Chapter 13 here … Chapter 15 here
Sophie felt she wasn’t getting to grips with this young lady.
‘All right, Miri, you might have been sent to help the Azores but what’s your government want here?’
Clearly the girl’s opinion of Sophie had now dropped several notches. ‘You doan know?’
‘Not in the least.’
‘Then microfiche not for you. Give back peas.’
‘No, it might just be for us.’
‘You say ‘us’.’ The girl now looked at Sophie triumphantly – it was Sophie’s second error in one morning and she was intensely annoyed with herself.
‘I mean the people I worked for before. As you say, I’m also an agent and I think we might just have the same enemy. I had to escape before they bombed our island and that’s why I’m here.’
‘What your name?’
Suddenly, Sophie found herself saying, ‘Magdalena,’ and the effect was electric. Miri crouched into a defensive posture; it was clear she knew both the name and the martial arts. When Sophie didn’t attack, she gradually dropped her guard and, puzzled, asked, ‘Why you say that name? It code for them.’
‘Yes, I know,’ Sophie replied. ‘I was once one of them.’
Now it was the girl’s turn to become ultra-defensive and Sophie wrily noted that the roles had been reversed. She was the enemy and the girl the heroine. She added, calmly, ‘I was rescued and de-programmed.’
‘Really? How long it take?’
‘Months and months and maybe it’s not over yet. Miri, why don’t you wear clothes?’
‘Why you no wear cloves? Same for me. I pretty girl, you pretty girl. Our body peasing. Why hide?’
Sophie had to grin at that. ‘All right, all right. Why the capsule?’
‘I toll you,’ the girl now thought Sophie had had a touch of the sun, ‘we operatif. We wait boat take us. Boat no come – juss bomb.’
‘How can you dive in those waters – it’s too cold.’
‘Of corr. We rub oy – you fee here, OK,’ and with that she took Sophie’s hand and laid it on her breast, ‘you find oy on raft?’
‘Yes but what do you dive for?’ Sophie took back her hand.
‘You doan know, do ya? Microfeesh not for you.’
It all seemed plausible. If this was the enemy’s work, they’d done a fine job of it and this had to be one of their best operatives. Sophie now made a decision to bring her back to Hugh for vetting. But one last question: ‘How did you get here? I know you were on a raft but how did it move? Paddles, sail?’
‘Look at raft and you see. Orright, I hungry again – you got food?’
‘How do I know you haven’t got a communication device?’
‘I give you capsule. You know where it was.’
‘And the other place?’
‘You want look yourself?’
‘No, I want you to look. I have to be sure.’
‘How you know it not in my hair?’
It was true that she did have masses of dark brown hair but it wasn’t the best place for a device of that nature. ‘I’m waiting, Miri.’
To the amazement of Adam, who’d been closely observing through the citadel binoculars, the girl now lifted one leg and nodded for Sophie to hold her ankle, then she reached in and showed, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that she had no communication device anywhere on her immediate person.
Sophie led her over to the base of the cliff under the ladder drop point and called for them to drop it. It cascaded down and first Miri, then Sophie, clambered up and were met at the top by Mandy, holding two saris. Sophie donned hers and the girl, surprised, took hers, put it over her arm then they walked, with springy step, up to the Citadel.
They went into Moran’s, Mandy came through and put out some sustenance for both of them – the others had already eaten – the girl fell upon hers with gusto but still with some decorum. The males had not presented themselves as yet but Janine and Susannah now came through and met her.
Miri never once asked how many people there were, who they were, or about anything else of a sensitive nature. She seemed hardly interested. Perhaps she thought that, with infinite patience, all would be eventually revealed.
Who could tell? Perhaps she already knew. Sophie slipped out to debrief the others in the Command post and Sam and Adam immediately went to check out the raft story, albeit at a concealed distance.
Back in Moran’s, having eaten her fill, the girl turned and asked, ‘What now?’
‘That’s a very good question, Miri,’ answered Janine. ‘What now?’
‘Yeah, I ask you that. And whadooyoo answer?’
‘You live with us,’ answered Janine.
‘Yeah but microfiche got to get back.’
‘How do you know ‘back’ is still there, Miri? Our island wasn’t bombed – it was hit by a tsunami. You have those around your homeland?’
