Chapter 14 here … Chapter 16 here
As many had expected, the effects of any medicine wear off and the inevitable question arose. The thing was that, with the best will in the world, Sophie was not pregnant and two weeks later, she was chafing at the bit again, despite her efforts in trying to conceal it.
The difference now was that everyone, especially the men, were affectionate towards her. She'd walk up towards Moran's, for example, Adam might be there and he'd rest a hand on her shoulder, to which she'd smile back weakly. Janine understood her predicament well and embraced her, transferring some of her own angst in the process.
Miri was her best friend the whole time and Sophie reciprocated. Miri's arms were sometimes the only barrier keeping her from breaking down.
It wasn’t Hugh’s place to raise it but Emma did. ‘All right, you can have another try. From after lunch tomorrow, through to the middle of the evening. You can go past sunset this time. Don’t use the Pool though please, except to wash yourselves later. Maybe the field is the place to go. Better you don't make love to me now - I'm not at all sure about it and then tomorrow ... you know. Hold me though.’
He did and murmured, 'You never asked about her as my lover.'
'I saw you both. I don't think I want to know.'
'Then you'd be wrong. May I?' She nodded. 'If you tell Sophie this, if you use it, I'll never forgive you.’ She nodded again. ‘Only a liar would try to say she's not beautiful, statuesque, feline, silky smooth and gorgeous in the arms. Only a sycophant would say she's not a problem child.
As a lover though, the problem for me is that there's a bit too much of her. It's more difficult lifting her over or raising a leg or whatever - you're the perfect size for me and we fit like a jigsaw. When we made love the first time after I came out of the coma, my body recognized you straight away. In that respect, you were actually better than Nikki and yes, I do remember a lot of that now but I think you know that -'
'Well, you do now. The thing with you was that you knew you were perfect -'
'I'm not perfect, Bebe.'
'You are for me. Look how we're lying together now. That's not always natural between people. It’s like a jigsaw puzzle.'
She suppressed a smile. 'All right, you've said all the right things. I choose to believe them.'
After lunch the next day, the first visitor to Emma’s hut was Janine and a smiling Emma bade her sit down.
‘Janine, they have to try. For everyone’s sake, she needs to have that child.’
‘Oh, I’m not arguing. Life at the Pool today is going to be interesting.’
‘They’re not going to the Pool; they’ll be in the fields. You might like to tell people it’ll be safe there all day. I imagine they'll go back to the Pool to clean up in the evening.’
‘You’re so matter-of-fact about it, aren’t you?’
‘How else can I be? To protect myself, to protect my mind, I can’t afford anger, so I have to rationalize it. I can only cope with it because I’m the one allowing it. If I say it stops, it stops straight away.’
‘You’re quite some woman, you know. People are concerned; no one on the island wants you hurt over this.’
‘I might look naïve at times, Janine but I’m really the one pulling the strings.’
‘No one doubts that. It’s Hugh that can’t be predicted.’
Susannah now sauntered in and took the remaining seat, grinning broadly. They heard footsteps and Mandy burst in, couldn’t find a chair and sat on the edge of Emma’s bed. ‘Do you know they’ve gone down the walkway together, Emma? Why do you permit it?’
‘I don’t permit it, Mandy, I organize it.’
Mandy looked at her. ‘I suppose that’s swimming out for the day.’
Janine smiled, ‘They’ll be in the field. The Pool’s safe until nightfall.’
‘Well, thank heaven for small mercies.’
Now the last person on the island they’d ever have expected to drop in on them was Miri and she’d been busy. ‘Rite, I reddee. I go now n mak shor o babee.’
They looked at her incredulously, at the paraphernalia she had in two rushen bags, then back at her. Someone had to put her straight. Susannah said, ‘Miri, in our culture, we let them get on with it in private.’
‘Except for the Jensens,’ observed Mandy, dryly.
‘No, yoo don unnerstan. I gotta be thair.’
‘Miri -’ Susannah started but of all people, it was Janine who stopped her.
‘Miri’s right. Sam told me a few things about these – these fertility rites, grandmothers pass it down and so on. It might not hurt if she tried.’
‘Thair, yoo see, Yanine unnerstan. I go now.’ She beckoned Janine over and whispered in her ear, picked up her bags of tricks and Janine left with her.
Mandy grinned, ‘Hugh and Sophie are really going to love this. I’d love to see their faces.’
