The following morning, as they walked over the connecting bridge in Denver Airport Terminal on their way to the aircraft, Julie suddenly stopped and looked puzzled.
“Forgotten something?” asked Emma.
“Sorry no, I was just noticing that music. It’s always playing here. It’s odd, sounds Indian or something and the roof out there looks like wigwams. I was wondering why all the Indian stuff here?”
“Not wigwam, that’s a round permanent shelter made from sods. The tents are called tipi. I know why the music in fact. It is sacred music and it plays 24/7 as a mark of respect because they built this terminal on the site of an ancient native burial place. It was a sop to the local tribes who objected. It pisses me off every time I hear it. Those roofs do too. It’s such hypocrisy. Wipe them out, take their land and then try to flog the imagery as a tourist thing. The whole history of how this nation treated the native peoples is a disgrace. You should read a book called ‘Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee’ by Dee Brown, it’s a real shocker. The old cowboy films will never be the same for me after reading that. Oh sorry JJ, I’m off on a rant here. You touched a nerve with that one. I had a big fight with our Guy Madison about this subject on my last trip with him. He had just finished the publicity on that western. You know it was big last year, can’t recall the title? He was spouting such tripe about the story. I got very indignant I’m afraid and forgot myself. He said, ‘Gee Em, no need to be fronting me up in my face.’ That just made me madder. Em indeed, no one but Peter calls me that and what the hell does, ‘fronting me up in my face.’ mean? What language is that supposed to be? I had a go about that too. I said, ‘Do you think I’m your hoe from the hood?’ Act your age and speak English if you want to speak seriously to me.”
Julie was shaking with surprised laughter when Emma paused and looked at her as they walked. Julie stopped laughing quickly when she saw the exasperated expression on Emma’s face. Julie said, “Sorry to laugh. I was just imagining it. You are so bold. I could never speak like that to a VIP. Too timid I suppose. Is that the same Dan Brown who did the waz-name Code, you know the one about JC’s tasty French girl descendant and all that?”
“I shouldn’t really have talked to him like that. I backed down and apologized to him when I remembered he was a client and not a social acquaintance. Still, that humble pie gave me bellyache I can tell you. Not D for Dan but D, E, E, the name Dee. That actress was a bit tasty was she not? Did you see her in the French film, Amilee?”
“Oh I’m such a dunce really, I’ve not seen that. You do make me feel very unworldly. A wee know nothing culchie down from the farm.”
“Are you? A culchie I mean.” asked Emma laughing.
“Yes actually I am. My people run a farm in the arsehole of Cork. Near Kanturk. Do you know it? I’ve just thought, Dee is a rare name, the only Dee I know is a woman, that very dishy blond who flies out of Cork. Do you know who I mean?”
“Yes I know her. Surgeon Commander Dee Dawes, Eldest daughter of Commodore Lauren Dawes, both Royal Navy. That’s why they commute out of Cork. They had a really nasty prang a while ago. Got hit by some mad bastard French Airforce type who was hooning about out of his exercise area. The fighter damn near sliced Lauren’s Beagle in half. Took the roof off and injured one of the passengers badly. Dee was piloting and did very well to get it down. They did an emergency flop on to a stretch of autoroute near Lyon. I do know Kanturk, I’ve been to that great butchers there. He does great pork products. Jesus, I’m getting to be such a gossip. Enough.”
“Sorry, I am encouraging you. I do love these stories of yours. You’ve led such an interesting life and know so much. Please do continue to educate this Kanturk culchie. That butcher is an uncle of ours. I could get you bacon and smoked pork at cost price if you’d like. I tried it on with Dee once in the clubhouse at Cork. She was kind but immune to my charms.”
“Yes she’s a bit cool is Dee. I suspect you might have stood a better chance with her sister Christine. I think she’s more inclined your way. But then again she seems to have a serious girlfriend. I’m not sure though they are very discrete. There I go again gossiping like an ould hen over the fence.”
