Reginald's Future
Chapter 6

Copyright© 2018 by Gordon Johnson

Sex Story: Chapter 6 - Book Six in the 'Reginald' series, about a man who ends up with six wives. It is advised that you read the other five books before this one, to make the story easier to follow.

Caution: This Sex Story contains strong sexual content, including Ma/Fa   Mult   Consensual   Romantic   Heterosexual   Fiction   Polygamy/Polyamory   Indian Female   Slow  

“Ooops. Sorry, Jessica. Mea culpa. Forgive me.”

“It is okay, my love; just steering you in a sensible direction. You have to remember to be less academic with social chit-chat, darling.”

“I am okay with that advice, Jessica. Point noted.”

After lunch, Reg told Jessica he was going to bed for another snooze, so he did not want female company in bed. She knew his problems so accepted the plan as sensible.

“I’ll keep everyone away from you, then; at least until your girls get home. If anyone phones, I will put them off until you are able to phone them back.”

After half an hour of fitful attempt at rest, he fell asleep, waking up with the noise of his wives banging around the house after arriving. Jessica peeked her head in and found him with his eyes open.

“You are awake? I was afraid that was the case, darling. I forgot to tell your ladies to keep the noise down; sorry.”

“That’s okay, Jessica. What time is it?”

She told him and he grinned. “Thank goodness. I got a couple of hours sleep; I was needing it.”

“Oh, and I got another call from Mrs Anwar. She wants to know what I am proposing; says she is being pushed on it. I spoke with your wives a few minutes ago – that would be the hiatus in the hubbub – and they are fine with bringing the rescue family here. Can I phone Mrs Anwar back and make a time for us to collect them?

“Oh, yes: the Muslim lady and her girls. Yes, go ahead and sort things out between you and my other wives. Ignore me. I’ll see the newcomers when they get here.”

Reg got himself up, showered and dressed, then stepped out of his bedroom. He soon encountered the rest of the family milling around downstairs in the living room.

Prudence was first to spot him. “Reg! You are up at last. How are you, love?”

“Felling a bit more ‘with it’ now. We had a busy time this morning, Jessica and I.”

“So we were hearing. Jessica proposes to bring the mother and her two daughters here; something to do with overcrowding at the Women’s Aid shelter. I thought they could accommodate a woman’s children there?”

“Normally, yes. Jessica found that they were already full, so could not cope with more children; and anyway, they try to avoid having a woman living at a shelter in her own locality, as it would be too near to her abuser. It was only with her children being at the local school that they allowed her to stay temporarily.”

“Ah, so they want her out, and we are an external accommodation facility, unknown to the woman’s family, so fairly safe. Don’t the girls have school, though?”

Reg nodded. “That is a problem, so we will need to add them to our home schooling programme. At this rate, we will be running our own school shortly!”

“Doesn’t bother me, if they are anything like Elizabeth. I think most schools are so focused on the school routine and class structure, and so forth, that the value of education itself gets lost in the bureaucratic melee.”

“Why don’t we get them here on a visit, to begin with, and then they can meet everyone and decide if we will fit with them. Being Muslim, they may not want to live with a houseful of Christians.”

“Good idea. I’ll fix it up with Maryam and the supervisor.”

Reg had another matter on his mind.

“When I woke up, I was thinking about that arson question. If we want to get paid for our expertise, we need to have our research and conclusions professionally put together to present to the client. We can do it ourselves, but I need to write a report, going over all the questions that we looked into until we came up with a general conception about what had happened, and our consultation with the police that produced the oddity that we were seeking.

Finally, we should recommend a further examination of the basement, looking for the residues left by the flare. I suspect that it bounced around the basement before going out, so there may be multiple small start points for the fire in the basement. That means the residues of the small flare will be few and scattered, so difficult to find and prove.

We need to present this report from our company, suggesting where to look for the evidence and asking them to get the fire investigators back again to do that. Even if the chemical evidence is lost, the insurance firm will be able to say there is enough circumstantial evidence to allow them to refuse a pay-out.

