Sal was sitting up in the bed, two fluffed up navy blue pillows behind her back for comfort. The video wall showed the subtle purple clock screensaver superimposed over a an album of last years holiday snaps on repeat loop. The time showed six fifteen. The illumination hardly affected the bedroom ambience at all in comparison with morning’s offering of daybreak coming through the open blinds which were set to pull off at first light.

“Sorry hun, did I wake you, I’ve had the strangest of dreams,” Sal began, “I dreamt we were in Rose Brier Wood, at the Ash, Aunt Bessie was there too. I had a sister called Margaret, a sister and my twin as well, imagine that.”

Mac listened intently as his wife retold the strange story of her dream, his own dream. He did not let on. As she spoke she ran her right hand through a few curls of ginger hair starting to form in the length of it, a habit she often employed when something was bothering. She sat to Mac’s left, on her side of the bed as she called it, always the left side of the bed, they did not fit together the same in a cuddle if they occupied the other sides she often joked, and so it had always been since the first time they slept together, him on the right hand side and her on the left.

“So what does it mean Mac, does it make any sense to you?” she asked on finishing the vivid description. The dream had clearly bothered her, that was obvious from her concerned enquiry.

“Makes no sense at all to me love,” he replied in a somewhat sleepy in tone. The less he cared the better he thought, not wanted to add any credence to the story.

Sal went on. “You’ve no plans to go away with the office, like the short notice of last time have you?”

“None that I know of,” he insisted. “Why a sister, are you missing Penny do you think?”

Penny was Sal’s best friend from school days. She had taken a year long contract to go teach on a small equatorial island as part of a cultural exchange programme employed by the authorities and had totally missed Sal’s pregnancy. The two girls were very close and although keeping in touch by virtual vid on a regular basis Sal often complained it was not the same as seeing her friend in person,

Moving slowly but surely down the bed to rejoin her husband and lay her head on his chest the two of them snuggled together, bump and all. The dream was still a trouble
by the feel of her. She stirred one way then the other, fidgeting, gently kicking at the checked blue duvet, not like Sal at all.

“Relax hun will you, I promise there is no work will take me away from you at the moment, besides they wouldn’t ask now would they.”

She had not thought on that. Of course they would not ask, not at this stage of the pregnancy. “Good, cause I need you here with me.” she confided. There was finally a satisfaction in her voice, a telling of security and happiness, a knowledge she was cared for and loved.

“And I’ll be here hun, don’t you worry. I’m not going anywhere.”

The words were honestly spoken but in his mind was a nagging doubt, something was missing, something he should know, be aware of, but could not quite put a finger on. There was an inexplicable void and it kept him wondering for long enough while Sal fell back to sleep. Eventually so did he. Listening to the new born chirruping outside in their nests within the branches wanting an early breakfast, found a desirable sleep take him back, wrapping her touch around his fatigued mind, drawing a welcome veil of slumber.

All of a sudden he was back in Rose Brier Wood, stepping through the Ash in the direction taken by Aunt Bessie, following Margaret’s lead, who, hold of his hand was pulling him after her. When they were both emerged from within its timber body Margaret led him further into the brier, then planted a huge kiss upon his lips, hugging him to her own slender curvature at the same time. She felt good, soft to the touch. Mac moved his hands over her slim waist.

“You can love me Mac, both Sal and Aunt Bessie agree, so don’t worry on it,” she whispered in his ear, teasing the lobe with slight nips of her teeth.

“I do love you Margaret, you know I do, but to betray Sal…”

“Why don’t you ask her then?” Margaret whispered again, this time in the other ear she had set to work on.

Sal was on her way past the thicket, more than likely on route to Aunt Bessie’s. On catching sight of the two of them, stood there embraced as they were, she waved a gesture of approval with both hands coming together in a silent clapping motion, on her face a smile of contentment and pleasure. With no other worry and without saying a word she continued her walk along the glade of forest colours, her own black garments standing out, making every movement obvious for some distance as Margaret continued her practised tease of Mac’s neck and torso.

He was helpless to argue, her movement so persuasive, before either of them knew it, well perhaps Margaret did, the inevitable happened, al fresco passion at its most intense, the tangled thicket providing both backdrop and camouflage for the assignation, subtle sounds of woodland life, a rustle of last years fallen dried leaves here, a rasp of twig on twig there, all no doubt instigated by a small feathered or furred creature as they went on the forage all played in the background as the lovers took their fill.

Margaret’s gasps of ecstasy added to this natural symphony, an instrument of humankind, trumpeting joy and rapture, not a loud few bars written on the stave of life, no, a quiet, emotional solo piece dedicated to love and absolute, pure pleasure, a finale that would match the closing movement of any composers masterpiece, gentle, played to perfection, kept in time and effortlessly let go like a dove on the wing free to soar and live.

