A Change Of gender And Beyond
Chapter 4
by F.W. Hinton
          Bartholomew  Carter,  the   foreman   of  Morris  and  Sons,
          Commercial Printers took  off  his old leather apron hung it
          on a peg  by the main press and pulled on a stained coat. He
          started with Morris  and  Sons  as  a  boy and in his thirty
          years with them  had  never  once  wanted to work for anyone
          else. With them he felt safe, his future secure.

          He was a  giant  of  a  man,  a  little  over six feet tall,
          broad-shouldered with enormous  arms  and  hands.  There was
          strength too in  his clean-shaven rugged face, surmounted by
          a head of  thick  black  curly hair. Yet there was something
          gentle about him.  perhaps  created by the twinkle of humour
          in his clear grey eyes.

          Older women who  had  the  patience to do the tedious job of
          collating and knock-up  were  employed  by  Morrise's  whose
          total work force  rarely exceeded twenty. The factory a mile
          from where Shaun  Maclaren  lived  in  a two bed-roomed flat
          with her mother.

          Shaun waited outside  the  front  office. Bart smiled at the
          shy little girl  the social worker had persuaded his boss to
          employ. He had  been  told  of  the  harsh treatment she had
          received at the  hands of the Sister's of Mercy, although he
          had made up his mind to show the child no special favours he
          was determined that  his  new  charge  would  be given every

          " So, your  Shaun  Maclaren"' he said looking down at her, "
          I'm told you  would  like  to  learn  all about the printing

          " Yes Sir," she whispered.

          Like a father he took her by the hand to the workshop across
          the road, where for the next few weeks she learnt the art of
          collating and knock-up. The second time she struck the loose
          sheets against the  hard surface, she caught her finger tips
          and Bartholomew Carter was there with the first-aid kit.

          The women at the factory were a lot older than Shaun. All of
          them had grown-up  families  and  they  treated  her  like a
          daughter. Each offering  advice  and  help  whenever  asked,
          sometimes arguing if one of them had given the right advice.
          They loved making her clothes to go dancing, and thrilled to
          see her try  on the tulle petticoats one of them had made to
          go under the  flared  skirts  they  had spent hours of their
          free time designing.

          During meal breaks  they  were  eager  to learn all that had
          happened at the  Saturday night dance, most remembering when
          they were of an age similar to Shaun.

          Bartholomew Carter had  a lot of time for her. He helped her
          whenever he could.  Taught  her  to  run  the  big  presses.
          Showed her first  one  job  then  another.  Shaun too, was a
          willing worker, prepared  to try any job. Bart persuaded the
          Boss to arrange  evening  classes  at  a  nearby  school and
          showed great pride whenever she passed an exam.

          At seventeen Shaun  Maclaren  could  run,  efficiently every
          machine in the factory of Morris and Sons.

          Always attractively dressed  in skirt and white or pale blue
          jumper she rode  to  work on her bicycle, her honey-coloured
          hair tumbling in  the breeze. The whistles from the boys she
          passed making her feel a pleasing embarrassment. At last she
          had really begun  to  live.  The Convent and it's nightmares
          left far behind.

          Shaun loved her  mother, although there were times when they
          felt distant towards  one another, sometimes not speaking to
          each other for more than a week. It troubled Shaun, she felt
          it was her  fault.  That unconsciously she blamed her mother
          for the treatment  she  had  received  at  the  hands of the
          Sister's of Mercy and her elder sister Pauline.

          Three times a  week  she  went  Country dancing. Boys always
          seemed to find a delight in taking her home, even though one
          goodnight kiss was  more  than  enough. There was not one of
          them who had been able to persuade her to stay with them any

          She  thought  that  in  some  mysterious  way  she  must  be
          different to other  girls  of  her  age.  A few of her close
          friends had said  as  much.  Most of them put it down to the
          sheltered life she had led at the Convent.

          Maureen, the youngest  daughter of Rachel's sister Lisa came
          down to the  city  for  a  minor operation and stayed at the
          flat with Shaun  and her mother. Rachel, not willing to give
          up her bedroom  to  anyone,  Maureen  slept with her cousin.
          Almost twice her  age  Maureen  treated Shaun like a younger
          sister. They talked  and laughed, especially in bed and most
          nights Shaun would fall asleep in her cousin's arms.

