Footprints In The Sea 11 and 12

Footprints In The Sea – Chapters 11 & 12

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 Chapters 1 and 2, please do so.

Aurora, Maritime 5 and Awac Papa Alpha 2 have a pin-up and Charlotte meets a doctor.

Chapter 11

I opened my eyes slowly, it was dark and an unfocused face appeared above me. I could feel somebody vigorously rubbing my hands and somebody else doing the same to my feet. Slowly my brain began working again, “Are we on Aurora?”
The blurred face looked away from me, “She’s awake,” I heard Will’s voice say and then my eyes cleared and I recognised him, “Are we on Aurora?” I repeated.
“No, we’re still on the lifeboat,” and he came closer, let go of my hand, slid his arm under me and pulled me into a warm hug. “I thought I was going to lose you, you were going to die, drown, lose you,” and he pulled me tighter in to him. One thought came into my mind, ‘I would dive under an iceberg time and again if Will was going to hug me like this when he got me out of the water.’
“The wind and sea are quieter?”
“Aurora is here and shielding us.”
“The man I tried to help, how is he?”
A second face appeared next to Will, “On board Aurora, with severe hyperthermia but alive and the last thing he said before he lost consciousness was, “A mermaid came to me.”
I looked at the new face and managed to move my cheeks and lips enough to smile, “He was in shock I expect. What about the other boats?”
I saw the stranger glance at Will and answered, “We found three, the rescued passengers told us that the fourth sank the night they abandoned Pacific Wanderer, she was thrown onto the reef as they left the Lagoon and smashed up.” He stood up and signalled to somebody above him and a cage stretcher was lowered and the darkness returned.

This time when I awoke, the sky had gone; above me was the lined ceiling of a ship, a ship that was lying still, moored or anchored and around me were curtains. I lay for a while listening to something bleeping above and behind my head and when I pushed my head back to look I saw a games consul with little green men chasing each other across the screen and wavy lines and windows with numbers. Something started to go ding and one of the curtains was pulled back and a man came to the side of my cot, lifted my wrist and stared at the games consul without speaking. He nodded, placed my wrist back on the bed and smiled, “Back with us then?”
“I think so, is this Aurora or Heaven?”
“Definitely not Aurora, if you use Aurora and Heaven in the same sentence, it’s an oxymoron. This is Pacific Wanderer, the sickbay and I am a petty officer sick bay attendant which is a macho way of saying ward sister.”
“I’ve been brought home to die have I?”
“No, if you died it would upset Will and your home is the luxury suite under the bridge. Excuse me a moment.” He went through the curtain and I heard him speak on the telephone; “Will, she’s awake and thinks she’s in Heaven.” He came back to me, “Hungry?”
“I’d love a coffee with lots of milk and sugar.”
“Will told us that if you ask for that it meant you were fully recovered. I’ll make one and before you ask, no, you can’t get up until the doc has seen you.”
“There’s a doctor on board?”
“Half of Aurora’s crew are on board except the captain, he refuses to leave his bridge whilst you’re in the vicinity, he claims you would probably steal his ship to add to your fleet.”
Will came in and walked straight to my bed and picked up my hand and squeezed it, “You look miles better, back with us at last, how do you feel?”
“The same as any morning before I’ve had coffee and the ward sister won’t let me get out of bed.”
“It isn’t morning, it’s three pm, you’ve been out for more than twelve hours.”
“What!” I tried to lift myself into a sitting position and the counter pane slipped down revealing a white lace nightie and then cramps hit my abdomen and I grimaced and sank back onto the pillow, “Will, I have to get up, I’m bursting for a pee.”
He went out into the sickbay and came back with a bottle, for a dreadful moment I thought he was going to bring a girl one but this was standard male shape. That didn’t stop him from turning his back and when I finished he opened a bag and presented me with a tub of lavender perfumed hand wipes.
I lifted the shoulder of the nightie up, “Where did this come from?”
“I stole it from the shop, well I didn’t really steal it, I added it to your tab.”
“I don’t mind that but who undressed me?”
“Just the people who did the undressing or do you want to know who was looking on. Let me think, I winkled you out of the wetsuit and swimming costume and the ward sister put the nightie on whilst the doctor and captain looked on to ensure you were treated in a ladylike fashion. Then there was the chief engineer, his mate, a leading artificer, the surface to air missile crew, two of the lookouts and a few passing general duties bods.”
He made me smile but I still asked again, “Will who really did it?”
“Mark and I but the doctor was there.”
“Who’s Mark?”
Will nodded in the direction of the nurse, “He is.”
I laid back on the pillow with a sigh, “The word is getting around.”
Will pulled a chair over and sat down, “Charlie stop worrying about it, you’re the ship’s heroine, you jumped into an ice cold sea in a force nine gale and rescued a man who would have died if you hadn’t got to him. That incident has firmly underlined the opinion of everybody that you have the courage of a lion and are really Aphrodite in disguise. If you grew a beard and were to walk around the ship dressed as an erotic dancer, you would still be the ship’s heroine, mascot and pin-up.”
“Pin-up,” I sat bolt upright, “A pin-up, are you kidding me!”
“Nope, the crews of Aurora, Papa Alpha Two and Maritime Five are all asking for your photo and Papa Alpha Two want a picture of you in a swimsuit to paint on their AWAC and they are naming it Charlotte Mermaid, the Guardian Angel and I’m not kidding.” He took my hands in his and leaned forward, “What you did yesterday was beyond the call of duty, it is the bravest thing I have ever witnessed. I could see by the expression in your eyes that you were terrified and that made the act even more heroic and I have told the captain and pilot of Aurora that they are to mark the island and name it Charlotte Island.”
“The best bit was when you hugged me,” I said before I could stop myself.
He replied by easing me back onto the pillow and leaning across the bed he kissed me and kept the kiss going long enough to let me know that there was more to this than friendship. He stood up and smiled, “Don’t tell anybody I did that, the jealous crew would lynch me. Now the doctor is coming to check you over and he wants a chat so Mark and I will make ourselves scarce whilst he’s here…”
“No, Will please stay.”
He shook his head, “No, he’s a surgeon commander and that’s way above the rank a frigate’s medical officer would normally carry, he’ll tell you why,” he leaned over and kissed me again, “Let me know when you can go back to your cabin, I’ll come and pick you up, I want everybody to see me with my arm around you.”

