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Love, Marriage and trouble with Ainsworth

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Ann seldom went to the pub but this night Catherine had convinced her to go.

‘You need to get out and mingle with people otherwise you will vegetate here. You will dry up and blow away on the air.’

‘I suppose you are right, Catherine.’ Ann said. ‘I will come with you on the promise that you will leave me to find my way.’

‘Okay!!’

‘Now, what should I wear.’ Ann said to herself but Catherine heard her.

‘Something comfortable, something that will attract a sexy male suitor.’

Ann didn’t answer her. She didn’t want to be seen by a man as a prospective girlfriend. She wanted a girlfriend. Someone to be there for her always. So, she wore jeans and her favourite t-shirt.

Catherine wasn’t impressed with what Ann wore but she had her willing to go to the pub which was more than Ann had done in the last six months. She had mopped around home after the death of her brother and his wife while they were on their honeymoon in Naples..

Ann had become joint heiress to the family fortune with her older sister, Elizabeth and every fortune hunter around wanted to get their hands on her money.

‘Will we take your car or mine, Catherine?’

‘We can take your car, if you want.’ Catherine was hoping her tall dark and handsome would take her home.

They arrived at the Shibden Inn at 9pm just in time for the band to begin their usual Saturday night gig.

‘Catherine I’ll sit at the bar. You can do whatever you want. I will be fine. Now, go find your boyfriend. He must be here somewhere. Isn’t this where you meet him every week?’

‘Are you sure?’

‘Yes, now go!!!’

It was then that she spied Anne Lister. She was sitting alone drinking beer. She had never seen someone so beautiful and so handsome. She sidled up and sat next to her without even realising it.

Ann said ‘Can I buy you a drink, Miss Lister?’

‘Why?’

‘Because I find you very attractive.’

‘You sure you know who I am?’

‘Yes, you are Anne Lister of Shibden Hall. The woman they talk so much about around Halifax. The woman they say who cannot be trusted in the company of other women. The woman who seems to only be after anyone’s money as long as they have plenty.’

‘So, you do know what they say about me!! That I will do anything to get my hands on your wealth, little Miss Walker.’

‘How do you know my name? I don’t leave my home that often. Well, not since my brother’s death in Naples. You know he was on his honeymoon.’

‘Oh I have heard so much about you, lately.’

‘Okay!! Oh, I know what they say about you. How you want to be part of the landed gentry. I know how my money would suit your ambitions.’ Ann said. ‘I am also aware that your life hasn’t always been wonderful. I know you have had many women in your life and every time you allowed yourself to get close to them, they left you for a man.’

‘How the hell did you find out about that?’

‘It’s common knowledge.’

‘What else do you know about me?’

‘You are the eldest daughter of Jeremy & Rebecca Lister. Your mother passed away quite a few years ago. You live at Shibden Hall which you inherited from your Uncle James.’

‘Do tell me more!’

’You were engaged to marry Mariana Belcombe only she married a charmless buffoon, Named Charles Lawton, who is quite a few years older than her. You were in love with Vere Hobart, only she wasn’t like that, gay. She married Donald Cameron. That made you re-evaluate your life that’s why you are back home here in Halifax talking to me.’

‘What do you mean by that?’

‘Well, I am single with loads of money and I hear you want it. Is that true?’

‘No!! So, why did you ask if you could buy me a drink?’

‘Oh, I want to get to know the other Anne Lister. The Anne Lister no one knows about. The one who often cries herself to sleep at night. The Anne Lister who cannot see her way clear. She feels there is no future for her.’ Anne eyed her with great interest. She never imagined someone so naive would want to be with her. She never imagined that someone would overlook her flaws and only want to see the person under all the masks. Only was she willing to shed them for someone she only knew a bit about?

‘Why do you want to know that Anne Lister? I buried her years ago.’

‘Why did you bury her? Bring her out so I can see her. I can’t help but wonder if I would like her as much as other people seem to despise the other Anne Lister.’

‘’So you want to get to know me better? What do you think you will benefit from learning so much about me?’ Anne has always wanted someone to talk to. Someone who would just get her but she was unsure of Ann’s motives. What did she wanted from Anne?

‘Probably not much but I would like you to know that I only want to be your friend then some. If that is possible’

‘What do you mean by then some?’

‘You know what I mean. Come on, let’s go for a drink.’

“Where?’ Anne gets up to leave with Ann. She is happy that someone wants to talk to her. Then Catherine appears.

‘Where are you going with her?’ Catherine asks Ann.

‘Mind your business. I know who she is and what she has done. We are just leaving.’

Hey Ann, do you still want to do this?’ Anne questioned

‘Yes, let’s go somewhere quiet. Somewhere we can talk in private. My place or yours. I don’t mind. I have good coffee at my place. What do you think?’

‘Okay! Your place. Will I take my car or can we both go in your car?’

‘Your move!!’ Ann didn’t know what else to say. She was in awe of Anne Lister.

‘Let’s go in your car since you know where you’re going.’ Ann wasn’t expecting that answer.

‘Oh we are a barrel of laughs. Aren’t we?’

‘No, I’m fucking nervous. I don’t know you nor do I know why you want to be with me. Yet, I want to talk to you and let you find out about me. You intrigue me.’

‘And you me, Miss Lister.’ I am scared shitless. I don’t know what will happen, Ann thought.

‘Please call me Anne.’

‘You can call me Ann too. Yes, we have the same name.’

‘I never imagined I would be in a car with the most eligible woman in Halifax. Well, that’s what I have been told, Miss Walker, sorry, Ann.’ They sat there. Ann didn’t seem interested in driving while Anne was talking. She couldn’t focus on two things at once. So, they sat there talking. Ann was worrying with her skirt.

‘I never imagined I would ever find the courage to talk to you, Anne. I always had feelings for you only I have never been able to express those feelings because others have always told me that I shouldn’t have feelings for women the way women have feelings for men.’ Anne lifted her hand and laid it to rest on Ann’s thigh. She thought Ann would move it. Ann left it there because it felt good to be touched by a woman and that woman was Anne Lister. She had never had that feeling before but she didn’t want it to end.

‘I have always felt this way about women. I love and only love the fairer sex and am beloved by them. My heart revolts on any other love than theirs.’ Anne said.

‘So, you will never marry.’ Hoping she will say that she would marry if she found the right woman.

‘Oh, I will marry as long as I find the right woman. Sometimes, I wonder if that will ever happen.’

‘Hey, what did I just say? Were you really listening?’ Bloody hell, Anne. Are you deaf? Ann wondered why Anne didn’t hear her.

‘What? Sorry!! I often find myself thinking about things when other people talk to me. Then I don’t hear what they say.’

Anne, I said, I have feelings for you!!! I think I am a little bit…..in love with you. I know that seems strange since we just met.’

‘Love at first sight.’

‘No!! Love at fifty first sight. I see you often but you seem not to see me. I am sorry to say I have watched you so much I feel I know you intimately.’

‘Is that so? What do I do most days?’

Oh Anne, it isn’t like that. It’s when we have been in the same place at the same time, like the bookstore last week. You were buying a book about anatomy. I hear you tell Mr, Whitley the title.’

‘Okay!!! I understand now.’ I do remember seeing you there, thought Anne..

‘I’m not sure you do.’

‘How would that be?’

‘Imagine being told everyday that you are an invalid by your family. That you should marry the first man who asks you. I think they just want me out of their way. They make me feel unworthy of any real love. Then I see you. I have never felt this way about anyone in my life.’ Ann wondered what Anne would think. She never imagined she would think this.

‘Good lord! You don’t want to marry me, do you?’

‘Hey, we just met. I cannot expect you to give me a yes or no answer right now, right this minute.’

‘So, you’re giving me time to think it through.’

‘No!!! I am just telling you how I feel about you. No strings attached. Okay!!’

‘Okay!! I am sure we can be friends.’

‘Great, Anne!! That will be fine. My sister once said, sometimes, often a good friendship is better than a marriage.’

‘Did she now?’

‘I don’t think she is happily married. I think he only married her for her money.’

‘Well, when you’re rich you can never be sure of people’s motives, can you?’

‘No!!’

‘So, why do you trust me?’

‘I’m not really sure. I guess I just want to get to know you better than what I do.’

‘Me, Anne Lister, who you were told has had so many women that it would make your head spin.’

‘No, you, Anne Lister, who has been rejected by so many women it makes my head spin.’

‘Oh fuck!!! I cannot believe my luck. Why would anyone want to be with me. You know what they say about me.’

‘Yes, I know what they say about you. I don’t listen to their words because I know beneath that strong exterior you show others there lies a very vulnerable woman who just wants someone to love and accept her for who she is.’

‘What am I to you?’

‘The most beautiful woman I know.’

‘Did you say that because that’s what you think I want to hear or is it what you want me to hear?’

‘It is what I want you to hear.’

‘Thanks, Ann!!! No one has ever told me that. Mariana has always made me feel less than who I am.’

‘Who is Mariana to you?’

‘Just someone whom I thought would marry me. Only she couldn’t wait until I got my inheritance from Uncle James so she married Charles Lawton.’ Anne said ‘Yes, you have already mentioned her. I had forgotten that. Sorry!!’

“That’s okay!!’

‘Now, can I buy you that drink?’

‘I thought we were going to your place.’

‘I think after all this you need something stronger than coffee or tea. So, let’s go back into the pub for a beer or three.’

‘Okay!!’

So, off they went back into the pub. Catherine was there looking for Ann. She was wondering what had happened to her and if Anne Lister had seduced her. ‘Ann, are you okay?’

‘As you can see she is fine, Miss Rawson.’

‘Catherine, we have been sitting in my car in the parking lot all this time chatting.’ Ann was annoyed Catherine questioned Anne’s motives. She never could understand why she asked her to come here in the first place if it wasn’t to meet someone. Hasn’t she done that?

‘Ann, you know what people say about her.’

‘Unfortunately, I do. Thankfully I don’t listen to gossip like you do.’

‘Hey, you don’t know her that much, Ann.’

‘I know her better than what you think, Catherine.’

‘How? You have only been out there chatting for 90 minutes.’ She looked at Catherine who was beginning to be aware that Anne Lister was right next to Ann.

‘What’s wrong, Miss Rawson?’

‘You’re Gentleman Jack. A woman who can’t be trust in the company of other women.’

‘So, I have been told. Only they don’t know me and neither do you. So, I will ask you to leave Ann & I to get to know each other better, if you don’t mind.’ Catherine left but kept glancing over in Ann’s direction for a long time.

‘Thanks, Anne. I always feel intimidated by family when they tell me what I am doing isn’t in my best interest. I wish you had been part of my life sooner then I would always have had someone to talk to.’

‘Well, you have me now. That’s better than never having me. Isn’t it?’

‘Yes!! But I never thought I would find the courage to talk to you, Anne.’

‘Let’s sit at the bar and get a drink. We can find an empty booth to sit in while we chat. Is that possible?’ Ann asked.

‘Anything is possible. Isn’t it?’

‘Yes, oh yes, it is.’ Ann was imagining what it would be like to be intimate with

Anne. She had never thought about being that close to anyone in her life. Yet, with Anne anything seemed possible.

They collected their drinks and walked over to a booth. Anne guided Ann to sit down. She was watching what Catherine was doing. Anne could see that Catherine wasn’t happy that Ann was spending time with her. Only Ann seemed to be happy being there with Anne.

‘Are you okay, Ann?’

‘Yes!! Why do you ask?’

‘Just look at the way Miss Rawson is looking at us.’ Ann looked to see where Catherine was.

‘Oh bugger!!! I don’t seem to be able to get peace anywhere. Can we finish our drinks and leave? I am fed up with being trolled by my tribe.’

‘Yes, where would you like to go, Ann?’

‘Anywhere but here. What do you have in mind, Anne?’

‘Drink up. I will take you somewhere in my car. She doesn’t know what I drive. So she will not find us.’

‘I hope you are right, Anne.’ Ann gulps her drink. ‘How are we going to get out of here?’

‘I have a way. I know the owner. She has a secret back door not many people know about. Come with me.’ Anne walked Ann back to the bar. It looked as though they were going to sit down. Only they were taken behind the bar. Catherine was wondering what was happening. Then they disappeared out the back.

‘Hurry, Ann. Let’s move a little faster otherwise Catherine or whoever she was talking to will find us out.’

‘Oh, that was her sister, Delia. She also watches me like a hawk.’ Ann was having trouble keeping up with Anne. Then they were near Anne’s car. She unlocked the doors and they climbed in.

‘Sit tight & belt up. This is going to be a bumpy ride but I do know where I am going.’

‘Okay, Anne. I will do that just get me out of this place. I can see Catherine over there looking for us.’

Anne looked over. Sure enough Catherine was looking for them. Anne started the car and they were off. Catherine heard them leave the car park. Only she couldn’t tell who they were or where they were heading because Anne hadn’t turned on her headlights. Yet, she knew where she was heading and once out of sight she turned them on.

‘Anne, do you think Catherine will follow us?’

‘I don’t think so. Especially not where we are heading.’

‘Does this car have all wheel drive?’

‘Yes!! Hang on!!’ Anne sped off over a bumpy road. Ann had no idea where they were. Then Anne drove up a lane way and stopped.

‘I don’t think they will find us here. Now, what were we talking about before Miss Rawson forced us to leave?’

‘I don’t remember. All I remember was Catherine interfering, Anne.’

‘Okay! What do you want to talk about?’

‘Nothing, Just kiss me, Miss Lister.’

‘Is that an order?’

‘It’s however you see it.’

Anne leaned over to kiss Ann on the lips before she could do that Ann had her hand between Anne’s legs. She was stroking her sex. Anne wasn’t use to being taken advantage of.

‘STOP!!!’

‘What’s wrong, Anne?’

‘You are touching me.’

‘I thought this was what you wanted me to do!’ Ann said sheepishly.

‘I normally don’t have others touch my queer.’

‘Why, Miss Lister? Do you always want to be in control?’

‘I feel too exposed when I am touched there, Ann.’

‘How do you imagine I would feel if you touched me there?’

‘Exposed?’

‘Yes!!’

‘I will allow you to touch me this time. I think I can trust you not to make me feel exposed.’

‘Why would I want to do that to the woman I only wanted to buy a drink for?’

‘Then continue on, Ann.’

‘Miss Lister, you have no idea what you do to me.’

Then Ann resumed what she was doing. It caused Anne to thrash her body wildly. Anne thought this isn’t where I wanted to have sex with this lovely lady.

‘STOP!!’

‘Am I going too far, Anne?’

‘No, we need to go somewhere lest confined.’ Anne said, ‘somewhere more intimate.’

‘where?’

‘Would you like to go to your place or mine?’ Anne inquired.

‘Well, I don’t want to go home right now because that’s where Catherine will be now. You see, she lives with me, has done for so long I don’t remember when she moved in.’

‘Why?’

‘The tribe think I need someone to watch me like a hawk so I don’t harm myself.’

‘How inappropriate to do that to you?’ Anne said sincerely.

‘They are only concerned for my well being. I haven’t had an easy life. My parents died when I was young. Then my brother  and his wife died died on their honeymoon in Naples. They were in a horrific car accident. ’

‘Ouch!! You haven’t had the best of it. Have you?’

‘I am dealing with it the best way I can only sometimes I can’t cope that’s when they tell me I am an invalid.’

‘You don’t look invalid to me.’

‘Thanks, Anne. You are the first person that has told me that. So, can we go to your place, please.’

‘Yes, we can. Buckle up and hang on Lets go to my place now.

‘Okay!! Let’s go!’’

Then Ann could hear voices in her head telling her that Anne Lister was trouble and not to tangle with her.

‘Are you right?’ Anne said. ‘Have I said or done something wrong?’

‘No.’

‘What’s up, then?’

‘Voices in my head telling me I am doing the wrong thing being out here with you.’

‘Why do you listen to them?

‘I don’t know.’

‘Well, stop, listen to me. I know I don’t have a very good past and I am not the best person to hang around with. I have this crazy reputation. People think I am a womaniser. I don’t know why.’

‘Why would they say that?’ Ann said. ‘ You have told me about Mariana. Who else have you been with?’

‘Let me take you to my place then we can talk about this.’ Anne drove for what seemed like ages. Yet, it was only a few minutes. when they arrived at her place. She parked her car and they walked inside. There seated on the couch were Marian, father and Aunt Anne. Anne didn’t mention that she lived with her family and when she introduced them Ann began  feeling uncomfortable. She had wanted Anne to fuck her. She doubt that would happen now.

‘Ann, come, I will show you around. Shibden Hall isn’t a grand place but one day I would like to do some renovations to make it grand.’

‘So, this is Shibden Hall. My home is called Crow Nest. I would like you to see it soon.’ Anne showed Ann her home. Ann liked it but Anne seemed to brag a bit about it.

‘This is Shibden Hall, the home of the Listers. Its been in the family for generations.’

‘Hey Anne, you are full of it.’

‘What?’

‘Just a little pompous, aren’t we?’

‘Just proud of my heritage. That’s all. It’s not illegal.’

‘No, it’s not illegal but hey, enough please.’

‘Why shouldn’t I be proud of my heritage?’ Anne stammered. She was confused as to why Ann was acting as she was.

‘That’s okay!! When I feel threatened I can be a bit rude. Sorry.’

Then they were in Anne’s bedroom. It was slightly smaller than Ann’s but she didn’t mention it because she thought she had already said too much. Anne could see she wasn’t comfortable so she pulled her in for a hug. They stood like that for sometime until.

‘Ann, are you okay? You seem a bit uncomfortable when you met my family. They don’t bite. It’s just that they are a bit odd, sometimes.’

‘That’s okay. You just didn’t mention you had family living here. So, I was….a bit surprised when I saw them.’

‘Okay!!! Now, what?’

‘’I was imagining you and I having sex but that doesn’t seem possible with your family here. They wouldn’t like that and I would be afraid I wouldn’t know what to do.’

‘I wouldn’t worry about that. I have had a few lovers here and no one has said anything.’ Ann looked surprised. She hadn’t expect Anne to have brought her lovers home. Then she thought hell, she would have. Only she was still wasn’t sure what would happen.

Then a voice broke into her thoughts. It was Anne.’Hey, we could go down to my favourite place if you like. I have a chaumiere on the estate where I go to find peace and somewhere to read. I am sure you will like it.’

‘Can we go now?’ Ann said

‘Now, really?’

‘Yes, now!’

‘It’s getting rather late. What would I tell Aunt? She tends to worry about me more than she needs to.’ Anne said as she eyed Ann for an answer.

‘We could say you were taking me home and wouldn’t be home until morning. Does that sound okay to you?’ Anne smiled because it was the perfect answer and she hadn’t thought about it.

‘Genius, let’s get this show on the road before you change your mind.’ Ann grinned sheepishly. She was hoping Anne would like her answer. They told everyone what they were doing and left. As they were leaving Marian got up and walked over to Anne and said, ‘I know where you’re going just bring Ann back for breakfast in the morning and I won’t say anything to Aunt and father. Okay!!’

‘Deal!’

‘What was all that about. Anne?’

‘It seems Marian likes you and wants to get to know you better. So, she has invited you to have breakfast with them in the morning. Is that okay?’ Anne didn’t know what Ann’s answer would be. She looked at her hopefully because she didn’t want to just spend the night with her. She was hoping this could be her forever.

‘Yes, I would like that.’

They drove to the Chaumiere in comfortable silence. When they arrived Anne climbed out then walked to the passenger’s side, opened the door and held her hand out for Ann to take. They walked hand in hand to the chaumiere. Anne unlocked and opened the door. She lead Ann in after she turned on the light. Ann smiled. What she saw was the quaintest cottage ever. There were bookshelves stacked with books of every description. There was a fireplace and a small television, some DVDs that she imagined Anne watched only when she had little else to do since some were still in their packaging. There seemed to be a kitchenette to one side and a small bedroom. She imagined that Anne would bring her lovers down here.

Well, it was likely because that’s where they were right now.

