Two months of blistering heat and no rain had left areas of The Point like a dust bowl. A lone figure walked slowly down one of the dusty lanes, a brown bag clutched tightly in his tattooed hands. It was no good he couldn't wait any longer. Hando stopped, looked around, and opened up the bag. Reaching inside, he slowly extracted the precious item from the depths of the bag...a book. More than that, a book kindly loaned to him by Tina.
He couldn't wait to get back to his room to start reading, so, carefully wiping his hands on his jeans to remove any dust, he opened up the book and began reading as he walked along.
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness...
"Bloody oath," Hando muttered with a passion. The best of days were certainly turning into the worst of days at The Point as the heat wave continued unabated into its third month.
Hando continued on down the lane, head deep in the book, trying not to drip sweat onto the pristine pages. He stopped and kicked a pebble , smiling at the dust devils dancing up from its landing point. Could the ground get much drier, he wondered. It reminded him of a bad summer in the outback in Oz.
Suddenly, Hando's peace was shattered and he was showered in dust and grit as a motorcycle went tearing past him. He managed to hold his temper as he checked over Tina's book for damage, but seeing it was unscathed, he placed it back in the safety of the bag and started running down the lane in the direction of the mysterious bike, muttering eloquent curses under his breath as he went.
Business at the bar in the Tavern was brisk. Quite a few of the men were enjoying a liquid lunch with the occasional bar snack. The double doors slamming against the wall interrupted the low buzz of conversation. There was Hando, steaming with rage and surrounded by his own personal dust cloud.
"Well fuck me swinging, if it isn't Pig Pen," Terry grinned, looking at the vision framed in the doorway.
"Fuck off, Thorne," Hando spat.
"Very erudite, mate. Who pissed on your parade?"
"The owner of that red rice rocket parked outside. Bastard cut me up down the lane."
"Rice rocket"? queried Zack and Bud together.
"He means the Suzuki, Japanese bike, mates," Terry confirmed.
"Ah," they replied, turning back to the bar and raising their glasses.
"Well" Hando growled. "Where is he?"
"What's up, Hando?" Andy asked from his safe haven behind the bar.
"Fucking moron nearly knocked me off the road, showered me with dust and gravel, and didn't even slow down."
Terry, Bud and Zack tried valiantly not to snort into their drinks, but when Hando glared at them they broke out into full-blown belly laughs.
"I'm glad you think it's fucking funny. I know someone who won't be laughing when I find him though"
At that last remark, Terry stood up and walked towards Hando, closely followed by Bud.
"Come on, mate. I'm sure it was an accident. Come sit at the bar and calm down"
Terry led Hando to the bar and sat him on an empty stool. Andy placed a beer in front of him.
"Courtesy of the biker at the end of the bar," he said, rushing out of Hando's reach, just in case.
Hando rose slowly, the beer in his hand, and walked towards the leather clad stranger he could now see sitting behind Zack. He slammed the glass down, spilling the contents all over the bar, roughly grabbed the bikers shoulder, and swung him round to face him...only the him was a her!
The biker jumped up from the stool, flung her arms around Hando and planted a kiss on his surprised face.
"Wotcha, Hando. Sorry about earlier. I was in a rush, needed the little girls room."
"Oi, mate...too much info. How the bloody hell are ya?" Hando laughed, hugging the biker and returning the kiss.
"Better now I know you're not going to kill me. Want another beer or are ya gonna lick that one off the bar?"
"Nah, you can buy me another. Make it a stubbie this time...I'll make less mess," he grinned wickedly.
Andy brought another beer and a St. Clements, placing then down on a dry spot of the bar before cleaning up the mess in front of Hando.
"So, what's with the pile of shit outside then? Something wrong with the Hog?"
"It's a rental while I get the paintwork done on Sophie. I'm having her customised."
"Hold up, Beej," Bud interrupted. "That's what you do for a living. Why are you letting someone else touch your baby?"
"It's a special job. That's all I can say. I'm a bit too close to it to make a halfway decent job. You'll get to see her in a couple of weeks. I'm doing some work for Max, so decided it was a good time to get her tarted up. As soon as she's ready, Ill bring her back for inspection."
Just as they all returned to their drinks and snacks, the doors flew open once more and the sunlight was blocked by an enormous figure standing at the entrance, a golden halo enveloping his head. He looked searchingly around until he spotted the familiar crash helmet on the bar. Beej was off her stool and halfway to the doors before he could take a step inside. Two giant strides and he was there, picking her up and spinning her around, before planting a passionate kiss on her lips.
