Vesta’s Hearth Chapters 17 and 18
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.
Helen learns to hate telephones, yearns for a kiss and takes her brand new 50 year vintage Ford Zephyr Zodiac for a spin.
I cleaned the offices, Adam’s first and then I threw Boris out of his whilst I did that and finished with Allen. May found me when she came in for the evening’s rehearsal and brought a load of paper and art materials with her. “Two of the guards are bringing in a draughting table and I’ve asked them to put it in the common room, that way you won’t be disturbed by the rehearsals whilst you are working, will that suit you.”
“Yes that’s fine,” we went to the common room just as the two guards were leaving. They, smiled, we’ve put it near the windows where the light is good, Miss Finch,” they nodded at May and walked past.
“What was the Miss Finch bit about?”
“Haven’t you heard about the photo of me?”
“I heard there was a picture taken and it’s found its way into the main prison.”
“Haven’t they just. Apparently I’ve become the pin up of the cellblock.”
May laughed, “Well you do look good and it must have given your self-esteem a boost.”
“Not at first, I was embarrassed but I’ve really gone and done it now.” I handed over the packets I was carrying, “Here take these in and I’ll get my laptop, there’s something I need to show you and a few ideas to discuss.”
When May saw the pictures she was impressed and liked my ideas on the posters and programme but when I showed her the cleavage and stocking top pics, she had to sit down she laughed so much. “Helen they are terrific, when you fight back, you really do use your weapons. When that lot over there get their hands on these, they won’t be calling you Miss Finch, they’ll be throwing themselves at your feet and calling you Highness.”
“I think I might go the whole hog and become the jail tease.”
“Why not, the publicity for the concert is great as well. I’ll speak to Boris about getting everybody to Chichester for the pics, when do you want it done.”
“Paul is picking up a car for me on Monday so I’ll need to be here. Tuesday I am in London for a hospital appointment but I do need the pictures as soon as possible, how about Wednesday?”
“I’ll get him to agree, I’d like to come as well.”
“Yes, you must, your input for the pictures is important and I’ll need Maria, I want a portrait of her for the programme.”
And then we went to work, May went into the rehearsal room leaving me to sort out the draughting table and materials and shortly I heard Diana on the piano, it must have been Maeve on the cello and May’s violin and then April once again singing Softly Awakes My Heart. And I started my initial roughs for the poster.
I was about half way through the programme sheets and had been concentrating so hard that the others in the rehearsal room had faded from my consciousness when April started to sing again this time with only the harp and piano as accompaniment and gently, her beautiful contralto voice started and she’d managed to lift it to mezzo. I had to stop working as she sang The White Cliffs of Dover. Had Vera Lynn been here she would have been proud of April, I certainly was, her singing was so poignant I had to brush away tears and as she finished, the ever perfectionist May tapped the piano and they started again.
Eventually the rehearsal room quietened and I had finished my roughs, it was time to get ready for dinner. I heard Maeve and Diane cross the corridor to the kitchen to help Maria, and then May’s voice, an occasional note on the piano and April singing scales. I left my roughs for May to look at if she wished and went down to my room. I was about to go in when Adam’s door opened, I turned to say hullo and froze. “I wanted to thank you for letting me have this picture,” Adam held up a copy of my portrait, “And for the flowers left on my desk, they brighten the room.”
I hurried across to him and held out my hand, “I’m sorry, Adam, I didn’t put the portrait in your room nor the flowers.” I could see them on the desk an enormous bunch of beautifully arranged chrysanthemums, they had obviously come from the garden.
“Oh, well who did?”
I shrugged, “I don’t know I have been in the common room getting posters for the concert ready, I suspect it may have been Barbara.”
He looked at the picture, “Oh that’s a pity, I liked it so much.”
“Yes, it really shows you off, your hair, the beauty of your face and your eyes, giving away your inner self. I would have liked to keep it on my desk to remind me of the success you have made of yourself and the contribution I may have made.”
“You didn’t ‘may have made’, you did make, please keep the picture and thank you for the compliment.”
“I’ll put it back on my desk, thank you.”
