'The Circle of Life.'

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'The Circle of Life.'

Postby sirius631 on Sat Mar 30, 2013 10:58 am

'The Circle of Life.'

David Lloyd, October 2012.

Scott glanced up at the clock on the wall of the assembly hall. Happy that he still had five minutes to check over his exam paper, he flicked the pages back over, re-read the questions and checked that he had put down an answer for each one. Still with time to spare, Scott cast his gaze around the hall, at the mass of year eleven pupils about him. They were about to leave the school for the world of work or further education, whereas Scott and Chloe, who was sat to his left, still had year eleven to come. Chloe had evidently finished checking her work also, as she sat up, stretched and set her pen down. Scott and Chloe looked at each other and smiled.

ÔÇ£Okay. The time is up. Put your pens down and remain in your seats until everybodyÔÇÖs paper has been collected and please remain silent,ÔÇØ called the invigilator.

There was a general rustling of paper, clicking of pens and rattling of pencil cases as the body of exam candidates cleared their belongings away. It wasnÔÇÖt a large group that had sat their French GCSEs that year, languages being a poor relation to other subjects in Britain, so the invigilators collected the exam papers quickly.

ÔÇ£Thank you. You may now leave.ÔÇØ

All rose, en masse, with the sound of relieved pupils rising in volume simultaneously. That was it for the French exams, as the oral exams had been completed two days before. Most of the year eleven pupils would be going home to revise for further exams, but for some there was another exam in the afternoon. For Chloe and Scott, however, it would be back to class after lunch, for the remainder of year ten. As the lunchtime bell sounded, Chloe and Scott went to wait for Jess, Nicola and Donna in their usual spot.

ÔÇ£Well, thatÔÇÖs French GCSE out of the way.ÔÇØ Scott said, holding Chloe around the waist. ÔÇ£The question is, do we ask if we can sit the German paper next year?ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£LetÔÇÖs see what Mr. Foss says,ÔÇØ said Chloe. ÔÇ£He could probably get us this yearÔÇÖs German GCSE paper to study from one of the Heads of Language at a school that does German. But I know Monsieur Claveyrolat would like us to get a head start on A-level French.ÔÇØ

I dont yet know if I want to study A-level French. It might not fit in with what I want to study at university. That is if I go to university.

ÔÇ£Well, I know that I want to do a language degree and then go into tourism, for a while at least. Why are you not certain of what you want to do?ÔÇØ Chloe asked.

ÔÇ£You know I love cycle racing, but I wonÔÇÖt be allowed to start doing proper road races until I get into the junior ranks. I wonÔÇÖt really know if IÔÇÖll be good enough for a career as a professional until IÔÇÖve already completed further education, by which time it will be too late to change tack. If I canÔÇÖt make it as a pro then I want to do a sports science degree and become a coach or physiologist.ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£Hey there!ÔÇØ Jess had arrived. ÔÇ£How did it go?ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£Fine, no sweat.ÔÇØ Chloe said.

ÔÇ£Yeah, sure,ÔÇØ confirmed Scott. ÔÇ£ThatÔÇÖs the end of GCSEs for us for this year. ItÔÇÖs just plain old end of year tests for all of us next week. I can tell you something; I canÔÇÖt wait to get to Bordeaux this year.ÔÇØ

"Me too," said Jess. "For all the years I've been hearing about the place, this will be the first time I'll actually see it."



The LowrysÔÇÖ people carrier felt somehow empty to Beth, as they travelled towards Bristol. Mike was driving and sat behind were Scott, Chloe and Robert. There were only two empty seats, which would soon be occupied, but still the car felt empty.

Mike glanced over and spotted BethÔÇÖs sombre look. ÔÇ£WhatÔÇÖs up, Darling?ÔÇØ he asked.

ÔÇ£This is our first summer holiday without Anne,ÔÇØ Beth replied, ÔÇ£and itÔÇÖs just hit me how much I miss her.ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£I think that comes with the job, doesnÔÇÖt it,ÔÇØ said Mike. ÔÇ£We do our best to raise them and then we have to let them go. We can only hope that they remember to call as they get on with their own lives.

ÔÇ£Still, this team has another little project just starting.ÔÇØ

Beth ran her hands over her pronounced baby bump and smiled, tearfully.

As Mike pulled into the driveway of George and MurielÔÇÖs bungalow at around eleven, George came out to greet them dressed only in shorts and sandals. Chloe and Robert both had a big hug for their Granddad, before George ushered them all inside. There was plenty of time before they would have to leave to make the ferry crossing from Portsmouth, so the afternoon was passed in George and MurielÔÇÖs mature, spacious and secluded back garden. George and Muriel had their own small hot tub, so invited Beth and Mike to join them, to ease the travel stress that had already accumulated. Scott, Chloe and Robert all stripped and lay out on the lawn, in the sun.

ÔÇ£Thanks for offering to drive us out to Bordeaux, Mike,ÔÇØ said George, as he removed his shorts and stepped into the hot tub. ÔÇ£Last year proved to be a bit much of a strain, despite taking my time with the driving.ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£YouÔÇÖre most welcome,ÔÇØ said Mike. ÔÇ£In fact, we would have offered years ago if we had known how youÔÇÖd get back home. Plus, what we save on the cost of the ferry, between us, we can put towards a nice meal out somewhere.ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£Oh, that sounds good,ÔÇØ said Muriel.

ÔÇ£So whatÔÇÖs this about a naturist camp that weÔÇÖve been hearing from Susan?ÔÇØ Muriel added.

ÔÇ£Oh, yes,ÔÇØ said Mike. ÔÇ£Well, you know Henk, Lena and Famke from our holidays. Henk had another of our friends, Max, buy into the riding centre across the way from SusanÔÇÖs.ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£Anyway,ÔÇØ cut in Beth, ÔÇ£Max and his family are coming to Bordeaux with us. IÔÇÖm sure Max will be filling everyone in on progress, so letÔÇÖs leave the rest for him to tell.ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£So you know this Max well?ÔÇØ asked Muriel.

ÔÇ£Yes, sure,ÔÇØ called Scott, from the lawn, ÔÇ£his son, Stuart, is my best friend from my old school in Heywood. We made up last year and he started going out with Jess. HasnÔÇÖt Chloe filled you in on any of this?ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£I told them that Jess had a boyfriend,ÔÇØ said Chloe. ÔÇ£Maybe I forgot to say about Stuart being your old friend.ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£Oh, not to worry,ÔÇØ said Muriel. ÔÇ£Jess will be staying in our chalet until Jenny arrives. IÔÇÖm sure sheÔÇÖd love to tell us all about Stuart when we get her alone.ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£WeÔÇÖll all be meeting before the ferry crossing, anyway, so youÔÇÖll get to meet Max, his wife, Louise, Stuart and their younger son, Ben,ÔÇØ said Mike.

