Mid Monday morning found Ned settled into the small side room that had been set aside for him to use as his own. It was part of the old army 'spider' building that the school used as an art room. He was still rather quiet after his strange experience with Nessa the ginger witch, but none the worse for it. He was working quietly when he heard a clatter and some raised voices from the front entrance. Ned went out to have a look and found Miss Green and another woman trying to get a girl in a wheel chair up the steps. They were having little success.
"I told them this wouldn't work," said the unknown woman, exasperatedly.
"It seems I'm always a nuisance," came from the wheelchair bound girl.
"Can I help?" asked Ned.
"Well, you look strong enough," said the unknown woman. "But this is ridiculous."
"If we pushed her round to the side of the building there is a set of double doors in the passageway and the ground outside is almost level," said Ned.
"Oh, I hadn't seen that," said Miss Green. "Alright Ned, we'll give that a try."
Ned went inside to unlock the doors and as he swung them open the others arrived with the wheelchair, which was easily pushed inside.
"I'll leave you to it," said the woman, and left.
Ned looked at the girl in the wheelchair. She was the palest blonde he had ever seen with large blue eyes set in an oval face. She would, he thought, have been exceptionally beautiful had it not been for the expression on her face. In repose it would have been sulky, but at that moment her lip curled into a snarl.
"Goering just hates having to deal with me," the girl said. "You'd think I'd lost my legs through leprosy the way she treats me."
"Goering? As in Hermann?" asked Ned.
"Well, that's what I call her, her name's really Goring."
"Right, now," Miss Green took charge. "Ned, this is Ophelia. She goes to St Walberga's where she is taking 'A' level art, but they don't have facilities for practical work so we are providing them. She'll be coming here a couple of days a week until next summer."
She went on and got Ophelia settled and working, and left to take a third year class who had just arrived in the main area of the building. Ned returned to his work.
About an hour later Miss Green put her head round Ned's door and told him she was just going back to the main school with the third years and would return shortly.
"Look after Ophelia if she needs anything, I'll be about half an hour."
"OK, Miss," Ned grinned.
About twenty minutes later Ned heard Ophelia call him, and he went out to where she had been working.
"Where's the girls room?" she asked.
"Over there," said Ned, and indicated a door which gave onto a short passage, at one end being an external door and to one side a w.c. cubical.
"Do you need a hand?"
"No, I can manage, thankyou very much." But she didn't say it pleasantly.
Ned returned to his work, but was interrupted a couple of minutes later by Ophelia's wheelchair hitting his door.
"I suppose you think that's funny," she spat. "How the hell d'you think I can manage in there."
"I'm sorry," said Ned. "Um ... that's the only one we've got. Can you wait for Miss Green to return?"
"No," and she began to sniff. "I'm desperate, and I just can't get the chair in there and get myself on to the seat."
"Would it help if I picked you up and carried you in there?"
"I don't want you in there watching me pee," she snarled. "I may be a freak but I'm not going to be a freak show."
"Look, I really don't want to watch you pee. I'll pick you up, put you on the seat and you can call me back when you've done, and I'll pick you up and put you back in your wheel chair. No inappropriate touching, no looking, no nothing. Just help. OK?
Ned reached forward, put his hands around her waist and picked her up. She was very light and he had no problem putting her down on the seat and leaving.
A few minutes later:
And Ned reversed the process.
"What do you say?"
"Thankyou. I suppose."
And with that Ned retired to his room.
A few minutes later she appeared in the doorway.
"Can I come in?"
"I'm sorry. I really shouldn't be such a bitch," she sniffed and burst into tears. "I'm just stuck in this chair and I'm never going to do anything, no one allows me to do anything. I used to do sports, play tennis, and swim, but I can't do those things now. I can't even go to the pictures. I'll never have a normal life."
Ned went over to her and put an arm round her.
"Well, there's normal and then there's normal," he said. "It depends what you make of it. I was headed for the scrap heap before I pulled myself together. My father died and I thought that if I didn't do something then my mother and sister would have no support." It was a bit of a stretch of the truth, but Ned didn't think that would matter.
"Tell me about yourself," he asked. "For a start, what do they call you for short?"
