Somebody once said that this couldn’t happen by accident, but then I suppose that all depends upon the circumstances of the accident doesn’t it?
I’ve looked up the definition of the word ‘accident’, and according to the information I’ve found, it goes as follows:
An undesirable or unfortunate event that occurs unintentionally and usually results in harm, injury, damage, loss, casualty or mishap.
I can’t honestly say what follows was entirely accidental because it had been planned - I just didn’t know that at the time. However, it was what followed the part that had been planned, which is really what I define as accidental.
Whatever, it’s the nearest thing I can think of that can possibly explain how I came to be in the predicament I was in, suffering the mishap if you will and looking back, the memories of that holiday leave me with a certain warm fuzziness, but that’s not how it felt at the time…
* * *
When my parents announced that we were to be going on holiday to a small village on the south coast, just one thing made it seem the least bit bearable - Aston Park, but that all went out of the window when I discovered that Jess, my twin sister - or should that be ‘sinister’, had managed to invite two of her bosom friends, Megan and Christine to accompany us.
Oh sure, Mum and Dad would be there, but me and three girls?
To start with, Jess and I don’t get on particularly well. I think Mum and Dad side with her more often than with me - never mind what happened and I know that she has it easier at school.
You’re probably thinking I’ve got a whopping-great chip on my shoulder aren’t you? Well you’re wrong. You see, Jess and I are alike, but then that’s because we’re brother and sister, but we’re not identical. We’re almost identical heights though, and when she puts on her shoes - which have massively thick soles, she stands a good three inches taller than me. You can imagine how that goes down with the boys at school - me being smaller than my little sister.
To make matters worse, she and her friends are three of the main reasons for the problems I have. She’s forever causing trouble for me or starting it anyway and to find out that her two best friends would be joining us - the same two that are usually in on the ‘jokes’ she plays on me, just put the icing on the cake. However with Aston Park and all those cool rides in the picture, I was prepared to pretend they didn’t exist.
As the school holidays approached, I got this sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. All the “they don’t exist” thoughts were dribbling out of my head as the reality of the situation became more apparent.
Why my parents had agreed to let Jessica bring Megan and Christine on holiday with us to Cliffside was a mystery to me. Just thinking about it made me shudder. I mean would they have let me bring my friends - ? I don’t think so. In all honesty, I never even thought to ask. Anyway, goodness knows I voiced enough objections about being the only boy among three girls, but Mum and Dad would hear none of it.
“You’ll be fine,” they said.
“But Mum!?” I whined, firstly, going for the easier of the parents to get round and gesticulating to try and get the point across. “It’s only a shed and, you’ve seen the pictures; it’s so small. Where are we all going to sleep?”
I had seen the pictures and although the cabins were called cottages, they were in fact, log cabins, though in truth, the ones we saw looked about the size of one-car garages or rather as I thought more appropriate, sheds.
It appeared that Jessica had similar issues.
“Yes, where will we all sleep, Mum?” she asked, arriving half way through my sentence.
“You’ll see kids. It’ll be fine,” said Dad, ruffling my hair and smiling at Jess.
I hate it when he does that - er, the ruffling bit, not the smiling.
“Anyway,” he continued. “I can’t see what the problem is. It’s not like you’re going to be sharing your room with them, is it? And what’s so wrong with taking a holiday with three hot chicks?” He shrugged and wiggled his eyebrows, I presume to let me know it was cool.
Bless him, my dad does try to be hip with us, using words like ‘cool’, ‘rad’, ‘chicks’ and ‘word’, but I really think he put his foot in it this time. After the ‘hot chicks’ comment, Jess and Mum gave him looks that collectively could have turned milk sour at a hundred yards, probably because an old bloke like Dad calling a bunch of fourteen year-olds hot was a little disturbing.
“Of course,” he added hastily. “Your mother is the only ‘hot chick’ I’ll be looking at.” He flashed her a quick grin, but I could see that didn’t improve his situation.
Worse, for me, the idea that Jessica and her two friends were ‘hot’ just didn’t swing it, I mean, pul-ease. Anyway, I still had it in my head that we’d all be sleeping in one big pile in the middle of a tiny little wooden box.
“So why does Jess get to take her friends?”
“Her friends have invited her horse riding on numerous occasions. It’s only fair we repay the compliment. And anyway, their parents are paying for them.”
* * *
“Looking forward to the holidays, Jamie?” my best friend, Andy, asked at school a couple of days later.
“Yeah, like a hole in the head,” I replied with a face like a wet weekend.
“What’s the problem?”
“I told you. We’re going to Banthorpe with Megan and Christine.”
“Not Megan Clarke?” he asked, his eyes widening.
“Yes,” I said, drawing the word out like a bit of bubble gum and adding a very bored tone.
“WOW! You lucky bastard.”
It was my turn to go wide-eyed and I had to ask myself what was going on. My best mate had always been dead against girls getting in on the fun and now they were not only ‘in’ but right ‘in’. He wasn’t helping either as he seemed to think it was a marvellous idea.
“Are you out of your tree?” I asked. “Can you imagine, three girls - giggling all the time?” In my opinion, it was the end of sanity as I knew it.
“I can imagine three girls - ” he said with a dreamy expression. “Can’t you?” he asked, giving me a nudge and a look I didn’t fully understand. “I take it Christine is Christine Bates? I mean the Christine Bates.” He seemed to be almost drooling, nodding and blinking rapidly all at the same time; something which I took as some sort of nervous disorder, as more often than not, he had trouble walking and talking simultaneously.
“Yeah? So?” I asked with a casual shrug.
“Jesus, Jamie. Are you gay or something?”
“Oh yeah, sure,” I said nodding then adding, “NOT!!” and furiously shaking my head.
“You must be if you don’t like the possibility of getting to kiss at least one of the three hottest girls this side of the Atlantic - certainly the three hottest girls from our school - and they’re going to be sharing your cottage?”
