she can do that, but they’re a long way from acceptance.”

“But your dad eventually came round, didn’t he?”

“I don’t know, he made out he did and he certainly acted it quite well—but in his heart of hearts—I don’t honestly know.”

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 904

I stood watching Julie in animated conversation with her father. I wasn’t close enough to hear what was being said, but at least they were both smiling and occasionally laughing together.

Her mother was glaring at her pencil skirt and vee necked jumper. “She looks like a tart—and you’re supposed to be advising her?”

“She looks the same as a thousand other sixteen year old girls,” I sighed. Whatever I said, Mrs Kemp was going to give me a hard time.

“You think you’ve won this, don’t you?”

“Won what? I wasn’t aware we were in a contest, Mrs Kemp.”

“What was it then? Your money seduced my son into making himself look like a girl, and a slut at that. I hope you’re happy now?”

“I would feel far happier if she’d been allowed to do this under your guidance…”

“Never—over my dead body,” she snarled at me.

“I think you’ve answered your own point, Mrs Kemp, if Julie had had some freedom to express herself in your home, she wouldn’t be living with me, now.”

“What you’re doing is against nature—turning a boy into a girl. It’s against God’s holy law.”

Ah—believers—oh boy. I don’t want to hurt them, but they keep sticking their heads above the parapet. Okay, let’s go with what she might understand.

“If we’re talking about the will of God, then I’m afraid your husband has to be dead again—this time for keeps.”

“What? What do you know about it? God would never hurt my Bradley.”

“I saved his life.”

“No, I prayed for it.”

“If you did, I was the answer to those prayers.”

“You—you’re a demon.”

“No a Sagittarius, but I did wrestle with someone to keep him here.”

“Who?”

“Someone called Samael.”

“Who’s he when he’s at home?” she sneered.

“I thought you knew your Bible, Mrs Kemp.”

“You think a posh education makes you better than me.”

“No, it makes me more educated—that’s all, genetics made me cleverer.”

“You arrogant bitch,” she snarled.

“Ask your local priest who Samael is.”

“It’s probably some made up name you’ve thought up just to make me look stupid.”

“You do that well enough without any help from me, and Samael is a name from the old
Testament.”

“You and your clever tricks.”

“Okay, it’s no trick—he’s the Angel of Death, especially for those who are damned.”

“Don’t talk such rubbish.”

“Okay, I won’t—but the next time he comes for your husband, I won’t stop him.”

“How could a thing like you stop him?”

“I have my ways.”

“I don’t believe you.”

“Fine—that’s okay with me.”

“I suppose you’re a sorceress are you?”

“No—just a poor working girl—well okay, quite a wealthy working girl, but that has nothing to do with it. The universe seems to have chosen me to defend the souls of those it decides might have a second chance—but they have to change, or the chance is withdrawn, and the second time round, I don’t come to help—so you’re on your own.”

“That is pure rubbish.”

“Isn’t it, but it made you think for a moment, didn’t it?”

“Not for one second—you didn’t save my husband, my God did.”

“Does He know about the ovarian cyst you have which is about to turn cancerous?”

She paled, then recovering her wits responded, “He knows everything.”

“In which case, maybe he should tell you get it seen to, and quickly.”

“How do you know about it—you are some sort of demon, aren’t you?”

“You couldn’t be further from the truth, Mrs Kemp, but if that’s what you wish to believe, that’s fine with me. Give my regards to Samael when he comes to see you. Your daughter and her father seem to be getting along quite well.”

“You did something to him, didn’t you?”

“Yes, saved his life.”

“You did something to his mind—he’s different.”

“No I didn’t—I told you what I did, I kept away the angel of death, and he was then strong enough to recover.”

“That’s all rubbish.”

“Of course it is—I’m a scientist who just happens to get brought in to stop people dying once in a while.”

“See—I knew it, all that Bible stuff—pure nonsense.”

“Absolutely—only fools believe it all, except as allegory. Science is what counts.”

“Science—hah—blasphemy you mean.”

“It may be blasphemy, but it’s what could save your life.”

“I’m quite well; thank you.”

“You won’t be—I promise you, I’m not trying to mess you about—you have a cyst on the ovary which is cancerous.”

“How do you know?”

“I know these things.”

“You’ve made it so, haven’t you? You’ll be happy when I’m dead, then you’ll have no competition for John, and I suppose you’re after Brad as well?”

“Mrs Kemp, if you die, I have to deal with a very distressed teenager. I’m not in competition with you over anything. The same coincidence which caused me to save your husband has caused me to save your daughter. Jung would call it meaningful coincidence or synchronicity. It happens very rarely. I wish you no harm, Mrs Kemp, we angels aren’t allowed to do that, but I am charged with looking after Julie until she is able to make her own decisions—given that you signally failed. I’m going home now, and she is coming with me.”

“If you’re an angel—I’m the Virgin Mary.” She poo-pooed me, then added, “If you’re an angel why can’t you cure this cyst thing for me?”

“I’ve already sorted the patch in your lung and liver, if I did that too, you’d never know would you—instead, you have a chance to realise who you’re up against. Remember Samael won’t be cheated twice. See your doctor—you have a month before it becomes untreatable.”

I walked away and Julie saw me leaving, she hugged her father and kissed him on the cheek, she ran to her mother who was very uncomfortable with her hug. The older woman glared at me—I wasn’t exaggerating, she had a month before she started to die.

“You spent a lot of time talking with my mother,” she remarked when we were back in the car.

“Yes, I was urging her to see her doctor.”

“She won’t, she doesn’t like him.”

“In which case, she has six months to live.”

“What?” she gasped—“You’re trying to scare me.”

“I’m not, Julie. She has a malignancy in an ovarian cyst—I’ve asked her to see her doctor.”

“Can’t you cure it for her?”

“No—I sorted two other sites while I was talking to her, I can only do so much.”

“But, Mummy, you have to.”

“Why do I? I’ve told her where the problem is, doesn’t she have some responsibility for her own health.”

“But you cure people?”

“Sometimes I can’t.”

“Or won’t.”

“It isn’t a case of that—the energy only allowed me to do what I did. If I hadn’t
she’d have been dead by Easter.”

“You’ve got to tell her.”

“I tried that, Julie.”

“Stop the car.”

“Why?”

“I’ll tell her.”

“Tell her what?”

“I’ll tell her you’re really an angel in disguise.”

“I told her that—she doesn’t believe me, or wouldn’t believe me.”

“She’ll believe me.”

I stopped the car and she calmly walked out in front of an ambulance which was screaming into the hospital. It knocked her sideways like a leaf caught in the breeze. My heart seemed to stop.

I remember running in slow motion towards her screaming her name—she lay like a bundle of rags, her limbs all twisted by the side of the road. Had she done this to prove her point? Was it an accident—didn’t she see the ambulance racing towards her? More to the point—was she saveable—did I have the strength to fight off Samael once more?

I scooped her up and started running towards A&E, hoping that I could work the trick once more—and that Ken Nicholls was on duty to let me.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 905

As Julie went to open the car door the vision of her stepping in front of the ambulance flashed through my mind. I felt myself struggle to carry her broken body, knowing she was dead. I screamed, “NO,” and reached over and grabbed her, pulling her back into the car.

“What are you doing, Mummy?” she squealed in surprise.

“We’re going home, while I still have the will to live.”

“What about my mother.”

“Sod your mother, if she’s too stupid to heed advice, she deserves to die.”

“Mummy, I can’t believe you just said that?”

“Well, I did—you’re not going to kill yourself, just to prove a point, I don’t know if I can save you a second time.”

”Excuse me,” she said, “Who said I was going to kill myself, I was just gonna talk to her—all right?

“Julie—I just had the picture of you walking in front of an ambulance—it hit you and I knew you were dead, and this time I couldn’t save you.” I had to stop the car, I was crying too much to drive.

“You think I’d do that like, deliberately?”

I pulled her to me, “I don’t know what I thought, I just knew you were too precious to waste your life like that.”

“Wouldn’t that like, hurt—I mean getting hit by an ambulance?”

“Probably very much.”

“Ouch—look, I like, promise I won’t dive in front of any ambulances—can I like go and see mum, again?” She wiped the tears from my face, “I don’t want to die, Mummy.”

“You were going to do that, though, weren’t you?” I was drenching her in tears and she was sobbing, too.

“I was thinking maybe if I broke an arm or something, and you fixed it, she’d have to believe us. I don’t want to die.”

“You silly, goose—don’t ever think like that again—and don’t ever take the healing for granted—it might not work the next time.”

“I won’t.”

We hugged and cried together for several minutes until both of us looked like pandas. Then we laughed hysterically at the way our makeup had run. I keep some remover pads in my bag, so we got rid of the worst of it.

“Did you mean that—like, what you said?”

“About your mum?”

“No, like, about—me?” she blushed.

“Being precious to me?”

“Yeah, that.”

“Do you think I’d lie to you?”

“Um—not exactly lie, but maybe fib a bit.”

“Julie—the reason you are sitting in this car, living in our home and wearing those clothes—is because you are precious to us all—not just me—but the girls, the boys, Simon, Tom and Stella as well.”

“No one has ever said that to me before.” She started to weep copiously.

“We love you, Julie—what more can I say?”

“No one loves me, that’s the problem—they pretend, but I mess it up and then they get angry and beat me.”

“No one will beat you while I’m about,” I hugged her tightly, “I promise you that—and I think I can speak for the others too. Read my lips—c’mon look at me—I love you, Julie Kemp.”

She stared at my lips, then her watery gaze went to my eyes and she burst into tears again. I wasn’t much better, dripping tears and other nasal fluids on to the shoulder of her coat.

“You’re not just conning me, are you?”

“Cross my heart and hope to die,” I said making an X mark with my finger over my chest.

“Oh, Mummy,” she cried again. I held her for a while and she cried herself out.

“Let’s go home, if we stay here much longer, the salt water from all our crying will rust the chassis.”

She laughed and muttered something like, “Silly, Mummy.” She stared ahead through the windscreen, there were still one or two tears but something inside her had changed. She glanced at me as we were turning into the drive of Tom’s house, and whispered, “I love you, Mummy.”

“I love you too, sweetheart.”

I stopped the car in its usual place—“What will we do, about Mum and her cancer?”

“I’ve thought of that—we tell your dad, or you tell your dad—he’ll make her do something, I’m sure. He’s had a big lesson about loss—he won’t let her go, even if she’s too stupid to see the facts for herself.”

“Did she say thank you for saving Dad?”

“No—I suspect if she really believed I had, she’d have stopped me. I know she’d have tried to stop me saving you, if you had been hit by that ambulance.”

“Why?”

“Because her need to beat me at something, is greater than her ability to think of other people.”

“Maybe we shouldn’t save her then?”

“Oh yes we will, Julie—she’s still your mother—and I hope one day she’ll see the light, so to speak.”

“What are we going to tell the others?”

“About all this—shall we say nothing, and keep this just between ourselves?”

“Yes, Mummy.” She hugged me again, and added, “I love you, Mummy.”

“I love you, too.” Three little words, I hoped the healing that emanated from them could help her to leave behind past pain and hurts—I had a feeling that they would, in time and given some further evidence to prove I wasn’t lying to her—damaged teens need lots of restorative care and love, possibly more than younger children because they resist it or sabotage it—they have patterns of behaviour to break down and rebuild in positive ways. The process had started—why did it have to be so jarring on my nerves? At this rate, I’ll have a nervous tic by the time I’m thirty.

Somehow we got through the rest of that day and when we went to the hospital again, her dad had been discharged. “What do we do now?” I asked her as we walked back to the car, for which I’d just paid a couple of pounds for parking.

“We could go to their house,” she suggested.

“If you go in there, will they ever let you out again?” I asked, it was a genuine concern.

“Course they will—I’m sixteen, Mummy.”

“You’re also quite a bit smaller than your father. If your mother tells him, he might just imprison you.”

“I used to live there, I know all the ways to get out, besides you’d call the police wouldn’t you?”

“Yeah, I suppose I would, but I don’t like the idea of you going in that house again. It just gives me bad vibes—it isn’t a good idea.”

“What else can we do?” she looked very disappointed.

“Here, phone them and ask them to meet us in half an hour—um is there a cafe or anything near them?”

“There’s a pub.”

“Okay, suggest that,”—I glanced at the clock in the car, it might still be open. “Have they got a car?”

She nodded.

“Tell them to come to Morrison’s again and we’ll meet them in the restaurant there.”

Which is what she did, they weren’t too happy about it, I paid for a bunch of flowers for Julie to give her mum, and a bag of fruit for her dad. He didn’t drink very much—‘the old crone wouldn’t let him.’ I was tempted to keep them and give him a case of wine instead, but I mustn’t let my feelings intervene here—we needed to convince the woman she was ill.

We were there for nearly an hour before they arrived—I began to wonder if they’d come at all. They insisted on getting their own drinks and cakes. I sent Julie up with her dad to get a refill for us.

“Have you thought any more about what I told you yesterday?” I asked Mrs Kemp.

“Yes, you’re a fraud. We spoke with the doctor who discharged us—he said Brad never was that bad, they must have confused the notes.”

Hoist by my own petard—I made such a fuss about secrecy, that they obviously didn’t tell the junior staff what had happened. “What about what Dr Nicholls said when we first met?”

“It was very late and he was trying to stop me hitting you.”

I smirked at this, I think she was the one in danger.

“Don’t you smirk at me, you madam, I can still pack a punch.”

“You are ridiculous—do you know that? If I thought you were serious, I’d sue the arse off you and have you arrested for threatening behaviour. Mind you, part of me would like you to try; it certainly would shorten your lifespan.”

“You don’t frighten me.”

“Where are they?” I looked at the queue for the food and drinks and they weren’t there.

“Gone to the lavs I expect,” she said unconvincingly.

“He’s grabbed her, hasn’t he? You lying cow—well, carry on, you’ll be dead before Christmas.”

“So will he, if you try to get him back—we’ll kill him first.”

She rose to get away, and I pulled her back down, she struggled and squealed and I suspect I might get banned from that particular supermarket—but I held her there.

“Call the police someone, this woman has just abducted a child.”

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 906

We spent ages waiting for the police—the manager, escorted Mrs Kemp away from me, before I ripped her limb from limb to discover where her husband was holding Julie. She was still making all sorts of accusations at me ‘turning her son into a girl.’

When the police did eventually deign to arrive, I was pleased to discover it was the two who’d previously been sent to the house. They took the situation on board very quickly, and Ma Kemp was hauled off to the nick double-quick. I followed another copper to the Kemp’s house, as the old lady refused to tell the police where her husband was.

I’d got her all wrong; I’d assumed she was the little woman who fetched and carried for her hulk of a husband. It seems it was the other way round; she was the boss and he did her bidding.

No wonder they took so long to come, they were planning a kidnap—how stupid could I be? He’d only have to induce the teen out to the car—‘got something for you’ or ‘a peace offering for your foster mother’, and she’d have gone like a lamb to the slaughter.

The police were pounding on the door of the house—once they had a mission, they sprang into action, so I couldn’t fault them there. There was no answer, but his car was there, so they weren’t far away.

While we’d chatted at the supermarket, Julie had described how she used to escape through the bathroom window, because it couldn’t be locked properly, and all you had to do was push it and it would open. She would then clamber up or down the soil pipe—the large pipe which carries away waste from the toilet and bath to the sewer. Others probably call it, a waste pipe.

The police wouldn’t let me near the house, and neighbours were evacuated from the adjacent properties. The door was opened with a battering ram—one of these modern ones—like a horizontal sledge hammer.

Officers poured into the house—then discovered a very nervous man, with his child and he had a very sharp kitchen knife at her throat. He was apparently standing on the landing away from any windows, and a marksman’s aim.

I walked briskly down the road, and started to count the number of houses. I had five garden walls to traverse. Fortunately, with all the excitement at the front of the houses, no one was looking out the back, so I scrambled over a variety of fences and walls before I got to the correct one.

I’d dressed down deliberately, to avoid upsetting the brains behind this mess—Ma Kemp, so I was reasonably clad for scaling waste pipes—assuming it bore my weight—oh well, as they say in Ireland—‘if it doesn’t da ground will break my fall—so it will.’ It was patio slabs—wonderful.

My shoes were lace up ones without much heel, so I was able to walk up the wall, whilst holding the pipe with my hands—it was dirty and unpainted near the wall—but thank goodness, it wasn’t plastic or this wouldn’t work.

My cycling had suggested I need to lose a little weight, clambering up this pipe reinforced that point somewhat emphatically. I was very warm long before I got to the bathroom window and my arms and legs were shaking with effort. It’s many years since I climbed a tree and I wasn’t very good then—no upper body strength.

I suppose it took three or four very long minutes to ascend to the bathroom window, and holding on with my right arm, I pushed the window. It didn’t open—no, course it didn’t—shit!

I spotted where the catch was and pushed again, my right arm was now in danger of slipping off the pipe—nothing happened with the window. I held on to the pipe with both arms, and determined I’d have one more go before I went down again. Julie was obviously more nimble than I.

I really shoved at the window by the catch and it finally gave and opened about half a centimetre. Sweating profusely—or should that be glowing wet?—I managed to pull the window open and get a foot on the windowsill below it. I moved a couple of shampoo bottles—actually dropped them onto the patio—then hauled myself into the window, being as quiet as I could. I stepped almost silently onto the carpeted floor and walked on tiptoe to the door.

The door was open enough for me to see them standing about a yard away, facing the stairs. I now had the element of surprise. I admit, if I’d had a gun, I’d have emptied it into Bradley Kemp’s head to stop him stabbing his daughter.

I could hear her whimpering and his hissed threats—someone needed to do something or he’d kill her—he was so nervous, especially without the mastermind to tell him what to do.

I slipped on to the landing behind him and a board creaked under my weight. He spun round and the knife cut into Julie’s neck, drawing a little blood. “Don’t come any closer,” he hissed at me. Then after a moment, he said, “How did you get in?”

“Oh, Bradley, have you forgotten me so soon? If you remember, I’m an angel, we can fly or in this case walk through walls. I can save life—as I did with you, or I can take it? What’s it to be?”

“You’re lying, they said at the hospital they’d got my notes mixed up with someone else’s.”

“Bradley—you were dead when I saved you? You had a heart attack at the top of these stairs—you fell down the length of them—I raised you from the dead. Put down the knife and surrender the girl.”

“It’s a boy—despite what you’ve done to him—he’s still my son.”

“I agree, she’s your child, Bradley—so why do you want to hurt her?”

“It’s not her, it’s him—got it?”

“Mummy—help me?” whimpered Julie, the knife seemed tighter against her neck.

“She’s not your mother—where is she?”

“She’s safe as long as you don’t hurt, Julie. If you do harm her, I’ll make sure you both suffer unimaginable pain. I’ll reverse the healing, Bradley, you’ll remember every stair you hit, while it smashed ribs and vertebrae and then you’ll remember the pain in your chest. Do you remember that, Bradley? You couldn’t breathe, a tightness—I think it’s starting again, isn’t it. Let her go and put down the knife and I’ll stop the pain, Bradley.”

He was sweating and looking very pale—I had no power to call up a convenient heart attack, or even angina pain, but he had enough imagination to do so himself. He began to look ill.

“Let her go, Bradley, and I’ll save you again. I can do that—I am really an angel. Or I can destroy you and your wife, what’s it to be?”

He was wavering, and sweating even more—he was so scared he was wetting his pants. Just a little more pressure and I have him.

“Losing bodily control are you? It’s happening, Bradley, let Julie go, put the knife down and I’ll save you. I promise I will if you don’t harm her.”

“BOLLOCKS,” he screamed, pulled the knife across Julie’s throat and pushed her spurting body at me.

I screamed, caught her, ducked and kicked him once in the chest, he bounced off the wall into the arms of the coppers who’d been creeping closer and they wrestled him to the ground.

I laid Julie on the bathroom floor and tried to stop the blood flow from her throat—she was frothing as she tried to breathe. I pushed the edges of the wound together and threw in as much light as I could imagine—whilst weeping profusely.

I began to believe she would die—but as the paramedics arrived, she inhaled a deep breath and whimpered, “Mummy.”

Kemp was astonished as were the police—“If any of you ever breathe a word about this to anyone—you will pay dearly for it,” I snarled at them, “Remember what happened to Pharoah’s first born.” Why I said that, I have no idea—but they all gasped and nodded.

“Fuckin’ hell,” said a quiet voice at the back of the group.

“Shurrup—I don’t want my kids to die,” snapped his neighbour.

“Tell your wife unless she deals with the cancer, she has less than six months to live.” I said to Kemp as he shrank away from me in terror. “You could have made this so much easier—now, you’ll spend a long time in prison—I intend to press every charge in the book from dropping litter to high treason.”

I helped Julie to her feet, she was woozy from shock and temporary blood loss, we were both like extras from a slasher movie, covered in wet red stuff, which was going sticky as it began to dry.

The paramedics led us out to an ambulance. “Where’s all the blood from?”

“I think she had a nosebleed, or maybe Kemp did.”

“Must have been some bleed?”

“Oh it was.” I realised he had banged his face when the police arrested him and disarmed him. I hoped he had bashed his nose.

“This is like a major stabbing,” he continued, “neither of you are bleeding now are you?”

We both shook our heads, “No, but you know what blood is like, a little goes a long way—like milk when you spill it.” I was trying to distract him, it wasn’t working.

“You won’t die from spilt milk, madam, now let’s check you over quickly for wounds—I don’t like my nice clean ambulance swimming in red stuff.”

He quickly examined Julie—“You’re okay, better see your doctor though as soon as you can, and if you experience any symptoms of any sort, go to hospital. If necessary dial 999, okay?”

She nodded.

Then he checked me over—“What are all these grazes on your knuckles?”

“Oh, I must have rubbed against the wall on the way down the stairs.”

“Get them cleaned up and dressed or you’ll get an infection in them. Same goes for you, madam as for your daughter, if you feel ill, get yourself to A&E.”

“I will, thank you? Can we go home now?”

He opened the ambulance door. Waiting outside was a high ranking copper who was not looking pleased. “I want a word with you, Lady Cameron.”

“Are you arresting me?” I challenged.

“I will if I have to.”

“How is your Ménière’s disease?” I enquired.

“What? What games are you trying to play.”

“Don’t get excited, Chief Inspector, you’ll make yourself ill.”

“Are you threatening me?”

“Of course not, I would like to go home, shower and change my clothes.”

“I want those for forensics.”

“Why?”

“Someone’s throat was cut, wasn’t it?”

“It wasn’t mine, nor hers, you’ve taken the only other person into custody. I think he
had a nasty nose bleed, in the shadows, it can look quite deceptive.”

“You interfered in a police enquiry.”

“I didn’t stop your people doing anything.”

“You could have done.”

“So could the rest of the people in the street, but I don’t see them being asked awkward questions. Now I’m very tired, so is my daughter. You are very welcome to come to the house in an hour’s time, but first I need to wash—this is beginning to smell.”

They let us go providing they drove us home—a policeman drove my car home—no doubt after he checked it over for evidence—of what I don’t know—feathers from my wings, perhaps. As we walked to the police car, there were all sorts of mutterings and avoided eye contacts—I seemed to scare them.

In the shower, the amount of blood washing off me, was like a scene from Psycho, my clothes were bagged up by the police—I didn’t want them anymore anyway, and I suspect Julie felt the same.

Then each of us dressed in bathrobes sat and waited for the heavy mob to arrive, presumably rubber coshes and thumbscrews aren’t allowed on teenagers any longer?

Oh poo, I’m twenty six.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 907

The chief inspector eventually came to the house with a detective and a WPC. I insisted that he interview us together; he wasn’t pleased but given I was acting as Julie’s guardian, he had to agree—we weren’t actually accused of anything.

The interview was tedious and Julie was very tired and stressed by the end of it; I’d asked Stephanie to call by later. I found the whole thing quite traumatic.

The police found themselves in a dilemma—the Kemps had kidnapped their own child, for which there are precedents of people taking their kids abroad, especially when mixed-race marriages break down. These abducting parents are guilty of kidnapping especially where a writ has been issued to prevent such things.

As no one was ultimately hurt—the police were wondering if the Kemps could be given minimal punishments. Julie shrugged her shoulders and asked if she could go. I was less traumatised and more angry.

“That man was prepared to kill his own child because he disagreed about her following her need to change her gender, and when she effectively ran away and sought sanctuary here, he tried to impose his will upon her.”

“He’s in an awful state—he thinks he killed her, and she’s some sort of zombie who you commanded to walk out beside you.”

“He obviously didn’t kill her.”

“Or somebody saved her life with a clever bit of magic.”

“If they did, I didn’t see them.”

“Look, Lady Cameron, I am fully aware that Brad Kemp was seriously injured a few days ago—yet he walked out of hospital a day ago.”

“Some people are obviously fast healers,” I said shrugging.

“I am aware that they called you in to assist with his healing and that you didn’t know it was Julie’s dad until afterwards.”

“Why would they send for me—he’s not a dormouse?”

“Are you denying you saved his life?”

“I don’t see what relevance that has on your visit here.”

“Did you heal him?”

“Why is that important? What I do with my time as an adult, providing it doesn’t break the law should be of no interest to you.”

“Are you denying you healed him?”

“I’m neither agreeing nor disagreeing until you tell me why I should answer the question. I’m not a suspect in anything—am I? If I am, I’ve neither been cautioned nor arrested.”

“You make this difficult for me.”

“How is your left ear?”

“Fine—hang about, the tinnitus has gone—what’s going on here?”

“And your hernia?”

“Now just a minute”—he put his hand to his groin—“it’s gone—what are you?”

“Me, I’m just an ordinary woman trying to bring up a handful of children—why?”

“Ordinary? Even extraordinary doesn’t do you justice.”

“I did nothing.”

“Have you cured my Ménière’s?”

“I’ve done nothing—I haven’t touched you, have I?”

“Who are you?”

“I told you, just an ordinary woman.”

“Where does this healing come from?”

“I have no idea.”

“Is that—you won’t tell me?”

“I don’t know.”

“You healed Bradley Kemp—and you healed his daughter when he tried to cut her throat?”

“Did I—did you see me do anything?”

“No but the blood sprayed over the wall was consistent with that sort of injury.”

“Or a violent nosebleed.”

“I’m not stupid, Lady Cameron, and you can’t bribe me to stay quiet simply by curing me of some medical conditions.”

“Have I asked you to do any such thing?”

“No, I admit you haven’t.”

“Well, I’m glad one of us is admitting to something, because I’m not.”

“What about threatening my officers with a visitation of the angel of death, if they said what they saw?”

“Do you believe anyone can do that?”

“Of course not—not until I met you—now, I’m not so sure.”

“I am—I’m a scientist, none of this is possible.”

“What about two thousand years ago; didn’t someone have powers of healing then?”

“Allegedly—I wasn’t there, and scientific theory and practice wasn’t well enough developed to have proved anything.”

“You sound more anti-religion than pro, but surely this gift of yours comes from God?”

“Until I can prove that in a laboratory—I’ll have to pass on that supposition.”

“Okay, where does it come from then?”

“You want an honest answer?” I asked him and he nodded. “I have no idea.”

“That sounds unlikely for a clever woman like you?”

“It happens to be the truth; I don’t tell lies if I can help it.”

“What about Julie—her throat was cut, wasn’t it?”

“Was it?—prove it.”

“Oh I intend to.”

“Think on this—if this sort of nonsense gets into the press, they’ll be round here like a pack of hyenas, and I have seven children here.”

“What are you implying?”

“If any of my children suffer as a consequence—lots of people will regret it.”

“Oh I see—Old Testament plagues again, is it?”

“No—my in-laws own a bank—they know lots of other people in the financial world.”

“So?”

“So think before you suggest ridiculous answers to mundane questions. There is only
science—the rest is an imitation.”

“What about those people who see you as touched by God?”

“They must be a trifle touched themselves?”

“So how do we reconcile this?”

“If you turn it into a non-event, say they were filming some cop show, I’ll withdraw charges.”

“Would a training event do?”

“Yes—tell your colleagues that it was a training event, an unannounced one.”

“And what about the young copper whose diabetes seems better?”

“Spontaneous regeneration of Islets of Langerhans—it happens.”

“Assisted by your good self?”

“I’m not particularly good, Chief Inspector, I’m just ordinary.”

“I’ll see what I can do to hush this up—thank you for my improvements, I can listen to music again—properly.”

He held out his hand to shake mine.

“No offence, Chief Inspector, but if I don’t touch you, you can’t claim I did anything, can you?”

“I don’t suppose I can.” He nodded at me and took his troops with him.

I went up to see Julie—she was asleep on her bed and Stella was sat watching her.

“Thanks,” I said and hugged my sister-in-law.

“As her guard dog sister isn’t here, I thought someone ought to watch over her.”

“Umm,” I agreed.

“Been patching up police, have we?”

“I dunno—I don’t control it do I? I wish it would bugger off and leave me in peace.”

“If it did, would she be here now?”

“Yes—if I’d declined to help her dad, he wouldn’t have been able to abduct her, would he?”

“Point taken—but then, he’s gone barmy anyway, hasn’t he?”

“I have no idea—if I ever see her parents again, it will be too soon. If I do, I’m likely to take a poke at Ma Kemp—she’s a prize cow.”

“Pity you’re not Harry Potter, you could have turned her into one—or something worse.”

“Stella—stay with reality, will you?—mind you, I suppose I could get the books and read them to the kids.”

“What add to Ms Rowlings’ millions?”

“If she puts her money in your bank—does it matter?”

“Probably uses Coutts.”

“Yeah, probably—more class.” She gave me a filthy look and I sniggered.

“What’s next?”

“Yes—little megawatt.”

“Eh?”

“Trish—I have to go and collect her and the other convent kids.”

“How many are you planning on bringing home?”

“Apart from our three, you mean?”

“Yes,” she nodded.

“Nun,” I replied and ducked as she swiped at me.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 908

“Hampshire police have been criticised for carrying out a training exercise in a street in Portsmouth without telling the residents that it was going to take place. Their spokesperson, responded by saying that they wanted to see how ordinary people reacted when they thought something was happening in their area.

“Resident, Arthur Scoggings, said he thought someone had been murdered by the amount of blood two of the ‘victims’ were covered in, and his wife Edna, had been quite distressed by it all.

“Hampshire police have since apologised and said they would be using the outcomes to help plan future siege events, which this was.

“In Southampton, a runaway hippopotamus caused confusion when it escaped from its enclosure…”

I stood looking at the television for several minutes—so far so good. I’d managed to get home without a pursuit by paparazzi, and there were no crowds waiting at the gate—maybe they bought our lie? We’d have to see.

I felt sorry for Chief Inspector Pike, he was the one who’d have to deal with the Chief Constable and the inquiry he’d hold. I hoped it didn’t all leak out afterwards—I called Henry who knew the CC personally, they played golf occasionally, I think.

Henry was pleased everyone was safe—and he’d go along with the training exercise cover. More importantly, he’d talk with his friend and see if he could be prevailed upon for the security of seven children. He agreed that it smacked of abuse of privilege, but where my children are concerned—I’ll do whatever is necessary to protect them.

Julie came down and thanked me for saving her life again. I hugged her and said I hadn’t done anything except accept the love she’d given me, and reciprocated that love. We both had tears in our eyes as we hugged—which quickly became a group hug as the girls and then the boys joined in—all glad that she was home safely.

She then hugged and kissed each one and they all declared they were family from now on—the boys were their brothers and Julie was their big sister. When I asked the boys about Julie’s little anomaly, they shrugged and said she had a plumbing problem, the same as Trish’s. Then Danny embarrassed himself, by declaring he still fancied her like mad. Julie gave him another hug and kissed him again.

I had to point out, if they were now brother and sister—they couldn’t fancy each other, as it had all sorts of negative connotations about it.

“Why? I fancy you too, Mummy, but I’m never gonna do anythin’ about it, am I?”

“Oedipus shmoedipus, what’s it matter so long as he loves his mother.” I said this and none of them laughed—I suppose five and ten is a bit young for Greek myths. I noticed Stella smirking in the background, she was carrying Puddin’ who was gurgling at the assembled throng before her.

“Can we take her out in the pram, Auntie Stella?” asked Trish.

“Oh yes, let’s?” echoed Livvie and Mima.

“Can one of the boys or Julie go with you then, because it’s getting dark?”

“I’ll go,” volunteered Julie, “I could do with stretching my legs.”

“I’ll get the dinner ready, unless we have pizzas,” I said and was nearly trampled in the rush.

Stella and I actually had boiled eggs with toast—neither of us is fond of pizza. I laid the table and Stella noticed my knuckles—“I thought you’d grazed your knuckles,” she said.

“Trish kissed them better—they healed rather quickly after that.”

“Do you realise if you two stay together, you’re likely to live forever?” Stella mocked.

“No thank you—just my normal life span will do for me; I don’t know what Trish feels but at five, I shouldn’t think her opinions are fully formed yet.”

“Nah, better wait until she’s seven for that,” Stella joked.

“Yeah, ask her on her way to enrolling at Oxford.”

“I thought she wanted to go to Sussex.”

“Why?”

“Because her mother went there.”

“She’s cleverer than I was, she could get to Oxford if she really wanted to.”

“Or Cambridge.”

“Yeah, I suppose.” I agreed though Oxford was a lot closer to visit to see her, than the frozen reaches of East Anglia.

The girls returned with Puddin’ safely intact in her pram, and judging by the roses in their cheeks it was getting colder. Stella took her baby and went to feed her, while I answered the door to the pizza delivery. They seemed to get more expensive each time—but after a day like today, I didn’t fancy cooking much.

Tom was out at a university dinner—the academic council or some such group—universities are full of these self-important groups, and because they gossip about any and everyone, it’s important not to miss out. Those who do, often end up having coups being staged against them. Tom was quite safe, but even so, he thought he’d better go. It saved me making him something anyway, and it made sure he got his dinner suit cleaned.

He did suggest taking me as his guest, but I wasn’t ready for that degree of plotting yet—I’m quite naive, if you haven’t noticed. Besides, half of those present have something wrong with them, so they’d be sucking me dry of energy. I was still tired from healing on Julie after the attack.

We decided not to tell the other kids about the abduction: it would upset Trish very much, and perhaps frighten the others. I had to read to the girls, because I hadn’t seen much of them while Julie consulted Stephanie in Tom’s study.

Then I had to read to the boys—well actually, they each read to me. I felt sure that they were improving through practice. They were still a bit slow, but they were improving. I had them reading Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol.

To make sure they understood what they were reading, I asked them questions and they certainly did understand it. They were quite worried at one point about Tiny Tim, and concerned for Scrooge during the dreams of various Christmases. For boys, they seemed quite tender-hearted and I hoped that wasn’t unduly influenced by living in a house of women.

I made a mental note to get Simon to play football or something with them at the weekend—or maybe get Leon to do it. I wanted them to be balanced individuals, so they needed a masculine influence—Tom was perhaps a bit too old and he was a very gentle man. Having said that, on the few occasions he’d had to tell them off—they’d been reduced to tears and I don’t think that was purely his Scots accent.

Stephanie stayed after I sent Julie to bed—promising to come up and tuck her in later—Julie I mean, not Stephanie.

“She’s a tough cookie,” said Stephanie over a cup of Tom’s coffee.

“I know—if I’d had someone try to cut my throat, I’d be in a psyche ward.”

“She said she knew you would save her.”

“How could she know that?” I blushed.

“He did cut her throat, didn’t he?”

“If he had, she’d be dead.”

“Not if you’re about, apparently.”

“With the greatest respect, Steph, that doesn’t make sense. She’d bleed to death in minutes.”

“She said she saw the blood splash out of her throat and she felt the cut, too—said it hurt. Then she saw you bathed in this wonderful golden light which shimmered all round you, and she felt the throat heal itself—it went icy cold and she could breathe again.”

“Interesting what shock can do,” I said hoping Stephanie would be misdirected.

“Obviously in your case it makes you tell fibs.”

“I beg your pardon?” I challenged.

“Cathy, you rub your nose when you lie—it’s a common thing. I know all about the mystery healer—and some of the things you’ve done. Whilst dealing with severed carotids and jugulars is perhaps your greatest triumph so far, you’ve done some amazing things with tumours and ruptured spleens and things.

“You know, it’s a good job you weren’t present in the Middle East two thousand years ago, we’d be practicing Cathyism.” She laughed at her own joke.

“God forbid,” I gasped.

“For an unbeliever, that’s a strange exhortation.”

“Yes, Dr Caudwell, no, Dr Cauldwell, three bags full, Dr Cauldwell. You can switch off your trick cyclist sign now—I stopped paying when Julie went to bed.”

“Ah—truly fascinating patients I see for nothing—then I write papers on them.”

“Oh yeah, if you’re thinking about doing one on me—think again, missus.”

“But it would be wonderful.”

“In what way?”

“The lengths you go to in denying things.”

“Meeeee?” I complained.

“I’ll bet you tell people you’re a lousy cyclist, too.”

“I am.”

“See what I mean.”

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 909

I was pleased to hear the hippopotamus was recaptured, if only because I knew someone would try and record it for the mammal survey. I’m half-expecting someone to send in sightings of big cats—apparently there’s one been seen in Dorset recently—which probably means, an overgrown tabby was seen by a short-sighted elderly, vicar as he drove past it at eighty miles an hour after dark.

I’d found Julie in my bed last night and she had clung to me in her sleep—she’d also had at least one nightmare of being killed by her father. I’m going to get a restraining order against her parents—I’ve left a note to remind me to call Rushton Henstridge to organise it.

I got up early because I was too hot in bed—so it’s five o’clock and I’m sat here in my nightdress, fiddling on my laptop and dealing with survey stuff and drinking tea. Tom will be up in an hour, so I’d better get a move on because I won’t get much done when he comes down. He’ll tell me all about his meeting and dinner and then walk the dog before he has his breakfast.

I’ve also made a shopping list of groceries we need—I’ll have to go to Asda or Tesco in case the other supermarket worries Julie. She told me he bundled her into the boot of his car—why nobody intervened or at least called the police is astonishing. I can’t believe no one saw it.

I must make some bread as well—if I put the machine on next it could be ready for breakfast. So that’s what I did. The only qualm being, if they smell fresh bread at breakfast—they won’t eat the old first. If that was my only dilemma I’d be made.

Simon phoned just before I went to bed—I explained what had happened and he got very exercised about it—and told me off for getting involved. If I hadn’t, I think Kemp might have killed Julie anyway and perhaps himself after. I can’t believe he isn’t upset by what he thinks he’s done—in which case, serves him right. His wife will probably go to her grave believing she’s completely right in everything. Oh well, she’d be resistant to any form of rehabilitation—so she can deal with her misery by herself.

Sometimes I wonder what could possibly happen next—but then with an Israeli hit squad killing some bloke in Dubai, with a plot straight out of a Freddie Forsythe spy thriller—shows it’s not just Portsmouth that’s going crazy. Also, the so-called woman assassin—could she be a man in disguise? Why not, the whole thing is so bizarre?”

I heard Tom come down and switch on the coffee maker—I think I’ve mentioned he likes it strong—it’s like the stuff that flows down the Severn Estuary after heavy rain in the Welsh mountains—viz. mud.

“Och, ye’re up early?”

“Yeah, I couldn’t sleep—too much flying round my head, so I’ve done a couple of hours work on the survey.”

“I ken whit I meant to telt ye…”

I thought, here we go—memoirs of a university gossip—but it wasn’t. He had a student apply for the ecology course, who was a transitioning male to female—planned on making the change as soon as he left home. Apparently, the applicant had heard that someone at Portsmouth had done so with the blessing of the university and wondered if they would consider doing it again.

“Can I cope with another one?” I asked him. I had two under my roof—did I want one on my course as well? The answer was of course, yes—but only if they are academically up to it. I also suggested an interview might be useful—sometimes these kids are even more naive than I am—they think about how nice it’ll be to wear skirts and makeup whenever they want—unaware that most female students don’t wear either much of the time.