Oh, don’t stop now that it’s getting tasty. Christine eh? I’m not sure I know her. What’s she like? A big glam blond like Dee?”
“You do know her and no she’s not much like Dee at all. You must have seen her on the cover of Vogue and the like. She’s a famous super model. Tall, willowy, ash blond, a real supernatural beauty. I think I may have flown her once.”
“That Christine? Yes, I’ve had a good drool over her pictures but I had no idea she was local. She is lesbian then? I’ve seen the gossip about her in the trash celeb mags. No one has ever got a picture of her with her girlfriend. One of the mags was offering ten thousand for a good candid of her with her lover. Sordid stuff I know but I’m afraid I do have a weakness for the celebrity mags and sites. I guess I’m doing myself no favours saying that?” said Julie looking bashfully at Emma and trying to gauge her reaction. Julie continued: “Dawes? That pretty little dark actress with the super boobs is Dawes. Not the same Dawes surely?”
“Yup, same Dawes. Kathy is Dee and Christine’s half-sister. Same father different mother and that really is the end of the blathering JJ.”
“Ah that’s a pity. I was just going to ask if you could introduce me to the Goddess Christine,” said Julie pouting playfully.
On the return flights, Emma was subdued and silent. Julie wished she’d never gotten so chatty. Her expectations had now been altered. She was intrigued to know more about the woman she’d always found physically attractive. That attraction was now increased by Emma’s fascinating revelations about her life. Julie was studying Emma’s face as she gazed out at the mountains below. Julie rarely looked at the ground they passed over but Emma usually focused outside. She would get a peaceful soft look to her face and her plump pouty lips would show a hint of a smile. The sun was away to the east as they flew north so Emma had taken off her Aviator sunglasses. Those are the most astonishing eyes I’ve ever seen, I’d love to see those bright with bliss and arousal. Her lips are so inviting too. That Peter is a lucky bugger. I bet I’d kiss her better than he ever could. She’d know she’d been kissed if I ever got a chance. I wonder would she? She seems bold and fearless, maybe she would try a bit of strange, a bit of Bi experimentation. How? My last attempt was clumsy. I was drunk and giddy. Maybe a more serious approach, a simple invitation, perhaps try to intrigue her. She’s obviously seriously smart and sharp. Yea just ask?
“Emma, may I ask you a personal question?”
“Have you ever been kissed by a woman or wondered about it?” Julie had a surge of excitement as she saw Emma’s pupils grow large. The lips parted in a twitching smile. Her tongue came out and wet her lower lip as if in anticipation, as Julie held her breath.
“Well no, I’ve not experienced that. Can’t say I’ve ever thought about it either. Was that by way of an invitation?”
“I guess it was. I’m sorry I was watching you and you looked so peaceful and yet... well almost stimulated. You do have the most exquisite lips that shout to be kissed. I hope I didn’t offend?”
“I’m not offended, a little surprised perhaps but no not offended. Exquisite lips shouting to be kissed? How nicely put. Go on then. Let’s see what you can do.” said Emma leaning across towards Julie.
Julie took a moment to recover from her surprise at the bold response but leaned over and ever so slowly explored with tongue and lips. Fleeting, tender and barely touching at first, then more assertively, as she sensed no resistance. After almost five minutes Julie was beginning to breathe hard and was getting profoundly turned on. Emma was responsive and kissed back, not at all passive. As Julie sat back Emma grinned at her and laughed but it was a warm joyous laugh, not nervous or fearful. Julie was reassured by it and asked, “Well?”
“Well I am shocked at my own silliness in rising to your challenge but I have to say that was very acceptable. But it’s the second best kissing I’ve ever known. Sorry to disappoint you and I am flattered but no I shan’t be leaping in to bed with you darling.”
“Bugger! Oh well at least I got a great snog for my cheek. I hope you won’t blame me for trying. Are you seriously telling me Peter is a better snogger than me?”
