Chapter 15 here … Chapter 17 here
Emma and Hugh looked about their new hideaway.
They were up on a ledge, of course but to their left, the sea side, there was a steep beach, quite solid, not just silt and they realized they’d come round to the far east although another cliff face cut them off from the rest of the eastern side of the island and this cliff stretched out into the sea.
In the clear water, they could see where the beach dropped down into an underwater shoulder and they didn’t think they’d risk stepping out there. The bay or cave they were in, depending on your definition, was about twenty metres along and went landwards maybe the same distance, so that the whole was like a slightly less than half moon.
To the land side of the beach, the crescent, were rocks and then three rock pools. The lack of disturbance to the beach and the vegetation at the back of the bay indicated that the tide didn’t come over this area but it did come over the pools, which were fresh and not fetid. Hugh jumped down and went over to the rear wall, took a stick, went back to the nearest pool and started poking about in it.
It seemed to be just a part of a ledge with no crabs or other wildlife nor any seaweed. Walking back to just below Emma, she handed him the gear and jumped down herself. They stowed the gear and left their robes on the pile as well, then explored the pools, squatting down and peering into the clear water. These pools seemed to wash empty each tide but the area at the back seemed untouched and quite dry.
He looked over at her squatting down on the edge of one pool, with only sandals on her feet and wished he had a camera. Thoughts were coursing through the brain. Emma chose one of the pools as her favourite and stepped down into it, halfway up her thighs and as she looked up at him, she noticed the effect it had on his equipment.
They went over to the back area and both paid attention to the ledge. Raised a metre above the level of the pools and set into the back wall, so to speak, it was a crescent shape but at its widest point, it was maybe a metre and a half. Hugh immediately went over and gathered ferns which were lying about, she joined in and when they were collected in one place, they brought sand up from the beach and started to fill in the irregularities in the rock.
This took the best part of forty minutes and they realized they only had about an hour before someone came for them. Also, the tide had risen fractionally in this time.
Now they laid the ferns over the sand, into a pillow effect at the far end where it was slightly higher. Standing back, arms around each other’s waists, satisfied at their handiwork, they knew they had the perfect place.
‘We don’t have much time, Bebe,’ she said.
‘Maybe we’ll make love in your pool and leave our new bed for tomorrow; we’ll bring food and everything, check if it’s all still here and looks safe, then we can relax.’
She agreed, they stepped down into the pool, with the water halfway up the thighs and the intensity of his kiss really surprised her; the almost artless way he quickly tried to put it inside her showed his hunger.
Twenty minutes later, it was time to leave; they stepped out, put the robes back on, left the blankets where they were but took the spare spikes and hammer.
She went first round the rock and he followed, unhitching the line as he went but leaving the spikes in the fissures.
Three quarters of the way up the hill, they met Sophie coming down, she turned and went back and at the top, they sat and got their breath. ‘Do you know the half moon bay to the right down here?’ asked Hugh.
Sophie put our her left hand, then her right. ‘To the right? No, I didn’t go that way. I went left.’
Emma exulted and said, ‘Well, tomorrow, we’re coming down for a few hours. Would you come down and meet us here afterwards?’
‘Not a problem.’
Laurence and Mandy dropped in on the big hut and she was a bit sheepish. ‘I think I was a bit harsh. I’d like to make up, Hugh, Emma and Sophie.’
They were delighted but now they realized that there just wasn’t enough room for all of them. It was Laurence who casually remarked, ‘Come on, let’s go up to Moran’s.’
This was a major moment. Hugh looked into Mandy’s eyes and she nodded. They all went up there and fixed drinks. Hugh whispered to Emma, “I’m getting a good feeling about tomorrow.’
She squeezed his hand. Sophie deliberately kept over to the other side, talking to Janine. Hugh now proposed a toast to all the women with children and to their men, then they went back to chatting. He asked Adam if he’d come outside.
On the walkway, he said, ‘Can you forgive me?’
‘Nothing to forgive. You’ve settled down, the word's got out about Janine and Sue and everyone seems quite happy now. Just keep it a bit more private, Hugh, OK?’ Hugh smiled and offered his hand, which the other man now shook, then they went back inside.
There was a nice feeling on the island as the evening drew nigh.
The morning light filtered in through the leaves; Sophie woke up and did a crazy thing – she said half a prayer for those two in the other room.
They dressed and went up for breakfast at Moran’s. Adam suggested they could return to their old quarters but really, they didn’t want to now. Sophie’s complex was in a better position, connecting the trunks of three trees and the ambience was good.