Finally, the bill. We state the basic fee - £50,000, to cover company oncosts, staff costs, research and expenses including fees to consultants, but where savings to the client are sufficiently large, the charge is five per cent of the net total of savings on top of the basic fee.”

Jessica’s eyes widened. “£50,000 basic fee? Seriously?”

Reg nodded. “A company like ours has to be prepared for unexpected costs, Jessica. If we have to consult with a legal expert, his fee alone may amount to £5,000, and if we have to send staff considerable distances, multiple times, travel and accommodation costs can mount up, so we set a basic fee to allow for all eventualities, and a small profit margin to keep us in business. When we save the client a lot more, which is most of the time, they have that basic fee deducted from the savings before we apply the five per cent figure. The final figure always has to be above £50,000, and it almost always is so. That building that went up in smoke was probably insured for half a million or a million.

Five per cent of half a million minus £50,000, i.e. 450,000, is only £22,500, so in that case the fee is £50,000 plus £22,500 = £72,500. If the valuation is a million, then after deducting £50,000 from the million, the fee is five per cent of £950,00 - £47,500, with a total charge of £97,500. The client benefits whatever the valuation. They can save a million pounds for less than a hundred thousand to us for rescuing them. It makes good commercial sense.”

“When you put it that way, I suppose you are right. This one looks to be an easy reward, for it is mostly clever thinking and deduction, like Hercule Poirot.”

“On the face of it, yes, Jessica. But all my girls, i.e. company staff, had to read up all the documentation and then produce ideas that had to be considered as possible practical solutions, plus I had to consult with the police to collect more data. Once we have been paid, the company will make a donation to the local police force’s staff fund for extras to the local bobbies, plus a contribution to the national Police Benevolent Fund. We show our appreciation in this way for the help we get from our police friends who are not allowed to benefit directly.”

“That is wonderful, Reg. I like the idea of giving back something in return.”

“To get back to the report, it has to be done on the computer and printed off to send to them, but I want to give them a ‘heads up’ on the next step, having them call back the fire investigator to re-examine the basement. With all the bouncing around of the flare, the result will be that the residues are going to be minimal in any one place, and the fire may have been initiated in several different spots within the basement, not just the assumed single starting point.”

Jessica realised another matter that she had to raise. “I didn’t talk to Mrs Anwar about the girls not going back to school this afternoon. I’ll ring the refuge now and sort out who tells the school that the girls will not be back this afternoon or tomorrow; and I can arrange the visit tomorrow. How about we invite them to come for lunch and dinner? The family can meet Sidra and Elizabeth, who are nearest in age, and they can say hello to the twins and sort out the meal menus, and Hermione and Jemima can speak with them as well. Afterwards, we wait until the girls get back from university and they can see if the Anwar family will fit in with everyone. I hope they do.

Oh, darling, if they are going to stay with us for a while, can we have them adopting the Robertson surname for protective cover?”

Reg gave this careful consideration, then said, “If they want to protect themselves from Maryam’s husband, it might be better for them to have a different surname, and a Western name may put him off the scent. She might be best to adjust her name to the Western ‘Miriam’ as another form of disguise. What are the names of her girls?”

“Ah ... Fatima and Sara. These are very common first names, so not much need to change them.”

“Which is which? The elder and younger,” he clarified.

“Fatima is the 16 year old and Sara is 14. Why?”

“So that I can address them correctly, silly! I don’t want to look stupid to them.”

“Oh ... yes, of course. Let me get to the phone now, Reg.”

She made the call, and Maryam was happy with the idea of a visit tomorrow, if Jessica could use her car to collect them from the refuge. She also agreed to phone the school and tell them that she was withdrawing the girls for the moment, ‘due to family problems’ and would get back to the head teacher later.

Jessica finished her call, then found that Reg had gone to work on his company’s report for the insurance company client, so she decided not to bother him and reported to Frances instead. Frances was pleased to hear what had been arranged, and said she would leave Jessica to be Mistress of Ceremonies tomorrow. The other wives would be at university as normal during the day.