‘Sit down, I need to look at you more closely. I haven’t been able to do this all night. Do you feel more relaxed now we are here?’

‘Yes, it’s lovely. When did you build it?’

‘So long ago I have forgotten but I am sure if I checked my journal I could find out for you.’

‘You keep a journal. I didn’t think anyone did that any more. It often seems like something only record keepers would do.’

‘That’s me. I write about everything that happens during my day and what is happening on the estate.’

‘Do you write about your lovers?’ Ann asked quietly.

‘What? I didn’t hear what you said. Could you please say it again?’

‘Do you write about your lovers?’

‘Always.’ Anne said. Then she leaned over and kiss Ann passionately on her lips. They were locked in an embrace for what seemed like hours.

Anne lifted Ann up and walked her into the bedroom. It was very small with only room for a bed and chair. Anne lowered her onto the bed. She asked Ann for consent to remove her clothes. Ann said yes. Anne removed Ann’s clothes then her own.

They were lying naked on Anne’s bed when Ann leaned over and kissed Anne fully and furiously on her lips. From that moment on there was a flurry of arms and legs going in every direction. Lips locking lips. Windows fogging. Then they found a position they were comfortable in. Ann was lying on her back. Anne was trailing kisses down her body, her neck, between her boobs. She nipped Ann’s nipples then sucked on them furiously. Ann was moaning loudly, gasping for breath. Her nipples were hard & erect. Anne surveyed what she had done and was pleased.

‘You are so beautiful, Ann. So lovely!’ She kissed Ann down her stomach, her belly button until she found her clit. It was throbbing just like Ann was. Her body was trembling. Anne rubbed her clit with her thumb then inserted two fingers into her centre. She was thrusting them in and out quite quickly. She could feel her own heart racing. She had gone out to find someone to fuck but she never thought it would be Ann Walker. Yet, there they were in the chaumiere making out.

Anne was deep in thought and must have stopped. ‘Anne, why did you stop? Ann said. ‘Is everything okay?’ Anne looked puzzled then realised her hand was resting against Ann’s queer. ‘Sorry, I was just thinking about why I went to the bar tonight.’ Then Anne was rubbing Ann’s clit and Ann was screaming out with pleasure. ‘Yes, Anne, yes, just there, yes, fuck, that feels soooooo good.’ Then she could feel Ann’s body shaking, her walls crushing in around Anne’s fingers.

Ann’s body shuddered uncontrollably and Anne held her until she felt relaxed. Then they were kissing again, gently, softly and with an ease they seem to have gained  so quickly in the short time they had known each other.

‘Now, it is my turn to give you pleasure.’ Ann said. I want to make you feel as good as you have made me.’  Anne didn’t feel completely comfortable with Anne touching her yet she felt safe with Ann. Then Ann’s lips crashed with Anne’s again in a searing kiss. Her fingers found Anne’s clit and gently made circles around it. She ran kisses down Anne’s neck, between her breasts, across her well toned stomach to her centre. There she licked the edges. She heard Anne moaning above. Anne grabbing at her hair and pushing her mouth onto her clit. She licked it with her tongue and grasped it in her teeth. She sucked it gently between with her lips. She continued licking and sucking until she felt Anne’s body thrashing wildly and could feel Anne come. She drew every ounce of goodness out of Anne until Anne’s body relaxed. She slid up next to her. They kissed softly and gently.

‘Thank you, Ann. I didn’t realise how much I had been wanting someone to do that to me. Thank you.’

‘It was my pleasure, Anne. Now, let’s sleep.’

Ann put her back to Anne’s front and they spooned until they fell asleep. Anne had never thought she would imagine bliss until now. Ann felt so safe with Anne, even though she had only known her for a few hours. Yet, she felt she was falling in love with Anne. This enigma who sometimes, not often was unsure of who she was. Yet, Anne was able to smile through silent tears because she was confident she had found her forever love.

They woke the next day wrapped in each others’ arms. Anne was the first to open her eyes. She was surprised that Ann was still sleeping so peacefully. She was shocked that Ann hadn’t asked Anne to take her back home to Crow Nest. They were expected up at the main house by Marian for breakfast and it was already 7.30. So, Anne gently shook Ann to wake her. Ann’s eyes opened but she seemed to forget where she was. She was surprised to see a woman beside her in a bed that wasn’t hers.

‘Where am I?’

‘You are here with me, Ann. I am Anne Lister. Don’t you remember last night?’ Then as if the flood gates open she suddenly remembered every moment of last night. How Anne had fucked her until she had come so wild it had frightened and excited her and how she had made love to Anne. What a pleasure that was. ‘Yes, I remember. Sorry for startling you. I guess my mind wasn’t awake.’

‘That’s okay!! We need to dress and walk up to the hall. Remember Marian is expecting us for breakfast. I know she wants to get to know you better. I don’t know why. She only met you yesterday. Didn’t she? You haven’t met her before that?’

‘No! I have only seem her in town but never to talk to.’ Ann said.

‘Okay!!’

They dressed quickly then walked up to the hall. Everyone was up sitting at the dining room table waiting for breakfast to be served.  

‘Good morning, Ann. Thanks for coming here to have breakfast with us.I have heard so much about you from your cousin, Catherine. She told me you were often sad and alone.’ Ann blushed because that was the truth. She was very often sad and lonely. ‘I’m sorry. I made you blush.’ Marian said.’I just want to get to know you better because I think, no matter what others say, you are a good person. I, too, have had my share of sadness and loneliness.’

‘Thank you, Marian. I would love to spend time with you. I feel we have so much in common, for one, I have an older sister and so do you.’ Ann said, ‘I think that’s a good place to start.’ Then there was Anne’s family sitting around the table, allowing Ann to dish up her food and eat first. she waited for everyone until she did.

‘How did you met our Anne, Ann?’ Aunt Anne inquired.

‘I met her at the bar last night. I was cajoled into going there by my cousin, Catherine Rawson. I don’t go out that often. I am so glad I let her cajole me into going.’

‘Are you, Ann? Aunt Anne and Marian said in unison. They both knew how often Anne’s heart had been broken. They didn’t want to bring it up now or ever. Only they wanted to be there for Anne no matter what.

‘Yes. I have heard the tales about Miss Anne Lister. How others say she is a womaniser and sleeps around. All I see is someone who has been hurt so much and that makes my heart break.’ Anne was quietly listening to what Ann was saying. She could feel tears well in the corners of her eyes. She had to blink them back so no one would see how affected she was by Ann’s words.

‘Have you told, Anne that? Or is she just hearing it for the first time?’ Marian said.

‘I told her last night. I am telling her again now to reinforce what she means to me.’

‘Thank you, Ann. I really appreciate that. I have had lovers in the past and thought they were committed to me. Only to have them leave me and married a man. Anne said. ‘So, I am very wary of anyone who says I love you.’

‘I will never say that and not mean it.’

‘Thanks! What do you want to do after breakfast, Ann?’ Marian asked. ‘I think Anne has some estate work she wants to attend to.’

‘That is so true, Marian. Maybe you could take her for a stroll around the estate and show her what we are doing.’

‘Yes, Anne. I will do that.’

‘Thank you. Well, I must be off. There is so much that needs to be done. Will you still be here for dinner, Ann? I would like to see you again.’

‘Yes, I think Marian will be able to keep me occupied until then. We have so much to talk about.’ Ann said.

‘Excellent. See you tonight then.’

‘See you later, dearest.’

Anne has gone. Marian and Ann sat quietly at the table. It seemed a good idea they spend time together when Anne was there but Ann is beginning to feel uncomfortable. She wonders if she should go home. She is sure Catherine is wondering where she is.

‘Ann, are you okay? You seem a little tense.’

‘Sorry, I don’t mean to be bothersome. This just feels a little awkward.’

‘Okay. What do you want to do?’ Marian asks.

‘I’m not sure if I should just go home.’

‘Please stay. I want to get to know you better. I think you would be good for Anne. She hasn’t had anyone who loved her as she is. I think she may have found that someone in you. I don’t know.’ Marian pleaded. She looked at Ann with pleading eyes. She could see Ann was on the verge of leaving. Only there was something inside her that was keeping her grounded in her seat.

‘Can we go for a walk?’

‘Yes, I will show you around the estate. We might even see Anne. She is usually working with the men. Would you like to go now?’

‘Not right this minute. I think we can wait if you like. I do understand that you and Anne don’t really hit it off that much. Yet, I want to be your friend too. Is that possible.’

‘Ann, what happens between Anne and me is inevitable. We are like chalk and cheese but we do love and respect each other and we do have moments when we can talk without yelling at each other. Okay.’

‘Okay!!!’

‘So, let’s go for that walk. We can begin our walk on the east side of the house. It will be sunny there.’ Marian said.

‘Okay!!’

‘You’re very agreeable. Is that always how you are? You don’t need to be.’

‘Oh, I want to go for a walk with you, Marian.’ They collected their coats from the foyer and walked into the sunshine. It seem to have been raining because the grass was damp and there were puddles on the path. Ann was wondering how to talk to someone she didn’t know. Marian was aware that Ann wasn’t use to opening up to strangers. Although she didn’t understand how she had talked to Anne and allowed Anne to bring her to Shibden. Last night’s events began to look stranger by the minute.

They walked in comfortable silence for quite some time until Marian suggests they sit for a moment. She could see Ann was tired. ‘Let’s sit here for a bit, Ann. The estate is big. I don’t want to exhaust you on your first time here.’

‘Yes, that would be great. I am feeling a bit tired. Who owns the estate, Marian?’

‘I guess you haven’t had the conversation with Anne yet. She owns Shibden. She inherited it from our Uncle James. I guess he thought she could manage it better than father.’

‘Yes, we have had this talk and she told me that but I never thought that she would also work on the estate with her employees.’

‘Yes, she likes to have things done a certain why and all hell breaks out if it isn’t done her way.’

‘Ouch!!’

‘Yes, ouch!! She is a bit demanding but that’s how Anne is.’

Ann looks at Marian wondering if she fully understands how she feels about her sister. Ann sits for a while trying to find words that will allow her to say what she is thinking without seeming to be too forward. Is it possible Marian knows about her and Anne without Ann needing to say something. She didn’t know where to begin.

‘Are you okay? You seem lost in thought. Where are you, Ann?’

‘i want to tell you so much but I don’t know where to begin and what to say. I don’t know if you know about Anne. Who she is and who she loves?’

‘Oh!! Yes, I know about Anne’s dalliances with women. Speak to me. I think I know what you’re going to say. Please tell me I am right.’

‘Y…yes, you are right about us. I am in l…love with Anne. I have been for a very long time. I am not sure how she feels about me. She often seems standoffish at times making me think she wants no more from me than just someone to have sex with.’

Marian blushed then she said, ‘Anne has been hurt in the past by women who said they would make a commitment with her only they left her to marry a man. I think it had something to do with Anne’s lack of wealth.’

Ann’s heart was breaking. She couldn’t imagine the unsinkable Anne Lister falling apart. ‘She needn’t worry about me leaving her for a man. As for money I am doing fine. So she needn’t worry about that. Okay.’

‘Won’t your tribe be angry if you move into Shibden with Anne, if it comes to that.’ Marian said quietly and Ann didn’t hear her.

‘What did you say?’

‘I said won’t your tribe be angry if you move into Shibden with Anne, if it comes to that.’

‘I already know they will. That’s their problem not mine. Like I said, I love Anne. I’m in love with her. I always have been.’

‘WOW!!’ Marian said.

Then Anne appeared. ‘What’s this the secret meeting of the get Anne Lister group?’ Ann looked worried then Anne grinned and Ann realised she was just joking.

‘Yes, we have so much shit on you and you will never live it down.’ Ann said as she grinned sheepishly.

‘Oh, you do now. Do you?’

‘Yes.’ Marian said, ‘but when to use it that’s the question.’

‘Now, come Miss Walker, I want to show you what I have been doing while you and Marian have been scheming to tease me.’  Then she pulled Ann into a tight hug and planted a sloppy kiss on her lips. Ann pulled away. She was slightly red faced. ‘Now, who’s embarrassed.’ Both Ann and Marian were gobsmacked. ‘Got ya.’ Anne whispered in Ann’s ear. Marian left them to go back inside. Anne and Ann walked around to where Pickels and Booth were planting trees.

‘What do you think of the landscaping we have been doing, Ann?’

‘I don’t really know that much about landscaping but I think it looks marvellous.’

‘Do you?’ Anne looked at her quizzically. She wasn’t sure she was doing the right thing. She tried to trust her instincts but sometimes that didn’t work.

‘Yes, I do love it. I love this place so much. I am sure it would be a great place to live.’ Then Ann realised what she had said. She blushed.

‘You want to live here. Why?’

‘Because.’ Ann said

‘Because why?’ Anne said confused. She didn’t know what Ann was thinking and she wanted to know.

‘Because. Its bloody obvious. Isn’t it?’ Not to someone like Anne Lister. Even though she is so smart, she is a bit dense at times.

‘Sometimes you need to spell it out to me, Ann.’

‘What?’ Ann squealed. ‘You don’t know why I want to live here. Why should I tell you when it is staring you in the face.’ Ann stared at her. Then Anne realised what she was saying. She was the reason Ann wanted to live at Shibden. The only reason. She smiled sheepishly.

‘Are you proposing to me?’ Anne didn’t know if that was what she wanted. They had only know each other for less than 24 hours.

‘Now, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. I have only know you for a short time but yes, I would love to marry you. Only let’s wait. We don’t need to do it today. How about tomorrow?’ Ann said.

‘What? You really want to marry me, Anne Lister, the person everyone has warned you about. The person who has…’

‘Had so many lovers it would make your head spin. Yeah, we have had this conversation before. Haven’t we?’ Anne looked so surprised she didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. She wasn’t sure what to say. Yet, she couldn’t wipe the silly grin off her face. So, Ann pulled her into a group of trees where no one could see them and kissed her passionately. Anne kissed back. ‘Hey, let’s continue this inside.’ Ann said. They ran back into the hall and raced up the stairs into their bedroom. They heard Marian scream out,’Dinner will be in half an hour and I would like it if you would keep your muddy boots out of the house.’ Both Anne and Ann giggled. They weren’t listening to Marian. They were going to Italy then wintering in Rome. Hey, why not. Then they were getting married but it seemed all too much for Anne who leaned against the bedroom door after Ann closed it. She looked forlorn. ‘Are you alright, Anne.’

‘I’m always alright.’she said as tears welled in the corners of her eyes.

‘No you’re not alright. Are you?’

‘Not really. You have taken me by surprise, Ann.’

‘That was my intention. I want to see how you would react. I had heard some horrid things about you. Sometimes I thought they were true but in my heart I knew they weren’t.’ Ann mumbled. ‘I love you, Anne. I’m in love with you. I always have been.’ Anne looked at her. Now, she was having trouble breathing and her heart was racing so fast. It was hard for Anne to look at Ann. This sweet angel loved her and wanted to marry her. ‘Oh good god.’ Anne said.

‘Come over here, Anne. Sit down on our bed so you don’t faint on me. I didn’t think you would react this way. I am s…s….sorry, I have upset you.’

‘No, you haven’t. I am speechless because I never thought I would ever get married. I thought I would die a lonely, old spinster.’ Anne said. ‘ I want to marry you.’

‘Okay!!’ Ann said quietly.’Let’s do it when we are both ready.’

‘Tomorrow would be fine by me. If that is what you would like.’

‘Do you mean that? Tomorrow as in the day after today.’ Anne smiled at Ann.

‘You’re being silly now. Of course, I mean tomorrow. The sooner the better. I wish it could be today, Ann.’ Ann smiled sheepishly. They had only know each other for a short time but this seemed to feel right with them. You know what do to lesbians do on their second date? Uhaul. They both grinned when they remembered that.

They were getting married and Ann was moving into Shibden. Only they never imagined the fuss it would cause. They never thought about anything other than the day they would make a commitment to each other.

Then Ann remembered she had left her car in the car park at the pub. Bugger I wonder when I can collect that, she thought to herself.

‘What’s up?‘ Anne said.

‘My car. It’s still in the pub’s car park.’

‘We could collect it after dinner.

‘Okay!’

‘Dinner’s ready.’ Marian called them from the dining room.

They collected Ann’s car after dinner. Anne felt good knowing she would be married tomorrow and even though they had only just met it felt like it would be a lifetime commitment.

Chapter Text

They had planned to keep their wedding day a secret from everyone and only tell them after the fact. Yet, while they were eating breakfast with aunt, father and Marian they were so excited that they just blurted it out. Everyone was in shock and there were smiles from all round.

‘Can we come? We could be your witnesses. Then we could go out for a meal to celebrate your wedding day.’ Marian squealed. She didn’t understand how they could make such a huge decision since they had only known each other for a short time but they seemed to be happy. So, she was happy for them.

Anne looked at Ann for the okay to say yes. Ann was smiling so widely that no one missed her answer. ‘Yes, of course, we would be delighted. Thanks for offering. We really hadn’t thought this out. Yes, we can celebrate at the Halifax Inn. Something special between us. Okay!!! Marian looked disappointed she had wanted to invite Thomas Beech. Even though he was Anne’s new gardener she had fallen hard and fast for him. She said he had a nice face.

‘What’s up, Marian.’ Anne said. ‘You want to invite Thomas. I am right. Aren’t I?’

‘Well, yeah, kinda.’

Anne looked at Ann for her to say it was okay. ‘Of course, you can, Marian.’ Ann said. ‘This is a family celebration and he is family. Isn’t he?’

‘Yes, he is family. Thanks. I will let him know.’

‘You had better be quick about it Marian.’ Anne said. Before Marian could ask why…

‘And when is this going to take place?’ Her Aunt inquired.

‘Hopefully today with a bit of luck some time after lunch. If the registry office is free by then. I have to call and make inquiries. I will let you know. So, yes, Marian you need to get a wiggle on.’

Then they were alone. Everyone had gone to find something to wear. They needed to be organised just in case.

‘Hey, what happened to our secret, Anne?’

‘I think we both were too excited to keep it mum. Weren’t we? How the heck are we going to be able to keep any secrets while we live here.’

‘i don’t know.’ They wandered up to their room. Anne found her phone and call the council chambers.

‘Halifax council, Maria here. How can I help you?’

‘Hello, can I speak to someone in the registry department? Anne said. ‘My wife and I want to get married today.’

‘Just one moment I will put your through to them.’

‘Thanks.’

‘Registrar, Vere speaking. What can I do for you?’

‘I was just wondering how busy you were today. My wife and I want to get married. Is there a chance we can book our wedding for this afternoon?’

‘Just one moment I will see what is available.’ Anne suddenly realise who she was talking to. She had thought the voice sounded familiar.

‘Hey, sorry for interrupting. Are you Vere Cameron? The voice sounds strangely like her.’

‘I am she. Why?’ Vere said cautiously. She wasn’t sure who she was talking to. While the voice sounded familiar she didn’t know who it was.

‘Don’t you recognise the infamous Anne Lister when you’re talking to her.’

‘Good grief. No!! Sorry, Anne. Who are you planning to marry?’

‘Anne Walker of Crow Nest. Is it possible that we can do that?’

‘Little Anne Walker. Is she the one who swooned over you years ago? Didn’t you call her a scrawny teenager?’ Ann had heard all this and she was stunned until Anne answered Vere. Then she was all smiles again.

‘Yes, I guess so. I don’t know why now because you should see her now. The ugly duckling that she was has grown into the most beautiful swan you could ever imagine.’

‘Goodness!; Vere said. ‘ I can’t wait to meet her. You do realise I will be conducting the service for you. We have a free hour from 2pm. Is that okay?’

‘Just wait while I ask Ann.’ She turned to face Ann who was blushing so much you would have thought she had been in the sun for hours without protection.

‘Ann, are you okay? Oh shite, you heard everything we said. Sorry.’

‘That’ okay. And yes, 2pm will be fine.’

‘Yes, I heard that. I will book you in. See you at 2pm, Anne. Who else will be with you?’

