Life Is Not A Bowl Of Cherries~Final Chapter


I gripped onto Mummy’s arm so hard, it must have hurt, but as she didn’t whimper, I carried on hanging on to her for dear life as we went down the stairs...

Life Is Not A Bowl Of Cherries

A Penmarris Story At Christmas

By Susan Brown



Final Chapter

Previously …

‘There,’ said Sarah, ‘Cinderella is now ready for the ball.’

I looked at Mummy and I could see a tear in her eye. I wondered if she ever thought that something like this would happen. Not in her wildest dreams, I thought.

‘Come on you two,’ said Sarah impatiently, ‘the party has started and I think we need to join them before all the grub goes.’

We followed Sarah out of the bedroom and made our way to the top of the wide marble staircase. Milling about below were lots of people dressed in their finest. Sarah went down first and then Mummy took my arm, looked at me and said with a nervous smile, ‘show time.’

We started to walk down the stairs and as we did so, the talking stopped and everyone looked up.

I now had that deer in the headlight feeling.

And now the story continues…

It was quiet for a second and then I felt my face go hot as everyone started clapping!

I gripped onto Mummy’s arm so hard, it must have hurt, but as she didn’t whimper, I carried on hanging on to her for dear life as we went down the stairs.

Why was everyone clapping and smiling at us like that?

I was so conscious of what I was wearing. It had been a marvel to me how pretty I felt wearing that lovely dress. I could feel every whisper of it as it brushed against me. I had never worn anything like it and I hoped that to would have plenty of opportunities to wear clothes like this in the future. Being a girl wasn’t all about the clothes, but it certainly does a girl good to look and feel the part.

We reached the bottom and after a few back slaps and hugs from some of my new friends and people I had never seen before, there was Jo. People started drifting away to resume whatever they were doing before we rudely interrupted them and Jo pulled us off to the side.

‘Well done for making sure that creep was caught,’ she beamed, ‘Andy, the policeman said that you were very brave and did the right thing.’

Mummy wasn’t saying anything.

‘It wasn’t much, I just happened to have an umbrella in my hand and he sort of tripped over it. Mummy would have brained him with a vase, anyway.’

Jo just smiled and then her and Mummy were distracted and started talking to the olds and I was dragged away by Sarah and taken over to a corner where The Gang was.

Everyone looked very pretty in their party dress and I was glad that I had glammed up for the occasion. I didn’t think that jeans and blouse would be very suitable at a do like this!

‘Hi Katie, nice dress,’ said Pippa.

‘It’s one of Sarah’s.’ I replied, giving them a quick twirl.

‘It looks better on you,’ said Jen.

‘Hey, that’s a slur’ said Sarah in feigned insulted mode.

We all laughed or in my case, embarrassingly giggled.

We didn’t have much more time to talk as I nearly jumped in the air when a big dinner dong, Erm, donged.

‘Dinner is served,’ said Jeeves – I mean Jenkins in his most haughtily butlerish voice.

There was a general scrum as we all made our way to the great hall where the dinner was served.

I gasped at the sight of the splendid room. It was huge, with a high ceiling, painted with classic scenes where cherubim’s and seraphim’s were flying about all over the place and making a nuisance of themselves with the various berobed figures. I wondered if they had fly spray in ancient times...

The walls were covered with paintings that were either portraits of people in old costumes or landscapes that looked original and probably very expensive to my untrained eye. There was a splendid Christmas tree in the corner that almost rivalled the one down by the quay and the various decorations around the room, all added to the festive look.

I expected one long table for some reason, but that wasn’t the case, as there were many smaller round tables, all with pristine white table cloths, bright silver cutlery and red crackers. Each table had a Christmassy centrepiece with red candles, holly and pine cones sprinkled with white and silver; It all looked wonderful.

The Gang new exactly where they were going and I went along with them.

We were over in the corner, ‘out of harm’s way,’ said Sarah mysteriously.

I looked around for Mummy and saw that she was at a table near the front with Jo, Abby, Sam and a few others I didn’t know. She saw me and waved and I finger waved back. She looked quite happy and her cheeks were a bit flushed. I wondered in passing if she’d been at the sherry.

Just then, the room became quiet and looking around I saw Lady Fairbairn walk in wearing a long silk gown that must have cost a fortune. She was so dripping with diamonds, I wondered if they were weighing her down a bit, although she seemed to cope quite well as she crossed the room and sat down at the table where Mummy was. She was smiling and saying hello to everyone at her table. She didn’t seem quite as formidable when she smiled...

