Chapter 1; Flight
Mélanie was crying. She was at wit’s end but things could not continue as they were. Where she came from, it was hell and there was no question that she’d spend another day there, not even a minute.
The last argument had been the straw that broke the camel’s back ... Butch had always seemed to be on top of things and she had found him to her liking when they had been in the same class in ninth grade. She, herself, was nowhere as confident; ever since her parents had died in that fire when she was eight, she lived with her aunt in a dirty walk-up in the slums of the St. Henry district of Montreal. It would not have been her first choice but nobody had bothered asking for her opinion.
For a while, things were not that bad, even though her aunt seemed to find a new boyfriend every time the welfare cheque ran out but, two years ago, the last one settled in for good. Ever since that time, her aunt seemed to spend much more time out on the streets, while the boyfriend stayed home with her. He never went out to work but he always seemed to have lots of green in his pocket. Instead, he loafed in the flat, drank beer and watched TV. Sometimes, in the evening, he would go out for a while, never for a long time, leaving Mélanie by herself. However, when she started wearing bras, things changed. Her aunt started coming in later and later and, during the day, she seemed only half there while he started getting real snuggly with her. Finally, she couldn’t take it any more and she had gone to see Butch.
Butch, in the meanwhile, had dropped out of school and had found himself a job at the corner gas station. He lived in a room the gas station owner was letting him have in exchange for half his salary. When Mélanie had told him what was happening, Butch had started swearing, had called Aunt Berthe’s boyfriend a pimp and had suggested that she move in with him. She had gotten pregnant almost immediately.
At the beginning, Butch had been all excited and was walking around like a barnyard rooster but after Sonny was born, it hadn’t lasted ... diapers were expensive ... and so were the baby clothes ... and all the accessories like the crib and stuff ... It was lucky that Sonny took his meals at the source otherwise he would have been yelling at her for that, as well. Butch started staying out late, hanging with his pals. For a while already, he was coming home totally sloshed. Butch was a mean drunk. The night before, not only had he yelled at her like he had never done before, he had hit her.
That morning, early, while Butch was still stewing in his booze, she had gotten up, packed her bag, taken Sonny and, on the way out, had swiped the keys to the gas station. Parked next to the garage were two beat-up heaps that the owner was trying to pass off on some patsy too stupid to see that the wrecks were worthless. She unlocked the garage, killed the alarm and searched the counter.
Taking the keys of the better-looking of the two wrecks and the thirty dollars left in the cash, she filled the tank, locked up the garage and left the keys in the mail slot. Right now, she was driving around on the back roads somewhere in the Eastern Townships, not knowing where to go nor what she was going to do.
Suddenly, she let go of the gas and stomped on the brakes...
... Shit! The border! She didn’t even have a driver’s licence, not to mention a passport. There was no way she was going there. Right! Let’s back up and get the hell out of here!
She looked around and spotted a driveway behind her. She put the car into reverse, or, at least tried to. It took three tries before the blasted heap would shift. Slowly, she backed into the driveway and had to fight with the shift lever again to get the car back into drive. Coming back out of the driveway, she went back the other way and, at the first crossroad, turned left. Why... ? Well, why not?
Not even a mile further, the car started to slow down. She gave more gas and the engine raced but the car itself continued to slow. Damn! Now what? Luckily, she spotted a barn on the side of the road, pulled the car off the road in front of it, near another car already parked there and killed the engine.
She must have sat there a good five minutes without moving. Finally, with a deep sigh, she opened the door, grabbed her large baby-carrying scarf which she tied around her neck, went around to the back of the car to pick Sonny up from the haphazard baby crib she had concocted out some empty boxes she had found at the garage and had jammed into place with the baby blanket and her suitcase, and continued on foot.
She had been walking for a half-hour already when Sonny started getting agitated. He was no doubt getting hungry ... and he needed a change of diapers. She should eat something as well, if only to keep up her milk production. She looked around ... a little further up, just beyond a small bridge, there was an orchard. Excellent.
Chapter 2; Discovery
Straightening her shoulders, she crossed the bridge and crossed the ditch into the orchard. The water under the bridge looked clean; she could see the bottom of the stream clearly. Good. She followed the stream a bit to be out of sight of the road and spread her blanket. Laying Sonny down on the blanket, she went to the stream and dampened her washcloth. Now the diaper. It was lucky that Sonny was not yet into solid food. Karine had told her that when that time came, the diapers REALLY started to stink. That done, she looked around. She had gotten up early that morning and she hadn’t stopped since. She was now God knew where in the middle of an orchard, far from everybody. She stretched out her arm, picked an apple out of the tree and, after wiping it against her blouse, bit into it. She was feeling tired. She looked around again ... it was hot and there was no one. Well, why not? She undid her blouse, took off her bra and stretched next to Sonny. A-a-a-ah ... a feeling of utter contentment came over her; this was why she was a woman. It was at times like these that she wished to have twins, one for each breast. Karine was full of shit; this was much better than making love. With Butch, things were barely starting to get interesting and he was already finished. Afterwards, she was all sticky and he was snoring. It was really not worth yelling out over the rooftops.