So, breakfast all done, Hugh and Emma needed to give the tide an hour to go down and then they’d start out. Sophie stood with them on the walkway, Laurence came out and joined them, nodding at their plans.
Time to go, with their bag of food and drink plus another blanket, the line, spikes and hammer.
At points on the climb down, Hugh paused to drive in some spikes and attach a length of line, as they’d be fairly weary on the way back and thus they made their way down to the ledge. Attaching the line again as he went round the rock, Emma followed, they dropped down into their half moon bay and went over to the ‘bower’ as they now called the bed.
Apart from dust and silt on the blanket and a bird’s footprints in the sand at the end, nothing had been touched. Even the twig Hugh had left across the blanket was still there.
They looked at each other, satisfied.
Putting everything down in its place but leaving themselves attired, they now did what should have been done a long time earlier – she joined him in a prayer of thanks for this ‘chamber’. This thing was going to be done right today.
He poured two wines and took a bit of their bread and they ate and drank now, standing near Emma’s pool. Putting the wooden cups to one side, he scooped her up in his arms, carried her out of the pool to the bower and laid her down, still in her robe.
She found a comfortable position, then laying her head back on the bracken pillow, she took his hand, he climbed up and said, ‘Je t’aime, je t’adore, tu es ma vie, Emma. He said a silent prayer to Nicolette, Ksusha and Anya, went into a deep kiss with her, opened her robe and hoped for the best.
An hour and a half later, Emma was lying on her side on the bower, looking out to sea, Hugh behind her, holding her close. She arched her head back and kissed him.
‘I get the feeling, Bebe, that we’re never going to find this again, this oneness, this peace. Look at the sun on the waves. Even your body against my back is so nice. Let’s say a little prayer – one of ours, not Miri’s.’
‘Why not? It's superb here. I think it's been granted to us.’
They said a prayer she’d remembered from her childhood, in French and then they spent some time just soaking in the surroundings.
‘All right,’ said, ‘put it in.’ As if on cue, the sun broke out and bathed the sea as they looked out over the bay. It might have sounded corny, OTT but that’s what actually happened.
‘There’s no reason for thinking it,’ she murmured, ‘but I have a feeling that might have been the one that did it, Hugh. I’d like it to be so.’
He drew her body hard back against his and it was pleasant for her, the whole scene, the whole ambience.
There was a call from the other side of the rock and Hugh called back to Sophie to use the line to get round.
A minute or so later, Sophie appeared, looked about her, saw the pools and the beach, the little basket of food they hadn’t touched and looked back at them on the bower.
‘Oh wow,’ was all she could think to say. ‘This is a wonderful, wonderful place.’ She actually danced around in a circle, which reminded him excruciatingly of Ksusha for one moment.
They got up from the bower, put on their robes. ‘I brought you both some afternoon tea, an early supper.’ She laid it out on one of the ledges and they unpacked their own basket too. It was like a feast, with everything from cooked wild bird to fruit, plus some essential wine.
Sophie toasted to their baby. The moment Emma went to say something about Sophie’s, she touched Emma’s lips with her finger.
‘This place is about you. You made a lovely bed.’
‘We call it a bower.’ said Emma. ‘All right, we’ve been very modest. Now can we take these off and swim?’
She laid her robe on the bower and stepped down into her favourite pool, standing in that classic pose with the water round her thighs, with little wavelets from the disturbance jumping up between her legs; Sophie was stunned by her erotic beauty.
‘Wow,’ she let escape her lips a second time.
‘Do you see what I have to put up with?’ grinned Hugh, at which Emma actually blushed.
Sophie got in a second pool and Hugh took the third. Lowering themselves up to their necks, they chatted for the next half hour but now the tide had turned and they thought it best to make their way back.
They gathered all the bits and pieces and painstakingly climbed back up, heading straight for Moran’s to join the others.
The following morning, Emma and Hugh eventually got to their ledge in half moon bay but it was a different scene. Some animals had been through - the paw prints and the messed-up bower indicated that – but Emma was fine with it. They shook and then folded the blankets, brushed the ferns away, took their robes off, stepped into Emma’s pool and made love, long and slow.
Winding proceedings up, they knew this was the last time down here. What had had to be done had now been done. They weren’t unhappy to make their way back up to the top, Hugh removing all the spikes along the way; the three days had had a symmetry to them that neither wanted to disturb nor alter in any way.
