I first saw her when I was seventeen, nearly eighteen. I was about to go off to University, the family were very proud of me; I’d taken the exams a year early and got the five A-grades for Cambridge. I’d tentatively suggested having a year off, and been told that wasn’t a good idea. I resented it a bit because Mum and Dad hadn’t gone to University, nor ever been further than France; their opinions on ‘good idea’ seemed rather limited. But I went along with it, that was, and is, me. A quiet life, that’s what I’m like.
So, lots of Aunts and Uncles congratulated me, and not a few slipped me a tenner (Uncle Max gave me fifty – way too much, but he could afford it; he had a Bentley). I was enjoying the wedding. Aunty Julie’s second. Her first husband died of Pancreatic Cancer, I never knew him, so I didn’t mourn. I just remember the funeral being sad; I was too young to appreciate why. Now she was getting remarried, and she had invited all the family. We had a big family, made larger by Aunty Julie including cousins who hadn’t seen each other for years.
I was enjoying myself, feeling incredibly well-dressed in my three-piece suit. With a flat stomach, it looked perfect on me – even if I may have been a bit skinny. Holly tripped past, pretty as picture in her flowery dress; her young body was just expanding into womanly curves, and she knew it. Like a lot of young girls, she relished the feeling of lithesome, attractiveness without even realising it. She was naive and happy as a girl, and increasingly aware of her attraction to and for boys. There weren’t many boys around. So when the dancing began, we naturally found ourselves dancing.
She was pretty in a way that so many girls are at that age; slim and pert and graceful. Her light brown hair long and silky down her back; small, clear-skinned, face. Red lips – made redder by being allowed make-up by a mother that knew not to let her daughter over do it – a little eye shadow and blusher, but nothing to turn her into a painted doll. Hazel eyes that laughed at everything. She was enjoying being an ‘adult’ at an adult reception rather than being packed off to bed like some of the other cousins had been. She didn’t exactly fill her dress, but she did fit it. She had a bust and a waist and a bottom and legs; where some of the older women had a bust that seemed to re-erupt at waist level and duplicate the bottom at the back. These were women who had gone to a lot of trouble, and just looked like they had more curves than were strictly allowed in a dress. Still, it was a wedding, people were easy going after a drink or two. Old men tried their chances with women of fifty, and men of fifty tried to show the twenty five year olds that they were still hip; and everybody was tolerant enough not to notice.
She’d had the obligatory dance with her Dad, Derek; and I’d taken a turn round the floor with my Mum. The band were good, they mixed up slow waltzes and faster foxtrots with modern classics (like Crocodile Rock or John, I’m Only Dancing). It kept most people happy. I had learnt to waltz at school, and learnt not to be too embarrassed dancing with my mum over the years. Derek, on the other hand was a real Dad-dancer; Holly did very well to manage a whole song with him. Then Derek and Janet danced together, and Mum and Dad sat out a few and danced a few (Dad loves dancing, but he has four left feet!). I asked Holly if she wanted to dance, we danced three fast numbers. Then there was a slower one, Man of the World was it? No, Albatross. I know – the band weren’t right up with modern stuff, but still, they played Albatross pretty well. I hugged Holly in close and she didn’t object, and my hands stayed on her waist, nothing below that even though it was dark by then and no-one would have seen, so I thought. We rocked back and forth, and talked, and I realised that she was way too young.
Like many a girl, she wore an uplift (and padded) bra which made her look bigger than she was, high heels, which did the same, and a pretty dress which I’d already realised was not a ‘sexy’ dress but a girly one. As we talked, I realised her age. It didn’t matter, I wasn’t the kind of one night stand, knee trembler in the car park kind of guy. The song finished and I went to get us some drinks. There was a tab at the bar; Aunt Julie was really enjoying herself, I noticed. Her new husband was giving as good as she was. They were red-faced and roaring with laughter. I got two glasses of wine. Now Holly was underage, but then so was I. I was on wine because three pints in meant three pints out later, I could hold the alcohol, not the water. She admitted she hadn’t had much alcohol, but asked if I’d get her a wine. She knew the barman would only give her Coke or Orange.