          Two weeks later Maureen went into hospital. Shaun never knew
          she could miss anyone so much. There was no one to cuddle up
          to before falling  asleep.  No  one  to  make  her feel that
          emotional excitement that  came from deep within her. No one
          to look at and admire when she awoke in the mornings.

          With Maureen she  felt  an inner calmness a vitality. A warm
          sort of sweet  contentment.   For the first time in her life
          Shaun knew she  had  found  love.  In  love with someone she
          could really love. She felt happy, elated, and suddenly sad,
          knowing that her feelings could never be allowed to surface.

          It was little  more  than  a minor problem Maureen needed to
          have corrected, but Shaun, deeply concerned spent the day at
          the hospital.

          " I'm so glad you were here for me," her cousin told her the
          moment she opened her eyes.  For hours, Shaun sat quietly by
          her bedside holding  her  cousin's  hands  or  stroking  her
          forehead, until the night nurse sent her home.

          When Maureen recovered  they  went dancing. If anyone stared
          at, or even  hinted  at dating Maureen Shaun would feel hurt
          and  annoyed.  It  took  all  her  will-power  to  hide  her
          feelings.  At one special Country dance, Shaun sat in sullen
          silence watching her  cousin being whirled around the floor.
          She ignored boys  who asked her to dance, wanting to be only
          in the arms  of her cousin, knowing she dare not for fear of
          what other people  might say. Unable to control her feelings
          Shaun left the dance.

          When her mother  asked  her why she had come so early. Shaun
          glared at her,  went to bed and cried herself to sleep.  Her
          cousin came home  just  before  dawn  and Shaun still asleep
          cuddled her the moment she got into bed.

          Maureen now desperate  for affection moved Shaun's hand onto
          her breast. Even subconsciously Shaun knew it was wrong. She
          moved away and held Maureen around the waist.

          Feeling rejected, needing  to be held, to love and be loved,
          Maureen turned round  and  lay  on her back. Her eyes filled
          with tears and  a sob in her throat she placed Shaun's hands
          on her breasts, holding them there for interminable moments.
          Shaun now half  awake  gave  a convulsive shudder as Maureen
          eased her cousin on top of her.

          Shaun's murmuring protest  died  on her lips as of their own
          volition  her  hands   encircled  her  cousin.  A  shaft  of
          incredible pleasure shot  through  their veins as their lips
          gently touched like the wings of a butterfly.

          The effect was erotic, something Shaun had never experienced
          before. Without conscious thought she traced a path with her
          lips down to  the  tips  of  Maureen's  breasts, each nipple
          hardening under her tender caress.

          " I love  you  Shaun Maclaren," Maureen whispered, " as much
          as I know  you  love  me."  Slowly she moved her legs up and
          down her thighs. As the motion increased Shaun plundered the
          mouth of her cousin. She savaged the delicate tissue against
          her teeth until  she could taste the saltiness of her blood.
          Seconds later they  squealed  with delight at the ecstasy of
          the fulfilment of their most urgent needs.

          Shaun felt as  if  she was walking on air. At work the women
          nodded wisely, each  taking  pleasure in her latest romance,
          wondering when they would meet Shaun's Mr Right. Bartholomew
          Carter grinned whenever  he  saw her, certain she would tell
          him about it.  Wondering  when  his Shaun would marry, if he
          would be asked to give her away.

          For weeks she  lived  in a world filled with dreams, knowing
          that Maureen would  be  at  home waiting. She wanted to tell
          the world. Tell them that at last some one really loved her.
          They talked about  getting  a flat. Away from everyone, away
          from her mother.

          A new woman  started at the factory. Shaun showed her how to
          collate and knock-up.  During  meal  breaks  the  new  woman
          talked about girls  living together. The other women thought
          it was a  good idea, good for reasons of safety and the need
          to share expenses.  The  new woman scoffed, thought that all
          girls living together  were  nothing  but sluts and up to no

          " Down our  street,"  she  told  those who were listening, "
          there were two  girls living together. I didn't think it was
          right. Eventually they  carted  one off to prison. The other
          one got beat up by the locals."

          For hours Shaun  lay  awake every night, looking lovingly at
          the peacefully sleeping  Maureen.  Hours earlier they'd made
          love. A love  too  precious  to  risk.  Shaun knew she would
          rather die than allow anything to happen to her Maureen. She
          knew it had  to  end  as she cried herself to sleep.  In the
          morning she thought about their lives. Maureen had a widow's
          pension. There was  no money problems, and her mother had an
          income of her own.