“Duncan Chesham, officially I am Commander Chesham RNVR I’m also an FRCS and technical things of a medical nature. How do you feel now, headaches, limbs, a morbid fear of the sea and seafood?”
I laughed, “No, I’m already planning to look for crab and crayfish around the reef and fish and chip shops don’t scare me.”
“They should do, fried fish is way above the recommended level for saturated fats,” he placed his stethoscope in his ears, “Doesn’t stop me though. Sit up please.”
I sat up and wriggled my nightie up to my waist and bunched it up ready to lift it higher. “Right let’s see if your heart is still beating and then we can check that you’re breathing,” so I lifted the nightie and he placed the stethoscope against my chest and listened, moved it and listened again and repeated it on my back and eased me down on to the pillow and felt my stomach and pressed once or twice and then sat down, took the scope from his ears, “Okay, you’re alive, heartbeat’s fine no nasty noises and no abdominal pain. Now you want to ask me questions?”
“What am I, Doctor Duncan?”
“Technical description would be mammal of the homo-sapiens specie, white Caucasian sub-specie and in good health but I think you mean something else?”
“Yes, what gender am I?”
He smiled, “Let me tell you who I am and what somebody with the lofty rank of surgeon commander is doing acting as MO on a New Zealand Navy frigate. I am in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, a wavy-navy sailor. It’s the naval equivalent of the Territorial Army, a weekend sailor. I’m on a New Zealand ship as part of an exchange programme between Commonwealth navies. In real life I am indeed a surgeon and my specialities are gynaecology and SRS, that’s sex reassignment work. I am a consultant at the Gender Clinic of Charing Cross Hospital, London. I am also quite good at battlefield associated surgery, hence my being here and when I’m not treating wounded sailors I also act as their GP. Now you want to know why I didn’t raise my eyebrows when I saw you wearing a lace nightie.”
“Yes, that’s what I meant, what am I.”
“First, I had already seen you wearing a woman’s swimsuit under your wetsuit which is a pretty ridiculous thing to do. You should have been wearing a thermal bunny under a heated dry-suit. I also noticed that your hips and some body fat were not as they should be in a young fit male. Is this embarrassing you?”
“No, you are putting it well, technically, no reproach apart from the wetsuit, you need to try wearing a dry suit out of water, it’s not comfortable especially on a small lifeboat.”
“Good, I’ll continue. First I am a doctor of medicine, not a qualified psychiatrist so such that I tell you would need to be confirmed by a psychiatrist but in my duties at Charing Cross I have sat on many assessment panels, treated and operated on countless transsexuals and I have seen enough to say that your body is not typical of the male. Apart from body fat and hips you also have a little too much fat around your nipples which are larger than normal. Now I have acted in what normally would be an unprofessional manner by asking Will a few questions and from what little he told me, and he told me under pressure from me because you were unconscious and couldn’t supply the information yourself, I have little doubt that you are at least transsexual and are probably more than that. Still okay, or do you wish to tell me to mind my own business and leave you and your sexuality out of it.”
“No, please go on, I appreciate your need to know as much as possible about me for treatment purposes.”
“Correct. Now I qualified transsexual by saying, ‘probably more than that;’ I believe you may be intersexed. Do you want to know what that means?”
“I think it means I am both male and female.”
“A simplification, but yes, it means that you have the primary reproductive organs of both sexes. In your case, making a hasty assessment from the little I have learned from two brief looks at you to establish how much you may have injured yourself, the male organs appear to have been the dominant ones. I couldn’t take too close a look because I had a lot of people to treat for hyperthermia, exposure and assorted injuries associated with shipwrecks. But I have an hour and if you wish I can carry out a more detailed examination that might indicate how much the female organs, have formed or possibly not formed in your body and if my suspicions are confirmed, I can refer you to a psychiatrist for his opinion as well.”
“How much will you be able to find out?”
“Enough for me to ask for expensive body scans and X-rays and along with the psychiatric assessment, make recommendations about your future choices.”
“Shall I take the nightie right off,” I said as a way of making up my mind.