Muriel had Chloe help her to prepare lunch, which was eaten in the garden before everybody got dressed in readiness for the next leg of the journey. George carried his and MurielÔÇÖs luggage outside and had an admiring glance at ScottÔÇÖs bike as Scott removed it from the cycle rack, so that access could be gained to the load bay. It was nothing like the bikes in GeorgeÔÇÖs younger days, and George told Scott as much. Having loaded the case that George had handed to him, Scott closed the tailgate and secured his bike back on the rack. Once everyone had taken their seats, it was time to depart. Although the ferry crossing wasnÔÇÖt until eight that evening, they wanted to be there early, to meet the others and to have chance of a more relaxed evening meal, so they made their departure from George and MurielÔÇÖs around half past two in the afternoon, with Beth taking the wheel for the start of the two and a half hour drive.

By the time they arrived at the ferry terminal, Mike had taken over driving. Having stopped off in Bristol, he fully expected that Max and his family would have made it down to Portsmouth ahead of them. Sure enough, as Mike was waved into the quayside parking bay, he could see the ClayÔÇÖs large saloon parked in the next block of cars to the left. As he pulled to a halt, he activated his phone in its holder and dialled MaxÔÇÖs mobile.

Max answered promptly, ÔÇ£Hi, Mike. I just saw you pulling in. Have a good journey?ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£Yeah, sure,ÔÇØ replied Mike. ÔÇ£We were out early and had a long stop at Chloe and RobertÔÇÖs grandparentsÔÇÖ. Say, I can see youÔÇÖre not at your car. Are you in the terminal building?ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£Yeah, we needed to freshen up and have a coffee break. I think loading is about to start, so we canÔÇÖt hang about here.ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£True. I think we all could to with a stretch and the chance to freshen up, but weÔÇÖll have to leave it until weÔÇÖre onboard before we have a drink. It looks like youÔÇÖre going to be parked on a different car deck than us, so why donÔÇÖt we all meet in the forward lounge and sort out who is staying in which cabin. Once that is settled, we can go to the cabins, dump our overnight stuff and then go for a meal in the restaurant.ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£That sounds like a plan. So weÔÇÖll see you just as soon as we can all make it up to the forward lounge,ÔÇØ said Max.

ÔÇ£Max,ÔÇØ cut in Beth, ÔÇ£you remembered to bring Jess, didnÔÇÖt you?ÔÇØ

Max laughed, ÔÇ£You think Stuart would have let us forget? We will ALL see you after boarding. Okay?ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£Okay, bye,ÔÇØ called Mike and terminated the call.

The loading of the cars, coaches and trucks took an age, so after they had all met and sorted out cabin assignments, the families were glad to sit down for their evening meal and relax. As each cabin only had four berths, Jess and Chloe shared with George and Muriel, with Robert opting to stop with his friend Ben in BenÔÇÖs parentsÔÇÖ cabin. This displaced Stuart, who took the spare bunk with Mike, Beth and Scott.

Over dinner Max told George and Muriel of how heÔÇÖd been looking for a new challenge after leaving oil platform work, how Henk had persuaded him to buy into the riding centre and the work that had already been done to separate the naturist club field from the textile riding centre. Max had some photographs on a memory stick, to show progress, and would be giving a little talk for all the friends that had been with them over Easter, so he refrained from going into too much detail there and then. George and Muriel concluded that they would have to pay the site a visit when they came to SusanÔÇÖs at Christmas.

Whilst the parents and grandparents talked after dinner, Scott led the other teens, plus Robert and Ben, on a tour of the ship. As they were about, exploring, they discovered the on-board cinema and a film that was just starting, so they didnÔÇÖt budge until the end, when it was time to return to their cabins and settle down for the night. It would be a long drive the next day, and Scott, for one, knew that he wouldnÔÇÖt enjoy the journey as much if he started out tired.



Everyone made the breakfast rendezvous at seven the next morning, in time to eat enough to put them on until a late lunch, with an earlier coffee and rest stop around eleven, and to discuss a strategy for the drive down. With two drivers in MaxÔÇÖs car and three in MikeÔÇÖs people carrier, the three hundred and thirty miles from Saint Malo to Bordeaux would be no trouble. Even so, just being sat in a car for that long a journey made rest stops necessary. A mid-morning break was planned at Nantes, with a longer lunch stop Niort, part way into the afternoon. Mike gave Max the post codes for both locations before the group went to prepare themselves for the drive on French soil, clear their cabins and head for their respective cars.

Having never been able to take in the sights before, George was keen to know about the landmarks they passed. Scott had noted many places of interest, due to having followed the maps so intently in previous years. Having used the internet to look up all the places that had caught his eye, Scott was able to tell George about the many chateaux and historic towns that they passed. Muriel listened in keenly, too, as she had only ever seen the places in passing, but hadnÔÇÖt been able to follow maps to know where they were.

After lunch at a caf├® in Niort, which Mike and Beth had found on their very first outing to the naturist holiday centre, Scott swapped cars with Jess, at Muriel's request, so that Muriel could discretely grill her about Stuart. Chloe knew it was a good thing that Stuart wasnÔÇÖt in the car with them because Jess would have taken delight in trying to turn him bright red.

The late afternoon arrival at the naturist centre in Bordeaux had almost become an annual ritual event for Mike and Beth. This was the first time, however, that they had arrived in convoy. As the adults went to book in, Scott, Chloe and Robert took Stuart, Jess and Ben to the pool complex, where they immediately stripped off by the loungers. Famke was there, floating on her back, alone. She hadnÔÇÖt been aware of their approach until Scott and Stuart both bombed into the water next to her. She was about to land someone with a punch, until she saw who it was who had shattered her peace, then she gave both Scott and Stuart a big hug, and the same for Chloe and Jess as they swam over. Robert and Ben had made their way under the water spout, and were splashing each other until Robert spotted a couple of his friends from last year. Famke had received a text message from both Stefan and Yvette, which told of their expected arrivals later that evening.

It hadnÔÇÖt taken Max and Louise long to be installed in their chalet, after which they went to join the youngsters at the pool. Louise realised that the boys had gone off without having applied sun protection, so that was one thing sheÔÇÖd have to take care of. Max had spotted HenkÔÇÖs mobile home a few chalets away, so went to see if anyone was around, but headed back towards the pool when he didnÔÇÖt find anybody.

Upon the arrivals of the Schmidts and the Simons in the early evening, coincidence gathered all the parents in the bar prior to dinner time. Bettina, Lena and Sylvie all made a fuss over BethÔÇÖs baby bump; Beth confirmed that junior had been kicking for just over a month. At this time Max finally caught up with Henk and Lena, as well. He wanted to discuss the progress made at the EdenÔÇÖs Field Sun and Air Club. Since Max, Louise and Mike were only going to be spending two weeks at the centre Max didnÔÇÖt want time to slip away. Henk agreed that they would make time the following evening. Thomas and Bettina had had a particularly long drive so couldnÔÇÖt realistically be staying up that evening to view the pictures. The Simons agreed with that and joined the Schmidts for dinner at the restaurant, whilst all the other family groups went for meals that were already prepared and waiting at their chalets.