At the Pool, one interesting phenomenon was that no one was bashful about being naked these days. Emma liked what she saw of Mandy and Janine - and Adam was not half bad himself.
Emma wanted an afternoon nap so he went back with her. Knowing the ever-turning wheels of her practical mind, he wasn’t at all surprised when she said. ‘Hugh, we’ve had three wonderful days. I know what you have to do now and she’s been very patient.’
‘I suspect she’s building a bower somewhere up in the rocks – that’s her motif. When she’s ready, she’ll come for me.’
‘This I where I have trouble, Bebe. I don’t mind the lovemaking and I know you love her - you couldn't do otherwise - but it’s still difficult for me to lie here alone and think of the two of you ... doing that. There were things we had in that bower -’
‘What we had was unique and can't be replicated. Sophie recognized that herself and wouldn’t speak of her baby. If you say no to me going to her, I’ll not go and you needn’t feel bad. I’d tell her that in all conscience I can’t. It won’t be your doing.’
‘You’d say that?’
‘Yes. But tell her before she builds it - or I shall if you can't.’
She relaxed and yet she saw no way out of those two doing this. ‘You must go, you must. We have this bond with Sophie and she's been good about it. You know what I want - for it not to be as - well -'
'As splendid as ours. I know that. It will be quite clear beforehand. She will understand that it must be a snack to our feast.'
Sam popped in with Miri who was looking positively radiant these days and she knew all about Sophie’s bower.
‘Does anyone else know?’ Hugh asked her.
‘No, ownee me. I hell bill it.’
‘Sam knows too,’ he grinned.
They pulled out a pack of cards, Sam had brought some wine and it was a pleasant late afternoon. Sophie came back and went to the wash hut; Hugh could see she’d been working and his eyes followed her washing, a point which escaped neither Emma nor Miri.
She came through, her first look was at Hugh and he was gazing straight back at her. Actually bashful for once, she went hurriedly into her own room, then came out some minutes later and joined them in the game.
They were playing pontoon.
There were no visitors in the evening dark, by request.
Emma left Hugh’s side and went in to Sophie; Hugh went up to Moran’s and the almost full moon made it possible to stand on the walkway and see Laurence, Mandy and Janine, to have a drink or two.
‘Lovely evening,’ observed Laurence.
‘Yes. Janine, will you let me talk to you in Moran's?'
She was surprised. 'What about?'
The situation on the island, things which might happen.'
'Need it be Moran's?'
'No, we could go to the cliff over the pods.'
'Ah, mindreader. OK.'
They took their leave, Laurence and Mandy intrigued.
Still with their glasses, they sat on the rock and dangled feet over the edge.
'So much happening, Janine, I didn't get time with you.'
'What, to have sex with?'
'You're beautiful, why not? No, not for sex. For what we're going to do. I think there's an attack coming and I'm thinking pods - who'll be in them, then about Sam, about your child - I did try to dissuade Sam but he was determined. The only way you can get him back is to love him.'
'I see.' She did not go on the defensive, she did not go on the attack. 'I've given Sam away, Hugh. I'd take him back, no question but it's over in my mind. Now something you might not know - Laurence and Mandy are not as solid as you might think.'
'Does Mandy have someone in mind?'
'She does but she's not saying, she keeps her cards close to her chest.'
'Are you thinking of Laurence?'
'Perhaps. I hear things he says about me. He likes me. I'll tell you another thing - Adam and Lisa aren't all that solid either.'
'This isn't musical partners -'
'Says one of the three Jensens.'
'Touche, Janine. An attack is coming soon. Whose pod will you go in?'
'Ah. Lisa's. No. Mandy's. No. I haven't thought about it.'
'You need to be in with Sam and Miri.'
'Over my dead body.'
'The child must have both parents at hand. In some countries, we wouldn't get in otherwise.'
'Hugh, you do rent-a-cuddle. May I borrow you for a few minutes?'
'At your disposal, m'lady.'
'You'd do that?'
'It's a cuddle, for goodness sake.'
They stood and he took her in his arms.
‘Janine, there’s something else needs discussing too.’
'The moon is mine but the morning sun will be yours,’ said Sophie to the woman in her arms.
Emma was suddenly alarmed and gripped Sophie’s arm. ‘Tell me you’re not going to die tonight. He’s not going if that’s what you have planned.’