"Joanne, my beloved" he murmured in her ear.
"Oh, Captain, my Captain," Beej answered.
A discreet cough came from the bar and Jack suddenly remembered that they weren't alone. Lowering Beej gently back to the floor, he flushed in embarrassment as he looked at the smiling faces of his brothers.
"Forgive me, my love. I forgot myself. Gentlemen, I ask your forgiveness also."
"Pull the stick out of your arse, Captain," Hando murmured. "We all know she's your Sheila, nothing wrong with showing a bit of affection."
"Ah, yes...well. There's a time and a place for such things, my man..."
"Yes, my love," Beej said, stroking Jack's cheek. "And I think this was it."
Jack smiled down at Beej and offered her his arm, which she took demurely. They made an odd looking couple, Jack in his breeches and white ruffled shirt, and Beej in her leathers. Jack picked up her drink, ordered one for himself, and led her to one of the booths.
"I felt that you were here, my love, but I couldn't find your infernal machine. I was worried that my instincts were all ahoo."
"Sophie is in the shop, Jack. I'll get her back in a couple of weeks. Until then, it's the red racer parked outside. Although I don't intend to be using it a lot while I'm here. I'm hoping you'll be keeping me too busy to be joyriding about the place." Beej winked at Jack and giggled when she saw him blush. It was usually her going red all the time and she was delighted she could return the favour for once.
Beej rushed from the shower and quickly towelled herself dry, thankful for her short hair. It was almost dry already so wouldn't hold her back. She grabbed some clean underwear and quickly donned her jeans, boots and t-shirt, grabbed her keys, and headed out of her suite, down the stairs, and out into the morning sunshine.
It was going to be another scorcher, but at least there was an early morning breeze. Looking up at the sky, she thought that it wouldn't last and they would soon all be baking. Best to run her errands before it got too uncomfortable, then she could spend some quality time with Jack before heading off for her workshop at the garage.
She made her way towards Scents, Swords and More, checking her watch to make sure she wasnt going to keep Tina waiting. Her good friend had agreed to mix up a new fragrance for her, and Beej had ordered bath salts, shower gel, shampoo, body lotion and perfume. She was looking forward to discovering just what Tina had come up with. She had just said that she wanted something typically English to please Jack, and she trusted Tina 100% to get it just right. She may be a tomboy in her bike gear most of the time, but for Jack she could be a lady, or at least she could smell like one!
As she neared the shop, she saw Tina heading towards the door, keys in hand. On hearing Beej, she turned and waved.
"Perfect timing, Hon."
"I didn't want to keep you waiting, Tina, especially as you're not usually open until later."
"It's not a problem, Beej. I know I can always rely on you to be on time. In fact, knowing what you are like, I was worried that it would be me making you wait. I know you're always early for everything."
Beej laughed, remembering how years before she had explained that she always had to arrive for appointments too early, and blamed the fact that she was a premature twin.
"I almost didn't make it, Tina. Jack and I had a late night and by the time I got back to my room, it was almost time to get up."
"Back to your room? You mean you didn't…Sorry, its none of my business…"
"Don't be silly, if friends cant discuss personal stuff, who can. I told Jack that I was meeting you here this morning, and he thought it would be easier for me to stay at the hotel rather than make the trip up from the ship. He also seems to be in the midst of refurbishing the great cabin and didn't want me to stay in the mess he's managed to create. I think its going to be nice when its finished though," she said with a giggle. Jack was more enthusiastic than skilled in the home improvement field, but he really did seem to be making a good job of whatever he had planned.
"Oh that's good news. I would hate to think that the first night of your trip was less than harmonious. Anyway, come inside and see what I've got for you…"
They walked into the shop and Tina locked the door behind them, "Don't want to temp fate, some of the visitors would have us open 24/7 if they could."
"Yeah, we all seem to like to do some last minute souvenir shopping when were on holiday," Beej replied.
"Oh yeah, anyway, your orders ready. Its right there" and she nodded her head towards a medium-sized aquamarine shopping bag with a silver handle. "I finished it last night."
"Thanks for that, I know how busy you're getting, especially now you've started the mail order side of things."