"Ophelia, nothing shorter. Stupid name, but what would you shorten it to?"
Oh, well, Oph, Phee," Ophelia grimaced. "No," he went on, "Lia would sound good. A beautiful name for a beautiful woman. Anyway, were you involved in an accident?"
"Car crash, my parents were killed and I was trapped by my legs. They were so badly crushed they had to remove then and now I'm stuck in this damned thing. And I'm not beautiful, and the nearest I'll ever be to a woman is losing my virginity in the accident. There, now you know everything about me. Anyway, you had two legs to walk round on, so you didn't have it too bad."
"That's true," said Ned, thoughtfully. "Is it possible you could have false legs, what do they call them? And you are beautiful when you smile."
"Prosthetics. No, I have almost no legs left at all, certainly not enough to strap anything to."
At that moment Miss Green returned.
"Sorry, I got waylaid," she said as she came in. "Oh! Are you two getting to know each other?"
"Yes, Miss," replied Ned. "Ophelia was just telling me about herself."
He went on to explain about her predicament over the toilet.
"Hmm..." Miss Green thought. "We had better sort something out over that, but meantime I don't think that it would be a good idea to tell anyone Ophelia, they might decide to stop you coming, but I'll make sure I'm here in future, it'll be better if I chaperone."
"Ned was the complete gentleman," protested Ophelia.
"I'm sure he was, but not everyone might think so. Now, let's have a look at what you've been up to."
Just before lunch Ned's door was nudged open by the wheelchair and Ophelia looked in.
"'Bye Ned, I'll see you tomorrow." She hesitated. "I'd like it if you called me Lia," she said, and she gave a little, rather nervous smile.
"I'll do that," replied Ned. "And just keep on practising that smile."
Her face lit up. "I will," she replied, and left.
After lunch Miss Green came in to see Ned. She sat down.
"Well now Ned, how did you get on with Ophelia? More your own age, I think."
"Yes, Miss, and nearly as beautiful," Ned grinned, and Kate Green had the grace to blush. "We got on OK, I think Miss, after a bit of a rocky start," Ned replied. "She does have a major chip on her shoulders though, doesn't she?"
"All things considered that's not surprising."
"No, it isn't, but if she doesn't learn to cope with it and keep smiling she's not going to have much of a life."
"Look after her, Ned. She's very fragile."
"Don't worry, Miss, you may rely on me, I promise."
"I'm sure I can Ned," she replied, and went to get ready for the next class.
Ned and Susie walked into the kichen when they got home to find their mother, Juliette, baking. Ned gave his mother a hug and a kiss.
"There's another woman asking for you Ned," she laughed. "But I don't think you'll get far with this one."
"I wouldn't put anything past Ned," laughed Susie.
"Ignor her mother. Who wants what?" he asked.
"Mrs Garfield. She wants some passport photos and I said you'd call in tomorrow. You know where she lives?"
"Ned knows where every woman from eight to eighty lives," giggled Susie really enjoying this. "Mrs Garfield though."
And so it was that the following after noon found Ned knocking on the door of a white painted thatched cottage with an immaculately maintained garden that was just showing signs of early spring with snowdrops in flower and clumps of daffodils showing. The door was answered by Mrs Garfield, the lady Ned had last seen leaving the manor.
"Oh Ned! Do come in."
Ned appraised the lady as he followed her into a rather dark sitting room. In her late thirties, he thought, she didn't stand much over five feet tall, and was, well, not fat, she just seemed to be quite wide and straight up and down, almost as though her bone structure was very large. When she turned towards him he could see that she had quite small breasts enhancing the barrel shaped impression. She had neatly curled blonde hair, which Ned suspected was not natural and dark eyes, a small nose and rosebud mouth set in a round face. She was dressed in a white silk blouse and a black skirt. Contrary to his mother and sister's idea she did exude a certain indefinable sexiness.
"I wanted some passport photographs, Ned. Can you do those?" she smiled.
"Yes, no problem."
"I expect you get to photograph a lot of ladies don't you Ned?"
"Umm ... n n not too many," Ned stammered, wondering where this would lead.
.... There is more of this story ...