Gliding on the still, reflected surface of the stream a stones throw away, on the far side of the woodland path was a swan, pure white, graceful in stature and inquisitive in manner. She looked directly to the new lovers clumsily but humorously emerging from their nuptial woodland bed.

“That could be Anu herself,” Mac suggested, mindfully casting a reverent nod toward the bird. Margaret did not hear the comment, or if she did took no notice. She was skipping along the path as happy as could be. The swan simply replied with a twist of her slender neck and a wag of white tail feathers, as if to confirm his suspicion. Patron of springs and fountains, love and fertility Mac wondered why she had appeared at this very moment. Perhaps it was just coincidence, perhaps it was just a swan.

Margaret shouted after him to catch up. She was through the Ash once more and on the route which led back to the Green. Mac jumped through the cleft and ran on to find her gone, nowhere to be seen, the only life ahead of him a red deer, obvious by the betrayal of a pair of antlers bobbing about a small copse of Elm up on the hill side.

Seeing Mac the proud stag turned to flee, with a muscular manoeuvre and a kick of its hind legs it was off further up the hill. The speed it moved took his own eyes off the path, so much so that following the animals progress resulted in a trip over a fallen branch of Elder. Dropping to the floor, placing both hands out to brace for the collapse he awoke with a jolt.

Inside his bedroom was Margaret, bending over the bed, an open neck, black blouse revealing a small tattoo on her left breast, a tattoo depicting a small red human looking creature, two horns sprouting from its head though and holding a pitchfork or the like.

She looked beautiful, truly beautiful, and after the dreams just encountered Mac wondered whether or not she was all part of a plan, to be there, at that particular moment, a plan he was not in any shadow of a doubt able to influence, at least so far.

“Just going to go fetch the herd to the parlour Mac, it’s gone six, you ok?”

“I’m fine Margaret, you?” He was far from fine actually, but not wanting to admit as much smiled sweetly, a smile returned multiplied many fold.

“Do you want a hand?” Was that the reason for her being there, at the side of his bed, him under the covers without a stitch on, or did she have some other motive.

“No ta, you sleep in another more hour, I just wanted to see you. Dad will have breakfast ready by seven I reckon this mornin. He wants the spuds spraying, remember?”

“Oh yes, I should get that done today. It still looks dry out there.”

There was a yearning, an ask, a want to invite her into bed. He ought to really. Here she was, in his room, more than likely feeling the same way he did, yet it still, despite the dream, and the message therein, did not feel like the correct thing to do. So he waited, a second or two, maybe more, waited to see what she would do. The inevitable awkward moment ensued, neither of them flinching a muscle to move, Mac looked into Margaret’s eyes, she into his. Then she lent over a little closer, touched lips and invited him to kiss her. Her mouth was so soft, full of promise and expectation, and his was not much different. The dream had given him a passion that needed satisfying, and this seemed to be the way of doing just that. The kiss was just what he desired, and judging by her breathing Margaret too, she lapped him up deftly playing with every area of his mouth while begining an exploriation under the duvet, kneeling on the bed to give him access to her clothing.

“Is Mac awake Margaret?” Walt’s voice echoed across from the farmhouse door.

Margaret pulled away for a moment, a beaming expression of delight on her face, that twinned with a look of being found out for doing something she should not.

“Yep,” she shouted back, “he’s awake dad, wants to come and help with the milking but I’ve just reminded him of the potatoes.”

“Ok love, thanks,” came across the yard, a mellowness about the tone. Their conversation of last evening must have been worthwhile.

The two of them stared into each others eyes again knowing now that before too long something was going to happen, unfortunately not this morning but very soon. For a good quarter minute they were lost, before somewhat regretfully Margaret broke the magic of the moment and the silence. Like a game of stare it out someone had eventually to give in and she was the one.

“Right, the cows’ll be waiting, they can’t open the gate, unfortunately. We’ll meet up later eh?”

“Sure, I’ll see you at breakfast, yes?”

“Yep, ok, look forward to that.”

“Me too, and maybe tonight we can go out again?” he suggested.

“Great idea Mac, ooh that’s got me excited,” she giggled, “very excited in fact.” A tease of a kiss left her lips. There was that naughty streak in her again, he recognised it, an alluring yet naive feminine wickedness about her.

“Mmmmm! Me too,” he admitted, “so let’s see what the day brings eh?”

“And the evening eh?”

“That too,” A knowing smile crossed his face this time as she opened the bedroom door and left letting a small amount of early morning sunshine into his day.

There was a lot to report to the diary. The handheld! It connected last night he remembered. In all the excitement he had firgotten. Quickly he retrieved it from the small bathroom and jumped back under the duvet. Disappointment burst his bubble. No signal this morning. What a shame,

“It has to be that box, it must be turned off again. If I ask Margaret to keep it switched on though she’ll know I’ve got you won’t she.”