Tom agreed, he’d set quite a high entry requirement of A and two Bs minimum. I said I’d have to get involved anyway, but would prefer for it not to be disclosed at this stage. He agreed. I got another half hour’s work done while he walked the dog, then I went and showered away some of the tiredness before I woke the kids up.

For a change I bathed the girls—Julie came to see what all the giggles were about, and helped me dry them, before she went off and showered herself. I thought I’d keep an eye on her for the next few days as Stephanie had suggested. She was going to call by in a few days to see her again. I hope Julie appreciates the special treatment she’s getting.

I quite like Stephanie, she’s completely barking—as one expects of a psychiatrist, but I think I’d like to cultivate her as a friend. I’ll see where it takes us, but maybe a shopping trip or something would be a useful idea.

The girls came down for breakfast and Julie rounded up the boys and brought them down. You wouldn’t think she’d been abducted yesterday—if anything she seems even more normal than usual.

She dried the girl’s hair while I made loads of toast and poured bowls of cereal. They all seemed to enjoy themselves. Danny cracked me up—“I think, I’m gonna grow my hair, Mummy, so Julie can style it for me.”

“Yeah, it would look nice with a strawberry-blonde top knot,” she replied.

Billy thought that was hilarious, and they ended up punching each other on the arm until I intervened and threatened to bang their heads together. Once they all stopped giggling—boys and girls, the boys blushing as well, breakfast resumed.

After dropping the girls at school, I asked Julie if she was up to visiting a supermarket—she said she was as long as I didn’t lock her in the boot. I wasn’t sure how much of this was bravado and how much was how she really felt.

We did Tesco and I stayed with her the whole time. We did all right until we got to the checkouts and some bloke a couple of checkouts over looked a bit like her dad. She grabbed my arm and shivered with fear. I was on the verge of abandoning the shopping when it was our turn. Somehow we managed to get through the checkout—with the woman on the till asking if Julie was okay. I passed it off by saying she’d been in an accident yesterday and wasn’t over it yet—but my husband was away and I needed the shopping. Her hostility melted away and she hoped Julie was better soon.

Turned out the woman behind us had a friend who suffered from post traumatic stress thingy—and he’d been treated by some psychologist in Southampton. I explained we couldn’t go near Southampton because Julie had been traumatised by a hippopotamus, when she was a baby.

Julie began to smirk at this, which thankfully the woman didn’t see.

“I thought they caught that one?”

“Ah, this was a pink one.”

“I thought they were grey?” she challenged.

“They are generally—but the pink ones are the most dangerous.”

“They are? I don’t believe you.”

“In our case they were—she nearly choked on it.”

“She nearly choked on it? Don’t you mean the hippo nearly choked on her?”

“No, I know what I mean—I am her mother after all.”

“You must have been young when you had her then—you look more like sisters.”

“I was ten when she was born.”

“You’re joking? Ten when she was born.”

“I was.”

“Now I know you’re lying.”

“I’m not actually, I’m ten years older than her.”

A small group of eavesdroppers collected round us and what had started as a joke became slightly threatening to Julie—especially as the man from the other checkout queue had come to listen to the entertainment.

“I have to go, I have a whole crocodile to cook,” I said and before she could say anything, I pushed the trolley and pulled Julie with me. “Come along granddaughter,” I said loudly.

Once back in the car—Julie howled with laughter, before bursting into tears and requiring a hug from me before we could go home.

At this rate, I’m only going to be able to shop in Asda or Sainsbury’s.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 910

I settled Julie down with a cup of chocolate and her book, lying on the sofa in the dining room while I fiddled about on the computer or made phone calls. I’d discussed the restraining order with Mr Henstridge, and he came back to me, saying the police had already told both Julie’s parents that if they came anywhere near Julie or her foster siblings, there would be big trouble. I asked him to get it in writing and to discover if they were well insured—because if they got it wrong without the formal order from a court—I would sue and big time.

“Remind me not to cross you, Lady Cameron.”

“Why should that happen?”

“It was a throwaway remark—nothing else. The adoptions should be through by Easter”—damn, I suppose I ought to organise the trip to Stanebury and the wedding blessing. I’ve got so many bodies to get organised for bridesmaid’s dresses, and the boys—I think we’ll have them in kilts—if they’ll wear them. I know Simon will, so will Henry and Tom. I’ll speak with them when they come home.

More importantly, I needed to speak with Stella—I had to get a wedding dress plus organise the day—she could do much of that for me, especially as she knows the local Stanebury scene far better than I do.

“Julie—this probably sounds strange, but would you like to be a bridesmaid?”

“What me?” her squeak was so high pitched that only the dog and next door’s cat would have been able to hear her properly. “Who’s getting married?”

“No one.”

“Oh—what do you need bridesmaids for, then?”

“It’s a wedding blessing.”

“Oh—okay, when and where?”

“Probably May sometime, and in Scotland.”

“Never been to Scotland, who’s gettin’ blessed?”

“Simon and I.”

“Wow—kewl, like, count me in.”

“I’m going to need some help in organising it too, Auntie Stella will probably be the major planner, but we’ll need some help organising dresses and things with the girls, getting kilts for the boys and so on.”

“Sounds really fun.”

“I hope the day will be, the idea of organising it makes me want to hide.”

“I’ll do anything I can to like, help.” She sounded very enthusiastic and put her book down. “Have you got a dress in mind?”

“Not yet—I think I know what I’m prepared to wear, but whether I’ll find it, is another matter.

“What colour—white?”

“I fancy a pearl white silk.”

“Ooh that sounds lovely, Mummy—what sort of shape?”

We discussed bridal gowns for the next half an hour until I got lunch. Stella had gone out—usually she leaves a note but today she didn’t. I hadn’t noticed her car was missing—until I saw it coming back up the drive, then winced when she parked it next to mine. As far as I could see, she hadn’t actually hit my car, but then she had to move hers because she was so close she couldn’t open the door.

I swear she smells the teapot. We had a salad lunch and Julie mentioned the wedding blessing. Stella’s face it up and she said, “You’ve set a date then?”

“No, we need to organise that plus dresses for bridesmaids and bride.”

“And kilts,” added Julie.

“For the bridesmaids? Well it would be different anyhow—that’s about all you could say for it.”

“No for the boys,” said Julie rocking with laughter.

“Oh—of course,” Stella blushed and tittered at the same time thereby suggesting some of us can indeed, multi-task, safely.

We were still talking about dresses—partly with help from the Internet and my laptop, when Stella said, “Bridesmaids.”

As we were looking at bridal gowns, I challenged her—“No, brides?”

“No, silly, bridesmaids—go and collect them—look at the time.”

I glanced at the clock and almost dropped the computer on the floor before rushing to grab my bag and coat, closely followed by Julie.

Once safely in a speeding car—if that doesn’t sound too Oirish—I asked her why she wasn’t staying with Stella and talking about wedding arrangements? Her reply was simple—“If I have anymore, I’ll be diabetic by tea time.”

“Much of it is sickly sweet—but I know Trish loves it, so will Mima and Livvie.”

“I s’pose I should too, given how much I’ve always wanted to be a bridesmaid—but, it’s all frills and froth and no substance.” I think I was listening to a proto-feminist, but if she says, womyn, I’ll throw her out of the car.

“That does surprise me,” I said smiling—knowing it was reflecting my own feelings.

“Oh on one level, it’s like, wunnerful—but on another, it’s demeaning for women. It’s great for five year olds, but for older women, it’s juvenile.”

Suddenly this child was talking like an adult—why? Can’t have been associating with adults or giant intellects, because we’re all crazy and spend much of our time teasing each other, so it’s rather like a girl’s public school. Nine o’clock lights out—ten o’clock candles out, ha ha—yes, well, maybe a girl’s preparatory school?

By the time we got to the convent, three young ladies were standing with the headmistress all trying to look casual about my lateness. Then Mima spotted us approaching and came rushing over to greet us, quickly followed by two other skirted bodies—ponytails swinging as they ran.

“Problems, Lady Cameron?” asked Sister Marie.

“Nothing serious—the traffic added to the delay, I’m afraid.”

“And who is this young lady?” asked the headmistress of Julie.

“This, Sister Marie, is Julie Kemp, who is staying with us for the foreseeable future.”

“Ah, I see.”

“Julie, this is Sister Marie, torturer in chief at this educational establishment.

“Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition ,” she said and began to laugh at the Monty Python gag line—I of course laughed until I had tears down my cheeks. The three girls and Julie looked on in bewilderment. Looks like I need to trawl YouTube and see if the sketch is viewable, it should be, it’s a comedy classic.

“Mummy—what you and Sista Mawee waughin’ at?” asked Meems as we drove home.

“Just a silly programme that used to be on television some years ago.”

“Did you wike it?”

“Most of the time—it was very funny sometimes.”

“Can we see it?”

“I don’t know if you’d understand very much of it, it’s really for older children and grown-ups. If you remind me after dinner, I’ll see if some of it is on the Internet so you can get an idea of what we used to laugh at.”

“Is that, Monty Python?” Julie asked as we inched our way through the traffic.

“Yes—it was called, Monty Python’s Flying Circus though it neither flew nor was a circus.”

“That’s siwwy,” sighed Meems.

“Yes it was very silly,” I agreed.

Once we got home I set to in the kitchen to get dinner ready—pork chops, the girls went off to search the Internet for Monty Python on Trish’s computer. Several times I heard them laughing and once or twice they weren’t very impressed.

I managed to corner the boys who were doing their homework and they reluctantly agreed to wear kilts. “That’s like wearing a skirt,” complained Danny.

“It’d go well with your strawberry blond top knot,” I teased.

“You could be a bridesmaid then,” said Billy and they began slapping each other on the arm again. When the slapping became punching, I stopped it.

“Any more of this fisticuffs and both of you will be bridesmaids,” I threatened, “in frilly pink dresses and high heels.”

“Aaarghh,” they both squealed and ran away. I assumed that was an end to the matter and they’d wear kilts. Cameron tartan I presume, but I’m not sure whose tartan is used, the bride or groom’s. Another job for Stella to find out, if Tom doesn’t know, of course.

I dipped the chops in egg yolk and dusted them with sage and onion stuffing, before grilling them. The potatoes were new, boiled ones with cabbage and carrots and whole green beans. Dessert was a cop out, some yoghurt—homemade—I think there’s enough for the kids, with some strawberries—again, just enough for the children.

I called Trish to lay the table, asked the boys to wash their hands, and Julie to round all the youngsters up. Tom came in as I was dishing up and Stella came down with loads of bits of paper about wedding gowns. I had to stop her until after I told the girls what was going on. I wouldn’t do that until tomorrow—tonight they’d be so excited, they wouldn’t sleep.

I let them watch a bit of Mamma Mia video before I put the kids to bed. The girls went quietly and I read a bit to them. The boys also went quietly when I asked which of them was wearing a kilt and who was wearing the bridesmaid dress—as we seemed to have a spare one. We didn’t, but they didn’t know that.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 911

The next morning I told the girls about the wedding blessing and they were so excited they were virtually uncontrollable. They all wanted to go trying on dresses and so forth, and I really began to wish I hadn’t agreed to it.

Simon was coming home that day, Saturday, so he’d now be on my case as well. Maybe I could divorce him and become a hermit somewhere in a cave, far away from anyone else. Yeah, a cave in a forest where I could look for dormice and avoid people.

Why did I have to raise the matter of the wedding blessing? Mainly because I thought one of the Camerons would if I didn’t. After breakfast Leon arrived and I asked him to do a bit of tidying in the garden and if the two boys helped, they could do a bike ride after lunch.

Julie offered to help in the garden, but I told her that I had other plans for her. We changed half the beds between us, and Trish and Livivie put the bedding in the machine. I’d given them very precise instructions of how much powder and conditioner to use, and how many bits of bedding to do per wash.

Simon arrived as we were in the middle of it, with Livvie carrying armfuls of washing down the stairs and Trish measuring out cups of detergent and conditioner. Mima was busy emptying the dishwasher and Stella was putting the stuff away, and the house was filled with the aroma of fresh bread—the second loaf, I’d baked that morning.

Simon had been at a banquet or something last night—he did tell me what, not that I’m worried—I trust him, as he does me; so he looked quite tired when he arrived. He stood in the hallway watching our industry and sighing with admiration.

“Hello, darling,” I said spotting him, I walked straight up to him and kissed him. He sighed and hugged me.

“It was an awful bloody night, the food was horrible and the speeches interminable. I’d much rather have been at home with you and the girls.”

“Don’t forget the boys—they’re here for the long ride, too.”

“Of course—but, I do tend to forget them, I’m sorry.”

“Hello, Daddy,” said Meems finding Simon in the hall.

“Daaaadddeeeee,” whooped my other two child labourers when they heard Mima greeting her daddy. I stood back and he was hit by a landslide of girlery, giggling and demanding his attention. I slipped into the kitchen and switched the kettle on.

Once the initial welcoming tidal wave had been weathered, Simon, Stella, Julie and I had a cuppa and quick chat—then he went upstairs and changed into his workaday clothes and went out to see the boys in the garden.

The girls would have gone too if I’d let them, instead I had them dusting and vacuuming while I made a large pot of soup. I’m sure everyone must think that’s all I can cook, but it is quick and filling. I did a chicken-based one this time, with pasta and loads of vegetables—the nice thing is that I can get it going from start to finish and ready for eating in less than an hour.

I got Julie to load the breadmaker, after she removed the previous loaf, and to pop it on again. She hadn’t done it before—Trish was wanting to do it, but she has, and I wanted Julie to learn—I also had her help me with the soup, so again she was learning some homemaker skills.

In fact, Julie did most of it, so when the boys said it tasted good, she could take the credit for it—much to Trish’s chagrin. Which is what happened—the boys, well Leon and Simon—said it was good, and Julie took all the credit. Trish burst into tears and ran off from the table.

I called her back but she refused to come. I walked her back to the table much to everyone’s embarrassment and made her sit down again. “Now, what do you say?”

“I’m sorry,” she sniffed, “May I leave the table, Mummy?”

“Yes, sweetheart.”

She ran off again, still sniffing.

The boys went off to change for cycling, and Julie asked if she go could with them. I told her if she behaved herself, she could. She went to change and to borrow one of my helmets as well as one of my bikes.

“What was all that with Trish?” asked Simon.

“Jealousy, she wanted to say she’d cooked the meal—but it was Julie’s turn to learn.”

“Oh, too many women in the same kitchen”—he smirked.

“Not at all, I gave her another job to do and she did it very well. If you want to cheer her up, say how clean the carpets look—she did the vacuuming.”

“I’ll do that. What’s this about a wedding? Someone we know?”

“No,” I said and smirked.

“So who’s borrowing our kids for bridesmaids, and the boys said they were having to wear kilts.”

I shook my head, “You are tired, Si, aren’t you?”

“Oh God, Stanebury—you’ve finally got round to setting a date?”

“Not quite, but I’m getting there.”

“It’s funny, but I’d forgotten all about it—we seem to have been married forever.”

“I know, terrible isn’t it—however, I promised the girls they could be bridesmaids, and once I set the date, I have to see if I can find the other little girl whom I promised a chance to be one too.”

“Oh in the hospital?”

“Yeah, have to look and see where I put her name and address.”

“Haven’t you asked her yet?” Simon seemed surprised.

“What’s the point—I haven’t sorted out a date yet, have I?”

“Oh, I see—well, you’d better pull your finger out, hadn’t you?”

If I hadn’t seen the twinkle in his eye, I’d have punched him on the nose.

“I see—I thought I’d better consult with my husband, you know—he’s an awkward sod, and is likely to be pre-booked for something else.”

“Like that, is it—have you thought of divorcing him?”

“Yeah, loads of times—but if we split everything down the middle, what am I going to do with all these ‘haploid’ children?”

“Haploid?”

“Well if we divide them properly, he’ll get one set of their chromosomes and I’ll get the other.”

“That completely, eh?”

“Absolutely.”

“Remind me not to marry you,” he said and got up from the table.

“So are we gonna continue living in sin then?” I called after him.

“No—I’ll go back to my first wife.”

“Okay, want me to get you a cab?”

“Yeah—better warn the harem first, ask them to sprinkle a few drops of water on each one of my wives.”

“I know I’m going to hate asking this, but why would they sprinkle water on them?”

“The first one who sizzles, she’s the one I sleep with tonight.”

Oh well, I was quite right about one thing—I wished I hadn’t asked—corny or what? I waited until he’d gone upstairs to the bedroom and pressed the intercom on the phone.

“Hello?”

“It’s your first wife,” I said.

“Oh put her on.”

“Hello, Simon?”

“Yes, darling?”

“I’ve been talking with your other wives.”

“Oh yes—and?”

“We’d like a pay rise—or a divorce.”

“Um—why?”

“Why not?”

“Fair enough—how much?”

“A bonus of a couple of million, should be enough.”

“I see, is that all?”

“Plus more conjugal rights.”

“If we divorce?” he queried.

“Only up until the divorce—then after the settlement, we’ll be able to buy in conjugal from Tesco or someone.”

“I’d try Marks and Spencer, if I were you, or Waitrose.”

“Good thinking,” I replied, “they’d give money back if not one hundred per cent satisfied.”

“Sounds good to me, could you ask my current wife to come up?”

“I suppose so—can I ask what for?”

“So I can sh—um, so we can make love while the kids are out.”

“The girls are still in, and I was going to take them for a bike ride.”

“Can’t Julie do that?”

“She’s just gone out with the boys.”

“Bloody women.”

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 912

I managed to convince Simon that he needed a bike ride as much as the girls did, and seeing as we’d have Meems, Trish and Livvie riding with us, he decided he could cope with the pace. The last time he rode he got knocked off his bike by a white van, so his reluctance was understandable.

To give Meems a chance, she rode on the trailer bike, on the back of my Scott; Si rode his Tarmac and the two older girls their Barbie bikes. We probably did a mile or so before little legs began to get tired and then we turned back along the cycle path and headed home.

At least we all got a bit of fresh air and a sort of leg stretch, but on twenty-inch wheels, and little legs—a mile can seem a long way. Livvie was whingeing a bit before we got home, but the promise of an ice-lolly cheered her up when we got there.

When the boys got back, I was making dinner—a pasta dish, with tuna and white sauce which I did with some mushroom soup. Again, it was for quickness as much as anything, and it was on the table an hour after we got home.

This time Trish got to help me in the kitchen, so her temper improved—and she made the fruit salad almost entirely by herself. I even let her whip the cream—yeah, forty lashes—with my hand blender.

Julie was still flirting with Leon, but less obviously than before. I did mention she needed to be careful offering something she couldn’t deliver. She then completely shut me up by asking how I’d coped before surgery.

I blushed profusely—we were alone in the kitchen, supposedly bringing through the food—“I, um, didn’t flirt, that’s how I coped.”

“So how did you develop your boy catching skills?” she continued.

“Boy catching skills? I don’t think I have any.”

“Well you caught Daddy, and I saw you in action with Dr Sage, you were pretty hot then—for him anyway,” she said and tittered, enjoying my floundering.

“Hot for him—good gracious, Julie, I’m a happily married woman.”

“Yeah—but you do like him, don’t you?”

“He’s very good looking, I’ll grant you that…”

“Who is?” said Simon behind me—the pasta nearly went over the floor as I jumped.

“Nobody, darling.” My face felt so warm, I’m sure it was hotter than the actual pasta.

“Don’t believe her, Daddy, she’s got the hots for Dr Sage, the wildlife officer.”

Julie poked her tongue out at me as my mouth opened and closed without saying anything. I was thinking that the next time someone cuts her throat, it stays cut; in fact it was likely to be me—little cow she is.

“Wildlife officer? What’s one of those when he’s about?” asked Simon, who seemed to be equally enjoying my discomfort.

“You know, he’s there if you want some, like—wild life,” Julie twisted the screw.

“He’s the field officer for Natural England; he’s involved with the survey.”

“Yeah—for like, a romp in the field,” Julie winked at me then left before I could put her down.

“Cheeky little madam,” I snorted picking up the baking dish.

“I’d like to meet him, if my wife fancies him.”

“Simon, it isn’t like that—I’m happily married—to you, remember?”

“It’s not me who has to remember it—is it?”

“Hang on a minute—” I put down the dish and grabbed his arm.

“You are choosing to believe the silly games of an adolescent girl over the word of your wife?”

“No, I believe my wife—but if this guy is a dishy as you seem to think, I’d like to check out the opposition.”

“What opposition? Stella and I had a flirting competition while the poor man was here. That was it. I’ve been to a meeting with him since and it was pure business. He’s a very decent man and I like him, but I love you—so that’s all I have to say about it.”

He didn’t say anything, he made me put down the dish once again before he grabbed me, pulled me to him and kissed me aggressively, forcing his tongue into my mouth. Lower down, something else was pushing against me too—I guess he was pleased to see me.

“You’re mine,” he said and released me before walking back to the dining room, and this time I did manage to carry the dish to the table—albeit on shaky legs and cheeks burning. Julie was so going to pay for her cheek.

After dinner, while Julie and Leon were whispering to each other, I decided to act. “Here’s your money, Leon, we don’t need you tomorrow, so we’ll see you next week—okay?”

Julie’s expression fell several storeys hitting the ground with a grumble. “Aw, Mummy, you’re rotten.”

I smiled a false smile at her before Tom wiped it off my face. “Aye we dae, Leon, can ye help me with yon vegetable patch, tomorrow?”

“Of course, Professor.”

“Well, I’d like tae get it dug over and some muck spread on it. Guid man,” he went back to the dining room and his conversation with Simon—they were talking about cars or something.

“Ha ha,” Julie poked her tongue out at me.

“Fine, see you tomorrow then, Leon, Julie and I have some shopping to do—so it’s just as well you’ll have plenty to do.” I smiled sweetly at them both and waited for him to go. As she went to escort him to the door, I told her to go and unload the dishwasher, I’d see Leon off.

She stalked off swearing at me under her breath, which I chose not to hear. Two can play at being a bitch—and I have a bit more practice, as well as status.

I saw Leon off, knowing he’d clear off and come back and she’d be out the kitchen door as soon as my back was turned. I could have exercised more power—but I’d made my point, now she’d have to give him a quick peck and a grope and dash back into the house, before she thought I’d missed her.

Why do teenagers think we’re all stupid? Do they forget, we’ve all been teens ourselves? And okay, I wasn’t as devious as she is—but that’s probably because I didn’t waken to the attractions of men as sex partners until later. Naive doesn’t begin to describe it—comatose might.

The game is all about keeping her safe, because teens take risks—they can’t see danger, especially when their hormones start pumping—so that’s my job. I’m glad it’s Leon she’s using as practice material—I can talk with him, well, as much as I can with any young man—I also suspect he won’t do her any harm, and he knows her situation.

What will happen when the two boys grow a bit older—they call themselves brothers and sisters, but they’re not, however much they want to be. Will there be attractions between them and the two remaining girls—Leon demonstrating that having slight plumbing problem isn’t necessarily a hindrance to attraction. I suppose my own history reflects that with Simon—he still loved me even though he knew I was incomplete—and he kindly waited for that to happen. Then—Simon is a special sort of man—which is one of the reasons I love him so much.

“What’s this about your car stopping and starting all the time?” Simon asked.

“It’s stopped doing it now,” I replied

“Why’s that?”

“How do I know? I’m a biologist not an engineer.”

“A biologist who can take a bike apart and put it back together.”

“So—? I’m cute too, but I don’t hear you complaining about it,” I decided I was going to be sassy this evening.

“It’s haunted,” said Julie, looking flustered from her stolen liaison.

“Haunted?” Simon’s eyes almost popped right out of his head.

“Yeah—it breaks down when it wants her to do something,” having thrown this grenade into the room, Julie disappeared upstairs, leaving me to persuade Simon that there was nothing wrong with the car.

“I’ve got the chance to swap it for an A class,” he threw at me, “But if there’s nothing wrong with it…”

“A Mercedes like I had before?”

“Yeah, a couple of months old—ex demonstrator.”

“Oh this one is a real pain, yeah you need to change it really—totally unreliable…” I did like my little Merc.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 913

“You worry too much,” was Simon’s verdict when I tried to explain my concerns over Julie’s behaviour.

“I don’t—I can accept the challenging of boundaries and authority, that’s what adolescence is all about, but I do get worried by her sex drive.”

“Didn’t you ever sneak out for a quick fondle behind the bike sheds?”

“No, I didn’t.”

“Not even at uni?”

“No,” I was beginning to feel some sort of freak.

“I suppose you’d have had difficulty kissing the boys, but you could have groped the odd girl quite legitimately.”

“Simon, I didn’t grope anyone—and when we first went out, you did all the groping if you remember?”

I couldn’t see him in the dark, but I suspect he might have blushed—a little, but then knowing Simon, maybe he didn’t—I know I would have.

“Can’t remember that far back—anyway, what’s it matter? I suppose you’re going to tell me I was the first man you’d ever kissed?”

“I know I’m a saddo, but yes you were the first man I kissed—maybe not the first one who kissed me.” I recalled the explosive effect the garage mechanic had upon me, and my heart quickened.

“What are you thinking about?” he asked rubbing his hand on my thigh.

“How we’re going to deal with Julie.” I was half fibbing but he didn’t know that.

“I’ll leave that to you to sort out, good cop bad cop routine.”

“Which are you going to be?” I asked him

“Neither, I think you’re probably schizoid enough to do both—I’ll be the flying squad, I’ll deal with any noxious boyfriends.”

“How come it’s always my problem, when we have troubles with the kids?”

“It isn’t, but you’re better at it than I am. If you remember, I did stop Trish making obscene phone calls.”

“What? Trish doesn’t make obscene phone calls.”

“See, I was quite effective.” I could feel the bed quiver as he laughed at his own joke. He fondled my breast and, I moved his hand away.

“I’m not in the mood—I’m still worried.”

“Just relax, it’s what Dr Simon ordered.”

“For whom?” I challenged.

“Okay, think about a silver grey A class.” He moved his hand back to my breast and I let him keep it there. Some example I was to my charges—whore in chief, selling my body for a new car. Should I lay back and think of Mercedes?

“Simon, I think you should have a chat with Julie and tell her off a bit.”

“What am I supposed to say? Cathy’s getting neurotic because you’ve developed faster than she did?”

“That’s not very nice.”

“I’m sorry—but just because you were anally retentive doesn’t mean everyone else is.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Well you were up-tight about sex for ages before it happened.”

“With good reason—my body didn’t fit with my aspirations.”

“Which were?”

“I wanted you.”

“You got me.”

“No, I wanted you as a woman, I wanted you to come inside me, and make me your woman.”

“Not sure what you mean.”

Is he completely stupid—he is a banker—so he could be? I thought I explained myself fairly clearly.

“I don’t understand how you can’t understand what I meant.” He can’t be that stupid can he?

“Nah—it’s no good, you’ll have to show me,” he said and the bed shaking very slightly made me realise he was winding me up again and trying to get his wicked way.

“Show you what?” Two can play the stupid card.

“How you meant—what was it, making you my woman?”

“Oh think you’ve done that—I’ve got a ring and a piece of paper to prove it.”

“Is that the one that says about love, honour and obey?”

I burst out laughing—“Which planet are you from? I’m emancipated.”

“Can’t the doctor give you pills for that—help you to shift the blockage?”

“Blockage?” I had no idea where he was going with this conversation.

“Yeah, laxatives or failing that call in a drain clearance company.”

“Laxatives?” I queried.

“Yeah, you said you were constipated, didn’t you?”

“Me? No, Simon, you’re the stuck up one.”

“You can be so hurtful, sometimes.” He seemed upset by my last remark—and I felt guilty.

“Oh c’mon, lovely man, don’t get upset, it’s just a bit of fun—I didn’t mean it.” I leant over to kiss him and he grabbed me shouted, ha ha, and began to ravish me. Damn, I fell for it again.

A while later, after my little trip to the bathroom to clean up, I went back to bed and asked him again what we should do about Julie.

“Uh?” he said sleepily.

“Julie—you know, our teenage charge—her with the turbo libido.”

“She’s too young to drive,” he muttered, “I’ll get her a scooter.”

“How is that answering my question?”

“Yes,” he said and drifted off to sleep.

Bloody men—once they get what they want, they lose interest. I decided I’d try and discuss rationally with Julie what was acceptable and by converse the unacceptable to me. Yeah, I know rational conversation and teenager doesn’t exactly go together, and I know I was a bit slow in my own development, and maybe I am a bit anal about it all—but I do worry about her, which is clearly more than Simon does.

I suppose his argument is she can’t get pregnant so why worry? But she can catch all sorts of horrible diseases and get herself a bad reputation, not to mention violence from anyone who doesn’t appreciate her little anatomical problem.

In some ways I should be grateful for Leon, at least he knows and seems happy with it—I just worry about when the hormones get the better of them, will they lose control and—and what? That’s the problem. I need to speak with her.

I tossed and turned all night—why was this worrying me so much? Doesn’t it say more about me than her? Here I am seven o’clock on a Sunday morning waiting to talk with my teenage ‘daughter’ about the facts of life. Oh boy, I must be a lousy mother.

I sat with a cup of tea in the kitchen—thinking that she wouldn’t be up for another three hours, so if I was that tired, why didn’t I go back to my bed? I couldn’t sleep if I did.

Much to my astonishment, I heard footsteps and Julie came into the kitchen. “Hello, Mummy—you’re up early?”

“Yeah, I couldn’t sleep, why are you up?” I said this whilst trying to suppress my surprise.

“I had another nightmare—the knife one, again.”

“Oh, sweetheart,” I felt tears in my eyes as I hugged her and felt her sobbing against my shoulder. “He can’t hurt you again, we won’t let him.”

“I know, Mummy, but it’s in my head and it won’t go away,” she sobbed, “How can your own father hurt you like that?”

“I don’t know, sweetheart, but we won’t let him do it again.”

“I love you, Mummy; you will protect me, won’t you?”

“Of course I will, we’re your family now—we all love you and will help to protect you. The police have told him to stay away from you, so they’ll pick him up in an instant if he doesn’t.”

“How can I get him out of my head, Mummy?”

“Only by realising that he can’t hurt you again.”

“But he’d have to be dead for that—wouldn’t he?”

“No—just keep in your heart and your head that you’re under our roof now; you’re part of our family; we won’t let anything happen to you—I promise.”

I held her long enough for my tea to go cold and my mind to realise that she was still a child and despite her pretence at normality—she had a long way to go before she dealt with all her demons. Maybe, playing up to men is a way of keeping someone who might defend her, on board. Oh boy—this all gets more and more complicated—it puts the worry about changing my car into some sort of perspective—like bottom of the pile.

Let’s get Julie sorted out first before the next crisis looms—gee whizz, someone must have wished me an interesting life—but even by those standards, I’ve surely had enough, haven’t I? Maybe I should be teaching courses on crisis management—not that I’m very good at it—simply a survivor—so far.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 914

“Do I have to go shopping with you?”

“You don’t have to, but I was hoping a new outfit would cheer you up.”

“I thought you meant to the supermarket—I like, remember that man who looked like…”

“No, I can do the supermarket tomorrow, but we’ll need more bread—this horde devours it almost before it’s out of the machine.”

“It is nice bread, Mummy, better than the shop bought stuff.”

“Okay, c’mon, you make up the next batch and I’ll make us some tea.”

She nodded and went over to the machine, then back to the sink and washed her hands—I was pleased she’d remembered. She added all the ingredients and the water, then closed it and switched it on.

Although watching her, I did manage to make some teas and placed then on the table, she came and sat on my lap—which surprised me. This girl was full of surprises—I’d have thought it would be more productive to sit on Simon’s lap—he’s a sucker for that, especially when Trish, Livvie or Meems do it. Maybe if Julie did it, it would have a much more sexual message, and she may be a teen but she ain’t stupid.

She draped her arms around my neck and rested her head on my left shoulder, I put my arm round her back and rubbed it.

“If you hadn’t found me, Mummy, I’d be dead now.”

I felt no need to say anything, I simply held on to her.

“Like, wouldn’t I?”

“I don’t know, sweetheart—someone else would have found you and called an ambulance.”

“Yeah, but they’d have sent me back to prison.”

“Prison?” I gasped, was there something no one was telling me?

“Yeah, where he tried to kill me.”

“Your old house you mean?”

“Yeah, to me it was like prison.”

“Oh, sweetheart, no one is going to make you go back there again—I promise.”

“Thank you, Mummy.”

She shifted her position a little and draped herself sideways on my lap, then resting her head on my shoulder, she sobbed herself to sleep. I let another cuppa go cold and was still sitting there with Julie on my lap when Simon came down to see where I was.

I raised the arm which wasn’t supporting her and shrugged with my eyes.

“Is she okay?” he whispered.

“She had a bad dream,” I whispered back.

Next moment he bent down and picked her up off my lap like she was a small child, “C’mon kiddo, let’s put you back to your bed.” He carried her up to her room and with me in pursuit placed and her gently in the bed with her teddy in her arms. She curled up into a foetal position and sighed. We then pulled the duvet over her and quietly left her, closing her door behind us.

“What are you doing up?” I asked him.

“I came to find my woman—why?”

“Oh, want a cuppa?”

“If we take it back to bed—okay.”

So that’s what we did. As there was a danger of offspringus interruptus all we did was cuddle and kiss—although the way he was kissing my boobs—I was having difficulty controlling myself. When his hand went down below and rubbed something gently, while he continued to kiss my breasts—I shuddered and squealed.

“Nice?” he asked.

“Hmmm,” was all I could say, the nerve endings in my groin were buzzing.

“I’m aware I didn’t perhaps pay you as much attention last night as I might have done.”

“Oh God, that was good, Simon”

“Yeah, that was the impression I got.” He leant over to kiss me and I grabbed him and pulled him on top of me and kissed him passionately.

The girls arrived at about eight o’clock, I was dropping off to sleep nicely when cold feet and giggles assaulted my serenity. Simon, scooped them all up and took them down for breakfast and I went off to sleep.

I awoke at nearly eleven when Si brought me up a cup of tea. “I took one up to Julie as well, she asked me how she got back to bed, so I told her we carried her up and tucked her in. She kissed me on the cheek and thanked me.

“So while I was with her I told her that we were concerned for her safety, and that it wasn’t so much about being killjoys, because we’d both been young, ourselves, it was about her not biting off more than she could chew, especially given how inexperienced she was. I told her she could spend some time with Leon at weekends so long as it didn’t distract his duties here, or hers—I reminded her I was paying her.

“She seemed to take it to heart and she promised that she wouldn’t do anything silly, even with someone as relatively safe as Leon. She also said, that she loved staying with us, and that you were the first real mother she’d ever had. She loves you to bits—you know that, don’t you?”

“Thank you, darling, and for letting me sleep on a bit. You’ve been really nice this morning.”

“I am every morning,” he pouted.

“Okay, extra nice today, and I appreciate it.”

“I hope you still feel the same tonight,” he winked.

“Have you been at the Viagra again?” I joked.

“Oh dear, does it show?”

I glanced down at his trousers—“Nah, not especially,” sniggering as he looked dumbfounded.

“You rotten cow,” he said and pretended to take the tea away.

“Oh c’mon, Si, I’ve made three cups so far and not tasted one of them.

“Apologise then,” he pretended to be full of indignation.

“I’m sorry, darling, I didn’t mean to insult you.”

“It’s not me you should apologise to, it’s Little Simon.”

How I kept a straight face I’ll never know, but staring straight at his groin I said, “I’m so sorry liddle widdle winky poos.”

“Now you’re being silly,” he huffed.

“Gimme the tea or Little Simon doesn’t get it.”

“Are you threatening me?”

I paused for a moment then said, “I’m not talking to you, I’m talking to the little guy.”

This parodied one of Simon’s favourite jokes of the blonde and the ventriloquist, so he started to laugh very loudly, then he started to shake with laughter and the only tea I got was the stuff I sponged out of the carpet afterwards.

After showering and drying my hair, I went downstairs and made a cup of tea and locked myself in the kitchen until I’d drunk it. Some days, desperate situations call for desperate measures.

Simon eventually came in after I unlocked the door, “What’re we having for Sunday lunch?”

“I dunno yet, something quick—I’ll have to do dinner this evening.”

“But I want a proper roast lunch with all the trimmings.”

“Simon, it’s quarter to twelve, if you don’t mind eating at three, I’ll do one—but he kids won’t be too happy.”

“The kids will be happy—in fact they are ecstatic.”

“Why? Have they been sniffing glue again?”

“No—we’re all going to the hotel for lunch, so get yer glad rags on, Babes.”

“You’ve booked it?”

“Yep—thought I give the little woman a couple of hours off.”

“But I was looking forward to cooking a dinner for my man,” I said turning my back and putting my face in my hands, “Now you’ve spoiled it.”

“I’m sorry, Babes—but you’re the one who slept in.”

“Only because you let me.”

“Don’t cry,” he put his hand on my shoulder and felt my body quivering.

“You bitch,” he said and I slipped out of his grasp and ran back upstairs to the bedroom.

He caught me up and pushed me onto the bed. I was still laughing. “Wanted to cook dinner for your man—my arse.”

I couldn’t talk for laughing, then he started to tickle me and before I could stop him, the inevitable happened and I had to change my panties and jeans. I got up off the bed in high dudgeon. “I told you to stop—now look what you’ve made me do.”

“’Snot my fault if you can’t control your bladder.”

“You know what happens when you tickle me,” I said angrily.

“So—what’s the big deal, you were going to change them anyway, to go for dinner.”

“That’s beside the point,” I shouted from the bathroom.

“C’mon, grow up, woman,” he called back.

“Grow up—it wasn’t you who had to sponge a mug of tea out of the bedroom carpet.”

“I thought you’d have licked that up.”

“Very funny, if I have to change, you’re not going in jeans.”

“I’m not going in jeans—but I only take two minutes to change—you take hours. C’mon, Stella and Julie already have a start on you.”

“Well I’ll stay home—I’m quite happy to have a jacket potato or even a sandwich—you take the others.”

“I will not—my wife is coming with me—even if I have to carry her there.”

“Oh yeah—you and who else’s army,” I called back—like a couple of ten year olds squaring up to each other.

“Right that does it,” I heard his feet padding towards me. “Arrghh!” he squealed as I turned the cold shower on him. He was apoplectic with rage and I couldn’t move for laughing.

“Now you know what it feels like to wet your pants.” I giggled at him.

“You, bitch,” he said before he grabbed my semi-naked body and pulled me to his dripping one and kissed me passionately.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 915

Once I’d stopped messing about with Simon, I quickly pulled on a skirt and top—the skirt was short, well above my knee and I wore opaque tights with ankle boots. I wrapped a fringed scarf round my neck, did a quick makeup job, some dangly earrings with butterflies on them, a squirt of Anais Anais and I was ready. No I wasn’t—I forgot my watch, and the bangle I was going to wear.

When I got downstairs, they all waiting for me but I do like to make an entrance. We could have done with a minibus—when you think about it, there were Si, Tom, Leon, Stella, Puddin’ and the boys, Trish, Livvie, Meems and Julie—oh and yours truly. That’s two car loads in anyone’s money.

Tom took Stella, Puddin’, Leon and Julie, and the rest of us went in my car, which Simon drove. I prayed it wouldn’t break down, and my supplication must have been heard, because it didn’t.

We got to Southsea about half past one and went straight to the restaurant—The Green Room—which is where we usually eat. Of course being the owner’s family we get first class service, but then for the prices they charge, so should everyone. In real life I couldn’t afford to eat somewhere like this, even on my pay.

We agreed to go for the à la carte, and I was pleased to see they did a roast lamb, which I opted for and thoroughly enjoyed. I passed on the sweet, although the puddings did seem particularly tempting—Simon didn’t and stuffed himself with Mississippi Mud pie. The girls opted for ice creams and Stella had a sorbet. Seeing her sorbet, I changed my mind and had one of those as well—an apple and mint one. I’m sure I have a recipe for that at home, must have a look when we get there.