‘Father, Aunt Anne, Marian and Thomas Beech. I think Marian is in love with him. She keeps telling me he has a nice face. Whatever that means?’

‘Oh, okay!! Take care, bye.’

Anne sat her phone back down on the nightstand. She leaned over and kissed Ann on her forehead.

‘What was all that about? Scrawny teenager. Hey Anne, I was besotted with you even then. I couldn’t go a day without thinking about you and sometimes without seeing you. You would walk around your estate so fast. I would wonder how you were able to be so strong, so brave.’

Oops, Anne thought. How is it that one person can seem so shy yet be so open about her feelings. She wondered how she would make amends to what was said in the past. As if reading her mind Ann said. ‘Don’t sweat the small stuff. I heard your reply. I was blushing because you said I had been an ugly duckling and now I am a beautiful swan. I think the bird analogy is a bit strong but its still nice that you see me that way.’

‘Oh!! I didn’t think you were you listening.’

‘Hey, I’m just here. I couldn’t avoid it if I tried.’ Ann scowled. She didn’t mean to be angry but, she was. She never thought Anne would keep such secrets from her. After all her words stung a little.

‘Are you alright, Ann.’ Anne mutters more to herself but hoping Ann will hear.

‘Not really. If, we want this to work out we need to communicate more not just how we feel about each other but how we viewed each other in the past. than just assuming we both know.’  This comment takes Anne by surprise. She wonders how she is going to explain what Vere said over the phone. She exhales silently then begins to explain to Ann why she felt that why then and this way now.

‘Well……you were always so…..slim, so….frag….ile. It’s still hard for me to see you any differently than what I did then. Only I am beginning to understand you better than what I did.’

’How is that?’ Ann said so softly she didn’t think Anne heard her.

‘When you were a teenager I was nearly thirty. I only saw you as a kid. You see the age difference is there but it doesn’t affect us as much now as it did then. I think we are both more mature now and you are an adult with a beauty that is beyond compare.’ Ann smiled. She just beginning to understand what Anne was saying. Is it possible that their age difference would be a burden in the future as it could have been in the past if they had began this relationship sooner.

‘Anne, what about the future? How will you feel when I am only 48 and you are already 60? How will you see us then? I would like to think that you will be a very young 60 but a lot can happen between now and then.’

‘You are very observant, darling. I am sure we will find a way to navigate this situation if and when it happens. What I would love to say is I think we will grow together. We will learn each others’ wants and needs as we grow more into this relationship.’

‘Anne, I really hope so because I want to spend the rest of my life with you. I think you are amazing.’

‘Why, thank you, Ann. I think you are adorable.’ Anne said. ‘Now, let’s tell the others what is happening. We have time to get ready to do. Have you thought about what you are going to wear?’ They walked downstairs and into the sitting room. Marian and Aunt Anne seemed to be ready to leave. They were both dressed in their Sunday best. Anne was surprised. Marian had given Aunt Anne a small bottle of bubbles to blow at the brides. She looked quite pleased with herself. Anne was stunned because she never imagined that her sister and her Aunt would be so happy to join in their celebration. Father was dressed in his best suit for the occasion.

Anne was dressed in a blue suit with a white shirt and purple tie. Ann wore her favourite blue dress. They looked beautiful.  

She had wondered if Ann had wanted to invite a cousin or two along but didn’t want to force Ann to do something that would probably result in more rejection from her tribe. Only Marian did mention it.

‘Is anyone from your family going to be there, Ann?’

‘I hadn’t thought about inviting anyone because I know what would happen. Too many of my tribe want to control my life and this would just give them a reason to throw mud in my face.’

‘What about your cousin, Catherine? Doesn’t she know about us, Ann?’

‘I guess she does, darling.’ Ann said. ‘Should I call her to see if she want to come?’

‘Yes!’ They all chorused. So she did and when Catherine agreed to come Ann was elated. She would have one member of her family there. She warned Catherine not to tell anyone. Only she knew Catherine couldn’t keep mum when she was excited. So, the fall out could be inevitable but she hoped nothing bad would come from it.

They had planned to meet Catherine close to 2pm at the Halifax Council Chambers. When they arrived in Anne’s car they never expected anyone else to be with Catherine. Only it seemed that she had brought someone with her.

Ann looked on in horror as she realised who it was.

‘Why can’t Catherine keep her mouth shut. I told her not to tell anyone and here she is with someone in tow. It looks like it is. Oh fuck. It is her. Why? What can we do now?’ Aunt Anne looked shocked when Ann spoke but she could understand how she was feeling. This was Ann and Anne’s special day and she didn’t want one of Ann’s tribe spoiling it.

‘Hey, let’s go around the block. You call Catherine to tell her it’s off. If you don’t want this other person to be there then we can’t have Catherine there. Sad as it is. She should have done what you asked her.’ Aunt Anne was furious. She certainly didn’t want anyone spoiling their day especially not Mrs Priestley. Ann called Catherine. When Catherine answered the phone she moved away from Eliza who seemed distracted as they went around the block for a second time.

‘We have changed our minds. We’re not getting married today? We think it might be too soon.’

‘You’re mad because Eliza is here. I didn’t tell her. I don’t know how she guessed what was going on.’ Catherine said so only Ann could hear. ..I was standing her waiting for you and she pounced on me. She must have thought I was up to something. I don’t know why she thinks that because as you can see I only have on what you have see me wearing at home. What do you want me to do about her?’

‘Nothing for the moment. We are taking a spin around the block  again.. We have twenty minutes before we need to be inside. Oh darn!! Why us, why now? All I want to do is marry Anne and live with her. Why does she need to poke her bloody nose in where its not wanted.’

‘Ann, give me the phone.’ Anne said as she pulled into the car park near the council chambers.’ Ann hands her phone to Anne.

‘Hi Catherine, Anne here, would you hand your phone to Eliza. I want to talk to her.’

‘Eliza, Anne Lister wants to talk to you. Here take this.’

‘Why should I talk to her. I am only her to convince Ann that she is doing the wrong thing.’

‘Sorry Anne, it seems Eliza doesn’t want to talk to you.’ Catherine said.

‘Now, what do we do?’ Anne said directing her comment to Ann.

‘I don’t know.’ Anne said softly. This was going to be a good day. Then Marian spoke up. She suggested they park somewhere out of sight and walk in the back door.’

‘What about Aunt Anne with her bad knee? Ann said.

‘I will be fine. I can rest when this is over. We are going someone nice to eat later. Aren’t we?’

‘Yes, Aunt. We are.’ Ann said. Aunt Anne nodded.

‘I can rest then. Okay!’

They drove around the block again. It seemed that Catherine and Eliza were in the middle of a heated argument. No one could make out what was being said but in Ann’s eyes it didn’t look good for her. Ann called Catherine again.

‘Just say its Delia. She is calling to see where you are. Then just answer no or yes to the next question or three I ask you.’

It’s my sister, Delia. She wants to know where I am.’ Catherine tells Eliza. Then she tells Ann where she is to keep up the rouse. Then Ann asks her a couple of questions.

‘Were you arguing about us?’

‘Yes,’

‘Is she going to leave?’

‘No.’

‘Why is she asking questions now?’ Eliza said

‘She just wants to know if I will be home later and if I have anything else I need to do today.’

‘Okay!!’ Eliza says as if she believes her. Catherine has an inkling she doesn’t but she says.’Okay.’ With more questions from Ann and more yes and no answers from Catherine, they decide their next move. Anne calls the registry office and talks to Vere.

‘Registry office, Vere speaking. How can I help you?’

‘Hi, Vere, Anne Lister speaking. We have a slight problem. One of Ann’s tribe is making life hard for Ann. She doesn’t want her to marry me. I really don’t know what to do.’

‘You could postpone your wedding but I am sure you don’t want to do that. Or you could change venues and since I am conducting your wedding we could have it anywhere you wish. It’s up to you. I am available now since I was going home when I had married you and Ann.’

‘Brilliant, excellent. Just give me a minute to talk to Ann. Can you hold while I do that?’

‘Yes, not a problem, go ahead.’ Ann had been listening intently to the conversation. She had no idea where she would like to get married then she thought of the chaumiere. There was a nice spot right there. Would that be fine. She told Anne and Anne relaid the message to Vere who said she would meet them at the hall. She knew where it was even though she hadn’t been there. Hey, everyone in Halifax knew where Shibden Hall was.

Ann called Catherine and told her they were going home. If she wanted to come she can. She told her to tell Eliza that she has changed her mind but not to smile when she said it..

‘Eliza, the wedding is off. You can go home. I’m going home too. See you later.’

‘Okay.’ Eliza said. Only she didn’t believe her. She decided to leave her car where it was and get an uber so they could follow Catherine to where she was going.

Half an hour later just as they were walking down to the chaumiere who should appear in an uber. Yes, Eliza Priestley. She paid the driver and stepped out of the vehicle. She walked directly to Ann and tried to convince Ann that she was doing the wrong thing by marrying Anne Lister.

‘If you marry Anne Lister your life will be hell. She will dump you the first chance she gets. She will take all your wealth and leave you with nothing.’ Eliza screamed so all could hear. Her aunt was hurt by Eliza’s words. Anne’s father was about to speak up for his daughter when Anne spoke up.

‘You neither know me or understand me, Eliza. I thought you did. I foolishly imagined that you would be happy for us.’

‘Never!’ Eliza bellowed. ‘She proposed to by a Reverend Ainsworth. Only she turned him down. Why because she thought he was good enough. Now, she hitching herself to your wagon. Her future looks grim.’

Ann didn’t know what to do or where to turn. Then Anne walked up and was standing next to her.

‘If you don’t mind, Eliza. This is none of your business. How do you dare to taint and spoil our day. Please leave or else I will call the police and have you arrested for trespassing.’

‘You can do that but I will say you brainwashed Ann into marrying you. I will tell the tribe that you cajoled her into thinking she is gay.’ Ann was listening and couldn’t believe what her cousin’s wife was saying.

‘Eliza, no one cajole me into thinking I am gay or brainwashed me into marrying Anne. This is what I want. What I have always wanted. I have been in love with Anne since I first met her when I was 15 no 14. So quit telling me how to live my life and who I should love.’ WOW!! Anne thought. She never imagined Ann would stand up to her family as she was doing just now. Only Eliza wouldn’t leave. She just stood her ground. Anne wondered if she should call her bluff and call the police. She didn’t want to get too many people involved in this situation. She could see Ann was starting to panic. She didn’t want her to have a panic attack.

She wrapped her arms around her and tried to calm her. Catherine stood on the other side. Marian joined in. They could see she was on the verge of a panic attack. Anne knew this was the only way to calm her down. It was working until Eliza brought religion into the conversation.’You will go to hell for this. Marriage in the eyes of the church is only between a man and a woman. God will smite you.’

‘No more than he will smite you for being such a hypocrite, Eliza. When was the last time you went to church? What has their relationship got to do with your sense of religious conviction? Hell, why are you here anyway? I don’ t imagine it is in Ann’s best interest. Is it?’ Marian said.

‘Yes, it is.’

‘I think not. She has told us that her tribe wanted her to marry a Reverend Ainsworth.’

Yes, a good man of the cloth.’

‘No, a rouge who only wanted to marry her for her money.’ Anne said. She wanted to say more but she thought Ann wasn’t at her best right now. So, she left it at that.

Only Eliza was still standing there. She hadn’t moved and Anne could feel Ann collapsing. It wasn’t good to put her through this.

‘Catherine, Marian please take Ann inside. Just give her lots of hugs and tell her everything will be fine.’

‘Tell me please, Anne.’

‘Sorry, babe. Please go with Catherine and Marian. Everything will be fine. I will deal with this. Okay!! I am going to protect you from your tribe.’ Anne gave Ann a warm hug and kissed her on her lips. Eliza huffed. ‘That wasn’t necessary.’

‘What wasn’t necessary?’ Anne inquired. She knew what Eliza was going to say but she wanted her to say it.

‘The kiss. I don’t want to see you do that. It’s inappropriate.’

‘Why? You wouldn’t tell a straight couple not to kiss. So why us?’

‘That’s different.’

‘No it isn’t. We are two people, two women who happened to love each other.

Who want to be together for the rest of our lives.’

‘You just want to control Ann’s fortune. Marrying her will give you access to it.’

‘So, that’s what you think. I didn’t even know about her wealth. She doesn’t like talking about money. So we don’t. I am fine. I have my own money.’

‘I still say you brainwashed her into thinking she is gay. I think Reverend Ainsworth would be a good match for her.’ Anne’s blood was boiling. She couldn’t keep it to herself any more. Eliza needed to know what Ainsworth did to Ann while his wife was still alive. Anne had recently told her.

‘That swine.’

‘You insult a man of God.’

‘No, a man of the devil because he did things to Ann that he had no right to and while his wife was in the other room. Ann thinks he rigged her car so she would die in the accident.’

‘What did he do?’ Their voices were so loud now that everyone inside could hear them. Ann was begging Marian to go outside and call Anne in. She didn’t want Eliza to know what he had done to her.

‘Ann, I am sure Anne will not say anything to embarrass you. Let’s listen for a bit more.’

‘Okay!’ Ann said. ‘please go out if it seems likely she will. I will tell you.’

Then Anne went full blown anger mode. Eliza had tuned out by this and Ann was still quietly inside listening. She had hoped it would never come to this but it did. Ann was happy that Anne was defending her but scared that Eliza wouldn’t like what Anne was saying.

‘Hey bitch, are you listening to me?’

‘Why should I? Ann made this up.’ Then Ann rose from where she was sitting and stormed out the door. How could Eliza think Ann was lying.

‘Eliza, leave now or I will call the cops.’ Ann pulled her phone from her pocket. She dialed 999 and ask for the police. Eliza realised she was serious and called for an uber to take her back into town. Ann hung up as soon as she realised Eliza was leaving. Eliza didn’t believe what she was hearing. That What Anne had told her was true.

‘What Anne told you is true. He molested me while his wife was in the other room.’

‘Whatever. You are going to regret doing this. She will get sick of you, Ann.’

‘Not going to happen.’ They both said in unison. The uber appeared and Eliza left in a huff adding I will tell all. They won’t leave you allow, Ann.’

‘I will protect her because she is my wife. I can do that for her since her tribe won’t.’

‘Anne, please.’

‘It is fact, Ann. I love you, darling. I won’t do anything that will hurt you.’

‘Thank you.’ The uber arrives and Eliza leaves. She is so mad only she doesn’t know what to do next to pry Ann from Anne’s clutches. She still thinks Anne has brainwashed her but she has no proof.

Ann and Anne were still watching the uber leave when Vere appeared.

‘Are we getting married today, Ladies?’ Vere asked wondering why Ann and Anne seem flustered. She thinks they had trouble with the person who just left. ‘Do you still want to go to the chaumiere? She asked. Then she said ‘I think it would be great to do it right here. The mood of this place needs to change. I am sure taking vows and committing to each other would help change all our moods.’

‘What do you think, Ann?’ Anne looked at her wife for an answer. Ann didn’t speak but drew her in and kiss her passionately.

‘I guess that means yes.’ Ann nods. They collect chairs from the house so everyone can sit down. Anne plays ‘sometimes when we touch’ by Dan Hill on her phone.it is her favourite song and will soon be Ann’s. It is a bit romantic and Ann tears up a little. Aunt Anne is so happy. Of course, she is prepared just in case the flood gates should open up. She was certain they would. Marian sat next to her aunt and Catherine and Jeremy sat behind them. It was a small family affair which was all Ann and Anne wanted for their wedding day.

‘We are gather to help this lovely couple create a marriage together. We wish there the best of luck with their future. We hope that from this day forward they will be bless with lots of happiness and joy. Their home will be filled with laughter. Their home will be a safe haven where they can go daily for respite from the outside world. To find love and happiness amid all the strife in the world.’ Vere said.

‘I will start with you, Ann Walker. Do you, Ann Walker, take Anne Lister to be your lawful wedded wife. To have and to hold from this day forward in sickness and in health Forsaking all others. To love and cherish her until death do you part.’

‘I will.’

‘Now, your turn, Anne. Do you Anne Lister, take Ann Walker to be your lawful wedded wife. To have and to hold in sickness and in health from this day forward forsaking all others. To love and cherish her until death do you part.’

‘I do.’

‘Do you have vows you want to recite?’

‘We do.’ They said in unison. ‘Anne can go first.’ Ann said.

‘Since the first time you approached me and offered to buy me a drink until now I have been smitten with you. I want to be able to spend the rest of my life with you. To make a family with you. To go traveling and have many adventures with you. I love you, Mrs. Ann Lister.’ Ann smile was so wide. They had decided early that Ann would take Anne’s name. She was so happy. There would be no hyphenated name.

‘You turn, Ann.’ Vere said.

‘Thanks to Catherine.’ Ann turned around and smiled at her cousin.’I was able to meet my adorable wife and marry her. I never thought I would ever be able to do this. I am so grateful for all the times we will have together and the ones we have already had even thought we have only been together for a moment. I am so looking forward to traveling the world with you, to creating a safe family home with you and to loving you for the rest of my life. I love you, Mrs Anne Lister.’ They smiled at each other. Aunt Anne was crying softly and so was Marian.

They signed their certificate and thank Vere for going that extra mile for them. It was so good after the trauma Eliza had caused.

‘Vere, we are going out to celebrate our day with a meal at the local pub if you would love to come with us. It’s on the house for all you have done for us today.’

‘I would love that. Just let me call home to tell Donald and the kids.’

‘Hey, they can come too. The more the merrier.’ Ann said.

‘Are you sure?’ Vere looked at them surprised.

‘Well, I heard Donald is a good photographer and we need some good memories from today.’

‘Okay.’ Vere said as she found her husband’s number and called him. He was home with their kids. They don’t know who was more excited about eating out. Was it him or the kids? He collected his camera and they all met at the Halifax Inn. Anne had reserved the private room so they could eat and celebrate in peace. Thomas arrived a few minutes after they did and made a beeline for Marian. He couldn’t be there for the ceremony because he had to work.

‘How’s my lovely lady today?’ Thomas said. That made Marian blush. ‘I think I would love to marry you but not right now. Would you like that, Marian?’

‘Let me think about it for a moment…….Yes, yes. Yes.’ She pulled him in and gave him a passionate kiss.

‘I am glad you don’t wish to marry my niece too soon. I have to recover from this one.’ Aunt Anne said.

‘I will second that one.’ Jeremy said. ‘I think we can wait.’

They were directed to the private room by Eugenie who would be serving their meals.The room was well lit by natural light and everyone found their seats. Anne and Ann sat together with Aunt Anne to Anne’s left and Jeremy to Ann’s right. Catherine sat next to Jeremy. Marian and Thomas sat on the opposite side of the table. It was only meant to seat six but they had managed to pull over another table and chairs to accommodate all of Vere’s family, Vere and Donald were seated to the right of Marian and the kids sat next to Aunt Anne. She was good with kids and had brought along a colouring book for each of them and some colour pencils to entertain them while the adults chatted.

‘Here is the menu. What would you like to drink today? We have some wines and beers and fizzy drinks for the kids or just water.'Eugenie said. ‘What would you like?’

‘Just water for now, thanks.’ Everyone said in unison.

‘I will bring a couple of jugs of water to you in a moment. Is everything as you requested, Miss LIster?’

‘Yes, thanks, Eugenie. Excellent.’

They ordered their meals. The pub served good English food and everyone had something different. Of course, the brides had to be an exception. They both had bangers and mash. Aunt Anne had tripe in white sauce. The kids had fish and chips. Well, that’s what kids usually ask for. The rest couldn’t decide between beef with Yorkshire pudding or lamb. Anne and Ann said it was the best wedding they had ever had. Of course. It was the only wedding they’d ever had but who was listening. No one because they were thinking  what cake to get for their wedding cake.

Before they left the inn Donald took a few photos of the wedding group as well as a few photos of the bridal couple. Then when they arrived at the hall he took some more and promised he would email them to Anne later today or tomorrow.

