Footprints in the Sea 25 and 26

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Footprints In The Sea – Chapters 25 and 26

By Frances Penwiddy

Copyright © Frances Penwiddy 2015

Footprints in the sea is a work of fiction and any similarity to persons living or dead is coincidental.

This novel is not considered suitable material for minors and is rated X

I suggest you read Footprints In The Sea in chapter order so if you haven’t read the previous chapters, please do so.

Charlotte returns to New Zealand and then travels on to London to have her operation and swims with a dolphin.

25

“We were on the bridge if you must know, cradling your fiancé whilst his life’s blood ebbed away.” Emma was answering my request to know where the hell she and Liz were whilst we were fighting for our lives upstairs.

“What was he doing on the bridge in the first place? If you’d stopped him from going up there he wouldn’t have been shot.”

“Andy sent for him, he wanted to send him and Martin up to the viewing bridge to stop you fooling around with the machine gun and that was when he was shot and we had to come up here and comfort him whilst he was dying.”

“He wasn’t dying, he said it was only a flesh wound and why wasn’t Mark looking after him?”

“Because Andy had been injured as well and Mark was tending to him, the captain has to come first and we weren’t to know it was only a flesh wound at the time, there was blood everywhere. For all we knew he might have been shot through an artery or paralysed for life because the bullet had severed his sciatic nerve.” She grinned, “Faye, where did she get hit, was it somewhere interesting?”

“About four or five inches away from instant SRS.”

“Come on, Charlotte, you must show us.”

“No and you can cut out being so nosey, it didn’t even leave a hole in my knickers.”

“Eight stitches though,” added Faye and she will have to wear tights when she’s dancing, there’s no more flashing her stocking tops.”

“Go on tell me why I can’t do a bit of flashing to demonstrate the grace and beauty of dance?”

“Because dancing with a suspender belt fastened around your waist will tear the stitches.”

“I’m beginning to think it was you who shot me out of jealousy.”

“You could wear hold-ups,” suggested Gwyneth. “What did the captain say when he gave you your lecture, I saw him wagging his finger at Faye as you went into his cabin.”

“He told Faye she had as much tactical sense as a snail in a cavalry charge. The rifle should
have been fired from the prone position…”

“And he told her,” Faye pointed her finger at me with scorn written on her face, “That as a high ranking officer it was her duty to protect civilians not lead them into danger, and he had no doubt that she was the ring-leader.”

“She probably was,” said Emma.

“Definitely,” agreed Faye. “It was her idea to take the gun up there in the first place, I was just following orders.”

“Is that what you’re going to say at the trial?” asked Liz.

I stood up with a triumphant smile, “There is not going to be a trial, the last thing he said when he politely opened the door for us to leave, was that we had shown great courage and had made a major contribution to saving the lives of the people on the ship and he was going to write that into his report. Are we having another couple of bottles of wine?”

“We are expecting to be presented with medals at a function to be held in the grounds of the High Commission. I’ll come with you to the bar, Charlotte and help with the bottles of wine that this lot are going to pay for to show how much they appreciate being saved from a horrible fate.”

The girls went off to their cabins together leaving Gwyneth and I to wait for Will and David who were having a conference with Andy. The girls were quite merry when they left which surprised me, because I had had as much to drink as they did and yet I felt no effects. I pushed my empty glass away, “It’s having no effect on me, I would be better off drinking coffee.”

“Not a good idea,” Gwyneth replied, “You’re having a reaction to the earlier excitement, coming down from the adrenaline rush and feeling guilty.”

“How did you know I was feeling guilty?”

“You were prepared and in fact did fire a machine gun at people and yet a few days ago you told everybody not to shoot any deer and now you are wondering why you can’t shoot an animal for food but will shoot another human being.”

“Yes, that’s exactly it and Faye was right, I shouldn’t have allowed her to come with me up to the viewing bridge.”

“When you were shooting at the helicopter and later the cruiser’s bridge were you consciously trying to kill the men inside them?”

