Anne gets a job in Essex.
The bus took Anne to a small town in Essex and she didn’t really know what to do when she got there. She became worried that she may have been a bit too hasty at leaving home? She hadn’t thought it through properly. It was clear she couldn’t return, after the way she punched Joyce they would all set about her. There were some council offices and she thought she would call in, thinking they may be able to help her. The staff seemed quite friendly and directed her to a hostel near the town centre. She made her way to the hostel and was overjoyed when they said they had a vacant room for her.
It was only a small room but Anne slept well and in the morning she went down to the common room and got a coffee from the vending machine. A girl came into the room, smiled at her, and walked over.
“Hello,” she said. “I’m Ruth. Have you just got here?”
“Well, yes,” she said. “Yesterday.”
“I’ve been here a few weeks but I’m looking at a flat after work. My dad’s firm transferred him up to York. I’ve lived around here all my life and I didn’t want to go with them. So, are you just visiting or have you left home?”
“Left home yes, for sure.”
“Will you be going back?”
“No,” Anne said. “I’d rather go and live in a cardboard box.”
“That bad?” she said and gave a laugh..
Anne was pleased that she had someone to talk to and they sat chatting for a while. Anne told Ruth about why she had left home but toned it down a bit and left out the part about punching her sister.
“Gosh, look at the time,” Ruth said. “I best get off to work. My manager is a right grump and he will seriously moan if I’m even one minute late. We’ll have to meet up later,” she said and hurried off.
As soon as Anne met Ruth she felt as if she might have at last found a good friend, the like of which she had not known since her schooldays. What to do now, she thought. She didn’t have much money and knew it would not last long if she didn’t get a job. She set off for a walk around the town. She was hungry and would have liked to visit a cafe for some breakfast having missed breakfast at the hostel. She had to be careful about spending the small amount of cash she had and decided to wait until the local fish bar opened and just get herself a bag of chips. She looked in at the ads in the newsagent's window to see if she could find a job but there was nothing for her, so she walked in and bought the local paper. She scoured the job vacancies but there was nothing that she thought she could do and she realised that this adventure could go seriously wrong very quickly.
Early that evening she was sitting in the common room. She said “hello,” to the young people in the room and they responded but didn’t seem to be very chatty. The television was on but she was not really interested. She was there hoping to see Ruth again, and when she walked in and gave Anne a smile she felt elated.
“Hi, Anne,” she said. “Have you had dinner?”
“No, I was waiting for you. Shall we go to the canteen?”
“Urgh, no. Come on, let’s take a walk up to that new Wimpy Bar.”
“I can’t really afford it, Ruth.”
“Don’t worry about that. My treat. I’ve had some good news and I'll tell you all about it over Wimpy and chips.”
They sat in the Wimpy Bar and Anne was eager to find out what Ruth’s good news was. “So, what is your news?” Anne asked as soon as they sat down.
“I’ll tell you in a minute,” Ruth said, “but first, have you got a job yet?”
“No,” Anne replied, “but I’ve been looking.”
“Look no further. They are after someone where I work at the garden centre. Come with me in the morning and I'm sure I can get them to take you on. The manager is a grumpy sod, but as long as you do as you're told, you'll be all right.”
“That's brilliant. Thank you so much, Ruth. That is such a relief to me. I was getting worried that I might run out of money.”
“Anyway, the good news."
"You just told me some good news."
"That might have been your good news but this is mine. I went to look at that flat I told you about. It’s above a grocer’s shop and not far from the garden centre. It’s really good and I can move in at the weekend. There is plenty of room and I was wondering if you would like to share with me. You don’t have to though, I can manage if you don’t want.”
“If I don’t want to,” she said. “You bet your life I want to. Oh, Ruth, you have made me so happy and I am so grateful for what you are doing for me. Can I give you a hug?”
“Er, yeah, if you must. But don’t go over the top or people might get the wrong idea.”
Things had worked out better than she could have ever imagined. She got the job and they moved into the small flat above the grocer’s shop. For the first time in her life, she felt, happy, safe, and content.
The girls shared a bedroom but they were both happy with that. Ruth had lots of clothes and shoes to put away, but Anne only had what was in the carrier bag so she made a start on refreshing the living areas. She switched on the TV. “At least we have a good picture on the tele’,” she said.
Ruth walked in from the bedroom. “I was gonna make some tea, but I forgot to get the milk.” She looked at her watch. “The shop should still be open. I’ll pop down and get a pint.”