Sarah sighed.

‘She does like to make an entrance,’ she remarked to no one in particular.


~*~

The food was excellent and so was the company. Nobody said anything about the incident in the Copper Kettle and for that I was grateful. I was also pleased that the subject of my father didn’t crop up. I wondered if he was now in a police cell or still at the hospital for concussion or something; but I wasn’t going to let thoughts of him spoil my evening.

As the various excellently prepared courses came and went, everyone on our table kept up a lively conversation about clothes, jewellery, makeup, boys, ponies and other riveting subjects. I wasn’t much use because many of the things they spoke about, I had no experience of. I think that I came across as a bit shy, even though they all thought that they knew me quite well from the previous times we had been together.

I didn’t think that Sarah had told the others about my gender and for that I was thankful. I would tell them in my own time and that time wasn’t in the middle of a Christmas dinner; it might have put them off their desert.

We were all feeling pretty stuffed after the final course, which, for us anyway, was in the shape of humongous knickerbocker glories.

There was a tinkle of a glass and everything went quiet.

‘Oh God, Mummy’s going to make a speech, groaned Sarah.’

‘Shhhh,’ said Amy and Bethany.

‘Don't shhhh me,’ said Sarah, crossly.

‘Sarah, be quiet.’

Lady F was looking over at our table with eyes that could drop a mole at fifty paces.

‘Sorry,’ she mouthed.

‘Thank you all fer comin’,’ said Lady Fairbairn with a smile, ‘it’s good ter see new faces as well as old. This old pile needs lots of people in it ter make it come alive and tonight, I think that we’ve achieved that. Before I say anythin’ else, let us raise a glass ter the staff, who made this possible; the staff.’

With a scraping of chairs, we all stood up and said, ‘the staff.’

After sitting down again, Lady F continued.

‘At this time of the year, we remember all those who cannot be with us, either friends or relatives who have gorn away or passed on. Christmas is a time of happiness and remembering past hopefully happy Christmases. I remember, as a child, coming downstairs with my dear sister and into this very room. The tree was in the self same place that it is at the moment. I could not have been more than eight and my sister ten. All the presents were around the tree and we spent a good hour opening them up and making a complete mess of wrapping paper, bows and ribbons on the floor around us.

‘Then our mother and father, together with Jenkins’s father, who was the butler at the time, came into the room and glared at us. I won’t go into the exact words that were said, but the gist of it was that it was very wrong to get out of bed at four in the morning, sneak down and open our presents alone. We were told that Christmas was a time of sharing and being with family, if yer were lucky enough ter have one. As it was Christmas, we were let off with scullery duty the followin’ day and muckin’ out the horses for a week, otherwise we would have more than likely been put in the stocks and pelted with rotten fruit by the local yobs.

‘Anyway, the point of me mitherin’ on is that Christmas is the time for sharing and rememberin’ family, past and present and I count on all of you as bein’ part of the extended family that is Penmarris. If there is anyone alone at this time, try to find them and spend some time with them, not only now but all year around. If anyone is having problems, try and help them. Enough of my sermonising like the vicar, I wish you all good health, Happy Christmas and a prosperous new year. Now, as usual, the tables will now be cleared while we hold the dance, the little ones will be looked after, as usual, in the green room by the parents in turn and the older children and young adults will have their dance disco thing in the barn, without, I might add, drinking anything remotely looking like alcohol. In my day...well never mind that; please enjoy yourselves. By the way if anyone sees me Dorg Fifi with a joint of meat in her mouth or anything else that is fer human consumption, yer have my permission to take it off her. She's on a strict diet after eating half a dozen doughnuts that cook negligently left on the kitchen table. I would have sacked cook, but she makes nice dumplings so I have ter make allowances. Now let's go and enjoy ourselves. Vicar, the first dance, I think.’

An army of servant type people came in and there was general mayhem as they cleared everything up so that there would be a dance floor. A band was setting up over in a spare corner and this was just the hint we needed to leave and go to the barn where us younger ones, as Lady F put it, could let our hair down and make a bit of noise.

I saw Mummy talking with Abby and Samantha and I quickly made my way over to her and explained where I was going.

‘That’s alright dear. I want to spend as much time with you as possible now we’ve found each other again, but a few more hours won’t make much difference.’

