Bike 1,001–1,050

The Daily

Dormouse

(aka Bike)

Parts 1,001–1,050

by Angharad

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


The Daily Dormouse Part 1001

I felt sick and there was something wet on my face and in my hair. I couldn’t open my eyes, they were sticking together and I could taste blood. My head was pounding like someone was hitting it with a large hammer and it was resounding like an empty bucket. I no longer felt I was moving, but I was upside down. I vomited and passed out again.

In the distance were voices. Was I dead? My body felt numb although it was still upside down—so I couldn’t be dead. I had no idea what happened, or how it happened. I couldn’t even tell you what car I was in or what I was wearing. I think I could just about remember my name—I’m sure I could, but not just for the moment.

The voices got louder, and now there were sirens. I had no idea where I was—there was no pain, so perhaps I was dead or even dying. As long as there is no pain—I don’t care.

I felt some movement and things started to hurt. I couldn’t scream like I wanted to—my throat felt blocked and my breathing wasn’t sufficient for me to scream. I think I might have moaned—what’s it matter I’m probably dead?

“Okay, darlin’, we’re goin’ to get you out as soon as we can.” There was more scrambling or movement and it hurt again, all over. “Stay with me, darlin’, don’t go to sleep—I need you to stay awake.”

Sleep, oh that would be wonderful, my head is pounding. I’m shaking and my head is pounding so loudly—hang on, I’m not shaking and what are those creaking noises? The noise is much louder, like some sort of engine and somebody is holding me. I thought I was in the womb, upside down, head engaged waiting to be born. Will they smack me on the bum?

I feel several pairs of hands? Yes hands—midwives? They are holding me and something is put around my neck.

“Watch it, we’ve got a bleed somewhere—go on, I’ve got her.”

The voice sounds nice, it’s male and caring—like a father. I wonder if it’s my daddy?

“Jee—zuz, get something on it, quickly. Stand by with a drip, or we’re gonna lose her; where’s that fucking helicopter?”

I wonder who they’re going to lose—not me, I know my way around these parts—um, I can’t think of the names—but take my word for it, I do. I groaned as the pain seemed to shoot right through me—up and down my spine like a thousand knives being inserted into me one after the other—no wonder there’s blood—all those knives.

I’m being laid down on a bed or something, now perhaps I can sleep. Oh now there’s lots of noise and the wind—I can feel the wind, and I’m moving—I’m falling, down a deep, deep hole. I feel dizzy and sleepy and…

The pain is unimaginable—so if I’m dead, I’m going to complain about it. I can’t move. Perhaps there is a hell and I’m in it. Oh well anything’s better than being surrounded by God—bother—oops, I’ll have to be careful, if I am in hell, there could be loads of them here to punish me, and for me to reciprocate to them.

“Cathy, can you hear me?”

Shit! They know my name and what is that beeping noise—not some form of lie detector is it?

“Cathy,” continued the female voice, “I’m Dr Talbot, Cynthia Talbot. You’re in Southampton General Hospital. You were in road traffic accident and you’ve been quite badly injured. You lost a great deal of blood, so you have drips attached to you and because you were struggling with the nurses, we’ve had to immobilise you. The good news is, we expect you to make a full recovery. I’m going to give you something to help you sleep and ease any pain you might be having. Sweet dreams.”

I’m sitting on a cloud and some idiot with wings keeps handing me a harp and I keep handing it back. “I can’t play this,” I said.

“Why not?”

“I’m not in the musician’s union,” I said.

“That doesn’t matter down here.”

“Down here?” I queried.

“Of course down here, the devil has all the best tunes, didn’t you know?”

“Are Beethoven and Mozart down here then?” I asked the harp distributor.

“See those two over there?” They pointed to a distant cloud.

“Yes,” I replied.

“Well that’s not them, it’s Elvis and Kurt Cobain.” There was demonic laughter and I started to slip through my cloud, I was falling again and then there was blackness.

“Cathy, open your eyes darling, you have a visitor.”

“I can’t,” I squeaked, “I can’t open my eyes—I’m blind.” I felt myself crying and felt very scared.

“Oops, the bandage has slipped, hold on, there, now try.”

I struggled. My eyelids felt as if they’d been sewn together and someone had left the pins in. I managed to prise one slightly open and the light was searing. I closed it again quickly.

Someone touched my hand, “It’s me, Julie, Mummy. We all wanted to come to see you—we’ve been so worried, you’ve been here a week an’ we didn’t know where you went—you just ran out of the hotel and disappeared. The police came and told us you’d been in an accident and we were so worried. Gramps brought me—we don’t know where Daddy is, no one has seen him—get well soon, Mummy, we all need you.” I felt her kiss me on the cheek and I presume she left.

“Mummy,” wailed a small voice, “I wuv you so much, get better soon.”

“Mummy, it’s Trish, we all miss you and need you to come home—here, hold my hand and I’ll see if I can sort you out—there, can you feel the energy. Rats, I can’t see any, that’s not bloody fair, we should be able to heal you like you help others. I’m going to complain to the nuns when I go back to school.”

“Hi, Mummy, it’s Livvie, can you get better soon, we all miss you and you make better food than Julie or Auntie Stella. Love you lots.” She kissed my hand and left.

“Och, whit a mess—yer car wis a write aff, they had tae cut ye oot, the van driver died. It wis his fault, sae thae polis said. Whaur’s Simon? We canna find him an’ Henry has nae idea neither. Och, I’ve only jes got here—och alricht—I hae tae go, Cathy. Get weel soon, we miss ye, ye muckle heid. Whit were ye doin takin’ aff like that? Och, all richt. I hae tae go. Get weel soon, hen.”

“Mummy, it’s Danny and Billy—you look awful, Mummy…”

“You shouldn’t have said that, dummy,” hissed one voice.

“Sorry,” was hissed back, “Actually, Mummy, you look a beautiful as ever, I was only jokin’, honest.”

“He was, Mummy, get well soon, we’ve brought you a card—I’ve put it with all the others on your locker thing. We gotta go, come home soon, Mummy, please.”

“Well, Mrs Cameron, you have oodles of fruit and flowers and cards—aren’t you going to open your eyes to look at them?”

I would have shaken my head to say no, but it hurt too much.

“Come on now Cathy, if you don’t cooperate with us we’ll be forced to send in the physio-terrorists, and you know what sorts of things they make you do. So come on, open your eyes, or say something.”

“Oh my goodness, it’s the miracle woman—so how come you can’t do one for yourself then? Oh, I suppose that’s how it works is it? I mean Jesus couldn’t save himself on the cross, so what chance have you got?

“I didn’t recognise you at first, the air bag bruised your face, but don’t worry, it’s clearing up nicely. Come on have a little drink for me—good girl.”

The Daily Dormouse Part 1002

I’d be lying if I told you it took me months to get home from hospital, because I spent a few more days then insisted they let me go. For some reason, they couldn’t believe my rate of healing, except possibly one night sister, who wasn’t at all surprised.

In truth, I wasn’t as quickly healed as I pretended, but they let me home and I wasn’t going back to hospital without the medical equivalent of a court order. Back at home, after my first collapse, Julie and Stella, not to mention the others did more to help than they ever had. I did most of the cooking, which seemed to please most of the family.

Simon hadn’t been seen since the night of my accident, and I was quite hazy about the details and not having shared it with anyone else, I couldn’t help the police much at all. It might seem as if I was taking it all very calmly—the very opposite was more true—but everyone was watching me and stopping me from doing anything on my own—apart from the cooking.

Speaking with Henry and Stella, it seemed very odd that he could have been kidnapped for a ransom—unless something went badly wrong. As far as Henry knew, there was nothing missing from the bank, and since all his passwords had been changed, he’d be very little help to any organisation trying to access the bank.

We seemed to be getting nowhere, and as the days progressed I grew fitter and stronger, and more depressed. It seemed increasingly that I was going to be a widow. My thoughts about the wedding blessing were firmly put on hold, until a pair of kilts appeared which Simon had ordered before he disappeared. It caused an uproar at the bank when the firm tried to claim on his card, quite innocently as it happened. Henry had to smooth it over.

The boys were astonished by the kilts, and were very reluctant to try them on until Tom showed them his, and looked anything but effeminate in it. I also told the others while the boys went off to change, that any teasing would be dealt with severely. So when they came back down wearing the tartan, they were greeted with gasps of delight, not derision. They actually looked rather fetching, and I wished Simon could have been there to see them.

Henry came over to see the boys in their new finery and we chatted afterwards, when the boys went back upstairs to change out of their new best clothes.

“Any news?” I asked knowing the bank had employed a private investigation firm as well the efforts the police were making.

“No, they report every week but nothing beyond what we know.”

“I find it astonishing that there has been no ransom demand—what happened to it? Did the man carrying it get killed on route?”

“They’ve actually looked at that scenario, and nothing seems to fit it; so what were they trying to get from us?” Henry stroked his chin in thought.

I couldn’t remember what was said, other than it was a woman’s voice—I thought, and people remember me appearing to be very angry or anxious or even both. I assumed from that, she’d said something insulting or hurtful to me—but why?

Common sense suggested that even if he’d decided to drop me and the rest of our family, he wouldn’t have left the bank—it paid too well. As his account had been frozen as soon as it was noted he’d gone, they couldn’t take anything. Henry had caused a new joint account to be made to enable the family expenses to be met, although I could have survived on my earnings for a while at any rate.

“Nothing is missing, except Simon, and it doesn’t make sense.” Henry grumbled and sipped his tea.

I went to eat another biscuit—I was in danger of becoming a comfort eater and put it back into the tin. Then an idea popped into my under-used mind. “Henry, we’ve been waiting for them to try and take something from the bank.”

“Yes—that’s the usual consequence of kidnap, and I can’t see him voluntarily leaving his wife and children or his overpaid job.”

“What if we’ve been looking at it upside down.”

“What do you mean?”

“How about, if someone put something into the bank?”

“Keep talking,” urged Henry.

“I don’t know—some money from drugs or a computer virus.”

“The money laundering we’d detect, and the money we spend on IT safety is like a king’s ransom.”

“But you’re looking for attacks from outside. What if it was internal, put in by a trusted person who couldn’t be released until it had happened.”

“Well Cathy, that sounds like a cheap thriller plot, but it’s as good as anything we have to go on.”

“I’m thinking, it’s something big which could potentially ruin you, and it’s imminent, like in the next few days.” I was cuddling the Paddington Bear which Simon had given me. “He’s alive,” I said, without knowing where the ideas had come from.

I stood up and with tears running down my face, I repeated, “He’s alive, I know he’s alive.”

“How do you know, woman?” Henry grabbed me and held me by my upper arms.

“I just do, he’s alive but we have to move quickly, because they’ll kill him once they’ve achieved what they want.”

“You’re not making any sense, Cathy.”

“Henry, believe me, it’s something they’ve put into the bank—I just know it.”

“Like what?”

“I don’t know, but computer virus keeps coming to my mind.”

“Okay, if I hadn’t seen your spooky stuff in action before, including some bullets I have in my desk drawer, I’d think you were crazy—but, it could just be what’s happened.”

He clicked his mobile phone and began barking instructions for the head of IT to be waiting for him when he got back to London. Then he called up the helicopter to collect him from Portsmouth.

“Where’s Grampa Henry gone?” asked Danny. He looked disappointed that the source of small gifts of money had gone before he could tap him.

“He had to dash to the bank for a very important meeting, but he loves your kilts.”

“They don’t look too poofy, do they?”

“Poofy? What? Tell that to Mel Gibson.”

“Who’s he?”

“He did Braveheart,” I replied, without telling him how Hollywood had mangled the story of William Wallace.

“Who’s he?”

“Go and look it up, but he was anything but a sissy, that’s for sure.”

He went off to use the Internet and Billy came up to me. “I didn’t look like a girl, did I?”

I hugged him, “No, you looked like a highlander.”

“What’s that?”

“Someone from the highlands of Scotland, and they were as tough as the land they lived on. Go and talk with Gramps, he can tell you far more than I can.”

I watched him walk up to Tom’s study and tap lightly on the door, then presumably when invited, he opened the door and entered. I hugged my Paddington, and hoped the person who gave it to me would be with me soon.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1003

It seemed any doubts the boys had about wearing kilts were quickly dealt with and I half-expected them to be running about painted in woad, or the Windsor and Newton equivalent. They asked me to get the DVD of Braveheart, over which I had misgivings—it’s a bit violent and the best bit was the music by James Horner, yeah him of Titanic fame. I told them I’d speak to Gramps about it.

I had another shock, it seems I had ‘slept’ through the election and we now had a namesake for a Prime Minister. I don’t suppose my single vote would have made any difference but I do like to exercise it, and it would have been the first parliamentary election I could have voted in as me. I suppose next year, I’ll have to take part in the census—I was still in school at the last one.

On the Saturday morning, I saw the boys out in the garden fencing with two pieces of stick, I tapped the window but they just ran off and presumably continued out of sight. Oh well, they are boys so I should expect it.

I hadn’t seen Henry since I suggested the bank was under attack. I began to wonder if my intuition was failing me, in which case was my belief that Simon was still alive, also a delusion? I refused to give up hope, I had to believe he was coming home again—anything else would be disloyal to him. He’s a tough cookie—so he’ll survive.

I wondered what the purpose was in calling me that night? I can’t believe the accident was anything other than that—an accident. The guy in the van apparently died at the scene—the steering wheel turned him into a human kebab. I shuddered at the thought—what a wretched way to die. Mind you, the airbag in my car caught my nose and face, which was where some of the blood came from. Thankfully it didn’t break it, so I didn’t lose my girlish charms—ha ha. My face is still bruised but not as bad as before. I’m driving the Mondeo until Simon turns up and can sort out the car situation. He did promise me another Merc which would be nice, but let’s get him home first.

Leon arrived, so I won’t get much help from Julie when she gets back from the salon. Stella drove her into work to give me a little lie in, with three giggling aliens. It’s not the same without listening to them tormenting Simon—I wonder where he is?

Whenever I think of him, all I see is darkness. At first, I thought it meant he was dead then on reflection, decided he could be blindfolded.

I was doing the lunch while the two boys helped Tom and Leon plant some more vegetables and also some flowers for me. I had bought some dahlias a while ago—they should be showing by now.

My mind was definitely absorbed by the food I was preparing, the boys had asked for sausage and mash for tea, so I was making egg salad for lunch and boiling a dozen eggs was a bit of a pain, trying not to have them pop in the pan before they were hard-boiled.

The phone rang, and I answered it, expecting it to be something mundane like the Pope was asking for advice on contraception, or President Obama wanting to adopt a dormouse—you know the sort of stuff that happens.

“Hello?”

“Ah, girly boy, you are still alive—your husband won’t be much longer unless you do as we tell you.”

Was this the ransom demand? Had I sent Henry on a wild goose chase?

“Who are you?” I’m not really violent but a large part of me wanted to meet this insulting cow and punch her lights out.

“That is not important, you will be called soon, be prepared to do exactly as we say or your precious Simon will breathe his last.”

“How do I know he’s still alive?”

“You don’t.”

“If anything has happened to him—I shall hunt you down and personally destroy you like the sick puppy you are.”

“Making idle threats doesn’t worry me, girly boy.”

“You wouldn’t be the first who underestimated me and went home in a body bag.”

“Do all you fake women have such fertile imaginations?”

“Probably not, but I hope you’ve made your last will and testament and made your peace with your god, because it is my intention to send you to meet him.”

“You sound more like a man than a woman.”

“The female of the species is more deadly than the male—as you will find out quite soon enough—just don’t start reading any long novels or watching any serials.”

“You are so funny, lady boy, maybe I shall kill you and all the world will then see what a sham you are.”

“Feel free to come round and try it, but bring your own shroud.”

“Maybe I would kill all your children first before you, while you watch helplessly, although eunuchs can’t have children, unless they steal other people’s. Is that what you did?”

“I am going to kill you, you sick bitch.” My blood was practically at boiling point, but I was trying to sound calm, even though my tummy was doing back flips and somersaults.

“You don’t even know who I am.”

“I’ll find you—so prepare to die.”

“Oh for a sissy boy, you do talk a good fight, don’t you?”

“For a Russian, you speak with very little accent.”

“My dear, sissy boy, I’m as English as you are.”

“I’m not English—so do your homework, bitch, and take good care of my husband and I may kill you quickly.”

“You will be contacted and given instructions, do exactly as you are told or Simon will die horribly.”

“I’m not doing anything until I know he’s alive.”

“You’d better, or you’ll guarantee his death.”

“No—you’d better prove to me that he’s alive and unhurt, or you’ll be wasting your breath, and I’d save that if you can, while you can. Prepare to die, bitch.”

“You are starting to annoy me, I shall have him hurt for that.”

“Be very careful what you do to him, because I’ll do it tenfold to you.”

“I am so scared, I have goosey bumps on my arms.” I knew now she wasn’t a native, she was probably Russian.

“Don’t worry, death sorts that out along with all your other problems—you ugly cow.”

She laughed and rang off. I put the phone down and it rang almost immediately.

“Hello?”

“Hi Lady Cameron, Special Branch here, you kept her on long enough for us to do a trace. A squad is heading over to give her a welcome.”

“Be careful, I don’t want Simon injured.”

“We have some experts in dealing with these situations assisting us.”

“I’m pleased to hear it. Thank you um—who are you?”

“Detective Inspector Wheatland.”

“If you catch them, I’d like five minutes alone with her.”

“If we do, you know that’s not possible.”

“A girl can dream.”

“Of what, though—murderous intent?”

“Gosh you must be psychic.”

“No, I have a few minutes of you two trading death threats.”

“Why are Special Branch involved?”

“Your husband is quite important.”

“He is to me.”

“I’m sure. We’ll be in touch, ma’am.”

“Thank you.”

I went off to wait, and while I did so, I raised the lid on the well in the garage and retrieved something, made by Smith and Wesson—a British owned company, apparently.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1004

I stored the illegal firearm in my knicker drawer, wrapped up in an old tee shirt. Whether it would work or not, I had no idea, but having it in the house made me feel safer—not something I’d have subscribed to a while ago. I also checked out my compound bow and my quiver, I had about ten arrows. All were target arrows but with that bow, could make a nasty dent in anyone they happened to hit.

I was geared up for a fight if necessary, but my mind was diverted to more immediate matters when a police car came hurtling up the drive and an officer ran up to the door.

“Have you found Simon,” I asked him, having almost fallen down the stairs in my haste to open the door.

“Are you Lady Cameron?”

“Yes,”

“Can you come with me, madam?”

“I grabbed my bag and shouted to Tom to keep an eye on the kids.”

Then just before I got in his car, I asked to see his warrant card.

“But I’m in uniform, madam.”

“Please humour me, I’ve been kidnapped by bogus police once before.”

“Here you go,” he pushed his card into my hand and it looked genuine.

“Thank you, where are we going?”

“Central Police HQ as far as I know.”

“Any news on my husband?”

“I dunno, Lady Cameron, I’ve not heard anything, but that isn’t always surprising. Hang on we’re in a hurry.” With that, he switched on the blues and twos and we screamed through the streets into the town centre.

It was verging on a white-knuckle ride and I will happily admit I was scared throughout. I went into the reception area and a woman PC asked if I was Lady Cameron and led me away through one of those keypad doors and up some stairs to a large office.

A tall jovial, red-faced man looked up as I entered, “Lady Cameron, I presume?” he extended his hand, “Severus Wheatland, how d’ya do?”

I shook the proffered hand which was like a shovel compared to my daintier puddy. “Sorry, but I presume you were around before Harry Potter?” He looked about forty.

“Yes, it’s an old family name, trust me to get lumbered with it. My friends call me Sevvy.”

“Cathy,” I replied. “I’m still not sure why special branch are involved.”

“I can’t tell you everything as it’s very sensitive, but if I mentioned that the Russian ambassador is also missing, I think you’ll understand better.”

“Did you find anything from the phone call?”

“No, they were all gone, but we did pick up on a mobile phone message and raided that address, where four people were shot. I’m afraid I’ll need you to look at the deceased to see if your hubby’s amongst them.”

“Is that police marksmen or the SAS?”

“I’m not at liberty to say, but I can tell you it wasn’t the police.”

“I believe at the Iranian embassy siege they shot one bloke twenty eight times, I hope my Simon hasn’t been shot like that.”

“I don’t know, they’re making the bodies presentable so if you could come with me, I hope we can deal with this bit first. I was led out to a car and we drove at speed to an industrial estate and into an unlisted factory.

We hardly spoke throughout the drive and my stomach was churning—what if the blackness I picked up for Simon was this—his imminent demise? I felt quite sick.

We viewed the bodies and I was mightily relieved to discover none of them were Simon, one of them was a woman—a pretty one, aged about thirty, her blonde tresses were flecked with blood and I noticed a wound to her neck, presumably the fatal shot. I wondered if it was the woman with whom I’d sparred on the phone. I felt sick and had to rush outside where I spewed up my lunch all over a rose bush.

“We think one is the missing Russian dignitary, but none is your husband?”

I shook my head, “Was that the woman I spoke to?”

“I have no idea, my dear Cathy, but I suppose she could have been.”

I threw up again, so obviously my tough talking was just that—I had no stomach for all this violence any more, assuming I’d ever had it in the first place. “Can I go home now?”

“I suppose so, but I want an officer with you at all times.”

“Will he be armed?”

“Yes.”

“Look when this happened before, they killed them and left me alone.”

“I suppose you’d prefer it if we just gave you a machine gun to protect yourself?”

“I don’t know.”

“I hear you’re quite useful with a Kalashnikov?”

“Not really, but there are times when I do wonder if I should invest in one.”

“No, then we’d have to arrest you for illegal possession of a firearm.”

“But if it’s known I’m at risk, why can’t I get some sort of emergency licence?”

“And we find you shot the postman.”

“Well if I did it would be the guy who keeps delivering next door’s stuff to us.”

“Why is that a problem?”

“It’s half a mile away.”

“Ah, maybe you could claim provocation?”

“Much more of this and it could be insanity.”

“Come come, I’d heard you aristocrats were made of sterner stuff?”

“I’m probably the exception that proves the rule.”

“Oh,” he shrugged, “not from what I’ve heard.”

“Why can’t people leave me in peace to live my life? I don’t interfere with them.”

“Alas, I think some have a grudge against the bank, or the UK or perhaps even, an imagined slight against you personally.”

“I thought that had been resolved: the scrap we had before.”

“Apparently not—some of these people have very long memories and very short tempers. Not a good combination in people with guns.”

“So why aren’t you lot picking them up when they come into the country?”

“Who says either we or MI5 don’t pick them up?”

“So how come they got Simon?”

“They changed targets at the last minute—they were apparently going to hit the Governor of the Bank of England.”

“Oh my goodness, why?”

“I think because he has ‘bank’ in his title.”

“Gee whizz, these guys are dangerous because they’re so amateurish.”

“That’s a good point, if they were ex-army or KGB, they’d have far more idea. I think they’d been watching Simon for a while and he was vulnerable driving down from London. They had a bogus police car and pulled him over—we have it on motorway camera. He was taken away in the bogus police car, which we found a couple of days later burnt out. It’s quite vexing.”

Vexing! I can think of a few choice words and that ain’t amongst ’em.

They ushered me back to the car and were taking me back to the Central Police Station when they got a call over the radio that something was happening elsewhere. Ten minutes later, after another blue light dash, I found myself sat in a police car outside Tom’s farmhouse.

A young officer briefed us. “They shot in in two 4x4s and rounded up all the occupants. We saw at least four gunmen.”

“There are six kids, plus a teenager and an old man in there,” I gasped.

“Where’s the teenage girl?”

“Still at the hair salon where she works on a Saturday.”

“The other woman went off in a Fiesta.”

“That was Stella, she’d be going to collect Julie.”

“Make sure it doesn’t come back and interrupt things,” said Wheatland to the young officer, who nodded and went off to talk on his radio.

“What do we do now?” I asked.

“We wait,” said Wheatland.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1005

“Do we actually know these people have Simon?” I asked.

“No, not for certain, but it’s probable.”

“And now they have Tom and my children.”

“That I can confirm.”

“If someone will loan me a gun, I shall go and get my children back.”

“Sorry, we can’t do that, which you well know. I’m afraid you’re going to have to wait this out. We have trained negotiators and a firearms team on its way.”

“That is my house, those are my children and my adopted father—if you think I’m going to sit here and twiddle my thumbs for the next three days—forget it. Besides, I need a change of clothing.”

“I see, I’d have thought being married to a banker, you could afford to buy something.”

“What’s that got to do with it? That is where I live and I don’t accept that a bunch of clowns should stop me living in it as I normally do. Besides that, my children are in there and I’m not, they need me.”

“They have the professor.”

“But it’s me they’ll want.”

“I’m sorry.”

“There’s a baby in there, too. You can’t just ignore her, she could become ill quite quickly, I need to go and see to her.”

“I’m sorry, I can’t allow that, Lady Cameron.”

“Is this a police state?”

“Of course not.”

“Well, in which case just keep out of my way.” I opened the car door and ran straight at the policeman who tried to grab me until I sidestepped and whacked him with my bag as I went past. He fell over but wasn’t hurt. I then ran up the drive and went straight to the back door—which much to my surprise was unlocked.

I stepped inside and was immediately pushed over and my bag taken from me. There were two of them, the man with the gun pointed at me and the woman who was tipping my handbag onto the kitchen table. “D’you mind, that bag is a Louis Vuitton, it cost a lot of money.”

“Ha, the capitalist pig squeals.” I recognised the voice from the phone. “So, you are going to kill me are you?” She then hit me in the stomach and punched me as I doubled up from her blow. I could taste blood, my lip was stinging and felt like I’d had collagen injections.

She kicked me, and I took the blows, but it bloody hurt.

“You gonna kill me, huh? I don’t think so.”

I felt blood drip from my nose, and it felt very tender. My eyes were watering and things were a bit blurry. Had I made the wrong decision? Dunno—but having made it, I had to run with it.

“I came to see my children, they’ll be very frightened, and there’s a baby—she’ll need feeding.”

“This creature, is a boy—Igor—maybe I should let you rape him, so you can compare him to a real woman.”

I heard the man with the gun laugh behind me. “Then I kill him?”

“Later, perhaps. They won’t attack because we have children here—and their precious boy-mother.” She grabbed the back of my hair and pulled me to my feet—that hurt too. This sonofabitch was going to deserve payback in spades.

I was dragged through into the lounge and unceremoniously dumped on the floor before my children. They were all sat on the floor around the feet of Tom and Leon, who were tied and gagged on two dining chairs.

“Where’s the baby?” I asked.

“Get the baby for him, Igor.” The gun man went off upstairs to collect Puddin’. I glanced around and five horrified children sat and stared at me in disbelief. Then all hell broke loose.

“Don’t you hit my mummy,” Trish launched herself at the woman who swiped at her and missed but caught Meems who fell backwards. Danny flew at her and as he made contact so Billy jumped on her as well. Meems was crying but I think okay. I stood up and with two kicks caught the woman under the chin and in her chest. Her head hit the floor with a crump and she lay still.

I said to Danny to grab Puddin’ when the man came back. He did a moment later, Danny snatched the baby and I swung the chair at his chest. He got one arm to it, but it knocked him backwards and his gun dropped which Billy snatched from the floor, rolling away as he took it.

Igor was obviously hurt, the way his one wrist was hanging it looked broken. He laughed and came at me, I sidestepped at the last moment and kicked him on the side of his face as he went past. He careered over a settee and hit the floor with quite a thump. He staggered to rise to his feet and Danny bashed him on the head with a bottle of Tom’s single malt.

He stood up, looked at Danny and as he stepped towards the boy I landed a flying kick which knocked him into the fireplace where he smacked his head on the hearth and lay still.

Trish was releasing Leon and Tom. I took the gun off Billy, who was shaking with fright. Livvie was standing looking aghast and holding the baby.

“As soon as I can secure the front door, get them all out,” I hissed at Leon who nodded. He took the baby from Livvie and Trish took her hand. They followed me out to the hallway. There was no one to see.

I opened the door and they all ran for it. I went in search of my quarry and hopefully my husband. The woman groaned as she lay on the floor, Igor, I suspect was dead or dying in the fireplace.

The police saw four enter the house, where were the others? As the kids ran towards the road, shots rang out from upstairs, which were returned by police snipers and the sound of glass smashing was followed by a thump upstairs—damn, that’s my bedroom, I’ll need to get the carpet cleaned now. I wonder if blood comes out with one of those steam things?

I crept up the stairs and exchanged shots with a man who jumped out of the window and ran off up the garden. I crawled into my bedroom and saw the intruder there was probably dead. I got to my wardrobe, and pulled out the bow and the quiver. Then a few moments later with the gun tucked into the waistband of my jeans, I jumped out of the window and went stalking my prey.

He’d cut himself somehow, probably on the ledge of the veranda in Stella’s room. I set up the bow as I stalked my quarry, and by the time I reached the orchard, I was ready to loose an arrow.

He fired at me, hitting one of the apple trees, I fired back and the arrow caught him in the shoulder. He screamed and fell backwards. I loaded another and walked calmly towards him, he was squealing and trying to wriggle towards his dropped gun. I kicked it away and aimed at his groin.

“Unless you want me to give you a one stage sex change on the end of this arrow, tell me where is my husband? Where is Simon Cameron?”

He whimpered and shed loads of tears, I loosed an arrow which grazed his leg and he screamed. I loaded another. “Oops, I missed, oh well, this time.”

I drew back the bowstring and he screamed, “I tell you, don’t shoot.”

“Where is he?”

“Empty farmhouse, at Soberton Heath.”

“Is he still alive?”

“Yes,” the man lay back and cried, “Don’t kill me.”

“I’m here,” I called to the police swat team, “It’s okay, I disarmed him.”

The clods still charged in and snatched my bow and pushed me to the ground. Once I was allowed up I actually slapped the man in charge, hard enough to drop him. He charged at me and I caught him with a kick to the chest. He fell back and lay there gasping for breath.

“If any of you lays one finger on me ever again, I’ll beat the crap out of you and sue you for compensation. And believe me I can.” They stood around open mouthed.

The injured Russian was led away with my arrow still in his shoulder.

“I should be charging you with assault with a deadly weapon,” said Wheatland.

“You should be thanking me for saving the lives of several of your officers. Now I want you to take me to an empty farmhouse at Soberton Heath. That’s where Simon is.”

“How do you know that?”

“The man with the arrow in his shoulder told me on condition I didn’t turn him into a pin cushion.”

“He confided in you, I take it?”

“He wanted to help me find my husband. I can be very seductive when I want, you know.”

“Even with a bloody face,” he passed me his handkerchief, and I gingerly wiped at my nose and mouth.

“What about the three indoors?”

“All still alive, the one in the fireplace has serious head injuries, and the woman on the floor has a concussion.”

“Good, when it’s better let me know, I’ll hit her again.”

“You realise she has a broken nose and the side of her face is caved in, I think her cheek is smashed and possibly her jaw as well. It won’t improve her looks.”

“She threatened to kill my children, if she died, I’d have no conscience about it.”

“You could be charged with manslaughter.”

“I was unarmed she was holding a gun, my kids attacked her when she hit me, I just helped them a bit.”

“You were unarmed, what’s this then?” He took the pistol out of my jeans.

“That belonged to her, the bow is mine—I want it back and all the arrows, including the one in our helpful intruder’s shoulder.”

“I don’t think you’re in any position to make demands.”

“Get me to Soberton Heath or take the consequences.”

“One more statement like that and I’ll have you arrested.”

“If you do, you’ll be retired faster than the speed of light. I have some very powerful friends.”

“Your father-in-law isn’t above the law, you know.”

“I have friends more powerful than him—when you’re ready to risk your pension to find out, let me know, unless you’d prefer to finish your career back on the beat. That could be arranged too.”

“You’re not joking are you?”

“No, where’s this flipping car, or shall we go in the Mondeo?”

“We’re going by helicopter, which if my ears aren’t deceiving me, is coming now.”

The Daily Dormouse Part 1006

As we sped away up into the air, I could see a convoy of police vehicles moving from Portsmouth, north and west towards Soberton Heath, a place I only knew as somewhere I went through on occasional bike rides.

In a relatively short time, we were over the area, which was wooded on the one side of the A32 road—I must do a check there for dormice, I thought to myself as we circled round and about—but for now, we were hunting bigger game—rats, of the two legged variety.

“They could be anywhere,” I sighed, “What if he was lying?”

“With you threatening to kebab his nuts on an arrow, I doubt it. Would you have shot him in the goolies?”

“How do I know, all that mattered was he thought I would.”

“True, but would you have?”

“If it meant saving Simon’s life, then, yes I would—I think. It’s different talking about it in isolation compared to the heat of the moment.”

“Yes, I suppose it is.”

“I’ve cycled round here.”

“What from Portsmouth?”

“Yes, why?”

“You’re quite fit then?”

“Not at the moment, I rarely get time to cycle these days.”

“Pity, it’s good exercise.”

“So they say, ooh look, a Jaguar just like Simon’s.”

“You what?”

“Down there,” I pointed, “the Jaguar is the same colour as the one Simon has.”

He spoke into his microphone and the chopper did a pass around the house and this time had the computerised camera working to try and read the number plate.

“What’s his number?”

“SI 09 CAM.”

“The camera is picking up a CA, can’t see the rest for trees,” said the observer sitting up with the pilot.

Wheatland ordered his cars to close in on that farmhouse.

“It is a Jaguar,” confirmed the observer, “I can see the cat badge on the back.”

“Can we go down and see what’s happening?” I asked.

“No, one of the reasons for bringing you along up here is you can’t get involved in any fisticuffs.”

“But my Simon could be down there,” I wailed.

“If he is, the swat team will do its job and get him out. They train for it—they’re not natural born killers like some people.”

“So you go to the cinema,” I teased.

“Infrequently, too busy chasing ne’er-do-wells.”

“Got a definite on the car, sir,” came a voice from below us.

“Treat with great caution.”

“Get my husband out safely, please,” I squealed into the microphone.

“We’ll do our best, ma’am.”

“Thank you.”

The link went quiet and we soared away hovering some distance off. The police vehicles blocked all exits and entrances, and we could see men scurrying about like ants. It felt unreal.

“Can’t we go any closer?” I asked.

“No, if they start shooting we’re practically defenceless.”

“I thought you had a gun,” I poked him in his jacket, “there in your holster.”

“A pistol would be lucky to hit a house from anything further than twenty or thirty yards away.”

“How come Clint Eastwood can shoot the balls off a fly from a hundred yards away with his Colt 45?”

“That is pure fiction, he’d be lucky to hit the town from that range. More bystanders got hit than gunslingers.”

“Go and arrest him under the trades descriptions act.”

“The Wild West is a bit out of my jurisdiction, but if he ever shows up over here with a six gun, I’ll arrest him, that’s the best I can offer.”

We watched the drama below us, the flashes of thunderflash grenades, which deafen and disorientate their targets—presumably by pressure wave stuff and the organ of balance in the ear.

Men were rushing to and fro and I wished I was down there to see where Simon was, and that he was okay.”

We watched in silence, the police stormed the farmhouse, and although two men tried to escape via the back, they were soon caught.

Ten minutes later, “Building secured, no sign of target, sir.”

“Okay, Inspector, we’re coming down.”

We landed in a field across the road, and I was very restrained in my desire to rush across and look for myself. Walking with Wheatland into the house, I caught sight of movement above us and pushed him away, a bullet zinged between us and a copper fired back. We ran for cover at the back of the house.

“I thought you had secured the area?” Wheatland chided his colleague, the one I’d hit earlier.

“I don’t know how we missed him, we have three other captives, so I can issue the order to shoot full stop.”

“That’s up to you, Inspector,” Wheatland wasn’t taking responsibility for any deaths.

Once again a bullet zipped near us, and we ran further behind the house.

“Keep down, Lady Cameron, you seem to be his target.”

“Meee?” I squeaked, “Why me?”

“If we catch the bugger, I’ll be sure to ask him.” With that, the Inspector in charge of the swat team ran round the corner and straight into a bullet—in the face. He fell backwards, and Wheatland called for a medic.

We dragged him back with us—he was quite a big man and took some hauling. I pulled a handful of tissues from my bag and tried to staunch the wound. I also threw some healing at him—well he was on my side, even if he was a bit limited by red tape.

An ambulance tried to come around the back of the building and withdrew because it was fired upon.

“Will you get that bastard?” Wheatland shouted at the police trying to get a clear shot at the lone gunman.

“He’s got a rifle of some sort hasn’t he?”

“Yes, possibly one of those collapsible things that convert into a pistol and you screw on a barrel and so on. How’s he doing?”

I was throwing rather a lot of blue energy into my patient, and thankfully the bleeding had stopped. I needed this to be quick, I wanted to speak with the man who was shooting at us, because I was sure he knew where Simon was.

I suppose we were there for about twenty minutes, by which time I could confidently predict my patient would live, I did have to push his brain back in and heal it, although I wondered if he used it much anyway.

Finally, a paramedic came scrambling though the hedge on foot, he’d run around the woodland to get to us. I left him with the wounded man. I picked up the bulletproof vest we’d stripped off him, and while there was a bit of blood on it, it said police in nice big letters, so hopefully I wouldn’t be shot by a copper.

Wheatland was peeping around the corner at roughly where the shots were coming from. I reckoned he was on a flat roof over a bay window, which had a small wall around its edge.

I grabbed the vest and the officer’s machine pistol, and dashed into the house. I found the stairs and stopped to don the vest and check the gun was loaded and the safety catch was off. In a pocket, I found a spare stun grenade. That could be useful.

I made my way up to the attic and crept slowly across the floor, some of the boards were missing and it stank of mildew and rotting flesh. I nearly stepped on the corpses of some jackdaws, which had obviously fallen from their nest, nearly fledged too.

I spotted an opening under the eaves where the tiles or slates had fallen off and I estimated he was almost directly underneath me. I pulled off another tile or two to make the hole large enough to squeeze through wearing the vest.

I scrambled through and found I was about twelve feet above him although I couldn’t see him because he was under a ledge. I primed and dropped the stun grenade. It exploded on impact, exactly as I’d wanted it to. However, the blast blew me backwards into the attic, and through the rotten boards crashing onto the floor beneath.

The lone gunman stood up and I saw his shadow against the window in front of me, there were several shots and he fell backwards into the room. It wasn’t a he at all, it was a young woman about thirty and she was rather perforated by police snipers.

I crawled towards her. She was still alive but very injured and barely breathing. I started to push some light into her, but she was resisting me. I’d never encountered this before—surely she didn’t want to die. I wanted her to live, because I was sure she knew where Simon was.

I tried to talk to her but her eyes seemed to glaze over and she sighed as blood began to bubble from her mouth. I sat there with her, “Don’t you die on me you bitch, c’mon, stay with me,” I spat at her as I pushed the energy into her blasted body, then realised she wouldn’t be able to hear me anyway, because of my grenade. Oh shit!

The Daily Dormouse Part 1007

I suppose I had five or ten minutes to work on the girl before reinforcements arrived to see what happened. I managed to stop the bleeding and one of the bullets had worked its way to the surface and I was able to remove it.

I was so engaged in what I was doing, I didn’t realise that I was being observed. Pushing the energy into the woman and talking to her, I was completely absorbed in my task. Another bullet rose to the surface and I removed it. I reckoned there was a third and it felt to be deep inside her close to her heart, having penetrated a lung on its way. I drove the energy deep into her body, and felt myself forming like a sling of it to draw the bullet out.