Julie was in her element flirting with the waiters and other diners—she’s going to be a good looking girl when the hormones take effect and the tricks I taught her with eye makeup, she’s improved on and could probably teach me a thing or two, now.

She’d taken my advice and learned to wear tops which hinted at the delights within, without showing them, and she was thin enough to wear things with loads of lycra in them—today she had on skinny rib polo-neck, sleeveless variety, with tight miniskirt and leggings with her Uggli boots. Over the top of it all she wore a large button up shirt, with the sleeves rolled up. She’d got Stella to put her hair up and I was quite proud of the way she looked—actually, I was proud of all my kids. The boys were tidy in shirt and jeans—their best ones, Trish wore a skirt with tights and her boots, a long sleeved top concluding her dress, Livvie was in pink jeans with pink checked shirt, and Meems was wearing a dress with her ankle boots.

Simon, was smart casual with his chinos and Pringle sweater, Tom his usual self, corduroy jacket, shirt and tie and cavalry twill trousers. Occasionally he wears a suit to work, but mostly it’s sports jackets and trousers and nearly always a tie.

After eating, it was by now half past three, we opted to take a stroll—the weather was cold but dry—along the sea front. It was even colder when we got back to the hotel and collected the cars.

As Simon and Tom had had a drink, I drove my car and Stella drove Tom’s home, dropping Leon home en route—so we were home first.

“Leon didn’t ride over in those clothes did he?” I asked Simon.

“No, Tom ran him home to change while we were waiting for you—if we’d known you were going to be so long, we could have had a suit made for him.”

“Me? I wasn’t that long—was I?”

“You were a bit, Mummy,” said Livvie.

“I wasn’t, well only because your father messed about while we were upstairs.”

“It wasn’t I who soaked someone with the shower,” Simon declared self-righteously.

“You know, that’s quite right—but then I didn’t tickle someone until they wet themselves,” I retorted and the girls thought it was hilarious.

I’d only had time to make a pot of tea before Stella zoomed into the drive and reversed Tom’s car next to mine—then as usual, she had to move it because no one could open a door next to my car—she was too close.

Tom looked ashen when he came in, Julie was elated—“Auntie Stella drives like a demon”—was the comment. Tom was shaking his head, and saying something which I translated to mean, ‘never again.’ I can’t believe he hadn’t seen Stella drive before—I mean her reputation does go before her—but only just, she drives so fast, and he knew she’d hit me off my bike causing me to become a woman—joke.

“Sodding pleece,” she said storming upstairs with Puddin’.

“What happened?” I asked Julie.

“We were stuck behind a police car most of the way here—Auntie Stella decided to tailgate him, and he stopped her.”

“Serve her right, so did he book her?”

“Only for a date.”

“Eh?”

“She sort of flirted with him, so he chatted her up and they’re going out to dinner next week.”

“Jammy bitch,” I sighed, but then, I wouldn’t have a clue how to flirt with someone in a situation like that, I’d be too busy stopping my knees knocking while I crawled to get them to go away and leave me and my licence in peace.

“Once we got past him, she toed it all the way here, which was why Gramps is upset, especially when she cut across the motorbike to turn in here.”

“Oh boy—I thought he knew what she was like?”

“No—he was hiding behind his hands in the end, couldn’t bear to look—it was quite funny really.”

“So you enjoyed it then?”

“Oh, like, totally.”

“You dropped Leon off?”

“Yeah, he wanted me to meet his mum—she is weird.”

“I thought you’d met her.”

“If I had, I didn’t take it on board. Is she into some sort of witchy stuff?”

“Why—did she give her cauldron a stir or jump on a broomstick?”

“No she grabbed my hand and said my lifeline had had two breaks in it—how did she know?”

“Search me—I’m a biologist not a parapsychologist.”

“Yeah—but you know things, your healing stuff an’ all that.”

“I don’t, she told me she recognised the ‘powah’ I apparently had, and benefited a little from it herself—she has multiple sclerosis.”

“What’s that?”

“A disease which damages nerves, especially motor ones.”

“Oh, like what does that mean?”

“She can’t walk very well.”

“Oh, she stayed in her seat the whole time.”

“Did she say you had a long life line?”

Julie looked at her palm and said, “Yeah, she also told me I’d marry and have kids.”

“Oh—well I suppose I have despite the odds against—she didn’t specifically say they’d be your own kids did she?”

“I can’t remember.” She shrugged as if it wasn’t important, but her body language suggested otherwise. I can’t see any way that foetuses would be implanted in male abdomens in the next twenty years—it would be too risky for both baby and the ‘mother’, especially given that implanted foetuses in biological women have a higher rate of miscarriage than normal conceptions. It’s also not going to be a priority of any researcher, and I think we as a minority group have to learn to accept our limitations—so for the foreseeable future, pregnancy, is unlikely in an XY genotype.

“I wouldn’t worry about it just yet, anyway, kiddo. I’m going to make some toasted sandwiches for tea, what d’you fancy? Ham and cheese?”

“Ooh, cani’ve cheese an’ onion.”

“Sure, Cheddar?”

“Mmm, yes please, Mummy.” She paused as I was getting some bread out of the fridge. “Mummy?”

“Yes, sweetheart?”

“She said I might get the ‘powah’ when I stop lookin’ for it. What’ya think she meant?”

“I’ve no idea, perhaps when you’re a bit older and settled down, you may discover you can heal things.”

“Things?”

“People, animals—you know, injured or sick people and animals.”

“Hey, I like the idea of healing animals—maybe I could become a veterinary nurse or something?”

“Or even a vet—you need to make you mind up and get some more qualifications, Julie, I’ve offered to get you into sixth form college.”

“Dunno if I could stand any more school stuff—didn’t like it much the first time about.”

“Well, girl, it’s up to you—just remember you’re starting as a Saturday girl at the salon next weekend.”

“Oh yeah—I forgot about that—oh poo, I won’t see Leon, will I?”

“There’s always Sunday.”

“Oh yeah—thanks, Mummy.”

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 916

Simon, despite all his antics earlier in the day, went to bed early—in fact before I’d finished dealing with my emails, of which there were dozens. When I crawled up to bed, he was fast asleep and stayed that way despite my cold feet being shoved against various parts of his lower body. He was up early the next morning and gone. I staggered about the place in a sort of bereaved daze—I really missed him and I knew the kids would, even though we all knew he’d be home again next weekend.

I couldn’t persuade Stella to tell us about the date with the traffic cop. What possessed her to tailgate a cop car?—she has this death wish at times. Monday was trips to school, then shopping for food, housework, more laundry and then collecting the girls. Julie was a very useful assistant and seemed delighted to help as long as she could wear whatever she wanted. At one point, she looked like something out of a tranny fantasy, with tight skirt and very high heels which were totally unsuitable for housework. She had on loads of makeup and looked like a streetwalker. I wondered if she wanted a French maid’s outfit like they wear in transgender fantasy fiction, but didn’t have the nerve to ask her.

After an hour of vacuuming in high stilettos, she disappeared and came back in jeans and some flatties. I said nothing but I did smile. By the time I’d gone to get the girls, and Stella’s remark of, ‘How much did her makeup weigh?’ the war paint had been toned down significantly.

I know I shouldn’t laugh because I experimented and must have looked a sight whilst doing so. The hormones have slightly softened my face, so I suppose I look reasonably female even without makeup, and being lazy I don’t use much if any most days, unless going out somewhere. Even then, I don’t always bother. It was different when I transitioned—I wouldn’t have been seen dead without it, because I felt I needed it to make me feel female—now, I don’t care half as much, sometimes not at all.

So I can see where Julie’s coming from, and it will be interesting to see how she progresses, assuming she wants to stay with us—I take nothing for granted. It could be she is beginning to learn about the advantages of comfort over looks, not to mention safety—she nearly fell down the wretched stairs in her heels.

The day was light enough for the girls to play outside for half an hour before tea, so they changed into their play clothes and rode up and down the drive on their bikes while Julie and I finished making the meal—a cottage pie, but made from scratch. Once again, I showed Julie how to cook the mince and cream the potatoes after mashing them, then how to brown it afterwards—with garden peas, the girls ate it down only slightly slower than the two boys did.

We told them Julie had cooked it and they all pretended they were poisoned, and then we had a table full of gigglers, boys as well as girls. Stella and Puddin’ didn’t complain too much either, and cleared their respective plates of the concoction with reasonable enthusiasm. Dessert, was homemade yoghurt with fruit puree, all home produced.

The evening ended with reading to both girls and boys, and then waiting for me was Julie. She wanted to talk some more—I wanted to go to bed and read for myself, but a woman’s work—as they say.

“What d’you want to talk about?” I sat down with a fresh cuppa.

“I really enjoyed cooking tonight; maybe I should think about doing catering?”

“If that’s what you want to do, but you have to make your mind up, Julie, and you’re still going to the salon on Saturdays for the next few weeks.”

“Dunno, if that’s what I like, wanna do anymore.”

“I don’t care, you were offered a trial period of six weeks, so that’s what you’re going to do.”

“Six weeks, Mummy, that’s like a lifetime.” Her expression was one of horror.

“Tough, that’s what we agreed—that’s what you’re doing—there is no escape.”

“Um—I could run away,” she said tentatively.

“I’d find you and make you do twelve weeks.”

“What if I killed myself?”

“If that’s a joke, it’s not very funny.”

“Sorry, Mummy.”

“Besides, I’d take your body down there every Saturday until it was too yucky and smelly to be in the car.”

“That’s like, gross.”

“It is rather—but I’m not letting you off the hook. You gave a commitment; you’ll keep it if you want to stay my daughter. My word is my bond—I intend for you be the same, as I will with all the other children.”

“Well, Trish is like a clone of you, anyway.”

I wasn’t sure how I felt about that comment and said so.

“I didn’t mean to upset you, Mummy, and I do want to be your like, daughter.”

“Families share bloodlines and common values, as well as history. Sadly we can’t share blood, and memories are very limited given your age, but we can work towards common values of honesty and integrity in all things.”

“But you tell fibs, Mummy.”

“I don’t enjoy it, and only do it when I consider the truth to be more destructive or disruptive. Wherever possible, I tell the truth.”

“You didn’t tell me you were born a boy.”

“You didn’t ask me, you assumed I was what I purport to be—a woman. I didn’t tell you because I didn’t want you to see me as a transsexual role model.”

“No, I saw you as female role model—same as Livvie and Meems and Trish to some extent.”

“That was how I wanted you to perceive me; I wanted you to aim for being normal not normal transgendered. I wanted you to realise that you could be loved for yourself in whichever guise you chose—because you insisted on seeing me as a maternal figure.”

“I love you, Mummy, because you gave me some space.”

“There’s still space: no one is forcing you to do anything, except help about the house, for which you are being paid, and to accept and abide by house rules.”

“What about boys—you don’t seem too happy to let me go out with them?”

“Are we talking, Leon, or boys in general?”

“Both—I suppose—nah, mainly Leon.”

“If you want to go out with Leon, providing we agree boundaries—you can go assuming he asks you. As regards other boys—if they ask you out, we’d need to discuss it. Whilst I can prevent you having sex—and legally you are of age—I’d be very disappointed and would have to reconsider our relationship. The same would be true if you were having sex with girls. In your situation, I think you need to get more practice of everyday things, of just being a girl twenty-four seven—plus you’re going to be working as one. You still have things to learn and there’s no better teacher than experience.”

“So I can go out with Leon?”

“Isn’t that what I just said?”

“Oh like, wow—can I phone him?”

“Do you have his number?”

“Oh yeah—I like mean, yes I do, Mummy.”

“If I were you, I’d do it soon because it’s getting late—oh, what happened to your two girl friends? Haven’t they been in touch?”

“They thought you disapproved of them—they thought you were too posh to want them here.”

“Good Lord, why would they think that?”

“If you don’t like know, Mummy, I’m not gonna tell you.”

I felt myself blushing—me too posh? I was horrified. Then again it would depend upon what one’s criteria for being posh were—if they meant educated, I would plead guilty to some extent, having money—okay, I have a bit since my dad died and the film began to make money, plus my pay from the uni and the bank, and two properties. I wasn’t loaded by comparison to Simon but by many people’s standards—I was comfortably off. Did that constitute posh? I suppose it could.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 917

Julie phoned Leon and agreed a date for the following evening—he was going to come over. She also called her two girl friends and she was going to meet them on the Thursday evening in town—they were going to go to a movie. Julie went to bed feeling very happy, and I told her if she helped out for the next few days as she had been doing, I would give her the money to go to the film and get a taxi back. She seemed pleased with that arrangement.

Stella came for a quick cuppa before she and I turned in—she had chocolate and I had tea. “Do you think I’m posh?” I asked her.

“Compared to whom?” she asked.

“Not you—it’s something Julie said…”

“Compared to her you are, significantly so—but you’re so down to earth, I wouldn’t have thought it mattered: why?”

“Julie seemed to think her two friends didn’t come back to see her because they thought I was too posh for them.”

“Well, if they’re from her neighbourhood, I suppose you would seem that way; but no, you’re not posh—nouveau riche but not posh.”

“Ouch, you bitch.”

“You’re welcome,” she smirked then winked at me.

“Least my family aren’t Scottish bandits—reivers or whatever?”

“Mine are an’ prood o’it.” She laughed.

In bed I lay there thinking about how I could help Julie develop a full and rounded personality—she needed to experience life as a girl beyond the safety of this house. I could only help her with the basics, the rest would be for her to discover and evolve into the person she wanted to be.

I wished I’d had the chance to transition so young—and compared to so many, I’d been very fortunate. I’d never become very masculine, and when I went onto female hormones my body became quite responsive to them, resulting in slight widening of my hips and reasonable breast development. It remained to be seen how the hormones would affect Julie, but she looked to have very good potential.

In some ways, I suppose Julie gave me a chance to perfect my maternal act before the next wave of gigglers came to ripening. It would also make me confront my shortcomings—how was I going to deal with two young women having periods, when I’ve never experienced one myself? I’m sure I’ll muddle through, and there’s always Stella to call upon if necessary—I know she’d help me, or rather the two maidens who will be those undergoing the rigours of the monthly visitor.

Having reassured myself that was sorted, I drifted off to sleep. I was lying in bed when I was awoken by the brightness of the moon shining on my face. Try as I might, I couldn’t avoid its brightness so in the end, I had to open my eyes and sit up.

I glanced at the bed. In the silvery light it was shimmering red—I gasped, I don’t have any red bedding—at least not for my bed. I touched the sheet and it felt wet. I saw the red wetness on my hands—I was lying in a sea of blood, shimmering in the moonlight. Then suddenly, I began to sink into the bed—I was sinking into the blood—the bed was becoming like a pool of gore.

I could feel no injury to have caused it; I had no idea whence it had come—but struggle as might, I continued to sink, deeper and deeper into the mire, my head finally succumbing, my mouth and nose filling with the sticky red fluid and the taste and smell of blood.

I lay there gasping for breath, I was drenched with sweat and the moonlight shone through the crack in my bedroom curtains. I pinched myself to check I was still alive and then scrambled out of bed before it turned to a pool of blood. My heart was hammering as adrenaline flowed through my fearful system. In the bathroom I switched on the light to check I wasn’t covered in the red stuff. I wasn’t—but that dream had really frightened me.

I had a drink of water, changed my damp nightdress for a clean one and tried to go back to sleep—I couldn’t. It was four in the morning, I was yawning, but sleep was many miles away. I read for a bit, but as soon as I thought about lying down my heart pounded and I struggled for breath—I gave up and went down for a cuppa.

Pulling on my dressing gown, I made the tea and did some work on the survey—I was getting reports of dead or dying deer from Scotland—they were starving because of the amount of snow which had buried their usual food supplies. I wondered how many other mammals, more at risk than red deer, were also succumbing to the inclement weather—it confirmed my agnosticism—if there was a God, He was total monster—firstly for allowing humans to develop and secondly because I said so.

I made up a new batch of bread, or started the machine—it would nearly be done before the kids rose. Sick of doom and gloom, I did some ironing—I had loads of it. Julie could do some tomorrow, as part of her domestic science course, under the watchful eye of her personal tutor—moi.

I’d done all the fiddly stuff by six, and went up and had a luxurious shower, washing my hair and giving it a proper conditioning and rinse. Then I brushed it and dried it in a down style, depilated my legs, creamed them, tidied my eyebrows, dressed and finally when Mr Humphrys came on the radio alarm, I went and woke the girls and then the boys.

My energy levels were good all through breakfast and I actually had enough time to make sandwiches and so on for the various lunchboxes, and have some breakfast myself.

The boys went off to catch their bus and the girls trooped off to the car and my delivery to their school. Julie was in the bath when I left—shaving her legs for her big date with Leon. I left with smile on my face.

When I got back, she was cleaning up the kitchen, and I told her she’d be ironing after lunch. She nodded and told me I’d have to show her what to do. But seeing as she was trying, I told her to grab her coat and bag—I’d buy her a new dress for her date or for her meeting with her friends. She was at the door before I could blink, with a smile on her face like she’d won the lottery.

We did the usual teen shops, New Look, Next, Top Shop and so on. She saw several things she liked. I saw nothing I was prepared to buy—not for her at any rate, but I bought a skirt for Livvie, and tops for Meems and Trish.

We did some of the more upmarket shops and still I saw nothing that inspired me for Julie—she was becoming a bit irritable—‘You said you’d buy me something, yet you refuse everything I like.’ She had appalling taste and it was my money.

Finally, passing a shop called Peacocks which is usually pretty cheap and cheerful stuff, she spotted a black skirt in corduroy with a pattern printed on it plus beading and tiny sequins. It had a dropped waist under which the material was slightly gathered flaring out beneath. She tried it with the plain top she was wearing and it fitted her very well hiding her lack of hips.

Then we remembered a top which would go with it back in New Look. We bought the skirt and walked quickly up to check out the top—they looked very good together, the lacy sequins on the top being quite a close match to the skirt. She was delighted and I’d only spent thirty pounds for her complete outfit, so I was pretty chuffed, too.

In M&S I saw some boots I liked, so I bought them—they fitted quite well—I have a narrowish foot and sometimes their shoes are too wide for me. Julie saw some ridiculous heels and staggered up and down the shop in them. They were far too high for her.

“Mummy, they are so comfortable,” she exhorted, even though I could see quite obviously they were anything but, however, they would go with her new skirt and top, so we got them, although I did warn her not to come grumbling to me when she rubbed blisters or twisted her ankle.

We had a quick lunch. Julie insisted on wearing her new shoes whilst doing the ironing—I know, a dumb choice—but she wouldn’t listen to me, so she could suffer for her art. She did the easy stuff, pillowcases and tea towels to give her a feel for the iron and how to prevent it causing creases. After an hour—I’m sure her toes were screaming for relief, but she kept the shoes on and I showed her how to iron a shirt—in from the corners of the collar and so on.

She came with me to collect the girls, showing off her new shoes which had all three of the younger misses drooling with envy. No matter how much they nagged me, they weren’t having heels until they were at least teenagers, preferably late teens.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 918

I suspected from the fuss the three youngsters made of Julie’s shoes, that I’d be fighting a war of attrition to stop them from having silly shoes. Possibly, Meems’ and Livvie’s feet would be too small to wear Julie’s shoes, but Trish might not as she grows.

Then again, Julie might get over the novelty eventually—mind you have I? I wear heels quite a bit, though usually stop at three inches because that is quite high. It makes me laugh that in transgender stories when some bloke goes from only ever having worn flat men’s shoes to walking perfectly in four or five-inch heels in a single paragraph—it’s nonsense. Wearing that sort of height of heel bloody cripples you, rubs blisters and hurts like hell in feet and legs—I know I’ve tried it.

That I’d bought each of them a prezzie from our shopping trip made the girls a bit more amenable to my authority, but only just—plus I had to show I’d bought something for the boys too. Anyway, I quelled the mutiny by sleight of credit card, though I think I shall have to watch that this isn’t seen as a precedent.

Julie decided she would wear her new outfit tonight and again on Thursday when she went to the pictures. Once home, while I cooked she disappeared to her boudoir with her three protégés to organise her toilette and dress to kill. She could do the ironing tomorrow while I baked some cakes and pies.

Tonight I did something light: fish and oven chips with garden peas; not my favourite meal, but one which would have them licking their plates afterwards—not just the kids but also Stella and Tom. In the event—only Kiki ended up licking her dish, but the food went down very well.

Julie came down with makeup trowelled on. I suggested that Leon might think she looked like a drag queen—she was horrified, especially when Stella nodded in agreement.

“Well, what should I do then?” she pleaded in tears. I glanced at Stella, who is much more of a whizz with makeup than I am. She took Julie up her room and using Julie’s makeup, gave her a makeover which the other three were excluded from, so they could judge the outcome better. Trish and Livvie took great exception to that and got quite stroppy, pouting like a gurning salmon.

“Look kiddos, when you’re older, Auntie Stella will show you what to do as well.”

“I want you to show me, Mummy,” said Meems.

“When you’re older, Mima.”

She seemed contented with that answer and went to play with her dollies. Trish and Livvie pouted some more and lounged about the place like lethargic leopards. I couldn’t understand why Julie hadn’t done the same as she did before, when she seemed to be doing her makeup so well. Oh well, I’m not a teenager any more thank goodness.

When Julie came down, I agreed Stella was very good at makeup and hairstyling, she’d done both—Leon was going to think he’d come for a date with a model. The girls were suitably impressed and I finally managed to get them to think about other things.

Danny was wolf whistling at Julie, who loved every second of it. Livvie was trying to copy him, with little success and Trish and Billy were laughing themselves silly at Livvie’s attempts.

When Leon arrived, I let them use the lounge on the understanding that they didn’t close the door or indulge in anything more than a kiss or a cuddle, so clothes had to be kept on, except perhaps shoes.

For the other kids, they had to stay out of the lounge and not disturb Julie or Leon. They giggled themselves silly, much to Julie’s annoyance, but they all agreed.

Leon duly arrived and his eyes came out on stalks when Julie made her entrance. I suspect something indicated he was pleased to see her—but I reminded them, it was Tom’s house and as I was acting with his full authority—there was to be no hanky-panky. They agreed and I left them to it.

Then it was story time, girls first—some Secret Seven stories I bought over the internet, originals not the politically corrected ones. The boys read to me some Biggles stories, obtained the same way. Well I enjoyed reading them when I was a kid, both Enid Blyton and Capt. WE Johns.

I took some drinks into our courting teens—actually, I called Julie out to take them in, some cola drinks with some biscuits and crisps. She seemed to appreciate my indulgence, although her lipstick was somewhat smudged, which made me smile. She blushed when I mentioned it to her—I know, I’m a rotten swine; hee hee.

I sent Leon home at ten; he had half an hour’s ride home and it was raining—actually what I did was borrow Tom’s car and drive him home—his bike went in the back. Of course Julie had to come with us—natch.

We called in to see Leon’s mother, and she made us very welcome—not quite killing the fatted calf, but nearly so.

“Dis woman, she have da powah—da powah is very strong in her. You, young ting, you have da potential to get it, but it won’t be easy,” she told Julie.

After escaping Theresa’s hospitality—she’d have fed us the whole fridge if we’d let her instead of a cuppa and a digestive biscuit, which is what we had at my insistence. I did some more healing on Theresa and Julie saw the blue light transfer from me to the older black woman.

It gave us something to talk about on the way back. “Why does Trish have the power and I don’t?”

“Why does Trish have blue eyes while you have brown ones?” I replied.

“Genetics,” replied Julie. I need to make my analogies more suitable.

“Okay—I don’t know, the energy chose her for some obscure reason. I mean why did it happen to me?”

“Because you’re a good woman.”

“Yeah sure; a positive paragon, a living saint.”

“An angel,” added Julie.

“I was being ironic, Julie—I’m none of those things, I’m ordinary—as far as that goes in our situation—no squeaky clean ethereal being. I’m flesh and blood with feet of clay, like everyone else.”

“So why does Gramps say you’re special?”

“Because he considers me his daughter, and parents are always proud of their children.” Realising what I’d just said I tried to modify it, “Positive parenting is all about helping kids to reach their potentials.”

Julie was looking out of the window, but I knew she was silently weeping. “My mum and dad weren’t proud of me—they were ashamed of me.”

“If it’s any consolation, I think mine were the same—for a long time at any rate.”

“I’m glad you’re my mother now, Mummy.”

“So am I, sweetheart. Did you have a nice evening?”

“Yes thank you.”

As we drove along, I suddenly said, “Damn, damn, damn.”

“What’s the matter, Mummy?” asked a concerned Julie.

“Nothing—that was the curse of the mummy.” I delivered this line dead pan and Julie had to think about it before she started to snigger, then she chuckled and snorted before laughing loudly.

“That was awful, Mummy,” she chortled at me.

The next morning I made her wash her stuff by hand—the outfit she’d worn with Leon. Sequins come off in the machine and the exercise would be good for her. Then she did some more ironing while I baked some simple sponge cakes, and made some pastry and then some pies with it. I did an apple pie and a savoury one—chicken and mushroom.

Julie made a new loaf—with a new recipe in the bread machine, a granary loaf as opposed to the usual wholemeal.

After lunch—some pasties I made with the pies, we did the laundry—stripping another couple of beds and making up new ones—easier with two of us. I left her in charge of the machine while I went to collect the three degrees and she’d pretty well finished it all by the time I got back. Once it was dry—we had some more ironing for her to practice on—such are the delights of womanhood.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 919

“This is like, like child slavery,” complained Julie as she ironed another pillow case and added it to the pile of clothes on the table beside her.

“Absolutely,” I agreed smirking. Living with me had given her her first taste of hard work, and she wasn’t very struck on the idea—even less on the reality. However, I felt I had an obligation to prepare her for a future career in a jobs market. Too often, youngsters seem to have no sticking power—they go out on the booze and the next day can’t come to work because they’re sick. Tough—when my students did that, they got extra work to do. I don’t get pissed and unable to work, and I let them do it once, caution them and then punish them. They can go on the piss if they like—but if their work suffers, or their attendance—I’m on their backs and stay there until they learn, we only give degrees to those who deserve them.

I sound like an elderly taskmaster, but self-discipline is something you have to learn. It isn’t easy—as Julie was finding out. She is paid for what she does about the house—and reasonably generously: she also gets her keep and loads of other perks as one of my charges—so she does very well. In return, I expect—no demand—her share of effort.

The bank had asked me for a paper on how they can maintain their green image with economical and feasible ecological measures. I had a month to write it—to do so meant I needed to visit a couple of branches, see the processes in place and then look at overall systems. It was a bit of a pain, because I’d really have to go at it. I explained this to Julie—because it meant she’d have to do the brunt of the housework—the other kids would help, as might Leon, but it was her big chance to show I could trust her not to slack when I wasn’t there. In fact, it was probably about greater issues of trust, but I didn’t want to draw too much attention to it.

While we dined that evening, I spoke to everyone, explaining that I was going to be busy and everyone would have to muck in. After the anticipated moans and groans, they all agreed they would help. Stella was appointed as overseer, and then Julie as the main worker—reminding her that she would still be doing the salon from the next Saturday—then the others could help as and when. I was pleasantly surprised by their desire to help each other—I was building a team, and hopefully a family as well.

I’d shown Julie how to press the clothes she was going to wear out with her girlfriends the next day and was delighted how quickly she picked it up. I still couldn’t believe she was going to town in four inch heels—oh well, it’s her funeral.

The next day, I left them to get on with it—going to Southampton to liaise with the regional manager of High St Bank plc. He obviously knew who I was, and being in the family—sounds like the mafia—actually worse, they’re legal criminals—I was given carte blanche to look at any of the processes they were using where I could offer green measures. A deputy manager got lumbered with showing me over the place.

I then completely stumped him by asking what the heating bill was like—he went off to get it. It was large, the atrium area where the public enter was very warm—I’d taken my coat off and was warm, possibly slightly too warm. If they dropped the thermostat a degree or two—I’d achieve my outcome. I popped out to a hardware shop down the road and purchased a thermometer—it was nearly twenty-five degrees Celsius.

I would now visit half a dozen other branches over the next week or so and do some more evaluations of heat saving. Putting in glass doors inside the outer ones would also save heat loss, as would insulation and other heat saving methods.

I hate doing this sort of thing, driving round from town to town—or in the case of larger towns and cities, visiting other branches within the town. They had five branches in Southampton; each one of them was a similar temperature. It was beginning to look good.

I sent off an email to their works department and asked for details of roof and cavity wall insulation. I knew that only very newly built ones would have the latter. Then the biggest question, how many of them had south facing roofs?

The initial response was—dunno. When I wrote back asking them to let me know within a week, I got a very snotty response.

‘Miss Watts, this request seems very frivolous, given the financial situation and the cost of using surveyors or our own departmental staff. While we understand you have to validate your position as ecological advisor, we suggest you discuss this with someone closer to director level. We will await the outcome of your discussions with interest.’

I read this and stifled the anger I felt—one phone call and this guy’s arse is on the company barbecue tomorrow. I thought I would try again.

I don’t understand why this needs surveyors—surely your records should show insulation levels, if not why not? As for orientation of the buildings, a clerk from your office asking the branch staff if their building lies north south or east west, or even more simply, does it have a pitched roof which the sun shines on?
I do have access to a director. I’m sorry I should have written to you with my married name, because I tend to use my maiden name for my professional duties.

Catherine Cameron (née Watts).

At first I was going to sign it Lady Catherine Cameron, then changed my mind—let’s see if this guy is awake and if his attitude changes, his job could depend upon it unless he wants to end up cleaning his local branch. I pressed send, as it was only mid-afternoon, he had time to respond before the end of day.

I was driving back home when my Blackberry peeped and I pulled over to check it.

If you’d like to come and examine the building records, we can make those such as we have available, we haven’t time to do such things, and I attach a list of phone numbers of the branches countrywide and email addresses. I’m sure you’ll enjoy calling them. I’m still awaiting your advice from director level—maybe you’ll speak to your contact before you bother us again, we do have work to do.

I saved the message and drove home after collecting the girls from school. Once I’d sorted them out, I called Simon—he was in a meeting. I emailed him the notes I’d sent and the replies I got back with copies to Henry.

About half past four the phone rang, it was Henry. “I saw the emails—what’s going on?”

“I have to write this paper for you and the board.”

“Oh yeah, and what’s that got to do with insulation?”

“I suspect by turning down the heating in your public areas by just a couple or three degrees, you can save thousands. By implementing a study of insulation levels we can demonstrate we are doing something to improve our carbon footprint, and south facing buildings could be looked at for a feasibility study for solar panels, especially those in the south of the country—they could either produce hot water or even electricity if you have the photo-electric ones.”

“The savings on heating sound really good—we can use that for good publicity as well as at the next AGM to get the shareholders on board. Not so sure about the solar panels—but feasibility study by a reputable company could be another publicity coup. You’re earning that money we pay you, girl—well done. When will you have the paper done?”

“I have a few more branches to visit before I can complete my research, and of course the data on building insulation is necessary for me to draw conclusions.”

“I wouldn’t worry about that, our Mr Jarvis, head of building maintenance will deliver those personally within a week or be looking for a new job. Ah, that could be his call, now—I have to go, how are the kids?”

“Fine, they enjoyed the hotel the other day.”

“Use it as much as you like.”

“Thanks, Henry—I do appreciate it.”

“My pleasure, and I mean it. Bye sweetheart.”

A little later the phone rang again. “Lady Catherine?”

“Yes, who is this?”

“Um, it’s Peter Jarvis, building maintenance.”

“I see, and to what do I accord this honour—I’m only ecology advisor.”

“I—um—have an apology to make.”

“Oh dear, why’s that?” I smirked, he couldn’t see it but I was enjoying his toadying, served him right, the arrogant twit. Needless to say, he promised me all the data I wanted within a week or ten days and was there anything else he could help me with. I felt like saying, ‘my garage needs painting’—but delayed that gratification for another day.

Normally I wouldn’t dream of dropping someone in it like I did, but his arrogance got right up my nose—so I sneezed and he got snotted. Such is life—now back to everyday mundanities and feeding these young folk. Oh yes, Julie is out tonight, must remember to give her some money for the taxi fare back.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 920

I took our little sexpot, dressed in her finest, into the town centre dropping her not five minutes’ walk from the main cinema—though in her shoes with the four inch heels, that might mean something a little longer than five minutes—but she wouldn’t be told. I appreciate that she wants to impress her friends, but her outfit with a pair of ballet pumps would have wowed them. I did strongly suggest she took some flatties with her in case her feet hurt, but she insisted she was comfortable.

“Make sure you have your mobile with you,” I told her as we left the house with much cheering and whistling from her crowd of supporters—we now have Trish wolf-whistling with the two boys—Livvie still can’t seem to do it very well.

“Oh stop worrying, Mummy, I’ll be fine.”

“Have you got your brolly?” I enquired as there was rain about.

“Yes, Mummy, my folding one, in my bag.”

“And your sweeties?”

“Yes,” she sighed.

“Because you know how expensive they are in the cinema?”

“Yes, Mummy, I know,” accompanied by a longer sigh.

“Don’t talk to any strange boys.”

“I’m sixteen, Mummy, for God’s sake.”

“Yes, but you haven’t had sixteen years of dealing with boys—as a girl, I mean.”

“Like you’re so experienced,” she muttered under her breath.

“More so than you are, Missy.” I huffed and said, “I’ve had a few admirers in my time.” Which was true, Kevin the mechanic, Des, and Simon.

“Sorry, Mummy.” She blushed, visible even in the restricted light of the car as we travelled towards town.

“Let me know when you’re on your way home, and here’s the taxi money.” I gave her ten pounds.

“Thanks, Mummy, I’ll be all right, you know that?”

“In terms of probabilities—yes. In terms of your track record—no. I want to see you make it to womanhood, Julie and hopefully settled in a career and maybe a relationship. I want all my children to be successful and contented.”

“You worry too much.”

“That’s the prerogative of mothers. Have a good time.”

“Thanks, Mummy, I will,” she pecked me on the cheek and I watched her totter off on her stilts towards the cinema.

I felt quite wistful as I drove home; the kid had got under my skin. Despite her being a lazy good for nothing, she had transformed into something useful, becoming reliable and also loveable. She was a pleasant enough kid and her bond as the big sister with the others was coming along nicely. All of them seemed to have a special regard for her and I know Stella was becoming increasingly fond of her—they had long chats if I was out of the house. That sounds as if they were doing it to avoid me, but Stella was trying to be supportive of her—knowing what a troubled recent history Julie’d had.

I went home and by then it was time to get the girls to bed and read them their story—more Secret Seven intrigues which I’d loved as a kid and enjoyed sharing with them. Okay, as an adult the plots are so unrealistic—but for five and six year olds—absolutely spot on.

Maybe I’ll try the boys with Just William or Jennings, but I’m not sure I want them describing everything as spiffing, it would probably mean they’d get their heads beaten in, at school. Kids language has to be kewl, or else.

After I got the boys to bed, I sat and nervously drank a cup of tea with Stella, who complained at me constantly looking at my watch.

“If you were that worried, how come you didn’t offer to collect her?”

“I’d meant to do some work while she was out.”

“So why don’t you?”

“I can’t settle.”

“Cathy, it’s not as if she was on an undercover mission for Interpol.”

“I know—but since I’ve been looking after her, this is her first time out as a girl.”

“Hopefully the first of many,” Stella enthused.

“Oh don’t, I’m not sure I can bear it.”

“Don’t be so silly—she is sixteen and increasingly sensible. She’s beginning to think like a girl and has lost some of that male arrogance she had. She’ll be okay.”

“I hope so.”

“She’s going to be with two other girls, so she should be fine—they’ll look out for her.”

“I do hope so.” I glanced at my watch again; it was now ten thirty. “She should be home by now—the film finished at quarter past.”

“Cathy—get real. Even if it finished on time, she’s going to be chattering away with her friends for ages yet, then she has to get a taxi. She could be an hour or so yet.”

“I should have arranged to get her.”

“Don’t be silly—she’ll be fine. What’s that noise—your phone?”

I went to the lounge where I’d left my handbag, my mobile was trilling. It was Simon and I relived all my fears with him. He was quite supportive and told me not to worry. We were discussing the project I was doing for the bank, when the ordinary phone rang. Stella answered it and came in to the lounge.

“Sorry to interrupt, Cathy, can you go and collect her—she’s had an accident.”

“Gotta go, darling, talk later,” I said to Simon, “What’s happened, does she need an ambulance?”

“No, she’s at the cinema, apparently and she isn’t badly hurt.”

“I knew it—I bloody knew it,” I said loudly while gathering my coat, bag and car keys. I was out on the road and flying towards Portsmouth town centre faster than ever—I literally had to talk myself into slowing down before I had an accident. I should have arranged to collect her—I mentally kicked myself.

I parked as close as I could go and ran towards the cinema. One of the girls was looking out for me. “Where is she?” I asked panting after the run.

I was led to her in the foyer; she was sitting in a chair with her foot raised. “Hi, Mummy, sorry about this.”

“What happened?”

“I—um—twisted my ankle.” She looked very sheepish.

“Those stupid shoes,” I growled at her.

“Um—not entirely, I caught my foot on a grating outside and twisted it as I fell—I think I’ve sprained it.”

“How are we going to get you to the car, it’s at least a hundred yards away?”

“I’ll have to manage, won’t I, unless you can do some of your magic on it?” She looked like a cross between pathetic and hopeless. I simply glared back at her.

“I’m sure we’ll manage to help you to the car, and I’ll take the girls home afterwards. Come on, up you get.”

One of the girls carried her handbag, the second supported her other side, while I helped the injured side. It took us some while, resting every few steps as she effectively hopped back to the car.

Once we delivered the girls back to their street, they lived next door to each other and round the corner from Julie’s old house, I managed to keep my calm about the shoes—although there was a large part of me who wanted to say, I told you so. Instead, I told her off for mentioning the healing in front of outsiders. She burst into tears and I felt very guilty but also justified.

I healed on her ankle when we parked the car at home and she limped into the house. I sent her to bed with an ice pack but also healed her remotely while she slept—I needed her well as I was working tomorrow doing the banks in Portsmouth.

The next day, armed with my trusty thermometer, I recorded quite high temperatures in four more branches, and had one more to do. I introduced myself and was shown about by the branch manager and offered afternoon tea. I wished later that I’d not accepted his offer, except my mouth was as dry as an Axminster carpet.

We were parting in the main public area of the bank when two men walked in and another stood by the door. There was a small queue at the tellers, so it could be nothing much, until I looked at the men again and said to the manager—“Is that man wearing a mask?”

By the time, the manager had looked, they were at the windows and all three of the men produced sawn-off shotguns. I couldn’t believe it—I was witnessing a bank robbery. I placed my briefcase on the floor and raised my hands as instructed by the men who were now acting very nervously and waving their guns. My bladder began to wish I hadn’t had that extra cup of tea.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 921

“Hey, bitch, woss in da case?” One of the robbers had noticed my brief case.

“Nothing to interest you,” I retorted, irritated that these idiots were going to make me late home.

“Dats fo me to decide—open it, bitch.” He walked up to me and waved the gun in my face. I should have been scared—for all I knew he was a total psycho—but I wasn’t, I was annoyed fast moving up to very annoyed.

“Open da case.”

“Say please and I might,” I stood my ground. My hands were still up in the air.

“Don’t get smart wid me,” he poked me none too gently in the midriff. I’d now have a bruise there—this man was beginning to really annoy me.

“Compared to you, the average slow worm looks quick.”

He pulled back the hammers on his gun and aimed it at my face. “Shall I jus’ blow dis priddy face away?”

I shrugged but maintained eye contact—I had to die one day—but somehow didn’t believe it was going to be today. On the other hand, his life span was possibly shortening by the moment.

“Woss in da case?”

“Papers—about rodents. I’m an expert on pests—I deal with them—savvy?”

“Yo gonna die, smart ass bitch.”

