"Come and live with me Vanessa. I've a spare room, or will have when I clear it and you could live in and be a sort of temporary granddaughter to me. It would solve many of your problems at one go without costing you anything."
She looked at me with contempt. "You just want a young girl to replace your dead wife, no doubt in bed as well as in the kitchen. Just because you're rich you think you can buy me like a whore. I'm not a whore... or perhaps I am after what happened." Tears sprang to her eyes, "Keep your stinking help," she spat and went to move away but I gently put a restraining arm on her shoulder and she slumped wearily back in the chair. She no longer had the energy to resist.
"Calm down Nessa, as far as I'm concerned you are anything but a whore. I'm not rich although by your standards, I'm well off with my pension and the jobs I get involved in. I've never paid for sex and don't intend to start now; all I'll ask of you is a little help with the cooking and cleaning in return for board and lodging and help with your coursework. The money to pay your debts is a loan that you can repay when you get on your feet again. I'll admit having a bit of female companionship again is an attraction, but I'm not going to force you, or even coerce you, into having sex with me; if it happens it will be by joint agreement. I'm not some dirty old pervert who preys on young girls, if I was I could probably have seduced any number of the girls at Uni already. No, with forty years difference in our ages, I will see and treat you like another granddaughter in the family. I'll give you all the help I can and won't expect too much in return." I could see she was still uncertain, fearful and undecided. "Think about it Nessa. Weigh up your options and then make up your mind as to whether or not you can trust me. I'll let you have a little time on your own to think without interruption and while you're doing that, I'm going to fill the van up with petrol so I don't have to do it on the way home after the talk tonight. You can let me know your decision when I get back. Either way, I'll drive you to Uni. It'll take me about twenty minutes to fill up if there's no queue at the pumps. See you in a bit." I left her sitting at the table outside the pub where we'd had lunch.
The events leading to this meeting, started two years previously. When I reached the age of sixty, I decided to retire from my job. My wife of thirty-eight years died a few months previously and local elections resulted in a change in the make-up of the town council and the ensuing policy changes introduced by the new ruling counsellors, made my job as Chief Executive Officer for the Environment and Planning, much more of a pen-pushing, form-filling pursuit than I cared for. I've grown up by the sea, studied the life in it and on the shore, own a small fishing boat and live in one of four 'coastguard cottages' that overlook the North Sea. Father had been a coastguard in the days when men watched over the traffic on the sea through binoculars and telescopes and when the opportunity came to buy the house we lived in, he took it. For my interests it is ideally suited. The row of four terraced cottages, of which mine is one of the middle ones, are built on a rise in the land some sixty yards from the sea. Unusually for the area, they are three storeys high, the third floor being a roomy attic with dormer windows that give a superb view of the sea and in olden days, the coastguards used the attic room when on and off duty to keep an eye on the passing boats. Father even had a powerful pair of binoculars mounted on a tripod there and I still use them for that purpose as well as for watching bird life on the shore. Yes, sometimes it is human birds that get my attention, but usually it is the feathered variety because the shingle beach is not much favoured by sun bathing tourists. The rest of the room, I've turned into a computer room/library/laboratory so I have everything at hand for pursuing my favoured studies.
I did well at grammar school, obtained a civil service job with the local council and over the years, worked my way up to the CEO position. However, my down to earth speech, my abhorrence of wearing a suit and a tie, only doing so on the most formal of occasions, frequently led me into conflict with others on the council, but I was good at my job and have a knack of being able to talk and negotiate with people and quickly gained promotion. When the changes in policy after a local election saw a reversion to a more conservative stance from the council, and with only myself to provide for, on reaching my sixtieth birthday, I had no trouble in taking early retirement with a good pension.
I'm about average height, 5' 10'', slim, wiry some say, and still fit, strong and active and until the death of my wife, took a keen interest in everything that went on around our shore. The loss of my companion of so many years hit me like a hammer blow and knocked me down, so for a few months I had to fight bouts of depression. Gradually I started to get over it and continued with my life if not with the same fervour.