After a couple of hours work, Reg completed his company report and asked Frances and Fiona to cast their eyes over it for errors or omissions. They eventually pronounced it acceptable and Reg sent it to the Insurance company by email, promising an official printed copy in the post the next day. Frances was very complimentary to Reg about the report, telling him he must be starting to get back towards normal seeing his faculties were in such good condition.

Unfortunately, the effort seemed to have drained Reginald, as he opted for an early bedtime to try and sleep better tonight. There were a few long faces resulting from his announcement, but all recognised the need for his recovery to be as soon as possible.

He was allowed to sleep until he finally woke around nine a.m., and as he had his breakfast the ladies told him his wives had gone off to the university and wished him a pleasant day at home. Jessica reminded him she would be collecting the Anwar family later this morning, and he acknowledged that this was in his memory.

She went off to the refuge to sort things out in plenty of time. Reg was reminded that she was the mother of a teenager, so was aware of the vagaries of teenage girls and their unreliability at being ready on time, unless they are seeing a boyfriend.

Jessica’s car was back at the front of the building at around half-past eleven, and she brought her passengers to the front door, where she rang the doorbell for formal admittance. Holly was there to do the honours, welcoming the visitors to the Robertson household.

“Please feel free to ask about anything that puzzles you, as we are not a very ordinary household. I and my twin sister are the cook and housekeeper, so anything in these fields, you ask either of us. If it is to do with the organisation of the household and its members, please speak to Reginald about such matters. Hermione and Jemima Robson are staff of the company Recovery Enterprise Group, but they are also resident here. Fortunately this is a large building and can accommodate everyone.”

Jessica took over and escorted the visitors on a tour of the building, showing them where each of the public rooms were located, and making a point of showing where the toilets and bathrooms were positioned. The doors of the bedrooms were merely pointed out, and there was no mention made of the hidden basement for now.

On the tour they encountered Sidra and Elizabeth, and Sidra chatted to the girls in Urdu, while Elizabeth stood politely by, not understanding anything said. Sidra switched to English to introduce Elizabeth.

“This is my sister Elizabeth. She is Reginald’s adopted daughter. I became Reginald’s daughter when he married my mother, Jessica.”

The Anwar girls spoke politely, “Pleased to meet you, Elizabeth. It must be difficult, having a sister that speaks Urdu.”

Elizabeth dismissed this supposed snag. “Sidra always speaks to me in English, because she was brought up here. Urdu is the language she picked up from her mother. We are true sisters now, and study together. We are home-schooled, you know.”

This led to a discussion of what home-schooling was, and the two girls explained to their mother in Urdu what had been explained to them, as their mother had trouble with some of the English words.

She seemed surprised at this conception of girls being taught at home in England. It was common in Pakistan for boys to get the priority in education, and so many girls were taught at home by their mothers as best they could. She was surprised at the high quality of education being provided by home schooling in this household.

Jessica told her, “If you are going to stay with us for some time, your girls can join Sidra and Elizabeth in their studies. We will make allowance for any gaps in their knowledge.” Jessica had previously warned Maryam that residence with the Robertsons would depend on their approval by the Robertson ladies who were at university.

Maryam wanted to know something.

“Who teaches the girls? Are there a number of people who do the teaching, depending on the subject?”

Jessica laughed at the question. “Maryam, the girls are expected to teach themselves by reading the textbooks we get for them. That means they are prepared for the exams which the state expects every child to sit, but our girls learn much more besides. They talk to all of us about anything that interests them, and we go into the subject in detail. Often one subject will be connected to another subject, so that one discussion will range over many fields of interest. For example, a discussion about the Moon or the planets will cover astronomy, mathematics, physics and geology, for all are involved in discussing the planets and the moon. That way, the girls learn lots of useful information at the same time.”

“So the tuition is all books and discussion? The girls work by themselves?”