I thought about it for a while and then shook my head, “No, I think I was shooting at the machines, not the occupants but I should have realised and probably did realise subconsciously that I couldn’t destroy the machine without hurting or killing the men inside them. I’m just glad the pilot and gunner on the helicopter where only injured and not killed even though they should have been. The same with the cruiser, I was blazing away at the windows and to be honest, I found it exciting when I saw the windows shatter and didn’t care about the men. The fact they too were only injured and not killed is purely luck. I don’t think I would have stopped firing even if I had seen them falling down dead. I was even prepared to shoot at men who had surrendered to Aurora. Not exactly the instincts or behaviour of a caring woman are they?”

“Exactly the instincts of a caring and loving woman. You were defending the ones you loved, your home. Women have been taking up arms to do that since the Stone Age. Queen Boadicea even went to the trouble of fixing knives to the wheels of her chariot long before she fought any Romans and she knew what those knives would do so she would have had no defence against a charge of premeditated murder.”

“The Romans had raped her daughters, she had good reason to want vengeance.”

“And if those drug runners, men who are probably the most merciless and violent of criminals had succeeded in boarding Pacific Wanderer, how do you think they would have treated Emma, Liz, Faye and you and I? At the very least they would have raped all of us and murdered us afterwards whilst they were laughing about it. You reacted as any woman would have done. Faye is the same when she found that the man with the missile launcher had only been seriously injured rather than killed she told me that she hadn’t aimed at him but was trying to hit the launcher! Not for a moment did she stop to think that if she had hit the launcher she might have detonated the missile which would have exploded right beside the man’s head and blown that apart.”

I smiled, “If she’d done that and is anything like me, she would still be out there picking up the pieces and apologising to each fragment. She told me that when her father took her hunting she always aimed to miss the deer.”

“They do have big soft eyes,” agreed Gwyneth, “I don’t think I could shoot one but there are a few people I’ve met I could easily chop up into small pieces. Here come Will and David, we can go to bed now.”

“I can’t, I might have to do a spell on the ship’s radio.”

“Forget the radio, Andy will sort that out.”

“He’s already arranged it. As soon as we get back to the island the radio is being left on listening watch, Ferret will deal with any messages and tomorrow the repairs will be carried out on the hull. And we should be able to resume our trip to New Zealand on the following day,” Will told us as he sat down and lifted the bottle of wine to see if there was any left.

“But there was nothing wrong with the hull, that was something we faked to make Andy hang back long enough to stop the cruiser from reaching the island,” I protested.

“You must be fey because a part of the weld had started cracking and there was a leak, a small one but it did indicate that my work wasn’t good enough to withstand the pressure once we were underway for a couple of hours and there was a heavy swell. The navy engineers are going to replace the plate at low tide. I’ve disgraced myself, let the side down, a total failure.”

David was chuckling, “Now tell them what the captain said.”

“Under the circumstances my work had been sound enough to keep Wanderer afloat in the lagoon but I could be excused for not realising how much stress and flexing the hull underwent when a ship was underway at any speed above dead slow.”

“Have I been forgiven for running amok with Faye?”

“Yes, he was impressed both with your understanding of combat at sea, marksmanship and the original method you used to bring the chopper down. As far as he can recall it is the first time an attacking aircraft has ever been shot down with parachute distress flares and he thanks you for bringing fame and glory to Aurora, Pacific Wanderer and Ferret but has issued orders that neither you nor Faye are to be allowed within twelve feet of any firearms or explosive devices whilst in the Southern Hemisphere.”

“He didn’t really say that did he?”

“Yes,” replied David “And he meant it. But I think he will allow you to do a shift on the radio.”

“You’ve also been forgiven by Harry Fellows for threatening to sink Aurora and has asked us to pass on to you that naval officers and men are not allowed a share in prize money, nor for that matter are naval ships awarded rewards for capturing or killing drug runners.”

“It’s a pity that,” said Gwyneth, “The cruiser was a pretty boat and it would be nice to keep here on the island.”

“Do not be disappointed,” David assured her. “The rules do not apply to civilians, you will be receiving a reward and he suggests that if you would prefer, the New Zealand Government will be happy to let you keep the Cruiser in lieu of cash but they will need to go over it for evidence and you can’t have the heroin but they will replace the windows that Charlotte smashed.”

“Was there very much heroin?” I asked.

“A great deal,” David assured her, “It was quite a coup, that’s why everybody is pleased with you. They estimate that there was enough to keep a city the size of London supplied for weeks.”

“How long before we get back to the island, we’ll be travelling very slowly?”