"Well we might be, but we wont neglect our best customers either, and you have been one from the start." She placed a stopper in the little bottle that had garnered all her concentration only moments before.
"Thank you ma'am."
"And its nice that some of the others can pitch in when we get a little overwhelmed. You know Arthur loves the accounting aspect, especially with the new computer programs. Anyway, take a whiff and tell me what you think of what I whipped up for you. I just hope you like it."
"I already do," Beej said, deeply inhaling the aroma. "Oh my…that is incredible!"
"You like it? So…tell me what you smell?"
Beej took another whiff. "Mmm…sweet peas."
"Jasmine," Beej breathed in reply.
Beej looked into the bag again. "So, lets see…you made me up…"
"Shower gel, bath salts…Uh…Body lotion. Body cream its a little heavier than the lotion so its really good if you have drier spots on your skin, and I made you up a little tube of hand lotion. Then there's body spray, your eau de toilette…"
"Oh, and massage oil."
"I didn't ask for massage…guess I should have, eh?"
"I figured you forgot."
"It's covered then. Our little gift to a great customer."
Beej nodded towards the tiny container that she had watched Tina working on when she arrived. "So…what is…?"
"Well, another little gift… a little something for Jack."
"Oh that's very thoughtful."
"Well, take a whiff tell me what you think. If it sucks, fine, we'll try something…" But the smile on Beej's face, the expression of near ecstasy told her that it was very much to her liking.
"Its Sicilian Tangerine, Californian Green Lemon and Italian Bergamot. If you think hell like that shower gel, it wont take me a minute to make up a cologne spray for…"
"Ill take it," was all Beej said.
Jack took out his pocket watch and checked the time. He frowned, realising that Beej was almost an hour later. It wasn't like her…she was always early. Rising from his desk, he walked over to the door and left the great cabin. He would begin his search for her at her workshop, perhaps she had become so engrossed in her work that she had lost track of time.
As he drew closer to the garage where her workshop was situated, he thought he could hear laughter and male voices. He stopped dead in the open doorway, unable to take in the sight before him. Legs astride and hands on hips he let out a famous Aubrey roar.
"You there…unhand that lady at once!"
Max looked across to the origin if the tirade, still with his arms wrapped tightly around Beej, who was smiling up at him following their kiss.
"Don't get your breeches in a knot, Captain. Its not what it looks like," Max said without a hint of concern in his voice.
"It looks to me like you are in a compromising position with a lady who means a great deal to me."
"Max was just thanking me, Jack."
"Thanking you?" Jack bristled in reply. "Just what service did you provide to elicit such a personal acknowledgement of his thanks, madam?"
"Hold on, old boy," Max spoke out. "That's coming it a bit strong."
"Hold your tongue, sir! Call yourself an Englishman?" Jack roared. "You would be well advised to stay out of my sight, and stay away from my woman."
"Your woman…YOUR WOMAN!! John Aubrey, you pompous, overbearing, territorial, narrow minded, 19th century dinosaur," Beej screamed. "Just who do you think you are, warning off my friends? I am not a piece of your property, or one of your precious prizes, and I shall hug and kiss whom I please."
With that, she made her point by hugging and kissing Max, Colin and Hando in turn before storming out of the garage, pushing Jack out of her path as she passed him.
"Joanne…" Jack called to her retreating back.
"Landed yourself in the shite with that one, Captain," Hando remarked, grinning at Jack. "Wanna see why Maxie boy was kissing your Sheila?"
Not bothering to wait for a reply, Hando grabbed Jacks arm and dragged him into the garage. As his eyes adjusted to the dimmer light inside, he saw that Max had moved to his Harley and was running his hand gently over the gas tank.
"This is what I was thanking her for, Jack," he said quietly.
Jack moved closer to inspect the bike. On one side of the tank was a painting of Max's chateau, and on the other, a view of Luberon. Both scenes lovingly airbrushed by Beej, her characteristic signature on the bottom.
"I cannot apologise enough, sir. It seems I jumped the gun."
"Not me you need to apologise to, Captain. Its Beej."
"Yes…of course. If you gentlemen will excuse me…"
"Be safer to leave it for a bit, mate," Colin advised. "Give her a chance to calm down."
"You could be right, thank you. Once again, Maximilian, my humble apologies."
"Accepted, old boy," Max replied with a smile, shaking Jacks hand and slapping him on the shoulder.