I hadn’t even given them a second glance or thought that way, let alone considered any kissing. To me they were just giggly and incredibly annoying girls. “It’s a shed, not a cottage,” I said morosely. “Just a minute. What do you mean - three?”
“Well Jessica’s not exactly a bag of spanners now, is she?”
“I’m not going to be kissing Jessica, am I? You’re a sick puppy.”
“Not Jess, dozy. Megan or Christine, duh!” he said then paused as a thoughtful look spread across his face. “Or both. Can’t you just imagine it - snuggled up in a cosy little cottage?” He shook his head slowly, his head bowed. “You lucky, lucky bastard.”
“I hadn’t really thought about it,” I said morosely, thinking that the one person I expected sympathy from was actually showing more than what I considered to be a healthy amount of interest and more pointedly, a very large portion of jealousy as well.
“Well, take it from me - she’s not. You’re just so damned lucky. Can’t I come with you? I mean if Megan and Christine are going, shouldn’t you be allowed to invite me? One more’s not going to make any diff - ”
“No!” I said quickly and that was that.
He stomped off, evidently disappointed with me going on holiday with my sister and her two friends and not asking him along. Personally, I couldn’t see what all the fuss was about. They were just three stupid giggly girls and what on earth could he see as being good about that?
Of course as the holiday neared, Christine and Megan were often round our house - even more than usual - as the three of them had to make plans and without being obvious, I made sure I got a good look at them to try and see what it was that Andy was so making such a fuss about.
Christine was tall - around five-eight, which was a few inches taller than Jessica and me. She had red hair and her face was covered in freckles. She had really piercing blue eyes, but so far I couldn’t see anything special. There was nothing that I could see that would entice me into kissing her.
Megan on the other hand was fairly short - a bit shorter than me, but only by an inch at most, with short, spiky hair and hazel eyes that always looked like she was up to something mischievous. I liked her - well, I thought her better than Christine as she didn’t seem such a giggly, girly, girl, but I didn’t know what it was about either of them that made Andy go all silly. Anyway, whenever she and Christine were around Jess, all they ever did was giggle and whisper.
They certainly didn’t appeal to me.
What was it that Andy saw I them? I couldn’t fathom it out at all. I must be gay - Oh Lord.
About the only thing positive I came away from that thought with, was realising that the thought of kissing a boy was even less appealing than kissing a girl.
* * *
When the time arrived, all four of us piled into the back of my Dad’s Renault Espace and began the tedious drive to the coast.
We weren’t even two miles down the road when the trouble started.
All I was doing was playing a video game in the back of the car, when sweet wrappers and other sundry items started bouncing off my head.
“Oy!” I said, yanking the earphones out of my ears. “Bog off.” I nudged the back of Jessica’s seat - the middle one and went back to my game, but more of them came over and I gave her a flick on the ear, which made her squeal.
Mum and Dad gave us a warning, or more to the point - me.
“Wasn’t me. It was Jess. She keeps throwing things at me.”
“Well then don’t antagonise her,” was the reply.
Antagonise? I wasn’t doing anything and before long, whatever it was they were throwing at me, started coming over again, accompanied by more giggles.
I hit the back of Jess’s seat again with my knee.
She turned to look over the back of the seat. “Listen, you little bastard,” she said through clenched teeth. “If you don’t stop that, you’ll be sorry.”
I knew exactly what she’d do too. Well, maybe not exactly, but I had been threatened with that before and okay, I was sorry, but a principle is a principle and I wasn’t going to let her have the last word.
“Huh. With a sister like you, I already am.”
“Mu-um!” she whined. “Jamie keeps kicking my seat.”
Dad muttered something and after an emergency stop that left two long, black stripes on the road and pungent blue tyre smoke in the air, I was the one found guilty.
We made a stop at a roadside café where I pointedly refused to speak to anyone. After being blamed for the commotion in the car that wasn’t my fault, I didn’t think it right. As a result, I got given a burger and fries, not a cheeseburger - which I always had - and a can of orangeade, which everyone knows I hate, instead of cola.
Anyway, I ate the burger, drank the orangeade - but under sufferance. Back in the car, I had a long time to think about things, and figured that what I’d done had definitely not turned out the way I’d hoped. To add insult to injury, when we got back in the car and were all buckled up, Mum gave us all a grilling.
“I don’t want to hear another peep out of any of you. Is that understood?” she demanded. We all nodded silently. “That’s any of you, but especially you, James.”
Whenever my name goes to ‘James’, I know I’m in deep do-dos and this was one of those times.
Dad took the cliff-top route which wound its way, hugging the outer edges of the cliffs as it meandered left, right, up and down, sometimes with no more than a few feet between us and the cliff edge. Further on, we seemed to move inland, climbing as we went and the hills to the north rose sharply from the side of the road giving us the feeling that the huge, green slopes were trying to squeeze us off.
I the meantime of course, Jess was blatantly disregarding what Mum had told us and was periodically looking over the back of her seat and mouthing threats at me, presumably because she got a ticking-off by Mum too.
I knew that if I wanted to go to the park over this holiday, I was going to have to keep out of trouble and about all I did was poke my tongue out at her. It was just pure bad luck that Mum happened to notice me doing it…
“I’ve warned you, young man,” she said in an ominous tone. It was all she needed to say, but it didn’t stop Jess looking over once more with a smug look. Her attitude was really trying my patience and I couldn’t help feeling that my dear sinister was just begging me to do something to her that she’d regret… or should that be that I’d regret? Whatever, I was getting close to that time where I just wanted to do something nasty to her.
We left the sea views, travelling uphill mainly under a thick canopy of trees, which made a welcome respite from the blinding sunshine and stifling heat, however, it wasn’t the stunning sea views we’d read about.
“So much for the view,” Mum said, disappointedly. “It doesn’t look as though we’re going to get much of that round here.”