My sling was very fragile and her organs felt stuck together with glue. Sweat was rolling down my back as I pulled and pulled on the bullet and simultaneously plugged the hole with light to heal it. I had to work fast, the girl’s heart had stopped and she wasn’t breathing.

Finally the last bullet came to the surface and I laid her flat and began CPR, breathing the light into her lungs and pushing it into her heart as I practiced my ministrations. She coughed and gurgled and began breathing for herself, and I turned her on her side, so she could cough up whatever muck was in her throat.

I had just done this when there was a cough behind me, and I spun round to see two swat officers standing watching me.

“Did you just do what we think we saw you do?” asked the taller of the two.

“That depends upon what you think you saw me do.”

“You pulled the bullets out of her and started her heart again, somehow stopping the bleeding at the same time.”

“Yeah, there was this blue light all around you,” said the second.

“What if I denied what you assert you saw?”

“How did ya do it?”

“Who said I did it?”

“There are three damaged slugs there, they’ve obviously hit something.”

“Maybe they hit the wall.”

“C’mon lady, they didn’t, I saw them come out of her body—I’m pretty sure I put at least one of them there.”

“You realise if you say what you saw, then you’ll destroy my life and that of my children?”

“Why?”

“Because I’ll be pursued by the press and followed by loads of people who think I can help them. I can’t help them all—I don’t have the time or the power, plus I’d like some time to myself and my family.”

“So why did you waste your power on scum like her?”

“I have problems with people dying for nothing,” I opined firmly.

“Yeah, but why don’t you save your energy for the good guys?”

“I’ve used it once for your inspector.”

“Yeah, but he’s still down, I saw the paramedic with him.”

“I think that might be because he’s trying to find the wound, which should have healed by now.”

The woman stirred and two guns were cocked and pointed at her. She sat up and stared at me then at the two police holding guns aimed at her. “Why you save Anna?”

I shrugged my shoulders, “Perhaps I think enough bloodshed has occurred.”

She gave me a look which suggested she didn’t understand.

“I want the killing to stop.”

She nodded.

“Where is my husband, Simon Cameron?”

“I don’t know.”

“I don’t believe you.” I didn’t, I was convinced that she knew. Every sinew in my body was telling me that she knew.

“Is truth, I don’t know.”

“Do you know who I mean?”

“Sure, man we take from car.”

“Yes that one. Is he still alive?”

She shrugged and said, “I don’t know, mebbe he is, mebbe not, Anna not know.”

“One of your group told me he was being held here, would he lie?”

“Depends how you ask him.”

“I threatened to kill him.”

“And he talked—typical man.”

I picked up the machine pistol and fired it about a foot from her. She didn’t bat an eyelid—one tough cookie. I fired again and a splinter of wood hit her wrist, which caused her squeak and rub the injured arm.

“What’s going on up there?” called a disembodied voice on the radio.

“It’s okay sir, gun malfunction.”

“See it doesn’t happen again, people could get killed by stray rounds.”

“Very good sir, we will.” The young copper fibbed to avoid embarrassing me.

“I’d tell her if I were you, Anna, she might not miss next time and she might not revive you next time.”

“I can’t, the energy only works once.”

“So if I was to shoot her now—she’d stay dead?” asked the taller copper.

“I’m afraid so.”

“Good thing too, bloody terrorists.”

“Anna not terrorist, Anna fighting to overthrow capitalist system before it destroy my country.”

“So why don’t you work in your own country and leave us alone?” The tall policeman voiced a not unreasonable question, which might have been rhetorical.

“Simon Cameron, he big investor in corrupt business and government.”

“So why not expose him—show the world what he’s doing and set him free for the legal system to charge him as appropriate.”

“He own legal system, buy best lawyers and judges—forgone conclusion—Anna say, kill him.”

“This woman has just saved your life you ungrateful bitch.”

“I not ask to be saved.”

“Just as well then, innit?”

“I don’t care—you kill me, see if I care.”

“I just took three bullets out of you—you might not care, but I bloody well do. I’m not saving you so you can end your stupid life because you pissed off some copper with a hair trigger.”

“Anna not ask you help.”

“You want me to put the bullets back into you?”

“You do with Anna as you want, I never talk.”

“I admire your stubbornness, but unfortunately, I need to find my husband and that means I don’t play by the rules anymore than I have to. I put the life back into you, I can draw it out just as easily.” It wasn’t true, but she didn’t know that.

I stepped towards her and she rose and struggled to avoid me, falling backwards in the process, nearly down through the hole in the floor. Then she thought about diving from the hole in the rotten flooring, I saw it in her eyes a second before she went, and I grabbed her while she struggled to get through the hole.

The two coppers came and pulled her back, then as they were walking away, one fell through the rotten floor and shot the other one as his gun went off. She saw her chance and pushed me over hitting the wounded copper as she went. He was bleeding quite badly and I had to make a choice—try and save him or apprehend the Russian woman and try and find where Simon was.

It wasn’t a choice, it was a dilemma.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1008

I saw the young copper fall, blood oozing from his neck and he lay flailing and frothing as his life ebbed away. I called out for help, but we had two injured officers as the one who’d fallen through the floor was lying motionless on the floor below.

Meanwhile, the Russian woman stumbled away and was clear of the area in seconds. I stopped to tend to the haemorrhaging young copper. I hoped I could do the same for him as I had for the young Russian.

“Relax, thrashing about makes it bleed more, so just relax.” I took the small first aid kit he carried and held the pad against the wound. The bullet had taken out some blood vessels in his neck—he was unconscious a moment later.

“Keep breathing,” I exhorted him as he gasped and his chest stopped moving. “Keep breathing, dammit.” I couldn’t hold the wound and do CPR. I drove the blue light into his wound talking to him as I did so, telling him to stay with me, I could save him.

It didn’t work, when a paramedic got to us, the young policeman was dead. A terrible accident—killed by one of his mates. What a thing to live with. I got up with difficulty my legs were stiff from kneeling in one position trying to save him, and my hands were covered in blood, which was now sticky or dried, it had got under my nails and splashed on the vest and jeans I was wearing. I burst into tears, and another copper led me away after giving me a hug.

They were still treating the man on the floor below—it didn’t look good. It transpired that he died as well. It wasn’t a good day for the police—and I felt to blame for it. If I hadn’t gone after the sniper, they wouldn’t have come up after me. If I’d left her to die, they’d both still be alive. Then the energy decided it would save her and let them die—what sort of thing was it? I vowed never to use it again, and told it to leave me and my family alone. It was a curse.

When I recovered, I was being handed a cup of coffee by Wheatland. “What happened to the Russian girl?”

“What Russian girl?” he asked looking blankly at me.

“The one we tried to arrest upstairs, it was in a tussle with her that the two officers got killed, one fell through the floor and broke his neck and the other was shot by the first as he fell.”

“What a mess—I didn’t see any Russian girl, only the ones we managed to arrest and they’re on their way to the local nick. Don’t worry, we’ll find your Simon.”

“Yeah, I just hope he’s alive when we do—she seemed intent on killing him.”

“Your mystery Russian woman?”

“Yes. How could you not have seen her?”

“Very simply, she didn’t come past me.”

“And you were here all the time?”

“Yes, why?”

“Where the hell did she go then?”

I drank my coffee and washed my hands in the water provided by the ambulance. I was still upset that two people had died, especially two young men who possibly had wives and families. Violence sickened me, yet I seemed to get involved in it trying to protect my own, or those trying to help me do that.

I went back into the house; most of the windows were boarded up, so where had she gone? They weren’t convinced in my story about the woman, perhaps thinking I was in shock. I was upset, I wasn’t shocked, I could still think and function well enough.

She had got downstairs, I knew that much. I didn’t know if she was armed or not. I knew she would be pretty desperate so I had to be careful. In the fading light, I searched through the ground floor—where could she hide?

There seemed nowhere. I searched again and then I saw it. The fireplace was big enough to get up into. There was also soot, fresh soot on the hearth and footprints in it. I walked away and went to find my handbag, then using my mirror, I looked up the chimney—she wasn’t there, but when I then looked up it using the little LED torch I have on my key ring, I could see she’d been up there.

I wiped the dirt off my hands, more police arrived and started closing the building off as a crime scene. I gave a statement and was taken off in a police car. I showed them the chimney and the footprints and the way they noted it, showed they thought I was crazy. I think I heard one of them say, “Father Christmas, I expect.”

They drove me back to the police HQ, where I was able to wash properly. I still wore bloodstained clothing, which I intended to dump as soon as I got home, but apparently they, the police, wanted it as evidence. They gave me one of those paper all in one suit things. I was allowed to keep my shoes.

After yet more questions and a further statement, they took me home. There was a police car parked in the drive and its occupants were in the house drinking tea with Stella.

She already knew we hadn’t found Simon, presumably the official grapevine, via the police radios. After learning Henry had taken all the children to the hotel, I went up to shower.

I wandered into my bedroom with just a towel wrapped around me and stopped in surprise when I saw the Russian woman sitting on my bed wearing some of my clothes. However, it was the gun she was holding which caught my attention.

“You certainly have a nerve,” I said when I managed to breathe again.

“I want to know something.”

“So do I, where is my husband?”

“Get dressed and do it quietly.”

I towelled my hair and combed it, then pulled on a top and jeans over suitable underwear. I finished with socks and trainers. I wanted to be mobile enough to take this woman if the opportunity arose.

“What do you want to know?”

“How you save my life?”

“I didn’t.”

“You did, I see you pull me back from void and all blue light.”

“It was the light which saved you, I just happen to bear it. It chooses who it works with and who will benefit from it. I have little control. I couldn’t save either of the police who died when you escaped.”

“I know, I saw them die—but no matter…”

“It mattered to me, they were two young men, they’d have wives and families.”

“You care too much—it weakens you.”

“No, it strengthens me, it gives purpose to my life.”

“Life can have purpose, but we talk too much. We go now.”

“Go where?”

“To see your precious Simon.”

“If you’ve harmed him…”

“You’ll what, fix him again? Ha—just shut mouth and do as I tell you.”

We left via Stella’s balcony, in the same way I had in pursuit of the intruder I’d shot with the bow. I had to trust her—which wasn’t easy, not helped by the fact she had a gun and I didn’t. Then I remembered the one in my knicker drawer, which would probably have resulted in us shooting each other. Assuming I survive, I must move it in case one of the kids discovers it and shoots themselves or one of the others.

We went out through the orchard and round in a wide circle to the main road where she’d parked a car. “You drive, and no trick.” As she had a gun and she was leading me to see Simon, I wasn’t going to start anything until I’d explored that lead. After that, anything could happen.

We drove towards Waterlooville—I wonder what that commemorates—and off to one of the villages up that way. Then finally we turned up a narrow track and stopped in front of a barn.

She prodded me with the gun, “Go,” she said.

I walked into the barn, inside I saw a man lying on some straw holding a gun. He was injured by the look of things.

“Where’s Simon?” I demanded.

“You make him good again, and I show you Simon.”

“I can’t—I can’t do this anymore.”

“You heal him or I kill you and leave Simon to die—he starve in three or four weeks; he have lots of fat.”

The Daily Dormouse Part 1009

She pushed the gun into my back and I nearly fell on her injured companion. I tried to think of Simon as being nearby, but all that did was make me want to cry—and that wouldn’t help anyone.

I looked at the man before me. He was very pale, in fact he looked very ill. “This man needs a hospital.”

“No hospital, you fix and quick.”

Hell’s bells, where do I start? He was sweating, and as I moved to touch him, he started and pointed the gun at me. His hand was shaking. The woman barked something in Russian at me, and he relaxed the gun.

I examined him more closely. His shirt was heavily bloodstained in the abdomen—it appeared that he’d been shot or stabbed. He should have been in an operating theatre, not lying in a barn with all sorts of infection about. Actually it smelt as if he possibly already had an infection, which explained why he was sweating and shivering.

“He needs a surgeon and antibiotics—he’s got an infection, for goodness sake.”

She rested the gun against the back of my head, “Fix him or I blow your brains up.”

Her mangling of the English language didn’t help me focus. “Ask him to move the gun, I need to touch his hand.”

Once again she barked an instruction at him and he moved the gun further away from me. I touched his other hand—it felt icy cold—this did not bode well.

I imagined the blue light coming into my body from all over the universe and I then focused it on moving it into his. I was asking it to save his life so I could find Simon and save his—no I didn’t ask it, I begged and implored it to do as I asked so I could find Simon.

I thought I saw blue energy flow between us, but that could have been pure wishful thinking on my part. Holding his hand in my right hand, I placed my left hand on his chest. He whimpered, and I felt his friend standing behind me. I had no doubt she would kill me if I failed. I tried to keep this out of my mind.

My hand felt very warm on his chilled skin, and at one point he seemed to be having a convulsion. His head lolled back and his eyes rolled up into the top of his sockets, his mouth drooped open and his tongue fell out of the corner—then he started to shake, like he was shivering violently. I held on, and noticed he’d dropped the gun—he’d also wet himself—I hoped that was all he’d done—he was smelly enough now.

I closed my eyes and poured the energy into him, willing him to get better, to heal and to allow me to find and rescue Simon. My hand seemed to move lower and I winced as I realised it was on his wound. The wound was fibrillating like a damaged heart, it felt like it was heaving with maggots. Then my fingers closed on something small and hard and I pulled it away—it was the bullet, so something was happening.

My hand returned to his wound and it felt like it was red hot, my hand felt like the element in an electric kettle, I wasn’t surprised when he groaned tensed and fell back. Then it all felt normal.

“What you do to him? I kill you,” she shrieked and pulled me away—I was exhausted and part of me couldn’t have cared less if she had.

He said something and she looked at his bare midriff which now just showed a dent, the wound had otherwise healed. She laughed and almost whooped with delight, then she turned to me and cocked her pistol. I suspect she would have shot me but for him telling her not to. I think her name was Katya, least that was the only word I recognised.

She hugged him and pulled him to his feet. I wondered what would happen now. “Where is Simon?” I shouted, “I did what you asked, now tell me where he is.”

“I forget, goodbye,” they started to walk away laughing, except he’d left his gun behind. I leapt on it and pointed at them.

“Where is he, you bitch?” I pointed at them and pulled the trigger—nothing happened.

“It’s empty, you stupid cow,” she said and pointed hers at me. I noticed the safety catch was still on. I clicked it to the off position and pulled the trigger again. The gun barked and I fell over backwards. I didn’t hit anything but they took to their heels and ran.

“Where is he, you bastards?” I screamed at them, then collapsed to my knees sobbing. I don’t know how long I was like that when I heard a quiet bumping noise above me in the barn.

I shuddered, and grabbing the gun, looked all round me. Then the bumping noise again. It was definitely from above me. I began to go up the small staircase which led up to the loft above the main part of the barn. My hand was trembling as I held the gun, “Who’s there?” I called and the noise got louder.

I walked towards it and called again. This time it was definitely louder and seemed to be coming from inside a pile of bales of hay. “Simon?” I shouted, and it banged twice.

I switched on the safety catch and tucked the gun into my jeans—then began to pull down a number of bales of hay. I was sweating and growing very tired, but persisted. If necessary, I’d tear down the barn with my bare hands.

I kept moving the bales and finally, thought I could see something, I worked even more feverishly. Then I beheld something wrapped up in a sheet, I dragged at it, and underneath, bound up and gagged was Simon. I nearly thanked the god I don’t believe in.

With fingers which couldn’t work fast enough, I undid his gag. “Oh, Babes,” he said, “I thought you were never coming.”

“Geez, Si, let’s face it, I was looking for a needle in this haystack—what the hell are you doing here?”

“Waiting to be rescued by the most amazing woman on the planet.”

“Yeah, well she couldn’t come, so I had to.”

“If you hadn’t shouted, I’d never have heard you, that hay stuff was like sound proofing.”

“I’ll remind you of that the next time you tell me I’m shouting.”

“I’ll never complain of that again.”

I untied him and it took us several minutes for him to stand and a further ten minutes for him to get down the stairs and onto the ground. He was very wobbly and had to lean on me to walk away.

“How are we going to get home? Have you got a car?” he asked.

“No, but I’ve got you, and that’s all that matters.”

“I could do with a drink—I don’t suppose you have any water?”

“Look, there’s a house over there, let’s go and ask for help.”

“Better hide that gun then.”

I tucked it down lower in my waistband and pulled my top over it. We walked slowly to the farmhouse and up to the front door. Simon didn’t smell too sweet.

“How long have you been there?”

“I dunno, days I think. It was dark up there, so I have no idea and they took my watch—the one my dad gave me.”

“I’ll buy you a new one.”

“What for? I have loads of them, if you remember. It was just that that was a nice one.”

I rapped on the door and it opened, a little with a woman’s face peering out the crack. “Can you help us? My husband isn’t very well—could we have a drink of water and could you call the police?”

“P-o-l-i-c-e? What for?”

“Just tell them it’s Cathy Cameron, and where we are, they’ll come to collect us.”

“Go away—I don’t want no gippos here,” her retort was so unexpected I froze in disgust, allowing her to slam the door shut.

“Can you believe that?” I looked at Simon. Then sitting him down, on the doorstep, I shouted through the letterbox. “Will you call the police, please and could we have some water? I’ll pay for the bloody stuff—he’s ill, so stop messing me about.”

I heard footsteps approach the door and expected the door to be opened and her to offer us a glass of water. Instead, I stared in horror as shotgun barrel poked out of the letterbox and I jumped to one side as it was fired at us.

“You stupid cow,” I yelled as if it would have made any difference.

“Clear off you beggars.”

It was only with enormous self-control that I didn’t shoot through the door with the pistol and kill the stupid bitch. Instead, I ran to the back of the house and then came dashing back. “Can you drive a tractor?” I asked, and Simon nodded.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1010

Our tractor ride didn’t go far, we were stopped by police perhaps two miles down the road—whereupon we were arrested by two young coppers who weren’t interested in our stories. At least Simon was given a drink of water at the station—personally, I’d have held out for a cup of tea.

So having found Simon, I was separated from him by being locked in the adjacent cell. I’m beginning to think I won’t give much to the Police Benevolent Society this year.

Simon had been relatively quiet, it was me who did all the mouthing—so I was put in the cell first. I assumed he was in the next one.

Eventually, was I extracted for questioning—“You realise you can make a call to your solicitor?”

“I’d prefer to phone my father-in-law, who will bring a brief with him.”

“I see, who’s your father-in-law, Mrs Camero—um, are you the Cathy Cameron?”

I smiled and nodded.

“Oops—someone has messed up…”

“Big time! Can someone get my husband out of the cells and bring down a senior officer to speak with him?”

“You were carrying an illegal firearm—that’s a five year sentence.”

“I am quite happy to explain how it came to be in my possession.”

“Do you have Lord Henry’s number handy?”

“He’s at their hotel in Southsea.”

“I’ll get you a phone.”

“Any chance of a cuppa? I’m parched.”

Of course, Henry got us bailed—or me, I had the gun, Simon was let go. It was difficult trying to explain why I’d been kidnapped by the bandits, without giving my other activities away. I let them think I was negotiating a ransom for Simon and I managed to prise a gun from one of them and they skedaddled.

They seemed to accept that—the lies bit. It was the truth, my search for Simon which they looked surprised at. I then had to explain that I thought they intended to kill both of us. That they accepted. I gave a description of the woman and what I could remember of the man. Seeing, or not seeing, because I had my eyes shut much of the time, made it difficult.

I was able to describe her clothing very accurately, and also the type of car she had, a black Jeep Cherokee. By now that’s probably been ditched and another bought or stolen.

Talking of cars, Simon was pleased to discover the police had his pride and joy in their pound, and it was only going to cost him—he got cross at that and they agreed to return it to him free of charge. I offered to bring him in the next day to collect it, assuming I wasn’t a jailbird by then.

Henry, who collected us after springing us from the nick, took us back to the house where we had a quick shower and changed clothes, then he took us to the hotel to see the children. They of course were pleased to see us again, once we could get them out of the swimming pool.

Meems did actually hug her Daddy while she was still dripping wet, and I don’t think he cared one bit about her being like a fresh-caught haddock. The others I promised a hug once they were dry—my thin dress would not look very presentable sticking to my underwear.

Needless to say, we had a celebratory meal at which Henry toasted me for saving his son—yet again. The other adults cheered and I had another chorus of, For she’s a jolly good fellow, while sitting and blushing like an infrared lamp.

Maybe I should retire to the countryside and breed dormice—I’m quite good at that—and give up all the heroics. Maybe not, I’d be widowed in about three weeks and someone has to keep an eye on Simon and his ability to attract psychopaths. I wonder if I fit into that category?

I wondered where the two escapees were—I mean, they’d be hardly likely to send me a postcard, would they?

We stayed overnight in Southsea—we were all too frazzled to drive home, and Tom had brought Kiki with him. Simon went to bed early after kissing me and telling me that the only thing which kept him alive during his ordeal was seeing the children again and kissing me.

I let him kiss me until he fell asleep, which sadly he did quite quickly, and he slept until ten the next morning. I’d actually cadged a lift to collect my car, came back, collected all the children in the Mondeo and took them home to change for school. They were all a bit miffed at that, but it was a normal school day—or as normal as we get.

Later I collected Simon, who looked one hundred per cent better, and we went off to get his car from the police. While at the police HQ, I was asked to speak with Wheatland.

“Your descriptions were very good. Your adversaries were two ex-government agents—no wonder they eluded us. Katya and Gregor Romanov.” He showed me a photo of each of them, although her hairstyle had changed, it was her all right.

“No wonder she managed to kidnap me from my own bedroom—she was good—especially as two police officers were downstairs at the time.”

“You were lucky, she’s a trained assassin.”

“Now you tell me.”

“And now you can tell me something, why did she kidnap you?”

“It’s all in my statement.”

“He was wounded, wasn’t he?”

“So? I’m no doctor.”

“So—you’re the mysterious healer, aren’t you?”

“Don’t be ridiculous.”

“I’m not. Katya received three direct hits, we have it on video, any two of which would have killed her. Yet she rose from the dead and escaped us.”

“If I was this mystery character, how come I couldn’t save your colleagues?”

“The most obvious answer is, you didn’t try to. However, I know what a compassionate women you are, and I know as well that they found you trying to keep young Winston alive, despite his massive blood loss. So the answer is, I don’t know—perhaps we all have a time to die, and that was theirs.”

“You know as much as I do then.”

“I know more than you think I know. I know Gregor was injured because we found his blood on some bales of straw. We also found some on the gun you handed over. But Lady Cameron, next time you pinch something, don’t use a tractor—they’re far too easily spotted.”

“Who was the woman who tried to shoot us?”

“Oh yes, Miss Branston.”

“Is she as mad as she seems?”

“According to the statement she made, you threatened her and then stole her tractor.”

“She did the threatening, and fired a gun at us—isn’t that an offence?”

“We only have your word for that, she categorically denies it.”

“The lying old bat—I’ve got a good mind to see if we hold her overdraft.”

“Please don’t do any such thing—her fiancé hanged himself in her barn about twenty years ago.”

“Why? Did she threaten him with her popgun too?”

“The conclusion of the coroner’s enquiry was a bit fudged, he even managed to suggest it was misadventure, rather than suicide, so she got the insurance payout, but it was a reduced one—they settled out of court, after she sued them.”

“So what d’you think happened?”

“I have no idea, but it’s unlikely he could have done it on his own.”

“Why? It only takes a rope, somewhere to hang it and something to jump off.”

“He had an artificial leg, so how do you reckon he got up on the stool he was supposed to have stepped off?”

“How do I know? Maybe he hopped up?”

“No, it was a bar type stool, and was four feet high.”

“Someone helped him or he was cleverer or more determined than you think?”

“That’s what the coroner decided, so that’s all that counts. I’m a policeman, I uphold the law—I don’t make it.”

We shook hands and I followed Simon back to the house. I decided I’d never tell him Katya was a known killer. He was finding it difficult enough now. I did wonder if we’d ever meet again—if so, one of us might not be so lucky next time.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1011

“I can’t breathe, help, I can’t breathe,” Simon thrashed about in bed; his arms flailing made it difficult for me to calm him.

“Simon, calm down, you’re safe.”

“I won’t tell you anything you bitch,” he grabbed me around the throat and began to squeeze.

He was still fast asleep and the way he was going, I’d be ending up on the long sleep. I tore at his hands but they kept squeezing my windpipe and I was beginning to feel frightened.

I pulled at this thumbs but he was so strong, that in the end I had to hurt him to stop him. I punched up between his hands and caught him on the jaw. He bit his tongue, shouted and fell back—I rolled out of bed, coughing and spluttering with eyes streaming, really believing he would have killed me.

“What happened?” he asked as I switched on the light. He sat up, “God, my tongue hurts and my jaw—what’s the matter with you?”

“Someone just tried to kill me,” I gasped, my throat was still hurting.

“What now?”

I nodded unable to speak.

“Who was it, where are they?” he leapt out of bed presumably to apprehend himself, though I’m not sure he would apprehend this very well at all.

“It was you,” I coughed and spluttered.

“What?” he asked, aghast.

“You nearly killed me.”

“Cathy, I wouldn’t harm you for the world.”

“You were dreaming.”

“I was, that bitch was trying to kill me.”

“Yeah, well I tried to calm you down and you decided to strangle me.”

“Oh my God, I didn’t did I?”

“It’s not something I’d make up,” I showed him the marks on my neck.

“Oh God, I am sorry.” He wanted to hug me, but for the moment I didn’t want him near me. I asked him to make me a cuppa, and went into the bathroom to put some cold water on the bruising. When he came up with the tea, I dabbed it dry and rubbed in some moisturiser—very gently.

“I am so sorry, Cathy.” He passed me some tea and I thanked him. “I can’t believe I did that—must have hit myself in the face too.”

“No, that was me, trying to avoid you killing me.”

“Wow, you pack a punch,” he said ruefully rubbing his chin.

“So would you if you thought it was your last one.”

“That bad was it?”

“If I hadn’t stopped you, you would have killed me—my voice box feels very sore.”

“I’m so sorry, Babes, what d’ya want me to do?”

“I don’t know, I hope this is a one-off.”

“What if it isn’t?”

“If you wake up next to a dead body which closely resembles mine—you’ll know it wasn’t.”

“I can’t believe I did that—how can I say I’m sorry?”

“Si, you’ve said you’re sorry and I believe you.”

“God, if that happened again or anything happened to you—I’d never forgive myself. I couldn’t face life without you…” he choked and began to sob, “I’d kill myself,” he added.

“And who would look after the children?”

“They’d have to go back into care or something.”

“Simon, those are our children we’re talking about—they love you, how could you even think of such a thing,” I was crying too, now.

“They wouldn’t let me keep them and how could I cope anyway?”

“You’re a resourceful chap, you’d think of something.”

“Maybe we shouldn’t adopt any more until this is sorted.”

“What d’you mean?”

“Put the adoption business on hold until I’ve been locked up or cured.”

“We’ll do no such thing, those boys have been waiting all their lives to be in a family, really in a family.”

“Of a murderer?” he sniffed.

“I’m sure plenty of your ancestors did it.”

“Things were different centuries ago.”

“Yeah, they didn’t have digital watches and computers—so they had to kill each other much more low tech.”

“No, things were different in those days.”

“In what way?”

“Well, life was cheap.”

“Not to the owners—besides, tell that to the families of those three women in Bradford.”

“What women?”

“The three women sex workers who were murdered by that criminology student bloke—the Crossbow cannibal.”

“Well they probably asked for it.”

“I don’t believe you just said that.”

“Why? They chose to do what they did for a living.”

“Simon, they all had problems with drink or drugs, like lots of street girls—they were working to feed a habit.”

“Well then.”

“Simon, they were still young women—you know, sentient beings, who felt pain and loved their families—very few women would work the streets if they could help it—it’s very dangerous and soul-destroying work.”

“C’moffit Babes, no one forced them to do it, did they? They made choices.”

“Did they deserve to die because they made some bad decisions? That’s like saying you deserved to at the hands of those bandits because you chose to do banking.”

“Oh c’mon Cathy, how is banking like prostitution?”

“You mean apart from screwing their customers?”

“Oh very funny, I don’t think.”

“I wasn’t comparing the two professions, I was suggesting that you blaming the girls for their own deaths would be like someone blaming you if that Russian secret service woman had killed you.”

“Secret service? What’s this about secret service women?”

“Katya Romanova was a renegade secret service agent.”

He went pale—“She could quite easily have killed me, couldn’t she?”

“Without a qualm, I suspect.”

“Shit Babes, I coulda died.”

“The three women all did die for some pervert’s gratification.”

“Yeah, but I coulda,” he swallowed, “I mean, me—I coulda died.”

“Life is cheap is it?”

“Okay—point taken. I was wrong about the prostitutes.”

“They were women Si, you can’t kill a job, only the holder, who is a person.”

“Okay, okay—you know what I mean. I suppose you want me to sleep on the settee?”

“Did I say that?”

“No but you keep moving away from me.”

“You frightened me.”

“I said I was sorry.”

“I know, I’m sorry too, but it really frightened me.”

“I’d better go then.” He got off the bed and began to walk towards the door.

“Get back into bed Simon, and stop being so silly.”

“Silly—I nearly strangle my wife and she calls me silly.”

“C’mon, get back in and let’s go back to sleep—and I’ve got to get up in four or five hours, I need my beauty sleep.”

The Daily Dormouse Part 1012

To sleep perchance to dream. My dreams are as nasty as Hamlet’s. I won’t repeat what happened in it save to say that I awoke feeling terrified and sweating like a hard-ridden horse. It was nearly seven according to the digital clock, so I eased myself away from Simon’s arm, which had been around my waist and went to the bathroom to wee and shower—not at the same time, I hasten to add.

I came out feeling cleaner but not necessarily much more alert. I tried to remember what had spooked me in my dream, but it had gone. I roused three girls, two boys, and one teenager. They all grumbled but got out of bed when I threatened the cold wet flannel treatment.

The girls all showered one after the other and I combed and dried their hair and put them in pigtails, plaits or for Meems a ponytail. That done, they dressed themselves and came down to where I had breakfast started and lunch boxes finished. Despite my tiredness, my body seemed to be performing quite well without conscious input.

I ate a piece of toast—I know I should have more, but I don’t seem to be very hungry these days, and my throat was still a bit sore. Trish frowned at me then gave me a hug.

“C’mon, eat your breakfast,” I told her but she continued to hold on to me—the little tyke was healing my neck, because by the time she let me go, I felt a lot easier. I managed to eat a banana while she gobbled down her cereal.

I popped a scarf around my neck just in case when I took the girls to school. No one else had noticed except Trish—possibly she was more awake than the others or just more observant. I decided I wasn’t going to worry about it.

I came back via the supermarket where we’d had the scene with Julie’s parents. Thankfully they weren’t there, so I shopped and left, but having thought about them I did wonder how they were.

One doesn’t have to like people to think about them, in fact soldiers probably spend as much time thinking about the enemy as they do their loved ones. Perhaps that’s why I was thinking of the Kemps, after all, this was the initial battleground. Just a bit of association based on past experience or was it?

When I got home, lugging bags of shopping into the house, I called for help—none seemed to be forthcoming. I trudged down to the car and hauled another four bags of assorted foodstuffs and cleaning products up to the kitchen.

Where was everyone? Simon’s Jag was still there as was Stella’s Ford. Tom was working at the uni; so where were Simon, Stella and Julie? Irritated, probably from lack of sleep, I filled the kettle and switched it on, then began to put away the shopping—filling the fridge, freezer and larder. By the time I’d finished, the kettle had boiled. At first, I was going to make myself a cuppa and blow the rest of them. Then I thought better of it and went looking for them.

I went through the lounge and dining room—no one there, I called and a muffled voice replied, I ran upstairs—something wasn’t right. Stella opened the door of Julie’s room, inside which I could make out the shapes of two others—presumably Simon and Julie herself.

“What’s up?” I started to ask when Stella put her finger to her lips. I glanced in the room and Simon was sitting cradling Julie who was sobbing in his arms.

Stella led me into the boys’ room and shut the door. “Her father phoned while you were out.”

“What did he want? He promised he’d leave her in peace unless she initiated the contact.”

“Just shush and listen, her mother is seriously ill.”

Part of me wanted to say, “Good, it couldn’t happen to a nicer person,” but I didn’t, I simply made my impression of a goldfish.

“Julie’s mum has had a stroke.”

“Oh,” visions of my father came to my mind. “How bad is it?”

“Not good, according to her dad.”

I swallowed my bile and asked, “What do we need to do to help Julie?”

“Simon is comforting her, she obviously wants to go and see her, but her dad thinks it might make her mother worse.”

“Surely she’s not thinking of reverting, is she?”

“I don’t know, she hadn’t said that as far as I know, but who says she won’t?”

Simon had either seen me or heard me talking with Stella. “Who’s looking after Julie?” I asked him.

“She’s gone off to sleep, so I came out to give her some space.”

“What has she said?”

“She blames herself.”

“Oh here we go, I’m a little pervert tall and thin, why not come over and kick my head in?”

“Cathy, get off your high horse and listen,” he growled at me. “She thinks that the falling out with her parents has caused both of them to become ill. She wonders if perhaps you went to see her mum and did some of your magic, she would be able to go and talk to her later.”

“I can only do it if the energy wants me to, if it doesn’t or seems to imply it’s her time nothing will happen except perhaps to make her more accepting of it. Besides, she possibly hates me more than Julie—I’m the pervert who stole and corrupted her son. I’m the devil incarnate to the power of ten.”

“Would that make you Billionzebub rather than Beelzebub?”

“Simon, go and take a running jump, will you? I’m trying to make sensible suggestions and you revert to schoolboy humour as usual. Life isn’t one big Monty Python sketch, you know?”

“Pity,” he sighed, “Okay, Crabby Cathy, what’s the plan?”

“Where is she?”

“The QA.”

“Maybe I could do this from a distance?”

“What send her healing?”

“Yes.”

“Worth a try, what do you need to do?” Simon seemed in favour—it meant he wouldn’t have to separate us, Julie’s two mums. It would also mean, she wouldn’t improve from my healing her only to have another while trying to kill me for doing it. Oh well, life is full of little ironies.

“First I need a cuppa—I’m parched, then I need to be left alone to try and tune into her and send the light and dare I say, some love, too.”

“Go in our room and I’ll bring you up a cuppa,” Simon disappeared down the stairs. I peeped in Julie’s door: she was sleeping, and Stella was sitting in the doorway of her own room listening for Puddin’ and Julie. Sometimes she does her share—okay, not too often, but she can be an absolute brick.

Simon brought up a tray-load of teas and I took one, and sipped it. Stella had one and he took the remaining two up to Julie’s room. He tapped gently and went in. I heard him close the door behind him. I wasn’t entirely sure I wanted him sitting in there with her, but he wasn’t under my feet and he was doing something useful.

I finished my tea, went for a comfort stop, as they say, then shut my bedroom door and sitting cross legged on some pillows on the bed began to focus on Julie. I planned to use my love for her as a sort of bridge to get to the old lady. I sat and tuned into the teenager and started to move the energy about.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1013

I pictured Julie’s mother in a hospital bed and surrounded it with light, then when it seemed appropriate, I took the light closer to her. I didn’t do too much because I didn’t want her to pick up on me and then use it to reject Julie. For all her faults, she’s still Julie’s mother.

I discovered when I emerged from my room that I’d been occupied for over an hour and I wasn’t sure about the others but I was hungry. I popped up to Julie’s room and she was sitting on the bed listening to her MP3 player.

“How are you feeling?” I asked her.

“Okay, I guess—it’s still sad even if she was an old bat.”

“She’s still your mother, Julie.”

“No, you’re my mother now.”

“It’s all very flattering, but I’m at best in loco parentis.

“What does that mean?”

“In place of your parents.”

“Yeah, a replacement parent, that’s what you and Daddy are.”

“If that was the case, why are you upset?”

“Who said I was upset?” she lied.

“I know when you’re not telling the truth, Julie.”

“Do you?”

“Yes, I do,” I had to be careful that I didn’t tell her it was because I was her adopted mother.

“Why’s that then?”

“Because I look after you and have got to recognise your body language and a few other things about you.”

“Like a mother would?” Oops, here we go.

“Like a scientist who’s trained to notice things, and someone who cares about you.”

“Which is more than she does—so I’m not upset.”

“I see, so the red eyes are caused by something else, are they?”

“Yeah—hay fever.”

“I see, so why were you cuddling with your da—um Simon?”

“I was cuddling with my Daddy, because he’s a good cuddler.”

“He is that, I won’t disagree, but I will disagree about what you’re saying about your mother.”

“Suit yourself.”

“I shall do that,” I smiled, “I just wanted to know how you felt about things and if you wanted to send her some flowers.”

“What for?”

“Perhaps to say, that even if you’re unsure if she cares about you, you care for her.”

“Do I?” she blushed.

“Please don’t mess me about, Julie. I’m going to make some sandwiches, if you want some, come down in ten minutes—okay?”

“Yeah, okay, I heard you.”

“Yes, and don’t have that on too loud—you’ll damage your ears.”

“As if you cared.”

“Don’t be ridiculous, of course I care.”

“Do you—thought you weren’t my mother.”

“This argument is facile, I’m going to make lunch—be there.”

“Yes, Mummy, no Mummy, three bags bloody full, MUMMY,” she yelled at me as I left her room.

“What was all that about?” asked Simon as I came into the kitchen.

“Teenagers, that’s what.”

“Oh. She’s still upset then, is she?”

“She’s pretending she isn’t.”

“Whatever for?”

“She’s a teenager.”

“So? I don’t see what that’s got to do with anything.”

“Fine. What would you like in your sandwich?”

I prepared some sandwiches and when Julie didn’t come down, Simon went to see why. He returned a few moments later with her in tow. I decided not to say anything because I thought it would just add fuel to her fire.

We ate in silence until Simon asked, “Did it work?”

“Did what work, darling?” I replied.

“The distance healing.”

Julie stopped eating and she gave me a very funny look and said, “I wondered if you’d try it.”

“Try what, sweetheart?”

“You know what I mean, don’t be so mysterious.”

“I’m not being mysterious.”

“You tried to help that old bag who gave birth to me.”

“I wonder if Puddin’ will ever feel the same about you, Stella?”

Simon smirked but Stella stared at me, “If she does, I’ll tell her you were her natural mother.”

“Her birth certificate won’t agree with that.”

“Shush, I told her she was hatched by you from a dormouse egg.”

Simon sniggered and even Julie smirked. “Be a nice trick if I could do it.”

“She doesn’t know that.”

“No, I suppose not.”

“So, are you going to heal this old witch or not?” Stella was very direct much of the time.

“I don’t know if she’d let me near her.”

“Or me,” voiced Julie, “and I’m not pretending to be a boy just to please her.”

I went back to my own mother’s illness and how she’d died in front of me as Cathy. It is one of the saddest moments of my life.

The phone rang, and I went to answer it. I spoke to the person for a couple of minutes and then went back to the lunch table. “That was Tamsin, a friend of Maureen, who is now back in Pompey at the QA.”

“Oh, can I go and see her?” asked Julie.

I was about to correct her but thought better of it and stopped myself. “Yes, we’ll go this evening. Apparently she’s asking after us.”

“Oh great, what shall we take her?”

“I don’t know, how about we have a quick squint in Asda for a nightdress or some slippers?” I suggested.

“Great idea, Mummy, when will we go?”

“If Stella will sort out the wreckage, we could go on the way to collect the girls.”

“Good ol’ Stella,” she muttered, “Leave it to Stella.”

Simon nearly fell off his perch at her lament—apart from sorting Puddin’, she’d done very little—no wonder she’s always tired, she doesn’t do anything to alleviate her boredom.