Scott wanted to spend as much time as possible with his friends but did not want to lose his edge by the time he returned home, thus risking the loss of the Tuesday evening circuit race league, which was surely his that year. He was going to miss two events across August, as it was, so to go into September without training would be to hand the title to someone else. Although heÔÇÖd brought his bike and turbo trainer, he wasnÔÇÖt going to be doing the long sets of medium to high intensity that were down in his program. What he had researched was a program that utilised six exercise periods of twenty seconds of flat-out effort, which would push him way beyond his anaerobic threshold, followed by ten seconds of recovery. With warm-up and warm-down, the whole routine only took thirty minutes; thirty minutes that left Scott on the floor and which needed to be repeated every morning with no rest days. The routine may have been short, but it was certainly no short-cut.

Scott removed his shoes after the first session and stumbled back into the chalet to prepare a protein sports recovery drink. Since he didnÔÇÖt have the electric fans to cool him, Scott was glad to be able to work out nude outside, in the shade. Once he had downed his drink and rinsed out the drinking vessel, he took a bottle of suntan lotion and a towel, and headed for the pools, to rinse off the sweat under the pool-side showers, before settling down to sunbathe on the loungers. Thirty minutes had seen the job done. Now he could spend the rest of his time on what was really important; being with his friends.

Once Scott had spent the morning recovering, he joined Stuart and the girls to go horse riding. It wasnÔÇÖt going to be an energetic ride, so it wouldnÔÇÖt tire him out any more. However, when Yvette remembered what Scott had said about StefanÔÇÖs allergy to horses, she opted to keep Stefan company in the pool, and to keep an eye on Alisha and Claude for their parents.



Come the evening, Louise and Lena had coordinated to set up a buffet for the evening meal, whilst their guys sorted out the displays for MaxÔÇÖs little briefing. Although Max had put the photos on a memory stick, he also had them on his laptop, with the memory stick only used to transfer the pictures to Henk, who pulled them up on his own laptop. This meant that all present could view the pictures simultaneously, without getting in each otherÔÇÖs way.

The first picture in the slideshow was of the steel framed club field gates, now clad in wood and stained. Max also had pictures to illustrate plans for the riding centreÔÇÖs additional stable block and new outdoors show jumping arena. Jess was already familiar with these pictures because she was the one that had created them. Max also told of the extra, full-time stable hand and practically lit up when he said how he and Emma had splashed out on a quad bike and mowing attachment to enable them to mow for all the grassed areas themselves, instead of shelling out for a mowing service. Max wasnÔÇÖt at all upset at the thought that it would be he who would be doing all the mowing. They had also bought a matching tipping trailer, which would help make short work of mucking out the stables.

ÔÇ£At the end of April, we rented out the field to Mike as parking space for some contractorÔÇÖs heavy plant,ÔÇØ said Max. ÔÇ£Somehow, a digger ÔÇÿaccidentallyÔÇÖ ripped out a few trees in the coppice just off the camping field,ÔÇØ Max cued a picture of the area of cleared ground, ÔÇ£and a bulldozer ÔÇÿaccidentallyÔÇÖ levelled off the land. We are putting p├®tanque and badminton courts in there, along with an archery range.

ÔÇ£ItÔÇÖs also funny how the digger also dug a hole, just where we were going to put the chemical toilet disposal point. Unfortunately, I canÔÇÖt rightly say how the foundation excavations for the pool and clubhouse complex appeared.ÔÇØ Max showed two pictures in quick succession.

Henk laughed, ÔÇ£It is funny how these accidents happen.ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£Quite,ÔÇØ replied Mike, also laughing, ÔÇ£some people are just dammed careless.ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£Let me be clear,ÔÇØ said Henk, ÔÇ£this ÔÇÿcoppiceÔÇÖ is an area of land that we are squatting on, yes?ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£Yes, sorry, Henk,ÔÇØ cut in Mike. ÔÇ£I used the word ÔÇÿcopseÔÇÖ when we were together at Easter. ÔÇÿCopseÔÇÖ and ÔÇÿcoppiceÔÇÖ are synonyms for the same type of managed woodland. Max is talking about that overgrown clump of trees immediately behind the camping field. We recycled the trunks from the felled trees to create green wood fencing, to secure the area for access exclusively from the club field. We then took photos to log the date on which we assumed sole access. We are now ticking off the calendar; ten years from now that land will be ours.ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£ThatÔÇÖs without any innocent scam victims being dispossessed of their legally held land?ÔÇØ asked Henk.

ÔÇ£No, none at all, that land was still owned by the scam artists,ÔÇØ replied Mike.



Poolside talk revolved around the excitement related to the progress at the camp site for most of the first week. Max said that, during his absence, Mark was keeping an eye on things whilst electric hook-ups were being installed at one side of the field, and the concrete poured for the clubhouse foundations and the swimming pool. Henk was also pleased to hear back from a couple of his other motorhome owning buddies, who would be trying out the unfinished site, just for size, the next week, with Emma acting as host. Remembering how much the seven year-olds, Matthew and Sophie, had enjoyed camping at Easter, Thomas had talked with Bettina about bringing Alisha to camp at the club the following Easter, before heading over to Wales. He didnÔÇÖt mean that as any disrespect to Mike and Beth, with whom they had thoroughly enjoyed their holiday this last Easter, but thought it would be nice to be closer to the heart of the action

Jean-Ren├® and Sylvie spent most mornings playing tennis, before coming to relax in the pool with their friends. Sylvie had at one time been quite a proficient tennis player, but had set it aside for family and everyday life. She had been teaching Yvette to play, and Yvette had taken to it quite nicely, so was pleased when Jess took up the invite to have a knock-about.



The end of the second week saw Mike, Max and Louise all depart for home, in MaxÔÇÖs car. Mike had a critical deadline looming and had had to work long and hard to get the two weeksÔÇÖ vacation as it was, Max had to oversee the completion of the swimming pool back at the naturist club field and Louise, besides needing to get back to work, thought that giving Stuart and Ben the time alone with their friends was important. This left Stuart and Ben to move in with Beth and Scott. For the first time, Beth didnÔÇÖt need to get back in preparation for a new school year, as the earliest date that she could start her maternity leave fell right before the start of the new school year, and she didnÔÇÖt want to start teaching a class just to leave them in the lurch. Being on her own, though, wouldnÔÇÖt be an issue because Scott was still there, and he was evidently keen to take over from his dad in the kitchen; Beth would be able to put her feet up and supervise. With what French Beth did command, she could make the necessary purchases of groceries at the onsite shops, but she would need ScottÔÇÖs help for the two or three shopping trips into the nearest town.