“Unless you like trees,” Dad said with a grin.
Mum shot him one of her looks.
“I’m sure it’ll be fine,” said Dad a little nervously - well obviously; we weren’t out of the woods yet.
Some way further up, a sign appeared with horses on, pointing up the road and to the right with ‘Cliffside’ emblazoned beneath. We all breathed a huge sigh of relief, especially Dad. It was about seven o’clock by that time and I think if it had been any further, we would all have been at each other’s throats, but seeing that sign made us all feel rejuvenated.
We turned right into a neatly kept gravelled car park. A large house sat nestled up a short lane in the trees slightly uphill to the left had a sign attached to what was clearly an extension to the main house reading ‘Office’, whilst opposite, spaces had been left for about half a dozen cars marked ‘private’, presumably for staff and the owners.
Dad stopped right outside the office and got out, followed by Mum.
“Jamie. Come with us,” she said.
I could hear the girls giggling as I ‘huffed’ and slid slowly from the car.
“I’m not leaving you in there with the girls,” she said, nodding towards Jess and her friends. “Who knows what you’ll get up to and we would like to be able to drive home in a car that’s in one piece.”
Inside the office, a man who looked like a white-haired Elvis, took Mum and Dad’s particulars.
They talked for what felt like ages and I just leafed through some magazines, finding one that really caught my eye - Aston Park. In the gatefold pamphlet were pictures of the very rides I had been dreaming about since I found out we were coming here and my tummy did that thing like going over a hump-back bridge while goose-bumps rose all over the place.
I was away to the mixer, but then I heard Dad say, “Thank you; we’ll be in touch about the riding. Come on, squirt,” and I hastily put the pamphlet in my pocket to drool over later and did an about turn.
“Enjoy your stay,” said Elvis man.
I was half expecting him to say “Thankyouverymuch in a southern American drawl, so to hear him speaking more like he came from the West Country was a bit of a shock.
We left the office and I found I was very excited, and slowly, with the sound of the gravel under the tyres for effect, we continued our way along the path, moving slowly down the steep slope through the trees, which provided that wonderful resinous scent so evocative of wooded areas where evergreens are present.
The driveway was quite long, taking us more about three or four minutes to get from the house and office to the ‘cabins’. It was then that we saw what we had rented for our holiday.
The reality of the cabins was far in excess of the pictures - especially ours, since it was substantially bigger than the others.
“Oh wow!” said Mum. “This is much better than I was expecting.”
“I told you,” said Dad, with a smug look.
“Okay, smarty-pants. You can take that look off your face for a start,” she said, slapping his arm.
“What?” he winced.
I couldn’t actually see, but I knew Mum was smiling. I think she liked this place already - as did I. It was kind of like a ranch-house - only slightly smaller, and my imagination was running riot before I’d even got out of the car.
I should imagine Dad was feeling more relieved than anything else, as the ‘cottage’ wasn't what any of us were expecting - at all. It was huge, sitting on a plot with a veranda and a reasonable-sized lawn in front with real-sized rooms too. There was a double for Mum and Dad complete with a veranda, a twin room for Jess and her friends - well actually, there were three beds in there: a bunk bed and a single in a very good-sized room and a small room for me with a window that overlooked some very interesting areas, ripe for exploring.
There was nothing, save the level patch of ground between it and a view of the English Channel. It came complete with everything we could possibly want - including a TV, DVD, decent-sized bathroom - plus an en-suite for Mum and Dad, which meant not having to go into the bathroom after him - phew! There was a well-stocked kitchen - at least as far as the utensils were concerned, a good quality gas stove, fridge and microwave.
The view was truly stunning in the early evening sunlight, which was accented by the sound of the screeches made by wheeling gulls, searching the shore-line for scraps of food.
I dumped my bags in my room and hurtled down the stairs.
“Where are you going?” called Mum. “Go and help unpack the car, young man.”
“But I got my stuff already,” I countered.
“Then you can help the girls.”
“Help them?” I squeaked. They’d given me nothing but grief all the way down here, why on Earth should I help them? “But there’s three of them.”
“What’s that got to do with it?”
“Well, they can help each other.”
“Just go help your sister and her friends, alright?” she said, a dangerous arch to her eyebrows - you know the one. It’s the one when you know that every birthday from that point forth will be one where you wish you’d never been born and don’t even get me started on Christmas. Mum’s suggestion had put paid to any ideas I had for the immediate future with that one look.
The reception I got from Jess and the others was pretty much what I expected; a smugness and definite superiority I just knew spelt trouble. Thank God I wasn’t going to have to spend any serious time with them.
* * *
That night, the parents decided to go out after Mum had prepared us pizza and salad. Surprisingly, they were leaving Jessica in charge.
“What?” I exclaimed, thinking that whilst we may well have been twins, I was her big brother - even if only by nineteen minutes and I should have been left in charge.
“You should have thought about that before you started antagonising her in the car on the way here - ”
I was about to protest my innocence, but Mum immediately headed that one off at the pass.
“Don’t argue young man and don’t give her any jip, or you definitely won’t be going to Aston Park. Is that clear?”
I knew exactly what that meant. As I said earlier and can’t stress enough, Aston Park had some of the coolest rides anywhere in England. I definitely didn’t want to miss that and knew it was probably best to keep my mouth shut. “Yes Mum.”
Mum kissed me on the cheek and after the door had closed, I thrust my hands in my pockets, huffed and went into my room to get some things together before heading off outside, but while I was rifling through my stuff, there was a sound from out in the hall.
“Jamie?” said Jessica’s voice accompanied by a gentle knocking on the door.
“Go away,” I replied, shaking my head and rolling my eyes.
“Jamie? Come on, we just want to play a game.”
“I’m not stopping you.”
“It’d be so much more fun with all of us.”