‘What do you think?’ Anne said to Ann.’Would you like a chocolate cake or a plain cake?’

‘I’m not sure. Let’s try both.’ So they went to the baker’s to buy the cakes then they all went back to Shibden Hall to cut the cake, give speeches and celebrate. Their day.

‘Speech, speech, speech.’ Everyone screamed in unison as Anne stood up to thank everyone for coming and hoped they were having a great time.

‘I just want to thank everyone for being apart of Ann and my special day. Of course, we couldn’t have done it without Vere as our celebrant and I would never have thought that a night in the pub would lead to marriage. Hey ho, you never can tell what is just around the corner. Can you?’ Anne said. Ann blushed when she remember that she was the one who approached Anne to offer to buy her a drink. It was still a dream to her and to be here now married to the Anne Lister was just amazing.

They ate and drank well into the night. Then Vere and Donald left they had to get their kids home to bed because they had school the next day. Catherine had left earlier because Delia had been constantly calling wondering where she was. Anne and Ann were snuggled on the couch. Marian, Aunt Anne and father were watching tv.

‘I think we should go to bed before my wife falls asleep in my arms and we have to sleep here all night.’ That made Ann spring to attention. She had no thoughts of sleeping just of consummating their marriage. Although, she was very sleepy. As they climbed the stairs to their bedroom Ann says, ‘Anne, were you just going to put me to bed and then go to sleep?’

‘Hell no, woman. I could feel your body vibrating when I touched you. I knew you wanted me to take you to bed and fuck you.’

‘Oh, did you?’ Ann smiled sheepishly as Anne carried her up to their bedroom bridal fashion. When they reach their bedroom Anne closed and locked the door. She laid her wife gently on their bed and commenced to undress her slowly. Ann finds this act beautiful and also very annoying. She could feel her pulse racing and the space between her thighs was wet and very sticky. She thinks she will come and very hard but Anne keeps up this slow and steady pace.

‘Hurry up, Anne. I think I will come now. I want you to touch me.’

‘Mrs Lister, you are a very impatient woman. I will be with you soon.’ Anne smiles and Ann has to learn to wait. Yet, she is finding it hard. She was deep in thought until she realises that she feels a chill. She is naked. She looks up and Anne is leaning down to kiss her. Their lips collide with such force that it sends her back into the bed and she is shocked at how aroused that action makes her feel. She kisses back with so much passion that when they part Anne’s lips are red and swollen but she has this huge grin plastered on her face.

Then Anne’s head was between her legs. She could feel her kissing her thighs. She could feel how wet she was getting. How tight her stomach was. She couldn’t wait. She wanted Anne’s tongue on her clit. ‘Anne, please, Anne.’

‘What, Ann? What do you want?’

‘I want your tongue licking my clit. Your fingers inside me. Please, Anne.’ What was Anne to do but what Ann asked and then Ann could feel Anne’s tongue licking her clit, pumping her fingers inside her. First one and then more until Anne had four fingers inside Ann. Ann’s body was moving in time with Anne’s fingers, in and out, faster and faster. All the while licking and sucking on Ann’s clit until Ann’s body shuddered and then she came so hard, so fast.

Anne held her until her body stilled. She opened her eyes to see Anne looking down at her. ‘How was that, Mrs Ann Lister?’ Anne said.

‘Bloody amazing, Mrs Anne Lister.’ Ann said.’Oh that sounds so good when I call you Mrs Lister and you say the same to me.’

‘Does that mean you love it?’ Anne said

‘I love it nearly as much as I love you, Anne.’ Anne smiled she was still riding on a high.

Chapter Text

They were still snuggling in bed when they heard Marian knocked on the door the next morning but ignored it. Marian was there to tell Ann that her Aunt and cousins had come to see her.

‘Ann, you’re Aunt and cousins are here to see you.’ Marian said. ‘What should I do?’

They didn’t think it was appropriate that she had married Anne Lister after knowing her for only a few days. They were there to take her back home. Anne and Ann had to devise a plan so they could show Ann’s tribe she was serious about her relationship with Anne and she wasn’t going home.

‘Anne, what should we do?’

‘I don’t know. I had a feeling this would happen. I cannot believe how they treat you.’

Then they heard someone knocking on their bedroom door. It was Aunt Anne. She wanted to talk to them.

‘Anne, what do you plan to do now? We always thought that it would be hard for Ann to be here with you. Only this situation shouldn’t happening.’ Then Eliza barged into their bedroom followed by Delia and her mother.

“What is this? Are we a sideshow performance and you want to check us out?’

‘We want to talk to Ann alone?’ Eliza said. ‘Can we do that?’

‘No way.’ They said in unison.’If you want to talk to me, you have to include my wife in the conversation.’ Ann said loudly.’Why do you think it is fine to come here and expect me to just be a good girl and come back to Crow Nest with you?’

‘Yes, that’s what we want you to do. We think you have made a bad decision. We know what she is like.’ Eliza pointed to Anne. Ann could feel her skin crawl. She thought she was going to be sick but she had to stay with Anne. She could feel Anne’s hands shaking.

‘If you don’t mind leaving the room. I will talk to you as long as I can have Anne present, otherwise leave and don’t bother coming back. Shibden in my home. I am married to Anne Lister and I trust her.’ Ann held Anne’s hand under the covers. She put her other hand around Anne’s shoulders to show that she was determined and knew what she wanted.

‘Okay. If that’s the way you want to play this game we will do that.’ Eliza said. It seemed she was spokesperson for the group because no one else had said anything.

‘Well, if you don’t mind going downstairs we need to dress. We will be down in a few minutes.’ Ann said. ‘Please close the door.’ As the door closed Anne couldn’t stop herself. She started crying. The conversation between Ann and Eliza had hurt her so much. Ann held her in a tight hug. She could feel Anne’s heart racing.

‘I finally have someone who loves me. Who wants to spend the life with me and now her tribe want to take her away. Why is this happening to me? Oh I feel so alone right now.’

‘Anne, you are not alone. You will never be alone. I am here with you. We can deal with them together. I know what they will say. I can counter it with logic. I don’t know if they will listen. All we can do is try.’ Ann said.’I am not going home with them, ever.’ Anne looked at Ann and wondered if she was strong enough to face her tribe. She spoke as if she was but Anne was unsure what would happen.

‘Ann, are you sure you can do that?’

‘Yes, as long as you are there to support me I can take on the world.’ They hugged then rose to dress. There was a knock on the door.’It’s just me.’ Marian said. ‘If you want we could send them away.’

‘Oh it would be great if you could do that.’ Ann said. ‘But I need to deal with this now before it gets out if hand. Thanks for the offer. If we need assistance I know we can rely on you, right.’

‘That is so right. We will be in the dining room having breakfast. Just say the safe word and we will be there. Oh they are in the sitting room.’ Anne and Ann dressed. They had decided the safe word would be brown. The colour of Anne’s eyes.

They walked into the sitting room and sat down on the couch together. They want to be seen as a force that couldn’t be separated but didn’t expect Ann’s tribe to see that. ‘What do you want us to do now?’ Ann said. ‘Can’t you see what you are doing to us?’

‘We only want what is best for you, Ann.’ Delia said. ‘We don’t think she is good for you.’ Ann had to grab Anne’s hand. It was happening again and Ann could see that Anne wasn’t coping.

‘If you keep commenting like that I will have to ask you to leave. This is my home now and you will not talk about my wife like that.’ Ann said. She was barely holding it together. She had to because otherwise she didn’t know how she was going to get through this. Then Anne spoke up.

‘You may think you know me but you don’t. You may think I am with Ann just because no one else wanted to be with me. You man think that once I get fed up with her I will leave.’ Anne said forcefully. Her hands were shaking so much Ann was having trouble holding them.’You know about my past but you don’t know about my past.’ Everyone looked at her. They were amazed that she was talking about something they thought they knew about. Anne began to regain her composure. She never imagined that when she married someone her family would be there to take her back home. She didn’t know what to say. All she knew was this wasn’t what she wanted to happen. ‘Ann & I are happily married. We were married yesterday. Ann will tell you that she has been in love with me since the first time we met.’

‘Is that true, Ann?’ They asked. ‘How could that be?’

‘It is true before you ask me. She has told me about her past, her lovers and all. I am with her now and you cannot force me to go home against my will’

‘You are playing with fire. The flame will go out and she will be fed up with you, Ann.’ Ann looked at Anne as if wordlessly asking her to confirm what she had just said. It was hard to know what Anne was thinking. Ann could see the beginnings of tears in the corner of her eyes. Only Anne was too afraid to show her vulnerability to anyone, even her wife. Only she needed Ann to know how serious she was.

‘I may not be the person you expected Ann to marry but I am the person Ann wanted to marry and the person she is married to now.’ Anne said as she regained her composure to continue.’Ann sees who I am, knows who I am and loves me as I am. Why is it hard for you to see that? That is why I will never ever be unfaithful to her. That is why I will never cheat on her.’

As she finished speaking she heard Eliza say something to William then he tried to grab Ann. They yelled brown and everyone was in the sitting room there to support them. ‘Either you lot leave peacefully or we will call the cops on you for trespassing and the kidnapping of my daughter.’ Jeremy spat. ‘She is family now and we are here to protect her from you lot whom she calls family but who treated her with so much disrespect it makes me feel sick to my stomach.’

Marian, Jeremy and Aunt Anne couldn’t imagine that Ann’s family was so determined to take her home. They never thought that there would be a standoff in their home. It was like a war zone minus the weapons. Yet, there were weapons there. Words were spoken to cause pain. Ann and Anne were wrapped up in each others’ arms while Ann’s family were trying hard to pull them apart.

During all of this all Anne could do for Ann was rock her gently in her arms while she allowed tears to flow and all Ann could do was tell Anne over and over again that she was where she wanted to be and how much she loved Anne. That there was no way she was going back to Crow Nest. No one was listening until they heard sirens getting louder and louder. Someone had called the cops. Everyone was in the sitting room. So who could have done that. It wasn’t until Cordingley appeared at the door.

‘I was getting fed up with the arguing. So I called the cops. I love Anne and want to see her happy. She is the happiest I have seen her in years. So unless you want this to end badly leave.’ Anne smiled. It wasn’t the first time Cordingley had her back but this time was the best. ‘Thank you, Elizabeth. I owe you one.’

‘Not really ma’am. I don’t know where I would be if you hadn’t given me a chance to prove myself. Thanks for that’ There was a knock at the door. Jeremy answered.

‘We got a call from this address saying there was a group of people trying trespassing and trying to kidnap someone. Is that true?’

‘Come in.’ Jeremy said.’I think it is all okay now. Only let’s ask them.’

‘Well, is it?’ Asked the constable.

‘Yes, I suppose so.’ Eliza said grumpily. There was no way she was leaving without making a snide comment.’You will regret the day you married her, Ann.’ Ann and Anne looked at each other. ‘Will you, Ann?’ Anne said.

‘I don’t think that will happen. I just wish they would mind their own business and let me live my life my way.’ As Ann’s family got up to leave Catherine walked over and hug Anne and Ann. She whispered in Ann’s ear.’Good luck, Ann. I will do my best to keep them away from you but I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for that to happen.’

‘Thanks, Cat. You are welcome to stay if you would like to.’ Catherine looked at Anne to see if it was okay. Then she looked at her tribe. They wouldn’t be happy. She thought fuck them. I have a life too.’Yes, I would love to stay. What are we going to do?’ Catherine said.

‘I don’t know but first we have to show these people where the front door is.’Ann said. The cops had given them room to go and when they were outside Anne thanked the police for their prompt action.

‘It was getting rather heated before you appeared. Thanks. I never imagined I would cause such a riot just by marrying this beauty but hey ho, it happened.’

‘Congratulations.’ The officers said. ‘Do you want to get a restraining order against them so they won’t try that again.’

‘I don’t know if I want to do that. They are my family.’ Ann muttered. She looked at Anne to ask wordlessly ask what she was thinking.

‘Ann, it is up to you. I’m not able to think right now. All this has been gut wrenching. I thought I was going to lose you.’ She looks at Ann waiting for an answer. Surely Ann would want some peace from her tribe. Then she realises Ann would never purposely get a restraining order against her family. She wasn’t going to be harsh and rude like they were.

‘No, I think they deserve a second chance. They also need to see that we are not afraid of them. They need to know that if they do pull another stunt like that there will be consequences.’ Anne was surprised at Ann’s words. Yet, Anne knew she was right. It wasn’t as if they had done this before. She only hoped they wouldn’t do it again.

‘Okay.’ Anne said. ‘If that is what you want to do. We will do that and hope they get the message.’ Then they heard Eliza scream from outside. They hadn’t left. ‘I hope you realise this isn’t the last time you will hear from us. We will find a way to get Ann back home to Crow Nest.’

‘I think we might need that restraining order after all, officer. It seems like Eliza hasn’t got the message yet. Can we organise that today?’ Ann Said.

‘Yes, we can do that. She seems intent on making your life miserable. Why do people think they can control someone’s life like this?’ the officer said.

‘Who knows?’ Anne said. Then they planned to go to the police station to draft up the order. It seemed a simple thing to do. Or was it?

Then William spoke up. Anne never thought she would hear him go against his wife but he did.

‘Ann, I want to apologise for what happened today. I never imagined you would be so brave and marry a woman. I always thought you were different. Now, I know why you rejected all those men my wife and other family members forced onto you. I hope you think twice before signing any restraining order. I will endeavour to keep Eliza from doing any more damage to you.’ Ann was surprised. She had always thought William was batting for her. She never imagined he would speak up against his wife. Even Catherine, who was now sitting next to Ann and Anne on the couch was dumbstruck.

‘Okay!!!’ Ann said.’but I will sign it if she tries anything.’ The officer didn’t know whether he was or wasn’t writing up a restraining order. Then Anne turned to  The constable and said. ‘Write up the restraining order. We don’t need it now but we may need it later. Would you mind doing that?’

‘That’s fine. I can file it away for a later date.’

‘Thank you. I hope we never need to use it.’ Ann said as she looked to where William was standing half in half out the front door. He seemed to be happy with her decision. It was the first time she had gone against her tribe but she knew it wouldn’t be the last. She was married to Anne Lister and had to consider her wife above everyone else. That included her family.

Anne smiled it was in that moment that Anne realised Ann was with her for always.

Now, they could plan their honeymoon. Anne had no idea where Ann would like to go. She thought a trip to the lake district would be great but wasn’t sure if Ann would want to travel. She could say they could visit her sister, Elizabeth and her children. She wasn’t sure if Ann would want to do that. She had the impression Ann didn’t like Elizabeth’s husband, George.

‘Earth to Anne, come in, Anne. Where are you, darling?’

‘I was just wondering if, you would like to go to the lake district for our honeymoon. We could stay in a bnb. I just need to check out to see what’s available.’ Anne said.

‘Yes, then maybe we could go to visit Elizabeth and her children in Scotland.’ Ann said. ‘I am sure she would love to see us.’

‘I was going to suggest we do that but I wasn’t sure if you would be interested.’

‘I would go anywhere with you, Mrs Lister..’ Ann looked at her surprised. She didn’t know whether to cry or laugh. She was beginning to feel validated. ‘Anywhere with me?’

‘Isn’t that what I said, silly girl.’

‘Yes, I suppose it is.’ Anne said. ‘It’s hard to believe you after what has happened in my past.’ Ann looked at Anne. She couldn’t believe someone who seemed so strong could be so afraid to open her heart to someone. Ann wondered what Anne had been through in the past that she hadn’t told her about.

They checked the trivago website to locate a decent bnb in the lake district. They located one in Ambleside and booked it for four nights and five days. They wanted to make this honeymoon memorable then they would stay two maybe three nights in Fortrose with Elizabeth, George and their children.

‘I think I need to call Elizabeth before we book the bnb. Is that Okay, Anne.’

‘Yes, darling, that is fine.’ Ann reaches for her phone which had been lying on the coffee table. She found her sister’s number in her address book and called her. Elizabeth answered on the second ring. “Hi Ann, to what do I owe this call to.’

‘Hi Liz, I married Anne Lister. I suppose the tribe have already told you that. So, it isn’t news. Is it?’

‘’No it isn’t. They told me they tried to get you to return to Crow Nest. Only you wouldn’t. They said you threatened to sign a restraining order to keep them away.’ Ann was shocked that she knew so much but not surprised.

‘Yes, I did. They were trying to force me to go home. I am married now and they have no right to force their way into Shibden Hall and try to force me home.’ Ann said. She didn’t know how her sister would react. She hadn’t got any positive comments from other members of her tribe. So she was surprised when Elizabeth said.’I don’t agree with their attitude towards you and Anne. If you are happy together I am happy for you both.’

‘Thanks, Liz. The reason I am calling is to tell you that we are going to the lake district for a few days soon for our honeymoon and wondered if it would be okay if we visited you for a few days afterwards.’ Without thinking about asking George she said it was okay. She didn’t know how George would react to her kid sister’s marriage to a woman.

‘When and for how long?’

‘Whenever you are ready and probably two or three days. That will depend on George.’ Ann said then Elizabeth remembered she should ask him. ‘I need to wait until he gets home tonight to see if it is okay, Ann.’ Anne looked puzzled when Ann told her.’That’s okay!!’

‘Why does she need to ask her husband if her sister and sister in law can stay there?’

‘Better safe than sorry, Anne. He is very funny about having visitors. I don’t know how he is going to react when he finds out we are married.’

‘Stiff shite, that’s his problem not ours, Ann.’

They spent the rest of the day watching movies. Aunt Anne joined them They watched Anne’s favourite which Aunt Anne has seen so many times she could tell everyone what the next line was. So, she snoozed while they watched Desert Hearts. She woke to them watching Better than Chocolate. It was fine they loved watching all these lesbian flicks but she was growing tired of them.

‘Aunt, what’s the matter?’

‘i don’t mind watching lesbian flicks but one after another is a bit too much for me and all the sex. It’s a bit embarrassing.’

‘Okay!! What do you want to watch then. We could watch something you like, Aunt. Is that okay, Ann?’

‘Yes, that’s okay!!’

Okay, Aunt we can watch Mamma Mia again for the millionth time.’

‘It’s not the millionth time and I know you love the music too.’ Aunt Anne said. Although she was hoping she could rope Ann into loving it as much as she did. Then she would always have someone willing to watch it with her, even if Anne didn’t want to.

It was evening now. They were preparing to go to bed. They had a very stressful day and were looking forward to going away to the lake district. They had booked three nights at a bnb in Ambleside from Friday. So they had a couple of days to pack and ready themselves to leave.

‘Ann, have you called Elizabeth to ensure it’s okay for us to stay there.’ Anne asked unsure of what the answer would be. She knew Ann wanted to see her niece and nephew but didn’t want to be there if George didn’t want them there.

‘Yes, I did and yes, George seems to be cool with us going to visit. Well, that’s what Liz said.’ Ann said.’Yet, I could still be cautious around him. You don’t know when he will go off like a time bomb.’

‘What? He’s just ticking under the surface ready to explode.’ Anne was frustrated why was Ann’s family so hard to deal with? She couldn’t understand why Ann had to deal with this.

‘Don’t worry, Liz is able quell his anger. She knows his triggers and what to do to ensure they don’t set him off.’ Ann said sincerely.’Most of the time he is fun to be around.’

‘Did he serve in the Iraq war or some other conflict?’

‘No, he had a horrid childhood. I think Liz is his guardian angel but he won’t admit that he is so vulnerable. I’m not sure if he takes tablets to help him cope.’

‘Okay! What happens if he does have a meltdown.’

‘Liz takes him away from the situation as fast as she can. She has a place she takes him. That’s why it is good they have someone to help around the house with the kids.’ Anne seemed a bit more relaxed. She was only ensure Ann would be safe around him because if he has a meltdown it may trigger Ann into having a meltdown.

‘Are you going to be okay around him?’

‘I think I will be okay.’ Ann said.