I went to freshen my makeup and check my hair, and Julie did much the same, we left ten minutes later. In the supermarket, we found some nighties but couldn’t decide on Maureen’s size. I thought she would have lost weight, but Julie was sure lack of exercise would cause her to balloon. We compromised buying a very loose one and one that was a bit more fitted. I also found some toiletries and a sponge bag.

They were hardly super presents, but we bought some wrapping paper and a card and I nominated Julie to wrap them while I made dinner. She shrugged and didn’t notice when I bought two bunches of flowers.

After collecting the three (dor)mouseketeers, we drove home and Trisha and Livvie went to help Julie wrapping things, while Meems went to sit with her daddy. Simon loves it.

After dinner, where everyone helped to clean up, Julie and I went to see Maureen, with a card signed by all the children and the bunches of flowers. We parked at the hospital and began the long trek to the wards from the car park. I wandered into a ward and Julie followed me, then she stalled when she saw her father sitting at a bedside.

“What are we doing in here?” Julie hissed at me and stopped dead in her tracks.

“Bringing this to your mother.” I handed the flowers to her dad.

“Thanks,” he said, “I’ll pop them in a vase. Hello, Julie, you all right?”

She shrugged, “Yeah, s’pose so. How is she?”

“She sleeps most of the time, I’m glad you could come to see her—I’ll wake her up.”

“No—don’t,” urged Julie.

“Leave her sleep Brad, Julie go the other side of her and lay your hands very lightly on her.” Shaking her head and mumbling she did as I asked. I glanced at the bed head, her first name was Shirley. “Just relax, Shirley, let yourself sleep because it will help you feel better, besides you’re so sleepy you can’t open your eyes even if you try.

“I want you to concentrate on my voice—I am an angel who has been asked to help you get better by a young lady called Julie, whom I believe you know. She is very worried about you and loves you dearly. I am going to help your body heal itself, and also your mind, because it would seem that the bitterness you’ve carried along with you for so long has brought about this illness. I’m going to touch your forehead and you will let go all of the bitterness and hurt you’ve held on to for so long. There, feel it go, and suddenly you feel so much lighter and younger.

“Your god has asked me to help you to stop it returning, so we’re going to collect it all up in a sack and tip it in the river which is flowing beneath the bridge we’re standing on. Go on, tip it all into the water and watch it washing away into the sea. It sinks and breaks up, so it can’t come back. Your god doesn’t want you to be sad and bitter all these years, he wants you to spread happiness and kindness amongst your friends and family. As a proof of this, see the blue light coming down from the sun which is shining on you. As it reaches you feel its warmth—the warmth of love and compassion, coming straight from your god to you, via me the angel of healing.

“You will sleep now, but you will remember you were visited by an angel who helped you to literally see the light, the light and love of your god. Sleep now and be healed.”

I nodded to Julie who kissed her mum on the cheek and walked away quickly. I shook hands with her dad as he came back with the flowers.

“How’d it go, with her an’ Julie?”

“That’s to be seen, but she’ll make a full recovery in the next couple of weeks and I think you’ll find she finds something to help her discover a new zest for life.”

“If that’s the case, it’ll be a ruddy miracle.”

“Oh they do happen,” I winked at him.

“When you’re about, they seem to.”

I put my fingers to my lips, “Hush, keep it to yourself. It’s our little secret.” He nodded and I followed Julie out to the corridor.

“Is she gonna be okay?”

“Better than that, she’s going to become a born again human being.”

Julie looked at me, “You what?”

“I’ve taken away the blockage which has stopped her from being a full human most of her life. Did you know she was abused by her uncle?”

“No—I don’t think anyone does.”

“I’ve taken away that pain—it’s been there since she was thirteen. She now has a chance to grow anew. Of course it’s up to her, but I think you’ll find an improvement.”

“You really are an angel aren’t you?” she threw her arms around me.

“Careful, you’ll ruffle my feathers.”

The Daily Dormouse Part 1014

“Are we going to see Maureen, now?” asked Julie.

“That was the plan.” I spoke as we walked towards the ward she was on. “Of course we might not recognise her because she’s had some plastic surgery.”

“Yes, she was badly beaten wasn’t she?”

“The brutality shown by those morons was indescribable,” I felt my anger rising and walked on quickly to try and abate it. “Still if she’s back in Pompey, then her neurological stuff must be okay.”

“Yeah Mummy, or she’d still be in Southampton, wouldn’t she?”

“Well that’s my reasoning.” I felt more guilt than anything—I’d not been to Southampton as much as I’d liked. Still I suppose the episode with the bandits had taken some of my attention.

We entered the ward, asked for Maureen and were directed to a private room. We walked to it, knocked and entered, “Only the posh can afford private rooms,” I said as we wandered in.

Our mood changed moments later. Maureen was sitting in a wheelchair, with a bag attached to a catheter. Her face was still bruised but actually looked much better than when I’d last seen it.

“Well look who’s ’ere?” she said and Julie rushed to hug her. “Hello, ma’am, good to see you again.”

I walked over and kissed her on the cheek, “You too, you look a bit better than the last time I saw you.”

“Probably, the surgeon was pretty clever, given me some cheekbones and a narrower jaw line.”

“So I see, yes very good. What’s with the wheelchair?”

“Yeah, that I’m still coming to terms with it, ma’am, you’re goin’ to ’ave to tell your pa-in-law, I can’t do ’is banks.”

“Why?” asked Julie.

“I’m afraid the ol’ legs don’t work no more.”

“Why?”

“They’re not quite sure, can’t decide whether it’s me back or me brain. I said it’s gotta be me back ’cos me brain’s never worked.”

Julie tittered, then I saw a tear run down her face, “Can you fix her, Mummy?”

“I don’t know, sweetheart, I can but try.”

“Try what?” asked Maureen.

“Mummy does miracles, don’t you Mummy—I can help, too.”

I ran my hands over Maureen’s head and down her back, which was difficult in the chair. “No, it’s no good, I can’t feel what I’m after, could you lie on the bed?”

“Yeah, if you gi’s an ’and.”

Julie and I helped Maureen pull herself out of the chair and on to the bed. Then we hauled her over on to her face. I then scanned her spine with my hands. “It’s here, something’s happened here,” I prodded her lumbar area.

“I bashed it when I was a youngster, fell down some steps on my first ship, HMS Portsmouth, believe it or not?”

“So it’s an old injury—I don’t know if I can do much for that, Maureen.”

“Please, Mummy you must try, I’ll help if I can.”

“Okay, sweetheart, you hold Maureen’s hands, and see if we can get a two pronged attack going.”

I watched as Julie held on to her friend’s much larger hands. Then I placed my hands on Maureen’s lower back and she jumped.

“Bloody ’ell that’s ’ot,” she said between clenched teeth.

“Is it, sorry, I don’t have much control over things.” I kept firing in the energy.

“Oh, it’s not so bad now. Just like you lit a fire on me back.”

“Yeah, only a small fire though, in case it sets off the smoke detectors,” I joked.

I worked on the affected part then moved up and down a little from that site to work on other bits.

“Cor, that’s cold, ma’am.”

“Sorry, Maureen, I don’t have a temperature regulator. Okay, that’s it for now.”

We turned her over on her back and she looked at me peculiarly. “What have you done?”

“Nothing much, why?”

“I can feel a bit in me feet.”

“Don’t tell anyone who did it.”

“Why, what’s gonna ’appen?”

“I’m not entirely sure, what I’ve tried to do is weld the nerve fibres together again.”

“So why couldn’t the surgeons have done that?”

I shrugged and Julie said, “Because they’re not angels, Mummy is.”

“Let’s see them wings then,” Maureen smiled at me.

“I need to go, I’m afraid—I feel shattered. I’ll be back tomorrow to see if I can do any more.”

“Can I come too?” asked Julie.

“Probably, we’ll have to see—if you do you’ll need to give me a hand round the house.”

“Yeah, course I will.”

“Oh we brought you some nighties, any washing to do?”

“No ma’am, Tamsin’s doin’ that for me. Thanks for what you done.”

“Do you need any books or anything to read?”

“Nah, I’m struggling with one already.”

I picked it up, “goodness, The Republic.”

“Who’s that by?” asked Julie.

“Plato.”

“Who?” asked Julie.

“A Greek philosopher died about 350BC.”

“347, ma’am.”

“What nearly two and half thousand years ago?” Julie’s maths was better than her general knowledge, slightly. “So what did he philosophee—ise, then?”

“Lots of moral stuff, he was concerned with concepts of controlling the emotions with the mind and stuff like that.”

“How come I’ve never heard of him?”

“Ever had a platonic friendship?”

“Yeah, course.”

“That comes from Plato.”

“Oh, hey that’s kewl.”

“Arguably the more progressive forms of most religions are neo-Platonism.”

“Crikey Mummy, you know everything, don’t you?”

“Far from it. If you asked me detailed questions, I couldn’t give you many answers but I know a little about lots of things.”

“I think you’re so clever and wise.” Julie put her arm around mine in a partly proprietary manner. “And my loco parent.”

“Hey less of the loco.” I smacked Julie on the bum and she squeaked, then laughed. “So what’s with the philosophy?” I asked, rather rudely I thought afterwards.

“I thought if I can’t use me body, better make me brain a bit quicker, an’ Tamsin ’ad this book so she brung it in f’ me. Funny thing is, one of the docs is a bit of a toffee-nose, well, since ’e seen me readin’ Plato, ’is attitude ’as changed. Asked me what I thought of proost. I thought ’e meant some French beer—one of them gnat’s pee ones, so I told ’im I thought it was a bit watery.”

I burst out laughing, “What did he say to that?”

“Not a lot but he said ’e found it very heavy, and ’e left ’cos the consultant came round. Anyway, ma’am what’s so funny?”

“Proust is a rather verbose Frenchman, who was a novelist and sort of philosopher, very into Existentialism.”

“Oh, I done the wrong thing then.”

“No, if you told him you thought Proust was a lightweight, he’s probably too frightened to ask you why in case he can’t understand your answer.”

At this we all had a good laugh, and then Julie and I helped Maureen back into the chair and left.

“Is she gonna get better?”

“I don’t know, sweetheart, I hope so, but I’m not sure—I’ll keep trying though.”

“Thank you Mummy,” she said pulling my arm round her as we walked back to the car.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1015

We spent a day of frantically doing the chores, so that when the kids came back from school we were able to feed and water them and ourselves, and then get ready to go and see Maureen.

The weather had turned warmer and I was able to wear a skirt without a draught blowing up my nether regions—okay it keeps them aerated but it also freezes your bum off—despite the layer of fat around it.

In fact, I wore a dress and tarted things up with some makeup and bit of jewellery. The dress was a tiny floral print in a cornflower blue, with a square neck that showed a bit of cleavage, it was sleeveless and fitted at the waist, coming to just above my knee. I had a white linen jacket with it in case it got colder when we came home.

So compared to my epitome of decorum look, Julie looked like she was going clubbing—her bag was big enough to carry a club too. She had on a sparkly red vest thing with a black pelmet skirt, footless tights and ballet type shoes. She also carried a jacket, in black needlecord.

We clomped out to the car, despite the flat shoes she was wearing, they made a noise on hard surfaces, my white wedge sandals didn’t—well not nearly so much.

“You look nice tonight, Mummy.”

“Thank you sweetheart, so do you.” I glanced at her large sequin covered bag. “What’s that sticking out of your bag?” I pointed to the sheets of paper projecting from the top of her bag.

“Oh that,” she blushed and pushed it back into her bag, “something for Maureen.”

“Like what?”

“Promise you won’t laugh.”

“Why should I laugh?”

“I looked up that book by Plato on the Internet, and I printed off what it said on Wiki for Maureen. I think she was struggling.”

“Did you look up Proust as well?”

“Yeah, I did a bit on that too. Why would anyone want to read all that stuff?”

“Some people enjoy that sort of stuff—I mean, why would anyone want to count dormice?”

“I dunno—um, to see if any were missing?”

I laughed and she blushed. “That’s a valid reason, but maybe the reason for them missing is important, like they’re indicators of what we’re doing to this planet.”

“Yeah, that’s what I mean.”

“I thought so, here we are—goodness if I spend much time here they’ll let me use the staff car park.”

“Is it any closer to the wards?”

“Probably not.”

“Could they designate one for visiting angel?”

I snorted and then roared with laughter—anyone hearing us would have thought Julie just got me out of the asylum. We continued in high spirits until we got to Maureen’s room. She was reading her book and looking perplexed.

“I can hear the wheels turning,” I said as we went in, “Shall I bring some oil tomorrow?”

“No, bring me someone who can ’elp me understand this—it’s bloody ’ard going.”

“Nothing that’s worth having comes without some effort,” I said and smirked, “I have the answer to a maiden’s prayer.”

“What’s that then?”

“Little Miss Julie, who is now steeped and well versed in all the intricacies of Plato and his Republic. Aren’t you, sweetheart?”

She blushed like a holly berry. “Um—no I don’t, but I did a printout for you from the Internet which might help you.” She passed over the sheaf of paper.

“Bless you, girl,” Maureen hugged her and kissed her on the cheek.

“So how’s the back?” I asked putting down my bag.

“I dunno, but I’ve ’ad like ragin’ toothache all day.”

“Toothache?”

“Yeah, in me big toes.”

“Ah, obviously a case of foot and mouth. I brought a gun just in case we need to shoot you.”

“The docs seemed quite pleased when I told them, but gave me some pills for it—didn’t do no good though.”

“Okay, so we’re possibly getting somewhere—want some more healing?”

“Like I ’ave to answer that.”

“I’m afraid so, it proves I’m not assaulting you.”

“Well, yeah, course I do, ma’am.”

Once more we helped her onto the bed and I pushed the blue light into her spine and once more she complained of heat and cold. The toothache was now in her whole foot.

“What are y’doin’ to me, ma’am?”

“Trying to weld the nerve fibres together I think.”

“’Ow appropriate for a welder.”

“Actually, what I’m doing is heat treating your backside so the next time you cough your knickers will fall off.”

“You couldn’t arrange for something else to fall off, could ya?”

“Unfortunately not, I only act as a channel for the energy, what happens after that—isn’t my decision.”

“That’s bloomin’ funny then innit?”

“Not really, it means I can’t abuse it.”

“What’s to stop it abusin’ you, ma’am?”

“I don’t know other than I trust it implicitly.”

“That’s good enough f’ me then, ma’am.”

We were still chatting when a strange man arrived. “Is one of you, um, Julie, is it?”

“That’s me,” said Julie, stepping closer to me.

“What’s the problem, Mister um?” I challenged.

“I’m Dr Wetherspoon, and you are?”

“I’m Cathy Cameron, Julie’s foster mother.”

“Ah, look I know all about Julie from her dad, her mum was very ill but is making huge progress since she visited. I wonder if she could do so again.”

“It wasn’t me,” said Julie.

“Look I know you’re changing into a girl, but your dad knows that and I think he’d recognise you, don’t you?”

“It wasn’t me who improved my mother.”

“Who was it then—your twin sister?” He spoke the last bit as a joke, but he was quite sarcastic.

“It was I,” I said putting my arm round Julie’s waist in support of her.

“Oh—I thought she didn’t get on with you?”

“She doesn’t—in fact she hates my guts.”

“So how could you have helped her?”

“You mean beside spontaneously combusting while she watched—I suppose by talking to her.”

“So you spoke to her and she got better?”

I nodded.

“Just like that?”

I nodded again.

“So you’re like some horse-whisperer for people?”

“Yeah, that’s as good a description as any.”

“What did you say to her?”

“I can’t remember, why?”

“Because it did something to her that I couldn’t—I just wanted to know what it was.”

“I told her I was an angel who’d been sent to heal her, and told her to get better.”

“You’re sure that’s all?”

“As far as I can remember, why?”

“She spoke about there being a blue light which surrounded her.”

“I must have told her to see it.”

“Are you some sort of psychotherapist?”

“No, I’m a biologist.”

“She’s an angel really,” interjected Julie.

“Is she?” he scoffed.

“Yes, she’s healed my mother, she saved my father earlier on.”

I tried to stop her but she ignored me.

“She saved me months ago and helped me be myself, she saved Maureen when she was beaten up, and is helping her to walk again—she’s saved loads of people in this hospital.”

“The mystery healing woman, I am delighted to meet you, could you see some more of my patients?”

“I’m sorry—I can’t and I’d be obliged if you’d keep this to yourself—I have five other children besides Julie and I don’t think having the press chasing me would do them any good at all.”

“I see—but think of all the good you could do.”

“I do frequently and I also think of all the bad things that could happen to me and my children because of it. I have a life too—you’re a physician, do you work twenty four seven?”

“No of course not, everyone needs some rest.”

“If you spread rumours of miracles or mysterious healing, I’ll be pursued every moment of the day by people looking for miracles.”

“I see—okay, I’ll say nothing, except it’s a crying shame you couldn’t help more people.” He offered me his hand and I shook it gently at the same time I was aware of the pain he had in his neck.

“Bloody hell—my whiplash, it’s easier.”

“If you breathe a word to anyone about this, it will come back ten times worse.”

“Is that a threat, Mrs Cameron?”

“No, a prediction.”

“Read tea-leaves too, do you?”

“No, nor do I patronise people, good day Dr Weathervane.”

“Wetherspoon, Dr Wetherspoon.”

“Quite, good day.”

“D’you think ’e’ll keep ’is word?” asked Maureen.

“I don’t know.”

“Will you really make his neck ten times worse, Mummy?”

“No, of course not.”

“So that was an empty threat then?”

“Yes, but he doesn’t know that does he?”

Julie and Maureen giggled.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1016

The next morning I’d only got home from taking the girls to school when the phone rang, I picked it up and carried it into the kitchen where I continued nuking the mug of milk to which I was going to add some coffee in a moment.

“Hello?”

“Cathy?” said a male voice.

“Yes, who’s that?”

“Sam Rose.”

“How’s my favourite paediatrician this morning?”

“Well, and you?”

“I’m fine thanks.” I poured in a small amount of Tom’s sticky brown fluid and stirred the milky mess.

“I hear you met a colleague of mine and sorted out his whiplash.”

“That wouldn’t be Dr Weathercock, would it?”

“I suspect that just about sums him up, but he tells me you’ve been performing miracles on his patients.”

“He didn’t tell you who it was then?”

“No—only someone who’d had a stroke and who’d been visited by their daughter and seemed to make magical progress by the next day both physically and mentally.”

“She’s Julie’s mother.”

“Oh.”

“It’s gone quiet,” I remarked, because it had.

“Sorry, I was of the opinion that she was the equivalent of the wicked witch of the west, and you’re making her better?”

“I go where the healing energy leads me, and I try to be non-judgemental about it.”

“Okay, I was being judgemental, I apologise.”

“I wondered if I most wanted to strangle her or help her: the question was answered for me. I saw into her past and realised it had much to say about her present.”

“It does for all of us; bad experiences can have negative outcomes in later life.”

“Yes, whereas positive ones don’t usually.”

“They can to some extent, they used to say you can’t praise children too much—well I think you can. I have had in the last couple of years two housemen who I suspect might have been praised too much by their mothers—they were both useless and very lazy. I was glad to see the back of them when they went off to do their internship with another specialty—hopefully surgery.”

“Why surgery?”

“Surgeons tend not to tolerate anything they haven’t arranged, they are control freaks—in the nicest possible way, they don’t like finding lumps and things they weren’t expecting or have bleeds that shouldn’t happen. Theatre is a bit like a restaurant kitchen and tempers get frayed. Those lazy youngsters might learn a bit about themselves in a hot theatre while being encouraged by the consultant to go and take a running jump.”

“I see, and all done in fluent old English.”

“You’ve been there?”

“Only as the main attraction.”

“Pity—but back to business, I have spoken with Dr Wetherspoon and impressed upon him the need for his silence in the matter of Julie’s mother and his neck—he said you’d make it ten times worse if he said a peep about it.”

“Oh did I? I can’t remember that, but it might have happened.”

“I just thought I’d let you know, he was really pleased with his own cure, apparently it’s been a nuisance for some time.”

“Oh good; I like a satisfied customer.”

“If you’ve got some spare energy—I have one or two very sick children who could do with your magical touch.”

“I said I wasn’t going to do any more.”

“I know, but these kids are really nice and they don’t deserve the lot fate has handed them.”

“It doesn’t always work.”

“Neither does my stuff.”

“Will you be there this evening?”

“I could be, what time?”

“After seven.”

“See you then.”

“Sam…”

“Yes?”

“If it does work, the parents must say nothing.”

“If you can give them back their children, I think they’ll agree to anything.”

“Dress it up as if it was a new treatment, not a miracle.”

“Okay—I’ll tell them a little white lie.”

“What have you told them so far?”

“Nothing, except I can’t do anymore.”

“I’ll leave it with you then.”

“Yeah, seven o’clock.”

“I’ll be there.”

I hate to see children suffer, it’s bad enough seeing adults in trouble—but I didn’t want to fail, having perhaps given either the kids or their parents a false hope. I mean, the whole idea is still ludicrous to me—it’s impossible under the rules of science as I know them. I know we’re full of static electricity and electromagnetic stuff but being able to focus it to do certain things seems bizarre—but that’s what I think happens.

When we arrived at the hospital, I sent Julie to go and see Maureen and see what she could do on her own.

“What, like by myself?”

“That’s usually what going on your own means.”

“But I can’t.”

“How do you know?”

“I like, just do.”

“Go and try, you might be pleasantly surprised.” I hugged her and went off to meet with Sam Rose in the children’s ward. I love kids but seeing sick ones always makes me feel so helpless for them.

“Cathy, good to see you again.” He embraced me and kissed me on the cheek, then winked as he stepped back.

“Nice to see you again, Sam.”

“We have two children I’d like you to try and help, one has an inoperable brain tumour, the other AML which isn’t responding to our treatment. The parents are here because if you can’t help—the kids won’t last more than a day or two.”

“No pressure then?” I threw back at him.

“Sorry, but you are their last hope and I’ve warned the parents that what we’re going to try is controversial and very likely won’t help, but it just might. They want you to go for it.”

“What about the children?”

“I told them there was a very beautiful lady coming to see them to try and make them better.”

“Better tell she couldn’t come—I’m here instead.”

“Cathy, never put yourself down, you are a gorgeous and very lovely woman with a talent given to very few.”

“Nah, I can teach most people to count dormice.”

“This is serious,” he said looking at me.

“I know—okay, let’s do it.”

I met the young lady with AML first—bone transplants hadn’t worked nor had the chemo. I sat and talked with her while her parents went for a coffee and a walk. Her name was Susie and she was seven.

“Are you really a lady?” she asked me.

“Do I look like a man?” I replied wondering if she’d seen through me.

“No, silly, I mean, Dr Sam said you were lady someone or other.”

“Oh did he? Yes I am Lady Catherine, but you can call me Cathy, because all my friends do.”

“I’d like that, Cathy. Gosh your hand feels very cold.”

“Does it?”

She nodded and I watched her slowly close her eyes and drift off to sleep. For a moment, I thought the energy was releasing her from her body, until I saw her chest continue to rise and fall. My eyes were bleary with tears—why does this have to happen to such innocents? It seems so unfair.

I shook myself—compassion but no involvement. Treat this like a job, and do it as well as you can. I imagined myself able to see inside her body and also able to differentiate between good and bad cells, the former I nurtured, the latter I zapped with a blue laser. Apparently, I spent an hour with her after which she seemed to wake up and smiled at me.

“You’re not a lady are you?”

“I thought we’d agreed I was?”

“You’re an angel, really aren’t you?”

“Am I?”

“Yes, while I was asleep, I saw you flying with other angels to fight my leukaemia.”

“Did you now?”

“Yes.”

“Can we keep it our little secret, because if anyone else finds out, I might not be allowed here again.”

“’Kay,” she smiled at me.

“Okay, Susie, you might feel a bit yucky later, but tomorrow you will start to get better.”

“Will you come and see me again, Cathy?”

“No, I’m only allowed one visit.”

“That’s sad.”

“It’s the rules I’m afraid. Now, sleep and feel better tomorrow.”

“’Kay,” she said sleepily and yawned. I left her to sleep and avoided her parents by a few seconds.

The next child was a toddler, a child of three years and a few weeks who had developed some rare sort of tumour of the brain. They had tried chemo and radiotherapy, but being so young they couldn’t really blast it with either without killing him or damaging his heart so badly he’d die anyway.

He was sedated because of the pain he was usually in. His parents were asked to go for a coffee while I worked. It seemed the best thing to avoid contact with them because if it didn’t work we would each feel less upset with the other. To see desperate parents is something that wrenches even the most hardened heart, almost as much as the sick children.

Sam came in with me. “If you can’t do anything, I don’t think this little mite will be with us this time tomorrow.”

“Sam, please.” I felt tears fill my eyes.

“Give it your best shot, Cathy.”

I nodded, too choked even to speak.

I looked at the little boy in front of me. He was on a drip but I managed to lift him and cuddle him as I’m sure his parents did. I wanted to surround him in blue cotton wool and hug him.

Although sleeping he snuggled into me and I sat nursing him, my hand holding his resting head as he lay cuddled into me. I felt the energy surrounding the two of us—a new experience, and was it a good or a bad thing? Was this little guy going to make it or was it helping me to ease his last hours?

I almost felt it was doing the latter and I found myself pleading with it to give him a chance at life. Okay, I was getting involved and I know thousands of kids his age die every day, especially in the third world. But I’d been involved and I wasn’t going to walk away from it without a fight.

I became angry with the energy—how dare it use me without any say from me? If it wanted my help, it had to help me. Save this child and I’d be more amenable to doing what it wanted in future.

I felt something at my heart, like it was a hand squeezing tighter and tighter. I felt dizzy and sweaty and I could hardly breathe. I realised if I let the child go, I’d feel better again, as if the energy was bluffing me—him or me.

I clung onto the child with the last ounce of strength I could find, if the Grim Reaper was coming, he’d have to snatch this child from my arms, and I was holding on tight. I could feel everything becoming distant and I fell back still clutching the baby as everything went black.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1017

I saw myself in monochrome clinging to the baby, being approached by an ancient hag. There was no scythe, beloved of pictures of death, just this old woman with an intense stare of the coldest eyes I have ever seen.

I had faced death a few times before, maybe more than someone my age should encounter, so it was only a matter of time before my luck ran out. I felt her trying to take the baby from me by sheer will, and to my disgust, my arms were weakening.

There were no words, just a battle of wills, the old woman versus me, the young—and she seemed to be winning. It was almost as if the baby was made of ferrous metal and she had a magnet and was drawing him out from my weakening grasp.

My arms were tiring and it seemed ridiculous that an old woman could have such strength, but she continued drawing the child. I redoubled my efforts and wracked my brains to consider how I could neutralise some of her strength. I began to visualise a rope of blue light around me, holding the baby to me and anchoring me to the bed.

She seemed stumped, but I wasn’t celebrating yet, she wasn’t done. She pulled a knife from the bag she was carrying which I hadn’t noticed previously, but which was just the right size for the baby, so she would carry off the tot in her bag. Could she carry me in there? Perhaps, it might be a stretchable thing.

She menaced us with the knife, threatening to cut the ropes. I imagined the light surrounding us in a shell which was resistant to her attack. I knew that I had to keep up the visualisation, or she’d breach it and we’d be lost. I needed to attack, not just defend, because all the time I was growing more tired and she seemed unaffected.

I imagined a hand moving out of the blue light, which snatched at her bag. She turned to slash at it with her knife, and as she did so, I imagined a blue rain falling upon her. She began to retreat, then pulled an umbrella from her bag.

The blue hand pulled the umbrella from her, and she slashed and cut it with the knife. It fell to the ground and faded away. I imagined a blue laser which I fired at the umbrella and destroyed it. She began to get wet from the blue rain and ran away again—I fired a light of love at her and hit her in the chest. She fell and I saw a huge hole appear in her. Although I felt compassion, I threw more love at her and she began to look like a slug does when you put salt on it, she writhed and disappeared in a puff of smoke.

The baby began to become restless and I woke to find Sam Rose and a nurse, one ready to take the baby, the other to help me. I had a sphygmo cuff on my arm and a monitor on my finger.

“Crikey, Cathy, you had us worried, you had virtually no blood pressure, and your heart had practically stopped.”

“How’s the little one?”

“His vitals look as good as they’ve done for days. I’m sending him for a scan in the morning, see if your magic has worked.”

“I don’t ever want to do this again, Sam—it’s too difficult.”

“I’ll try not to ask you.”

“No, never again, Sam—my own children need me to see them through to adulthood. If I die saving someone else, who’s going to look after my kids?”

He shrugged and shook his head.

“No—my priorities have to lie with them first. I think both your children will make it, but I had to fight hard for both of them—I can’t do it anymore, it takes too much out of me.”

“Thanks for doing what you’ve done, I know their parents will be delighted.”

“I hope so, I’m going to collect Julie and go home.”

“She went home hours ago—it’s three o’clock in the morning.”

“What?”

“We didn’t like to disturb you, it looked like you were both locked away somewhere else.”

“Yeah, on the astrals, if they exist.”

“Astrals?” he looked confused by my reply.

“The astral plane—oh never mind, let’s just say I was lucky this time.”

“You are a wonderful woman, Cathy.”

“It’s funny, people only seem to say that when they want something.”

“Now would I do that to you?”

“The answer is no.” I stretched and pulling my jacket on, I walked out of the fire door to avoid the happy parents, and went on down to the car park and drove home. Although shattered, I felt a sense of achievement. I’d actually prevented the death of a child—not a bad day’s work, even for me.

I didn’t go up to bed. Instead, I lay on one of the settees in the lounge and set the alarm on my phone to ring at seven. It seemed to ring far too soon, and I had to prise open my eyelids where the mascara had stuck them together. I made a mental note to remove my makeup before sleeping next time.

I made myself some tea to try and regain some sense of humanity, because I felt like a zombie. While I drank it, Tom appeared. “Whit happened tae ye last nicht?”

“Oh don’t, Daddy, I’m knackered—I’ll explain later.”

“Julie telt us ye wis healin’ some bairns.”

“I was, now I need a shower to try and wake up, I’ll talk to you later.”

“Aye, but ye ne’er dae, dae ye?”

“There’s nothing much to tell, I did some work on two little ones, a girl with leukaemia, and a boy with a brain tumour. I hope they’re going to be a lot better now, but I can’t be sure.”

“Whit aboot yer ain bairns?”

“Yes, I’m sorry it went on a bit. I didn’t think it would take so long, and I suppose I knew you and Simon would look after them. I did mean to be home, I’m sorry.” The tiredness and the unexpected criticism brought tears, and in the next moment he was holding me as I wept on his shoulder. “They were going to die—I couldn’t let that happen, could I?”

“Och, I’m sorry, pet, I didnae mean tae upset ye. Of course ye did thae richt thing.”

“But I did neglect them, didn’t I? I’m a lousy mother.”

“No ye didnae, we wis here, an’ yer bairns wis guid, like a’ways.”

“Thanks Daddy, for being here for them and for me.”

“It’s ma pleasure,” he said, hugged me and kissed me on the cheek. “Julie said Maureen wid be hame soon.”

“Oh that’s good news, I think our teenage tearaway is turning into a nice young woman, don’t you?”

“Aye, she’s a bonnie lassie.”

“I must go and shower.” I went up, and after removing my makeup, jumped in the shower and hoped the warm water would wake me up a bit.

“Where were you all night—you dirty stop out?” Simon barked at me when I went into the bedroom to dress.

“I was with a young man most of the night, we held each other very tight and whispered sweet nothings, why—what were you doing?”

“Trying to work out how to set the washing machine, we had to get Trish to come and show us.”

I snorted, “Well that just about typifies a certain type of man, doesn’t it? Why were you putting the washing on—you don’t usually?”

“Stel had nappies to do, so we made up a load, you know…”

“You could have done a half-load wash—there’s something you’re not telling me, isn’t there?”

He glanced at the clock, “It’s half seven, what time have the kids got to be in school?”

“Oh pooh, I’m going to be late,” I groaned as I stepped into my knickers, and nearly fell over. “Get the boys up, will you?”

The Daily Dormouse Part 1018

Some days I wondered why I loved Simon, he could be a totally, self-centred, unthinking twit—and that was before he was awake. On other days, I couldn’t understand how I could live without him. Today was a case in point. He saw how tired I was, so he not only got the boys up but also took the girls to school for me, while I collapsed into bed for another hour.

I woke about eleven feeling still sluggish but better than I’d been earlier. I got up and strolled downstairs and heard voices from the kitchen.

“You’ll have to tell her,” said Stella.

“Why? She hasn’t noticed so far,” reasoned Simon.

“You mean, yet—because she will.”

“I might be able to replace it by then.”

“I doubt it.”

“I’ve been on the Internet and had some interesting replies from possible sources.”

“Si, it’s almost irreplaceable.”

“Give me a few days: let’s see what I can find.”

“And if she notices?”

“She won’t—just keep her out of the dining room.”

“You’d be better telling her and getting it over with,” advised my sister-in-law.

“What? She’ll kill me—you know what she’s like when she’s angry—a grumpy tiger would be a pushover compared to her.”

This conversation confused me. What was in the dining room they didn’t want me to see? There was nothing of mine in there, it was all Tom’s furniture—and what about the washing machine, last night? What is going on?

I slipped into the dining room—everything seemed in order, although there was a mark on the table and a smell of fresh polish. I looked at the table again: the red velvet table centre and the silk flower arrangement looked okay—well the flower arrangement needed a bit of tidying up but it didn’t take me very long.

It was an assortment of different coloured roses which complimented my mother’s damask tablecloth, which had been given to her by my grandmother. It was probably sixty or seventy years old and one of the few family heirlooms I’d brought down here.

I closed the door quietly behind me and walked into the kitchen. The two conspirators almost jumped out of their skins. “Hello, Babes, I didn’t hear you come down—feel better?”

“Yes thanks, and thanks for taking the girls to school, I really appreciate it.” I glanced out of the window—“Looks like a good drying day, I might do some washing—anything you want doing?” I asked them both and they each looked guilty of something very serious.

“Simon?” I asked, enjoying the chase.

“NO, um—I mean, no thanks.”

“Rubbish, there’s stuff in the linen basket upstairs, plus anything Tom’s dumped in there. Stella?”

“I’m okay Cathy, just a few smalls and I’ll do them by hand later.”

“Okay—I’ll go and get the linen basket.”

“I’ll get it Babes, Stel make Cathy some tea—c’mon sis.”

This sudden concern for my wellbeing was very touching but it seemed a bit OTT seeing as I hadn’t actually died or been seriously ill. But it was good fun seeing Simon trying to make up for whatever he’d done. Oh well, I’ll play a little longer and then beat it out of him later. Only joking—I’ll tickle him to death instead.

I drank the tea Stella made and thanked her for it, and Simon for bringing down the washing. He insisted I show him how to sort it and so on. This was getting sillier and sillier. “Why the sudden need to be able to do the washing?” I enquired.

“Well Babes, you never know if you’re ill or called away by the UN or whatever, and the girls and the lads will need some clean knickers, won’t they?”

“I don’t think the boys will need clean knickers exactly, but the girls certainly will.”

“Yeah, well I didn’t mean it as literally as you’ve taken it.”

“So as I’m not dead or on the way to New York, how come you’re playing Chinese laundries?”

“Eh?”

“Why are you standing in front of the washing machine with one of my bras in your hand?”

“Oh yeah, I was just wondering if this went in with the whites?”

“What colour is it?”

He held it up, “Um—white?”

“Does that answer your question?”

“Yeah, I suppose it does.” He chucked it in the machine and picked out some of his white shirts and put those in as well.

“There’s matching panties for that bra,” I told him.

“Is there?”

“Simon, don’t be so dumb—you bought me the set—remember?”

“Did I? I have good taste, don’t I?”

“Exquisite—I mean you chose me, didn’t you, unlike the lingerie.”

“Of course I did,” he hugged me and we kissed.

“I chose it, you just paid for it. Mother’s day last year—bring back any memories?”

“No. No it doesn’t—are you sure it was me?”

“No, it might have been my lover, I’ll have to introduce you sometime.”

“If he’s got as good taste as I have, I’m sure I shall like him.”

“I don’t know, he’s very hot blooded—you wouldn’t find him sorting through my smalls—unless it was taking them off me before he made mad passionate love.”

“I see, how long does this take?” he asked pointing at the machine.

“Can be an hour or so, why?”

“Switch it on then Babes, and let’s go upstairs.”

“I don’t need to strip the bed, I did that last weekend.”

“It isn’t the bed I’m planning on stripping…”

If this was an old-fashioned film, we’d be lying there all aglow sharing a fag, but as neither of us smokes, and the machine was coming to the end of its cycle, I started to get up.

“Where you going?” he asked as I sat on the edge of the bed.

“Ugh, the bathroom,” I rushed out of the room holding a tissue under me as I did so. A little wash later, I felt happier if a bit tender as I dressed. I kissed him and told him to get up.

“Oh, I told Julie she could go shopping for a new skirt or something—I gave her a few quid.”

“I wondered where she was.” He was lying, he’d sent her off to try and replace whatever it was he’d damaged—um, Sherlock Cameron will work it out eventually and make the criminals pay for their heinous crimes. No wonder he sent me off to bed, it was to buy himself time, not concern for my wellbeing—more concern for his own neck. Simon, I’ve rumbled you—you hypocrite.

“Let’s have some lunch—cheese on toast do?” I asked him.

“Yeah, fine.”

He escorted me downstairs and into the kitchen where Stella glared at him. I wasn’t sure if she was jealous or cross because he should have been emptying the machine. Instead, she was doing it.

I made some lunch while Stella hung the laundry out on the line—Julie could iron it tomorrow—well, why keep a dog and bark, and she does very little most of the time. After I’d cleaned up from lunch, I picked up the dusters and the furniture polish.

“Where’re you going with those?” asked Simon, the pitch of his voice rising as he spoke.

“To polish the dining suite, why?”

“Um—don’t over tax yourself Babes, you were exhausted last night.”

“A bit of polishing is hardly going to do that, is it?”

“Give it here, I’ll do it, you go and have another cuppa and put your feet up.”

Who was I to argue? I began to wonder where my Simon had gone and who this strange lookalike was? The good fairy—no definitely not as a certain tender spot could attest.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1019

I volunteered to go and get the girls which he seemed happy with, and I wanted to do some shopping as well. I left after lunch seeing as he was doing my chores for me—did that experience with the Russians change him? Duh—it’s Simon, and a Cameron never changes his pedigree (far too posh for spots).

I’d changed into a summer dress with a thin shower proof jacket over it just in case. However, the way the sun was shining, it was unlikely to get used. It didn’t, I left if on the passenger seat while I popped into one or two shops.

As I was coming out of one shop, I was sure I saw Julie walking ahead of me in a very busy conversation on her mobile phone. I wondered if that could be with someone I know rather intimately? I was willing to bet a pound to a penny it was, and by the animated conversation and her expression, it wasn’t going too well. Now then, do I let her see me or not?

She had walked straight past me, in her miniskirt and footless tights with a loose fitting shirt thing over the top of it. Her sequinned bag would give her away even if she was trying to hide.

I was looking for ideas for a new outfit as she was going in and out of antique shops. What had they broken? Perhaps it was Tom they should be hiding from, not me? I haven’t got any heirlooms at the house, well except the tablecloth and that was on the table. Wasn’t it? I thought for a moment—I’d straightened up the flower arrangement, was it there then? Sure it was—that’s why I had a vase of roses to match it. For a moment, my heart was all aflutter, then I calmed down.