The girl was razor sharp and went quiet. She saw the scenario – these people had no intention of leaving this place and she had to complete her mission. Surely they could see that? Why didn’t they complete theirs, instead of skulking around on this island?
Her question was answered by Mandy. ‘Miri, most of the governments have fallen. We were on an island with our Prime Minister and our own country tried to kill us. The rules have changed. The enemy are now in control and searching for people like us, to kill us. Maybe you’re their agent. We’re trying to start up a new community, a new society, to survive the holocaust which has certainly started. Then we’ll try to go back.’
‘Yeah, I know that. They blowin up i-land everwear.’
‘So think about our security here - if you set foot on your boat again, in the vain hope of finding home, what are your chances of not meeting the enemy? Above water travel is dangerous now. Anyway, we want to know how you got here without them knowing.’
The girl was genuinely non-plussed and asked instead, ‘How you make si-siety? You got men?’
At that moment, Adam came in and nodded to the girls – Miri’s story had checked out – the wreck of the raft, the oil. Then he saw the girl and looked away. At this moment, Nicholas and Susannah also came in and Nick also looked away. The girl was upset and demanded of them, ‘Hey, what matter – I not pretty?’
‘Er- you’re very pretty. Aren’t you cold?’
‘No.’ Then she turned to Susannah and said, ‘What matter with them?’
‘Miri,’ said Janine, who’d heard the name and the story by now, ‘You’re from Tahiti, not from the African jungle. Tahiti is a developed, Gallicized society where people wear clothes and live normal lives. So why don’t you wear them?’
‘I don’t wonn.’
‘All right. You speak French?’ She nodded. ‘But your English is not what I’d imagine Tahitian to be. It seems more Asian.’
‘Mama Thai. I both. Live long time Pattaya.’
Susannah called for all females to accompany her to ask Emma, who felt that the woman was a soft plant, designed to undermine from inside, before the final blow to the softened-up body politic came from the outside. The six of them now went to Moran’s where Miri was, understandably, surrounded by the men.
Emma immediately announced, ‘For me, if any man touches that girl, he’s to be immediately anathema.’ All the women nodded.
The evening meal was an embarrassment, intolerable. With the best will in the world, male eyes constantly stole to Miri’s chest, legs, toes and even between her legs on occasions; the women knew they had to deal with her summarily.
After the men had left, Emma took her aside and explained the situation and to everyone’s surprise, she readily agreed to don the sari. She just hadn’t understood that it wasn’t acceptable.
Hugh went for a wander out to the Court to reflect one afternoon, over to the rock closest to the cliff edge. He liked the place, to wind down.
It was another unseasonally warm day and he thought he might do a spot of tanning near the court; then he had a better idea. The Pool was the place. The nights were certainly closing in and the chill was in the air after about 16:00 but during the day, it had to have still been around 18 degrees by the Pool.
With the natural rock depression being kidney or banana shaped, perhaps seven metres from end to end, the rock wall prevented you from seeing the other end. They’d decided not to use it for drinking water – there were a dozen holding pouches for that purpose in different parts of the Citadel.
No, this was a bathing pool. They could draw water from it into the buckets and do clothes washing back at their huts but not in the Pool. It was for humans and any small animals who might like to swim.
Hugh hurried now and hoped the almost permanent resident, Susannah, wouldn’t be there. As he climbed up the carved rock steps to the ledge where they changed, he listened and heard no sound – good and there were no robes on the pegs so he hung his up and stepped into the pool.
The water was maybe halfway up the thighs but it had gone down in the last days, with the sun more or less constantly on the surface, despite the dew and night rain. Though barely lukewarm, the water was acceptable and, watching to see that no one was coming from the compound, he began splashing and washing himself.
Suddenly a voice came from behind him. ‘Hoo, you cumm ear too. It wunnerfu here.’
As is always the way, two or more things happened simultaneously. Miri came straight up to him, put one hand behind his waist and took a handful of his equipment with her other, just as Nicholas was climbing the steps.
She stroked his equipment a few more times, let go, waded over to Nick, thinking the afternoon was turning out quite pleasantly after all, took his in both hands and dragged him into the pool.
Lifting her leg, she drew him home like a homing missile before he had a chance to even think and let’s face it, a male would need to think, not about whether to but whether not to.