Later that same afternoon, Mark, Susan and Jenny, arrived together in the EveshamsÔÇÖ car. They registered and then went to Susan & MarkÔÇÖs chalet to undress. Jenny temporarily left her luggage in the chalet because she would be moving in with Muriel and George, whilst Chloe and Robert would move to be with their own parents. Nobody would be moving anywhere yet, though; the journey would have to be soaked out of their bodies in the pool first. Jenny regretted that Eddie couldnÔÇÖt make it, because of a heavy case load, but he had reassured her that they would get away as a family for some sun at Christmas.

There would be some days when the lure of a dayÔÇÖs sightseeing and good caf├®s would tempt the teens and their parents from the camp but, after each sortie, everyone was glad and relieved to get back out of their restraints.



It was the Thursday of the third week of their vacation. Scott entered the pool complex and showered of, as he had done each morning, before taking a spot on the ground next to ChloeÔÇÖs sun lounger.

ÔÇ£You do know what today is, donÔÇÖt you?ÔÇØ asked Scott of Chloe. ÔÇ£ItÔÇÖs GCSE results day.ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£You know, I totally put it out of my mind,ÔÇØ said Chloe. ÔÇ£ItÔÇÖs not like weÔÇÖre waiting on our results to get into university, is it? I suppose weÔÇÖll just have to wait until we get back before we can pick them up.ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£DonÔÇÖt worry, Darling,ÔÇØ called Susan, from the pool, ÔÇ£before we came out, we arranged with school for Mike to pick your results up as he was picking up ScottÔÇÖs.ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£Oh, Mum!ÔÇØ cried Chloe, ÔÇ£I wasnÔÇÖt worried until you said that! I was quite at ease with having to wait, but now youÔÇÖve told me that IÔÇÖll know sooner rather than later, I wonÔÇÖt be able to relax until I do know.ÔÇØ

Scott jumped up and grabbed ChloeÔÇÖs hand. ÔÇ£Come on, Chloe. WeÔÇÖre going to the beach.ÔÇØ Then turning back to the other teens, he called, ÔÇ£Are you coming with us?ÔÇØ

Jess pulled Stuart to his feet and set out after Scott and Chloe, with Famke, Yvette and Stefan all running to catch up.

ÔÇ£So why are we going to the beach so suddenly?ÔÇØ Chloe asked Scott.

ÔÇ£Rather than sitting around just waiting, we are going off, enjoying ourselves and returning when we are ready to hear the results, or when lunch time comes; whichever is the sooner.ÔÇØ

Chloe threw both her arms around ScottÔÇÖs waist as they walked along, and hugged him, tightly. ÔÇ£ThatÔÇÖs two good reasons why I love you; youÔÇÖre so thoughtful and decisive.ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£How many reasons do you have?ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£Infinity is a number, isnÔÇÖt it?ÔÇØ

Scott hugged her back, just as tightly. And I love you to infinity and beyond.



Lunchtime was delayed for everybody... Scott and Chloe had obstinately stayed out for as long as they could before hunger got the better of them; their friends had merely kept them company. When they did get back poolside, they found that Mike had called Beth with ScottÔÇÖs and ChloeÔÇÖs results, only to find that they had run off. Everyone was hungry now, so Scott and Chloe agreed to put off calling ScottÔÇÖs dad back until after everyone had eaten.

After bolting down a sandwich, some fruit and a glass of lemonade, Chloe headed to ScottÔÇÖs chalet, ready to make the call. Susan, Mark and Robert had to catch up with her, with Susan, ironically, chiding her for her impatience. On arrival, however, Chloe found that both Jess and Jenny had beaten her and were already there. Stuart and Ben would have had lunch with Beth and Scott anyway, so were also present.

Thinking that nobody else would be interested in the results, Beth had started to dial MikeÔÇÖs mobile number, only for Famke, Stefan and Yvette to come running in. Beth completed the dialling, set the phone down on the breakfast bar and turned on the speaker phone function.

Mike answered, ÔÇ£Hello, Darling. Have you found Scott?ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£Yes, Dear. WeÔÇÖre all here now,ÔÇØ replied Beth.

ÔÇ£Scott, you knew I was getting your results today, so why didnÔÇÖt you wait around?ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£Chloe got nervous,ÔÇØ said Scott, ÔÇ£so we headed to the beach rather than stay sitting around worrying.ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£I doubt that either of you have anything to get nervous about. So, who wants to be first? Should it be ladies before gentlemen?ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£Mike,ÔÇØ said Chloe, ÔÇ£why donÔÇÖt you just open both of them and tell us together?ÔÇØ She swept her hands back over her hair, almost unable to suppress the tension.

ÔÇ£Okay, IÔÇÖll do that,ÔÇØ replied Mike.

There was a ripping sound on the other end of the line, followed by another and then followed by a pause.

ÔÇ£Right, Scott, ChloeÔǪ you both got ÔÇÿAÔÇÖ grades.ÔÇØ

A cheer rent the air, as Scott and Chloe flung themselves into each otherÔÇÖs arms and kissed in celebration, with a passion that exceeded all their previous kisses. Moments passed before they let the heat subside and turned to receive the embraces given by their families and friends. The hug between Scott and Stuart didnÔÇÖt have much ÔÇÿbearÔÇÖ about it, but that didnÔÇÖt matter to them. Even more moments passed before anyone remembered that Mike was still on the other end of the phone and tried to listen to what he was saying.



ÔÇ£Sorry, Dad, what was that?ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£I said congratulations, you both deserve it. Scott, how many people are there? It sounded like the whole holiday centre erupted!ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£Yes, there are a few of us here; ChloeÔÇÖs parents, Robert, Jenny, Jess, Stuart, Ben, Famke, Stefan, Yvette.ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£Mark?ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£Yes, Mike?ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£You make sure those two celebrate properly tonight, I want Scott to have two proper glasses of red wine with his meal tonight.ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£Dad! You know IÔÇÖve got training tomorrow.ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£Look, Scott. IÔÇÖve seen your program and how you step it up at every possible opportunity. You are not yet in the junior ranks, and yet your workload is like that of a senior rider. So, IÔÇÖm telling you now: you are celebrating properly tonight and taking the day off tomorrow. Is that understood?ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£Okay, Dad, just donÔÇÖt blame me when you have to assist my alcohol addicted anatomy around A&E,ÔÇØ laughed Scott.



Scott was actually glad of being taken out for the meal that evening; not only did it give him a break from preparing the meal, but any excuse to celebrate with his girlfriend was fine by him. Since ChloeÔÇÖs family always ate at the restaurant, as did StefanÔÇÖs and YvetteÔÇÖs, there wasnÔÇÖt a great swell in the number of patrons for that eveningÔÇÖs dinner party, although Mark thought it only fair to warn them to arrange a table for twenty three guests.