‘You’re not the only one,’ Susannah agreed.
‘I’m not criticizing,’ said Sophie, ‘really I’m not. Is it something with me perhaps?’
‘Not in the least,’ Hugh assured her, hugging her close. ‘It happens, Sophe, things on the mind, I don’t know. It happens when I'm with Emma and when we try to force it. It’ll get better later.’
‘That’s it - we don’t have all that much time; I’m getting a bit anxious.’
‘Don't, please - that's exactly what's killing it - your pressure. Let it take its own course. What the -’ He’d left off because of something in the distance and now he pointed to the head of the field.
It was Miri, in skirt and top, clearly borrowed from one of the women, carrying some bags and running full tilt, half skipping, as she came straight for them. When she arrived, Sophie noticed she regained her breath quite quickly – a hard miss, our Miri.
‘O Hoo, Sofi, I fort I lait.’
Hugh reassured her. ‘Well, you’re a bit late for the first act but if you take a seat, you’re in time for the rest of the show.’
‘Nah, you doan unnerstan.’ She was scornful. ‘I hear t hell.’
Sophie looked at Hugh and he looked at her.
Hugh explained, ‘Look, Miri, we really do appreciate this visit and we’d love to do it with you too but unfortunately, I’m trying to get Sophie pregnant and you already have a baby in there.’
Frustrated, she admonished him, ‘Hoo, I trine t hell hear.’
Sophie began to tumble to it – it looked like some sort of ritual Miri had in mind. ‘A fertility rite?’ she asked.
‘Yeah, yeah, ferteeitee.’
They looked at each other again. Miri had clearly gone to some trouble over this; it would have been cruel not to go along with it for a while. Sophie stood there now in a pose Hugh swore to himself he’d never forget, long fingers on hips, one sinewy foot further up the slope and the comparison was stark. One a loose-limbed European, fair-haired, hard-bodied and well proportioned, the other small, nuggety and all light brown curves. The look on Sophie’s face was one of frustration.
‘Emma will give us the extra time, don’t worry,’ he reassured her. 'She said we can go past sunset. Sophe, please relax ... for me ... for us?
‘Orrite,’ she said, taking things out of her rushen bags and laying them on the grass. There were two skirts, two things like potpourris and some material – looked like someone’s sheet.
‘OK, yoo too stan verr. No, closa. Rite.’ She laid the material out on the grass in front of her, then asked for their robes, which they took off and gave; she now put them behind her.
Miri now promptly took off her skirt and threw it away. Naked from the waist down, she stood on the material and hoola-danced with her hips, turning 360 degrees, reciting verses as far as she could remember them. She indicated for them to put the skirts on.
Sophie looked down at hers. It was made out of long grass, matted for the belt and the rest hanging down from that belt. Trouble was - though almost knee length, it hardly covered anything effectively and Miri saw the effect on him and was pleased.
‘Goo, goo. She used the herbs and potpourri, then concluded, ‘OK, now yoo too gotta fuk.’ He winced. ‘Well - go on.’
Sophie laughed and they started the process. Miri, feeling that this was now their affair, picked up all the bits and pieces and sat about five metres away, observing the view out to sea.
Some minutes later, Sophie, who was enjoying the rites, stopped and asked, ‘What next?’
‘Yoo keep goin, of corr.’ They laughed, a huge grin spread over Miri’s face and she went away with her bags of goodies, half skipping, half walking.
‘What was she chanting earlier?’ asked Sophie.
‘Some sort of ritual prayer.’
Miri got to Moran’s and all wanted to know how it had gone. ‘Goo, goo,’ she said. ‘It wenn well. Thay fukkin now. Babee soon.’ Susannah put her straight on the usage of the F word in polite society.
Miri left and her next port of call was Emma, who put certain questions to her.
In Adam’s hut, Lisa lay in his arms, contented. They’d finally achieved success themselves but only Mandy and Laurence knew this thus far.
He chuckled and stroked her cheek. ‘We’ll have to seriously think out our plans now. We’ll need some sort of medical support.’
‘Sam’s fine,’ she said. ‘I know a thing or two myself. The truth is, Adam, if we were to return to Britain or anywhere else – things are in a bad way. You knew the state of the NHS, even before we left for Beddoes Island. It’s tranquil here and I’d trust Sam.’
‘Well, as long as you’re OK with it. Poor old Hugh and his concubines, eh? All that effort and no result.’