          Shaun decided that  now was the time to fulfil her life-long
          ambition and join  the  Army.  A month later she left Morris
          and Sons. Bartholomew  Carter  was  upset, he felt hurt that
          turned to anger. He pleaded with her to tell him the name of
          the man who  had  made her so happy, promised to marry, then
          changed his mind.  He  thought  of  himself  as  her adopted
          father and protector. He knew he could make things right.

          During the last  meal breaks he tried talking to her. In the
          end he gave  up,  and told her to forget the bastard who had
          let her down.

          " You're only  young  yet," he told her, " there's plenty of
          time. You'll find  the  right man. It'll all work out in the
          end." How could she tell him she was leaving because she was
          in love with  another  woman.  Or  that his new employee had
          told her what  happened  to females living together when the
          authorities were informed.  That  they  could  send  her  to
          prison. Maureen might  be  killed.  How  could she break his
          heart. She loved Bartholomew Carter as a daughter might love
          a father, and each night she cried herself to sleep.

          There was no  alternative.  The Army offered her a career, a
          chance for her  and  Maureen  to forget one another. Perhaps
          Maureen might find  a  decent  man, someone she could really
          love. For Shaun  this  was  the  chance of a new life, a new
          beginning full of promise and filled with opportunities

          On  the train  a  sudden  wave  of  depression  and  anxiety
          overtook her. She wondered if the other recruits had similar
          feelings. It was, she remembered with horror the same as the
          first day at the Convent when Sandy Highfield left her.

          A sense of  achievement  gripped  her as she stepped off the
          train proud of  the  leather  suitcase her mates at Morrises
          had given her.  There were other women shuffling through the
          ticket barrier, about  thirty  in  all. The ticket collector
          glancing  at their  rail  warrants  as  they  passed.  Their
          clothes all colours and styles. Everyone looking around with
          curiosity and a  sudden  sense  of community. Shaun wondered
          what their reasons were for joining the Army.

          " All right  you lot. Everyone over here. Come along quickly

          The voice, loud  and  clear  stopped  the chatter of the new
          arrivals, as all  heads  turned  in  the  direction  of  the
          Sergeant. A big  broad-shouldered man that reminded Shaun of
          Bartholomew Carter.

          " Into the  first  truck,"  he shouted, his voice commanding
          instant obedience. "  The  first one I said. You don't get a
          truck of your own."

          An impatient woman  corporal  urged  the  newcomers into the
          truck. Some clambered  in  with ease. One in a tight fitting
          tailored skirt had less luck. She tried to climb up the side
          and in the  end  had to be pushed by friendly, over-familiar
          hands. Shaun threw her case over the tail-gate. She grinned,
          it reminded her  of  the  time  she heaved her case over the

          " Place your foot against the side," the corporal suggested.
          Without thinking she did as she was told.

          " Think they would let the back down."

          " That's too  easy," she was told. " First rule in the Army.
          Make a simple

          job bloody hard.  I  reckon  it  gives  them  some sort of a

          They were rocked backwards and forwards, thrown from side to
          side as they  were  driven  down  dark  country lanes to the
          barracks, a ten  minute  drive  from the station. The driver
          struggled through the  gears,  manoeuvred  the  truck up the
          ramp to the  guard  house. After a few words with the sentry
          he drove on, minutes later came to a permanent stop.

          Another Sergeant appeared and stood by the truck.

          " This is the cookhouse, and Mess hall," he told them, " get
          inside, get fed.  I'll  be  back  in an hour. Then you'll be
          assigned to your billets."

          The building was  enormous,  filled  with  long  tables  and
          stools. Down one  side a row of counters stacked with plates
          and mugs.

          Shaun looked at  the  end of the hall expecting to see a top
          table and a Crucifix.

          Behind  the counter  three  women  stood  dressed  in  white
          overalls and caps,  not one with a smile on her face. As the
          line of recruits  moved forward, one woman thrust a plate in
          front of them another threw cold food on each plate.

          " Foods bloody  cold," someone commented, " can't stand cold
          food. Even the coffee's mixed up with the tea."

          " If you  don't  like  it complain," a voice from behind the
          counter retorted, "  we're  only  here  to  do you a favour.
          We're not even supposed to be on duty."

          The words accompanied  by  glares  of  resentment  made  the
          newcomers move quickly along. It was then everyone knew they
          were no more than rookies to be treated as the lowest of the

          The new recruits  were collected, marched down a row of huts
          ringed with white stones and counted off by the corporal.