I followed him into the room and after he had replaced the portrait he turned and I suddenly remembered the advice I had received some while ago, was it Amy, Ronnie, one of the girls; and I took an extra step and stood close, tilted my head and looked up at his face. He did nothing at first but I noticed his pupils had dilated, his eyes seemed enormous, beautiful and I waited and said a prayer to Vesta. I saw him begin the raise his arms, he was going to embrace me, at last he was going to kiss me and I half closed my eyes and waited for the touch of his lips on mine and then the Devil came into the room and the telephone rang.
He muttered a curse and turned away, he had to answer it. I sighed and left his office quietly and went to my room. I sat on the bed, wrapped my arms around myself and wanted to cry, shout my outrage, no scream it, he was going to kiss me, he was definitely going to kiss me and at that moment I started to hate telephones, really hate them, hate them almost as much as I hated whoever had been on the other end of that telephone line.
At dinner I had little to say, Adam joined us and through the meal, when I glanced in his direction he was looking at me and was that just a touch of sadness in his smile?
The others were chatting away in the normal manner but I said little and both Maria and Barbara kept glancing at me. When we had finished, Adam stood up, “I’m duty mentor tonight and the phone call I received,” he looked at me when he said it, “Was from the main prison, I’m needed over there for an hour or two.” He was talking to me but including the others, “I’ll be back as quickly as possible and if there’s a problem, tell our guards and they will get hold of me.” He hesitated, gave me a last look and then nodded and left the kitchen with my eyes following until the door closed behind him. I turned back to the table and Maria got up and came round to my chair and placed a hand on my shoulder and squeezed, she knew something had happened but not what. “Barbara,” just the name and then to the others, “I have to go soon so all help with the clearing up.”
Barbara came to me and took my hand, “Let’s go into the rehearsal room,” and I allowed her to lead me, my mind on Adam.
Once inside with the door closed Barbara asked, “What happened, Helen, something went wrong, what?”
“It did, he found the portrait you left on his desk and I was going to take it back.”
I shook my head and told her what happened and at the end I said, “He was going to kiss me, Barbara, I know he was going to kiss me before that lousy telephone rang,” and then I started to cry.
She didn’t hug me or try to sooth away the tears she just went to the piano, pulled out the stool, sat and opened the lid. “Sing, Helen.”
I shook my head.
“Sing,” and she started the intro to The First Time Ever I saw Your Face, and I started to sing, and thought of the kiss that never happened. I never noticed the door open, nor the girls in the doorway nor them leaving when I finished. And tears poured out of my eyes throughout the song.
Barbara got up from the piano and left the room and three or four minutes later Maria came in, put two chairs together and made me sit and then she put her arm around me and hugged me close, “Two Spirit is sad.”
“Both Spirits, mummy.” I turned my face to hers and she wiped the tears from my eyes with gentle fingers, “I love him so much.”
“I know and I heard what happened.”
“I wanted that kiss so badly.”
“The kiss will come, my little daughter, the kiss will come because Maria is wise in the ways of men and Adam is in love with you. He did not refuse to kiss you, he had to answer phone, he is doctor and must always respond to a cry for help.”
I threw my arms around her, “I know but I want him to hold me, I want his kisses, I want to have his love.”
“It will happen, soon. It will happen, even doctor cannot disobey his heart forever. Your special Manitou the one you pray to, Vesta, she will hear your cry for help and Adam will sit at the hearth you keep warm for him.”
I nodded and got up from the chair, “I’m better now, Mummy, shall we go back to the others.”
When I walked into the common room it fell silent and they all looked at me, Maria must have made a sign because they resumed talking, only May kept her eyes on me, “We are discussing the programme, you okay with that, we’ll understand if you want to leave and go to your room.”
“No, I’m okay and we do need to get things sorted out.”
So we spent an hour going through our songs and instrumentals until we had completed our programme and May put her coat on, took up her bag and said, “Right, I have a husband waiting for me, I have to go home. Helen, will you walk me to the door.”
We walked in silence until we reached the reception door and as the guard approached to open it, May shook her head and turned to me. “The concert is taking a lot out of you, bearing in mind what you are going through, do you think you should pull out?”
I stared at her aghast, “No! Am I not rehearsing properly, May? I’ll pick myself up, don’t drop me, I am living for it.”
She took both my hands and held them, “I wouldn’t drop you for anything, Helen, I just needed to make sure you want to continue.”