At exactly the same time, Susannah had climbed the steps for her constitutional, saw what was happening, assumed Hugh was in it too, Nicholas extracted himself from Miri, waded fast to the edge of the pool, climbed down to Lover’s Lane, still naked, chasing and calling, ‘Sue! Sue! Stop!’ catching her halfway back to Moran’s, just as Emma and Sophie were on their way to the pool.
Nicholas went straight to his hut, Susannah ran for Moran’s and Hugh was not far behind.
Effectively banned by the women from any contact with them, was it any wonder Miri now became morose and withdrawn?
Laurence, Mandy, Emma, Sophie and Hugh happened to be in Moran’s and Laurence said what all had been thinking. ‘Sooner or later, ladies, we must all have her, as Nick did, as long as you ostracise her. Why don’t you girls show more warmth, befriend her and educate her about what is right and wrong?’
Mandy snorted at that, ‘Why don’t you all just say no?’
‘Because she ambushes us. She’d had Nick before he knew what was going on and that’s the truth. She’s taken to studying our habits in detail, knowing where we go, with whom, and at what times. She knows Sam generally goes to check the pods in the early afternoon but, instead of returning, he often sits for three quarters of an hour at the top of the cliff, feet dangling over the edge like a boy. She knows these things.’
‘You mean she had Sam?’ demanded Janine.
Laurence shut up, ‘I’m not saying anything.’ Janine left swiftly and the meeting broke up in discord.
Hugh went straight to one of Sam’s other haunts, the other side of the paddy fields, certain he’d be there and he was. It was a sloping grassy area, better for the purpose, surrounded by trees on all sides.
On Hugh’s approach, Miri was delighted – more meat - but Sam broke off. When it was clear the two were only going to talk, she looked at both and said, ‘I bee at Pool.’
‘You’re in some trouble, Sam. We were in Moran's and Laurence inadvertently let the cat out of the bag about you two over near the pods.’
‘Was Janine there?’
‘Until she left in a hurry.’
‘Yes, ‘oh’. I’m the last person in a position to make moral judgements but I have to here. Why are you doing this to Janine?’
‘I … I don’t see it as doing it ‘to’ her. I suppose it just happened. It just happens. She watches where I go, Miri and then pounces.’
‘Which, naturally, you’re averse to,’ Hugh smiled.
‘You’re not so immune yourself,’ Sam smiled in return. ‘Look, she ambushed me near the pods, yes. Her athleticism is extraordinary - she can straddle two rocks, use me as a fulcrum, then wrap her legs around me, steadying herself with her arms around my neck. Her muscle control’s amazing. Then she disappears.’
‘Do you ever talk?’
‘Yes and she’s very lonely. She thinks the women hate her.’
‘They do. Did you explain why?’
Sam was quiet.
Hugh said, ‘Doesn’t it worry you, losing Janine? She’s going to leave you now and when Miri departs – and I think she will when her mission is done – you can’t go back to Janine. Even if she’ll take you, that’s one unhappy woman who’s been created.’
‘Not unlike Sophie.’
‘Not unlike Sophie. I’m trying to get some sense into what we do.’
‘Meaning into what I do.’
‘No, I said 'into what we do'. We two are the most publicly, the most openly sexual.’
‘Perhaps we’re the most honest.’
‘Hugh, what if I want to make my life with Miri? What if one of her prime directives doesn’t come from Them but from her home culture – find yourself a man and do what it takes to keep him?’
‘Janine has this idea of the home she’s organized for herself, everything in its place, with me getting my ration of time if I’m a good boy and if I behave the way she considers appropriate, i.e. all for her. It’s not even good sex when she does let me in; then she turns round and asks, ‘What’s wrong, Sam?’ trying to find out what my sexual dysfunction is, with endless post-mortems. No idea at all that it might lie within her and that she’s the problem.’
‘That’s an old one, Sam.’
‘Look Hugh, women like to arrange everything around them as we do and control things. They say the male is territorial but the woman is more territorial again. She’ll sacrifice one part of her territory to protect another. Usually the one who gets the short end is her mate. It’s the old primal instinct – makes herself attractive, lures the man, shows her arse, rumpy-pumpy follows, baby comes, she keeps him on to support the baby, he keeps making sexual demands, she offloads him, surplus to requirements.’