Terry Thorne had just left his suite. He was getting into his car when the sound of galloping hooves caught his attention. Maybe East Driscoll was on a tear again. He turned to look just in time to see the huge black stallion skid to a halt.
"Captain Aubrey" Terry exclaimed. "Are you giving that poor beast his weekly exercise or is there a sale at the maritime shop?" The man teased. He didn't realize that there was there was a problem until he saw the look on Aubrey's face. "Something wrong, mate?" Terry eased the car door closed so as not to spook the horse.
Jack leapt from the horse, sweating almost as much as his mount and strode over to Terry. "Terrence, I'm glad I found you. It's Joanne...no, sir, do not worry, she is well. It's just...I just... damn it all...I need your advice."
Terry cleared his throat. "You need my advice? Now there's a change of pace. Why don't we go inside, find a quiet place to sit down? I'll help you in any way I can."
Jack may have told him not to worry but how could he avoid feeling it?
He waited for him to secure the steed to a hitching post then he led him inside. They found a nice quiet place to sit, and then Terry produced a flask from his back pocket. "Scotch, not what you're used to, but it does warm ones cockles up nicely. Have a go at it, mate then spill. I'm all ears."
Jack sat beside Terry and accepted the flask thankfully. Taking a gulp he leaned his head back against the wall and sighed. He began to explain what had taken place earlier, his shock at seeing Beej in another mans arms, his outburst, Beej's response to being called his woman. He leaned forward, elbows on knees, head in hands in despair. "How can I repair the damage I've done this day?"
Terry felt pretty damned bad for Jack. He'd been there himself on occasion but that left him a kind of expert when it came to fixing things.
"You know Beej better than anyone, Jack. Most women would succumb to a dozen roses and a box of chockies, but Beej is different. She's a fine woman with a good head on her shoulders. Go straight at her and tell her you're sorry. If you mean it she'll know. She's got that instinct they all have, though I'd be dammed to know how they know when a bloke is telling porkies." He trailed off, shaking his head. "If you love her, go fix things and do it now. The sooner the better."
Jack sat up straight again, a determined look on his face. He turned towards Terry. "I cannot thank you enough, Terrence. Of course you are right. Frills and fripperies will not suffice with my dearest Joanne. I will lay myself open to her broadside and pray for mercy."
"Good onya, mate. Go in with guns blazing and bring home your prize." Terry smiled. "I don't think I could face this place without knowing you two were apples." He gave Jack a manly pat on the back. "Someday I may need your advice, Aubrey. So don't think you're getting off Scot-free here. Go home, before she starts to worry."
Jack bounded up the stairs of the hotel and walked to the end of the corridor towards Beej's suite. As he raised his hand to knock on the door he stopped short. He could hear her inside. She was singing. Leaning closer to the door, he could make out the words…
I knew something changed between us,
All the talk we made was small
But what do you say to someone
When theyve heard you say it all
Its an awkward conversation,
In a most peculiar way
How did we get from saying I love you,
To Ill see you round someday…
The singing stopped and Jack thought he could make out a sniff…or a sob. He stood stock still outside the door not sure of what to do next. He slowly lowered his hand, which he realised was still ready to knock on the door. He could hear Beej moving around inside, and she suddenly started to sign once again…
Has all the ice been broken?
All our surfaces been scratched?
Have all the words been spoken
Have we finally met our match?
Cause its and awkward situation
In a most peculiar way
How did we get from saying I love you
To Ill see you round some day
How did we get from saying I love you
To Ill see you round someday
Beej stopped signing, and Jack could definitely hear her sniffing as if she was in tears. He paced up and down outside her door until he could pace no longer. He knocked briskly and waited.
Beej threw open the door. Much to Jack's consternation, tears were streaming down her face, but on seeing who was at her door, her eyes lit up, she smiled throwing her arms round his neck.
"Jack, I wasn't expecting you. Why did you think you had to knock?"
"Joanne, my dearest," Jack whispered, wiping the tears from her cheeks. "Forgive me. It was never my intention to bring such sadness into our lives."
Beej stepped away from him, bemused. "What are you talking about, Jack? What sadness?"
"I heard the words you were singing, and I have wiped away the tears I caused by my actions earlier at the garage."
Beej grinned and kissed her man soundly.
"Oh Jack…Id forgotten about that. The song had nothing to do with your little scene. I just love singing it."
"Then pray explain away your tears."