“That’s a shame then, isn’t it?” If she thought I was going to spend any time with them, especially after the business in the car, she had another think coming. I hoped the tone of my voice reflected that.
“Mum said, don’t argue or give me any jip.”
“Mum said - ” I began, mimicking what she said, but stopped myself mid sentence, as I suddenly realised what would happen. I flew to the door, wrenching it open. “That’s bad - even for you, Jessica.”
She batted her eyelashes and shrugged, turning back towards their room, where I could hear more of that giggling from the other two along with Take That - Yuck! I stomped along behind her, feeling that at the rate it was going, this holiday was just going to get worse and worse.
Entering the girls’ room, a sudden icy tingle of fear traced its way down my spine. They had never bothered me before and yet now they were looking decidedly predatory; almost as if they were big cats, licking their lips in preparation for the main meal: a fresh gazelle - or in this case - me.
“What’s going on?” I asked.
“Well, perhaps it’s not a exactly a game that we want to play,” said Jessica, evasively.
I looked at her through frowning eyes. “Just what are you saying, Jess?” I asked.
“You’ll see,” she replied, going from looking like a female Dr. Frankenstein, to Dexter’s sister, Dee-Dee as she flounced across the room.
Whoever it was occupying that head of hers, I didn’t like them one bit.
I felt something bad was going to happen as Megan looked at me sort of speculatively and Christine’s stare was worse. Meanwhile, Jessica was over at the chest of drawers. As clothes flew out, that sinking feeling once again rushed at my stomach.
“Here,” Jessica said authoritatively. “Put these on.”
My eyes went as wide as dinner plates as a short denim skirt appeared on the floor in front of me, followed by a pair of black and cerise hooped opaque tights and a ‘T’ top in cerise that matched the colour of the tights.
I became rooted to the spot, my mouth opening and closing like a goldfish, with nothing, not even bubbles coming out. “You’re joking, right?” I asked, eventually.
“Not at all. It’s not like you’re going to be wearing them. You’re just going to model them for us to see.”
“Er,” I began, trying to get my head around the logic. If I had to put them on, surely that meant I was going to be wearing them, didn’t it? There was no way I could do that. I looked at Megan, then Christine and finally Jessica, who was standing tapping her foot impatiently.
“No chance, Jess,” I said with a vigorous shake of my head. “Not a hope.”
“No arguing and no jip, remember?” she reminded me.
“I don’t care. I’m not wearing those.”
“I’ll tell Mum.”
“Go ahead. I’m not putting that stuff anywhere near me. Anyway, When Mum said about arguing and giving you jip, this was not what she meant.” I said with a note of authority and defiance.
“And how do you know?” she asked. “Besides, she won’t know this is what we were doing.” She gave me one of those looks. “Will she?”
“What d’you mean?” I asked, that sinking feeling coming back with a vengeance.
“Well, I might say you were being horrible to us,” she said looking at Megan and Christine. “Won’t we, girls? You do want to go to Aston Park, don’t you?”
I looked at the others, who were smirking and that sinking feeling gave way to the knowledge that I was sunk.
Reluctantly, I snatched up the clothes, stormed off into the bathroom and replaced mine with the ones she gave me, grumbling all the while. Slowly, I walked back into their room, feeling more self-conscious and stupid than at any other time in my entire life.
“What have you got on under those tights?” Jessica asked.
“My boxers. What did you think I’d have on?”
“You idiot,” she said, shaking her head and rolling her eyes as her friends giggled. “You can’t wear those under tights.” She turned with a purposeful air and after rummaging in another drawer, pulled out a pair of plain white cotton panties, which, with a great theatrical gesture, she gave to me.
“This isn’t happening,” I mumbled as I stamped out to the bathroom.
“Remember, no arguing and no jip, Jamie,” she called out after me in a sing-song, mocking kind of voice, to more giggles from the others.
I closed the bathroom door and started to peel off the tights, my head in a total spin. I knew that if I didn’t do as they said, there was no way I was going to be able to go to Aston Park. At the same time though, I could feel the smooth fabric of the tights against my legs and the strange, but not unpleasant sensation of the skirt. I was surprised to discover that it wasn’t so bad after all. There was no way I was going to tell Jess that though.
Once I put on the panties, I was in a complete dilemma.
They felt really nice, compared to the feeling of the boxers I was used to wearing and that scared me. I actually liked the way they felt on me. They were snug, but not overly restrictive and soft too. Coupled with the feeling of the tights that seemed to hug my legs in a way that was not only gently supportive but also reassuringly comfortable, I was totally messed up.
I told myself it shouldn’t be happening, and as I looked in the mirror, I was disgusted with what I saw. Sadly, it wasn’t because I looked like a boy in a skirt and tights, but because it didn’t look as out of place as I thought it should and that was what scared me.
“This isn’t happening,” I muttered again as I gave the tights another pull, feeling the fabric creep up my legs in a way that kind of made me shiver - in a nice way. I shook my head, thinking how none of this should be happening then smoothed down the skirt and went back to the girls’ bedroom.
“That’s better,” Jessica said gleefully, clapping her hands together.
I was really beginning to hate her and snorted my disapproval, which was ignored by the others. They fussed around, tugging here and there to make me look as ‘right’ as possible, then stood back to admire their handiwork, asking me to turn on the spot.
“Not bad, but I think it’s a bit too ordinary,” said Jessica critically. “And we really need to do something about - ” she pointed at me and I had no idea what she was talking about. “Those.”
I suddenly realised, looking at them, that up top, I was as flat as a pancake - or rather, two. Whilst theirs weren’t exactly fully formed, they at least had definition. “Oh shit,” I said, knowing what was coming.
“Take the t-shirt off and let’s fix that,” Jessica said.
This was all going too far. I folded my arms and stood firm. “No way,” I told them as assertively as I could, while my head was actually wondering what it would be like to put a bra on. Sometimes I wonder whose side my brain is on.