I decided not to follow Julie, especially when I saw some interesting things in a little boutique that looked my sort of shop. It’s not true that women are born to shop, we can’t get there by ourselves until we’re old enough to be allowed out alone and then there is the question of money. So it’s something most of us discover from seven or eight upwards. My girls love to shop, whereas the boys will for videogames or sports things—but we go there and straight back. They don’t much like to browse, which the girls do.

I looked at my watch—damn, I had to go and collect my pretties from their educational establishment. I turned back out of the shop doorway and nearly bumped straight into Julie.

Mummy—um what are you doing here?”

“I could ask you the same question.”

“Um—I’m shopping.”

“Well there’s a surprise, I thought you were going to try walking across the harbour after curing Maureen the other night.”

“Me? I just sat and talked with her until they threw me out—you were still with the kids, so I got a taxi home.”

“I see, sorry about that—what’s in the bag?”

“Oh just a skirt.”

“Can I see it?” I asked knowing it was unlikely to be one.

“When I get home, I’m not sure I’m gonna keep it yet.”

“So show it to me then.”

“Um—I’d rather not until I’ve tried it with some other stuff.”

“Oh, okay—what colour is it?” I tormented her.

“It’s sort of red.”

“Long or short?”

“Haven’t you got to collect the girls?”

I looked at my watch, “Oops, yes, are you coming with me?”

“Um—no thanks, I want to look for a top.”

“Okay, see you later sweetheart.” I hugged her and walked briskly back to my car.

I collected the girls and began my inquisition of Trish, “What was Daddy washing in the machine last night?”

“I dunno, he didn’t know which button to press to start it—he also hadn’t put any detergent in it.”

“Why not?”

“He thought ’cos it says automatic, it does it all automatically by itself.”

“So you did it for him?”

“Yeah, Auntie Stella was upstairs sorting out Puddin’—I ’spect she woulda known, wouldn’t she?”

I actually didn’t know, but I agreed with Trish’s surmise because it saved a whole load of discussion which would have been pure speculation.

“So, how was school today girls?” I asked and we had a more meaningful conversation.

“Sister Maria gave me a note for you, Mummy.”

“Did she—you haven’t done anything, have you?”

“No, it’s about speech day I think.”

“When’s that?”

“End of June, I think she said.”

“So she told you what the letter was about?”

“No—I opened it and read it—course she told me.”

“Trish please don’t speak to me like that—it’s not nice.”

“Sorry Mummy.”

“I should think so. Now if you get your homework done in time, I’ll order some pizzas.” They all shouted in support of the suggestion. I was pretty sure there was a jacket potato I could have. I just don’t like pizza—it’s junk on a cardboard base.

“What does Sister Maria want you to do, Mummy?” asked Trish.

“Present some prizes, I think, why?”

“Just wondered.”

“You pwesentin’ pwizes, Mummy?”

“Probably, I’ll have to check my diary and see if it clashes with doing the washing.”

Trish laughed loudly at this statement, closely followed by Livvie.

“Why’s you waffin’ at me?” protested Mima.

“We’re not, stoopid—we’re waffin’ at Mummy, she was jokin’—okay?”

“Trish, don’t be mean to your sister.”

“I wasn’t—she was being dim.”

“I’m not dim—you’re dim and stupid,” fired back Mima.

“Girls please. You are supposed to be gentlefolk, please act like it.”

This had all three of them laughing hysterically. Maybe I should try being a stand-up comedienne for kids—the secret is to say things which appear to be totally unfunny to me and they howl with laughter. Come to think of it, so do most adults—mmm, back to the drawing pin—see what I mean?

I parked the car and not having bought anything meant I didn’t have to carry it home. I followed the girls into the house where we met Julie. “Tried on the skirt?” I asked.

“No, I took it back, didn’t really like the colour.”

It was obvious she was lying, she avoided eye contact—although teenage girls tend to sneak eye contact, they usually look at their feet. However she was blushing and I just know she was lying—maybe it was the fact that her nose grew about four feet.

If her nose did grow four feet, would it start to run? I had no idea where that stupid question came from, but it sort of reminded me I had been a school kid.

I made the girls a drink and they went into the dining room to start their homework and I went to order the pizzas. When I mentioned it, Simon—bless him—offered to pay. Now I know something has happened.

The boys were already doing their homework on the table and they and the girls ignored each other. It puzzled me for a moment until I realised that was how they were—they didn’t acknowledge each other without a reason. Oh well.

I looked at the table: they had books propped up on my damask table cloth. “Don’t get ink on that cloth, will you?”

They all replied with a groan that they wouldn’t. “Wassup with ’er?” asked Danny.

“Dunno—fell off her broomstick, I s’pose,” answered Trish. If I hadn’t been laughing so much I’d have punished her.

“You cheeky little maggot,” I chided her, which made them all laugh even more. “That cloth is a family heirloom and I don’t want ink on it—it’s supposed to be roses not ink spots.”

“Funny lookin’ roses,” said Danny.

“What do you mean?”

“It’s birds and fairies.”

“What?” I gasped and walked up to the cloth. It was too. “SIMON,” I yelled but I think I just heard his car start.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1020

For some reason, Simon sent me a text about an hour after he ran off from the house:

‘Soz Babes, Sdnly remembrd mtg @ hq. B bak 2moro. S xxx’

By this time, my initial anger had subsided a little and I was now only homicidally cross. Nobody would tell me what had happened to my tablecloth—the kids, except Julie were unaware that the tablecloth was any different to my one. At a glance, apart from the pattern it looked similar and I learned a long time ago that people see what they expect to see, until shown otherwise—so if it’s in a skirt, it’s a woman—unless she acts strangely, which is what gives away many cross dressers.

I searched high and low for the remains of the tablecloth, but it was nowhere to be found. I even turned it into a game and told the children there was a chocolate bar for the one who found it. None of them did. The pig of a husband of mine must have taken it with him—why?

Anyway back to my being deceived—once I discovered the change, it was really obvious, the fake being only half as heavy as my Gran’s original, apart from the much prettier pattern which fitted in with my rose display.

I saw the children to bed and read to them, then on coming back down decided to deal with Julie. The phone rang; I answered focusing more on grilling Julie than whoever was calling.

“Hello?” I almost snapped down the phone.

“Hello daughter-in-law.”

“Henry, what d’you want?”

“Gee thanks, Cathy, you really know how to cut to the chase.”

“Sorry, I was planning on becoming a widow within a day or so.”

“What’s he done this time?”

“Ruined my grandmother’s tablecloth.”

“Good lord, is she still alive?”

“No, but it’s one of the few reminders I have of her.”

“I see, make him buy you another.”

“It’s irreplaceable Henry, that’s the point.”

“Oops, of course it is—sorry; I tend not to be very nostalgic.”

“You’re not?”

“No—give me modern stuff any day.”

“So, why don’t you get rid of that pile of stone you have mouldering in Scotland and build a bungalow?”

“It isn’t that simple, it’s a listed building registered with Historic Scotland, along with the suits of armour and the rest of the junk—but apart from that my kids would kill me if I even thought about it.”

“You might only have one of them to worry about tomorrow, which should make it easier.”

“Such a simplistic approach to life, Cathy—sometimes I envy it.”

“So, to what do I owe this call? You’re not planning on petitioning for clemency on behalf of your errant elder offspring, are you?”

“Good lord, no; let him face what’s coming to him—I trust your judgement implicitly.

Henry frequently took my breath away with his nonchalance. “After all, I still have one child left.”

“I don’t know how far she’s implicated in this treason.”

“I see; I think you’d have to decide if it’s worth twenty years inside for it.”

“Good point, couldn’t I claim provocation?”

“I don’t think marrying into a family of interbred loonies would give you sufficient grounds, you’d still go down for quite a hefty spell.”

“Damn, I can’t spell hefty, besides I have to do the girl’s speech day.”

“Presenting the prizes?” he asked.

“Yes, I think they want a little talk first.”

“Well you’ll wow them so much, they’ll book you for the next fifty years.”

“I think my girls will have finished there before then.”

“Plus you wait until I tell Stanebury School that their new lady of the manor presented prizes at a school—you’ll be so popular, especially being a television personality as well.”

“Henry, you wouldn’t do that to me, would you?”

“I’ll see, of course if you run away with me after you’ve murdered my son, I’d overlook it for a year or two.”

“You drive a hard bargain Henry, but wouldn’t you be worried I’d murder you as well?”

“Don’t be silly, Monica’s been trying to do it for years—I’m unkillable.”

“Not quite,” I reminded him.

“That was beginner’s luck for you, girl. Anyway, to the point, lovely though it is beating about the bush with you, where is my idiot son?”

“How do I know? He left here two hours ago.”

“Well he was due at a meeting here half an hour ago.”

“Oh no, you don’t think anything’s happened to him, do you?”

“Why would that prevent you terminating him personally?”

“Yes—um oh, Henry, now I’m worried to death—what if he’s been caught by those nasty people again?”

“What traffic cops?”

“No, our Siberian friends.”

“He doesn’t know any bears does he?”

“Not that I’m aware of. Had I better call his mobile?” I felt really worried now.

“That was switched off a few minutes ago—hence this call.”

“Oh Henry, now I’m really worried.”

“Hold on,” I heard him cover the phone and mumbled voices sounded in the distance. “He’s just arrived, do you want to speak to him?”

“No—I’ll kill him—just wait till he gets home, worrying me like that.”

“Oh by the by, have you found a new car yet?”

“No, I’ve been using Tom’s Mondeo.”

“We have a spare Audi TT two plus two, if you’d like it?”

“Would I be able to get the girls to school in it?”

“I should think so, I’ll get it sent down for you to see and try, if you don’t like it, don’t worry we’ll find something else for you.”

“You’re so kind Henry—how about if you kill him and we’ll run away together, plus six kids of course.”

“I have to go Cathy, your big galoot of a husband has just come in and we can start our meeting. Bye.”

I put down the phone and sighed with huge relief: Simon was safe. I did wonder at one time if his PTSD had recurred—he hasn’t made an appointment for that, and unless he becomes worse I can’t really do it for him. Oh well, let’s go and torment Julie.

The phone rang before I could step away from it. I snatched it up, “If that’s you Simon, I’m still going to kill you, so don’t go begging me not to,” I joked down the phone.

“I wouldn’t dream of it Lady Catherine, but I’m not Simon,” said a male voice. I blushed and felt extremely stupid.

“Who’s that?” I gasped.

“It’s Sam Rose—I hope you were only joking about the maritalicide.”

“The what? Killing my marriage?”

“Your husband to be precise, though I’m not sure the term actually exists in a Latin form, but maritus and marital relate to husbands if my schoolboy Latin serves to remind me—however it was a long time ago.”

“What the Latin or the schoolboy?”

“Both,” he said with a sigh and I laughed. “That sounds better,” he remarked and I blushed.

“Whatever it is Sam, the answer is no.”

“I haven’t asked the question yet.”

“It’s still no.”

“Oh, Cathy dearest, do listen before dismissing me out of hand.”

“I can’t do anything for your patients Sam, the last effort nearly killed me too.”

“Yes, I realise that, which was why I was going to ask you what you were doing on Saturday evening?”

“Saturday, why?”

“Well, I’d like to take you out for dinner, to say thank you for what you did for me the other night.”

“I don’t know Sam, Simon might not like it.”

“My intentions are entirely honourable, I promise—beautiful though you are.”

“I don’t know Sam—when do I need to give you an answer?”

“Speak with Simon first, but there is a slight complication.”

“I knew it, you have another sick child.”

“I have a ward full of sick children—but that’s not it—I need you to dress formally, if you would.”

“What for?”

“We’re going to a concert afterwards.”

“In long dresses?” I gasped.

“I think I’ll stick to a dinner suit, if you don’t mind.”

“But what sort of concert?”

“Mozart, I hope you like his music?”

“Wow, I haven’t been to a concert of classical music since I was a kid.”

“You are obviously long overdue—the clarinet concerto is amongst the works on offer.”

“I just love that piece Sam.”

“I thought you might.”

The Daily Dormouse Part 1021

“What happened to my tablecloth?” I demanded of Julie.

“How would I know? I was with you, remember?”

“But you might have witnessed things after that?”

“No, I was just asked to go and find a similar cloth if I could.”

“You didn’t see the old one, then?”

“Only when it was on the table—I think it’s so old-fashioned, so I don’t look at it if I can help it.”

“You aren’t secretly related to Henry, are you?”

“I wish.”

“He is rather nice—he’s sending a car for me to try.”

“What is it?”

“Another Audi.”

“Yeah, but which one, Mummy—some are kewler than others.”

“Oh I don’t know, some T something or other, plus two.”

“A TT?”

“Could be, I know more about bikes than cars.”

“Oh wow Mummy, that’s like a mega kewl chick-mobile.”

“Is it, I’m sure he said the previous user was a man.”

“It’s a girly car but it’ll do well over the ton—what is she, a convertible or the coupe?”

“How do I know, all I know is it’s an Audi T something plus two.”

“Everyone will be jealous of you when you take the girls to school.”

“Why? It’s only a car—it does exactly the same as the Mondeo.”

“Yeah, but with attitude, Mummy.”

“I thought cars were boys’ toys?” I thought she was being a bit boyish in her enthusiasm for gas guzzling motors.

“Couldn’t they say the same about bikes, Mummy?”

Um hoist by my own petard. “Only if you tinker with them,” I fired a deliberate reply of self-deprecation.

“Which you do, Mummy—so it’s the pot calling the kettle black.”

“Only because I was taught the rudiments and couldn’t avoid it.”

“They were rude were they?” she teased me.

“My language was on occasion when I couldn’t fix something or shift a nut.”

“Shift a nut—what are you a squirrel?”

“I’ve been called worse, as I’m sure have you. Not being very big or strong, meant occasionally I couldn’t grip a nut hard enough to turn it—my hands were too small. Sometimes when riding, I can’t always pull the brake lever because they’re too big for me to reach.”

“Do you believe that thing about long ring fingers in men and longer index fingers in women?”

“I can’t tell which is longer—what do you think?” I held out my hands palm down.

“The first finger possibly, I think, Mummy, it’s very close.”

“It doesn’t mean anything, it’s about being exposed to hormones in the womb.”

“Perhaps you were exposed to oestrogen when you were very small and it made you very girly in build and so on.”

“Am I that girly?”

“I’d say so—yes, you look like someone who had hormones when they were on puberty so they grow up looking like a girl.”

“I didn’t as far as I know, in fact I didn’t start them until I was about twenty or even twenty one—and that’s when I noticed my body really changing.”

“But you don’t have an Adam’s apple or anything male about you? Wasn’t it hell in school?”

“I’m inclined to think I’m sort of androgen insensitive, either that or I don’t produce much testosterone. Yes, school was at times, very difficult and I got tormented and assaulted quite a few times.”

“Yeah, been there—done that.”

“Which is why I’m trying to avoid Trish having the same experiences.”

“Why, what happened to you?”

“You don’t want to know?”

“Yes I do.”

“I went to a boy’s school and we were doing a play—usually, we invited girls from the girl’s school to take part but the year before there’d been some sort of funny business, so it was decided the boys would do their own play without the girls. They picked a play without too many girls’ parts in it.”

“An’ they chose you?”

“I was sort of a target, compared to most I was smaller and slighter. I also refused to cut my hair, so it was long and I must admit I went to a ladies’ salon to get it trimmed, which wasn’t very often. My friend Siân encouraged me to camp it up a little. Well, guess who got to play Lady Macbeth?”

“Did you volunteer, Mummy?”

“No way. The headmaster called me to his study—I can see it now:”

“Watts, Mr Cambridge has asked you to try for the drama group.”

“Yes sir.”

“And you accepted?”

“No sir.”

“Why not?”

“I don’t want to, sir.”

“I see—even though he has said he wants you to join in?”

“I’m too busy, sir.”

“Doing what?”

“Study, sir.”

“But this is only for a few weeks, Watts.”

“I’d rather get good A-levels, sir.”

“But you will anyway.”

“I’m not as confident as you, sir.”

“Watts—you look rather distinctive, as I’m sure you’re aware, do you get teased by the other boys?”

“No, sir.”

“That isn’t what I’ve been told.”

“Sorry, sir, I have no idea what you mean.”

“I think you do, Watts.”

“Sorry, sir, we’ll have to disagree on that one.”

“So how come I have a report of Wittering trying to rip your head off because he thought you were a poof and he doesn’t like poofs?”

“I don’t remember that, sir, unless he was trying to show me a new wrestling move.”

“Watts, wrestling is a rather macho sport, you wouldn’t last two minutes against a third former—he was trying to beat you up because you look different—you look like a girl, especially with your long hair.”

“Do I sir? That’s only your perception.”

“It isn’t only my perception, once or twice I’ve been asked by staff if you shouldn’t be over the road in the girl’s school—sometimes I think you should.”

“Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, sir.”

“Don’t be impertinent, Watts.”

“Sorry, sir, I didn’t mean it that way.”

“I want you to play Lady Macbeth.”

“Sorry, sir, I don’t want to.”

“I don’t think you quite understand your position here, Watts.”

“I do sir, if you think I’m being teased now, what will happen if I did as you asked?”

“I’ll see to it that you get extra protection.”

“I don’t want to do it.”

“But you will, won’t you?”

“I don’t think so, sir, my parents wouldn’t like it.”

“How do you know?”

“I just know.”

“I’ve just spoken to your father and he agrees with me that it would be a good idea for you to play the part—he thinks you study too much.”

“He’s never told me that, sir.”

“You will play the part.”

“I’m sorry, sir, but I don’t want to.”

“We all have to do things we don’t want to—I have to keep your effeminate arse in my school, so I’m going to put it to good use, Miss Watts—you will play Lady Macbeth and if I don’t get full cooperation and as good a performance as I think you are capable of, I am going to make your little fairy life very difficult—do you understand?”

“Yes sir, you’re threatening me.”

“Not at all Watts, I’m encouraging your individualism while enabling you to develop new skills—now you bloody fairy get out of my study and down to the drama group before I have you sent to train with the rugger team.”

“Crikey Mummy, he sounds an absolute pig—surely he couldn’t have made you do it, could he?”

“If my parents had backed me—no, he couldn’t but my father felt it would embarrass me into getting my hair cut and becoming more butch.”

“Did it?”

“No—I pissed him off, by getting it dyed auburn.”

“You went redhead?”

“Well yes, lots of Scots are redheads, so I thought it would be in keeping, except it clashed with the pink scrunchies they made me wear. I bought some green ones, it went fine with those.”

“Didn’t you secretly want to do the part?”

“Part of me did. I was still sorting myself out and what I wanted to do and be—and it’s one of the best roles in Shakespeare, unless you do Romeo and Juliet or Merchant of Venice—and even there the women are a bit wishy washy.”

“So you did it?”

“I had to, and they made me wear a long dress right through rehearsals.”

“Why?”

“Because they could. It was supposed to be so the others would see me more as a girl.”

“And you’re smaller than the rest and with shoulder length hair?”

“Well below my shoulders.”

“Wow—were you any good?”

“The local paper thought I was girl and refused to believe I wasn’t, they thought I was very good—I used to have a copy of their review but I think my dad disposed of it in one of his tantrums. My mum was a bit upset by the review but pleased I did it as well as I could.”

“Couldn’t they see what you really were?”

“They didn’t want to—remember; there are none so blind as those who will not see.”

“Wow, my Mummy, the famous Shakespearean actress—you are amazing.”

“Yeah, sometimes I think I am, too.”

The Daily Dormouse Part 1022

Julie disappeared about nine thirty and I assumed she’d gone to bed, but at ten she came back waving a piece of paper. “Look what I’ve found,” she chuckled.

“What have you found?” I asked, puzzled by her action.

She held up the sheet of paper and began to read, “It’s from The Bristol Evening Post.”

“What is?” I had a horrible feeling that I knew what it was.

‘The Scottish Play is an all or nothing drama for schools to produce, all too often the tragedy of Macbeth, is enthusiasm over dramatic skills. Tonight, however, we witnessed two central players who carried the other lesser mortals along with them, a brooding Macbeth (John Alsop) and his hectoring wife (Charlotte Watts) were outstanding.

We were led to believe that this was an all boy cast but the beautiful Lady Macbeth, must be an import from a local girl’s school, whose clear diction of Shakespearean English, shows she could be one to watch for a future on the boards as she moved from scheming to madness, trying to wash the blood of the murdered king from her hands.

Macbeth brooded magnificently and his impression of a caged tiger awaiting his fate gave atmosphere to the whole final act. Unfortunately, the poor lad who played his nemesis, Macduff, was a bit weedy for the task of killing the giant Macbeth, however, he delivered the severed head in a sack which bounced noisily off the stage when thrown down—getting a few laughs when there should have been a sense of triumph or tragedy.

The three witches were deliciously disgusting, albeit in a camp sort of way with their eye of newt and wing of bat recipes, which even Delia Smith would have difficulty marketing. But the three boys (Sean Lithgo, Geoff Spooner, Warwick Wilson) who played them obviously enjoyed themselves.

For all that it was an enjoyable evening, and the audience gave a standing ovation to the two leads, ending with a bouquet being presented to our delightful leading lady, who richly deserved it.’

“See? You were marked for greatness even then,” said Julie, and Tom demanded to know what we were talking about.

“Whit’s a’ this?” asked Tom taking the printed sheet from my hand. He read it and smiled, “Och, I could hae telt them that, course she’d be a guid Lady MacB, she’s frae Dumfries.”

I blushed and Julie laughed. “They had you down as Charlotte, why was that, Mummy?”

“I suppose because that’s what they put in the programme: some clever dick thought he’d strike a blow for homophobia, and instead of putting Charlie or even Charles down, they changed it to Charlotte. They called me all sorts of names in that school—but I still didn’t get my hair cut.”

“And it was red, you said?”

“Yes I went auburn for a couple of months until it washed out—my dad hated it, so I was tempted to do it again—but he’d have killed me. Actually, the whole thing backfired on him, because as I said before, they made me wear a long dress for all the rehearsals, which made me look quite female much of the time, especially with my hair down. I did have a set of photographs of the play at one time, but I think he probably burned them. The stage makeup was a bit heavy, but it got up his nose, so it was fine with me.”

“What did they do for padding?” asked Julie scooping her hands over her breasts.

“I had to wear a bra, with some birdseed in—I know bras didn’t come into being for hundreds of years after Shakespeare’s time, but sticking a couple of oranges down my front wasn’t acceptable to me, and the bodice of the dress wouldn’t have held them very well.”

“Can I show this to the others?” Julie waved the sheet of paper under my nose.

“Aren’t they going to notice the name discrepancy?”

“I’ll tell them it’s a mistake.”

“Trish won’t be easy to persuade, but as she knows the truth anyway, I suppose it doesn’t really matter.” I shrugged my shoulders; I suppose they all may know one day—and I’m not sure what they’ll think or if it will matter. Some of it, I suspect, could be dependent upon how Julie and Trish complete their transitions and deal with postoperative lives. The girls I think, will deal with this easier than the boys—because their relationship is different to me from the boys’ one. Boys are supposed to love their mothers and want to kill their fathers and so marry their mums—well something like that if Freud is to be believed. Giving rise to that old and very corny joke—Oedipus, schmedipus, what’s it matter so long as he loves his mudder?

“Daddy, do you know what happened to my tablecloth?”

“Whit tablecloth?”

“The damask one in the dining room.”

“It’s there isnae it?”

“No, that’s one Julie got earlier today.”

“I dinna ken,” he shrugged and went off to bed.

“Presumably Daddy knows,” mused Julie, “or he wouldn’t have asked me to get another one.”

“Yes and his plan nearly worked. Trish didn’t say anything to you, did she?”

“No Mummy, other than having to show Daddy how to work the washing machine—I mean, it tells you on the front what to do.”

“Yes but he’s not exactly the patient sort is he—you know, sit down with the handbook type—he’d much rather press some buttons and regret it.”

“Perhaps that’s what he did?”

“What, ran the wrong cycle?”

“Could he shrink it?”

“I suppose, or turn it yellow.”

“Or scrub it too hard and wear a hole in it?”

“Why?”

“Because he spilt something on it, like wine or tea.”

“Why not just tell me? I’d have understood—accidents happen.”

“Maybe he was too frightened to tell you.”

“Why?”

“In case you killed him.”

“Do I look like a murderess to you?”

“Lady Macbeth was, wasn’t she?”

“Um no, she just planted the knives on the grooms, whom Macbeth then killed when the alarm was raised. More of an accessory after the fact than a direct perpetrator.”

“Oh, I thought she killed someone.”

“She does—herself.”

“Oh—that happens a lot in Shakespeare, doesn’t it?”

“Unfortunately, it also happens too frequently in transgender people, too.”

“Um,” she blushed.

“Oh I didn’t mean it like that Julie—but too many people find that they don’t get support or public opinion goes against them. To do what we’ve done takes tremendously thick skin, and a degree of determination if you want to succeed.”

“Yeah, I think I’m beginning to understand that.”

“The other thing is that no matter how successful you are, unless you wear it on your sleeve the whole time—in which case you can’t integrate as a female, only as a tranny—you’re watching over your shoulder all the time.”

“Do you still worry about this then, Mummy?”

“Yes—unfortunately I do. We none of us ever become fireproof, just flame retardant.”

The Daily Dormouse Part 1023

I went to bed and actually missed Simon, the bed felt very large and lonely—damn his meeting at that wretched bank, I mean he’s supposed to be recovering from PTSD or something. What could be so important that he’s had to go into a meeting when he’s supposed to be on sick leave?

I reached for my mobile and sent him a text. ‘Miss u, C x.’

I settled down and tried to relax but I couldn’t. Suddenly my mobile peeped indicating a text had been received. I picked it up with bated breath only to find it was from my supplier offering me cheaper calls in Europe. I deleted it in disgust and put the phone back on the bedside table.

I turned over and tried to sleep on my side but I felt my eyes getting moist and before long there were blobs of water hitting the pillow. For a moment I didn’t hear the phone beep, then I realised it had and turned back to snatch it off the table. I had to wipe my eyes before I could see it clearly enough to read.

‘Miss u 2, b bak 2moro luv u. S xxx’

Of course this caused me to cry some more and then I felt ridiculous for doing so, but at least he said he loved me. I felt embarrassed looking a total wreck while reading his text, but resisted the urge to get out of bed to comb my hair before rereading it. That would have been too much.

When I’d calmed down I did go to the loo again and cooled my eyes with some cold water, before taking Paddington to bed with me—so romantic, wearing wellies to bed!

I turned the pillow over to avoid the wet bits and amazingly I went to sleep thinking romantically about Simon—I know, I sound like a lost cause but I did miss him and he is my husband—a phrase which still feels impossible—but isn’t simply because I have a piece of paper which says I’m female.
When the alarm started the radio the next morning, I really didn’t want to get up but thankfully my sense of duty meant I rolled out of bed and was in the bathroom before I was fully cognizant of the fact. I showered and felt a little better; I combed my hair, finished drying myself, felt some blubber coming on my waist and poked out my tongue which looked rather coated.

I dressed and roused the three misskateers, then woke the boys. I also roused Julie and asked her to help. To my surprise and delight, she actually got out of bed. The boys got themselves ready except Danny realised he hadn’t had his sports kit washed. I sent him to put it in the machine on a short cycle—not shorts cycle. Meanwhile I got the girls up and helped them shower and did their hair. They then dressed while I went to organise breakfast.

Danny was down watching the washing machine. “How about helping me—watching that won’t make it finish any quicker you know?”

He shrugged and kept muttering that he’d be late. “And whose fault would that be?”

“The stupid machine.”

“The machine isn’t stupid, it’s programmed to do certain things, and once it’s finished we can pop your stuff in the tumble dryer and hopefully it’ll be dry enough for you to take to school. Now come on—help me lay the table.”

He grumbled but did start fishing packets of cereal from the larder and I made some tea and some toast. I limited myself to one slice and a banana plus the essential cup of tea—without it, I’d never manage to do anything.

The girls arrived as did Billy, who seemed half-asleep and was only up now because Julie was nagging him like crazy. He was grumbling but she was harrying him and he didn’t retort probably because she’s quite a bit older than he is.

I made the girl’s packed lunches—why couldn’t they have school meals like everyone else? I’d try them again, or I’d try and persuade Trish, if she had them the other two would be a pushover and it would save me several valuable minutes in the mornings. Time is always so short before the school run. I wonder if I could teach Trish to drive—nah, she wouldn’t be able to see over the steering wheel.

Danny’s kit went into the dryer and it was still warm when he threw it into his bag—did I mention he plays football for the school? They have a tournament coming up, I must see if I can get to some of it, show him some support.

“When does it start?” I asked about the tournament.

“Today—it’s a knockout thing.”

“What time?”

“This afters.”

“Okay, I’ll come with the girls when I collect them.”

“Thanks, Mum.” I gave him a hug and he went off with his tail in the air. I gave Billy one too so he seemed a bit happier. Funny creatures, boys.

I told the girls to remind me that we were going to watch Danny play and they were quite excited about supporting their brother. I thought I’d better pack some warm clothes as we seemed beset by cool breezes.

Simon got home by lunchtime, I was busy making the bed when he came in and snuck up to the bedroom and goosed me while I was bent over the bed with both my hands tucking the bottom sheet in. Of course I shouted and then chased the silly galoot down the stairs.

On catching him, I hugged him until he kissed me—Julie groaned, she was doing the mountain of ironing that had accumulated and making quite a reasonable job of it. I asked Simon to make us some tea and went off to finish the bed.

I’d stripped Tom’s too so had enough for a load for the washer. I stuffed the linen into the machine and poured in the detergent and the softener. “I had some trouble with that the other night.”

“Oh yes, not with a certain tablecloth, was it?”

“How did you guess?”

“Shall we say my eyes still work, even if my brain doesn’t.”

“Okay, I’ll come clean—I spilt some wine on it and it wouldn’t come out.”

“It should have done if you’d put it straight in on a cool wash.”

“Now you tell me.”

Now you tell me, if you’d done so before…”

“Okay, I asked Stella but she wasn’t sure and by then I’d stuck it on a hot wash.”

“Simon, you give new meaning to the phrase helpless male.”

“Yeah okay, don’t rub it in.”

“It was a special tablecloth.”

“I know.”

“So why didn’t you say something?”

“Because I knew you’d be upset.”

“Only at the deceit you practiced.”

“Sorry, I was trying not to upset you.”

“Sure it wasn’t just saving your own embarrassment?”

“Yeah, that too.”

“Daddy?”

“Yes poppet?”

“Did you know that Mummy was an actress?”

“Yeah, she demonstrates it most days.”

I scowled at him and he poked his tongue out at me.

“No, seriously—she played Lady Macbeth.”

“She’s just an old drama queen.”

It was a good job I wasn’t doing the ironing he might have got himself injured.

“Here,” she shoved the sheet she’d copied from the Internet of my review.

Simon took it and read it and his smile broadened. “I’ve always known she was a girl really.”

“You’re about the only one,” I said and he hugged me as I started to sniff in his arms.

“No, my family has always thought that of you, including my crazy sister—we have no doubts, so why do you?”

“It goes with the territory, I’m afraid.”

He hugged me and kissed me, “Never let anyone think you’re anything but a complete woman.”

“But I’m not am I?”

“As far as I’m concerned you are—end of argument. Oh, I have something for you.” He handed me a plastic bag which when I opened it contained a damask tablecloth.

“You found another?”

“No, I found a specialist cleaner who has more or less restored it to its original condition—there is a very slight stain but it hardly shows it’s so faint.”

“Thank you.” I kissed him and hugged him with my head on his shoulder.

Kilobike Part 1024

After lunch I changed, told Simon he was coming with me to support Danny’s football game and pulled out some clothes for the girls to change into—I’m sure they didn’t want to wear school uniforms at a football match.

Simon accepted the instruction quite placidly; in fact he suggested he’d enjoy it more than I would. If one of the boys hadn’t been involved he was probably correct—the football world cup I anticipate with all the glee of an undertaker in a society of immortals.

I asked Tom if I could borrow the Mondeo, and when he found out why, he said he’d come to watch as well. I did ask Stella who declined, on the grounds that Puddin’ would get cold. Fair enough, but at least I asked.

I was just about to leave with Julie, when the phone rang. It was Tamsin, Maureen’s friend. Julie took the call and I shouted, “Can you take her number and I’ll call her back.”

“Maureen needs to see you,” Julie held her hand over the speaker on the phone.

“Won’t tomorrow do?”

“Tamsin says it’s quite important.”

I took the phone off her, “Hello, Tamsin, this is Cathy Cameron, what’s the problem with Maureen?”

“Hi Lady Cameron, look I can’t talk over the phone, but Maureen needs to see you and as soon as poss.”

“Is she still on the same ward?”

“Yes.”

“I’ll make no promises, but I’ll try and get in this evening. If not tomorrow.”

“She’d appreciate tonight.”

“I’ll see what I can do.”

“Thanks, Lady C.”

I put the phone down and swore. Julie looked at me with an open mouth. “I didn’t know you knew words like that, Mummy.”

“C’mon, or we’ll be late.” We dashed out to the car and drove off to the convent to collect the girls. They were able to change in the back of the car with a bit of help from Julie and me. Then we set off at speed for Danny and Billy’s school.

I spotted Simon’s Jag and Tom’s Freelander in the car park—we of course had to park a hundred yards down the road and walk. I asked Julie to bring the bag I had in the boot—which contained drinks and snacks for the girls and older members of the family.

Looking along the touchline, we eventually spotted Simon, Tom and Billy talking with Danny, yet there was a game going on. We walked as quickly as we could and the girls hugged Simon and Tom.

“Why aren’t you playing?” I asked Danny.

“I’ll be on again soon, Mummy, it’s a tourney.” He rolled his eyes and I looked to Simon for an explanation.

“It’s like five aside, they play on a smaller pitch.” I looked and noticed that they had divided the pitch into two smaller ones, using the width as the length. “They only play fifteen minutes per half.”

“So how many games have you played?” I asked Danny.

“We’ve played three, but I was only in two of them.”

“How come?”

“We have a squad, Mummy. It’s knackering.”

“It’s what?” as I gasped so Simon and Tom sniggered.

“You get very tired, and I wanna play in the final if we get there.”

“When is that?”

“We’re in the next round, then it’s the semis, an’ if we win that, we’re in the final.”

“I see, do you want something to eat?” Silly question to a boy. He had a banana and a bag of crisps, so did Billy and the girls each had an apple. Danny then came back for a drink of orange.

“So, are you going to play in this next year?” I asked Billy.

“Me? Nah, I’m not good enough.”

“Maybe we could get you coached to improve your skills.”

“Not that interested, I think I’d like to do bike racin’.” I didn’t realise he had such taste.

“What sort?” I asked.

“Mountain bikin’, looks like fun,” continued the younger boy.

“Oh,” I felt my dreams of a TdF winner in the family dashed before I’d even gone to sleep. But then Cancellara used to ride mountain bikes and so did Nicole Cooke before they grew up and went for road racing. So maybe there was a chance still?

“I won’t if you don’t want me to.”

“No kiddo, we’ll make some enquiries and see if there’s a club you can join.”

“I’d probably need a new bike.”

“If necessary, I’m sure a birthday or Christmas would take care of that.”

“Would you come out with me, Mummy?” Billy gave me a look that wouldn’t have been lost on Kiki when there was food about.

“We’ll see.”

“I thought you’d say that.”

“I haven’t said no, have I?”

“No,” he answered, then gave me a lovely smile.

“Can girls play football?” asked Livvie.

“Yes, there’s even an England ladies’ team.”

“I wonder if they do it in school?” she continued.

“We’ll ask tomorrow.”

“Oh goody gum drops.”

“What is?” asked Trish snaffling a bag of crisps.

“Livvie asked if we could find out if there’s a girls’ football team at your school.”

“Oh yuck,” was Trish’s response to that.

“You might enjoy it,” I challenged.

“I didn’t before—besides, what about the showers?”

“Okay, point taken.

“I wanna pway socca, too.” Meems had decided on a sport.

“Okay, we’ll cut the grass down by the orchard and get Leon to make some goal posts.”

“D’ye think he’s up tae it?”

“No—I’ll probably have to get someone in to do it, until Maureen comes back—oh that reminds me, Daddy, she wants me to go and see her this evening, could you help Simon get the wains to bed?”

“Och aye, it’ll be ma pleasure.”

“It’s not wainin’,” Mima took exception to my form of address.

Tom laughed and left the explanation to me.

We watched Danny play in the next game—which they lost despite his scoring a goal. He had another drink and Simon gave him a leg rub.

They played in the semis—there were only four teams taking part—but it got rid of some energy. They won that, so they progressed to the final, where they lost even though Danny scored again, his goal wasn’t enough to stop them losing by three goals to one.

He was bitterly disappointed when he went off to shower and we think he might have said something to one of the other team, because he ended up in a fight in the shower getting a black eye and knee in the groin. He came out from the building last and Simon dashed over to see why he was walking oddly.

I put the others in the car and went to see for myself. I wanted to call one of the teachers but Danny asked us not to, because he’d get in more trouble than the other boy. “Didn’t a teacher see you?”

“I told him I slipped on the wet floor and hit a corner.”

“And that would give you a black eye and sore willie?” I queried, almost a ‘pull the other one’ situation.

“Yeah, some of the cubicles have door frames.”

“Okay—are you going to be all right or do you want to see a doctor?”

“I’ll be okay, Mummy, you worry too much.”

“We’d better get some ice on it when we get home,” I suggested.

“You’re not puttin’ ice on it—it’ll be cold.”

“That’s generally the idea.”

“It’ll freeze it off.”

“If that was the case, Trish would have tried it by now.” He gave me a wry smile and nodded. “C’mon, let’s get you home because I have to go and see Maureen after dinner.”

“Fish and chips?” called Tom.

“Yeah, fine with me,” I replied and he sped off to the local chippie.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1025

The fish and chips were delicious and everyone tucked in, including Stella. She was going out on a date, so Julie had agreed to look after Puddin’ probably for a certain consideration—honestly, kids today are so mercenary.

I changed into something a little more suitable for hospital visiting and set off leaving, Simon, Tom and Julie to sort out the kiddiewinks. Danny had declined ice on his gonads and I didn’t feel that laying on of hands—just there—was appropriate either, well not from me at any rate. If Trish or Julie wanted to try by other means that was fine. They could try and improve his black eye at any rate.

Simon told me the new car would arrive tomorrow—this was the new Audi TT thing. I wasn’t impressed by the fact that it cost a mint and went at the speed of sound in first gear—I simply wanted something that went safely and smoothly, carried at least three children and the shopping. Okay, so for my brood I need a minibus and trailer, but much of the time, it’s only me in the car. Speed I prefer as a cyclist—then I can’t go fast enough.

I wore a skirt for a change and Julie made some comment about not recognising me in a skirt. I gave her a Paddington hard stare and she suddenly remembered something she had to do. The kids all gave me a hug and told me to wish Maureen a speedy recovery. I assured them I would; Trish gave me a handmade card for her which I promised to pass on. I wondered about taking her in something, but decided I didn’t really have time.

The trip to the hospital was uneventful—thankfully and I suddenly thought, I could have ridden there on my bike if I checked the batteries in the lights. Oh well, I was there now, so I went on to her ward and up to her room. She was sitting in the chair by the side of her bed, snoring like a chainsaw.

“Sorry, I’m not Prince Charming,” I said giving her a peck on the cheek.

