Parfitt’s Island – a chronicle in four parts: Part Four.

Author’s note:  this episode contains some eroticism and political incorrectness, so it probably isn’t for everyone, but I did warn you about that, didn’t I?  All dun in fun (or done in fone).  I hope you enjoy.

In Julian Parfitt’s ‘Oval Office’, an agreement with the UK Government was finalised with almost indecent haste.  After everybody had expressed their admiration for everybody else, A.J. Poulson, on the ‘phone from the Ministry, wrapped the deal up.

“I’ll have the papers prepared.  If your legal people are happy we’ll be signed and sealed in a few days.  You keep your sovereignty, we pay your rate for the gas, and we rent the pipeline from the Republic of Aga.  Toodle-pip!”  He rang off.

“That was amazingly easy!”  Julian enthused.  “Willoughby, you’re a genius!”

Willoughby blushed.  “Now, Julian!  Come on.  Let’s get in that exercise I promised!”

Skaeflint’ae Beach was at its best that summer forenoon.  Very early in his explorations Willoughby had discovered the cove with its honeycomb of caves and tall cliffs, hidden away from the gas wells on the other side of the headland.  The little apron of sand was large enough to tempt bathers and private enough to be exclusive.  In their first days on the island – in those times Rowena remembered so wistfully – she and Julian had bathed uninhibitedly here.

Today it was Willoughby who accompanied Julian to the beach.  Rowena had to stay behind – a consultant and an Iranian cook had arrived on the early tide to help prepare for the Iranian delegation due that afternoon.  They had set up most of their equipment at the harbour, ready to transport to the house, which they began to do at around eleven am. They were nice people, and they brought with them some knowledge of a surprising nature.

“Your clocks;” said the consultant.  “You do realize they’re two hours adrift?”

“Are they?”  Rowena was at first disbelieving, then astounded.  “My watch, too.  How could that be?”

“I guess too long away from the mainland?”  the cook suggested.  “It is of no importance – we can finish our work in very little time.”

“Julian!”  Rowena exclaimed.  “He won’t know!  Can you find your own way around?  I must warn him!”

Even as she set off up the path to Ben Adderhochie, Rowena recognised the futility of her task.  The walk to Skaeflint’ae was at least forty minutes, and the Iranians would be with them within the hour.  However, as she hurried, a few dark corners began to open in her mind; a few vital tumblers began to click into place.  As the sinister import of these deliberations took shape, Rowena began to increase her pace.  She had not missed the faun-like conspiracy in her husband’s look that morning, or Willoughby’s devious smile…..

“Isn’t this truly beautiful?”  Cried Willoughby, standing at the water margin.  “Doesn’t it just fill your heart, Julian?”

Julian, staring at Willoughby’s back, admitted that it did.  As they had clambered down the steeper section of the cliff path, Willoughby had removed his shirt to expose that back and every rippling muscle in it.

“Let’s swim!”  The rest of Willoughby’s clothes seemed to magic from him, so all of a sudden Julian was plunged into his dream of the previous night:  these were not the tropics, but Willoughby’s virile nudity was all it promised to be, running towards the deeper sea.  Laughing at the ice-chill of the waves, Willoughby turned to offer a view that certainly filled Julian’s heart, and did much to stimulate other organs too:  “Come on, my little water-baby; get in here!” 

Julian tried a modest compromise, removing his shirt and trousers.  Willoughby was hysterical:  “Oh, what?  Underpants!  Get them off you, man!”

So Julian did.  The sea was so bollock-freezingly cold it precluded all innocent play.  Willoughby did not mind this – he saw it merely as the setting of a stage.   Swiftly back upon the beach both men laughed and stamped and shivered while Julian made the point that, in this wet condition, they had no hope of regaining their clothes.

“I’m going to catch pneumonia!”

“Lie down on the sand,”  commanded Willoughby.  “It’s warm in the sun.”

Side by side in the more yielding stuff above the tide-line they stretched themselves out to dry.  Gradually Julian’s shivering stopped, but he did not cease to complain of the cold.  Not, that is, until he felt Willoughby’s arm across his chest – then he began to experience a warmth which wasn’t quite rational.

“Not a bad body, you know, Julian,” said Willoughby; “for a City gent, hmm?”

Julian should have resisted, but he found himself quite liking that irrational warmth.  There was still time to step back, then; to turn away – before Willoughby slithered closer to him, so they were flank to flank, and certainly before Willoughby’s hands began to explore him in areas where even Rowena was reluctant to go, unless offered a bribe of fine vintage Bollinger.

“I’m afraid I’m not very…”  He heard himself stuttering.  “I’m not hung like a…well, not like you.”

“Like a donkey?”  Willoughby laughed.  “Don’t worry, I’ve heard it said.  But I think you’re rather sweet, dear Julian.  And size isn’t so important, is it?”

To be fair to Julian, he did tense up a little at this point:  he did recognise the Rubicon he was crossing, that this was an aspect of sexuality which had always made him feel uncomfortable in the past.  But he did not feel uncomfortable – not at all.  In fact, Willoughby’s attention was making him feel very comfortable indeed.

He would have been less relaxed if his ears had picked up the faint chug of a diesel motor, or if he had been looking out to sea at this particular moment; for a yacht was passing the open mouth of the cove with its complement of three Iranian diplomats lined up, like three wise men on a Christmas card,  upon its deck.  Unlike the three wise men, though, they each had binoculars.  Alas, he was not looking, and he did not see.  He did not see even when, five minutes later, the same yacht and the same three diplomats passed by again, travelling in the opposite direction.  This time only one diplomat was looking through binoculars – the other two had cameras.