“Sorry but for me, yes he is. There is more to snogging than technique. There is a world of shared experience and loving feeling in Peter’s kiss that you could never compete with. Surely you can see how that would be?”
“I guess so but I’ve not experienced that.”
Emma looked away from Julie as she spoke and lowered her head. She was uncomfortably aware of having toyed with her. Perhaps using her dominant position unfairly. Jesus if a captain did that to me I’d be livid. I hope she’s OK with it. She could make such trouble for me if she wanted to: “I’m sorry to hear that. I hope you do find your soul mate JJ. Please forgive me for that silliness. I don’t know what’s gotten into me this trip. I seem to be breaking all my own rules.” As Emma said this she was blushing and feeling almost panic stricken. First flirting with 007 and now kissing Julie, what am I playing at? I have no idea why I did that. Some sort of self-destructive thing perhaps? She could use that against me so easily. You’ve been getting weird for months now. Ever since she topped her self. Is it guilt? No, not guilt. There was nothing I could have done to stop her. Except not say that stuff perhaps but damn it she deserved that. I went for years letting her off with her head in the sand stuff. No not guilt.
Emma looked down at the ground again but was disappointed to find they had long since left the mountains and desert behind and they were over the featureless sea of the prairies. She wanted distraction to remove her from her unease. “You have the aircraft JJ. I’m going back for a comfort break. I’ll brew up some coffee for them while I’m there. Do you want one?” As Emma prepared to emerge from the flight deck she knocked on the door and paused. When she emerged she found one of the younger girls kneeling in the isle crying and obviously in full tantrum mode. She tried to recall the girl’s name and Houston came to her. “Whitney dear whatever is the problem?” she asked kneeling before the pretty blond nine year old. Whitney raised her eyes to Emma and grinned. “Oh not much I reckon. Sorry did I bug you in there Captain Emma?”
Emma realized there was something different about the child and was shocked to realize her hair had been dyed since she’d last flown the family. Whitney’s hair had been rich brown before: “You’ve had your hair coloured?”
The girl said a little weakly: “Yea it’s awesome blond I think. Is it?”
“Oh, I don’t know. I liked your hair before. That silky chocolate was very exotic and much more glamorous than blonde. Everybody and their aunt go blond?”
Whitney turned and glared at her stepmother: “See I told you it was better before. I never really wanted it done Captain Emma, she made me.”
Emma looked at Guy but he had his head in a script and didn’t look up. Sandi-Ann the stepmom, looked as if she might be flushed beneath her perfect dark tan. She was obviously not amused by Emma’s honesty and glared at her. Whitney’s fourteen year-old sister, Crystal, grinned, swished her long shiny black hair, and said, “Well I guess I’ll not be changing mine. It’s like, so trailer park trashy going blond.”
Emma felt her cheeks flush and she regretted the comment. She quickly moved to the rear of the cabin and switched on the water heater. The Citation cabin was arranged in a double club arrangement: two sets of four gray leather recliners facing each other across a table. Guy and Sandi-Ann were sitting opposite in the front group with his assistant alongside. The three girls were in the next group. Behind that was the small galley to one side. A seat for cabin crew on the other with the compact toilet door central on the rear bulkhead. Emma sat down in the toilet and rested her head in her hands muttering: “What the hell is going on here. I keep blabbing and shooting my mouth off when I shouldn’t.” This trip I’ve felt so weird. That thing with Julie was daft, I mean kissing like a besotted schoolgirl just for the thrill of the new. You’re damned near forty, not fourteen. It’s time you started acting your age, Emma Montgomery. Now get out there, feed them, and apologize.
Emma served coffee, soda and sandwiches and apologized to Sandi-Ann. Guy looked at Emma and made himself unpopular with his current wife by saying: “Don’t worry honey. You are right, she should never have had her hair coloured.”