Mark made sure that two glasses of red wine were poured for Scott as he enjoyed his steak, as per instruction. Mike had a fairly extensive wine cellar at home and had taught Scott how to savour and enjoy it, instead of bolting it down. Chloe, not as knowledgeable as Scott, had only accepted two half-glasses, but enjoyed the moment and company as Scott did. Beth had been abstaining from alcohol throughout her pregnancy, but accepted a small glass to toast her sonÔÇÖs and ChloeÔÇÖs success. Scott did wonder how they would all celebrate next year, when all his friends except Famke would be leaving school; the minimum school leaving age in the Netherlands being eighteen.

As the evening wound to a close, Stefan and his family left first to put Alisha to bed, followed by YvetteÔÇÖs, for Claude. Scott and Stuart accompanied Chloe and Jess to their chalets, before wishing them a warm goodnight and returning back to their bunks. There was just over a week of the holiday to go, and the boys lay in bed discussing what else theyÔÇÖd like to do before they returned home. Ben said he simply wanted to do it all again. Scott and Stuart agreed.



Although Scott did not suffer the same level of melancholy that had gripped him when leaving France at the start of school year eight, there was still a sombre mood afflicting him this time, as his familyÔÇÖs people carrier left the French holiday centre at an unearthly hour in the morning, followed by the car of ChloeÔÇÖs family. Jenny had been brave enough to volunteer to take turns in driving the people carrier with Beth and George; Muriel having taken the fifth seat in her daughter and son-in-lawÔÇÖs car. With this being JennyÔÇÖs first time driving on the continent, Beth and George opted to let her drive first, whilst there was no traffic to contend with. The Bakkers, regrettably, had to leave the day before as they were taking an extra day travelling, camping in their motorhome along the way.

The return journey was a straight run for Saint Malo, with a seven oÔÇÖclock stop for breakfast in Nantes, before making the dash for the ferry in Saint Malo, which departed at ten thirty. As the two car convoy entered Brittany, the sky closed in and it began to rain, as if to mark the official end of the holiday. To alleviate the fuel costs for driving twice the length of France, and then some, Mark and Beth both refuelled their vehicles some distance before they reached the ferry terminal, so as to avoid the extortionate taxation mark up for fuel in Britain. Despite the weather, the travellers were determined not to let it be defining memory of their last full day together. Coffees were bought in the clean and pleasant terminal building, and all had lunch together onboard, after a couple of hours sailing. This wasnÔÇÖt an overnight crossing, so no cabins had been booked. This also meant the teens had more time to fill, so the first stop for them after lunch was again the onboard cinema.

Landing at Portsmouth around six twenty in the evening, George opted to drive BethÔÇÖs people carrier for the whole two hour journey to Bristol because he knew the drive up to Greater Manchester would be enough of a strain on Beth and Jenny, especially with Beth being six months pregnant. Beth and Jenny had both tried to get what rest they could onboard the ferry, so that they could handle the four hour drive northwards. They left with Scott and Jess soon after having dropped off George and Muriel at their place. The Eveshams stayed as well and would continue on the following day.

Four and a half hours, three coffee stops at motorway service stations, two tired drivers and three quarters of a tank of fuel later, Beth dropped Jenny and Jess at Edenfield before taking Stuart and Ben to stop overnight with them at Hawkshaw. Mike was still up to welcome them, even though it was almost half past one in the morning. Beth turned down the offer of coffee, preferring just to strip off and hit the sack. Mike had prepared the air mattress with sleeping bags for Stuart and Ben, on the floor in ScottÔÇÖs bedroom. Scott showed them the way and turned in himself, whilst Mike stowed ScottÔÇÖs bike in the hallway and left everything else for the morning.



Year eleven; their final year at high school Scott was sitting with Nick Barber and Anthony Price by the tennis courts that served as the senior years playground. They were watching that years new pupils arrive, when Donna and Nicola walked up.

ÔÇ£Hey, Scott, have you seen Chloe and Jess around this morning?ÔÇØ asked Donna. ÔÇ£We were looking forward to asking about their holiday.ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£Well, they always come to school together, so wherever they are, if you find one of them, youÔÇÖll find the other.ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£Oh, thank you, Scott, that was MOST helpful,ÔÇØ Donna laughed.

ÔÇ£Anyway, how was your holiday?ÔÇØ asked Scott.

Well you know it wasnt as good as it could be.

ÔÇ£Oh dear. YouÔÇÖll just have to spend more time at ChloeÔÇÖs and JessÔÇÖs, if this weather clears up before autumn sets in. Oh, there they are, coming through the gates. IÔÇÖll just go and grab them. IÔÇÖll be back in two ticks.ÔÇØ

Scott didnÔÇÖt hurry; he just strolled to meet Chloe and Jess. They didnÔÇÖt seem bothered to hurry back to where Scott had left Donna and Nicola in the company of Nick and Anthony, either, once he said how heÔÇÖd left the four of them together.

ÔÇ£You sly devil, you,ÔÇØ said Jess to Scott.

ÔÇ£Moi, sly? They are the ones who came over,ÔÇØ laughed Scott.

ÔÇ£Yeah, and if we go over there, weÔÇÖd be breaking up the party,ÔÇØ said Chloe.

Before Scott, Chloe and Jess felt the need to go over and butt in, the bell sounded to call all pupils to registration. A new school year meant a new form room and another form tutor; Scott ran his finger down the chart on the notice board and found form ÔÇÿ11DÔÇÖ was to be located in the Physics lab. Scott and ChloeÔÇÖs form had the register called by Mr. Cooke, the Head of Science, before they headed down to a whole of school assembly in the main hall. This assembly, being the first of a new school year, had a different feel to it, being more about welcoming the new pupils and staff. Beyond the more usual announcements, towards the end, a list of names was read out for the new school prefects, with the pupils named going up to the stage to collect their badges. Scott was glad that his friends Nick and Anthony were among those named; their academic and disciplinary records made it a certainty. None of Scott and ChloeÔÇÖs friends was at all surprised when the queue for the badges cleared without Scott and ChloeÔÇÖs names being called, as if they knew what was coming.

The Headmaster, Mr Braithwaite, took the microphone. ÔÇ£Without further ado, please give your congratulations to your new Head Boy and Head Girl, Scott Lowry and Chloe Evesham.ÔÇØ

Apart from the wild clamour from Scott and ChloeÔÇÖs close friends, the other applause was the usual polite, but non-committal clapping, as Scott and Chloe approached the stage, shook hands with the Headmaster, collected their badges and returned to their positions before the assembly was dismissed to class.



During the first week, Scott had found time to add the chess club to his list of extra-curricular activities, on top of leading the French and Spanish Discussion Forums with Chloe. He and Chloe, as Head Boy and Head Girl, also chaired the pupil conflict resolution groups. Chloe and Jess had also persuaded him, as well as Nick, Anthony, Donna and Nicola to join the badminton club, although nobody informed Nick and Anthony of their usual practice attire round at ChloeÔÇÖs house. There was some talk of Nick and Donna double dating with Anthony and Nicola, but, so far, nothing had come of it.