“You did not just do that,” I said, horrified at the sight of the camera in Jess’s hands.
“Call it insurance,” she said. “Anyway, come on little sister. Don’t go all shy on us now.”
“Little sister?” I squealed, my voice going well into the upper registers quite possibly worrying nearby dogs.
“Have you seen yourself?” she asked.
“Or heard yourself?” added Christine, with a big grin and laughter from Megan.
I blushed to the roots of my hair and wished the ground would open up and swallow me whole.
“Come on, Jamie. You’ve come this far.”
That was of little comfort. I was bewildered and cornered too. I had to do what they wanted or either I wouldn’t get to see those cool rides or worse and I really didn’t want to go there.
“This is it. After this, I’m going back to my room, right?” I told them and it wasn’t a question, it was a statement. The trouble was, they didn’t seem to see it that way and as soon as they had my top off, they put me in a bra, which they stuffed with some socks. That should have been the end of it, but I wound up being given a pair of Jessica’s shoes as well; a pair of wedgy sandals.
“They’re no good,” said Megan critically. “Like, no-one would wear those shoes with those tights.”
“You’re right. Take them off.”
My mood was going downhill rapidly here and I went to go to the bathroom.
“Where are you going?”
“To take these stupid tights off.”
“Why? We’re all girls here.”
Those predatory looks returned, especially from Jess and I plonked myself down on the bed, kicking off the sandals and wriggling my way out of the tights, trying not to pull down or show the panties in the process.
“Her legs aren’t too bad,” said Christine. “I expect we can get away without shaving them.”
You have absolutely no idea how much better that made me feel. Despite being dressed like one of my sinister’s friends - or even her, not having to shave my legs, let alone letting one or all of them do it was like music to my ears.
“She needs something else,” said Jess, rubbing her chin thoughtfully then clicked her fingers. “I know; her denim jacket.” She ran out of the room and was back moments later with my jacket.
I put it on.
CLICK! went the camera again.
“You really are pushing it. You know that, don’t you?” I growled, trying to snatch the camera from her. “Give that to me.”
She sidestepped easily and my hand just flew through the air harmlessly.
“Not a hope, kiddo. That’s more insurance.”
Next came the makeup - despite protestations and a fair amount of effort to get away. I ended up being held in place by Jess and Megan, pinned to the chair, sullen and pouting - for all the good it did - silently planning slow, painful deaths for each of them, whilst Chris applied makeup.
They seemed to be taking forever and when I noticed the light outside was fading pretty quickly, I began getting fractious. “Hurry up,” I told them in my no-nonsense voice. “I still want to have a look round outside.” It was about nine and I was determined to get out of there - even if only for a few minutes before the light went altogether.
“I don’t think so,” said Megan. “It’s teeming down.”
I looked out and sure enough the rain was pelting down; too hard to go nosing around, anyway.
“Well thanks very much,” I said, really pissed-off by this time, well, actually more pissed-off at myself than at them. It could have been raining for ages, but I wasn’t paying attention and didn’t hear it because of Gary Barlow and the others wailing away on the CD.
“There’s no need to be like that. Mum said, don’t argue or give me any jip,” Jessica parroted, in an imperious tone that only she can do.
“Which meant, don’t piss you and your friends off, not do everything you say. Now if you don’t mind - ” With that, I was about to storm out, when Megan said something.
“What?” I asked, somewhat startled. I didn’t know what she said, but I know what I thought she said and it didn’t sound good.
“I said; two peas in a pod.”
That’s what I thought she said and even Jess did a double take at that one.
“We are not!” she said with more vehemence than I think I have ever heard from her. I thought she was about to throw a temper tantrum. She then turned and looked at me like she was mentally ripping my head off my shoulders.
“Hey hang on,” I said. “Don’t look at me like that. Do you think I want to look like you? I’m your brother and yet you seem to be more interested in making me out to be some sort of pervert who’s only interested in looking more like his sister.
But you don’t need to, do you? You’re the popular one. You’re the one with all the friends and you’re the one who’s accepted by just about everyone, not me.
“Thanks to you I get ‘girly-boy’ and ‘gay’ comments; the ‘Oh I’m sorry, I thought you were the good-looking one’, or the ‘Here’s the other sister’, or the best one: ‘did you forget your skirt today?’ do you?
“So don’t look at me as if I’m the one in the wrong. I didn’t ask for this, did I? You’re the one who wanted this,” I said, gesturing down my body while fighting to hold back tears. “You’re the one who spent the whole trip here making things difficult for me and what have I done? All I want to do is go to Aston Park and you’re doing your best to make sure that doesn’t happen. Yet I don’t see you not going horse riding with your friends here. Just leave me alone - all of you.”
Jess’s face was as hard as stone, yet in her eyes I could see she knew I was right.
Megan looked like she wished she hadn’t said anything.
“Oh that’s lush,” said Christine, suddenly breaking a very stony silence.
“What?” asked Christine, opening her hands with a shrug “Megan’s right. You do look very much alike. Not completely identical, but it’s obvious you’re twins.”
“I’ve had enough of this,” I said, still getting daggers from Jess.
The next thing we knew, that the rain really came down hard, so hard it was drumming thrash metal on the roof and through the window the droplets appeared to be about the size of small family cars. We all ran downstairs to the lounge with its big bay windows, overlooking the decking. At that point, it was coming down so hard we could barely see the gravel driveway, let alone the cliff edge.
“That’s not rain, that’s a bloody monsoon,” Megan observed.
“Yeah; and look at all that water out there,” Christine added. “It’s like a lake.”
“That’s the English Channel,” said Jess, helpfully.
“Not that,” Christine said, frowning. “There!”
The level ground between us and the cliffs was now a lake, the surface boiling with the falling rain. It looked deep too.
Lightning flashed and the accompanying thunder literally shook the place.