“Two or three hours but we’re only going to anchor tonight and beach the ship in the morning if she needs it. Now you look tired and how’s your wound?” asked Will holding out his hand to me, “Bed I think, come on.”

I didn’t argue and got up, “What about your leg.”

“Fine, I’ve had six stitches but the muscle and bone are fine.”

I grinned, “I beat you, I had eight stitches.”

The next morning Will was awake before me and I enjoyed the luxury of coffee in bed with two biscuits which did nothing to assuage my hunger, I was ravenous.

“We’re in the news,” Emma greeted us when we joined them for breakfast, “But Faye has stolen the top spot in the New York Times and Washington Post. You don’t have to worry though, you’re still headline news in London.”

“We’ve all had a mention,” Liz was holding a cup of coffee in one hand and a fork with a piece of sausage in the other trying to make up her mind if she was starving or dehydrated, “Gwyneth for treating the wounded whilst under fire, me and Emma for helping her and Faye for giving you covering fire and saving your life.”

“And Mark is being promoted to Chief Petty Officer which will bump up his pension when he leaves the navy,” added Garry as he placed our breakfasts in front of us and I had two sausages.

“The rumour is that Lieutenant Commander Fellows is to be promoted to commander and may get a destroyer as his next command but don’t say anything yet.”

“I’m going to make an objection, that’s the same rank as me, I’m not having that I want promotion as well, what’s the next rank up?”

“Captain but then you’ll lose you share of the reward because they will have to make your current rank permanent and not unpaid temporary and as a serving officer you will not be entitled to rewards or prize money.”

“Oh! In that case I’ll stay as I am or this lot won’t let me use the cruiser when it’s my turn. What about if I make it official about being Empress of Charlotte Island?”

“That would upset the Prime Minister of New Zealand because you’d outrank him,” Gwyneth pointed out.

“What can I do then?”

“Ask New Zealand to take you under their wing and become a county. Then Will would become a Count and you a Countess and get to wear a diamond studded tiara.”

“Dracula was a count,” the love of my life pointed out, “And you do appear to have an above normal blood lust,” he then switched to being gallant, “Vampiresses are also extremely beautiful if we are to believe Hammer Films, have you checked your canine teeth recently?”

“Before I cut your throat to test your theory, what’s happening today?”

“A few of us will carry out the repairs to Wanderer but the rest of you can spend the day on the beach if you wish.”

“Shall we, the water in the lagoon is warm enough for swimming and we could have a barbecue and beach camp fire this evening. If we send Faye off with a rifle she can get a wild boar and we can spit roast it.”

“No I can’t they’ve locked the guns away and you can’t go swimming because of your war wound but I’m all for a day on the beach and a picnic. We can challenge the crew of Aurora to beach volley ball.”

We did have our barbecue, three in fact. The seamen had gone off and caught a wild pig and the other fires were used for roasting fish wrapped in leaves, and Victor and his cooks had made all sorts of bread, sausage rolls and pasties and they had been cooked on the third fire and there were groups of us sitting around eating and chatting and above us a perfect night sky without a moon but billions of stars lit the beach. One of the electricians had run power down from the
cave and we even had music to dance to.

The feeling I had experienced at the stern of Pacific Wanderer returned, I just didn’t want to leave but Gwyneth made it easier; “The Captain has told me that the drug cruiser is going back with us and we can travel on that if we prefer.”

“Where will they get the crew from?” asked Faye, “They are already short of men.”

“He said two were being borrowed from Ferret and one more from Orca and if we can manage to do our own stewarding and cooking, then it will only need Gareth Phillips, Will, David and Charlotte to run the cruiser.”

“I’m not sure I know enough about driving boats to be of any help,” I said, “I’m okay on the radio and radar but don’t know very much about navigating.”

“That’s all they want, he told me. The man from Orca is a sub-lieutenant and with you helping, the rest can be covered by us. It’s only a pleasure boat and is designed to be operated by four or five people for fishing, drunken orgies and stuff like that. He reckons that it will only take four days on her compared with eight on Pacific Wanderer because they will have to keep her speed down until the repairs have been checked by the dockyard in Auckland.”

“What about the windows that Calamity Jane broke?” asked Emma.
They can repair all but two of them and fill the holes in the bridge made by the bullets and the rest can be done in New Zealand.”