‘Give them time,’ she answered. ‘It just takes perseverance. Mandy and Laurence were patient, we also were. Let them be.’
‘Laurence, I feel you should have a word to Hugh, man to man.’
He sighed. ‘All right, Mandy. I know it upsets you. We’ll have a little chat tomorrow when this business is all over.’
‘Do you think we’ll ever get off this island?’
‘You’re dying to get back to the rat race?’
‘I want us to have a life of our own, not determined by Hugh Jensen and his concubines. It’s all too closed, too insular here.’
‘When it’s possible to return, we’ll return.’
‘Never, in other words. In the meantime, you tell him there are others on this island, apart from him.’
The sun sank lower and lower, until it was once more over the tallest tree top.
Miri appeared again but this time they didn’t stop, which didn’t faze her in the least. She told Sophie, ‘Emma sed too mor owse. She cummin ear ven. Orrite?’
Sophie, otherwise engaged at that point, gave Miri the thumbs up, he looked over and promptly slipped out, Miri put him back in and went straight back up to Emma to issue a progress report.
They took a break and sat beside one another, shoulder to shoulder, drinking in the early evening. ‘It’s such a beautiful place, Sophe.’
About 20:00, in the dark, Emma herself appeared. In her basket were sandwiches and coffee, with fruit afters but she’d also brought three matting blankets from their huts and three cushions from Moran’s.
Sophie was quicker to see the implications than Hugh. Then, in her second take on the implications, she realized that this contravened the very agreement they'd made and put Hugh in a far more morally indefensible position. Plus, she didn't want this, for her own reasons.
She actually helped Emma lay it all out, knew the two blankets went down first, the supper was divided into three and left nearby and now they were ready but for what?
They sat at the corners of the blanket and Hugh felt compelled to ask. ‘Emma, what are you doing?’
Sophie had been scrutinizing Emma’s face. ‘She can’t answer a question like that, Hugh but Emma, if this is your answer for the Pool, you’re not going to escape yourself, you do know that, don’t you?’
Emma indicated for him to lie down with her on their sides and the moment they did, she lifted her thigh, there were no preliminaries whatever, he moved into a rhythm and the tension went out of her. 'Lie behind me, Sophie,' she said, her breathing getting shorter. 'You know what I want.'
'Sophie ... '
She lay down behind Emma, reached down and inserted her long fingers around him and the combined action had Emma in long orgasm, over and over and over - she then pushed them out and lay there for some time. Sophie lay on her back, staring at the stars, Emma now straddled her and lowered her lips, kissing the other woman.
She indicated behind her with her hand for him to begin.
He slowly entered and Sophie could feel the movement above her and the wetness dripping on her skin, which had her moving also under the assault of Emma's kiss.
Emma then shook her body, he withdrew, she got off, she told him to start on Sophie who knew exactly what was going to follow that.
He lay down gently over her, she felt the sudden extra intrusion from Emma’s shorter fingers but Emma wouldn’t stop andt her fingers were all over the place, Sophie resented the day had ended this sordid way, it was not how she saw it finishing and she shook both away.
'Not this way. I don't want a curse on my child.'
They lay on their fronts under the rushen blanket, watching a whole extended family of little creatures who’d gathered, over to the right, watching the show; Hugh climbed out from the blankets, stepped across and brought supper over, sending the family scurrying; the humans ate and sipped a little, then it was time to finish up for the night.
He leant over and kissed Emma, leant over and kissed Sophie, then crashed. They threw both their robes over him, climbed under the blanket and talked half the night.
In a way, it was good that it was Miri who came down early, saw the scene and grinned.
He was awake, put a finger to his lips, indicating the two sleeping women, Miri nodded and stationed herself as guard at the start of the walkway.
Sophie woke up, looked about, saw Miri in the distance and smiled, Emma woke up, turned over and saw her too.
‘I can’t think of any words,’ said Emma.
‘Don’t bother,’ was Hugh’s contribution.
‘I can,’ said Sophie, 'and they're not good ones.'
They got up, folded the blankets, ate the remnants, packed the basket, put on their robes then sat on the grass in the once again unseasonable sunshine, waiting for Sophie to explain.
‘This thing can destroy you both. Destroy me too. We've put the mission at risk.’ Emma looked at her and said, ‘Continue.’