As I moved towards the bar, there was a tap on my shoulder. “She’s fourteen.” a man said. “I’m her uncle, just thought you should know.” Thank goodness I’d already sussed that, I might have looked surprised otherwise.
“I know. She’s nice, she just needs someone to dance with. And so do I.” I smiled as I spoke, trying not to say too much (‘methinks he doth protest too much’) or too little (‘devious little fucker’). We went to the bar and I still got two glasses of wine. To change now would be to tacitly admit I was trying it on. I wasn’t, I had no reason to back off.
“What did Uncle Richard want? I saw him tap you on the shoulder.”
“He wanted to make sure I knew how old you were.”
She looked at me, she didn’t understand, then she looked cross. “The interfering old git! He wants to make sure you aren’t trying to get inside my knickers. What a cheek!”
“Well, he’s just looking out for you. I mean in case...” I didn’t want to use the same crude term that she’d just used. The trouble was, the very mention of it had made me think of what was inside her knickers. I consciously put it out of my head. We danced a bit more, drank our wine, and went outside for some air. This was the kind of wedding I could get used to, it just seemed to go on and on. If my Mum and Dad had organised it, it would have ended at eight. My Mum and Dad were flagging, they went to bed at 10, 11 at the latest. Now it was half past, and things were still very festive.
Outside, the night was pleasantly cool. We walked over to a wall encircling a pond, and I sat down on it. Holly, claiming to be worried about getting dirt on her dress, sat on my lap. I put my arm round her waist to steady her; and we talked. Then, of course, we kissed. Then we kissed again, longer, deeper and with more passion.
We stayed kissing for five or ten minutes, then went back to talking, and finally returned to the reception, where things were starting to break up. Dad had had four beers, over the limit. So was I, but less than him (two wines, that’s all. One with the meal and one after; oh, and those other two. Whatever; I wasn’t too drunk, he was). I was in a better state than him and so Mum ‘suggested’ I drive. Dad was far enough gone to agree to what he was told, and not as far on to become stubbornly ‘I’m fine’. Holly and her parents Derek and Janet were staying in the hotel, they wished us goodnight as we made our way out. Uncle Richard waved at me, I took that to mean I hadn’t overstepped the mark.
Why was he laying the rules? Derek and Janet were lovely people, the sort of people who felt that leaving Yorkshire was going abroad, who would never dream that a fourteen year old could have sex, or a seventeen year old take advantage of a fourteen year old. It wasn’t in their life experience. When even Coronation Street and Eastenders had teenage pregnancies in their plots, I wondered what they watched on TV. Anyway, that was the last I saw of Holly, then.
We drove to our smaller, cheaper, hotel; I drove carefully to avoid any problems. I’d passed my test only a month before, yet I was trusted with the car. Dad, had put me on the insurance immediately. He also put me on the motorhome insurance (which must have cost a fortune). Later that summer, I drove the first leg into Scotland. It was meant to be the first hundred miles; but they both fell asleep within fifty miles of home, and I kept driving.
You’ll be wondering why a seventeen year old (nearly eighteen) was going on holiday with his parents. Well, partly I felt obliged because I was so easily added to the insurance, I’d expected much more trouble than that. I’d borrowed the car a few times. Since Mum had the problem with her hip and took early retirement from nursing, it was agreed that they could manage with one car; that made space for the campervan that now stood proudly in the drive (my Mum and Dad were proud, I thought it looked a bit like the start of a gipsy camp, but I said nothing). Partly I’m just easy to push around.
As we pulled down the hill into Oban, I stopped at a layby and moved into the back to sleep. Mum and Dad, amazingly, slept on. I slept for a couple of hours before daylight began to wake us all. I woke, surprised that I was dreaming of lifting a flowery dress from a fourteen year old body. As is normal in dreams, I knew who it was, but never saw her face. I was chivvied for not having woken them; I could tell they were pleased really. We caught the ferry to Barra and, I have to admit, a very good holiday. In one bar I managed to try five different whiskies, no-one asked my age. The weather was wet, windy and then sunny and midge filled – exactly what Scotland is meant to be. I saw eagles and dolphin and was happy enough to spend that last holiday with the old folks (as I called them to wind them up). Oh, and I swam in sea cold enough to freeze my bollocks to the size of peas.