‘No,’ she soothed, ‘you misunderstand. It's symbolic only – it means you, the sun, have hidden away to allow my weak light to shine for some time but come the morning, the sun will take that back.’
‘So, now I’m ready.’ She kissed Emma and went through, picking up the basket on the way.
Sophie came up the walkway, Laurence and Mandy slipped away into the half light and Hugh returned with Janine, kissing her once more, Sophie’s eyes opening.
To Mandy, it was almost like a ritual handing over, a changing of the guard.
In the grotto, they both turned and climbed up the narrow footholds in the north wall as she led him through the trees and undergrowth until they came out into a very small clearing, no more than three metres by three metres, roughly semi-circular, right on the edge of the island.
On a bench she’d constructed to the right with Miri, everything had been laid out, including plates of food, smorgasbord style, covered with large leaves. The wine had been poured and covered, the bread was at hand and all was in order. Hugh still stood back, she went to him and led him by hand three steps to the centrepiece.
It was a sort of bed but could also have been construed as a funeral pyre. With a rectangular base of stones, on top was another layer of stones, both seemingly filled with sand and on top of that, a bed of rushes and heaps of them too. This was her piece de resistance.
Beyond that was a tree, right on the edge of what appeared to be a cliff but on closer inspection, was a slope down to the real edge; still, it would be hard to dig in if you hit that slope. The trunk was bare and smooth but more than that, it was forked about two metres above the ground, in such a unique way that it was parallel to the northern point of the island, meaning that if you climbed into that fork, you could look out either way over the sea.
‘Are you pleased?’ she asked.
‘It’s almost mystical,’ he said.
‘Are you pleased with me?’
‘The moon, Hugh, it’s going to be with us tonight. I come from darkness but I want you to pray a white mass for me. You might not know how but do what you can. I’m embracing light tonight.’
‘It’s all been done beautifully.’
They went over to the wine, lifted the cloths and he said some words she repeated, they sipped and put them down, turning to the bower.
‘I see it like this, Hugh but you say if you want to change it. We spend time on the bower until maybe 2300, then we sleep with a blanket over us until about 0500 – we’ve never spent the night together, remember – are you happy enough with that?’
‘I’m not sure how that sits up above but if I’m trying to give you a baby –’
‘No, we’re both trying to.’
‘Yes, of course.’
‘Then we wake, eat and drink and then go into that tree until the sun comes up. Will you have the stamina? We’ll hardly move in the tree and it’s comfortable. I’ve been up there with Miri. We practised.’
‘Let’s see. You’re in the other role with me.’
The way she said that was the softest he’d ever seen her in all the time since they’d rescued her. A rush of protective feeling went through him and he sore to himself he’d always look after her, if only from a distance. She picked up on that.
‘So?’ she smiled.
‘Wine. Two.’ He did the pouring from the bowl, they toasted and it was time.
‘Let it take its time,’ he asked, ‘let’s find our rhythm as it comes, I need to tune into your movements again, into your soul. Any preferences for how we start?’
‘I find missionary strenuous, much easier with you on top or me from behind – it’s better on my back.’
‘So I’ll lie down to start with.’
She climbed up and arranged herself, he did the same and in the moonlight, her face seemed sculpted out of the surrounding rock. He didn’t know why it made him anxious, that classic beauty but it did. Best thing was to bring the lips together now and that’s what happened.
Wide lips, full, a full woman’s lips, she was the full thing, Sophie and he felt this was going to need stamina.
With that slightest movement of one lip, she showed she wanted him to lift away and she spoke. ‘You find me daunting, don’t you?’
‘Don’t. You could do anything with me now, anything you wanted and I’d do it. I have to feel your strength and that you would use it to make me happy. That’s what i need now. You’ve been too delicate.’ She thought. ‘I don’t mean weak or that I want power from you, I don’t mean that at all. I mean you’re treating me with maybe too much respect, treating me as too delicate. It’s better if you do it as you wish and I’ll follow. Then I can suggest things with my body later. But you lead now. Get comfortable, don’t worry about my comfort – I know you’ll do that anyway and I’ll move if it’s not comfortable. Let’s just let it flow.’
He was relieved, smiled and the smile started it off properly, the kiss was deep, the tongues spoke the way only tongues can, silently but saying everything, asking questions, giving answers. It was good.
She wanted him to enter slowly, she wanted to feel it going deeper, then she wanted to feel that feeling as he began his rhythm against her walls.
He’d come three times and he felt almost like a petrol pump at a service station but eventually, he ran out of steam.