“I do, I must, we’ve put something good together and it wouldn’t work if somebody else came in at such short notice. Keep it the way it is, May.”
She looked at me and smiled, “Helen it wouldn’t work as well with somebody else no matter how much notice they had. You are the heart and soul of the group, their inspiration.” She looked down at my hands, “If you sing with the passion you have sung on the last two occasions, you will do what every performer tries to accomplish,” she raised my hands and slowly closed my fists, “You will have the audience held in your hands, spellbound.” She released my hands and nodded to the guard and walked out and I watched her until she got into her car and drove off. Did she mean it? Yes she did, I know I had held them spellbound a few nights ago and I could do it again and better, my singing was borne on the wings of love.
I went into my room and switched the laptop on and began the laborious job of updating the programmes I would need for my graphics work and when I finished, I got undressed and went to bed. I never heard Adam return.
On Sunday we had gathered in the rehearsal room, I asked Barbara if Adam was coming in, “Not today or Monday, he has his other practice to attend to, Allen is here tonight and Boris on Monday. Sorry kid but if it helps he did ask where you were when he got back and again when he left.”
“Oh I wish you had woken me up.”
Barbara shook her head, “I was tempted to but when I looked into your room, you were out to the world and I thought you had had enough for one day.”
I nodded, “Thanks anyway.”
Allen came in with a woman. This is Pauline Harris, she is the wardrobe mistress of the Music Society and has come to measure you.”
“Aren’t we wearing our own clothes?” asked Barbara.
“Yes, but there are one or two pieces where I think having you dressed in the same style and colour would look better,” replied May, “And the Music Society has offered to lend us the clothes if we can fit everybody with the same look.”
And so we were measured and then Pauline and May went off to the common room to discuss the style. We weren’t going to be told until the fitting so we put records on and danced, Allen had a field day dancing with all of us but he was a tadge worn out at the end and not a little relieved when May and Pauline returned. “Right, we have a photo shoot on Wednesday and Pauline will bring the dresses, we can check the fit and use them in some of the shots.”
“Photo shoot?” asked Maeve.
“Didn’t you tell them, Helen?”
“Sorry I was a bit preoccupied yesterday evening and forgot.”
May nodded, “Okay well its Wednesday, any of you have difficulties with that? You get a free hairdo and a makeover but if it isn’t convenient, say so” There was no dissent and even a cheer when May said “I’m off, my husband will start getting uppity if he doesn’t get his Sunday dinner and he’s an assistant head master so I risk the cane.”
“Ooh,” said April, “Can we watch.”
“No you can stay here and help Maria when she comes in shortly, we’ve been deserting her.”
I hoped that Maria would forgive me but I had to get on with the posters and left the others to do the kitchen and prepare the vegetables for dinner.
It wasn’t long before Maria came in and I heard her talking to the others and shortly after she quietly entered the common room. “How is my daughter?”
“I’m okay, Mum.”
“So yesterday you little daughter and call me mummy, today you grow up and call me mum.”
I dropped my pencil and turned to her and gave her a big hug, “Thank you for helping me yesterday.”
“Is better, I stay here for while and watch you work.”
I finished the job I was on and put it in my art folder and placed a clean sheet of cartridge on the board in the portrait position and with quick glances at Maria, I began doing a pencil sketch of her. I worked quickly less she became curious at my constant glances and when she did notice, she got up, “What are you working on now, can I see.”
I stepped back, I was delighted with the work, it showed Maria off beautifully and when I had time I was going to finish it and have if framed.
She stepped up to the drawing table and looked, took a step closer and studied it for a long while then she turned to me, “Is me!”
“I haven’t even got a photo of my mother, so I thought I would do that until I have one.”
She looked at the picture again, “You make me look beautiful.”
“You are beautiful. The most beautiful person in my life.”
She hurried away from the board and sat in her chair with her head turned away from me, there wasn’t a sound but I knew she was crying and I was glad that I was the one who had made her cry. After a while, she got up and went to her handbag and took out a handkerchief and dabbed at her eyes, “You make me cry with happiness.”
“Good, you deserve to cry with happiness every day.”
April broke the moment when she slid the hatch open, “About forty five minutes, here’s a glass of wine.”
Maria picked up the glasses, “You want me to come in and help?”