Friday was the one day that Scott didnÔÇÖt cycle into school and home again, being the day for year eleven sports. It was also the one day that he didnÔÇÖt get to say good bye to Chloe at the end of school, as they parted to go home, so, on the second Friday in September, Scott wasnÔÇÖt surprised when he hadnÔÇÖt seen her since afternoon registration. What did surprise him, though, was that his usual end of day text messages went unanswered. He wasnÔÇÖt unduly worried, however; she could have just let the phone run out of charge or credit, as she was sometimes prone to do.

After his infrequent bus journey into Hawkshaw, he had to walk across the estate to their house on its corner plot. On entering, Scott could hear Beth in a one-sided conversation; she must have been on the phone. As he closed the door, he let the handle slip from his grasp and the door fell closed, heavily.

Beth heard this and called, ÔÇ£Scott, is that you? DonÔÇÖt get undressed; weÔÇÖre going out in a moment.ÔÇØ

Scott moved into the dining room, where Beth was on the phone.

Scotts arrived just now. Well see you shortly. Bye for nowYes Bye, bye.

Scott said Beth, turning to address him, youd better sit down, Darling, Ive just had some bad news.

Scott pulled a dining chair out from under the table and sat, apprehensively

Beth gave a shuddering sigh and began, ÔÇ£ThereÔÇÖs no easy way to say this, but George passed away in his sleep early this morning. Susan only heard from her brother this afternoon. Mark fetched Chloe and Robert home from school early, and Chloe seems to have taken it really hard.ÔÇØ

Scott slumped in his chair; this was like losing his own Grandfather. He had not really known his motherÔÇÖs father as he had died when he was very young, followed by his Grandmother in the winter of his year seven at school in Heywood. His dad had cut himself off from his family soon after heÔÇÖd married Beth, so that had left Muriel and George as the nearest things to grandparents that he had. Anne would probably feel the same way too. Scott realised that this was selfish of him; George was Chloe and RobertÔÇÖs Granddad, and Scott knew that heÔÇÖd have to be there for them.

Beth dressed, picked up her car keys and joined Scott at the car, saying that sheÔÇÖd call Anne later that evening. As they made their way towards Edenfield, Scott reflected on his past losses and tried to figure out how he could be of any use to Chloe and Robert at this time.

Unusually for her, when Susan answered the front door, she was dressed. Beth wrapped her in a comforting embrace for a moment, as Scott entered and moved through to the living room, still in a semi-daze. Jess and Robert were in the living room, sullenly and distractedly playing a video game, still dressed in their school uniforms. Scott guessed that Jess probably felt the same way about George as he did, having lost her own Granddad just before the start of year nine. Sitting down on the floor, next to Robert, Scott placed his hand on RobertÔÇÖs shoulder and gave a squeeze. Robert let go of his game controller and placed a hand over ScottÔÇÖs, turning to give Scott a weak smile.

ÔÇ£I know what this is like,ÔÇØ said Scott, ÔÇ£so if you need me, IÔÇÖll always be there; either at school or on the end of the phone. Call me if you want to talk, anytime. Okay?ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£Okay, thanks,ÔÇØ said Robert, releasing ScottÔÇÖs hand and returning to the game for which he cared nothing.

Scott stood up and went to give his condolences to Susan, who was now sat with Beth on one of the sofas. After receiving his hug, Susan told Scott that Chloe was in her room and that he should go up to see her. Scott headed upstairs.

Gently knocking on the door, Scott called, ÔÇ£Chloe, may I come in?ÔÇØ He tried again, ÔÇ£Chloe?ÔÇØ

This was the first time that he felt that he really needed to be there for her, and she wasnÔÇÖt responding. He could have opened the door himself, but this was her room, her private space. To enter unbidden would have been a violation of trust. Scott had known George for much longer than he had known his own grandfather, and had his own pain that needed comforting, so he understood Chloe's pain but Chloe had shut herself away. Scott sadly returned to the lounge. Having seen Scott returning, Susan questioned why that was and then went up to see Chloe for herself.

When Susan returned, she tapped Scott on the shoulder to attract his attention. ÔÇ£ItÔÇÖs okay, Scott, you can go up now. She just had her headphones in her ears.ÔÇØ

This time, when Scott knocked on her door, Chloe answered, ÔÇ£Come in.ÔÇØ

As he pushed open the door, Chloe was raising herself up off the bed into a sitting position, still dressed. Her eyes were puffy and red, through the tears. Scott went over and sat down next to her, pushing right to the back of the bed so that his back was resting against the wall. Chloe shifted further onto the bed and lent in against Scott, resting her head against his shoulder. With their uniforms coming between them, Chloe wasnÔÇÖt feeling comforted.

I need to feel your warmth, please, undress with me.

Scott and his mother had refrained from undressing on arrival. In all their years as naturists, Mike and Beth had never thought to discuss the naturist etiquette for such situations. Chloe had specifically asked him to go nude with her, so he wasnÔÇÖt about to deny her that request. Standing up, he slipped off his blazer and tie, and placed them on her chair, followed by his jersey. Chloe pulled off her own jersey and, tossing it to the side, she began to unbutton her blouse. They undressed in symmetry, except for when Chloe unhooked her bra and disposed of it; his shirt, her blouse; his shoes, her shoes; his trousers, her slacks, until they stood there, together, undisguised.

Scott sat down and shunted back on the bed; Chloe joining him, as before, with her head on his shoulder and her hand on his chest. So, there they were, naked, together, on her bed. They knew that their classmates wouldnÔÇÖt understand this; the others wouldnÔÇÖt be able to comprehend the trust, care and consideration that each had vowed to the other, in their hearts.

After a long while, it was Scott who spoke first. ÔÇ£I donÔÇÖt know how I can be of any greater comfort to you than this, at this time: you know I donÔÇÖt believe in the afterlife or heaven.ÔÇØ

Chloe just nodded.

However, I do believe that we never really lose anyone, so long as they are here, Scott touched his own temple, here, Scott touched Chloes temple, here, Scott placed his hand over his heart, and here, Scott placed his hand over Chloes heart. George will be there, in our memories, our thoughts and our hearts, for as long as we live.

ÔÇ£I canÔÇÖt remember George ever having a frown, except the time he was consoling me over the bullying incident. IÔÇÖll remember his corny jokes and his infectious laugh. IÔÇÖll always remember the ice creams he used to buy me when I was younger, and his silly, non-magical, magic tricks. Simply put, IÔÇÖll remember that I loved him.ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£IÔÇÖll remember his warmthÔÇØ, began Chloe, ÔÇ£how the first things heÔÇÖd do when he came to visit were to strip off and then give Robert and I a big hug; sometimes together, sometimes individually. I too remember ice creams and the piggy-back rides when I was little, and how he was always smiling. He always listened, too; never treating me like just a kid when I thought I had a point to get across.ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£You see, Chloe, he lives on even as we talk about him.ÔÇØ



Saturday the twenty eighth of September; ScottÔÇÖs sixteenth birthday, but he wasnÔÇÖt celebrating, that day. Instead, he and his family accompanied Susan and her family to GeorgeÔÇÖs funeral in Bristol. Being nearer, Anne had made her own way there from Cardiff and was awaiting their arrival with Muriel.