“Not only that. We encourage them to use the Internet to research any subject they are studying, but we warn them about being careful of what you find on the internet, as some may be opinion rather than fact. Some websites are more reliable than others, and part of their education is learning which you can trust, and which you take with a pinch of salt (or as some people say, a grain of salt). Encountering phrases like this, we encourage the girls to search out the origin of the phrase and add that to their knowledge. Some phrases may have several possible origins, and this one is a case in point. Even that phrase – a case in point, is interesting, meaning a relevant example.”

She was at last introduced to Reg, who had tidied himself up by now and as presentable.

“Maryam, allow me to introduce you to my husband, Reginald Robertson. Reginald, This is Maryam Anwar, our guest for today, and possible resident, should the rest of your wives approve of her and her girls.”

Maryam let out a gasp. “Wives? He has more than one? This boy?”

Jessica smiled graciously. “Maryam, this BOY is a far better MAN than my first husband ever was, in EVERY way. This dear boy will be the father of six children within the year. He is a university student, as are his other wives, but he is unwell at present, which is why he is at home to greet you.

“I am proud of my Reg, I can tell you.”

Maryam was still staring at Reg, astonished that this young man could be what Jessica was declaring. Reg simply smiled back at her, and offered his handshake, which she took automatically.

“Maryam, I apologise for not being able to speak Urdu. It is one of many languages that I have not mastered. I only know a few words that I have picked up from my lovely Jessica and my daughter Sidra. Your daughters will LOVE Sidra. She is a clever young lady and a good role model for them to emulate. Her sister Elizabeth will vouch for that. Elizabeth’s birth parents died in a car crash a few years ago, but she has recovered well and is our wonderful daughter now.”

As he spoke, Reg’s phone sounded, and he apologised for having to break off to answer it.

“Reginald Robertson here.”

He listened, then,

“That is interesting, and supports the arson theory if he is trying to dispose of the evidence. If he has just cleared out the contents of the basement and brushed it, but not washed the walls, there is a good chance that chemical residue may remain on the walls if not on the floor. Ask the investigator to look for trace amounts of the residues of a flare from a flare gun bouncing around the basement. That may solve the problem, sir.”

As he concluded the call, Jessica told Maryam, “Reg also runs a company along with his family, and that was one of the clients on the phone. The company is quite successful at solving problems for organisations.”

“Ayayyy! What a wonderful man for a husband, Jessica? But several wives? Didn’t you say you were a Naz?” (In Pakistan, Christians are known by Muslims as Nazarenes: followers of the Nazarene)

“Yes, I am a Christian, Maryam, as was my family who fled from Pakistan through persecution. I will explain later about wives here. I don’t think either of us feels that way about each other in England, do we?”

Maryam became quiet and said softly, “I have learned that it is the person’s behaviour that matters, not his belief. You are a true believer, Jessica. Allah has blessed you.”

“God has indeed blessed me, Maryam. He will bless you too, I am certain. Now, have a chat with our twins, and decide on what foods are acceptable to you and your girls.”

Maryam was taken to the kitchen and the twins took her in hand.

Reg switched his attention to her teenage girls.

“Well, girls, hello again. Did you enjoy your ride in the police car?”

They both nodded shyly, unsure of how to react to him. He told them, “Now that we don’t have to worry about who might hear us, my name is Reginald Robertson. You can call me Mr Robertson, but if we are in private, you can call me Reginald, okay?”

They said, “Yes, sir, Mr Robertson.”

He added, “You will see other people calling me Reg, but that is just short for Reginald. They use that version because they know me well. If you and your Mum decide to stay with us, maybe you will come to call me Reg. I have two teenage daughters, and they both call me Reg.”

He noticed their surprise at him having teenage daughters, and clarified matters. Sidra is Jessica’s daughter by her first marriage, so when I married Jessica, Sidra became my daughter too. Elizabeth’s maan and baap died in a car crash, but we have adopted her as our daughter and she is happy again. We like our girls to be happy, but at the same time we expect them to learn as much as they can. Education is an important factor for your future life, girls, and that is why we expect you to learn, in school and out of school. Are you okay with that?”