‘If you don’t feel safe please tell me. We can have a word like we had when your tribe were here. How’s that sound?’ Anne looked at Ann hoping they would be able to get through this without any difficulties arising. They had only known each other for a short time and it was going to be hard to navigate their marriage while having to navigate something as hard as this could be.

‘Yes, let’s go with brown as we did before. I hope we don’t need to use it but if we need to I will show you where you can take me. Okay!!’

‘Where is that?’ Anne asked sincerely.

‘You will find out later. I will take you there no matter what.’

‘You have me interested and ready to go there now.’ Anne said. She couldn’t believe Ann had a surprise for her.

They left for the lake district early Friday morning. It was going to be a two maybe three hour drive from Shibden Hall. They packed a picnic lunch to enjoy later in the day. They imagined they would find somewhere to stop and eat.

Just as they were about to leave Ann’s phone rang. She retrieved it from her pocket only to see the caller was Eliza Priestley. She didn’t want to answer it. So, Anne took the call.

‘Hello, Eliza.’ Anne said as calmly as she could.

‘I want to speak to Ann.’ Eliza was angry that Anne had answered Ann’s phone.

‘She isn’t available and never will be if you are going to speak to her like that.’ Anne said. ‘You do realise that your attitude only makes matters worse than what they already are.’

‘We only have Ann’s best interests at heart.’ Eliza blurted.

‘Then allow her to make decisions about her life.’ Anne said. Ann couldn’t believe that Anne was in her corner. They were about to leave for their honeymoon. Yet, Anne wasn’t rushing through the call. She didn’t want Eliza to feel threatened then cause more problems.

‘She is too naive to do that.’

‘So, you think she doesn’t know what she is doing. Come on, if you let her think for herself you would realise she isn’t as naive as you think.’

‘Well, she married you.’ Anne had the speaker phone on. So, Ann could hear what Eliza said. ‘What do you mean by that? I married Anne because I love her and she loves me. You seem to forget that we have known each other for a very long time.’

‘That doesn’t mean you know each other.’

‘No, we don’t know each other but we know each other well enough to know we want to do our best for each other. What is so bad about that?’ Ann said.

Then there was silence. Eliza had disconnected the call. Ann was visibly shaking. She couldn’t understand why her tribe didn’t want to accept that she had married Anne Lister. She supposed they didn’t want to know Anne as she was beginning to know her.

‘Come on darling, let’s go. This is going to be the best week of our lives so far. We need to forget about the last few days.’

‘I will do my best. remember that you are my strength, Anne. I am so glad we are married. Thanks for taking this step with me. I love you.’

‘I love you too. Let’s get going.’ Even though they had packed a picnic, they wanted to get to their destination now because they thought they had wasted enough time already. Anne drove while Ann sat back and surveyed the landscape. She had never been this far north in a car. She usually flew up to Scotland. Her sister picked her up from the airport. So, Ann was viewing the countryside as a tourist and she was loving every minute.

‘You have taken more photos in the last two hours than I have taken in the last ten years. What do you plan to do with them?’ Anne asked as Ann took another photo. ‘I was thinking about painting a few scenes we could hang in the chaumiere, darling. I love painting landscapes. There are so many changes in the lighting and colours depending on the time of day and the amount of sunshine..’

‘Fascinating!!’ Anne was surprised at Ann’s level of understanding of art. She knew Ann painted but to her Ann’s art seemed to be just a hobby. It was more than a hobby to Ann.

They arrived at the bnb just in time for tea. They had spied a pub on the way through town. So, that is where they headed for their first meal together on their honeymoon.

The pub was small. It was early evening so there was only a handful of people there. The pub served good English food. Ann had shepherd’s pie while Anne had bangers and mash with peas. They settled into the rhythm of the evening. Ann couldn’t believe how luck she was and Anne was still thinking this was just a dream. They drank and laughed well into the evening. When they returned to the bnb they were so tired all they wanted to do was sleep.Well, all Anne wanted to do was sleep. Ann had other ideas.

‘Come on, darling. Ann whispered in Anne’s ear.’I know you want it. I know you won’t be able to sleep until we have christened this fabulous looking bed. I know you want me to fuck you. I can see it in your eyes.’

‘Not today! I’m too tired.’ Ann gave her a puzzled look. She couldn’t believe the might Anne Lister wasn’t in the mood. It was hard for her to understand. They prepared to go to bed. Anne put on her clean boxers and a very worn t-shirt. Ann put on a nightshirt.

They crawled into bed. ‘Well, if you not going to fuck me tonight, could you read to me.’ Ann asked shyly.

‘Of course.’ Anne reached for glasses and Pride & Prejudice. She began reading from chapter one ‘it is a truth universally acknowledged, that single man in possession of a fortune, must be in want of a wife.’ Ann looked at her quizzically.

‘Mrs Lister, is that what you are still after, my money.’

‘No.’ Anne said sensuously, ‘I am after your body.’ With that she took off her glasses laid them and the book on the nightstand. Then she grabbed Ann around her waist, leaned down and ravished her lips. Ann couldn’t believe her luck.

When they parted their lips were red and swollen. Their pupils were dark and full of want. Their needs were evident. Anne trailed kisses down Ann’s chin, along her neck, between her breasts, down her sternum and over her bellybutton, down her belly then between her legs.

‘Yes, yes, Pony, right there pony. Good, Pony.’ Ann’s words were enough to make Anne squirm. She was feel a wetness pool between her legs.’ Yes, fuck, Pony. More of the same. I am close. Oh Pony.’ Anne licked and sucked on her clit. She pushed two fingers inside her then slowly pulled them out, then in, then out again.

Anne lifted her head. ‘Why do you call me pony, Ann?’

‘I want to ride you, pony. Get it!’

‘Yeah, I guess so.’

‘Then what are we waiting for,’ Ann said. ‘ because Pony, I’m dying here. Come on. I need release.’ Then all Anne could hear were moans and groans. Ann had wrapped her legs around Anne’s ears. Ann’s body was moving in time with Anne’s thrusting of her fingers in and out of Ann and her tongue on Ann’s clit. She could feel it throbbing. She sped up. Ann’s body was rocking Then Ann let out one last scream. Her body shuddered. Her orgasm having over powered her. Anne slid up next to her and held her body until it stilled.  Anne removed her fingers from Ann’s centre. They kissed again. Slower this time. ‘Anne that was amazing. I don’t think I have ever come like that before.’

‘Just my magical touch. It’s all in the tongue and fingers.’ Anne smiled sheepishly. Now, it was Anne’s turn to be treated like royalty because that’s Ann saw her as, royalty.

‘Just roll over, Mrs Lister. Let me give you pleasure. Let me make you feel good. Let me trail kisses down to your clit.’

‘Fuck, quit talking. Let’s see some action. Let’s see what you can do for me up here in the lake distr…..’ Anne didn’t get a chance to finish. Ann leaned down and they locked lips. They kissed for what seemed like hours. Anne needed to draw breath. So, she pulled away and said hoarsely.’Miss Walker, are you trying to kill me.’ Ann was stung a little by her comment. ‘Sorry, I didn’t mean to do that.’ Ann said. It wasn’t as if she wanted her dead.

‘Ann, don’t look so worried. I love how you kiss me. I just lost my breath for a moment. Don’t stop now. I need you, I want you.’

It was Ann’s turn to trail kisses down Anne’s chin, her neck and between her breasts, over her stomach. She tickled her bellybutton. Anne laughed when she did that. Ann smiled. Then Ann found her clit. It was throbbing already. She dove three fingers into her centre. She licked and sucked her clit slowly and meticulously causing Anne to moan and groan, causing Anne to squeeze Ann’s head between her legs, causing Anne’s body to rock with the rhythm of  Ann’s tongue and fingers causing Anne to scream out Ann’s name. ‘Yes, Ann, yes, right there, excellent, perfect. Wonderful!! Ann, Ann faster please, faster’ Then the sounds from Anne’s voice became incoherent. All Ann could hear was moaning, groaning. Then Anne’s body jolted again. Her body shuddered violently. Then she came in Ann’s mouth. Ann crawled up beside her. They kissed slowly and passionately. Anne clean her arousal from Ann’s lips. They could feel their hearts beating wildly. Their passion sated Anne wondering if Ann would like her to continue reading Pride & Prejudice.

‘Yes please, Anne. That would be lovely.’

Anne collected the book and her glasses and continued from where she had stopped. Something had interrupted her and for the life of her she couldn’t remember what it was. She smiled then began reading. Ann had rested her head on Anne’s lap. She was only able to read a few lines before she heard Ann snoring sweetly beside her. She marked the page, took off her glasses then put them and the book on the nightstand. Their first day in the lake district had been great. What would they do tomorrow that would make it even better.

‘Good night, Ann.’

‘Good night, Mrs Lister.’

They were able to spend three amazing days in the lake district. Ann had never felt so relaxed for a long time. Anne read more chapters of Pride & Prejudice at night. Ann read Sense & Sensibility. She found it hard to believe that women had to marry into wealth to have any standing in society and if by accident they came into money they soon lost control of their wealth when they married.

‘Anne, do you know if Jane Austen ever married.’

‘Why?’ Anne asked.

‘She seemed to write a lot about marriage in her stories. Elizabeth marries Darcy after he has explained himself to her and why he encouraged Bingley not to marry Jane. She was proposed to by Collins but only after Catherine de Burgh told him he needed a wife.’ Ann said. ‘Why was it like this.’

‘Women were consider chattel. When a woman married she became the property of her husband. So, no matter what she brought into the married she lost it to her husband.’

‘What would happen to women like us?’ Anne looked at her quizzically. She wondered what she meant. For all her intelligence Anne was quite often a bit thick. ‘I mean us. You know….who we love. Who we are.’

‘Oh you mean us lesbians, .lovers of fine women.’

‘Of course, I mean us, silly.’

;Unless they had their own wealth and could support themselves, they had to marry a man.’ Anne said. ‘Why are you interested?’

‘I was just wondering. Ann said. ‘I guess that means we would be fine.’

‘Oh because you have bucket loads of money.’ Anne said sarcastically.

‘Anne, that isn’t what I meant. You have money too. Don’t you?’ Ann said quietly. So quiet Anne didn’t hear her but she knew what she said.

‘Yes, but not as much as you do. That’s why Eliza wanted you to go back to Crow Nest because she knows you are richer than I am.’

‘Does that bother you, Anne?’

‘Just a little bit. I just want to spoil you but I feel embarrassed when you pay for everything.’

‘Anne, its just money to me. Its something I have lots of and don’t know what to do with. I could buy you whatever you want and I would still have lots left over.’

‘That’s what I mean. I have enough to do what I want with some left over to spend on you but it feels inadequate.’ Ann looked at her with love and understanding. ‘Anne, you are always spoiling me. These few days in the lake district. I am sure you would like to be home working on the estate. I’m right. Aren’t I?’ Anne didn’t know what to say. Yes, she would like to be home working on the estate but she was enjoying herself here in the lake district with her wife.

‘Anne, you didn’t answer my question about Jane Austen. Did she marry?’

‘As far as I know she didn’t marry, I think she had to rely on her brother, Edward for a home. Her mother had an income but I am not sure how much it was.’

‘So, what do you want to do today, Ann?’ Anne asked. After their discussion about money she didn’t think it was appropriate to ask Ann to pay for everything.

‘What did you have in mind?’ Ann asked. She looked at Anne and wondered what she was thinking. Anne seemed to be lost in her own world. ‘Earth to Anne, come in. Where are you, darling?’

‘Just thinking about what you would like to do.’ Anne mumbled. Ann knew it wasn’t the truth. ‘Anne, What’s wrong? Tell me. If we don’t talk to each other. Why are we together?’

‘I just worry that I cannot provide for you. That you will get fed up with having to pay for everything every time we go places. I feel as though I am not good enough for you. I wanted to take you on a boat trip around one of the lakes. Then I realised I couldn’t afford it because I had spent all my money on petrol to get her and our accommodation.’ Anne said. ‘How can I ever look at you again if I ask you to pay for nearly everything.’ She had tears welling in her eyes. Ann was wondering what she could say that would make her feel okay. She couldn’t think of anything. Anne was a proud woman and she didn’t like to have to rely on someone to take care of her expenses.

‘Anne darling, if I told you that no matter what you say to me and no matter how you feel, I feel the same way. I have felt inadequate. I have felt less than good enough. Maybe we should begin sharing our expenses. We need to ensure both of us feel good about us. Okay!!; Anne smiled. She could see why she was with Ann because she was a very wise woman, very wise for her age.

‘Yes, that is a great idea. Only would you pay for our boat trip on the lake. I would really appreciate that.’ Ann smiled at her. She could see this was a struggle. ‘Yes, Anne, I will do that.’ Ann said. ‘And whatever you wish me to pay for. I don’t mind. I want you to feel comfortable with me. I don’t want you to feel as though you are relying on me to pay for everything. Okay!!’

‘Ann, what did I do to deserve you?’

‘You have done so much for me. I don’t think you realise how much. I have known you for so long I don’t remember when I didn’t know you. I have loved you as long as I have known you. Anne, be gentle on yourself. It is the best gift you can give yourself.’

Ann leaned over to wrap her arms around her wife. She could see the tears welling up in the corners of her eyes. They remained like that for a long time. Anne pouring her heart and soul out. Ann telling her it was okay to feel vulnerable. She didn’t have to be strong all the time. Anne crying more than she had done in a long time.

‘Do you still want to go on the boat trip? We could do it another day. We could just stay here and watch a movie or just go for a walk. Anything you want to do is fine by me. This is OUR honeymoon, darling.’ Ann smiled broadly. She could see Anne was still feeling bad about her money situation.

‘I wanted to show you a good time, Ann.’ Anne said.

‘Oh you are doing that already. I didn’t expect to do too much. We will soon be in Scotland . There are some great places we can visit while we are in Fortrose. If you want me to show you around while we are there.’

‘Thank you, Ann. I really appreciate what you do for me. Yes, we can watch a movie then go for a walk.’ Anne said. ‘Can we get some popcorn and something to drink.’

‘What would you like to drink?’

‘i don’t know. You decided.’ Ann said.’Are you okay about going up to Fortrose in a few days?’

‘I don’t know. I don’t want to have a blow up with Mr Sutherland. Didn’t you tell me he isn’t very flexible when it comes to same sex marriages?’

‘Not that I remember. I may have. He is fun to be around on his good days.’

‘What about his not so good days?’ Anne squirmed in her seat. She didn’t know if she wanted to hear Ann’s answer.’

‘That’s when Elizabeth steps in a does her best to quell his temper. She has had years of practice. You must be related to her.’

‘Why do you say that?’ Anne asked tentatively.

‘Oh….it could be because you help me in the same way.’

‘Let’s go out and buy some treats and wine. I think I saw a store yesterday. Are you ready?’

‘Yes.’ Ann said.’I just need to collect my wallet. Will you carry it for me?’

‘Yes, I will put in it my coat pocket. ‘It should be safe there.’

‘Thank you!’

Anne and Ann walked to the store, as it wasn’t far from the bnb. They bought a bottle of red wine and three packets of chips. They strolled back to the bnb hand in hand. Anne turned on the television and searched the tv guide to find a movie to watch.

‘What are you doing, Anne? I have a netflix account. We can use that as long as it is a smart tv, which I think it is’

‘I will check.’ Anne said. Yes, it was a smart tv. They couldn’t imagine their luck. Ann found the netflix app and signed into her account. They wanted to watch a lesbian flick. They found Blue is the Warmest Colour and decided it might be a good choice.

Ann popped the popcorn they had bought and retrieved two glasses for their wine. They weren’t wine glasses but that didn’t seem to bother them.

They sat together on the couch to watch them movie, eat popcorn and drink wine.

It was late in the evening after the movie had ended. They were laying in bed wondering what they would do tomorrow. Then Anne suggested they leaving earlier than planned and go to on Inverness She was sure they could find a hotel or bnb near by to stay in until they were expected at Fortrose.

They drove to Inverness the following day. Anne had searched online that morning and found a quaint hotel to stay in..Anne booked their room and asked what culinary eaters were in the neighbourhood.

She was informed there were many restaurants nearby and most had a reputation for excellence and great cuisine. They could decide where they were going to eat when they arrived in Inverness.

Their decision to cut their stay in the lake district was exactly what they needed to do. When they arrived in Inverness a few hours later Anne and Ann felt more relaxed than they had done for quite sometime. They felt grateful that Eliza hadn’t bothered them. Although they both knew that she could call but they wouldn’t answer. Anne was hoping she wouldn’t leave a nasty message for Ann to find. It was possible Eliza would do that.

‘Ann, would you like to do some touristy stuff or just watch more netflix?’

‘I’m not sure. It’s been quite a few years since I was here last. I imagine some things have changed but not much.’

Where would you like to eat tonight?’

‘What if we order in and watch a movie?’ Ann said. Anne looked surprised. She thought Ann would want to eat out after being cooped up in the car for quite sometime.

‘Okay! What would you like?’ Anne asked.

‘Oh, the usual!’ Ann replied.

‘And what would the usual be, Ann?’

‘I think you already know, Pony.’ Anne was still puzzled. She tried to think what the usual was but was coming up blank.

‘Could you just tell me please. I am struggling her to remember what you like to eat.’ Ann smiled at her. Of course, if Anne had been thinking straight, which she never did, she would have known the answer.

Ann mewed at her.

‘Goodness, do you want to eat pussy now before you eat?’ Ann smirked at Anne.

‘Yes, you crazy lady. I have been watching you all day, that smile and those sexy bed eyes. What did you expect me to be happy just to sit there and watch you while you were driving. I am horny as hell. I want you to fuck me now.’

Anne pulled Ann in for a searing kiss. As she was kissing Ann she was removing her clothes. She gently laid Ann on the bed and shucked what she was wearing. They embraced when Anne crawled up next to Ann.

They kissed passionately as Anne’s hands gently massaged Ann’s nipples. Then she kissed her lips again and moved frustratingly slowly down Ann’s body licking her skin while she inserted one finger then two and more into her centre as her thumb strummed her clit. Ann was moaning loudly, calling out Anne’s name. Her body was moving in unison with the thrust of Anne’s fingers inside her. She came with such force that it left both of them breathing heavily. Anne held Ann until her body was relaxed.

‘Bloody hell, Anne. That was unexpected but it was lovely. Now, my turn to eat pussy. Meow!!!’

Anne laid back on the bed and they kissed passionately. When they separated Anne was panting heavily.

‘Please Ann, I can’t wait I need you inside me. I want you to fuck me with your tongue and fingers. Come on, get on with it.’

‘And you said I was impatient. Now, who’s the impatient one.’

‘Okay!! It’s me. Please. I think I will come just from kissing you.’

Ann trailed kissed down to Anne’s centre. She inserted two fingers inside her and began making circles around Ann’e clit with her tongue. The smell of Anne’s arousal was driving Ann mad. She kept up the pace with her fingers inside Anne and her tongue on her clit. She was sucking Anne’s clit. It felt so good to have so much control over Anne. Anne’s body was thrashing in unison with Ann’s tongue and fingers. Anne was moaning and yelling out Ann’s name. Then she came into Ann’s mouth. Ann swallowed. She loved the taste of her wife’s juices on her tongue. Anne’s body stilled and Ann removed her fingers for inside Anne’s centre. Then Ann crawled up beside Anne. They kissed slowly.

‘Ann, that was beautiful. I have never come so hard or so fast. I feel so blessed to have you in my life.’

‘Don’t stress the small stuff and everything is small stuff. Isn’t it?’

‘For someone so young you seemed to so knowledgeable.’

‘As you know I have been through so much with my mental health. I am still trying to understand me. So, no matter what I say I do I still feel inadequate but, I am glad we are together.’ Ann said. ‘Oh, the saying is something my therapist told me years ago. It has stuck with me because it feels true. Life it too short to worry about shit. When it may never happen.’

Anne was dumbstruck she never did understand why someone so beautiful as Ann could have had such a terrible past. They kissed. Anne read a few pages until she heard Ann snoring gently. She removed her glasses and laid them with the book on the nightstand. Then spooned with Ann. Two days later then took the last leg of their journey in Scotland to Fortrose.