About twenty years ago I bought a thirty-five foot fishing boat, the Mary Jane, and most weekends went trawling or took out parties of anglers and the income went part way to funding the running costs of the boat. Throughout my youth and later years, I collected specimens from the shore and, when I could scrounge a trip out with other fishermen, from deeper waters. These I brought home for identification and study until I became acknowledged as a local expert on the marine fauna of the area. A fellow enthusiast, John Harrows, an older man, regularly crewed for me on these trips but after breaking a hip in a fall, he was forced to retire from going on the boat. From then on, I either had to go alone, which I wasn't keen on, or pick up any local lad willing to crew for the day.
During my career, I wrote articles for several natural history magazines on fishing and seashore life and these together with my position for environment planning brought me into contact with Dr. Per Kershaw, a Dane who'd lived in this country for many years and who taught marine biology at Eastern University. We became friends and several times a year he came on the Mary Jane and together we gathered specimens by dredging and towing a plankton net, for study and discussion. On one such outing on a cold February morning when he was my crew, as we sat in the cockpit with mugs of tea while the boat moved at a snail's place through the water and the dredge scooped living and dead material from the sea bed, he looked at me and said, "Derek, you're getting over Mabel's death now but you don't seem to have the same interest in life you had a couple of years ago." I had to acknowledge this was true. Losing a life long partner especially when she was only sixty-one and we'd looked forward to many more years together, creates a big void in one's lifestyle and makes a huge difference to one's mental outlook. The initial bout of depression gave way to a mechanical doing of things, 'because they ought to be done', but were done without the enthusiasm of previous times.
"Why don't you enrol on the Marine Biology course at the University next September?' he went on.
"What, can't you get enough young students that you want an old man like me?" I joked.
"Well you'll certainly be older than most but with the way you dress, you'll certainly fit in!"
And I did. At first the others wanted to call me 'Captain' because of the sailor's cap I always wore and my clipped grey beard, but I suggested 'Skipper' might be more appropriate for a small boat owner. That quickly became 'Skip', the name now almost universally used by the students and staff.
Vanessa 'Nessa' Meachem started the course at the same time and, in common with the other twenty-four students, was in her early twenties. She was cheerful and likeable but, like most of the others, was somewhat reserved around me. I put it down to the difference in our ages. Certainly I found her attractive but so did several of the other boys in the class and my chances of getting a date with her were about nil. In any case, these days I wasn't interested in one night stands with young girls, although I still looked and mentally undressed them but Mabel often chided me for that when she was alive. Outside the classrooms and laboratories, I had little to do with the rest of the class although we were on friendly terms and I was often drawn into the discussions when it related to the coursework but not when it concerned social affairs. Living at home some ten miles away from the campus also kept me away from most of the evening events the others attended.
The first term went well but shortly after the Christmas break I noticed Vanessa was missing from our classes. "She went to a wild pre-Christmas party and got herself pregnant and decided on an abortion. The doctors ballsed that up and she ended up in hospital with some infection and eventually they had to do a hysterectomy," Tracie, one of the girls who was a close friend to her, informed me.
"What a great shame," I thought, "She was doing well with the work." I liked the girl but had no thoughts on having any sort of relationship with her. In any case, as far as I knew, she had a boyfriend and I definitely wasn't any competition for him.
She came back to Uni a couple of weeks before Easter looking tired and pale and without her characteristic smile. Before the lecture began I saw her talk with Per and as we were leaving he came to me, "Skip, would you have a few words with Nessa? She asked me for extra help to make up for the work she's missed but it is difficult for me to do that without getting accused of favouritism or the implication I am doing it for sexual reasons. You know the stories. I actually think she needs more than help with her work because she has severe financial problems too that may prevent her from continuing but that's not your concern. She didn't say that to me but one of the counsellors hinted at it but wouldn't go into details for patient confidentiality reasons."
"Vanessa!" I called across the quadrangle, "Per tells me you'd like help with catching up on the coursework you've missed," I went on when we were close enough to talk comfortably.
"There's not much point now." She looked disconsolate.
"How about having lunch with me at the 'Nodding Crocodile' and discussing it there?"
"I'm not hungry."
"Of course you are. And I don't invite a woman to lunch and expect them to pay their share." It took several more minutes persuasion before she finally agreed to accompany me to the pub in the park where we could sit at tables outside in the sunshine.