‘There are two things. I've said it before. Once you start down this path, you can’t control it, can’t stop, it grips you and you do more and more for the orgasm, for the physical side and feelings drain away. We saw that last night - we got worse and worse.
The things Hugh and I did yesterday were done with love, the things he and you do all the time are done with love. When I am with you, it is love. Last night though - that put my baby at risk.’ Emma looked at her quizzically. ‘You don’t understand, Emma. I mean in the spirit. We offended last night.’
Emma nodded. 'Then why did you do it? Why didn’t you say no? Why did you even arrange it - you know - back at that other island?’
Sophie sighed and explained. ‘How could we stop last night, Emma? How could any of us say no to what we were doing, when that urge was pushing us, driving us on? The mind and body both wanted it, had to have it, had to feel that happening inside, all over.
We took something constructive and made it destructive. How could you stop yourself on the island? Could I stop in the river? Could those men in the Temple stop with me?
You came down here last evening and I saw it in your eyes immediately. If there’d been ten men, you’d have done it with all of them, Emma – you had no way to say no. Later, you would have been ashamed, of course, especially if anyone had seen you doing it and word had got around.
Emma accepted that and closed her eyes. Sophie went on. 'I'm not telling only you. I’m just as bad, which is how I recognized it so quickly. Slowly, Emma, we begin not to be ashamed, we become defiant, we start justifying it to ourselves, Hugh too, taking less care of ourselves, not caring about anything much anymore. I don't know why that happens but it always happens.
And Hugh, don’t ever participate in that again, that sort of thing. Not with anyone – it’s not the image I have of you. Emma and you were noble, you and I were noble - wrong but noble. We must keep this thing on a higher plane.’
Emma just looked at her.
They suddenly heard Miri arguing with someone at the top of the field - it was Mandy striding straight past her, they picked up the blankets and Hugh muttered some bad words.
'Here we go,' he added.
Mandy had now reached them and was not happy.
Her first withering look was at Hugh, then she walked straight up to Emma, looked down at where the robe hadn’t closed, then looked straight into her eyes. Sophie she didn’t even bother with, which miffed the latter no end. She turned on her heel and marched back up to Moran’s, giving Miri the most scathing look as she passed.
The three of them looked at each other. ‘Sh-t,’ said Hugh, before he could stop himself. 'Let's get Miri here.'
They all beckoned her down, she came running but before she could speak, they surrounded her, smothering her with kisses and cuddling her, which delighted her beyond her wildest hopes.
The four of them made their way back and first dropped by the Pool to clean up. There was no sign of anyone else, they then put on their robes, making sure they looked decent - even Miri who wanted to feel part of this group donned hers - they turned for Moran’s and went to face the music.
It was almost a tribunal in Moran’s or rather, a court martial.
For the prosecution were Adam, Janine, Mandy and Lisa, for the defence were Sam, Nick and Susannah and undecided was Laurence, making him the ideal judge and jury in the case.
Hugh symbolically tore off his epaulettes and handed them now to Laurence. ‘You’re in charge now, old boy.’ The three miscreants went over and sat on the cross benches.
Laurence was at a loss for words. ‘Hugh, it’s … so hard to come to terms with this. You led two women into that or at least you were party to it. Those three over there don’t seem to mind but you’ve not set the example for these other four and they’re deeply upset.'
Hugh could see that they were.
Laurence continued, ‘You and Emma have done so much to keep this island running and everyone was delighted the way Sophie had come on. It’s like … I don’t know … like the cow who gives good milk and then kicks the bucket over.’
Hugh spoke. ‘For our offensiveness, if the two ladies will allow me to speak for them -'
'Ladies?' muttered Mandy, under her breath but loud enough for all to hear, causing Hugh's eyes to narrow.
'If the ladies will allow me to speak for them, we offer our abject, sincere apologies over the offence to sensibilities.’ He looked at each of the accusers and they looked away. ‘In my last act as so-called leader, I’m asking Sophie and Emma not to defend our actions. The last thing we can afford now is discord because I happen to believe we are in imminent danger from outside. Therefore, the best thing was to figuratively hand in my epaulettes. Laurence is a fine commander, respected by absolutely everyone and he didn’t take sides in this matter. We thank you.’
He stood, Sophie and then Emma too.
‘Wait,’ said Laurence. ‘I demand that no one ostracizes these three. When they leave this room now, they leave as friends and return later as friends. I shall deal with anyone churlish enough not to grant that.’