They didn’t know what would happen when they arrived there Anne wondered if George would be as welcoming as she was hoping. She imagined they would find out soon enough. If he wasn’t they could just turn around and return home to Shibden. Then they wonder what would happen when they returned there.

Chapter Text

They arrived two days later at Fortrose. They were greeted at the door by Elizabeth and her children. She was happy to see them. The children were excited to see their Aunt Walker. They weren’t told that Ann would be bringing someone with her. The children asked questions. Who is this person? How come she is here? Is she staying or leaving soon? It was hard to know where to begin. Ann looked first at Anne then to Elizabeth. She didn’t know what to tell the children. Would they be able to reveal their relationship to the children?

‘What do you think we should do, Anne?’ Anne looked at her she was just as puzzled. She wanted to be honest with the children, only she wasn’t she what to say. So she asked Elizabeth.

‘Elizabeth, what do you want us to tell your children?’

‘I think the truth would be a good place to start. I am not sure George would agree with me but I think the children need to be told the truth, Anne.’

‘How are we going to do that?’ Ann said. They looked at each other. No one seemed to know how to say what was the obvious when Mary, the eldest child said. ‘Dad said he didn’t want Aunt Walker in the house because she is a lesbian.’ Mary said. ;Well, that’s what I hear him say to mum. What’s a lesbian, Aunt Walker?’

‘I can answer that.’ Anne said.’It is a girl who loves another girl. The same way a boy loves a girl and a girl loves a boy.’

‘Like mum and dad.’ Mary asked. Anne could see the wheels turning in Mary’s head. ‘Yes, just like your mum and dad.’

‘Can they get married like mum and dad are?’ Elizabeth wondered where this was going but she let the conversation continue. She will bring it to a halt if she needed to.

‘Yes, they can now but there was a time when they weren’t allowed to marry?’ Ann said.

‘Why?’ Mary said quizzically.’If, they love one another. Why wouldn’t they be allowed to marry?.’

‘I think you might be able to answer that one better than us, Elizabeth.’ Anne said. ‘I wouldn’t know where to begin.’

‘Mary, many people thought lesbians were unnatural. They were going against what God had created men and women to be.’Elizabeth said.’Hey, I need help here, please, Ann.’

‘Mary, what you mum is trying to say is that because it takes a man and a woman to create a baby lesbians couldn’t marry because they couldn’t create a baby.’

‘Does that make sense to you, Mary?’ Mary looked at the quizzically.

‘Yes, but what about all the children in orphanages, could they adopt them? They would be their children. Wouldn’t they?’

‘Yes…..I guess they would.’ Elizabeth said.

‘Goodness Mary, you are very bright for a five year old. Am I right?’ Anne said.

‘I will be six soon.’ Mary said.

‘How did she get to be so smart, Elizabeth?’ Anne said. Elizabeth looked at Mary then Anne and Ann.

‘She just asks lots of questions and I want her to see the world at it is. I think she is old enough to know about this. George doesn’t seem to mind. He’s more interested in his business. He leaves me to raise our children.’

‘Are you married Aunt Walker?’

‘You need to be honest now otherwise if you lie to her and she finds out she is less likely to believe what you tell her afterwards.’ Elizabeth said. ‘So, be honest with her. You can do that. Can’t you?’

‘Anne, hold my hand please. I need your support.’ Anne holds Ann’s hand.

’ I will tell her if you don’t feel comfortable, Ann.’ Anne said as she looked at Ann with deep concern. She could see this conversation was making Ann feel uncomfortable. ‘Okay! If, you think it is the right thing to do?’ Ann said.

‘Yes, your Aunt Walker is married, Mary!’

‘Is she married to you?’ Now, things were getting a little heated. Anne had to say yes but in doing so she was exposing Ann to her niece. She didn’t know how Mary would react. Yet, it was obvious to Mary that they were married. They were holding hands and smiling at each other. As far as Mary couples married and in love did that.

‘Hmm…..I guess……that would b….’

‘For goodness sake stop running around in circles. Tell the child or I will,’Elizabeth said. Anne was shocked. Ann nearly fainted.

‘Yes, she is married to me.’ Anne said.

‘Yahoo!!! I have another Aunt to spoil me. That’s going to be great.’ Mary said. ‘What do I call you?’

‘I guess Aunt Lister!’ Anne said with some trepidation.

‘Aunt Lister, can you give me a hug? That’s the way we welcome friends and family when they come to visit and you are family’

Anne couldn’t look at Mary or anyone else because she could feel tears welling up in her eyes. She was barely able to lean over and give Mary a hug. Mary planted a kiss on her cheek. Anne didn’t expect so much affection from Mary. She thought Mary would judge her for her looks.

‘Are you okay, Pony?’ Ann asked.’you looked like you were about to cry.’

‘I’m okay. She just caught me off guard.’

‘Children can do that if you’re not prepared.’Elizabeth said.’As far as she is concerned you are part of her family and part of ours. Welcome to the tribe.’

‘Thanks!!’ Mary & Sackville had gone back outside. They could see them running around the grounds over to what looked like a sand pit.

‘They would spend all day there if I let them. I have to yell for them to come inside for dinner then for tea. Sackville usually has an afternoon nap. Mary only naps when she has been more active than what she usually is.’

Mary came scurrying back inside.’Aunt Lister, do you know how to make sandcastles. Aunt Walker’s always fall down.’ Anne looked at Ann. ‘It seems she wants your help.’

‘Now, it requires a certain amount of water….’Anne’s voice trailed off as her and Mary walked out the door. She left the sisters together. There was silence between them for a beat. Then Elizabeth spoke.’Ann, are you and Anne happy together? I heard she wasn’t a good choice for a girlfriend let alone a wife.’

‘Yes, I have heard all the stories about Anne Lister. How she has been with so many women it would make your head spin.’ Ann said.

‘So, why are you with her, Ann?’

Ann had to think for a moment. Elizabeth seemed to be getting fluster. She wanted to know why and Ann knew she wanted the truth. ‘It’s like this, Liz. I wanted to get to know the real Anne Lister. The one she keeps hidden away. As I told her. You have been rejected by so many women it would make my head spin.’

‘Can she be trusted?’

‘Liz, I have to trust her because she is more vulnerable than what you think. She may look strong and confident. She isn’t!’ They looked over to the sandpit where Anne and the children seemed to be having fun. ‘Her family have accepted me and she loves me. What more do I need?’

‘You need someone who is prepared to accept you as you are. Does she know about your mental health.’

‘Enough to know that I take pills for my anxiety.’

‘Does she know what brought on your anxiety.’ Elizabeth asked Ann just as Anne and the children walked back inside.

‘What about your anxiety, Ann? Do I know what?’

‘I….I never had a chance to talk about this. I…I don’t want you to be mad at me. Sometimes, I wonder if I deserve to be with you, Anne.’ Anne could see tears in her eyes. Elizabeth took the children and went back outside so they could talk. They had only been there for a few hours and Ann could feel her world was falling down around her.

Anne pulled her in for a hug. She held her until her tears stopped flowing and she was able to tell Anne. Only where should she start.

‘The beginning would be a great place, Ann.’ Oh darn, she heard that. Ann wondered what else she had said out loud. ‘Ann, I am here for you. We can deal with this together but you need to tell me what happened.’

‘I don’t know if you will still want to be with me after I tell you.’ Ann said so quietly Anne didn’t hear her. ‘Ann, speak to me. I want to know why you have anxieties.’ Anne said. ‘I didn’t hear what you said. Please tell me again, please.’ She looked at Ann with compassion in her eyes.

‘Anne, I don’t know if you will still want to be with me after I tell you what happened.’

‘Try me. I might surprise you. You know about my life and you haven’t left me. Have you? So, why would I want to leave you. Your life hasn’t been as crazy as mine. Has it?’

‘Anne, I was friends with Reverend Ainsworth’s wife. I would spend time with them at their home or when they would come to Crow Nest and spend time with me.’ Ann nearly whispered. ‘There were times when we were together with his wife in bed or another room of my home or theirs that he would take advantage of the situation.’

‘What do you mean, Ann? Does he have intimate knowledge of you?’

‘Yes.’

‘From Kissing?’

‘Yes.’

‘From touching.’

‘Yes.’

‘Has he been more intimate than that?’

‘Yes, Anne. He has sexually assaulted me. Doesn’t that make me damaged goods? Doesn’t that show you that I am not the right person for you?

‘Ann, Ann, Ann, I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t want to be with you. I wouldn’t have married you if I didn’t want to be with you. I love you, Ann Walker. No matter what has happened in your past I will always want to be with you.’

‘Are you sure, Anne?

‘As sure as I ever will be and  I am sitting here with you. Aren’t I? I wish you had told me sooner. He can’t do anything now because we are married and I will protect you, Adney.’

‘I wish I had someone like you in my life sooner then this wouldn’t have happened. What will you do if he should write to me and demand to see me?’

‘I don’t know right now.’ Anne said.

They hadn’t notice that Elizabeth was standing in the kitchen listening. They were heading outside to see what she and the children were doing when Ann spied her with her head in her hands crying.

‘Ann, why didn’t you tell me about Reverend Ainsworth? We all thought he was a good friend. How is it that he was able to take advantage of you as he did?’

‘He seemed to create situations to his advantage. He made me feel as though this was all I could have. He told me afterwards that I was damaged goods and no one would want me. He said if I told anyone I would be just as humiliated  as he would.’ Ann said with tears rolling down her face.’That’s why I didn’t tell anyone. Now, he thinks I am his since his wife died.’

‘How does he make that assumption, Ann? You are my wife and he has no claim on you.’

‘Ann, Anne is right. He has no claim on you. If he tries anything he will have to get past Anne and me.’ Elizabeth smiled. She knew that Anne loved her sister and would protect her no matter what. Only she wanted Ann to know that she would be there for her too. ‘George will be home soon. I think I should start preparing dinner. Your room is the one at the end of the hall. Mary, can you show your Aunts where they are going to sleep?’

‘Yes, mum. Come this way please, Aunt Walker and Aunt Lister.’ They made their way through the house and upstairs. Elizabeth listened to the footsteps. She had cried then calmed down. Now, she was crying again. She couldn’t believe that a reverend would take advantage of her baby sister.

She had to pull herself together George would be home soon. She didn’t think he needed to know what was happening. Ann was her sister and it was up to her to protect her reputation.

Just as she was feeling fine George appeared at the door. ‘Hi Liz. Are you okay? What’s happened? I know your sister and Anne Lister were arriving today. Have they upset you?’

‘No!’ Elizabeth said.

‘Why have you been crying? What’s wrong?’

‘Nothing.’

‘Liz, there is definitely something wrong. Please tell me!!’

‘I need to get Ann’s permission first because it involves her.’

‘How does it involve her?’ George said.

‘Hi George, How are you?’ Ann said. George turned around there was his wife’s sister with her arms wrapped around Anne Lister. They seemed to be happy. ‘Hi ladies. What has been happening here while I have been away. I came home to find my wife crying. She says it involves you.’ George said as he looked directly at Ann.’Can you tell me what’s going on?’

‘I don’t think it is necessary that you know the details. George.’ Anne said.

‘i would like to know what happened because it has upset my wife and I don’t like that.’

‘Okay!! Ann was sexually assaulted by Reverend Ainsworth.’ Anne said.’The minister that her family thought she should marry after his wife died. Do we know how she die?’

‘I heard she died in a car accident.’ George said. ‘They think the brakes were tampered with only there is no proof. Its all circumstantial at the moment.’

‘Oh, is it?’

‘Do they know where her husband was when she died?’ Anne asked.

‘He swears he was out of town when the accident happened. Only there’s no evidence to say he was.’ Elizabeth said.

‘It doesn’t matter where he was, he needs to keep his distance from Ann or else he will find he has bitten off more than he can chew.’ Anne said sternly.

‘Be careful. You don’t know what he could do. I wouldn’t trust him after what he did to me. Anne, be careful.’ Ann looked at her wife with concern. She knew she only wanted protect her. Yet, she didn’t think it was wise to put her life in danger.

‘Pony, please be careful.If, he is in anyway responsible for his wife’s death who knows what he will try to do to you.’ Of course, they never expected him to find them in Scotland. They didn’t have any plan if he should come there to seek Ann out.

So, they were surprised when they heard a car coming up the driveway two days later. Elizabeth answered the door only to have Reverend Ainsworth introduce himself and demand to see Ann Walker.

‘And why should I let you see my sister? Why should I let you into my home?’ Elizabeth said.

I want to see her. I need to see her. She promised to marry me and take care of me if my wife died before I did.’ Anne could hear what he was saying. She wanted Ann to tell her the truth. She wanted to know why he was making such an assumption. Ann didn’t know how to answer her wife. She was dumbfounded. She didn’t remember making such a promise. Oh they had always talked about it. Mrs Ainsworth had always said in joking. If something happens to me Annie, you will need to take care of Thomas. She didn’t realise he had taken his wife’s word on face value.

She didn’t want to see him.She wasn’t in love with him and she was already married.

‘Anne, I never made the promise he is claiming I made. I never said anything of the sort. Mrs Ainsworth was the one who said what he claims I said. I don’t want to be with him. I want to be with you. We are married. You are my wife.’ Ann was so worried. .she thought Anne would leave her and annul their marriage.’I love you, Anne. I have never loved him.’

Elizabeth seemed to be able to convince him that Ann wasn’t there. He left but said he was going to return. He wanted to be sure Elizabeth wasn’t lying to him.

‘I will return in a day or two. I want to see Ann. I know she is here.’

‘You can come back but if you do be prepared to meet your match. I am sure you have heard of Anne Lister.’

‘What has she got to do with this, Mrs Sutherland?’ Ainsworth said. He was surprised she was there.

Oh, Reverend Ainsworth. I think you will find out soon enough.’ He seemed shocked. He wanted to know now why Anne Lister was there. He was determined to know before he left. So, Elizabeth excused herself and went to seek out Anne and Ann.

‘He won’t leave until you come down to see him. We will both support you, Ann. We know you don’t love him and you don’t want to be with him,’ Elizabeth said.

Then they heard noises coming from downstairs. George had returned home.

‘Who the hell are you? What are you doing in my home? Who let you in?’

‘Your wife let me in. I am here to see Ann Walker. She promised to marry me when my wife died.’ George was riled up just listening to what this fool was spouting. He couldn’t believe Ainsworth had found Ann.

‘If you don’t leave I will call the cops and have you arrested for trespassing and causing my wife and her sister grief.’

‘I just want to see Ann. Why can’t I do that?’ Then Anne appears. She is fuming. She is so mad.

‘Why is it you think you have the right to demand that my wife talks to you? How is it that you think she made a promise to marry you when you treated here the way you did.’

‘How can you say she is your wife when you don’t have the right to be married?’

‘Ainsworth, if you hadn’t had your head in the sand for the past year or two you would know the law has changed and same sex marriage is now legal.’ Ainsworth looked at Anne with disgust. He couldn’t believe what he was hearing. His little Annie was married. His rage was uncontrollable. He made it clear that he would get what was rightfully his. Then Ann appeared.

‘You have no right to demand that I should marry you when Anne has already told you we are married. I am not something you can play with like you did in the past. So, I would like you to leave and if you show your face around here again I will insist that Anne and George take you out into the barn and tear you to shreds. If, you try to tell the cops we threatened you Anne, George and Elizabeth will defend me until the end.’ Ann said. Her voice quivering as she spoke.

‘You might say you are married to Anne Lister, Ann but you made a promise to me.’

‘You cannot prove anything such thing. I heard Mrs Ainsworth died in a car accident. They are saying her brakes failed. I wonder if you had a hand in that.’

‘You cannot nail that one on me because you have no proof. Anyone could have tamper with the brakes.’

‘Ann has told me what you did to her. How you took advantage of her and how she didn’t ask for it.’ Anne said and the others nodded as if to confirm it.

‘She wanted it more than I did.’ Ainsworth said.

‘How dare you slander my sister’s good name! How dare you come here just to lure her into a loveless marriage. How dare you insult her to her face. Leave before I don’t something I will regret.’ Elizabeth hollered.

‘Oh, she will be mine one day.’ Anne was just about to knock him into oblivion when Ann said. ‘That, my dear man, will never happen. I am happily married. I don’t want to see your face ever again. If, you should come near me I won’t stop Anne from doing her worst on you. Do you understand me?’ Ainsworth gave a haughty laugh. ‘What can she do to me?’ Anne clenched her fists, ‘would you like a taste now, Ainsworth?’ She walked closer to him and raised her fist to his face. He wasn’t scared because he didn’t think she would do anything. He thought she was bluffing. Then she pulled her fist back and before he knew it she landed it on his jaw. He was splayed on the floor. As he rose he said. ‘You will pay for this.’ He put his hand to his face. Blood was running down his nose. ‘You have broken my nose.’ Ainsworth said. ‘I will report you for this.’

‘I am sure they will believe you when I have witnesses here who will say it was in self defence.’ Anne said looking at Ainsworth then at Ann’s family who were nodding. They said they would side with her. Ainsworth stormed out of the house screaming as he left.’You will regret marrying that Jack.’

‘Don’t come back, you’re not wanted around here.’ George said. ‘If you do I will put the hounds onto you.’

‘George, I didn’t know you had dogs.’ Ann said.

‘I don’t. I just wanted to make sure he stays away.’

Anne and Ann had only been in Fortrose for two days and they were exhausted. Ainsworth had tried to crush Ann into believe she wasn’t worthy of anyone’s love only his.

She was beginning to think that Anne would leave her. That Anne would find a way to annul their marriage. Ann stood. Everyone looked at her. She could feel tears welling in the corners of her eyes. She couldn’t stop them. So, she ran out the back door. Anne chased after her.

‘Ann, stop, wait, don’t run away. I need to know what is happening. Why are you upset?’ Anne pleaded.

‘I know you don’t want anything to do with me. I know you are regretting marrying me. I know you want to leave. Just go!! I don’t want your pity. I don’t want you to stay with me just because you feel sorry for me.’

‘Ann Lister, stop please listen carefully to what I am about to say. It is the truth.’ Ann stopped.’Why did you call me Ann Lister?’ Ann asked.

‘Because, Ann, you are my wife. You are the woman I wanted to marry no matter what has happened in your past, your past doesn’t determine your present or your future.’ Anne said with tears streaming down her face.’I want to be with you. I want to care for you and love you for the rest of your life. I love you, Ann Walker.’

They had run themselves breathless. They were facing each other half a mile from the house. Anne pulled Ann into her for a hug. Ann tilted her head back and looked into Anne’s eyes. She wiped the tears from her cheeks. ‘Anne, I didn’t mean to hurt you. I don’t feel worthy of your love. I am damaged goods.’

‘No, Ann. You are not damaged goods. Say after me. I am not damaged goods.’ Ann tried to but couldn’t get it out.

‘Come on, let’s say this together. I am not damaged goods.’

‘I am…..not……damaged…..goods. Only I am.’

‘Ann Walker, why do you have such a poor opinion of yourself? Why don’t you believe me I say you’re not damaged goods. You are perfect, Adney. I love you, Ann Walker. Try it again.’

‘I am not damaged goods. I am not damaged goods.’

‘Does that feel better darling?’ Anne said as they walked back to the house. ‘Yes, thanks, Pony.’

‘Is everything okay.’ George asked.’the children were beginning to worry about their aunts.’

‘Kids, we are fine just had a bit of a mix up. That’s all. Now, who wants to build a sandcastle. I am sure we can do that.’ Anne said.

‘We do, Aunt Lister, let’s go.’

Anne lead the children back outside and over to the sand pit. George went to his office. Ann and Elizabeth were alone. ‘Ann, I can see you have been crying. What was wrong?’

‘Nothing!’ Elizabeth looked at her with concern.’Are you trying to lie to your big sister. Come on, you can tell me. It will be our secret. Okay!!!’