CH 2 Nearly two years passed before I saw her again. I was just finishing year two at Cambridge. A first wasn’t out of the question, but was less likely than the ubiquitous two-one. Oxford and Cambridge both argue that their students get two-ones (upper second class honours degree) because they are so clever. But, being the brain-box universities that they are, they must realise that this is a circular argument. “We give lots of 2:1s, which means we must be brighter than the other universities, so we attract bright people, to whom we give lots of 2:1s”. They should have the same spread really, and people would assume that a third at Cambridge was like a 2:1 at Loughborough, but then people might discover that a third at Cambridge was the same as a third at Loughborough, and the mystique would be undermined. Anyway, I was doing okay.
I’d had a good couple of years. People didn’t realise I was a year younger, and I didn’t tell. I met up with Bronte first – yes like the Bronte sisters. She was actually called Ann, but she went on about the Brontes so much that she’d been nicknamed Bronte, she liked that, and adopted it. We started together, shared a corridor together, then a bed. She was voracious! She once said that she was convinced that Charlotte and Anne were lovers. I had no idea why she thought that, but she brought a fellow Eng.Lit. student to my room for a threesome. The other student thought she was a lesbian and that Bronte was too. Result: tears, mayhem and a talk with the Master. Why only me? Very sexist, I mean I had nothing to do with trying to corrupt the girl. I didn’t say that, of course, I said nothing. He respected that and let me off. I stayed quiet for a term and then, rowing in our third boat in the May Bumps, I got talking to the girl’s number three after the races. After five Pimms she was anybody’s. I opted to walk her home so she didn’t get found with her trousers round her ankles in the Quad the next day. I wasn’t as much of a gentleman as all that! I bounced on her muscly body, front and back. She didn’t object at the time, she moaned, groaned and uttered expletives of distinctly Saxon origin. In the morning, when she awoke, naked in my bed, with not much sign of her clothes around (I think we’d undressed outside, looking out on the Quad, there were a lot of clothes, and, yes, three naked bodies waking to the dawn. All three were male that year.), she looked confused, then demanded I help her return to her own room. Instead, I made her some tea and crumpets for breakfast and slipped down her body and showed her I wasn’t such a bad catch. She gasped between buttery bites of her crumpet. I lent her my teeshirt and jeans, later; she leaked inside them quite a lot, but then, as she said, she was leaking back my own fuck-stuff and my jeans had probably had that before. We met up a few more times for relaxing, no-strings, sex.
Year two brought in Abagail (insisted on that second ‘a’ rather than an ‘i’), a third year. She and I were good together, she was a strict missionary position girl, but, since she liked to relax on her back every night after working in the library until midnight, I wasn’t objecting. She never complained if she didn’t come, though I always tried to give satisfaction. Sometimes her cleaner would find us in her bed, sometimes mine would find us in mine. The two of them knew each other, because they started laughing about whose turn it was to see the naked boy’s buttocks (me). They offered comments, all in good heart: like ‘If she gets tired, deary, I’m available’. Abagail lasted two terms! I nearly thought she was the one, then she dumped me because she got a low mark for an essay and decided sex was getting in the way of her degree. Perhaps she was right, she got a First and a job at Learner, Low, Wise and Morecombe. You can’t start there on less that seventy five grand.
So, like I said. I made the most of my university education in those first two years.
For some reason Mum and Aunty Julie kept in touch. When she heard that Richard had died, she decided to go to the funeral to support Aunty Julie (who was going through a divorce – the marriage hadn’t been the major success she’d hoped). I didn’t understand why Julie needed support, and I don’t think Dad did either. He said he couldn’t get the time off work for a distant relation. I said I’d take Mum.
It wasn’t that she couldn’t drive, more that she wouldn’t. She could drive to Sainsbury, drive to Harrogate, drive to Whitby; but driving to Clitherow? That seemed like a distant place to go. As it happened, that’s what Janet and Derek thought too, but Derek had to be there, he was the brother after all. They talked as if they’d crossed the Sahara and the Pacific to get there, rather than a range of high hills called the Pennines. I liked them, oddly; what you saw (generally, I suspected, grey anorak and shopping at Lidl) was what you got. No pretence. Typical Yorkshire.
