Vesta's Hearth 3 and 4

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Vesta’s Hearth 3 and 4
Volume 1
By Frances Penwiddy

Copyright©Frances Penwiddy, 2014

Vesta’s Hearth is a work of fiction. Any similarity to people living or dead is coincidental.
This novel is not considered suitable reading matter for minors.

Helen has an interview, wishes for M & S knickers and finds a sister.


He did ask the next morning. I had finished cleaning my room and just out of the shower when there was a knock on the door. I was naked, lotioned and my hair was still under the shower cap and in rollers, I called out, “Give me a minute, I’m just out of the shower.”

“Take your time, Helen but as soon as you are presentable, will you come over to my office.”

Take my time! Taking my time was to panic, I sat in front of the vanity mirrors, made my face up minimally, thank God I had been practising all week, almost ripped the shower cap from my head and brushed out my hair. It looked nice, soft curls and a fringe over my forehead ending a little above my eyebrows. I turned my head every way, kept adjusting the mirrors and once I was satisfied, I studied my reflection. I had almost perfected the look I wanted, someone who would have found a part as an extra in the Stepford Wives, ultra-feminine, with a little more help with my hair and make-up I would look presentable.

I dressed hurriedly, I didn’t even think twice about it when I put the skirt on, one of four I had been given on my visit to the store, two shorter length and two like the one I had selected, dark grey, box pleated, purely functional. Until now I had worn the wrap over and a T shirt top but that wouldn’t do for my interview with Adam so I took one of my new shirts out of the wardrobe only to discover that it wasn’t a shirt, the buttons were on the wrong side, it was a short sleeved blouse, I shrugged, even better, got the hang of the buttons and did it up. I had no time to touch up my make-up or brush my hair again, my blouse and skirt were in place and I glanced in the mirror for a final check. What I would give for a visit to M & S or better still, Agent Provocateur. I sat down, placed my hands on my lap, dropped my head and looked at my hands. The pale pink nail varnish looked good but they blurred as tears started to form. What was happening to me, ‘wishing I had some pretty lingerie to wear for Adam.’ What on earth were those hidden messages doing to my brain whilst I slept. What did he mean sexually androgynous? My hands were soft, so was my hair, but there were lots of men with soft hair, soft hands and soft skin. Barbara had confused me a little more with her comments about my mannerisms. I pressed on the front of my skirt, they were all there, male things, girls didn’t have bits like that, they had tits and labia. I didn’t, I was male not female there was nothing androgynous about it. I wiped away the tears, checked my make-up yet again, stood and straightened my skirt. Adam can start explaining to me today, now, this very minute, before anything else. I had doubts about who I was and he had to tell me, had to explain what ‘The Authorities’ or him or whoever, where doing to me. I might be a convicted criminal but I had rights and I was going in there to tell him in no uncertain manner that it was my intention to exercise those rights.

I slipped on my shoes, opened the door and strode across the corridor not even bothering to shut the door behind me. His was open; I stood on the threshold and knocked. Adam looked up from the file he was reading, stood and walked around his desk and took a chair from the wall, “Come in Helen, come in and sit down.”

I opened my mouth to say something hostile but god, ‘he was dishy,’ so I just walked in and sat.
“Your hair looks nice, it compliments your face beautifully.”

“Adam Worthington or Doctor Worthington if that is your correct title, please don’t tell me I am beautiful, that I have drop-dead-gorgeous legs, super bone structure and a lovely figure.” He had walked around the desk and remained standing, waiting for me to finish. “I am a male,” I stood, lifted my skirt with my left hand and took hold of the waist elastic of my briefs and pulled it out, “Why don’t you come and see for yourself.”

Expecting anger I was surprised when he smiled and said, “I know that, I did biology at school. I am a psychiatrist so Doctor is correct but I prefer Adam. Now sit down and tell me what’s happened, you’re upset and I want to know why. Has somebody here been making unkind remarks, insulting you?”

I shook my head and looked down at my hands, folded in my lap again and I noticed a small snag in the hem of the skirt, crossed my legs and pulled at the hem to hide it. When I looked up, Adam was watching me, “Well, what happened?”
“Everything. I was speaking with a friend yesterday evening…”

“One of the girls?”

