“You think you’ve won, don’t you?” spat the social worker at me as I left with Jemima.
“How can I? The judge has yet to make his mind up. This isn’t a contest, it’s about what is best for Mima.”
“Is someone throwing money at her, best for her?”
“Who’s throwing money? I’m a poor working girl.”
“About to marry a millionaire.”
“What’s the matter? Jealous?”
“Of you—ha, at least I know what sex I am.”
“So do I, and have done since I was about four.”
“Your fiancé, he likes sleeping with blokes, does he?”
“Why, are you one?” I spat back.
“Me, I’m all woman, unlike some here.” She brushed past me and how I didn’t push her in the back as she went, is some evidence of my increasing self restraint.
“Mummy, why she mean to you?” There was my reason for not retaliating.
“Why is she mean? I don’t know, she’s jealous because you want to come and live with Simon and me. She seems to think you shouldn’t.”
“Mima wanna stay wiv Mummy an’ Daddy.”
“I know, lovely girl, that’s why we were seeing the nice judge. Did he like your book?”
“Yes, nice man wiked my book.”
“Oh there’s Tom,” we both waved, and he walked over to meet us.
“Where’s Stella and Simon?”
“Seeing Henry off, he had to dash for a vote in the Lords.”
“Oh, the burdens of office.”
“So what happened to you?”
“Your precious computer system played up again. We had to have the bloke back, he thinks he’s found the fault this time, a glitch in the software controlling it all.”
“Oh, I hope no more dormice are at risk?”
“Not so far, Neal is watching it now, at least the alarms work now.”
“What did we pay for if nothing works?”
“They won’t be charging us for the two visits.”
“I should hope not.”
“What happened in court?”
“He’s given himself a month to make a decision. Meanwhile he’s continuing the status quo.”
“Cor, that’s big words for you.”
“Meanwhile and continuing.” Tom was poker faced then the edges of his mouth crinkled.
“You silly old bugger, it’s only professors who become monosyllabic.”
“Isn’t that type of standing stone?” asked Simon, who’d caught us up.
“Come on, Mima, let’s leave these silly people behind and go home and have some ice cream.”
“Yes plwease, Mummy, I wuv ice cweam.”
I started to stride away from Tom and Simon, except in these shoes, I was likely to break my neck. I slowed and meandered along as Stella walked alongside. “What’s the problem, shoe trouble?”
“These wretched things are killing my feet.”
“Yeah, but they look brilliant, so walk through the pain.”
“That’s okay for you to say, it’s not you they’re crippling.”
“That social worker was really pissed at you for the way you dress.”
“What cast offs and charity shops?”
“The blouse isn’t either.”
“No, Simon gave it to me for my birthday—which you presumably chose?”
“On the grounds it might incriminate me, I’m saying nothing.” She hailed a passing cab.
“Hey,” called Simon, "Let’s go out for lunch. See you at The Oaktree.”
“Simon, my feet are hurting.”
“Go on, you can sit down to eat.”
I got in the cab, followed by Mima and Stella. I directed him to take us home. Once there, I changed my shoes to a more manageable pair of courts, got Mima’s dormouse for her and collected my car. We were at the pub half an hour later. Simon was a bit miffed, but when I showed him my sore toes, he calmed down, which was just as well, because I wasn’t at all repentant.
I wasn’t that hungry, so Mima and I shared some sandwiches, she sat on my lap and ate them. Then a little later, she fell asleep on my lap, cuddling with her dormouse. Stella took some photos on her mobile.
Simon who was sitting opposite me said, “You two look good together.”
“I can’t see how we look, but we certainly feel good together.”
“How did you think it went?” he asked me.
“As well as could be expected. At least he wasn’t blown away by my medical history.
“No, that’s very true. Mind you that Bentley chap was totally brilliant, I loved the way he suggested that you weren’t a woman in a man’s body, but a woman with a plumbing problem.”
“I missed that, Mima was needing some attention every now and then. I thought she did really well to sit still for so long.”
“Was that a new book she was reading?”
“Yeah, I got it for her the other day when I went out on my own.”
“What was it she asked you about?”
“You know when it went quiet.”
“Oh that, a hefferlump.”
“It’s Pooh,” said Stella, “Have you never heard of a hefferlump? Pooh and co are terrified of them.”
“Of course,” Simon shook his head, “how could I forget? Mind you I’ve been trying to catch Alice, ever since Christopher Robin went down with it.”
“You silly bugger,” accused Stella and smacked him on his arm.
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