This is a work of fiction, any resemblance to persons living, dead or otherwise is purely coincidental. The ideas and thoughts that follow are pure fantasies. In real life, at the very least they would be unpleasant and probably illegal. Fantasies are like that; daydreams where we can contemplate and imagine the sensations without suffering or inflicting the pain, despair or humiliation.
© obohobo 2011
"I'm sorry to disturb you Major but..."
"Good God, Mary what happened? Come in, I'll call the wife and Anne and they can clean you up a bit. Lucy! Anne!" he called up the stairs before turning back to the girl standing in his kitchen and leaning on the table for support." Suma, the Major's dog, ran around her, sniffing the strange smells on her clothing and giving the occasional bark until his master dragged him into the utility room out of the way.
"I'm sorry to be a bother Sir, the mud at the edge of the saltings gave way and I slid down on to those lumps of concrete they put in to stop the erosion. I think I've sprained my ankle because it hurts to stand on it. Sorry, I'm being a nuisance," Mary apologised again.
"And you've torn your clothes and got yourself pretty well covered with mud. Now where have those women got to?" He yelled up the stairs again in his best military voice and this time the two ladies appeared. "Lucy, Anne, Mary here had a bit of a fall, clean her up a bit if you will and then we can see the extent of the damage. You'd better take her into the bathroom." Although long retired, the Major gave orders rather than requesting a service, even to his wife and housekeeper.
Half an hour later, wearing a pair of Lucy's shorts, a woollen sweater and an overall over them, Mary limped back into the kitchen leaning heavily on a walking stick and supported by Anne's, strong arms. "She needs to go to the hospital, Ian, and have her foot x-rayed. As you can see, it has swelled up and we had to put one of your hiking socks on it to keep it warm. There are a few other minor bruises and scrapes but nothing serious. Will you take her or shall I?" Lucy asked.
"Where's your bicycle?" Ian asked when they were in his car, knowing she was one of the poorer students and the bicycle her only mode of transport.
"By the gate leading to the seawall, Sir."
"I'll have it put in the stables when I get back. I presume your partner didn't put in an appearance? This is the very reason you shouldn't work out there alone."
"No, Major, he'll probably say he was training but more likely he did his training in the girls dorms."
"You realise that I will have to stop you coming on to my land if you don't have a partner? The Health and Safety people advised me to make that ruling in case of litigation." He knew she'd come on her own for most of the term and only sheer bad luck and the stormy sea the previous day undercutting the bank, caused the accident but now he knew officially, he'd have to enforce the ruling.
"Oh Sir, please don't do that, I've already spent a lot of time on this project and collected a great deal of data which I need for my thesis and it will put me back a year if I lose it. I can't afford that Sir and I'm really interested in the invertebrate fauna of these marshes, I really am. I'll write a disclaimer or something Sir. There's no one else that is free and the others on the course are all working on different areas and habitats."
"You'd still be able to survey the seawall and the foreshore area because they are not part of my land and the public have access to them but you can't put your insect traps down without the probability of them being interfered with and I have no jurisdiction over them but your professor can still veto you working on them alone. In any case, you seem more interested in the wetland areas, which are part of my estate. Sorry Mary." Major Ian McBride glanced at the tiny girl sitting alongside him and noticed tears running down her cheeks and knew the pain in her foot did not cause them. He remembered the day she came to The Lodge to ask permission to do the survey on his land and seeing her less than five feet stature and flat-chested with it, she appeared many years younger than her actual age of twenty-three but what she lacked in size she made up for in enthusiasm and a determination to work. "You have a partner?" he'd asked.
"Yes, Major, Professor Pearson is putting Paul Sweffling with me when he turns up." But Paul only took the environmental course for logistical reasons and had no interest in it and came with her a few times and on one of those times he'd taken her in his car and left early without telling her and she had to walk to the village and wait two hours for a bus.
"I'll phone the professor and see what, if anything, he can do. I doubt you'll be able to walk far for a week or two."
The investigation into the accident caused unwanted repercussions for Paul Sweffling. The dean called in his files and after reviewing his poor academic grades and general behaviour, decided to terminate his scholarship. Disgruntled and blaming Mary for his troubles, he left the university college and took a job in a local sports store, vowing to get his revenge on her.
"So you're the short-arse I've to babysit because she has a tendency to fall over cliffs. I just get back from the wilds of Shetland where I spent months filming in some awful weather conditions and I come back here thinking I can spend time in a warm room editing the files and father sends me out in the cold to look after a girl collecting bugs. Hi, I'm Tony, Tony McBride."
Surprised, Mary let the lens she'd used to examine a beetle in a vial, dangle on its lanyard around her neck and looked at the young man who'd stealthily crept up behind her. For a few moments she took in his short, stocky appearance, the expensive camera, his camouflaged, thermal jacket and trousers and his tanned, grinning face. Instantly liking the man, she stood and seeing they were near enough the same height, held out her hand, "Hi Lofty, if a four-foot mud bank is a cliff how would you describe those on Shetland?" Without waiting for an answer she went on, "I'm Mary, Mary Pulham."
For the rest of the afternoon, they meandered over the site, discussed her work and his and found they were both keen naturalists but his interest lay in mammals and birds. Towards the end he invited her back to his living quarters above the old stables for a hot drink and a slice of 'Anne's cake' and when she seemed hesitant, put his arm around her shoulders and laughingly said, "Hey girl, we been alone on the isolated marshes for the last hour and I'm only inviting you for a cuppa not to spend the night!" In the end she spent more time looking at the photos he'd taken and the equipment he used, now seated facing each other, Tony summed up the situation. "It seems to me that you only need me to be somewhere reasonably nearby while you are out on the wetland fields to fulfil Dad's and your professor's legal requirements, you don't need me alongside you holding your hand, in fact, had it not been for the stupid accident, you would have been out there alone. With winter coming, we will soon get the over-wintering birds arriving and I'll want to film and photograph them and this year I've ordered one of those scaffolding towers which I'm going to set up on our side of the seawall and make it into a hide that will overlook the foreshore and the fields. From what Dad has told me, I don't think you'll be rushing around waving your arms to scare the birds but your just being there will disturb them so we'll have to come to some agreement about times and places but that shouldn't be too difficult."
"While I want to continue the survey through the winter, I don't expect to find much and from what the Major told me, the fields are often flooded for long periods as they form part of an extensive flood plain, so I'm sure we can work things out and maybe learn a few things from each other."
"There is another suggestion I can make. As you've seen from the stuff I have around here, I'm into technological things and have a pair of beepers. If we wear them we can have a system where one beep is for 'I'm packing up', two beeps for 'I'm falling down a cliff' or am in trouble." Mary aimed a mock punch at him but agreed to the beepers.
Over the next few weeks they became firm friends and helped each other with their projects, Tony helped siting the traps and she helped with the erection of the tower hide and at the end of each afternoon they adjourned to his rooms for tea and a chat, usually only on 'work' matters but occasionally on their lives and hopes for the future. She'd now sit alongside him and they'd walk side by side, almost touching, back to his place but it never went further than that although in bed at night, Mary often thought about the possibility of having Tony as her lover. He too thought about taking her to his bed but didn't wish to spoil the relationship they'd built up by making a move that might be rejected. "Mary certainly seems to shy away from any close contact with me and doesn't even hint of any sexual feelings but I wonder if that will change when we've been together longer and she's learned to trust me?" Tony wondered.
.... There is more of this story ...