Annie? Who is this man, knocking off my daughter?
Brenda didn’t give Annie chance to say anything.
“Annie, who is this man… Peter…what’s-his-name, in my house and what is he getting up to with my daughter?”
Has he… has he…has he done that to her yet? Nailed her?
She might 'think' that other 'f', word, but she wouldn’t ask outright, not yet.
Annie was taken aback for a few seconds, feeling the obvious concern in her friend’s voice, knowing better than to answer such a loaded question straight away and to have it followed by ten more, each one, more probing that the last.
Not, ‘Sheila’, but, ‘my daughter’, as though they were two different people.
Her mother was rattled, but then what mother would not be, being several thousands of miles away and learning that your only daughter you had trusted all of these years, was entertaining a man in the same house for a few days, and with him even staying there with her overnight, if she’d told her mother even that much.
“You do know about him, do you?” Brenda sounded almost hysterical. “Annie? Are you there?”
“Slow down, Brenda. Yes, I know him. His name’s Peter Walker. I checked up on Sheila every day you were away, as you asked me to.”
“But there is a man in my house with my daughter and he’s sleeping with her and god knows what else he’s doing to her by now after three days and nights and look at what time of night it is and how do you know him? I don’t.”
It all came out in one long rush.
“Slow down, Brenda. Stop and think before you blow up. Take a deep breath. Take several deep breaths.”
Annie needed time to think about what to tell her mother.
Had Sheila told her they were sleeping together, or had Brenda just jumped to that conclusion by herself? Likely, the latter.
“Sheila is twenty-years old, and she is your daughter. Don’t make the usual mistakes parents make when they learn that their daughters are growing up. Take some advice from someone who has been there.”
And she had been there.
“I wish I’d had someone to advise me when my own children were growing, and when they were even younger than Sheila. How much I would like to go back and correct all of those mistakes I made, when I’d forgotten how I felt toward my own mother, and why I felt that way. How soon we forget.”
At least Brenda was listening, but she was still fuming, wanting to say so much more.
“Don’t make my mistakes, Brenda. Sheila is a wonderful girl and she does tell me a few things. I’d soon know if there was anything wrong.”
She changed the direction that things were going.
“How’s the conference going, Brenda?” Annie heard teeth grinding at the other end.
“Sod the conference.”
It was going to be one of those calls.
Annie asked a question of her own to take Brenda’s mind along a slightly different path, but never far away from Peter or her daughter.
“When did Sheila tell you about him?”
“Ten minutes ago! And what a bombshell that was! How long have you known what was going on?”
Yes, there was a lot going on.
“What did Sheila tell you?” Whatever it was, it had got her mother jumping to all of the right conclusions.
“Nothing! That’s how I know that there is something going on.” A mother’s irrefutable logic.
“First, I wouldn’t describe anything as you just did, fearing only the worst. I knew the first day; last Monday.”
“Do you know him? And how would you put it? What else can it be. He must have been intimate with her by now. Fucked her! You know what men are like. You should have called me.”
“Why? There was no need. There is nothing ‘going on’ as you say, and I doubt he’s fucked her just yet.”
Annie had no trouble using that word, and it was not her place to tell Sheila’s mother anything. It was Sheila’s place to tell her, but only when she was ready, and not before.
“I told her she should let you know about him last Monday, or Tuesday, but she left it too late, not expecting him to be there for more than just one or two days until she got back on her feet.”
“How can you be so sure he’s not doing that to her? And why is he still there?”
Annie sensed the impatience on the other end of the line. She’d better find out what Sheila had told her mother.
“What did she tell you about him?”
“Nothing! I told you. Absolutely bloody nothing! She was nervous telling me anything, and I know what that means, and I heard… never mind what I heard. Do you know him?”
“A little. As much as one can know one of my guests, on and off for the last year.”
Translation: Annie knew nothing about him. He could be Jack the Ripper.
“Who is he? What can you tell me?”
Nothing her mother would want to hear, except…. A brilliant idea swept over her.
“I can tell you that he saved her life. She was lucky that he came across her when he did.”
It sounded good, and it stopped Brenda cold. Sheila had not told her that.
“If he had not been on the Fell, to help her of it, as he did, she could still be up there, considering the out-of-the-way place where she was stuck, and the mess she was in; soaking wet, injured.” (Peter had told her that, without disclosing anything more, or how he’d dealt with that.)
There was silence at the other end of the line.
“She didn’t tell me that; just about a sprained ankle.”
“Did you give her chance to tell you anything? No, the moment she told you about a man helping her you probably took over the conversation, ready to accuse them of the worst things, and had her too scared to tell you much at all, just as my mother had me panic-stricken scared.”
Those comments were hitting too close to home for Brenda too. Her own mother had been difficult.
Annie continued, sensing that she now controlled the conversation.
“I was only fourteen when my mother cornered me, and what did I know? Sheila’s twenty, and almost old enough to be independent.”
“I remember what telling my mother about my first boyfriend felt like, and so do you I imagine. It was painful. My mother, like all mothers at that time, feared the worst, though she was justified in my case.”
Good. Brenda was listening.
“My mother warned me what would happen when a boy kissed me, and about pregnancy always following that, so I didn’t let him kiss me, because of what my mother said, putting the fear of god into me.
“I was so clueless, I let him take my knickers off and fuck me instead. Except I had to show him what to do or we wouldn’t even have done that.”
She heard Brenda gasp on the other end of the line.
“I didn’t know where babies got started. I got pregnant eventually, but I don’t know how that happened as I had never let him kiss me.
“At least girls today know more than I did, then, so I don’t think you have anything to worry about.” Even if they were fucking.
“And is that what is happening to Sheila? Is he doing that to her? Is he fucking her as well as kissing her?” Back to that again. At least she’d been able to use that word now.