He spent forty minutes measuring and squeezing muscles, spread my scrotum and spent quite a while studying that before lifting it to feel underneath and then had me roll over whilst he went over my bum pressing his fingers in, pinching it lightly and then went up to my hips, spent a deal of time there and took more measurements before running his hands over the back and sides of my rib cage and then had me flip over again and did the same to my front and this time he spent a lot of time on my abdomen and chest pressing quite firmly in places and finally he pushed my hair back studied my forehead, cheeks and lips ran his hand down the front of my throat, across my shoulders and went round the area of my chest where a woman had her breasts and then stopped. “Right, all done, you’ve been very patient. Sorry about the inspection of the area around your penis, hope you didn’t mind that, it can be uncomfortable.”
“It tickled.”
He smiled, “One or two questions. Did your parents ever tell you of anything unusual happening at your birth?”
“No, nothing, Mum said I took my time and weighed just over six lbs, that’s all.”
“What about toys, what sort did they buy you at Christmas and birthdays?”
“The usual, ray guns, model cars Lego sets, toy railways, things like that.”
“No dolls?”
“No, well yes an Action Man once.”
“What about sports?”
I shook my head, never really interested me except swimming, that’s why I took up scuba diving, it gave me an extra excuse to swim.”
“Will mentioned dancing?”
“Yes, ballroom. Not ballet or stuff like that. When my parents died, my auntie Mo told me I was spending too much time on my own, not socialising and arranged for me to have ballroom lessons.”
“How did you feel about it?”
“I enjoyed it, met a lot of people and became good and finished up as a ballroom instructor. That was a challenge, I had to become proficient with the women’s steps as well as the men’s and in Latin American and jive, the two are completely different, the women’s steps don’t always mirror the men’s, they have spins that have to blend in with the basic steps, there is more emphasis on grace, poise and fluidity.”
“Right that’s it for today. We’ll have another question and answer session but there won’t be any more physical examinations until we have you scanned.” He patted my stomach, “I felt something hiding in there I want to have a look at, nothing to worry about but I’d put money on all or part of a uterus and probably one or both ovaries.”
“Before you go, tell me about my body, is it male or female?”
He hesitated for a moment, “I wouldn’t normally say much at this stage but in your case, I’ll break my own rules. But for your penis and testicles and lack of developed breasts I would say you had a classic female frame and muscle structure, I don’t wonder you had trouble finding male clothes that fitted. Your hairline and face is also female, how often do you shave?
“Usually every other day, sometimes I would go three days but since coming here, I’ve shaved twice and the second time was after three days and I hardly needed to.”
“Right, I must be getting back to my other patients there are a couple on Aurora that are giving me concern and if you start coughing and feeling unwell, come in here and see Mark and if you feel like dressing up and being a bit glamorous, do it, come over to Aurora and give the crew a treat,” he grinned at me, “Will told me you are going through the cargo manifest looking for the latest fashions.” He became serious, “You can go back to your cabin now but take it easy for a few days and the petty officer who’s over here to handle the catering for your extra guests wants the recipe for the casserole you made.”
I smiled, “Was it good, I never had any, I was always told by my instructors never to eat a large meal after vigorous swimming.”
“It was very good, I commandeered it for the patients but did have a little for myself. Will missed out so I expect he’ll be a bit grumpy. Now I really must be off, I’ll send Will in and remember, take things easy for a couple of days, no swimming outside the lagoon or cutting down trees.”
As soon as he left I swung my legs over the side of the cot and stood up. I felt a bit wobbly and waited until my legs strengthened and then tried a couple of steps and I was fine, then Mark came in, I’ll get your coffee now and Will said he’ll be about fifteen minutes, he’s with the Aurora’s engineer at the moment.” He brought my coffee over and waited whilst I drank a third of it and then said, “I’ll pop down to your cabin if you want and get some clothes, you can’t walk around the ship like that.”
“Oh my god,” all I was wearing was the nightie and that was nearly transparent. I reached for a bed sheet and Mark laughed, “Don’t worry about that, nobody is going to see you in here.”
“You can!”
“I put it on you and I’m a nurse and seen stranger things.”
“I suppose so. I’ll have to wear one of the sick bay dressing gowns.”
“I’ll get your clothes, do you want the stuff that was on the lifeboat, the jeans and top I mean, not the sou'wester, Will took everything to your cabin.”
“Which means he’s hung them up on the floor, no I’ll need clean things, a pair of jeans and some sort of top, what’s it like outside, still stormy?”
“No, a perfect Pacific spring day, warm and sunny.”
“If you could, there’s a pale yellow summer dress in the wardrobe, the doctor said it was okay if I want to dress up a bit and if I wear jeans, I’ll start finding work to do and I have to take things easy,” I stopped babbling and looked at him.
He smiled, “I’ll fetch a bit of make-up, where is it and what about undies, something like the nightie?”
“God no, the dress has a full skirt and it might still be windy, something white and not fussy. You don’t mind do you?”
“Don’t be silly,” he looked at me measuring me up and said, “You about a thirty six chest?”
I nodded, “There’s a couple of bras in the cabin I stole from the shop.”
“Right, about B cup?”
“I just stuff tights in them.”
“Not any more, I found some gel boobs hidden in one of the drug cupboards, whoever was the medical orderly on this ship was probably a cross dresser,” he grinned, “On the game as well I expect. Being on board a ship full of men is too good a business opportunity to miss and they weren’t paid well on this ship, most of them as far as we can tell were barely fit for purpose.”
“You’re kidding?”
“No, you’d be surprised at some of the crew and other things we find on board merchant ships when we stop and search them. There’s blow-up dolls, loads of tranny stuff, videos, all sorts as well as Kalashnikovs, explosives, drugs and immigrants.”
“I suppose so, it must be fun at times.”
“And dangerous if they cut up nasty.” He took the empty cup off me and nodded towards the shower, “There’s towels in there, you have time for a quick shower and I’ll get your stuff from the cabin. If anybody comes in, slip a white coat on and tell ‘em I’ll be back in five and if they’re bleeding to death, stick a plaster on the cut.”
I finished my shower as Mark returned with my shoulder bag over one arm and the pale yellow summer dress over the other and a carrier bag with the ships logo on it. He dropped the shoulder bag onto my cot, laid the dress next to it and opened the carrier bag and pulled out a pale yellow bra and panties and a packet of light tan tights, “Your white sandals are in the bag with a tulle petticoat, just right for the dress, sorry I took so long but I had to go into the shop for some of the clothes. Your makeup and perfume are in your shoulder bag and there’s a magnifying mirror on my desk. Hurry up, you have a half hour, I saw Will and told him you were having a bath so he’s gone off to speak to the boys checking the hull. Do your hair into a pony tail, it’s still a bit windy up top and if you go out on deck, stay away from the front of the bridge, there’s a downdraught there and you’ll have a devil of a job keeping control of that skirt. Don’t just stand there grinning, get a move on.”