His insistence on education surprised the girls, as their father did not seem to care about them being educated; in fact, he did not seem to care about them at all. His son was his favourite. This man, Jessica’s husband, was so different!

Reg was still talking to them when Sidra and Elizabeth came back along, wanting to know more about the visitors, but apprehensive about butting in. “Dad?”

“Ah, Sidra and Elizabeth: just the pair I was looking for. These two young ladies are visiting us today, as possible future residents, as you heard earlier. Their mother is in the kitchen discussing meals, and I have been speaking of education with these two: Fatima is the elder and Sara is the younger. Would you mind taking our visitors to your room and show them how you study and what you are currently learning?”

Sidra grabbed hold of Fatima, saying, “You must be about my age, Fatima. Are you preparing for your certificate exams?” She led off the older girl, leaving Elizabeth to chat with Sara.

Reg relaxed, now that all the visitors were distributed. He felt he could go back to his chair to sit and read for a while. That lasted until the flare gun came to his mind again, and he dialled for Sergeant Phillips. Fortunately he answered his phone, and Reg said, “Sergeant: that flare gun we talked about? It is probably evidence in an arson case, so could you ask for it to be impounded officially as evidence from a crime scene, and incidentally get his fingerprints from it, if possible?”

“Can do, Reg. No guarantee about the fingerprints, but we shall see what the experts come up with; even if it is only DNA linking him to the gun.”

“Thanks, Sergeant. We have these two teenagers and their mother visiting today. If they click with my family, we may invite them to stay with us. If so, we’ll pass on that info so you know what’s what in case of any eventualities.”

“That would be useful data to have on hand, Reg, thank you. Got to go now; something has come up.”

Reg closed the call, and returned to his book on seismology. He thought Sidra might like to read it, to bring her up to date on the problems of predicting earthquakes. In Turkey, the seismologists can say that there is a sequence of earthquakes heading for Istanbul, but cannot accurately predict the rate of movement or the time and place of the next quake in the line, nor the size of the next quake.

Jessica came to inform him that the twins and Maryam had agreed a lunch menu, and she was observing while they made it.

“They are getting on fine, Reg. I am pleased at that.”

At lunchtime it was an effort to drag the new teenagers away from Sidra’s room. “Ammi, we have been studying earthquakes, and it is great fun. Did you know that an earthquake can cause a tsunami if it happens at sea, and if it happens in the mountain, it can cause a landslide or a mudslide, or even a flood if it breaks a reservoir!” Fatima was excited by what she was learning.

Her mother was curious. “Why were you studying earthquakes, Fatima?”

Sidra said that her Dad, Reg, was studying seismology – which is the study of earthquakes – and that she wanted to look at the subject at a lower level of intensity. She called it ‘a bit lower on the Richter scale’, so we had to find out what the Richter Scale actually was and what it measured. The scale is measured on base-10 logarithmic progression,. That means that level 2 is ten times as strong as level one.”

Maryam goggled at her daughter. “That sounds terribly complicated, Fatima: logarithmic progression indeed!”

Fatima laughed, delightedly. “Not really, Mum; not once you understand it. Sidra explained it all, and it was a breeze from there. Even Sara understands it now.”

Sara was standing beside her elder sister, nodding in agreement. Maryam smiled at them both, and told them, “Lunch is ready, girls. Take your places at table. You can sit beside Sidra and Elizabeth, seeing you are getting on with them.”

The lunchtime meal was slightly different but interesting. Some of it, Jessica had already introduced into the household’s menus, but Maryam had added some extras from her own background. While a few items were a bit on the spicy side for some tastes, none was regarded as uneatable. Maryam explained that certain dishes could be adjusted in the seasoning to be milder for the western palate, and that caused a few sighs of relief, to her own relief. She had worried about how the Robertson household would react to the spicy dishes.

Surprisingly, Reginald was the one least affected. He enjoyed the spiciness, he said. “Each to his own taste,” he commented, translating the French phrase ‘chacun a son gout’.

