Vesta's Hearth 15 and 16

Vesta’s Hearth Chapters 15 and 16

By

Frances Penwiddy

Copyright© Frances Penwiddy 2012

This is a work of fiction, the characters and the Café are fictitious and any resemblance to places or persons living or dead is coincidental.

Financial news, chromosomes, a shopping trip with Ronnie and a photo shoot where Helen gets ‘saucy’.

15

Ronnie picked me up at the Café on Thursday morning, it was late closing in Chichester so we could take our time. “I will have to leave you for an hour to go and see my financial advisor.”

“That’s okay, I can pop round to my mother.”

“Which look are you going for in the Retro Shop?”

She looked at the black skirt I was wearing, “Is that retro?”

“No, modern I bought it in Debenhams it is full skirted, knee length so it is sort of fiftyish I suppose. I lifted the hem and showed her the red petticoat I had bought with the poodle skirt, this is and it does make the skirt stand out which was the way in those days.”

“I like it, would you mind if I got one like it, different colour.”

“Of course not but it may be cheaper in the High Street than in the Retro Shop.”

“I’ll look in both. I want something like Amy’s new dress as well, not the same style or colour but the same material, that soft flowing gossamer.”
“We’ll go into the Retro Shop first and tell Ruth what you are looking for and then we can shop the High Street and give her a chance to sort some stuff out, she has a large stock room at the back so she’ll have something for you.”

We passed a car showroom as we were speaking and out of the corner of my eye I saw classic cars on the forecourt, “Turn round, Ronnie, I want to look at those old cars”

We went back and pulled into the parking area and got out, “That one,” I said pointing to a Ford Zephyr Zodiac convertible.
“You going retro on cars as well?”

“It hadn’t occurred to me until I saw this, my dad had one when he courted mum. It was getting on a bit then but he showed me pictures of it, it was beautiful. There was one of him with mum, they were out on a date somewhere and I wondered what it would be like to ride in one.”

“Oh, I thought you were going to buy it.”

“I might, I would like to, it would remind me of them every time I drove.”

“What do you think they would have thought about what you’re going through?”

I thought for a minute, “They would have supported me, mum definitely, dad as well I’m sure. He always told me when I had a problem, that they had made me, so everything that troubled me, troubled them. I think mum would have been overjoyed after she got over the shock, because she said she always wanted a daughter.
“Dad always told me to make allowances for other people, ‘We are what we are,’ he would say and if somebody looks, acts or speaks differently and you don’t like it then it’s you that has the problem, not them.”

“He had a lot of wisdom.”

I nodded, I was beginning to tear up, I did miss them so much and I would love to have shown them the new me. I looked up at the sky, “I know you can see me but I wish I could see you,” the tears passed and we were at the showroom standing in front of the Zodiac.

The salesman came over, “Can I interest you ladies in the Ford. 1961, three speed manual, column change. She’s in beautiful condition, bodywork sound, soft top is nearly new, engine tweaked for modern fuels, the electric motor for the top is none standard, we couldn’t repair the original so had to fit a modern motor and modify the operating system a bit.” He leaned across a door and pointed at the radio, “Original that, and you can still get the parts if a valve or something blows. Underneath you can see that a modern radio has been fitted, stereo CD of course which the original isn’t but we didn’t want to lose the old one, it fits the car, sets it off a sort of back-to-the-future car.” He stepped back and looked us over, his eyes dwelt on me and I suddenly realised that a bloke was eying me up for my first time and my legs began to tremble a little but Ronnie’s hand found mine and squeezed it. “You’re almost dressed for the car, would you like me to take you for a test drive?”

“Yes,” we said together and before he had the chance to open a door for us I had opened the passenger door and pulled the seat forward for Ronnie then I sat in the front passenger seat. I learned what my mother and father had loved about the car, the wind in my hair, playing with the hem of my skirt so that a little of the red petticoat showed for a moment, the warm sound of the old radio, the feel of the upholstery on the bench seats, I fell in love with the car. After fifteen minutes he pulled over and turned to face me, “Would you like to drive it back to the showroom?”

“I’m not sure I can.”