‘I thought Anne would annul our marriage and leave me. She had every right to do that after she heard what Ainsworth had done to me. I wouldn’t blame her but it would have killed me.’ Elizabeth pulled her into a hug and held her for a moment. ‘Hey Ann, didn’t you see what she did to Ainsworth. I am sure she would have done worse than that. Don’t think for one second that she was intending to leave you. She loves you more than life itself. So, look after that one she is a keeper.’ Ann smiled. She had finally found someone who loved her. Someone who would do anything for her. Someone who wanted to be with her for the rest of her life. ‘Thanks, Liz. I know that now. She was crying so hard while she was talking to me. I couldn’t believe it was the same Anne Lister I had heard was ruthless and nasty.’ Ann said. ‘She isn’t. She is so soft and tender and loving and she’s my wife.’ Anne had walked back inside just as Ann had said that. ‘ I came in for Sackville’s bucket. He left it here.’ Anne said more tears welling in her eyes.

‘It’s in his bedroom. I will fetch it for you.’ Elizabeth said. She left Anne and Ann. Ann walked over to her. ‘It’s been a bitch of a day. Do you mind if we take everyone out for dinner and drinks. I think we all need that?’ Ann looked at Anne pleading. ‘Okay!! As long as we pay for the meals. Okay!’ Elizabeth returned with the bucket. Anne returned to the sand pit. ‘Would you like to eat out tonight? I think we could all do with some time away from the house. If, that’s okay.’ Ann said pleading. She wanted time away from Fortrose. She need to forget what had happened today. Then she could come back her and rest.

‘Okay!! I am sure George will be okay with that. I think Anne is asking him now.’ George had appeared in the back yard and was chatting with Anne. Then he walked back inside. ‘I hear we are eating out tonight. Anne said I could suggest where we go. Is Chinese okay with you two?’ He looked at Ann and Elizabeth.

‘Yeah.’ Ann said answering for her and Elizabeth because she knew her sister loved Chinese. George called Yum Yum, the local Chinese restaurant. ‘I want to reserve a table for six at five thirty. Is that possible.’ George said.

‘Yes, Mr Sutherland. At five thirty for six for tonight.’ The owner repeated.’Do you still need two high chairs?’

‘No, the children are old enough and big enough to sit on a regular chair.’

The meal was delicious. Anne and Ann insisted on paying for everything. George didn’t like it but he had to admit that it was their way to pay George and Elizabeth back for letting them stay at Fortrose. Ann couldn’t contain her happiness. She was doing something for her family after what Ainsworth had put them through. It was the best she could do for them.

They returned to Fortrose full bellies and tried bodies. All Anne and Ann wanted to do was sleep until Mary asked. ‘Aunt Lister will you read us a bedtime story?’ Anne couldn’t refuse.’Aren’t you tried, Mary?’ Mary looked at her with sad eyes. ‘Yes, but mum usually reads to us only she is sleepier than we are.’ Anne raised her eyebrows. She knew she would read to the children.

‘What would you like me to read to you tonight?’ Mary seemed to be giving it lots of thought. ‘Come on, Aunt Walker is tired. I think she wants to go to bed.’

‘Anne Lister, are you trying to escape the clutches of these two adorable children?’ Elizabeth said sleepily. Anne smiled sheepishly. It seemed she was.’come on, Anne read to the kids.’

’Could you tell us how you and Aunt Walker met?’ Mary said. Goodness what was she to do. Then Ann leaned over and whisper. ‘Hey, you could fluff it up a little. Goodness, woman you do have an imagination. Don’t you?’ Ann said quietly.

‘Okay, but you will need to be in your pjs in five minutes.’ They have never seem two kids change into their pyjamas so fast at they did that night..Then Sackville and Mary yelled out.together.

‘We’re ready!’ Sackville was sitting on Mary’s bed, They were patiently waiting for Anne to tell them the story of how she and Ann met.

‘You will have to listen carefully now.’ Ann said. ‘This is a story of love and happiness.’ Anne looked at her. ‘I thought she asked me to tell them our story.’

‘Sorry, Pony.’

‘Aunt Lister, why does Aunt Walker call you Pony.’ Anne and Ann blushed. It was just a nickname with no real meaning. Well, not one kids would understand.

‘It’s just a pet name she gave me.’ Anne said.’Now, to the story as long as Aunt Walker doesn’t insist on butting in.’ Anne grinned.

‘It goes like this. Once upon a ti….’

‘This isn’t going to be a fairy tale,’ Sackville said butting in.

‘Sorry, seems I was heading in the wrong direction there.’ Anne said.’It was a Friday night. I had nothing to do. So I went to the local cafe. I needed something to eat and to get a drink. I think I had a hot chocolate.’

‘Come on, Pony.’ Ann said. ‘if they find out the truth later they won’t trust you to be honest with them.’ Ann said. She was butting in now.

‘Okay!!! You tell the tale then.’

‘Our cousin, Catherine Rawson had convinced me to go out for the evening. Sometimes, I act like a hermit.’

‘What’s a hermit?’ Mary asked quizzically.

‘Someone who stays at home unless they really need to go out.’ Anne said.

‘I agreed. We went to local pub. Catherine went to find her boyfriend and I sat at the bar to get a drink. Your Aunt Lister was sitting alone. I have always had a crush oh her. Your mum will agree with me. For a long time after she visited when your Nanna and Pop died all I would talk about was Anne Lister this Anne Lister that. I think it drove your mum crazy.’ Anne was blushing. She didn’t know it was like that with Ann.

‘So I got up and sat next to her. I said can I buy you a drink, Miss Lister?’

‘What did she say?’ Sackville asked.

‘Why?’

‘What was your answer?’ Mary asked. These kids were curious.

‘I find you very attractive.’

‘She certainly is very attractive.’ Mary said. ‘Is there more?’

‘Ann looked at Anne. ‘I think you need to go from here.’

‘Okay!!f’ Anne said. ‘We drank a little and talked a lot. That’s how you get to know someone. I took her home to my place to meet my sister, Aunt and father. Yes, they like her.’

‘Where do you live?’ Mary and Sackville asked in unison.

‘At Shibden Hall near Halifax.’

‘That’s not far from Aunt Walker’s home. What’s it called? Crow something or rather. I haven’t been there yet.’ Mary said.

‘Crow Nest, it’s called Crow Nest,’ Ann said.

‘So. You live at Shibben Hall with your Aunt, father and sister. What happened to your mum, Aunt Lister?’

‘Its Shib..den Hall. My mum died quite a few years ago. I haven’t always lived at Shibden. I use to live at Market Weighton.when I was your age.’ Anne said.

‘Well, what happened next?’

‘We decided we wanted to be together after spending a few nights and days together. Aunt Walker will move into Shibden hall with me when we return to Halifax in a few days time.’ Anne said.

‘That’s when we also decided to get married.’ Ann said. ‘what a surprised that was to me when she said yes. Can you imagine how I felt. No, you probably can’t.’

‘I can.’ Elizabeth said. ‘ I think it is about time these two cheeky children went to sleep.’

‘Oh!!’ Mary said

‘Don’t worry, You can visit us one day soon and we will tell you the rest of the story.’ Ann said ’if that is okay with your mum and dad.’ Elizabeth thought that was a good idea. Only how would she ask Anne and Ann to look after her children for a week while she and George went on a second honeymoon. Was it possible they would do that.

‘Come on, Sackville into your bed. Say goodnight to your Aunts.’

‘Goodnight, Aunt Lister. Goodnight, Aunt Walker.’

‘Goodnight, children.’

Ann tucked Mary into bed and turned out the light. Anne had tucked Sackville into his bed and turned out his light. They walked back downstairs. Elizabeth said she had something she wanted to ask them. As they got settled on the couch. Anne asked.’Well, what’s on your mind, Mrs Sutherland? I could hear the wheels turning over in your head. Tell me. What is it you want from your sister and me?’

‘Caught out!! Goodness, you know me already.’

‘I am married to your sister, remember. She does the same thing. That Walker look. You can’t miss it.’

‘I…I would l…love to take George on a second honeymoon.’

‘Your problem is you can’t do that with kids in tow, right!’

‘Yeah!’

‘So, what you would like us to do is kid sit?’

‘Well, kind of. If, you wouldn’t mind. I haven’t told George or booked anything just yet. Please, please say yes. We haven’t had any time alone in nearly seven years.’

‘What do you think, Anne? Would your family mind having our niece and nephew there for a few days.’

‘A week?’ Elizabeth said.

‘I don’t know. Its too late to call now. I can do that in the morning.’

‘Thanks, even if they say no. Thanks for offering!’

‘That’s okay. I can’t promise you they will say yes, I can promise you I will do my best to make them see it will be good for them to have kids around.’

‘Goodnight, Anne and Ann.’

‘Goodnight, Elizabeth. Sleep well.’

‘And you.’

As soon as their bedroom door was closed Ann leaned against it. Anne wrapped her arm around Ann’s waist and crushed her lips into Ann’s. When they parted Ann’s lips were bright red and very swollen and so were Anne’s. It was impossible to remember who pushed whom onto the bed. Yet, there they were naked and wrapped in each others arms. Of course, Anne had Ann pinned to the bed. She was trailing kisses down her neck, between her breasts. One hand was massaging Ann’s breasts while she was trying to keep herself above Ann with the other. Not an easy task but she seemed to be holding her own. Anne trailed more kisses down Ann’s belly until she found her clit.

Ann was squirming under her. ‘Oh Pony, fuck me, Pony. Come on, Please. I am needing you in a thousand ways.’

‘I see we are impatient again, Mrs Lister. I might have to punish you if you don’t learn to wait, Adney.’

‘I am so hot for you. My clit is throbbing. I can feel it.’

‘Now, what do you want me to do, Ann?’

‘You know….’

‘Just say it please.’

‘I want you to fuck me hard. I want to feel your tongue and fingers inside me. I want you to rub my clit with your thumb. Oh please, Pony, please.’

‘I can’t refuse you when you ask so nicely.Can I?’

Ann felt Anne insert her fingers in to her centre. Her hips thrashed with the movement of Anne’s fingers as she pulled them out and pushed them back in, faster and faster. Then Ann felt Anne’s tongue on her clit. The sensation was divine. It sent Ann’s hips rocking. Ann screaming out loudly.’Be quiet, Adney.’ Anne said. So, Ann put one hand over her mouth. Her other hand had a chunk of Anne’s hair in it. Ann’s hand muffled her moans. Anne’s fingers and tongue kept up a fast pace. Ann’s hips were moving in rhythm to Anne’s fingers. Ann was moaning into her hand. ‘I am close, Pony. Faster  please. Anne swiped her tongue one last time over Ann’s clit. There was one last push from Ann. Her body shudder. She had explode. Her head was spinning. Anne brought her down gently until her body stilled. Anne slide up next to Ann. They kissed slowly and lovingly. ‘That was…’ before Anne finished Ann said.’Amazing.’

“Let’s get some sleep now.’ Anne said.

‘Not so fast there, Mrs Lister. I seem to recall it’s your turn to experience some pleasure.’ Ann said. ‘so would you mind rolling over onto your back.’ Anne did as she was asked. Ann crushed her lips. They kissed passionately again. Anne could feel the passion curling in her gut. Their lips parted. They were red and swollen. Anne had the biggest grin on her face. Ann trailed kisses down her body. She found her nipples. She licked and sucked on them until they were hard and erect.

Ann trailed more kisses down to Anne’s clit. She licked it with her tongue and sucked it with her lips. She dove two fingers into Anne’s centre. Anne’s body was thrashing wildly. She had to put her fist in her mouth to stop herself from screaming out loudly. She was so close to the edge. ‘Adney, faster please darling. Fuck…yes….right there. Yes, yes, yes, Adney  yes. Oh darling.Yes fuck yes.’ Then she was gone. Her body shuddered. Ann held her until she was calm. They kissed lovingly. WOW!! Look what you do to me? How you make me feel. I am yours. My body needs your touch always.’ Anne said.

All Ann could say was ditto. They would sleep well tonight. Anne had to phone her Aunt tomorrow but she felt it would be okay for Ann’s niece and nephew to visit. She was sure Marian loved kids. So, they would have someone to help take care of them. Tomorrow was just another day to be with the woman she loved.

Anne called her Aunt the next morning. The phone rang. It took her Aunt Anne a few minutes to answer. When she did she seemed out of breath.’Helllllo!’

‘Hello, Aunt, are you all right?. You sound out of breath.’

‘i am.I was outside when the phone rang and since everyone is away I had to rush in to answer it.’ Aunt Anne said breathlessly.

‘I’m sorry.’

‘That’s okay. How are you and Ann doing?’

‘Good.’ Anne said. ‘Ann and I have a favour to ask of you, Marian and father.’ Aunt Anne raised her eyebrows. ‘Now, what would that be?’

‘Elizabeth and George want to go on a second honeymoon.’

‘Yes, but how does that affect us, Anne?’ Aunt Anne said quizzically.

‘They have two children and it wouldn’t be a honeymoon if they had to take their kids with them.’ Anne said cautiously.

‘So!!’

‘Would it be okay if we brought them with us when we return home in a few days time?’ Ann said taking the phone from Anne to talk to her aunt.

‘I don’t know little Ann. Let me ask Jeremy and Marian. They just walked back inside from their trip into Halifax. ’

Ann could her chatter in the background. Then Marian was talking to her.

‘Yes, bring the children. I think between the three of us we will be able to look after them and keep them amused.’

‘Thanks, Marian. I will let Elizabeth know then she can organize their trip.’ Ann said.

‘You’re welcome. Is my big sister looking after you?’ Marian asked.

‘Yes, I have to say she is treating me like a queen.’ Ann said proudly.

‘That’s good to hear. I will pass the phone back to Aunt. She will probably want to talk to Anne again.’

‘Hello!’

‘Hello, Aunt! How are you doing? We are fine here. We had a little scare earlier this week but it’s all good now. The weather is lovely. The kids are good. Ann and I told them a bedtime story last night.’

‘What was the story about,Anne?’ Aunt Anne asked. She was surprised Anne would do that because Anne wasn’t really into kids that she knew.

‘It was about how Ann and I met. We haven’t finished the story. It was late when we started and the kids were asking us questions.’

‘How old are they?’ Anne had to think. ‘Mary is nearly six and Sackville is about four I think.’

‘Yes, Sackville is nearly four.’ Ann said.

‘Okay!! Oh the weather has been good here too. Anyway, I had better go. Take care and I will see you soon. I love you, Anne.’

‘Love you too, Aunt. Take care and stay safe, Bye.’

‘Bye.’ The line went silent. Anne hung up. They gave Elizabeth the good news. She was so happy. She had talked about the second honeymoon to George and he seemed happy. So, she had penciled in reservations at their favourite holiday spot. All she had to do was call and confirm which she did before Anne and Ann changed their minds.

It was all set. When Anne and Ann went back to Halifax they would have two little people with them. Anne didn’t thing this was the best idea they had ever had but Ann said they would be fine. After all it was only going to be one week. Wasn’t it?

 

Chapter Text

They stayed in Fortrose for two more days. Anne wasn’t sure she was doing the right thing when Ann and her offered to look after Mary and Sackville for a week. She could see that they were going to be a handful. She didn’t know if her aunt and father would last a week with two kids under six under their roof.

Ann smiled at her a few times and told her that everything would be fine. Only she could see that it could come crashing down around them. Of course, Anne was hoping that wouldn’t happen and if all went well then Ann and her could have a talk about whether they wanted children not now, but sometime in the future.

Only that wasn’t today. They were sitting outside on the lounge chair while George tended to the barbecue. He was good for something. Elizabeth was preparing the salad and dessert for later.

‘Would you like me to help you, Liz?’ Ann said.

‘No, I’m fine. Thanks for offering. You’ll be knee deep in kids this time next week. I am sure that what I am doing now won’t be anywhere close to what you are doing for me.’ Anne looked at her puzzled. Ann knew what Mary and Sackville could be like. She hadn’t told Anne they could often be unbearable. Ann was hoping that with Mary and Sackville at Shibden for only a week there would be no problems.

‘What did she mean, Ann?’ Anne said confused.

‘What?’ Ann said. She looked at Anne.’She is making us a nice meal because we are looking after her kids for a week. That’s all.’

‘I hope so because it doesn’t seem that way to me.’

‘I will fill you in later. It’s best we don’t talk about it now.’

‘Okay!!! As long as I can be sure it isn’t a bad thing.’ Ann squirmed.. It could be bad but their outbursts were rare and Ann knew how to calm them if something happened. Yet, she hoped it wouldn’t happen because if Anne saw them at their worse could she accept Ann at her worse.

Ann didn’t know what to do. They had come so far in their relationship. They were married which was still like a dream to Ann. She never thought someone like Anne Lister would marry someone like her. Was Anne Lister really in love with little Annie Walker as everyone was prone to call her.

Ann had to shake herself out of the doldrums. She knew Anne was in love with her. She knew from the way Anne made love to her. The way Anne fucked her. The way Anne went down on her. The way Anne licked and sucked on her clit. The way Anne dove her fingers into her centre. The way Anne held her when she came. The way Anne said I love you. Yet, she was still doubting how Anne really felt about her even though they were married.

They returned to Shibden the next day. Anne was excited to get back home. They had been away for nearly two weeks. Anne had so much that needed to be done around the estate. She had left John Booth in charge. He had been sending her messages and photos of what they had done on the estate. She pleased but she wanted to see the results in person.

‘Okay, you two in the back. If you are good you will get rewarded. If not, then we will have to report your bad behaviour to your mum.’ Ann said.

‘But Aunt, you know what happens when you do that.’ Anne took her eyes off the road for a moment to glace at Ann. ‘What happens?’ OOPS! Ann had momentarily forgotten where she was and who she was with. ‘Come on, I need to know what I have let myself in for. So, what happens?’ Anne’s voice was raised slightly.

‘Anne, I don’t know how to explain this to you. I suppose I should have told you before you agreed to take care of Liz’s kids for a week. Before you agreed to marry me.’ Anne was confused. She was sure Ann was going to tell her something horrid. Ann looked worried. ‘Ann. It can’t be that bad. Can it?’

‘Anne, I wish I knew how to say this. I don’t know how. I haven’t had to tell anyone about this. Only my family know.’

‘What is it that only your family know about? Ann, I need to know. You need to realise that whatever it is we can deal with it together.’

‘I don’t know, Anne.’ Ann said. ‘Sometimes I think we may have jumped into this too soon.’

‘Really!’ Anne said slightly annoyed.’Come on, you said you have loved me for so long you can’t remember when you didn’t love me.’

‘When did I say that?’ I don’t remember.’

‘Not long after you asked me if you could buy me a drink. Don’t you remember that?’ Anne said surprised. She thought Ann would remember everything. ‘I love you, Ann Walker. Now, I am married to you. WOW!!’

‘Is that how it is? You will accept whatever I tell you. No matter what it is.’

Anne looked at her bewildered. She thought Ann was going to cry. She watched her look away and put her hands up to her eyes to wipe them.

‘I will.’ Anne hoped it wasn’t bad.

‘Anne, I have depression and I have anxiety fits. I don’t know why but sometimes when I am feeling depressed or anxious Mary and Sackville see me they seem to feel threatened. So, sometimes they get angry and upset.’ Ann said. ‘When that happens I need to be alone with them to calm them down.’

‘How often does this happen?’

‘It’s rare. It’s only happened about three times but anyone looking on would think we were crazy.’ Ann said sadly. Anne looked at her and wondered how long she had had to endure that. The way Ann’s tribe treated her because she was so different than what they expected her to be. The way her niece and nephew seem to emulate her condition.The way Ann seemed to pull herself together. It was now, somehow, a part of Anne’s life.

She had always been able to rise above all the chatter, all the noise that built up around her in a way even she often found it hard to understand. Yet, even she had silent, unbearable moments when she found it impossible to cope. When she found she had to hide away from the world for a moment just to put herself back together, transform what she had suddenly become into someone whose armour could save her from others and sometimes, herself.

‘Ann, how do we avoid it from happening.’ Anne said solemnly.