No connection whatsoever, such a shame, still there was all his dreams to talk about, Rose Brier Wood, the encounter with his Aunt and what she had revealed, the intermingling scenarios between Margaret and Sal that, to be honest had him quite confused, so much so that when he awoke not ten minutes ago he had mistaken Margaret for his wife for a second or two, her tattoo the only thing quickly bringing him to some sense.

Dictating to the handheld Mac put down the entries, between each recollection he thought on the missed opportunity just now. Why had he not just pulled her under the sheets, any other red blooded male would have, why not him. The escaped chance annoyed him and kept any further sleep from visiting, all he could do was chastise himself under his breath and record some more entries.

After a quarter hour the archive was up to date so he
listened back to a few recordings done the past weeks, one caught more attention than the others.

“So there they all were,” the note concluded, “row upon row, running, walking, jogging, all in pristine sports wear, behind glass, a huge picture window preventing fresh air or sunshine contacting any of them. They looked so comical on this gym equipment Sal I can tell you, moving in unison one step then another, almost like a balet it was, their arms beating out a rhythm, and all with such a seriousness. Why they didn’t get out in the open air and go for a run through some park is beyond me, but there you have it.”

The fitness club had been just on the perimeter of the city they had visited for Margaret’s bank a few weeks ago and he had forgotten the amusement the keep fitters had caused them both while stuck in the traffic, stationed at the light system waiting permission to proceed. Thinking back he had to laugh once again.

“This is really an upside down world I have come to Sal,” he concluded, adding an edit to the article, “the people here have such a weird way of going about things. My handheld connects now by the way, if that box thing is on in the farmhouse. I’m going to learn as much as I can before I come home. There’s a huge argument about putting up wind powered turbines going on here. There are posters by the side of the road in opposition to them. Yet the main sources of power generation is causing pollution and harming their environment. They don’t want the turbines because of what the countryside will look like, a sentiment I can share Sal, but the landscape already has these huge metal frames carrying wires across the scenery. I think they just like to argue a lot and take pleasure in it to be honest.”

Smiles over breakfast were abundant, and not just from the two twenty somethings. Walt had a serenity about him the like of which Mac had never seen. An ease with his station seemed to be growing within the elder, nurturing a desire to spend the coming years in a more peaceful and tranquil place than of late. Margaret certainly noticed, and rejoiced in her father returned to her, clearly in her opinion a result of Mac arriving on the scene.

Her awkward question came up again though on finishing the last piece of fried bread from the centre of the table. “Have you not got your mobile fixed yet Mac?”

This time he knew why she asked, it was written all over her face. She wanted to text him, tease him through the day, continue the new direction their relationship was taking.

He had to let her down. “I haven’t yet Margaret, no, sorry.” He meant it this time, not like before, this time he wished the handheld did connect in this world.

Margaret’s face suddenly lit up like a light bulb switched on in the evening twilight. “Wait here a mo,” she announced with excitement, jumping up in a hurry and leaving the breakfast table to the two men.

Walt looked across the empty plates and sauce bottles, evidence of the breakfast just eaten, for some kind of explanation as to his daughter’s quick exit.

Mac had no idea. “Search me,” was all he could offer.

“She’s always bin impulsive,” her father proffered. “Her mind’s always ten steps ahead o’ me I can tell ya.”

“Me too,” Mac joked. “Do you know if she had any sisters, before you adopted her?” The enquiry came out without a thought. Would he regret it.

“She’d a twin, but it died three months after birth, I remember our lass telling me bout it, a girl I think, but she doesn’t think much on it Mac. Ssshh.”

Back she came, a small pink handheld in her procession, quite pink actually, she had even changed her t-shirt to match its colour. “Try this Mac.” She presented the device to him, already set up, switched on and ready to go.

Pressing a button on her own mobile the pair of them waited expectantly. A vibration within the device now in his hand told of an incoming alert, not a call but when pressing the obvious key brought up a message to the screen. It read ‘I love you Mac’.

Somewhat taken aback and pretending it said something quite mundane he hit the return key and typed a reply, ‘and me you’.

“Frickin phones,” Walt piped up, the first swear word in a long while but this time in correct context. “What ya youngsters see in em beats me. I saw three girls sat on yon wall in t’playfield other day, all on mobiles, texting away they were, not a word to one another in the time it took me to walk across the way. We used to talk to each other when we were out lakin, share stuff an that, what we’d bin up to day afore. Now it’s all on them frickin things. No ones got a word to say.”

Margaret cut his rant short, taking hold of his hand to show she understood. “Well I’ll keep it out of sight to please you Paps.” Her father was not the one she wanted to contact after all.