“No, no we’re doing all right, you stay there.” And hurriedly closed the hatch.
Maria smiled, “She is good girl, she orders others around like a chef and they do as she says.”
I had planned a leisurely breakfast before Paul arrived to pick up the Zodiac but a call at eight started a panic. He had to let the driver he was taking with him go out on a job so he would need me to drive his car back whilst he brought the Zodiac. It had to be done that way because he could put me on his insurance by declaring me as a part time limousine driver but that would only cover me for his cars, he would have to drive mine on his insurance.
As soon as I told Barbara she shot into Boris’s office and came out with a beam on her face, “I’ve wangled a morning off and can come with you and return with Paul.”
“This is just a scam to get a ride in the Zodiac, isn’t it?”
She nodded unashamedly, “I’ll be the first of the girls to get a ride.”
“Not exactly dressed for an open top Ford Zodiac are you,” I nodded at her T-shirt top and skirt and pointed at my yellow dress, lifting the skirt a little to show the petticoat. I think I’ll have to buy more dresses and petticoats; I was going to wear this yellow dress out.
That wiped the smile of her face, “Please, Helen, please.”
I gave her a moment’s tension then smiled, “Skirt and petticoat are in the wardrobe and there’s a scrunchy in the dressing table drawer for the ponytail.”
A few minutes later she shot out of my room still wearing her T shirt but with my black full skirt and red petticoat with a ponytail flicking back and forth, she disappeared into her own room. There was the sound of panicked drawer opening and shutting, then a wardrobe door opened and a minute later, Barbara came out buckling a wide black patent belt over a deep red tunic blouse.
“Why not the poodle skirt?” I enquired.
“I don’t have a white patent belt, but I like this better and my shoes go with it.”
They did, black patent three inch heels, “Makes you look a bit dom.”
“So it should I am your BIG sister.”
“Okay big sis, what about a neck scarf and handbag.”
“Oh God,” and she shot back into her room again. It reminded me my look wasn’t complete either, so I went into my room and found my white lace gloves and small white clutch bag.
“You look like something off a 50’s album cover,” said Maeve from the other end of the corridor.
“That’s good, we’re off to the diner and then the hop,” I called back and then the sound of Paul’s horn sounded and we went through the door to the Ford Zodiac’s land of Dreamboats and Petticoats.
Once we were settled on the road to Chichester, Paul passed a packet back to me, “Seeing as you two are dressed for the part and it’s an Indian summer’s day, you’d better take a look at these.”
I took the packet and Barbara looked over from the seat beside Paul. I opened it, pulled out the contents and shrieked, “How did you do it?”
“Wasn’t me on my own, the Prison Governor, Boris and Amy helped to supply the necessary proof. All I did was have a talk with my insurance broker and the Governor had a word with a buddy at the Department of Transport and presto, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”
“What is it,” asked Barbara.
I held up the documents, “Driving licence in the name of Helen Vesta Finch, insurance policy and certificate for a Ford Zodiac with my name on them.” I looked closer at the policy, “I’ve even kept my no claims bonus.”
“Does that mean we can both go back in the Zodiac?”
“Yup,” answered Paul “But I’ll be right behind you so no screeching tyres, ex Porsche driver or not.”
“How did you get the no claims transferred?”
“Letter from Boris and another from Amy confirming that you were the original insured person and that you are undergoing gender correction and that you had been diagnosed as intersexed. They couldn’t refuse and even promised a better price on your next quote due to a lowering of the vehicles insurance class,” he saw the look of puzzlement on my face in the driving mirror, “You are driving a Zodiac now which has a much smaller engine and a top speed of under ninety and it’s counted as a family car as opposed to a vroom-vroom sportster. Disc brakes on the front, drums on the back and she’s in superb condition, really was a cherished car.”
Barbara sighed, “Two unique birds in a unique car, I can’t wait. Are we going on a rave, Helen?”
“With me right behind you,” warned Paul. “There’s another thing; I guessed you’d want the car to look right so I’ve ordered a set of tyres for it, I’ll have them next week.”
“I can’t remember anything wrong with the tyres, I had a quick look before I took it on the test drive.”
“There is nothing wrong with the current set. The new ones are white-walls, bags of swank and stylish with it.”