“I know what we need.”  Willoughby murmured in Julian’s ear.  “I’ll be right back, love, Okay?”

“Oh, don’t go!”  Julian was nervously affected by the prospect of any interval in his further education, inasmuch as he feared a premature conclusion, exacerbated by the sight of Willoughby’s taut buttocks stalking away from him up the beach, to disappear into one of the caves. Fortunately, Willoughby’s return was almost immediate.  He held a packet of white powder in one hand while he twirled a drinking straw in the other.

“A little stash I set up yesterday, especially for us,”  he explained, as he plunged into the pockets of his discarded trousers to produce a small mirror.  Using that magnificent torso to shield them from any breeze, he nicked the corner of the packet, allowing a thin stream of powder to settle in a line upon the mirror.  “Here we are, darling boy.  Something else you haven’t tried.”

Now there was truly no turning back. The Rubicon was a distant memory; Julian was well into Italy and his feet had dried.  The white powder filled his world with little clicking sounds and flashing lights and unable to withstand any further delay he thrust himself awkwardly at Willoughby, who chuckled his indulgence:  “No, sweety – that works with women, not with us.”

Then he showed Julian exactly what to do, and Julian followed his instructions with alacrity, and Willoughby said a rather curious thing. 

 He said:  “All right boys – in for the close-up.  Not all at once, now!”

‘Close-up’?  Julian relished this strange terminology, knowing there would be many new words to learn.  It was a whole new world, one he had denied himself for so, so long.  As he let the waves of fulfilment roll over him he ruffled Willoughby’s hair and opened his eyes to ask its meaning.  He did not have to ask; nor did he need to ask about the clicks, or the flashing lights, because they were still happening.  They were coming from the ring of photographers standing around them.

“Julian old chap!”  Said Willoughby, disengaging himself.  “Let me introduce you to the gentlemen of the Press.”

The misery of the next ten minutes would remain with Julian all his life.  His struggle to get through the ranks of paparazzi to recover his clothes, the break into an undignified run with his trousers still down around his knees, the raucous cheer when he fell flat on his face in the sand.  Then there was the second raucous cheer when, halfway up the cliff path he met Rowena coming down – or, more correctly, ran onto her fist.

If the gentlemen of the fourth estate had lacked quotes to spice up their articles Rowena gave them plenty.  But Rowena was never a woman to be taken, or quoted, lightly – she also gave weight.  The one redeeming act of that whole mortifying afternoon was when she kicked Willoughby off the cliff.  The man who wrestled with crocodiles was no match for Rowena scorned, and Rowena was never one to leave an advantage without pressing it home.  She pursued Willoughby to where he had fallen, clutching a number of compound fractures, and jumped on him until four sturdy press men restrained her.  By that time she had ensured that Willoughby would trouble no-one of either sex for a very long time.

#

“He invited them in early that morning,” Julian explained miserably, after he and Rowena had negotiated an uneasy truce and they were browsing the websites of the national dailies in their kitchen the following day.  “They were hiding in the caves all the time we were there.  He set me up.  The coke, the whole thing.”

Dismally, they scanned pages full of pictures with little black squares all over them.  Rowena featured as much as Julian, for the camera Willoughby had set up on the grandfather clock had done its job well.

“I got a phone call from the Iranians;” She said.  “They don’t want your alliance.”

Julian nodded. “You should have heard Prince Fuisal.  Apparently what I was doing in those photographs is punishable by death in Al Flaberri.  Daddy’s told him never to speak to me again.  The tankers all sailed early this morning – there’s going to be no pipeline and no deal.  We’re just waiting for the landing craft.”

Rowena rested her chin on her hands:  “Or maybe not.”  She said. “No, maybe not.”

Julian gave her a quizzical look.  “Unless you know something I don’t…”

“Exactly.  Let me explain: last night while you were licking your wounds, so to speak, I made a few calls of my own.  Then, this morning while you were watching the tankers sail away, I called A.J.  It took me a long time to get through, and even longer before he stopped laughing.  Then I told him he had to negotiate with me now, and he did stop laughing.  The deal’s back on.”

“I don’t understand.”  Julian admitted, staring blankly at his wife.

“You don’t. Do you?  Oil is oil, my dear:  gas is gas.  That, and the opportunity to get one over on the British are incentives too great for the King of Al Flaberri to turn down.  And fortunately, the sweet old King has a more liberal attitude to dealing with women than his stuffy little squirt of a son.  We had a lovely chat – he’s going to come and visit me next summer; isn’t that nice?”

Rowena’s husband’s expression was changing rapidly from bewilderment to sheer open-mouthed admiration:  “You’ve struck a deal with the King!  You’re a genius!”

“It has been said.”

“And with reason!  But, wait, what about the Iranians?”

“I was never too keen on them.  We’re exchanging diplomats with Saudi Arabia instead.  Lots more ‘planes!”

“Diplomats!  But we haven’t got an embassy!”  Julian protested.

“I thought the woodshed, with a few alterations of course.  I did explain and the chappy’s quite prepared to rough it, as long as he has a garage for his two Ferraris and we promise to build a road for him to drive them on.  I mentioned the grouse moors, of course.”

“Oh, now why didn’t I think of that?  A sheik in the woodshed – an essential talking point for parties!  And who, pray, have you in mind as our ambassador?  I’m sure you’ve got somebody!”