‘OK, OK but bringing in another issue to condone the first is not addressing the first issue. There’s also right and wrong. I think you should have fought harder to make her see why she can’t have it all her own way. You came together with her for some reason in the first place. She began her game of sexual politics and it was up to you to show her she couldn’t play that game and also keep you.’
‘Perhaps at that stage I was too frightened to lose her.’
‘Yes, so when you stopped being frightened to lose her, that was the time to have had a serious heart to heart with her. Ordering things to suit herself was one thing but losing you would have been a whole new ball game. What I’m saying is, she was blind and it was over for her before she’d had a chance to mend her ways.’
‘Well yes. That’s perhaps what should have happened but it happened otherwise and this is a real woman in Miri whose culture tells her to get and keep her man.’
‘That culture also shares its women around the men. It sends its girls out to the beach to have sex with visitors. That was Captain Cook’s crew.’
Sam gave a little laugh of disagreement. ‘There’s some dispute over that, you know.’
‘OK, Sam, OK. But I really wished you’d talked to Janine first.’
‘And would she have listened? Not a chance in a million. It would mean giving up her hard fought privileges and that’s all it is for her – fighting her man for an advantageous position. The idea of being there for me doesn’t occur to her. Well, Hugh, let her leave me in disgust - I’m happy with what I have. Miri understands the principle perfectly.’
‘You do know she’ll start making her own demands when the child comes.’
‘Good, she’s earned the right to make some demands.’ He looked at Hugh. ‘You can’t gainsay me, can you, old boy?’
‘There’s an answer to what you say and I’m sure it comes down to right or wrong but I admit your case.’
‘Look Hugh, Janine and I were not married, the child was an accident, as you probably realize now. I’ll marry Miri - surely that tells you something. ’
'Give Janine one more chance.' He saw that the man was not receptive to the idea. Sighing, he took his leave. On the way back, he thought it through and when he got to his hut, he told Emma the bulk of it.
She concurred that Sam was pretty well alienated from Janine now and surprisingly to Hugh, did not automatically take her side. ‘ This is a new situation for her.'
‘She’s crazy if she thinks she can just drop all pretence of caring about his needs - Sam's the type who needs a woman's devotion.’
‘That’s because she never really cared, Bebe. She doesn't love him and that's all there is to it.’
‘So what can we do about them?’
‘Not a lot – they’re already too far gone. I’ll speak with her though, you keep working on Sam, then we can swap tales. I think there are now two unattached females.’
'Seven women, five men. It's getting worse.'
Two days later, Hugh saw Miri scurrying from Moran’s in the direction of The Court so he went the other way, down to the Pool. The day was more overcast and the bathing days were numbered.
He noted two robes, knew one to be Emma’s and the other Sophie's, so he disrobed and climbed into the pool. He called and Emma came round from the far end. The thing about her was this really naughty streak and when she smiled that particular cheeky smile and dropped into that languid, flat footed, walk-like-an-Egyptian wading towards him, he knew he was gone. It was feline, that walk, a sort of ‘well look what prey I’ve found here’ attitude which pulled the trigger every single time.
He ignored the other robe which had been hanging up, he shouldn't have forgotten it, it wouldn't be nice for Sophie if she came round from the far end but he couldn't stop - he forced Emma against the rock near the bend and couldn’t remember if he kissed her before or after they’d connected.
They heard a splashing - Sophie coming round - thought of stopping and then continued. ‘Sorry, Hugh but I couldn’t stay there forever – it was getting cold. Don’t mind me. You two carry on.’
Who was to blame now at the Pool could be argued forever – them for continuing with Sophie still around or Sophie herself.
Sophie waded over to the robe area where they were, lifted herself out and sat on the flat rock, feet in the water. Emma was doubled over, facing her and Hugh was behind.
Having watched for some time, she let herself down into the Pool again, knelt down and began kissing Emma, even as it was still going on from behind. Then she left off, waded behind, knelt down again, reached between his legs and slid her long fingers along his member and inside the other woman, just to jolly it along.
Emma knew what had happened but wanted it, the immediate expansion in size against the walls, stood about three minutes of it, went into shudders, pushed them both out, waded over to grab her robe, slipped on her sandals and went quickly back up to her hut.