“ ... Hello ... Bonne jiourre...”
“Er... ? What... ? Eh ... Oh. Hello.”
Mélanie was feeling even more taken aback, if that were possible. She looked around rapidly for her blouse, feeling rather naked in front of this woman, but she had used it to prop up Sonny. Getting up, she lifted Sonny up at the same time, holding him in front of her so that her breasts were at least partly hidden. The woman seemed to notice her unease.
“Don’t worry... ce n’est ... rien? C’est pas grave. It is nothing. My name is Heather – these apple trees are mine. The car, the one in front of the barn ... it is yours?”
“Er ... yes, in a manner of speaking. My name is Mélanie.”
“My neighbour ... He saw you leave on foot and he called me. Is everything all right?”
“Er ... not really, no. I have just left home. I couldn’t stay there any longer.”
“Oh, I’m sorry.” She saw the small suitcase on the ground next to the baby blanket. “Where’s your stuff?”
“That’s all there is. I left in a hurry.”
“Have you eaten?”
Mélanie didn’t say anything but her face was eloquent.
“Come with me!” When she saw Mélanie hesitate, she insisted “Come!”
Subdued, Mélanie laid Sonny back onto the blanket and turned her back to put her bra and blouse back on and then stuffed all her gear back into the suitcase. Holding the dirty diaper in her hand, looking about to see where to put it, Heather told her “Give that to me ... Come along, give it over.”
When Mélanie had picked Sonny back up, Heather came close to take the suitcase out of Mélanie’s hand and turned about to go towards the road. Having lost all resistance, Mélanie followed. At the car, a recent dual energy Camry, Heather tossed the suitcase onto the back seat, signed Mélanie to get into the passenger side and, starting the engine, sprayed gravel every which way and did a quick ‘U’ turn across the road, totally ignoring the two-foot deep ditches literally inches from her wheels.
About a half of a kilometer past where Mélanie had abandoned her car, Heather pulled into a long driveway with an elaborate gate and stopped in front of a large farmhouse that in no way resembled one.
“Come!” said she, again as she climbed out of the car. She headed to the kitchen door and, walking ahead, signaled Mélanie to have a seat at the table while she pulled out bowl, plate and a spoon and served her a large bowl of vegetable soup so thick that the spoon almost stood up straight.
While Mélanie, still hesitant, approached her bowl, still with Sonny in one arm, Heather continued and pulled out a plate of butter, cheese, sliced ham and home-made bread. Finally, she pulled out a jug of milk and served her a large glass.
When everything was on the table and Mélanie started to relax, Heather pulled out a cup, placed it under an espresso machine and pushed a button. Coffee in hand, she sat down in front of Mélanie and said “All right. Now, tell me everything. How is it that you’re all alone with a baby in a car I would not even dare to take out of my driveway, without any baggage or anything else.”
It took a while but, slowly, as she filled her stomach, she unloaded her misery. Finally, relieved, she sat back, stomach full, unable to eat another bite. Heather poured Mélanie another glass of milk and summed up.
“So, if I understand you correctly, you’ve got no place to stay, no job, no clothes and no money. Is that right?”
Mélanie nodded, morose.
“Right, first things first ... I don’t have any room here, nor do I have a job for you. Next week will be the harvest and it’s going to be hell. You’d only be underfoot. However, I do know someone. Let me make a phone call. I’ll be right back.”
The dialogue in this story is partly in English, partly in French, just like it is spoken in that area of Quebec, heavily populated as it is by people of English, Irish and Scottish origins as well as French. To make things simple, I’ve kept the remaining dialogue in this and subsequent stories as English only.
Chapter 3; Surprise
Heather left the kitchen by a door that probably led to a hallway. Mélanie listened in on the telephone conversation.
“Yeah, hi... , it’s me. Look, I’ve a problem, I picked up a stray ... No, a girl. From the looks of her, she’s barely seventeen, with an eight month old baby on her hands. She’s got one bag barely large enough to serve as a diaper bag and the clothes on her back. I’ve just fed her enough for three people. I was wondering if you could put her up? Weren’t you telling me you needed a barmaid?”