“Yes!”  Rowena said brightly; “I have!  I believe a certain A.J. Poulson is going to apply for the job.  He seems to think his career at the Home Office is over.”

Julian was completely overawed.  “You bloody little miracle worker!”  He cried:  “It was a day of days when I married you, my love!”

“Ah.”  Rowena said heavily.  “There’s something I ought to tell you, Julian, my sweet.  Let me see, how does it go?….Yes.  I divorce thee, I divorce thee, I divorce thee.  There!  I can say that because I’ve changed the constitution.  And we’re Moslems, remember?”

Julian’s expression changed profoundly for a second time.  “You see;” Rowena said; “the King would only agree to revive our contract if you were completely out of the picture.  His family would never accept any association with – what was the charming term they have for it in their language? – I forget exactly, but I remember telling him you didn’t wear that type of shirt.  Anyway, I’ve staged a coup!”

“He’s made you take over the Presidency.”  Said Julian, staring in mystification at his ex-wife.  He shook his head in despair:  “I’m going for a walk.”  He made to rise from his chair.

“I’m awfully afraid you can’t.”  Rowena apologised.

“Why?”

“Well that’s the other part.  You’re under house arrest.”  She gave Julian one of her gentle, consoling smiles.

“What?”  Julian growled.  

Rowena repeated her words, in response to which Julian added a few thoughts of his own, largely in words that are unprintable, inducing Rowena to tut.  “Language dear!  You know, you’re dreadfully sexy when you’re angry.”

“You’re mad!”  Julian spat the words through gritted teeth.

“No, no; I’m perfectly calm.  You, however, are getting redder and redder.  It’s all completely civilised.  You know the portacabin the drilling crew used?  I’m having it moved this morning to the top of Ben Adderhochie:  there’s an oil heater inside so you’ll be quite warm – it’s a perfectly acceptable place to live until I can arrange to have you exiled.  I might come and visit from time to time, like I used to at your flat before we were married; won’t that be fun?  Or have your tastes changed?  Would you prefer someone more masculine?”

Julian exploded.  “Exiled?  I won’t do it!  You can’t make me do it!  All I have to do is call security, and we’ll see who gets the charming hilltop bungalow, you scheming, devious, blousy bitch!”

“Thank you.  I learned from the best, my darling.  Now, if by security you mean your half-dozen alcoholic Glaswegians they’ve sworn allegiance to the New Republic, because I’m paying them now – they’re waiting for you outside.  They’ll escort you to your new home.  I should go straight away, if I were you; we’re quite finished here.”

There was a moment Rowena genuinely feared; the critical few seconds when Julian was close to putting his thumbs to her windpipe and squeezing.  But his shoulders slumped and he stood up wearily.  At the door, he turned:  “One thing I don’t understand.  I wasn’t the only one Willoughby caught.  There are just as many photos of you with your knickers off – how come His Royal Majesty is prepared to overlook those?”

“Heterosexual love isn’t illegal in Al Flaberri.”  Said Rowena with an indulgent smile.  “In fact, they positively encourage it.  The old King was very impressed with the pictures – in fact, he’s asked if I have any more.  You recall the ones you took on our honeymoon?  You wouldn’t happen to know where they are, would you?”

The End

© Frederick Anderson 2020.  Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from the author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Frederick Anderson with specific direction to the original content.

Parfitt’s Island – a chronicle in four parts: Part Three.

There was little about Rowena’s island house these days to remind her of its crofting roots:  in the space of a few months she had installed central heating, a kitchen the mere contemplation of which would have made her blush not so long ago, triple glazing, and many other features of the cossetted life.  All-in-all, by the time the extensions and the indoor swimming pool were completed, about two containers’ worth of exorbitantly priced luxury goods would grace the Parfitt residence, now well on its way to mansion status.

Much of this profligacy could be attributed to boredom.  While Julian was busy with affairs of State, there was little for the First (and Only) Lady to do, apart from her toenails.  This afternoon, stretched out on a sunbed next to her life-sized reproduction of the statue of David on the south patio and taking advantage of some rare afternoon sun, Rowena was reading the same book for a third time.  Half-way between small print and sleep, she scarcely noticed the force of nature approaching from the harbour.

Then she focussed.

Striding up the steep path, his thighs tensed and thrusting against the gradient, all six foot six of Willoughby was a Greek god come to earth, an angel descended from paradise.  Now, in the warmer interior of the island where his coat was a little too protective a bloom of sweat glistened on his golden skin – and, oh, lord, that hair!

Rowena surreptitiously nipped her skirt up over her thighs a few more inches and sat up so certain features of her v-necked t-shirt would be shown to their best advantage.  She took a few very deep breaths.

“Hi.”  She wavered, in not-very-convincing First Lady style.  “Who are you?”

‘And’ she wanted to add (with a disparaging glance at David), ‘is that bulge in your jeans for real?’ 

“Hello.  You must be Rowena – they said you would be beautiful, and they were so right.  I’m Willoughby.”

Ah, and his voice was so dark, and chocolaty and warm!  Rowena knew she couldn’t get up without falling over.

“Surely, you can’t be….”

“The ‘man from the Ministry’?  Yes, sweetest Rowena, I’m afraid I am.  Now, is your husband around?”  The question was so subtly framed it might have meant anything, but the conspiratorial half-smile which adorned it left no doubt in Rowena’s mind.  Unfortunately, though, Julian was around.  He was just inside the door behind her – and emerging from it.

“Are you Lightfoot?”  He asked, with genuine doubt in his voice.

“Call me Willoughby.”  Said Willoughby.