So I sat at his desk and did my makeup and when I finished he came over from the drugs cabinet, took hold of my chin and inspected my face before nodding, just right and I’ve tried the gel boobs and they’re a good size for you, I’ve tucked them in the bra, come on, hurry up, I want my sickbay back.
I did hurry up and for an amateur I had done a reasonable makeup job in no time at all, well almost no time and I dressed as expertly, even managing the bra fastening without having to turn it round to the front but had to call for Mark’s help when it came to fastening the zip at the back of the dress but it was done and we still had time for Mark to grab my hand and rush me into the ladies loo so that I could have a look in the mirror and then back to the sickbay. “That will stop him in his tracks,” he said after walking around me and tweaking a loose hair, fluffing my skirt and checking my make-up again. Mark it seems had appointed himself my agent and dresser.
I just had time to write down the recipe for the casserole when Will arrived and stood for a good minute just looking at me, it was like a repeat of when he had seen me in the white dress. “I can’t believe you were swimming in the Antarctic just a few hours ago.”
“The icebergs helped defoliate my skin.”
“They did something you look really nice.”
“I think she looks beautiful,” said Mark “And you should be very proud when you show her around the Aurora.
“I will be,” he took my hand, “The captain has offered his barge to take us over.”
“Barge? Captain?”
“Didn’t Mark tell you, the Captain of Aurora has asked to meet you, that’s where we’re going, a tour of the frigate.”
“Mark, you should have warned me, I can’t go over there like this,” I started fussing with the dress, “He’d throw me off his ship.”
“I didn’t tell you because I knew you would come over all flustered like you are now. Now go with Will and meet the lads over there, you’re their heroine and they will be very hurt if you don’t. Have a nice time and when you get back, I’ll pierce your ears so you can dress up properly next time.”
Will took my hand and started to walk me out, “No stop, my shoulder bag and the recipe and I slipped my hand out of his and just had time to grab my bag and the recipe before Will went striding off with me almost running to keep up.
He slowed down when we got to the saloon and gave me half a second to compose myself before leading me in and there were the cooks and a few other men from the Aurora and as soon as we entered, the petty officer cook called the men to attention and saluted us. “Aren’t you going to return the salute?” I asked Will.
“They’re not saluting me, they’re saluting you, now curtsy or something.” So I did, feeling a complete fool and wishing I had knuckled my forehead instead. It seemed to please them because they started clapping and a couple of them cheered when the petty officer stepped forward and said, “It’s good to see you on your feet, Marm, and looking well pretty if I may be so bold.”
“I am honoured to meet you PO and have the chance to thank all your men for rescuing me.” That brought more claps and cheers.
“As soon as you’re fit Marm, me and the lads will be honoured to work in the galley under your command.”
I started to panic now, he couldn’t mean that, he was a master chef, I could hardly expect him to work under my command, rather it should be the other way round but I had the sense not to run from the saloon screaming for help and answered in what I hoped would be a diplomatic manner, “Much as I would welcome the opportunity, PO I am afraid it must be postponed for another day, the MO insists I take time to recover from my swimming exercise,” (more claps). I opened my bag and took out the recipe, “This is the recipe you asked for but I have written quantities for four diners so you will have to adjust it, I have no knowledge of catering for hundreds of hard working, hungry seamen.”
His eyes glittered, “Lovely, we’ll have this on the menu in a couple of days, thank you. If you’d care to inspect your galley, I’m afraid we are in the process of preparing the evening meal so I ask you to make allowances,” and he led me into my kitchen. It was spotless and the aroma coming from the boiling and simmering cauldrons was really appetizing and reminded me I was hungry. “This is lovely, PO, I wish I were as tidy a cook as your people, I couldn’t find a fault, not a thing out of place and the appetizing aromas are most appetising.”
The Petty Officer beamed, “It is kind of you to say so, Marm. I have prepared the remaining crayfish for your dinner this evening.”
“No PO, please give the crayfish to somebody else, I want to sample the food that is producing those enticing aromas, I would be hurt if I was not able to join you in the saloon and dine amongst my new shipmates.”
The PO was on the point of bursting with pride, “Marm, we would be honoured.”
“Honoured, PO? No, it is I who is being granted the honour, being here and sharing a meal with men who would give their lives to defend my freedom, whose readiness to apprehend those who would deny me the freedom to roam the seas at will, no PO, I am the one who feels honoured,” I looked at the cooks who had big grins on their faces and two of them were nodding their agreement.
Will ended the meeting by announcing that we must leave or risk being guilty of keeping Aurora’s captain waiting and suffer the consequences of such an error which was something that every man present understood. And as we made our way to the steps Will whispered, “You’re a real smoothie, you could sweet-talk a hungry crocodile, you sure you haven’t been a woman all the time?”
I had tears in my eyes but I managed a smile, “They tried so hard to please me Will, and I meant what I said, I do feel honoured and humbled that such men would see fit to applaud me for doing so little compared to the dangers they might have to face one day.” I stopped and opened my shoulder bag and searched, “I’ll kill Mark, he forgot to pack a hankie for me.”
The coxswain of the captain’s barge helped me aboard with one hand and slipped me a tissue with the other but that made things worse. Fortunately the journey across the lagoon was long enough for me to get my emotions under control which was just as well because when we arrived alongside the boarding steps of the Aurora, there was a side party waiting above at the entry port, I was being treated as a visiting dignitary, I prayed they wouldn’t start firing their guns and missiles in salute when I stepped aboard. They didn’t but I faced aft and not wearing a hat, I couldn’t salute so I curtsied to the quarter deck and again when the captain welcomed me aboard and then the formalities ended and we were shown to the captain’s cabin.
“You appear familiar with the protocols of the Navy, Miss Broughton?”
Miss Broughton? And then it dawned on me the Captain was speaking to me and that was going to be my formal name from this day forth unless I married. “Not really, Captain, but I do enjoy reading stories of the sea and not being in uniform I thought a curtsy to the quarterdeck more appropriate than a salute.”
“And gracefully done,” said the First Lieutenant.
“I used to teach ballroom dancing and spent quite a lot of time teaching the girls how to curtsy to their partners in the Old-Time dances.”
“It is good to see you appear to have recovered from your ordeal,” the Captain said as we sat for tea.
“Thanks to the care of your doctor and petty officer and your timely arrival. I hope your ship and crew suffered no injuries, you must have had a terrible time getting to us through that storm.”
“No injuries and only a little superficial damage, we’ve been through worse. Now to business I’m afraid, I have to go through a few things with Mr. Devonshire so my First Lieutenant has offered to show you around Aurora, it seems a number of the crew wish to meet you. Are you fit enough to undertake that?”
“Yes, I’m fine and I would like to see the ship, I’ve never been on a warship before.”