The girls shrieked and immediately huddled together, trembling.
“Oh, for Christ’s sake,” I said, irritably. “It’s just a bit of thunder and lightning. It’s nothing to be scared of.” I almost believed it too, or would have, had the next clap of thunder and accompanying lightning bolt not coincided with the lights flickering ominously throughout the cottage, then going out, plunging us into an eerie kind of half-light.
The girls shrieked again.
I just stared out of the window. The sound of the rain was so loud, it was impossible to talk over. In fact, torrential didn’t even come close, we thought it was going to pound its way through the roof.
None of us moved as we were too busy concentrating on what was going on outside. If we thought the rain had been coming down hard, it was nothing compared to now. The pounding got louder and we couldn’t even see the lake that had formed outside, which couldn’t have been more than ten feet from the window.
Suddenly, with another flash of lightning and peal of thunder, there seemed to be a kind of rumbling.
“What’s that?” asked Jess, her voice all a-quiver.
I had no idea. I suppose it could have been a distant rolling of thunder, but it felt too close and more to the point, if it had been that distant, why was everything vibrating?
The vibrating was joined with a strange creaking sound, something like an old door in some horror film as it opened. Worse, it was getting louder. With a ‘CRACK!’ and the sound of glass splintering and shattering, the rumbling was joined with a sloughing sound - but from inside.
Christine and Jess dropped to the sofa, but Megan nearly jumped out of her skin, taking an involuntary step forward and clinging tightly to me, her arms locked tightly round my waist.
“I’m scared,” she said, looking up at me.
“I know how you feel,” I replied. “I’m going to see what’s happening. You three stay here.”
“I’m coming with you,” said Megan, releasing her vice-like grip from my waist, only to move it to my left hand, both hands wrapped around my wrist, threatening to cut off all circulation. I didn’t have the time to argue. Megan and I set off slowly down the hallway where the sound of the creaking and sloughing got louder.
As we neared the kitchen, we could hear the sound of furniture being moved. The sloughing sound was more of a rumbling hiss and as we got to the door, we could see a huge brown-coloured mass sliding across the floor, pushing the kitchen table before it.
I opened the door to see more, but it was slammed shut before I could really get an idea of what was happening. I wasn’t sure whether what I’d seen was what I thought it was and although both Megan and I pushed with all our might, we couldn’t budge the door.
“Jamie, look!” Megan exclaimed.
Muddy brown liquid seeped from underneath the kitchen door as we stood there and the creaking and groaning got louder, replaced with splintering sounds that as soon as they started, were cut off.
“We have to get out of here,” I said, grimly.
“But we can’t go outside,” Megan said, shocked.
“Just get the others,” I told her. Her hands, which had re-clamped themselves around my wrist after we’d tried pushing at the kitchen door didn’t relax. I looked at her.
Those hazel eyes, usually so full of mischief, now showed deep fear. I wanted to shout; bark the order to run, but I knew right there that it wouldn’t have the right effect. It would probably frighten Megan even more.
“Look, it’ll be alright. I promise,” I told her gently. “Now, go get Christine and Jess and get out of here as quickly as you can.”
With tear-filled eyes and an almost puppy-dog look of trust, she nodded and her grip relaxed as she backed away slowly.
“Promise?” she asked, her voice quivering.
I stood in the hallway wondering what it was I was supposed to do when the kitchen door began creaking. Splits appeared in the panels and through those splits, more brown stuff oozed. The door bowed more and the oozing liquid began seeping through, like it was bleeding. I ran for it, just getting out of the way before the door gave one last ear-splitting crack, the house shook violently and the hallway began filling with the viscose liquid.
“GET OUT NOW!!” I yelled, heading for the front door, nearly knocking Megan, Christine and Jess over in the process.
* * *
Outside, the rain was coming down so hard, it stung. Megan had taken her now customary place by my side, hanging on to my arm for dear life. Before any thought of what was happening had time to sink in, the wooden structure seemed to keel over backwards, falling flat upon itself like a sodden cardboard box collapsing in the rain, proceeding thereafter to slide across the lawn towards the drive.
“Holy shit!” exclaimed Jess.
The rest of them just stood soaking wet in the rain, calf-deep in water, with their mouths open.
Was there anyone next door? I asked myself, blinking as within seconds, the house we had occupied for all of about three hours, was being pushed towards the cliff’s edge by what had now become apparent as a surging torrent of mud.
“Megan. I need you to get to the office with Jess and Chris. I don’t know if they know what’s happening.”
“What about you?” she asked, her grip tightening.
“I need to check these other cabins.”
“I’m not going without you.”
“Alright then,” I said, looking at Jess. “You two get back to the office as quickly as you can. We’ll check the other cabins.”
“Can’t we all do that?” asked Jess. “I’d feel a lot safer if we were all together.”
“Me too,” echoed Chris.
I knocked on the door to the first cabin and found no-one there. The same for the second, but I got a response upon knocking on the door of the third. Slowly the door opened a few inches and a deeply lined face appeared about two thirds of the way up the door.
“Who are you?”
“I’m Jamie from the cabin at the end. I need you to come outside.”
“I expect she’s organising the emergency services,” I said, the rain dripping from everywhere that was pointing downwards on me and presuming Deirdre was the owner’s wife. “Look, you’re in terrible danger. Our cabin has already collapsed and is heading towards the edge of the cliffs; it looks like yours may be heading that way too. You have to come with me - quickly.”
“’Ere, Martha. There’s a bunch-a girls here. Says we got to get out - Martha?”
“Yes, please be quick. Your cottage’s already starting to slide. There isn’t much time.”
The old man stepped out of the doorway and despite the driving rain, saw that our cottage was indeed moving.
“Come on Martha,” he said, shuffling back to wherever Martha was.
I was getting progressively more agitated as I watched our cottage being swept towards the cliff edge and gasped as part of the roof slithered over.