“Come inside.  Darling, could you fix some drinks for us?  Willoughby, then – what will you have?”

Julian’s study had become his Oval Office.  They sat in deep leather chairs.

“I’m sorry about the strip search.”  Julian said, with a smirk.  “We have to be so careful.”

“Not at all,” Willoughby made a dismissive gesture.  “We had fun.”

Rowena did not stay for their discussion.  She served some drinks, then resumed her sunbathing for a little while.  With her head hidden behind her book she could dream her dreams undisturbed, and those she dreamed of Willoughby would not have been publishable.

“Truth is, Julian,”  Willoughby was saying;  “We want to calm this whole thing down, you know; find some mutual ground?  If you’re agreeable, I wouldn’t mind staying around for a few days, sort of as a buffer between you and the Ministry.  I’d really like to do that.  I mean,” He treated Julian to a mischievous half-smile.  “I – personally – would like to do that.  The thing is, you sweet man, would you like it too?”

In the early hours, the very early hours, of the following morning, Willoughby Lightfoot’s stalwart shape might have been seen leaving the Parfitt house – would have been, if Julian’s security guards were not by then in drunken slumber, a sleep deepened by the pills which Willoughby had offered them to enhance their enjoyment of the previous afternoon.  The goat in the yard watched Willoughby’s approach with suspicion, snickering anxiously.

In the time before the rest of the household awoke, Lightfoot made a comprehensive exploration of Julian’s Island; though not in a way any tourist or casual sightseer would recognise.  No, Willoughby’s needs were specific – he sought, and found, specific things.

By the time he returned, Rowena was downstairs making breakfast.

Lightfoot’s muscular body framed against the light in the back doorway.  “What a wonderful place to walk in the morning!”  He declared, unbuttoning his shirt.  “Would you like me to take off my shoes?”

Rowena nodded, aware of what was happening to her face.  “Shall I take them for you?”  

As Willoughby removed his muddy footwear, Rowena knelt before him, letting him see the long curve of her back, the dark mystery beneath the neck of her dressing gown.  As she stood, of course, the casually tied cord of her gown parted and it fell open.  Blushing deeply, she looked up at him, fingering nervously at the hem of the shortest nightshirt she possessed and hoping it was just short enough.

Willoughby looked down at her:  “You are so, so lovely.”  He said.

Rowena looked up at Willoughby:  “Oh lord – you absolutely have to roger me – now!”

Did the earth move?  Well, not immediately, even though a train of events were set in motion which would prompt it to at least consider a tremor or two.

Willoughby’s presents, once unwrapped, were every bit as generous as they promised.  Rowena unwrapped them very quickly indeed.  His jeans almost ripped from him, Willoughby found himself pinned against the back door with Rowena’s arms around his neck, legs around his waist.

“Julian….”  He managed to pant between hammer blows; “He isn’t up yet?”

It was an anxious enquiry.  Rowena shook her head.  “Oh-my-god!  Oh-my-god!  Not until ten.”

“Excellent.”  Willoughby cupped the ample cheeks of Rowena’s backside, one in each hand, in search of a better purchase; hoping to control the rampant battering which threatened to throw them both out into the back yard.  Rowena, however, took this support as an opportunity to lean away from him – her idea probably was to invite his attention to her eager breasts, but the result was quite different.  Rowena was neither as light nor as nimble as once she had been.

She lost her grip, panicked: clawed for Willoughby’s shirt and missed.  The centre of gravity shifted, drastically.  Suddenly off-balance, with jeans around his ankles, Willoughby found himself tottering for dear life just to stay upright as he and Rowena, locked in passion, careered across the kitchen.  Desperately trying to avoid a crash onto the hard flagstone floor, he steered towards the softer landing of the kitchen table.  This, at least, was successful.  They hit the top of the table together, bringing forth a cry of ecstasy from Rowena and a cry of pain from Willoughby as his masculinity hit the table edge.   In Rowena’s design for her luxury kitchen, as a sort of homage to tradition, she had retained three traditional features, two of which were the old flagstone floor and the sturdy kitchen table.  Now, the grip of wooden table legs on flagstones is adequate for most purposes, but prone to defeat if hit horizontally at speed by a combined weight of around two hundred and eighty pounds.  The table, therefore, offered little resistance:  protesting with hideous noise it scraped the rest of the way across the floor towards Rowena’s third concession to tradition –  the welsh dresser.

Arrayed upon the dresser’s shelves, dining plates, soup plates, tea plates, odd ornamental statuary, a tea pot and a very good Spode figurine waited to receive them with a conclusion as inevitable as it was loud.  The table rammed the dresser with a crash, the shelves above lurched dangerously, shedding their contents as a hound shakes off fleas.  Rowena screamed, flinging herself to the rescue of an avalanche of descending crockery.

No sound speaks more volubly of devastation than that of a china plate breaking upon stone:  no devastation is more entire than a floor covered with shards of white dinner service.  Rowena made a dive to catch the Spode figurine, only to have it slip from her grasp.  Not one piece survived.

Rowena was lying on her back on the floor in the midst of the carnage with her nightshirt around her neck:  Willoughby was still doubled over the edge of the table.  There came a sound of running feet from the stairs.

“My husband!” Cried Rowena.  “Hide!”

Willoughby groaned, well aware that the lingering evidence of his enthusiasm would incriminate him in a way that had no place in his strategy.  The only possible concealment on offer was behind the side of the dresser furthest from the door.  Hazarding injury from a carpet of shattered china he made his way there, pressing his back to the wall.   The door opened to admit an anxious Julian.