“Unless we have a monsoon,” said happy go lucky Faye.

“I’m all for it,” I told them, “I had a quick look around her this afternoon and it’s luxurious inside. She even has water skis so we can do that for some of the journey.”

“Oh yeah, what about you?” Liz looked at the others for support, “She could ski in her dance clothes and get Neptune all excited.”

“I’d be glad to but David would stop me because of my stitches.”

“I’d love to travel in her though,” Liz said, “We could laze around drinking exotic cocktails all day and then go to bed between silk sheets. But we’d be out there on our own because Aurora would have to stay with Pacific Wanderer.”

Gwyneth shook her head, “No we wouldn’t, Maritime 5 and the AWAC would be able to keep their eyes on us and Charlotte could call for help if we needed it.”

“Let’s do it that way then,” I said wiping my greasy fingers on a palm leaf. “Does anybody want another drink whilst we’re discussing a new name for her?”

“The Heavenly Maidens,” suggested Liz when I returned with our drinks.

I nearly dropped the tray of drinks, “Heavenly Maidens? Who did you think of when you dreamed that up.”

“Us of course, “We’re all divinely beautiful and would grace any pleasure boat.”

“We don’t qualify on two counts,” said Emma, “Heavenly and maidens.”

“She’s thinking on the right lines though,” I dished out the drinks, “A slight adjustment and it would be perfect and comply with the Trades Description Act. How about The Five Sirens?”

“No, we’d be followed by sailors everywhere we went,” protested Faye.

“So?”

Gwyneth started chuckling, “I think she should be called Chastity if only for safety’s sake.”

“Undine.” Faye looked at each of us then out at the starlit lagoon and back to us. “Undine,” she repeated. “This is a magical island, Charlotte has discovered that and the new boat should have a magical name to help her forget the bad things she was made to do in the past.”

“But water sprites have no soul,” pointed out Gwyneth.

“They do if they marry a mortal, they gain a mortal soul and we’re all marrying mortals so the boat would have all our souls. Yes, it is magical, I’ll second that.” I stood up, “Shall I go and get a bottle of champagne and we’ll drink a toast to her?”

They all nodded, “We’ll keep what’s left over and mix it with water from the pool near the cave and we can christen her tomorrow,” said Gwyneth, “And then the magic of the water sprites from the pool will always show her the way home.”

26

There were five nymphs lounging on the rear deck of ‘Undine’ drinking non-alcoholic cocktails invented by Liz and watching a pair of dolphins playing in the wake of the boat as she cruised along at twenty miles an hour, her bow pointed at Auckland.

“I’m not so sad today. When I left the island on Pacific Wanderer last week I was homesick before we had gone two miles but I’m okay with it now, well okay for enough time to complete my tasks.”

“There’s an ancient legend amongst the natives of Charlotte Island; if you leave the island by sea and are escorted by dusky dolphins at the beginning of your journey, it is a sign that you will return before the season changes,” said Gwyneth.

“How ancient?” asked Faye.

“Eons.”

“How can there be an ancient, eons old legend amongst natives who have lived on the island for a few weeks?” Emma had a grin on her face, “Are you so old you’ve been here before?”
“Hush child and doubt me not, strange are the ways of the Gods of the South Pacific.”

“I believe it,” I said, “I wish I had swam with them before I left, I’ll make sure I do when I get back.”

“Have you ever swam with dolphins when you’ve been diving?” asked Liz, “I’ve always wanted to do it.”

“Not with dolphins but I did play with a seal once when I was in the Scilly Isles on holiday.”

“What was it like?”

“Good fun, it let me stroke it and scratch it just like a dog does and a couple of times it let me take hold of it and it swam along with me holding on but the first time my mask slipped and the second time the speed made me lose my mouthpiece. It would swim off for a few metres and then suddenly turn round and come diving straight at me really fast and as it went by the turbulence caused by its speed, turned me topsy-turvy.”

“Didn’t it scare you?” asked Gwyneth.

“No, not really, it took me by surprise the first time but I had been warned they can be playful and do things like that. I’m definitely going to try and make friends with the dolphins when I get back. I’d love to swim onto their backs and hold on to the dorsal fin whilst they went full speed through the water it would beat water skiing.”