She knew everything and in scenes uncannily reminiscent of Ksenia at that Moscow dacha, she was husbanding him, managing, preserving and he asked if he could tell her about Ksenia at the dacha. Not the thing one does in the middle of love-making with another women but surprisingly, she did want to know in this break, wanted to know all.
She asked some very probing questions. She wanted to know how the timeline fitted with Emma, about this Genevieve, about Paris. He saw she was really nothing like Ksenia in many ways and that was a relief. She asked about that and he told her. She was happy.
He realized how far things had moved on in this time, how the personnel had changed over time but that was only so if the focus was on his timeline. If it was Genevieve’s, for example, then things had only moved on in that he was no longer in her life.
He asked her to tell about herself, things she’d not told anyone. She thought about it but then saw it was time to start again. They put aside the wine, he lay down and she straddled him, looking out over the cliff and at the moon which had just come up from the horizon.
They finished as they’d begun, her larger breasts quite flat against her chest as she lay there and angled her body to his thrusts. After he came, she knew it was time for sleep.
They woke and didn’t know the time but it seemed all right, they ate and drank.
Now came Sophie’s piece-de-resistance – the tree. She thought they had maybe an hour, maybe a bit longer. The moon was now high in the sky, her zenith so to speak.
‘Right, you see how the fork is shaped. You go up, your feet on those knots and get into place, lift your bottom, I put these rushesi under you. Then I climb up and lower myself onto you. You’ll face the sea and the rising sun, I’ll face the disappearing moon.
We do what we do, climb down in the sunlight and that’s it. You’ve had enough to eat?’
‘More than enough. You’re wonderful, Sophe.’
He went over and tried the footholds, it seemed OK, he got up, found a way to sit, lifted, she was stuffing a pile of rushes beneath his bottom, he settled in and relaxed, she climbed up and slowly lowered herself onto him, gently, gently, he guided himself in, her hands occupied on branches for now, she lowered herself until he could feel her haunches spread slightly across him. Then she let her weight go fully down, her eyebrow asked the question, he said, ‘Fine.’ It was a nice feeling for both.
‘What now?’ he asked.
‘Nothing. We talk. You come. We talk. You might come again. You stay in there. I want to feel you in there the whole time. Are you all right with that?’ He nodded.
At break of day, he didn’t know how often he’d come, it seemed perpetual wetness now and that’s when Miri appeared at the break of day, saw him in the fork of the tree, leaning back against the branch, on what remained of the rushes and Sophie was joined to him, feet hanging down either side.
The alarming thing to Miri, not from her point of view but in case Emma saw it, was the wetness on the branch and upper trunk of the tree, glistening in the light. ‘Oh dear,’ she thought in her own language.
From the far side, probably via the Court, now came Emma, she took in the scene and attempted to disguise her dismay. Miri rushed over and was going to defend the scene but Emma hushed her with a hand.
Sophie concluded, ‘The moon sleeps once more and the sun reigns again.’ She climbed off him gingerly, found the footholds and her own footing, feeling came back to her legs, she jumped down went to embrace Emma but then realized her fingers were sticky.
He jumped down, went over and put his robe on. He did not attempt an embrace.
Sophie now had a request. She wanted all four of them to push the bower over the edge so that no trace remained. Emma understood implicitly and appreciated the gesture but still she was chagrined.
She looked at the bower and didn’t mind that so much but that tree had been one step too far, that and this gobbledegook about moon and sun.
They watched the last of the bower tumble down the slope, over and presumably down to the rocks below, thought of the security implications too late and then thought what the hell.
Emma turned on her heel and went back, Miri remained a few moments. ‘Vat not nice,’ she admonished, pointing at the tree.
‘OK, Miri, point taken. Let us have this last embrace.’
Miri took the hint and went to find Emma. Sophie wanted to leave the last embrace until the Pool, also not to go to the Pool via civilization, as she called it. She knew the best way over the top.
They dropped down to the Pool at the far end, noticing Susannah having her morning constitutional – it was probably around 0600 – she saw then and was about to come over when she saw the two immediate lock into the deepest kiss she could remember and lock in the nether regions at the same time, as if they’d been together forever.
It was a moment Susannah was going to remember for a long time.
Sophie pulled back from the kiss for a moment and begged, ‘Please don’t go, Sue. Hugh will go back to Emma in a moment, I really need to talk to you. Will you? This will take one minute.’