          " That's all," she shouted, " move along to the next hut-and
          be quick about it."

          There was a  strong  smell  of  floor polish. Everything was
          bright and clean.  All  the  beds in a row reminded Shaun of
          the dormitory at the Convent.  She put her suitcase on a bed
          by the door.

          The room filled  with loud voices, suddenly fell silent. All
          heads turned to  see  a woman in uniform with stripes on her
          arms, standing very erect.

          " I am your hut corporal," she announced loud and clear. " I
          have the unfortunate  task  of  sorting  you  lot  out." She
          grinned at one  of  the  girls struggling into a flimsy pink
          nightdress.  " This  is the last night you'll be wearing one
          of those things. Tomorrow you will be kitted out and wearing
          regulation pyjamas."

          A groan of disappointment rang around the room.

          " That's enough,"  she  continued with a grin.  " Reveille's
          at six, lights  out  at  ten,  and  that's  in three minutes

          During the night  there were sounds of restless bodies heavy
          sleeping, deep breathing  and  a  faint sound of sobbing. As
          she drifted towards  sleep,  Shaun  realised hat she was not
          alone in her depression over her past and apprehension about
          her future. But  she felt a kind of contentment knowing that
          her Maureen was safe. Her thoughts about her cousin were the
          last thing she remembered.

          When Shaun opened  her eyes the Corporal was moving down the
          centre of the  hut  banging the end of each bed with a stick
          shouting. " Rise and shine." Minutes later they were marched
          out to the  ablution block to visit one of the cubicles with
          only half a door and wash in icy water.

          It seemed to  Shaun  that no matter where she went the water
          was always cold.  The  Mess  hall was next. There were Shaun
          thought hundreds of  women  collecting  plates  of something
          that looked like porridge and mugs of steaming hot coffee.

          " Any complaints ?" some one shouted.  No one seemed willing
          to answer.

          Shaun put down  the bundle she was carrying. With the others
          she had been  issued  her  clothing and a kitbag to store it
          all in. There was a tunic, skirt, shirts and a battle dress.
          She pulled out  from  the  bag an extra large cotton bra and
          wondered what she  could  find  to fill it. A peaked cap and
          stockings came next,  the  shoes,  hopefully the right size,
          they felt hard  and  were  guaranteed  to cripple anyone who
          wore them, and  as they were promised the regulation striped

          Shaun held up  the  skirt  and  groaned  in despair when the
          waist reached the tips of her breasts.

          "  Try mine,"  the  girl  in  the  next  bed  named  Cynthia
          suggested, " we  can take in the waist. It seems nearer your
          size than mine."

          All the brass  tunic buttons, a lovely shade of green had to
          be cleaned and polished.  The Corporal hovering between beds
          showing them how it had to be done.

          Shaun and Cynthia  sat  together  making their uniforms fit,
          using needles and cotton from a package they were told was a

          " We're only  here  for  a  few days," Cynthia told Shaun, "
          then we begin our training."

          " That's terrific. Can't wait to learn to drive."

          " Basic training, silly."

          " But I joined up to become a driver," Shaun Protested.

          At the recruiting  office  she  had  been asked which career
          path she would like to follow. When asked about her previous
          employment she had  to  explain the progress she had made at
          Morris and Sons,  and  was  offered an immediate position in
          the  Army  printing   division.   But  Shaun  wanted  to  do
          something different, and her heart set on becoming a driver.
          She saw it  all as part of a dream. A dream of independence.
          To be free.  To  go  where she wanted to go.  She remembered
          the look of  annoyance  on  the officer's face as she filled
          out the forms.

          " If you  fail  Miss Maclaren," she said sternly, " you will
          be on permanent GD."

          In their small  groups  they  were hesitant about getting to
          know one another  very well, believing they would eventually
          be separated.

          " What did you do?" Cynthia asked.

          " I was a printer."

          " I tried typing."

          " What did you apply for?"

          " To become a driver, same as you."

          " And me," Roxanne in the bed opposite joined in.

          The following day  they  went  on  parade  in their uniforms
          proud of their  efforts  to  make  them fit. Some wore their
          caps a jaunty angle, perched on the side of their head.  The
          Sergeant who called them to attention looked at each one and

          The officer walked down the line of recruits and yanked each
          cap down squarely on their heads.