“You can, the steering isn’t powered but its light. Take it slowly at first until you get the feel of her and remember, the engine is six cylinder and the car can do near a ton, when you’re happy with it, push it up a bit but don’t go mad and burn rubber.” He smiled, opened his door and walked around the front to my side, “Go on, slide over or do you want me to sit on your lap?

I slid over, put my feet on the pedals and rested my hands on the white and chrome steering wheel. If only the salesman knew that my last car was a Porsche but I didn’t enlighten him.

“Hundred yards, turn right, three miles right again and I’ll give directions after that…”

He didn’t finish, I pulled out and accelerated away smoothly, made the turn and then I drove. I hadn’t forgotten how, the hormones had left that bit of the old me alone. After five minutes I saw the salesman sit back and relax as I smoothly increased the speed, and played the Ford around bends, hands working the gears, keeping the car on the right track. In the rear Ronnie started singing, “I’m a gambling Man,” she was really going retro.
When we got back to the showroom the salesman, opened his door and paused, “Sorry about the advice, you can handle her better that me.”

“I want her.”

“He smiled, I thought you might. Because of the condition and the work done on her she’s ten, two ninety, I’ll knock that back to a straight ten but no lower.”

I held out my hand, “Done but I will want to have her looked at.”

“Yes, you’d be a fool not to, come into the office and we’ll arrange it.”

We did, I telephoned Paul and he agreed to come up and look at the car the following Monday and if it was okay, buy it for me. I gave the salesman a fifty-pound deposit to hold the car until then and we were on our way, to shop for serious things like perfume and lingerie.

We went into the Retro Shop and Ronnie had a chat with Ruth and with a promise that we would be back later, we went shopping.
I bought a couple of silk scarves, just for the car, I’d have something else for the wind to play with and spent some time gazing longingly at basques but as Ronnie pointed out, they were items best left until I was better able to judge my final bust size, we thought 36B but why spend money that in a few months would turn out to be wasted. Ronnie bought a couple of bras, some knickers and a camisole and I satisfied myself with a low neckline top in a white silk mixture. I was going to buy one with a deep V neck but again, Ronnie stopped me, boob size again she whispered,” Wait a bit and anyway,” she had looked at the set of thongs I had bought, “You going to vamp it up and ruin your reputation?”

“I was thinking along those lines,” I answered with a grin, “Spice things up a bit.”

“Right, let’s do that subliminally then,” and taking my arm she dragged me to cosmetics, and guided me through the ‘Spice it up’ selection which was embellished with a perfume she selected. “Get that one. It comes with a guarantee.”

“Guarantee?”

“Get Your Man or Your Money Back.”

It was now time for my appointment. The car park was at the opposite end of the High Street to my adviser’s office, Ronnie offered me a lift but I shook my head. “I don’t have to go down any narrow alleys, he’s just off the high street and I can walk there easily enough.”

“You sure?”

“Certain. Look Ronnie, I have to get used to being in public on my own, this is a short walk, in daylight and in a busy street, it’s a good place for my first solo flight.”

She hesitated for a moment and then nodded, “You’re right, I’m being over protective, but don’t go into any pubs, you’ll be hit on without a doubt.”

“Aw, come on Ronnie, Can’t a girl have a bit of fun sometimes.”

“No!”

“Three at Ruth’s then.”

“Three and don’t be late or I’m getting the police out looking for you.”

My financial advisor was shocked when he saw me. It must have been a year since we last met to arrange my financial affairs and though he knew a little about me and the rape case and a little about my transitioning, when I walked into his office he wouldn’t believe it was really me until I showed him such documents that I carried and told him a great deal about my previous private life. He asked me details of my investments, the sort of thing only the real client would have known and I had to sign my name a dozen times, my old name that is, so that he could compare the signatures and even that wasn’t enough, he was humming and hawing so in frustration I said, “Why don’t you telephone the prison, the Café as it’s known and speak to either Boris or Adam and they’ll give you a description of me, what I was wearing when I left and then telephone the prison hospital and speak to the doctor, Amy Whitehouse.”

He did and at last he was satisfied that the attractive girl sitting in front of him was indeed the man who, a year ago had called to discuss financial affairs. He changed completely then, full of courtesy and the further we went into my financial status, the more he warmed to me and an hour later I left, everything sorted out.