I hugged her and gave her a kiss on the cheek as Abby and Samantha looked on and beamed at us. At least it looked like Mummy had made new friends so she wouldn’t be alone, I had wanted to be with her but would just have to be patient.

A covered walkway led to the barn and I followed the others in. Thinking of a barn, I had visions of something a bit rustic, with farm animals, a crib, Virgin Mary and child...no that’s going too far, but you get the picture. The barn had been converted into a hall. I found out afterwards that it was used as a cub/scout/ brownie/girl guide hall as well as other things, when not in use. The barn was clean, fresh and quite modern looking with artfully designed use of some exposed beams.

There was a lot of noise as the disco was already up and running. We went over to the bar and ordered gin and tonics and got just tonics. Bethany had bagged a table and we all went over and sat there. I suppose that there were at least forty kids and young adults there. Some of the smaller children were either dancing or running around making a nuisance of themselves, while the older wiser ones like us were sprinkled around the room in small groups.

We tried to talk but it was very hard with the noise of the music. Eventually, we all stood up and went and had a dance. Of course, I wasn’t keen because, like on the ice rink, I had two left feet, but I soon got the hang of it. Dancing was simple really, you sort of swayed on the spot, lifted up your arms occasionally and perhaps, if you were feeling exceptionally Travolta like, you wiggled your hips and stepped to the left or the right, roughly in tune with the music.

After a while many others were joining us and the dance floor was a swathing mass of grating - I mean gyrating bodies. Eventually, I had to stop as my shoes were pinching and my arches had fallen flat or that was how they felt.

Leaving the others with a wave, I crossed the room, sat down and drank some of the tonic. It tasted bitter and foul, so I went over to the bar for a cola, complete with a slice of lemon and some ice. Then I returned to my table and sank down on a seat. Sucking through the straw, my eyes strayed over to the side where a boy was just sitting there, by himself, looking a bit bored. A few girls came over and asked if he wanted to dance but each time, he just shook his head.

He was good looking, about my age; I would say or slightly older. He had brown hair and looked quite smart in his jacket and button down shirt. He caught my eye and smiled a bit.

Hmm.

On an impulse, I got up. My feet were still hurting and I winced a bit. Without much thought, I picked up my bag and wrap and went over to his table. It was a bit quieter there and I could hear myself think. That was my excuse, anyway.

‘Can I sit down?’ I asked.

He looked at me and smiled. My tummy sort of flipped. What was that all about?

‘Okay.’

I sat down gracefully – well, that’s not strictly true, as I plopped down with a sigh, took off one of my shoes and started rubbing my stockinged foot.

‘Ooh that’s better.’ I said, ‘I’m Katie.’

‘John.’

‘Hi John.’

‘Hi Katie,’

We were both quiet after that for a while. I didn’t know what to say and he was hardly suffering from verbal diarrhoea himself.

I was trying to come to grips with the weird feelings that I was having after seeing him across a crowded room like that. This had effectively tongue- tied me and I was struggling to see sense in my feelings.

‘Are you with anyone,’ he asked suddenly, making me jump slightly.

‘Erm, only that mob of girls in the middle there, dancing around there bags. I’ve never understood that.’

‘What, the dancing around the handbag thing?’

‘Yes,’

‘I thought that all girls did that.’

‘Not this girl.’

After that we both opened up a bit, and I was soon telling him the story about what I was there, minus the fact that we had more in common down below than I liked or cared to mention.

John, it turned out, was in Penmarris visiting his Auntie Candice, the doctors’ receptionist and I told him that Bethany was a friend of mine.

‘Beth is a nice girl,’ he said, ‘I like her more now than when she was a he, if you know what I mean.’

I looked at him.

‘Bethany was a boy?’ I said.

He seemed to go a bit pale.

‘Oh God, you didn’t know. I thought that everyone knew.’

‘I told you that I’ve only been here a few days.’

He looked at me with those piercing blue eyes that did something strange to my insides.

‘Please don’t tell her that I’ve told you.’

‘I won’t. Mind you it’s surprising, I would have never thought that she was ever a boy.’

‘That’s what I think. Wow, so she’s like me?’

‘Yes...what?’

I looked at him. My mouth had done it again, not engaged fully with what little brain I had. I shut my eyes for a moment and then looked at him again. I wasn’t going to lie. I had lied a lot in my life and it had to stop somewhere. What was he going to do, scream at me?