“Uh—wuh—wot?” she uttered while waking up, “Oh, it’s you ma’am.”

“I told Tamsin I would come.”

“Yeah, she said you’d try.”

“I have and here I am.”

“Yeah, thanks.”

“So how are you?”

“I’m okay—apart from not earning any money while I’m in ’ere. I’m surprised my landlord ’asn’t kicked me out.”

“Why would he?”

“’Cos my rent won’t ’ave been paid.”

“Why won’t it?”

“The little matter of me ’aving nothing in me bank account.”

“That shouldn’t be the case, Tom and I have been paying you a half salary while you’ve been sick.”

“You what?”

“We’ve been paying you a half salary while you’ve been in hospital.”

“You are an angel, you really are.”

“I don’t think our angelic friends deal with such mundane affairs as rent.”

“No—they get saints like you to do it for ’em.”

“Before we take this discourse any further on such numinous subjects…”

“Luminous what?” Maureen interjected.

“Not luminous, numinous.”

“Which means?”

“To do with divinity—spiritual stuff.”

“Oh gawd.”

“Yeah, Him as well.”

She began to laugh loudly, and I’m afraid in a very masculine voice, so I shushed her and explained her mistake. She blushed and apologised.

“It sounds as if I’m criticising you, I’m not, I just want you to integrate as fully as you can.”

“Yeah, I know, thanks anyway, ma’am.”

“So, apart from my divine origins, what else did you want to tell me?”

She chuckled again, “You are a one, in’t ya?”

“Probably, but you asked me to come in urgently, I’m here.”

“Oh that, well you’ve answered most of me question ’fore I asked it.”

“Can we start at the beginning, because you lost me completely there?”

“Sorry, ma’am; you still putting money in me bank account like, ’as kept the landlord off me back. I thought I was gonna ’ave to ask yer for a letter to say I was employed and ’ed get ’is money eventual, like.”

“Oh well, I did something right—how’s the walking?”

“With me elbow crutches, I can potter—like a drunken dormouse though.”

“I’ve seen a few dormice in my time, but I don’t think I’ve seen a drunken one.”

“It was a metaphor.”

“I thought it might be.” I winked at her and she chuckled again.

“You are so good for me, ma’am—you’ve ’ealed me, an’ kept a roof over me ’ead. You’re a bloomin’ miracle worker.”

“No I’m not; I’m trying to hang on to a valued and skilful worker, who’s having a few problems. How soon before you can drive again?”

“Dunno, ma’am, they ’aven’t said nothin’ about that yet.”

“I suppose they wouldn’t. Look when you get home—if you need any shopping done, let me know.”

“Thanks, ma’am, but I think you got enough to do, in’t ya?”

“I keep fairly busy, but my offer is genuine and I mean it.”

“I know, ma’am, an’ once I’m mobile, I’d like to start measurin’ up stuff again an’ get on to it soon as I can.”

“I know, no hurry—I don’t think anything will fall down in the near future.”

“You know, I can feel me back warm just talkin’ to you.”

“Imagination, I expect.”

“No it in’t, ma’am, I in’t the imaginative sort.”

“Okay, we won’t argue about that—how long before you go home and do you need anyone to collect you?”

“No thanks, ma’am, Tamsin’ll come an’ get me with a taxi when they give me the old ’eave —’o from ’ere.”

“Well, you have my number if you need me, don’t hesitate to ring.”

“Thanks, ma’am, I won’t.”

“Won’t what? Forget or ring?”

“Forget.”

“Good—we make progress. Now is your flat suitable for someone with mobility difficulties?”

“It’ll be okay, I think—they’re gonna assess it.”

“Let me know if you need some help.”

“I will.”

“Simon has contacts everywhere and is very good at using them.”

“Thanks, ma’am.”

“No need to thank me, plus of course if you’re short of money—let me know.”

“I think you done enough already.”

“Yes, but I am married to a bank—so it doesn’t embarrass me to be asked.”

I asked for Tamsin’s number and after leaving the ward, called it and arranged to meet her there tomorrow after I left the girls at school and Julie at the salon. Goodness, was it Friday already? Where does the time go?

I couldn’t remember going to Maureen’s flat, but I thought I’d take some flowers or a pot plant and some dusters and polish and see if I could spruce things up for her. I wasn’t going to have it decorated or carpeted even if it needed it, because that would be interfering in someone else’s home. If someone did it to me, no matter how well intentioned, I’d be very angry indeed.

When I got home, I was exhausted and after a cuppa went to bed. Simon was fiddling on his computer—so it was probably work related—he’s supposed to be off on sick leave. I drank my tea and flounced off to bed, with his last sentence ringing in my head. “But, babes, I’ve made them half a million since we’ve been talkin’.” No wonder his father wanted him back in the office.

I explained the conversation with Maureen and he simply shrugged, “If she needs somewhere new let me know, I’ll pull a string or two—I’ve got some favours I can call in.”

“For a psycho, you’re really nice.”

“Takes one to know one,” he said before going back to his computer while I went off to bed with Simon Brett.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1026

The next morning, I could see that Danny’s eye was a little better and he was walking less stiffly. “How’s the um—you know?” I asked and he blushed as much as I did.

“It hurts a bit, Mummy, but I’ll live.”

“I hope it’ll teach you not to get involved in fights unless you can’t avoid them, and that is pretty rare.”

“I’m told you’re quite a good fighter, Mummy.”

“You were misinformed: I try to avoid violence at every opportunity.”

“Auntie Stella says you’ve kicked ass a few times.”

“Auntie Stella is prone to exaggerate and I don’t care for vulgarity, Danny, especially as I have never knowingly kicked anyone’s donkey.”

“Eh?” he looked perplexed.

“Ass is a donkey stoopid,” Billy chided the older boy.

“An ass is also another name for a fool,” I informed our growing breakfast party.

“But the Americans say ass all the time for bum.”

“They might, they live far enough away for me not to worry about their differences with the mother tongue, but you don’t.”

“It’s arse,” Billy sniggered.

“That’s the English form, but it’s still vulgar and I don’t want to hear it. Everyone got that?” I looked around the room at the sleepy faces who were still trying to understand what I was preaching about this time. I knew they used words like that all the time in school, because they did in my day, and sometimes a lot worse. However, in trying to set some standards of home life for them, I had the job of policing them, which I knew Tom would support. Stella might on a good day, and Simon would in theory—but would forget most of the time.

We had breakfast and I collected together some cleaning things and put them in the car. “Why you doin’ that?” asked Meems.

“Doing what, sweetheart?”

“Those wags.” She pointed at the cloths I was loading in a bucket with a few cleaning sprays and polishes.

“I’m going to meet Maureen’s friend Tamsin and we’re going to give her flat a quick clean up for when she comes out of hospital.”

“I’d wike to hewp, Mummy.”

“I’d like to, too,” said Trish.

“I’ll tell Maureen that I had a whole load of volunteers, but I’m sure that we’ll manage for now, maybe next time.”

They seemed to accept that perhaps because I’d left the door ajar rather than closing it completely. Having said that, I thought it unlikely we’d need to do it again but on the proviso that I’d never been there before. It might be a little palace or it could be a pigsty.

After I dropped Julie off at the salon—interestingly, she said nothing about the flat—I took the girls on to school. We spoke to the head mistress and discovered there was a girl’s football team and any of them could opt to do footie for their sports lessons. Livvie put her name down immediately for next term, and so did Meems. Trish was a bit more circumspect, but under pressure from her sisters she agreed to put her name down for now but she could change her mind if necessary later. I thought I would get them kicking a ball about in the garden with Leon or Simon and possibly Trish could have a chance to explore bits of boyhood she could take with her rather than dismissing it all as unwanted rubbish.

If my love of cycling hadn’t been so great, I could quite easily have stopped doing it because it wasn’t a girly thing—but hell, there are loads of women who ride bikes at all levels, the same with football—I hadn’t pursued that one because I was useless at it, but could ride a bike a bit. Maybe I’ll improve my football skills if the others give me some help and encouragement.

So, I could have gone overboard on girly hobbies, sewing and knitting and collecting dolls—I did some of those, I can sew a bit and enjoy cooking but I don’t think I have too many other interests that are usually associated with women unless you include taking bikes to bits and rebuilding them. It’s a joke, so relax.

I arrived at the address Tamsin had given me: it’s not in the most salubrious part of the city, but I was reassured to see it was quite a nice old house with Maureen’s car parked outside. Tamsin, I hoped would be there and pressed the bell listed as belonging to Flat 2.

I heard footsteps approaching and my mind began to create pictures of how Tamsin would appear. The voice sounded younger than Maureen’s, and I wondered how old she was along with every other possible question that could form in the seconds before the door opened.

The door drew open and behind it stood a man who was about thirty something. He had longish hair, which was tied back but was also receding at the temples—typical male pattern baldness.

“I hope I have the right place, I was expecting to meet Tamsin,” I said guardedly.

“That’s me,” said mine host, and you must be Lady Catherine?”

“It’s just Cathy.” I held out my hand which was accepted and then I entered the hall.

“I can’t believe that Maureen knows someone as beautiful as you, Lady C.”

“Sorry?”

“I said, I can’t believe…”

“I heard that, but I don’t understand why you said it.” Oops, how to make friends and influence people, this ain’t.

“Sorry, but people like us don’t usually move in such high circles or get to know such beautiful women as yourself.”

“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and on a physical level is very superficial, seeing as most of it is as much a matter of luck as anything else, it’s hardly a priority in anything other than a sexist society.”

“Oh, I didn’t mean it like that—I’m sorry, I’m making it worse aren’t I?”

“They do say when in a hole, stop digging.”

“What I meant to say, is, you’re a very beautiful woman and I’m jealous that Maureen has you as her friend.”

“I still don’t know what you mean, unless you’re saying you fancy me—in which case, I’d better go now. I’m happily married with six children.”

“Six kids, blimey—you don’t look old enough.”

“Appearances can be deceptive,” but not in the way you’re thinking, buster.

“Can we start again? I’m Tamsin, I’m pleased to meet you, and yes I do think you are very beautiful but I don’t have any ulterior motives—I mean my intentions are honourable.”

“I thought we were here to give Maureen’s place a lick and a polish?”

“Yes, follow me.” I followed the tee shirt and jeans-clad individual up a flight of stairs. As I watched his bum wiggling a bit too exaggeratedly for a man, I noticed he was wearing girl’s jeans with embroidered back pockets. I also couldn’t decide whether he was gay, or transgendered—not that it really mattered.

“How about a nice cuppa before we start?” He led me into a small but very cosy flat which was immaculate. Of course, Maureen was ex Royal Navy, they are taught to be tidy because there isn’t much room on a ship.

I seated myself at the small dining table and waited for the tea.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1027

The room was presumably a sitting cum dining room, with a small table at which I sat, plus two easy chairs either side of an ornate fireplace which still had the original Victorian tiles in place. Where a fire would once have burned was displayed a small vase with some artificial poppies giving a focus for the eye.

The carpet was oatmeal and the chairs were a floral pattern with an oatmeal coloured background. Presumably much of this was from Maureen’s previous life, before she lost her job when she began her transition. The windows were flanked by beige curtains with poppies and some flowery net curtains covered the window panes.

Tamsin produced the tea and placed the pot upon the mat on the table. “You’d better be mother,” she said and the handle was pointed towards me. I stirred the pot and poured two cups of tea.

“How long have you known Maureen?” I asked, trying to get some sort of grasp of what exactly Tamsin was without being so rude as to ask.

“Oh, a few years now, we met at a local TV/TS group.”

“This was presumably before Maureen transitioned.”

“Oh crikey yes, she was still Matt then.” It’s funny how we hang on to our initials when we change our names, or how so many of us do—me included. “How did you meet her?”

“At our doctor’s, can’t remember what I was there for but he asked if I knew of anyone who could offer someone a job who’d fallen on hard times. After meeting Maureen, I realised I could offer her some work restoring some of the outbuildings at my adopted father’s house. She came over and we discussed it and she took it on. We were going great guns until she was attacked.”

“She told me that you were a wonderful employer.”

“Not really, she was a dream to work with and very conscientious. If she comes home, how is she going to get up those stairs?” I asked changing the subject.

“Very slowly,” Tamsin shook her head, “I dunno.”

“I can’t see the hospital being allowed to discharge her in that case.”

“But she’ll go crazy if she stays there much longer.”

“There should be some halfway house for continuing rehab before she can come here again. Otherwise she’ll be really stuck.”

“Yeah,” agreed Tamsin, “either at the top or bottom of the stairs.”

“What do you do?” I asked.

“Not a lot at the moment. I used to be an electronics technician with the navy, but they found some female clothing in my locker during an inspection and kicked me out when they found I didn’t have a girlfriend.”

“What, for having some clothing in your locker? That’s pretty pathetic.”

“They were clamping down on gays.”

“But a pair of knickers in your locker doesn’t make you gay, does it?”

“No, I was gay before the knickers—it was a fair cop as far as that was concerned.”

“I find this so disgraceful about the armed services—they claim to be non-discriminatory yet they are anything but.”

“In those days, it was frowned upon and if you kept your mouth shut they tended to turn a blind eye. When they had evidence of any sort, then it got a bit sticky.”

“If ten per cent of men are likely to be gay, then a significant number of servicemen are—so how can they pretend it doesn’t exist?”

“They’re like so many women who marry gay men, what they don’t want to see they ignore.”

“So are you a gay man or transgendered? Sorry to be so blunt.”

“Me, I’m a gay tranny, and proud of it. Unlike Maureen, I don’t want me bits cut off, where’s the fun in that?”

I could have told him, but I didn’t. I sipped my tea and wondered what there was to do in the flat. In the end it was nothing: we rearranged a minute amount of dust and I left Tamsin to lock up. I drove home and got some fresh fruit and veg on the way.

Turning into the drive there was a strange car parked in my usual spot. I parked next to it and looked at the silver intruder—it had the joined rings of Audi on its bonnet and I suddenly remembered they were bringing the car for me. I locked up the Mondeo and carried my shopping and my cleaning bucket with me into the house.

“See your new chariot?” beamed Simon.

“It’s a bit small isn’t it—I thought you were going to get me another little Mercedes?”

“Oh c’mon Cathy, this is the ultimate girly car—one hundred per cent pudenda power. Let’s give it a test drive.”

“Can I just put this fruit away?”

“Well ’urry up then, I’ll buy you lunch somewhere.”

“I’m not that hungry.”

“Been on the choccie biccies have we?”

“No—just not very hungry.”

“C’mon, let’s give this pussy-mobile a bashing.”

“Simon, you are being very vulgar and extremely sexist.”

“Yeah, what’s new?”

“I’m not terribly happy listening to it, besides, I thought the ultimate pussy car was a Lotus Elan.”

“Gawd, which part of history are you coming from?”

“Emma Peel had one.”

“This thing will eat it.”

I don’t know why, but I had this horrible vision of this silver German thing eating poor Mrs Peel’s Lotus. I hesitated and Simon pulled me along and jumped in the driver’s seat.

“I thought this was supposed to be my car, Si?”

“Yeah, but I have the keys.”

“So I see.”

“Get in and stop whingeing.”

I did as I was told because I decided not to make an issue of it. It was very plush, lots of knobs to twiddle and so on, CD player, missile launcher, machine guns, vertical take-off and submersible mode—yeah, I suppose it was okay. Just in case you think I picked up James Bond’s latest car by mistake, I’m exaggerating a little—it didn’t have machine guns, just a single Gatling gun.

Simon left half the tyres behind as we screamed up the road. “If we get done for speeding, it’ll be points on my licence not yours,” I complained.

“Yeah, so?”

“I don’t want points on my licence.”

“Tough,” he retorted and put his foot down. We ended up flying up the A3 to Petersfield where we had lunch in a pub by the river and spent half the time chasing flies away—despite the warmer weather, and it felt quite sultry—there was still a cool breeze although it didn’t stop Simon wanting to eat outdoors, hence the flies sharing my tuna jacket spud.

He had a couple of pints of Guinness and informed me I could drive back—probably while he snoozed. With a degree of trepidation, I got in the car and adjusted the seat. Then I cautiously eased out of the car park to head south back to Portsmouth. I watched the speed like a hawk, the slightest pressure on the throttle and she simply shot off like a rocket.

After a few miles of moaning at my girly driving, Simon nodded off and snored so I put on the radio and listened to the afternoon play while he snored in accompaniment. I began to get the feel of the car and it became easier to drive, although the ferocious acceleration frightened me a little. At one point, I did give her some welly and we were doing a hundred. That frightened me a bit, so I went back to watching the speedo very carefully, which was just as well, because ten minutes later we had a jam sandwich come past us and I hadn’t noticed him approaching. I wondered if his BMW would catch us—probably and he’s been trained to drive like a loony, I’m just a natural.

I dropped Simon off at the house: he was quite miffed to be woken up, but I needed his seat for the girls. I was tempted to take the Mondeo, but I knew they’d be pleased to see the new car. The two older girls did a game of rock, paper, scissors and Livvie got to sit in the front. After we got home, the boys wanted a ride in it, so I took them with me to collect Julie from the salon.

When she came out and saw the new car, she was very enthusiastic about getting her licence next year, and could she borrow it when she’d passed her test? I suppose there’s nothing wrong with unbridled optimism—but I suspect the insurance premium would be something close to the value of the car for a new teenage driver. Thankfully, I had nearly a year to practice saying, ‘no’.”

The Daily Dormouse Part 1028

When I got back with Julie, Tom was home and much impressed with the car. In fact, it seemed everyone was except me. Later that evening when Simon and I were having a cuddle in bed, we chatted.

“So, what do you think of your new motor?”

“I don’t like it.”

“Yeah, it’s brill—you what?”

“I don’t like it.”

“You’re just not used to it.”

“I don’t want to get used to it.”

“What’s wrong with it?”

“Nothing—but it isn’t what I wanted. I’ll have another Golf or Mercedes, but I don’t need something as fast as that, and I’d prefer something with three seats in the back. I don’t like having one of the girls in the front.”

“I’ll bet they do though, don’t they.”

“I don’t care what they like or dislike, what I want surely is paramount? It’s been lovely trying it out but it’s far too fast for my needs and is too small for all the stuff I’d like to carry.”

“You’ll get used to it, Babes.”

“I won’t.”

“You will, you know.”

“Tomorrow, I shall ask Henry to take it back and if necessary, I’ll buy the Mondeo off Tom, or buy my own car from a dealer.”

“Do you realise what strings I had to pull to get you that car—it’s worth about forty grand.”

“Thank you for your generosity, but I don’t like it and I don’t want to drive it again.”

“Cathy, it’s just a question of getting used to it.”

“Simon—you aren’t listening.”

“Yes I am, but you’re whingeing about nothing, I know about these things.”

“I am telling you now, I will not drive that car again.”

“You’re joking—aren’t you?”

“No. So please get rid of it or I’ll ask Henry to do it myself.”

“This is ridiculous—you can get your own bloody car then,” he huffed and turned over away from me.

“I will, just watch me.”

“Have you ever bought a car before?”

“No, but I’ll learn.”

“Yeah, the hard way.”

“It can’t be that hard, millions of people do it every year.”

“Okay, smart arse, you go and buy a car and see what happens.”

“I will and it will be considerably cheaper than forty thousand.”

“Bloody women, never grateful…” he muttered over his shoulder at me.

“Stupid men, never listen…”I huffed back at him. I felt awful: he’d tried to spoil me and it had backfired. Then I wondered if he was spoiling me or controlling me? I couldn’t decide—if he wanted to surprise me, he wouldn’t have let Henry tell me what it was he was getting me, so that tended to suggest he was trying to direct me into what sort of car I should drive. The problem is, that until now I’d let him decide for me, and his choice had been quite good. It was only this one I didn’t like.

To my mind the car has to be functional and safe, it has to be able to carry five adults—so that way I know there’s plenty of space for at least five kids. It has to be able to carry my food shopping and be easy to park—I’m not the world’s greatest parker of cars. I don’t need it to break the sound barrier and would prefer something more economical—I liked the Merc and the Golf, but anything would do—if necessary, I’ll buy Tom’s Mondeo. Yes, maybe I’ll ask him tomorrow.

I woke once having a funny dream where we were out in the country and I asked Simon to take us home but he refused telling me that I’d have to walk everywhere from now on. It wasn’t too hard to spot the symbolism of that one.

The next morning, although I hadn’t slept well, I was determined not to let Simon know it. He’d snored most of the night and had ended up putting his arm round me for quite some time. I didn’t know if that was a reflex or if he had unconsciously forgiven me—either way, I felt good about it.

I was down and spoke with Tom before Simon realised I was gone from the bed. I suppose women are sneakier, or are we just more determined? “Daddy, would you be interested in selling me the Mondeo?”

“F’whit?”

“I need a car.”

“F’whit is yon, silver machine?”

“That’s going back.”

“Why?”

“I don’t like it.”

He gave me an old-fashioned look as if I was acting like a spoiled brat. “Ye dinna like it?”

“No, it’s too fast and too small.”

“An’ ye wish tae buy ma Ford?”

“Yes.”

“It’s no fer sale.”

“Oh, okay—I’ll have to look for something else then.”

“Ye can use it like ye always dae, ye dinna need to buy it, ye daft gowk.”

“Thank you Daddy,” I kissed him on the cheek.

Being a Saturday, I didn’t need to get the girls up too early, but I did need to rouse Julie. I did and she wanted to be taken to work in the Audi—I disabused her of this idea and she sulked into the bathroom.

Billy came out rubbing his eyes. “You not keepin’ the Audi, Mummy?”

“No sweetheart, I don’t like it and it’s too small for my needs.”

“Oh well, at least I had a ride in it.”

“Yes, now then young man, if I can find someone to watch the rest for an hour this afternoon, I reckon we should start doing some bike training together. Are you sure you want to do MTB racing?”

“I’m too small to do road, aren’t I?”

“Tell that to Mark Cavendish.”

“Is he small, then?”

“He’s not very tall, not compared to Dave Millar or Brad Wiggins, but he can outsprint all of them.”

“I’d definitely need a new bike for road riding, wouldn’t I?”

“Well, it could be arranged for your birthday—but, not if it’s going to be a five minute wonder.”

“No, I like cycling, Mummy.”

“Okay, we’re going to do a ten miler this afternoon—now what I can do is change the tyres on your current bike to make it more comfortable on the road, but you won’t have any traction off road. D’you understand me?”

“Okay.”

“Right get your bum in gear, let’s get some breakfast and we’ll go and get some tyres.”

He disappeared, and ten minutes later was downstairs. We ate and collected Julie who was still sulking but got in the car. After dropping her off at the salon, we went on to Paget’s Cycles est. 1976. We strolled around the bikes and to my astonishment, we found a road bike which looked almost Billy’s size. It was a girl’s bike but there’s no obvious distinguishing marks except D4W on the frame in small letters. It was a used bike but it was a class one and only two hundred and fifty pounds.

I asked him what he thought of it and he nodded when asked if he’d like to try it. We got the all clear from the assistant who came up to help us. I held it while Billy mounted it and the assistant made minor adjustments. It had toe clips so we’d have to change the pedals at some point. Billy loved it and he tried it up and down the road. He could ride it. We brought him back in.

“Right, it’s a good bike but it’s a girl’s one.”

“Oh,” he said and blushed.

“But does that matter?—you’re not very tall and have small hands, so it might actually be an advantage.” To prove my point he tried a couple of boy’s bikes and they were too big—they were also much more expensive.

He thought for a minute and said to me, “Are you going to buy it for me, Mummy?”

“I might, but only if you promise me to use it regularly.”

“Oh yes Mummy, will you ride with me?”

“I said we would today, let’s see where we go from there, shall we?” I knew he wouldn’t be safe riding it on his own so it looked as if I would be riding more.

He put the seats down in the car while I paid for his bike—a Specialized Dolce, a good entry-level bike and a real bargain, seeing as there wasn’t a scratch on it. We drove home with him smiling like a Cheshire cat—all I had to do now was explain to the others why he’d got a treat and they hadn’t.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1029

In fact, I spent far more than just the cost of the bike—I decided I’d teach him to use clipless pedals, the Shimano SPD system, so we had to get a pair of shoes and then some shorts, so I went the whole hog and bought him a shirt as well.

Because he’s not very big, and the shop didn’t carry any children’s kit—there’s a surprise—I found a small women’s size shorts and top, and the shoes were too. Now before I’m accused of turning one of my kids into a transvestite, it was only the labels which gave the game away and they could be lost quite easily.

He already had a helmet and I had a pair of mitts which would probably fit him—some cheapo ones I’d bought ages ago which were actually too small for my hands—which are quite small. They’d also go quite well with the rest of the kit, which was all turquoise, grey and black. The shoes were grey and if I remembered correctly: the mitts were light blue and grey.

We got home to find that Simon was playing football with Danny and the girls, while Tom and Leon were doing gardening. This mean the coast was clear to sneak the kit in and put the bike in the garage with the rest of them.

After speaking with the others and making some tea for myself, Simon came in for one as well and the kids came for a cold drink, which I duly dispensed. “Did you sort out returning the car?” I asked him.

“Can you see it?” he asked almost snottily.

I looked down the drive, “No—have they taken it already?”

“What do you think?”

“I don’t know—but I’ll accept it looks like it.”

“You don’t think I’ve hidden it round the corner in case you decide you like it tomorrow, do you?”

“No Simon, I don’t. I don’t want any bad feeling over this either.”

“Excuse me, but it doesn’t work like that. I pulled all sorts of strings to get you that car—that’s senior manager or even director level.”

“I appreciate you thought it was a treat, but it wasn’t. I need something bigger and less fast.”

“I see, so you bought a new bike?”

“No, I got that for Billy, he wants to try road riding, possibly to do some racing when he’s a bit older.”

“So what are you going to use? The last I heard you were going to buy a new car.”

“I’m borrowing Daddy’s Mondeo, for the moment.”

“So that’s why you were up early, conniving with Tom?”

“No, I had to take Julie to work and I wanted to get some new tyres for Billy’s old bike, then we saw that one and he tried it.”

“I see, so you’re favouring one over the others?”

“Not really, I supported Danny playing football; I’ve got the girls all sorts of things over the past few months, including school uniforms. This time I’ve given Billy a chance to become an individual and try something different.”

“Which you just happen to be very good at?”

“Come off it Si, I’ve hardly ridden for months.”

“But it is your sport.”

“Yes, what’s that got to do with it?”

“You were just waiting for one of them to show the slightest sign, weren’t you?”

“Slightest sign of what?”

“Being a cyclist.”

“Not particularly, but nothing I say is going to convince you otherwise, so I’m not even going to respond to it. Will you collect Julie from the salon after half past four?”

He glowered but agreed, “What are you going to be doing?”

“Possibly still out with Billy or getting dinner started, why?”

“If you’re out with Billy, and I’m collecting Julie, who’s going to look after the girls and Danny?”

“If necessary I’ll ask Leon, but I suspect Daddy will, or even Stella.”

He sighed, his bid for the moral high ground had failed.

“Excuse me, I have to fit some new pedals.” I pushed past him and went to the garage. It didn’t take long, and I have several pedal spanners, which made it easier. Billy came out to see what I was doing to his bike. I sent him in to put on his new cycling shoes and we measured them up, marked them and fitted the cleats.

For the uninitiated, cleats are small metal plates which fit to the soles of cycling shoes which are quite hard. The cleats fit into the pedals which have a tightening mechanism, so they can be adjusted for optimum comfort.

Billy and I fiddled with the pedals and the shoes, and also the riding position to give him optimum drive and minimal chance of injuring himself. We took probably an hour to do that, and then I had him practising clipping in and out of the pedals—he grasped it more quickly than I had, however, it usually takes one or two falls before you remember all the time—especially if you’ve been used to riding with ordinary pedals.

Having finished setting up Billy’s bike, I did the lunch while a very red-faced Simon gambolled about on back lawn with four kids and a football. We had lunch and after clearing up, by which time nearly an hour had elapsed, Billy and I went out for our ride.

As we went, I made him practice how to clip in and out of his pedals. It takes a while to learn or to master the technique, but he was doing fine—you usually do until you have to stop quickly and forget—then whack—down you go and it hurts. Next, I made sure he knew how to brake and how to change gear. It sounds easy enough, after all he’s already got a bike with gears, but I wanted him to do it properly and smoothly. He was a ready pupil.

Finally, we did a ride, going out along the bike path and soon after on to the road where some experience in traffic is essential to learn how to ride safely. I admit, I rode differently to my usual style of zipping in and out of traffic—to teach Billy the safe way to ride in it. He seemed to get the hang quite quickly. Then we reached another bike path and as it seemed clear, I challenged him to a race to the next lamppost. I let him win because I wanted see him ride—he was developing a reasonable technique. He then challenged me—well, I couldn’t let him have it all his own way, and it would show him there are faster riders, so not to become complacent.

Okay, I’m bigger, stronger and more experienced, so I beat him without much effort, but give him a year or two and he’ll be giving me a better race, but for now—I thrashed him. I was actually standing by my bike when he stopped suddenly, forgot to unclip and fell down—on the grass verge, thankfully, but it reminded him that there a few things to think about in learning a new skill.

He wasn’t hurt, and he lay there laughing with the bike lying on top of him and me shaking my head at him and smiling. I helped him up and checked him over and then the bike. He seemed to be enjoying himself and on his own, out of the shadow of the genius level girls and the larger more aggressive Danny, he was revelling in the attention he was getting. I hoped he was doing it because he wanted to, not just to get my attention.

On the ride back, I pushed the pace a little to see if he could last and he managed to stay with me for speeds under twelve miles an hour. I’d forgotten to fit him a computer, and as I think I had a spare one in the shed, I’d do that for him later.

As we approached the drive, I asked him if he’d enjoyed himself and he asked if we could ride again tomorrow. I told him I’d think about it.

The girls came running to see his new bike, they then got theirs out and rode up and down the drive. Danny looked a little jealous, although I know he wants a new pair of football boots for his birthday. The girls seemed unaffected by my largesse to one of their siblings, seeming to understand, when they need something, they’re likely to get it and that the system takes it in turn.

Simon and his Jaguar had gone, presumably to collect Julie—she likes his car, which was why I asked him to get her. Leon had gone home early, his mother had some engagement, so asked him to go sooner to escort her—he wasn’t too happy because it meant he couldn’t do his usual tongue wrestling with Julie when she came home.

As I showered after my ride, I mused on the day. It had been good to get Billy interested in something. It had been difficult dealing with a churlish Simon, but at least the girls had helped me with that—playing football with him. He’d had some fun I think, so hopefully his mood would improve by the time he came back—however, some sort of black cloud seemed to hover over me, and I couldn’t shake the feeling that life was about to get difficult again, although the type of challenge it would pose was unknown. Possibly I was becoming a bit paranoid—it’s been a good day, what’s going to go wrong now and spoil it? I would find out soon enough.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1030

“What’s the matter with you?” asked Stella as I slaved in the kitchen organising a meal which would make feeding the five thousand a doddle.

“Dunno—fed up with Simon being a twit.”

“It’s what he does—and he’s pretty good at it. What specifically has he done this time?”

“I don’t know, maybe we shouldn’t have gotten married.”

“It must be pretty serious if you’re thinking like that.”

“Not really, it was that car.”

“Yes, rather flash wasn’t it?”

“Too much for me.”

“Oh I don’t know, you can put on a bit of a turn when the mood takes you.”

“Which is not very often; I wanted something like the cars I’ve had before, just a runabout with room for three or four kids and the weekly shopping.”

“You could borrow Tom’s spare car for that.”

“I am—I mean on a more regular basis—I asked Daddy if I could buy it, he said ‘no, just borrow it’.”

“Well that just saved you ten grand, then.”

“But Simon thinks I copped out—unable to buy a car of my own.”

“So—does it matter?”

“He’s grumpy because I turned down his choice of wet-dream cars…” as I said this Stella burst out laughing. “What did I say?”

“His wet-dream car.”

“Oops, did I say that?” I blushed, “Well, I was thinking it—I mean, he has a nice car already, why did I need to join the jet set?”

“Because you’re his little wifey.”

“So?”

“Well the future Viscountess of Stanebury needs to look the part.”

“Yeah, but that means walking round in a Barbour, with a shotgun under my arm and smelling of stale horse sweat.”

She burst out laughing again, “We’re not all Thelwell characters you know.”

I laughed at this and we hugged, still giggling like insane schoolgirls. I stirred the Bolognaise sauce and decided it was time to put the pasta on to boil.

“Who would be little Maudie if we were?” I asked.

“Oh, I think that would have to be Trish; I can just see her bouncing along on the back of a large overfed pony, can’t you?”

I couldn’t actually, Meems perhaps, Livvie possibly, even Billy, but not Trish. Billy—why had I said that? What am I thinking? I felt myself blushing.

“Something wrong?” asked Stella.

“No,” I replied shaking the idea from my head, “I took Billy riding this afternoon.”

“I take it he enjoyed it?”

“He wants to go again tomorrow.”

“You know he’s out polishing his new bike?”

I glanced out of the window, “That’s a novelty that won’t last.”

“Yes, but it must be nice to have a mum who can ride with him and fix his bike when he needs help.”

“Are you being sarcastic?” I asked because I couldn’t pick up on her tone.

“Strange question,” she gave me a funny look, “no, I wasn’t, I thought it was rather nice for both of you—I mean, he takes after you more than his dad.”

“What?” I gasped.

“He looks more like you than he does Simon, and he’s quieter than Danny, who is a real boy.”

“Oh my goodness—are you implying he’s a bit feminine?”

“Yeah, I suppose I am—yeah, he’s a bit girly in some ways, isn’t he?”

“Oh shit—what am I going to do?”

“Do? Do about what?”

“About Billy—he can’t stay here.”

“I thought you’d adopted him?”

“Not quite—no, he can’t stay.”

“Cathy, calm down—now what are you babbling on about?”

“I can’t have another transgender child here, someone will say something and they’ll think it’s all my fault.”

“Who said he was transgendered?”

“You did.”

“I most certainly did not, what I said was he’s a bit girly.”

“Well, that’s what they used to say about me.” I absently stirred the sauce and turned the heat down.

“In your case, you were a girl—so what’s the problem?”

“I wasn’t supposed to be though, was I? Not until you got your hands on me.”

“If I remember, a certain little boy, and he was little, told me he was taking hormones because he was growing tits—so don’t lay that one on me, missus.”

“I don’t want Billy to follow in my path.”

“He doesn’t even know, does he?”

“No—but you know what I mean—over identification in a house full of women.”

“Over identification of what?”

“The female role.”

“What about Tom and Simon, and Leon, plus Danny? They’re male, aren’t they?”

“But Simon and Leon are only here at weekends.”

“He’s in school most of the week, he’ll have plenty of role models there, plus—isn’t all this supposed to happen before he’s four years old to have a marked effect upon him?”

“Is it?”

“I think so; gender roles and identity develop quite young. I mean, when did you realise you were a girl?”

“I was four or five, I think.”

“There you go then.”

“But what if he’s gay or something?”

“So what? If he is you’ll have nothing to worry about will you?” She winked at me and realised I hadn’t thought it was funny.

“They’ll all accuse me of causing it.”

“Cathy, I thought it was pretty well proven that you can’t catch homosexuality from someone else. It isn’t a disease. It’s probably a genetic thing.”

“God, I hope so.”

“I thought you were well informed on all these things?”

“It’s different when it’s your family.”

“No it isn’t—the same mechanisms will apply, and besides, he’s your adopted child, you got him with all his baggage, and so far I think you’ve done a good job on all of them.”

“Have I? I do wonder.”

“Cathy, stop doubting yourself—you’re a good parent and excellent mother, just because you didn’t want to drive a flash motor, doesn’t mean you’re bad.”

“No, but I bought him a girl’s bike.”

“So? Does he know?”

“Yes—I had to tell him.”

“So, he’s hardly gonna catch transsexualism from a bike saddle—is he?”

“I s’pose not.”

“Here comes Simon with Julie.” Stella was looking through the kitchen window and watched Simon park his car and the two of them walk towards the house: moments later they came in through the back door and then into the kitchen.

“Hi Mummy, Auntie Stella.”

“Hello sweetheart,” I gave her a hug.

“Um—that smells good, I’m starvin’, hardly had time to do anythin’ today. I’ve done fifteen shampoos—look at me ’ands, they’re red raw.”

I passed her some hand cream, which she smoothed on to her slightly pink skin. Stella looked at me and sniggered—“Now that’s girly,” she said and I laughed as well.

“What’s so funny?” asked Simon.

“Nothing—it was something we were talking about earlier.”

“Where’s Puddin’?” he asked Stella.

“Trish and Meems were looking after her, why?”

“I wondered what they were burying in the garden—that’s all.”

“What?” she shrieked and ran down the garden.

Simon stood and roared with laughter, “Serves her right, the lazy cow.”

“What does?” I asked with a little irritation.

“She’s got one kid to look after to your six, and she dumps it on anyone she can, even a blessed six-year-old.” He looked towards Julie, “Enjoy your ride home?”

“Yeah, it was brill, Daddy.”

“See—some people in this house can appreciate a decent car when they see one.” Before I could pour half a gallon of hot sauce down his trousers, he waltzed out of the kitchen and into the lounge, followed by Julie with my hand cream.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1031

On Sunday morning, quite early—it was only eight o’clock, I took Billy for his second ride. He seemed to think he was up to it, so we went a bit longer and did fifteen miles. I also took him up on to the downs and we had to stop a couple of times for him to get his breath back. However, he kept insisting he was enjoying it. We pulled over into a car park at one of the viewpoints and stopped for a drink and some energy bars.

There were one or two cars about, presumably walkers or dog owners. We were busy admiring the view over the sea when a dog came bouncing up to greet us. Billy was initially a bit frightened but he soon relaxed when the boxer dog licked him and went bounding off back to its owner.

“Fancy seeing you here,” said a familiar voice.

I looked around and saw a familiar face, “I didn’t know you had a dog,” I said.

“Yes, dumb animal is the right description for him, too.”

“Is that Dr Sage, Mummy?”

“Yes sweetheart.”

“Good grief; you haven’t cycled out here on a Sunday morning, have you?”

“Yes, we have.”

“Good for you and your daughter, sorry I’ve forgotten your name um…”

“It’s Billy, and I’m a boy.”

“Whoops, sorry about that, I forgot your mother had boys as well. You haven’t reconsidered about the UN job, have you Cathy?”

“No, why?”

“It’s still open. I now have three professors who think you should do it.”

“I don’t have enough seniority, it requires a professor to do it.”

“They don’t seem to think so.”

“You’re not offering enough money.”

“Probably not, but it’s a hugely prestigious appointment.”

“If it was, you’d be trampled in the stampede for it.”

“Oh we’ve had several applicants, but none we consider suitable.”

“So how come I’m suitable?”

“You’ve a proven record of producing a quality product, whether it’s counting dormice and promoting their conservation, or setting up a national survey, or making a very educational but entertaining film. What you do, you do well.”

“I still have six kids to look after.”

“Employ someone to help.”

“Find someone else.”

“Have another think, Cathy. Talk it over with Tom and Simon.”

“I don’t have time.”

“I really think you should seriously consider it, I’ll email you the latest job description.”

“You sent me one before.”

“It’s changed—I’ll send it on to you.” He gathered his dumb mutt, put it in the back of his Land Rover and drove off.”

“Why did that man think I was a girl, Mummy?”

“I don’t know, kiddo—probably because he’s not used to children.”

“Is it because I was riding a girl’s bike?”

“No, sweetheart, he wouldn’t be able to tell without looking at it very closely.”

“Is it because I’m small?”