Once the meal was over, Sidra and Elizabeth invited Fatima and Sara to visit the garden. Sidra apologised for its condition.

“We have only recently settled properly into this house, and Reginald has only managed to get a little of the garden tidying completed. Since the grass started growing, we have been mowing it every couple of weeks, so we have some half-decent grass to play games on. The trees have not been pruned as they should be, for they have been allowed to grow unchecked for some years. Dad keeps promising to prune them in the manner specified, but he wants to first of all cut out any dead or diseased wood, so he will then know how to proceed with pruning. Perhaps if we read up on tree pruning, we can give him some accurate advice. Cutting off branches that seem too big is not pruning; it is hacking at trees, and the end result looks horrible. There are some trees near here that were hacked that way, but to the extreme. The trees are left as trunks alone, so that small shoots grow out all over the tree in groups; hideous!”

Sara was puzzled. “What should they do instead, Sidra?”

“Basically, have patience; be prepared to allow several years for the pruning to work. The first year, a few branches get cut off at the base, but the other branches are only cut back slightly, so that the tree still has most of its branches, and looks normal. The second year, more severe pruning takes place on these branches, and one or two get lopped back completely. Meanwhile, new branches start growing from the trunk, and a few specific one are allowed to grow further, while the rest of such new growth is cut off. The third year you do a similar prune, and from that time on, the pruning is minor, allowing the branches to develop into a tree shape that suits the species. It is all about not rushing to lop branches off.”

“Gosh! You seem to know an awful lot about so many things, Sidra,” Sara praised her new friend. Sidra looked surprised at such wonder.

“It is simply a matter of reading up on how a thing should be done properly, instead of dashing at it without thinking about the future. You don’t have to be clever to do that, Sara; just apply common sense to the problem. It is much the same with most subjects you study. Don’t look at the subject as a major difficulty for you. Treat it as a sequential problem to be studied, bit by bit, and it becomes much easier. Think of it as getting a new complicated toy. You start by reading the instructions, and if these are properly written, it should be simple to put together your equipment or game.”

Elizabeth interrupted, “I have seen some instructions that were really confusing, as they had been written in Korean or Chinese first, then translated into English. Foreign idioms don’t translate easily into colloquial English, and the translator’s style of English may be very stilted and awkward to comprehend.”

Sidra agreed with her. “Quite so, Elizabeth. Such translations should be passed to a native English speaker and adjusted to read as modern English. It can pay a company to go that bit extra to encourage the customer.”

In the house, Jessica was chatting to Maryam in Urdu, comparing their knowledge of various districts of Pakistan. Jessica’s knowledge was very out of date, due to her family’s move to England decades before. Maryam was a recent arrival, so she was better versed in modern Pakistan with all its terrorist groups and factions. It terrified Maryam, so she had been happy to marry her husband and come to England where he had been living for many years.

“It is only in recent years that he became more of a trial to me, Jessica. He has become influenced by radical Islam and I became worried about what this would do to my girls.”

Jessica sympathised. “I had a similar situation; as my husband became abusive after my Sidra was born. He seemed to have decided that his child would be a son, and when it was a daughter, he seemed to flip, to become a different person to the man I was married to. That change spurred me to decide not to have more children that he might turn on as they grew up. It was a wise decision, for when Sidra became fifteen, he started beating her as well as me.”

Maryam was shocked. “I thought Christians were supposed to be tolerant, unlike fundamental Islamists.”

“‘Supposed to be’ is right, Maryam. Some Christian fundamentalists can be frightening. I think it is mostly mental aberrations, leading some men to become abusers, or adopting extreme religious viewpoints. Most followers of Islam are reasonable people, I find, particularly those I have met in England.”

Jessica’s phone rang. Surprised, she answered it, and found it was Lesley, the supervisor at the refuge.

“Hi, Lesley!”