“We’re all going to, but I think you’ll be dead long before me. The silent alarm has been running for several minutes now—armed police are on their way, with a swat team. If I were you, I’d run like hell.” I told him what I thought. He looked at the manager.

“Is dat true—da alarm—is it runnin’?”

“Probably,” was his response, he was shaking as he spoke. If I was shaking, it was with anger.

I tried to weigh things up—I could probably take one of them, which would leave two. Others may be shot by accident or in panic—I’d have to bide my time, also my skirt was probably a bit tight for aiming kicks any higher than his waist.

I was aware no one had come into the bank for several minutes—the police were probably outside already, waiting for them to emerge—evacuating shops nearby and lining up marksmen. I thought I could hear the helicopter, so could our little would-be robber.

Suddenly, the robber at the desk fired his shotgun into the ceiling, blowing a hole in an Edwardian masterpiece—I was incensed. “Here, take the bloody case.” I bent down and picked up the case and swung it upwards against his gun, which went off once again damaging the decor of the bank—however, despite the bang, I continued my swing and caught him in the face. He fell backwards onto the floor and banged his head as he fell with a sickening thud.

The third robber came rushing at me and didn’t see the customer push a chair in his path, he fell over it and I smacked his head with the case—he took no further part in the action. Two women customers, obviously inspired by my act of resistance grabbed at the first robber as he was trying to reload his gun. He pushed them away as I ran straight at him, somersaulted on the floor—which was hard—and kicked him with both feet somewhere near his groin and belly.

He fell over, and another customer an oldish man, kicked him hard as he fell. I managed to jump up and removed the gun from his hand; he was holding his groin and groaning.

“Keep away from the door,” I shouted, “Someone call the police—tell them it’s safe to enter, but we need assistance to keep these thugs safe.”

I noticed the first one attempt to rise and a customer hit him with a chair, quite hard. I hoped he hadn’t killed him.

The video cameras would have recorded much of the action—all I wanted to do was pee and go home. Moments later, armed police stormed into the building and picked up the villains, who were cuffed and dragged away.

“Where did you learn to do all that?” asked the astonished bank manager.

“Learn to do that? I didn’t learn it, that was improvisation—I was just blowed if those morons were going to vandalise a listed building. I hope we’re going to sue them for repairs.”

“Duh?” said the manager.

Amazingly, in the confusion I managed to slip away from the bank—though that horrible robber had broken my thermometer with his face. I knew when I got home that they’d be round to see me and ask stupid questions. It’s what they do, even though they have the film of me doing my version of Die hard—with attitude. Oh, by the way, I have more hair than Bruce Willis but fewer muscles, and I wasn’t in a dirty singlet for several hours. Unfortunately, the bad guys didn’t look like Jeremy Irons or Alan Rickman or I might have been more gentle with them.

Thankfully, we’d finished dinner when a police car followed by a plain car pulled into the drive. I had warned everyone that I’d left a crime scene without permission.

I answered the door, and led the police into the lounge. “Lady Catherine Cameron?”

“I am.”

“I have a warrant for your arrest.”

“On what grounds?”

“Leaving the scene of a crime and removing vital evidence.”

“Evidence—oh my case?”

He nodded.

“You realise that this is going to make you all look rather foolish.”

“I’ll take that risk.” Superintendent Judd, then cautioned me and asked me if I’d come quietly or would they have to use cuffs? I agreed to go quietly, but asked Stella to tell Simon and arrange a barrister immediately.

“Oh if they charge me, I want maximum publicity.”

“Why?”

“I’m fed up with being poked about by people just because they have warrant cards. So some can take early retirement, eh Inspector?” I demoted him just to wind him up.

In the car, he looked me straight in the eye and said coldly, “Look here you stupid woman, just because you’re a toff don’t mean we can’t embarrass you with a criminal record.”

“If you can prove I did anything criminal, go ahead. Oh—by the way, just because you’re a plod doesn’t mean we can’t blacklist you and foreclose your mortgage.”

He raised his fist at me, but took it down when I invited him to hit me.

There must be loads of decent police out there. How come I seem to meet those who think with their dicks and probably make love with their heads? I accept I left a crime scene, having rendered it safe, with the help of some customers. I hope the bank rewards them—I’ll ask Simon to organise it. I wonder if the bank manager has dried his trousers yet—something was smelling when it was all over.

I was cautioned again and a statement requested. I declined to do anything until a lawyer arrived—he did half an hour later. In front of him, I gave a statement and explained why I left the scene of the crime—I had three children to collect, I was already late when I got there.

“Why didn’t you tell us this earlier?” asked the Chief Superintendent.

“No one asked me.”

“You’re like bloody Batgirl, lay out the villains and disappear,” he said rolling his eyes, and my solicitor snorted.

“Yeah, but Batgirl makes a getaway without the police finding out who she is.”

“Well, next time wear your outfit.”

“Have you tried finding a telephone box these days?” I replied. At this point, my solicitor lost it altogether and convulsed with laughter.

In the end, I was released on condition that I didn’t run away again without informing the police. I agreed on condition that they inform the underworld that I needed to finish bashing them in time to collect my kids.

“If that video ends up on YouTube, I’ll sue,” was my parting shot.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 922

I was exhausted after my trip to the police station and my solicitor took me home. I thanked him and asked him to send me his account.

“That’s all been sorted, Lady Catherine—besides, it was almost worth it for the chat between you and the Chief Super—‘have you tried to find a phone box?’ absolutely priceless.”

“It’s not entirely original, Superman Returns used something along those lines, although it was a visual gag.”

“Film buff, are you?”

“Good Lord, no—it just stuck in my mind.”

“I saw the CCTV film—where did you learn to fight like that?”

“I didn’t learn it—it was off the cuff, quick decision stuff.”

“But the rolling kick—where did you get that?”

“I’ve seen it used in one or two films, The Last Of The Mohicans a variation was used by Chingachgook to kill Magua after Magua had killed his son, Uncas.”

“Crikey, you remember all the names, too.”

“I had to read the book in school.”

“Of course, it’s a book isn’t it? Longfellow?”

“No, Fenimore-Cooper—Longfellow, did Hiawatha.”

“Cathy, you are a mine of information.”

“Yeah, mainly about dormice.”

“Dormice—goodness, of course you made that rather excellent film, didn’t you.”

I blushed, “Um—yes, glad you liked it.”

“Anything else in the pipeline?”

“Not immediately, they want me to do one on harvest mice, but I’m too busy at the moment.”

“Goodness, you do lead a busy life.”

“With six children—yes, very. Speaking of whom, I’d better get in and see what’s happening—thanks for springing me.”

“Springing you—they were a bit dumb arresting you in the first place.”

“That makes two of us—I shouldn’t have walked away from the bank—but I’d done my bit.”

“Yes, so I saw. So are we going to see kick boxing in your next film?” he laughed.

“No, not until I do one on the kangaroo rat.”

I walked back to the house, and despite it being late all the kids were waiting for me, including Julie, who was walking better—then, her best friend is Trish. I was literally smothered with love as six kids tried to hug me and kiss me.

“Simon’s on his way home,” called Stella, “he phoned about ten minutes ago.”

“Julie, darling, make some fresh bread for Daddy, will you?”

“I’ll do it,” squealed Trish and they both ran out to the kitchen, the crash of china breaking sounded immediately after.

“I’d just made you a cup of tea—I don’t think you’re going to get to drink it, though.” Stella shrugged, walked out to the kitchen and said loudly, “I don’t care who did it, you can both clean it up—NOW. The bread can wait a minute.”

“Oops,” I said and Livvie grinned.

“They were too hasty, Mummy.”

“Sounds like it,” I hugged the boys and the two remaining girls.

A short time later, I sent them all off to bed—no story tonight, it was far too late. I had a few grumbles but when I went to tuck them in, they seemed contented and sleepy. I don’t know about contented, but I was certainly exhausted. If Simon didn’t come soon, I’d be fast asleep.

I took some hand washing down with me and kept myself awake doing that in the kitchen sink. Stella sat and watched in amazement.

“You’ll get washday red hands, like that,” she said to me.

“Yeah, but it’s better than being strangled by my husband for being asleep after he’s rushed home from the office to see me.”

“He’s not rushing home to see you, he forgot some papers he needs.”

“What?” I gasped.

“You are so easy to wind up,” she snorted, then squealed when I threw a clean but wet pair of tights at her, which I’d just rinsed. She threw them back at me, so I hurled a pair of soggy Sloggis at her. I caught her exactly right, on the neck, so any water would run down the inside of her jumper.

“Lassies please, will ye no behave yersel’s?”

We both giggled like schoolgirls. I was hanging the very damp drawers and other smalls on the airer in the conservatory when Simon arrived. I didn’t hear him come in and he put his hands about my waist and I squealed, jumped away and nearly hit him with a pot plant.

“Hang on—it’s me,” he said in surprise, holding up his hand to protect himself. “Crikey, you’re jumpy.”

“Simon, I’ve been threatened by men with sawn-off shotguns, arrested by the police and had wet knickers thrown at me by your sister.”

“Stella threw her wet knickers at you? Golly—she hasn’t done that since she was about three years old.”

“I threw them at her first.”

“So they were your wet knickers? What is it about women that they throw such revolting things about?”

“What is it about men that they have to frighten the life out of you and then complain because you defend yourself?”

“Okay, point taken.”

“The knickers were clean—I’d just washed them.” I let him hug me and kiss me. “Are you hungry?” There’s a silly question—Is the Pope a Catholic?

“A bit peckish, why?”

“The girls made some fresh bread—can’t you smell it?”

“I had noticed; I was more concerned that my wife had been arrested for robbing one my banks—hence my visit.”

“No—I stopped a robbery of one of our banks, darling, remember I’m part of the family now—you know, for better or for worse, in banking or in spending—I’m your girl.” I beamed at him and he groaned.

“What did I do, marrying you?”

“Well, nothing illegal—I have a piece of paper which says that. Otherwise, I think it was probably one of your better decisions—and I suspect most of your family think something similar—I didn’t hear any objections when we got wed in front of them all.”

“Yeah, but I didn’t realise I was marrying Batwoman.”

“Batwoman? Huh? I’m Dormouse Woman,” I declared brazenly.

“I don’t think it has quite the same ring about it—do you?”

“I’m more cuddly than a bat.”

“This is true,” he said hugging me once again. “Hmm, I can smell that bread—got any cheese?”

“Some Stilton, Cheddar and Brie, and loads of salad stuff.”

“Can dormice eat bread and cheese?”

“I don’t see why not.”

“C’mon, Dorgirl, let’s chew the cheese together.” He put his arm across my shoulder, then steered me back to the kitchen. The bread was still very warm and delicious. I nibbled on a crust with just a thin sliver of the mousetrap laid across the top and melting gently into the bread. Simon simply stuffed, steering slices and Stilton speedily stomach-wards, suddenly slicing, spreading and swiftly swallowing.

It seemed he ran out of appetite about the same time I exhausted my vocabulary of appropriate words starting with the letter ‘S.’ I’m not alliterate, I can read and write.

“You seem very quiet,” he observed.

I stayed quiet, I could hardly tell him I’d been thinking of words to describe him clumsily cramming cheese, could I? “I’m very tired,” I chose to say instead.

“This bread is very moreish.”

“Perhaps I should call it Othello bread.” My brain was still working a little.

“Eh?” Simon’s obviously wasn’t.

“Moreish—Moor of Venice.”

“Yeah—so?”

“Simon, you’re such a Philistine,” I yawned.

“Yep, shoulda called me Goliath.”

“You’ve eaten half the loaf—greedy guts might be more appropriate.”

“Not just me—you had some too.”

“I had a small crust, Si, you ate the rest.”

“Well it doesn’t keep—does it?”

“Not in this house.” I sighed, removed the rest of the food from the table including the bread, while he started munching tomatoes. No wonder he was getting tubby round the belly—he ate too much too late.

He slept like a log after consuming enough cheese to sink a battleship. I, on the other hand had very little, with indigestion most of the night and horrible dreams. Not about periods this time—but about going into banks—can’t think why?

The next morning he left early—I got up with him, even though I felt like zombie. I vaguely remembered Stella was out tonight—it was Friday, wasn’t it? Her date with the traffic cop—should be interesting, I hope he doesn’t link her with my exploits in the bank—although I expect he’ll have heard about it.

I was doing the kids lunch boxes when the phone rang—“Have you seen the local television news?” It was Pippa.

“No, why?”

“They have a clip of someone disarming three gunmen in a bank in Pompey.”

“Oh poo!”

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 923

This news sent chills down my spine—it wouldn’t take long for someone to find out who I was and the paparazzi would be ’round again pestering and annoying me. I called Simon—he was still on the train but I managed to get through to him.

“I’ll try and find out who released the film and shoot them personally. Leave it with me; I’ll get our public relations people to talk to you.”

Which is what happened. As the media and the rest of the country woke up—I was described as a female customer who declares war on the gunmen. A senior police spokesman, when asked if they knew who the customer was, said: “We’ve spoken to a young woman, whose identity cannot be revealed because she is a witness to the event and might therefore be endangered by being identified.

“She acted in a very brave if foolhardy way, and we would not encourage anyone else to try it—she was very fortunate none of the guns fired actually hit her. A sawn off shotgun is very dangerous weapon at close range. We always suggest people surrender their possessions or money to armed robbers—it’s better to lose your money than your life. The latter can’t be replaced.”

Okay, so I’m impulsive—we all knew that anyway. I came back from the school run with some trepidation, but there were no reporters waiting. I had discussed alternative strategies with the children if it became necessary—in which case I would let them know through their respective schools.

In the afternoon, after a morning of housework, Julie and I took the dog for a walk. We went to a wood I’d never been to before, sort of mixed deciduous—birch scrub with one or two ash and beech forming what climax there was, plus a few sycamores.

I used to hate sycamores, until I found out from a friend in Wales that sycamore can become important in the diet of dormice where there is a shortage of oak. They eat insects which live on the tree. I nearly always carry a hand lens with me when walking anywhere remotely countrified—within ten minutes of our stroll, I found hazel shells which had fed dormice. I checked the grid reference with my records—I keep a small pocket notebook with all these in, and I was pretty sure I had a new site.

Once I’d traced the owner, I’d seek permission to erect nest boxes and monitor populations. It would also be another record for the survey. Southern England wasn’t doing too badly—depending upon how things fared during the cold winter—if it wasn’t too bad in terms of mortality rates and the spring and summer were good, the situation for dormice wouldn’t be too bad. One of the things my survey and co-workers would be able to help me determine.

After dashing home and changing, I left both the dog and Julie there and went to collect the girls. “Nothing happened, Mummy,” Trish reported.

“Good—maybe it’ll all blow over.” Like I believed that? No way. For someone who would prefer a quiet life, I seem determined to do everything I can to prevent it. I just don’t like bullies, which was how I saw those thugs. Too many memories of being bullied in school—like being left naked in the girl’s toilets; or beaten up for refusing to do something demeaning one of the bullies demanded. I used to get hit quite regularly, especially in high school. Despite it being a grammar school, there was still bullying going on—it’s endemic amongst school kids, boys and girls—so I may not have been much better off being a girl at that age, except I’d have been happier in myself.

“Do you ever get bullied?” I asked the girls as we drove home. They all said they didn’t, now that little brown calf had gone. I wondered where dear Petunia had been transplanted.

Back in the house, I asked the boys if they were bullied. Danny, who was the larger by far of the two said he wasn’t but hinted that Billy might be. Billy, began by being quite a little tearaway when he first came to us. Now he’d settled down to being much quieter and sensitive.

I sat with Billy in the kitchen handing him a drink of juice, “How are things in school?” I asked him.

“’Sokay, why?”

“I wondered how you were getting on, that’s all?”

“All right.”

“Nothing you want to talk about?”

He looked away from me, “No, why?”

“Sure?” I asked deciding whether I’d mention Danny’s hint. “Has the reading helped?”

“Oh yeah, Mummy, it’s much better an’ I don’t get like, teased so much.”

“Is bullying a problem there?”

“Sometimes, but they leave me alone, because I fight back—Danny doesn’t.”

“You think Danny gets bullied?”

“A bit, because he likes to talk with the girls—he says it’s because we have a house full of girls here and he likes them. He says boys are all dickheads if they don’t like girls.”

“It’s unusual for boys of his age to think that, don’t you think?”

“No, I agree with some of it, girls are okay—most of my like, friends in school wouldn’t say so, but I do.”

“Because you have to cope with them here?”

“Yeah, I guess.”

“Would life be easier if there were no girls here?”

“No, I don’t think so—I like my sisters, they’re kewl, ’specially Julie—she’s hot.”

No wonder my kids are mixed up—he fancies a girl, who’s really another boy, which he knows about but ignores. Mind you, if adults were the same, life would be so much easier all round. Perhaps he sees her essence—although it’s her body he fancies—oh I dunno, seems they’re okay for the moment.

I got dinner—some fish for a change. I managed to get some fresh mackerel on the way back from our walk and I baked them in foil in the oven with garlic butter. I’ll serve them with new potatoes, carrots and sliced beans.

Before serving them, I pulled most of the bones out of the mackerel, and warned the children not to eat too quickly because there were still some bones in the fish. Meems took an hour—she checked out every square millimetre of the fish and anything that looked remotely like a bone she put on the side of her plate.

I’ll wait a few years before I give her mackerel again, because otherwise she’ll have died from starvation before she ate them. Simon, Tom, and I enjoyed them—Stella of course had gone off on her date—Julie was babysitting Puddin’.

I reminded her that she needed to be up and dressed tomorrow for the salon. She wasn’t impressed by my message. Still if she doesn’t enjoy it, it might provide enough incentive to get her back to do A‑levels at college. I really felt she could do better for herself if she tried; all I could do was try to get her to think about it and perhaps do it.

It would also show her shrink, that she was doing well in her transition and help count towards her chances of surgery. I know Timmy became Kimmy in Germany last year, but that was exceptional—would I support surgery at seventeen, or eighteen? In the latter it wouldn’t much matter apart from finding the money, she could please herself.

Oh boy, the responsibility of planning someone else’s future—too much, let’s have a chocolate biccie and a cuppa before I chase the kids up to bed.

The girls were easy to get to bed, and I noticed someone lurking in the shadows as I read to the youngsters—Julie, who was babysitting Puddin’ was standing just inside the door of Stella’s room listening to my rendition of Enid Blyton’s gang of kids.

I tucked the girls in and kissed them goodnight. As I left I thought I heard a sniffle. I gently eased open Stella’s door which wasn’t properly closed and Julie was sitting on her bed gently crying to herself.

I entered the room and closed the door quietly, then sat gently beside her and put my arm around her shoulder. “Hey, what’s the problem?” I asked quietly.

It took her a moment or two to be able to talk to me, “I thought that was really nice, you reading to the girls, like you do every night.”

“I don’t do it every night, Simon and Tom do it as well you know. I didn’t realise my reading was so bad it made you want to cry,” I tried to joke.

“It wasn’t—it was beautiful, I just wished I was one of those little girls being read to and tucked in by a mummy who loves them.”

I hugged her, “Don’t you think I love you too?”

“I s’pose so.”

“I do you know—now c’mon dry your eyes and relax. In an hour, I’ll take over with Puddin’ and you can get off to bed. I’ll come and read to you and tuck you in—how’s that?”

I hoped she’d smile and tell me it wasn’t necessary, instead she burst into tears. Oh well, looks like I’ve got another job tonight. I hugged her and kissed her forehead. “I’m going to sort out the boys, I’ll see you in an hour.”

Still sniffing she nodded.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 924

I did read to Julie, not stories, but a poem by Robert Frost: The Road Not Taken and Kipling’s If.

“What if I don’t want to be a man?” she enquired at the end of Kipling.

“I don’t think it’s compulsory.”

“Oh, thank God for that, you had me worried, Mummy; besides, I can’t always keep my head when all around are losing theirs.

“You’re not the only one; I do the headless chicken now and again.”

“I can’t believe anything really fazes you, Mummy.”

“Stick around kiddo, you’ll see.”

“What was that all about choosing paths?”

“Oh goodness, there’s so much controversy written about that poem—was Frost being ironic and so on? He said something about it being a walk he did with his friend Edward Thomas—but loads of people think it’s much more philosophical than that.

“I like to think it’s about all the paths we choose to take means we ignore another which would have led somewhere else. Sometimes we think, we could always come back and redo the choice, taking the other path—but by then, we’ve moved on and can never revisit the past.”

“You’re awfully clever, Mummy.”

“Me—nah, just had a good education.”

“I’d never even heard of Frost or Kipling, except Frost used to have a chat show and Mr Kipling ‘makes exceedingly good cakes.’

“Goodness, girl, you’re an ad man’s dream, aren’t you?”

“Me? No I’m not—anyway, you know what I’m talking about, so you must have seen the ads too.”

“I didn’t say I hadn’t,” I closed the book of poems.

“Can I borrow that book, Mummy?”

“Yes, of course you can—but I should like it back, I’ve had it a long time.” I handed her the book knowing she would see the inscription inside it. Awarded to Charles Watts, School Poetry Prize 1998. Bristol Grammar School.

She took the book and put it on her bedside table. “I’ll look after it.”

“I’m sure you will,” I kissed her on the forehead. “Night night, sweetheart.”

“Good night, Mummy, and thank you.”

“My pleasure, now go to sleep.” I heard her laugh gently as I came back down the stairs where Simon and Tom were in deep discussion, about cars again. It was either that or rugby—I’m surprised, it wasn’t the latter although Scotland had been beaten by Italy, the weakest of the six nations. I expected to see them both wearing black armbands after that.

I only ever saw an international rugby match once back years ago when I was in school. Dad got some tickets for Wales v England at Cardiff. I found the atmosphere totally overwhelming and when the Welsh started to sing—I openly wept, much to Dad’s disgust. Because he supported England, I went with Wales, who eventually won by a narrow margin. I’ve sort of supported them ever since—when I watch it on telly that is: and that isn’t very often. But I shall never forget the singing at the Millenium Stadium, in Cardiff—it was pure magic.

“Sold the Land Rover yet?” asked Simon.

“Whit, my wee Freelander?”

“Yeah, that heap o’junk.”

“Dinnae be sae saucy, ye muckle heid.”

I left them bickering; although I knew it was in good fun, I was wanting some peace and quiet. I didn’t find it, Puddin’ woke so I had to go and change and feed her. I got her back to sleep just before Stella arrived as drunk as a skunk. The taxi driver needed help to get her out of his cab—Simon obliged him, and wasn’t very gentle about it either, so it probably served him right when she threw up all over him. It looked like she’d had a Chinese for dinner—could see his little hat and shoes.

I helped to put her to bed, wiping the vomit out of her hair and clothes after Simon carried his supine sibling upstairs. I also changed her into her nightdress and tucked her into her bed. She was soon snoring, I hoped it wouldn’t wake Puddin’ because if she decided to wail, Stella would most probably not hear it, and if she did would be incapable of dealing with her baby.

Simon was drying himself after a shower by the time I’d finished. I washed, cleaned my teeth and slipped into bed. He was reading something for a while, how long I don’t know. I went off to sleep very quickly, except I dreamt of walking in the woods with Julie and we had to choose which path to take…

Next morning, I was up and showered while Simon slept on. I went to wake Julie except she was in the shower herself. She came down twenty minutes later, looking very unsure of herself.

“I don’t know if I can do this, Mummy?”

“Why ever not?”

“I’m scared.”

“Of what?”

“If they realise I’m a boy.”

“I thought you were a girl with a plumbing problem—like Trish.”

“Who’s like me?” piped a little voice from behind me.

“Hello, sweetie-pie,” I gave her a hug and a kiss, “tell your big sister she’ll be okay at the salon.”

“You’ll be okay at the salon, what’s for breakfast, Mummy?”

“Tr-i-s-h—you could be a bit more supportive of Julie,” I grumbled.

She rushed from her chair to hug Julie, “I was only jokin’, Julie—but I’m sure you’ll be okay—really, I do. Oh don’t cry.” In less than a minute the pair of them were sobbing on each other’s shoulders.

“Well you’re a fine pair. You,” I tapped Julie on her shoulder, “off upstairs, dry your eyes and redo your makeup. You,” I tapped Trish, “get yourself upstairs and washed and dressed and you can come with us when I take Julie to work.”

“Yippee,” called Trish and raced upstairs.

While they were both gone I made tea and poured myself a cup. Tom appeared, asked ‘Whit aw thae greetin’ wis aboot?’ made himself a coffee and went into the study with my Guardian. Oh well, I didn’t have time to read it anyway.

Julie came back down and I managed to get her to eat some cereal and a piece of toast. I’d made her a sandwich and some fruit for her lunch, and put it in a bag along with a bottle of water.

She actually looked like a typical teen, a bit Goth—all in black—and with her black eyeliner and mascara, her black scarf tied around her wrist and so on. At least she’d taken my advice about shoes and was wearing her ballet pumps.

Trish and I took Julie off to her date with destiny while the other two girls were sent back upstairs to get Simon up to organise their breakfast. Stella, I assumed, would probably not be feeling like rising just yet—then it might almost be a resurrection.

Simon and Livvie could probably deal with Puddin’ if necessary, although Meems was the baby expert—she loved it, and Trish wasn’t too bad either.

Trish and I went into the death chamber with Julie, who was soon settled in by Marge the owner and one of the stylists, who looked as if she’d been frightened as all her hair was standing up on end—doubtless she thought it was very kewl, or whatever the in-word is. Before Trish offered to teach them how to cut hair, I whisked her away and we did the supermarket shop on the way home.

Julie was due to finish at five thirty, so I agreed to come and get her. She told me that Shelley and Tracie were going to call by and tease her—to which, she was quite looking forward, I think. She had a job, sort of—neither of them did.

Back at the ranch, Trish went up to help Stella with Puddin’. Simon was quite disgusted that babies messed in their nappies, he’d left Livvie to do the unspeakable bit, because ‘she needed the practice.’ He warmed the food for her, and Livvie fed the baby—while he supervised—probably from a safe distance.

“It’s a good job in some ways, that I didn’t have babies, isn’t it?” I said to him.

“No I think we were quite sensible getting them already house trained,” he smirked.

“Did you empty the washing machine?” I asked him.

“No—why should I?”

“It’s mainly your clothes that’s in it.”

“I hope that Hu flung dung or whatever it was hasn’t stained my shirt.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“The Chinese meal, she shared with us last night.”

“Oh well, she knew you were the greedy one, so you got most of it.” I smiled at him and ducked as he swiped at me.

“Bloody women—next time she does that, she can stay all night in the stupid car.”

“I have vague recollections of getting you inside and upstairs with Stella’s help when you’d had a wee drappie tae much.”

“That’s different, and a long time ago—remember I can’t drink now.” I suppose I could have told him that his liver was now healed, but it was safer to say nowt and let him believe he was at risk—he might actually live longer then.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Road_Not_Taken_(poem)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/If—

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 925

I took Tom and Leon out some drinks—the vegetable garden was looking quite a bit tidier. “Where’s Julie?” asked Leon.

“At the salon,” I answered as I passed him a coffee.

“What, she gettin’ ’er ’air done? She didn’t say nuffin’ about dat.”

“She’s working at one as a Saturday girl. I suppose she didn’t say anything about that either?”

“Not to me.”

“Oh well, perhaps you had better things to talk about the other night—unless you forgot, of course.”

“Coulda done,” he took his drink and walked over to sit on a garden seat, which looked in need of some TLC. Something for the spring for him to do, if he’s still coming here then.”

“She’ll be home by about six.”

“Okay,” he nodded and smiled. Maybe they were an item together—experience for both of them.

The two boys were upstairs reading some of the books I’d got for them which pleased me no end. “Not out helping Leon today?” I asked.

“Nah—they sent us in, an’ it was cold.” Danny looked up from his book.

“Why did they send you in?”

“He was messin’ about,” offered Billy.

“An’ you weren’t?” challenged Danny.

“Sounds to me you were both messing about.”

“Yes, Mummy,” they both chorused quietly. Well, they were boys and boys do mess about—but Tom’s veg garden was his pride and joy, and having Leon to help him has rekindled his interest. I suppose it saves Simon some effort, because I’d have asked him to help otherwise. He’d have said no and offered to pay for a gardener: which completely defeated the whole point of the exercise—for Tom to feel he was helping to provide for the family—and with the family. When the boys are a fraction older, they’ll understand better and I know Tom will love teaching them about gardening.

Back in the garden—“I hope you’re going to do some flowers, too,” I said loudly to no one in particular.

“Aye, ye’ll get some fer yer vases, dahlias an’ roses.”

“Can we have some sweet-peas too, I just love them.”

“Och, they’re an awful fuss, aw thae waterin’ an feedin’.”

“I’ll see to that if you plant them and some sticks for them to grow up.”

“My ma likes sweet-peas,” said Leon, “maybe I could do some for ’er.”

“Och, looks like I’m oot voted—it’s a sair fecht.” Tom shook his head and muttered to himself, but I smiled: I’d got what I wanted and sowed my own seeds—of ideas.

Feminine wiles over, I went in to start lunch. We’d bought a pile of crumpets and after warming them through under the big grill, I placed some thinly sliced cheese over them with a slice of tomato and under the grill they went again. They went down quite well and didn’t take too long to organise or clear up afterwards.

I changed after lunch and when the kids saw me in cycling kit, they all asked to come with me. I told them to behave for an hour and I’d come back for them, and Simon had agreed to see to them changing into suitable attire for my return and their ride.

It was ages since I’d had much of a ride and clicking my shoe cleats into the pedals felt good. I aimed to do a quick ten miler then back to the house to get the kids. Goodness, I was stiff and unfit—and the hills felt much harder and steeper. My average was going to be irrelevant because going out with the others would slow it down to a walking pace. However, if I could encourage them to ride, so much the better.

I saw one or two other cyclists about; the real hardened racer types ignore you, but the others nod or wave, occasionally even speak. I made it back to the house having clocked up fifteen very hard miles and my bum remembered what a saddle felt like and preferred amnesia or should that be anaesthesia?

The kids, two boys and three girls, wrapped up warmly and with helmets on greeted my return with lots of enthusiasm and we were soon out along the cycle path. I suspect we were overtaken by a couple of slugs and a snail, but who cares?

We were passed by a few cyclists, all of whom smiled and said something funny or encouraging. Things were going quite well until I had the puncture—back wheel—natch.

I felt something going funny with the handling of the bike and looked down at my rear tyre—it was softening rapidly. I called a halt and as we were slightly too far to walk home, I’d have to do a repair.

After calling the kids to stay close by, I whipped off the wheel, after inverting the bike. Quick release levers facilitate that—then, tyre levers, and so on—I’m sure you all know how to change an inner tube, so I won’t bore you with details. I checked the tyre inside so as not to repeat the puncture—nothing there, and popped in a new tube, refitted the tyre and pumped it up—I had a Carbon dioxide cylinder thing which saves a lot of time and effort. I suppose it took about ten or twelve minutes to fix the puncture and we set off back home—the boys racing ahead, despite my calls to slow down. Thankfully, we all arrived home safe and sound.

I tidied all the bikes away and went up to shower, then got myself ready to collect Julie. Trish worked out what I was up to and asked to come as well. Then the two boys wanted to come and so did Livvie; Meems seemed content to stay with Simon—she always was a bit of a Daddy’s girl.

I borrowed Tom’s Mondeo and we set off to collect our missing family member. We were all a bit startled when we got there, she was sporting a black hair colour with red and pink stripes in it instead of her normal light brown hair.

I suspect my impression of a goldfish made her realise I wasn’t particularly in favour of her new look. The kids thought it was wonderful—I was speechless.

“Marge, I thought she was here for experience not a makeover?” I asked the owner.

“Relax, Cathy, once it’s been washed a few times it’ll calm down a bit.”

“It may, I’m not sure I will.”

“She’s a teen for God’s sake; this sort of rebellion is better than snorting coke or even smoking tobacco.”

“Okay—but if she starts doing that as well, it’ll be her arse that’s got red stripes on it, not her hair.”

“I didn’t realise you were into violence against children.”

“I’m not unless it’s absolutely necessary—if it saves them from using drugs—then I’m in favour.”

“She doesn’t look the sort, and as her mum, you should be able to trust her.”

“I hope so, but I’ll also make clear I’ll tan-fiddle her rump if necessary to make my point.”

“Calm down, Cathy—it’s her hair colour which has changed not her whole moral code which I’m sure you’ve been pumping into her all her life.”

“I think I’d better get pumping some more—and warn her that Simon will be furious.”

“Well you delivered here looking like a Goth.”

“I was under the impression she had to wear black.”

“Black tee and pants would have done.”

“Okay, point taken—but she thought she’d better look tidy for her first day.”

“She does and she’s worked well, we’ve had her shampooing and cleaning up—I’ve given her twenty pounds for the day, is that okay?”

“Fine with me, and I expect with her too.”

“Yes—she was surprised I paid her anything.”

“And a makeover?”

“Well it went a bit quiet after lunch and I was training an apprentice so Julie was our model.”

“See you next week, Marge,” I collected the children and shoved them back in the car.

“You looked a bit shocked at my hair colour, Mummy,” Julie said with a bit of trepidation.

“A little,” I responded with the understatement of the millennium.

“Don’t you like it?” she sounded still unsure.

“That’s irrelevant now isn’t it? C’mon pizzas for tea.”

The cheering from the back seat was endangering my hearing until I asked them to tone it down. While we waited for the take-aways, Julie asked me, “Are you cross with me?”

“Not really, more with myself. You’ve pushed my boundaries a bit today and I wasn’t prepared for it—that’s all.”

“Do you like it?”

“I don’t think I shall ever like it, but I will get used to it. That’s the best I can do.”

She hugged me and I felt her sob. “I’m sorry, Mummy—I didn’t think it would upset you.”

“C’mon, let’s go home—here kids, help me carry these to the car…”

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 926

“Fu—clipping heck—what on earth have you done to your hair?” Simon didn’t beat about the bush—unless it contained dirty nappies.

“Don’t you like it?” asked Julie who was looking for some positive responses and not getting them.

“On the Bride of Dracula, maybe—on my foster daughter—absolutely not. I take it, it’s one of those washout ones?”

“You mean temporary dyes?” I suggested.

“Yeah, whatever they call them.”

“Sadly no, it’s going to be with us for a few weeks or more.”

“Can’t they redo it, so it looks normal?” protested Simon.

“Simon, Julie is a teenager—they all do things like this.”

“Did you?” he threw back at me.

“No—but only because they wouldn’t let me.” It was an unfair question so I stretched the answer a bit beyond the truth. I’d certainly have done all sorts of things with my hair if I’d been allowed to as a teen. Although I suspect my dad would have been very cross about it, if I had.

“What about the wedding?”

“What about it?” I challenged, stepping in front of Julie.

“Well, we can hardly have a bridesmaid with hair like that, she’d stand out a mile.”

I heard Julie begin to sniff behind me—“Well maybe we’ll get them all done the same, and they could have black and red dresses.”

“You’re joking—aren’t you?”

“Simon, you concentrate on keeping your kilt straight and leave me to worry about my bridesmaids.”

He glowered at me and went off to wash his hands muttering as he went.

“He doesn’t like it—you don’t like it—I wish I hadn’t let Regan do it now.”

“Regan? Doesn’t she come to a sticky end in King Lear?”

“Sometimes I wish she had—I’m sorry, Mummy.”

I hugged her—“Don’t worry kiddo, it’ll grow out eventually.”

“I don’t want any tea, Mummy—I don’t feel very hungry.”

“Okay, sweetheart.” I hugged her again, I’d now have to keep an eye on her, make sure she didn’t do anything silly. I would also have a few choice words with Simon later.

I cut and served the pizzas, saving some for Julie which I hid in the cupboard to stop the boys eating it. I had some toast with a mashed banana on; Stella was sipping water and eating dry biscuits in between swallowing aspirin and loperamide.

While they were still bickering over the last piece of pizza, I slipped upstairs to see where Julie was, she was lying on her bed, her eyes like pandas, where the makeup had run and been smudged, and she was reading the poetry book.

“Hello sweetheart,” I said cheerily trying to lift the atmosphere a little.

“Hi, Mummy. You didn’t say you won this book.”

“It was a long time ago.”

“It said the prize was for poetry—did you write poems?”

“Sort of.”

“Did you write a poem to win this book?”

“I suppose I must have done—or an essay on poetry.”

“Can you remember any of your poetry?”

“I don’t think it was very good—you’d be better off sticking to the stuff in that book.”

“C’mon, Mummy—tell me one of yours.” She shook the book, “Oh, what’s this?” she said as a piece of paper floated out.

I knew what it was—the poem that won the prize—it was called, The Girl in the Mirror.

I see her when I’m not looking—this girl.
She wanders through my dreams—
Dancing with my sleeping mind.
I look for her in my waking thoughts
But she’s never there—
Always aloof and evasive,
Avoiding my searching eyes
Like an image in a mirror
Never, never there.

C. Watts Year 10. 1998

“It’s quite short isn’t it?” suggested Julie.

“Yes, thankfully.”

“It’s about you as Cathy, isn’t it?”

“Yes—but they didn’t know that.”

“Maybe—I doubt you were very convincing as a boy.”

“How about we talk about you, Missy—you’ve embarrassed me enough, or I have with my corny verse.”

“I think it’s a nice poem, it’s subtle.”

“I tend to think the best poetry is which is why I don’t think much of mine but I was only about fifteen at the time.”

“You were younger than me, Mummy, and I couldn’t have written it.”

“Have you seen yourself in the mirror recently, Missy?”

“No, why?”

“You look like Kung fu Panda.”

“Oops.”

“Wash your face and I’ll warm up the pizza I kept back for you.”

“You are a very clever, Mummy.”

“Yes I am, so you lot had better watch out—hadn’t you?”

“Huh,” she smirked at me, “You’d better not mess with Kung fu Panda.”

“I’d appreciate it if you didn’t share that book or my pathetic poem with the others.”

“Not if you don’t want me to.”

“I’d prefer you didn’t.” I paused, “I won the prize for R.I. as well, ironic isn’t it?”

“What is, Mummy?”

“I won the prize for religious studies and no longer believe in anything.”

“I thought all angels believed in God?”

“Let’s me out then, doesn’t it?”

“I still think you’re an angel, even if you don’t know it?”

“C’mon panda peepers, wash your face and I’ll warm up the pizza.”

“Mummy?”

“Yes, darling.”

“Will you read to me again tonight?”

“If I have time, Simon’s home, so I like to spend a little time with my husband.”

“Oh—all right—I s’pose it didn’t really matter.”

She was manipulating me. Okay, she felt a bit down about her hair—but she must have known, we wouldn’t like it. At the same time, she knows I don’t like to see her crying or upset. I suppose the increased hormones may be having some effect—I used to get very weepy when I started them.

I hadn’t thought about that poem for a long time. I got into a few scrapes because I had long hair—not just collar length, it was below my shoulders but it was always clean and tied back in a boy’s ponytail, with an elastic hair band. It used to drive my father crazy—‘You look like a bloody girl,’ crazy. I felt like a bloody girl—so at least I was being congruent.

At one time a gang of slobs—they didn’t have the brains to be bullies—found it amusing to remove the hair elastic, which meant my hair flowed free and got me into trouble.

“Watts, you’ve been told about your hair before.”

“Yes sir,” I answered the head master.

“You argued very cogently that under equal opportunities boys should be allowed to have long hair. You got your way, and we allowed you to have long hair on the understanding that you’d keep it tied back. This isn’t tied back, is it?”

“It was, sir, the band must have come off it.”

“Well I suggest you carry a spare in that case, unless you want to wear the girl’s uniform?”

“I’ll carry a spare.” Actually, I’d like to wear the girl’s uniform, sir—but that would be tantamount to suicide.

“Here,” he threw me a bright pink scrunchie—“it was in lost property.”

I held it in disbelief, it was a pink frilly one.

“Is there a problem, Watts?”

“Um—it’s…”

“A hair band—is it not?”

“It’s a bit girly, sir.”

“And your hair isn’t?”