“You make the brew, Ruth, and I’ll go for the milk.”
Anne walked into the shop and noticed a young man behind the counter. He smiled at her and she smiled back feeling an instant attraction to him. She walked across to ask him for the milk.
“You're the girl that’s moved into the flat with Ruth, aren’t you?” he said after putting the milk on the counter.
Anne just nodded her head and smiled again, but thought, say something then you idiot.
“I’m Dennis. I suppose I’ll see quite a lot of you then.”
I sincerely hope so, she thought. “Yes, I suppose you will.” She paid for the milk and was about to turn and walk away.
“You have got the most wonderful lips,” he said.
“A perfectly formed Cupid’s Bow, you are beautiful.”
“Thank you,” she said. “You’re not so bad yourself.” Some people know when they are blushing, some don’t. Anne didn’t usually know, but she was sure that she must be.
“I am so glad that I didn’t take that flat. I was going to but I am saving for a motorbike and couldn’t really afford the rent.”
“I’m glad you didn’t as well,” She said. Anne felt that she could have stopped there all night talking to him but two elderly ladies walked in and she knew she would have to leave.” Good night then,” she said.
“Yes, I’ll see you.”
And I hope I see you too, and soon, she thought. She turned and walked out and up to the flat.
“Bloody hell I thought you got lost,” Ruth said. "I was about to send out a search party."
“I was talking to the guy in the shop.” She started laughing.
“What?” Ruth said.
“He said I was beautiful.”
“Who, Mister Freeman?”
“No, the young lad, his name is Dennis. He said I had wonderful lips. Strange, I wonder what made him say that?”
“He probably wants to kiss them,” she said.
“I bloody hope so,” she said, and they both laughed.
“You want to give him a try,” Ruth said. “He’s a really good kisser.”
“And how would you know?” Anne asked playfully.
“Me and Dennis had a bit of a thing going between us at one time."
“Oh, sorry, I’ll keep away then.”
“Don’t be silly it's been over between us for a while now. He is a nice lad and you will get on great with him. He’s an orphan you know. Never knew his parents. Lives in a single room in a guest house now.”
Anne became a regular caller in the shop. Going in for the slightest reason just to see Dennis. He was always chatty to her and soon asked her out on a date. This was very exciting for her. She remembered how some of the boys at school had an interest in her, but she was never allowed to go on a date with any of them. The only dates she had were with George, and she would rather forget about him.
The date was only to a local coffee bar. There was space for dancing and Anne was delighted when he asked her to dance to a rock and roll record playing on the jukebox. From then on they dated regularly and Anne’s relationship with Dennis blossomed.
Anne felt as if her whole world had changed, someone actually really loved her. They were sitting in the park one evening and Dennis had brought a carrier bag with him. Anne was eager to find out what was in the bag and when they sat at a park bench she had a strong desire to ask him. “So Dennis, what’s in the bag. Have you brought some sandwiches or something?”
“No, it’s a present. I’ve bought you a present,” he said and handed the bag to her.
It was a surprise when she looked inside, more than a surprise, a shock almost.
“You’ve bought me a brassiere and matching knickers.” They were gorgeous and Anne wondered what had made him buy them. “What, are you hoping to see me in them or something?” She said.
Dennis laughed. “No, it’s nothing like that, Anne. You are so special and I want you to have lovely things, that’s all.”
Anne wasn’t sure but thought she would give him the benefit of the doubt. “That’s really sweet. They look so expensive though, Dennis.”
“They weren’t cheap, but I would not like to buy cheap stuff for a wonderful girl like you. You are worth it. The receipt is in there if they don’t fit.”
She took out the receipt and turned to Dennis. “Bloody hell, Dennis, they cost a fortune.”
“Like I said, you are worth it. You looked a bit shocked. I hope you don’t get the wrong idea, it is just that I love you so much and I want to buy you nice things.”
“Thank you, Dennis, they are lovely but you don’t have to buy me things. I am so happy that we truly love each other.” She reached over to give him a long and emotional kiss, something she usually avoided in public, but what the heck?
After a year and a few more gifts, they were engaged to be married. Dennis often tried to get Anne to consent to a sexual relationship, but she would not allow it and Dennis was not the sort of young man to try and force or coerce her.