Two things annoyed Emma about what he said. One was being called ‘honey’ and the other was the thought: So why didn’t you stop her you feckless asshole. “Why didn’t you stop her then?” she heard herself say. “God, sorry. I’m at it again. I will get back to flying before I put my foot in it any more.” When she had settled in her seat Julie heard Emma muttering: “Idiot, bloody silly, reckless, fuckwit of a woman.”
She explained what she’d done then she noticed Julie staring at her. Julie giggled and said, “I like the new Emma if that counts for anything. I love your boldness.”
“When I was a kid being called bold was not a good thing. I don’t feel bold, giddy stupid more like. Listen JJ, keep the aircraft for the next half hour please. I need to relax for a bit and try to calm down.”
Emma stared down at the expanse of gold and green that was the Midwest prairie country. I couldn’t imagine living there. All that flatness would do the head in of a girl from a wee lumpy-country like Ireland. I do like Ireland’s lumpiness and the friendly scale of things. Vast vistas are grand once and you’d think I'd like the big skies but I couldn’t be doing with it all the time. What is up with me? Sod this. get your head in the future. Holidays in grand hotels and travel in a supercar with my lovely man. He is lovely too. So kind and gentle with me these past months when I could have gotten crazy. I wonder what it would be like to be with a total bastard. Like 007 look-a-like. Now that is simply perverse. An abusive misogynist bastard brought you up. They do say men who are like our father excite us. And that the abused drift into relationships with abusers or become abusers. That’s so crazy. Denis was not abusive but he was a misogynist and a wimp. God, why did I stick with him so long? Come to think of it - he looked like my Da and he was an accountant, too.
Julie watched Emma’s face and saw the slight ticks and twitches that suggested anxious thoughts. She’s not nearly as cool and contained as I imagined. When you look close, her face is expressive and moves when she is deep in thought. My God what a kisser she is. I was well turned on. Maybe there is hope yet. I’ll try a bit of sweet seduction when we fly together again. If we do? Jesus I hope I’ve not made such a fool of myself she’ll avoid me. Something is bugging her. She looks almost tormented. I wonder what it could be? Super rich and a good man and in love. What could she have to be tormented about, not that little bit of gossip surely?
If Emma’s face betrayed her anxiety she was unaware of either the feeling or its facial expression. She had begun to get lost in her blue sky dreaming. She was daydreaming about their forthcoming holiday and recalling highlights of previous adventures with Peter. They loved to travel and did so as often as they could. Occasionally these were last minute spur of the moment things. Emma was reliving one memorable trip, the first she and Peter had taken very soon after they met. It was a long weekend dash down to the high-speed ferry from Dover to Boulogne-sur-Mer. They’d found rooms in a hotel at Le Wast just outside Boulogne. It was an old and modest place called Hostellerie de Château des Tourelles. Emma’s fond memories of the trip started with the meal they had on their first night. It was memorable because it was a fine example of something she had longed to have but never could because her first husband, Denis, had been intensely conservative and averse to seafood. When Peter had taken her into Les Pêcheurs, the fisherman’s co-op shop in the main street in Boulogne, she had been nonplussed and wondered why he wanted to buy fish. She stood peering at the colourful cichlids in the vast aquarium along one wall of the shop. She was startled from her fascination when she became aware he had remained by her side and showed no inclination to buy fish. The reason they were there became apparent when a smartly dressed man appeared from doors to the rear of the shop. He said, welcome Monsieur Montgomery. It is nice to see you again. Madam Montgomery it is nice to meet you. Please do come through, your table is ready. We have a fine selection for your plat de fruits de mer. The Maître d’hôtel was formal but obviously knew Peter well. Peter had not spoken much about his travel. He had indicated he’d travelled to France a great deal, being addicted to the splendid food and wine. Peter had enthused about French country markets and said how much he enjoyed visiting them and stocking up on produce. Emma realized that in the five weeks since they’d met, she had done most of the talking. When they later reflected on those early times he teased her saying he’d been delighted to listen but had wondered when she would let him talk.