“That’s us,” I said and sunk back in the seat and grinned at Barbara, “I can lose him on the bends.”
We stopped at a filling station on the way back and filled up and before setting off again I went back to Paul who looked totally out of place in the Mondeo. “Would you like to drive the Zodiac, I can take her out for a spin anytime.”
He jumped out of the car, “You sure?”
“Certain, here,” I handed over the keys. “Would it be a nuisance if we went to the hospital on the way, I need to repay a loan from Amy?”
“No, we’ll change cars about a mile or so before we get there and you can go to the hospital in the Zodiac, the guards know you now and will let you in, any probs, get them to phone Amy or Ronnie.”
We changed cars in a lay-by and Paul drove off leaving us alone to complete the mile to the prison. I stopped at the main gate and a guard came out looking at a clipboard, “Sorry, you’re not on the list…Oh. It’s you Miss Finch, just a minute; I’ll get the gate opened.” We stopped again outside the gatehouse whilst he filled out a temporary permit. “This your motor?”
“Just bought it,”
“Nice, really nice. Stop on the way out and I’ll get the Governor to authorise an entry permit.”
At the hospital reception they phoned Amy’s office and told me she would be down in five minutes so I went outside and waited in the car. When Amy came down, she hesitated in the reception area until the guard pointed to us. She walked out with her mouth open, “My goodness, Ronnie told me about this car, it’s beautiful. I want to go for a spin, I have a free half hour.”
I took her for a short ride and she loved every minute and when we got back, I repaid her the loan and said, “Shall we go to London tomorrow in this?”
“Aw, Helen, I’d love to but we’ll never find a parking space at the hospital.”
When we stopped again at the gatehouse the guard took the temporary permit off me and handed over a disc, “Stick this on the windscreen and we’ll let you in.”
“Er, you wouldn’t sign these would you and he held out copies of the glamour shots. Course I will, which is your favourite?”
“This one,” and he held up the stocking top shot, “Terrific legs.” He looked at Barbara, “You in the show as well?”
“Got any pics?”
Barbara looked startled, “No actually, I haven’t.”
“We’ll have some after Thursday,” I told him.
“Give us a couple will yer, to hang up in the gatehouse.”
Barbara gave me a long look as we left, “What was that all about, pictures of me?”
“I’m not the only glamour pants, you’re a showgirl now, gotta get used to the stage door Johnnies.”
She shook her head in disbelief, “This is unreal.”
“Not the way you’re dressed, unreal is too modern, try ‘Way Out, Man’
“I’ll remember. Has May mentioned any further performances to you?”
“No, is she planning something?”
“Not sure, she spoke to me about it at the weekend. I think the Governor said something about only a limited number of the inmates could get in to the show, and if it was a success, he would like to repeat it.”
“Terrific, we’ll need a booking agent next. What happens if we get a contract for a nationwide tour of Her Majesty’s prisons?”
Barbara turned and looked at me, a serious expression on her face, “It was only an idea the Governor had and May wanted to see how everybody felt about a second, possibly a third performance. What worries me though is it only needs one person with a video camera or a mobile phone and we would finish up on You Tube.”
“Ah, now that would be difficult. Have you mentioned it to the others?”
“Yes, April said she wanted to be a chef or own a restaurant, Diana said trooping around the country on tour wasn’t her cup of tea and Maeve didn’t say much but gave me the impression she wouldn’t be wild about it.”
“No, I want to marry Paul and work in his office. You?”
“The same as you. I want to marry, build a home, look after a man and be home most nights and cuddled, not stuck in a hotel signing autographs and I want to be able to go out and not be followed by a bunch of snoopy reporters digging into my private life. I have a well-paid career waiting for me in the marketing and PR business and have been offered my old job back, full time, I’m not super star material.”
“That’s the bloody trouble, you are.”
“Don’t be daft. I’m not even the best singer, April is way out in front of me.”
“No she’s not and she’d be the first to admit it. She said she can sing as well as you and her voice is possibly better but you sing with a passion she couldn’t match and anyway, she wants to bake cakes and pies and run her own restaurant. Whereas you have looks, a voice and a beautiful personality and it comes out when you’re singing you’d be a hit.”
“No, Barbara, you forgot the most important ingredient. Looks and talent are secondary to one thing, you must want to do it and I don’t.”