“Yes, she told me I had lovely legs, good bone structure, pretty. She also intimated that I might be transsexual because I walked like and had many of the mannerisms of a woman and then she told me about the subliminal messages in my room at night, whilst I am asleep and said I should ask about the injections I was given during my medicals and now I don’t know who I am or even what I am and I want you to stop it, let me sort myself out.”


“I didn’t give you her name.”

“You didn’t have to, it was hoping she was going to become your friend and don’t worry about snitching on her. Somebody was going to befriend you and tell you something, I am glad it was Barbara, she is one I can trust to do things gently."

“What she told you is correct, there are subliminal messages piped into your room at night and as for the injections they were the flu jab, anti-tet, estrogen and because of your general physical condition, run down as one might expect after your recent ordeal, vitamins.”

“Estrogen is a hormone, a sex hormone.”

“You must remember, Helen that this is a fairly relaxed regime and we can’t take chances until we have fully evaluated newcomers. The estrogen is indeed a female hormone but the dose was weak, not something that would produce secondary sexual characteristics but would make you more receptive to the subliminal messages. Those are not brainwashing to make you go girly; they are there to help you understand the education you are receiving here. An education,” he shrugged, “Or adjustment to make you understand exactly what a woman is; something that will make you realise that women are people and need to be respected, not exploited sexually. They are also programmed to reduce any tendencies towards violence.”

I sighed, “I didn’t rape her.”

“Yes I know you didn’t commit the crime. Not ‘know’, ‘believe’ would be a better word. Believe it strongly enough for me to arrange to speak with the judge who officiated at your trial and get the details and if necessary re-open the investigation.”

“You could do that?”

“I’ve already arranged to speak to the judge and the police inspector in charge of the investigation. If my beliefs prove correct then the conviction will be quashed and you will be released as quickly as possible, which is very quickly, the day following the decision in fact. But, it will take time, a month, perhaps longer, in the meantime, I will instruct that the hormone shots and the subliminal regime be stopped,” he smiled, “We can always double the dose if I am proved wrong and you are guilty.”

“I’m not, I could never do a thing like that, not harm somebody.”

“Yes I believe that. Do you remember doing a written test when you came here on Monday?”

“Yes an IQ test wasn’t it, why was that necessary?”

“Well it wasn’t exactly an IQ test, it was a test to check the sexual orientation of your brain.”

“Huh, you mean rapist – non rapist?”

“No, it was to measure the male/female balance of your brain.”

“I’m lost. My brain is male, it must be, I am male.”

Adam smiled, “It’s not that simple. Every foetus when it forms in the womb is female; as it develops the physical sexual characteristics begin to form. There are theories that the brains of males and females are different, physically different and other theorists claim there are no differences. It’s my opinion that though physically the brains are similar, there are differences in the way a brain, as it becomes educated decides, under the influence of hormones whether it wants to be boy or girl, those hormones then change the sexual characteristics of the brain because males and females require different things. Some are part of the genetic coding that goes back to the early Homo sapiens, the first of the Stone Age people, some of it is more relevant to modern times but I believe along with many others that the brains do work differently. A survey was done some years ago in which the heads of London taxi drivers were measured and it was discovered that the areas at the sides of their heads were slightly larger than in other occupations. The areas that were larger are where the brain processes the information required for good navigational skills, something that London taxi drivers uniquely train for and the parts of their brains they used to find their way about became slightly larger.

“So the brain adapts and if we project this into the population as a whole I believe that as we enter life, become educated and learn the necessary skills of survival and improvement, the brain changes and shows amongst other things different ways of processing the information we need to enable us to live in our environments and complete the tasks we undertake. As I said, some of this ability we are born with, some we acquire throughout our lives.

“Men, because they once had to go out and hunt woolly mammoths needed efficient navigational skills, good spatial awareness for hunting large and very dangerous creatures. Women on the other hand needed to be able to stay near their hearths, cook, make clothes, look after children and prepare medicines so they needed brain functions that would encourage these activities and help them to multi-function.