Beej grabbed hold of Jack's hand and dragged him towards the kitchen area of her suite. Once there, she pointed to the work surface and a pile of thinly chopped onions.
"I was preparing a meal for us silly, you know how onions always make me cry."
"Then, you aren't going to leave me?"
"Leave you? When hell freezes over, sailor. I'm yours for the duration…if you'll have me."
Jack didn't have to utter his reply; instead he took her in his arms and swung her around, then proceeded to carry her to the bedroom to continue his apology…
Beej stretched like a contented cat and looked over at Jack, still sleeping soundly beside her. The sun shone through the open window and made his hair, loose across the pillow, sparkle like spun gold. She leaned over to kiss his cheek and smiled, remembering his apology from the night before. Perhaps she should shout at him more often, make up sex was just…so sexy!
Jack grunted and turned onto his back, slinging his arm across the bed. Beej caught it before it hit her and kissed her way up from his wrist to inside his elbow, blowing a raspberry on the tender skin. Jack woke with a start, then smiled as he realised what Beej had done.
"Good morning, my heart."
"Good morning, my life. Did you sleep well?" Beej asked.
"Eventually, beloved, eventually. Thank you."
"For accepting my apology."
"Oh, Jack. It was more than a pleasure. You should find a reason to apologise more often, I think I could get used to it."
"Come here, you little vixen," Jack grinned making a grab for Beej.
She jumped out of bed and picked up the bag Tina had given her. Returning to the bed, she jumped under the quilt and sat cross-legged facing Jack.
"Would you like to see what I got from Tina?"
"Of course, my dear."
"On second thoughts, you should close your eyes and smell what I have."
Jack dutifully closed his eyes and waited to inhale the fragrance. When directed, he took a deep sniff and smiled. "Sweet peas and Jasmine. What an excellent choice. I will never again see these beautiful flowers without thinking of you."
"Oh, Jack. You're such a romantic. Don't open your eyes yet, I have something else for you to try."
Opening his fragrance, she placed the bottle under his nose and told him to inhale once again. "What do you smell this time?"
Jack pondered for a moment trying to remember where he had smelt that fragrance before. Then grinned as he realised what it was.
"Do you have a cup of Earl Grey tea for me?"
"Silly," Beej replied, slapping him gently on the shoulder. "You weren't far out though, its bergamot, with hints of tangerine and lemon. Do you like it?"
"It's perfect…just like you."
"Enough of the sweet talk. We need to get up. I'm expecting a special delivery at the workshop in a couple of hours, so we have enough time for brekkie and a shower."
It seemed like the world and his wife were gathered at the garage when they arrived a bit later. Beej looked around and smiled when she noticed that Colin was missing.
"Why are there so many people here, my sweet?"
"I guess they all want to see my special delivery, Jack."
Just then all heads turned as Colin's land rover came into view, pulling a horsebox behind.
"Your special delivery is a horse? Why then is it being delivered to you workshop and not the stables?"
"No, Jack, its not a horse. Wait and see," Beej smiled in reply.
Colin pulled up and jumped out of the drivers door. "GDay, Beej. Got an audience, I see."
"It's not me they came to see," she laughed following him round to the back of the box. They unhitched the catches on either side and eased the ramp down, making sure no one could see inside. Beej walked up the ramp and vanished from view, only to reappear a few seconds later wheeling a covered bike down the ramp and resting it on the kickstand.
She motioned Jack to join her before turning back towards the bike. "Jack, you know how much I love you, but I wanted everyone else to know as well," she smiled, looking around at all their friends who waited expectantly.
"I told you I was getting some work done on Sophie, and here she is ready for the grand unveiling. I hope you like it, my love."
Taking a step towards Sophie, she took the corner of the cover in one hand and pulled it slowly off the Harley. There were gasps all round as the artwork was revealed.
On the port side, there was a rendition of the Geoff Hunt print HMS Surprise On The Far Side of the World.
Whilst on the starboard side there was a scene from the film of Jack over the side of the ship, hanging on to one of the lines to keep him safe.
Beej turned to Jack and smiled at the expression on his face. "You like it?" she asked.
"Joanne, dearest. You did this for me? Its the greatest gift I have ever had the honour to receive. It is wondrous. Thank you, my heart."
Jack reached for Beej enveloping her in his warm embrace. They kissed passionately, completely oblivious to the cheers behind them.
BACK HOME NEXT