“My stars, what happened?”

“I fell against the table.”  Rowena explained lamely, trying to sound as shocked and disorientated as possible.  “I fell.”

To reinforce this impression, she took a tea-towel from the table and began waving it ineffectually at the mess, as if this would somehow magic the damage away.  She shrugged helplessly.

“I need to sit down.  Help me through to the front room.”  Casting about her for somewhere to put the cloth, she hooked it over the only projection available.

As he supported his wife through the hallway, Julian paused, trying to recreate an image in his mind.  “Just a moment;” He said.  “What did you hang the tea towel on?”

He propped Rowena against the stairs, turned back to the kitchen.

“Oh!”  Cried Rowena, fainting to the floor.

“Darling!”  Cried Julian solicitously.

As the door had closed behind Rowena and Julian, Willoughby was at last able to reach down and remove the larger splinters of porcelain from his foot.  He bandaged the wound with the tea-towel.

Much later, Willoughby and Julian were sitting in the Oval Office, sipping drinks.  The morning had been spent deep in negotiation, mainly concerning Julian’s proposal of a pipeline.  They had both spent some time on a telephone conference line to A.J., who seemed disposed to complete a deal.

“I’m impressed, Lightfoot.”  Julian complimented his guest:  “I hadn’t expected to find the wheels quite so well oiled.”

“Well,”  said Willoughby in his most mellifluous voice:  “It isn’t often I get to work with someone of your abilities, Julian.  I think what you’ve achieved here is remarkable: quite remarkable.”

“Thank you.  That’s praise indeed.  Do you think we might get this neatly parcelled by tomorrow?”

“Our proposals have to go to the Minister, and he has to get them sanctioned – but I know everyone wants this to be kept quiet:  so I don’t see why not.  Any particular reason for the urgency?”

“You may or may not know, but we have an alliance with Iran?  A delegation is due to visit us tomorrow afternoon.”  Julian smiled.  “It would be nice to have everything tied up by then.”

“Really?  Julian, you are a naughty chap, aren’t you?”  Willoughby’s eyes teased.  “What time are they arriving?”

“On the tide.  Two o’clock, as I believe.”

“Superb!”  said Willoughby.  He reached forward, stroking the back of Julian’s hand with a single forefinger.  “You’re a brilliant fellow, you know?”  He shook his head sadly.  “Such a waste – such a waste.”

There are times when you know a situation – a meeting, a look, a touch – should make you feel acutely uncomfortable:  they should, but they don’t.  Then what do you do?  Julian found himself in just this dilemma.  “What do you mean, ‘a waste’?”  He asked as Willoughby got to his feet.

Willoughby looked down at him with that peculiar half-smile of his, turning to leave the room.  He made no reply, but as he left, he allowed his hand to draw softly across Julian’s cheek and neck.  It was an unmistakable gesture.

That afternoon Willoughby, harbouring a slight limp, went for another walk.  Considering the small size of the Island Republic of Aga, walking offered few possibilities, so it was strange how little of him was seen.  He returned late.

It was a night of discoveries.  The first, and possibly the least earth-shattering of these, was Willoughby’s – he discovered there were only five clocks in the house, and (he could move very quietly when needed) Julian took his watch off at night.  Rowena didn’t.

Meanwhile Julian was discovering – although he might not acknowledge it in the morning – a new aspect of his sexuality.  His night was spent in dreams which all featured Willoughby:  Willoughby caressing his cheeks, running his hands through that long fair hair, Willoughby running, naked, along a tropical shore:  dreams in fact, very close to those of his wife, though Rowena’s dreams interfered with her sleep.

She discovered Willoughby in the front room of the house, paying unusual attention to their grandfather clock.

“I couldn’t sleep.”  He admitted.

“Oh,” She sympathised.  “Why?”

“Thinking of you.”  Willoughby took her hands, gave her one of his best embarrassed smiles.  “I was dreaming of you – you were naked, running along a tropical shore…”

She came to him.  “Darling, I couldn’t sleep either.”

“Couldn’t you?”

“Oh, Willoughby!”

“Oh, Rowena!”

This time he was careful – very careful.  Lifting her nightshirt from her, he carried her unclothed form to the settee and laid her carefully upon it.  Then he lay carefully on top of her.

“Wait!”  He said.  “The light.  Put the light on.”

“Must we, darling?”

“I want to see you, my love.  I want to see your face.”  She was moved to protest further, but he placed a warding finger to her lips.  “For me?”

Obediently, Rowena turned on the table lamp above her head.  “Now,” She whispered sweetly, taking the focus of her desires in her hand; “Shall we finish what we started?”

“Absolutely!  Just move another six inches this way.”

“Why?”

“More comfortable, my sweet.  Oh, and let’s have that watch off, yes?  It keeps getting tangled in my hair.”

Willoughby made one final check that the camera he had concealed on the top of the grandfather clock had them fully in frame, then he began, with consummate skill, to administer the rogering Rowena so desperately desired.

Finally, rather late in life, Rowena discovered sex – real sex.

And that was enough discoveries for one night.

Breakfast was late the next morning.  A  dispassionate observer, had there been one in place, as it were, might have noticed how each of the diners avoided the other’s gaze, as though there were some unacknowledged secret between them.  Julian said little through the first part of the meal, staring fixedly at the table, now restored to its rightful place.  Rowena, mindful of Mahadis’s fate, avoided Willoughby’s quite open admiration of her, even if beneath the table her knees kept parting involuntarily.

Rowena it was who broke the awkward silence.