‘Thanks, Laurence,’ said Hugh and gave a smile to each of the three who’d been supportive or at least broad-minded enough. Emma and Sophie bit their lips and kept their silence, Hugh nodded to the four accusers and all three went to the Pool to do a bit more ritual cleansing.
Miri was seriously undecided. She looked at Sam, he nodded his approval, then she rushed out and caught them up near the Pool. Throwing her robe off, she jumped into the water and joined them.
Laurence actually came down half an hour later and joined them in the Pool. They’d been swimming and were now sitting on the edge, feet in the water.
He stood in the water in front of them. ‘It’s heated at the moment, Hugh but you must know that when some sort of penance is over, things will return to normal. What really incensed them was the look of calm satisfaction on the girls’ faces, as if they couldn’t care less and the defiant anger at the end. Thank goodness you yourself didn’t walk in smug.’
Hugh sighed. ‘Laurence, I didn’t feel we owed those four an explanation but I do need to give you one. It just happened, you know, this feeling for each other and we weren’t strong enough to resist it. Believe me, we've analysed this in detail this morning and Sophie had some quite harsh things to say about nobility - far harsher than anything Mandy said. And we listen to Sophie because she knows. Only one request please - make sure we can all still be in those pods in three minutes.’
‘Of course. All right, best be getting back.’ He shook Hugh’s hand and nodded, slightly embarrassed at the three naked beauties eyeing him with the kindliest of smiles.
‘There goes a good man,’ said Emma.
Sam now appeared with Nick and Susannah - various heads were being shaken but with smiles. He took Miri to the far end. Nick and Susannah went to their favourite place near the bend.
‘Ladies, let’s go somewhere else.’ They grabbed their robes and, deciding it was too warm to put them on, carried them en route to Moran's. This was another error because coming down the walkway were the other four. Seeing the brazen nakedness of the women, Mandy said to Janine, ‘We’re leaving this island soon, no matter what.’
After they'd passed, Hugh turned, opened his robe and shook his tadger at them but Emma tut-tutted and they made it to Moran's.
Once inside, glasses in front of them, they stared at each other. Hugh started to twiddle his thumbs. Emma understood and said, ‘When it’s the three of us together, this silence happens. With one-on-one, we talk about philosophy and life and then make love. Isn’t it weird? We’re the same people and each of us can relate to the other but when we are three, it is different.’
Sophie had nothing to add. Hugh had nothing to add. They all looked at each other and burst out laughing in one of those moments, Hugh giving a long groan. ‘It’s impossible with you two sitting there naked, sipping on your drinks.’
An idea formed in all three minds and when Emma glanced at the trestle table, shaking it a bit as if to test its stability, he went red. Sophie looked up at the sky, then suddenly said, ‘OK, get on with it. I’ll hold the table.’
Emma, giggling, said, ‘First, the two of you hold the table, one either side.’ Hugh went round to the other side, intrigued. She stepped up via a chair and while the other two held the table top in place, she began a Miri-like hula dance, gyrating like a pro. Now losing all inhibitions, she also started singing a French ditty from her girlhood. Finishing with a flourish, she lay down on her back and let her lower legs hang over the side. Hugh looked at Sophie, climbed up and eased himself inside.
Ten minutes later, Sophie couldn’t hold the table any more, she'd warned them but it crashed, the two of them sliding onto the floor and the table top with it - a splinter went into his bottom, which Emma now removed. Sophie heard someone approaching and took a quick look through the door - it was Lisa and Mandy, still about fifty metres away - everything was hurriedly put right and robes went on quickly, just as they walked in.
Hugh said, welcomingly, ‘Let me get you a drink, ladies.’
Lisa said thanks but Mandy shook her head. He poured the drink, which she accepted but now she could smell that familiar smell. Putting the glass down on the table, she took Mandy’s arm and walked out of Moran’s.
Sophie watched them go to Janine’s hut. The three of them looked at one another, sighed, finished their drinks and walked all the way down to the fields, lying beside one another on the glade.
That had not been nice what they’d done.
‘We’re all guilty,’ said Sophie.
Emma said, ‘Seriously, Hugh, what can we do? We can’t ever face those people again. How can I ever speak to Janine again, knowing what she must know?’
‘They think it was me,’ said Sophie.
‘That still leaves Hugh in it.’
He said, ‘I seriously don’t understand myself sometimes. Oh no, I see a delegation coming. Do up your robes and let’s sit a metre apart.’ But it was Sam, Miri, Nick, Susannah and Laurence.