I was in a state of shock and needed time to take in all that he had told me. I had over half an hour before meeting Ronnie so I went into a little tea room and ordered a pot of tea and a pair of muffins, sat in a quiet corner and began to add things up. I was a rich girl, richer than I had thought, a lot richer. If the sale of the flat produced the sum the financial advisor had suggested I would be worth nearly two million pounds. During the period I had been on remand and the time I had been at the Café, a total of eight months had elapsed and he had done well.

I knew he was a good advisor, he had been highly recommended and I had given him a virtual power of attorney over most of my investments when I had been charged and he had done very well indeed. He had kept the right shares and sold off those that had gone a little shaky early and then bought shares at the bottom of the market. If my investments improved and he had told me that there were positive signs that the current recession was ending and the world’s economies were beginning to expand then this time next year, I would be richer still.

He had wanted me to take money out of my current account and allow him to invest that but I had told him I would be buying a new house when I was ready to settle. He shook his head in dismay when I said I was going to build a new wardrobe, “I have always disapproved of allowing women to go on shopping sprees with large funds available, even if it is their own money, clothes do not appreciate in value.”

“You’re a chauvinist, if I had said I wanted to buy a soccer team you would have applauded.”

But we had compromised, I did have a lot of money in the account and it was just sitting there so I told him what I needed and allowed him to transfer some of it into an interest earning account. I would also have the money from the Porsche sale, less the ten thousand for the Ford.

The last crumbs from my muffins disappeared and I checked the time, I had ten minutes to meet Ronnie before a hue and cry started. I left the teashop and walked to Ruth’s with a spring in my step, a smile on my face and swinging my shopping bags. Before I went in I stopped and realised what I had done, I had spent two hours out in the wide-wide world on my own and had not once felt scared and had noticed that men had noticed me! Even I doubted I had ever been male.

Let’s have dinner whilst we’re out,” I suggested when we eventually returned to the car laden down with Ronnie’s shopping.

“I daren’t, I’ve spent too much, I’ll have to economise for the rest of the month and some of next month as well.”

I laughed at that, “You couldn’t make up your mind which look to go for.”

“That’s not my fault, I liked them all.”

“You’ve got the Fifties, Sixties and Seventies.”

She smiled sheepishly, you should have stopped me.”

“I didn’t have the heart, you were having so much fun.”

“I was,” she agreed, “I haven’t gone mad like that for years, the fun make’s the economising worth it.”

“Dinner’s my treat.”

“You’ll have to be careful with your money as well, let’s leave it and grab a Chinese take-away.”

“Nope, my treat, I found out this afternoon I’m stinking rich.”

“That financial man you went to see?”

“Yes, whilst I’ve been rotting in jail, he’s been handling my investments and done remarkably well. He even suggested I should invest my liquid funds instead of spending them on clothes and stuff like that, men have no idea of priorities.”

“He sounds like a man I need to put a hold on me.”

“Too late, he’s married and probably only allows his wife to buy one lipstick and one new dress every year. Now where are we going for dinner, I have cash and credit cards we can go wild. Krug NV champagne included.”

“I know just the place.”

And she did and we had lobster but no Krug, Ronnie was driving and if I had to finish a bottle of champagne on my own she would have had to carry me out to the car. As we were getting into the car I said, “I want to go back and eat more.”

“What, after that meal!”

“Yes, I didn’t eat enough, Maria has told me I must put on a little weight for my boobs, she said husband not like wife with small boobs and she also told me I had a bubble butt.”

“Maria said that?”

“Yes, on my word.” And we laughed all the way to the Café.

When I got back, Adam met me, “Amy has asked that you phone her as soon as you’re back, wants to see you tomorrow but it’s not serious, she wants to give you the results of your latest tests and speak about an appointment next week at Charing Cross Hospital.”

I dropped off my shopping and Adam offered me the use of his phone. “I’ll be with Boris.”

The first thing Amy did was ask me what I was doing to her nurse, she’s bought a micro mini, hardly suitable for a nurse.”

“She bought a Caftan as well, doesn’t that restore the status quo?”