Hugh stared at Sophie. 'Why? In the context of the past, Sophie, why?'
'Things aren't always rational, Hugh. Longing, I suppose, for a lover, the lover I almost had before Miri arrived. I couldn't have very well done it with anyone else.'
'You'd got Emma out of this sort of thing.'
'I know, I know, I'm sorry all right?' Then she took his member in her hand, the other hand under his jewels.
'Stop. We really can't. I want you so badly, you know that.'
'Here we are.'
'Do you know what you're asking?’ He was speaking but not moving away. She was rubbing her thumb over the end of his thing and it was starting to moisten her hand. ‘If you do that one more second, do you think I can stay out of you?'
She left off with a smile, turned and waded over to the edge, vaulted her athletic frame up onto the bank, took her robe and headed down to the fields.
Miri, who’d seen the whole thing, hunkering down on top of the rock, slipped silently away. Unbeknowns to anyone, Adam, who’d also come down for a swim, had seen the last part, he turned and slipped quickly back to Moran’s, shocked to the core.
Most of the crew were in Moran’s and it was clear the story had spread like wildfire. Janine and Mandy now saw Hugh coming up the walkway and asked if they could speak with him privately. He leaned over the railing and listened.
‘Hugh,’ said Janine. ‘You spoke to me in the pod about the good of the island. Laurence, Adam, Mandy and I don’t want to be killjoys but sometimes people don’t know when it crosses the line. We don’t want to stop Emma’s and your conjugal pleasure, we really don’t … but that public threesome at the Pool may have been one partner too far, if you catch our drift. It used to be that we could safely go to the Pool.
We have partners, we make love, we eat together and things were working. Until recently, that is. Have you wiped a finger along a table in Moran’s lately? Do it. The dirt will come off on your finger. No one’s cleaning anything, no one’s attending to anything.
There’s public sex everywhere between different men and women, sometimes between women and women and precious little else happening. Is this an improvement in our lives? We were meant to populate and create a new colony. Can we still look to our leader for the example to follow?’
Mandy added, ‘Think about this please, Hugh. That’s all we ask.’
'It was neither Emma's nor my idea. It was a spur of the moment thing by Sophie. I've spoken with her already. You know Emma hasn't done anything out of order since the last island.’
They conceded that and went back to their huts. Hugh went back to his.
He told her.
Emma was thoughtful. 'On the last island, Sophie was the one who stopped me, so what was it with her today?’
'Just as I asked her. Hunger, need.'
They lay for some time in each other’s arms, then she suddenly said, ‘All right, Hugh but only as long as the idea is to create a baby.'
Outside, the sun was beginning to sink behind the rocks.
Hugh and Laurence stood on the walkway in the late afternoon, drinks in hand.
‘You know, said Laurence, ‘the way we built all this was meant to be a temporary solution.’ He made the grand gesture. ‘We built as solidly as we could but compared to home, obviously it was occasional, makeshift. Then we embellished it, planted the crops, put in the aviary, made The Court and The Pool and you know, it’s got all we need now, honestly. There’s no need for anything more solid – it fits into the island well.’
Hugh looked around. ‘I love it, to be honest. My wife’s here, the company’s good – I’d be happy to stay here.’
‘Well, on the other island, she took to life like a native, so I'm remembering now. And long ago, we were on another island and she adored that, she says. So yes, I think so. I love it too. How's Mandy?’
‘Chafing at the bit, Hugh. She’s on edge.’
Laurence nodded and they knocked back their drinks. 'Good thing the weather has been as it has. We can still use the Pool.'
'Not for much longer. It helps that the island is so far south - can you imagine it in our latitude?'
'We've been remarkably lucky - the storms aren't that far away.'
Sophie was stunned, lying on the bed where Hugh had been not thirty minutes before. He was in Moran's and she was looking straight into the eyes of Emma.
'Do you still accept the terms?'
'I have no choice, do I? I promise I'll keep within the agreement. If I find I can't, then I'll tell you.'
Hugh found Laurence on the walkway the following morning, a drink in his hand before 11:00, not something he’d done that early before. Not only that but he now asked Hugh to get one himself, which he did.
Laurence said, ‘Let’s toast, Hugh.’
‘To Mandy’s child.’