Miri got straight down to it. ‘You fuk in Man’s?’
‘Moran’s,’ corrected Susannah.
Hugh nodded. Miri was shocked. ‘I nevva do vat. I go to poz or pool or under teez. Wot you dun’z bad, Hoo.’
‘I know, Miri. We’ve just been talking about it.’
Laurence said, ‘This one’s shaken me, Hugh.’
‘I know, I know. It just got into us and we couldn’t stop. We just couldn’t. We forgot everybody else.’
‘The women are deeply upset and Adam’s vowing revenge.’
‘I’d expect that.’
Susannah was less harsh. ‘Look, we’re no saints ourselves and I don’t particularly care what Adam says but you did cross the line this time, you know, guys. In Moran’s! How could you do that?’ She looked at Sophie, looked at Hugh and shook her head.
‘It wasn’t Sophie, it was me,’ said Emma. ‘I was the woman on the table.’
‘On the table!’ cried Nick. ‘I mean, we knew someone had done it in there and we assumed Hugh must have been one of them.’
‘We’re all guilty,’ said Emma and Sophie nodded.
‘All for one and one for all,’ commented Laurence. ‘Hugh, Emma, you put me in an impossible situation. Just what can I do with you? Fatigues? Put you in the brig? How can we all sit down as a team and eat together again?’
Hugh looked down. ‘I don’t know. I really don’t. Perhaps we can extend Sophie’s hut and make it for three? Perhaps she can go up, get our food and bring it down there. What say you, Sophie?’
'Not a problem.'
Laurence thought about it. ‘There has to be some sort of penance, that’s for sure. That might be the solution for a few weeks and it keeps you out of harm’s way. You’d have to go to the Pool after dark and stay most of the day in the fields here. You’d be the Twilight People for a while.
I think that if I do nothing, real resentment will take hold. If we opt for this solution though, I do think the others will thaw out in the end. If they know you’re pariahs, banned from Moran’s and from the Pool during the day, they might start drifting down to visit you again.’
Emma said, ‘Yes, I agree with that. Will you four help us build the extension? I don’t include Laurence because he needs to be impartial.’
There were nods all round and then Sophie spoke. ‘What I object to most is those four saints. All right, we did a bad thing in Moran’s, we did - no question. We also should have been more careful at the Pool. Fine, so now we’re going to pay for that. But their attitude is just as destabilizing as anything we did. You four came down here now, plus Laurence and you’re reasonable people. Miri told us we did wrong and coming from her, I accept it immediately.'
Miri looked at her sharply, most pleased and delighted.
'I’d accept it from any of you here. You’re reasonable people. We can do business. Those other four are not reasonable people.’ Laurence made to speak but she hadn’t finished. ‘Sorry, Laurence. We do see it and we accept our punishment but they have to look at themselves too.’
Laurence summed it up. ‘All right, then it’s agreed. I suppose apologies are out of the question to Adam and the women?’
‘Not at all,’ said Hugh. ‘As ex-leader, that’s my job. I’ll do that.’
‘Good, Hugh. Well, that’s as good a result as we’re likely to get, I think. I’ll be getting back now.’
Nick and Susannah went up with him and Sam chuckled, ‘Tut tut, naughty boy, Hugh. And you, Emma! Tch tch! Tell me, just for interest’s sake – was it the central table or the one by the window?’
‘The central,’ said Hugh.
‘How … er … did you keep it on top of the trestles? I ask only for information.’
‘I held it in place,’ said Sophie.
‘Did you have a cloth on the table?’
‘No,’ said Emma.
‘So, when they look at the table top, they’re going to see the stains.’
‘I don’t want to talk about that.’
Sophie was grinning and they looked at her. She couldn’t control her laughing, so they waited. She said quietly, conspiratorially, ‘Do you want to know what Emma did first on the table?’
Sam and Miri were intrigued.
‘No,’ whispered Emma, going red, ‘Sophie, no.’
‘This needs to be confessed, Mrs. Jensen de la Mere. All right, the island matriarch jumped up there to do a French fertility dance.’
‘It wasn’t a fertility dance.’
Miri grinned and urged, ‘Sho uz.’
Hugh and Sophie nodded emphatically. Emma looked back at them, looked up at the head of the field, stood up quickly and shimmied a bit.