          " That is  the way all head gear will be worn in future. You
          will be taught  how  to  dress  during  basic  training, and
          you'll learn all about life in the Army."

          " I know  you  will  enjoy your holiday at the seaside," the
          Sergeant added when  the  officer left the parade, " it will
          be among the best days of your life."

          It  was the  beginning  of  winter.  On  the  seafront  they
          struggled  to  fight   the  elements.  Marching  in  unison,
          swinging their arms  as  the  wind  and  rain battered them.
          There were gym  sessions at the far end of the parade ground
          just at dawn  broke  very morning with no one being excused.
          Every recruit believed  the  Army was made up of sadists who
          took a delight, trying to inflict the worst possible pain.

          They were taught  to  make  beds,  fold up their clothes and
          polish floors. Shaun and her group were determined to be the
          ultimate in the  art of spit and polish. The beds were lined
          up with calibrated  precision.  The contents of every locker
          faultlessly arranged.

          To add to  the  daily  torture they were marched up and down
          the parade ground.   It  seemed  to  Shaun that no one could
          please the drill  instructor.  When they did their best, and
          knew  they  were   good,   he  found  fault.  If  they  wore
          battledress, he'd turn  up  on parade in fatigues, then give
          them two minutes to change.

          Most afternoons they attended lectures.

          When they dozed off, too tired to pay attention the Sergeant
          would rudely awaken  them.   At  the  end of their six weeks
          training, they had  learned many things about themselves and
          the  Army.  Each   one  of  them  proud  of  their  personal
          achievement, and equally as proud of their hut.

          At the end  of  July there was a list of names pinned on the
          notice board. It  was  Shaun  who  found  her  and Cynthia's
          names.   Howard,   Maclaren,   listed   for   transportation
          instruction, and underneath the name Anderson.

          " Look! that's  me,"  Roxanne said excitedly, " the three of
          us we're all going to the transport school."

          The transport school  was  part of a large barracks an Shaun
          felt certain she  would  get  lost.  " Don't worry," Cynthia
          told her, "  we'll all stick together. I can't wait to drive
          one of those cars the officers go around in."

          Cynthia Howard made  no secret of her interest in men. Shaun
          and Roxanne would  exchange  glances  whenever she went into
          action, both wondering  about  her  life  before joining up.
          When anyone mentioned  about  girls living together in civvy
          street, Shaun always felt her face flush.

          Cynthia's confidence was sometimes taken for granted and got
          her into trouble  more  then  once  with  the Sergeant.  But
          being Cynthia she usually managed to talk her way out of it.
          Unlike Shaun, who for some reason, the Corporal in charge of
          the hut appeared to take an instant dislike to. On occasions
          she could be heard all over the motor pool Shouting,

          " Maclaren! Maclaren, come here."

          Shaun was soon  very  familiar  with  every  humiliation the
          Corporal could devise.   Every  one in the hut realised that
          while she drew  fire  away from them they were safe from the
          Corporal's prying eyes.  Cynthia and Roxanne were angered by
          this attitude and helped Shaun whenever they could.

          On the driving course it was more difficult. They were split
          into teams of two, assigned to a Sergeant instructor.  Shaun
          took  driving  lessons   in   the   morning   and  practical
          maintenance in the afternoons.

          She nursed her own pleasures in the driving lessons, and was
          delighted with the  masculine  world of engines, low loaders
          and lorries. She  saw  a semitrailer similar to the one that
          took Casey Ann  from  her.  Tears  welled  in her eyes for a
          moment, but it passed and she continued with her work.

          She had always  felt  that  heavy  vehicles and engines were
          something designated as  a  purely  male reserve. Now it was
          open to her.  She  surprised everyone with her abilities and
          was proud of her achievements.

          Driving came naturally,  giving  her  a new confidence. Even
          the obnoxious hut  Corporal  couldn't get under her skin any
          more. She made  a  remark  to  the Sergeant instructor about
          being late for a lesson. Days later the hut Corporal applied
          for a transfer.

          Shaun Maclaren was  learning  all  the time, discovering her
          own strengths, coming to grips with her own weaknesses.  The
          rules and petty  regulations of the Army were not dissimilar
          to her life at the Convent, with it's tradition of doing the
          simplest things the  hardest possible way. It was to Shaun a
          continuation of the  school,  designed  to  demonstrate that
          life was far  from  fair.  The  ruthless discipline demanded
          submission of all individual initiative and imagination..