“No sir.” I was lying, it was very girly—quite deliberately.

“Well, I think you’d better get some more like that one, Watts, then, perhaps you won’t lose them so easily. Do you understand—yes, pink and frilly—well put it on then.”

I gathered my hair behind me and pulled it through the scrunchie, then twisted the scrunchie and pulled it through again.

“Maybe if you pulled it higher up your hair, it wouldn’t fall out so easily.”

“This is how I usually wear it sir, no one has objected before.”

“Try it higher, if you will, Watts.”

I undid the scrunchie and pulled a ponytail higher up my head in a girl fashion, then pulled on the scrunchie.

“Yes, much better, wear it like that, Watts, less chance of it falling out.”

The humiliation I suffered for the next week was nearly enough to cause me to jump off the Clifton Bridge. I suspect my little stand against the forces of oppression made me public enemy number one. I was addressed as Miss Watts by the teachers and Charlotte by the students—the girls were as bad as the boys.

There was one exception—Siân Griffiths—a Welsh girl, who walked part of the way home with me on the second day of my humiliation. “Givin’ you a hard time, are they?”

“Oh, hello, Siân; yes they are—for two pins I’d jump off the bridge.”

“What for? Then they’d have won wouldn’t they? I admire your courage, Charlie. You stand out in the crowd already, do it proudly.”

“How d’you mean?” this was heady stuff.

“They’ve got you down as a pouf, so camp it up—wear makeup or get your ears pierced.”

“I’m not gay.”

“Does it matter—? They all think you are.”

“Do you think I’m gay, Siân?”

“I dunno—if you say you’re not, that’s good enough for me—but you seem like a girl to me.”

I burst into tears and she had to help me to a nearby seat. I couldn’t talk for ages—not helped by an old lady walking past and asking, ‘If there was anything wrong girls?’

“No, she’s on her period,” said Siân and the old woman walked off briskly.

“Why did you say that?” I sniffed.

“You are, aren’t you?”

“Don’t be silly—I’m a boy.”

“That’s news to me; I’ve never seen a boy in you—there isn’t one in there—is there?”

“Course there is,” I retorted then after some more sobs—“No, you’re right; I’m not really a boy.”

“So what you gonna do about it?”

“I don’t know—I can’t do anything until I get away from home.”

“If I can help—c’mon, let’s get you home before you ruin your mascara.”

“Hey—I’m not wearing…”

“Joke, ’kay?”

I’ll never forget Siân Griffiths, she was such a nice kid—although they moved away and I lost touch with her. She had loads of friends compared to my minuscule number of fellow lab rats, so talking with her was difficult but we managed it occasionally. If I’d had more support like hers, I’d have transitioned at Sussex—but then I’d have missed out on Tom’s enormous help. In the end, life has been good to me—so I shouldn’t complain and maybe could have a little more sympathy for Julie and her rather noticeable hair.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 927

I’d never spoken to anyone about Siân, and I hadn’t thought about the hair episode for years—I suppose thinking about Julie’s recent experience is what brought it back from the far recesses of my little mind.

My time at school wasn’t very happy—I did form one or two friendships but they didn’t last, and I spent most of my time becoming a bookworm, concentrating on my studies in between envying the girls their clothes, their bodies, their lives—their everything. Who’d have thought that by my early twenties I’d have made the jump myself, to their side of the fence? At age fifteen, I certainly didn’t think so—in fact right through college, I didn’t think so and let’s face it, if Stella hadn’t sort of knocked me into the middle of the next week, I could still be sitting alone in my little room playing with cosmetics or contemplating an end to everything. Instead, I’m a woman, legally now, with a husband and loving gang of kids, of whom I think the world—not to mention the other adults in my life, like Tom and Stella and Henry and Monica. I lost my childhood and gained a whole family—not a bad trade.

What would become of Trish and Julie? I hoped as they transitioned earlier than I did, they’d be even more successful—although that would take some doing, but maybe more adjusted would be a better way to describe it. I may be the Mummy of the family, the Matriarch—but much of the time I’m winging it, making it up as I go along and no one seems to challenge me. Does that mean I’m doing it right or that they have no more idea than I do?

I keep the place clean; everyone has a full tum and clean clothes. I give and receive love and in between I do some work for the bank, the university, Defra or me. The oven pinged disrupting my thoughts—where was Julie?

I called her and she came down in her robe, her hair all wet and looking suspiciously like her normal colour. “Did that stuff wash out?”

“More or less, Mummy, why?”

“I thought it was a permanent dye?”

“I wasn’t sure what it as, they might have told me, but I was so pleased to just be accepted as a girl and treated as one, I don’t remember—it’s only about the third time I’ve been in a salon.”

“Well that will soon lose its novelty.”

“Yeah, I s’pose it will.”

“I thought I’d taken you once?”

“Yeah, you did and I went once before I met you—the day before I met you.”

“And your ill-fortuned foray into feminine fancies?”

“Something like that,” she said blushing.

“Here’s your pizza—cuppa?”

She nodded and began eating the warmed up bread and cheese mess—I still don’t know how anyone can actually like them, but my family do. Maybe I should try making one and let them see how disgusting this stuff really is. Even if I bought the bases, I could make better toppings than this dog biscuit stuff they sprinkle on the top.

I might think about it after my report was finished. One thing was for sure, I wouldn’t get much of it done over the weekend. I watched Julie; she had changed her eating style quite significantly—instead of shoving the food down her throat like she did at first, she’s quite a delicate diner, eating the pizza with small nibbles. Why do they pick it up with their fingers? Don’t they have knives and forks in Italy—or is this an American custom?

“How was your day in the salon?”

“It was good, they made me work but it wasn’t too hard—I’ve worked harder here. It was mainly goferin’ an’ sweepin’ the floors. We had a bin bag full of hair by the end of the day.”

“Spare me the detail,” I winced and sipped my tea.

“Where’s Leon? He said he’d wait for me?”

“He tweaked his back gardening—Tom took him and his bike home in his Freelander.”

Trish came flying into the kitchen—“Oh there you are, The Princess Bride is just startin’, you gonna come an’ watch it with us?”

“I’ve seen it before,” Julie declined the invitation, “Me an’ Mummy are talkin’.”

“Suit yersel’ ye daft gowk,” said Trish mimicking Tom.

“Here, I heard that, lassie—ye cheeky wee monkey.” Tom came into the kitchen, “Awa’ an watch yer fil-um, afore I skelp yer lug.”

Trish squealed and ran away giggling.

“That squeal should come with a health warning,” I said rubbing my ears.

“Aye, I’ve telt ye afore, that young lassie is tae clever by far.” He looked at Julie, “Whit happened tae yer pink stripes?”

“They like, washed out, Gramps.”

“Aye, sae I see.”

“Tea, Daddy?” I pointed to ours.

“Nah, I’m awa tae ma den and ma single malt. Pity aboot thae hair, I wis jes’ gettin’ use’ tae it.”

“Someone mention tea?” Simon strolled into the kitchen, “the lounge looks like the Odeon children’s Saturday club.” He stopped and looked at Julie, “Your Barnett, it’s normal?”

“Sorry?” she said looking at him.

“Your Barnett, Barnet Fair—hair—it’s returned to normal.”

“It always was normal,” I interrupted, seeing a chance for a wind up.

“No it wasn’t—it was red and black like a tart’s knickers.”

“I beg your pardon?” I challenged him while Julie began to giggle.

“Her,” he pointed, “Julie’s hair was striped earlier.”

“Don’t be ridiculous—if it was striped earlier, it would be now—and I don’t think I like you comparing our foster daughter to a prostitute’s drawers.”

“It was—you got all uppity with me over showing my disdain.”

“That’s hardly a novelty is it, if she’d had her hair done today, she’d hardly have washed it again, would she?”

“You said it was permanent and we argued about the wedding.”

“I think you must have dreamt it Simon, we haven’t spoken about the wedding for days.”

Julie was on the verge of falling off her chair and I was having great difficulty keeping a straight face.

“It’s a bloody wind up—you bitch,” he pretended to strangle me, and all that did was make me giggle, at which point Julie did fall off the chair and Kiki started barking.

We taped half of the film and after we got the kids to bed on the promise of more tomorrow, I went and tucked Julie in and read her some more poetry.

“It’s much nicer when you read it to me Mummy, than when I read it in the book.”

“Poetry is meant to be spoken, read it aloud to yourself, it makes a difference and it’s only by reading it out loud do you discover its rhythm and metre.”

“I wish they taught us poetry like this in school—it was just stuffy and we made fun of it.”

“You can still have fun with it: I must down to the beach again, to the lonely sea and sky—I left my shoes and socks there—I wonder if they’re dry?”

“That was so funny, Mummy—you’re so clever.”

“No I’m not, that’s an old one I learned as a kid. C’mon, lights out and off to sleep.” I kissed her.

“I love you, Mummy, I’m so glad you found me, not anyone else.”

“Well not everyone else in Portsmouth is into the white slavery business.”

“You what?”

“I love you too, now go to sleep.”

“Night, Mummy.”

“Good night, Julie.”

“You’re a prize cow at times,” Simon said as we lay together in bed.

“Is that when the market’s bullish?”

“Eh? Oh very funny—clever clogs.” He leant over and kissed me. “Did you know, marriages where the wife is cleverer than her husband tend to falter?”

“Why’s that?” I enquired.

“I don’t know—you’re the brain box.”

“Simon, I’m a biologist not a sociologist—but I’d have thought it was an advantage.”

“What to have a clever wife?”

“Yes, seeing as women usually take responsibility for the relationship, having some idea of where it was going could be an advantage.”

“For the woman, yes—what about the poor old bloke?”

“Oh I expect she trades him in for a new model every so often—clever women are often so ruthless.”

“I love it when you’re ruthless with me—using me to exhaustion.”

“Simon—I thought you weren’t watching the film?”

“I wasn’t—why?”

“Well you seem to be living in Fairyland.”

“Fairyland? I’m no fairy—bloody cheek—I’d have thought you of all people should know what a red blooded heterosexual man I am.”

“Okay, try cloud cuckoo land, is that better?”

“You’re making a fool of me, aren’t you?”

“No, Simon, I’ll never do that to you.”

“What are you smirking at—I suppose you think I manage quite well by myself, don’t you?”

“Can I plead the Fifth Amendment or whatever the Yanks do?”

“Cow,” he snapped then began rubbing my udders…

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 928

I rose early on Sunday and spent an hour yawning, working on the bank project and yawning. Leon’s mother phoned about half past eight, to say his back was still sore and he wouldn’t be in today. Oh well, one less mouth to feed.

I’d bought a large chicken for dinner and decided as I was up, I’d pop it in the oven and we could have a traditional roast lunch, instead. I was doing the potatoes for roasting when Trish and Livvie came down for their breakfast.

“Where’s Meems?” I asked passing them the cereal.

“Cuddling with Daddy.”

“Didn’t you want to do that?”

“I’d rather cuddle with you, Mummy, you’ve got more soft bits.”

How I didn’t cut my finger off when she said this, I’ll never know, but I dropped the potato on the floor and had to scrabble under the table to find it again, whilst attempting to repress the laugh that was building up inside me.

“She wasn’t cuddling him, she was sat on his tummy,” corrected Livvie.

“I’m surprised she doesn’t sink up to her neck in it,” I added, highlighting Simon’s recent weight gain.

“She was sitting across him like on a horse.”

“Straddling him?” I offered.

“Is that the word?”

“Goodness her legs must be longer than I thought,” I said before realising I wasn’t setting much of an example of loyalty—so made light of it. “Still, he’s a nice cuddly daddy, isn’t he?”

“He’s okay,” allowed Trish, before adding, “Have you done the carrots yet?”

“No—are you going to do them?”

“May I?”

“Yes, but eat your breakfast first.”

“Can I do the cabbage, Mummy?” Livvie decided she wanted to be domesticated.

“Where’s Julie?” Trish noticed her missing ‘sibling.’

“She’s a teenager, Trish—they like their beds.”

“Oh—I’m happy to be up, can I make a loaf today, Mummy?”

“After you eat your cornflakes.”

“Okay, Mummy—may I have some toast, as well?”

I stared at Trish—had I brought the wrong kid home from school? No it was her. Hmm? She can be polite but rarely decides to be so—what has changed?”

“What did you do in school, this week?” I asked innocently.

“Usual stuff—reading and writing and ’rithmetic.”

“Is that all?”

“Nah, we did some history and geography, too.”

“We did some politeness lessons too, Mummy. We learned the proper way to ask for something is, ‘May I?’ isn’t it?”

“Most of the time, yes it is.” That explained a few things.

“Is there any more jam, Mummy?”

“Did we buy any at the supermarket?” I never eat the stuff—so I don’t always remember how much we have.”

“I dunno,” Trish shrugged.

“Well go and look in the pantry.”

“Why can’t you, you’re closer?” came back her retort.

Livvie put her hands over her mouth and gasped.

I turned to face her and with my hands on my hips demanded, “What did you just say?”

“Well you’re closer,” she blushed and I could see the arrogance of cleverness being replaced by a realisation she’d overstepped the mark. “I’m sorry, Mummy.”

“You will be if you cheek me like that again, now you’ll eat your toast without jam or marmalade.”

She looked as if she was about to protest but thought better of it, possibly because Livvie kicked her under the table.

“Don’t push your luck, young lady, or I’ll make you eat it without any butter on it as well.”

She apologised again and ate her toast without any further comment. I let her do the carrots when they’d finished but Livvie got to make the bread, which annoyed Trish no end.

It’s crazy, at this age they can’t do enough to help me—in five or ten year’s time, they’ll be trying to avoid it like the plague.

The boys came down and I had to remonstrate with them as they were slapping each other at the table. All in all, it was not proving to be the best of mornings.

Tom emerged from his study and looked at the kids and asked, “I need a volunteer or two to help me plant some more seeds.”

“I’ll do it,” shouted the boys raising their hands in the air.

“May I help, too?” asked Trish and this was echoed by Livvie. I was tempted to say no, they could help me with housework, but I let them go once they’d changed into suitable clothing. I didn’t think they’d be out too long—it was fine but a cold wind was whistling through the garden.

Stella was next to appear, with Puddin’. I took Puddin’ and gave her her breakfast: some rusks in warm milk, then a bit of pureed fruit. It was all wholesome stuff—at least the fruit was—I’d made it a couple of days before.

Stella was drinking a coffee and still looked washed out. “How did the date go?”

“It was all right until he gave me a dodgy drink.”

“A copper did that?”

“Yeah, I threw it over him—after that, I wasn’t short of wannabe partners. They all knew him and what a dick-head he was, so they all bought me drinks.”

“You didn’t have to swallow them, Stella.”

“Politeness forced me to.”

“Cobblers—you were totally pissed when you got home, Simon had to pay the taxi off and you up-chucked all over him.”

“I don’t remember that—in fact, I don’t remember much at all after Rufus left.”

“Rufus?”

“Yeah—he did have reddish hair and freckles.”

“I suppose that’s no worse than calling a boy Felix because he can lick his own bum.”

She spat coffee everywhere and choked, which temporarily frightened Puddin’ although I managed to calm her down and Stella, red eyed from coughing, looked worse than before she started her breakfast.

“Want something to eat?”

“Not really.”

“Have some toast?”

“I’m not hungry—so stop mothering me.”

“It’s a habit I have.”

“Yeah, well I’m a big girl now—so I don’t need looking after.”

“Ha, you probably need it more now than when you were a kid,” Simon arrived carrying Meems on his shoulders. He had to bend his knees and she had to duck to avoid hitting the transom on the doorframe.

“Worrayouknow?” she snapped back.

“I know you were so pissed the other night you couldn’t stand up.”

“So what’s it to you?”

“What sort of example are you setting the children, including this lovely one,” he tickled Puddin’ under her chin and she laughed.

“Oh get stuffed,” she rose from the table and went back to her room.

“That did a lot of good,” I sighed.

“Well, someone needed to tell her. She’s acting like someone of Julie’s age.”

“Simon—just think a little here; the man she loved and was going to marry died tragically. She’s a single mother and fast approaching thirty, she’s had very little fun for ages.”

“I’d hardly call what she did fun, would you?”

“Before your liver became damaged, you used to think it was funny to get legless. You’ve matured more than she has. If she had a partner, I suspect she’d get far more out of life but looking after this little baggage,” I cuddled the baby, “means she doesn’t have the freedom she used to have.”

“What? You’ve got six kids to look after and I don’t hear you complaining.”

“I’ve also got you—and even if I didn’t, I wouldn’t feel the same need she does to find someone—I’m more self-contained.”

“You mean, lower sexed?”

“Maybe—it wasn’t important to me until I met you and wanted to show you I loved you.”

“I do have that effect on women—don’t I, Meems?” she leant over and planted a big wet kiss on his cheek. “Thanks, darling, it’s more than your mother gives me.”

“I wuv you, Daddy,” she said before he lifted her down and she had some breakfast.

“So, we need to get Stella married off do we?”

“No—for goodness sake don’t let her hear you talking like that.”

“But it’s true—isn’t it?” he lowered his voice.

“I don’t know, why don’t you let her solve her own problems?”

“She never has before.”

“She helped me with mine.”

“Of course she did—she’s a nurse—it’s what she does, or did. It’s her own she never could solve—let’s face it, she only got Des because you weren’t interested.”

“Simon—please—little piggies have big ears.” I indicated Mima sitting at the table and listening while she ate her rice crispies.

“Well it’s true—isn’t it?”

“Of course not—I was with you—there was never anyone else.”

“Apart from your nature conservancy bloke.”

“Don’t be silly—he’s a professional colleague, nothing else, besides, Stella liked him, too—he’s just a lovely bloke.”

“Invite him for dinner then, maybe we can pair him up with her majesty.”

“I’m not sure I want to be a party to matchmaking—it’s not my scene.”

“Why, in case he falls for you instead of my idiot sister?”

“He knows I’m happily married.”

“Since when did that stop ’em?”

“It stops me—and as it takes two to tango—quod erat demonstrandum.

“Geez, woman, you are so perfect—aren’t you?”

“Far from it as you know better than anyone—but I’m happy with my lot in life and I don’t want to do anything to spoil it.”

He cupped my cheek in his hand—“Sometimes I don’t think I deserve you.”

My tummy flipped over—“What d’you mean, don’t deserve me?”

“Oh it’s nothing—you’re just so good compared to the rest of us.” He stroked my cheek and Puddin’ started to wriggle and smell somewhat unsavoury.

“Pud’s pooed in her pants,” giggled Mima.

So instead of pursuing Simon and asking exactly what he meant, I had to change Puddin’s nappy and by that time he’d gone out into the garden.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 929

I was beginning to wonder what I was doing wrong—here I was with the only member of my family who couldn’t get away from me—Puddin’. I changed her nappy, and was talking to her when Julie decided to come down.

Her hair still bore some evidence of her near dyeing experience, but she was otherwise unscathed. “’Morning, darling,” I welcomed her.

She mumbled something incoherent and yawned, helping herself to cereal.

“Tea?” I asked and she nodded back to me. “Don’t eat too much, sweetheart, I’m doing a roast lunch.”

“’Kay,” she replied and made silly faces at Puddin’ who was sitting in the baby bouncer thing.

“Sleep well?” I asked aware that teenagers like cats, will sleep for twenty-five hours a day and party all night.

“All right,” she yawned again.

“I suppose you’ll wake up eventually,” I joked.

“I was awake half the night,” she said yawning again.

“Why was that?” I passed her a mug of tea and sipped one myself, sitting down at the table once more.

“I was thinking about your poem.”

“That took you half the night?”

“Yeah, I was sort of makin’ up my own.”

“Oh, okay—are you going to share them with me?”

“No—I didn’t write them down, but I thought about my childhood and how bad it was.”

“I’m sure there were good times too.”

“Yeah, a few.” She seemed reluctant to acknowledge those but eventually agreed there were some. “Did you have a tough time in school?”

“In lots of ways I made it tougher than it needed to be.”

“How was that?” she began to look as if she’d woken up at last.

“I had long hair like yours, in fact probably longer and very girly.”

“How did you get away with that?”

“I refused to get it cut and argued that if girls were allowed to wear their hair long, so should boys. They eventually agreed—after it went all the way to the governors—as long as I tied it back like the girls did. It used to drive my father mad, but it was well looked after—my mother told me if I was going to wear it like a girl, I’d have to look after it like a girl—so it was carefully washed and conditioned, hot wax every so often and so on, plus every three months I’d get it trimmed to sort out the split ends.

“I got to know my hairdresser very well—she said I had hair like a girl’s and so well cared for—she actually asked me if I’d liked to have been a girl.”

“Cor, what did you say?”

“I told her, yes.”

“Like, what did she say?”

“She looked at me, and said, ‘Well these days they can do that for you, can’t they?’”

“She said that?”

“Yeah—I was so frightened, I didn’t go back for ages.”

“Frightened? Of a hairdresser?”

“Yes—my secret was out.”

“Did she like, tell anyone?”

“No—but she called me, Charlotte.”

“What, like out loud?”

“Yes, I went bright red and nearly died, then she whispered—‘don’t worry, they all think you’re a girl anyway. See—’ she showed me the appointments book and they wrote my name down as Charley—the girl’s spelling, with E, Y, at the end.”

“Crikey—that is frightening.”

“I’m not sure it was frightening, embarrassing—especially when the others called out, ‘Bye, Miss Watts,’ when I left the salon.”

“Were they being funny or did they think you were a girl?”

“They thought I was a girl—they had to cancel an appointment and left a message for me with my mother—‘Could she tell Miss Watts, they were postponing my appointment until the following week?’”

“Did she say anything to them about it?”

“No, she thought it was amusing and when I came in that evening, she said, ‘I had someone on the phone earlier wanting to talk to Miss Charlotte Watts.’ I nearly died and asked who and it was the hair salon, so I asked what she’d said. She told me she would pass the message on to her daughter.”

“So she knew, then?”

“I don’t know—I really don’t know.”

“So why didn’t you call yourself, Charlotte?”

“Too close to my past, I kept my initial but changed the name. In junior school, in my class there was a pretty girl called Catherine Jones, who I so wanted to be like—I couldn’t, she was beautiful—but I could borrow her name. So I did.”

“You are beautiful, Mummy.”

“Don’t be silly, Julie—I’ve been up since six, working on the paper for the bank, then I’ve done a roast meal, sorted out everyone else including Pud, so I can hardly look beautiful, can I?”

“Beauty isn’t just a glamour thing, Mummy—although you can look very glam when you want to. It’s about your inner person—and yours is so beautiful, it hurts to look at it for long. But angels do that to you.”

“Do what?”

“Transfix—is that the word? They like, hold you with their beauty which like, shines through anything.”

“You and your angels—it’s all nonsense. Here you can sit with her.” I picked up Puddin’ and handed her to Julie, she went off to sleep quite quickly in the teen’s arms.

“How come you’re, like, looking after the baby?” Julie asked me as I checked the chicken.

“Oh Stella wasn’t feeling too good and went back to bed.”

“Shouldn’t somebody like, check on her—make sure she’s like, okay?”

“Be my guest—tell her lunch will be in half an hour.”

She carried the sleeping baby with her up to Stella’s room. I didn’t see what happened next—I was too busy making gravy and checking vegetables and stuffing. I actually called Trish in to lay the table.

I made her wash her hands and her face—it looked liked she’d been making holes for the seeds with her nose—which is silly, because her nose is small and turns up a little—retroussé they call it I think.

“Someone has roses in their cheeks,” I told her.

“When’s dinner, Mummy? I’m starved.”

“Soon, darling, which; is why I asked you to lay the table.”

The lunch went down well; Stella did come down and I pureed a little of the meat and veg for Puddin’. The girls helped me clean up because the boys were still doing the garden with Tom—this time they were preparing a trench for runner beans. That took me back a bit to when I used to help my dad—we had to put anything that would rot in the smelly old trench. He used to put in manure and I remember when I was about seven, I think—not much bigger than Trish—and I was told to take some vegetable bits from the kitchen and throw it in the trench. It had been raining and I slipped and fell in—and a big slimy slug fell on top of me—I screamed so loud I think half the close heard me. Mum and Dad rushed out to see what had happened—and I was lying there hysterical as all these horrible slimy things slithered and crawled over me. Dad thought it was hilarious until Mummy made him pull me out—I absolutely stank like a compost heap. It took me years to get over that—and I didn’t eat runner beans for a long time. I got my own back when I did A-level biology—we dissected all sorts of worms and slugs and other creepy crawlies.

“Can we go an’ play on our bikes?” asked Livvie. So they did. Julie was on the phone to Leon, Simon was asleep in the chair purportedly watching the television, the boys were out with Tom and Stella was out pushing Puddin’ in the pram. I had a few minutes to myself and wondered what I could do with myself.

I had plenty of chores, but didn’t fancy any of them, including my sewing and mending. I was too tired to go on the bike and really bored. I picked up the Observer but couldn’t settle—who cares if the Prime Minister is a bully—if it gets things done, so be it.

I don’t know why, but I ended up on the computer and in less than ten minutes, found some people I’d been to school with, then much to my surprise and delight, I found Siân Griffiths or Lloyd as she now was. She was a GP in Salisbury. I spent the next ten minutes wondering if I should let sleeping dogs lie? Then fired off an email.

Dear Siân,

I hope I’ve got the right one. I took your advice from all those years ago in Bristol—remember when they humiliated me because of my hair?—I kept the hair and changed everything else. I’d love to talk with you if that’s possible. If not, I hope all is well with you and yours. Love C. Cameron (nee Watts).

I pressed send before I chickened out and went to start organising the tea.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 930

The afternoon became evening and then nightfall. We got the kids to bed and I went and read to all of them, after reading more poetry with Julie, I decided it possibly wasn’t such a good idea to have tried to expand her mind because it stretched my little brain to answer her questions.

I went down to have a cuppa with Stella and Simon, who were still at loggerheads. Sometimes I felt like banging their heads together—I can’t cope with this sibling bickering, so perhaps I was fortunate to have been an only child.

I picked up my tea and went into the dining room and switched on my computer. I checked my emails—there was a response from Siân.

‘Sorry, I don’t take emails from unidentified callers.’

I was devastated I didn’t expect that to happen. Would I try again? Why not? The bickering in the kitchen had reached insult levels. I might as well waste my time sending pointless emails as sit in on a pointless argument.

‘Dear Siân,

We were at school together in Bristol—I was then called Charlie Watts—yeah like the Stones original drummer, if you remember we had a few meaningful discussions about life and where mine was going. I told you I’d change mine when I left home but it took a little longer than that. I’m now called Cathy and a happily married woman. I’d love to talk to you sometime if you’re willing. If you look at a certain video clip on YouTube—search for dormice and the one with the dormouse popping down the front of someone’s blouse, that’s me. No not the dormouse, the wearer of the blouse.

I’ve been a bit more involved with dormice and the media—I made a film about them last year for the BBC, which went down quite well.

With bet wishes,

Cathy Cameron (nee Watts).’

Well that was about as direct as I could get. It was ten o’clock and I was thinking about bed, I decided she’d either remember me now and get back to me or ignore me. I’d give it a week.

The bickering was quietening in the kitchen so it was possible I might get to bed soon—I was tired—though I had been up early, so it wasn’t entirely unreasonable that I might feel tired.

I checked a few emails, including one from Erin to say the film was being entered for a film competition in China, with ten thousand pounds as the first prize. I wasn’t counting on winning anything, the Chinese tend to keep these things to themselves and outsiders are only there to make up the numbers.

I was about to close down when I spotted a new email, from Siân, I clicked on it with some trepidation.

‘Dear Cathy,

I saw that film on dormice—it was absolutely brilliant and my partner fell in lust with you—don’t worry I won’t tell her about your past. Oh you wouldn’t have known, would you? I came out at uni—went to UCL, and am living with this delicious female, called Kirsty, and yes she is a Scot.

So you finally did something about your hair I see—kept it and changed everything else, you said in your first email—it didn’t make sense then sorry, it’s been a hard week—my dad died on Wednesday and my mother is a bit lost.

However, I’d love to see you, but can we leave it for a week or two?—still dealing with my mum. Do you want to come up this way or shall we meet somewhere between the two eg Winchester or Southampton?

Let me know and look after yourself,

Love,

Siân

PS Just seen the YouTube clip—very funny.’

I felt so much better after reading that. So Siân was gay—oh well, who am I to judge? I’d write her again soon and maybe set up a meeting.

“Oy—are we going to bed?” Simon shouted from the doorway and I nearly jumped out of my skin.

“Yes, if you finished your internecine warfare?”

“Nah, that was just a friendly exchange of views between siblings.”

“I’d hate to hear you cross with each other, then.”

“When you hear the blows being exchanged—hide, or call help for me—Stella fights dirty—all you women do.”

“Gee thanks.”

“What’re you doing?”

“Checking some emails.”

“Not work I hope?”

“No, I’ve just had one from a girl with whom, I was in school.”

“Not in school with, then?”

“Nah, it’s something up, with which I will not put.”

“Good ol’ Winnie,” beamed Simon.

“You know the quote then?”

“Oh yeah, from The House at Pooh Corner isn’t it?”

I slapped my head—no one could be as dumb as Simon pretends to be. “Absolutely,” I nodded to emphasise the point. It suddenly struck me that nodding was something Americans can’t seem to do. They can only shake their heads yes to agree. I began to laugh at my own silent joke. Of course Simon thought I was laughing at his deliberate mis-attribution. Oh well, I wasn’t going to put him right on it. I closed down the computer and went to bed.

We were lying together when something he’d said earlier came back to me. I turned to face him, the light on the bedside cupboard burning behind me, casting some shadows on his face. I lay on my side my head resting on my elbow and my right hand stroked his chest.

“Si?”

“Yeah?”

“What did you mean earlier that you didn’t deserve me?”

“Um, when did I say that?” He was lying and he knew I knew it.

“Before you went out in the garden this morning.”

“I dunno—I’ve forgotten.”

“There isn’t something you want to tell me, is there?”

“About what?”

“Why you don’t deserve me?”

“Don’t I? Oh well, I suppose it’s self evident—you’re a paragon of virtue and I’m a naughty banker.”

“That wasn’t the way it sounded this morning.”

“Well that’s all it was.”

“Are you sure?”

“I didn’t expect the Spanish Inquisition.”

I rolled back on to my back and groaned, switching off my light as he went right through the Monty Python sketch.

“Oh shut up,” I said coldly and turned my back to him.

I lay there wondering what he’d really meant—was he being unfaithful to me? Had he finally found a natural female to screw instead of me? If he had, could I blame him?

Suddenly, from living an almost perfect life—I was facing a nightmare. I should have let sleeping dogs lie—in all senses. He was fast asleep, snoring his head off and I was still awake crying and wondering if my life was over—I felt so dependent upon him now—surely he couldn’t do that to me, could he? We’re all capable of it—infidelity—it’s just that some of us don’t give in to temptation.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 931

After a very poor night, I got up the same time as Simon. For all my uncertainties about his love for me, I did love him.

“Why don’t you go back to bed?” he said as I crawled out of the bathroom.

“I’m all right,” I lied, “I want to spend some time with my husband before he goes to work.”

“That’s very nice of you,” he said and kissed me on the top of my head.

Was I demeaning myself? Was he treating me like he did the kids? I felt so scared of losing him—now I’d committed, I’d given myself fully to that commitment and the thought of someone else coming between us frightened me—I couldn’t compete with another woman: she’d have biology on her side.

I made him some coffee and toast while he ate his cereal and some fruit. “I could do you a boiled egg if you’d like?”

“No this is fine—I’ve got a meeting at nine, someone from HM Treasury.”

“That sounds interesting, darling.”

“Nah, it’ll be some dry-as-dust civil servant who wants free advice about something.”

I worried a bit more, the last time I’d seen a spokesperson for the Treasury, it was a twenty something dolly bird with an Oxbridge degree. Was Simon two-timing me? What would I do if he was?

I sipped my tea, trying to drown my paranoia. “You’re not seeing somebody else, are you?”

“Probably, I think I’ve got appointments all day, why?”

“I meant…”

“Meant what?” he paused as he wiped marmalade all over his toast with his knife blade. He cut the slice in half and was about to put a piece of this into his mouth when his brain obviously decoded what I’d said. He looked alarmed and put the toast down. “What do you mean?”

“I’m sorry, I haven’t slept all night worrying about what you said.”

“What the hell did I say that would make you suspect I was screwing around?”

“You said you didn’t deserve me.”

“I explained that—you’re far too good for me—you’re virtually saint-like and I’m a veritable sinner.” He rose from the table and hugged me—“There isn’t anyone else, you’re all I want and need.”

The trouble with suspicion is that it rots the brain and introduces all sorts of absurd ideas which normally wouldn’t even get to the conscious stage—but now they were and I was very unsure about anything he said.

“I’m sorry,” I said and cried on his shoulder—I felt so emotional, was I having some sort of breakdown?

“Hey, don’t cry—I’m all yours and nobody else’s, okay?”

“I love you so much,” I sobbed.

“Hey, I feel the same about you, you know that—don’t you?”

“I s’pose so,” I held on to him very tightly.

“C’mon, take your tea up to bed and have another hour’s sleep—Julie could get the kids ready and give you a break.”

“I have to take them to school—Julie can’t drive yet—remember?”

“Okay, okay—Tom could.”

“Tom always has a meeting on a Monday morning.”

“Well get Stella up then, that lazy bitch should do more to help you or I’ll get Tom to kick her out.”

“You’ll do no such thing—she’s okay, remember she’s still quite fragile—plus I need her to help me plan the blessing.”

He gave me a strange look—“Is that a good idea if you’re questioning my fidelity to you?”

“Why shouldn’t it be? You’ve assured me there is no one else, so why shouldn’t we give the estate workers and the children something to celebrate?”

“Okay—don’t jump down my throat—I just wanted you to be sure it was what you wanted.” He kissed me on the cheek and added, “I have to go, ’bye.” With that, he donned his coat picked up his briefcase and gloves and left.

I sat back down at the kitchen table and felt execrable.

I was sitting half-asleep half sobbing when Tom found me. “Whit’s thae matter?”

“Nothing,” I sobbed.

“If ye’re greetin’ then there has tae be a reason, lassie. Noo tell yer daddy,” he sat next to me and put his arm round me.

“I think Simon has someone else,” I said in between sobs.

“Are ye sure, because it’s quiet an accusation tae mak’?”

“Oh, I don’t know, Daddy—he’s denied it, but I don’t think I believe him.”

“Och, it’s probably nothin’ at all—jes’ a misunderstandin’.”

“I don’t think so, Daddy.”

“Well if that’s thae case, he’s no longer welcome in this hoose—but it’ll need more evidence than ye’re givin’ me.”

“How can I give you evidence? I only have suspicions and those are more sensed than actual—he’s different and I can’t explain it any other way.”

“Are ye sure ye no havin’ a period?”

“Don’t be silly, Daddy, how can I have something like that—I don’t have the wherewithal necessary to start with—do I?”

“Aye, but all the pills ye’ve swallowed, they can dae strange things tae ye. Now, awa’ tae yer bed, I’ll get Julie tae help me get thae girls tae school.”

I did as I was told and went back to bed where I simply crashed out. I slept until—the clock suggested it was quarter past one and the sun was streaming in through the crack in the curtains.

My head felt rather strange and it took me a couple of minutes to work out what was happening. Then I remembered my misery and wanted to curl up and die. Of course I didn’t—you never do when you want to do you?

I lay there thinking to myself—are you a woman or a dormouse? Given the choice, I’d have opted for the latter, anyone who sleeps half their life away, seemed a superior life form to my bag of misery.

I slept again and was awoken by the thunder of hooves as three girls came sweeping into my room followed by two boys and Julie. They all stood around the bed like I was one step away from wearing a shroud.

“Are you feeling any better, Mummy?” asked Trish and they all nodded in agreement with her question.

“I think so, thanks for your concern.”

“We brought you some flowers, Mummy.” Trish stepped aside and Julie produced a huge bouquet.

“Where did you get those from?” I gasped.

“Auntie Stella helped us get them,” Livvie offered.

“You mean she paid for them?”

“Sorta—yeah,” Trish admitted and once more they all nodded in unison—it was like being surrounded by synchronised mime artists. “Are you getting up, Mummy?”

“Looks like I’d better had—someone will need to cook your tea.”

“Auntie Stella’s ordered a curry to be delivered.”

“Oh has she—?” Goodness, whatever next? Seems like my sister-in-law can get her act together when she wants to. “Where is she?”

“Downstairs talking to Gramps.”

“What’s he doing home?”

“He stayed home today, to keep an eye on you?” said Julie.

“Why?”

“He was worried about you,” she added.

“We was wowwied about you too, Mummy,” Mima said in her characteristic wisp.

“Thank you, darling, thank you all for caring—but I feel much better now.”

“Oh good,” said Mima, “Can I go out and pway now?”

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 932

I knew that Tom would be in his element having curry for his dinner, and the rest of them seem to like it too—but alas, I don’t—even a mild one burns my mouth or makes me feel ill. However, the smell made me realise that I hadn’t eaten since the night before—I’d been too upset at breakfast.

“Och helloo, stranger,” Tom gave me a hug, “are ye havin’ a wee bitty o’curry?”

“No thanks, Daddy, I’ll make something quickly—perhaps an omelette, I’ve got some tomatoes and mushrooms and cheese.”

“Soonds guid tae me,” he left me to go and eat his curry.

As I was dishing up my omelette, Mima came to see what I was doing and asked, “Mmmm, that smewws nice, Mummy, can I twy some?” This was closely followed by two other little girls who also wanted to taste my omelette, and two boys. By the time I’d finished, I had half an omelette left so I buttered some bread to eat with it.

As omelettes go, it wasn’t a bad one—although I’ve made fluffier ones. Tomorrow, I’ve been told they want omelettes and chips for tea. I wish I’d done scrambled eggs now—it would have been quicker and certainly easier tomorrow.

Having slept all day, I doubted I’d sleep well tonight, so I thought once all the kids were in bed, I’d get some survey work done or finish off the report for the bank—if the five hundred branches they had were all over heated, they’d save a million pounds a year by turning down the thermostats. From an ecological sense, they’d also save loads of wasted energy in gas or electricity, which would mean less carbon footprint.

Next year I suggested they could look at increasing loans to eco-friendly companies, which would mean they could maintain their own green status, as the most environmentally friendly bank in Europe.

When I sent Henry the draft of my report—he was delighted and suggested the board would probably want to give me a bonus for the savings they’d make. To me that didn’t make sense—I was overpaid as it was, so I told him to forget it as it seemed self-defeating to me.

He insisted and when I got cross with him, he told me he would give it to me in shares. I’d never been a shareholder in a bank before—mind you until I got them, I still wouldn’t be. Besides, I hadn’t finished the proofed copy yet.

I finished my meal and cleared up the debris in the kitchen, loaded the dishwasher and so forth, then checked that the kids had done their homework—they all get a little bit to get them used to it for secondary school.

I had to listen to the girls read to me, which they all did remarkably well—Trish and Livvie were well above their age standard—but then I’d been so at their age, my mother used to make me read and write as soon as she could. I would listen to the boys later when they went to bed—they actually enjoyed it now and were so much more confident—all I’d done was encourage them and give them a patient audience.

It was bedtime soon enough and I read to the girls—I’d found another Secret Seven they hadn’t read and read them a chapter. Then I sent the boys to bed and listened to them each read me a politically incorrect chapter of Biggles and the Cruise of the Condor.

Then after a cuppa and quick chat with Stella, I sent Julie to bed, where we discussed Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats. I was too brain-dead to discuss more serious stuff, and not high enough to discuss the Jabberwocky.

“Thanks for helping to hold the fort today,” I said before kissing her goodnight.

“That’s okay, Mummy, we can all have an off-day, and it’s nice to return some of the love you give us.”

I left her room with a lump in my throat—she was becoming such a good kid—I knew it couldn’t last, she’s a teenager for God’s sake, but by golly, I was going to enjoy it while it did.