‘No,’ said Sophie, ‘come on, the whole thing.’
Emma sighed, gathered herself and went into the hula, arms gracefully extended and hips working, which had Miri’s eyes popping and Sam doubled up, then she started singing her little ditty. When she finally shuffled round through 360 degrees, hips too fast to catch, Miri was in awe. Emma finished up to rapturous applause, then fell over.
‘Ahhhhhh,’ sighed Miri.
‘I tell you, Miri, we miss all the action,’ rued Sam. ‘All right, Sophie, your turn for a song and dance. We demand our money’s worth.’ They all cheered, she thought for a minute and then got up. ‘Lend me your robes.’ Hugh and Emma gave theirs up, Miri had no hesitation, Sam sighed and gave up his.
‘All right, this is the dance of the five veils, not the seven. I studied Mata Hari. Truly. Make some kind of rhythm – clap or something.’ They did and she began.
It was a great rendition, with enormous poise and great control of limbs and head. Her timing was immaculate, she could hold a pose, descend into rapid rhythms, then back to a pose at will.
The end of her number received the same applause. She’d been good at it but most of all – she’d been Sophie the Happy.
At the head of the field, Mandy, Janine and Adam looked down at the naked gathering on the grass and wondered if they’d descended into some pagan world they knew not of. Mandy walked down and indicated, with a gesture, that she’d like to speak with Hugh alone; he put on the robe and met her halfway.
‘Hugh, you say you’re a Christian?’
‘I subscribe but I’m not a very good one.’
‘Then you'd understand when I say that Emma and you made Sophie commit adultery. Even though you’re both married, by bringing her into it, you committed adultery yourselves. So that privileged spot in heaven might not be reserved for you after all.
I don’t believe you can now run off to your God and say, ‘Oh, I’ve sinned,’ and be free to do it again. I don’t believe that that’s how it works. I also believe you had a responsibility to Emma. Women might be equal and free but she still looks up to you. By letting her down this way, you’ve shown you’re no better than the others.’
He put out his hand and she involuntarily accepted it as a matter of form before she realized she shouldn’t have. ‘You’re right, Mandy.’
‘I don’t know how to take you, Hugh. Are you really sorry? Are you going to stop all this?’
She scrutinized him closely. ‘You’ve changed. So has Emma. Why don’t you both cool your heels for a bit and think through the effect on everyone else. Look at those four down there and the rest of us up here. We’re split down the middle. Is that what you want?’
She looked at him, then made her way back to the others. They walked back up the track. Hugh returned to four people who had been watching the whole thing closely.
‘Did you apologize?’ asked Sophie.
‘I’m former commander, with responsibility for the whole island. I said she was right.’
‘And was she satisfied?’
‘No, that type never is. I’m going to speak to her.’
‘You’re the last one to do that, Sophie. I know your type of ‘speaking to’. No, I’ll be the go between. So, people, are you going to help us construct this extension?’
They all went up to make a beginning.
It had been two weeks.
The extension had been built. Emma now taught Sophie, Hugh, Sam and Miri French ditties to chant and often they’d sing them until dusk, which drove Mandy and Adam spare.
Janine actually thawed a bit – whether that was to be near Sam or whether she thought the most fun on the island was to be had in the big hut, she finally visited and was made welcome. Nick and Susannah were usually off doing their own thing but they were always welcome and dropped in from time to time.
Moran’s was now frequented by Adam, Mandy and Janine only, Laurence remained on the walkway, his favourite place, gazing down at the big hut.
When Janine went into Moran’s one early evening, Mandy said, ‘Judas.’
Janine turned around and went straight back down to the big hut, announcing, ‘I want to have sex with three people please. Someone give me a drink. They sat her down and she got the drink.
‘It was Sophie who said, ‘We don’t do those things now. We just try to enjoy life a bit.’
Janine announced, ‘You know Sue’s pregnant.’
They were all delighted although two women present were wistful. Hugh asked Janine, ‘Who’s the most vehemently against us?’
‘Oh, Adam. He won’t have a bar of you, Hugh.’
Hugh spied Adam standing on the walkway looking down the hill and went up to meet him. Adam turned on his heel but Hugh called for him to stop. He stopped in mid-stride then turned back to the railing.
Hugh stood beside him, silently.
Adam asked, ‘Well?’ When Hugh didn’t reply, he added, ‘your particular charm I find quite resistible, Hugh. It used to bind us together. Now look at it. People are having children and they need a strong social setting to deliver them into.’