          " They want  machines,"  Roxanne  growled over dinner in the
          Mess hall. She moved the cold mashed potatoes to one side of
          her plate awash  with  soggy  cabbage, and rock-hard peas in
          watered down gravy. She stabbed at the mess with her fork.

          " I need  a  decent  meal.  We  had  this  same rubbish last

          An officer moved  down  the  line  of  tables  with the mess
          Sergeant close behind.  She  stopped opposite Shaun, Roxanne
          and Cynthia.

          " Any complaints?" she asked.

          "Yes Ma'am," Shaun  said  without  thinking,  " we're fed up
          with cold mash, cheese, soggy cabbage and rock hard peas."

          The mess Sergeant scowled at the three trainee drivers.

          " This lot  complain  all  the time Ma'am. They're trainees.
          Not used to life in the Army. Still civvies really."

          The officer looked  at  the  food on the plate. " Bring me a
          clean fork please Sergeant. I want to try this food and test
          the complaint."

          Shaun began shaking, wishing she had kept her mouth shut.

          " Try mine  Ma'am,"  Cynthia suggested, offering the officer
          her plate, worried about Shaun, now almost in tears.

          "  I'd  rather  try  Private  Maclaren's.  She  is  the  one

          The hush in the Mess hall was frightening as the officer ate
          from Shaun's plate.  Without  a word she picked up the plate
          and with the fork threw it all in the trash bin.

          " How dare  you serve my girls this rubbish. You!" she added
          angrily, as she faced the Mess Sergeant, " will report to my
          office immediately. Clear  away  the tables girls," she said
          as she went  through  to the kitchen, " you will have a late
          dinner tonight."

          She looked at the three rebels.

          " This matter  will  be  dealt  with.  You  three, Maclaren,
          Howard and Anderson  will report to my office in ten minutes

          They stood in  front  of  the desk. It reminded Shaun of the
          Reverend Mother's study.   The  officer looked at them.  The
          silence agonizing, each wondering what fate had in store.

          " I'm pleased,"  she  began,  breaking  the  long  drawn-out
          silence, " that  you  had  the  good  sense  to  bring  this
          disgraceful food to my attention. I assure you there will be
          a difference in the menu from now on."

          Shaun progressed from  engine  maintenance  to driving staff
          cars. Two weeks  later  she went for her test. With a sudden
          start she heard  her name called and felt Roxanne give her a
          push. She presented  herself to the examiner, gave a hurried
          salute and sat  in  the  car. There was no turning back now,
          even though her  stomach  had  tied  itself up in knots. She
          caught a glimpse  of  the instructor who gave her no sign of
          pity or encouragement.  Shaun  thought the test was a dream.
          She remembered starting  the  vehicle.  It  seemed to be all
          over in minutes. She was back in barracks drawing up outside
          the motor-pool aware of a row of faces demanding to know her
          fate. The examiner scribbled on her clip board.

          " I suggest you turn off the engine Maclaren."

          " Did I pass Ma'am?" she asked turning the key.

          " You have  on  cars and light vehicles. After your furlough
          you will be  tested  on  trucks  and  transporters. I'm sure
          you'll do well  Maclaren." Shaun stumbled out of the car and
          joined her two friends.

          " Was it really that awful? You're as white as a ghost."

          " It was  simple  Cyn.  Really  it was. I passed, I actually

          " You could  try  and  look  pleased about it. My turn next.
          Wish me luck-you know I need it." An hour later the three of
          them went back  to  the  hut,  each with a pass for cars and
          light  vehicles.  Tomorrow  the  beginning  of  their  first

          Every letter Shaun  received  from  Maureen  she  hid in the
          bottom of her  locker.  When  she was on her own she re-read
          them over and  over  again. Every word, every declaration of
          love she treasured.   Her  two  friends believing them to be
          from her boy  friend, they knew she would one day marry made
          no attempt to pry.

          Both  Roxanne  and   Cynthia   talked  about  their  various
          romances. On occasions  Cynthia  would go into more intimate
          details and Roxanne would look at Shaun and grin.

          Shaun never allowed  herself  to  be  drawn out although she
          longed to tell her friends she knew she dare not. She longed
          to pour out  her  heart to someone who would at least listen
          and try to understand.