Her appetite soon disproved her words that she wasn't hungry. After looking at the menu, she ordered a ham roll, one of the cheapest items, but at the bar I ordered steak pie meals for both of us and swept aside her protests when the meals arrived by saying, "Eat it, they won't take it back." Gradually she relaxed and I was able to get her to talk about her circumstances. Slowly details started to emerge and finally in an outpouring of words, as if for the first time she could speak to someone without censure, I learned how her life was in a pretty grim state and to her, it all seemed hopeless. Largely it was through no fault of hers. I can't remember her exact words but basically this is what she said.
"My boyfriend at the time, Frank, invited me to a party at the house of a friend of his and when we arrived quite a number of boys were there but only a few girls. I'm sure one of the boys, probably Frank, put something in my drink because I passed out and came round some time later, naked on a bed with him having sex with me. Something we hadn't done before. After he'd finished, three more had me and I couldn't move or do anything to stop them and my speech was slurred and unintelligible. One of them must have made me pregnant and when, after Christmas I informed the boys, they all denied anything happened and then said it was my fault for not being on the pill and told me to get an abortion. Until then I'd always relied on condoms. I suppose I could have claimed rape and had DNA tests and all that, but I decided the abortion was the easiest option. That took all my spare cash and more and I didn't dare ask for help from home. Mother would have had a fit. Two days later I was rushed into hospital with severe abdominal pains and for a while it was touch and go if I was going to live but, obviously, I did. I had an infection that didn't respond to antibiotics and in the end the poisoning had spread and they had to remove my ovaries, so I'm sterile; I'll never be able to have a child if and when I want one. The doctors were not in favour of my returning here and wanted me to take another month off so I'm still not fully fit and not supposed to lift anything heavy, but I didn't want to miss anymore work. As I expected, mother went into hysterics when she found out I'd had an abortion and has disowned me. Father more or less goes along with her to keep the peace, but I am hoping to get a little support from him when he returns from a business trip to the Far East and I can contact him at his office and not at home."
It seemed at every turn she was thwarted and during coffee at the end of the meal, I summed up her situation, emphasising each point by tapping a finger in turn. "One, you've missed over two months of course work which will be difficult but not impossible to make up. Two, you've no money and owe over £550 to Bobby for the rent of your room and because you've no money, she's told you to leave by Sunday, that's the day after tomorrow. Three, you lost the part time job you needed to help with your living costs and aren't fit enough to get another. Four, someone stole your laptop computer while you were in hospital and Five, you sold your car to pay some of the bills but you still have a credit card debt which you can't even pay the interest on, and now have no transport and until your next grant instalment comes through, no money to pay for it. Your counsellor suggested you take a year off and start again, but you're reluctant to do that because you doubt you'll ever be able to return. Is that a fair assessment?" She nodded her agreement. It was then that I suggested she came and lived with me. Perhaps I didn't put it in the most tactful manner because she deemed I just using my money to entice her to live with me as a sex slave although I tried to convince her that wasn't the case and repeatedly used the argument that she would be like another granddaughter to me. Throughout my arguments, she remained undecided and when I left for the filling station, I was by no means certain she would still be at the table when I returned.
Another student I knew vaguely by sight as he wasn't on our course, sat in my place when I returned and she wearily and heatedly argued with him. As soon as I arrived she picked up her bag and shrugging her shoulders at the boy, turned to me and said, "Take me home Granddaddy."
"Yeah, go with him because he has more money than me. See if his old, shrivelled prick can satisfy a whore like you," the boy snarled, "Money ain't everything." Apparently he'd offered her a temporary place in his room and she knew he definitely would want to fuck her and mentally and physically she wasn't ready for that.
On one Friday evening each month, the university invited a speaker to give a lecture in the main auditorium. That night a scientist from the Fisheries Research Laboratory was on the programme and I wanted to hear him and Vanessa did too so after our last lecture of the afternoon when we had three hours to kill, I suggested she showed me her room and we could assess how much space she'd need in the van and I would loan her the money to pay Bobby so that debt would be cleared. Bobby proved to be a cold, calculating bitch. "You'll have to sleep on the couch until you move out on Sunday, Kath's moved in and she's paid in advance," were her first words of greeting to Vanessa.
"How much does she owe?"
Bobby appeared to see me for the first time. "£580 to Sunday. You taking her to your bed now Skip?"
"No, but I'm giving her a room. Who do I make the cheque out to?"
"No cheques, cash!"