Also there were SusanÔÇÖs brother and his family. Her brother, Simon, came to greet Susan with a gentle hug as they arrived, but his wife remained where she was, staying away from the new arrivals for the whole of the proceedings.

Muriel had had to fight to get any of the local funeral directors to accede to GeorgeÔÇÖs stated wish to be buried in the same manner that he came into the world: nude. Although George was of the Christian faith, and good friends with the local vicar, Muriel found that she had to contact the British Humanist Society to find a funeral director that saw a nude body as being in its most dignified state. The vicar saw no such conflict of conscience in performing the ceremony; it wasnÔÇÖt an open casket funeral and the choice of being buried that way was GeorgeÔÇÖs own, whom he knew to be a good man.

After the interment, the gathering made their way back to MurielÔÇÖs for a lunch prepared by ladies of the church, who were friends of Muriel. Anne joined Scott, Chloe and Robert out in the garden, to talk and to provide mutual comfort. Chloe and RobertÔÇÖs cousins, a boy and a girl whose ages fell between theirs, had remained distant at first, but joined the others, tentatively.

ÔÇ£ItÔÇÖs Chloe, isnÔÇÖt it?ÔÇØ asked the girl.

Yes, Im Chloe, this is Robert and these are Scott, my boyfriend, and his sister Anne. Theyve been friends with Gran and Gramps for a long time. You are our cousins, Stacy and Michael right? I cant believe it has been so long since weve seen each other.

ÔÇ£Well, thatÔÇÖs MotherÔÇÖs doing. Dad always wanted to come and visit you, or come round here when you were visiting, but Mum was always against it,ÔÇØ said Michael.

ÔÇ£You know why that is?ÔÇØ asked Robert.

ÔÇ£Yes, Dad told us that you were raised as naturists, as had he, and that Mum objected to us even seeing you. I think weÔÇÖre safe today; she wouldnÔÇÖt dare make a scene here with GrandmaÔÇÖs church friends about. Mum wouldnÔÇÖt even let us come round here on our own.ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£ThatÔÇÖs slightly ironic, since Gran and Gramps came to live down here to be nearer to you two,ÔÇØ said Chloe.

ÔÇ£Really? Is that true?ÔÇØ questioned Stacy. ÔÇ£And you werenÔÇÖt jealous?ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£It was so long ago that I didnÔÇÖt know how far away they were,ÔÇØ replied Chloe, ÔÇ£Anyway, when we did see them, we were made to understand how much they loved us, and so there was no need for jealousy. I can remember cuddling up to Gramps in his hammock just over there, as he read me a story. I must have been about five. Then, as the years went by, I would read to him as he held me in his arms.ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£I wish I felt that close to him,ÔÇØ said Stacy.

ÔÇ£Believe me, Stacy,ÔÇØ said Chloe, ÔÇ£Gramps really regretted how little he got to see you, and the lack of quality time together.ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£Really? Cross your heart and hope to die?ÔÇØ Stacy asked, tearfully.

Chloe wrapped her arms around Stacy and said, ÔÇ£Absolutely, strike me down now if it isnÔÇÖt true.ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£Stacy Sutton! You come here, now!ÔÇØ shouted her mother, from the patio doors leading out from the dining room.

Stacy didnÔÇÖt move from her cousinÔÇÖs comforting embrace, so the woman moved to pull her daughter away, only to be stopped by Simon and directed up to a corner of the garden so that he could have a few pointed words of his own, in a slightly more private setting.

ÔÇ£Look,ÔÇØ said Chloe, ÔÇ£we will need to be going back soon. LetÔÇÖs exchange phone numbers, and then we can talk again, when weÔÇÖre not being spied on.ÔÇØ



As typified October, the weather deteriorated, with increasing wind and rain, and falling temperatures. Outdoor naturist activities became infrequent, with the exception of the short dashes between the sauna and the plunge pool in Jenny and EddieÔÇÖs courtyard garden. There werenÔÇÖt many takers for the Jacuzzi, even though it was warm in itself. There was some relief to be had in the form of the pool at the naturist club, which had been commissioned at the start of the month, shortly after the roof to the insulated concrete form structure had been topped out. Although the launch date for the camping field wasnÔÇÖt officially until the following Easter, founder memberships were being offered for the club itself. The first week in November found Steven Randall and his small family joining in on a Wednesday night swim.



For once that week, the weather had not been raining or drizzling, and the schoolÔÇÖs pupils were let out at lunch time. As Head Boy, Scott had input into the prefect duty roster, so it was no coincidence that he, Nick and Anthony were always off duty together. They went the tennis courts hoping to have a kick about with AnthonyÔÇÖs football, but as they approached, Scott spotted a ring of boys, crowded around two others; they were fighting. As Scott and his two companions moved in to break it up, Scott saw that the boys in the outer ring were not innocent bystanders; they were throwing punches of their own at the one boy. This wasnÔÇÖt a fair fight; it was an ambush.

As these boys were year seven pupils, Scott was able to brush them aside with his considerably greater weight and strength, as he broke into the ring. He continued on, collecting what was evidently the ring leader and pinning him up against the chain-link fence that surrounded the courts. Another of the boys whom they had seen throwing a punch was being pinned to the ground by Nick, whilst Anthony restrained their target to prevent him from enacting revenge.

Right, the rest of you, lose yourselvesNOW! shouted Scott, adding, Well get to you later when we have names, as the mob dissolved.

Turning to the fat, pastey-faced kid, whom he had by the neck, Scott said, ÔÇ£Now, letÔÇÖs not pretend that I didnÔÇÖt just see you and your friends laying into this lad; you are already going before the Headmaster for that. But youÔÇÖre going to tell me right now what your problem is.ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£That puff goes around with no clothes on!ÔÇØ shot back the fat kid, angrily.

Scott took a deep breath; this was familiar territory for him and wasnÔÇÖt going to let the same thing happen to another boy.

ÔÇ£How do you know this?ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£His bum is as dark as the rest of his body.ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£WhatÔÇÖs your name?ÔÇØ asked Scott, deliberately lightening the tone of his voice and letting the fat boy loose.

ÔÇ£John Graham,ÔÇØ replied the fat kid, straightening himself and thinking heÔÇÖd found an ally.

ÔÇ£IÔÇÖll tell you the truth of the matter, John Graham. The truth is that John Graham watches other boysÔÇÖ arses in the showers. Is that not so, John Graham? And itÔÇÖs good to tell the truth, isnÔÇÖt it, John Graham? In fact, itÔÇÖs so good to tell the truth that IÔÇÖm going to tell every year seven boy that he better watch out for John Graham because John Graham watches other boysÔÇÖ arses in the showers.