“I don’t know—does it bother you?”

“Sometimes I think you’d love me more if I was a girl.”

I put down my bike and bid him do the same, then I grabbed him and told him quite categorically, “I love you for who you are. Being a boy or a girl doesn’t make any difference to me, or to the others. We all love you.”

He hugged me and I heard and felt him sob. Why did this have to happen? Had I precipitated it? I hoped not, but perhaps I had unconsciously.

“They sometimes call me girly in school.”

“Who does?”

“Some of the kids—Danny has had fights because of it.”

“When did this start—recently?”

“No—for ages. It’s ’cos I’m small, isn’t it?”

“You’re small and delicate looking,” and very pretty for a boy, “That’s possibly why.”

“Is it nice being a girl?”

“It’s okay—yeah, I think so, but then I would, wouldn’t I?”

“Because you’re a lady?”

“Yes, but I’m sure if you asked Daddy, he’d tell you it was better being a boy.”

“People wouldn’t laugh at me if I was a girl, would they?”

“I didn’t know they laughed at you now.”

“Sometimes they do.”

“Oh, sweetie pie, I wish you’d told me.”

“So you could make me a girl?”

“No, so I could stop them teasing you.”

“They said I look like you, they saw you on the telly.”

“Who are they, Billy?” I asked hugging him.

“Boys in my school.”

“Do you know their names?”

“Yes, but if you complain, I’ll get even worse bullying. Jonathon Napier’s mum complained and he ended up in hospital, where they pushed him in front of a car.”

“Good gracious—didn’t anyone do anything about it?”

“If they did, they’d have something awful happen to them.”

“Do you want me to see if I can get you transferred to another school?”

“What, like Trish and Livvie’s school?”

“That’s a girl’s school, silly.”

“Maybe I’d be better off being a girl—Trish an’ Julie are.”

“Yes but they felt they were girls inside. They haven’t chosen to be girls because they thought life would be easier. In fact, it probably makes life harder—talk to Trish about it.”

“I have, she said I’d like their school, apart from the religion stuff.”

“You talked with Trish about attending a girl’s school?”

“Yeah—well, about her goin’ to it, an’ I said it sounds nicer than my school an’ she said I’d like it there.”

“Except you have to be a girl.”

“Maybe that’s what I shoulda been?”

My stomach began to flip over and over—in some ways our household is the safest place in the universe to ponder such things, and even try them, but what would social services say? I need to speak with Stephanie, and she needs to see this young man before he says or does something silly.

It was now nine o’clock and I called Stephanie, then asked her to hold. “If I ask Dr Stephanie to see you, would you talk to her about this?”

Billy nodded.

“Sorry Steph, look you’re not going to believe this…”

“Try me?”

“Billy is possibly wishing he was a girl.”

“Oh, not entirely surprising in your household, is it?”

“Well, I was surprised by it.”

“You must be the only one, then. So if he can’t beat ’em he wants to join ’em—is that it?”

“I think I’d like you to ask him that.”

“Okay—when d’you want me to see him?”

“When are you free?”

“I’m not, I come at huge expense—this afternoon, and the dinner had better be worth it?”

“Fish or meat?”

“Hmm—decisions, decisions—you don’t have any lamb, do you.”

“I have a leg of lamb for dinner, curiously enough.”

“You’re a bad liar, Cathy.”

“It can be arranged.”

“Say, sixish?”

“That’s fine, see you then.”

“What’s happening, Mummy?”

“Dr Stephanie is coming for dinner, and to speak with you.”

“I won’t have to wear a dress will I?”

“Not unless you want to—do you?”

“I don’t know,” he hugged me and burst into tears and it was all I could do not to follow suit. It was going to be a long ride back.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1032

Billy and I got back to the house in a reasonable time although both of us had lost the urge to improve our cycling performance. I did manage to suggest to him that when we couldn’t go out regularly, I’d set up the rollers so he could do some riding, but he wasn’t to do it without letting me know. I also pointed out that I found cycling a good way to mull things over when they worried me, and sometimes the best answer presented itself to me during the ride.

“Will I know what I want to do when we get home?”

“I don’t know sweetheart.”

“Will you know what you want me to do?”

“I already do—I want you to be happy. I personally think that would be for you to remain as a boy, but if you think you want to be a girl—then so be it. If you want to be a bit of both—that’s up to you.”

“A bit of both, Mummy?”

“Yes, you know be one or the other most of the time, going to school that sort of thing, but to sometimes be the other at home or with the others.”

“Won’t they think I’m strange?”

“It’s not as easy to cope with, but I’m sure they would because they love you.”

“I don’t know, Mummy—I don’t know what I want.”

“That’s why Dr Stephanie is coming to see us for dinner, so she can use her special skills to help you decide.”

“She won’t cut my um—you know—off will she?”

“No, that I can categorically answer—she’s a psychiatrist not a surgeon. C’mon, let’s go home,” which is what we did.

“Good ride?” asked Simon.

“Sort of.”

“What does that mean?”

“It means what I said, some of it was good.”

“You’re getting very strange in your old age, girl.”

“Little piggies have big ears.”

“Wanna talk?”

“Somewhere private—let’s go over to the bike workshop.” I told Julie to keep an eye on the others while Simon and I had a talk.

“What happened?” he asked and I explained it as best I could.

“He’s brought this up before hasn’t he?”

“Yeah, a couple of months ago.”

“So it’s obviously on his mind.”

“Yes, it’s not something the average boy talks about—but then this household is a bit different.”

“You could say that again—so, what do we do?”

“I think we listen to Stephanie’s advice and then discuss it with Billy, and if necessary with the others.”

“He didn’t want to play football with us, he rarely wants to do much in the way of rough and tumble, like Danny does or even the girls occasionally—so he is different.”

“It might just bewilder him, if he’s never done it before—it might be a step too far.”

“They’ve been here six months, I thought they had settled in.”

“They are both traumatised and dealing with lots of negatives. Sadly, even we can’t be positive all the time—real life gets in the way and if they do wrong, I have to tell them.”

Simon shrugged and nodded.

“I have to go and shower then buy a joint of lamb—I’ll see if Waitrose have any Welsh lamb.”

“Ooh, yes please, will you do roasties with it?”

“Simon, you’re getting too fat now—roast potatoes are just junk food like chips.”

“No they’re not, when you make them, they’re wonder food.”

“Fine words butter no parsnips,” I replied.

“Oh can you get some of them too?”

“I am going to shower, and see where our youngest son is—why don’t you do something with him?”

“Like what—paint his toenails?”

“Simon, that was crass. I meant like do some male bonding with him.”

“How do I do that?”

“What did your father do with you?”

“Gave me a shotgun and told me to reduce the local wildlife.”

“I don’t think we’ll be doing that—I’ll buy him a dress first.”

“I don’t know why you have such a downer on guns.”

“Have you shot anyone?”

“Course not.”

“Well when you have, come back and we’ll discuss it.”

I had my shower and after dressing and sorting my hair, I called out if anyone wanted to do some shopping with me. Trish came running up and so did Billy. It rather looked as if Simon’s male bonding with Billy hadn’t worked too well—there’s a surprise.

“Can we call in Asda, Mummy?” asked Trish.

“If you like—we can go there instead,” which is what we did. I got a trolley and as soon as we got into the store, the two of them hared off to the clothes section. By the time I caught up with them, they were going into the changing rooms with armfuls of clothing.

I stood outside with my trolley carrying some potatoes and carrots and waited. I could hear giggles from inside the cubicles—the two of them were in the same one. I’ll shoot that Trish, what is she up to?”

“They yours?” asked the girl in charge of the changing rooms.

I nodded and answered, “’Fraid so.”

“Wanna go and see what they’re up to? I’ll watch your trolley.”

I thanked her and made my way down the row of changing cubicles—they weren’t hard to find. I poked my head around the curtain and Trish squealed, then giggled. I gasped, Billy was wearing a white dress with a pattern of tiny rosebuds in pink and red over much of it. On his feet he wore red slip on shoes and behind him there were several more dresses hanging up.

“Are you sure you want to do this?” I asked him.

He blushed and nodded.

“Okay, just pick two dresses that go with the red shoes, we’ll get you some panties and camisoles and some socks.”

“May I have some tights, Mummy, like you wear?”

“If they do them small enough—okay, we’ll go and look.” He pulled off the dress and put on a red one with blue circles on it. It wouldn’t have been my choice but it went with the shoes. Trish went and hung the surplus clothing on the returns rail and Billy dressed in his jeans and top. He didn’t look very masculine at the best of times, but suddenly he looked very feminine. No wonder Gareth guessed wrong. This wasn’t going the way I expected.

“You haven’t put him up to this, have you?” I hissed at Trish.

She looked indignantly at me, “Certainly not—you can take a horse to water, but you can’t make him swim.”

“Drink,” I corrected her.

“Yes please, Mummy,” she smirked.

One of these days I’m going to murder that little madam. We got the rest of the essentials, a pair of girl’s pyjamas, some panties, some camisoles and some tights as well as a pack of short socks. I drew the line at that—I’d spent enough for something which I hoped was going to be a nine days wonder. If it wasn’t—don’t go there.

We worked our way up and down the store and of course Trish insisted we get a bracelet and a necklace plus some lip gloss and smellies for Billie, her new sister. Trish was thoroughly enjoying the exercise and Billy seemed to be happily accompanying her to his doom.

Was I being weak in not stopping this and making him wait until he’d seen Stephanie? Had Trish steamrollered him into this? So many imponderables and now they were dragging me off to the little café place for a drink—maybe a cuppa would be useful—we still have to face Simon and the others yet. Oh pooh.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1033

The kids—I nearly said, girls—had a cake and a soft drink while I sat with a small pot of tea wondering what I had just done. I had just spent nearly a hundred pounds on two dresses and red patent shoes for my son. It isn’t for a fancy dress party—so am I crazy?

Trish was jabbering like some sort of electronic game and part of me wished I could take her batteries out—just to get some peace and quiet. My head was pounding and I felt quite sick—what had I done?

Trish kept yakking on and on. “Trish, if you don’t be quiet, I shall take all this stuff back.”

She looked crestfallen, her bottom lip curled and I half-expected tears or a tantrum. Billy put his arm round her and she snuggled into him. Was it the act of a big brother or sister? Am I paranoid or are they out to get me?

I sipped my tea and took an aspirin to ease my headache. Trish stayed snuggled against Billy and they were watching me wondering if I’d burst their little bubble.

“Trish, you stay quiet please because I’m talking to Billy. Billy, do you want to keep this stuff or would you like a computer game to the same value?”

His face fell as I started this sentence and a smile rose by the end of it. Why hadn’t I thought of this before—appeal to his boy-self rather than pandering to his negative girly image. I glared at Trish, who sat and fidgeted with her shoe to avoid eye contact with me.

Billy sat looking at me, presumably trying to work out what I wanted him to say, which was not at all what I wanted him to do. “Look, say what you feel—I won’t be cross either way. Don’t say something to please me if it isn’t what you really, really want, and that goes for pleasing Trish as well. Which would you prefer, to keep all this girly stuff or look for a computer game?”

Trish stopped playing with her shoe and crossed her arms and sighed. Her bottom lip was curled over in a wonderful pout—she was far from pleased with my stand against her having a full size Barbie doll.

Billy looked at her as if to ask what to do, then he looked at me.

“Look why don’t you go for a little walk around the café and think by yourself. There are no right or wrong answers—I won’t be cross with you which ever you choose. So off you go, Trish and I will have a little chat while you’re gone.”

He was reluctant to go by himself, but eventually he did. Trish pouted again, she was expecting a telling off, and she wasn’t disappointed. “I don’t know who was responsible for this trying and buying surge this morning, but I need Billy to show me that it’s what he wants, because if it isn’t it could cause him real problems later on.”

She pouted and I saw her eyes moisten. I expected her to protest but she didn’t.

“I know you’re only trying to help him, but he has to make his own decisions and in his own time—even if he is transgendered it has to be his realisation not your encouragement. Do you understand?”

She nodded and tears rolled down her cheeks.

I held out my arms and she came and sat on my lap and sobbed, “I’m sorry, Mummy, I thought it was what he wanted.”

“It might still be, but you have to learn not to steamroller people—not everyone has your strength of mind—do you understand?”

She nodded and dried her eyes on her hankie. Billy returned and seeing her sitting on my lap with her hankie in her hand, his face changed to one of concern.

“It’s my fault not Trish’s.”

“What is?” I asked trying to remain calm and neutral.

“It was my idea,” he blushed and looked at the floor.

“What was?”

“Trying on a dress.”

“So?”

“I thought you were blaming Trish.”

“I wasn’t blaming anyone—I’m not looking to blame anyone, I’m trying to give you the chance to be happy, whichever way you want to go. Do you understand what I’m trying to say?”

“I think so, Mummy.” He looked me in the eye and then rushed forward and hugged me, then burst into tears. Oh boy, I suppose we could have picked a better place for all this—like in the baked beans aisle. People were starting to look, but I glared back at them.

“What is she doing to those two girls?” said one deaf old biddy to her equally deaf friend.

“Come along, let’s finish the shopping while you decide what you want to do.” I gave him a tissue and picked up my handbag.

Trish began to push the trolley and we headed off to the butchery section to pick up a leg of lamb and some fresh mint from the greengrocery. Half an hour later, we were standing in the queue to pay with Billy holding one of my hands and Trish clinging on the other, when Billy said, “I’ve decided, Mummy.”

“Shall we wait until we get outside and we can have some privacy?”

“Okay, Mummy.”

I felt Trish squeeze my hand, not in affection but in her tenseness. She glanced at Billy and I knew what she was wanting him to decide. He however, looked straight ahead as if he needed to keep a set idea in his head or he’d lose his resolve. I think I knew what he was going to say but I tried to stay neutral.

I paid at the checkout and we all three pushed the heavily laden trolley with its wayward front wheels towards where I thought I’d parked the car. Then all three of us helped to unload the shopping into the back of Tom’s Mondeo.

“Trish, would you please sit in the car and watch the shopping, while Billy and I take the trolley back?”

She huffed and puffed, but after I gave her a hard stare, she accepted her fate and got in the car.

I let Billy push the empty trolley back to the collection point and he redeemed my pound coin and handed it to me.

“So, you’ve made your decision?” I asked him.

He nodded, “Yes Mummy.”

We were facing away from the car.

“And this is what you really want to do?”

“Yes, Mummy.”

“Are you quite sure?”

“Yes, Mummy.”

“Okay, what is it?”

“You’re not going to be cross with me?”

“Why should I be cross?”

“Because I want to be a lady like you.”

I felt this coldness in the pit of my stomach—that wasn’t the answer I was expecting. He cheated—he was supposed to say if he wanted to keep the clothes or have a computer game instead. This wasn’t fair, bloody kids they don’t play by the rules.

I tried desperately not to show my hurt, because I didn’t think he was gender confused, I was sure he was trying to increase his place in my life by becoming more like me or like people he thought I loved more than him—girls. Where had we gone wrong—or had I gone wrong?

“So you want to keep the clothes?”

“Yes please, Mummy.”

“Are you absolutely sure?”

He burst into tears—why does he keep throwing me like this?

“What’s the matter, sweetheart?” I put my arm around him.

“You don’t want me to, do you?” he sniffed.

“I don’t mind one way or the other,” I lied, “if it makes you happy, that’s all that counts.”

“Thank you, Mummy,” he said as we walked back to the car where an expectant Trish sat watching us through the window.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1034

“What did you decide?” Trish pressed her older bro—um—sister?

“I want to be a girl,” Billy said quietly, then repeated more loudly and confidently, “Yes, I want to be a girl.”

“Yay,” shouted Trish and nearly hugged him to death—um, hugged her? This was doing my head in, as they say in some circles.

I got them to belt up—their seat belts—what else? Then I drove home with them jabbering together in the back. I planned a quick lunch and then to tidy up a bit before Stephanie arrived.

“Are you going to wear one of your dresses to see Stephanie?” I asked Billy.

“Um—I dunno, what’ya think, Mummy?”

“That’s entirely up to you, darling.”

“What d’ya think, Trish?” he asked her.

“Oh yeah, I think you should.” Well she would, wouldn’t she?

“Don’t you interfere now, Trish—this has to be Billy’s decision, not yours. I think we all know what you think.”

She sat back and huffed, her arms crossed angrily across her chest. We were heading for a clash as she was too young to understand how imperative it was for Billy to make his own decisions about this. I sometimes get the impression that she’d like everyone to be female.

“We’ll tell everyone over lunch that Billy may be wearing dresses on occasion—I don’t think anyone will have too many problems with it, but if they do, they have to be heard as well. You two understand?”

“Yes, Mummy,” came in unison from the back seat.

“We don’t know what Danny is going to think about this.”

“Why shouldn’t he like it, Mummy?” asked Trish.

“Because he’s going to be in an even smaller minority than before: that can be threatening to some people.”

“He’ll be okay,” voiced Billy.

“How d’you know?” I asked him.

“’Cos I told it ’im I might, an’ ’e thinks it’s okay.”

I wasn’t as convinced and until I’d heard it from the horse’s mouth, I’d remain healthily sceptical.

We got home and Simon and Tom were talking and looking at the garden, Leon was standing with them and the two younger girls were playing dolls on the lawn. They rushed up to see us, “Did ya get one?” squealed Livvie.

“Course she did,” answered Trish and they high fived, then Livvie and Billy did and I began to wonder if I was being controlled by a conspiracy. They all ran off squealing into the house with Billy and Trish carrying the clothing bags.

“What’s all that about?” asked Simon.

“I’m not entirely sure—but I might have been had.”

“Oh—in what way?”

“If I say those bags contain two cotton dresses and some shoes, and they’re too big to fit Trish or Livvie, I think you’ll understand my drift.”

“He’s done it then?” asked Danny.

“Done what?” I asked playing dumb.

“Joined your lot—he said he might.”

“Oh did he now? Come and have a little chat with me, Danny.” I walked him over to the bike shed and shut the door after us. “So when did he say this?”

“Oh ages ago.”

“How did he say it?”

“I think he said he was fed up with being a boy and wondered what being a girl would be like.”

“Go on…”

“Not much else to tell, they’re always calling him a sissy or a girly, so he’s taken their advice.”

“And what d’you think about it—I mean if he does start dressing like a girl?”

“So long as he don’t expect me to fancy ’im, ’sokay with me—free country, innit?”

“You’re not worried by him changing sides, so to speak?”

“Nah, not at all, s’long as they don’t want me to become one as well—then I might get a bit cross, like.”

“Good man, I know it’s too early to get you some new football boots, we’ll wait until September for that, but how about some new trainers?”

“Oh yeah, Mum, that’d be fab. Could I have some new shorts, too?”

“I expect so, we’ll get some next weekend.”

“Kewl, can I ’ave Nikes.”

“Let’s see what’s available shall we?”

“Yeah great, thanks Mum.” He gave me a kiss and a hug then ran off into the garden. I noticed he had changed his form of address to me to a more grown up form.

I struggled with the shopping back to the house only to be confronted with Billy in the white flowery dress, his hair in pig tails and it looked as if someone had been at my makeup—because I don’t remember buying him any mascara.

He did a twirl for me, and I nodded and said, “Yes, very pretty, young lady—are you going to show the others?”

“Um—d’you think I should?” He blushed very red.

“They’ll have to see you sooner or later, won’t they?”

“Will you come with me, Mummy?”

“C’mon then, because I have lunch to get.” I escorted him out to the others who were still talking and looking at the garden, as if it was an on-site planning meeting. “Excuse me, gents, this young lady is, our daughter, Billie.”

Leon’s eyebrows went up a fraction but that was all. “Pretty dress, is it new?” asked Simon as if breaking the ice.

“Yes, Daddy, I’m glad you like it.”

“Did you choose it?”

“Um—yes, with some help from Trish and Mummy.” I stood behind her and rolled my eyes.

“Gi yer Granpaw a wee hug then, lassie,” Tom held out his arms. She ran to him and he lifted her off the ground. “Did ye dae yer own makeup?” he asked her.

“No, Trish helped me.”

How did I know that was coming, “And Livvie did my hair. D’you like it?”

“Och ye look bonny, so ye dae.”

While they were all talking I got the rest of the shopping in. I was inches from the door when Julie appeared and she wasn’t trying to swallow Leon’s tongue—had they fallen out?

“Hello, sweetheart, grab the door for me, will you?”

She did and when I asked where she’d been, she’d been shaving her legs—then I noticed she was wearing very short shorts.

“Shouldn’t you be wearing tights with those?” I asked her.

“Too hot, Mummy.”

“I’m going to need some help with tidying round after lunch—Stephanie’s coming.”

“Who she gonna see this time—Trish, I s’pose?”

“No, your new sister, Billie.”

“Who—oh shit, he’s done it then?”

“Done what?”

“Decided to become a girl—attention seekin’ twit.”

“What d’you mean?”

“Nothin’, why?”

“Because this is important, what did you mean?”

She sighed and shrugged, “Well he’s jealous of us girls an’ he thinks it’s easier to be a girl. Typical bloody boy.”

“If that’s the case, he may not last the course.”

“I’m pretty sure he won’t.

“Stephanie is the expert.”

“You like, think so?”

“Yes, don’t you?”

She gave me a knowing smile and shrugged before walking out to join the others in the garden.

Trish came racing down the stairs—“I thought I asked you not to adversely affect him.”

“I didn’t affect him, Mummy—that was his genes.”

“Were they too tight?” I joked.

“No, Mummy, his genetic code—his genes.”

“Ah, his chromosomes.”

“At last,” she muttered and sighed, “yes, those ones…” she walked on out of the kitchen to see the others muttering, “Some bloody biologist…”

The Daily Dormouse Part 1035

I have never had this sort of trouble with dormice, I thought as I made lunch. At least I didn’t have to make any formal announcement—Billie had sort of done that, albeit without much subtlety.

I was putting the lamb into the oven after lunch when I had a horrible thought; if Billie goes girly then I can hardly let him sleep with Danny. Oh shit, that means I lose the spare room. I won’t say anything for the moment but if there is a problem, I’ll have to split them up.

The dinner was cooking nicely, although Julie, and the girls had worked well to help me get the place looking inhabited before Stephanie arrived. I spotted her drive her Mazda sports car into the drive and park next to the Mondeo. She had a little look at Simon’s Jaguar, then came up to the house.

Trish had also spotted her because she flung open the door and dashed out to meet her. I don’t think I ever did that to any psychiatrist I knew. Obviously the innocence of youth—or Trish is scheming again?—little monster.

I met Stephanie as soon as she came into the house and she presented me with a bottle of wine, “My contribution to the repast,” she smiled. I thanked her and asked her if she wanted to eat or see Billie first.

“Can the food wait for half an hour?” she asked.

“Certainly.”

“I’ll see our newest patient first then, if that’s okay—then I can relax.”

“Fine, Tom is still playing with his vegetable patch, so you can use his study. I’ll stick a notice on the door for you not to be disturbed.”

“Sounds good.”

“Want a drink of anything first? Tea, coffee, soft drink, water, booze?”

“Water sounds fine, it’s warm in the car.”

“Yes, but this may be all the summer we get, so enjoy it.”

“Oh, I will.”

“Here’s the study, organise it as you wish—oh, Billie decided this morning that he wants to dress in girly mode—so I got him a dress. Unsurprisingly, Trish was an enthusiastic supporter of his transformation.”

Stephanie rolled her eyes, “There’s a surprise.”

“Exactly, anyway, here’s your water, I shall go and find my newest daughter.”

“Cathy?”

“Yes?”

“He doesn’t know about you, does he?”

“I don’t think so, but I can’t be certain.”

“Okay, I’ll maintain the status quo then.”

Billie was sitting with Livvie and Trish who were calming her down. I’m still not at all sure about this latest convert to the cause, but I suppose I should do the courtesy of employing the appropriate pronoun depending upon how he/she is dressed.

I’m beginning to appreciate why some employers say they’ll accept one change but not a flitting to and fro. I beckoned Billie to accompany me to Tom’s study and I knocked on the door. On entering, I introduced Billie as my newest daughter, and then left them to it. I went back to the kitchen for a very long half-hour wait.

I washed and chopped the mint leaves with a knife and began making the mint sauce. I suppose I was unconsciously monitoring my actions because I would otherwise have cut some of my fingers off.

I heard the study door open and Billie shot past me and upstairs. I wondered if something went wrong and was deciding whether I demanded to know what had happened when Stephanie called me from the study.

“Why did she rush upstairs?”

“I asked her to stay by herself until I’d spoken to you.”

“Oh, that sounds ominous.”

“Not really, I didn’t want her gossiping with Trish and Co until I’d spoken with you.”

“Okay—do we have a diagnosis?”

Stephanie looked past me and at the door, which to my thinking meant she was going to be evasive to try and hurry her way through it.

“Yes and no.”

“Surely you either have or haven’t?”

“Cathy, you of all people should understand the imprecisions of the art of psychiatry.”

“Whatever happened to science?”

“Playing with disturbed or damaged minds is a far from perfect science.”

“Can I have that in writing?” I cheeked back.

“If you’re looking for a reduction in fee—tough.”

“I had a feeling that might be your response.”

“I’m pleased I didn’t disappoint—people these days can’t seem to cope with rejection.”

“So, let’s have it then—your imperfect diagnosis.”

She glared at me. “Billie is transgendered, I have no doubt of that. Whether she’s a full-on transsexual such as Julie or Trish—I have some doubts.”

“Is there any way of removing those doubts?”

“In a longer term study, yes.”

“How long?”

“…Is a piece of string?”

“Oh great,” I sighed—just what I needed, “dinner’s practically ready, so if you are?”

“Yes, we’ll talk of this again—oh did you know he was sexually abused?”

“Before he came here I hope?”

“Natch—when he was about three years old.”

“God—that makes my blood boil.”

“Well, before you have a stroke how about you serve my dinner.” She smiled sweetly at me and I glowered at her before returning to the kitchen to dish up. As I turned to leave, she fired off a salvo, “I’m glad you’re not one of my patients—bottling up resentment isn’t good for you, you know.”

“Yeah—tell me about it.”

At dinner, Tom carved the meat and I ladled vegetables on everyone’s plate. The meat was delicious, even if it was New Zealand lamb, which is okay but not quite as good as Welsh. Never mind, everyone ate far too much and a few imbibed too much as well.

I kept looking at Billie wondering exactly what was going on in her little head. She looked quite feminine at the moment, but puberty can’t be too far away—then all sorts of strange things might happen. I wish I knew how best to help her—but if a professional like Stephanie was unsure how to proceed, what chance did I have? Tomorrow, I was going to have a visit to the university and do some dormouse correlations—I’m losing touch with my roots and my other needs, which I ignore at my peril.

After dinner had officially finished—we’d got to the stage where everyone was picking bits of meat out of their fillings and drinking wine or coffee. The kids had been dismissed except Julie and Stephanie addressed us.

“I told Cathy that I wasn’t sure what pigeonhole applied to Billie. However, for the moment we go with the transgender path and I think allow her to dress in female garb whenever the mood takes her.”

“So—is she like, transsexual then?” asked Julie.

“I don’t know yet, but there are a number of issues which need resolving and she’ll need support for from all of you. If they are resolved, her original boy identity might resurface and dominate—but it’s not certain—these things tend to make themselves up as they go along.”

I sighed to myself—that’s all I bloody well need.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1036

I excused myself from the table to organise the kids for bed. It took me nearly an hour and when I came back they were all still sitting at the table talking. I crashed about in the kitchen loading the dishwasher and then asked if anyone wanted tea or coffee—they all did. So I ended up making those as well.

“You’ve missed an interesting conversation, Cathy,” offered Stella.

“Oh did I? Well it’s the maid’s night off so I had to cover,” I riposted sarcastically, which rolled off Stella’s back like water off a duck.

“Have we got any more milk?” asked Stella.

“Why don’t you go and look in the fridge?” I said sweetly back to her, and the look she gave me was very queer, but she rose and went to the kitchen. I was very tempted to say something very nasty.

“By the way, Simon, I’m going back to work next week so everyone except the children will have to do their own catering, washing, cleaning and so on.”

It was the wrong thing to say. Simon spat coffee all over the table—thankfully not my grandmother’s tablecloth, but it’s still likely to mark the table. “You’re going back to work?” he looked horrified.

“What about the kids?”

“I shall continue to look after Daddy and the kids, but I’m fed up with being treated by everyone as the housekeeper.”

Julie and Stella said nothing. Julie blushed and Stella got up and left her coffee behind, shutting the door loudly as she left.

“Why don’t you get someone in?” asked Stephanie.

“Why should I have to do it? I do more or less everything here, and I’ve decided I’m not going to any longer.”

“Fine—just bear in mind you don’t need a family upset while Billie is trying to decide who she is.”

“I’ll continue to support all my children.”

“So is it just Stella, you were getting at?” asked Stephanie.

“Not entirely, Julie could do a great deal more than she does.”

“I thought she was, is this true Julie?” asked Simon.

“I do most of the ironing,” the teen replied.

“Is that all? I’m paying you fifty quid a week to help your mother.” Simon became a little more agitated.

“I do anything else she asks me to—don’t I, Mummy?”

“You don’t exactly look for things to do though, do you?”

“I don’t like to get in your way.”

My jaw almost dropped at this—like Stella, she is a lazy lummox who’d prefer to daydream and paint her nails rather than waste any energy on housework.

Stephanie sniggered and I glared at her. She was my guest so I couldn’t say much at all and besides, she had done me a favour, or perhaps Billie, so I tried to keep calm. Julie made a tactical withdrawal soon after and Tom yawned and went off to his study for his nightly nip of single malt.

“Whose fault is it that they let you get on with things?” asked Stephanie, “Because it sounds as if you’re your own worst enemy—a common enough occurrence with women; especially those who think they are irreplaceable.”

“I thought part of the reason for keeping Julie here was to help you?” Simon looked quite irritated.

“You’re here at weekends, do you see her doing much?” I asked him.

“No, but then she’s working at the salon.”

“She doesn’t do any more in the week than she does at weekends, and Stella is a waste of space.”

“She’s always been lazy around the house—too high a caste for menial work.” Simon sniggered at his own joke.

“I know I’m not a blue blood like you lot, but I assumed marrying you brought me up to equal status, or is this a delusion of mine?”

“Princess Di married the heir to the throne, but she was never accepted as a member of the royal family, was she?” Stephanie observed.

“I think that’s a bit different, Steph,” Simon observed, “Princess Di didn’t do the cooking or clean the place, they have an army of flunkies to do that.”

“So why not get someone to help Cathy?”

“Steph, we’ve talked about this ad nauseum, I’ve offered to pay and she doesn’t do anything about it.”

“So why don’t you?” Stephanie challenged him.

“Because the person who’d be supervising it is Cathy. I didn’t know how to switch on the washing machine the other week—had to get Trish to show me.”

“But you’re agreeable to funding it?” asked Stephanie and Simon nodded. “So what about it Cathy, get someone in to help?”

“Okay, I’ll organise a job description with the others—Stella can also contribute to the job description but it will cost her: she can help with the funding.”

“Is she working these days?”

“No,” Simon replied very sharply, “but she’s got her own income—so it’s not like she can’t afford it.”

“I was wondering more about her needing someone to help.”

“To do what? She’s such a lazy bitch, she takes all day to do bugger all.” Simon was on his soapbox.

“She does babysit now and again when I have to go out or take one of the kids somewhere,” I offered in mitigation.

“And that takes her all day?” Simon had used his soapbox to mount his high horse.

“She does have her baby to look after.”

“Cathy, what are you doing? You accuse her then defend her—what is it you actually want?” Simon now turned his guns on me.

Perhaps I’d asked for it—I no longer knew. All I wanted now was to go to bed and sleep—and if I didn’t wake up in the morning, that would suit me just fine—then they’d miss me—but only until they found some other sucker.

“I think I’d better go, it’s getting late.”

“The spare room is made up, if you’d like to stay,” I told her.

“I—um—don’t like to put you to any trouble.”

“Yeah, stay Steph, I’ll open another bottle of wine or would you like a brandy?”

“That would be nice, are you having one Cathy?”

Simon roared at Stephanie’s query, “She hardly drinks at all—except copious quantities of tea.”

I blushed—I just wanted my bed, now through my own fault, I was going to have to stay up longer. I yawned and showed my tiredness.

“You look all in, why don’t you go to bed?” Stephanie suggested, “I’m sure Simon can show me to the spare room.”

“Okay, I’ll leave a nightdress on the bed with a toothbrush, some towels and some clean panties.”

“Goodness, you are organised,” she gasped, “In my house you’d need to make the bed first.”

“I did it while I was upstairs, so it’s all aired.”

“Go to bed then, it will be interesting to see how they all interact at breakfast.”

“What the kids or the adults?” I asked her and she mimed, ‘both.’

I kissed them both goodnight and went to sort out some stuff for Stephanie: a nightie and so on. When I passed Stella’s room—the door was ajar and neither she nor Puddin’ were there. Her handbag was missing and the bed hadn’t been slept in. I switched on the light.

Attached to her pillow was one of those semi sticky label things. The message was short: ‘I know when I’m not wanted, goodbye.’

I snatched it off the pillow and ran downstairs to show the others.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1037

“Looks a bit juvenile to me,” said Stephanie glancing at the note.

“She has a history of suicide and parasuicides.”

“How can she have a history of suicide? It’s something you only do once.”

“Stephanie, she very nearly died which was what she intended, I interrupted it by chance and she nearly didn’t make it.”

“And some less convincing ones?”

“No they’ve been mainly for real, I’ve stopped it twice.”

“Where’s the baby?” asked Simon.

“She’s gone too,” I felt sick with worry.

“Okay, search the house from top to bottom—I’ll go and look outside.” Simon didn’t so much spring into action as lurch, he got his foot caught between the table leg and his chair and nearly fell over.

I rushed up the stairs—I knew she wasn’t in the guest room, but I checked anyway. Then looked in the girl’s room and Tom’s—he was in bed reading, when I explained he jumped out of bed and started to dress.

I looked in her room again, even opening the wardrobe in case this was a wind up—she wasn’t there.

I checked all the other rooms—she wasn’t in the house, as far as I could tell. Me and my stupid big mouth, why couldn’t I have just ignored her like I usually do? It was doubly stupid to have acted up in front of Stephanie of all people—now she’ll know what a nutter I am.

“Her car’s still there,” said Simon coming back inside.

“So she’s on foot?” I deduced.

“Well who’s a regular Sherlock bloody Holmes?” Simon could be quite cruel when the mood took him.

“Don’t be like that,” I pouted.

“Well, duh, like she levitated and flew off like Superman—did you check to see if her cape and red wellies were still here?”

“Si, don’t be silly—this could be serious—there’s a baby involved.”

“I know there’s a friggin’ baby involved, if it was just looking for that stupid cow, I’d have left her to come to her senses and come crawling back after a night on the back doorstep—but a baby is different: not that she’s fit to care for one.”

“She’s quite a good mother,” I protested.

“Yeah, sure she is, only good mothers use their babies as blackmail collateral.”

By this time, Tom had dressed and come down to help. “Weel, any news?”

“No Daddy, she’s still missing, with Puddin’.”

“Hae ye called thae polis?”

“Not yet.”

“If she’s no foond in an hoor, we call them—richt?”

“Aye,” I sighed lapsing into Lallans myself.

“Cathy, you and Stephanie stay here in case she comes back, we’ll go and search the outbuildings and orchards.”

“I wonder if she took her mobile?” I suddenly thought.

“Yeah call her up and bollock her some more and then if she tops herself we can go to bed.”

“Simon, stop acting so spitefully, you don’t mean it,” I chided him and he waved his arms about protesting at his sister’s stupidity.

“I don’t think she’s being stupid,” Stephanie said quietly, “After all she has you all running round like headless chickens, because she knows you will. It’s juvenile but clever juvenile.”

“So what should we do?” I asked.

“Have you her mobile number?”

I knew it by heart and gave it to Stephanie who dialled it—“It’s ringing.”

There was a response.

“I’m glad you picked it up Stella, this is Stephanie—yes I’m still here, I’m staying the night. Okay, before you do hang up—Puddin’ is safe and well? Oh good, please don’t do anything that would put her at risk, will you? Yes I know you wouldn’t, but my responsibility as a doctor is to make sure you won’t.”

They chatted for a moment or two longer, then Stephanie said in a matter of fact way, “Look why don’t you come back and we can discuss it—I promise to chair it and yes, Cathy and Simon will refrain from sniping at you—or I’ll exclude them.”

“Please come back Stella,” I shouted at the phone, now with tears streaming down my face. “It’s all my fault.”

Stephanie waved at me to shut up, “Okay then, we’ll see you in five or ten minutes.”

I ran upstairs and dug my night vision glasses out and hiding behind the curtain in my bedroom, scanned the driveway to get a clue as to where she was. She snuck out of my bike shed—probably the only place Simon didn’t check because it’s usually locked.

I probably wouldn’t have checked it too carefully either, because she never goes in there. I dashed downstairs: the key was missing from its usual place on the key rack. I’ll bet she hangs on to it in case she wants to disappear again. I’ve a good mind to add a staple and hasp lock and keep all the keys.

But that attitude wasn’t going to solve anything was it? I needed to be conciliatory and work towards safety for Puddin’, so I’d bite my tongue and keep my thoughts to myself.

She came in five minutes later. The dining table was cleared and Stephanie sat at a place in the middle of the far side. She made us sit around the table with the neutral Tom nearest to where Stella would sit.

Stella entered the dining room and placed Puddin’ on the sofa: she was fast asleep and hopefully would remain so until this was resolved. If necessary, I could run from the table and intercept her with the baby to stop her running off again. I sincerely hoped it wouldn’t be necessary because she’d never forgive me.

For the next hour, Stephanie drew up comments from all of us as to what we thought the problem was and how to solve it. Next, she drew up a list of the most important items and got me to type them up and print off a copy for everyone. I did as I was asked—knowing full well I was responding to stereotype again—for the sake of getting to bed before it got any later.

She then went through the five main topics and made sure we were all agreed that they were the most important ones. We did.

“Right, now this becomes a contract and I want you to sign every copy—that’s right each other’s copy too. I’m well aware this isn’t a legally binding document but it does give you a framework to use to understand each other, and because you signed each copy, none of you can claim it was a trick or anything.

“Might I suggest we all now adjourn to our beds?”

As Stella picked up her baby, I spoke to her, “Look, I’m sorry for what I said, but I was very tired.”

“So that makes it all right then, does it?” she snapped back at me.

“No, but I wanted to apologise, if you don’t wish to accept it, that’s up to you.” I turned to walk out of the room and she gripped my arm.

“Look, I think we’re all a bit fraught, how about we start again—as the sisters we are?”

“I’d like that,” I said and hugged her.

In return she handed me Puddin’ to have a little cuddle and the little angel stayed asleep.

I thanked Stephanie, who told me she’d stick it on the bill. I smirked and pointed at Simon. She smiled back at me and nodded.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1038

The next morning I awoke and lay watching Simon sleeping: he looked so peaceful and even innocent. How could I ever doubt him? More importantly, how could he not trust me—after all, I’d saved his miserable neck a couple of times—so he owed me.

I chuckled at the thought—he didn’t owe me anything. He’d actually saved me a few times too, by having the strength to overcome his prejudices to love me. Stella had been a tower of strength and so had Tom. I’d done lots for them, but they had for me too. Stella might be a lazy cow around the house, but she did bump start my whole career in womanhood, both literally and metaphorically.

