Dear Miss Chambers,
I understand from my son, Roy Milne, that you are unable to afford to go on the field trip that is a vital part of the Coastal Environmental Module of the course you both participate in and that, because of your facial disfigurement and speech difficulty, you are unable to find employment to help pay for the excursion and you forthrightly rejected the professor's veiled suggestion of using sex as a means of obtaining the money. As I am sure you know, Roy also has a disability in that he has an artificial foot and a knee slightly out of line with his legs, the result of being caught in an illegal man-trap intended to catch deer when he was seven years old. The fact that he walks with a limp and cannot take part in normal sports activities has made him somewhat reclusive and he believes you have a similar problem.
With my business and the compensation he received for the loss of his foot, we/he can easily afford the £450 for the field trip, and we are prepared to offer you the means to fund yours, not as a charitable gift, which Roy suspects you wouldn't accept, but by offering you a job. You will not have to liaise with the general public and sex will not be involved.
A few weeks ago, Roy took possession of a cottage in the village of Bidwell, eight miles from the university. Structurally the cottage is sound but the interior decoration has been sadly neglected for many years when the previous owner became too old and infirm to do it herself and didn't see the necessity of doing it for the few years she had left. Roy has a balance problem when he has to stretch and work over his head and the quotes we received from professional decorators were astronomical, we, therefore, are prepared to offer you the job of helping him clean and paint the interior and are prepared to pay you at minimum wage rate. I know payment for the field trip has to be in by the end of next week and even if you worked night and day, you would never earn enough in that time so if you are prepared to take on the task, I will advance you the money against your future pay; a risk on my part too but my son believes we can trust you to fulfil your obligations.
I'm sure you have little or no experience in this work but my two brothers will give you advice and assistance. One is a banker but is a keen Do-It-Yourself enthusiast and has totally remodelled his home and the other, an electrician. He advised us that much of the wiring is old and for safety reasons, should be renewed, work that will need to be done before painting is started. Again he is prepared to offer help and advice and is qualified to do the connections. The work will obviously take months to complete and you could have a job well into the summer university break if you decide to take it and I am sure you can arrange a suitable schedule with Roy that will allow you and he to complete your university work.
Should you wish to take up our offer, please contact Roy tomorrow and we can arrange a meeting at the cottage to show you the work and discuss the terms.
He cc'd it to his son.
Eric read and reread the email before hitting the send button. In truth he hoped sex would be involved and Roy would form a relationship with the girl, a girl he had spoken of a number of times but never hinted of any personal involvement with her, or any other girl. "Since he turned eighteen, only two girls have shown an interest in him but they were more interested in his money than him as a person and after the fiasco when a girl persuaded him to buy two tickets for a concert and then stood him up and took another boy instead, he's turned his back on girls. From the little he's said about her, this one might be different. I hope so," Eric mused.
Claire also read and reread the email many times. At first sight it seemed too good to be true. "The salutation and valediction as well as the length of the email suggests Eric Milne is a rather old fashioned man more used to writing letters than sending emails so perhaps he has old fashioned principles and actually means it when he says 'no sex', not like Professor Armstrong who, I'm sure, could have arranged a bursary for me if I agreed to sleep with him. It would have only been a one-night thing anyway because he cannot stand the sight of my face and only looks at my tits when he talks to me, not that I am over endowed in that department. I guess he heard that I am still a virgin and wanted to pop another student's cherry. Roy's not shown much interest in me either, not since the project we did at college four years ago but at least he uses my proper name and doesn't call me 'catface' like many of the students. He too has the same name-calling problem because of his limp and unnatural gait they've named him 'hoppy' although for both of us, there's less of it now we are older. Do they really want a decorator? I did a little at home during my college years but only putting emulsion paint on the walls and gloss on the doors. It may all be an excuse to get us together especially as he doesn't have a girlfriend, at least I haven't heard of one. Still if I am to get a decent grade for this module and a good overall grade, I need to go on the field trip and what if sex is involved? At least it will be with a boy of my age and not the lecherous old tutor and from what little I know of Roy, I'm sure it won't be forced on me."
Prematurely born while on a camping trip and away from a hospital with only a young neighbour to help during the difficult birth, one side of Claire's head became distorted resulting in elongated facial features on one side and the right eye being slightly, but noticeably, higher than the left. Surgery reduced the distortion but her face would never be normal and invariably she tried to hide that side of her face by covering it with a one-sided hairstyle. With many of her class-mates mocking her appearance, she believed she'd never have a boyfriend and whenever possible kept in the background away from others and applied herself to her work. Rebecca, her artificially blonde roommate, barely tolerated her and frequently boasted about her boyfriends and wanted Claire to leave the room when she brought one 'home' but didn't count on her stubbornness. "If you want to bring a boy here for sex, fine, but I won't be leaving," Claire told her forcefully. They only did it once in her presence.