Amy laughed and then got down to business, “You have an appointment at Charing Cross on Tuesday, mid-morning and I will be coming with you.”
“Is there something wrong?”

“No, in fact it might be the opposite, but I don’t want to chat about it over the phone, it’s linked to the results of your latest blood tests. I want you here for ten tomorrow because I have other appointments from eleven onwards, can you manage it.”

“Yes of course, I’ll get a cab.”

“No need, Paul will send somebody to pick you up at nine fifteen if he can’t do it himself.”

I replaced the phone and stood thinking for a while, I wasn’t seriously worried but there was a little concern. Once again I had a feeling that I would be facing more decisions at Charing Cross and I would have liked a few weeks without worrying about decisions, I think the past months were beginning to take their toll. I pulled myself together and went to tell Adam I had finished my call.

I walked down with him and turned to go into my own room but he stopped me, I have something for you in my office and so I followed him in. He opened his safe and handed me my mobile phone. “Take this, I think you should keep it with you, then you’ll have a way to get in touch if ever there’s a need. I’ve taken the liberty of accessing you to the Cafés Wi-Fi so you can use it in here to make personal calls, is that okay?”

“Yes, thank you.”

“Enjoy your day?”

“We had fun and I received good news. My financial advisor has told me that whatever happens, I won’t be left short of money and will be able to live well enough, in fact very well even if I never get a job. I wanted to talk to you about it, you know about having a bit of money and if it will affect my position here.”

“No reason why it should unless they decide to close this place down which, in view of the statistics we are returning, they won’t do. Remember, you’re on the staff and the financial status of staff is of no concern to the prison service unless they think it’s so bad you may be tempted to disclose sensitive information to the press for gain. Not thinking of writing an exposé about us are you?”

“Yes the whole story, debauchery, drugs, booze and riots, the whole business.”

“Excellent but make sure I get a copy, it sounds like a good read.”

“I’m a little worried about my duties here not being done as they should.”

“Nothing to worry about there, everything is easily covered, just try and ensure that you make people understand that you have the concert to think of, don’t let them whip you into Charing Cross for weeks on end until after the concert.”

16

It was Paul that picked me up and as we approached the main gate of the prison they swung open. There were warders I did not recognise on duty this time and one of them walked out and held his hand up to a prison van and waved us straight through.

“What was that all about,” I asked Paul, “They held up an official vehicle to let us through?”

“Not us, Miss Finch, you.” And Paul grinned at me, “The van was just warders, coppers and cons, you, Miss Finch are a star and the prison pin-up.”

“The what!”

“Prison pin-up, Miss Finch.”

“Paul, what’s going on, and you can stop that Miss Finch stuff as well.”

“You don’t mind if I still call you Helen.”

“Of course not, what’s going on, come on, Paul.”

“Well if you’re sure you won’t think I’m being too familiar calling you Helen.”

“Paul, I can still land you a smack if I have to.”

He started laughing then. “The prisoners know about the concert and a photo was taken off you and there are copies of it in at least a third of the cells and a large one in the prisoner’s canteen.”

“What! You’re kidding.”

He brought the car to a stop outside the hospital block, it had to be his bloody Bentley and a warder opened the door and touched his cap, “Good Morning, Miss Finch, it’s nice to see you.” I heard Paul laugh softly and I glared at him but to the warder I said, “Thank you, it’s nice to be visiting again.”

When we were inside I dropped my voice as we walked to the lift. “Now who took a picture of me and are you pulling my leg or not?”
We stopped by the lift and he turned to me, “The picture must have been taken on a mobile phone, it was outside the main entrance to the Café and you were smiling at somebody, it was a good shot, you were wearing the yellow dress and the sun had caught your hair, you looked lovely,” he reached into his jacket and took out a photo, “Here, take a look.”

I looked at the picture, I did look good, the sun lit my hair and face and my smile dazzled. I tried to think when it might have been taken, the only time I had worn that dress outside the Café was when I was visiting Amy. “You were there, who took the picture?”

“Honestly, Helen, I don’t know. There were two or three people about and I was talking to somebody on the other side of the car.”

“How did you get a copy?”

“One of the lads at the prison, a warder sent me a copy.”