Susannah smiled, saw them dock again and kept watching. The two finished, they washed, Hugh then came up to Susannah, which both amused and intrigued her, he took her chin and placed a kiss on her lips. ‘Thanks, Sue ... for being you. You’re a very important person for us.’
She darted a kiss at him and he waded for the walkway, of course having forgotten his robe. Miri appeared on top of one of the rocks with both robes but he’d gone.
She slipped down to the robe area and left them there, dropped into the water and waded over to the other two who were in an embrace of their own now. Miri felt she approved of all this.
They noticed her, pulled out and beckoned her over.
That’s how Nick found the three at a bit before 0700, thinking all his birthdays had come at once.
Hugh was heading back for the triple hut when he realized Emma was in, not Louis Quatorze but their old quarters. He sensed trouble.
Knocking on the frame, he was bidden to enter. He stepped inside the door but no further, not daring. Miri was with her on the bed.
Miri got the idea and disappeared, placing a hand on his shoulder as she went. He saw the robe but said it was best not, not with that one. She shrugged and realizing the ball was very much in her court, called him over.
He thought for a moment, stepped over and stopped at the bed. ‘There’s an element of one woman to another here.’
‘And yet this woman need and wants.’
He needed no second command. She looked roofward. ‘Lie over there, Hugh, until I come to terms with you.’ He did and she added, ‘I love it when you’re in this compliant mood. I can get you to do anything.’ She grinned.
He was wary. She added, ‘You’d lie there half the day, waiting, if I wanted.’ He nodded.
‘So let’s speak seriously. Is it over?’
He presumed she meant with Sophie, which she had meant. ‘Yes, I think that might have done it. She got that feeling too.’
‘Uh-huh. That bower. It was clearly for a purpose. I don’t wish to discuss the bower.’
‘Emma, I know, Miri was on about it, I agree. I’m sure Sophie now sees it. In the middle of the night it’s not so easy to see. I know she would not try to offend you or try to claim anything from me over you.’
‘That’s why you’re still on this bed. That’s why I allow you near me. Are you now mine? Don’t start one of your fine speeches. Yes or no.’
‘You’re tired. I think you’ve eaten, we ate early. Sleep here for a few hours, I’ll be here, then we’ll go to Louis Quatorze or where we want to.’
‘Yes.’ He made a move towards here and she said, ‘No.’ He nodded and basically crashed.
Sophie, Miri, Sam, Nick and Susannah were crouched down in the water in the Pool.
‘Flippin’ fantastic this,’ said Sam, holding Miri in front of him.
‘It’s going to end soon,’ said Sophie. ‘We need to be ready.’
‘You’ve spent too much time with Hugh,’ joked Sam but then saw it was no laughing matter. ‘Is there anything in particular to make you say that or is this the bog standard doom and gloom to kill off this sunny day for us?’
‘There are reasons, Samuel. We might have this day, we might not. There are spiritual reasons,’ they all looked at her, ‘but there are also very practical ones. I can’t tell you but I know. I observe, day and night. I see, I hear.’ Susannah shuddered and Nick held her close. They were well aware of feline Sophie and the way she got around, heard things, saw things.
‘When, Sophie?’ ventured Nick.
‘It’s going to be soon, it depends on certain people. It will be soon. Be ready, have everything you want ready at the door.’
That effectively broke up the joyous occasion and they went their separate ways. They noted Sophie did not go to the field but to the triple hut.
Laurence had stated the obvious - that though he was nominally in charge, the elder statesmen or Hugh in particular was still better inside than out and that he, Laurence, worked better in tandem.
So they were holding a meeting in Moran’s over dinner and whilst they were stating the things they’d been saying forever, there was an urgency now and all took it more seriously. Yes, bags would be at the doorways, yes they could get inside the pods in three and a half minutes now, even if it meant high tide and swimming under the cave entrance – they’d had one shot at it and had been able.
The tops of the pods were always dry above the water line, they could knock the wooden supports away and launch.
‘We still need to live though, Hugh,’ said Mandy. ‘We can’t be ready to run day after day for weeks and months. We’ve babies to have, things to do, life to enjoy.’
Hugh looked at her. ‘Agreed, Mandy. It needs to be a balance. We can’t know the minds though of those who would attack us.’
‘So what should we do differently?’ asked Adam.
Laurence chipped in. ‘Not a lot, just in how we do things. We replace things in the bags, not just on the bench – that sort of thing.’
‘Right,’ said Janine, ‘if we’ve decided all that, I’m for a late swim.’