In the lecture hall the following day, Roy sat alongside her but after nodding a short greeting, they sat silently whilst the Professor spoke and gave his presentation and it wasn't until they were leaving did she quietly agree to see what the work entailed. Suddenly Roy's face lit up in a smile of pleasure and suggested they meet after the afternoon's session. Claire asked about the work but he replied that it would be better to see the state of the place and he could explain what needed to be done. Karen, also on the course and a close friend of Rebecca's and who probably did improve her grades by having sex with the tutor, seeing them sitting and talking together, made a snide remark to the boy alongside her, "The two cripples are getting together, perhaps it we could merge the two, we'd get one decent body." The remark, of course, upset Claire but she brightened when Roy gave her hand a squeeze. Fortunately Karen didn't notice them leave in Roy's car.
They parked alongside a skip already half full of carpets and other rubbish Roy had cleared from the house. "We bought it with the furniture and everything as the son left it when the old lady died and thought I could make use of the stuff but a lot of it is well passed its useful life." Inside Claire noted the smoke blackened ceilings from the open fireplace, the peeling wallpaper and the general grime, except that in a few places, an area of the wall had been cleaned to show the underlying paintwork or the surface beneath the paper. "It's going to take many hours of work to make the essential rooms liveable, Claire, but I want to move in as soon as I can because it is so much closer to the university than my home and I want to be more independent from the family. There are three bedrooms upstairs and one bathroom and a separate toilet. Downstairs we have the kitchen, dining room, lounge and another toilet with a utility room tacked on the back. Everything seems to work in the kitchen and bathroom but Uncle Andrew, he's the electrician, says we ought to replace the boiler and heaters before we do much else because they are old and inefficient and only just about safe. He'll come over at the weekend and help plan the wiring system. What do you think? Are you willing to help me with this project?"
Before she could reply, Eric arrived and introduced himself before repeating the question. Knowing she really didn't have a choice if she wished to go on the trip but uncertain as to her ability or if she wanted to commit herself to the project indefinitely, during the day she'd thought about and anticipated the question and mentally prepared an answer. "If you pay me £5 an hour, which is a little below minimum rate because I am totally unskilled at this type of work, for the fee of £450 I will agree to work for 90 hours and at the end of that time, we should have found our work and personal limitations. We can then make a more informed assessment of my usefulness and give both you and I the option of terminating the agreement. If at the end of that time and the work is not finished, as I'm sure it won't be, we can extend the agreement if we wish to. I presume you will provide suitable clothes and the materials to do the work."
Roy had also pondered on the question of pay. "I know it will take longer for you to pay off the your debt Claire, but I agree we pay you the wage you suggest but only take £4 off the loan payment and give you £1 spending money so that you have a little pocket money to buy food and other things you require. I've noticed how often you miss lunch and probably breakfast too," Roy suggested, knowing in the back of his mind, the reason for suggesting it was to keep her with him for longer.
"He must have been keeping an eye on me for some time without showing his interest if he knows about my eating habits. Does he actually like me? Did he deliberately persuade his father to offer me the job to get to know me? What does it matter if as long as I get to go on the trip and be able to finish the module?" Claire mused. After more discussion she agreed to the arrangement.
The next morning Claire presented the cheque to Professor Armstrong who looked at her curiously when he saw the signature on it. "I have a contract with him to paint and decorate Roy's house," she lisped out, knowing he wouldn't believe her but she didn't volunteer any further information.
By their second weekend, the cottage looked much cleaner and would have been ready for painting had not Uncle Andrew turned up with a grinder to cut grooves in the plaster walls ready for the new electrical cables. Even with the vacuum running, dust covered everything. At this early stage Claire realised it would be far longer than Roy anticipated before the place could be lived in.
Nothing untoward happened during their first week working together although they'd both begun to lose their shyness and spoke freely to each other. He became accustomed to her lisping speech and she ignored his ungainly walk. Their classmates though, seeing her leave in Roy's car every afternoon and knowing his father paid for her trip, wrongly put the two and two together and made one but two incidents the following week started to change their relationship. In the first, Roy stepped away from the wall and, snagging the heel of his artificial foot on a loose board, fell backwards and would have hit the floor had not Claire been there to catch him. He ended up in her arms with their faces close together and remained in that position for a little longer than necessary until Claire, resisting the urge to kiss him, helped him to his feet.
The second incident lasted longer. On the Friday evening they worked until 10:30 p.m. removing boards, drilling holes and running cables through walls and because of the awkward positioning of the holes, Claire did most of the drilling. She actually began to enjoy the work and for the first time in a long while, felt useful and doing a worthwhile job. On arriving back at the dorm, Claire started on her coursework, knowing it needed finishing before Monday and continued until wearily she went to bed at 2:00 a.m., half an hour before Rebecca arrived and began to drunkenly talk about her boyfriend of the evening. Claire finally snatched a few hours sleep before Roy arrived at 8:30. The hectic pace of work continued at the house in order to get everything ready for Uncle Andrew to cut grooves in the walls and make the connections on Sunday with Claire again doing most of the donkey-work because Roy's foot didn't allow him to safely climb the ladder into the attic or to step from one joist to another. Claire lost count of the times she climbed that ladder and was very relieved when in the late afternoon, Eric turned up and invited her to dine with them and wouldn't take no for an answer. "Maureen, my wife, will make my life hell if you don't come," he stated, "She's been wanting to meet you."
"But I've only my old clothes under these overalls."