“And that is how the prisoners got hold of it if you’re not kidding me and now it’s all over the prison.”

“I’m not kidding, a lot of them do have copies and every time somebody from outside goes in they are pestered about the concert, when is it? Will prisoners be able to see it? How many performances, that sort of thing.”

We got into the lift, “It’ll be on the internet next.”

“If it isn’t already.”

I glared again and was about to say something when the lift stopped and the doors slid open. We walked into Amy’s reception area and her girl jumped up, Miss Finch,” she held out another of the photos, “Will you autograph it.”

I stared at her then turned to Paul, “This is unreal,” and turned back to the girl, “Are you serious?”

“Oh please,” she said pushing the picture under my face. I heard a click and Paul held a ballpoint out and without saying more I autographed the photo and used the full name, Helen Vesta Finch and handed the picture back. “And I’m still Helen to my friends.”

“I thought her face would split in two, the smile was so broad, “Oh, thank you and Amy said to go straight in.”

I walked into the surgery and Ronnie was waiting, “Before you say anything, Ronnie, if you ask me for my autograph or call me Miss Finch, I’ll scratch your eyes out.”

Ronnie smiled, “You’ve heard.”

“Paul picked me up and he used his bloody Bentley and told me. I had the guards holding up official vehicles to let me through and I’ve just been asked for my autograph.”

Ronnie opened the door to Amy’s office, “Miss Finch has arrived, Doctor.”

“You’re going to pay for that,” I said as I went past. I heard her giggle as she closed the door and I looked at Amy.

“Sit down, Helen, I see that it’s spreading.”

I sighed; “Fame and beauty can be a burden at times.”

“That’s the way to handle it, I think you should book a portrait session in a photographic studio.”

“Don’t you start, you’re supposed to be a friend.”

“You sabotaged my nurse, micro mini indeed. Right, now down to business.” She already had my file open, “First we’ll get a few names right. You are not a hermaphrodite. It is a name too often used to describe your condition and it’s inaccurate. A hermaphrodite is an organism that has both sets of reproductive organs, which are active; earthworms, snails’ flowers and some species of fish are common ones. Your condition is better described as intersexed, you do have the reproductive organs of both sexes, that’s testes and ovaries but they are not both active. Until you came here your male organs were the dominant ones and to all intents and purposes you functioned as a male. Then they switched, your ovaries became active and you started to develop the secondary sexual characteristics of a female, noticeably breast formation slimming of the waist, increase in fat on your hips and buttocks, smoother skin, all the things we have noticed over the past weeks. Okay with it so far?”

“Yes I have been reading it up, carry on.”

She turned back a page, “Right then, these are the full results of your most recent blood and sperm tests. You are not now producing any sperm whatsoever whereas an earlier test indicated a very limited production. Your estrogen is a little higher than normal, which is not abnormal in a female during a period; your testosterone is a little lower, again nothing to worry about. I asked the lab to check the chromosomes in your body cells, do you understand chromosomes?”

“Some, XX means female, XY is male and the odd one, the intersex one is XXY.”

She nodded, “There are also XXYY chromosomes but we won’t go into that because there is still quite a bit of research going on. The intersex business is very complex; we can’t even say we know all the variations so doctors who have been too pedantic about this in the past have to do quite a lot of rethinking. Going back to your chromosomes, they are predominantly XX, female with some cells containing XY.”

“The reading I did and I admit a lot of it I didn’t understand and some I didn’t even try to, said that intersexed people were detected at birth and usually the parents were asked to decide which of the reproductive organs should be kept so why did I suddenly change in adulthood?”

“That is not quite correct, “The majority of cases, as far as we know at present, are detected at birth, others manifest themselves in later childhood and very often immediately before puberty sets in. But there are recorded occasions when the intersex condition was not detected until adulthood and even some cases where it was not discovered until after death.”

“Are you saying that there are people who have gone through their entire lives intersexed and not known it?”

“Yes, or chose not to do anything about it and their intersex condition would not have been discovered then but for the fact that the known cases were discovered when an autopsy was performed.”

I sat back in my chair and shook my head, “If it hadn’t been for the rape case then, I might never have known about it.”