Chapter 12

“I have just realised what I’ve done today and it scares me, I seem to have changed. I don’t mean something as trivial as changing my gender, no something deeper is happening.
“I jumped into the sea to rescue that man not because I was heroic, I did it instinctively, I did it because he was in trouble, I was a good swimmer and was dressed in clothing I thought was suitable, he was there, and I was on our lifeboat, he was in serious trouble, was dying and I could do something about it so I jumped and when I was in the water I swam as fast as I could because I wanted to warm myself up. All I did really was to react to a situation. I was knee jerking, something all humans do, it was not so very different to shooting my hand out to catch a falling vase. The only thing I can remember about it clearly was a fear of the cold and knowing that if I hadn’t jumped, you would have and you weren’t wearing the correct clothing, not as strong a swimmer and had the boat to think about. If that man had been caught up in rigging at the top of a mast, I would have stood back and asked you to climb up and rescue him. I’m no heroine, Will.”
“Why did you put the diving kit on the boat?”
“You see, that’s exactly what I’m talking about, I didn’t, I left it there after I used it earlier when we were moving Pacific Wanderer and when we were on the boat I wore the wet suit in case I had to go into the water and use the power of the fins to help us swim back. If I’d stopped and thought about what I was going to do, I wouldn’t have had the nerve to do it.”
“You’re not telling the truth, Charlie, I saw the fear in your eyes when you went off the gunwales.”
“It wasn’t fear it was the cold.”
Will shrugged, “You said that wasn’t why you feel scared now, was it something that happened today.”
“Yes,” I was silent for a while, thinking about it and I really was scared of what had happened, “It was the doctor and Mark at first, finding out that I was transsexual and wearing a women’s swim suit under the wet suit but I coped with that because they were medics and have seen things like that before but it was going into the saloon and meeting all those people. I should have been terrified but I wasn’t I was embarrassed but not because they saw me wearing women’s clothes and makeup but because they were applauding me and then the petty officer saying all those things to me about how they were honoured, flattering me…”
“He wasn’t flattering you, he was genuinely impressed and nearly fell out of his apron when you asked to be allowed to have the meal he had prepared for the men rather than crayfish.”
“That was true, it smelled delicious and I was too hungry to be satisfied with crayfish, I wanted something hot and spicy and I wanted a big plateful. I hadn’t eaten anything since the bar of chocolate on the lifeboat before I jumped into the water and I was hungry. But when we went aboard Aurora to see the captain the last thing I was worried about were all those men, macho type men, warriors seeing me all girly. Even after I curtsied I still didn’t think about it, it just seemed the correct thing to do. When the captain addressed me as Miss Broughton the thing that worried me was not the Miss bit, I was more concerned that I might not get used to it and if somebody called me Miss Broughton again, they would think me rude because I ignored them and I enjoyed being shown around the ship and hearing all the nice things that were being said to me. Even when I was on deck and they were explaining the quick firing gun I was having a good time and when the wind blew my skirt up as I turned, I even enjoyed the cheers, that’s what’s scaring me.”
“You enjoyed men cheering you when you flashed your knickers?”
I laughed, “Yes but that’s not the point is it? A few days ago I was worried about you seeing me in a pair of lilac jeans and now I enjoy being flattered, I enjoy acting coquettishly, I enjoy being a bit sexy, I enjoy being a woman and I’m scared that it happened so quickly, I just don’t understand what’s happened to me.”
“How would you feel if it suddenly went away and you returned to how you were before the shipwreck?”
“I’ve asked myself that question,” I turned to face him, “I’m pretty sure I would hate it. I have taken a liking to the new me. I recognise that I’m vain and take ages over my makeup and picking new clothes, and certainly love the flattery, and as for admiring me for being a heroine, I prefer to think that they really regard me as a good looking woman, even a sexy bird.”
“They do.”
I smiled, “The truth will out, Will Devonshire, your shipmate is a bit of a raver.”
“And you’re happy about it, really want to go on as you are, no longer frightened of what people think, how they see you?”
“Well not that unconcerned, I do want people to think well of me and I am still a bit apprehensive about going home and suddenly appearing as a woman when all they’ve known is Charlie, the nephew of Mollie Shilton.”
“Good, it means I haven’t put my foot in it and made the unforgivable error of interfering in your life.”
“You haven’t well you haven’t that I know of. You had to tell Mark and Duncan something, my life may have depended on their having the necessary information when they treated me.”
“I only told them just enough, the rest is their own interpretation of who you really are but it’s not that I’m referring to. Whilst you were sashaying around Aurora enticing innocent young matelots with you hip swinging and leg flashing, Doc Duncan, the captain and myself had a sort of conference and came to a decision.”
“Oh, you should have done that in front of me.”
“I told them that but Duncan said it would be better if he could have my input unfettered by my being reluctant to give an opinion because of your presence.”
“I suppose so, do I cramp your style Mr. Devonshire.”
“I’m not answering that whilst you are present. The two ships from the arctic are arriving in the early hours and will be mooring on the other side of the island and the Royal Navy Arctic research ship has a psychiatrist on board who is doing research into human behaviour in a hostile environment. Apparently he is also something of an expert on intersexed people as well, Duncan knows him from his time spent at Charing Cross Hospital. He wanted to know what we others thought about suggesting that the Arctic man has a word with you.
“Again I said that that was a decision only you should make and he said that it would always be your decisions that controlled what medical and psychiatric treatment or investigation would be allowed. So I said that with that understanding, my opinion was that you would want to be allowed to speak to this new doctor.”
“What then.”
“He asked me why I was so protective of you.”
“Are you?”
“Yes, somebody has to be, if only to stop you from swimming during inclement weather.”
“That’s nothing to worry about, just a bit of compulsive behaviour, a plate full of radishes would cure it. Will, do you think they will let us keep the Wanderer or sell it to us at an affordable price.”
“The Captain has already suggested that Auckland look into the salvage question, he also ask them to register our claim for sovereignty over the island and he thinks they will support that so will Britain, Australia and America because now they’ve discovered a safe mooring, fresh water and a few other things, they think it would benefit the ships involved with the Antarctic research stations and might even be a good site for a manned weather station.”
“It’s the island that is important to me, I think I want to live here full time. I’m okay with going home to Berkshire and I miss it a bit but I think I really belong here. I’ll leave the cargo manifest and the rest of it and go over to the island tomorrow and explore a bit more around the cabin. If we’re going to have visitors and weather stations here, we’ll need to build more bedrooms for them.”
Will laughed, “There you go again, planning for the long-term. Duncan said you were to take it easy for a day or two.”
“I will take it easy, I’ll wear another dress or a frivolous skirt and carry a parasol, there’s nice ones in the shop. I’ll have to take it easy then, I wouldn’t be able to dig the garden if I was wearing a skirt, well not the sort of skirt I have in mind.”
“There’s another thing you seem to have forgotten we’re already on the island, we moved the ship didn’t we.”
“Oh, I’d forgotten that. Can’t we put a set of stairs down to the beach from the bow?”
“We’ll have to, we can’t have you going up and down ladders or sliding down a rope in a frivolous skirt, it would attract too much attention. I’ll have a word with the carpenters, they’re here for at least three more days, the captain told me he’s been ordered to make a provisional survey of the island and anchorages and they’ll be supporting the port side so that Wanderer is on an even keel.”
“Yes but he can’t order his men to carry out private work can he?”
“He’ll think of something, probably put it down to monsoon relief, I think that’s how he is covering the work on the house. Apart from that, it’s experience for the crew and stops them getting bored.”
“That’s an idea, we can organise a barbecue on the beach for the men.”
Will started laughing, “I think you’d better go to bed, you’re showing signs of total exhaustion and failing to be aware of your surroundings. Tomorrow there will be three navy ships moored here, about a thousand men.”