She turned away from me and looked out of the windscreen and after a while said, “I’m glad, it means I get to keep you as a friend. You wouldn’t mind putting the odd show on for charity, hospitals, prisons…”
“Entertaining the troops?”
“Oh boy, all those hunks in uniform. Would you like to do that?”
“Yes, I’ve enjoyed the past few weeks of rehearsals and would like to do it again but only once every few weeks or so, perhaps once every three months which would give us plenty of time to prepare and still leave us time for our own lives, yes, I would enjoy that.”
“Good, then Maria’s Café New Girls marches on.”
“Maria’s Café New Girls where did that come from.”
Barbara looked at me tentatively, “Just an idea for our name.”
“She’ll be over the moon.”
The tentative look was replaced with a grin, “Over the moon, is that Fifties? I thought it was Cool with a C. The Fonze uses it.”
Cool with a C was the order of the day when we arrived at the Café. There were three highly expectant girls waiting for us, two with ponytails and one, Maeve whose hair was too short, with a page-boy and dressed in a straight black skirt, white blouse and bolero jacket looking for all the world as if she was on her way to Breakfast At Tiffany’s.
“Boris said we can have two hours and we had sandwiches instead of lunch so we don’t have to rush back,” said an excited April.
“Cool,” said Diane and both Barbara and I started giggling.
“They don’t make them like that anymore,” commented Maeve, “Zodiacs had style even in their day and today well,” she shrugged, “Nobody is going to ignore this when it drives past.”
“Especially with us lot in it,” added Diane. “Where are we going?”
“Well you lot might have had lunch but we haven’t,” answered Barbara, “So it’s a pub lunch and then we go for a spin and I’m not giving up the front seat cos I’m the only one apart from Helen that’s in costume.”
Off we went in the gleaming two-tone Ford Zodiac Mk II and I had to smile when I saw a Ford K4 with two burly men sitting in front dressed in suits and ties pull out a discreet distance behind us. We drove for half an hour and found a village pub doing food. We pulled into the front car park and climbed out receiving a few glances, a whistle and a couple of smiles from village mums and in we went to halves of lager and ploughman’s for two.
We did turn a few heads. At first it was the usual glance that a new arrival receives when they enter a pub but the looks in some cases followed us to a table and kept returning as we ate or drank. The two characters from the K4 had followed us in and were nursing iced cokes and Maeve frowned after a while, “I’m sure I know those two.”
“You should, they’re our warders.”
Diane glared at them and turned to me, “Did you know they were following us?”
“I suppose they’re watching in case we pull a job,” said April.
“Nope, they’re acting as bodyguards, Boris trusts us and wouldn’t have us tailed.” I got up, “I’m going to ask them over, anybody object?”
There were unanimous shakes of the head so I walked over, conscious of the eyes following me, “Come on over and sit with us, George.”
“You won’t mind? Boris asked us to make sure nobody troubled you, we didn’t want to intrude.”
“You’re not intruding, you’re family come on over, we’re not staying long anyway. We came out for a drive.”
“Yeah that’s a nice motor,” said George getting up.
They followed me back to our table and I smiled at the spectators and there was a collective sigh as George and Will sat down with us and within minutes the pub owner came over, “Food okay ladies.”
“It’s great, thank you, makes a nice change from cheese rolls in the rehearsal rooms. We’re showgirls and have been rehearsing since seven this morning and needed a break. The two gents are our male dancers.” Will nearly choked on his drink.
When we got back, Will parked my car in the staff car park and we went into the Cafe. May was waiting and we had just five minutes to change and then go to dancing lessons, not concert lessons but the normal lessons we had been having. At the end of the session she paired us off, me with Barbara and set a rock and roll record on and we had ten minutes of jiving. Whether or not it had anything to do with the Zodiac trip or the music Barbara and I kept switching rolls, one minute her leading, the next me. April was dancing with Maeve and they were doing the same, Diane joined us and then we were jiving with three, two girls rolls and one boys and May was walking around, studying each dancer in turn and making notes, I knew she had an idea buzzing around and did wonder if she was thinking of adding a dance number to the concert programme. We didn’t have one but rock and roll when the rest of the programme was either classical or soft ballads, would that work? It was almost a violent change of pace, Bill Haley versus Elgar, Rock Around The Clock versus The Enigma Variations. It would make the audience sit up in their seats that was for sure.