When I thought about the other members of my family, Trish, Livvie and Meems, plus Danny and Billie and Julie—they had all taught me something about life and possibly about myself as well. I was still worried about Billie or Billy or whoever he wanted to be—I’m not sure what transgender means, because I don’t know if it actually means anything at all, it’s such a nebulous sort of term.

All I knew was that he or she was tucked up in bed wearing a nightie with pink bunnies on it—which shows what a poor biologist I really am—maybe Trish was right the other day, some bloody biologist?

Of course she’s as pleased as punch because it makes her less of a weirdo if everyone else is changing gender—maybe it is contagious? I edged away from Simon—I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. I see people making declarations on Gay and TG websites, ‘proud to be whatever.’ I don’t know if I believe them. I’m not proud to be anything but female or even human or myself or foster or adopted mum to my children, wife to Simon and adopted daughter to Tom.

I’m not proud to have been transsexual, neither am I ashamed of it—it just is or was and I always saw it as a temporary thing that I passed through. Perhaps I’m deluding myself—as I can never be a normal woman—whatever one of those is. Stella is, but she’s far from normal—I hope, because I can’t say I’d particularly want to be like her, except the ability to have children—and that is a temporary situation, which only lasts about thirty years. Okay, it’s a long temporary situation.

Aw shit, I’m going to get up; lying here musing just makes me get all maudlin. I slipped out of bed and went downstairs. I was sitting in the kitchen watching the clock tick round drinking a cup of tea and enjoying the solitude when the pink bunny wearer complete with fluffy slippers came down and intruded into my privacy.

“Mummy,” she came and sat on my lap, “I’ve been thinking…” which probably means Trish has been sowing seeds again.

“What have you been thinking?”

“About my name.”

“You’re very lucky to have a name which can be a boy’s or girl’s.”

“I’m not sure I think so—an’ it’s not very feminine.”

“Well I can see one immediate advantage.”

“Can you, Mummy?”

“Yes, if you keep it the same no one will call you by the wrong name, will they? I’d have thought that was the sort of thing which could give the game away, don’t you?”

“I hadn’t thought of that, but what about those people who already know me—they might recognise me if they hear my name is the same.”

“They might recognise you anyway—unless you change your appearance dramatically.”

“How could I do that, Mummy?”

“Change hair colour and style, choose what clothing you wear to make you look taller or shorter or fatter or thinner.”

“What, stuff a cushion down my knickers?”

“That would make you different and pregnant-looking.”

“Ugh—I hated it when my previous mummy was pregnant.”

“Why was that?”

“She was always sick and then she got so fat and I knew she wouldn’t love me any more when she had a new baby.”

“How old were you then?”

“Four, I think and then she died and they saved the baby.”

“So who looks after the baby?”

“My dad I s’pose.”

“But he couldn’t look after you too?”

“I did something horrible Mummy.” He began to cry.

I hugged him to me, “Hey, now nothing can be that bad.”

“It was, Mummy.”

“Do you want to tell me about it?”

“If I do, you won’t love me anymore.”

“Isn’t that for me to decide?—and I thought we’d all agreed that we’d all love each other no matter what.”

“You might not love me when you find out.”

“What could you have done that was so horrible that you are frightened to share with me?”

“It’s very bad, Mummy.”

“If you don’t want to tell me—that’s okay.”

“I was a bad boy, Mummy.”

“Okay, but you’re a good one now, or maybe even a good girl, now.” I wondered if he was going to tell me about the sexual abuse—sometimes it screws kids up so much they believe they must have provoked or caused it. I wasn’t sure that I really wanted to hear the fine detail unless it helps him to reframe it.

“I killed my previous mummy.”

I wasn’t expecting that—so what do I do, wait for a full confession and call the police? “What makes you think that?”

“When she was having my little brother, I told God I wanted them both to die.” And they did, QED?

“What makes you think you caused it to happen?”

“I did, I was a wicked boy and I should have died too.”

“I don’t think it works like that, Billie—besides, if it did, God must have been having an off day because the baby was born anyway.”

“I prayed for it to happen and it did the next day.”

“Why did you want your mummy dead?”

“Because she was going to have my baby brother and I didn’t want anyone to share her.”

“So it was jealousy?”

He shrugged and continued sobbing.

“If you had caused your other mummy to die, and I don’t think for one minute that you did, how could we let her know that you’re sorry?”

“We can’t, she died.”

“What if I have a way we could do it, would you like to do that?”

“Oh yes.”

“Is that why you want to be a girl—because the boy you, did something dreadful?”

“Dunno,” she shrugged.

“Did something bad happen to you, Billie?”

“My uncle played with me and made me play with his willie until some white stuff squirted out the end of it.”

“What did you think of that?”

“It was, like, totally yucky—I mean, I never have white stuff squirt out of mine, it was only his that did it.”

“I think all men’s willies do it, Billie, did he make you do it again?”

“Yeah, loads of times—an’ he used to play with mine but it never squirted though it would go hard and feel funny. Then he put his finger up my bum and I squealed and Daddy came in. They had a tri’ffic row and I never saw him again—he told Daddy that I liked him to touch me.”

“So he told lies.”

“Yes and Daddy believed him—I was sent away after that.”

“I see. Billie, I don’t think you did anything wrong either to your mother or to your uncle. I believe your mother died just of complications in childbirth, it happens sometimes, and as for your uncle—he doesn’t sound a very nice man.”

“How can I tell my old mummy I’m sorry?”

“We’ll write her a letter and burn it—I’m assured it goes straight to wherever she is now.”

“But she’s dead, Mummy.”

“Doesn’t matter, for an important letter like this, the angels deliver it personally.” I didn’t believe it but she might.

“Can we do it, Mummy?”

“Of course, sweetheart.”

So that was what we did. She wrote a short note and the two of us went up the garden to the bonfire site and I took some matches. We set fire to the letter and watched the smoke go up into the sky. Then we hugged and came back in and had some breakfast.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1039

As we ate, I tried to learn a little more about Billie’s original home life—when I thought about it I felt guilty. I tended to think more in terms of getting Danny and her into our routine, rather than understanding what hers had been. Maybe I wasn’t such a wonderful mother after all?

“When did you go into the home, sweetheart?”

“When I was four I think, they put me into nursery class.”

“And your father did this?”

“He said I was a bad influence on my younger brother.”

“And you were four?”

“Yes, I think so.”

“So you were at the children’s home longer than you were with your dad?”

She counted on her fingers, “Yes.”

“Did you like it at the home?”

“My dad’s home? I can’t remember—the other place was okay, they like looked after you, but not as well as you and Daddy do.”

“So you’d still like us to adopt you?”

“Oh yes please, Mummy—I want to be your daughter, like Trish and Livvie and Mima are.”

“I see. For the moment, I think we’ll have to keep the daughter bit our little secret, so you’ll still have to go to school as a boy. Then if you still want to be a girl, we’ll see about things after the summer holiday. Dr Stephanie will have had a better chance to assess your needs as well, so we’ll all know what to do a bit more by then.”

“I don’t want to go back to being a boy, Mummy.”

“I’m sorry, sweetheart, but we don’t have a choice. We need to handle this very carefully or the social services people will be trying to take you away—thinking I’m trying to corrupt you or something equally nasty.”

She pouted at me, but I thought I needed to set some firm boundaries about how we were going to do this. I still felt that the girly stuff was based more on need for attention and affection than an identity thing, in which case it would soon fade.

I thought I’d better have a chat with Nora Cunningham, to see if there’s any history of this with Billie—I wondered if she was in today. Billie and I roused the others, and I helped the girls shower each other and dry their hair. I left them to dress themselves.

Billie grumbled about having to be a boy again, and I agreed she could stay home today—but only today. I asked Simon to call the school while we took the girls in to their school. On the drive there, I had to tell Trish and Livvie to stop the hard sell to Billie.

“And who is this young lady?” asked Sister Maria, probably fully aware of the truth of the matter.

“This is my sister, Billie,” gushed Trish.

“And would you like to show her over the school?”

Before I could say anything, Trish and Livvie had dragged her off and Sister Maria had invited me to her office. “I’m not sure how to ask this, but wasn’t Billie Trish’s brother, when I last saw her?”

“Um—yes, a few things have happened since then.”

“So I see.”

I explained what had happened in a quick précis, and Sister Maria looked aghast and shook her head. “So that little darlin’ has had to cope with rejection from her dad, and blaming herself with killing her mother, and was abused by her uncle—bejabers, Lady Cameron, you do know how to pick ’em.”

“I was horrified when she said she wanted to be a girl. I mean, what are social services going to say if they find out? They’re going to think I’m some sort of pervert who feminises boys.”

“Surely with Dr Cauldwell’s help you can prove that you’re doing what is required of a caring and compassionate foster mum?”

“If it comes to that, I hope so too. I did contact her as soon as I heard what Billie wanted to do.”

The phone rang on the desk and the headmistress picked it up, mouthing, ‘excuse me.’ I pointed at the door and she shook her head. “Hold on, I’ll ask her.” The headmistress covered the phone and said, “Billie is apparently in the year five classroom, and she’s been offered the chance to sit in with the girls of her own age to see how she likes our lessons—she says she’d like to.”

“She’s only been doing this for a couple of days,” I said in a horrified voice, “Is it wise to expose her to this? What happens if she’s rumbled? Nine-year-old girls can be quite cruel.”

“How about if we leave her for one lesson and see how she copes. If you phone in, we’ll say if you should come and get her or if she could stay longer.”

“I don’t know, Sister Maria. I think it’s too soon, and I’m concerned that she’ll be discovered, and then what do we do if she does transition and needs a new school?”

“Well just let her stay for the first lesson, and then take her off home.”

“What is it?” I was concerned it was religious education.

The headmistress looked at her timetables, “Year five—history.”

“That should be innocuous enough,” I said, sighing and wondering how Billie and history interacted.

“Um—perhaps: we’ve been looking at what history is in relation to us as individuals.”

“What do you mean?”

“The girls have been working in groups, sharing their personal histories and writing up a project.”

“Maybe I should collect her now?”

“Let’s see what happens, shall we? If she’s going to live as a girl, she’ll have to learn to be as tough and adaptable as her younger sister.”

“Trish is a very special girl in all senses of the word.”

“Oh I think we already know that—did I tell you she corrected her teacher again, who made the mistake of mentioning dormice and not knowing as much about them as a certain young lady? It certainly made her check her facts, and she found she was in error.”

“What did she say about dormice?” I was intrigued.

“She got their longevity confused: she thought they only lived about two years and it’s actually…”

“About five, of which they will have probably slept half to two thirds,” I finished for her.

“Of course—it’s your subject, isn’t it?”

“I know a bit about them.”

“Enough to make a wonderful film about them—look, why don’t you go and take a little walk and see how she is in half an hour’s time? I’ll make sure the teacher doesn’t let anything untoward happen.”

I accepted her invitation to take a short walk against my better judgement. Part of me felt, cynically, that they were recruiting another, and that Billie had been tricked into staying and was possibly even now trying to escape a fate worse than death as a class of nine-year-old girls tore her to pieces—emotionally, anyway.

I didn’t walk any further than the car, where I sat and called Simon. He’d seen Stephanie off to work and given her a reasonable breakfast with decent coffee—not that disgusting stuff Tom drinks. I explained why I was late coming home and he was concerned for Billie.

“How could you let that happen?”

“Teachers are trained to recognise child abuse. Because she was challenging me over Billie’s change of appearance, I had to let her continue or risk someone saying something in official circles.”

“How do you know that isn’t what they’re doing now—strip searching her or whatever? They’re Catholics—it could be the Spanish Inquisition for all you know.”

What I did know, was that if he’d started the Monty Python sketch, I’d have become mysteriously disconnected.

At half past nine, I went back into the school and Sister Maria led me to the year five class. “Good morning girls,” she said and they all replied, “Good morning, Sister Maria.” She continued, “This lovely lady is a real lady, Lady Cameron, who will be presenting the prizes on speech day. How do we address guests?”

“Good morning, Lady Cameron.”

“Good morning, girls.” I smiled back all the time my knees felt like jelly.

“Now girls, who would like to give Lady Cameron an example of the personal history exercise, we’ve been doing? Yes, Genevieve, you’ll start us off.”

“Thank you Sister Maria, Lady Cameron. My family originates in France, where my grandfather worked with the resistance to the Nazi invasion. He later escaped to England where he worked with General De Gaulle and met my grandmother. After the end of the war, he came to live in England, where they had three daughters; my mother, Anne-Marie, is the youngest…”

Billie seemed genuinely disappointed to leave the class, and hugged with the other girls in her group. However, I felt safer to have gotten her out of a potentially risky situation before she blew her cover, especially if she ended up there next term.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1040

I sent Billie to go and tell Simon all about her adventure at the school—she had gushed about it all the way home and how she’d like to go there next term. I was still trying to extract my heart from my throat where I was sure it had lodged more or less permanently.

I called St Nicholas Children’s Home and spoke to Nora, who came out of a meeting to speak with me. I apologised for distracting her, but she was very gracious saying it had been a boring meeting anyway.

“I need to know about Billie.”

“What do you need to know?”

“Well, as you know, I have in place the machinery to adopt her.”

Her? Last seen, Billy was a boy—if a bit of a weedy specimen.”

“Ah,” I blushed at my Freudian slip—or was it a full set of lingerie? “She seems to think she’d rather be a girl at the moment.”

“He what? Why are you calling him her and she?”

“It tends to be the protocol we adopt when someone is running around in skirts.”

“Cathy, what are you doing to him?”

“At the moment, simply indulging what I hope will be a mere dalliance in dresses, because she thinks girls get more attention or have more fun.”

“They do outnumber the boys in your house.”

“Yes by two to one.”

“Yes well, is that counting Billy as one of them or not?”

“Not—something doesn’t feel right about her presentation—it’s different to Trish and Julie.” And mine, I didn’t add.

“Sounds like you need a good shrink.”

“Oh, been there done that—Dr Stephanie Cauldwell.”

“I’ve heard she’s good but expensive.”

“True on both counts Nora, but tell me more about Billy?”

“Not a lot to tell, mother died and father couldn’t get on with the elder son for some reason. We never did get to the bottom of it, but suspected a sexual abuse somewhere. Dad used to let several people babysit for Billy, so we had loads of suspects but no evidence.”

“It was the uncle—the dad’s brother.”

“How d’you know that?”

“She told me.”

“What have you got that I haven’t? I spent weeks talking to him and he told me nothing—well nothing of any use, nor our counsellors and therapist.”

“Money?”

“Very funny, milady—but what else?”

“I have the universe’s revenge on parents and teachers.”

“Which is?”

“The dreaded Trish.”

“Good lord, how is she doing? Patrick seems a long time ago.”

“She is fine, and doing very well at school, but then she has an IQ in four figures compared to ordinary mortals like me. However, she has this misplaced idea that all men would be happier if they were women, or all boys girls.”

“I take she’s leading Billy down the garden path?”

“Shall we say she’s a stronger character than Billie, who is a bit wishy washy at times.”

“That’s how I remember him, always the follower, never the leader—but I thought we’d dealt with that by having Danny with him. What does he think about it?”

“He’s coming along nicely—so laid back unless he’s playing football, although it was let slip that he has had one or two fights over Billie.”

“Yeah, he was protective of Billy while they were here. He’s all boy though.”

“As far as I know—but then until this weekend, I thought Billie was too, although of a different format.”

“Did you think he was gay or something?”

“Not especially, when Julie had some girlfriends over, the two boys were on sentry duty in case they caught sight of anything slightly sexy. Danny is also slightly besotted with Julie, despite knowing she was a boy before coming to live with us.”

“It makes you sound as if you’re a factory for turning boys into girls.”

“I know, which is what concerns me and could, I suppose be colouring my opinion of Billie—it just doesn’t feel quite right and I think she could have a transgender element within her—perhaps become a cross-dresser when the mood takes her.”

“I don’t envy you Cathy, all of your kids seem damaged in some way, don’t they?”

“That’s what life does to you if you don’t have a strong support system.”

“Which thanks to you, they all have.”

“No not just me, we’re a team—the whole family helps each other,” most of the time but we don’t divulge the caveat.

“Anyway, I hear the natives are getting restless, so I shall have to go. Maybe I’ll pop by some time and see the children, seeing as three of them came from here.”

“Feel free.”

We said our goodbyes and I went to the kitchen to make some tea while I decided what to do for lunch. Simon must have heard me putting the kettle on because he arrived in the kitchen moments later.

He gave me a hug and we had a little kiss. “What d’you fancy for lunch?” I asked him.

“You,” he said and began chewing my ear.

“Be sensible darling, besides my fat content is far too high.”

“Perfect for me,” he said and pulled me close to him again. It was lovely in every way but its timing—I had Billie home, come to think of it, where is she?

“Where’s Billie?”

“I dunno, why?”

I wriggled free of him, “Make some tea will you darling, while I see where she is—it’s too quiet.”

He groaned because I’d asked him to do something, but shrugged at my question. Just then Stella came in with Puddin’—she’d been out for a walk with Pud in the pushchair. She hadn’t seen Billie either.

“Make the tea Si, I’m going to look for her.” I walked through the house calling her name but there was no answer. I walked upstairs and thought I could hear a funny noise. I walked very quietly towards her and Danny’s bedroom and she was curled up on her bed sobbing.

I walked into the bedroom speaking quietly as I did, then I sat on the bed and pulled her into a hug. “What’s the matter, sweetheart?”

For several minutes, she couldn’t speak, and I heard Simon call from downstairs to say my tea was poured. I held on Billie, feeling her body shudder with sobs. I tried to imagine a blanket of blue light surrounding us both, keeping out the world and its worries and distractions. A little while later, she stopped sobbing and drifted off to sleep in my arms.

I continued to visualise the blanket of light and tried to imagine it taking away her cares and woe enabling her to know what she wanted to do with her life and giving her the courage to do it.

She gave an enormous sigh and shuddered and her body went limp. It was then that I caught sight of the box of tablets which had fallen off the bed. I felt my whole being go cold and I screamed for help.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1041

Simon galloped into the room followed by Julie, while I sat and wailed on the bed holding the lifeless child.

“What’s the matter?” he asked.

“I think she’s OD’d.” I pointed at the packet on the floor and he bent to pick it up.

It was a pack of Stella’s barbiturate tablets. Oh shit—these are really dangerous, I didn’t even know they were being used these days.

Stella finally came into the room, “What’s all the fuss about?” she asked calmly.

“These,” I flung the packet at her; “How many were left in here?”

“I have no idea—I thought I’d thrown them out.”

“Was it half full or more?”

“I can’t remember, why?” she looked at the unconscious figure lying in my arms. “Oh bugger—get an ambulance and tell them it’s barbiturate poisoning—a nine-year-old. NOW.” She pushed Julie out of the room, who fled down the stairs to make the call.

“Are we going to embarrass her as well?” Stella asked me.

“What—she’s dying, and you’re worried about embarrassment?”

“Hopefully, she’ll be okay—when did she take them?”

“She was awake when I found her, she’s been out for five minutes at most.”

“Okay, let’s strip her, and redress her in her pyjamas, so at least she won’t be asked too many awkward questions.” I could see her point and between us we took off the dress and panties and replaced them with her previous pyjamas.

Within minutes the ambulance sirens were heard. Simon picked up the unconscious child and carried him downstairs. Julie let in the paramedics, and Stella handed them the empty packet.

They wired up the unconscious child to the various monitors and then dashed out to the ambulance. Simon and I got ready to run to his car to follow. “If we’re not back, collect the girls.” Stella nodded to say she understood the message.

The ambulance screamed off with sirens blaring and blue lights flashing. Simon hammered along behind in the Jaguar. I jumped out and rushed in to Accident and Emergency while he went to park the car.

“Yes, madam?” said the receptionist.

“My child has just come in by ambulance, we suspect a barbiturate overdose.”

“Okay, can we take some details…?”

I suppose they were necessary but the whole bloody planet seems to run on forms of one sort or another. I filled them in and then went to sit in the waiting area where Simon joined me a few minutes later.

I was called and a nurse took me off to a small office. “It’s very unusual for children to take an overdose, we’ll have to report this to the appropriate authorities. How did your son acquire the tablets?”

The inquisition went on for some time. At the end, I asked if Dr Rose was on duty. The nurse went off to find out. “Does he know your son?”

“I think so, he certainly knows me.”

She disappeared again and returned saying, “He’s on his way over.”

“Thank you.”

Sam Rose appeared a few minutes later and when he did, he saw me engulfed in a hug by Simon.

“Well, well—to what do I owe this pleasure?”

“It isn’t a pleasure Sam, one of my foster kids took an overdose of barbiturate.”

His face dropped. “Which one?”

“Billy, the nine-year-old boy.”

“Any reason?”

“He’s been a bit different for a couple of days, then decided he’d like to be a girl.”

“Nothing new there then?” Sam replied shaking his head.

“It was for him, but Trish and Livvie encouraged him. I let him dress up over the weekend and he came with the other girls when I took them to school. The next thing I know he’s sitting in with the other girls his age and before I could rescue him, he’s halfway through a history class, working in a small group with some of the other girls.

“He said he really enjoyed himself and when we got back he was full of it the way he was talking with Simon. I went to start making lunch and wondered where he was. I went to look and found him sobbing on the bed. He went unconscious while I was trying to talk with him. It was then I saw the tablets and we called for help. They were barbiturates, which Stella thought she had disposed of.”

He shook his head, “Nasty little drug, barbiturate.”

“They use it for putting animals to sleep, don’t they?”

He nodded. “I’m surprised Stella was using it. Has the child been seen by a shrink of any sort?”

“Yes, Stephanie saw him on Sunday.”

“Yesterday, and she didn’t pick up a suicidal ideation? She’s slipping.”

“Sam, we don’t know it’s a suicide attempt, do we.”

“Taking a pile of pills? Whatever else could it be?”

“We don’t know until we can talk to her,” I held on to Simon’s arm as I spoke.

“I’ll go and see how he is.” He left and I looked at Simon and my eyes filled with tears.

“She’ll be okay,” Simon whispered and hugged me.

“Have you noticed we’re talking about her as if she was a girl?” I observed.

“Yeah, I suppose we are, but then apart from Tom and I, and little Danny, it felt as if everyone else was.”

“Should we let Stephanie know?”

Simon shrugged, “Better see what Sam says.”

“I just don’t know how it happened.” I cuddled into him.

“Perhaps she thought they were sweets?”

“Come off it, she’s not the brightest bulb in the box, but she’s not stupid.”

“Right, this is how you’re going to play it,” said Sam re-entering the office. “I suggested it’s an accident, he thought they were sweets. Stick to the party line and I’ll do what I can to hush it up.”

“We will, is she going to be all right?”

“She? There’s a little boy in there—and yes, he’ll be fine. Very sleepy for a few hours, but he’s going to be fine.”

“Should we tell Stephanie?”

“I’ll give her a ring and ask her to phone you.”

“When can we take Billy home?”

“Hopefully in an hour or two—so if you want some lunch, I’d get it now.”

“I’m not hungry,” I said but it didn’t stop Simon dragging me off to the hospital cafeteria, and judging by the amount he ate, his appetite was unaffected.

I sipped a cup of tea and pushed the sandwich he’d bought me around the plate. “How can you eat at a time like this?”

“A chap’s got to keep his strength up, missus. I mean, I have to support you as well as all the others.”

“I have my own job, Simon, I contribute too.”

“Yeah, I know you think you do Babes.”

I decided that it was hardly the right time or place for an argument, so I said nothing.

My mobile rang and vibrated in my bag, and I answered it: “Hello?”

“Hello ma’am, it’s Maureen.”

“Hi, Maureen, can I call you back we’re rather busy at the moment.”

“Of course, ma’am—I was just calling to say the doc says he thought I could start back to work in a week or two.”

“Can we talk about it later, Maureen, I’ll call you soon.” I rang off and put the phone back in my bag. It was the last thing I was going to think about for the moment.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1042

They allowed us to take Billy home around teatime. He was still very sleepy, and Simon carried him to the car, wrapped in his jacket. I sat in the back seat with him and cuddled him.

Stella had collected the girls by the time we got home, so we had a reception committee. We put Billy to bed and they each agreed to sit and watch over him—which wasn’t one of my best ideas. We had to move Trish—she thought watching over him meant he should be awake and watching back.

Danny wondered what had happened to Billie, as he came back dressed in pyjamas, instead of more girly wear.

We opted for the official line, that Billie had mistaken some pills for sweeties and it had made him ill and he needed to go to hospital.

The evening seemed to fly by and I ended up tucking Billy in before I went to bed. Danny was fast asleep in the bed next to him, and as I kissed them both and went to leave the room, Billy woke and smiled at me.

“How are you, young man?”

“Tired,” he yawned.

“So am I, kiddo—so I’m off to my bed. Goodnight.”

“Night night, Mummy. Oh Mummy…” here we go I thought—but I was wrong. “Mummy, I saw my first Mummy while I was asleep an’ she’s not cross with me—she liked my letter, and she said I was in good hands, with you an’ Daddy.”

“Oh good—I’m really glad you talked with her.”

“An’ she said she doesn’t mind if I’m a girl or a boy so long as I’m happy.”

Tired as I was, I couldn’t pass up this chance to continue healing the rift he’d imagined between himself and his birth mother—I sat on the edge of his bed. And we spoke in whispers.

“Did you give each other a hug?” I asked him.

“Oh yes, she liked my summer dress.”

“Did she?”

“She told me that if she’d known I liked to wear dresses, she’d have bought me one.”

“That was nice of her.”

“Yes, she was nice and she told me I wasn’t to blame for her dying.” I could see tears forming in his eyes from the light over the stairs.

I hugged him and he began to sob, “I miss her, Mummy.”

“I know, sweetheart, I know.” I held him and rubbed his neck trying to soothe him.

After a little while he seemed to nod off to sleep and as I tried to lay him flat, he clung on to me and whispered, “No,” so I stayed there, almost asleep myself. Finally, he sighed, “I love you, Mummy,” and curled up and went off to sleep, so I made my escape and crawled up to bed.

I’d been there an hour. Simon was reading while I changed and cleaned my teeth. “What took so long?”

“Billy woke up and wanted to tell me a few things.”

“Like why he overdosed?”

“No Simon, he’s nine years old—not nineteen. No, he was telling me he talked with his real mother while he was unconscious. It was really sweet.”

“I thought his mother was dead.”

“She is, but that doesn’t stop us talking with them.”

“I thought you were a rabid scientist.”

“I am.”

“So how in your Darwinian view of the universe could he talk with his deceased mother?”

“Does it matter if it all happened in his delirium? If it gave him comfort—then it’s sweet.”

“Oh, I agree entirely, I just wondered how you’d sidestep your own prejudices to explain it.”

“What do, you mean?”

“Well, in your reality it couldn’t happen.”

“Yeah, but we’re not talking about my reality, it’s Billy’s we’re discussing, and if that allows him to talk to dead parents, that’s fine with me—after all, I spoke with my mother in a dream at least once or twice.”

“Did you, or did you imagine you did?”

“Probably the latter, but it doesn’t worry me one way or the other.”

“Surely one way leads to sterility and the other to a massive change in belief?”

“Nah, I’ve nothing to lose either way.”

“How come?” He gave me a very questioning look.

“Oh, c’mon Si, it’s nearly one o’ bloody clock. I am shattered.”

“You can’t answer it—that’s fine with me.”

“Refusing to answer it on the grounds that I might damage your belief system isn’t the same as declining before I decline through tiredness. Good night.” I switched off my light and snuggled down in bed. He was left spitting feathers. Thankfully, I fell asleep before he thought of a suitable answer.

I walked towards the young woman. “You’re Billy’s mum, aren’t you?”

“Yes, so are you, aren’t you?”

“Only because you’re unable to do it. I hope I’m doing it as you’d have liked to do it yourself?”

“You’re doing it differently because we’re different, but you do it with love and that’s all that matters. He’s very fond of you, you know.”

“He misses you dreadfully.”

“I know, but you’ll get him through it.”

“I hope so, but I don’t want to replace you in his heart.”

“You won’t but he’s got one big enough to accommodate both of us.”

“I’m sorry about the girl stuff, but he did ask me.”

“That’s okay, he always was a bit of a girl and it’s better he tries it now and abandons it than regrets it for ever after.”

“What happens if he doesn’t abandon it?”

“Oh you’ll cope—you’ve done it before, haven’t you?”

“Yes, I suppose so. What happened with his uncle?”

“I have to go, take care of him well, won’t you?” Before I could respond she was gone.

I woke up with a start. We’d been talking in the lounge, which was where I was now—sitting in my nightdress on one of the sofas. How on earth had I got there? I must have sleepwalked. That is creepy. I glanced at the clock—it was three in the morning. I shivered.

On the way back to bed, I checked on all the kids—they were all fast asleep. In a matter of moments, I was too.

Normally when I remember dreams, it’s because I woke up during or just as they ended and my conscious mind kicked in and conveyed them into memory. This time, I did wake up soon after, but also I was somewhere other than where I expected to be—in the lounge and not my bed.

If I were of a fanciful nature, part of me could argue that it was so I would remember and think about it all, including her claim that it was okay for Billy to become Billie if it was going to make him happier.

It didn’t make waking up the next morning any easier though—I was absolutely shattered and I suddenly remembered, it was the convent’s speech day on Thursday. It was Tuesday today—oh pooh, I’ve got to organise a speech and stay awake while I give it!

The Daily Dormouse Part 1043

The next few days were murderous. I kept Billie at home and she wore the two dresses, which I made her wash and iron—if she was going to play girls, she was going to do it properly. Julie was still a little suspicious of her new sister, but Stella trimmed her longish boy’s hair into a passable girl style, which she was delighted about. I was completely unsure what to do next except to play it by ear.

I wrote a speech for the school and scrapped it twice. When I collected the girls, I spoke to the headmistress and she told me something about ten minutes was long enough—then she added, “how long will your girls sit still listening to old fogies spouting at them?”

When I asked if they had a projector system which could show a DVD, she said they did. I then knew exactly what I was going to do. Apparently the format of the prize day was a short religious service by the priest attached to the school, then the introduction of the worthies—chairman of the governors and one or two others, then finally me as guest of honour.

After the prayers and a hymn, the chairman would report to the parents and children then the other worthies would say a few words if they wanted, finally when all the kids were completely bored to tears it would be my turn to speak and then to present the prizes.

The more I thought about it, the more I was sure that it would either go down like a house on fire or a lead balloon. In which case they wouldn’t invite me again—and probably ask me to remove my kids—nah, they wanted the money.

I let Billie paint her finger and toenails, or actually Julie I think did the artwork—Trish and Livvie were livid, and insisted Julie painted their toenails as well—school didn’t permit painted nails or makeup.

On the Thursday, I took the girls to school as normal and then after a bit of paperwork, I got an early lunch. Simon had gone to work from the branch in Portsmouth and Maureen was meeting him there to discuss the building security—they needed new bars on the windows and some sort of electronic scanning system. Maureen was involved with it anyway—it all went over my head, but they had saved hundreds of thousands by turning down the heating a few degrees as per my earlier suggestion. So I was still in Henry’s good books.

After lunch, I went and showered and did my hair, which Stella blow-dried and set for me. I was going to wear it down. I wore my YSL suit and silk blouse with navy shoes and matching bag. I had my laptop with DVD and my prompt cards—not that I would really need them, but I’ve never done this before—except that thing at Sussex.

I set off early and popped into the university on the way to the school and borrowed a teaching aid from them—now I was ready.

I had difficulty parking the Mondeo at the school, even the playground was in use as a car park. Fortunately, one of the teachers spotted me and led me into a vacant space which was just big enough for Tom’s chariot.

I carried my stuff into the school and was taken to meet the other guests. I was the youngest by about five hundred years and the only one without a hearing aid—I was beginning to feel that this could be a lead balloon outcome.

Sister Maria plugged my DVD into the laptop that was connected to the projector which also had a sound system. I placed my other teaching aid under the table at which we sat on the stage.

The priest, a Father Abelard, was a kindly old soul who did the prayers and the hymn quite quickly. The other worthies were introduced and they said a few words. By the time it was my turn, the kids were becoming a little restless.

I could see several of them wondering who I was and why I was guest of honour. Sister Maria stood and said, “Thank you for your patience girls, but I suspect you will enjoy our guest of honour, Catherine, The Lady Cameron, who is a scientist, filmmaker, teacher, mother and wife, and one of our foremost authorities on Muscardinus avellanarius. I give you the Lady Cameron.

There was a polite round of applause as I rose to my feet, I picked up the box from under the table and set it on the top. I took a sip of water and hoped that I didn’t start coughing—my luck held.

“Mr Chairman, Headmistress and other guests, girls and parents, thank you for inviting me to talk to you and to present the prizes afterwards.

“I think everyone has been sitting long enough, so would you all like to stand up and turn around and shake hands with the person sitting behind you.” There were murmurs of surprise but everyone complied with my request.

“Thank you, now you all have one more acquaintance.” There was a ripple of laughter and I knew it could possibly be saved although I doubted they’d ever invite me again.

“I’m sure that usually your guests have riveting speeches to make to you—I don’t. I could bore you to death with facts and figures about my specialist area of study or I could show you. I think you’ll be pleased to hear I’ve chosen the latter.

“My specialist interest is in British mammals, and in one in particular, which apart from being wonderfully interesting is also about as cute as they come—the common or hazel dormouse.

“Some of you may have seen my film a few months ago,” there were murmurs probably of, ‘That’s where I’ve seen her before.’ “Well relax, I’m not going to make you watch it again, though the BBC do have a DVD of it available for sale if any of you are desperate to see it. What I have for you are some of the out-takes. For those of you who don’t know what those are—essentially, they’re the bits where things went wrong, either with the equipment, I forgot my lines or did something equally unusable.

“The moral of it all for you all, is primarily, if at first you don’t succeed—you’re probably a natural as a filmmaker.” I pressed the start button and they all saw Spike jump down my jumper, then Alan chased by the owl, me falling over the log and various other mishaps.

I did include a bit where it went right just to prove I could do it properly at times. When I finished the film, they’d all been laughing themselves silly for fifteen minutes and there was a rousing round of applause which continued for a couple of minutes.

I asked for quiet and eventually got it. “As you can see, I don’t take myself too seriously, but I do take my work deadly seriously—even so, it can also be fun. After the presentations are over, those who wish to see a real live dormouse will be able to—I have one here with me.” A ripple of excitement went through the audience, which wasn’t entirely unexpected.

I handed back control to the headmistress. “I don’t think we’ve ever had a prize day like that before, thank you, Lady Cameron for an educational and entertaining time, and I’m sure lots of us will hang on afterwards to see your dormouse.” She then called out named pupils and they walked out to the stage, accepted the envelope I gave them and shook my hand.

I was horrified to hand an envelope to Trish, who of course was best student in her year, and Livvie got one for most improved student. Actually, nearly everyone got something, which was time consuming but fun. The envelopes contained a book token.

At the very end, the old priest gave a closing prayer and the headmistress ended the meeting. Of course, dozens of them came to see Spike, who because it was so warm was in a torpid state. I lifted her out of the nest box and she was curled up, her tail over her nose as she rested in the palm of my hand.

After it was all over, I popped her back in the box and closed it firmly. I also retrieved my DVD and three children.

“Lady Catherine, that has to be the most entertaining speech day I’ve ever attended and as student and teacher, I’ve been to a few, I can tell you. Thank you so much for your time, I know how precious it is to you. Thank you, as well for sharing your love of your subject and the gift you have to communicate it to others. I hope you’ll come back one day and talk to us again.”

The headmistress was suitably impressed, so it had worked—not only that, but the chairman and the priest also enjoyed it and nearly shook my arm off as they left.

Naturally my kids were more impressed with Spike than with me—mind you, I suppose they see me every day, Spike only visits on special occasions. Children have a way of bringing one back to earth, don’t they?

The Daily Dormouse Part 1044

Why do I find it unnerving to see my son wearing lip-gloss and a dress—both of which I bought him? I’m beginning to understand what my parents must have gone through and other friends and relatives when I changed my lifestyle.

Okay, I should be sympathetic because I desired it for myself when I was in that same situation, but it feels really funny to have the boot on the other foot. If that’s what Billie ultimately wants, to live as a girl, then I’ll accept and cope with it and possibly it’s just the novelty that’s the problem.

With Trish and Julie, it was different—I didn’t know them as boys, so I had no great change to make in my attitude: their changeover was more of an intellectual thing for me, the emotional stuff came later as I got to know and love them. With Billie, I loved him as a boy so I have to make change in my perceptions, although I still have her as my child and therefore I will love her, full stop. I suppose it’s a bit like sending a kid to uni and helping them get a good degree in something or other and then watching them throw it all away because they want to be a pop singer or an actor.

If it’s truly what they want, then you have to let them do it and still love them—I don’t know which is the harder bit. When they start dating or settle down with someone, what if I don’t get on with their most loved? Oh dear, what a horrible thought.

It was Friday and I’d just returned from taking Julie to work and the three mouseketeers to school; Billie was still off while I worked out what to do next. We had an appointment with Stephanie at ten, so Billie had spent most of the morning pestering Stella to help her look just so. She certainly looked very presentable—though I’m not sure what I think of nine year olds wearing lip gloss: but then, the other week I saw a girl who couldn’t have been more than about eight wearing more makeup than a pantomine dame and higher heels, whilst her skirt only just covered her knickers. In a couple of years, if she continued like that she’d be jailbait. That was something I was determined to prevent in my children—although Julie and I had the most awful rows, usually commencing with me saying, “You’re not going out like that.”

Her defensive questioning, “Why not?”

And my illogical riposte, “I’m your mother, that’s why!”

I know she wondered about, “No you’re not,” but thought better of it.

How do I know this? It happened at breakfast this morning. She wore a vest thing which kept falling off her shoulders and a mini skirt which showed her panties when she moved. In the end we compromised: she changed into her shorts with leggings—the footless ones, and I let her keep the vest on. If her boob enhancers show or fall out while she’s washing someone’s hair… oh well.

Before I could contemplate facing the traffic again, I needed a cuppa which my newest daughter made for me, while I changed into something a bit tidier. I promised I take Billie out for lunch—only to somewhere like Morrison’s café, if she behaved with Stephanie and answered her questions honestly.

This was the first appointment I’d been able to get with the good doctor since the pills episode. We still don’t know what happened, and our main hope is that Stephanie would get to the bottom of it.

I changed into a dress a bit more elegant than Billie’s, and also threw on some makeup and jewellery. “Can I spend some of my money and buy myself a girl’s watch, Mummy?”

“Yes, providing you only buy an inexpensive one for the moment.”

“Can I go to the same school as Trish, in September?”

“I think we need to see about that a bit later. If it becomes necessary, then I think Sister Maria would be sympathetic to the idea. It’s what we do in the interim that matters most for the moment.”

“You’re not gonna send me back to school with boys, are you Mummy?”

“Shall we wait and see what Dr Stephanie recommends?”

“She won’t send me back will she?”

“Billie, calm down—no one is going to do anything until you’ve seen her and then I will discuss her advice with Daddy. Then we discuss it with you and perhaps even the others—after all, whatever happens has some impact upon them, even if you went back to being a boy tomorrow—it has some affect upon Danny and Livvie and Meems and Trish. It also has an effect upon us adults too.”

“Grownups just want everythin’ their own way,” she pouted and ran off upstairs. Stella intercepted and waved me away. I glanced at my watch: it was half past nine.

“Tell the drama queen we have to be at the doctor’s in less than half an hour, so she’d better get her bum down here now.”

“Or what?” Stella challenged me.