“These days of course, men don’t have to go out and hunt for food but they do have the same primary drive to earn the money to buy food and when you think about it, there is not a great deal of difference. A man needs to bring home the food his family needs, be it cash for shopping or the hind leg of a mammoth. Women still need to do two or three jobs at the same time when in their homes and have a desire to produce babies without which the species would not survive. I have never met a man who would willingly experience a pregnancy, the male brain isn’t geared for it but a woman’s is.

“Result, men are better navigators, read maps more easily and generally know roughly where they are. Women can cook a meal, watch over a baby, read a recipe and listen to a radio programme all at the same time and do it whilst a foetus is developing in their wombs. That, Helen is what the test was looking for, to what extent does your brain contain the characteristics of the opposite sex.” He opened a folder and pulled out a sheet of paper, the results of your test show that female characteristics substantially outweigh male ones. Point to the north,”

I had to stop and think about it and then making a decision, I pointed.

“That’s west. If you were making your way from Chichester to here across country you would probably end up in New York rather than south west Sussex.”

“And this means?”

“Coupled with your ability to do more than one thing at a time with your hands and, I have noticed, you are reasonably happy using your hands for one task whilst you are speaking of something else, add the observations made by Barbara, I would say that you are more female than male, despite what your body indicates.”

“You are saying I am a female in a male body, a transsexual?”

“No. I would need a lot more evidence before making that diagnosis but I am saying you may be happier as a woman than as a man.”

“So what do I do now, spend the rest of my life wondering if I would be happier in a pair of trousers and boxers or a skirt and panties?”

“It is a question that has three basic answers. Stay male; change and become female; or simply cross dress and pretend to be either as the mood suits. I and the other people here will help you whilst you are still with us and I will stop the hormone and subliminal treatments immediately. I am ready to talk to you and arrange for medical and psychiatric assessments’ anytime if you wish.” He sat back and waited for me, not prompting, not pushing, just giving me time. I must have sat thinking for a good ten minutes and not once did he hurry me but I didn’t seem to know what I wanted. I stood up, “I need to think about it.”

“Of course, take all the time you need and come back whenever you need. I believe that ‘Society’ has wronged you with the conviction and because of that miscarriage of justice, I feel that you are owed and I shall ensure you get all the help you need.”

He reached for the telephone, “I’ll put a hold on the subliminal stuff and hormone shots immediately.”

I had reached the door and turned, “Did Barbara go through this?”

“I cannot discuss the personal details of another patient but the circumstances in your case need me to say something. You and Barbara are so alike you could be sisters.”

“I want to speak with her but I have to do my Saturday chores.”

“Forget them, you are under treatment and that means I can excuse you. Go and see Barbara, and if she is willing to talk, tell her she is excused chores as well. There are a lot of people about on Saturday mornings so if the two of you want privacy, use one of your rooms, close the door so you can talk without worrying about others listening. Tell her to look in here first.”

I nodded at the telephone; “Don’t cancel the messages and shots until I have spoken to Barbara.”

“Are you sure?”

I nodded and left the room to make my way to the kitchen but before I did, I crossed the corridor closed my own door and stood for a moment with my hand on the doorknob. Suddenly I felt better, I was in a prison, a different kind of prison granted but I could safely leave a door open and sleep without needing to lock myself in; this is a safe place all I had to do was make up my mind as to whether my new address should be Miss or Mr Confused, c/o The Café, Sussex.


“Love to chat,” said Barbara, “And not because I get out of chores.”

“But with two of us missing, won’t that make it harder on the others?”

“We’re nearly finished, they won’t mind and we can make it up by covering for them when they want a bit of time off. Your room you say?”

“That’s Adam’s suggestion and he wants you see him before we start.”

“Your hair needs a trim, it looks good but a trim would make it nicer, it’ll get rid of the split ends. Wait here a moment,” she said when we reached my room and she disappeared into the room next door, returned quickly and handed me a little case, “Here take these in whilst I see Adam, they are my hairdressing things.”