I could have gone to the cash machine but I didn't like her attitude and stood firm. "You can have a cheque from me now and money in the bank in five working days or you can wait for Vanessa to earn enough money to pay you in cash. Which?" With threats of what she would do if the cheque bounced, she grudgingly accepted paper money.
Kath was apologetic when we went into the room that until then was Vanessa's and said she was unaware of the situation until she had given up her room carted all her stuff. My mind put another black mark against Bobby. All Vanessa's stuff was neatly piled in one corner. "Will I be able to move into the room in your house tonight, Skip?"
"I guess so Nessa, as long as you don't expect the room cleared by then. We can unearth the bed and put clean sheets and bedding on and clear the room over the weekend. Even that will be better than a couch."
Several years before she became ill, Mabel asked me to clear the room and make it ready so we could have guests, but I never got around to it and gradually I filled it with anything that might come in handy but probably never would. Much of it was fishing gear and boat stuff that wasn't needed until the next season but which should have been stored in the lock-up shed at the quayside. On Mabel's death, I added a lot of her stuff in there too, awaiting a rainy day when I had nothing else to do and could sort the decent stuff for the charity shops and dump the rest. Somehow I could never bring myself to do the sorting. Nessa's face showed her shock at the state of the room. I hadn't lied to her but she didn't believe how much stuff there actually was and if she'd been able, I'm sure she would immediately left, but with no transport and it being a rural village, she was stuck. "There is a bed under there and by Sunday, most of this stuff will have gone," I tried to reassure her and set to work moving the heavier items to one side to make a passageway so we could fully enter the room and get to the low divan bed. She started clearing the papers and jars piled on the dustsheet-covered mattress. Both of us were very tired when the disaster, or so it seemed, occurred. Vanessa picked up a tin with a loose lid just as I backed out of a confined space with an old TV. The back-to-back collision caused her to drop the tin and black Stockholm tar flowed over the cotton dustsheet and soaked into the mattress. By the time I could put the TV down, half of the contents had spread rapidly through the fabric and the tar smell pervaded the room. In Mabel's time I wouldn't have been allowed to have the tar in the house but on a rainy day I wanted to coat a few whippings on hoop net lines and never got around to taking it back to the shed. Vanessa burst into anguished sobs. Instinctively I cradled her to my chest and held her close until her crying eased and she'd calmed down a little. With my arms around her shoulders, I led her across the landing to my room. "You can sleep that side, Nessa."
Looking at me with some alarm, through her crying she uttered, "You promised..."
"I know but things have changed. You won't be raped, that I can promise. I slept with Mabel many, many nights without doing anything more than cuddling so I'm sure I can control myself with you. The bathroom's through there so do what you have to do and put on your nightdress or whatever while I find a nightshirt. I haven't been wearing one for a while but I'll need one to keep me more or less decent." Still she demurred but eventually tiredness and my promises persuaded her and we ended up sleeping chastely side by side.
Sometime in the night, for reasons I never found out, she started sobbing again and I forcefully cuddled her to my chest until she settled down and we drifted off to sleep again. It was a very pleasant experience to closely hold a sparsely covered woman again and I know she felt my erection but both of us chose to ignore it. She must have felt safe because we drifted back to sleep and I left her still sleeping when I disentangled myself early the next morning.
Over the weekend we made a start on clearing the room but didn't get very far. Partly because of the efforts of the previous day, she felt extremely tired and when I showed her the loft, she immediately fell in love with it and spent a long while scanning the sea and the boats through the binoculars. My computer set-up and my microscope area is quite sophisticated largely because of the writing I do and the need to take photographs of the creatures I find and I'd added to it when I started the course at Uni. I didn't begrudge the expense because I knew it would also generate an income. Seeing this and some of the other facilities, she decided that a day or two more sharing my bed wouldn't do any harm. Catching up on course work was more important and on Sunday when I had a party of anglers to take out, she came too and delighted in handling the boat. It was immediately obvious to me that she was used to being on the water albeit her experience was mainly crewing on a large yacht the father of her friend owned. The friendly banter between the anglers and us helped her to fit in and she earned herself a small amount in tips for making tea and coffee for them. The sea air and the relaxed atmosphere did her a power of good, some redness returned to her cheeks and it put the smile back on her face. I was very pleased with the way the day went and we even collected some specimens we could view under the microscopes.