ÔÇ£And you?ÔÇØ Scott asked the boy who was still pinned to the deck. ÔÇ£Do you watch other boysÔÇÖ arses in the showers too?ÔÇØ

The grounded boy shook his head the best he could.

ÔÇ£Nick, Anthony, will you take these two to the HeadmasterÔÇÖs office? IÔÇÖll join you in a while, after IÔÇÖve had a word with this one.ÔÇØ

Nick hauled the second attacker to his feet, and Anthony took charge of the fat kid, both shoving their charges onward, pointing in the direction of the main entrance. Scott paused a while, watching them go, before turning back to the third boy. This boy was slim and well proportioned, with blond hair and piercing blue eyes that were a distinct contrast to his deep, rich suntan.

ÔÇ£WhatÔÇÖs your name?ÔÇØ

Jason Jason Richards, replied the boy.

ÔÇ£So that suntan of yours; do you holiday at one of the big naturist centres in France?ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£No, my grandparents have an old farmhouse there. My family goes there for the whole summer.ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£ThatÔÇÖs a pity. My family goes to the Domaine du Soleil Gironde. WeÔÇÖve made good friends there. In fact Chloe and I speak three languages fluently because of the friends we have there.ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£Chloe?ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£Oh, sorry, youÔÇÖre probably still getting to know people. Chloe Evesham, the Head Girl and my girlfriend.ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£So, you two are naturists too? IÔÇÖve never known anyone else who is, other than my family.ÔÇØ

Yeah Listen, I had exactly the same problem you have with John Graham and his gang. I had to leave my old school because of it. You need friends at your side, so let me introduce you to my friends and together we can stop John Graham and his cronies in their tracks.



Mike was semi-awake, still sore from him going under the knife to stop him ever getting Beth pregnant again. A half formed thought passed through his mind; they could have waited until the baby was here. That thought brought him fully awake. Surely it wouldnÔÇÖt be that much longer; it was already the middle of November. He rolled over and made himself comfortable. As he was drifting off to sleep again, he thought he heard a gasp, but it didnÔÇÖt rouse him much. There was a pause before he felt himself being shaken.

Mike Mike, its time, said Beth, nervously.

ÔÇ£Hmm? What? Are you sure?ÔÇØ asked Mike, reaching for the light switch.

ÔÇ£I may be sixteen years out of practice, but I know a contraction when I feel one!ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£Okay, okay. Keep calm. IÔÇÖll just pass you your clothes and then go get the car started and warmed up whilst you get ready.

ÔÇ£Look at the time; one oÔÇÖclock,ÔÇØ continued Mike. ÔÇ£It looks like this oneÔÇÖs giving us a head start on the sleepless nights.ÔÇØ

Mike knew Beth didnÔÇÖt want him fussing over her. She could dress herself and make her own way downstairs. If he was there it would be a hindrance, not a help, so he picked up her bag of essentials and put it in the car before starting it and reversing back to the door. He then went in to get Scott up.

Scott was already awake and throwing his school uniform into his school bag. He then pulled on his jogs, slipped on a pair of trainers, picked up a sleeping bag and his school bag, and headed downstairs and out to the car.

Despite her independent streak, Beth accepted MikeÔÇÖs arm on the way to the car. Even though the capacity of the people carrier wasnÔÇÖt necessary, Beth was glad that Mike had selected it over the hatchback, due to the easy accessibility of the front passenger seat.

Mike placed his mobile phone in its cradle and selected the speed dial number for Susan and Mark just before moving out of the drive. There were a good number of rings before Susan answered.

ÔÇ£Hello,ÔÇØ Susan answered the phone, sleepily.

ÔÇ£Hi, Susan. This is Mike. We are heading to the maternity unit.ÔÇØ

At the other end a now wide awake Susan called, ÔÇ£Mark, the babyÔÇÖs coming.

ÔÇ£Are you dropping Scott off with us?ÔÇØ Susan asked Mike.

ÔÇ£WeÔÇÖll get Beth settled in first and then IÔÇÖll drop Scott off before I return to Beth.ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£Okay, weÔÇÖll get up now and get ourselves a coffee and weÔÇÖll see you in a little while,ÔÇØ said Susan.

ÔÇ£Yeah, bye for now,ÔÇØ said Mike, ending the call.



Beth had been in labour for six hours before the extent of dilation indicated that delivery was imminent. She had been sat in the birthing chair for some time whilst the final measurements were taken. Mike held BethÔÇÖs hand, down at her side and she clasped his hand with each contraction. It felt like an eternity before the midwife announced that the babyÔÇÖs head was crowning, and gave Beth instructions to push, also reminding her and Mike of breathing techniques.

The head is out. Thats good, well done, Beth. Now, I need you to give one last big push. Ready, now push, called the midwife.

Beth gritted her teeth and screamed with the effort, all the while clasping MikeÔÇÖs hand.

Its out Youve got a little girl.

The midwife measured off the umbilical cord and invited Mike to cut it, as he had done with their previous two children. Mike cut the cord and the midwife then picked up the baby and took her to the work centre across the delivery suite. The baby began to scream as she was laid in the pan of the scales.

ÔÇØOh, our little lady has something to say for herself,ÔÇØ Beth said, as Mike returned to her side.

A second member of the delivery team cleaned Beth up and offered her a damp flannel to wipe her face.

ÔÇ£SheÔÇÖs three point three kilograms. ThatÔÇÖs seven pounds five ounces, if you like imperial,ÔÇØ the midwife called over her shoulder. She continued making checks, taking measurements and then began to clean the baby up.

ÔÇ£I know weÔÇÖve discussed her name,ÔÇØ said Mike, ÔÇ£but have you seen the time? The sun will just be coming up.ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£I know what youÔÇÖre thinking,ÔÇØ said Beth. ÔÇ£Go for it.ÔÇØ

Beth kissed with Mike, briefly, but returned her attention to the midwife as she turned and brought the newborn over, wrapped in a towel.

ÔÇ£Do we have a name for the little one yet?ÔÇØ asked the midwife.

ÔÇ£I think we do, but thatÔÇÖs MikeÔÇÖs privilege,ÔÇØ replied Beth.

Beth had rejected the delivery smock, so there was no barrier between her bare breasts and her daughter as she was laid onto her chest. She then adjusted the towel so that the baby could make direct contact with her. The baby stopped crying and, after a few moments, nuzzled up to BethÔÇÖs left nipple and began to suckle.

Mike wrapped his arm around BethÔÇÖs shoulder. ÔÇ£World, IÔÇÖd like to introduce you to Miss Dawn Lowry; born at seven thirty five a.m. on Friday the fifteenth of November, with all fingers and toes.ÔÇØ
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