I went into the room and placed her case on the dressing table and ran my fingers through my hair. I pulled a lock away from my head and bent closer to the mirror. My hair certainly seemed fuller, more bounce but split ends, what were they? I let my hair drop and shook my head and the locks fell back into place. I looked around the room and realised I didn’t have any soft drinks, not even bottled water to offer Barbara, some hostess I was…’hostess?’ I hurried down the corridor to the kitchen. Maria was there, “Are there any soft drinks I can take to my room?”

Maria held a finger to her lips, opened the fridge, reached to the back and produced a bottle of white wine, “You not tell anybody.” She opened a cupboard and produced a pair of flutes, “Not crystal but nice for your first guest. Barbara is good girl, she will help you.” She placed the glasses in my free hand and went back to work.
I hurried back to my room and just made it inside when I heard Adam’s door open and Barbara came in. She looked around and said, “You need some pictures on the wall and a couple of vases with flowers.”

“And where do I get flowers from?”

She grinned, “This is a prison and we’re criminals, we can steal a few from the garden, they won’t notice. And if they do, we can tell them it’s girly therapy.”

“And then we can pop down to the National Gallery and ‘borrow’ a few Turners or French Impressionists?”

She nodded, “Good idea, we’ll nick a couple of Pre-Raphaelites whilst we’re at it. Have you been up to see Maria?” she asked nodding at the wine.
“Yes, she’s a sweetie, I asked for soft drinks and she magically produced this from the fridge.”

“Maria is a doll, now sit,” she pointed at the chair, took the wine out of my hand and went into the bathroom and I heard her filling the vanity basin with cold water to keep the wine chilled.

She returned and stood behind me looking at my reflection in the mirror and playing with my hair, sweeping it over to the left, then the right, piling it on top, sweeping the fringe both ways, breaking it up into short bangs and then she went around it with a comb, studying the ends and tut-tutting.

“How bad is it?”

“It would look superb on a bag lady.”

“That bad?”

“Nope, I’m kidding, you have lovely hair. Where did you get the know-how for the styling?”

“It isn’t styled, I just used the curlers.”

“Yes, I know but where did the style, the way you’ve curled it come from.”

“Me. I read the instructions in the manual to find out how to use the curlers, which way to wind them, how tight, that sort of thing, then I washed it, used a conditioner and curled.”


“Monday evening.”

“And you slept with the curlers in?”

“Yes, that’s what it said in the instructions. I didn’t have a hairnet though and in the morning two or three had come loose but when I brushed my hair out, it didn’t show so I suppose they were in long enough.”

“You curl every night?” as she spoke she opened a flap in her case rummaged around and put three hairnets on the dressing table.
“I only put one or two in at night, just where it seems to need it.”

“Just one or two? And your hair has kept the curl all this time!”

“No, I washed it again on Thursday and repeated the process.”

“Jesus, I wish I had your hair. I have to do mine every night just to keep a soft wave in it, when I get out of here, my first job is a perm.”

“Is it a good style for my face?”

“A bit retro, fifties or early sixties but it suits you. Yes, keep it that way for now its easy maintenance but you’ll need a hairspray for when you go out or it will drive you mad blowing about, you’ll finish up looking like Medusa,”

“I’m not likely to be going out except in the garden and then all I’ll need is a hairnet.”

“Wrong kiddo, I used my charm on Adam, we are having a girly shopping day on Tuesday. All day if we want it.”

“Shopping? Outside? In a mall?”

“Yes. All we need to do is sort out where. We don’t even have to pay for a cab, I’ll get my boyfriend Paul to run us around.”

I shook my head, “I can’t, Barbara,” I spread my arms, “I’m not walking around a high street or shopping mall in these, I’d look ridiculous and so for that matter would you. Gorgeous as you are, the white blouses and pleated skirts would make us look like a pair of truants from an adult education college.”

She giggled, “Might get us some action looking like that.”

“You said shopping.”

“Stand up,” I did and then, “Turn around slowly, “I have a size twelve blouse and skirt, not sexy but pretty enough and smart, They would fit you and we can get a bra and boob forms from the stores to give you a bust, 36B I reckon. All you need is a jacket and I think Diane has one we could borrow.”

“I thought only uniforms were permitted in here?”

“They are but when we’ve done a bit of time, they let us buy better clothes and we are allowed out, with an escort of course. The guard is in case we fall in love and run off with a window cleaner or something like that.”

