Chapter 2: England
Copyright© 2010 by Frank the First Born
"Yes! Yes! Yes! We've done it."
"Toby what ever is it, what's happened?"
"We've won that's what happened we've just gone and won the bloody ashes that's what." (Note for Americans: winning the ashes is a little like winning the superbowl, only more so. They are awarded to the winner of a series of Cricket matches between England and Australia)
"What really? Well even I know that's pretty special, but that doesn't excuse swearing young man."
Just then there was an almighty bang. Even before they could get to the window to see what had happened they heard shouting. Toby finally got to the front window.
"Christ Mum, some idiot's just demolished our front wall with a removal van."
"Will you please mind your language—I won't ask you again."
"All right, chill out mum."
The door bell rang. And they both went downstairs.
"I'll open it Toby."
"Yes can I help you?" Mrs. Roberts announced to the stranger on her doorstep.
"My name's Lint, Ron Lint — I and my kids are going to be your new neighbours. I don't know where to begin to say sorry about your wall. Look they are a reputable firm of removers; insured and all that. Please, I just want to assure you I'll sort it."
"Don't worry Mr. Lint these things happen. As you say, it can be fixed."
"Please call me Ron."
"Right you are. I'm Jenny, Jenny Roberts and this is my son Toby."
"Pleased to meet you Jenny. Hi Toby. Look I had better get back; need to crack the whip and get things moving."
"Er ... Ron, I was just making tea anyway, nothing special, just some cake and sandwiches; you would be very welcome to join us: you and your family. Give me half an hour and I'll see you in the garden out back; there's a hole in the hedge so you'll have no trouble getting in."
Just then a girls voice could be heard calling, "Dad."
"Coming Dorly," Ron shouted back. "Thank you Jenny that would be really nice; we'll see you in half an hour — there's three of us: grown up son, teenage daughter," and with that he was gone.
"He actually seems nice and a teenage daughter, who knows?"
"Mum, don't start."
"I was just teasing you. What was it he called her? Dorly or something; unusual name."
Come on I'll get the tea ready—you go out front and make sure the drive is clear of rubble, so we can get the car out if we need to.
Toby was a tall boy, lanky, thin and awkward, his body still hadn't quite got used to its new size, like a lot of seventeen-year-olds he had been doing some serious growing and was not showing a lot of signs of stopping. His face though fuzzy in places with soft hair, was clean of complexion, his brown eyes were sharp and his mop of mousy tousled hair distinctive. He was probably handsome, but hid it well. Despite his Mum's teasing he was interested to catch a glimpse of Dorly, though he had already half convinced himself she wouldn't be a looker. His hormones were hoping she would be drop dead gorgeous, but his mind was hoping she would be attractive enough to be interesting, but not so attractive that he wouldn't have a chance.
He had a good look round as he went out front, but there was no one there other than a couple of removal men, moving stuff around on the back of the van. One of them poked his head out and shouted.
"Look you, sorry about your wall Boyo, but Tel, our driver, was so busy listening to the cricket, well you know. We've been over and cleared the bricks from your drive and pushed over any bits that were unsafe." He shouted in a strong welsh accent.
"Thanks I appreciate it." Toby shouted back
"Well least we could do, isn't it, Boyo."
"Thanks anyway." Toby shouted as he went back inside, just the tiniest bit disappointed. Well he would see what she looked like soon enough, he told himself.
"It's clear. The removers did it and they've made the wall safe—they said sorry again," Toby shouted to his mother as he re-entered the house.
"Thanks dear. Can you take a cloth out and wipe off the garden furniture and put the umbrella up. Then you can help me carry the tea things out."
"Will do mum."
"Well then, that's pretty much it. Just go and get that two litre bottle of coke from the fridge and I think we are ready."
Toby was already moving and was soon back. He looked towards his mother and sat down.
"Now we wait, if they're not here in the next five minutes or so we can give them a shout. Help yourself to a coke." His mother answered as she poured herself a cup of tea.
Almost as if this has been a cue, there was rustling in the hedge and Ron came into view. He looked to be in early middle age younger than would be expected for a man with a grown up son. He was tall and quite chunky with a well muscled frame. White skin, dark hair. He was looking a little flustered.
"High Jenny, thanks for this; the kids'll be here in a moment."