“I don’t know, we can only try. If she runs away screaming, I’m only out the one meal. If she works out, her outfit won’t cost you much, will it? From what she’s told me of her home life, this is one determined young lady. She might actually go for it.”
“Okay, I’ll bring her over. Give me a half-hour to prime her.”
“No, I don’t think I’ll tell her. She’d only try to find excuses to leave. I think the best would be for you to greet her in all your glory.”
“Yeah, right, sink or swim. Right, I’ll see you in a bit.”
When Heather came back to the kitchen, Mélanie tried in vain to pretend she hadn’t overheard anything.
“I should have asked, you do speak English, don’t you?”
Mélanie blushed. “A little, yes. I understand well enough but I don’t dare to speak it. I’m afraid people will laugh.”
“Excellent. Well, as you’ve no doubt understood, I’ve found you a job and a place to stay. They’re good people. My friends run an inn in the village nearby. In exchange, you’d work there as a barmaid and help out with doing the rooms. How old are you?”
“Good. On the job application form, write down that you’re eighteen, all right? That’s just in case the Liquor Board comes snooping. I don’t think there’ll be any problems but there’s no use looking for trouble.
“Have you finished? No, leave it! I’ll pick up when I come back. And finish your milk! No, no excuses. Come on, down the hatch. If not for you, drink it for your baby. That’s better. Now, pick up your stuff and we’ll go.”
Walking out again to the car, Mélanie put her case back onto the back seat and slid into the passenger seat. Heather started the car, sprayed gravel again and shot out the driveway and turned into the road in the same direction as before. Some two hundred meters past the crossroad to the border, she saw an old mansion done in fieldstone on the side of the road across from a small church.
Heather pulled into the parking lot and stomped on the brakes. Climbing out of the car, she headed towards the door. There, she hesitated and signed Mélanie to go in before her.
In front of her, she saw a lobby done up in an antique style, loaded with dark red varnished mahogany and dark green wallpaper. A the back, there was a sculptured wood reception desk and behind that a wall of pigeon holes. Next to that was a door leading to a dark hallway and, next to her, again in varnished mahogany, was a stairway leading to a second floor. Between the counter and the stairs were a pair of glass doors, closed, and in the wall opposite, another pair of doors, open this time. Heather indicated to Mélanie she should go through there.
She had barely gone through the door when she froze. In front of her was a bar decorated as though it was an English pub like those in magazine articles she’d seen but, especially, seated before her as if waiting for her was an incredibly good-looking woman in her thirties with a great body, generous breasts and a smile to make the sun jealous, totally nude ... totally? Well, not quite, she was wearing a gold chain around her waist.
Heather, who had followed Mélanie, seemed totally unsurprised with the woman’s outfit.
“Hello, Megan. This is Mélanie, the girl I was telling you about. Mélanie, this is Megan O’Brian. She’s manager of this inn. Her husband, Sean O’Shaughnessy, is the owner, just like he’s the owner of the campground next door.”
Megan rose from her barstool and stuck out her hand. Mélanie shook herself and dropped her case in order to return the handshake.
“Is this a nude bar?” she asked, a bit roughly.
Heather and Megan both started to laugh. “Oh, Heavens, no,” answered Megan in an impeccable French although with a weird accent, a bit like they speak in France but not quite. “Not in the way that you mean it, anyway. I wouldn’t have stood for it.”
“So what’s with the... ?” asked Mélanie, waving vaguely towards Megan’s body, unable to continue.
“It’s simple, really,” answered Megan, “ this inn, and all the land around it including the campground is all part of the Sherwin’s Falls Naturist Resort. Total nudity is required for every one, staff, customers and even visitors.”
“You mean to say that I have to take my clothes off?” yelled Mélanie, stunned.
Megan smiled again. “Well, if I was being picky about it, yes, but, as you can see, Heather has not bothered undressing and she’s a regular.
“So, what’s the idea?”
Megan chuckled. “Well ... That’s a lot harder to explain. To really understand it, you have to live it but, for the moment, let’s say that when people are nude, they are more polite with one another.”
Chapter 4; Skinny Dipping
“I have an idea. Heather tells me you have no place to stay. Why not stay here overnight. Walk around the place. Tonight, you can eat here. We have another guest presently, her name is Bernadette, who also has a baby with her. In fact, I believe she told me she would be going for a swim in the pond, near the waterfall. Why not join her, I’m sure you’ll love it.”
“I’ll think about it,” said Mélanie, still doubtful.