“And me too,” Mac added. Turning to Margaret he stated the obvious, but just wanted to say something to her, some words to engage her in conversation. “I’d better get to work now.” As soon as he had said it it felt like a stupid statement, unnecessary, awkward in the presence of Walt, the father of the woman he now had designs on. He rose up from the table and finishing off a pot of tea, winked at the woman in question then went off to the fields and a days work, left hand on the pink handset Margaret had furnished him with solely for the purpose of telephonic tryst and courtship.

The day could not pass quickly enough for either of them, every text messages Margaret sent more suggestive than the one before. Not one for subscribing to such an open firm of seduction it took Mac an hour or so to get into the spirit of the exchange but once he had taken the plunge there was no stopping him.

Mixed with this distraction of his working day was the prospect of last nights dream. Was there a way back as Aunt Bessie had described? Could that Sunday find him home? Goodness knows he had visited the trackside far too often of late and it was putting him in danger of being found out. Only the other day someone had called out from atop the bridge. If it were true, the portal back, then surely the other was also the truth as well. According to the dream he did have permission to start a relationship with Margaret, one truth inevitably led to the next. So if he did manage to get home, he would also have no regret about whatever was going to happen now, here in Margaret’s world simply because permission was there. On the other hand if it all was just make believe, the dream that is, because no amount of deliberation could explain being here a dream, he was stuck here, and that was undeniable, then falling in love with Margaret was definitely not to be shunned. And if Aunt Bessie was to be believed, again in his dream, then this place would be accessible again anyway, as well as other places besides. Whoever the hierarchy was in this new found role forced upon him there was going have to be a reckoning done, hard negotiations if he was to take up the mantle. He wanted all his loved ones to know exactly what had been thrust upon him, for there own peace of mind as well as his own. On top of all of this was also the added bonus of the handheld now able to connect to the ether. Things were at least looking up of sorts.

It seemed the most obvious of things to have happened when it had, the following morning, Margaret laid beside him in bed, naked the pair of them, clothes strewn all about the wood floorboards. The sun may have played a part, and the spring season too but there was no denying that it was a natural and under the estranged circumstances, the right way to take. Margaret had got ever do slightly drunk and had opened her heart, telling of how she felt, but at the same time admitting the let downs before in relationships she had. She also said something which did ease his conscience when putting a proposition of, in her own words, there need be no strings attached, an explanation of which he had to ask for. What brought her to that conclusion was just another idiosyncrasy of the time he found himself in he realised, but he agreed the terms being slightly the worse for alcohol himself and realising it could release him the shackles of her world if a push came to shove.

So here she was, they were, in each others company, arms in fact, all fear of the unknown banished, a future of some sorts ahead of them, whatever that was he was prepared for now, resigned to, if need be leading a strange coexistence in this, his own and whichever, if it were true, worlds that came his way. For the first time of late he felt at one.

Margaret stirred and opened her eyes, dark sultry come to bed eyes, I love you eyes. “Mornin lover, your a dark horse for sure,” she said, pulling his head gently towards hers for an early morning kiss. “I’ve not had that much fun and attention before I can tell you.”

By the expression on her face she was expecting a reply. “I loved every minute, didn’t you? Ar’nt we good together?”

“That’s for sure Mac, I’m totally knacked,”

“What about your dad, what’s he going to say if he finds out?”

“He knows already, it was him who told me to get ya, before you got away,” she laughed.

Mac looked shocked, with an amusement across his face at the same time. “Well that’s praise in itself, I was a bit worried of what he’d have to say.”

“Well don’t be, don’t say anything at breakfast, just act as if nothing happened, he’ll probably say something anyway and try to wind us up I’ll bet,”

Walt did just that, welcoming Mac into the family as if the nights activity had been some coming of age ceremony or passage of rights to allow him access to an inner sanctum. The truth was obvious, the elder was happy with the outcome.

“Don’t let ya work suffer though the pair of ya do ya ere?” he added, fork in one hand, knife in the other and a huge piece of bacon in his mouth.

Margaret blushed slightly. “I think we’re grown up enough to take it all in a days work dad,” she replied, reaching across the table for her new lovers support.

“We’ll not do that Walt,” Mac added somewhat reprimanded, like being told off by a teacher for running through the school corridor.

“And see as yet don’t let her down Mac, or I’ll have ya frickin cobblers on a stick on yon gate post.” This statement was not said jokingly. Walt meant it. “And the same goes for you lass, make a go of it this time eh?”

Now Margaret did colour up, for whatever reason did not get mentioned but her father’s words had struck some chord. She changed the subject very quickly. “Right then, there’s the last of the lambs to tail Mac and we need to move them from the silage field to get it fertilised.” To save her further embarrassment he made a move to start the days workload while Walt tidied the pots from off of the table.

“Thought that’d get ya moving,” he said, tickling his only daughter under her chin as she stood to start her day too. It was such an affectionate gesture, and one carried out so proudly that no other confirmation of the impact Mac had made to this household was needed whatsoever.

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