‘Afraid we can’t,’ said Laurence. ‘Pool’s offlimits now. We all had a swim today but that’s that. Besides, it’s too bloomin’ cold now, we know that. Summer’s over, folks. Badminton’s all right, as long as we take our bags.’
‘But that’s crazy,’ said Janine. ‘Every time we go anywhere?’
‘Every time we go anywhere,’ confirmed Laurence. ‘I’d rather have the grumbling and we stay alive, with the things onboard we need. And that goes for you and Miri, Sam. Miri has to roam less, Sophie too. I don’t mean we stay in the huts, I mean that anywhere we go must be in the general direction of the pods.’
‘We also need to start thinking Pod too,’ put in Sam. ‘We need to be thinking of life aboard, getting used to it in our heads, even before we board. Believe me, it will make things much easier.’
‘Good,’ said Lisa. ‘I’ve been thinking during the Three Jensens era,’ she smiled, ‘that those three were going to be in trouble if we were attacked.’
‘Who’s to say it won’t be a nuclear bomb?’ contributed Nick, cheerfully.
‘Might be,’ Laurence added seriously. ‘You know the Boy Scout motto – be prepared. That’s all.’
‘So, who goes with whom?’ asked Laurence, rhetorically in their eyes, as he was about to tell them. ‘We’re looking, of course, with babies, at one family per pod. We need to accommodate:
1. Emma, Sophie, Hugh and babies.
2. Miri, Janine, Sam and babies.
3. Mandy, myself and our baby.
4. Lisa, Adam and babies.
5. Susannah, Nick and babies.
‘Emma and Sophie have no babies,’ observed Adam.
‘Thank you, Adam, thank you very much. That was absolutely lovely of you. I’ll just say this – there were some issues with babies in my past, we know Sophie had an issue a few times and Emma had a child and if you say anything about Emma’s chid, I’ll shoot you through the head here and now.’
There was stunned silence. Adam’s lips were a tight smile, as he knew Hugh had broken his own rules and it was not his way. ‘You always consult before killing, Hugh.’
Laurence stepped in. ‘Enough from both of you. And Adam – shut it. That’s not conducive to morale in the least. Why would you do that? Don’t answer as we’re not interested.’
The silence threatened to become oppressive, so Laurence pressed on.
‘S-so, we do have the issue of five into four.’
Emma spoke. ‘How about Mandy, Laurence, Lisa and Adam in one, Susannah and Nick in their own as we can’t split the other two groups. That leaves the Jensens,’ she winced, ‘in the third and Sam’s brood in the other?’
‘I propose,’ said Mandy, ‘Laurence and me in one, Lisa and Adam in with Susannah and Nick – a more natural social group.’
‘More natural? How?’ asked Lisa.
‘Oh for goodness sake,’ said Nick, ‘Hugh and Laurence will now decide and that’s how it will be. It doesn’t fit perfectly, someone is going to be unhappy. I suggest that every so often out there, we could surface, Susannah and I can swap over.’
Hugh had calmed down but his words still cut. ‘A far more natural group is Mandy, Adam and Lisa, with Laurence part of that. That’s one pod. Susannah and Nick are in their own for now. At the changeover point, one of the pairs from the crowded pod can come over to Susannah and Nick. Anything wrong with that?’ he looked at no one in particular.
‘No, I don’t like it. Why should we be crowded in with Mandy and Laurence?’ asked Adam.
‘Because,’ said Laurence, ‘and I agree with Hugh on this – you four are more natural together. At the end of some time, two of you can go to the other pod.’
‘Why can’t Susannah and Nick do the swapping?’ persisted Adam.
‘And what have you got against Mandy and me?’ returned Laurence.
‘We want our own pod.’
‘Well, of all the selfishness!’ Susannah exploded. ‘You’ve been nothing but trouble on this island, Adam, you’ve always taken umbrage, even when there was none to take, you’ve always gone for the divisive solution and then pretended others were divisive. I’ve got your number, boy. I’d have agreed with you and we’d have been the nomads but not now. Stuff you. Anyway, it’s now up to Hugh and Laurence.’
‘Why?’ asked Mandy.
Laurence just looked at her. Hugh was more interested in it than annoyed. He was musing, Emma observed, something on his mind. He made no attempt at speaking. So it was in Laurence’s court.
‘I really don’t know why you’re doing this. If you wish to be leader, say so and I’ll step down. Don’t know about Hugh.’