          Cynthia and Roxanne  tried  a  few  times to persuade her to
          talk  about her  fiance  who  Shaun  referred  to  as  John.
          Eventually they gave up, after realising that Shaun Maclaren
          was a very  private  person  and  they  had  no real wish to
          intrude. They were  as  Roxanne  observed  three  very  good

          Maureen was standing  at  the  ticket barrier and the moment
          she saw Shaun  waved  like mad. Cynthia and Roxanne wondered
          where John was.  Shaun, filled with emotion ran to greet her
          then slowed down and walked with her friends.

          " I thought  John  would have been waiting for you," Cynthia
          said with a smile.

          " My brother's  in bed with a most awful cold," Maureen told
          them once the introductions were made.

          " Mummy sent  me  down  to pick you up. We're all longing to
          see you."

          The three girls promised to meet and travel back together at
          the end of their leave.

          " Who knows," Roxanne said as she kissed Shaun goodbye, " we
          might even meet  John." When Cynthia and Roxanne were out of
          sight, Maureen and  Shaun  fell  into each other's arms. The
          stares and smiles  from  passing people did not bother them.
          Perhaps they didn't care. They were wrapped in their embrace
          and for the  moment  it  was all that mattered.  Maureen led
          Shaun towards her  car.   Shaun wondered how she had managed
          to buy it.

          " Sold the house," Maureen told her with a triumphant laugh,
          " we-you and I own a cottage-by the sea."

          " Are we  going  there now? What about Mum? the flat? is she
          all right?"

          " Questions! so many questions. Everything is fine. It's all
          been taken care of."

          During the long  drive Maureen explained that she had to get
          away from Aunt  Rachel.  That  she  had a good offer for her
          house,  which she  accepted,  and  bought  a  two  bedroomed
          cottage on the  coast.  It was quiet, peaceful, she told her
          with no near  neighbours.  With  the money left over she had
          bought the car.  That  she  had  completely  redecorated the
          place while Shaun was away.

          " I know you'll love our home," Maureen added excitedly.

          " Are we going there now?"

          " Not yet,"  Maureen  answered  with  a smile, " first we're
          going  to have  that  special  holiday  we  always  promised
          ourselves. I've found an ideal spot where no one would dream
          of asking difficult or embarrassing questions"

          An hour later they were driving along the sea front. Maureen
          told her the  hotel catered for public figures who needed to
          get away, whose  main  concern  was  for  plush  comfortable
          privacy. That the  hotel  was  small and very quiet.  Inside
          the lobby the  smell  of  salt and seaweed was tempered with
          suggestions of brandy, cigars, waxed furniture and hot-house
          gardenias.  Chandeliers  hung  everywhere.  The  deep-seated
          armchairs were of  autumn  tone  with a hint of rose. Velvet
          curtains hushed every  whisper,  deep-piled carpets softened
          every step.  Crockery  was  never  rattled at the ' Sandwood
          Hotel'.  The wine  steward pulled corks with a discreet pop.
          It was an  island  of  peace,  where  no one asked difficult
          questions or dare cast a curious glance.

          Shaun stared wide-eyed  as Maureen with an air of confidence
          signed the register.  She  had a feeling that her cousin had
          been here before .

          " It's very  grand,"  Shaun  whispered, as they sipped their
          wine and the  waiter served their meal. A look of fear crept
          into her eyes  as  she  watched  the  waiters talking to the
          other guests in low tones.

          Maureen stroked the back of her hand.

          " It's all  right,"  she said softly, " we're perfectly safe
          there is nothing to fear."

          Later they went  upstairs  to  their suite. It was only then
          that Shaun felt  really safe. Maureen sat on the edge of the
          bed and took  a  ragged,  excited  breath.  She pulled Shaun
          close to her  who was astounded by the size of the bed under
          it's canopy of blue brocade as she unfastened the buttons of
          her tunic.

          Shaun took Maureen  in  her arms, unzipped her cousin's blue
          dress, unfastened her  bra  and  cupped  her  breasts in her
          hands. They kissed  again and again, touching here and there
          with an aching mixture of reverence and passion, yearning to
          be taken up  to  the glistening pulsating plateau known only
          to them.

          Shaun her past  fears forgotten lost all self-control as her
          lips traced the  long  curves  of  Maureen's  body, the flat
          plane of her stomach and the satiny inside of her thighs.

          For an earth  shaking  instant  their  world stood perfectly
          still. They both  felt  suspended,  then  rocked on a gentle
          sea, afloat in  their  special  kind  of  love, knowing that
          forever they would belong to each other.