"You're welcome, come through. What would you like? Tea, a soft drink, a drink-drink—name it."
"Right now I think I would kill for a cup of tea, it's been quite a day."
"I can imagine. Come and sit down. How do you take it?"
"Little milk no sugar, please"
"Here you go Ron. Help yourself to sandwiches, those are cheese and tomato, those ham and mustard, those just ham—I know it's not much, but that's what we generally make for ourselves."
"Jenny, believe me this is a feast; we've barely eaten all day, and this is just perfect, just the right sort of food for a hungry man."
"Well dig in and don't hold back I can easily make more."
"You might regret saying that." Ron replied with a laugh as he helped himself to a plateful of sandwiches.
Again the hedge rustled and a young man appeared. He was slightly taller and quite a bit less stocky, but other than that was almost a carbon copy of Ron.
"Jenny, Toby may I present my son Mel."
"Hi Mel come through. What would you like?"
"Hello Mrs. Roberts, Toby — a coke please."
"Coming up and please call me Jenny. Help yourself to sandwiches" Jenny said as she again pointed out the various fillings and which plate they were on."
"Thanks Jenny, you've no idea how welcome this is. Dad's idea of cooking is to keep saying 'We'll get a take-away later.'"
"Dig in—as I said to your Dad, if you finish them I can make more."
"Where's Dorly?" Ron asked.
"Here Dad." Toby looked up to see a small girl coming through the hedge. She was dressed in dirty jeans with a turquoise sleeveless top which had a caricature of a kitten curled up on a Harley and the message 'Hell's Kitten'. Even looking as she did then: hot, dirty with her mass of dark red hair hanging down her back in a limp tangled mess, it was clear to Tony that she was the answer to his hormones, there was no doubt about it she was a looker.
Ron looked up. "Ah there you are, Dorly," and then, "Jenny, Toby this is my daughter Dorly: fifteen years of packaged trouble, but I love her to bits." Dorly was looking daggers. "Dorly this is Mrs. Roberts and her son Toby our new neighbours."
"Hello Mrs. Roberts, Toby thank you for inviting us round."
"You're very welcome Dorly: such a pretty name I don't think I have come across a Dorly before."
"I think it's kind of unique, but I rather like that." Dorly answered with a nervous smile.
Jenny quickly filled what was firming up to be an awkward silence, by offering Dorly a coke and pointing her in the direction of the sandwiches. It was clear that the Lint's were certainly hungry and soon Jenny could see both Mel and Dorly eyeing up the last cheese and tomato sandwich, but not wanting to be the one to take it. Ron rather callously broke the impasse by blatantly taking it and then stuffing it into his mouth with a laugh.
Jenny also laughing said, "I think we need some more sandwiches. Toby you can play host I won't be a minute?"
Ron looked at Dorly meaningfully, who nodded before saying: "Please Mrs. Roberts let me help," and then followed Jenny towards the kitchen, half running for the first couple of steps to catch up.
Toby couldn't help enjoying the view. He was particularly taken with the way her hair bounced against her jeans as she walked. He came to himself a little self consciously, when she had walked into the house and was immediately nervous that he been obvious, which of course he had. Ron seemed to take it in his stride, but there was a definite look of 'Hey bozo that's my sister' about Mel: nothing unfriendly, but certainly a warning or was he imagining things. Toby became aware that Ron was speaking to him.
"So Toby what's it like round here, what do young people do?"
Toby was soon deep in conversation with Ron and Mel, they had an easy way of speaking and soon they were putting the world to rights, discussing the cricket and well just talking.
"I'll just go check on the movers—back in a sec." Ron announced after a little while.
Meanwhile in the kitchen Jenny was getting to know Dorly. Her first impression was that she was a pretty girl, perhaps a little wayward, but essentially obedient, maybe a little too obedient. There was she could sense quite an element of the rebel there. It was almost as if Dorly were trying to deny her femininity. Obviously moving house she couldn't avoid looking a bit messed up, but most teenage girls would have taken five minutes to wash their face and to straighten their hair. Dorly's hands were clean and there wasn't anything too unkempt, it was just that she hadn't bothered beyond the requirements of hygiene and that did seem odd to Jenny.
"Thank you Dorly, but you didn't have to help you know."