Dad was told to take the motorhome or the bus to work, we took the car and I drove. I was grateful it was during the holidays. I spoke to Derek, who didn’t remember me, and to Janet, who did. Then Mum saw Aunty Julie and went over to speak to her. And I saw Holly. She was in a black dress, nothing sexy or alluring. That was what made it sexy and alluring. It was a dress that said ‘this is a sombre occasion and I’m not dressing to look special’. No plunging neckline, or short skirt. It was a plain and simple black dress to below the knee. And that’s why she looked a million dollars, because she hadn’t tried, and still looked good. What if she had made an effort, the brain said. What if she had worn something with a more pronounced cleavage or a split in the dress that drew your eye, or high heels with just a hint of decoration (instead of black, flats)? Everything suggested that there was so much more that you couldn’t see. The only decoration was silver pendant earrings, and a slightly out of keeping brooch. She saw me, and came over. She saw me looking at the brooch.
“Hi, Uncle Richard bought me that on my tenth birthday. I know it doesn’t go, but it’s in memory of him. I didn’t know you were coming. How are you? How’s Cambridge?”
“Mum wanted to come, I said I’d come with her, I’m well, how are you? Cambridge is wonderful, you should visit. It really is impressive. You look great. The brooch is a lovely thought.”
“That was nice of you.” We carried on talking. Richard had become good friends with her after that wedding reception; looking out for her, helping her with ideas, and even took her skiing. Her parents had never been out of Yorkshire, her uncle had moved to Lancashire! He was quite the adventurer. “Remember what he said to you at the wedding?”
“Oh yes ... was that what he was trying to do?”
“What? Oh, get inside my pants?” She doubled up, laughing quietly (it being a funeral), “No, no, Uncle Richard was as gay as a box of York Fruits. No, he was a genuinely nice guy, I realised that later. He saw me as the daughter he would have liked to have had, I think.
She started to cry then. “He was too young to have a heart attack. He had a massive heart attack and keeled over and died. Just like that.” I put an arm round her.
“Well, I guess if you’re gonna go, that would be a good way to go? Better than my Grandad, who wasted away for four years with cancer; fighting and fighting the inevitable.” She was about to quote Dylan Thomas “Yes, I know, Rage, rage against the dying of the light; but it meant we watched an active old man slowly rot inside and become a husk of what he had been, and that’s the picture of him I have now.”
“Look, can I sit with you? I don’t want to sit at the front with mum and dad and Aunty Jacky” she was a sister, the other one was in New Zealand and wasn’t coming back just for a funeral of someone she hardly knew. “I’d rather be out of view, a bit.” Seemed that Derek and Janet had no objections, so she sat with me and Mum, and as the time for the cremation came, she squeezed my hand. I pulled the handkerchief out of my jacket breast pocket, feeling incredibly suave, and gave it to her. I didn’t think I knew her well enough to wipe her tears away myself. Mum sat, stood, prayed and nodded like she was at a parent’s evening or something. But then she didn’t really know him, at least there was no false emotion. Beside Mum, Aunty Julie blubbed, and beside me, Holly did. They were genuine, I could tell.
We talked after the service, at the reception. It wasn’t a wake, no drunken Irish biddies singing The Sash or Follow Me Up To Carlow. No, this was English funeral style. Cucumber sandwiches, Indian party food, and glasses of wine. Mum circulated, re-aquainting herself with the wider family gossip “Oh! Really! He didn’t? Did he? And she was only half his age? I’m shocked.” Shocked, but delighted to hear such salacious gossip, of course. Mum kept up her side too, telling them about cousin Margaret and the milkman “True as I’m standing here! She was in flagr ... in flag ... caught in the act. The milkman ran for his life. Jeremy? What did he do? Would you believe it? He said ‘stay there, since he’s warmed you up, I’ll take you for a spin me-self’ Honest! She told me herself!” Mum would say she was never a gossip, this was just sharing family news.