“Hi, Jessica. You were here recently for a chat, so I wanted to give you a heads-up. We had a visitation today at lunchtime: Two policewomen accompanying a lawyer acting for a Mister Anwar, whoever he is. The lawyer claimed that Mr Anwar’s two daughters had been kidnapped, and he suspected they were in our refuge!”

“My goodness! And were they there?”

“No, nor was their mother, Mr Anwar’s spouse. Supposedly she has run away, and he decided she had to be with us. Of course, she wasn’t. The policewomen were allowed to search the refuge for her, and went away satisfied that she was not with us. If he thought she would be at a Women’s Aid refuge, he must be a bad character, sufficiently bad to run away from. Who knows where the woman might be now?”

“Quite so, Lesley. Well, I hope the woman doesn’t turn up at your doorstep, or you might be in difficulties, eh?”

“Too true. It is not as though she would be welcome here. We try to ensure that women needing our help are passed on to refuges at a greater distance from their home turf, for their own safety.”

“So I understand. A tough rule, but essential. It might be even better for the woman and her children if they didn’t go to a refuge at all, but found their own accommodation.”

“Right; good idea. That is what I shall advise now, if she ever turns up here. Keep that in mind if you run into problems with your own spouse, dear.”

“I will, though at the moment, my spouse is keeping me happy. Nice to chat with you again, Lesley. Do keep in touch; I like hearing the gossip.”

“Bye, Jessica.”

The call ended, with Jessica reviewing the coded messages that had gone between them. Maryam’s husband suspected she had gone to Women’s Aid, and got his lawyer to enlist police help to search the refuge. The police would have difficulty in refusing such a request, if there was a claim of kidnapping. Sergeant Phillips and his men would stay well away from such questions. Thank goodness no-one had mentioned a police car visiting the refuge the other day. Of course, such a visit would be perfectly routine, especially if a woman was claiming physical abuse.

The situation had now changed, and it was now imperative that Maryam and her daughters remain in this household and out of sight. Jessica decided it was time to inform Reg. She found him in his comfy chair in the sitting room, and shortly made him uncomfortable.

“Reg darling? Bad news. There was a police raid on the refuge, looking for the two girls. Their father had claimed they had been kidnapped, and his lawyer got police assistance to search the Women’s Aid refuge for them.”

“What? Surely the policemen would not be allowed in?”

“Reg, have some sense. It was policewomen that searched the premises. They found nothing.”

“Was there no official register of the residents, that they would have checked?”

“Naturally, but they don’t use residents correct names. The use A or B or C, or a number to identify each resident, or perhaps a pseudonym. These refuges are not staffed by stupid women, darling.”

“So they are safe as long as they stay away from the refuge? Don’t they have clothes and things there?”

“I shall have to ask Maryam about that. If it is merely cosmetics and such, we can provide new ones for her, to save worrying about what she left behind. The same goes for clothes, though we could ask the refuge to officially ‘donate’ her clothes to a charity shop, and then have Maryam go into the shop and ‘purchase them’ afterwards, by arrangement.”

“Jessica, you have all this sewn up, haven’t you?”

“Reg, I would not expect a man to be able to make such arrangements. I DO expect you to approve of offering a refuge with us, as she and the girls are rather stuck for accommodation.”

“I don’t see a way out of it, Jessica. Go and chat with Maryam and bring her up to date with the news. It may be a shock for her.”

Jessica found that Maryam was in the kitchen, trying to help the twins with the clearing up after lunch, and talking about the evening meal.

“Maryam?”

“Yes, Jessica?”

“News from the refuge. They have been raided by police after your husband got his lawyer to accuse them of harbouring kidnappers. They found nothing, of course, but the supervisor has advised that you do not return there. It looks like you are stuck with us until you can find some other place secure enough to be safe from your husband.”

“Oh.”Maryam did not seem to know what to say. Jessica told her, “We still have to wait for Reg’s other wives to arrive home, but I expect they will be happy to help you and your girls. Shall we wait and see what the wives say? You can talk to your girls about possibly living here now.”

Maryam nodded dumbly, still shocked by the news. She had felt safe in the refuge up till now. She left the kitchen, apologising to Carol and Holly for leaving them. The twins dismissed the need for an apology.