Emma had watched people eat these spectacular shellfish platters on several holidays in France and dreamed of having one someday. Peter’s unapologetic relish for fine food and his recalling her comments about longing for this but having to accept her then husband’s Calvinist disapproval, added to her delight as she saw the platter arrive at their table. Emma could not contain a squeal of joy when the three-tier lobster-topped display arrived. There was oyster, muscles, brown crab, langoustine, brown shrimp, clams, periwinkles, urchin, whelks and fat pink crevette. There was good bread and two simple dips of Aioli and shallots in wine vinegar. As Emma sat giggling with pleasure the wine waiter arrived with a chilled Sancerre. “You had all this planned. How utterly delightful. Are you still wooing me darling? There is no real need you know cause I’m won. But don’t dare stop, I love it. Thank you for this, it’s all so perfect and romantic. I’ve dreamed of this sort of thing all my life and never imagined I’d experience it. I’m so glad I found you to share this with.”
Peter was absolutely beaming and showing his pleasure in the most spontaneous way that Emma found enchanting. She was used to dour restrained and constrained men and she was finding Peter’s bold displays of good humour and joyful hedonism startling, refreshing, and liberating. Emma felt reluctant to break the spell by starting to eat so they sat loving each other with their eyes, both knowing they had discovered something else to bind them as a couple: delight in good food and new experiences. Peter broke the spell by cracking a lobster claw and handing it to Emma. Once started, Emma dived in with relish and glee. She would pause, giggle, and grin across at Peter. As she remembered this meal, Julie noticed Emma’s face soften and the ticks ceased.
Having relived the memorable meal, Emma moved on to another highlight of the same trip. The village of Le Wast is a neat single-road place with a pretty green surrounded by ancient trees and prosperous rejuvenated old houses. Emma and Peter had walked the road hand in hand taking in the detail. A vivid picture filled Emma’s mind of a strange little hut in the grounds of the church. They had peered in through green algae-fringed windows at shelf upon shelf of religious icons. Peter tried the door, found it open and held it as they stepped in to marvel at the eclectic collection of tat. Little fading pictures of lost or ailing family. Infants and venerable side by side. Ragged tatters of prayers pinned to crumbling wood. White plastic Blessed Marys or what Peter irreverently called: JC on a stick and the Ma with the Ba. Emma’s laughter was stifled by the habitual reverence she felt in the place. Peter tended to be more mocking and unrestrained but even he had offered his comic observations in a subdued tone. They studied and read, photographed and marvelled at the ancient pagan shrine draped in a thin Catholic veneer. As agnostic and liberal rationalists, Peter and Emma spoke of their fascination with this display of irrational faith that they struggled to empathize with.
The humour and pleasure came back to Emma and she laughed infectiously causing Julie to giggle in surprise.
Once she’d started on these highlights Emma found her mind jumping randomly to others. The next was their first Christmas in Nice. They’d driven down in Peter’s old Bristol 412 convertible and stayed in a modest town centre hotel. The old car had developed a worrying rumble from the diff and Peter had been unwilling to risk it so they’d hired a little Matiz. Emma had been intrigued by a large basket in the boot of the Bristol and on Christmas Eve she’d discovered its secrets. Peter had dropped the rear seats of the little hire car and put the big hamper in. They set off towards the Alps Maritime that snuggle close against Nice. He stopped in a little shop on the outskirts of the city and added a mysterious bag to the hamper. At lunchtime they were high in the mountains parked at a viewing place by a white roar of Alpine river. There were picnic tables and Peter had set the big basket upon one. Emma watched fascinated as he assembled a comprehensively equipped kitchen from within. First on the powerful gas cooker was a substantial Dutch oven. He then produced a Bresse chicken, smeared it with garlic infused olive oil, stuffed it with more garlic cloves and bunches of parsley and thyme. This went in the tightly sealed pot and he then produced a chunk of fresh baguette and a slab of Fois-gras de Canard and a small jar of pickles. A half bottle of Macon was opened and the best starter Emma could recall heralded what was to be a truly exceptional meal. The chicken was eaten with fingers, being torn asunder with relish and consumed amid big grins, greasy chins and more wonderful bread, washed down with a sharp cleansing river chilled Frasccati. This was the first of many such fabulous alfresco meals Peter conjured over the following years using great local produce and what he called his campaign chest.