“I’m a bit worried about the goat.”

“Yes?”  Julian grunted.  “Now you’re going to tell us why.”

“She just stands with her back end pressed against the shed.  She’s so aggressive I can’t get near enough to milk her and she won’t move.”

“I prefer the cow’s milk anyway.”  Julian said, closing the matter.

“What do you guys do for exercise?”  Willoughby asked brightly.

“Well, we walk a lot.”

“No, I mean proper exercise!”  Boomed Willoughby, drawing a look of open-mouthed admiration from Rowena, who imagined Willoughby doing proper exercise.  “Julian, you’re a fit chap.  You work out, don’t you?”

“No.”  Julian’s powers of articulation were peculiarly limited this morning.  “I should, I suppose….”

“Look,” Willoughby said.  “I’ve found the ideal place.  Let’s wrap things up early, then we’ll have a few hours before your Iranian chappies roll up.  I promise you’ll feel marvellous.  Marvellous!”

Julian demurred:  “I don’t think I’ll have time.”

Willoughby reached across the table, placing his hand over Julian’s and squeezing it.  “You will, Julian, I promise you. You’ll feel marvellous.”

Julian met Willoughby’s gaze, unable to escape the mischief in his eyes.

Rowena saw it too.

© Frederick Anderson 2020.  Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from the author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Frederick Anderson with specific direction to the original content.

Parfitt’s Island – a chronicle in four parts: Part Two.

Prince Fuisal was something of a disappointment to Rowena:  she had anticipated a thobe of flowing white, a ghutra and a beard.  Instead she got a rather affable young man in a business suit, with very little hair at all.  Nevertheless, she caught herself curtseying as he greeted her.

“Your Highness!”

“Ah yes.  This is – what is the expression – ‘the little woman’.  Is that correct, Mr. Parfitt?”

Needless to say, Rowena did not immediately take to the young Prince; not that it mattered, since from that point onwards he scarcely acknowledged her existence.

When Julian had finished choking, he invited his guest to the house for tea.

The Prince was unenthusiastic.  “Tea.  Yes, of course. Tea.  Lead the way, Parfitt!”

As soon as tea was served (by Rowena, naturally) the Prince seemed eager to get down to business.

“Tell me your proposition, Parfitt.”

“Well,”  Said Julian;  “What I suggest is this….”

The Prince’s hand restrained him.  With a regal nod, he indicated Rowena.  “You wish to discuss business in front of your woman?  How quaint.”

“Oh, no, don’t embarrass yourself!”  Said Rowena:  “I’ll be in the scullery scrubbing the floor if you want me, husband.”  And she left, closing the door with a violence that set the remains of her dinner service wobbling perilously on the dresser.

Rowena did not meet the Prince again.  She heard his laughter as Julian unfolded his plans, then the front door closing as he departed.  Within an hour of its arrival, Prince Fuisal’s launch was bearing him back out into the bay.  That evening the ‘Xanadu’  gracefully and silently slipped its moorings.  By the morning of the following day, it was as if the third in line to the throne of Al Flaberri had never visited.

For another week Julian’s island basked peacefully in pale Scottish sunshine.  Rowena so loved this place with its moody climate and magnificent scenery that she soon forgot her ill humour, even to the point of forgiving Julian.  She preferred not to know what his discussions with the Prince had entailed, and certainly Julian was not eager to tell her, so she began to revive her daily routine and pursue her own interests.  She fed the hens, milked the cow and the goat Julian had insisted they buy (though neither of them had any background in animal husbandry) and worked at the well-nigh impervious garden.  The wind riffled through her hair, her skin bronzed in the subtle sun, she breathed the richly oxygenated air and felt glad to be alive.  For a while she almost made herself believe that the natural gas resources had sealed themselves up and the whole thing was forgotten; but of course it wasn’t.  On the seventh day, insidious hell oozed in from the ocean.

Boats chugged quietly into the bay late on Saturday night: by morning they were gone.  Along the shore a camouflage net covered the equipment they had left behind, and the accommodation for the workers who came with it.

These were riggers, whose intrusion was neither subtle nor brief.  They were possibly most remarkable for their ability to turn a simple portacabin upon the jetty into a thriving public house, which sprang into life at seven p.m. (just after the heavy machinery which littered the island had shut down) and did not acquiesce until well into the following morning.  During the day they worked under cover, with the extensive use of camouflage netting and disguised vehicle movements; a mystery to Rowena, one which Julian seemed reluctant to explain.  They came, they gave their hosts six weeks of unremitting torment, and they left.  Peace descended once more, but it was a gurgling, vibrant peace.  It was the peace of pipes laid and lying idle, of machines which did not turn, of vehicles which squatted covertly in hollows and caves.  It was a peace waiting to be breached.

Rowena slipped meekly out from beneath the ice-pack she had adopted as a permanent night-time companion.  Frequently of late she had found it necessary to remind herself of the day of the week; even, in stormy interludes, whether it was day or night.  This morning, she was certain, was a Wednesday.  She would remember, later, that it was a Wednesday.  Sun-glow bathed the little bedroom where she often slept alone now.  She dressed quickly, for the advancing year brought a fresh, invigorating bite to the breeze.

It was Rowena’s habit, in the early day, to don her biggest sweater and stomp the upward mile to the summit of Ben Adderhochie, from whence it was possible to see the mainland afar off in one direction, and to imagine the Americas, half a world away, in the other.  This sense of space and freedom excited her so much that she would make a little dance for herself at times, and, miles from sight of any other human, cavort around the top of the Ben like Julie Andrews on speed.  The breeze was exceptionally fresh that morning – that Wednesday.  Rowena had already become familiar with the long jetty Julian’s riggers had built, probing out from the north shore for nearly half a mile – but this Wednesday…..