We had a phone call from my real granddaughter while I was outside trying to roll the tar soaked mattress ready to take it and other stuff to the waste disposal site on the way to Uni on Monday morning. Nessa answered it in good humour and I gather the conversation went like this.
"Good evening, Skip's residence, who's calling please?"
"Is that Derek Goswold's home?"
"I'm Sarah Goswold his granddaughter. Who are you?"
"Vanessa Meacham... his newly adopted granddaughter."
"He found me destitute at the university and decided to adopt me and bring me here."
"He what! He brought home a young girl? He wouldn't..."
"He did. I'm supposed to have your dad's old room but it's in such a state we're having to share."
"I don't believe it. Where's grandpa now?"
"Outside. I'll call him and he can explain."
Sarah is my son Michael's daughter and she often phones on a weekend for a chat and to make sure I'm okay. Once she knew, the rest of my family would soon know too. I tried to explain the situation to her but, impetuous as always, she decided to come over and see for herself. Sarah is almost the same age as Vanessa but the physical difference is quite marked. Whereas Vanessa is slim, dark haired and moderately well endowed in the boob department, Sarah is short, a little on the plump side with large breasts and has dark blonde hair. Both of them are intelligent, and witty when in the right mood. Fortunately, after an initial bout of sharp exchanges and wariness, they got on well together especially when Vanessa was able to convince Sarah that she wasn't a gold digger trying to fleece me out of my money and that she would repay my loans when she was able even though I hadn't made that a definite requirement or set a repayment date.
After an hour, Nessa looked very tired so I suggested she went to bed and my conversation with Sarah became more direct. "Are you really taking her in for altruistic reasons or because you want a young girl to satisfy your lust now grandma has gone?" For an hour I tried to answer her questions and allay her fears and in the end she gave me a hug and said, "Look after her Grandpa and enjoy your time together."
Of course we came in for a lot of ribbing on Monday, most of it good natured but some made spiteful remarks as to the reasons for her being with me. I shrugged them off but I know Nessa found them hurtful. Oddly to my mind, the girls in the class were more tolerant and less antagonistic to our partnership and several noticed and remarked how much better Nessa looked after being with me for only a weekend. In reality, the lifting of her financial worries had a far greater effect on her health than any ministrations of mine. Per managed to put a stop to the banter by making us concentrate on his lectures but when we were alone, he remarked, "I hope you know what you're doing Skip." We almost had to hide away at break time.
Between classes we called to see Per in his office to get copies of the hand-outs Nessa had missed and to see Joe Biggs, the head of IT to check if and how we could recover the first term's work Nessa had backed up on the university server. For some reason we couldn't gain access from my computer at home. Joe and I had worked together on several occasions while I was environmental CEO and he set up a web site for a wild life project. "Did you mark your laptop?" he asked Nessa and on finding out she had coded it with an ultraviolet pen and would recognise it from various scratches, he asked, "Do you know its IP address?" She didn't but that only meant going back to the pre-Christmas log files and finding it from her last back-up. Joe's fingers flashed over the keys, "Looks like you backed up files on January 5th but then nothing until February 22nd."
"I was in hospital then," Nessa stated.
Further checking revealed the computer was still being used and from the backed up data we found the name of the student using it. Together with a bod from security we visited him and indeed it was her computer but after a lot of questioning we believed the lad had genuinely bought it from another student; her room mate Bobby. She assured him that it was hers and gave him the password to gain entry, Nessa had foolishly loaned her the laptop for a short while when she first started the course and hadn't changed the password afterwards. All the data had been wiped but there were a couple of unusual applications that Nessa had put on. The police were called but Bobby stoutly averred Nessa had given her permission to sell it to pay for the room. We all knew Vanessa wasn't well enough at the time to have seen her or given permission for the sale and Bobby had charged me for the full rent amount. Even so, it looked like they might have difficulty in making the charges stick so we had to let the matter drop but I was able to negotiate for Bobby to pay back the money the student lost by having bought a stolen computer. That didn't please her but, as I pointed out, the money I'd paid her would more than cover what she owed the boy. The outcome pleased me but I could see the stress was having a negative effect on Nessa and I knew she didn't take in much of the afternoon project work.