Emma’s foodie themed journey into memory suffered one of those inexplicable leaps that made her think: Where the hell did that come from? She had a vivid picture of an insignificant moment during a walk in Parc Ornithologique du Marquenterre on the Baie de Somme. It was a scorching hot day in late July and they had been walking for hours. As they made their way back towards the car park feeling hot and weary they came upon a sight that lifted them and created laughter that lasted twenty minutes. Peter had stopped Emma and said, “Look at your feet. He’s saying: ‘I’m bloody huge, me!”
Emma erupted laughing as she saw a toad at her feet, stood up on tiptoe, arched and inflated. He was wobbling back and forth trying hard to get as high on his toes as possible. The defence mechanism seemed the most improbable thing to Peter, who said, “That’s unlikely to save the beast from attack unless it’s designed to disable the attacker by creating helpless laughter.”
The memory started Emma laughing, as it always had when recalled during one of the warm reminiscences she and Peter often luxuriated in.
“Oh do share, please,” said Julie. She too was soon laughing as Emma told the story and she thought: My God she’s got such a wonderful infectious laugh and tells such great stories. Those yarns about her being stuck up or a snob are complete bollocks. She’s fabulous and I’m in danger of getting a huge crush on her. I hope I can fly with her again soon.
Emma had become very adept at keeping her drifting imagination where she wanted it to be, but occasionally a dark memory would intrude. It was just a flash and she managed to get herself back to warmer things quickly. For a moment, Julie noticed the twitch return to the corner of Emma’s mouth and her eyes closed as she sighed. When she opened them the smile was back.
Emma had leaped back to her childhood. She was sixteen and walked through the back door into the kitchen just as her father punched her mother. She was knocked onto her back and slid across the polished kitchen tiles almost a meter. Emma ran to her. She seemed to be unconscious. For an instant she thought she was dead. Her fourteen-year-old brother Martin had been right behind and she heard him bellow in rage. She looked up and saw him punching and kicking at their father. Martin was, by then, taller and more heavily built than his father, but this was the first time he had used that power to challenge him. Emma watched dispassionately as Martin rained punches and kicks on his father who had lifted his arms to protect his face and was retreating across the kitchen. Emma realized he was going to trample on her and her still prone mother. She leaped up and shoved him hard in the shoulder so he lost his balance and fell with a loud thud as his head hit the tiles. He lay still, groaning, and holding his head. Martin had stopped and stood panting over him. He noticed his mother had opened her eyes and he said, “Mum it’s time you put an end to this. If he does this again I will kill him. Do you hear me you disgusting piece of shit? I will kill you if you ever do this again.” Martin ran for the stairs and up to his room.
That is as far as the memory flash went before Emma stopped it and got her mind back in the present.
Peter Montgomery was waiting at Cork Flying club to pick up Emma. He was having a coffee in the bar and reading the Examiner when he heard his name called. The voice had a slight hint of the North but was cultured and authoritative. He looked up and saw a tall woman with a great mop of golden blond hair and piercing light blue eyes smiling down at him. She was late forties perhaps but it was difficult to gauge her age. She may have been older or younger. The other thing that was difficult not to notice was her astonishing build. She was wearing running shorts, a sweatshirt and trainers and her legs were bronzed and massive. Not fat huge but sprinter or body builder big. His heart leapt as he realized who she was. He’d not realized when first he looked, blinded by those remarkable legs. He’d not seen her so informally dressed before. He’d heard Emma speak of a fellow pilot who was supremely athletic. When she mentioned her name was Lauren, Peter was surprised and a little alarmed. Now he knew it was whom he’d suspected, he struggled to remain impassive as he rose and extended a hand. She said, “Peter, Emma has spoken of you. Sorry to intrude, may I sit with you a moment?”