"I think I did, but I'm happy to," Dorly said quickly. "It gives me a chance to meet you and to pinch a couple of extra bites without having to compete with my male relatives."
Jenny noticed that she was smiling as she said that. "Your Dad's a bit strict then?"
"Not really, but he has definite ideas about manners," as she said this, Dorly started to cry. It was completely unexpected and Jenny was a little taken aback.
"Dorly what is it, dear?" Jenny found herself being hugged by Dorly. "What is it, perhaps I can help?"
"I m-m-miss my Mother."
"I'm sorry dear your Dad mentioned she was dead, was it very recent?"
"Not her—I do miss her too—my stepmother, she is working abroad. We've never been apart since I was five."
Jenny was completely wrong footed. Typical man she thought. Ron never mentioned there was a stepmother and he probably hadn't even noticed how Dorly was missing her."
If Jenny was feeling wrong footed this was nothing to the way Dorly was feeling. She was completely lost, this was all so strange and she just didn't know how to act. She had been trained, of course; she knew the language and the customs, but this was her first time Elsewhere and it was all so strange. Her Dad had warned her that the strangeness would be difficult, before they had left. He had warned her that part of her would go native; she would actually start to feel like the Others that lived there. Of course her father hadn't realised what Tolin had, that things were already difficult enough for Dorly—it was that hormone time that hit girls in their mid teens. Dorly could handle it in Penglepentia because she understood the rules and her friends were going through the same thing, but on earth it would be different; there would be different mores, different rules of sexual and social engagement. The Others would not seem acceptable to Dorly, but she would still be needing affirmation that she was becoming a woman. Girls of this age had an almost in-built need to flirt, to establish themselves as female—it was going to be very difficult for Dorly. Dorly wasn't realising all of this, but she was aware that she wanted to talk to her stepmother; she needed her guidance and advice.
"It's difficult I know, but you can call her, can't you? And it won't be forever."
"C-call her — yes." Dorly really hadn't thought of that, but she could call her step mother, it was true.
"I'm sorry Mrs. Roberts." Dorly said pulling away. "I'm not normally like this."
"It's okay Dorly, why don't you run upstairs, the bathroom is the door facing you at the top of the stairs. There's a clean towel on the side of the bath. I'll just finish up here and then we can bring these out together."
Ten minutes later Dorly had composed herself, though Jenny noted that she still had only done enough to cover up the fact she had been crying, though perhaps that was intentional, not wanting to draw attention to herself, Jenny allowed.
"Right then, shall we?" Jenny asked.
Jenny realised that she and Dorly hadn't really talked, but for all that there was a feeling of togetherness. As they picked up the plates and started outside.
"Dorly dear, I'm not trying to interfere, but if there is anything you need, well just so you know; you can call on me anytime: I mean it."
"Thanks Mrs. Roberts."
A little later:
"Well thanks Jenny, we've really enjoyed ourselves, but we'd better get back now. Look, give us a couple of days to get sort of settled and we'll return the favour: I cook a mighty fine take-away pizza," Ron offered.
"Sounds good. Don't be strangers—if there's anything you need, well you know: what are neighbours for?"
"Thanks, I really appreciate that. Bye."
"Well I really liked them—I think we may finally have got some decent neighbours." Toby commented once they had the garden to themselves again.
"Yes I think so too," Jenny replied. "What did you think of Dorly?"
"Yeah okay; you were right she's very pretty."
"Yes she is, but that's not what I meant."
"Other than that I don't really know. I mean you talked to her. Except when you two were in the kitchen you and her dad did most of the talking; she seemed nice enough though, not all stuck up like a lot of good looking girls; I mean she wasn't all self obsessed."
"No she wasn't, was she?" Jenny replied, thoughtfully. "Come on lets clear up."
Next door things were being discussed as well: "But Dorly, what possessed you? You've just completely changed the cover story. I was meant to be a widower; you're mother died when you were little. The fact that you had been brought up by just your father was meant to be a cover for any strangeness."
"I'm sorry Dad, it just came out that I had a mother, so I covered by saying she was working abroad."
"Well mercifully it happened right at the beginning, before we had time to build up any inconsistencies. We've got some work to do though we need to flesh this out and make it plausible—after this you are going to have to promise me, Dorly, that you'll be careful; we can't let this happen again."