“Or each other.” I added.

“Not me, I’ve got Paul and if I ran off with one of the girls in here, that would make me lesbian.”

“I said that yesterday but you said going with a man wasn’t gay.”

“It isn’t, its hetero but we are all girls, well Melissa isn’t, but for the rest of us, if we had a relationship with another girl in here, that would be lesbian, RIGHT!” She glared at me so I sat down, I was already excited about the shopping trip, dresses, separates, accessories, lingerie, if that wasn’t girly, then what was. I had a feeling that Tuesday was going to be my day of decisions “RIGHT!” she repeated.

I nodded, “Right.” And another snag popped into my head, “What about money, I haven’t been here long enough to build up any credit.”

“Don’t you have any outside money, credit cards, debit cards, anything?”

“Yes, I’m reasonable well-off and when I handed everything over to them, there was a little over three hundred in cash, two credit cards with loads of credit and my debit card. I’m not sure about my debit card though, there have been standing orders and direct debits going out of the account and I haven’t been able to check it or make any transfers.”

“Have you set up on-line banking?”

“Yes, of course.”

“No problem then, if you need to, we can go to a library and ask to use the public computers and you can sort your accounts out. Anyway, from what Adam has said, you’ll be out of here soon and there’s no point in spending fortunes on fashion if you’re going back to your old ways.”

There was a question in the statement. “Yes,” I agreed “But I think Tuesday will be the day I decide.”

“Helen, kiddo, your birthday is August 27th, you will be twenty-nine. Mine was last April and then I was twenty-nine, that makes me your big sister and let me tell you, as your big sister, you have already made the decision but you don’t know it yet.”

“And what is it?”

“I can’t say, it’s the paradox effect, if I tell you, you might change what is preordained just to be awkward and if you did that, the paradox effect would destroy the universe.”

I laughed, “Okay, Big Sis but there’s still a snag. The Prison Authorities here have all my personal stuff including my cash and cards, how do I get it back, I’m not free yet?”

“Leave it to Adam, he’ll fix it up by having a word with the Governor.” She took my hand and looked at the nails, “They’re neat enough but let them grow out and we can get Maeve to give you a real manicure soon.”


“Our Celtic girl, her father was a Highlander and if you saw the magic she performs on nails you would believe she had pixie blood. She’s getting out soon and is going to be a beautician. She’s been attending courses at a day college once a week.”

“They do seem to be a bit laid back here, letting people out as they do.”

“There selection is very careful and they don’t often make mistakes like Melissa. Once you’ve been here a couple of years, they do try to arrange things so that you have something to go out to. Even the girls who want to switch back are helped.”

“Are there many of them, switch-backs I mean?”

Barbara frowned and thought for a minute, “I’ve never thought about that before but now you’ve mentioned it, I can recall only two.” She stood and went to her case, “Back to work, I want you to lean back, close your eyes and get ready for a few minutes of agony, I’m doing your brows. How would you like them; just thinned a bit or a high arch that would give you a permanent surprised look…?”

“Don’t you dare.”

“Okay, how?”

“Grace Kelly.”

“Wow, you are retro. Got a picture?”

“There’s one. I’ve book marked the page in the magazine in the bedside table drawer.”

Barbara crossed the room opened the drawer and took out the magazine and looked at the picture and slowly walked back, turned me to face her, she placed the picture alongside my face and nodded, “She is a beauty and you have the same shaped face, It’ll work. Let’s do it and don’t scream when I pluck the brows out, I might jump and pluck out an eye.”

I didn’t lose a single eye and when Barbara had finished and made one or two make-up enhancements, she stepped back studied my face for a moment and nodded, “You’re going to turn heads, Helen, take a look.”

I looked into the mirror and opened my eyes in surprise, Barbara was right, I was going to turn heads, the face that looked back at me could only be described as beautiful and would remain so even when I had cleansed the makeup off. “I don’t know what to say, you’re a genius.”

“Dead right I am but like most great artists I need a good canvas to work on and you are just that. The dinner bell is going shortly, let’s go and see what the others think.”

“No, let’s show it to Adam first.”