“Perhaps, on the other hand it may have come to light during an examination for another medical condition or as has happened, something gave your brain a shock and set it off. But that is conjecture and we may never know the answer.”

“Could it happen again, you know another shock making it all begin again and start me becoming male, Amy I would hate that to happen now.”
She smiled, “No. The male reproductive organs are switched off and are vanishing. Your testes are slowly being absorbed back into the body, they can never be replaced unless you time travel back to your embryonic period and start from scratch again.”

“So I won’t need an operation to prevent me from fertilizing myself?”

“No, there is no sperm present to do that.”

“Well that’s something, no scar,” I smiled, “Not even in a place that is normally covered.”

“None so go ahead and plan the wedding. Now, so far we have dealt with facts but we have to move into the grey area of theory. I have never seen, never heard of an intersex case like yours. The rapid growth of breast tissue, the movement of body fat and the speed at which you accepted the change in your sex, it was as if you embraced it where most adult patients have been shocked and frightened.”

“You’re wrong in one respect, I did embrace it but I was often terrified, I’ve cried myself to sleep on many nights, frightened of what I would wake up to, perhaps becoming a freak. One minute I’m one of the boys and a few days later, one of the girls. If it hadn’t been for the friendships I have forged I don’t know what I would have done, in a sense, the Café saved my life because alone, I wouldn’t have made it. Being with other transgendered girls who had gone through something similar helped me. It let me know that my life hadn’t ended; perhaps it had only just begun. I had no choice but to embrace it. Now I am frightened that I will change again, I listen to you but I still fear suddenly finding myself reverting, letting him back in, I couldn’t embrace that, never, never, never!”

“That can’t happen now, you can’t replace the bits that have been absorbed into your body, you are no longer an embryo, the ovaries were always there, they weren’t suddenly made by your body a few weeks ago. Helen, nobody has ever changed so rapidly, that is why Charing Cross want to see you, you are unique and they want to know why.”

“I’m to be a guinea pig?”

“It’s the reason I’m coming with you to ensure they don’t sweet talk you into something you don’t want. The initial examinations will be to establish just where you are in the process of changing and what treatment you will require, after that they will want to discover what sped it up, you are changing at a rate more than four times faster than the norm. They aren’t ogres, they are doctors but the field in which they work is becoming more complex each year and their research instincts are bubbling.”

“And you can stop them from mucking me about?”

“I can’t unless I believe there is malpractice which there won’t be. Only you can stop them by simply refusing to allow them to use you as a research subject. As your consultant and to some extent your GP, I will make sure they don’t put unfair pressure on you so what I suggest is that we go, have the initial examinations, listen to what they have to say and then make the decisions.”

“Okay, we’ll go and see what it’s all about. One thing though, you said ‘to some extent your GP,’ what does that mean?”

“Whilst you were a prisoner serving a sentence, you came within my jurisdiction, now that the sentence is quashed you are not officially on my list. We have agreed between ourselves that I should continue to help you but that is a voluntary arrangement between us. Unless your previous GP still has you on his or her list you are currently not registered as a patient with any practice.”

“Can’t I register with you?”

“Yes, I undertake GP work for the prisoners and staff and there’s no reason why I can’t take you on, all we need to do is fill in the form.”

“Er, what sex are you going to use on the form, male, female, both or indeterminate?”

She laughed; “Your XX chromosomes have already made that decision. Now the other doctor couldn’t get here today so I have a busy surgery to attend, I’ll see you on Tuesday unless you have any further questions?”

“No, I’m happy enough,” I got up to go but she opened a drawer in her desk and held something out, “I need you to sign this.”

“What is it?”

“Your photograph of course.”

It was time I fought back so when I got back to the Café I went in to see Boris, “Will it be an inconvenience if I went into Chichester on Friday afternoon?”

“Make it the morning, I have to go and see Peter, I can give you a lift.”

“Okay but I’ll need a couple of hours.”

“I’ll be with Peter from ten till twelve thirty, would that suit.”

“Lovely and when I get back I’ll clean the mentors’ offices all on my own.”

“It’s a deal. Going to Chichester for anything special?”

“It’s a secret.”

He smiled, “Okay then, I’ll let Adam know I’m giving you a lift but won’t elaborate.”