Tom and Stella went off to their respective beds about eleven, I called Simon’s mobile and left a message when it said he was unavailable. I simply told him I loved him—something he hadn’t said to me for quite a few days.

I set to with my report and in two hours had broken the back of it. I checked my emails before going to bed—maybe something would cheer me up before I went back to my lonely bed and miserable thoughts.

I opened the one I’d hoped would be there:

‘Hi Cathy,

My mum is driving me bonkers. I have some business to attend to in Southampton tomorrow—so would enjoy meeting up if you’re free. I should be finished by half ten.

Any chance you could make it? If so I suggest we meet at Quay West, at the Costa coffee shop. Do try and come—it will be so nice to talk to you and not with my mother!!!

Come and rescue this damsel in distress. Could you let me know, yay or nay?

Love,

Siân.

PS Sorry it’s such short notice.’

I wrote back saying I would make it and did she mind if I brought my teenage daughter with me? It would make her think how someone my age had a teenage kid and I thought, Julie deserved some retail therapy. I gave Siân my mobile number and drifted off to sleep wondering what to wear tomorrow.

I woke early and was up by six; by seven I’d showered and done my hair—I put it up and had a few tendrils falling from the top, by my ears and down my neck. I did my makeup and called the girls—of course they spotted it immediately.

“You look nice, Mummy—are you going somewhere?” enquired Trish.

“I’m meeting a friend in Southampton, an old schoolfriend.”

“Have a nice time, Mummy,” wished Livvie.

While Meems said, “I wish I was comin’ too, Mummy.”

I got them all washed and they began to dress themselves so I went to wake the boys and tell Julie the good news. She took a moment to understand what I was saying, but once it penetrated her pretty little head, she squealed, “Shoppin?” and leapt out of bed. I told her I wanted her to look as good as possible and told her what she was going to wear. She gave me a Paddington hard stare, but I told her I wasn’t taking her if she didn’t do as I instructed. She conceded and went to shower.

The girls were down and ready for breakfast before the boys, and they wanted to know where I was going and who I was seeing. I told them and they were happy for me to ask Stella to collect them.

Stella came down and I asked her if she’d collect the girls from school to save me rushing back from Southampton.

“I wondered why you were so prettied up. What’s his name?” she joked.

“No, Watts is my name,” said Trish, “Mummy’s goin’ to see an old school friend, she’s a doctor.”

“A doctor—do I know ’em?”

“Dr Siân Griffiths, do you know her?”

“Not Offa’s Dyke?”

“Eh?”

“If it is the Welsh lezzie, watch her.”

“How do you know her?”

“She did some of her training at the QA—made a pass at me. How do you know her?”

“I was in school with her, she hadn’t come out then.”

“Oh well—maybe you won’t be her type anyway—some lezzies are very choosy, if you know what I mean.”

“Stella, I’m a married woman—so I’m not interested anyway—besides, Siân has a partner.”

“Oh well, don’t say I didn’t warn you.”

“Will you collect the girls?”

“Of course, just don’t you get collected—she takes scalps.”

“I’ll have Julie to protect me,” I beamed at Stella.

“Well, watch her too.”

“Stella, I suspect you’re being unnecessarily alarmist, she was a good friend to me in school.”

“If you’d been her girlfriend you’d have known a different side of her.”

“I was a girlfriend of hers.” I smirked and Stella nearly choked on her coffee.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 933

I took the girls to school and collected Julie on the way to Southampton—okay, it was a bit of a dogleg, but I was delighted to see that Stella had helped her with her hair and makeup. Her hair now resembling mine quite closely, except it was darker and with the odd bit of black, pink or red still in it.

I was wearing my grey outfit complete with the ankle boots, I’d asked Julie to wear a mini dress with leggings and her low heeled boots—we’d be doing some walking. On top, she wore a black coat and I had my red duffle coat with its fleecy lining.

“Is this okay?” she said giving me a twirl.

“Yeah, I suppose it’ll have to do—if it gets too posh, I’ll just lock you in the boot.” As soon as I said it, I remembered her dad had done just that. “I’m sorry, Julie, I was just joking.”

She sniffed and nodded, “’Sokay, but it’s gonna cost you.”

“Like what?” I answered my eyes narrowing, expecting to be told she wanted a new coat or something.

“A hug,” she said and sniffed again.

I wrapped her in my arms and kissed her cheek, “I am sorry—I didn’t think.”

“It’s okay, Mummy, I know you’ll never hurt me—though sometimes you do scare me.”

“Sometimes I scare myself.” This was a true statement; I did do and think things which worried me, perhaps I should see Dr Thomas again—but not today, shopping was all the therapy I needed today and what better companions than young Julie and my old school chum—or should that be chummess? So would a female friend be a palette? Duh.

We chattered about all sorts of things on the drive which took less than an hour for us to be parked in a multi-storey car park, with a potential to spend as much on parking charges as we did in the shops.

My phone peeped and I checked out the text message. There were two:

‘Where R U? Si.’

‘On my way, C U 10.45 S’

The latter I assumed was from Siân, seeing as Simon didn’t know where I was he’s unlikely to be on his way to meet me.

Then my cell phone rang—it was Simon. “What the hell is going on?”

“Oh hello, darling, so nice of you to call,” I ignored his lack of any courtesies.

“I’ve just had a bloody great row with Dad about my two-timing you.”

“I don’t know anything about that.” It was true—I might have suspected things but I hadn’t involved Henry.

“I don’t know what’s going on in that beautiful but stupid head of yours, but get this straight—I’m not doing anything with anyone—okay. You’re my bloody wife—though if you keep up this bloody paranoia—that could change. Have a nice day.” He rang off before I could do or say anything.

“Are you okay, Mummy?” Julie’s voice came from a swirl that was overcoming my head. It’s a good job we were seated because I think I would have fallen over.

“Yeah, I think so.” Part of me wanted very much to cry—another part knew I needed to hold it together or I’d spoil everyone’s day. I took a deep breath and we got out of the car.

We found the coffee shop and went inside, this was going to be interesting—I hadn’t seen Siân for about ten years, in fact since we were schoolgirls together. Okay, I wasn’t officially a schoolgirl then, but you know what I mean. In those days she was quite a looker—long dark hair, wonderful figure I so envied and dark, hazel eyes. She was probably about my height, if not a fraction taller—but then I wasn’t very tall, about five-seven, so she would be five-eight or nine.

I ordered Julie a latte, and a Danish pastry. I’d wait for a moment—apart from my tummy churning—I suppose I was okay, as long as I didn’t think about Simon’s angry call. I’d never known him like that before—so maybe it was a case of righteous anger, I didn’t know. The problem with suspicion is that it could also be false indignation to hide his dalliances. Why did he have to start all this in my mind? Life was so good before.

I spotted a rather well dressed woman looking around the coffee shop, her hair was short but well cut and her face familiarish. I stood up, “Siân?” I said loudly enough for her to hear.

She looked over at us, “Cathy? My God, you look wonderful.” She hurried over to us and we hugged, then I introduced her to Julie. “I can’t get over how well you look and how beautiful you are—and how have you got a teenage daughter?” she fired questions at me after we’d ordered our coffees, mine a latte like Julie’s and hers an espresso.

“My sister-in-law asked to be remembered,” I dropped into the conversation.

“Do I know her?”

“She thinks so, Stella Cameron, she was a nurse specialist.”

“Oh God, not that stuck up know-all and part-time patrician? What was it, Lady Stella Muckspreader or something Scottish, wasn’t it?”

“Lady Stella Cameron,” I offered.

“Of course—it would be—so is her brother some sort of nob, then?”

“At times, a total one,” we all laughed at that. “Yeah, he’s actually Lord Simon Cameron.”

“So you’re Lady Cameron?” She gave me a totally boggled look. “Geez Charlie I knew you’d do well, but from schoolboy to Lady Wotsit—well bugger me with a rolling bin—whoda guessed?”

Julie nearly fell off her chair at Siân’s remark—I suppose it was quite funny as we all laughed rather loudly.

“Sorry, Cathy, I must stop calling you Charlie—because you aren’t anymore are you?”

“Not according to the Registrar General’s Office—I’m a female called Catherine Cameron née Watts.”

“I think we might have a tranny amongst our patients at the practice—I’m only the junior partner at the moment because I job-share with another woman GP. She’s got children—I only want to work part-time for the moment.” She turned her attention to Julie, “So how come you’ve got a mum who’s only a few years older than you?”

“I disguised the pregnancy very well, no one in school recognised it,” I joked.

“Yeah sure—mind you someone was admitted for an appendectomy and it was discovered she was pregnant, so doctors can miss things.”

“Cathy’s my foster mum,” Julie said very quietly, “but she’s far better than my real mum.”

“I’m sure she is. So into fostering are we?”

“Yeah—a bit, just a dabble.”

“There are six of us altogether,” Julie added.

“What all from one family?”

“No—I’ve acquired them in dribs and drabs over the last year or two. I started off with one little girl, then got another and another, then two boys and finally, Julie.”

“She’s rescued me twice from danger. I owe my life to her. I think she’s an angel.”

“She’s certainly as beautiful as one, don’t you think?”

“Definitely,” agreed Julie while I simply sat and blushed.

“So what shall we do first?” I asked changing the subject.

“Well I thought we could have a long lunch and a bit of shopping—but that was before I knew you were bringing your lovely foster daughter. Did she warn you about me?” Siân asked Julie.

“Warn me about what?”

“Your foster auntie wouldn’t beat too much about the bush—we got a bit tiddly one evening and I made a pass at her—so she thinks I’m predatory, mind you, you are rather nice, young lady.”

“Siân, put her down—you have a partner, so behave yourself.”

“Okay, okay—I’m only joking,” she winked at Julie who blushed like a pillar-box.

“You’re gay?” asked Julie in surprise.

“Quietly, please,” I hissed at her.

“Yep, and unashamed—so if you change your mind, keep me in mind, girly,” Siân teased Julie, who blushed even more.

“I’ve never known a gay lady before,” marvelled Julie, “are they all as nice as you?”

“Oh definitely—we’re all nice aren’t we, Cathy?”

“How would I know?”

“Oh Cathy, you don’t know what you’ve missed all these years.”

“Can we dispense with the ads for Gay Pride and stereotyping please, and do some shopping?”

“Of course—lead on McDuff, I mean Cameron.”

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 934

We spent a good couple of hours checking out the shops—I could have spent a fortune, but didn’t. Siân spent quite a bit buying some expensive shoes in a rather exclusive boutique type shop. I rarely go inside them, because I know they’re so expensive.

Once we had stopped talking about our sexuality, we were just three ordinary girls out shopping. In some ways I wish neither she nor Stella had mentioned it because it interrupted my thinking. Does that mean I’m homophobic? Gosh I hope not.

Siân bought Julie a gorgeous top—it was pink shimmering silk with little cap sleeves and a sweetheart neck. When you’re as young as Julie, and as skinny as she is, you can wear almost anything.

We stopped for lunch in an Italian restaurant, which was more expensive than I’d usually pay—but then I’ve been used to making my money go further. Siân was saying her dad had left her ten thousand and she was busy spending it. The money, my parents left is in the bank—or most of it is, I have spent very little of it. I’ve never been used to having lots of it—and whilst my parents were far from poor, I was encouraged to be frugal, which I don’t think is a bad thing.

Siân had kept in touch with several of our school contemporaries, unlike me. They seemed happy with her alternative lifestyle and she urged me to talk with them as they’d probably accept mine too.

“I had nothing in common with them in school—I can’t believe I have anything in common with them now.”

“Cathy, you should give it a try—we all need roots.”

“I’m rooted enough with my family and friends as they are now.”

“So how many friends have you got?”

“I’ve never counted them, why?”

“I’ll bet it isn’t many—who don’t have some professional involvement too.”

“What’s that got to do with it? We all make friends through our work.”

“We should also make friends from outside work—to balance things.”

“Why? I’m quite happy as I am. I know several people from the university and still have one or two friends from Sussex. I’ve made friends through Simon and Stella, as well.”

“Don’t forget the dishy nature man, Mummy—he’s dreamy.”

“So who’s this who gets your daughter all hot and bothered?” teased Siân.

“I have no idea—oh, you mean, Gareth Sage, the county officer for Natural England—he is rather nice.”

“Auntie Stella thinks so, doesn’t she?”

“So isn’t the old dragon wed yet?”

“Stella, no—her fiancé was killed in a car smash.” I thought of Des and felt a sense of grief.

“You okay, Cathy?” asked Siân.

“Yeah, I knew him as well—nice chap, he was in school with Simon.”

“Is that how you met him?”

“No, he was there at the incident now so well known via YouTube. He was a filmmaker and journalist. He did much of the filming for the dormouse film.”

“Did he die before it was finished?”

“Yes, I managed to get another cameraman to complete it—he’s good too.”

“Oh well if ever you get negative about Simon, you could always splice some frames with this other chap.”

“I doubt it, Siân, he’s gay.”

“Oh dear, they do seem to spoil your party, don’t they?”

“Do they? I don’t see how.”

“I think, Siân is cool,” Julie opined.

“Your foster child has exquisite taste.” Siân smiled at Julie who blushed but enjoyed the attention.

“Don’t listen to her, Julie—it’s old Welsh flannel.”

“That’s right, play the racist card,” she joked.

I called for the bill, and had to almost fight Siân to pay for the meal. It was okay, but I’ve had nicer tagliatelle in far less salubrious surroundings. It cost nearly ninety pounds for the three lunches—I could have fed us all for several days for that. Oh well—I wasn’t going to show any weakness in front of my old school chum.

“I think we should go halves on the bill,” she suggested.

“No, there were two of us—so I got it. Remember you bought Julie a top as well.”

“Well it looked so delightful on her—she looked proper pretty, she did,” the latter part of this statement was said in an exaggerated Welsh accent.

“Dew dew, proper pretty,” I replied in an equally false accent. I suppose Siân did originate in Wales, but I’d never heard her talk with an accent, so only her name gave her away.

“Look yer yew, arrew takin’ the micky?” she retorted.

“I surrender, look you,” I said and we both fell about laughing with Julie watching bemused as two grown women almost rolled around the floor in fits of laughter. We had to go to the loo and repair our makeup afterwards.

It was things like this which reminded me how much I’d missed Siân’s company, although Stella had replaced it to some extent.

“Were you two like this in school?” Julie asked as we left the restaurant.

“Yes and no,” I tried to answer, “our relationship was very different—you tell her, Siân.”

“Cathy, wasn’t Cathy in those days, but even in disguise as a boy, I could see the inner girl—I think I told you once didn’t I?”

“Yes, remember that day when they’d made me wear that silly scrunchie, and I was getting all sorts of flack and you told me to camp it up and get my ears pierced or wear makeup.”

“Oh God, yes—you were talking about jumping off the bridge, and I told you not to but to defy them and make yourself more feminine. Didn’t I say, I saw you as a girl or something?”

“You did—and that old lady enquired what was wrong when I started to cry and you told her I was on my period.”

“Couldn’t she see you were a boy?” asked Julie.

“No—she had long hair held up in a very girly ponytail by the scrunchie, that and her very soft features, meant she looked like a girl much of the time anyway—loads of the other kids used to call her Charlotte. I wonder how many of them realise how right they were for the wrong reasons?”

“I hated those bloody scrunchies they made me wear—these days they’d have been prosecuted.”

“Good thing too—though it’s still difficult for kids who are different,” Siân lamented. “I have a couple of girl patients who think they’re gay, but are terrified to come out because of what would happen in school and in the home.”

“Yeah, I got bullied in school,” said Julie and my stomach flipped—now Siân would get to learn Julie was transgendered.

“Why should you be bullied?” asked Siân.

“Loads of kids are everyday, the bullies go looking for kids to beat up or rob—sometimes it was my turn.”

I silently breathed a sigh of relief, Julie had realised what was going on and had corrected her earlier mistake. Part of me felt guilty about deceiving Siân, and part of me felt I had no reason to disclose Julie’s full status, and which if she didn’t guess, would boost Julie’s self esteem no end—especially as Siân was a doctor, so would presumably look differently at people.

In a much cheaper shoe shop, I succumbed to a new pair of red heeled shoes and Julie acquired a new pair of kitten heeled black shoes. Trish and Livvie would be furious, so I bought each of them a new handbag and Mima a couple of pairs of fancy tights. The boys, I bought some jeans each.

We said our goodbyes and agreed to meet up again before too long. Then Julie and I drove home after I paid a hefty fee for the car park—it really is daylight robbery.

“Did Siân know about me, Mummy?”

“Why?”

“She told me if ever I wanted to have a look around Salisbury, she’d happily put me up for a night or two.”

“Oh did she now—in which case I suspect she didn’t know, but then, why should she?”

“She is a doctor, Mummy.”

“Perhaps she’s not a very good one, or is it just that you look so convincing, she couldn’t spot it? I honestly don’t know.”

“Should we have told her?”

“What for? She’s not treating you; she isn’t having a relationship with you—so why did we have to tell her?”

“I felt like I was conning her.”

“Deceiving her?”

“Yeah, that’s a better word.”

“You were. I suspect you’d find it more difficult to con another TG person, but who knows? You’re young enough to develop a more female body than I did.”

“What? You’ve got a lovely bod, Mummy, a nice bum and tits as they say.”

“Who says?” I pretended to be cross.

“Um—Daddy did, why?” She blushed and looked very guilty.

“No reason—just have to keep you on your toes—and don’t let me hear you describing me like that—or you’ll regret it.”

“Yes, Mummy,” she sighed and I smirked as I drove down the motorway.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 935

“Once we get home, I don’t want you to mention anything about Siân being gay, okay. Anything else is fine, but not that.”

“Okay,” Julie shrugged her shoulders.

Once we’d unloaded the car and gone in, the kids were delighted with their prezzies; the two girls were so pleased, that the little bags I’d bought them, they could use with their school bags. Basically, they carry small backpacks for school, but with their new bags, they could keep their personal stuff, money, cell-phones and so on, with them.

We’d brought fish and chips—I know, junk food—but everyone, including Tom, for whom I’d got haddock—tucked in with gusto. Except for Simon’s call, it had been a nice day.

I did the usual things, read to the girls, listened to the boys read to me, and discussed lesbianism with Julie. I was probably more embarrassed than she was, and not a lot more informed—just more experienced.

When you’ve known loads of girls, you get to meet all sorts. I had colleagues as students, my own students and now an old friend who were gay. Often it was intimated by other colleagues—‘Watch her she’s gay,’ type of stuff. As I’ve never felt threatened by another woman—except Stella when I first met her—and she had tried to kill me, albeit accidently—and Mary, Tom’s secretary who tried to kill me, women don’t worry me too much. If they fancy me—I might feel flattered, because it’s good to be attractive to others—but I can say no.

Men frighten me much more, because they’re bigger and stronger and more aggressive most of the time—I know I have my moments too—they also don’t always seem to understand, the word, ‘NO’.

So, I don’t have hang-ups with gay people—I mean, when in a glass house, don’t throw stones—and many could say that in coming from a biological male myself, having a relationship with another male is homosexual. As I waited until after surgery for sex—I feel happy with my sense that I was female then. In fact, I always felt that, but I think you take my drift. As for lesbianism—it isn’t something I think about very often—but with three girls under my care—one day I might well have to.

I came away from chatting with Julie, feeling that I had acquitted myself even-handedly. Until Julie said, “I wonder if I’m gay?”

“You mean you don’t know?” I said feeling astonished.

“Hee hee, the look on your face, Mummy.”

“You little twerp,” I cussed, then we both laughed.

Downstairs I sat at the kitchen table with Tom and Stella said, “What’s the matter with you, you look like you’re about to face a firing squad?”

“I had a very snotty call from Simon this morning. Apparently Henry had a go at him.”

“About what?”

“I wondered if he had someone else.”

“What Simon?” she began to laugh.

“It’s not funny, Stella,” I felt close to tears.

“If you knew Si as well as I do, you’d think it was funny. He was nearly a virgin when he met you.”

“I was too.”

She continued to laugh. “That is so funny, Simon having a bit on the side.”

“I don’t think so.”

“Aww poor, Cathy” she laughed.

“How did Henry find out?” I asked and she shrugged and Tom blushed.

“Och, I ken, that micht hae been me.”

“Eh?” I gasped and Stella looked surprised.

“Weel ye were sae worrit, I called Henry.”

“Oh no—so he bollocked Simon, and he passed it on to me.”

“Aye, I’m awfie sorry, lassie.”

“Okay, Daddy, at least I’m playing with a full hand now. I’ll phone Simon and get it over with.”

“Ye want me tae dae it?”

“No thanks, Daddy—I’ll deal with it.”

I went up to the bedroom and called Simon’s mobile.

“Yes?”

“Just a moment—I had nothing to do with Henry going for you.”

“Well who did then?”

“I found out this evening, but I’m not saying anything.”

“Why not?”

“Because ultimately it’s my fault—they only acted because they thought they were helping me.”

“Okay—so it’s your fault?”

“Yes, and I apologise for misunderstanding you.”

“Misunderstanding me? I told you quite clearly that I wasn’t having someone on the side.”

“Yes but your behaviour has been very strange of late—quite distant.”

“So would yours be if you had as much on your plate as I did.”

“No you’re quite right Si, I only look after six kids and three adults—when you’re here—make films, run the mammal survey and…”

“Okay—so you’re busy as well.”

“Gosh—you noticed,” I felt like slapping him.

“Yeah, okay—you’ve made your point.”

“So why are you so worried?”

“I can tell you now.”

There is someone else, went through my mind. I felt tears forming in my eyes.

“I was at Number Ten earlier.”

“What Downing Street?”

“Where else?”

“Why?”

“The PM asked me to join his ministerial team as an advisor.”

“Oh—is that good?”

“I don’t know, because I turned him down.”

“You said no to the Prime Minister?”

“Yes, I did.”

“Why?”

“Because I couldn’t afford for the bank to be linked to any particular party.”

“But you helped him during the banking crisis?”

“That was different—this is politics and I don’t have the stomach for it, besides the Tories have long memories and sharp knives and they might just win the next election.”

“Yeah, so they say—not that I’ll vote for them.”

“That’s up to you—just as my decision to say no to Number Ten was my decision. I told him I’d help with specific projects, but on a one off basis, like before.”

“Did he offer you a peerage?” I said smirking.

“Ha bloody ha, very funny.”

“I love you,” I said quietly.

“I love you too, you daft cow.”

“I’m sorry—but what was I to think, you were acting so strangely.”

“Okay—but I was sworn to secrecy.”

“Even from your wife?”

“Especially my wife—you know what she’s like, jumps to conclusions and makes two and two seven.”

“I hope I haven’t.”

“Haven’t what?”

“Made two and two seven.”

“Why?”

“Because I sent off the report on savings to the bank this morning: if I’ve got the maths wrong—I’m up a gum tree.”

“Without a paddle?”

“Yes, but I’m not as crude as you.”

“So you keep telling me. So what are all these figures about?”

“Savings on heating bills at every branch.”

“Oh yeah, like how much savings?”

“Approximately a million pounds.”

“What?”

“Maybe I’d better check them again?”

“Send ’em up to me, seeing my bit on the side isn’t available tonight—I’ll have a look.”

“Thank you, darling.”

“Did he offer you a bonus?”

“Yeah, I turned it down.”

“Why?”

“I earn enough for what I do.”

“That’s beside the point—you’d have earned it.”

“He wouldn’t take no for an answer and insisted on paying me in shares.”

“You’ve negotiated him paying you in shares?”

“That’s what he said.”

“Geez, Cathy, the way the bank is doing in three years they’ll be worth twice as much. Remind me if I need a negotiator to call you.”

“It wasn’t like that…”

“I’ve gotta go—send me those figures. Bye.”

“I love you,” I said to an empty phone then burst into tears.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 936

So Stella was right, Simon wasn’t having an affair, he was busy with affairs of state. I sent him the figures and an hour later, he texted me to say they were okay to him. He also said it was a good paper. That pleased me.

The next morning after breakfast, while Julie was practicing her ironing again—could say it was a pressing matter?—she said to me, as I was making a casserole for dinner—“I think I’d like to have mooch around Salisbury.”

“Okay, we’ll go there one weekend, take the other kids, too.”

“Um—I was thinking, maybe of taking up Siân on her offer.”

“What?” I almost dropped the knife on my foot. “You won’t if I have anything to do with it.”

“Why not? It sounds fun.”

“It won’t be if ever she gets your knickers off—who knows what she’ll say or do?”

“There’s one way to find out,” teased Julie.

“If you’re just winding me up, young lady, be careful—I react badly to it and people get hurt.”

“I wasn’t winding you up, Mummy, I was just thinking it might be fun.”

“Fine—go, but you’ll do without my approval and I’m unsure how it will affect our relationship.”

“Why should it—like affect our relationship.”

“Because you’re going to put me through a weekend of uncertainty about you and your wellbeing.”

“Don’t be silly, Mummy, what could she do—even if she gets mad, she can only send me home with a flea in my ear. I mean she can hardly make me gay—can she?”

“What do I know—I’m only the woman who tries to keep this place running smoothly for you lot.”

“And we appreciate your efforts—but I’d like to do some things on my own too, Mummy, and Siân did offer, and you did say she has a partner.”

“I’m not happy about it—but you’re sixteen, so you must make up your own mind; just don’t expect me to support it.”

“Why are you so against it—she is a friend of yours?”

“We’ve both changed—me more than her—but notice it wasn’t me she was trying to tempt. She knows what I am, and she doesn’t want it—which is just as well, because I’m not interested anyway.”

“So why should that stop me?”

“Because you aren’t inside what it says on the tin. So what would happen, I don’t know.”

“Who says she’s interested in me?—that might have been just to wind you up.”

“Yes it might have been—well it’s up to you, I disapprove of it—but you go if you want.”

“What if I was lesbian?”

“We can play what if, all day. But to answer your question—if you were, then I’d deal with it and still love you. Is that why you want to go—to find out?”

“Maybe—I like, dunno, do I? I dunno what I am,” she ran upstairs crying, and I had to move quickly to rescue one of Stella’s tops from the iron.”

I popped the casserole in the fast oven of the Aga to bring it up to cooking temperature—then in half an hour it would go in the slow oven and cook until teatime.

I let Julie deal with her feelings by herself—I had my own to cope with, and on top of my recent spat with Simon, I didn’t need those of an adolescent. If she wanted me, she knew where I was. If she sought succour from Stella—she’d get short shrift.

I finished the ironing, wondering if taking Julie in was such a good idea. I suppose it was—I was very fond of her, but teenage and adolescence is about finding yourself and giving everyone else a headache.

I took armfuls of ironing upstairs, dumped mine on the bed—Tom’s on his bed—gave Stella hers. She was changing Puddin’ who squirmed and weed on her clean nappy, much to my amusement and Stella’s annoyance.

I put the girl’s stuff on Trish’s bed; I’d come back in a moment to hang it up, then up to the boys room—they could hang up their own, but they wouldn’t unless I stood over them—so I’d be back to do that as well.

Taking a deep breath, I walked into Julie’s room after knocking. She clicked her phone off and looked very guilty. “Your clean laundry.” I handed over the clothes to her. “Well, was she there?” I said after a short pause.

Julie nodded.

“And?”

“She’s coming to get me.”

“When?”

“On Sunday.”

“Mothering Sunday—how nice.” With that, I walked out of the room and went downstairs before I either strangled her or said something nasty.

“All right if I do some nappies?” asked Stella who was in the kitchen.

I shrugged, and went to switch the kettle on.

“What’s the matter? I’ll leave them if you want.”

“No—it’s nothing to do with your nappies. I just lost my first argument with Julie. I forgot that teenagers are autonomous and only do what they want—if they can work out what they do want.”

“Oh—what about?”

“Siân invited her to Salisbury next weekend.”

“And you’re going to let her go?—she’ll eat her.”

“At least she’d die with a smile on her face—it’s the disappointment in my judgement.”

“Why? How is that the problem?—the problem is Offa’s Dyke and a young virgin.”

“Once she discovers Julie’s plumbing anomaly, I think it will resolve itself—it’s if Julie becomes hurt by the discovery that worries me.”

“You don’t think Siân would hit her do you?”

“No, of course not—I don’t even know if she would try to seduce her. There is no such thing as a typical lesbian—they’re not all promiscuous womanisers—I mean they say the same about nurses.”

“Well it’s true about nurses—especially the gay ones—and a particular doctor we both know.”

“Okay, Stella, let’s accept you had an unfortunate experience with Siân, but you were both drunk and she might tell it differently.”

“Why? What did she say?—bloody Welsh liar.”

“She didn’t say anything—nor was she surprised you weren’t married.

“The tart. We both know why I’m still single.”

“I told her about Des.”

“Oh—so you know I’m not gay—it’s all her. If she says anything different to my story, you know she’s lying.”

“Stella—I don’t give a shit if you’re gay, straight or figure of eight—you’re a mature woman—you can theoretically deal with your sexuality. Julie is still a child—that’s what I’m concerned about.”

“Of course.”

“I’m not a child,” said Julie walking into the kitchen. “I’m legally old enough to have sex.”

“Fine—carry on, just don’t come crying to me about it afterwards.” Why did I say that? I meant the exact opposite—oh bugger—I’m not very good at confrontational situations.

“I won’t—don’t worry.” Julie turned on her heel and went back upstairs.

“Well said,” Stella nodded at me.

“No it wasn’t, I completely messed it up.”

“But you were congruent with your own feelings.”

“That’s beside the point—what if it all goes wrong—I don’t want to fish her body out of a river or cut it down from a tree. She is still a child underneath all that paint and padding—emotionally, she’s about ten or twelve. This is all her hormones talking not her brain—that’s still pupating and is probably a gooey mess inside her skull.”

“Yuck—too graphic. So what’re you going to do?”

“That’s the sixty four dollar question.”

“And your answer is?”

“Oh go and wash your nappies—I’m going to speak with Mata Hari.”

“Who?”

“Our femme fatale, in the hope I prevent an equally sticky end.”

“What are you on about?”

“Mata Hari was shot by the French as a spy. She did try espionage but she wasn’t very good at it.”

“You’re a mine of useless information aren’t you?”

“Especially about dormice.”

“Is espionage prevalent amongst dormice then?”

“Oh terribly—didn’t you know?”

“I’m going to wash my nappies before I get drawn into a long, drawn-out nonsense argument or shaggy dog story.”

“Suit yourself, I’m going to speak with Julie.”

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 937

“I thought you weren’t talking to me?” said Julie when I went up to her room.

“No, we’re talking as far as I know—that I think you’re being unwise, is something we’ll have to live with—because one of us is going to be wrong.

“Siân said you’d try and dissuade me.”

“Oh, why is that?”

“Because you think she wants to seduce me.”

“I can’t read her mind, so I have no idea why she wants you to go—but I doubt it’s for platonic reasons.”

“What d’you mean?”

“Platonic relationships are purely intellectual—a meeting of minds, like Stella and Kiki.”

“She’d kill you if she heard you say that.”

“She might—however, you’re going because you like the attention, and she might spend a few bob on you. Have you any idea how she might react if her intentions aren’t honourable and she finds out she’s been had? She is not going to be pleased.”

“Should I tell her?”

“That’s up to you—it would be one way of avoiding one outcome; but if she is inviting you because she likes you in a non-sexual way—why didn’t she mention it to me when she asked you?”

“Because she knew you’d say no?”

“I wouldn’t if she’d promised it was just to treat you to a weekend away.”

“But what if I am lesbian, Mummy?”

“What if you are? At the moment it would be a theoretical thing anyway, because you still have a plumbing problem, which if she starts anything that excites you, is going to give the game away, isn’t it?”

“Won’t the hormones stop that?”

“Eventually—but not after taking them for five minutes, like you have.”

“Oh—I thought they would.”

“Why don’t you see Stephanie, see what she thinks?”

“I could do, couldn’t I? Would she tell me not to go?”

“How do I know—she’s a psychiatrist, they do stranger things than their patients. What shall I tell Leon while you’re away?”

“Oh, dear Leon, he’s a real brick.”

“Is he? So what do you feel for him?”

“I like him a lot; he’s a good kisser, too.”

“Do you fancy him?”

“Yeah, sorta—but I’m so conscious of men after that bloke who beat me up, that I try not to think about it—besides you keep telling me I can’t do anything until I’m post op and that could take a couple or more years.”

“I didn’t say you couldn’t do anything—but don’t let me catch you doing anything because I will not be amused.”

“You’ve lost me, Mummy.”

“There are things girls sometimes do with boys which aren’t full on sex, and which keep the boys happy—to a degree.”

“You’re telling me I can do…” she said exuberantly.

“No—I’m not saying anything of the sort,” I blushed profusely, “Besides if you’re lesbian—such activities would be the last thing on your mind.”

“What if I’m bi?”

“Bi—what? Bifocals, biplane, biannual?”

“Bi-sexual—silly.”

“I doubt it means having the best of both worlds—but I wouldn’t know.”

“But maybe it does, Mummy—going with girls and boys.”

“I think you need to talk with Stephanie about this—it’s a bit beyond my limited experience.”

“Okay,” she stopped to think about something for a minute, “Mummy, were you a virgin when you married Daddy?”

“No—we’d lived together for a couple of years by then. I was until I had surgery.”

“So you’ve never tried it with a girl?”

“No.”

“Did you fancy boys or girls when you were my age?”

“I didn’t think about it at all.”

“Not one little bit?”

“No—not at all.”

“You were strange, Mummy.”

“According to some—I still am.”

“When did you start to fancy men?”

“If I’m honest, I was out with Simon collecting his car and my damaged bike, and the mechanic who came to tow his car away kissed me. I had an orgasm—the first one ever.”

“You what? He kissed you and you—first one ever? Crikey—you mean you never gave yourself a hand job?”

“Good Lord, no—I despised what was down there and touched it as little as possible—little being the operative word. I thought I was asexual—didn’t have any interest in sex—then Kevin forced a kiss on me and I made a small mess in my knickers—not much because I’d been on hormones for several months.”

“Had anyone ever kissed you before?”

“Simon had the night before, and Stella.”

“Stella kissed you?”

“Only girl to girl, air kiss.”

“That doesn’t count—it’s gotta be a full blown lip lock.”

“In which case, Kevin was the first boy to kiss me sexually as a girl.”

“Cor, and how old were you?”

“About twenty two or three; yeah, twenty three.”

“Cor—an’ I thought I was slow off the mark. But I’ve kissed loadsa girls, and one or two boys now—think I prefer the way boys kiss.”

“Are you listening to yourself?”

“Why, Mummy, what did I like say?”

“You prefer being kissed by boys.”

“Oh—you think I should cancel Siân?”

“I think you should decide what you want from life.”

“Um—okay.”

I left her to stew in her own juices and went to check the casserole—the kitchen was beginning to smell very interesting. I took it from the oven and added some Worcester sauce, then popped it back in. It smelt really appetising and I’m the cook.

I put a dozen large potatoes in the oven alongside the casserole to bake in their jackets—and some beetroot—baked beetroot was a delicacy a friend showed me a couple of years ago—it’s delish.

I made some soup for lunch, using some scraps from the veg I would use for dinner, and some stock I had in the fridge. I peeled and chopped some potatoes and carrots added some chopped leek and simmered, then added some pasta and lentils to thicken it, simmered it a bit longer and bashed it with the hand blender. With some homemade bread it was as good as a feast.

After lunch, Stella and Julie helped me do some housework, in between which I called to make an urgent appointment with Stephanie for Julie. She could squeeze her in tomorrow. I felt relieved that she would be seeing someone who could look at her sexuality in a more objective way—I felt I was being more objectionable than objective.

In some ways, I didn’t feel comfortable helping her decide what she was. Once that was decided—I could sort out my own feelings and help her to adjust her life to cope with her future. Whatever she decided she was didn’t mean I would love her any more or any less—I hoped that commitment from me was unconditional. Yet, perhaps because I felt so undecided about myself until quite late in life compared to her—I felt unqualified to help her make decisions. Oh bugger—I’m not very good at this maternal stuff.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 938

The next morning, a Wednesday, after taking the girls to school, Julie and I went off to see Stephanie. I sat with the Guardian in the waiting room and after browsing the paper, set to battling my few remaining brain cells against that of the eighty odd year old compiler—‘Araucaria’, which is the generic name for the monkey puzzle tree.

In half an hour, I’d done probably half the puzzle and Stephanie called me in. I put my pen away, folded up my paper and went see what she wanted. She closed the door after I entered her room.

“Julie said you had some reservations about her going to see your old school friend?”

“Yes—I don’t know her intentions.”

“Julie said as much—so we phoned her, and Julie told her the truth.”

“Oh—and then what happened?”

“She laughed, Mummy, thought it was like a big joke. She still wants me to go.”

“You don’t think she thinks we’re telling lies to put her off?”

“That had occurred to me,“ suggested Stephanie, “but even you aren’t that devious are you?”

“Meeeee? Devious? I’m an open book.”

“Hmmm, which just happens to be printed in invisible ink.”

“Didn’t they use lemon juice for that?” Julie asked obviously thinking about schoolboy trickery.

“How appropriate,” mused Stephanie.

“Lemon juice—appropriate—hey, I’m not sure I like the sound of that Ms trick-cyclist.” Anyone would think she was implying I was sharp tongued.

“Anyway, when she collects Julie, you can check she understood what Julie said.”

“What about helping Julie decide what she is?”

“I thought that was the whole point of this real life test?” Stephanie sighed.

“No—I meant her sexual orientation.”

“That’s up to her.”

“Can’t you help her?”

“Certainly not—she’ll know what she is when she’s ready.”

“Oh—okay.” I blushed and when Stephanie echoed what was going on in my own head, I blushed even redder.

“Is that for her benefit or yours?”

“Hers of course.”

“Are you sure, Cathy? It sounds as if some of that might be your stuff not hers.”

“What? Of course not—I’ll love her just as much whatever she is.”

“So why do you need to know?”

“So I can help her.”

“Help her do what?”

“Resolve any issues.”

“Hers or yours?”

“No wonder you lot earn so much money—you so confuse your patients in the first session, it takes the rest of their life to sort it out.”

“Damn, you’ve just seen through my plan of world domination,” said Stephanie and began to snigger.

We talked for a few more minutes and I began to see that we just had to wait to see where life took Julie’s fancy, in the same way I’d sort of waited for my own to emerge. Actually, I think mine was so deeply buried, it needed flotation devices to help it reach the surface. If Stella hadn’t bumped into me that day, it could still be buried and I’d be almost as much a mouse as Spike. How life interrupts one’s plans or forces them to be amended—in my case, enormously.

I took Julie home and asked her what she wanted to do about Siân.

“I don’t know, Mummy—I mean, I like, told her the truth and I, like, don’t know if she believed me.”

“Do you still want to go?”

“I don’t know.”

“Has Stephanie helped?”

“Yeah, I think so—she just told me to be me.”

“Why who else were you thinking of being?”

She looked at me and burst out laughing—“You are funny, Mummy.”

“You noticed,” I said and winked. “Let’s get some lunch and do the food shopping—if we go to Morrisons, we can kill two birds with one stone.” So that’s what we did. When I saw they had roast lamb on the menu—I ordered it and Julie had the same. Obviously, it’s not as nice as home cooked food but for the price, it’s pretty good value.

Over the next hour or two, we filled a trolley and then the boot of the car. Then it was nearly time to go and collect the three little maids from school.

“Any nearer deciding what you want to do?”

“About what?” she replied.

“Salisbury—what else?”

“Oh that?”

“Julie, don’t give me that—I’ve been listening to the wheels turning inside that pretty little head of yours all afternoon.”

“I’ll miss seeing, Leon, won’t I?”

I nodded.

“And were you planning anything for mother’s day?”

I nodded again.

“Oh dear—now I don’t know what to do. What should I do, Mummy?”

“What should you do—make your flipping mind up.”

“But I want to do both.”

“I’m afraid life is all about choices and consequences. Make one and the other follows automatically.”

“You always make it sound so serious, Mummy.”