Once the dancing lesson was over, he had time for a short break to get our breath back and then Maria appeared and April and Barbara had to help with the evening meal whilst Maeve and Diane went back into rehearsals with their harp and violin. I was free to get on with the poster so went into the common room and started on the final layout. It didn’t take long and then I sat for a while at the board thinking about Barbara’s suggestion for the group’s name; Maria’s Café New Girls. I needed my laptop so hurried down to my room. As I left, Adam came through from reception and stopped, “I’ll need to have a quick chat about tomorrow when you have a moment.”
“I’m working in the common room on the posters at the moment.”
“Okay, are you alone?”
“Yes, the others are in the kitchen or rehearsal room.”
“Right, if it won’t disturb your work, can I come up in a few minutes.”
“Yes of course, the work won’t require full concentration and I can talk as long as the questions aren’t too heavy.”
“Nothing like that, just a talk about tomorrow, I’ve been over it with Peter and Amy, I just want to make sure you are okay with everything.”
I went into the common room and sat at the board thinking about Adam and I could have sat like that for an hour but I had to get the poster ready and forced my mind back to the drawing board; ‘The Last Night Of The Cons – Maria’s Café New Girls In Concert’ and then the blank space for the picture and below that, ‘From Rock To Romance’ and finally; ‘Sunday November 4th.’
I must have been concentrating hard because I didn’t hear Adam come in until he spoke as I put my ink pen down, “That’s good, the idea and finished drawing. You really know your job,” he smiled, “I must be sure to get tickets.”
“Invitation only I’m afraid but don’t worry, I’ll speak to May and be sure you’re invited.”
He put my file on a table, “I’ve been listening to the rehearsals and really am looking forward to it, you’re quite a talented group of people.”
“Talented? We’re gifted.”
His eyes softened, “That you certainly are, Helen. Now about tomorrow, I won’t keep you long. I simply want to know how your feel about Charing Cross.”
“Apprehensive. I really don’t know what they are going to do or say and it worries me. I feel as if I’m about to jump into the sea without knowing the temperature of the water.”
“Forget your worries. You will be with Gender Clinic people; they are all specialists and have treated hundreds of intersexed people.” He took up a sheet of paper, “This is more or less your itinerary. You will have a full medical that will check over your general health and then the gender specific stuff. Blood tests and then a full torso scan. Then you will spend about forty five minutes with a psychiatrist who will ask you much the same questions as Peter and he will have seen Peter’s and Amy’s reports so there should be no problems there. There will be a break after that for about an hour, time to pop out for lunch with Amy and then back to the hospital who will have had the results of the tests and scans. They may want you to talk to the assessment panel if there are any points they need to go into in more detail but that shouldn’t last more than a half hour.”
“Is that when they make their decision?”
“No, not the final decision but they will give you a provisional judgement and almost certainly decide on a next appointment date.”
“They will have my whole future in their hands then?”
Adam shook his head, “No, the final decision will always be yours. They may decline to treat you if they think you are not truly intersexed or mentally committed and unable to continue as you are but Amy, Boris, Peter and myself are of the opinion that, unless they are completely stupid, which they are not, they will agree with our diagnosis, there is more than enough evidence to support it. Tomorrow will result in their recommendations with regard to your final treatment, including sex reassignment surgery if you want it but whatever happens, it is and always will be your decision and they are very sympathetic, specialists in the field.”
“But what would happen if they say no to me, you’re a man and must go back to being one.”
“Not a chance but if they did, Amy and we others will declare war.” He stood up and gave me the itinerary and placed his arm around my shoulders, “You have nothing to worry about. Now I have a pile of work to do and I need a supply of coffee to get me through it,” he squeezed my shoulder, “Let us do the worrying we promise no harm will come to you and by the way, I love the new pictures going the rounds, great legs.”
I slapped his shoulder, “Get out,” and as he walked to the door I asked, “Do you really think so?”
In chapters 19 and 20, Amy takes Helen to Charing Cross Hospital for her assessment and to learn what her future may be.
Vesta’s Hearth volumes 1 – 4 is now available on Kindle E Books.
Soon to be published - Murmuring with Starlings.
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