‘I’m like Bethany, I used to be considered a boy, although I’ve known that I was a girl ever since I picked up my first dolly in play school.’

‘But...but, your pretty.’

‘What, did you think that I should look like the back of a bus?’

‘Sorry...no, that came out wrong. Well you are pretty.’

‘Thank you.’ I replied.

I couldn’t look at him, especially those damned eyes. I thought that he should at least wear dark glasses with eyes like that...they were dangerous and should be hidden from view.

‘Look, do you want to dance?’ he said.

‘No thanks, my feet hurt and anyway, you don’t want to dance with someone that is still officially a boy with all the bits and pieces that go with it, do you?’

‘I never said that. Don’t put words into my mouth. It doesn’t matter what’s between your legs; that can be sorted if you want. It’s what you are, pretty obviously a girl, that’s what matters.'

I looked at him more closely, trying to work out if he was just saying that. He had a nice face with ears, nose, eyes and mouth just where they should be.

‘What about all those girls that came over to you and you wouldn’t dance?’

‘I was just waiting for the right girl to come along.’

He smiled and I swear, he actually had dimples.

‘Oh god, what a cheesy line.’

‘I’ve been saving that one up.’

‘You shouldn’t have bothered.’

We both laughed.


~*~

We sat there for some time. My friends saw me but for some strange reason kept away. I really didn’t understand why Sarah kept giving me the thumbs up and winking at me. She must have had something in her eye.

The night wore on and John and I spoke about lots of things and I was pleased to hear that John’s family were moving down to Penmarris from Bristol. He was sympathetic about my father and all the trouble that he had caused and he agreed with me that Dad was better off behind bars rather than on the loose. We were getting quite comfortable just talking to each other and as each minute passed I felt happier and happier to be in his company. Eventually, there were a few slow dances and several ‘couples’ went out and started to dance.

‘Are you feet okay now?’ asked John.

‘Not too bad.’

‘Fancy a dance?’

‘Fancy having your feet trodden on?’

‘I’ll chance it.’

As he took my hand and led me to the dance floor, I felt a tingle. Was this love or at least attraction? As I had been taking the pills, I hadn’t felt any inclination or preference for anything, shall we say, of a sexual nature. Not that I had any experience of that sort of thing anyway, coming from the environment that I had.

So it was with strange, almost disturbing feelings that I went onto the dance floor with John and assumed the position. Dancing with someone else like that was strange to say the least. I had no idea as to what to do but luckily, John seemed to have some experience and he made sure that I put my hands in the right place as he guided me around the dance floor and made sure that we didn’t bump into other couples.

I don’t think that I trod on his toes.

The slow stuff didn’t last long, as most of the kids there were more interested in the head banging loud music. John and I tried to join in a bit, but my feet soon started to complain and holding hands, we first got a couple of drinks and then headed back to our table over in the corner away from the worst of the noise.

‘Sorry,’ I said, ‘I am a terrible dancer. Did I tread on your toes much?’

‘I can’t say, I lost the feeling in my feet after the twelfth time.’

‘Ha-ha.’

Across the table, he gently put his hand over mine.

‘You’re nice,’ he said.

‘For a boy who thinks her a girl.’ I replied defensively and maybe slightly bitterly.

‘Don’t say that. You are a girl and anyone with half a brain can see that.’

‘Do you think so?’

‘Yes, I wouldn’t say that if I didn’t mean it.’

‘I’m not pretending you know. I have always been a girl in my eyes. I was so frightened of telling anyone that I built a wall around me and pushed everyone away. Now, here in Penmarris, everything is different. I have found my mother and everyone has been so nice to me. I feel happy and safe. My dad is in custody and Mummy can live her life without worrying about him. Now there’s you; I don’t know why, but I feel that we can be friends or even a bit more, if you like. It’s all a bit too soon to be silly about it, but I would like to get to know you better, if you like...’

He looked at me with those lovely eyes.

‘I would like...’

I sighed. This was all so wonderful, I wondered if I might wake up and find that it was all a dream. We sat there for a while talking about things that I can’t even recall now, but the evening seemed to whizz by.

Things started to get a bit quieter after 10 o’clock. Some of the other younger ones went off to bed complaining bitterly to their parents that it, ‘just wasn’t fair,’ and a largish crowd, including my friends were having a noisy time of it over to the side.