“What about whales, killer whales? There’s quite a lot of information about them on Orca which there should be bearing in mind the name of the ship,” said Emma, “I’ve promised myself to do some research on them one day when my Arctic work allows me the time.” She turned to me, “If you teach me to dive properly, we could go and see if there are any around the island, they do live in this part of the Pacific.”

“Okay, we’ll do that, I think they are safe because there are no records of unprovoked attacks on humans but they’re big, we might be killed or injured accidentally.”

“That can happen at any time,” Liz pointed out, “You can be killed by disturbing the wrong kind of snake or spider when probing about in the undergrowth or long grass.”

“Okay, when I return from England, we’ll do that, I’m going to dive again anyway.”

“I’ll gen up on them as well, they are dolphins by the way, not whales and they are partial to salmon so if we have salmon coming near the island, we should find Orca.”

“You can tame one to catch fish for us, tuna, lobster or even a salmon or two from New Zealand.” said Gwyneth.

“That’s my cue to prepare lunch unless it’s somebody else’s turn?” I got up and stretched,

“Will grilled stonefish do?”

“Lovely,” said Emma, “Don’t forget to peel them.”

“I have never seen so many warships in one place except Portsmouth on a review day.”

“Most of them are inshore patrol vessels and that large one over there is a missile destroyer,” answered Will.

“Do they have any aircraft carriers?”

“None that I’ve heard of, even the Royal Navy can barely afford them anymore. There’s that helicopter and assault support ship, that’s about as close as they have.”

“Why are there so many here. Shouldn’t they be out patrolling for enemy submarines and stuff?”

“They heard you were coming and the New Zealand Government considers that defence of the Homeland must take priority.”

I laughed, “If Faye had her rifle here as well I would believe that.”

He changed the subject, “You’re still okay with having to go on to the UK next week without me?”

“Yes, now that Gwyneth is coming with me, I will at least have somebody I know to talk to as long as you’re there when I have my surgery.”

“I will be, I promise but there won’t be any problems because if anything crops up at the meetings I shall just defer any decisions until we get back. You’re quite certain you want to go ahead?”

“Yes, I’ve given it a lot of thought and I’ve read all the stuff that Randolph and Duncan have recommended. I know who I am now, no more confusion and I’ve been very happy on the island. It’s as if a great, heavy cloud has been lifted from my shoulders and it wasn’t just being on the island with you. It was also discovering myself, realising who I am, who I should have been all these past years and I seem to have discovered a purpose to my life; you and the Island.”

He pulled me into his arms and kissed me gently, “Remember that if you do want to cancel the operation, I’ll be happy with your decision and it won’t make any difference to the way I love you.”

“And you’ll be just as happy about me, still in love with me if I go ahead?”

“Yes, the important thing is that you should do what you want, be who you want to be and continue to love me. I’ve given a lot of thought to the warning they gave us about something going wrong and your losing your zest for our physical love making and even though I recognise it is an important part of our relationship, it isn’t everything. It’s your companionship, you’re being here and sharing things with me, our being able to talk to each other without having to use words, that is the important part, the vital part, the joining of our minds, the knowing that even when we are apart, we are still together.”

“It’s only a slim chance that I will lose my sex drive though.”

“I know and however it comes out, I’m still going to be there beating you if my dinner is late.”

“I didn’t think it would take so long. I thought a week pre-med, an operation and then a couple of weeks recovery and that was it. But three to six months, Will, I don’t think I can wait six months before I return to the Island.”

“No reason why you should have to. Duncan told me that after six weeks you will probably be able to travel back here particularly if we do the journey in stages.”

“Hurry them along with Pacific Wanderer’s repairs, we could fly from London to Singapore and she could meet us there and we can get married and honeymoon on a cruise back to the Island.”

He smiled, I’ll see what I can fix but we will need to raise a crew for her.”

“We’ll load up with cargo for Australia, New Zealand and the Island and pay for the trip that way. It will be our honeymoon and Wanderer’s maiden voyage as our ship.”

“I’ll speak to them, if not we can stop in Singapore for a couple of weeks and fly back here after a rest.”

“When our wheels touch down,” I began as I fastened my seatbelt for the landing at Heathrow,
“It will be the last time Charles Broughton ever returns to England.”