Julian was already up and making coffee when Rowena, white-faced, threw the door open.

“Steady, old girl!  You’ll have the hinges off!”  He said.

“Have you – do you know what’s out there?”  Rowena stammered.

“Er – no, dear?”  Julian played along.

“A tanker.  A big, gigantic, huge, no – not just huge – massive tanker!”

“The Al-Rasheed, I believe she’s called – this one.”

“THIS ONE!  How many are there??”

“Well, we’re scheduled to accept six.  Although, if the weather breaks, of course….”  Julian waved his hand vaguely.  “Coffee, dear?”

“Yes please, one sugar.”  Rowena slumped into a chair at the big breakfast table.  “I suppose it’s a silly question, but what exactly is a super-tanker doing anchored so close to our island?”

“Oh, loading with gas.”  Julian replied mildly.  “They – we – have equipment to condense it: that way we can send it anywhere in the world.”

“We?”

“The Shahiree-Parfitt Corporation:  Prince Fuisal owns the Shahiree half, of course, but he can’t admit to that, being royal – wouldn’t be ethical.”

For some while now, Rowena had been sensing a growing weight upon her shoulders.

“Julian; are you quite mad?  Have you any idea what is going to happen when the mainland finds out about this?”

“Oh, they already have.  I told them yesterday.  They were asking about the jetty.”

“My god!  We’ll have the police, customs, the bloody British Army here.  Julian,” Rowena took a decision;  “I’m leaving you.”

“Are you dear?”  Julian responded mildly:  “You’ll need a passport.”

“A passport?  A boat to the mainland, that’s all I need, Julian.”

“No dear.  Sorry, but they won’t let you in.  You see, as of yesterday, you became a citizen of the Republic of Aga.  We’ve got our own flag, and everything.”

“You’re insane.  They’ll murder us!”

“No.”  Said Julian.  “No. they won’t.  The Republic of Aga has declared itself to be under the protection of the Kingdom of Al Flaberri.  Now the King of Al Flaberri (Fuisal’s dad) is a great mate of our Royals, and his country is strategically important to Britain in the Middle East.  He buys lots of planes, and things.  This is his son’s pet project at the moment.  If the British try to interfere, Flaberri will order them out of their naval base in the Gulf.  Very knotty problem, that, for the British.  Oh, and by the way, we also declared an alliance with Iran.”

Rowena burst into tears and ran from the room.  Ten minutes later, she returned.

“It won’t work.”  She said.

“Yes, it will.  Not for very long, but for long enough.  After the initial enquiry, the diplomatic counterpoint, a court case, an appeal, then another to the European Court (we’ve applied for membership of the Community) and the final settlement – I’d say a year, at least.  That’s a minimum of twelve tankers, even given the worst weather.  After expenses that will yield about a hundred and sixty million.”

“You said ‘settlement’”

“I did.  The ultimate answer will, of course, be for the British to buy the island.  With mineral rights, I’d say another two hundred and fifty million or so?  With a bit of skilled negotiating, we should be able to retain royalties.  We need a good estate agent.”

Throughout this explanation Rowena’s mouth had been dropping slowly open.  Her knees felt quite unsteady.  “Then what happens to us?  Poor old Aga’s going to be not much more than a slag heap.”

“I’m negotiating for a different Island; somewhere warmer.  The South Pacific, actually.  I think you’ll like it.”

“Come to bed!”  Said Rowena.

“Oh, one thing I did forget to mention.  It may be necessary to convert to Islam.”

“Come to bed, husband!”

At this point the relationship between Julian and Rowena might have turned something of a corner:  there is no more effective bandage for a wounded marriage than a seven-figure bank statement, especially if the draft constitution of your newly-adopted nation makes no provision for divorce.  Besides, as First Lady of the Republic of Aga, Rowena had duties to perform and an image to live up to.  The reason their relationship did not, in fact, improve, we shall now relate.

The fledgling republic got off to a nervous start. Constant over-flying by Royal Air Force jet fighters was nothing more than they, as residents on a Scottish island, had come to expect.  However, now the gloves were metaphorically back on the hat-stand these aircraft flew lower and with considerably more menace.  Helicopters kept appearing over Ben Adderhochie, a reconnaissance plane droned constantly in the background.  When, the next morning, a Royal Navy destroyer anchored off the bay, Rowena suggested that maybe Julian’s fabulous plan was not working.

“It’s OK,”  Julian said.  “I sent a warning against trespassing in Republic of Aga airspace.  They’ll desist very soon.”

And they did.

Anthony James Poulson was staring contemplatively at his bag of golf clubs one Friday morning when his senior, the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Office, stuck his head around the door.

“A word, AJ?”

“Certainly!”  said Poulson affably.  “Albatross.  Will that do?”

“That’s ridiculous!”

“Not at all – that’s a very nice word:  better than eagle, for example, or birdie?”

“I’m being serious, old man.”  The under-secretary drew up one of A.J’s rather comfy leather chairs.  “It concerns this chap Parfitt.”

“Oh god, no.  What’s he done now?”  Poulson’s tantalising vision of the fifteenth at sunset began to fade.

“Well, it isn’t so much what he’s done, as what we haven’t – if you’ll forgive the grammar.  It’s been a month now, during which time he’s managed to turn around six tankers-full of high grade natural gas, and we don’t seem to be doing anything.”