I awoke feeling a little confused, perhaps it’s a late reaction to my problems when I rescued the man from the sea. I slipped out of bed and crossed to the dresser and the percolator and switched it on, then switched it off and checked it had fresh beans and the water was topped up and then switched it on again and returned to the bed and slipped into my bathrobe. I knew where I was, I wasn’t that confused it was just that so much had happened I felt I had lost track of things.
I wanted to go up to the island cabin today, that was one thing, then I might have to see the doctor again and perhaps meet the psychiatrist, that was another. I decided this was not enough, my brain wasn’t working, I needed to make a list so I went to the desk, a luxury this cabin had that my previous one hadn’t and opened the top drawer and found the ships notepaper and started but the percolator announced that my coffee was ready and that took priority so I went to collect my cup, added milk and sugar and went back to my list. I needed to finish going through the cargo manifest and then check the condition of the perishable items and the more important things like clothing and cosmetics so that went on the list and after that I remembered the drugs and other consumables in the sickbay. Then I sat back and started to think what else I should do, what else needed my urgent attention. There was home of course and I did need to check my bank and shares and I probably had a thousand urgent emails waiting. I didn’t have a computer in the cabin so I added that to my list, if need be I would steal one from the saloon and that led me to thinking of where our Aurora guests were sleeping, they might be using Wanderer’s cabins I’d better check with Will, I didn’t even know who was in charge of the people Aurora had sent here. I had seen a sub-lieutenant and there was the PO cook but there must be somebody of higher rank, so that was added to the list, I needed to meet and say hullo anyway. If they weren’t already here, the passengers might want to come back as well. I put the pen down and sighed, no wonder I felt confused, it was alright being feted as a heroine but with Aurora having to stay here until the seriously ill passengers were fit enough to be moved to a land hospital the Captain of Aurora must be having fits.
I had a shower and then dressed, no fancy sun dresses, I was going to be dashing about a lot so I chose a plain green skirt and white blouse, did my make-up quickly and had my second coffee. I went out to the corridor and listened outside Will’s door. There was sounds of movement but no singing in the shower so I left him, he was probably like me and a bit slow until he had had a caffeine fix. A glance at my watch informed me that it was a little before six and Friday so I expect the ship would be waking up and until everybody was up and about I wasn’t going to get much information but there was bound to be somebody on the bridge, the navy was very distrustful and would have had two or three people on watch, if I could find one of them, they might have time to explain how things worked. I went out to the promenade deck, spent a few moments looking at the new view and getting the feel of the morning and then went to the saloon and immediately met a man who I had seen and not spoken to yesterday, he was the radio operator or technician and was seated at a dining table having breakfast. That was a good sign, the galley must be up and running so I went over to say hullo and he jumped up, “Morning Miss Broughton, sit down and have coffee, it’s still hot, I’ll let Victor know you’re here.”
“Who’s Victor?”
“PO in the galley.”
“Leave him, he must be busy getting breakfasts ready for everybody but I will have a coffee.”
He poured me a cup and waited till I had taken a sip, “You did a good job on the radio and sat-nav, I changed the transistor on the radio and fitted one that gives more power and replaced the tuners on short wave and VHF.”
“Did I damage them?”
“Not you, the transistor I fitted is a new type, an upgrade and the tuning was past its sell-by date and would have started giving trouble. You know a bit about radio, did you work on them?”
“Not really, I write code and worked as a consultant on IT programmes and installations so I got to know my way around electronic communications equipment but that’s all.”
“It was a neat bit of diagnosis and repair though. Nice tidy soldering around the transistor.”
“I was being careful not to drop solder on the chips. You haven’t seen a desk top that isn’t being used have you?”
“Loads in the radio stores, there’s three still in their boxes and a couple of new ones that have been used a bit, want a new one?”
“God no, I’ll have to spend half the day updating everything, I’ll have one of the used ones.”
“I’ll drop one off in your cabin, first one on the right isn’t it?”
“Yes, the posh suite.”
“I’ve got some spare radio and sat-nav manuals you can have as well.”
“You must be pretty busy, so don’t get into trouble because you’re doing that when you should be doing something else.”
“No prob, the lieutenant is okay as long as you’re doing something useful and not skiving off in a deckchair. I’ve finished the radio, sat-nav and Internet, my next job is to check out the radar and then go down to the engine room and go over their bits and I’m more or less done. The skipper wants everything ready in case we have to move the ship.”
“I’m told you’re here for a few more days.”
“That’s what I heard as well, they’re doing a survey of the island, we’ve found sweet potatoes, coconuts and squash and there’s pineapple as well. The place where they’re re-building the house has an area that was used as allotments in the past.”
“Olive trees and a fruit orchard as well.”
“Make a nice holiday home for somebody who wants to get away from it all.”
“That’s what I’m planning,” I smiled, “Tell you’re shipmates I’ll be taking guests once I settle in, it’s close to the beach.”
“Transport will be good as well if they decide to use it as an anchorage and weather station. I know they are going inland to find a convenient place for choppers to land. I’ll have to get ready for morning parade now, it’s when the lieutenant has to count us and make sure nobody has run off with an island girl or is setting up a rum still,” he got up, “I’ll sort the computer for you and I’ll let Victor know you want breakfast.”
“What time does everybody start?”
“Parade at seven thirty and work for the day starts at eight but you don’t have to be there, it’s different for officers.”
“Me! I’m not an officer, I’m one of the Pacific Wanderer’s passengers.”