Gwyneth smiled, “Don’t let him worry; Charlotte can carry his messages in future.”

“No, he won’t be sending any messages. From now on Charlotte will do all his thinking for him and he already believes that it was time he went away and left me be. It’s Charlotte’s life now and he has vowed never to interfere again.”

“You’ve decided to go ahead.”

“Yes but I’m still scared.”

Gwyneth turned in towards me as far as the seat belt allowed, “I’ll ask the question that David would have asked had he been here. Are you scared of the operation itself which is quite normal, most people are frightened by the idea of being cut open, or are you scared of what comes after?”

“After, definitely after. As far as the surgery itself is concerned I am a little apprehensive but nothing more than that. It’s the result that worries me. If I wake up and nothing has changed about me, if I am still the Charlotte that fell in love with Will, that still enjoys the wonderful love-making we share, the Charlotte that is in love with a tiny atoll in the South Pacific and still wants to spend her life there, exploring, building and keeping a beautiful house, swimming on and under the sea, having fun with my new friends, dancing and everything else we have done over the past few weeks then the operation will have been a wonderful success and the last of my hurdles will have been jumped,” I hesitated whilst I thought a little, “But if I wake up a different person, a person that doesn’t want those things anymore, then I will want to die.”

“Duncan did tell you that there was a better than 80% chance that your first alternative would be the result. Things have progressed at a very fast rate since those early days and that coupled with a greater understanding of genetics has ensured that gender correction surgery is a straight forward, often undertaken procedure, easier and more successful than many other everyday operations. I’ve watched you, even watched over you to some extent and listened to you, your understanding of other people, your quick humour and enthusiasm for life and I think that perhaps your need to have the operation is more cosmetic than necessity. You feel you won’t be a complete woman until those odd bits that belonged to Charles have gone.”

“Yes, of course they have to go, they are no use, spoil my appearance and for as long as they are there, the only thing they are likely to do is become diseased, atrophy and become gangrenous. Have you ever heard of an intersexed or transsexual women catching gangrene of the gonads?”

Gwyneth laughed, “No but I’ll mention it to David and ask him to keep his eyes open and let me know.” She reached out to my lap and squeezed my hand, “Charlotte the only difference will be your weight, you will have lost a few ounces unless you go for a boob job as well and end up double D.”

“With my frame! I’d look like a pair of lollipops stuck together.”

“Yes you would. When you wake up your first question will probably be, ‘Did they do it?’ and then you’ll start complaining about the diet, catheter and having to lay in bed all day and your hands will become sore.”

“My hands? Why do they become sore?”

“It’s the nurse slapping them away when you try to lift the dressing to see what they’ve done.”
I smiled and nodded my head enthusiastically, “That I can promise,” and then we felt the bump as the wheels of our aircraft kissed the runway and Charles Broughton disappeared.

The water was warm with occasional pockets where it was cooler but not uncomfortable and above us there was a cover of gold and white where the sun played hide and seek with an occasional cloud across the surface of the lagoon. From time to time there was a sparkle of white diamonds as a stray sprite of wind broke the surface and the diamonds descended a little way to greet the silver and yellow bubbles that drifted to the surface each time I breathed out.
My companion looked up, gave a series of excited squeaks and swam up to break the surface and flip over before diving again to present me with a million diamonds that danced around me. I reached out to show my gratitude and the dolphin lifted its head and I scratched and stroked it for a few seconds before we both turned and dived towards the reef and its garden of coral and underwater blossoms. A hundred species of tropical fish darted back and forth in alarm at our sudden intrusion into their gentle world and then calmed when they realised we were not predators come to feed.

For a while we swam a foot above the coral, following the contours of the reef until I felt a sudden sharp pain on the inside of my thigh, I looked back and saw a large lobster release its claw and sink back into its hole so I ignored it until another pain stabbed the area of my groin and looking down I saw a crab had taken hold of me in the genitals and when I cried out, the dolphin batted it away with its nose and we resumed the exploration of our underwater garden and nothing else stabbed me but I did have a moment when a sea cucumber brushed against my lower abdomen and it tickled. The dolphin looked at me, an enquiry in its eyes but I smiled and shook my head and reached down and stroked the trespasser until it too swam off as we reached the end of the reef and gazed down the underwater cliff into the dark purple and green of a kelp forest. The dolphin gave a short whistle and I took hold of its dorsal fin and it arched up to the surface spinning faster and faster until we broke the surface of the sea and entered a bright yellow and green kaleidoscope, arching into a back flip to fall again into a sea of brilliant diamonds. I let go of the dolphin and still upright it used its tail to swim back and away from me and the pips and whistles translated themselves in my head, “We must do this again, many times when you return,” and then it smiled and swam through the exit from the lagoon and into the wide open Pacific.