‘That will return, Adam.’
‘Good. Well, until that time, you think about your actions and I’ll look after my wife to be. Didn’t we once have some notion of all getting married and starting a new community?’
Hugh nodded, Adam turned and walked in the direction of The Court.
In bed, Emma said to Hugh, ‘You know, I can’t see why I should feel ashamed of the feeling that went through me when you were both making love to me. I see how it makes you want more and more and how that makes us jealous but the feeling itself was wonderful.’
‘It was wonderful but it was cheap.’
‘That’s a horrible thing to say.’
‘I don’t mean the night was cheap or you were cheap or Sophie was. I mean that it takes things out of context. It was like having the icing on the cake but leaving the cake itself uneaten and that was the part which the cook spent hours baking.’
She nodded and they went quiet for a while. Then he said, ‘By the way, I think we’re missing something here with this pregnancy business. People are quietly getting pregnant and what are we doing? We’re making a big song and dance about it and getting nowhere.’
‘I don’t think it’s anything to do with a song and dance,’ she smiled. ‘It has to do with the sperm entering the egg at a fertile time.’ She touched his cheek in that characteristic manner. 'Your Ksenia was with child and so was I, so that answers one question, does it not? Let's just be patient.'
‘Let’s have a night of our own down at the field.’
‘That’s Sophie’s place. We need a place of our own. Even this extension isn’t ours. Sam and Miri have the spot near the pods -’
‘No, they gave that up long ago. Theirs is now a little clearing they found at the end of the field. Laurence and Mandy use The Court, I believe; Susannah and Nick like the Pool.’
‘Adam and Lisa used Moran’s too, you know, in the late evening when everyone else had gone. I could hear them from our hut. So he was being a hypocrite saying that to you. You should stand up to them.’
‘I’d have mentioned it if I’d known about it. The thing is, from the point of view of order on the island, I actually agree with much of what they say. Well, what’s done is done. So let’s think about this place of our own.’
‘We need one we both discover, all by ourselves.’
‘Tomorrow morning we’ll go exploring. Your name, de la Mere – we need to have some sort of sea motif in there.’
‘Yes, let’s do that.’
When Sophie heard the plan, she was 100% behind them. ‘I don’t even know if it will ruin it if I tell you a good place. I’ve had a lot of time to explore.’
‘You really know somewhere?’
‘I know of a few places, one which I’m keeping for myself, if I get the chance a third time.’ Emma inclined her head. ‘I’ll show you the path down and you’ll decide for yourself.’
She took them onto the walkway which had not yet been swept and made a map in the dust with a twig. ‘You know roughly where?’
They nodded. Hugh went to inform Laurence of their whereabouts and he gave them three hours before a search party went out. Emma and Hugh had their robes, sandals, waterbottles, a bag of food, two blankets, metal spikes, hammer and length of rope as they set off. They found the track which led to the main path and then the difficult steps down – Sophie was athletic, of course.
‘They made their way down, past rocky outcrops, past the tops of trees, down, down, past branches and ferns, the rocks giving them good footholds and handholds all the same.
About two metres above the waves, which seemed more muted here, there was a rocky ledge leading eastwards but an overhanging outcrop made them have to crouch as they went along, until they came to a seemingly uncircumventable rock wall.
She sighed. ‘It’s not exactly easy, Bebe.’ Actually, it was amazing how she'd made it so far. Off crutches for quite some time, she still had tenderness inside and her legs were not 100% as yet - at least not in the medical way.
Now he extracted the spikes from the coiled up line, gave the rest to her to mind and put in the first spike. He tied a locking clove hitch over it and moved out onto the small ledge, balancing and driving the second spike into a fissure, running a clove hitch here as well and moving on with fingers and toes to the next fissure.
This one was a little trickier for balance so he put the spike in by hand, took the line which had been running over his shoulder and made the hitch with one hand, which took a few goes and some patience, then moved to the next and so on. He disappeared from her view.
She called, ‘Are you all right?’
‘Fine.’ He retraced his steps, dropped down onto her ledge and kissed her nose, which she wiggled and then smiled expectantly. ‘I think you’re going to like it,’ he grinned.
They shouldered the gear between them and made their way with the little ledges and rope railing to the other side and what greeted her was everything they could have hoped for.
Chapter 14 here … Chapter 16 here