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.
"The light isn't very good in here," she said. "I think it would be better upstairs."
By this time a large almost white long haired retriever had entered the room.
"Oh, this is Millie," she told him. "Now you stay here because mummy is going to have her photo taken. Come along," she went on, addressing Ned again, "this way."
Ned stepped around the dog and followed Mrs Garfield up a winding staircase and along a landing to a surprisingly spacious bedroom with a large bed and fitted wardrobes.
Mrs Garfield sat on the stool in front of her dressing table.
Ned got out his camera and a light meter, turned her towards the window and took several shots.
"I think that should do it," said Ned.
Mrs Garfield seemed to shrug her shoulder and the blouse slipped revealing a bra strap.
"Wouldn't you like to take some more?" she purred.
Ned took several more shots by which time the blouse was on the floor, and after a few more it was joined by the skirt.
There was a sound from downstairs and a man's voice called out.
"My God," she hissed. "My husband!"
"I'm upstairs changing darling," she called out.
"Quick," she hissed at Ned. "In here." And pushed him into a wardrobe, sliding the door almost shut.
Seconds later, a man, who Ned knew to be Mr Garfield came into the room. He caught hold of his wife and kissed her. Over the ensuing minutes he gradually disrobed her, kissing the skin which was gradually exposed, until she stood in her stockings and suspender belt. This was done with no apparent resistance from her which Ned felt she might have exhibited knowing that he was only a few feet away. He then laid her on the bed, entered her and proceeded to make love to her, to her very apparent and very noisy enjoyment. When he had finished he lay down alongside her and went to sleep. After a few minutes she carefully got up, reached for a silk robe and slid the wardrobe door open.
"Quietly," she whispered. "We don't want to wake him up."
She led him downstairs, apologised for her husband turning up unexpectedly and ushered him out of the front door.
"Bring the photos back same time next week," she said, giving him a quick peck on the cheek.
Ned was completely shell shocked, and by the time he reacted the door was closed.
Ned went straight to his room when he got home and a few minutes later Susie breezed in.
"Come on then Ned, tell all."
"I'm still trying to put it together myself," he replied. He went on and told Susie everything that had happened. When he finished Susie was rolling on the floor laughing.
"It's no laughing matter, all I've got are a few photographs and a stiffie," he finished.
"Well, I can help you with that," said Susie, recovering, and proceeded to do so.
"What are you going to do when you see her next week?"
"I'll make sure things go my way, I'm not going to have her taking advantage of me, because I'm sure she was."
The next day Ned was working when Ophelia arrived. She wheeled herself straight to where she was working and Ned overheard her driver, Miss Goring say to Miss Green:
"I think perhaps this art course might be a good idea after all. She's been almost human."
"Well I'm glad we can help," Miss Green replied.
A few minutes later Ned went in to see the new girl.
"Hi, Lia," he greeted her.
"Hi Ned," she smiled happily.
They chatted on for a few minutes and Ned discovered that she lived on the outskirts of the town in a big house with her Aunt and her elder sister who was at college.
"Give me a call if you need anything," he finished, and went back to work.
Mid morning break found them chatting again.
"Do you get to visit many art galleries?" asked Ned.
"No, never, they've always got steps and it's too difficult for my aunt to manage."
"Would she allow me to take you? I want to go back to the one in Shermouth. You could come with me. I'm busy this Saturday, but the week after would be good"
"We'd have to go on the bus. That's far too difficult. And I've never been out with a boy, I'm not sure she'd allow that."
"No, I've got a car, I just don't use it to come to school," Ned replied. "I wonder if Miss Green could help. She might be able to speak to your aunt."
"So it's not a proper date," huffed Lia. "And there is a word for women who do that sort of thing. Procuress."
"No, it's nothing like that. It is a date, but it's also two students helping each other, I'd value your opinions. And you said your aunt might be difficult."
He thought for a second.
"I'll come and see her after school tomorrow and present myself as a decent upright young man. I'll bring the car and she can inspect that too. How will that do? Will she be in?"
"Yes, she's always there when I get home from school."
The Next afternoon directly after school Ned parked in front of an imposing Georgian house. After getting out and looking at the façade he went to the front door and pulled the knob for the bell. There was a faint jangling somewhere deep in the house and a minute or so later the door was opened by a slender rather elegant lady of perhaps fifty. Her greying hair was held back in a bun and although there was no hint of a smile on her lips, her eyes appeared to be twinkling with laughter.
"Can I help you?" she asked.
It was at this point that Ned realised he had no idea who to ask for, all he knew was that he was here to see Lia's aunt, but he had no idea of her name.
"I wanted to see Ophelia's Aunt," was the best he could come up with.
"Well," said the lady, a slight smile now decorating her lips, "now, you can. Is there anything else?"
Ned was more than a little non-plussed, whatever he had expected, it was not what was happening and he felt completely out of his depth.
"M ... my name is Ned Kelly, and I wanted to ask if I could take her to the art gallery in Shermouth."
"You'd better come in."
She led Ned through to the back of the house where there was a large kitchen.
"Sit down," she said, indicating a chair at the big scrubbed pine table.
"Hmm ... Ned Kelly, not the Ned Kelly?"
"I believe he's dead ma'am."
"Ah, I was thinking of Gerald, also known as Ned, Kelly, that would be you?"
"Yes, that would be me."
Ned turned bright red and groaned.
Ophelia's aunt let out a peal of laughter.
"She didn't tell you who I am did she?
"I'm Lady Jane Brougham," she pronounced it 'Broom', "I'm one of your school governors."
"Oh!" said Ned, and he stood. "I'd better go."
"Sit down, Ned. I'll make us some tea and you can explain it all to me." She went over to the Aga and picked up a large kettle that was gently singing and proceeded to make tea.