“Stella, please don’t interfere. Without Stephanie’s agreement, she will be removed from here by social services and then what will happen?”

“Okay, I’ll send her down asap.”

“If it’s longer than ten minutes, she loses out on her lunch.” I felt irritated and I wasn’t sure why. Maybe I’m grieving for the loss of my son? Or is it just that this is slipping out of my control and I’m a self-confessed control freak? At least I’m aware that I have a problem—yeah, me of all people.

Billie came downstairs with Stella. “No more bullying, missus,” cautioned Stella.

I glowered at her.

“It’s a red card next time.”

“What are you on about? I haven’t bullied anyone—I’m just forceful, because we have an appointment we need to keep and I refuse to let the animals run the zoo. Someone has to take charge.”

“Bossy boots,” snapped Stella.

“That’s me—c’mon missy, or we’ll be late.”

We drove most of the way in relative silence, then Billie said, “You don’t want me to be a girl, do you?”

“What I want is of little consequence if it’s what you need to do—in which case you can count on my full support and all those of the family.”

“It is, Mummy, I absolutely need to be a girl.”

“If Dr Stephanie agrees—and that won’t be today, then I’ll do all I can to help you.”

“What if Dr Stephanie says no?”

“I’d prefer not to think about that until it happens, which you assure me it won’t—if it’s really what you need to do?”

“Oh it is, Mummy.”

“Okay sweetheart, but it’s not just me you need to convince is it? Oh, and redo your lip-gloss, you’ve got some on your nose.”

The Daily Dormouse Part 1045

I sat in the waiting room while my newest daughter met with Dr Cauldwell, anxiously trying to make sense of the crossword. I don’t know why I bother. The compiler was Paul and his puzzles take me ages to do. In the end I abandoned it and read the news story half a dozen times, even the letters page couldn’t hold my interest and there was nothing but football in the sports section or Wombledon.

I sat and watched the others in the waiting room. A small child played with some toys while her mother watched lovingly. I wondered why they were there—then my question was answered: a second child came out of one of the consulting room doors and the mother went to speak with the doctor who appeared behind her child. Everyone was smiling. I felt happy for them, but sad for myself—why do I think this newfound transgender thing with Billie is all wrong? What is it that doesn’t ring true?

My first worry would be that it’s taken so long to materialise—Trish was already refusing to answer to Patrick before she came to me, and Julie was also in female form before we met—albeit only for a matter of hours: but it does make a difference. Why would a child who is aware of a family tolerant of things gender different, wait six months before declaring himself?

I tried to answer it myself. If it were me, what would I think? I’m still traumatised from abuse—maybe, but aren’t there usually other signs, like withdrawal or bed-wetting or something?

Boys are naturally boisterous. Danny is—he rushes about the place like a turbo charged wild boar on steroids. Billy, as a boy is less boisterous, less noisy and until the cycling, less sporty. But that doesn’t make him transgender.

He’s never shown much interest in clothes or jewellery unlike Trish, Julie and real girl, Livvie. He, until very recently had no interest in dolls. He did like the computer and was better at it than Danny, but he’s not academic material—unless he’s been hiding his light under the proverbial bushel. I suppose if this was distracting him—it might explain things. Oh hell, this is a circular argument—I’ll leave it to the professionals. No I can’t, they can be conned—but by a nine-year-old? Even a cute one should be rumbled—shouldn’t they? I wish I knew.

Finally the door opened. “Cathy, could you come in please?” Stephanie summoned me from the limbo of the waiting room.

I went in and Billie was sitting on the sofa opposite the door. She’d been crying. “Is everything all right?”

I pointed to the sofa and Stephanie nodded, so I went and sat with Billie, “You okay?” I asked and she nodded.

Stephanie seated herself opposite us, “Billie has been telling me how she was abused by her uncle.”

I wrapped my arm around her and pulled her close to me. “Are you sure you’re okay?” I asked her quietly and she nodded despite the tears rolling down her cheeks. “You’re safe now, you know that—I won’t let anyone hurt you.”

“You don’t believe I’m a girl, so how you gonna b’lieve the rest?” She sobbed against me. Oh pooh, now I felt guilty as well as confused—life doesn’t get any easier, does it?

“I just don’t want you to make a mistake, sweetheart.”

“I don’t have to have my dick cut off yet, do I?”

“You don’t actually have to have it cut off at all unless you want to,” I tried to reassure him.

“Oh I want it cut off, I don’t want to be someone like my uncle.”

“What makes you think you would?” I was horrified, I looked at Stephanie and she sat there looking concerned. “What do we do now?”

“I shall be taking some advice and seeing if it might be possible to start a criminal investigation.”

“Can you do that? I thought it would be too late, now.”

“It’s never too late for serious crimes and child abuse is pretty serious,” Stephanie offered.

“Yes I know that, but isn’t it about chances of prosecution?” I challenged.

“Ultimately, from a legal perspective yes, but from my point of view it’s about the healing of the child and dealing with the trauma it caused and continues to cause.”

“Do children become transgendered because of previous sexual abuse?” I asked, still not entirely convinced.

“They certainly can.”

“I thought gender identity was fixed by four?”

“Not always and we still don’t understand the mechanism.”

“In which case, I owe you an apology, pumpkin,” I hugged Billie, who sniffed and nodded. “I’m sorry that I doubted you, but if Dr Stephanie says you are gender dysphoric then I suppose you are.”

“I haven’t actually said that yet, and we don’t use that term these days.”

“I thought GID was gone, so what is it now—surely not transsexual?”

“Gender variant, gender different, transgendered,” she shrugged, “perm any four from ten.”

“You do the football pools?” I asked in disbelief. If she did it would be so incongruent.

“My dad did, trying to win enough to pay off my student loans and my debts.”

I smiled at her, “Student debts?”

“Yeah, I’m still paying them off.”

“But doctors earn a fortune.”

“Compared to banker’s wives?”

“Compared to my earnings,” I asserted myself.

“Yeah, I probably do earn more than you, but then I’m working longer hours than you.”

“Paid work yeah, depends upon the definition of work, I think six kids generates plenty of work by itself.”

“Okay, martyred mum syndrome is it?”

“Only on bad days—what about this young lady?” I asked.

“Carry on as before—you’re doing fine.”

“Am I? Does Billie agree with that? I looked down at her and she nodded.

“What about education—I can’t send her back to her previous school, can I?”

“If I give you a letter, what about the convent—they seem to cope with Trish, so I’m sure they’d cope with someone as quiet as Billie, wouldn’t they?”

“Trish had been living in role for weeks before she went to school, Billie has only been a week.”

“I wanna go there Mummy, they liked me when I did that lesson.”

“I’m just concerned darling, that’s all, plus the uniform and so on for a few weeks. Can’t I keep her home for a few weeks, it’s nearly end of term anyway?”

“Okay, I’ll write a letter for you to absent her from school. I’ll recommend that she has the rest of the term off for medical reasons.”

“Is bullying a medical reason?” I asked.

“If I say so, then it is.”

“Okay—what do we do now?”

“I think you need to expand her wardrobe—I’ve seen that dress twice.”

Billie hugged me and agreed emphatically—what could I do but agree as well? I was out-voted.

“See me next week, unless you know…” Stephanie smiled and held open the door for us.

“Is she?” I mouthed at Stephanie as we left.

“Dunno yet, quite possibly,” she mouthed back.

As we went back to the car, I began to try and work out what the chances are of a population of transgendered individuals in one household like ours were. Very remote, I’ll bet.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1046

I took Billie into town and bought her a few more things: a couple of skirts, tops, a pair of jeans, some sandals and a pair of girl’s trainers. She chose a new watch and paid for it herself as we’d agreed.

After putting our purchases in the car, we went to a small café for lunch—because I felt guilty. I took her to a small Italian place, a bit more up market than Morrisons and they sell the best ice cream outside Italy. I’ll do anything for their strawberry, but don’t tell anyone.

We had a minestrone soup and had just ordered some ice cream and a latte coffee for me, when Billie went very pale. “Are you all right, sweetheart?”

“Don’t look now but that boy is in my class.”

I glanced up at a reflection in picture glass, “Does he know you?” I asked quietly.

She nodded back at me. I looked again in the glass and saw they were sitting right by the door. The ice cream arrived as did my coffee. “When we’ve eaten these, we’re going to the ladies, okay?”

She nodded, “Won’t they see me?”

“No, walk slightly behind me so I’m blocking their view, then as we pass them come level and then slightly in front—I’m bigger than you so you should be able to hide enough for them not to see you—now enjoy your ice cream.”

We used my blocking her to get to the loos, then after we’d done the necessary and washed our paws. I wiped off her lip gloss and painted some of mine on—which is darker. Then some mascara and blush, she looked about four years older and her eyes widened when she saw the effect.

“You like?” I asked and she nodded enthusiastically.

“Don’t get too used to it: this is a disguise. Now we walk out in plain view, but I want you to act more like a twelve or thirteen year old, so just look straight through him if he looks at you—he’s only a kid and you’re grown up by comparison—okay?”

“How do I do that, Mummy?”

“Move your bum a bit more, carry your bag over your shoulder and keep your head up straight.” I did a quick demo for her and she laughed and nodded. “Ready?” she took a deep breath and nodded.

We stepped out into the café and she held my hand for a moment, then I pushed her in front of me, “Strut your stuff, kiddo,” I whispered to her and she did just that. By the time we got to the door all that was missing was the runway of a catwalk.

I watched the boy who was watching my daughter with more lust than recognition and he was nine or ten—it’s quite frightening, no wonder we’re up to our eyeballs in teenage pregnancies, the kids are so sexually precocious but don’t see beyond the itch in their pants to the broader picture.

Once clear of the café, Billie held my hand again. “That was so scary, Mummy,” she squeezed my hand for emphasis.

“Better get used to it if you want to switch to being a girl. Loads more people will know you as boy than a girl, and every now and again you’re going to meet one of them. The chances are they won’t recognise you, but the more astute ones might.”

“What does that mean, Mummy—the more stute ones?”

“Astute—it means perceptive—oh boy, the cleverer ones who really look at things not just glance at them. Oh by the way, the lad back in the café, he gave you a good look—I think he fancies you.”

“Donny Egbert—how gross, yuck—he’s like a cross between a pair of dirty socks and a compost heap.” She pretended to be sick.

“Yeah, that just about sums up what I saw too.” I smirked and when she looked at me she began to giggle—probably more in fear than anything. I checked the time and decided we had an hour before we collected the girls.

I bought her some more underclothes and socks, a couple of pairs of tights and a plain navy skirt, which were almost like school uniform ones. A quick trip around the supermarket and it was then to the convent. “Stay in the car,” and she pouted but accepted my instruction. I didn’t want anyone to see her from the school—she shouldn’t be wearing that much makeup at her age and although I could justify it to myself, I didn’t want an argument with anyone else, especially Trish, as we walked back to the car.

Of course, while I waited who should appear but Sister Maria, “Ah, Lady Cameron, the school’s favourite speaker, how nice to see you.”

I blushed, “Um—yes, sorry about that—the dormouse was a bit OTT.”

“Did you realise we’ve had twice as many girls request to do science than usual since your visit.”

“Coincidence?”

“I think not—it’s that time of year when we do our options for the following year and half the school wants to do biology.”

“Oh well, fifty per cent discernment.”

“Fifty per cent? No, a hundred percent—the other fifty want to do zoo and botany.”

“Quite right too. What better way for them to develop an understanding of the world around them?”

“Maybe—sadly, they’ll all be disappointed, our science team is rather depleted.”

“There should be plenty of science graduates looking to teach, so recruitment shouldn’t be a problem.”

“It all takes time and of course they’ll have seen the ultimate in teaching so anyone else will be a disappointment, won’t they.”

“You flatter me, Sister Maria, well beyond what I deserve.”

“I reserve the right to have my opinions, I’ve seen a few teachers in my time and some of them have it, and some don’t. You have it in spades.”

“Thank you,” what else could I say? I did blush—again.

“Perhaps we could invite you to come and talk to our biology students once a year.”

“What about? Motherhood and apple-pie?”

“If you wish, although I suspect you’d enjoy talking about ecology—inspire our A-level classes to do biology or ecology at university.”

“Can I think about it?”

“Of course—but it would be the high point of their academic year.”

“Please—my head won’t go in the car if it gets any bigger.”

She laughed, “How is your newest daughter—do you wish to register her here yet?”

“It could well be heading that way.”

“Where is she at present?”

“She isn’t, I’m keeping her at home for the moment.”

“Would you like her to come here for the last week or two of term?”

“Much as I’d like her to attend school rather than miss any, I’m not sure she’s up to coping as a girl fulltime, especially in a stressful environment like school where she could be rumbled. It could threaten any future plans, if she persists with her life change.”

“I could have a word with her classmates.”

“What, tell them she used to be a boy?”

“No, of course not—say she’s been ill, and isn’t always herself—that should cover a multitude of sins.”

“Wouldn’t that make her a target for the bullies, which is one of the reasons I’ve taken her out of the state school? She doesn’t need to be pointed at or seen as different.”

“I’m sorry Lady Cameron, I’m not making myself very clear, we have a number of children here who have suffered a number of illnesses, accidents, traumas and so on. It’s our policy to integrate those students with those who’ve been more fortunate and we try to ensure that no one is victimised because of something negative that’s happened to them.

“If you change your mind, let me know, I’m sure we could accommodate her here for the odd day or even a whole week—and it might make it easier for next term—in her deciding she wants to come here or not. Better than enrolling and hating it.”

“I haven’t got her uniform or anything, yet because we haven’t decided anything.”

“Don’t worry about that, as long as she’s tidily dressed—as I’m sure she’d be, a skirt of course—and we’ll accept her as an provisional student.”

“Okay, I’ll think about it and speak with Billie about it—I’ll get back to you.”

“Oh good—I’m sure that coming here would be good for her—Trish and Livvie are doing so well.”

“They’re exceptional kids anyway, what about Mima?”

“She’s doing okay, although we don’t seem able help her with her speech problem.”

“You won’t be the first who’ve tried.”

“I’m sure.”

“Mummy,” was said by three voices and soon followed by the bodies of the owners.

“Hello, girls,” I greeted them, and soon we were on our way home with a post mortem about why Billie was allowed to wear makeup and they weren’t.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1047

“’Snot fair,” sulked Trish, “she can wear makeup an’ I can’t.”

“Trish, I explained that it was as a disguise to get her out of the café.”

“Don’t care, ’snot fair, I wanna wear makeup too.”

“I think you’re going to be wearing your nightie when we get home, young lady.”

“No I won’t.”

I stopped the car and turned around to face my backseat passengers. “Trish, when we get home you will change into your nightdress, you can then have some cereal or toast and you will go to bed. Do you understand?”

“That’s not fair, too.”

“I don’t care, you will not openly defy me without definite consequences. I gave you a chance to withdraw and apologise, instead you continued to cheek and defy me. The consequences are that you will go to bed early.”

“I don’t care, I won’t sleep.”

“Trish, don’t push your luck—you’re acting like a spoiled brat—and if I were you’d I’d quit while you’re ahead. Anymore cheek and the punishment will grow.”

She leant back in her seat, arms folded and she mimed, “I hate you.”

“Sadly from your point of view, I love you, and will continue to do so despite your actions or words. I’m your mother, and you will do as I say, no matter what you think.” I turned back and drove them home.

I sent Trish upstairs to change and went to start cooking the dinner. Billie followed me into the kitchen. “Can’t you let Trish off: it’s sort of my fault that this happened.”

“That’s very kind of you to intercede on her behalf but it’s too late—she pushed her luck and now has to take the consequences. In the words of the Bible, ‘As you sow so shall ye reap’.”

“Mummy, for someone who is always God-bashing as Daddy calls it, you seem to know a lot about the Bible an’ religious stuff.”

“Religious stuffing, yes, that’s an accurate description, it was stuffed down my throat in junior school, and ever since I’ve disliked it intensely.”

“That’s all right, Jesus will forgive you.”

I ruffled her hair, “Yeah, I suppose so.” I decided I wouldn’t bother trying to explain anything else and upset her or the applecart.

Trish sulked into the kitchen and I made her a bowl of cereal and some toast. “What are you having for dinner, Mummy?”

“Lamb chops, why?”

“But that’s my favourite, Mummy,” the tears began to flow and I felt a total monster but I was going to hold firm.

“Maybe you’ll learn when to stop trying to cheek me or insist on your own way.”

“I’m sorry, Mummy.”

“It’s too late now, sweetheart.”

“But ’snot fair.”

“Life rarely is fair, you have to learn to cope. If I let you off now you’ll cheek me again, no matter how you promise, you won’t keep it.”

“I will, I promise, Mummy—cross my heart and hope to die.”

“I won’t let you off—you can go upstairs and wait in your bedroom until dinner is ready, then you can come down and eat but straight to bed afterwards, and you can keep your nightie on. Now go, or it’s bread and water for the next week.”

She hugged me, apologised once more and ran off before I could strangle her. I must not give in to her—little besom. Once again, she outwitted me—dammit.

I banged pots and pans about in the kitchen and the others took the hint and kept out of the way. I sent Billie to take off her makeup and she looked at me completely clueless. “Go and ask Livvie or Trish—there’s some remover pads in the bathroom—try not to get the stuff in your eyes.”

Minutes later Stella arrived with Julie, who now had jet-black hair. I decided just to ignore it—life is far too short for all this stress. I wonder if I took the UN job, would they allow me to run away to New York? At the moment, it looks rather an enticing prospect.

“Thanks for collecting her, Stella.”

“’Sokay, that smells good.”

“Lamb chops.”

“Oh goody.”

I carried on with my cooking and Stella came down and asked, “Why is Trish in bed, is she ill?”

“No, she was naughty and didn’t take the hint to stop when I made it perfectly clear she was dancing in a minefield.”

“Ah, the delights of youth.”

“No, the rewards of foolishness.”

“I’d better go before you send me to bed as well then.”

“Can you ask Livvie to lay the table?”

“She was upstairs with Billie in the bathroom.”

“Okay, Danny, can you lay the table, please?”

He came out to the kitchen and began clucking like a chicken then he pretended to strain—“Nah, it’s no good, I can’t lay anything, sorry Mum.”

Stella sniggered and I sighed loudly, “What is the matter with them all tonight? It’s not Friday the thirteenth is it?”

“Don’t think so.”

“Must be a full moon then. Can you lay the table while I dish up?”

Despite further protestations and sympathy from everyone but me, I sent Trish back to bed—I knew perfectly well she’d only read until the others came up, but on her own she might reflect on her behaviour and modify it. Knowing her, it would be to get round me next time without any hitches. Life with her is like playing chess against a supercomputer.

When I took the others up to bed, she was still awake and reading. I read them a story and tucked them all in. Then I kissed them and told them I loved them all.

“When is Billie gonna come in here as well, Mummy?” asked the chosen one.

“There isn’t room for another in here, that would be four—it would be more like a dormitory than a bedroom.”

At this they all shrieked, “Lights out at nine, candles out at ten.”

“You what?”

“It’s what Auntie Stella says.”

“It’s very rude.”

“Why is it rude, Mummy?” Guess who wanted to know.

“You’re not old enough to understand yet.”

“Is it about sex, Mummy?” Trish continued to torment me.

“No, candles are a fire hazard, now go to sleep.” I blushed, and left behind a gang of gigglers whose cackles were clearly audible downstairs.

“I thought you put them to bed?” Stella chuckled.

“Just because I haven’t actually killed anyone yet, doesn’t mean I won’t before the night is out.”

Stella giggled and went back to loading the nappies into the tumble dryer. I had a quick cuppa before chasing the um—other kids to bed. When I got them upstairs, Danny asked me, “Mum, how long have I got to share a room with a girl?”

“You seemed happy to share with Billie before.”

“Yeah, that was before she went all girly—I can hardly do so now can I?”

“So where do you suggest I put her or you?”

“Can’t she go in with Julie?”

“Hardly—Julie is virtually grown up and sharing with a youngster would be unacceptable.”

“I’ll share with her then.” His eyes sparkled.

“Over your dead body—and believe me, the first time you upset her, it would be. Besides, what’s the difference between Billie and Julie?”

“Julie’s got tit—um, she’s more grown up.”

“And you seem to have booked a passage on the Titanic and be heading straight at the iceberg.”

“Yeah—okay.” He shrugged and I smiled at him. He’d lost his little game but had the nous to know when he was beaten.

Simon arrived full of himself, so after he’d eaten he told me was pleased with himself. I asked why and he explained he’d sold a large tranche of BP shares for a client, and the commission had paid for a present for me.

“You bought me a present?”

“Yep,” he fished in his pocket and brought out a small oblong box which was gift-wrapped. I wondered if it was a bracelet.

“Thank you, darling,” I said and kissed him.

“Aren’t you going to open it?”

“Of course.” I smiled and gently eased open the package trying not to tear the paper.

“Just rip it open,” he exhorted.

“No, I don’t like to.”

“I think we can afford new paper, we don’t have to save the old stuff, ya know.”

In the end, I had to cut it with the kitchen scissors, and on opening it and seeing what it was I squealed. “Oh, thank you, darling.” I hugged him and kissed him.

“It’s outside, or had better be.”

I rushed to the drive and there sitting next to his Jaguar was an A class Mercedes. My eyes filled with tears and I hugged him. “How can I thank you?” I kissed him again.

“When we get to bed, we’ll consider it,” he winked at me and then said, “Well aren’t you going to try it?”

Before he could change his mind, I grabbed my bag and ran down to the car.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1048

The car looked silver or light grey in the fading daylight, and was the five-door version of the popular small Mercedes. I unlocked and got in: Simon stood at the door waving me off. The controls were very similar to what I remembered of the previous one I’d had, only this one had about half the starting mileage, of about five thousand—it wasn’t new, probably an ex-demonstrator—I didn’t much care.

She started up with a purr like a well-fed and spoiled pussy cat, and I found the lights and set off down the road. It only had a quarter tank of fuel, so I went to the nearest supermarket and put in a half a tank, just to keep me going for the rest of the week.

I might have been wearing rose-tinted spectacles, but this was an even better drive than the previous one and that had been my favourite until it met with the accident on the motorway. I reckon I’d been grieving for it ever since, so this was really good, and made my recent worries fade into the background, if only for a few minutes.

Sometimes I think I’m pretty rotten to Simon; then again, he’s often so obtuse he deserves it all—maybe we deserve each other. I knew I could seat three kids in the back, if I now have four to convey to school, they’ll still fit in it—although one will have to sit in the front with me.

That brought me back to the present—time that is, not gift. What was going to happen to Billie? I’m not at all sure about her going to school until she’s had more practice as a girl. She does seem to be picking it up pretty quickly, and I don’t know if she’s a natural, or has been coached by the others. That’s the problem with a house full of girls, they are so interactive and in a positive way, whereas boys seem to fight.

I wondered if the bike rack would fit the car, as I passed a car carrying bikes on the roof. I might try and get out early tomorrow for a ride—wonder if Billie wants to come? I’ll mention it tomorrow, see if Simon will supervise the others for an hour or so. Damn, I have to take Julie to the salon tomorrow—have to be when I get back.

I drove around for about half an hour, it went perfectly—the car that is. When I got home, Simon was watching some of the World Cup, and as England were now out, he decided to support the Germans—which was probably the kiss of death to them as well. Oh well, not my sport, and the TdF was due to start soon. I wondered how the Brits would do in it—Cav might win a few stages but he isn’t in the sparkling form he was last year, and while I admire Wiggo—I doubted he’d ever win it, however, I’d be so pleased if he did. Where was Armstrong likely to finish? Was there any truth in the drug allegations by Landis, and what was his motive? Lots of intrigue, which I suppose will one day be sorted, but it does affect the sport—my sport, and it’s shameful.

Once I got back home, Julie was waiting with a cuppa. “What are you after?” I asked suspiciously.

“When I pass my test, can I borrow it, Mummy?”

“Borrow what?” I played dumb.

“Your car, the little Merc, I’m sure I could drive it.”

“We’ll discuss it when you’ve passed your test.” That should give me a few months to think of an objection, or to save for a small car she could have instead. Not the greenest policy, but every teenager wants to learn to drive.

“When are you seeing your friends again?”

“Dunno, they seem to have slipped off the map.”

“Haven’t you made any at the salon?”

“There’s one, a girl called Amy, who seems quite nice, but we’re always on opposite lunch breaks so we don’t get much time to talk.”

“I suppose there’s always good ol’ Leon.”

“Yeah, I s’pose.”

“Oh, he seems to have lost his sparkle for you, then?”

“Not really, I like him—but he is a bit limited an’ since I’m workin’ on Saturdays, it does make it more difficult.”

“The course of young love never runs smooth.”

I drank my tea as Simon emerged in bathrobe fresh from the shower. I smirked at him.

“Well?”

“It’s wonderful—thank you so much, darling.”

He smiled warmly, “I’m ready for you to show your appreciation,” he raised his eyebrows a couple of times and hinted that he wanted me upstairs.

Oh well, I suppose a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do. I finished my tea and we went up to bed. Ten minutes later I’d cleaned my teeth and had a little wash and tidied myself up, squirted on a little perfume and was wrapping myself around Simon who was struggling to carry me to the bed while still kissing me and not dropping me or falling over before we got there.

At the time it was very romantic—when I thought about it the next day, it seemed very funny—but nice funny.

We spent an enjoyable hour touching each other’s erogenous zones and finally making love in a gentle and caring way—no hurrying or selfish interest, rather a desire to please or maximise the pleasure of the other. After it was over I was exhausted and fell asleep very quickly and I suspect Simon did too. I was sore the next morning and I was glad I’d set the alarm, otherwise Julie would have been late for work.

After a quick breakfast, I took her to work, and although we talked a little, I’d managed to say nothing about her hair colouring—she looked like she was heading towards Goth styles—not sure I was happy, except they didn’t seem to get into as much trouble as some of the other groups did. Of course this could have been a misapprehension on my part—not an unknown occurrence.

“Geez Julie,” I said loudly as we arrived at the salon.

“What, you haven’t finally noticed my new hair colour?”

“No—I’ve just seen the new ear piercings, is that why you got your hair done, to distract me?”

She blushed and refused to look me in the eye, “Course not, Mummy—I just thought I’d have a change.”

“Hence the half a pound of metal in your ears?”

“No Mummy, had those done ages ago.”

“Please, before you do anything else to your body, consult with me. I’m still responsible for you.”

“Aw c’mon Mummy, I’m nearly seventeen, for God’s sake.”

“I don’t care, and don’t you dare even think about a stupid tattoo.”

“I won’t Mummy,” she said as she got out of the car. “If I get one it won’t be stupid.” Then she ran from the car before I could say anything, and dashed into the salon, waving before she shut the door.

Sometimes I wondered if being a parent was all it was cracked out to be.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1049

“And do you know why she changed her hair colour?”

Simon looked up from his newspaper, “No, but I’ve a feeling you’re going to tell me.”

“She has about seven piercings in each ear.”

“Really?” he continued reading his newspaper.

“Simon, this is our daughter we’re talking about…”

“Yes dear,” he continued reading.

“Oh, thanks for your involvement.”

“It’s a girl thing, you usually deal with those.”

“Self-mutilation isn’t a girl thing.”

“I’d hardly call it that Cathy, I think you’re overwrought.”

“I am not, just because I care what our children are doing to themselves—you’re a fat lot of help.” I stomped out of the kitchen and upstairs where I met Billie coming down them.

I looked at her and said sharply, “You Missy, can take that lot off right now.”

“Why, Mummy?” she was close to tears.

“Because we’re going for a bike ride—yes?”

“Oh yeah, Mummy,” she turned and flew up the stairs.

I went up and changed into my cycling strip, tied my hair back in a ponytail and clomped down the stairs followed shortly by Billie.

“Going swimming are we?” said Simon sarcastically.

“No, I’m taking my newest daughter cycling. Look after the others won’t you—we’ll be about an hour.”

He gave me an expression of disbelief as Billie and I slipped past him and out to the bike shed. I checked the bikes over quickly. “That back tyre looks a bit soft, put some air in it,” I instructed Billie.

“I don’t know what to do, Mummy.”

I showed her how to open the Presta valve and push on the connector from the track pump and secure the connection by lifting up the locking lever. It took her a few goes and the tyre was nearly flat by the time we got the connection sorted. Then there was much puffing and panting as I explained we needed to get the pressure up to at least one hundred pounds per square inch.

At about sixty psi, she looked at me with pleading eyes. “Come on, at least another forty pounds.”

“I can’t, Mummy.”

“I think you’d better get some practice in—because if you have a puncture out on a ride, you’re going to be stuck, aren’t you?”

She shrugged and said, “I’d have to ride it back with the flat tyre or walk.”

“If you ride on a flat tyre, you’ll wreck your tube and possibly the tyre, or worse, the actual rim. That gets expensive as well as being bad cycling practice.”

“But, I can’t mend a puncture.”

“I’ll show you how, the proper way and also with these self adhesive patches, which are okay for getting you home, although generally, I carry a spare tube, sometimes two.”

“Have I got one, Mummy?”

“No, I thought one of the others could buy you a small saddle bag and the rest could buy you the bits to go with it, a few tools and a nice pump—like this one.” I patted the Topeak ‘Road Morph’—one of the best I’ve ever had, and I’ve had a few over the years.

“What, for my birthday?”

“Yes, if you’re happy, that is?”

“I—um—was hoping for more girl stuff.” She looked at the floor.

“Don’t you think riding a bike is girl stuff, then?”

“Oh yes, Mummy.”

“And being able to fix minor stuff, too—is that girl stuff as well?”

“Um—I don’t know Mummy. I guess most kids would get their dads to fix it.”

“So have you never heard of self-sufficiency?”

“I think I’ve heard of it, but I dunno what it means.”

“It means being able to things for yourself and being independent: it’s very feminist because it makes you equal in some ways to boys or men.”

“But you’re a lady, Mummy—how do you know all this?”

“Because my Daddy made me learn, and once I found I could do some things I tried more difficult things and sometimes I made mistakes, but mostly, if I put things back as I found them, they worked reasonably well. I used to write it down if I had to adjust anything—so many turns to loosen or tighten something.”

“Did your daddy tell you to do that?”

“No—he’d given up once I had the derailleur in bits, that was beyond him and he just said, ‘You can put all that back together or find someone who can, because you’re not getting any new stuff.’ So that’s what I did.”

“What’s a drailer?”

“Derailleur—it’s the type of gears most bikes have—very basic but reasonably efficient, some people prefer hub gears, but the best of those are very expensive…” I looked at her and she had a glazed look in her eyes. I wondered if I was doing the same to her that my dad did to me, only she’s running away from it, whereas I fought back by learning more about bikes than he did. It was the first area where I could actually intimidate him. In the end, he used to ask me to adjust his gears and repair his brakes when he broke the cable. It gave me a great sense of self-belief—I was good at something and he knew it.

“Do you like fiddling with bikes, Mummy?”

“Yes, why?”

“But you get all dirty.”

“So? Lots of girls have a thing about horses and I’d rather get my hands dirty with a little bit of oil than horsesh—um droppings, wouldn’t you?”

She paused to think about it then did something unbelievably girlish, “Ugh, horse poo,” she said as she made a face and put her hands up in front of her upper chest and wiggled her fingers in disgust.

“Right Missy, before I let you ride out on your own—you’ll need to make sure you have your mobile with you, and be able to fix a puncture. Until then, you can only go out with an adult or a club. Okay?”

“Will I need a big club—’cos I don’t think I’ll be able to carry it, Mummy.” She gave me a expression of bewilderment and all I could do was to laugh and hug her.

“You nit, I meant a cycling club—not some device for bashing people. Mind you one or two people I’ve met would probably be better if someone did give them a good bang on the head with a club.” I mimed riding by and bashing people on the head and she giggled.

We did eventually get our ride in—we did ten miles again, which she coped with very well—next time we’ll do twelve or more. She had certainly got the idea of clipless pedals—in fact it was me who nearly fell off. I was so busy watching her that I very nearly forgot to unclip myself at some traffic lights—I only just made it, getting my foot down before I fell in front of a parked car, the driver of which would have thoroughly enjoyed my fall from grace.

Back at the house, Leon was weeding the vegetable patch as we arrived. He’d met Billie in her new guise before, but he still did a double take at her painted fingernails. I could almost see the wheels turning as he thought back to last weekend.

“Good ride?” he asked standing bent over the potatoes as he plucked some unfortunate weed from the rows of nascent spuds.

“Yes, she’s improving—aren’t you sweetheart?”

“Not compared to you, Mummy? Do you know what a drailer is, Leon?”

“A drailer—you don’t mean derailleur, do you—you know bike gears?”

“You do know.”

“Yeah, I s’pose I do.”

“Can you mend them?”

“Depends what goes wrong, I can do the basic adjustment of tightening the cable. After that I take it to the bike shop, why—yours aren’t broken are they?”

“No, Mummy, knows lots about bikes and she can mend drailers, too.”

Leon looked at me, “I’ve seen her workshop and all those tools—so I believe it. A lady of many talents, your mum.”

I blushed as Billie agreed with him. My embarrassment was short lived when Trish suddenly appeared and with hands on hips demanded, “And where did you go?”

It’s probably just as well there were witnesses present, although I suspect they’d have helped me bury the body—she isn’t that big.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1050

“And since when have I been answerable to you, madam?” I demanded of Trish. My tone and demeanour meant that I was looking for trouble and she flinched before trying some bravado.

“You’re my mummy, so of course you need to let me know where you are.”

“Oh do I? That’s funny because I thought it was the other way round, you let me know where you are because I’m responsible for you, not you for me.” Again, I kept the tone very assertive and she was beginning to back down.

“Um, I was joking, Mummy—really.”

“Well I didn’t find it very funny—I think you need a lesson in humility.”

She looked very uncertain and her bottom lip twitched. She is only six going twenty-six, but thankfully I can still pull rank. “What d’you mean, Mummy?”

“You’ve annoyed me in front of Leon and Billie, both your elders and betters. I want you to apologise to both of them for being silly while I was talking with them, and then you can apologise to me.”

She said she was sorry to both of them, and by the time she got to me, she was in tears and hugging me around the waist. I took her inside, pulled her away from me, and said, “Have you learned your lesson?”

“Yes, Mummy,” she sobbed and I hugged her and told her she was forgiven provided she didn’t do it again. She could now go and lay the table and she could help me in the kitchen while I made lunch. She went off with slightly more spring in her step. I love her to bits, but she has to be kept on a tight leash or she begins to run riot. I’m dreading what she’ll be like as a teen—at least she can’t get pregnant.

I went and changed and came back to the kitchen. She was busy making me a cuppa and I gave her another hug, “I much prefer you when you’re being helpful rather than giving me grief—you’re a good girl most of the time, but now and again you do upset me.”

“I’m sorry Mummy, I don’t like to upset you.”

“I hope not sweetheart, or you will be in trouble. Now, enough of this; let’s do a bread mix.” She chuckled and went to the pantry and got out the ingredients for making a loaf. I sipped my tea as I watched her measure them out and add the water. Then she secured the lid and switched it on. “Good girl, you remembered.”

“Yes, Mummy, you’re a good teacher.” Flattery will get you anywhere, except with your mother however, so I didn’t react.

As we prepared the meal together, I asked her where Livvie, Danny and Meems were?

“They’ve gone out with Daddy.”

“Oh, where?”

“I dunno.”

“So how come you didn’t go as well?”

“Wasn’t enough room for me in his silly car.”

“I’m sure he could have taken one of the others—my car is there, he could have used that.”

“I think he prefers real girls.” She looked away.

“What are you then—Scotch mist?”

“No, silly, but I’m not a proper girl either, am I?”

“Of course you are my darling,” I hugged her and she sobbed.

“I think he’s fed up with us pretend girls.”

“If that was true, he’d have left me yonks ago.”

“But you’re a proper girl now, Mummy.”

“As proper as they can make me—but being a woman is about what you feel inside you, not just your hormones and periods. While that would be nice, it isn’t going to happen for any of us—so we have to cope with it, and so do those who love us. Daddy loves us all in spite of our shortcomings, which he understands.”

“I wish he did, but I don’t think he does.”

“He seems to be okay with Julie and Billie.”

“Billie is your favourite.”

What? She isn’t. I’m just trying to help her through to a stage where she can be a bit more confident as a girl, if that’s what she feels she is. You of all people should understand that.”

“I do, but I want you too.”

“You’ve got me, so what’s the problem?”

“You don’t take me out on your bike.”

“You’re a bit small darling. When I do take you out, you’re tired after about two miles. Billie’s a bit stronger, because she’s older.”

“Will you take me out on a bike when I’m older?”

“If you’d like to, of course I will. In fact, it would give me enormous pleasure.”

“Would it, Mummy?”

“Of course it would. I love cycling and to have one or more of you really interested would be wonderful for me.”

“I’m going to be a cyclist just like you, Mummy.”

“We’ll see kiddo, a lot of water will flow under the bridge before then.”

“I will, Mummy, I promise.”

“We’ll see.”

“Can I help, Mummy?” Billie walked into the kitchen.

“Haven’t you changed back into ordinary clothes yet?”

“You told me to change into these, you didn’t say to change out of them.”

“Where have you been?”

“I washed the bikes with a cloth I found in your workshop then Gramps asked me to help him put in some bean sticks with Leon. He says I looked really pretty in my cycling kit.”

“Oh did he now?”

“Anyway, can I—oh, you’ve been cryin’, Trish.”

“I’m okay,” she shrugged off her sister’s approaches.

“Suit yourself.”

“Billie, go and tell the others to start washing themselves up for lunch—then run up and wash and change yourself.”

She disappeared. “Right, young lady, are you okay now?”

“Yes, Mummy. Oh, Mummy?”

“Yes, darling?”

“I love you, lots.”

“I love you too, sweetheart.” I put my arm around her and gave her a quick squeeze.

Simon returned with the other kids as I was dishing up lunch—a quick risotto and ciabatta bread with sliced tomato and lettuce. I didn’t make the bread, but it needed to be eaten—I know I could have made minestrone soup, but it was a bit warm for that.

After we’d eaten and the girls were playing together and Danny was out with Tom and Leon in the garden, I had a few words with Simon. “Why didn’t you take Trish with you?”

“I said, first three can come with me to the office. She was fourth and I didn’t have room.”

“You could have used my car or the Mondeo.”

“I could have but I didn’t want to.”

“She told me she thought you only liked real girls.”

“That’s ridiculous.”

“To an adult, who doesn’t have insecurity problems.”

“What?”

“Trish thought you’d left her behind because you preferred to have real girls with you.”

“But she is a real girl as far as I’m concerned.”

“Tell that to her—I tried but she was quite upset about it.”

“Oh bugger, I didn’t mean it like that at all. There just wasn’t room.”

“It wasn’t the brightest thing you’ve done.”

“I can see that now. I suppose I’d better go and tell her.”

“Why don’t you take her with you and collect Julie from the salon.”

“I suppose I could—what about the other one?”

“Other one?”

“Yes, Billie.”

“You could take her as well, which I suppose would prove your point of seeing them as ordinary girls—but to be honest, I think you need to spoil Trish a little bit, after all Billie had my entire attention for an hour or so this morning. So, just take Trish.”

“Okay, I just want to do this paperwork and get it in the post, so she can come with me to the post office first and then we’ll collect Julie.”

“The post office is closed on a Saturday afternoon,” I challenged.

“The collection there is later, and besides, the shop next door does delicious ice cream.”

“I see, you’re going to bribe your way back into her affections.”

“Well, it usually works with her mother and her auntie.”

“It might not next time, sunshine—go and do your paperwork.”

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