‘Hoped for or already conceived?’
He clapped Laurence on the back and smiled broadly. ‘Ah, Laurence, old son, that’s wonderful news. Here’s to the child, the mother and the father. Cheers!’
‘Thanks, Hugh. We’ll announce it officially at Moran’s but I wanted the boss to know first.’
‘Well, I don’t know about ‘boss’ but best of luck anyway.’
They finished their drinks, Hugh got them two more, those went down the hatch nicely and now it was a case of neither really wanting the thing to end. 'Let's go swimming,’ said Hugh. 'I'll tell Emma and you tell Mandy where we'll be.'
Laurence spent about twenty minutes in the Pool, his allocated time away from Mandy, they spoke of this and that, Hugh splashed about the Pool a bit once Laurence departed, then waded over for his robe but stopped, hearing someone coming.
The advantage was always with the newcomer who could judge by the robe, so for him there were now a few anxious moments and he got ready to cover himself. Sophie saw his robe, placed hers beside it and slipped into the pool, waded over quickly, those strong thighs glistening in the fading sunlight, as he waded her way and they met beside the robes.
She said, 'I hate it this way.'
‘I do too. I'm not sure you'll even like the way I do it.'
‘If we're to have a baby, I want you for myself, Hugh.'
'And I'll hunger for you. I know that and yet I can't leave Emma and you know why - we're trying to build some sort of life out of this mess.'
'If we do this now, it must be without regret, without pangs of conscience. They can come afterwards but not during it. You agree?'
'Hugh, when Emma did that thing before you woke up on Beddoes, I was the one who seduced Major Peters. I stood in the river, called him out, lifted my leg and in he went. It was sex. This looks just like sex here. I don’t want that. With you, I want something nicer, not like back with Them.'
He didn't initially reply, then said, quietly, ‘I think the feeling’s already there and this has been a long time in the making, hasn’t it? We’ve had quite a history, you and me.’
‘Yes. Now I feel better. There’s a purpose to this. So, who starts?’
‘You do, Sophe.’
She waded the two paces, dropped to her knees and immediately broke the rules on recreation. He was over the top within a minute and it floated away on the water.
'Goodness,' she said, 'so quick.'
‘Emma and you talk.'
'I knew. I wanted to know if it was going to happen for me.'
‘Then doesn’t that tell you something about my feeling for you, my real feeling?’
They bobbed down in the water and she placed a hand on his face. 'Tell me when you're ready.'
'You'll know that, I think you know all these things, Sophe.'
‘I like you calling me that. No one else does. Keep calling me that.’
The sun was doing its bit but it was always on the cards that Adam, Janine, Nick and Susannah or some other combination would arrive for a swim and they were all gathering their things from their huts at this time.
Sophie expected arrivals but as she was holding his equipment with one hand and kneading the top and as that was having the desired effect, she had to move now. ‘Are you ready?’
Years of waiting now came to an end. Somewhere within the kiss came the actual connection, it just sort of happened and after some minutes, she pulled back from the kiss and glanced down at the action going on, smiled and said, ‘It’s as if we’ve always been together.’
‘I am. You’ll know otherwise, I’m not wasting even one minute. Let me rest against the wall, in fact over where the robes are, it’s the perfect height for your equipment. If you let me sit there and rest, with my hands back, you can go on a long time.’
They waded over and she placed her bottom on the ‘patio’ in such a way that he could not see the path.
Unfortunately, that was when the party arrived. She saw them, he didn't and she never said a word. He went over the top again and pulled out, legs near buckling, she quickly slipped into the water, dropped to her knees and took it all slowly, into her mouth, nothing wasted, Adam and Lisa turned on their heels and swiftly left, Nick was grinning, Susannah slipped into the pool and waded over, waiting patiently until Sophie had her mouth free.
Susannah laughed. ‘I don’t know what to say.’
Nick slipped into the Pool too, waded over and put his arms around Susannah from behind, she turned her head and kissed him, turned back to them and asked, ‘Does … er … Emma have any idea about this?’
‘Yes,’ they both answered at the same time. 'She organized it,' added Hugh.
‘Um, some quaint French custom or any occasion in particular?
‘We’re making a baby,’ said Sophie. 'That's our agreement with Emma.'