I looked out of the window and saw that it was gently snowing again. I was feeling quite hot.

‘It’s very warm in here. Can we go outside for a minute?’

‘Okay,’ said John standing up.

I put on my wrap, picked up my bag and we went outside. I didn’t know if I could spend long out there, just wearing a thin dress and wrap, but a few minutes might be nice.

Outside, the snow was gently falling and it was noticeably quieter. Everywhere looked clean, fresh and above all, white.
Hand in hand, we walked along a path away from the barn towards The Manor. The lights on the trees looked wonderful, as did the fountain shooting water high up into the air. The Manor itself added to the magical effect by being floodlit. I could almost think myself as being Cinderella, as Sarah had jokingly called me, and that I was at the ball with my handsome prince beside me.

We stopped and looked at the fountain. John put his arm around me. It was wonderful; I had known John for just a short time, but I felt and believed that we were meant to be together. Love at first sight was maybe not a myth, after all.

John turned me towards him and I looked at his lovely smiling face. He tipped my chin up slightly and slowly our lips met.

His lips were soft and warm and I sighed as I melted in his arms...

‘You make a very sweet couple,’ said a voice and we stopped and looked around.

It was my father.


~*~

He had a shotgun in his hand and he was pointing it at us.

‘Funny, fancy someone leaving a shotgun lying around for anyone to pick up. My good luck, I suppose.’

‘Who are you?’ said John as he held me to him protectively.

‘Ask him,’ he said as he jerked the gun barrel in my direction.

Dad was wearing, of all things, a hospital gown and robe. He had slippers on his feet and he looked quite mad. His head was bandaged and he had this wild look about him. He should have been freezing cold, but, if anything, he looked hot and sweat glistened on his face.

‘What do you mean him?’ said John, his voice slightly quivery.

‘Didn’t you know? He’s a boy in a dress and believe it or not he’s my son. I was knocked out by him when I visited his mum. I woke up in hospital and pretended I was asleep. This policeman and a nurse were talking about you Ben. Carol had a son according to my detective, not a girl, but they were talking as if you always thought that you were a girl. That’s the trouble with places like Penmarris, everyone knows your business. The whole village knows about you Ben. I admit that you don’t look too bad as a girl, but you are coming with me and I’ll teach you how to be a man.’

‘I’m not going anywhere with you. I ran away from people like you. You aren’t my father. A real father wouldn’t act the way you do.’

‘Brave words, girlie-boy. It looks like I’m going to have to knock some sense into you.’

‘You leave her alone,’ said John.

‘Are you deaf, boy? She’s really a he. Now Ben, are you going to come quietly or am I going to have to drag you?’

‘My name is Katie and I’m not going anywhere,’ I said.

Dad looked annoyed and then smiled as he swung the gun barrel directly at John.

‘Come with me or lover boy gets it.’

‘Don’t go Katie, he won’t do anything, he’s bluffing...’

Dad smiled and then moving the gun slightly to the left, he fired it.

The noise was terrific. Birds flew up into the air and the blast dislodged some snow from the roof of The Manor, sprinkling us with even more snow.

I wondered where everyone was. Surely the noise would bring flocks of people out to see what was happening?

I couldn’t chance Dad shooting John. He looked mad enough to do it.

I shook myself away from John’s embrace and moved forward towards my so called father.

‘Katie, don’t.’

‘John, stay where you are; he won’t hurt me, I’m his daughter...’

‘Son, not daughter.’

’Whatever,’ I replied with a tired voice as I went up to him.

I wondered if it would be possible to wrest the gun away from him, but I couldn’t take the chance. He motioned for me to move off in front of him and I did as I was told. I wondered if I would ever see my mother, friends or John again.

‘Stay away boy; if you follow us, you’ll regret it for the rest of your short life.’

‘Do as he says John,’ I said over my shoulder, ‘I’ll be alright.’


~*~

He prodded me in the back with the gun and I walked on ahead of him. The path was nearly hidden by the snow. I started to shiver. I was not dressed for this sort of thing. Dad kept mumbling to himself and I wondered if he was feeling the effects of his injury. I hoped so. I would just have liked him to keel over and then I could get away from him.