Holly and I went outside, I noticed that the black dress had a certain amount of static on it. It clung to her bottom like I was beginning to want to. She was still wearing proper pants, which showed their lines against the clinging fabric. She pulled the hem down and free. I sighed. “Heh, this is a funeral, you know!” she said, but there was a glint in her eye. She liked being ogled, even if I wasn’t actually lusting after her. She was still under sixteen (just), and I was still too old for her. We walked in the garden, found the shed at the bottom, where Richard had kept a surprisingly frank (okay, hard porn) set of gay magazines. She looked, wide eyed, at a man being fucked from behind whilst he sucked off another. All were in leather. On the next page a man was being fisted. I blanched at the thought, then reddened at the thought I was with a young girl. She just said she thought this was all only on the internet these days, she didn’t realised there were still magazines. What should we do? If her mum and dad found them, they’d probably go white overnight. We put them all in the incinerator and poured a lot of paraffin over them. A match put paid to the secret side of Uncle Richard.
Don’t get me wrong, neither of us was condemning Richard (I hardly knew him, why should I?). We were a little embarrassed to be looking at the stuff he had read and, I’m sure we both thought this, wanked over; for my side because I was with a fifteen year old girl (even nearly sixteen year old doesn’t seem to cover looking at male on male anal intercourse in pictures) and she, well I’m sure she had her reasons too. But we were genuinely more concerned for her mum and dad, who would have to clear the house (we didn’t think that sister Jacky would be much help – she didn’t seem the type to have a practical side), and would probably faint at the sight of bare bottomed, leather clad men; let alone what they were doing to each other.
It lightened the mood a little. As the flames grew, she slipped her arm round my waist, I turned to her, and we started a serious snog session. I could feel her breasts against my chest. This was no push up, padded bra now. She took a hand from her waist and moved it to her bottom. Yes, I think she was up for it. Despite being underage, I think things would have gone very nicely if someone hadn’t come to investigate the smoke.
“Sorry, I ... wondered about the smoke. I see ... Yes. I was one of his friends.”
“Sorry, maybe we should have checked nobody wanted the collection?”
“No, no, that’s fine. I knew he kept the copies, I didn’t know where. He was quite private, he’d probably appreciate you burning them. You’re his niece aren’t you?”
“Yes, Derek’s daughter.”
“Yes, probably best they were burnt.” It was left unsaid – that Derek shouldn’t know about the details of gay sex, at fifty, he wasn’t old enough to understand, he’d had a sheltered life. We all smiled at each other and walked back, reminiscing about Richard’s life. Well, the other two did, I only had the one anecdote, about being warned off Holly. Holly hadn’t heard the story of him being arrested on Hampstead Heath, and ending up giving the policeman his phone number. Richard was apparently very affable, even in difficult circumstances.
We went our separate ways again, but this time we opted to keep in touch. We even tried setting up a family Facebook page, but it collapsed in the face of 95% of the family have no idea what the Interweb and YouFace was.
We exchanged birthday cards and Christmas cards, I sent her small presents sometimes (like the old badge I found in a junk shop – Save Water, Bath with a Friend. She thought that was great, Derek was mildly appalled, only Derek could be mildly appalled). She told me about losing her virginity to a boy at school (who, she said, wasn’t very good, handsome or amusing. So why? Well, because she wanted to get it over with. She still seemed the same innocent girl to me as before). I told her about the one, chaotic, disastrous and utterly un-erotic foray into homosexual love with a boy. Stephen was a great guy. Yes, I probably had a crush on him for a while. We rowed in a pair together, showered together, and went walking in the Lake District together. Mum and Dad liked him and even suggested we could take the campervan away together. We did, we took it to LeedsFest, and were stopped by the police. They were randomly stopping people to reduce the prevalence of dangerous drugs. I had no proof I had permission to be driving the van. Dad had to sort it all out. After that, he put a letter in the glove compartment giving me full permission to drive it. Anyway. Stephen, it turned out, wasn’t gay, but was curious. I was mildly curious. We tried kissing, which seemed okay, but both of us decided that the next step...”You think we should, you know, play with each other?” “No.” “No, neither do I” ... was a step too far. Holly told me she pissed herself laughing “Uncle Richard would have laughed until he was sick too. I miss him.” she wrote.
At seventeen, she got a summer job in France as a kind of au-pair cum hotel helper. She couldn’t wait. She was looking forward to practising her French. Janet and Derek didn’t even have passports.