“Hurry!” I shouted.
Moments later, the old man led an even slower Martha towards the door and out on the step.
They had just reached the grass when Martha suddenly shrieked.
“Joey,” she cried. “Where’s my Joey?” She turned and battled against the old man to try and get up the stairs.
“Who’s Joey?” I asked the old man.
“It’s the damned cat.”
“Get Martha out of here. I’ll get the cat.”
“But he won’t come to you, love. He won’t even come for me an’ I’ve known it all its flea-bitten life.”
“He’s not ‘flea-bitten’, you daft old codger,” grumbled Martha. “It’s no wonder he won’t even give you house room.”
I ignored the old couple who continued to bicker and turned to Jess and the others.
“Get them up to the office and hurry. I don’t know as this is going to stay put much longer.” I ran into the cottage. I could hear it creaking as the pressure on the back of it increased, knowing too that it wouldn’t be long before it succumbed to the wave of mud that was sliding down the hill.
“Here, Kitty,” I said, making kissing noises. “Here, Kitty, Kitty, Kitty - ”
A small “meow” came from behind the sofa and gently, I pulled it away from the wall, coming face to face with a huge ginger Tom cat, that didn’t look in the least bit pleased to see me.
“Come on then,” I said, trying to coax the feline foot-warmer towards me, but all it seemed to want to do was back or run away.
After chasing it round the lounge a couple of times… well, alright, a number of times, I eventually got it cornered, lunged and caught the fur-bag, which earned me a number of scratches on my hands and arms and a rather nasty bite to the finger.
It was just as well I caught it. I could see the cabin’s walls moving and needed to get out damned quick or could end up floating across to France with this flea-bitten rat-bag scratching and biting me the whole way there, or squished beneath its fallen timbers.
“You little shit!” I exclaimed as I stepped out into the rain after another bite. “Oh, gross.” I’d landed in a sea of dark brown muddy water, which I could feel squelching between my toes. The cat struggled even more to get away from me and was making some pretty horrific noises in the process. If anyone heard it over the sound of the weather, they probably would have sworn I was treating him cruelly rather than trying to rescue him. It was obviously a typical cat and didn’t like water one bit.
I looked back along the path where our cabin had been, then back the other way, seeing a veritable river of mud coming towards me. It looked to me like the mudslide had forked, catching our cabin and the one next to it and the three cabins after the one I’d got the cat from.
There was no alternative in my mind. I had to go behind the cabin I’d just come out of and try getting back to the office that way. The cat meanwhile made growling sounds and squirmed as I struggled to keep him safe in my arms, despite the pounding rain.
I stepped around the side of the cabin, trying hard to keep my footing as it didn’t seem to matter whether the mudslide had got to that point or not, the rainwater definitely had and the ground was about as soggy… well, you get the picture.
I felt I was making good progress, too until the little sod in my arms clawed at me again with a terrifying yowl. The dripping ball of pointy bits tore at my flesh as I slithered and slipped in the mud. I tried tightening my grip on him, but he just squirmed and scratched at me harder. After a well placed jab with a needle-sharp claw, I flinched, let go and off he went.
“COME BACK HERE!” I yelled, but of course, that wasn’t going to entice that ball of sharp-bits to me now was it? “Shit!” I exclaimed, stomping my foot and splashing muddy water right up the inside of my leg. I chased after it, knowing that the two old folks whose cat it was would be devastated if I didn’t get it back to them.
I watched the soggy fur-ball as it headed towards the gorse bushes that seemed to fill in behind the drive, ducking under a particularly thick outcrop and disappearing out of sight.
It’s fortunate that I’m as small as I am, otherwise, I wouldn’t have been able to scramble under there after it. I wriggled out of my jacket and edged towards the feline monster, making nice noises as far as I was able. It edged back, growling ominously, but I managed to trap it under my jacket.
I crawled out from under the bush covered in mud and I could feel the scratches down the back of my head and neck from the gorse, which seemed to take my mind off the scratches and bites I had already sustained trying to save the ungrateful ginger bastard.
I stood up, rain still coursing down my face, with a two-tone blue bundle in my arms that by this time, was making pretty horrendous-sounding noises and trying its damndest to escape - no change there then.
“Not this time, you little bugger,” I told it.
I looked about me, standing on what amounted to a small promontory with a veritable river of mud rumbling past on either side. It wasn’t looking good as I may well have been safe from the mud’s path, but there was no guarantee it was going to stay that way. The rain was still hacking down and visibility was appalling, but I couldn’t stay where I was. The cat was quieter, although I had to concentrate as every now and again he’d squirm, kick or something to challenge the grip I had on him. I considered jumping across, but the ground was so slippery, I wasn’t sure about that at all.
Suddenly, a tree complete with roots came into view, rolling as the river of muck and goodness-knows-what, carried it towards the cliff edge. I knew this was likely to be my only chance and made ready to leap.
The Gods of good fortune must have been smiling down on me that day as just before I made ready to make the jump, the tree got snagged on something which stopped it.
“Please don’t move, cat,” I whispered to the bundle and took off.
I very nearly slipped off the tree’s trunk as I planted one very muddy and soggy sandal just long enough and secure enough to propel me off the other side to the grass beneath the big house.
I looked back in time to see the tree, free now from whatever had snagged it as it headed down river out of sight. I breathed a huge sigh of relief, blew some of the dripping water from my lips, took a deep breath and headed back to the office.
Inside, there were more people than I was expecting. The first time we’d gone into the office, it had been empty and it didn’t seem as if there was anyone else around, but now, there must have been ten people. Most of them were straining to see out the windows when I arrived.
“What’s going on?” I asked and at that precise moment, the cat squirmed, poking its head from within its denim wrappings. Then it squawked, spat, swiped at me and leapt just as something hit me at about mach six, knocking me about three steps backwards.