I didn’t think that he had any sort of plan and thought that he just wanted to get me away and worry about the details later. I had an idea. By now, the snow was coming down a bit heavier and the path had more or less disappeared. We appeared to be on the lawn and my heels were digging in a bit as we walked. Occasionally my foot hit a soft mound and I stumbled slightly. Looking over my shoulder, I saw that my dad was just looking at me and not paying much attention to where we were going. A long way behind, I could see a lot of figures in the distance and I knew that they were aware of what was going on and maybe trying to track us without spooking my mad dad with the gun.

‘I’m cold,’ I said.

‘Never mind that; keep walking.’

‘Mummy wouldn’t like you to do this,’

‘Mummy, is it? Well I’m your Daddy and you’ll damned well do as you’re told so keep walking.’

‘A real Daddy wouldn’t put his daughter in danger.’

‘Stop saying that you are my daughter, you are my son Ben and don’t forget it.’

I wasn’t too upset at what he was saying. I was just trying to distract him. To me, he wasn’t my father, he was just a producer of a sperm that got lucky and helped an egg that needed fertilising.

‘Where are we going?’ I asked, my breath condensing in the frigid air as I spoke.

‘My car is out on the lane. I collected it after leaving the hospital, I had a spare key hidden under the bumper.’

‘What happened to the policeman at the hospital?’

‘He accidental got hit on the head with a bedpan when he wasn’t looking. Pity it wasn’t full at the time.’

He laughed as if he had made a great joke. I wasn’t laughing.

‘Dad, I’m really cold. Can we go back? I’m sure that if you did they would...’

I dodged to the left and ran, being very careful where I put my feet. It caught him by surprise and he came after me, as I knew he would. I was also pretty sure that he wouldn’t shoot his only child, correction; I hoped that he wouldn’t shoot me.

‘Stop, you little sod, I’ll shoot you...FUCK!’

I went down on the ground and lay flat as the gun went off again. Looking up, I could see him writhing on the ground, the double-barrelled shotgun about a metre away from him, just out of reach.

He had fallen over some soft soil hidden by the snow, and his foot had sunk into a hole, no doubt excavated by a mole or rabbit, one of many such places littered about all over Lady F’s lawn. I had noticed this little fact when we had arrived earlier.

I love it when a plan comes together.


~*~

In seconds, I was surrounded by people together with several policemen and women. John was there too and he took his jacket off and put it around my shoulders; even though it must have made him cold. I appreciated the gesture and kissed him on the lips.

‘Yuck,’ said Phillipa.

‘Sheesh Katie, put the poor boy down.’ said Sarah.

‘Darling, are you alright,’ said Mummy as she came up and hugged me tightly. She had been crying and she needed some urgent makeup repairs and so did I and I wasn’t pleased that my dress looked like it had been dragged through a hedge backwards either.

Dad was surrounded by the police and it looked like he may have broken his foot or leg. I wouldn’t weep for him.

I was led away and then before I knew it, I was in a room that was full of books; a library or study maybe. I was sat by a log fire with a lovely warm blanket around me and a mug of cocoa in my hands.

Mummy was there with me and so was John, who wouldn’t leave my side. My dad had been taken away in an ambulance with a suspected compound fracture in the leg. He wasn’t going to be running anywhere for a while – shame...

Andy, the policeman was okay; he had concussion and would be staying in the hospital for the night.

Doctor Marcia had given me the once over and declared me fit. She did add that I was suffering from slight shock; not surprising, after all that had happened. She prescribed tender loving care and I was getting that in spades from my mother and boyfriend. The Gang had wanted to come and see me but were told to at least wait until the next day – Boxing Day. Sarah could be heard complaining bitterly about that, but her mother told her to shut up or she would have to go and feed the pigs at six in the morning. She became strangely quiet after that...

Somehow, I must have fallen asleep and I woke up in bed. It was the middle of the night. Someone had changed me and I was wearing a cotton nightie with long sleeves. To the side, a fire crackled and gave the room a warm glow.

‘You’re awake then, young Katie?’

I jumped slightly as I turned and there was Lady Fairbairn in dressing gown and slippers sitting over to the side. She had half moon glasses on and a book in her hand.

‘H...hello.’

‘Hello to you too. How are yer feelin’?’

‘Better thanks, a bit tired but not too bad.’

‘Good.’

‘Where’s Mummy?’

‘Gorn ter bed. I told her te get some shut-eye. She didn’t want to leave ye, but I insisted and said that I would be with yer tonight. Don’t need much sleep at my age. get enough of that when I pop me clogs and join me husband Tremain in the great fox hunt in the sky; if they let ye have that up there. Probably not, it a bit barbaric I suppose. But here’s me witterin on. Yer need ter sleep. Are ye paining anywhere?’