But the first email I got seemed less effusive, and the one after that ever less so. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but she obviously wasn’t happy.
“RING” - my mobile phone has no poncy tunes, it rings like an old fashioned phone. “Hello?”
“Marty?” Only Holly called me Marty, truth to tell, I hated it. But I tolerated it from her. “Marty, look I didn’t know who to ring, what to do. I ... oh I ... I’m” I could tell she was upset.
“Take a breath and talk.”
She explained that the small country hotel she was meant to be working at turned out to be run by a couple with two boys; she’d felt odd about the older boy immediately. He leered rather than smiled. He tried it on, she made it clear she wasn’t interested, and when the father patted her bottom, she looked severely at him, but he never reacted. She didn’t make a scene when he did it next time, just started trying to avoid being in a position to have her bottom patted by him.
The swimming pool looked inviting, and she was encouraged to try it, but she felt odd when she did. She saw the older boy watching her. She kept telling herself that the agency vetted all the appointments, that she was imagining it all, but never convinced herself.
Then he tried to kiss her. She was in a corridor with a tray and he made to squeeze past and kiss her as he did so. She pushed him away with the tray. He didn’t take the hint, instead, he redoubled his efforts to catch her alone. She was in the bathroom, in the bath when she heard the door being tried. After that, she just took showers, quickly. She was seventeen and a half, she had no idea what to do.
“Last night, he...”
“What?” I was already in my bedroom at home, flinging clothes into a bag. I was aware of pricks at Uni who didn’t know that no meant no. I was also aware of one girl who went home with a mental breakdown after being pressured to have sex. There wasn’t enough to prove rape, so she felt denigrated doubly so, first she’d given in and let the fucker fuck her, then she’d been disbelieved by the authorities.
“He, well, he felt my boob, and tried to feel me up. I told him to stop, and he kind of giggled.”
“Tell the mother, the father sounds like a creep too.”
“Madame was in the room at the time.” My blood ran cold. She was in a foreign country with no experience of life, and even the mother in the house was apparently happy to see her being assaulted. It could only get worse.
“I’m on my way.” was all I said. But how was I on my way? Mum and Dad had splashed out and gone on a two week hol with Far Eastern Escorts. How could anybody start a company called that and expect to be taken seriously. I’d laughed at Dad and suggested he was up to no good. They just provided escorted holidays round Thailand and Cambodia. So they had driven to Manchester Airport, parked and gone off. I eyed up Ellie. Ellie the motorhome – number plate ELL 13. Of course it was going to be called Ellie by every sodding owner. I could try the train and plane, but then what? When I got to the other end, how would I get to a village in the arse end of France?
Ten minutes later, I was bowling down the A road towards the A1. Well, Dad had said I could use it – to go away with that nice boy Stephen again, he meant; but he hadn’t actually said exactly that. And I had a document giving me permission to drive it, I was on the insurance. At Retford, I rang the insurance and extended it to Europe. “Shall we charge it to the same account as the main cover is charged to?” “Yes, please, thank you.” It’s so easy! At Peterborough Services, just before the turn off for the M11, I picked up a missed call.
“Oh, hello, yes, oh, thanks, yes, umm. Marty isn’t it?” I recognised the voice.
“Martin, yes, hello Derek, what can I do for you?”
“I, we, wondered if you’d heard from Holly. Her last letter” they weren’t on email “didn’t seem too happy. Perhaps we are worrying too much.” You aren’t.
“Yes, I thought that too. I need a holiday, so I thought I’d pop over to see if she’s alright.”
“Oh? I didn’t mean to put you to any trouble. I mean, it’s a long way. Well, if you’re sure.” I could tell he was relieved, whether it was primarily because someone was going to help his daughter, or because he didn’t have to, I wasn’t sure. To Derek, the thought of going to a country that ate snails for breakfast and frogs for tea was way beyond his comprehension. He probably couldn’t pinpoint Kent on a map, let alone France.
There didn’t seem any point in saying ‘your daughter is in danger of being raped, possible by father and son.’ They didn’t even have passports. At least they had picked up on her not being happy, and done what they thought was the best thing, phoning me. Well, it was the best thing, because I was already heading to her. I put my coffee in the coffee cup holder, ripped open the cold pasty wrapping, and drove on.