‘A baby, a child,’ said Hugh. ‘Sophie’s going to be a mother. That’s what we’re working on now; we've only got this afternoon to do it.’
‘Is the world cracked? I’ve obviously stumbled onto something I wasn’t informed about here. But you have to love someone, guys, to do this. You said yourself, Hugh, that on this island, you wanted no casual sex, that we have to want to live our life together.’
‘We do love each other,' said Sophie, 'and there's nothing casual about this - you must have seen that by now. It was planned out, it's been talked out and we feel deeply about it, all three of us.’
‘The world really is cracked,’ said Susannah, ‘isn’t it, Nick?’ He smiled and shook his head in disbelief.
Sophie looked at them both in a kindly way and said, ‘We only have this one afternoon, Nick, Susannah. Would you like us to go up to the other end of the Pool?'
'No. no, you two stay here and keep at it,' said Nick, incredulously. 'We'll go up the other end.'
By now, the traffic going through Emma’s door had attracted the notice of Mandy in Moran’s and she wanted to know what was happening.
Inside Emma's hut, Mandy said, ‘This thing’s getting weirder and weirder. And you approved?’
‘I planned it.’
She was confused. ‘I’ve never seen anything like it,’ she said, neither disapprovingly nor approvingly. ‘Is it because you’re French?’
‘You’re not upset?’
‘Yes I am. I'm very upset. They're upset too. But it’s the only solution to the question of Sophie and it's our responsibility before anyone else's. It’s the only way to resolve her problem. Hugh’s giving her a baby.’
Mandy said, ‘I hope you know what you’re doing - it’s very, very strange. And Emma, sexual love is a very powerful force - it can destroy as well.’
‘I know, it’s a risk but we had long talks before it happened, quite deep discussions. They have this afternoon and if necessary, another one later.’
‘How do you know?’
‘All three of us discussed this exact question. It comes down to trust.’
They heard footsteps coming rapidly up the path and Janine didn’t even wait for an invitation but burst in, uttering apologies, saw Mandy and stopped. ‘Have you two just been discussing this?’
‘Yes,’ said Mandy, not even bothering about the assumption of the question.
‘What’s the latest report?’ smiled Emma.
‘You know Nick and Susannah are also in the Pool … doing it?’
‘Not with Hugh and Sophie?’
‘No, they're at the other end.’
‘We thought all of this had stopped.’
‘Having more than one at one time has stopped, Janine, we also discussed that. Couples are different. Sophie and Hugh have one afternoon today and then another later, in case it's needed.’
‘I can’t believe I’m hearing this.’
By now, the traffic at the Pool made the whole thing impossible, Hugh and Sophie got out of the water, took their robes over their arms, stepped down onto Lover’s Lane and went to the fields, opening the rock gates as they went. He noticed her long, almost world-weary strides beside him, those feline feet again – a most powerful hypnotic was Sophie Magdalena and he felt this might possibly be their last hurrah.
When they got there, walking across that glade, the whole atmosphere, the feel of the paddy fields under the trees in the distance, the grass beneath their feet, the overhanging rock - it was so, so different, far less sunworshipping, far more pastoral, far more tranquil.
A change now came over them, the realization that they were about to lose this day, that they could not come together again for some time and an inner intensity, not actually physical, gripped them both. Where the Pool had been stark and raw, all sun and naked bodies, this was far more tender, they held each other for longer and the kisses took on far greater significance and poignance - one kiss must have lasted nearly ten minutes, it asked many questions, found answers to some and not to others. This was highly dangerous because there was real love in here.
They rested for some minutes. Gazing out over her paddy fields, she felt happier than she had in years, for obvious reasons and it radiated from her features, from her face. The trees really did surround them, the birds really did call, small wildlife really did poke its head out of the ground, wrinkle its nose and pop down again.
Now she held his hand close to her chest as he lay beside her, fingers intertwined, she gazed into his eyes and they spoke of life and love, of new chances, of the things people speak of. Tomorrow she’d come back and lie here again, in this exact spot, remembering what had happened today, hoping his seed had created new life in her. This was a dangerous time when both realized that one man should only be with one woman.
There were maybe forty-five minutes left.