"I'm really sorry, Dad. I promise I'll be careful."
Rontis was aware of how earnest and dejected Dorly was looking.
"Dorly, I know this is your first time and without full training—it's okay. You realised what you had done and made sure that you let us know. It was clever to signal from the bathroom. You're doing fine daughter."
Ron really did think that Dorly was showing potential. She had sent the emergency communicate signal when she went up to the bathroom. Rontis had covered by saying he needed to pop next door to check on things and had been able to get the information of her slip from Dorly. From there it was a simple matter to mention it in conversation so that Melic would pick up what had happened and thus avoid the risk of conflicting stories. "Look kids we really do have to move in and sort ourselves out; we are going to be here for a little while and we need to seem normal, so come on let's keep going. Oh and Dorly you do need to listen to the current music so turn the radio back on. When you start school next week you are going to have to at least seem like you know what's what."
"Hey Dad Chill," Dorly replied with a smile.
"Not bad, but I think you need to be slightly ruder—I'm meant to be treating you like a child and you are meant to be starting to rebel; your tears earlier will help, they at least were consistent with the cover and I do care Dorly, Jenny was right: call Tolin; do it now."
The next day dawned dry and sunny, with that slight haziness to the sky that presaged a very hot day.
"It's a Sunday today, that means it's a rest day I think, though I can't quite work out how it works, because shops and things are open some of the day and that does not make any sense; anyway what are we supposed to do?" Dorly asked over breakfast.
"I'm not sure that it matters really, we are just sort of treading water now until you start school; perhaps you ought to try on you school uniform." Melic offered.
In spite of herself Dorly laughed. One thing at least seemed universal: school uniforms were not 'cool'. Dorly was dressed in a short sleeveless cream and blue summer dress, her legs and feet were bare and she was wearing some strappy sandals with a slight heel. "Father, are you sure these clothes are right, there seems to be an awful lot of me on display?"
"Well I can't say I approve, but they are what is normal summer wear for girls your age—you've seen the entertainment programs on the television."
"Yes, but that girl last night was called 'a slut' and she was more covered up than I am, now." Dorly replied.
"I agree it does seem complicated, but I think you are all right in that. It does seem quite similar to what the nice girl was wearing." Rontis replied. "Do your hair as well, girls your age are meant to be very concerned about their appearance."
"Okay Father, but where am I meant to go once I am all dressed up?
"If nothing else you two ought to go shopping or something, I want you to be seen out. Maybe you could contrive to meet that boy from next door again, that would be the best thing all-round." Rontis suggested.
"She could sit outside and listen to that iPod, she had to have, and read a book. If she sits on the top lawn near the tree, she would be easily visible from next door and that Toby seemed plenty interested yesterday, so I think he will notice her all right."
"I'm Dorly, your sister not 'she' and you sound like you're trying to sell me." Dorly responded with more than a trace of annoyance.
"Okay easy. Melic that was a little insensitive, but only the way you said it. Dorly it's not a bad idea."
"Well that makes me feel better."
"Sorry Dorly but you know the plan, although If he looks like getting more than interested I'll have a little word with him" Melic replied.
"No, Melic you won't, but if he looks like hurting Dorly I'll deal with him." Rontis finished.
"Both of you stop it: I am well able to look after myself and I am not some possession that you have to protect: I may be your Dorly a bit, but mainly I'm my Dorly a lot."
Melic and Rontis looked at each other. "I guess you have to be a girl for that to make sense." Melic observed rather dryly.
Dorly did as she had been bid and went and fixed her hair. Combed and shining, as it hung down her back in a glorious red waterfall, it certainly lifted her appearance. Toby would most assuredly be interested, no question there, but he was probably going to be so nervous of her, that he would not do anything for fear he might risk immediate rejection. Dorly was, however, blissfully unaware of how devastating she looked. In the context of Penglepentia she was not unaware of the effect she could have, but here in this continuum it was all so strange and so her desire to be a teen siren was consequently non-existent.