Adrenaline can get you a long way, I was in a whorl of thought, listening to Boys of The Lough, watching my speed (Ellie kept creeping up above 70mph, not good; didn’t want the boys in blue pulling me over and delaying me, also didn’t want her blowing a gasket). I’d discovered Boys of The Lough, Clannad, Aileach, and Planxty vinyl at the back of a cupboard. I’d spent a happy day playing them and recording them onto MP3, now my phone was blaring out the music of the 70s Irish folk boom. There was no way to feed it through the van speakers, this wasn’t that state of the art, so it had to be phone at full volume and plug it in to keep it charged. I’d also realised that, at some point, I’d need to rest. So I opted for the ferry.
The Channel Tunnel would be faster, but the ferry would give me a couple of hours sleep. It made sense.
At Dartford Crossing, I checked the ferries. I weighed up the chances, and then opted to go for last minute booking. Turn up and see if I can get on. Otherwise I might be over optimistic and miss the ferry or over-pessimistic and be too early. I also started to think ‘maybe she’s exaggerating, maybe she’ll say it was all a false alarm and why had I come’ What the heck, if I was wrong, only money had been spent (and I was enjoying the adventure), if I was right, then ... More coffee, more bloody pasties, at least this one from the Cornwall’s Own Pasty Shop was hot and tasty not cold and bland.
On we drove, Ellie and me, I was waving at the occasional motorhome going the other way, mostly fat, overweight, oldies; not that many (none, in fact), twenty-somethings on their own. I started making up names for the couples driving the other way – always the man driving and the woman looking ahead. George and Mildred, Alfred and Edna, Terry and June, Jack and Jill (that last one was genuine, they’d put their names on the windscreen). It got dark and there was fifty miles still to go. I needed a break. I wound down the window and forced myself on.
Thank goodness I had a credit card. I wondered, as I booked, if Visa would throw a query for an odd transaction, but they didn’t. I’d sort out all the finance later.
At Dover, I was put in the queue for late loading. I crawled into the back and feel asleep until a bang on the windscreen alerted me to go forward. Yes, the gas was off, no I had no drugs, illegal immigrants (going to Europe from UK? Seems they have to ask both ways for equality reasons) or firearms. I was on! Then I found a quiet corner – not easy on cross channel ferries – and fell asleep again. I’m good at sleeping, I can sleep almost anywhere, I can doze and wake refreshed. I suppose it’s an age thing. One day I’d discover I need eight hours in a dark, silent room. But for now, I was able to abuse my body with sleep deprivation.
We arrived at 3am and I was back on the road at 3:47am. I stopped at a petrol station for diesel and espresso coffee and a croissant – no more pasties in the land of the baguette.
At 8am, I was at the village of Croix Blanche. Phone GPS directed me to the little auberge. I parked down the road and walked up to the door and knocked. “Bonjour?” said a woman who opened the door.
“Bonjour, je suis le cousin de Holly, est ce que elle ici s’il vous plait?”
“Non, elle vas pour une marche” I think she said. My French wasn’t that good. What to do? She wasn’t inviting me in. I opted to thank her and go back and wait. As I left, I saw a boy – the younger son – at an upstairs window. He waved me urgently in.
Turning, I knocked again. The woman opened it, saw it was me again and set her face. I took a breath and pushed past her. She began blabbering and jabbering away as I marched in and up the stairs. In the corridor of their private accommodation, an older boy was pushing at a door which wasn’t yielding. He looked up, looked scared and I guessed this was Holly’s room. I should have punched his face, and I’d like to say that my cool brain opted not to make the situation worse. In fact, as I’ve said before, I was simply not a violent man. I pushed him out of the way and shouted “Holly? It’s Martin, Marty, can I come in?” A chair scrapped away from the door and I was pulled in. She flung her arms around my neck, for all the world like a 1950s romantic film.
“Thank you so much for coming. He was trying to force his way in, his father just went out, and his mother just pretended she didn’t understand anything I said. It’s been horrible.”
“Get packed, we’re leaving.”
“But Madame said they’d sue if I left.”