Gwyneth and then Will’s faces appeared in front of me, “I didn’t know you could dive as well?” I asked, “And you’ve taken off your face masks and mouthpieces.”

They looked at each other puzzled, “Face masks?” asked Gwyneth.

“I was swimming in the lagoon with a dolphin, over a reef, I didn’t see you, did you follow? I was nipped by a large lobster, just here,” and I reached under the sheet to my thigh and felt bandages. “Oh did I faint and who dressed the wound?” My hand slid up to where the crab had gripped me, “And here as well and why is it padded so much and this tube, did the sea cucumber leave it here, it tickled me?” and then my eyes focused and I recognised the hospital recovery room and remembered lying on the table and the anaesthetic mask being placed over my face, “Oh, the operation, they’ve done it.” I tried to lift my head but started to feel dizzy and sank back onto the pillow, “It was so beautiful, so many bright colours and I was surrounded by diamonds, bright diamonds large ones and tiny ones, and the dolphin has promised to come back and swim with me again and make sure I’m not attacked by any lobsters or crabs, they hurt me.”

A nurse appeared and took hold of my wrist, “How do you feel, a bit woozy?”

“A bit, I supposed it was the way the dolphin was spinning when he leapt out of the sea…”

The End of Volume 1

A letter to my readers;
I did a word count on ‘Footsteps In The Sea’ and it stands at 175,447 and I have nearly finished chapter 38. I had thought I would have completed the story at 250,000 words and intended to separate it into two novels but it is going to go on, there is still too much to write about, too many questions to be answered and they will produce more questions, more adventures.

Having gone through my notes, I could answer them in just a few extra chapters but I don’t think I would be able to do so without spoiling the flow of the story or be fair to the people who have been following Charlotte’s adventures so enthusiastically.

I’ve made the mistake so many authors have made, I’ve allowed my characters take over my life but the truth is, I like having my life run by Charlotte and like you, can’t wait to see what happens next. I suspect there are four volumes in the series which would take the word count to around 350,000 or to put it in context, if I were to publish it as a paperback, something I am seriously considering doing it would have to be A5 in size and would have a spine width of about 6”. There are ways round it, I could reduce the type size to 9pt and reset the leading at zero but even them it would be about 5”, just a tadge too large to carry around in a handbag or pocket. Even the Amazon EBook version would take a little longer than is normal to download and would attract a surcharge, all be it a small charge.

I’m sorry to have to end the current version where I have (It did seem to me to be a natural break,) but I do promise I will continue the tale soon after Christmas. Meanwhile I am going to start posting the first chapters of ‘Vesta’s Hearth’, again a novel of 350,000 words and so far 4 volumes in size with volume 5 a work in progress. Again this is an upbeat novel and there are similarities between the main character Helen and our Charlotte though the story line is completely different and music is a strong theme.

Helen and Vesta’s Hearth were written immediately before Footprints so that will explain the feeling of Deja-Vu you may experience. Oh yes, have your hankies or tissues handy, there are definitely places where you will want to cry.

I haven’t forgotten ‘First Dates Are Kissing Dates’ either and already have two further chapters of that completed and as soon as I’ve written a couple more, I will post them here and tease you with the experiences of Emma and her boyfriend John. What they get up to when cruising down the Thames on her cruiser Tamesisadda is anyone’s guess.

If I wanted to make life dangerous for myself I suppose I could start another series one day where I bring Helen of Vesta’s Hearth, Emma of First Dates and Charlotte of Footprints all together, possibly on Charlotte Island but if I do, I may precipitate global warming over Antarctica or even World War III.

Just in case I forget, have a lovely Christmas Holiday, believe in Santa Clause and Rudolph and don’t forget to watch The Snowman on the goggle-box.

Thank you again for your wonderful support,
Frances.

[email protected]



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