On Friday Boris dropped me off in the High street. My destination was on the other side of the road but I turned away and walked back the way we had come, stopping to glance in shop windows like a girl doing a bit of innocent window shopping until Boris’s car disappeared, then I crossed the road and made my way back to the beauty parlour.

“Helen Finch, I have an appointment.”

The receptionist look at the register, “Okay, Fay will be with you in five minutes, have a sit down, would you like tea or coffee.”

“Coffee ta.”

On time Fay came out, “Helen?”

I got up, “All ready for you.”

She gave me a quick once-over, we’ll have to use a long smock over your dress that shade of yellow will show every mark and we can’t take chances.”

“Fine, you can wrap me in cling film if you like.”

She laughed, “I’m not that sloppy, just cautious. We’ll do your hair first, wash and set right?”

“Right.”

“Come on then.”

We talked fashion and when my hair was finished I looked in the mirror, it was perfect, the waves cascaded down to my shoulders and she had set it so that with the light behind me it would look like a halo. "You do have lovely hair, easy to style and if you put it into a ponytail, it will brush out easily and return to the set. Let’s get on with the makeover."
When that was done I spent too long acting the part of Narcissus in the salon’s mirrors. I looked beautiful in a way that would allow me to change the look by simply altering my facial expression. “He’ll like it,” Fay said, “I have done a lot of work for him and I know what he likes. Remember, it looks over done in daylight but you haven’t far to go so it doesn’t matter but you’ll have to clean it off and do a normal daytime touch up afterwards.”

“No need, I have somebody picking me up when he’s finished.”

I paid and left a very generous tip; I would be going back to Fay again. The glamorous Helen Finch left the beautician and walked thirty yards to the next port of call.

He did like it, “Perfect he said, hair and makeup, she’s a good girl Fay. He walked quickly around me studying me in the light of the shop window, nodded and asked, “Did you bring the change of clothes?”

I held up the shopping bag, “Skirt, blouse and petticoat in here, shoes in my shoulder bag.”

“Good, let’s have them so I can let them hang and get any creases out.”

I handed over the clothes and he passed them to his assistant who had been standing quietly beside the curtain, “Check them over, Brenda and then join us please. Come on let’s get started,” and he took me by the arm and led me into the studio. Stand in front of the background sheet whilst I set the lighting…”

I spent over an hour turning this way and that, the flash going off for some and spot lights for others. He made frontal shots, rear with me looking over my shoulder, set my face with a light smile, a big smile, serious, coquettish, lips pursed, lips slightly apart, he took me through the book. Then he changed the back drop, softened the lights and took a lot of portrait pictures with and without filters and after a quick change, I was in my black skirt and low necked top and we did the glamour shots, leaning forward to show my cleavage, standing with one foot on a stool, skirt and petticoat pulled back to reveal a stocking top and suspender and winking at the camera and then we finished.

“Right, I’ll download them and we can take a quick look and allow you to select the ones you want printed and in what size.

Five minutes before Boris was due to pick me up; I had an enprint-sized picture of the entire shoot because I simply couldn’t make up my mind. I also had half-a-dozen framed portraits, there was one that was exceptional, my hair had looked like a halo and the suggestion of a smile on my face made the shot perfect and I ordered a couple of pictures of the stocking top shot in portrait size but unframed. I won’t mention the bill but he asked me if he could use the portrait picture. “I would like to frame it and put it in the centre of my window display.”

“To sell?”

“No, it’s such a good picture I want to show the world that I take pictures of the most beautiful women and do it well. I think that picture will bring in extra business. I’ll reduce the bill by fifteen percent if you say yes.”

I said yes, picked up my copy of the flash drive and went to meet Boris.

I was still a little early so I crossed the road and walked slowly in the direction he would come. When his car appeared, it drove past me, stopped very rapidly and reversed back. He peered at me through the windscreen, got out of the car and opened the door, “Sorry, I didn’t recognise you, it was the yellow dress that made me stop to check. What have you been up to, you look like a photographer’s model, beautiful? Wait till you get back to the Café, you’ll spend an hour having to tell the girls where you had your hair done.”

And the photographs I thought.