Anne got to work one morning and the manager called her over. “Anne, the van boy hurt his leg playing football and will be off for a while. Go out and help the driver with the deliveries today? There’s nothing heavy, it’s only plants, but there is quite a lot of them.”
“I’d love to,” She said. “That’s really exciting.”
“I don't know about that. Just go and see Harry and help him to load up.”
Anne got on well with Harry. The van boy quit a few days later and she became Harry’s regular helper. She began to look on Harry as the father that she never had.
Anne took an interest in the driving and took some lessons. She passed the driving test the first time and Harry often let her drive. When the time came for Harry to retire she was asked to take over as Driver and got her own van boy or girl from whoever was available.
Back on the planet known by the humans as The Red Moon Ekurb looked at Bithot and shook his head. “So you have asked Buffer again, and again he has refused to ask for an exchange. How many times is that you have asked over the years?".
“I made a foolish mistake that is all and now I have to suffer dismay for my own actions.”
Why do you not just go and tell Jarlut that we want to be in control of the humans again?"
"I have asked him many times. He keeps on with the same answer, saying it was my choice to exchange and it would be unfair to change back without consent from Buffer. "
"And Buffer keeps refusing you. You might as well give it up."
"The daughter of Marvin will be eighteen earth years, and I have never seen her,” Bithot said. “There is nothing I can do. Anyway, I am getting to liken the Anolaid people."
"Getting to liken you say. Axonia tells me that you are planning to go to the Earth human’s wedding. So why go to the wedding then? It is nothing to us, the daughter of Roger and Eve, she was born on the island so what is the point?"
"They were our last humans and the wedding of their daughter is a major event for them. I am pleased for them and think I should show some support and some interest."
"Pure drivel. I know you miss the humans and you want them back. The wedding is just an excuse to visit the island; you have not shown any interest in Roger or Eve since their marriage. As I said, you should keep on at Jarlut and Buffer. We have done our time with the smelly Anolaids."
"Our task is the Anolaid people because we volunteered, so that is that."
"I did not volunteer."
"I volunteered for you." Bithot smiled at his companion. "I have to go now. I will meet you later in the pleasure centre."
"Which one? You keep changing your mind and we can never find you."
"PC44, I like 44." Bithot made his way to the shuttle departure point. He picked up the 'old man' module from the reception and made his way into the changing booth. He slipped the module into a fleshy pouch in his thigh and stood while his body was enclosed in a hologram, which gradually filled with celloplastic, and he emerged from the booth in the image of a human old man.
Bithot enjoyed the service in the roofless church and cheekily gave a wave knowing that Ekurb would be looking down at him from a screen in the pleasure centre, maybe accompanied by Arnia and Axonia. He called at the wedding reception just to take in the atmosphere of enjoyment that he used to relish with his pet Martha and her husband. He was about to leave when Eve walked over to greet him.
"Hello stranger, haven't seen you for years and you haven't changed a bit. You'll have to give me your bleedin' secret." She reached across and kissed him on his cheek.
He knew she would be unaware she was kissing celloplastic, but it startled him all the same. "So where have you been hiding all these years?" she said.
"I've been looking after another group of islands."
"It's a wonder you ain't seen Roger then. He's the top pilot at the airfield now, flying to all the neighbouring islands in the big plane, the twenty-seater. He's flying my daughter out to the Afro-Caribbean island for her honeymoon tomorrow."
Bithot let the matter pass. "You have done well, Eve, but are you still going to carry on working?"
"You're having a laugh, ain't ya. I'm gonna be a bleedin' lady of leisure from now on, a kept woman. We don't need much now the kids are grown up, do we? I do have some outside interest. I am in the nature group and I have suggested the introduction of sparrows."
Bithot gave a puzzled look. “Sparrows?”
“Yes. I am a London girl and I miss the chirping of the sparrows. Now that I am in the nature group I was able to make the suggestion. Err, what is your name again by the way?
"You can call me Bith."
"Oh, Biff, like Biffo the bear."
Bithot was slightly depressed because he would love to be back amongst the humans. He knew he made an error all those years ago, allowing Buffer to take over. He thought of his task the following day. He would have to call at one of the Anolaid's islands and after all these years, he had still not become accustomed to their bodily odour.
"Come on then, Biff, let's have a dance then."
"No really, I cannot. I have not danced for over twenty years."
"You danced at my wedding, you can dance at my daughter's." She took hold of his hand.
Bithot grinned and gave an almost human laugh. "All right then, let us dance."