“Oh Jamie - Jamie. Thank God you’re alright.”
I blinked a couple of times as rainwater dripped from me and looked at what had hit me - Jess, closely followed by Megan, who for some reason only knew one place to be - on my arm.
“Um - who are you and what have you done with my sister?” I asked - yeah I know, I nabbed that from Harry Potter, but hey, it fitted and it’s rare for me to be so quick off the mark.
“I - I - that is, we were concerned, Jamie. We saw Martha’s cabin slip over the cliff - ”
“I know. I only just got out of it in time.”
“I thought that because we didn’t see you coming up the drive, you went with it,” she said, with a distinct catch in her voice as real tears ran down her face.
“It’s okay, Jess. I had to go a different way,” I said and gave her a big hug, while looking daggers at Joey, who was busy trying to lick himself dry. “There was no choice. I couldn’t get up the drive.”
She broke away and slapped me hard on the shoulder.
“Well don’t ever do that again. You scared the crap out of me!” She gave me another hug and by the time she’d finished, the old man and Martha had shuffled across the floor, Martha struggling somewhat with Joey, the cat, who even from where I was, looked most put out and bedraggled - two things I don’t think any cat is particularly happy with.
“Well, Missy,” the old man said, his head bowed. “I don’t know what to say.”
“It’s okay,” I told them, shrugging.
“Pah!” he spat. “Okay? Just okay? You saved our lives is what you did. Thank you seems so ungrateful.”
“Please,” I said, getting very embarrassed. “I’m just glad we got there in time.”
“So are we, pretty lady,” he said, enveloping me in his stout arms and squeezing me hard enough to crush all the breath out of me. “So are we.”
I was happy when a petite blonde lady came across and introduced herself as Deirdre, Frank - the owner’s - wife. “I think that’s enough for now,” she said authoritatively. “These girls are all wet through and could do with some dry clothes.
The idea of dry clothes was a relief for me, especially since what I was wearing was pretty torn up, soaked or just plain covered in mud after my encounters with the mudslide, several gorse bushes and shit-head, the wonder puss.
What I was wearing.
It was the first time I’d really had the time to even think about it.
Since the mudslide had started - or at least, we knew we were right in its path, it had been foot to the floor, ninety miles an hour - until now. Now, I was suddenly very aware of not only what I was wearing, but of how people had been referring to me.
Perhaps part of it was due to being somewhat used to being referred to in the feminine at school. It was water off a duck’s back, but this duck was soggy, wet through and now the water was beginning to penetrate.
The strangest thing was that I wasn’t in the least bit uncomfortable - least not with the clothes. The skirt was just like wearing baggy shorts, the t-shirt was pretty unisex anyway and the undies? Well after a while, you don’t even notice them unless you think about them and I hadn’t had a second to think about them since we first left the cabin.
Of course, now the situation changed, I was acutely aware of my clothing - or rather, Jess’s and also what we would do about later, tomorrow and, oh God, what about Mum and Dad? They were going to have collective apoplexy.
Deirdre led all four of us through a door into the main house. “Leave your shoes by the door,” she said and waited to lead us upstairs to the main bathroom. She left us to get some towels.
“What the hell am I going to do?” I asked.
“Don’t do anything,” Jess advised. “Deirdre’s none the wiser, none of them are. What does it matter?”
“It matters a lot!” I blurted. “I’m not supposed to be wearing a skirt or those sandals and I’m certainly not supposed to be wearing your bra or knickers. What am I going to do?”
We all shut up when Deirdre reappeared with an armload of big, soft, fluffy towels. “I’ll fetch you some clothes,” she said. “I should have something for you to wear by the time you’re clean and dry. My daughter left some stuff here, which might fit Chris and I’m sure I’ve go something for the rest of you.” With that, she turned away and left us to it.
“See?” I hissed.
“See what?” asked Jess.
“Now I’m going to have to wear even more girly clothes.”
“It’s not like you don’t look okay though is it?” Jess observed.
That was a bit of a shock. Just before we went downstairs in the cabin to see the rain, she seemed more upset than pleased. I didn’t know what I was; whether I was pleased that I sort of fitted or displeased because I’m supposed to be a boy, nor did I know whether the worry was more because I did seem to drop into femininity far too easily. “That’s not the point,” I retorted, folding my arms and huffing, more because I think I felt I should have been complaining, than there was anything to really complain about. Yes it’s true I wasn’t being treated like the boy I should have been, but at the same time, there was nothing I could do about the situation. I had to just go with the flow. Something else I couldn’t let on to Jess about.
* * *
Jess showered first then I followed suit and when I emerged, handing the bathroom over to Chris and Megan, Jess was in the spare bedroom sifting through a large pile of clothes, mainly sportswear.
She handed me a pair of panties and offered to help with a bra, for which I was extremely grateful, but when it came to finding other stuff, the choice was a little limited.
The girls tried their best to help out with what to put me in so I wouldn’t attract any unnecessary attention, but it wasn’t working out so well. There was a pair of denim Capri pants, which didn’t accentuate the fact that down below, I more outer parts than I should have had, but did require me to tuck everything up.
That wasn’t the worst of it.
“You’ll have to shave your legs from your knees down.” Jess said, very matter-of-factly.
“What?” I almost wet myself.
“Look, we tried you in the other stuff, but we don’t have anything to disguise you. You don’t have a choice and will have to wear those Capri pants, but you’ll have to shave your legs.”
“I didn’t before,” I said, somewhat confused.
“You weren’t under such scrutiny then, were you?”
“I’m not under scrutiny now, am I?”
“You will be when we go back downstairs,” she said and as I looked at my sister and the other girls, I couldn’t see the expressions that were there before when they were tormenting me. This time I got the distinct impression they really were trying to help.
“Look, you’re going to have to play this through. It’s mostly our fault and we’ll help as best we can, but you have to play along.”