When I got back, the first person I saw was Barbara coming out of the kitchen and heading towards her room. I held my finger to my lips and nodded towards my room and went straight in. She closed the door, “My God, you look terrific, what have you been doing.”

I plugged my laptop in and as soon as it was ready I started downloading the pictures. “Keep quiet, and you’ll see.”

“Who did your hair?”

“It’s only a wash and set.”

“The makeover?”

“You are about to see.”

The computer prompt came up and I selected slide show and got of the chair and told Barbara to sit and then I sat on the bottom of my bed beside her. She watched in silence for about ten of the pictures, “These are terrific, who did them?”

“The photographic studio in the high street.”

She went silent again until the slideshow reached the portraits and when it got to the one I thought was best she said. “Stop it there.”
I did and she looked at me then the picture for a good few seconds and looked at me again, “That’s absolutely beautiful.”

I hit play again and fast forwarded to the black skirt and low cut blouse pictures and when she saw the first of me leaning forward and smiling directly into the camera her hand went to her mouth, “Talk about flaunting it.” Then after a few frames, up came the stocking top picture, she said nothing just stared at me and then went back to the slide show. Eventually the last picture came up and she immediately reversed to the stocking top shot, “Helen what have you been up to. You were so shy and retiring, too afraid to go out on your own and here you are posing for pictures for a garage wall calendar.”

I smiled, “Nope, prison cell walls.”

“Huh?”

“You know about the picture taken of me outside here and what happened?”

“Yes, of course we’ve got one taped to the wall in the common room.”

“Right. It took me by surprise and I was a bit upset but when Paul told me the prisoners were taping them to the walls of their cells and asking about the concert, I thought I’d get my own back and so I’m going to see that this one and one or two others go over to the main prison.”

“Christ, they’ll start a fan club.”

“I’m going to use one for the poster of all of us so we have to arrange to go to the studio and get some group shots done for the programme. Do you think the girls will agree?”

“When they see these, yes. I think it’s terrific, we can all be glamour models and we’ll be set up for life.”

“There’s these as well,” and I showed her the framed pictures.

“Who are they for, friends?”

“Sort of, this one is for you know who and the others for friends I suppose,”

“Can I have this one,” she held up a picture of me in the yellow dress standing in front of a backdrop scene of woodland, half profiled with my head turned slightly up as if I were looking at the sky I had a gentle smile on my face. Brenda had turned a fan on and the photographer had captured a moment when the hem had lifted a little to show just a little of the front of the petticoat. The picture looked so innocent.

“Really, you want that one?”

“Yes please.”

“Corse you can have it, I have two of those, the other is for…”

“I know you had better let him have one of the stocking top pics as well just to let him know you have an adventurous side.”

“No! And don’t you even let him see that pic.”

“You’ll have to show them to May later to see if she agrees with the poster and programme idea.”

“I’ll let her see the lot and tell her of the other pictures we need. I’ll give her the details of my ideas for the poster and programme and see if she can sweet talk Boris into letting us go and have them done.”

Barbara took her pictures and left, it was time for lunch and I had an office cleaning promise to keep afterwards. I changed the yellow dress for a white cotton blouse, the dogtooth mini skirt and grabbed a headscarf and one of my pinnies.

Maria looked closely at me. “Hair is very pretty but too much makeup.”

“It was for a photo shoot, Mummy.”

“Yes, Barbara show me pictures, beautiful portrait.” My heart missed a beat; she was going to really have a go at me if Barbara had shown her the other picture. Barbara had, Maria had it in her hand but to my surprise she said, “This good also, very saucy, make boyfriend’s heart beat faster make him interested in wife to be.”

I whispered, “Will Mummy tell me how to make more saucy pictures for husband?”

“You be careful or husband spank saucy wife.”

“Ooh, will he?”

She laughed, “Go and sit,” and turned away to fetch our lunches.

In Chapters 17 and 18; A missed kiss and a new car.

Vesta’s Hearth Volumes one to four, ( close to 90 chapters,) is published on Amazon Kindle.
Nearly completed is Murmuring with Starlings, some of you will have seen a little of this under its working name, ‘First Dates are Kissing Dates.’

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