“Not what I was told, we’ve been instructed to offer you the courtesies due a commander, your oppo Will as well.”
Having successfully completed my first mission, made a new friend and sorted out the computer problem I went into the galley to be greeted by PO Victor, “Good morning PO, you must have risen early?”
“Morning, Marm, have to be up and about otherwise the lads won’t get any breakfast. Would you like yours now?”
“If it isn’t a bother, could I have cornflakes and orange juice with toast?”
“Is that all, there’s boiled or scrambled eggs, full English or kippers it you’d prefer.”
“No thank you, I eat lightly for breakfast.”
The PO turned to one of his men, “You ‘eard that, Phillips, orange juice, cornflakes and toast on Commander Broughton’s usual table.”
I stepped a little closer, “PO, I’d prefer it if you and the lads dropped the commander stuff and just called me Charlotte.”
“Can’t have that, Marm, bad for discipline that is but if it makes you happy, when in private, I’ll call you Miss Charlotte.”
I gave him what I hoped was a sweet and grateful smile, “Yes that will do nicely.” There was no point in trying to make the PO become less formal, he was old school and commanders, no matter they were only temporary hostilities only ranks, were still commanders.
“What time do you wish to inspect the galley and stores, Marm?”
“Oh, is that my job?”
“Believe, from what I understand you as good as own the ship, course if you prefer, I can ‘ave a word with the Lieutenant and get him to do it,” but the expression on his face made it clear he would prefer I did it.
“What time would be most convenient?”
“Well we finish with breakfast at eight and it takes an hour to finish cleaning up?”
“Shall we say nine thirty then?”
His face beamed, “That will do nicely, Marm.”
“If I am not able because of other duties, would it inconvenience you if I asked you to deputise for me, I’ll ask the Lieutenant to make an entry in the log if you wish or place the arrangement in Orders for the Day.”
The PO was visibly impressed with my knowledge of naval law and customs, for a hostilities only officer, I appeared to be well informed. I was but that was because I read a lot of sea novels not because I had attended officer cadet training.
“Be happy to do so,” Marm.
Leaving the galley I went to sit at my table and barely had time to sit before Phillips appeared with my breakfast, placed it in front of me, moved the sugar closer and went to the bar and poured a coffee. It would seem that word was getting around that the commander had a sweet tooth and supplying sugar for cornflakes and ensuring the coffee was sweet would keep her happy. “I’m Able Seaman Phillips, Marm, I’ve been detailed to be your personal steward whilst in port.”
“That’s very kind of you, you’ll find my demands on your services modest.”
He leaned down closer, “If there’s anything you want to know about the ship, just have a word, Marm.”
“I will need a few tips from time to time, I’ll remember that, thank you.”
“PO in the sickbay is a mate of mine and he says I’m to look after you and the way you went into the noggin after that bloke was impressive.”
“It wasn’t really, I just wanted a cold shower and I swam over to him to see if he had any sea soap.”
He laughed, “You just remember, anything you want, tip me the wink.”
As he left Will came into the saloon all bright eyed and cleanly shaven which woke me up, I hadn’t shaved again, it must be showing by now. Nervously I ran my hand over my face but there was nothing there, not even a slight rasp except for under my chin where there was just the faintest suggestion of hair, invisible under the light touch of foundation and powder I had used and only just detectable to somebody feeling for it, or kissing me on the neck. “Will,” I whispered, “Can you see any trace of facial hair, I forgot to shave this morning and its four days now.”
He leaned forward and inspected me closely, “No, you look as smooth as you did yesterday.”
“I’ll have to go to my cabin after breakfast, I can’t chance leaving it all day.”
My personal steward came to the table, “More coffee, Marm?” he asked with just a nod for Will.
“No thanks, I have to make a move, will you look after Commander Devonshire for me, we were to breakfast together but I have to dash.”
Phillips looked at Will, “Would you like the menu, sir?”
“Er no thanks, coffee, two soft boiled eggs and toast will do, Thank you.”
Off went my personal steward and Will looked at me, “What’s all that about?”
“I have my own personal steward now and Mark has told him to ensure I want for nothing. I have to go up to the bridge and introduce myself to the Lieutenant in charge, when are you going to be around so we can have a chat?”
“I’ll be coming with you over to Aurora, the captain and doctor want to see you and apparently you are being taken round to the other side of the island to the other ships to see the doctor there. I have to stay on Aurora and deal with a few things with the captain.”
“I was going to suggest to Aurora’s captain that he sends the fit passengers back here, it must be a bit crowded on Aurora.”
“I’ll ask him, I think you’ll be in a bit of a rush but I am told that some of them are being taken off by helicopter, I’m not sure if it’s the serious cases or just the walking wounded but they’ll need to return here to pick up their personal luggage.”
“Where are the Aurora people on here sleeping?”
“Downstairs in the crew’s quarters except the Lieutenant, he took the captain’s cabin when I said I didn’t want it.”
“Can’t they have the passenger cabins if the previous occupants are being air lifted off?”
“I’ll bring it up with the captain, he will appreciate the offer.”
“Okay, and do you think we should invite him to dinner one evening?”
“I think he will invite us today so you’d better inform your personal chef, Petty Officer Evans, Victor Evans.”
“I’ll leave that to you,” I grinned, “In case he throws a tantrum. See you shortly, I must go and get ready. Will, are these clothes okay, I was a bit glammed up yesterday but I thought that might be a bit OTT bearing in mind I will be dashing around a bit sorting things out.”
“You’re fine, they won’t expect to see you looking like a film star all the time but it might be an idea to glam up a bit for dinner with the Captain this evening and weren’t you told to take things easy for a day or two?”
“I am, I haven’t been near the hold, just going around sorting a few things out. I’m hoping to spend the afternoon up at the new house and then sorting out my affairs on the computer.”
“Well just take it easy.”
“Yes sir.”