‘Hugh says,’ said Hugh, ‘that we put this to the vote. Let’s call it the Emma variant and the Adam/Mandy variant. Are we agreed about those terms of reference for a start?’ He looked about. ‘All right, Laurence will take the vote.’
‘No, we’re outnumbered,’ put in Adam.
‘OK,’ answered Hugh and he was calmness personified. ‘That’s fair what Adam said. We’ll vote first on whether we should vote or whether the two so-called leaders should decide. Laurence?’
Adam immediately said: ‘No, I don’t accept those terms.’
‘Yes you do, Adam. Either you accept them or you’re single.’ It was Lisa who had spoken. ‘Isn’t this your big chance, Adam, to leave me? You’ve been gravitating towards Mandy for a very long time. I’ve seen you many times when you thought I hadn’t. So here’s your big chance – go with her to your own pod. Laurence and I will go to the other, Susannah and Nick can suit themselves. Now look, I’m sick of this. Nick is the neutral here, the only one without a vested interest, who hasn’t spoken out. He runs the vote, all those who agree put the hands up.’
Eight hands went up. Nick looked at it, coughed and spoke. ‘Are you all sure?’ Eight hands went up again.’ ‘All right, I agree that for complicated reasons, we can’t do much about Hugh’s and Sam’s pods. Unless any of those ladies wish to disagree.’ He waited and it was obvious he should proceed.
All right, we’re going to have one vote and one only and it concerns only the other two pods. Not only that, neither of the first two pods get a vote. This is between Laurence, Mandy, Adam, Lisa and the two of us. If we’re tied, then Hugh decides, as the official head of the island ... at the beginning I mean.’
‘No, he’s biased. He said he’d kill me.’
‘Only earlier, Adam. I love you to smithereens now.’
‘Right,’ said Nick, ‘the three variants are Adam and Mandy in one pod, Laurence and Lisa in the second, with us deciding which one to go in. Darling?
‘With you as far as I’m staying with you. I don’t like this Adam Mandy thing – the parents of those babies are the other way.’
‘Right, well that’s our second variant – Laurence and Mandy in one, Adam and Mandy in the other, we decide which way to go. Is there a third variant?’ There was silence. ‘So let’s vote. All those for the first – the Adam Mandy variant?’
Nick put his own hand up, Susannah did too. Lisa was in turmoil. It was Adam’s child inside and yet he was showing no sense of ‘couple’ as most of the others were. In fact, the constant surreptitious looks between him and Mandy – far more from him, she probably knew she was being watched, were settling the issue in her eyes.
She thought it through, everyone was patient, understanding the nature of her decision. She reasoned that it was not permanent, that they could change over later but she did want to explore Laurence and her and she wanted to see those other two together, to see what actually happened. She’d ask Sue and Nick to stay with them for now.
‘All right,’ decided Lisa. ‘I’m for Adam and Mandy in one, Laurence and I in the other, Sue and Nick deciding for themselves.’
‘Three all,’ said Hugh. ‘Mandy? Wish to speak?’
‘The father of my baby is in another pod. The father of Lisa’s baby is in mine. This is sick. I’m fine with Nick and Sue being the nomads but the other four need to be with their partners. I was certain Lisa would see it this way. Why does she want my man?’
Lisa tore in. ‘You know very well what’s been happening, Mandy. You and Adam have been doing this and now you play the innocent? I’m sick of your games. All right, it’s up to Hugh.’
‘Oh, that’s easy,’ said Hugh. ‘I go with Nick – Adam and Mandy in one, the other four in the second. I have my reasons, reasons of life and death, which transcend bloodlines.’
Utter silence. Eyes tended to go to Laurence. Hugh wished he could speak with the man first. Laurence thought it through. ‘I don’t know why and remember that nothing can’t be altered but something tells me that it’s best to go Nick’s way on this.’
‘Emma, Sophie, Janine, Sam?’ asked Nick. ‘I know it’s not official but we’d still like to know.’
Janine coughed. ‘I’ve known the Jensens for a long time. I think Hugh knows something but he’s not swaying. I think it’s safer Nick’s way for now. We can change it later.’
‘I agree,’ said Emma.
‘Ditto,’ said Sam.
‘Yes,’ said Sophie. ‘I think something is happening here. ‘I go with Nick’s variant.’
Laurence wrapped it up. ‘There it is, ladies and gentlemen. Now let’s have a drink for goodness sake.’
Chapter 15 here … Chapter 17 here