‘No.’

‘Good; I can’t abide people who whinge. Broke me arm once when me horse fell on me goin over a fence. Didn't make a fuss just got back on the thing and went back ter the stables. Even rubbed her down afterwards before goin ter the hospital.’

I yawned.

‘Sorry,’ I said.

‘Don’t mention it. I do go on sometimes. I’m ashamed ter say that that gun yer father had was mine. I left where I shouldn’t and if anything had happened, I would never forgive meself. I’ve told Jenkins to get rid of it. Anyway, enough of that and changin’ the subject; I know about your problem, not that it is a real problem around here. You are a lovely girl and don't let anyone say otherwise. Me daughter Sarah likes you and although she's a blithering idiot, she has good sense when it comes to friends. If you or yer mother have any problems, come and see me. Sarah's friends have the run of the place and that includes you. I meant it when I said that people who live in Penmarris are part of an extended family and you are one of us now and part of our family. Now go to sleep; I’m at an interestin’ part of me book and I can’t wait ter get back ter it.’

I smiled at her kindly face and turned over. Why did I ever think that she was a fierce old biddy? She was sweet and nice and I like her, a lot.

In seconds, I was asleep.


~*~

New Years Eve


’10,9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1 – Happy New Year!’

We all cheered as we watched the spectacular fireworks down by the quay.

I was with John and he held my hand and kissed me at the right moment. Then I hugged and kissed Mummy, followed by all my friends, as we spontaneously went into a group hug and screamed a bit, as girls sometimes do.

After a minute or so, we all calmed down and watched the fireworks shoot up into the sky. Hand in hand with John on one side and Mummy on the other, my mind went back to the previous momentous week.

My father had been transferred to prison and was in the hospital wing, with his foot and leg in plaster. He had been charged with a number of offences including rape, assault and attempted abduction. The word was that he would plead guilty in the hope that he might get a reduced sentence. At least Mummy and I wouldn’t have to appear at court and for that, I was truly thankful.

I had officially moved in with Mummy and we had already looked online regarding the possibility of my doing a foundation course that might lead to a career in nursing. Mummy had been on duty most of the week at the hospital and so we hadn’t had much time together, but she now had a week off and we would be having some quality mother-daughter time over the next several days.

Things have gone from strength to strength with John and everyone says that we are joined at the hip most of the time. That didn’t mean that I had forgotten my other friends and let’s face it; boys don’t like to go shopping, so I did go off without him occasionally. We girls went by bus to the shopping centre in Plymouth no less than three times, as once just wasn’t enough. I won’t say how much money I spent; as Mummy might read this one day and I don’t want to give her a heart attack!

I went with Mummy to see Doctor Marcia a few days ago as the results from my blood tests were in. It turns out that I have a condition called Reifenstein Syndrome a form of Androgen insensitivity. I thought that Reifenstein Syndrome sounded like I had been bitten my Count Dracula or something but I was told that I was effectively insensitive to androgens and that was one of the reasons why I looked so girlie. I was to have some further tests done in the new year to confirm things but I decided that I wouldn’t worry about that until I had to.

I have been up to The Manor a few times and I now know that Auntie Dotty, or Lady Fairbairn to you, is a bit of a sweetie under that tough exterior. Samantha and Abby are going to be married sometime in the new year and, hot off the press, I am going to be a bridesmaid! How cool is that? Samantha has to have an operation for something first; plumbing problems or suchlike but she said, as soon as she could walk without bandy legs, Abby and her are going to tie the knot. They are so popular, the vicar David is worried that his little church might not be big enough to hold all the guests and the steel band that Abby and Sam asked for. I don't think that Auntie Dotty is all that keen on the steel band idea, but, for once, she is being overruled.

Everyone went ‘ooh,’ and ‘aah,’ as colourful fireworks lit up the sky, making it almost like daylight. Thinking about just a few weeks ago, I was in a children home, on the point of being ejected. I had no friends and I thought, no one to love me. Now I had found my mother, who never stopped loving me, a boyfriend who thought the world of me, and a whole village full of people who accepted me for who I was.

A very happy girl.


THE END



Coming Later in The Year, A New Penmarris Story~ Changes Book 3 ~The Wedding

Please leave comments and kudo thingies...thanks! ~Sue



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