Jessica was mobbed by the twins. “We heard what you said to Maryam. Is she going to live with us now, Jessica? Her and the two girls?”

“Very probably. It depends on the other wives raising no objections.”

“Oh, they’ll be fine, Jessica. If Frances agrees – and she will – all the others will fall in line.”

“For teenagers, you seem very sure of yourselves, you two.”

Holly told her, “We have watched Reg and his wives for some time now, Jessica, so we know what we are talking about. We learned a bit about other men, from going out with the Pringle brothers. Reg is still our preferred option for relieving us of our virginity. He would do it with love, and feel responsible for our mental and physical health afterwards, unlike most other men.”

Jessica eyed the pair with something approaching alarm. “The two of you are okay with the idea of a much-married man taking your virginity? I am surprised, girls.”

Carol intruded, “It is not just a matter of taking our virginity, Jessica. Reg has become known in this household for making lovemaking a pleasure to his women; that is what counts to a girl, rather than a quick fuck to do the dirty.”

“Well, Carol, if it comes to that, make sure you are protected from pregnancy. We have enough babies on the way already, without adding extras to the mix.”

“We are already protected. Frances made sure of that before she let us go out with the Pringle twins, but we haven’t needed to test it.”

Maryam, her daughters, plus Elizabeth and Sidra all came rushing through to the kitchen, the younger girls squealing in delight. Maryam declared, “Jessica, both of them are happy with the idea of staying here. They want to be home schooled like Sidra and Elizabeth. They said it was ... what was it? ‘so cool’. A funny thing to say!”

Jessica smiled in her understanding. “I know what they mean, Maryam. What about yourself?”

“Jessica, I will be eternally grateful if you can offer me protection from my husband for me and the girls.”

“Maryam, it is not my decision, but I have some say in how the matter goes, and can offer pertinent advice to the others. Frances’ father owns the building, so she has the final word in this household over matters such as these.”

Maryam gave Jessica a small bow with her head. “I am happy to have you helping me, Jessica. Allah sent you to me, I am sure.”

Jessica told her, “Allah tries to help the faithful, Maryam. Were you aware that Christian Arabs use the term ‘Allah’ as their only word for our God. God has many names; it is us humans who fail to see that the difference is only in how we give God our respect.”

“I had not thought of it that way, Jessica. You are a clever woman, I see.”

“Reg rubs off on me, Maryam. He encourages us to learn all the time, and makes us see the history of the world slightly differently. Shia and Sunni quarrel over precedence of ancient brothers as to who was the rightful successor to Muhammed, but if God was much concerned, he would have ensured that Muhammed left instructions as to his succession.

Christian Protestants and Catholics quarrel about structure and leadership in their churches, based on historical abuse of a hierarchy, hundreds of years ago.

Both Islam and Christian followings complain about each other due to varying understandings of how God is viewed. I am sure that Allah has no objections to being worshipped in a myriad of ways, as long as His followers behave as responsible human beings.”

Maryam regarded Jessica with awe, for this was the kind of language and reasoning she expected of a man of learning, such as the Imam. Jessica was clearly something special for a mere Christian woman, particularly with a Pakistani background of religious oppression.

Maryam shook her head as if to clear it, and changed the subject.

“So we can stay, provided Mr Robertson’s wives approve?”

“That’s it.”

“We stay for dinner, no matter what?”

“Maryam, if the girls give you a thumbs down, we won’t throw you out. We are not like that. At the very least, we will find you a new place to stay, or get you to a refuge far from here, so that your husband can’t trace you. And a word of caution: keep your girls out of the normal school system, as they will be traceable. Go with home schooling, which is perfectly legal in England. You can ask new friends to help with teaching your girls all the subjects that they have to learn.”

This helped Maryam to view possible rejection as something less than a disaster, but she still worried.

When the university wives arrived, Reg told them, “Please go with Jessica for a private discussion, girls, and then we can talk.”

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