I looked at her ready to make a retort but she was right, I wanted to hear Adam’s approval, “Really.”

We opened the door and crossed to his and Barbara knocked and we heard Adam call ‘Come-in’ but Barbara held me back, shook her head and knocked again. There was movement in the room, we heard his footsteps and then the door opened, he looked at Barbara first with a frown on his face and then switched to me and the frown vanished, “Helen?”

Barbara chuckled, “Real cracker isn’t she and after only a few days of your subliminal propaganda.”

“It’s not propaganda and a cracker is something that is pulled apart at Christmas.”

“Just you wait until Tuesday evening when she’s dressed up.”

“Ah yes, the shopping expedition,” he stood back, “Come on in, I have something for you.”

We walked into the room and his hand rested on my shoulder for a moment, “Barbara isn’t pressurising you is she?”

“Yes,” I answered, “But I love it.”

He smiled and said; “You do look beautiful.” And I nearly swooned but didn’t, I just thought of the shopping trip and kept on my feet with just a fleeting touch of giddiness.

“Don’t be in a rush to make any decisions, Helen, take your time.”

I nodded, “Will Tuesday evening be okay?”

He glanced at Barbara, “Do I detect a conspiracy?”

She shrugged, “Helen will do what Helen wants and if you want to organise a five-a-side footy match in the garden to put the other side’s case, we’ll go along with it.”

“That won’t be necessary. Now the shopping trip; I have had a word with the panel, given them the facts and told them of my misgivings and they have expressed their support and have sent these to you,” he picked up a bulky brown envelope and gave it to me, “Open it, check it and sign the receipt inside.”

I opened it; it was my credit cards, wallet and keys to my apartment. “I can have them back before I am released?”

“In view of the circumstances yes but I would advise you leave them with me and I’ll keep them in the safe until you require them, but it’s up to you.”
I offered the envelope back, “Keep them until Tuesday if you would.”

“Aren’t you going to check them?”

“I fanned out the cards and said, it’s all there.”

“The money shouldn’t you count it?”

I fanned out the bank notes, rattled the small amount of change still in the envelope and smiled at him; “It’s all there as well.”

He shrugged took the envelope and placed it back on the desk, the dinner gong went and I cursed, I wanted to stay in his office a little longer.
“Better get along and show yourself off to the others, I understand a little about the vanity of women.”

We turned to the door and Barbara said over her shoulder, “We only do it for the men.” And we hurried down to the kitchen, Barbara said in a quiet voice, “He was impressed.”

“Are you sure it was totally genuine and not sympathy for my predicament?”

“Predicament? You’re having the time of your life. It was genuine, you made a hit.”


“Just wait until the others see you.”

We walked in and for a moment or two, nobody took much notice, people were coming in and going out at all times during the weekend so two people coming in was nothing of note, that is until Diane looked and stared. “Helen, is that you?”

Maeve who was carrying a tureen to the table glanced over, opened her eyes wide, hurriedly put the tureen on the table and stepped forward a few paces, “You’ve been out for a make-over!”

“Nope,” answered Barbara, “Just a few touch-ups I did for her.”

Maeve glared at her, “That’s my job.”

“That’s right and Helen wants you to do a full job for her on Tuesday morning.”

She looked at me, “You do?”

“Yes, I do, the full works.”

They both came over and walked around me staring, “Blimey,” said Maeve, “You are something else. You come in on Monday, do nothing, say nothing and then you spring this on us. I’ve a good mind to slip my hand up your skirt and check to see if you aren’t a genetic girl.”

“She isn’t.” answered Barbara, “I can vouch for that.”

“Oh can you. You two been at it?”

“Diane, please, you know I’m in love with Paul and we’re setting up together when I get out of here and Helen isn’t gay.”

“I can believe that,” said April from where she was sitting, “Anybody looking like that could take her pick of the men.”

I shook my head in disbelief, if I had a man in bed with me for the night I was straight, if I had another T or genetic girl that was lesbian. What happens if I switch back when I get out? Would I be straight or gay whatever I did, perhaps both. Don’t go down that street, I told myself and to stop them, I said, “I’m hungry.” So we sat and had our dinner, of Melissa, there was no sign thank goodness; I don’t think I could have handled any snide remarks. Dinner took twice its normal time because everybody was asking questions and then everybody stopped eating to listen to my reply, I don’t think I’ve ever had so much attention and I was enjoying myself until somebody, Maeve or April I think asked’ “Have you got a boyfriend?”