‘Anything left in the tank?’ she suddenly asked and turned over onto her elbows, feeling the cool touch of the grass, waiting for his heat behind. She already knew he was quicker from behind, that he enjoyed it more, found it more rhythmic and she wanted two more spurts within the time frame. She felt the burn and he was pounding with more energy than earlier, which had her gasping, the slope of the terrain perfect for his angle, which had the effect of pressing a little on the front wall so to speak ... she shook sometime after, felt that rush up her spine, which surprised her greatly, he deposited all of it inside her, then withdrew and lay back on the grass, she climbed over, facing towards the path, put one leg over his and rested her head back onto his chest - savouring the last of the daylight.
She looked down the hill to the tip of the tallest tree in the distance, watching the sun slowly moving down and the evening chill was descending. 'I love this place, Hugh. It's where I feel most at peace. Especially today.'
She looked back up the hill and saw Emma coming down the last bit of the path, stepping onto the field.
As they put on their robes, Emma reached them, announcing, ‘Here, I thought you’d both need coffee and a bite to eat.’ Then she realized she was robbing them of time and couldn't believe herself. 'OK, one last time but you have to have me here with you. I'll make supper while you do it.'
Sophie looked at him, he at her but the opportunity was too much - they knew it was a test from Emma and that they'd failed but rationalizations now took second place. They looked at Emma.
'Get on with it then, before I change my mind.'
It was weird to be sure and he'd lost energy but so had she and so it had to be missionary, which put strain on him.
They were not really getting anywhere, it was too strange a situation altogether, Emma saw it, walked over and knelt behind him and inserted her fingers as Sophie had done, taking his shaft from below but unlike Sophie, she now used her fingers to effect and first he went over, then Sophie herself. He lowered himself to Sophie's chest, exhausted, she automatically put one arm across his back and Emma went back to the coffee and nibbles.
They sat cross legged, drinking coffee, eating, not saying a word.
‘Beautiful spot,’ Emma then noted. ‘Made for love really.’
‘Oui,’ agreed Sophie, gripping her knees, chin resting between those knees and staring down the hill at the fast fading tree tops, toes wiggling and Emma saw how radiant, how relaxed, how serene Sophie looked. She sighed. Of course it had to have been this way.
It was getting quite chilly now and the two put their robes on, Emma drew hers more tightly around herself.
'Well?' Emma asked of no one in particular.
'We kept to the agreement,' said Sophie.
'Hugh?' she asked.
'We just have to wait now.'
'We'll wait two weeks to find out. When we go up now, may Sophie stay with me in our hut?'
'I'll kip in Morans.'
The escape drills now took on an intensity and some felt Hugh and Laurence were being obsessive.
Sam and Hugh cleaned the pods out and freshened them; supplies were kept up to date and stacked more scientifically. They were eating the food stored the longest and replacing it with new all the while. Hugh asked Sam to spend an hour in ‘his’ pod and to think of himself submerged for five weeks – what would he need to have at hand?
He made a list, compared it to Hugh’s and then they brought the others in for their opinions too. If anything happened at all, the last person could now make it to the pods in three and a half minutes from waking up.
They were eating heartily, drinking lustily and embracing a lot. Perhaps a leader’s mood does rub off on a group but Hugh was concealing his true feelings about the danger out there though only Laurence and perhaps Emma had a real inkling about it.
The greatest plus, according to Nick, was how Sophie now threw herself into Citadel life, helping out, doing this, doing that, chatting to all the women and spending less time on her own in the paddy fields.
It was commented on by Miri too, of all people, who observed, ‘It good Sofi fuk. She happy now.’
No one had liked them doing this, not this way and yet it had to be conceded that at least one of the parties had benefited and indirectly - so had they all. Emma was spoken with by all the women at some stage and their concern for her was in stark contrast to the last island.
Yet she knew the whole thing was wrong. Inside, she knew it was wrong and didn't want anyone accepting this as a 'good solution'. She even cried at night once she thought he was asleep but he knew.
He asked her one morning.
‘It’s not what you’re doing with her, it’s that I’m allowing it.’
‘Then say no.’
‘I want you to say no.’
‘All right, no. It’s over.’
She looked at him. ‘It can’t be. I’ve allowed it this far, you’ve agreed it stops when she conceives, we have to let that happen. Just a bit longer.’
Chapter 13 here … Chapter 15 here