A little while later after choosing something to read and working out what she was supposed to do with the iPod, she went outside and sat herself down with her back to the large copper beach on the top lawn. Had she tried to contrive the image she presented for maximum effect she would probably have been less successful, but she was actually enjoying the music by some girl called Dido and the magazine was, surprisingly, quite intriguing. So it was genuine contentment that showed as she got comfortable on the grass. The hazy sun was mainly shaded by the trees and plants but enough got through to dapple the lawn where she was sitting and to attractively pick her out from the darker background and a few wisps of hair that had been moved by the breeze and where now charged and frizzing formed a fiery corona as the light caught them causing them to shine and glow, but Dorly wasn't aware of how she looked and her position was no longer contrived. Had this been Troy and Dorly, Helen, then this was the sort of look that would have given full impetus to a fledgling ship-building industry.
It was this sight that Toby saw as he looked out his bedroom window. He had been intending using his computer to chat with some of his friends, but suddenly he felt a need to go out into the garden, the only question was, how was he going to do this without it being obvious that he was just looking at Dorly. The grass didn't need cutting he had done that yesterday.
"Toby, will you pick up the windfalls in the garden, they attract the wasps." His Mother hated wasps and it was always a cause of friction that a fair number of apples tended to fall into their garden off the Frobishers' tree. The Frobishers were their neighbours to the left, an elderly couple, now living on their own.
"Will do Mum." For once Toby was pleased to be given this usually hated chore.
Having been stung a few times he had learnt the hard way that it was wise to wear gardening gloves while picking up the rotten apples. So he grabbed the gloves from the cupboard under the sink and a plastic carrier bag to hold the apples.
As he walked down the garden he essayed what he felt was a nonchalant wave and called a quick 'Hi there' in the general direction of Dorly. Maybe he had been too nonchalant, he felt as it quickly became evident that she had not heard or noticed him. Just in case she had heard him and was ignoring him, he did not feel like repeating the attempt, so he quickly got started picking up the apples. It must have been a general gathering day for wasps, because there seemed to be hundreds of them crawling over the broken and decaying apples. He wasn't too worried by wasps and knew that so long has he was gentle picking up and putting the apples in the bag he was fairly safe, at least that was the theory. His forehead was itching; he went to scratch, forgetting he was wearing gloves and not noticing the wasp on his finger.
"Oh you bastard!" Toby shouted in a loud voice as he ran to the centre of the lawn, flicking at his face to make sure the wasp was gone.
This time Dorly did hear and her first reaction was to laugh at Toby's comic actions as he swatted at imaginary wasps and vented his annoyance with loud cries along the lines of 'God that hurts' and such.
Dorly got up puling the earphones from her ears and walked towards the fence.
"What's up? Whatever has happened?" She asked, not quite wiping the smile from her face.
Toby realising the need to act cool, stopped jerking around and pulling off the gardening gloves answered, "Sorry to shout like that, but I just got stung by a wasp on my forehead and it damn well hurts."
Dorly did know about wasps from her training, what was it she had been told? Yes; painful, but basically harmless: make sure that you pull the sting out.
"Come here, let me have a look—the sting's probably still there." Dorly said over the fence.
"Thanks," Toby replied as he approached her.
"Yes there it is, hold still a moment." Dorly could see the sting and the poison sack still vibrating as it contracted. Carefully using her nails she hooked the sting out and flicked it away. "There you are, that should be better now, though perhaps you should put something on it."
"Thanks for that—I'll be fine now. It's kind of an occupational hazard getting stung. It seems to happen quite often when I clear away the fallen apples. They're always crawling with wasps," Toby replied, somewhat exaggerating the risks.
"Well try and keep the wasps your side of the fence—I don't want to be stung," Dorly replied.
"Will do," Toby responded and then realising that he couldn't think of anything else to say, said: "Well I better get back to it. Thanks again."
"You're welcome," and they both went back to what they had been doing with Toby certainly feeling that he had missed an opportunity.
Dorly found that she couldn't settle. She kept looking up watching Toby. He was right, there certainly were a lot of wasps and some of them were indeed coming this way. Time to go in, she decided.
"Whatever happened out there?" Rontis asked.
"Oh he was picking up fallen apples and got stung by a wasp. It did look pretty painful. I pulled the sting out for him. Then when he started picking up more apples, some of the wasps started coming my way so I decided I would come in."
"I don't think you were in any danger, Sis." Melic offered.
"Maybe not, but why risk it?" Dorly replied.