AJ spread his hands.  “What can we do?  It’s a complete stand-off, as far as I can see.  Faisal’s slaughtering birds on some very choice grouse moor with our beloved Prince even as we speak.”

“There must be something.  Where is he selling all this gas?”

An awkward silence ensued.  A.J. Poulson seemed to have something in his eye.  “Well, to us, actually.”

“I must have misheard you,” the under-secretary said slowly:  “For a moment I thought you said ‘to us’.

A.J. coughed.  “Auchterwootie Refinery is just eighty miles south of Aga.  He gets an excellent price, and the trip for the tankers is so short they can run a shuttle service.  It works very well.”

The under-secretary looked as though he was about to explode.

“Well, it’s not our refinery;”  A.J. defended.  “It belongs to Swell PB.  We can’t stop them.”

There was a considerable interval while the under-secretary recovered from this piece of information.  At last he said:  “Do you have any idea – any idea – how ridiculous this makes us look?”

“Absolutely, under-secretary.  The King of Flaberri is having a bit of joke, I think, at our expense.  Whenever I put in a call to suggest a solution I get the distinct impression he’s laughing at me.  Usually he limits himself to one-sentence answers, and the sentence almost always includes the words ‘British Aerospace’.”

“You know the PM’s all for taking the gloves off and sending in a couple of battalions?  This Parfitt fellow wouldn’t have a legal leg to stand on, now would he?”

“Well….”

“Oh, come on!”

“Parfitt claims he has documentary evidence that Aga was not included in the Act of Union.  He says the last people to take up residence there were the Danes, in about 740 AD.  The island’s not part of any of the recognised groups, it’s never been named anywhere; and, at thirty miles, it’s outside British territorial waters.”

“That would stand up?  I mean, legally?”

“Parfitt is ready to test it in the courts.  The problem is, there’s just an outside chance that the European Court might uphold it.  Then we really would be in the soup.  Parfitt did come up with one solution.”

“Which is?”

“A pipeline.  It would get us over the natural gas issue.  The trouble there being, Parfitt wants a lot of dosh for it, and he has no intention of relinquishing his sovereignty claim.  He’s a curious chap,” A.J. mused; “He has friends in The City who are doing very well out of this, but I would like to know what he’s after.  I don’t think it’s just the money.”

“And a pipeline’s the best we can offer?  The PM is absolutely hopping about this, A.J., and your entire department is bankrupt of ideas?”

Poulson thought for a moment, acutely aware that his apparent lack of a solution was endangering his booking for the first tee at 3pm.  “Well, maybe there is a sort of a possibility:  it depends rather on just how underhanded you’re prepared to be.”

“Underhanded?  Dear boy, this is the Home Office – since when were we anything else?”

“Well then,”  A.J. picked up the telephone;  “Let’s see what we can do.”

Some days elapsed before this interview at the Home Office could bear fruit.  The fruit concerned, in the person of one Willoughby Lightfoot, had required transport from inaccessible foreign parts where he was found deep in some allegedly impenetrable jungle, half-way across an uncrossable swamp.  Willoughby was not too upset by the call to his mobile phone – after all, the crocodile he was wrestling at the time was, as crocodiles go, too small for his purposes.

In London, Lightfoot needed a day or two – to be briefed by A.J; to restore his hair, which was long and flaxen, and to manicure his nails.  A further twenty-four hours later he reached Scotland, where he made a few enquiries, looked up a few contacts.  Now he stood on the foredeck of a local trawler, looking across the one remaining mile of choppy sea which separated him from the Republic of Aga.

“Is he expecting you – the Parfitt man?”  a deckhand asked.

“He’s expecting someone.”  Willoughby shouted back against the wind.  “He’s not expecting me.”

Willoughby Lightfoot entered Aga’s small harbour poised atop the trawler’s bow like a figurehead, his hair flying about his face, his startlingly blue eyes focussed upon the little welcoming committee gathered on the quay.  A long leather coat streamed behind him in the evening breeze.

His reception, six strong, fell way below his own exacting standards.  In declaring Aga a Republic, Julian had needed security guards for just such purposes as these, recruited from those places on the mainland with the highest unemployment.  Even unemployed men with any self-worth had proved hard to procure – the working conditions were less than desirable, the pay wasn’t desirable at all.  Finally, Julian had approached a hostel for the homeless in Glasgow, discovering those who would consider anything if it included a roof to sleep under, regular meals and an unlimited source of booze.

Amongst such as these, Willoughby was Gulliver before the Lilliputians.

“Right, chappies – which way to the boss?”  He enquired, assuming Julian would not be one of the ravaged creatures who accosted him.

“I need ye’re paasspoort!”  said a slightly bent man with a hawk nose and a drip.

“Fine.”  Willoughby produced it from his shoulder bag.  “Now,” he said, watching the document disappear into the folds of the bent man’s uniform; “which way?”

“No’ so fast.”  A stout Glaswegian with an astonishing lack of neck chided him.  “There’s procedures.”

“Right-ho.  Proceed away!  What shall we do next?”

“The strip search.”  

If, at this point, Willoughby began to regret that he had made this appointment with Parfitt as a diplomat from the Home Office, he did not show it.  Instead, he regarded the little group of security guards with a look of amusement.

“Oh, you silly boys!”  He chided them gently.  “Why didn’t you just ask?  Now – who wants to be first?”

© Frederick Anderson 2020.  Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from the author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Frederick Anderson with specific direction to the original content.