“Sometimes it is.”

“Why is it always so difficult?”

“It isn’t—but by a certain amount of effort, you’ve at least shown to yourself, at any rate, that you’ve thought about it.”

“So what?”

“If you say so.”

“You’re far too serious, Mummy.”

“So you keep telling me.”

I looked across the schoolyard and the girls had spotted us and were running to see us. “What we got fa tea, Mummy?” asked Mima.

“Bread and water,” I joked.

“Is it home made bwead?”

“Yes, why?”

“Vat’s awight ven.”

The other two sniggered and she pretended to be angry and chase them. She nearly caught Livvie, who had to accelerate rapidly to avoid her sister’s clutch. Julie and I stood and laughed at their antics and waited until they’d run off their excess energy.

“I wish I had their energy,” sighed Julie and I laughed out loud. “What’s so funny?” she snapped at me.

“You—you sound like an old woman.”

“Meee?”

“Yes you—you’re in the prime of your life or soon will be—it doesn’t get any better, you simply become more experienced—but the latest research tends to indicate that enables you to see the bigger picture and outmanoeuvre your younger opponents.”

“How do you know?”

“I read it in the Guardian while you were in with Stephanie.”

“Clever clogs,” she sneered at me.

“And some have greatness thrust upon them,” I beamed back and she scowled all the way back to the car.

Back home—Trish wanted to know how Julie had got on with her favourite shrink. I half-listened to the conversation as I made the dinner.

“You phoned her up—gosh—what did she say?” Trish asked in a loud voice oblivious to my eavesdropping. “She’s still coming to get you—oh goody, we get to see her. I’ve never seen a lezzie.”

I smirked before I called her into the kitchen. “Look here, young lady, Siân is a friend of mine. That she is also the way she is, is neither here nor there. She’s an ordinary woman and I want you to show her the courtesy and respect you’d show any guest to this house.”

“But she’s a—one of those.”

“Trish, you’re one of those in some people’s eyes.”

Her face fell. “I’m not.”

“You’re not an ordinary girl are you—any more than Julie is?”

“No—I’m special like you an’ Julie.”

“Or different.”

“I prefer special, Mummy.”

“Lots of people would see you as different.”

“I don’t wanna be different,” her face turned from a pout to weeping. “I don’t wanna be different.”

“Trish, I don’t suppose Siân does, either. She isn’t different, she’s just an ordinary woman who happens to like other women. In the same way, you’re not different, just an ordinary girl who happens to have a plumbing error.”

“I’m sorry, Mummy, I was rude about your friend.”

“Yes you were—Siân is a normal woman, she doesn’t have two heads or three legs, any more than you do.”

“No, Mummy.”

“Okay, dry your eyes and go and change into your playing clothes—then you can help me set the table.”

“Yes, Mummy.” She scooted off up to her room.

The phone rang and Julie answered it, “Mummy—it’s Siân, she wants to talk to you.”

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 939

Wondering what Siân wanted I took the receiver, “Hello, it’s Cathy.”

“Hi, Cathy—I had a strange call from Julie earlier from her shrink’s office.”

“So I heard.”

“Why did she call?—I assumed she was transgender or had some identity problem, which was presumably why they dumped her on you.”

“She wasn’t sure if you knew, and she felt guilty for deceiving you.”

“Was she under some apprehension I was going to seduce her or something?”

“You were a bit OTT the other day, with your gay lib stuff.”

“Oh was I? Sorry. Anyway, she didn’t deceive me and I’m not coming on to her—I thought I’d give you a break and show her over Salisbury, maybe buy her an outfit or so—just spoil her a bit, you know—like you’d have liked when you were her age.”

“Fine—so why are you telling me?”

“I think I shocked you more than you did me. You’re not the first transsexual woman I’ve met, but you all seem rather conservative in your appreciation of gender roles, maybe even a bit stereotyped.”

“I’d hate to think I stereotyped you or any other person, including myself—I think actually I’m an iconoclast rather than a sheep. My own life has been far from typical of how some consider it should. I’ve revealed my lifestyle change where it was necessary—but I don’t shout it from the rooftops—I’m neither ashamed nor proud of it. Julie wasn’t dumped on me, by the way, I chose to take her in.”

“Ooh, beware the female Ursa.”

“Eh?”

“The female bear with her cubs.”

“I know what the genus Ursa is, I’m a biologist, remember. But I fight for my cubs, yes, and I do consider Julie to be one of them.”

“But she isn’t your child is she, so how can you be so maternal about it—or is it possessiveness?”

“I’m proprietorial about them if that’s what you mean—or should that be proprietrixial?”

“God knows, an’ who cares? But aren’t you acting the enraged mother bit, a little too much?”

“Are you accusing me of being a ham?”

“A ham? What are you on about?”

“Overacting—hamming it up?”

“I see the humour hasn’t changed—still as zany as anything.”

“I haven’t changed, Siân, I’m still the same.”

“You what? You haven’t changed—ha ha, pull the other one girl—you have far more confidence and outgoingness than you had as your previous incarnation. He was a wimp of the first water—but now I understand better why.”

“Do you? I thought you understood me back then, too?”

“I was dealing with my own stuff, Cathy—okay, I recognised the inner girl stuff and you said you were going to do something about it—but I wasn’t sure you ever would. To be quite honest, I was surprised that you had found the impetus to do it.”

“The impetus was provided by your old mate, Stella, who quite literally pushed me into womanhood.”

“What? You’re joking—how would she have done anything like that?”

“In a nutshell—I was heading towards transition, taking the pills etcetera but still living as a boy and was out cycling one day, got caught in a thunderstorm and she knocked me off the bike with her car. She took me back to her place to clean up, spotted my blossoming chest and encouraged me to dress as a female, helped me with hair and makeup and I met Simon. He fancied me and we went out together. I never did go back to being Charlie and as I’d previously told my prof that I was transsexual and undergoing treatment, he was very supportive. He’d had a transsexual child who became his daughter but she was killed by a drunk driver—her name was Catherine, too; although I didn’t learn this for some time. Tom is a really genuine sort of man, really urbane.”

“Wow, what a story—much better than mine. I got involved with some feminists at UCL, some of whom were gay and I realised so was I. Took me a few months to deal with it—but it explained a few things about my past and I haven’t regretted it since.”

“Good, so we’re both born again females then?”

“Absolutely—look, if you don’t want Julie to come, that’s fine, we’ll drop the whole thing.”

“That’s between you and her, but aren’t you going to see your mother on Sunday?”

“Why?”

“It’s Mothering Sunday.”

“It’s not is it?”

“Yes, I’m not trying to mislead you.”

“Oh damn, I’m going to have to cancel Julie then. Look tell her I’m sorry—I hadn’t realised what day it was—I suppose you’d want her there anyway?”

“I’d like her here, but that would have been her decision.”

“Anyway, tell her she makes a very presentable young woman and I’ll catch up with her again.”

“If you’re not going to be busy all day, you’re welcome to come to dinner with us—I’ll do an evening meal if that’s easier.”

“Can’t do the Sunday, because of what you’ve told me—could do the Saturday, if Kirsty will let me.”

“Bring her with you—yes, both of you come to dinner on Saturday evening—then you can meet the rest of the brood.”

“Really?”

“Yes—I’ll email you directions.”

“Hang on—can I just check with Kirsty?”

“Of course.” I heard her put the phone down and voices in the distance, then she came back.

“That would be really nice—if you can detail who’s what and how old and we’ll bring something little for each of them.”

“Don’t be silly, bring a box of biccies—that’ll do fine.”

“No—I insist, I want to know just what we’re going to be meeting. Do you want me to bring anything for the meal?”

“No—it’ll be my treat.”

“That’s two meals I’ll be in your debt.”

“Okay—bring something towards dessert then.”

“Fine—I look forward to seeing you on Saturday evening—don’t forget that list and the directions.”

“I won’t—forget what?” I joked.

“Oh don’t—I had an Alzheimer patient like that this morning—short term memory was shot away completely—very sad.”

“An awful disease,” I agreed.

“Yeah—but a quarter of us over 75 will suffer from it, apparently.”

“Thanks, Siân, you’ve cheered me up no end.”

I went and found Julie, who wasn’t broken-hearted over the cancellation of her weekend. I explained that Siân had twigged her, which disappointed her but she seemed philosophical about it. I also told her that Siân wasn’t coming on to her.

“I was beginning to wonder if I wanted to go anyway.”

“Why—you were all for it half an hour ago?”

“I don’t think I’m lezzie.”

“The word is lesbian or gay woman—not lezzie, that’s tantamount to an insult.”

“Okay, okay—I’m not a lesbian.”

“How do you know—you didn’t an hour ago?”

“I’ve been thinking”—I pulled a face and she said—“Ha ha, very funny, I do think, you know.”

“Of course I know, I’m only joking.”

“Well, I really like Leon, so I think I’m going to be a hetero girl—like you, Mummy.”

“Why don’t you wait, as Dr Stephanie suggested—and see where life takes you, rather than try to force the issue?”

“Yeah—maybe you’re right, Mummy, I might be bi after all.”

I gasped and she fell about laughing—looks like we were quits in the teasing stakes.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 940

Dinner passed without further ado, and Julie and I cleared up while the rest of my brood did their various homework. Meems had to write the numerals from one to ten and show me how many fingers that involved. We did it once I’d cleared the table and had the dishwasher going.

Danny had some more advanced arithmetic to do and as he seemed competent, I left him to do it. Billy had an essay to write, so after discussing some ideas about how he could write it—Watching a sporting event, I moved on to Trish and Livvie who worked together. They were like Siamese twins, both producing identical work because it was co-authored. They had to write down their favourite nursery rhyme, so we had endless recitations of all those they could remember.

In the end, I had to insist they chose one—preferably not a long one, as neither was a very quick writer—hardly surprising at five years old. I steered them towards Humpty Dumpty, which they thought was sad until I explained it was about a cannon which was stood on the walls of Oxford, a city in the hands of Royalists during the English Civil War, and which fell off, and being cast iron, smashed.

And all the king’s horses and all the king’s men, couldn’t put Humpty together again.

They both decided they suddenly liked it and wrote it down, which took them ages. I did a quick proofread for them and surprisingly, they both copied it accurately.

I managed to get them all to bed eventually and after the story rounds and a chat with Julie about sexuality—I got downstairs, poured myself a glass of Rioja and sat at the kitchen table reflecting on the conversation with Julie.

“Mummy, what if Leon gets fed up with me not being a real girl?”

“There’s nothing I can do, sweetheart, if he does—he does. It happens.”

“Maybe I should talk to Siân about lesbianism?”

“I suspect she’ll be able to give you more about it than I can. I’m not aware that it happens in dormice.”

She laughed at my comment about dormice. “What if I’m bi?”

“What if you’re not?” I almost echoed.

“What would I do, Mummy?”

“How do I know? Raise it with Stephanie the next time you see her.”

“But you’re my mother.”

“Your foster mother, Julie—I’ve only known you a couple of months or so.”

“Yeah, but you like, understand me better than, you know who.”

“Are you asking or telling?”

“I’m not sure—bit of both, I s’pose.”

“I have insights from another perspective, but don’t write her off—most parents do what they consider to be the best job they can for their children.”

“Well you’ve like, done far more for me than she ever did.”

“For one part of your being, maybe—she got you to sixteen, so she can’t have done too bad a job.”

“Huh, you weren’t there when I wanted a nurse’s uniform and she hit me for being stupid.”

“Oh—that was unfortunate.” I wasn’t entirely against corporal punishment, it sometimes had a place, but so far it hadn’t been necessary with my kids. Normally withholding my approval or expressing disappointment was enough to make them quite repentant—even Julie.

Unfortunate—she was nasty about it. The uniform had a white apron with a red cross on the bib, and blue cape and white nurse’s hat. She told me that seeing as I liked the red cross so much, she’d give me one on my bottom. She smacked me with a cane, making the shape of a cross, and it was red and sore for days.”

“Okay; that was nasty and unnecessary if I understand you correctly.”

“What shall I do about Leon, Mummy?”

“Has he told you he doesn’t want to see you?”

“No.”

“Well, until he does or his body language tells you, I’d continue as you are. I suspect he’s hardly got a reputation as a Casanova.”

“Who?”

“Geez, girl, didn’t they teach you anything at school—Casanova the great Venetian lover of the eighteenth century.”

“What he came from the planet Venus?”

“No, you nit, from Venice. Venusians come from Venus—or would if there were any to come from there. In an atmosphere of sulphuric acid, they’d have to be pretty hardy, wouldn’t they?”

“I guess so.”

“Siân and Kirsty are coming for dinner on Saturday, so I want to make a good impression on them—so don’t let them do anything off the wall to your hair while you’re at the salon, will you?”

“Okay, Mummy—then I didn’t like know they were gonna do that last week.”

I eventually got downstairs and poured the glass of wine I mentioned before, Stella came down with some more dirty nappies and poured herself a glass after dumping the nappies in the bucket to soak in the nappy cleaner.

“Did I hear you inviting that rancid lesbo to dinner with her ’orrible partner?”

“I invited Siân and Kirsty to dinner, yes. If you don’t like the company you don’t have to come.”

“Oh that’s great! Excluded from my own dinner table by her.

“No, you’re excluding yourself—I’m the hostess here, if you want to complain, talk to Tom.”

“Okay, I will.” She strode out to Tom’s study and went in. I heard muffled but loud voices and she came out with a face like thunder. “If I choose to stay in on Saturday evening, I’ll eat separately.”

“Fine—if you choose to cook it, you can eat what you like.”

“So you would exclude me?”

“No, you’re welcome to dine with us.”

“Not with that Welsh dragon woman.”

“That’s up to you.”

“It wasn’t you who got hit upon.”

“No—it wasn’t, but neither was it I who got blotto and could barely remember who she was.”

“How did you know that?”

“I’ve seen it since, Stella—I know you—so stop all this protesting and grow up.”

“F’geddit, I’ll cook my own dinner on Saturday.”

“Fine—just keep out of my way.”

“Why—what’re ya gonna do?”

“Will you stop acting like a ten-year-old?”

“I can’t believe you are talking to me.”

“Yeah, reality never was your strongpoint was it?”

“How dare you?” I saw her hand move and dodged the wine before it hit me.

“I hope you’re going to clean that up?” I said firmly.

“Get stuffed.” She turned on her heel and went upstairs.

I cleaned up the mess and fumed at her childishness. As I was doing so, Tom wandered in. “Whit’re ye daein?”

“Cleaning up some spilt wine—why?”

“Why is Stella sae riled at yer dinner party?”

“She thinks Siân once made a pass at her while they were both drunk.”

“She’s makin’ an awfu fuss o’er it?”

“I agree—perhaps, the lady doth protest too much?”

“Aye mebbe?” With that he washed his glass and went off to bed—or his ‘pit’ as he sometimes calls it.

I sat on my own drinking a second glass of wine worrying what sort of fireworks might happen on Saturday. It would probably all be a damp squib, but what if it wasn’t? If Stella shows me up by a childish interruption—I’ll be very cross with her: it’s going to be hard enough trying to keep the kids in check—although I hope Siân will have enough of a sense of humour to cope with it. All I need is Meems saying in a loud voice—“Woss a wesbian, Mummy?”

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 941

The following day, Friday, Stella kept her distance. It meant minimal opportunity to squabble with her—I mean how was I to know she’d met Siân? Small world, I suppose, and sooner or later, the chances are that someone I currently know would meet or know someone who knew me before. Oh well, not a lot I can do about it and the biology world, like all academia, is a relatively small one, so it probably happens fairly regularly. I can imagine people in other universities talking about, ‘That weirdo in Portsmouth, yeah the one who had the sex change—nice tits though.’

I went off to do the shopping for the dinner party and left Julie in charge of cleaning everywhere—I tried to con her into believing that the state of the house would reflect her degree of femininity—dunno if she swallowed it. Common sense would delegate that responsibility to me anyway, but it might have helped—and if pushing a vacuum cleaner makes her feel more feminine, who am I to dissuade her? Hee hee.

The supermarket was heaving—don’t know why, and the price of cut flowers was disgraceful—they whack the prices up before things like Mothering Sunday—so how can they even pretend to be selling at prices to benefit you? Thieves and rogues—the lot of them.

I got home exhausted and without all the ingredients I meant to get. Some old biddy was overcome at the checkouts and collapsed, so they closed that one and the adjacent one while the ambulance was called. I had to reload my trolley and move over a couple of aisles and was further down the queue than before. I know the old joke, what happens when two Welshmen get together they form a choir; when two Irishmen—they fight and two Englishmen—they form a queue.

I unpacked the car and carrying stuff into the kitchen, I found Julie in tears—apparently Stella had had a go at her because of the dinner party. Stella had gone out—her car was absent, I realised after walking past her empty space twice. Not in much of an observational mood today.

Had Stella been there, I’d have given her some real aggro—picking on a child like that because she has a problem is not on and beneath Stella’s usual sensitivities. I began to wonder if something more happened than either of them is telling me. If it had, then I could understand Stella’s fervent denials. I mean I denied being transsexual for some time—just thinking of myself as female—which given my phenotype, meant I was either deluded or transsexual. The truth is probably some of both.

I calmed Julie down and made us a cuppa—things usually feel better after one—except Julie spilt hers all down her and we had to strip her off quickly to minimise the risk of scalding—it was pretty hot fluid. She ran up and showered, holding the cold water on the red bits for a few minutes. I don’t about red, but some of her was turning blue by the time I got upstairs after putting her clothes in the washer.

For the first time I had a chance to appraise the changes to her body from the hormones. Her waist was narrowing and her bum looked fractionally bigger and little nubs were forming under her nipples.

After she patted herself dry, I insisted she put some moisturiser cream on the scalded parts and left her to it. I went down to finish my tea when Stella came home with Puddin’.

She tried to avoid me, but I stood in her way. “Do you mind?”

“Yes, I do. The next time you want to pick a fight with someone, do it with someone your own size.”

“What d’you mean?”

“Going at Julie like that.”

“I asked her to stop vacuuming because Puddin’ was asleep and she wouldn’t. So I told her what I thought of her and took Puddie out in the car.”

“She tells it differently.”

“So are you going to believe a known liar against your sister-in-law?”

“Who also has a poor record for relating the truth.”

“Huh—you are becoming impossible. You bring all these waifs and strays into the house and those of us who live here have to take second place. Then you invite known irritants to the place and treat us like dirt.”

“The known irritants happen to be friends of mine, or one of them is.”

“And her lezzie friend.”

“Stella—just what is it with you? Who cares if she gay, or ten foot tall or anything else which is different to you and I—I don’t that’s for sure, and neither did you until recently.”

“It awakened bad memories.”

“Deal with it; I’m not prepared to have you sniping at the kids just because someone has pushed your buttons.”

“No, instead you’re going to expose your precious children, who all happen to be someone else’s in reality, to unacceptable lifestyles to corrupt…”

“Stella, that remark is unworthy of you—apologise or leave this house.”

“What? You’re choosing some dodgy Welsh witch over family?”

“No one speaks to me like that in my own house and stays here unless they apologise.”

“Your house now, is it—yesterday it was Tom’s house.”

“It’s Tom’s house all right—but I run it for him, as you well know. I’m waiting for you to apologise or leave.”

“Apologise for what?”

“You know what for.”

“Piss off—ladyboy.”

That was when I hit her—I couldn’t control it, I let fly with a slap that nearly took her head off. She had a red mark on her face and a shocked expression. I was trembling with emotion, though whether it was rage or shock, I couldn’t tell.

“You hit me,” she gasped, “You hit me—but we’re family.” There were tears running down her face and I turned away and slammed the kitchen door shut and stood against it. There were floods of tears running down my face too. I was well aware of what I had just done and was not ashamed of it. I would apologise if she did—but not otherwise.

It took me several minutes to get my emotions under control—perhaps the woman I loved most in this world—and I had struck her. I accept she had provoked me, but I shouldn’t have hit her. I don’t think my dad ever hit my mum, although she used to infuriate him, mind you he made up for it with me.

No excuses—I saw red and whack. She’s going to bruise, I just know it. I could get charged for assault for that. Oh shit—what a mess.

There was a knock on the kitchen door and I looked up as Julie came in. “What happened, Mummy?”

“Nothing to do with you?”

“Auntie Stella is bashing about in her room like she’s breaking the place up, Puddin’ is screaming and upset and when I went to ask if everythin’ was okay, she like told me to piss off—an’ she got this huge bruise on her face.”

“Oh shit—shit—shit. Wait here.” I ran up the stairs, there was bedlam in Stella’s room with her shouting and Puddin’ screaming and things being thrown about.

I knocked and entered the room—she threw a book at me—“This is all your fault,” she screamed at me, then, “Shut up,” she shouted at the baby, which made Puddin’ cry all the more.

She walked to the baby and raised her hand, “No, Stella, don’t.” I rushed across the room, slipping on a plastic bag and sprawling on the floor just as she made contact with the baby. The crying stopped.

“There, that’s shut you up.” I lay on the floor unable to move with shock—what had she done? Moments later she looked at the carrycot and then screamed.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 942

I scrambled up from the floor and pushed past Stella to look at the baby. I had no idea what I’d see, and what I did see surprised me. She hadn’t actually hit the baby, she’d hit the carrycot—the baby was in a sort of shock, her eyes were staring and occasionally blinking but she was saying nothing—no sound at all.

I picked her up and she began to cry, so I snuggled her into my chest and began to talk to her. If she grew up normal after living with two psychopathic women in the house, it would be nearly as miraculous as her early days.

Stella was sitting on the bed, her head in her hands, and she was crying pitifully. I think she was as shocked as her infant. I took the baby out to my room and laid her down on my bed, propped up by some pillows—at least she wouldn’t roll off. Then I went back to see to her mother.

As I went through my door, Julie came running up the stairs, “is everything okay?”

“No—look after Puddin’,” I pointed to my room—take her downstairs and give her a cuddle.

“Sure,” she went in my room and emerged a moment later with the baby and trotted down the stairs with her, talking to her the whole time. She was quite good with babies.

Stella hadn’t moved. I shifted some clothes on the bed and sat next to Stella—“Hey, it’s me.” I put my arm around her and she leant her head on my shoulder, the tears continued to flow.

“I could have killed her, Cathy.”

“I know—but you didn’t—that’s the important thing—you didn’t.”

“I’m not safe to have her. Next time—I might do it,” she sobbed.

“I don’t think so—it was me you wanted to hurt, not your baby.”

“Why should I want to hurt you?”

“Because I invited someone into the house you dislike.”

She paused—“It’s me I dislike, not Siân bloody Griffiths.”

“And why is that?”

“I can’t tell you—it’s too awful.”

“Too awful? I doubt it, remember, I’m the girl who used to dissect sheep livers looking for flukes.” It’s amazing what I did when I was at university, and helping the veterinary service supervising an abattoir was one of them. The vets would vet the recently deceased animals and that included their livers—if they suspected any infection—they were sent over to the lab and I checked them over for any lurking Fasciola hepatica, a form of flatworm which can be passed on to humans.

As these horrible trematodes of the phylum Platyhelminthes—and who says education is wasted—can make you seriously ill by blocking bile ducts and so on, it’s important to eliminate them if we can from the food chain. I used to earn a bit on the side; if we had a big infestation, I used to keep a few samples to sell on to a local school. They were dead—dropping them in alcohol tends to do that, and I used to also prepare slides for the sixth formers and so on for their biology lessons. I was very good at cutting sections with microtomes and making microscope slides.

They only paid me peanuts compared to what a commercial company would have charged them, but it was a few extra quid and some of it got spent on bikes or food and some of it got spent on my girly aspirations. When I think of how I used to nervously buy clothing and shoes and makeup, it makes me cringe. Mind you, it did then too, until I grew my hair again.

I’d had it long in school, but for some reason—I think it was my dad offering me a hundred quid if I got it cut shorter—I had shortish hair when I went to Sussex. I immediately began to grow it again, and in my second year, it was well below my shoulders and when released from a ponytail looked quite feminine.

It did little to add to my macho image at uni, and when I wore it down, I found people assumed I was female—strangers, shop assistants and so on. Shopping thus became a little easier. I’m lying, it didn’t—I still got embarrassed and flustered and half the things I bought were disasters. I did get better at taking them back, but it took me ages to learn about coordinating clothing and shoes and so on. I still had very little idea until Stella showed me how to do it.

Yes, this same weeping woman whom I was comforting, had taught me so much about becoming myself—in fact, I owe almost as much to her as I do to my parents in the creation of Cathy Cameron, nee Watts.

“I don’t have to tell you, do I?” she suddenly said raising her head from my shoulder.

“No, you don’t have to tell me anything, but we are sisters, and I suspect I won’t be able to help you as much as I might if you don’t tell me. But it’s up to you.”

“You won’t like me if I tell you.”

“How do you know?”

“You won’t.”

“Does it involve children?”

“Of course not.”

“Nothing very kinky?”

“Cathy—what do you mean?”

“Anything illegal?”

“Um—depends on where you are…”

“Okay, I give up—I’m not going to guess it in twenty questions—forget it, you’re my sister and I still love you.”

“You mean you don’t want to know?”

“Not unless you want to tell me.”

“Siân and I were short of money.”

“Stella, you’re a millionaire, how could you be short of money? Your dad has a bank for God’s sake.”

“I’d spent all my allowance and my salary and I was stony broke.”

“So, you went on the game?” I joked.

“Yeah—are you disgusted with me?” I managed to keep my surprise hidden.

“No—I applaud your enterprise if not your method.” This was nearly true.

“Siân saw me with a client. I mean I used condoms an’ other safety measures.”

“And this is why you hate her?”

“I don’t hate her—not really, she just reminds me of that period.”

“So could she have got you struck off?”

“Possibly, if she’d reported me.”

“You were afraid of her?”

“Not really, well not until she got drunk and propositioned me, and offered to pay me for the privilege—then I knew she knew, until then I wasn’t certain.”

“Was she serious? Could she have been trying to embarrass you?”

“No I’d done that with her—she was crap at genitor-urinary medicine, and I was very good. A few times I’d rubbed her nose in it—there’s tremendous competition between doctors and nurses. I was a senior nurse, nearly a nurse specialist and she was a lowly houseman—I gave her hell.”

“So are you frightened she’ll give it back to you in front of everyone?”

“She could—and I don’t say I don’t deserve it—but to embarrass you and Si and Tom, not to mention the children and possibly her partner…?”

“Do you want me to speak with her?”

No—don’t, please don’t.”

“But if I talk to her, I’m sure I could make her see reason.”

“I’d prefer you didn’t.”

“Why?” I felt completely bemused by her reluctance.

“Because I don’t want you to—isn’t that good enough?”

“Okay, but I’d like you to come to dinner with the others on Saturday, and then on Sunday, I’d like to take the kids and Tom up to lay some flowers on Celia’s grave.”

“Anything else?”

“Yes, it’s Trish’s birthday on the twenty fifth—she’ll be six.”

“Sometimes I wish I was, everything seemed simpler then—but I’d like you as my mother.”

“You what?” Had I heard her correctly?

“I said, I wish I was six again and you were my mother.”

“My God, Stella—I know it’s a compliment, but…”

“I’ve watched you with those kids—you love them all so much and spoil them rotten.”

“I spoil you too.”

“Yeah, but I wish… oh sod it, I’m a failure, Cathy—as a mother, a sister, a daughter, a nurse, sometimes I think as human being. You should have let me jump that day.”

“I’m glad I didn’t. None of us are perfect, but I’ve watched you with Puddin’ and with my children—you’re great with them, they all love you and so do us grown-up kids too.” I hugged her and kissed her on the cheek, and felt the wetness of a fresh tear.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 943

“I’m sorry I called you a silly name,” Stella sniffed back a tear.

“What was that then?” I asked still hugging her.

“The one that caused you to hit me.”

“Oh—yeah, sorry about that.”

“I deserved it, and I apologise—I should never have called you it. You’re a woman now and probably always have been. I was well out of order.”

“Stella, you’ve made your point and I’ve accepted your apology—so do shut up about it.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Oh well, the bruise has gone.”

“Has it? You and your blue magic again.”

“How would I know?” I rose and moving towards the door added, “I’m going to make some lunch, dry your eyes and come down in half an hour.”

“Okay—I’ll have to feed Pud… where is she?” A look of horror came over her when she looked in the empty carrycot. “Tell me I didn’t hit her,” she held her hands to her face.

“She’s down with Julie, who by now is probably well-wrapped round her little finger.”

“Oh, thank God for that.”

“I removed her to a place of safety and Julie came and got her.”

“I suppose I should say thank you.”

“It’s not obligatory.”

“Thank you—you are like the matriarch of this household aren’t you?”

“Sometimes—I’m going to do some lunch before it gets any later.”

I went back to the kitchen and looked in the cupboard—we ended up with sardines on toast, something I quite enjoy. I used to eat them regularly when I was in my bedsit, especially the ones in tomato sauce—nourishing and cheap. Thinking back to those days made me shudder—my life was so different now. If I’d been told then how my life would be now—I’d have thought it was impossible.

Okay, I knew that it was possible to change gender legally and get married—I simply didn’t believe it was likely to happen to me. Arguably, all this happened because I went for a bike ride on a specific day at a specific time and a certain nurse chose to drive home at the same time, and the weather chose to become thundery. If none of that had happened, I wonder where I’d be and who I’d be now?

For those who believe in fate, happenstance, serendipity or kismet—call it what you will—it required a number of different things to fall into place for my collision with Stella to have happened. Too many to make it likely it was ordained, at least to my mind. In the same way, the factors for life on earth are so manifold and dependent upon such a narrow spectrum—it’s unlikely to have been planned, much more likely to have evolved from the conditions which existed when it happened and continues to do so at present, adapting to the situation and environment as it is—the fact that the environment is changing so quickly means so many species will become extinct before we, as current custodians of the planet, even recognised they were here. That we might be directly or indirectly responsible for such events, is a testimony to our unsuitability to the job.

Mind you, mass extinctions have occurred before, several times and it has led to dominance by types of organisms, such as the dinosaurs before us. They lasted a lot longer than we have so far, and I suspect will do. All it will take is an asteroid impact or massive volcanic activity to make the place hostile to us and for something else to predominate once things settle down. When seen in that sort of context, it makes most of human endeavour, and personal issues like resolving gender issues—very small beer.

I recall a philosophy teacher suggesting if we felt really exercised about something to consider how the same issue would feel—tomorrow, next month, next year, in ten years, in a hundred years and in eternity.

So, would my gender issue have been important in all of those? Absolutely! If my family are going to teach the world to live in peace and harmony, then it’s important I knock ’em into shape as their mother.

I chuckled to myself as I made the toast and opened the tins of sardines. Yeah, I’m gonna stamp out intolerance.

“What are you laughing at?” asked Stella coming into the kitchen.

“Nothing—just thinking of an oxymoronic phrase a friend of mine used to say.”

“Well, come on, spill it.”

“He’d like to stamp out intolerance.”

“Isn’t that a bit contradictory?”

“Yeah, it’s an oxymoron—like, intelligent humans.”

“Hey, I’m one of those,” she protested.

“Which, the oxy or the moron?” I said and ducked.

She scowled at me then sniggered. It looked like the crisis had passed.

We got a bit more housework done before I went off to collect our trio of academic willbes. I am convinced all three of them will go on to higher education and do well for themselves. I’m not so sure about the boys, but I’m trying to encourage them to aspire to do so too. If at the end of the day, they decide to become tradesmen and do apprenticeships—that’s okay too. We need mechanics, plumbers and carpenters and other such valuable artisans. Maybe I’ll do a recognised bike mechanic’s course and fix bikes for a living—nah, I’d starve to death, and I suspect, I’d get fed up with it soon enough although it would be nice to be able to repair flight deck gear changers and other fiddly bits of bike kit.

“Hewwo, Mummy,” Meems grabbed round my waist and hugged tightly. She’d sneaked up behind me while I was watching the other two promenading towards me like two turbocharged snails.

“Hello, darling,” I ruffled her hair. “C’mon you two, I’d like to get home tonight.”

They were still concentrating more on their conversation than their acceleration. When they got up to us, it seemed they were discussing something which came up in their religious studies class. I wanted to cringe, having dreaded this from day one.

“But it doesn’t make sense,” insisted Trish.

“Well it says so in the Bible, so it must be true,” argued Livvie.

“What’s the problem, girls?” I asked.

“According to the Bible, right?” I nodded, Trish continued, “God made the world in seven days.”

“No, six days—he bunked off on the seventh.”

“Oh yeah—so in six days, yeah? So how come Adam an’ Eve weren’t eaten by dinosaurs?”

“It’s gotta be true, it’s the Bible and like, no one would tell lies in the Bible, would they Mummy?” insisted Livvie.

Eau dear, as Noah said when he heard the weather forecast before the flood. “Um, the Bible isn’t a reputable source of history, much of it is a collection of myths and folk stories and Hebrew laws from the year dot. Some of the stories are allegories…” Hell’s bells, why do I do this every time—use words they can’t possibly understand?

“Alligators?” queried Trish, bursting into laughter and joined by Livvie then Mima.

“Allegories—the plural of allegory. An allegory is a story used to try and explain something which isn’t understood by the listeners and sometimes by the teller, as well. They’re often used in stories about religion because much of it relies on faith rather than logic or reason or even evidence.

“I don’t understand, Mummy.” Trish’s comment looked to be unanimous by the puzzled look upon Livvie’s and Mima’s faces.

“The story of Adam and Eve didn’t actually happen—it’s a story trying to explain the supposed fall of man.”

“What did he fall off, Mummy?”

Why do I land myself in these situations? I so want my kids to look to reason and logic and evidence before making up their minds about things—perhaps I should wait a few weeks longer before dealing with this one.

“A bike,” suggested Livvie and they both cracked up with laughter. Even I had to laugh at that one.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 944

On the Saturday morning, I dropped Julie into work at the salon; Stella had agreed to collect her if Simon was too busy. I got home in time to do lunch—Simon was home by now and had agreed to help get the children ready.

However, I don’t know if I’m becoming paranoid but there seemed to be all sorts of funny looks and sniggers between all the others when my back was turned. There was obviously something afoot and it was more than five toes.

Stella seemed to have reconciled herself to meeting up with Siân again and keeping things polite. I cleared up the lunch dishes and hoped things would go smoothly. I decided to do a paella, so I had all sorts of fish and shellfish to add to it.

It’s relatively easy to make, is cost effective and the kids like it. It also doesn’t take forever to cook. I included a couple of bottles of Spanish wine on the shopping list. The first course would be melon—I had a bag full of those too.

I have one of those cutters which scrapes the melon into balls, so with three types of melon and a few pieces of orange and grapefruit, I had quite pretty starters. These were all getting nice and cold in the fridge while I went up to shower and change.

I decided to keep things fairly informal—I wore a shirt and trousers, with very little makeup and just a spot of perfume. I had dangly two-inch gold earrings, and my hair was up with tendrils around my ears and neck and a few from the pile of hair on the top of my head, and I had a gold chain necklace, with a gold bangle on my right wrist.

Siân and Kirsty were due around seven. At six I got the girls washed and dressed, while Si did the boys, Stella had gone to get Julie, whom I hoped hadn’t been the subject of experiment again.

I was just finishing the girl’s hair when they arrived back. They then both went to change. Livvie got bunches, Mima had high bunches like horns, and Trish had a ponytail.

Then Trish and I laid the table in the dining room while Simon did the wine. I then started to prepare the meal. I began to fry the fish and shellfish in garlic, then added the rice and some water and some onion, mushroom and spices and left it to simmer.

I checked my lipstick and hair and let the girls choose their own bracelets: they have several. Julie came down dressed to kill—oh well. She and Trish took the starters into the room and I added a grape to the top of each—just for colour effect.

At ten past seven, the doorbell rang and Stella looked anxious but my smiling at her meant she couldn’t run away. Julie answered the door and brought our guests into the lounge. I followed the kids in and nearly gasped, Kirsty was wearing a dog collar as in clerical—a gay woman priest—oh boy. Must remember to keep my language clean.

The initial coolness between Stella and Siân lifted quite quickly, once Siân introduced her to Kirsty as, ‘a colleague who’d taught her all she knew about willies and fannies and things in between.’

Simon was fascinated to have two gay women in his house, both of whom were very attractive and posing something of a challenge to him. There was a slight tension between them but after a glass of wine it all eased somewhat.

The fruit entree went down well, as did the paella. I brought it in in the pan and served it at the table like they do in restaurants. Kirsty had baked a delicious apple and blackcurrant pie and they’d brought a carton of Bird’s custard, which I warmed as well as the pie.

After we’d eaten and I’d cleared the dishes and started the washer—I came back in to see the dining chairs rearranged. What was going on?

“Cathy Cameron—This is your life.” Julie was standing in front of the chairs and the children were cheering.

“What?” I gasped.

“Sit down, Mummy, and behave yourself.” Julie led me to a seat which was one of a pair which were separate from the rest, and she had a red ring binder under her arm.

Apart from astonishment, I was concerned what they would say in front of the other children. She and Trish knew my past, but the others didn’t—but they soon could.

I needn’t have worried, they skimmed over the early years, with Siân sniggering and applauding, while Kirsty just enjoyed the entertainment. They went through to my degree at Sussex—where did they get all this? It would take some time to accumulate all this info plus pictures which Simon was feeding into the television, from a DVD.

Then on to my study period at Portsmouth, and then the encounter with Stella who posed in front of the piece of hedge she apparently knocked me into.

Then Simon declaring it was love at first sight—he thought I had the most perfect bum on the planet.

They showed that film clip—yeah, the one of Spike and her plunge into my plunge bra—is that why they call them that? Everyone laughed so much they showed it again. I asked them to freeze it just before the dormouse jump and there clearly on camera was Des.

Now it was Stella’s turn to gasp. Des had been at that meeting, when we announced the survey—he’d photographed me and had actually done a short interview afterwards. It was the first time I’d met him. Stella sat down and wept.

“That is Des Lane, Puddin’s daddy, who died in a car crash,” I told the children and our visitors, “a brilliant wildlife cameraman and a really nice man,” I said as Stella fought to compose herself.

Tom was astounded, “I must hae seen thon fil-um a hundred times, an’ didnae notice young Des. Well spotted, Cathy.”

I hated to admit it, I’d seen it more times than that, but not on as big a screen as we had on the telly these days, one of those flat things—I don’t watch it much. I would try and arrange a still to be taken off the film and give it to Stella for Puddin’.

They went through my deeds of derring-do and I got very embarrassed, they showed clips from news bulletins, including the one from hauling the newspaper chief’s wife out of the water, when I met him on telly and he thanked me in public.

Bits and pieces of other things, and Stella and Tom stood up and said they owed me their lives, Julie said the same and even Mima.

It began to get very emotional for me when all the children stood as a group and said that they were happier with me as their mother than they’d been with their previous parents.

Finally, Simon stood up and said that the final hearing for the adoption of the three girls had been held and agreed. Social services had agreed it was okay and only needed to be formalised.

The three girls were dancing around and the two boys asked if Simon and I would adopt them, as well and we agreed to discuss it with them.

It finished with Stella asking if I’d adopt her—which brought the house down.

The kids were put to bed and Julie and the adults chatted while we drank teas and coffees.

Whilst I was talking to Kirsty, I noticed Siân and Stella talking quite amicably together—and I was pleased they’d seemed to have buried the hatchet. I suspect Kirsty was as well, she noticed me looking and smiled—“Life’s too short to waste on bad feeling.”

I nodded and we continued chatting about how they’d met. Siân was a member of the local church choir and Kirsty, although a Scot by birth, had lived in Salisbury much of her life, where her father was a family doctor—the senior partner where Siân was now a junior partner—and he approved of their relationship, although she did occasionally have some problems from the congregation, she was a curate at the Cathedral—the bishop and dean were very supportive of her.