“No,” I said, “Yes,” said Barbara. “No,” I insisted glaring at her.”

“Sorry girls, I’ve let a secret out of the bag, even Helen doesn’t know she’s falling in love yet.”

“Barbara, please.”

We had finished eating by now and I stood up, “As Barbara and I got out of chores this morning, we will clear up and do the dishes.” I started clearing the table before Barbara had a chance to object and the others started to leave and go into the common room but Maeve and Diane came and gave me a hug, April a kiss on the cheek and I started to feel the tears coming and when they had left, I sat down and started to cry.

Barbara sat beside me, placed her arm around my shoulders and hugged me close and I rested my head on her shoulder and cried for quite a while and when the tears eventually stopped, I sat up straight, grabbed a paper napkin, wiped my eyes and blew my nose.

“Nice girls aren’t they,” Barbara said as she stood and began clearing the table.

I smiled, “I have a family in here now and I hated this place on Monday.”

She carried a pile of dishes over to the washer and returned for more, “You’ve made my blouse wet but I will suffer it, that’s what big sisters are for, to be put upon.”

I stood up and started to help, “Sorry but I was an orphan at twenty one, no brothers and sisters and had to make it on my own. I didn’t even have a regular girlfriend, no real friends, just lots of acquaintances and all this has shown me what I have missed all these years.”

“You like it here then?”

I nodded and started to load the dishwasher.

“When the cycle finishes, put the pots and pans in this drying rack and the plates and cutlery in the cupboard, I’ll be back in a tick, I’ll have to change my blouse.”

“Leave that one in my room, I’ll wash it out for you.”

“No need I am going to squeeze the tears out and keep them in a little perfume bottle and when I am old and married, I shall get it out and remember you.”

“We won’t still be friends then?”

“You’ll be out of here soon and then I will and I suppose we will go our separate ways. I want to remember you, Helen.”

“I feel the same, I don’t want to leave and never see you again.”

“You could always get a flat in Chichester or Brighton, Paul and I are setting up around here. We would be close then and could meet once a week.”
“I have an apartment in Chichester but I don’t want to go back there, it isn’t my home anymore, not after what has happened, I want to change things I felt my face light up, “I could get the other girls to share when they get out. Rent a house that would be nice.”

“You still have a decision to make, so wait until Tuesday before you make plans. See you in the common room in a minute,” and she left. I waited for the cycle to finish and passed the time sitting at the table and thinking. Had I reached the decision and was I attracted to Adam? I couldn’t make up my mind for certain and there was the crying, I seemed to have become emotional and hormone treatment can do that I was told but I was supposed to be on a low dose, could it be the reason and if it was the reason I was crying and being emotional then can I trust any of my emotions? I needed to talk to Barbara again but not tonight, I had had enough for one day, too much to take in, Sunday would do, the weather forecast was good and it might be a time to sit in the garden and try not to do anything that would set me off on another roller coaster of emotional responses. I wouldn’t even read Ovid. I would Shower, dress, clean my room, help with whatever needed to be helped with and then sit, enjoy the garden and if the opportunity arose, talk to Barbara about emotional responses and hormones. I must avoid Adam as well, if I was attracted to him then it could cause problems, perhaps he might find himself in trouble because I suppose that technically at least, I was his patient and Barbara who did seem rather intuitive, had hinted that he was responding to me.

In the next chapters, Cooking and learning about Two Spirit New Girls and the promised outing to a world of lace, silk and a lecture on beginning a trousseau.

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Vesta’s Hearth volumes 1 to 4 is available through Top Shelf in the Big Closet or the Amazon Kindle link in the right hand column of the Home Page.
Footprints in the Sea is also available via the same links.
And my entry in the Christmas Gifts short story competition, ‘The Immortal Gift’ is a World Exclusive and only available here in The Big Closet and is completely free of charge!!!

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