I cleaned off my make-up tried to have a shave but it was more of a seek and find operation apart from my chin and I had to go over that two or three times because such hair as there was, was almost too short for the razor. Once I was satisfied and replaced my makeup I went to find Will for the ocean trip across the lagoon but was waylaid by Mark, “Can you come into the sickbay for a minute, Charlotte, I need to go over some of the drugs with you?”
“Is there something wrong with them,” I asked as soon as we were there.
“Not really, some of the anti-biotics are close to their expiry date and the doc is going to replace them but I checked the pharmacy section in the shop. It depends on what the doctors decide for you later today.”
“There’s nothing wrong with me.”
“Well, not wrong but there are going to be a few things you’ll need if they decide to start you on HRT. If you’re going to New Zealand soon, it doesn’t matter but if you stay here for any length of time you are going to need support. We have a limited supply of most of the things you need, estrogen etc., but there are other drugs that are related to your treatment and we’re going to need them. The doctor on the Navy research ship has quite a large stock because there are women as well as men at the various research stations on Antarctica but it’s a question of who pays, will you bring it up with the doctors when you see them.”
“Yes okay but it isn’t relative as far as the cost is concerned, I’ll pay for them if the NHS in Britain doesn’t cover me. I will almost certainly have to go to New Zealand before too long anyway, I need scans and things like that.”
“Yes I know but mention it just in case it gets forgotten, details like that can be overlooked. Now about this evening whilst you are dining with the Captain. I think the burgundy dress in your wardrobe is ideal and if I pierce your ears now and put sleepers in, they will stop bleeding in time for you to wear a pair of nice earrings tonight as long as you replace the sleepers as soon as you get back.”
“Will I need morphine?”
He smiled, “You won’t feel a thing, sit here, it will only take a minute.”

In chapters 13 and 14, Charlotte meets the psychiatrist from the Royal Navy Antarctic Survey ship has a long talk with Dr. Duncan about her gender preferences and discovers she is definitely intersexed and has to think about what the future holds for her. She meets the other passengers from Wanderer, including the man whose life she saved and his wife.

Vol 1 of Footprints In The Sea is on Amazon Kindle, click on the URL in the right hand column.

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