When they left, I felt that I’d not only renewed my friendship with Siân, I’d made a new friend in Kirsty. They were both emphatic that I should visit them and take some of the children with me. I promised to do so.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 945

As I waved our visitors goodbye, I began to think we’d need a bus if the family got any larger and we wanted to go anywhere together. I don’t like driving big vehicles, so I don’t think I’ll be driving one of those any time soon.

I chased Julie off to bed—she hadn’t noticed that Leon wasn’t at the house, although he often would be gone before six—unless he manages to cadge dinner with us. He was coming on Sunday instead, so she’d see him then.

“How did you manage to put together the red book to embarrass me?” I asked Simon.

“Oh that was Stella’s idea—then when Julie came, she bought into it. We were going to do it at Christmas, but things were too busy—so you got it tonight. I thought it was great fun.”

“You weren’t the one chewing her knuckles and cringing.”

“Oh come off it Babes, you were laughing as much as anyone.”

“That was at Julie’s presentation as much as anything else—no wonder she was so dressed up—she thought she was that tart who does Big Brother.

“Davina McCall or whatever she’s called?”

“Yep—that one, as uninspiring as the programme.”

“I’m not gonna disagree Babes—now what about a bit of nooky with a celebrity?”

“You’re not one are you?” I queried.

“No—but you are—c’mon, get your nightie off and let me at ’em…”

It seemed not long afterwards it was daylight and the gigglers were invading again. I tried playing dead, but some cold hands on my back caused me to squeal and I knew then I was doomed.

With ruthless efficiency they inserted themselves into our bed—I hoped Simon was wearing some clothing, preferably on his lower half—or there would be some giggles. I waited—nothing much happened, except a repeated pat on my shoulder or upper arm. “Mummy,” whimpered the voice I was trying to ignore.

“Hmm,” I mumbled back.

The patting continued as did the whiney voice, “Mummy?”

“What?” I grumbled back.

“Happy Mummy’s Day,” retorted Mima.

Don’t you just love ’em? Just before you kill ’em.

“We got you a supwise…”

“Shush,” hissed Trish.

“But I wanna give Mummy a supwise.”

Learn to talk properly, Meems, it would give me the shock of my life. I kept quiet wondering what this surprise could be—flowers or chocolate? I loved both, but I couldn’t eat flowers, so I know where my preferences lay.

“Shush—or it’s not gonna be a surprise is it?—you dummy.”

“I’s not a dummy—Twish; you’s a dummy.”

“What’s all the fuss about?” grumbled Simon. As he hadn’t said anything since his moment of ecstasy last night, I assumed I must have shagged him to death—if I had, it would have been the way he would have wanted to go. Obviously, I hadn’t—oh well, better luck next time. I sniggered at my own joke and Simon picked up on it.

“And what are you laughing at, missus?”

“Oh nothing, still thinking about last night,” I sniggered some more.

“The red book thingy?”

“Not entirely.”

“Hmmm, we’ll have to do that red book thing again—it certainly made you—um—passionate.”

That was probably the couple of glasses of wine I imbibed after my embarrassment was over—does tend to relax my inhibitions somewhat.

“Mummy, woss pashnate?” asked Trish.

“Strong feeling, darling.”

“We did the passion of Jesus in school, ’member Trish?” offered Livvie.

“Was that with Mary Magdalene?” asked Simon, before sniggering—“Took him three days before he could move after that.”

“Careful Simon, or Cardinal Rottweiler will be asking me to make other educational arrangements for the bulk of our issue.”

“Eh?” he shot back.

“It’s Mothering Sunday.”

“Yeah—so?”

“You’re supposed to make the tea and bring me breakfast in bed.”

“Dream on, missus—you want tea, you go and make it.” He pretended to go back to sleep. I might just shag him to death one of these nights—but not tonight—I’m too sore in the area concerned.

I managed to wriggle out of bed and went for a wee after which I was almost dragged downstairs before I could grab my dressing gown.

“Cwose you’s eyes, Mummy,” instructed Mima as they led me to the dining room. I did and walked into the doorpost nearly knocking myself out. Trish kissed my head better, and the bruising eased although the headache might just have been caused by grapes rather than door surrounds.

They helped me up to my feet and once again I was exhorted to ‘cwose my eyes.’ I did and when the door opened, before me stood a large orchid with umpteen buds on it.

“Where did that come from?”

“It’s for Mother’s Day,” said Trish.

“I’d gathered that much—but how did it get here?”

“It’s from us, Mummy.”

“I—um—had worked that much out.”

“Daddy bwought it in when you was asweep,” chuntered Mima from behind me.

Well knock me down with a feather, I’d never have thought of that—duh. Still, I did ask, so it’s my own fault if I got a silly answer.

“Do you like it?” Livvie asked with pleading eyes.

“It’s like all three of you—absolutely beautiful, thank you, girls.” I kissed each one of them—even though bending down made my headache worse.

They all danced about giggling to themselves. The noise brought the boys down who handed me a large bar of chocolate and a card. I thanked them, put the chocolate in the fridge and made them all some breakfast.

Leon arrived mid morning—he gets later and later, so that made Julie’s day. Tom had him cutting the grass, so she helped him. While the girls were busy annoying Simon, and the boys were out playing gooseberries with Julie, Tom and I slipped away with the dog and a bunch of flowers to visit the cemetery.

We didn’t say much as we walked, I carried the flowers, he had the dog on the lead in one hand and his other arm was linked through one of mine. It felt good, to be walking with my adopted father to visit my adopted family, albeit a deceased one.

I waited while he stood at the graveside—giving him some room while we—Kiki and I wandered about looking at gravestones—until she spotted a rabbit and was off, pulling me after her until I fell over a gravestone and turned my ankle.

Tom called her back which she eventually did—I limped up to the grave and between us we put the flowers in some water and placed them on the grave. I wished the occupants of the grave a good day, and we then limped back to the house. It was I who limped, with Tom trying to help me and control the stupid dog.

Simon thought it was hilarious—the girls were very concerned—so was I, it was too painful to drive. I soaked it in cold water and then Trish had a go at it. She helped it quite a bit but it was still sore as I tried to make the lunch.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 946

Trish tried again with my ankle and it did ease significantly; by the next day it was uncomfortable rather than painful so I was able to take the girls to school as usual, and I’d decided that any running around could be done by Julie and I would sit and rest my ankle.

Of course, life never quite works out as you plan and I found myself being called back to the school to collect Livvie, who seemed to have some sort of tummy bug. I brought her home and put her to bed with a glass of water and a bucket.

Then they sent for me to collect Trish, so I took Mima as well—sure enough, they were both ill by tea time. The two boys complained of not feeling like much dinner and they were soon added to the sick list. Then Tom and Julie went down with it and Puddin’—it seemed, only Stella and I were staying afloat in this rapidly sinking ship.

The next morning, Stella was sick and I wondered when my turn would come. It wasn’t long—I’d just finished making cups of Bovril for everyone—no one was eating solid food, and I felt quite funny; light headed and dizzy. Next minute I had to run to the toilet and examined my breakfast. How can there be carrots in my breakfast? I answered the question with another instalment of reverse breakfast.

Livvie and Trish came to see where their drinks were and found me on my knees in the cloakroom, upchucking again.

Somehow, they helped me up to my bed—passed on one of their buckets, a glass of water and I slept—until I was sick again. I learned afterwards that they distributed the Bovril to the rest of the household.

I was confined to bed for about twenty-four hours, and felt groggy when Dr Julie let me up to have a hot drink. It was a cuppa soup, one of those packet things which normally taste too salty—but today, it tasted, well not quite like nectar, but it went down very well.

The rest of the week was very tedious; it was Trish’s birthday and due to my turn in the sick bay, it was rather low key. Normally, I’d have baked her a cake and we’d have had a little party for her. She was now officially six, going on twenty-six, so I got her a digital camera. That had been ordered online and had been here for a couple of weeks. Livvie’s is in April so I hope I’m in better form by then.

The rest of the house gave her clothes and books, which she’d asked for or software for her computer. She’s got one of these interactive ones about the human body, which Stella bought her at great expense, which she thoroughly enjoys playing with—the software not bodies—not just yet. Livvie gave her some horrible pet computer game thing, which means she has to keep dealing with an errant cat which walks all over her computer when she’s trying to do something else. If they put it near mine—I’ve threatened to lock them in the garage for a month.

That wretched bug took all the energy out of me; Puddy was quite unwell with it too. Thankfully we managed to rehydrate her, and I suspect Trish might have spent some of her time cuddling her too, to re-energise her.

On Friday, the girls finished school—they’d only gone back on Thursday, by which time half of the school had gone down with it. I took Julie shopping with me—I’d made Trish a birthday cake and she’d helped me ice it—but it wasn’t up to my normal standard, although Trish seemed happy with it.

I’d needed Julie to help me shopping because I felt so tired all the time. I left Stella to organise her own lunch—Julie and I had ours at the supermarket restaurant which was adequate—I wasn’t that hungry if the truth was told. I ate most of my jacket potato—simply happy that I hadn’t had to cook or clear up afterwards. Instead of twenty-six, I felt more like ninety-six.

Simon was coming home at the weekend—thankfully he’d missed the bug, and I was hoping he’d be able to give me a hand to get the party set up, as Julie would be distracted by Leon, who was supposed to be putting in some more veg for Tom.

Saturday arrived—Leon didn’t, he had the bug or so he said. I told him that I wasn’t prepared to pay if he didn’t come to work, which he accepted. His bad back had cost me a few weeks ago. He did sound rough, so I let him go back to his bed, hoping his mother didn’t get it.

Everyone mucked in for the party: Simon did the last minute shopping for food; the boys helped Julie clean and tidy up; Stella made up goody-bags for all the kids, whilst the girls and I did the food.

The party started at three, so most of the ten girls invited had arrived by a quarter to and the mayhem commenced. Simon was games master and looked after the musical chairs, Simon says, pass the parcel, and pin the tail on the donkey.

Julie helped me with the food and generally keeping the obnoxious little angels from hurting themselves. Billy was using Simon’s camcorder to make a record for Trish, and Danny was going to be the DJ in a short disco we’d hold in the largest of the garages. Tom had strung up some old Christmas tree lights and we’d hired a CD deck and amplifier. Danny was really looking forward to his role, which was twenty minutes after we’d filled the girls up with sausage rolls, crisps, fizzy drinks and ice cream and jelly.

It was astonishing that none of them were sick, bouncing around after eating, but they weren’t and they all said they enjoyed it. The parents arrived about six to collect their offspring and the goody-bag—a collection of sweets, a girly pen, a hair band and a tiny tube of moisturiser. They all got the same, it was all chosen by Trish and Livvie as something they’d enjoy having.

For a joke, we gave the same bags to the two boys and Trish took pictures as they examined the contents and pulled faces. Then we gave them a separate bag each with boy things in—a Ferrari key ring, some boy’s deodorant and some sweeties. They seemed quite happy with it.

At half past seven, I had some pizzas delivered and the rest of them tucked in—how can they eat something that looks like dried vomit? I had some of the left over rolls from the party and they were enough for me.

It took a while to unwind the kids so I did a reading for all of them together. A chapter or two from Maddy Bell’s Gaby books, which featured a bike race as well as some of her characteristic humour. It calmed them down a bit and they eventually went to bed.

As the girls were about to go to bed, Trish turned around and said, “Thank you, Mummy and Daddy, Gramps, Auntie Stella, Danny, Billy and Liv and Meems—for the best party ever. All my friends enjoyed it. Can we do it again next year?”

“I don’t know, Trish—they’re jolly hard work as well as expensive,” I replied.

“Does that mean I can’t have one, then, Mummy?” asked Livvie.

“Sweetheart, we agreed that we’d take a couple of your friends to Legoland at Windsor. I’ve got that all organised including the coach to take us.”

“Oh goody,” chirped Simon, “I’ve always wanted to have a look round there.”

The boys smiled, we agreed to take them to Beaulieu to the National Motor Museum, and as their birthdays were very close, they could take a couple of friends each. All in all these birthday celebrations were getting expensive. However, I had told them they would get some form of party this year but not next—it was getting too expensive.

Mima’s birthday, we’d agreed to take a couple of her friends to the hotel at Southsea, which was what she’d asked for. They could play in the leisure facilities and then have a light meal before coming home. For this, we agreed we’d pay the cost to the hotel, so it was a significant discount, but not free like when we use it for our own pleasure. The fact that she’d nearly drowned there didn’t seem to worry her, but had encouraged me to make sure all of them could swim enough to get out of trouble.

Sometimes I was surprised that a house this size didn’t have a swimming pool, and when I asked Tom about it, he was quite dismissive—‘Whit fa? It’s not good fa the environment, or ma pocket—an’ there’s a perfectly guid swimming bath doon the road.’

I suppose that said it all and it did mean that I wasn’t always worried about one of them falling in. It was bad enough worrying about them out on their bikes—every time one of them came in with lumps and bumps somewhere. Still, they seemed to enjoy themselves and you can’t protect them from everything without de-skilling them. We learn how to deal with problems by encountering them—over-protective parents stop this happening.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 947

How can you tell the children are on school holiday? It’s raining cats and dogs. Still if it was blood, I’d be worried waiting for the rest of the plagues to happen. Once after a particularly prolonged period of precipitation, I phoned B&Q DIY superstores to ask the price of gopher wood, these days.

The numskull who answered after I’d been put through to the timber department, had no idea what I was on about. I said I wanted to build an ark—he still had no idea. I then mentioned Genesis—he’d heard of them—met Phil Collins at a charity gig. I rang off after he suggested calling a specialist timber yard. By then the joke was old and I was bored with it.

We seem to live in a world dominated by people with attention spans of about twenty seconds, who have little in the way of education, use drink or use drugs and get violent at the drop of a hat.

Maybe I’m a bit prejudiced following my experience this afternoon. We’d gone shopping—the we being Trish, Livvie and Mima with Julie and me. We’d done the dreary bit—the food shop and it was being delivered by the supermarket—Stella was there to let them in and could put it away which I’d arranged with her before we left.

I’d promised them an outfit each for Easter—which by the prognostications of the Met Office looked like a wet suit might be most suitable, teamed with wellies and a sou’wester.

We went to the nicest of the shopping malls in Portsmouth—Gunwharf Quays. After a quick lunch—quite literally a baguette and a drink—we set off round the shops. Simon had taken the two boys out on Sunday—they were chuffed, they don’t go in his Jaguar very often. They also talked him into springing for a whole pile of clothes, which probably wasn’t a bad thing—they have much fewer than the girls—but that’s life, boys need fewer clothes, because left to them they’d never change them or wash them. They think differently since Julie asked them to stand downwind of her, and made one or two rude comments after she sniffed a bit.

Recently, they’ve actually stuck to my insistence that they change their underwear every day along with their socks. Pullovers and trousers do for a week unless they get soiled—or in their case, holed in the knees when playing football in the playground. I got fed up with buying new ones which lasted less than a week—so I began patching them or darning them.

At one point, I threatened to patch them with pink floral patterned material unless they were careful—the threat was never proven, they took shorts or old trousers to wear to play in the schoolyard.

Back to the present: in Gap we found a pair of leggings and a bum hugger top for Julie, and Livvie wanted something similar in a different colour. Julie’s was grey and black, Livvie’s was pink and green—she looked like a mobile sweet pea, but she was happy.

In Marks and Spencer, Mima saw a dress she liked—have I mentioned before that she’s very girly, even compared to Trish, who can go all feminine and frilly on me. Trish wanted some new jeans, but very specific ones she’d seen in the Next catalogue. So we traipsed to Next and she found them after quoting the garment number to the assistant. They were blue denim with pink stripes through them and embroidered flowers climbing up the main seams. She wanted a reversed colour sweatshirt, which was pink with blue stripes and flowers climbing up the arms, and a pink polo shirt.

Then I got stung for shoes: Trish wanted trainers, Livvie wanted Uggli boots and Julie wanted some more ballet pumps, which Mima decided she wanted as well.

By mid-afternoon my debit card was feeling overused. I needed some more money, so went to one of our banks to draw some through the cashier. I only wanted a hundred but the little chap on the desk tried to suggest I was up to my limit for the day. I asked how so, and he told me my card had seen quite a bit of action and they were suspicious of it.

I pointed to the row of children behind me—“They have all had a new outfit today, unfortunately, they tend to have expensive tastes.”

“Yes, Mrs Cameron, but your card has a limit.”

“Since when—that only applies to cash withdrawals and I only want a hundred in cash.”

“Your card has seen unusual amounts of activity today.”

“Yes, they’re standing behind me.”

“I’d need to get this verified”—and as I was about to blast him, he added—“it’s for your own protection.”

He came back with a supervisor a few moments later. “How can I help?” she asked.

“I want a hundred pounds in cash please.”

“You have sufficient funds in your account?”

“I hope so, if not I’d like to know why?”

“Well your account has seen rather a lot of use today.”

“Look, when Henry got me to open this account, he didn’t mention petty rules and restrictions.”

“I’m sorry, who is Henry?” she asked walking straight into my trap.

“Henry Cameron, Viscount Stanebury—your chairman.”

She went very pale and then blushed. “I—um—suppose you’re family of his?” she asked tentatively.

“He’s my father-in-law, why does that make a difference?”

“No, um—of course not, we try to protect everyone’s account from potential fraud.”

“Can I withdraw my money then, before I ask him to close this branch?”

“But of course,” she nodded at the bank clerk who with trembling hands counted out my money and handed it to me.

I smiled and thanked him.

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

“I wanna wee,” said Mima loudly.

We scrambled to the nearest toilet and I waited outside laden with bags while they all went in. I’ve heard of safety in numbers but this was pushing it a bit. I stood by the entrance holding all these bags when two youths, quite large ones—both white, wearing hoodies and jeans approached. It being a school holiday, I tried not to pay too much attention.

Suddenly, one pushed me and I crashed backwards into the convenience wall, winding me and causing me to drop some of the bags. Then the robbery began—the one youth grabbed my handbag, a shoulder bag, which was still draped over my arm.

I allowed his pull to help me to my feet just as his colleague aimed a kick at me. I managed to parry that with my hand, then twisted to avoid the punch the other one threw, whilst kicking him quite hard in the knee. He swore, his friend tried to kick me again and this time I leapt out of the way kicking the bag grabber in the groin. This time he went down and released my bag.

At this point, bystanders were starting to gather and I heard Trish scream when the remaining thug pulled a knife. “I’m gonna cut you bad, bitch.”

I said nothing but as he advanced towards me Julie flung one of her boots at him, followed by Trish and Livvie. It didn’t hurt him but it did distract him long enough for me turn and kick him at chest level, followed by one to his face as he stumbled backwards, and then one to the ligaments of his knee. He fell backwards with quite a smack on the hard floor, and I stamped on his hand holding the knife—before kicking the latter away from his reach. The first thug got up and staggered away right into the arms of a large security guard.

The bystanders, stood and applauded, and I rather pointedly said, “I had a different sort of hand in mind, but thanks for nothing.” They went off muttering.

The police arrived on the scene quite quickly, the CCTV videotape was secured and I made a statement, and then went home.

“You were amazing, Mummy,” said Julie, “can you teach me to do that?”

“And me,” added Trish and Livvie.

“How about we sign you up for dance lessons?” I offered.

“What? No way, I wanna learn kickboxing.”

When we got home my back was hurting, “About bloody time, what a day I’ve had, these boys have been absolute murder while you lot were gadding about enjoying yourselves…”

We all looked at Stella and burst out laughing.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 948

The next day after my run in with the muggers, I was black and blue across parts of my back and bum. I also had a nice bruise on my shoulder. After breakfast, as I was clearing up, I had a visit from another plod—an Inspector Moss. Of course, I kept wanting to call him Inspector Morse from the TV series, even though he was nothing like John Thaw: this chap was only in his thirties, tall dark and handsome.

We ran through my statement once again, and he asked me a few questions. “You realise the two boys are going to try and charge you with assault?”

“What? They attacked me.”

“Which the film clearly shows. They argue that your response was overly violent.”

“I beg your pardon, one of them pulled a knife and threatened to stab me with it.”

“I know, but you know what these kids are like—it’s all right for them to beat up anyone, but they don’t like a taste of their own medicine.”

“I’m covered in bruises where they pushed me into the wall.”

“Could you get your doctor to verify that, preferably with photos?”

“I’m sorry, but no one gets to see piccies of my bum.”

“If there’s bruising there, it’s a good idea to do a photo. If they managed to get you to court—photos are a great advantage over written statements.”

“Despite the video evidence, these two little toads are going to try for damages against me?”

“Could be, I’m trying to dissuade them—as I think it’s wasting police and the court’s time.”

“Can’t you just hang ’em?” I asked, trying to save the courts money and time—I’d even pay for the rope.

“No, they won’t allow it, even with prima facie evidence against them.”

“What are you charging them with?”

“At the moment, assault with intent to rob.”

“What about the knife—doesn’t that constitute attempted armed robbery?”

“It could do—whatever we charge them with, they’ll be out in a few months and doing it again.”

“Not to me they won’t.”

“I doubt even they would be stupid enough to try that, where did you learn to kick box?”

“My sister-in-law taught me the rudiments; I read up on it and developed my own techniques.”

“The final one that put down the second kid, looked more karate than kick boxing.”

“Did it? I improvised, but it worked.”

“It did indeed, thanks for the coffee, is there anything else you can think of that happened you haven’t mentioned?”

“Only my kids throwing their shoes at the knife wielding one to distract him—it helped too.”

“Yes, that was quick thinking of them.”

“They’re a bright lot.”

“They obviously take after their mother.”

“I’m only their foster mother.”

“Hmm—we’ll keep that quiet in case they try to queer your status with the authorities.”

“How can they do that?”

“You’d be surprised what these lawyers manage to get them off with. One of my young PCs used a dustbin lid like a giant Frisbee to stop a suspect running away. He was charged with assault with a weapon.”

“What was the charge against the escapee?”

“Oh, rape and aggravated assault.”

“So these little scum bags can dish it out but cry for mummy when they meet some resistance?”

“Very much so, I’m afraid, but they have some very clever lawyers getting them off all but the most trivial charges.”

“If they get off, I’ll instruct my lawyers to initiate private prosecutions for damages for assault and attempted murder.”

“Attempted murder? That’s a bit much isn’t it?”

“You didn’t hear what he said to me when he waved the knife in front of me.”

“That’s true, I didn’t, I’ll have a word with the CPS and see if they’d like to up the ante a little.”

“From what I’ve heard, there’s more chance of the Crown Prosecution Service going for a conviction against me for littering because I dropped my shopping when they pushed me.”

“They’re not that bad, but they do like to go for maximum chance of a prosecution.”

“Isn’t a video good enough evidence?—plus your men arrested them at the scene. What more do they want—signed confessions? If they do, let me know, I’ll come down and see that they sign for you.”

“That sounds like coercion of witnesses.”

“No, I’d ask them nicely and my natural charm and beauty would see to the rest.” I smiled, then winced as I stood up.

“Go and see the doctor and get some pictures for us.”

“Pictures, my arse.”

“Yes—that as well.”

He left and I went back to clearing the kitchen.

“What did the plod want, Mummy?” Julie came in to the kitchen.

“Oh it was about yesterday—seems the kids who attacked me are trying it on.”

“Trying what on?” she looked quite concerned.

“Prosecuting me for assault.”

“They have got to be joking—that one clown had a knife and was going to stick you with it—he wasn’t going to sharpen his crayons with it, was he?”

“I doubt it; he didn’t look clever enough to own a colouring book, did he?”

We both laughed then Julie said, “They’re not serious are they?”

“I have no idea; what’s interesting is that the Cameron name might serve us insofar as a lawyer might decide we’re too big to fight, or he might decide there’s money to be had.”

“What, ’cos Daddy’s rich?”

“And your mummy’s good looking, but hush little baby, doooon’t you cry.”

“Eh?” Julie looked blankly at me.

Summertime from Porgy and Bess.”

“What?”

“Gershwin’s opera, Porgy and Bess.”

“Porky and Bess?” she incorrectly repeated.

“No PORGY and Bess.”

“Yeah, so?” she shrugged.

I shook my head, “Philistine,” I retorted.

“Weren’t they in the Bible, or is there somewhere in America, called Philis?”

“It was the Biblical context I was alluding to.”

“For someone who doesn’t believe in God, you sure know a lot about the Bible an’ things.”

“It was hammered into me when I was in school.”

“We didn’t do much at all—bit of all faiths, and know bugger all about any of them.”

“Language, Julie—you know that Trish and Livvie copy you.”

“Who do I copy?” asked Trish strolling into the kitchen.

“Goodness, ‘ta’k o th’ De’il,’ as Gramps would say.”

“What would Gramps say?” Trish shot back at me.

“Wee piggies hae muckle lugs,” I responded and Julie creased up with laughter.

“You’re a horrible Mummy.” Trish frowned and stalked out of the kitchen, followed by Julie’s and my laughter.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 949

I phoned the doctor, and he rang me back a little later, asking me to come down during the afternoon. I took my own digital camera and he examined me, then took a series of photographs. I felt a complete idiot posing while he took photos of my buttocks, and he kept chuckling while he did so.

“You’ve got quite a good female shape, haven’t you?”

“Have I? For a boy you mean?”

“Come on, Cathy, you know me better than that—but I’ve never knowingly looked at your bum before, and it looks very female.”

“Thank you, I think.”

“It’s meant as a compliment, young lady, and I really mean that. Have they ever done a chromosome test on you?”

“No—what would be the point? I mean officially I’m female and I’m married and have just adopted three kids, with possibly another three at some point in the future. When I had surgery as far as I’m aware they didn’t find anything they didn’t oughta, so I’m lucky to be sensitive to oestrogens—hence the body shape.”

“Yes, good breast development too—you are so lucky, I have another transgendered patient and unfortunately, she, and it’s difficult to use that term simply because the poor bugger looks rather masculine no matter how many pills we prescribe—dark blue beard shadow, too.”

“Can’t they offer electrolysis or laser to help with that?”

“They’re unemployed—virtually unemployable because of their appearance.”

“Do they have a trade or profession?”

“I’m close to betraying confidences here—so I can’t say anymore.”

“Okay, let me put it another way—do they have any sort of skill that I could employ them for?”

“Dunno—to be honest.”

“If I gave you permission to pass on my mobile number, would you do it?”

“For what reason?”

“I’d like to meet this person, and if they have something I can use, a skill or whatever, then I might employ them, even if it’s only mowing my lawns or decorating. If they were a master baker or something, then it might be more difficult but—you know what I mean.”

“You’re prepared to do that?”

“I might be. Maybe the university needs cleaners or something—I could put a word in for her.”

“Okay—I’ll tell them someone I know might be able to help them get work. I won’t say you’re transsexual because I don’t think she has to know just yet.”

“How are you going to link my interest to them, then?”

“I could say you have a GID child.”

“No—definitely not—no, tell them I’m transgendered, or was.”

“You’re putting yourself at risk, Cathy.”

“But it’s the truth.”

“I know, but you’re at opposite ends of the phenotype spectrum—you’re very female looking and they’re not. You’re small built and delicate looking—she’s tall dark and hairy.”

“But she possibly feels just as female as I do?”

“Okay—I’ll pass the message on, I think we have a contact number.” He clicked through his computer database. “Well there’s a coincidence—she’ll be here in an hour.”

“Bugger—I have to get back—hang on, I need to do some shopping, I’ll get some prints run off at the camera shop and you can use them to do your report. Eight by tens okay?”

“Yeah, fine.”

“What do I owe you for the examination and the report?”

“Cathy, if you can give your time and resources away so generously, how can I possibly charge you?”

“Quite easily, send me a bill—or tell me when you’ve done the report.”

“We’ll see.”

“I expect a bill, Dr Smith. Anyway, I’ll be back in an hour.”

“Okay—I’ll see if we have a room you can use to talk in private with her. I’m sorry, Cathy, but it’s a struggle to see her as female.”

“Okay, I’ll be back in one hour.” I left and dashed off to the local camera shop, I vaguely knew the owner, Nick, so I was confident he’d do the prints for me. He did but when he saw what they were, his eyes got very wide.

“They’re not porno are they, Mrs Cameron?”

“No, Nick, there are a few of my bum but not for the aesthetic content—rather the bruises. I was assaulted the other day and my GP is doing a report for the police.”

“Don’t they do their own, these days?”

“Probably, but this is in case my attackers sue me.”

“If they attacked you—have I misunderstood something?”

“No—they left the field with more bruises than I had.”

“Someone intervene on your behalf?”

“No, I defended myself.”

“You beat up some attackers—by yourself?”

“Yes, Nick, I’m not as defenceless as I look.”

“So I hear.” He did the prints and I paid for them. He placed them in one of those punched pocket things to keep them dry.

I did the other bits and pieces I needed to do and returned to the doctor’s. I went in and waited. The receptionist called me, “Lady Catherine.” I looked around, no one else was rising and no one in the waiting room looked like a butch woman. I went to the desk.

“You called me?”

“Yes—the person you’re seeing after the doctor, is in with the doctor now. Would you like to go through to the counsellor’s room—across the way, and when they come out I’ll bring them across to you. Would you like tea or coffee?”

“For both of us?”

“Yes.”

“Coffee would be nice.”

“Okay, I’ll bring some through after they come in to you. How shall I introduce you?”

“I don’t know—Cathy?”

“Okay. Shouldn’t be long, and the surgery will be running for at least another hour, so you’ll have plenty of time with um—you know who?” She smirked and I wanted to say something, but I bit my tongue—I needed all the support I could get for this unfortunate, who might turn me down and not come and speak with me.

I went into the room and took off my coat—it was still quite cold out of doors. I was wearing a polo-necked jumper and jeans, with some beads, my gold bangle and earrings. I had slip on shoes and virtually no makeup on, and my hair was tied back in a ponytail. Oh well, they’d have to take me as they found me—looking as I did, they’d probably be able to tell I was TS quite easily. It’s something we do to each other, although I seem to be able to do it more easily than some read me.

I was texting Julie to say I’d be possibly another hour or so, when there was a knock on the door and it opened. Dr Smith opened it and said, “I’ve brought Maureen across to you—Maureen, this is Cathy. I’ll speak to you later, Cathy.”

“Fine, thanks, Dr Smith.”

I hope my jaw didn’t drop too far when in shuffled this large ponderous human, with hair like Worzel Gummidge and a beard shadow like an Italian Mafioso. They absolutely filled the doorway, and were dressed in a loose top and jogging pants with cheap Croc copies on their feet.

“Hi, I’m Cathy,” I said holding out my hand which was swallowed in the large mitt of my guest. Having met them, I began to understand Dr Smith’s problem.

A moment later, the receptionist brought through two mugs of coffee and we sat down either side of a coffee table and looked at each other.

“Why do you want to help me?” asked Maureen.

“Do I need a reason?”

“Yeah—course you do, or are you into freaks?”

“Why do you know any?”

“Oh very funny.”

“I don’t think so. I’m not sure how the topic came up, but Dr Smith said you were looking for work.”

“Yeah—so far without success—who but a fairground sideshow would employ me?”

“I might, if you can give me a quick verbal resume.”

“Yeah, sure.”

“I’m waiting.”

“Okay—I used to be a welder, down the naval dockyard—did my training in the navy. Went to the dockyard afterwards. I decided I wanted to be myself an’ they sacked me.”

“I thought it was illegal to do that?”

“Yeah, well I ’ad a few problems before that—with drink.”

“Are you drinking now?”

“Nah—can’t afford it no more.”

“I’m afraid that what I have to offer isn’t very feminine work—it would be doing jobs around the house and garden.”

“I’d be grateful for anything.”

“I want you to smarten yourself up…”

“With what?” there was an element of hostility in her voice and her eyes flashed.

“I was coming to that—I’ll give you an advance on your wages for you to get a couple of outfits and some overalls for working, can you do that?”

“Yeah—I s’pose so.”

“I’ll also make some enquiries at the university to see if they need any cleaners—it isn’t the best of jobs, but it’s a start and a chance for a reference if you get a sniff of something better. Interested?”

“Well—yeah, I can’t believe I’m hearing this.”

“You are—I’ll try and help you with your personal presentation as well.”

She started to cry and I sat silently. “Why are you doing this?”

“Why shouldn’t I?”

“You’re going to cancel at the last minute—aren’t you?” she sniffed.

“Maureen, I’m a woman of my word. If you keep your side of the bargain, I’ll keep mine. I have six youngsters, I hope that’s going to be okay?”

“I’ve been laughed at for the last couple of years, youngsters are the worst.”

“I think you’ll find my children won’t be anything but supportive—but if there’s a problem we’ll discuss it. They won’t cause anything…”

“So you think I’m some sort of paedo just ’cos I’m a tranny?” the eyes flashed again.

“Not at all—but I have some youngish children, and I don’t know you yet.”

“Oh, yeah I see your point.”

“I also need you to promise me you’ll stay off the bottle.”

“Okay.”

“I mean that, Maureen, I have no time to employ drunks no matter how depressed they feel.”

“Okay—point taken.”

“I’ll need your full name and address, and I’ll give you mine. Here’s a hundred pounds—get some new clothes and tidy yourself up. When can you start?”

“When do you want me to?”

“Friday is Good Friday, come over for lunch—is that possible? I can show round the place and we can discuss the sorts of things you can do.”

Maureen looked at the note I’d given of my address, “Yeah, I can get there, what time?”

“Any time after twelve noon?”

“Okay—I’ll be there.”

“You have my mobile number, if there’s a problem send me a text or call.”

“I’ll be there.”

“Good—anything you don’t eat?”

“I’ve been in the navy, ma’am—I’ll eat practically anything.”

“Good—I look forward to introducing you to my family.” I offered my hand and it disappeared inside the large mitt again.

“I won’t let you down, ma’am.”

“My friends call me Cathy.”

“I know a lady when I meet one, Cathy, ma’am.” With that, Maureen walked out, with perhaps a little more spring in her step than she’d entered.

Dr Smith popped in a few minutes later. “How’d it go?”

“I’ve offered her a job.”

“Crikey, I hope she stays off the pop long enough to attend for it.”

“She will.”

“How can you be so sure?”

“I know about these things.”

He shrugged, “I hope you’re right,” then went back to his room.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 950

“Right, people, gather round,” I spoke as the family came to the table. “I’ve offered a job to someone who is transitioning from male to female, and who has fallen on hard times.”

I saw Stella raise her eyebrows and mime, “Another one?” The girls giggled and Julie looked intrigued.

“The person’s name is, Maureen. Unfortunately, she doesn’t look very feminine, but we might be able to help there over time. What I’d like is your support for someone who’s going through a very tough time.”

The children all said they would help, Stella looked fed up and Julie looked concerned. As we cleared up, I asked Julie what her problem was.

“I don’t know if I can do this.”

“Do what?”

“Help this unfortunate person, Maureen.”

“Why?”

“I dunno—I like, feel it’s embarrassing.”

“Just imagine that multiplied by a factor of ten, and apply it to virtually every encounter you have with anyone. That’s what she’s going through.”

“I know I should be more kind, Mummy, like you are, but I just can’t. I’m sorry.” She burst into tears and rushed off to her bedroom.

Oh boy. I went back into the dining room and Stella was seated at the table waiting to have a pop at me. “So who is this latest lame duck?”

“I told you, someone who’s having some bad luck with work, so I’ve offered them a job, temporarily.”

“How temporarily?”

“I haven’t decided. Why?”

“I’m not sure I want to live in a fairground sideshow. This isn’t a charity Cathy, it’s a family home with children, who need to be protected from such people.”

I was gobsmacked. I was so taken aback that I couldn’t speak.

“I didn’t say anything while you were adopting every homeless kid in Portsmouth, especially transgender ones, and so far we’ve been lucky—they haven’t stolen anything or murdered us in our beds.”

“I can’t believe I’m hearing this—from the one person I thought I could count on to help someone in distress. Someone who encouraged a total stranger to change gender, and have supported them ever since. Yet, now you tell me you don’t like my children?” I felt my pitch and volume rising.

“No—I’m not saying that at all, I’m delighted that you’ve got kids to love—you’re very good at it—pretty good with adults too, I simply wish you’d consult before you go off on your Mother Theresa act—it’s getting a bit old, if you know what I mean.”

“I’ll ask the kids not to murder you in your bed, and I’ll call this Maureen and say that some selfish, uncharitable members of my family don’t want her here on Friday.”

“That isn’t what I said.”

“Sorry, that’s what I heard.”

“I don’t want to squabble with you over this, Cathy.”

“Well you’re giving a pretty good impression of it.”

“Can’t we talk quietly about this?”

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

“Fine, but at least hear my concerns, okay?”

I sat down at the table, “Shoot,” I said irritably.

“I accept the children were different and they’ve all been very successful—in fact, I’ve grown fond of all of them, even the boys. Trish is an absolute treasure and a worthy daughter to you. Julie is maturing nicely—so I was wrong there and I admit it.”

“This is the first I’ve heard of any qualms you had about taking in Julie.”

“You’ve never asked how I felt about it, before.”

“I’ve always assumed you were okay with it.”

“Assumptions can be presumptive my dear sister-in-law.”

“So I see, I’m sorry—I just thought you were behind me.”

“Well yes, but only because I’m using you as a body shield against whatever you’re bringing into the house next.”

“So what am I to do?”

“Perhaps consider that we don’t all have your charitable threshold nor your need to save the world and all its occupants. If you want to save souls why don’t you become a social worker or a vicar?”

“I’m a biologist, Stella.”

“I know what you were—that was before you decided to save the world.”

“No, I always wanted to save the world.”

“Look why not just concentrate on your family until they grow up, and perhaps the odd dormouse, and leave the rest to the experts or the Almighty?”

“We’ve done that already, Stella, and it isn’t working. I saw a swallow fighting with the icy winds—is your God going to save it?”

“How do I know? But I’ll bet you can’t save it either.”

“That’s why I’m frustrated, I see these poor creatures and know they’re likely to perish.”

“Isn’t that survival of the fittest?”

“Maybe, sometimes extinctions occur simply because the earth changed. It happened with the dinosaurs, but some of this is preventable.”

“Why don’t you make a film about it, then?”

“Maybe I will one day.”

“Why not now, instead of saving weirdos?”

“I’m a weirdo, remember?”

“Only in sleeping with dormice—oh and finding Simon attractive.”

“Very funny, you know damned well what I meant.”

“Ah, but you’re not a weirdo any longer are you, you’re a cute little housewife with so many children, she didn’t know what to do.”

“I’m who I am, Stella.”

“Yes, I know that, Catherine. You’re a female, who’s married to my big brother and who looks after the world while God’s asleep.”

“There is no God, Stella, it’s up to us to save the world and its inhabitants. No one else is going to do it—not intergalactic beings, or Superman, or even bloody Father Christmas. We have to do it ourselves.”

“There is no God? No Father Christmas? Oh Cathy—you’re so horrible.”

“Yes I am, but will you help me with my latest lame-duck?”

“Only if you promise not to adopt any more lost causes for some time.”

“Guides’ honour,” I said, putting three fingers to my head.

“You never were a girl guide, were you?”

“Me? No I failed the medical.”

“You fool,” she slapped me on the arm.

“So are we still friends?” I asked her.

“We are, I’m not promising anything with your latest project until I’ve met them.”

“The little I saw of her, she seemed very nice.”

“Well you were giving her money—of course she was nice.”

“Julie looks as if she might have a problem.”

“Oh? Why is that?”

“Not sure.”

“She hasn’t been a girl for very long has she?”

“Only since she came to us.”

“She could be insecure in her own identity, so anyone who draws attention to gender questions possibly undermines her confidence.”

“But no one is going to know that are they?—unless they have some clue about her, she’s extremely passable.”

“In looks, she’s as pretty as half the girls around here, but like so many young women, she has very little self-confidence. That’s one of the reasons they flirt so much, the attention makes them feel good.”

“Until they get raped because someone misunderstood the signals, or wouldn’t take no for an answer.”

“It happens, I’m afraid.”

“Stella, sometimes I do worry about the human race.”

“Stick to dormice Cathy, you know a little bit about them.”

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