Lauren’s smile was broad and familiar. She gave him the merest hint of a conspiratorial wink, then went to get sparkling water from the bar and drew up a chair. He tried not to gaze at her legs as she crossed them. “I wanted to ask you about your car if you didn’t mind? I couldn’t help but notice it as I came in. That’s the first time I’ve seen a Fighter up close. I’m afraid I’m a fellow Bristol enthusiast.”
“Of course, the black Beaufighter. I’ve seen it about. Not too many of us about these parts, are there? I’ve seen a 410 around Mallow and that’s about it.”
“Indeed. Sorry to be a bore, but can I ask you to tell me what you think of the machine? Daniel and I have been debating getting one for years now. Bristol have Toby’s car for sale just now and we are tempted.”
Peter didn’t need much encouragement to enthuse about his new pride and joy. He and Lauren were still deep in discussion when Emma walked in and stood behind Peter. Lauren looked up and smiled at her. Emma heard the subject and walked to the bar to get a coffee. As she left the table, Peter realized Lauren had acknowledged someone and turned to see his wife walking away. He excused himself and went after her. He put his arms around her waist and kissed the side of her neck producing a ticklish giggle. “Sorry lover. I meant to come out but Lauren and I got wrapped up talking Bristol.”
“That’s OK darling, go on back. I want a coffee anyway. I’ll come join you in a moment. She’s an astonishing looking woman for her age or any age come to that, don’t you think? Especially in those shorts. Do you like her thunder thighs then?” Asked Emma grinning wickedly. She knew Peter had a weakness for powerfully built women and he’d often tried to tell her that her own strong legs, wide hips and rotund bum were very much to his taste.
Emma looked over at Lauren and then asked, “What age do you suppose?”
Peter shrugged his shoulders.
“Listen Peter, Lauren has asked me several times if we’d like to come for dinner. I’ve sort of put it off. What do you think, should we accept?”
“I guess so?”
They rejoined Lauren. Peter and she got back to Bristol talk almost immediately. Emma found she was beginning to drift and actually nodded off for a moment. When she opened her eyes, Lauren and Peter were smiling at her. “Oh God was I snoring?”
Peter answered, “You’d just started lover. Let’s get you home – you must be shattered. Lauren and I have agreed we’ll come to dinner but not at Sandy Cove. We’re invited to their house near Nice. We had planned to stay at the Negresco and Lauren has suggested we stay with them one night as well. I said that would be OK. What do you think?”
“That’s fine with me. Thanks Lauren, sorry to be so rude.”
“Given where you’ve flown in from I’m not surprised. We shall look forward to seeing you at Mimosa. I’m picking up my freshly painted wings tomorrow at Shannon.”
“Oh really. What are you replacing the Beagle with? That will be difficult to match. Eight seats are rare in something of that size and that kind of airline quality will be hard to match.”
“Don’t I know it? I looked for another Beagle but there are no rebuilds on the market only some ex-RAF Bassets and they are a bit basic. We’ve decided to lash out and we found a nice SCOATA TBM 700 with good high-spec leather interior. I was a little nervous of going to a single engine. But I’m told the P&W turbo-prop is likely to be more reliable than two piston engines. She certainly hops off pretty quick. She’s over at Aertec at Shannon.”
“That is a fine ship. Hey, when are you going over? My Citation will be going back to Shannon tomorrow morning. If you wanted a lift over I’ll arrange for our ferry-jockey to take you.”
“A ride over would be great and I’d love to experience your hotrod Citation X. I’ll email you the coordinates for Mimosa. I take it the Fighter has satnav?”
“Yes, it has. I’ll confirm departure time by return. I’ll tell him you will be going right-seat and he’s to let you fly her.”