“Let them try, she hasn’t a case.” I wasn’t sure, nothing had actually happened, but I decided to seem positive and self-confident.
She threw her clothes into a couple of bags, which overflowed. A large shopping bag took the excess, and then we walked out. Madame was standing in the corridor, she started mouthing off. I realised that you can be a sour faced bitch in any language. Her eldest son had disappeared, her younger son stood and looked enigmatically at us. At first she tried to block the corridor, then the malicious, evil troll decided to check that the room wasn’t trashed and rushed along to it. As soon as she disappeared, I mouthed ‘thank you, merci’ to the boy and smiled. He smiled a broad grin back, evidently he hadn’t inherited the evil gallic genes, just the good ones. We were out of the front door as Monsieur appeared and looked confused. We walked past with an ‘au revoir’ and kept walking.
In the van, we both sat down to stop shaking. “I’m sorry I didn’t hit him, the boy I mean. I’m not very brave. I-”
She kissed me, and then stood back “You’re here, I called, you came. That means more than any macho fisticuffs. And in a campervan!” she started laughing. “Only you could ride to the rescue of a girl in distress in a campervan.” her laughter turned to tears as she told me more detail of what she’d had to put up with from the slug of a son, and his letch of a father. Later we rang the agency, who let slip that the last year’s placement had returned pregnant. They didn’t think that odd? No, not really. They assured us that they wouldn’t place anybody else there; Auberge Blanc would be black listed.
So, what else to do? We had a campervan, we had a summer, and we had nothing to rush back for. Holly rang home as I set off toward Brittany. It seemed a good plan. Janet was pleased that I was there, and happy that we were going to have a break before returning. I wasn’t sure my Mum and Dad would be so relaxed, but that was somewhere in the future.
“There is one thing. I realise now, Mum and Dad only left one set of bedding in the van. But it’s warm enough, I can get a blanket from a supermarket or somewhere. Not a problem.”
“Not a problem at all, we’ll work something out, I’m sure.” she replied.
We pulled over after two hours, I was exhausted. Then we started to dance around the sleeping arrangements. As we talked, my head lolled, and I slowly keeled over onto the bench seat.
I woke several hours later, with a blanket over me. In the sleeping shelf above the front seats, I could see a naked leg protruding from the duvet. I could see her skirt on the table, and her tee shirt. She raised her head. “Awake at last? Is there water? Shall I make some tea?” She swung over the edge of the bed, legs hanging over. She wasn’t attempting to hide her panties and bra or anything else – there wasn’t anything else. She smiled. “Thanks for coming to get me. Jean wasn’t so bad looking, really. But, after Nigel, at school, I wanted the next time to be willing, and good.”
“I, aaah, I, well. I. The gas is off, and there is no water.”
She switched round and came down the ladder, displaying her pretty bottom encased in tight white panties with flowers on them. I was smiling when she got to the bottom.
“Like the view? Good. I’m hungry and thirsty. First things first.” So she dressed, we drove to a massive Carrefour and bought food, wine, and bottled water. Then we went into the cafe attached and had coffee and croque monsieur, she paid as I had no cash at all. “None? Didn’t think of going on the ferry and getting some?” “I was asleep, didn’t see us leave Dover or arrive in Calais.” “Suppose so. My hero, the sleepy campervan driver.” she laughed. “Where now?” she asked. The phone was able to point us to a camping site ten kilometres away and so off we went.
It turned out to be a well appointed site, with a swimming pool and a cafe. We would eat there tonight, we decided. Holly had enough currency for that, I had none, but I had a visa card. We filled up with water, found a spot that was away from the bar, the playground and the toilets. It should be quiet. “Well?” she said “What now?” I looked at her. She stripped off her tee shirt again, and her skirt. “Well?” Finally I got my brain in gear and pulled off my trainers, jeans, socks, and shirt. I let her climb up first, I liked the view of her pants wrapped round her rounded bottom.
It had been smaller, more girly, the first time I saw her rear. It was attractive then, now it was attractive and sexy. Halfway up, her bottom was level with my face, I reached up and pulled the panties down and kissed her bottom. Then I nibbled her buttocks, then I buried my face into her cleft. “Oh, you pervert! Do it some more.”