“Of course not. I’ve been checking on her every day. She’s alright. I saw her every day this week, and just this afternoon, and I’ll drop in tomorrow too. She’s at that time of the month, so they can’t do anything.”
She cringed, telling her mother that. It might have been true at one time, but many things had gone downhill (or had improved) from when she’d been a girl.
Annie would tell her nothing about what she’d seen of the state of the bedding, or that only one bed appeared to have been slept in; nor about the rest of what she’d seen, with Sheila stark naked answering the telephone that first morning, and with Peter barely ten feet away from her.
It was time to slide back to telling her about her own mother.
“But I didn’t finish telling you about my own mother. We should all take our lessons from her, getting everything wrong as she did.
“She accused me of everything, making accusations and jumping to conclusions before she knew anything (just as Brenda was doing about Sheila). She mimicked her own mother;
‘Do you have no shame being seen with that Robertson boy, and holding his hand in public? And where are your knickers you dreadful girl? Do you still have any on? What did you let him do to you?’
“And she’d already checked my knickers twice, not sure that they hadn’t disappeared in the intervening two minutes since her last check. I still had knickers on when she lifted my dress and wanted to examine even more of me too. God help you if you’d lost them—one of only two pairs I had—or if there was any obvious damage to me there, or any bleeding, when she sat me down and looked.
“She tried to force a confession out of me by tweaking my ear. And if my dress or my knickers were stained… thank god she didn’t notice that, or the other of him that he’d left on the inside of my skirt.”
‘What did you let him do to you, you naughty girl? What did he do to you? Did he interfere with you down there; touch you, go into you? Did you let him kiss you?’
“I could deny that one with a clear conscience.”
‘No mom, he didn’t kiss me.’
“I wasn’t going to tell my mother that he’d fucked me instead, or that we fucked every time we were together. I didn’t have a clue what she was talking about when she asked about ‘interfering’ with me.
“If she asked me directly if he’d fucked me I could have told her. ‘Yes, he’s fucked me Mam, he’s been doing me for a year, every Wednesday and Saturday, and sometimes on Sunday when we missed church, but he never kissed me. Not until after we were married.’
‘Are you pregnant, you filthy little slut? Is that why you are telling me this now?’
“And then her chasing me around the kitchen with a wooden spoon in her hand, crying over how stupid and gullible I was, before she’d even got two words out of me.
“Hell, my mother had it all wrong anyway. He hadn’t done anything to me. I was the one who led him along and did it to him, as well as showed him what to do with me!
“He would have done nothing by himself; he was so shy. I had to take his trousers down for him and touch, and hold him to get him erect and help him, and then I had to show him what to do with it, when he got it up; show him where it was to go into my body and then I laid back on the grass and guided him into me or he’d never have known what to do, but he was anxious enough to try every time after that, once I’d shown him what to do, and how enjoyable it was when he came.
“I led him by the hand every step of the way that first time, or we would never even have kissed (which we weren’t long in doing anyway), never mind anything else more-bold, but once I got him started after that first time, there was no stopping him. He was totally unstoppable. We were intimate for almost a year before my mother found out, and that was my own stupid fault.”
At least Sheila’s mother had gone quiet.
“I wasn’t pregnant, but how I didn’t get pregnant; the number of times we did it without protection, and without thinking about that, I’ll never know. I married him too. That was the only time my mother got off my case and stopped nagging me, except she never did stop nagging until the day she died. It was an ingrained habit with her. I’ve made enough mistakes, but I never nagged my kids, so they still speak to me.”
She was telling Sheila’s mother more than she wanted to hear, but at least she’d distracted her, and she was listening.
“I remember I tried to tell my mother nothing. I knew how she’d respond. The same way she’d responded when my two elder sisters got nailed, and they got chased around the kitchen and even out of the house with her calling them sluts and whores for all of the neighbors to hear. I may even have lied, remembering that, and seeing me sleeping under a hedgerow or in a barn that night.
“I would never do that to my daughter; chase her, make her feel dirty for everyone to hear. I never forgave my mother for that.
“Sheila is nothing like I was. Nothing like you either. We all find out in our own way, and Sheila couldn’t have found a better person to get her off the Fell and back home.
“I will tell you something important now that you’ve calmed down and are listening.” She paused and took a deep breath.
“They are in love.”
Boom! That was the sound of an exploding head on the other end of the telephone.
“A proper fairy tale with him rescuing her and all. Don’t go and spoil it for her. Get over it. Stop and think about that before you go off half-cocked and lose a daughter.”
Brenda sounded calmer now. “Sorry for blowing up at you, Annie, but I was frustrated, and desperate, and too far away. I’m calmer now. Tell me about him, Annie, please. In love you say? Should I worry?”
Wrong question and too late.
“But as her mother, how can I not worry? Who is he? What do you know about him? Is Sheila alright? She did mention that you were going over there every day. What is going on between them?”
Questions. So many questions.
Annie wasn’t going to tell her any of what she knew. Brenda would find out for herself when she got home to find that her daughter was being well and truly fucked by then, and every hour on the hour as most of those relationships started out.
“Sheila’s happy. That’s all that matters. They are in love. Just as you once were, and just as I was. Remember that.”
“What can I do? What should I do?”
“You can calm down first, which you now have done, and then let her get on with her life in her own way, I did. This is the best thing that could have happened to her, so be supportive, and stop worrying.”
Easier said than done. Sheila’s mother would not be helped by that call until she’d had a few hours to chew on it. She might not even recognize her own daughter when she arrived home.
“Why don’t you ask to talk to him in the morning, if he hasn’t already gone by then?” Or fucked her.
Yes, she should do that, and she could ask him directly then, if she had the courage to ask if he had fucked her darling daughter yet.