As they walked to the car, Peter was feeling bad about how he had handled the Dawes talk. He hated the pretence and play-acting that had become second nature to him and he longed once again to tell Emma the truth. He wished she’d never met Lauren Dawes, and when Emma had first mentioned knowing her he had been doubtful it was the woman he knew. He’d had no idea the Dawes lived in Cork. Lauren’s performance had been impeccable and he hoped his own was as convincing. He’d not met Bonny often but knew well the unconventional nature of the relationships of his former bosses Lauren and Daniel Dawes.
When Lauren got home, she found Daniel in the study doing emails. She sat by him and waited for a break. “Do you recall me mentioning Emma Montgomery? She’s that hot-shot pilot who flies acrobatics and does corporate jets?”
Daniel nodded and she continued: “Well, your idea that her husband Peter might be the same guy who was our techie at Det16 was spot on. I met him today and it is the very lad. Well, not a lad now. He’s obviously done well for himself ashore. That Bristol Fighter we’ve seen a few times is his. He obviously is keeping the sneaky-beaky work secret. He pretended not to know me and I played along. I had invited Emma to come to dinner and she indicated they’d like to. It was a bit awkward but I asked them to come spend a night at Mimosa next week. They’ll be at the Negresco during an extended tour. Is that OK or have I put my foot in it?”
“I don’t see any problem if he’s being discrete. As I recall he was a sensible sort and not the nerdy type one usually finds. Besides, if he had the good taste to have a Bristol he’s our sort of people. I guess we could all use a distraction, especially Bonny. What’s Emma like then?”
“Hard to say. She’s very contained and serious. She’s a hell of a looker. Big curvy body, auburn hair, vivid green eyes, taller than me too. She must be pushing six foot, very glam. You’d like her a lot, just your sort.”
“What? I think I have enough women in my life thanks very much.”
“Balls! You still look at and appreciate a fine figure. She’s the sort would give you revolving swanicles. I’d not throw her out of bed either.”
“Laurie, what has gotten into you?”
“Sorry, nervous about my impulsiveness in asking them to visit, I guess. I’d better find Bonny and clear it with her. Where is she?”
“She’s over there on the island. I would guess she’d not want to swim back, so perhaps you could take the kayak over and bring her back.”
Lauren ran out. Daniel looked across the short stretch of water between their house and Sandy Cove Island. He watched Lauren paddle quickly across. She beached the kayak and sprinted up the steep grassy slope to where Bonny lay sunbathing topless. When is Lauren ever going to slow down and give in to aging? She’s still a hell of an athlete. Even those recent wounds didn’t slow her down. Bloody hell my hip still hurts. Peter Montgomery, eh? Must be more than ten years since I last saw him. Maybe I’ll just get on to Rachel and get her to give me an update on him and his lady.
Emma went to bed at seven in the evening and instantly fell asleep. That sleep was normally still, soft, and easy. But on this night, as Peter lay by her side, her moaning and constant violent movement disturbed him. Emma spoke often, a garbled babble containing few words he could understand. He would rest a hand on her hip and she would still and be restful, but as soon as he drifted off, another of her restless troubled bouts would wake him again. He considered waking her and talking but felt that might not be welcome. Peter once again agonized about his own past and the secrets he harboured.
Emma had many vivid dreams filled with images out of time. She would switch from childhood to adulthood in the same dream. In several she seemed to be both, as if the adult Emma watched the child. She came to near wakefulness often and recalled the dream with horror and sweaty panting discomfort. She felt feverish and delirious but was not ill and wasn’t running a high temperature. She wanted to speak to Peter and cuddle on his shoulder but couldn’t rouse herself to full consciousness or find the will to act. In one dream, she was held by the hips. She felt trapped and woke to find Peter’s hand resting on her hip. She was reassured and thought: How amazing it is the way we incorporate things from life into dreams, sounds and pains, and feeling. I wish these images would go back where they belong. Why now? Why are these buried things emerging now? Are they real? Surely he didn’t actually do these horrible things? No father could do that to his daughter, surely. It’s my twisted imagination.
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