"Not to worry, Maureen's a down-to-earth woman and I doubt Roy will change for dinner. Wash your hands and be ready to eat in an hour, from what I hear you've worked harder than most normal paid workers."
With only a short time before dinner, Maureen, a quiet country girl, fussed around and made Claire welcome. Almost without warning a glass of sherry was placed in her hand and it wasn't long before the alcohol began to make her drowsy but she kept awake during the meal and even drank a glass of wine. However, sitting in the lounge afterwards she quickly dozed and only vaguely remembered Maureen helping her into the guest room and before sinking into oblivion, heard her berating her son for over working 'his girlfriend'.
The early morning light filtered through the curtains when she woke and noticed that someone had been in and removed her shoes and covered her with the duvet. "Was it Roy or Maureen?" she wondered and got up, still fully dressed, desperate to find the loo.
In the bedroom across the landing, Roy lay awake pondering over his mother's rebukes and wondering if he really had forced Claire to work harder than he should. "She's always seemed willing and not overstretched except perhaps she yawned a bit yesterday. Is mother right in thinking of her as my girlfriend? I've never had a girl take an interest in me like Claire does. Is she doing it because I have money or because no other boy will look at her? I like to think she likes me; at least we get along quite well together and can talk to each other. Sounds like she's awake now, perhaps I ought to apologise to her," he mused and slipped out of bed, trying to unsuccessfully hide his erection. In the end he donned a dressing gown, picked up his crutch and hopped to her door without putting on his foot.
"Come in, Roy," she called in answer to his knock and indicated he sit alongside her on the bed rather than stand awkwardly on one foot. Roy apologised, Claire apologised and tearfully held him close and before she really understood what happened, their lips met and they kissed and hugged each other. Feeling his stiffness against her thigh she giggled, "You'd better go to the loo but come back and I'll explain the reason for my tiredness and it wasn't all to do with you being a slave driver." For a while they lay side-by-side and talked quietly. She knew her hair had fallen behind her head clearly showing Roy the full extent of her facial disfigurement but for once Claire left it that way. "If he's really going to be my boyfriend he will have to accept my face as it is," she told herself, "And I will have to accept the sight of his stump when I get to see it without a sock over it. I can feel him getting hard again so he doesn't find me that revolting. Mustn't let him get carried away at this stage though, but I'd better get to the clinic at Uni and get myself on the pill to be on the safe side. I can afford the pills now." With the close proximity of his parents, they didn't go further but both knew their relationship had changed and that they were now 'an item'. Maureen, having heard them talking in the bedroom, gave her a hug and a kiss when they went down to breakfast and again warned her son not to overwork his employee. Rebecca, of course, informed all her friends that Claire had spent the night with Roy, without bothering to find out the truth, not that she would have believed it.
In the month before the field trip, their relationship flourished although they never went further than hugging, kissing and feeling each other through their clothing; Roy realised he could jeopardise his future with her if he went too far too quickly and Claire still had reservations concerning her facial appearance and his motives about her although these diminished day by day. Alone in her dorm room, she reminisced, "He genuinely seems to like me and not just because none of the other girls will look at him because of his crippled foot. I really like him now that I've been with him on his own and in my case I know it is not just because no other boy will look at me. When the time is right and we can do it without interruption in a proper bed, I'll let him take my virginity now that I am on the pill. I doubt Maureen would object if I slept with him at their house at weekends instead of the guestroom but I'm a bit nervous of doing it when they might hear us. I've paid most of my loan back so in a short while I could go back to being on my own but the money he pays makes such a difference to my life although now that we're almost a couple, it doesn't seem right that I should keep taking it. We've nearly finished the painting of the bedrooms but there's all the fitments to put in and there's still a lot to do downstairs, especially with the remodelling Uncle Jerry suggests, which he will need help with so I'm sure he'll keep me for a while even if he doesn't want me for personal reasons. I'm sure he does though. Better get some sleep, classes in the morning."
The field trip
The flight from Stansted to Penzance was uneventful. It arrived on time and a coach awaited them for the thirty-mile journey to the field centre. Arriving at the coach, most of the students, particularly the boys with girlfriends, rushed on board and grabbed the back seats but being slower, Claire and Roy sat nearer the front, apart from the others, and quietly chatted and commented on the scenery. Halfway there they realised they were being set up by the other students especially Karen who had voluntarily become the Professor's personal assistant and undertaken the task of organising the accommodation. Unnoticed by the pair until she stood by their side, clipboard in hand, Karen smugly remarked, "I've put you both in room 10. You've been sleeping together for a while now so that shouldn't be a problem."
"We haven't..." Claire started but knew Karen wouldn't believe her.
"It's the last room that's available. They are all double rooms like at Uni and I've already allocated the others, except that Professor Armstrong has a bed free in his room if you want to share with him." Claire shook her head and sat quietly for the rest of the journey pondering on this latest development. Both were secretly pleased but also a little worried over the possible consequences. "This may be our chance to do it," Claire thought, "I will have to make the first move because Roy, I know, worries over being rejected or my crying rape. The others all believe we've been shagging for weeks so if they hear us, it will only confirm their suspicions."