‘We do our best to keep our lives light, airy, fully of hope. Then these two small, vulnerable children will be content. We do have to be cautious though because they watch everything we do and repeat everything we say.’

‘We have a huge task at hand. It is a big responsibility. Isn’t it? Yet, I am sure we have the metal to do what we must.’ Anne said sincerely.’Just come to me when you are feeling low. Let me know when you need space, time to unwind from the stress of being a surrogate mother to those two children, even if it is only for a week.’ Anne said.’I will find something to entertain them while you rest.’

‘Thanks, Pony. I really do appreciate that. I hope I never have to ask you to do that.’ Ann said. ‘Elizabeth and George, well, more so Elizabeth is so grateful for a week’s rest from needing to think about her children and having fun with George.’

‘I hope it’s good to be a good week for everyone.’

‘I hope so too.’ Ann said.

‘Are we there yet?’ Came two small voices for the back just as Anne drove into Shibden. ‘Only another hour or two.; Anne said jokingly.

‘Oh no!!’ the kids screamed. Then the hall came into view. ‘Is this your home, Aunt Lister?’ Mary asked.

‘Yes, it is Aunt Walker’s home too.’ Ann was taken back for a moment. She hadn’t realised that Shibden Hall would be her home now. ‘This is my home now, isn’t it? I cannot believe that we are married and I am living with the most adorable woman in my world.’ Ann said as the car came to a halt outside the front entrance everyone seemed to walk out into the sunlight. Aunt Anne’s cane tapping against the step and then the pavers. Jeremy’s boots on the gravel and Marian’s voice echoing around the front verandah..

‘They’re here at last with the two children.’ Marian boomed. Anne was beginning to wish they had spent another week away. Then she saw her aunt whose smile engulfed her face. Her father who, even though he looked gruff, was pleased to see his elder daughter and Ann again.

‘Hello there, how was your trip?’ Jeremy asked. As he looked at Anne and Ann. Neither knew which one he was asking so they answered in unison. ‘Fine, thanks.’

‘The weather was beautiful and the children behaved better than I thought they would.’ Anne said. As she looked at Ann expecting to get frowned at. Only Ann smiled remembering their conversation as they drove down.

‘Have you had lunch yet?’ Marian asked tentatively. She wasn’t really into fighting with her sister just yet. ‘You know I don’t do lunch, Marian but sometimes, I do.’ Anne said.

‘What do we have to chose from?’ Asked Mary.

‘We have peanut butter and honey sandwiches, baked beans on toast, and scrambled eggs. You can decided what you want. I will get Cordingley to prepare it for you. Mary.’ Aunt Anne said. ‘So, what would you like to eat?’

Mary looked at both her aunts then at Aunt Anne. ‘I’m not sure, Miss Lister. I have so much to chose from.’

‘That’s okay, Mary. You can decide in a few and do call me Aunt Anne. Miss Lister makes me feel old.’ Aunt Anne said. ‘Yes, I know I look old but I don’t feel old. Okay!’

‘Okay, Aunt Anne.’ Mary said with a sheepish grin.’And what can we call you?’ Mary pointed to Marian then Jeremy.

‘I don’t know.’ Marian said then after a beat.’Just call me Mar. That will be fine.’

‘Gramps.’ Jeremy said.’Because I do tend to get a bit grumpy.’

The kids laughed. ‘Well, let’s go inside and eat. I am sure Cordingley will want to feed you two.’ Anne said as she pointed to the children. ‘Just help me with your bags. We will put them in the front room for now until we have decided where you are going to sleep.’ Then Aunt Anne asked them about their trip to the lake district and what they did will they were there. Then about their visit with Ann’s family at Fortrose. Anne could see Ann was getting uncomfortable. She was remembering what happened when Ainsworth showed up unannounced.

They did talk about the bedtime story they told the children and the questions the kids asked. It was fun.

‘Children can be inquisitive little beings so they will always ask questions. All you can do is be as honest as possible.’

‘Yes, we both know lying to kids isn’t a bright idea. The truth will eventually come out.’ Anne said. ‘We had this conversation with Elizabeth only a few days ago when the kids were asking us if we were married.’ Aunt Anne looked puzzled.’So, what did you tell them?’

‘The truth.’ Ann replied.

‘And what did they say?’

‘Now, we have another aunt to spoil us.’ Anne said smiling because she really did want to spoil them.

‘So, it really didn’t change anything. That’s good to hear. It seems like your sister and brother-in-law are raising well rounded, accepting children. That’s great.’ Marian said. ‘I wish other people would do that with their kids. It can be hard when someone doesn’t like who you are. Can’t it?’ Marian glanced at both Annes when she said that.

‘Yes, it is hard when someone discredits you for who you love.’ Anne said. ‘I rise above it.’

‘I have only been able to do that since Anne and I started this journey together. I couldn’t do it on my own. I didn’t feel as though I had the courage to do that.’ Ann said shyly. Aunt Anne looked at her with sad eyes. ‘I am sorry you had to go through that.’ She said. ‘Did you not have support from your family?’

‘I suppose when they spend every moment they’re with you trying to get you to marry this man or that man, no.’

‘Did you tell them?’ Marian asked as she looked at Ann. They were seated at the dining table now eating lunch. Anne was seated near the window as she wasn’t eating. Mary and Sackville were munching into peanut butter and honey sandwiches.

‘I was never given a chance to tell anyone because when I went to tell them they would change the subject as if they knew what I was about to say.’

‘’How do you feel now?’ Aunt Anne asked looking concerned at Ann. She was hoping she wasn’t overstepping the mark with Ann.’It’s like a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders. I feel as though I could walk on clouds.’ Anne looked at her quizzically.’Walk on clouds?’ Anne said.

‘Only metaphorically speaking. That’s how light I feel. I am glad we told Elizabeth. She seemed very accepting. Didn’t she, Anne?’

‘Yes, she did, Ann. I was so happy for us both. I never expected that from your family after what you had told me.’ Anne said looking shyly at Ann who smiled at her warmly.

‘Now, to the bedroom situation.’ Jeremy said. ‘We have make up the queen size bed in the guest room as long as the kids don’t mind sleeping together.’

‘We don’t mind.’ the kids replied together.

‘Well, it is only for a week but you have to remember to keep quiet because Aunt Anne’s bedroom is right next to yours. She is a light sleeper. Okay!!’ Jeremy said.

‘And your snore like a freight train.’ Anne chimed in.

‘What about what you two get up to?’ Marian said. ‘Your banging keeps the whole house awake.’

‘Hmm. Little pigs have big ears, Marian.’ Anne, Aunt Anne and Ann said together.

‘Sorry, not use to having little people in the house.’ Marian said sheepishly. ‘I’m looking forward to having fun with them.’

‘Are you prepared to help look after them?’ Ann said. ‘They seem to like you, Marian.’

When they finished lunch Anne and Ann showed Mary and Sackville where they were sleeping. Where the bathroom they would be using was. Then Anne and Ann took them for a walk around the estate. The children were surprised by the size. ‘Aunt Lister, have you lived here all your life?’ Mary asked. She seemed to be the one who wanted to know everything.

‘No, Mary. I have only lived here since I was about 15 before then I lived in Market Weighton with my mum and dad.’ Mary looked surprised. She couldn’t believe Anne. She had thought Anne had lived here all her life. ‘I have already to you that’

‘Aunt Lister, where is your mum now?’ Anne never expected Sackville to ask that question. She felt tears welling up in the corner of her eyes. Ann answered for her. ‘Aunt Lister’s mum passed away when Aunt Lister was very young but she still misses her so much.’ Then Ann reached over and pulled Anne into a hug. ‘Can we give you a hug too.’ Mary asked. Anne was surprised they wanted to hug her. ‘Yes!! Let’s have a group hug.’ The kids and Anne hugged. It did make her feel better. Then they sat down on their bed. ‘Is it okay if you tell us another story tonight when we go to bed?’

‘I think we can do that.’ Anne said. ‘Only I thought you wanted to hear the rest of our story. You will have to excuse me if I forgot where we were up to!’

‘That’s okay!!’ Ann said.‘I am sure that we can remember if we try.’

‘What do you remember we told you about our story?’ Anne asked Mary and Sackville as she tucked them into bed.  

‘How you met and that you two are married. Did you go on a honeymoon?’ Mary asked.

‘Yes, we spent a few days in . The lake district. It was lovely.’ Ann said.

‘We were going to go for a boat right but we watched a movie and ate popcorn.  We had a blast. So we hope to go there again some day.’

‘Was that before you came to see us?’ Sackville asked.

‘Yes, why do you ask?’ Ann said as she looked at Sackville. She was surprised he want to know.

‘You were very happy. That’s all.’ Mary said. I have never seen you so happy, Aunt Walker. It was like you had found a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow.’

‘Thanks!! I didn’t know how I felt was so obvious to anyone.’

‘That’s what mum told us. She is so happy for you and so is dad, even though he doesn’t show it.’ Mary said.

‘Didn’t he say he didn’t want Aunt Walker there because she’s a lesbian.’ Anne asked.

‘He didn’t know how you would behave around us.’ Mary said. ‘So, he kinda likes you know because we are here with you.’

‘Is that so.’ Anne said.

‘Yes, he doesn’t trust many people when it comes to Sackville and me.’

‘When is your birthday, Mary?’ Ann asked to change the subject. She didn’t want to be reminded of Ainsworth and she didn’t really want to talk about what happened. Especially with the kids.

‘Ann, are you okay?’ Anne asked quietly so only Ann could hear her.’Don’t worry about Ainsworth. He won’t come here because he knows I will throw him out so fast his feet won’t touch the ground.’

‘That’s not bothering me. It's the effect it will have on Mary and Sackville that worries me the most. Ann said. ‘They don’t need to hear what happened between him and me.’

‘They won’t. If he turns up we can get Marian to take them for a drive to the park and then we can deal with him.’

‘Only we have no idea if or when that will happen.’

I guess we need to be prepared for anything then, don’t we?’ Anne looked at Ann.’Time for sleeping kids. We can finish our story later. We have a week together. Good night.’

‘Good night!’ Mary and Sackville said together.

The following day Anne and Ann told Marian their plan, how they would deal with Ainsworth if he came snooping around and what they wanted Marian to do for them.

She agreed. She thought that was the best idea. They didn’t need to know anything. Of course, like them, Marian was hoping he wouldn’t turn up but there was a big chance he would if he knew she was married to and living with Anne Lister which I suppose he did since Anne called Ann her wife at one point during the screaming match with him.

In hindsight they were surprised he didn’t say much. He must have heard what they said. Anne wondered if he didn’t want to believe that they were married.. That he thought he still had a chance to ask Ann to marry him. Anne didn’t know what to think about that.

Even though they had never talked about the possibility they could one day be parents. Deep down Anne knew Ann would love to be a mum. She could see that Ann was with Mary and Sackville able to take care of her niece and nephew like a mother. They were Ann’s nearest living relatives beside her sister, Elizabeth.

‘Ann, I have to go into town on some business. Will you be okay here with Mary and Sackville for about an hour or two. I will be back as quickly as I can.’ Anne said as she looked into Ann’s eyes. She could see fear there even though Ann was trying hard to hide it.’I think I will be okay!! I have Marian with me and I don’t think she will let me out of her sight.’ Ann said even though she knew that was right she still felt uncomfortable.

Anne walked over to where Ann was standing. They had been sitting in the dining room after breakfast. Ann rose and Anne pulled her into a tight hug. She whispered into Ann’s ear. ‘Don’t worry Ainsworth won’t bother you any more. I am going into town to make sure he doesn’t.’

‘Anne, please tell me you won’t do anything that will get you into trouble.’ Ann said quietly.

‘No, darling. I just plan to warn him off visiting us. Okay!!’

‘Please don’t do that because I think he might be angry or hurt. He might do something that will crush both of us.’

‘Why should he be angry or hurt? He hurt you and  expects you to do nothing. I love you, Ann Walker. I want you to feel safe when you are with me. I don’t want you to fear that he could do something to either of us. Please Ann, trust me just this one time.’

‘I will but please be careful. He can be aggressive.’ Those words from Ann increased Anne’s anger. After Vere had turned her down and she had returned home. She didn’t think she would ever find love again. Now, she was in love with and married to Ann Walker she was prepared to do what she could to keep Ann safe.

Anne drove quickly into Halifax. She had to format a plan to ensure Ainsworth never bothered Ann again. She had to work off her instincts but even those instincts often failed her. The only time she had had to deal with Ainsworth was at Fortrose. That didn’t give her any indication of what he was like. Then her phone rang. It was Marian. ‘We have a problem, Anne. You need to return home now.’ Then Marian hung up before she could find out what was going on. When she arrived back home she found everyone in the sitting room but where was Ann. Then she heard him. Ann had locked herself in their bedroom with Mary and Sackville. He was banging on the door and yelling for her to let him in.

She could hear the kids screaming and Ann trying to calm them down. She didn’t know what to do. All she wanted to do was kill him.Aunt Anne and father sat there stunned.

‘Did anyone call the cops? Does he have the gun?’

‘Yes, he does have a gun. He is wild and very agitated. Yes, we did call the cops they are on their way.’

‘Good!’

‘I am going to go outside. Ann may have opened our bedroom window. I think I can climb in. I am going to try.’ Anne sneaked out the front door again. Ainsworth yelled out, ‘Who was that?’

‘No one.’ Marian said. She could see he still had the gun and was wondering if it was loaded. She didn’t know and didn’t want to find out. While Ainsworth and Ann were yelling at each other Anne was able to shimmy up the side of the house and climb in through their bedroom window. Ann had the sense to open it. She thought Anne would think to check that out if Marian had called her to come home.

‘Ann, are you okay?’ Anne said looking at Ann who looked concerned.

‘I am doing fine. It’s Mary and Sackville who I am worried about.’ Anne looked over. The two kids were huddled in the corner crying and asking for their mother.

‘Should we call Elizabeth?’Anne asked. ‘She did say call us if there was a desperate need. I think this is one.’ Ann shook her head.

‘Please go over and give them both a hug. That might help. Talk to them the way you talk to me when I am distressed.’ Anne did.  She soothed them just as the cops arrived. Ainsworth was trying desperately to break down the door. Ann had locked it and put a chair in front of it.

Then they heard scuffling in the hallway. Ainsworth yelling all he wanted was to see Ann. He was taken away. Then there was a knock on the door.

‘Ma’am please open the door. You are safe now. We have taken him into custody.’ They moved the chair and unlocked the door.

‘Hi, Constable Brown reporting. Do you want to press charges?’ Anne and Ann said. ‘Yes!!’

‘He has scared these two children. I don’t know if they will need counseling or not. They are my sister’s children.’ Ann said.

‘We can get someone to talk to them if you like.’ Constable Brown said. ‘I am sure they will be fine.’ Anne wondered what was the best thing to do. She knew they needed to call Elizabeth and tell here what happened. She saw this as important. If, they didn’t call Elizabeth and the children had nightmares about it then she wouldn’t be happy with them.

‘Call Elizabeth. Tell her what happened and see if she is okay with having someone talk to them about what happened.’

‘If we lay charges on him will the kids have to appear in court?’ Ann asked as Constable Brown took notes on what happened.

‘I don’t think so. As long as we have a statement from you two and anyone else who witnessed what happened we should be fine. I am sure this will be enough evidence to lock him away for awhile.’

‘I was in Halifax. Marian, my sister, called me to come home.’ Anne said. ‘So, I didn’t see what happened.’

Ann called Elizabeth.’We have had a visit from Ainsworth. He threatened us with a gun. No, Mary and Sackville are fine. They were watching a movie in our bedroom. One of the police officers who arrested him was wondering if you think it would be a good idea to have them talk to someone. A counsellor but they won’t know that.’ Ann said. Then Anne asked to talk to Elizabeth.

‘Liz, it would help your children to talk about this. Unfortunately, he came here when I was in Halifax to deal with him.He must have been watching and saw me leave. Then he had his chance to see Ann and try to get her to go with him.  I raced back home as quick as I could after Marian called me. Ann is doing fine. She is worried about Mary and Sackville. They seem okay but…good we will set that up. Can you get here ASAP. I think they need you too.’ Anne handed her phone back to Ann.

‘Yes, let’s bring in someone to talk to the kids now if possible.’ Anne said as she looked at Constable Brown. ‘I can arrange that. We have a counsellor on staff. I will call the station.’  The counsellor arrived later that afternoon. She spoke quietly to Mary and Sackville. They seemed to understand why she was there. They were afraid about what had happened. When she told them the bad man had been arrested they seemed to be able to relax. When the told them he wouldn’t be bothering them again. They smiled.

Elizabeth and George arrived in the evening. Mary and Sackville were happy to see their parents. Elizabeth could see everyone was worried by what had happened. ‘Don’t worry!!’ Elizabeth said.’He seemed like a loose cannon when he was at Fortrose. I knew Mary and Sackville were in good hands. I just hope he goes to jail for his crimes against Ann and everyone here.’

‘I thought Ainsworth would be a good husband to his wife. I never imagined that he was capable of this because he was a clergyman.’ George said angrily.. He was so mad that Ainsworth had frightened his children and their Aunts and Anne’s family.

‘I thought clergymen were here to protect us from our sins. To help us become better people. To engage with us in the sacrament and to show us the way to God. Yet, they are only humans. So they can be flawed just as we are flawed. Only he has gone too far.’ Anne said. When Anne locked eyes with Ann she could see she was crying. Anne walked over to Ann and pulled her into a tight hug. ‘Are you okay, darling?’ Anne said softly so only Ann could hear her. When she didn’t answer Anne kissed her tenderly on her forehead and walked her into the kitchen where they could talk in private.

‘Anne, I am worried about Mary and Sackville. I don’t know if what happened today will have an impact on them in the future.’ Anne could see the concern on her face. ‘I am sure if that happens we will be able to deal with it. They seem fine for now.’ Ann nodded. She wasn’t sure what else she could do. All she knew was that Ann was fearful which could lead her into another anxiety attack. She didn’t want that.

‘Ann, breath in and out slowly. Allow me to help you, darling. I wish this hadn’t happened. I wanted to help you. That’s what I intended to do when I want into Halifax. I should have been here with you then he wouldn’t have done what he did. ‘

‘Anne, you know that isn’t true. Even if you had been here you wouldn’t have been able to do anything. Remember he had a gun. We don’t know if it was loaded or not. He threatened your family while I was hiding in our bedroom.’ Ann said. ‘He wanted me. I tried to get him to go away. I told him again that we were married. He didn’t believe me.’ Anne looked at her. Then she realised why he laughed at them when he left Fortrose. He didn’t think they were married. She guessed it was only a ruse to get rid of him. Yet, they were married and had proof. ‘Ann, we are married. You are my beautiful wife. The woman I want to spend the rest of my life with. There is nothing he can do to change that. Nothing!! you hear me!!! I love you, Ann Walker.’

‘I love you, Anne Lister. I will never doubt you again. I hope you aren’t mad with me . I wish there was some way to make up to you.’

‘I am not mad with you. I am just upset. Trust me please.’ Anne said with tears running down her cheeks. Ann leaned over and wiped them and Anne wiped the tears off her cheeks. Then they laughed. ‘We are two big sooks.’ Anne said. ‘Let’s go back to the sitting room everyone will be wondering where we are.’

‘Okay.’ Anne grabbed Ann’s hand. They walked into the sitting room.

Elizabeth and George had taken Mary and Sackville out into the garden to talk to them. Aunt Anne seemed concerned. ‘How will we ever be the same after this cruel encounter?’

‘We will be quite all right. I am sure he will get what he deserves. Constable Brown will make sure of that. Won’t you, Constable?’ Marian said.

‘I will endeavour to do my best. He is behind bars for the time being. I am sure someone will pay his bail money. I think he has friends in high places. Miss Walker, you should get an AVO against him.’

‘What is an AVO?.’ Ann asked..

‘An AVO is an. Apprehended Violence Order made by the court against a person who you fear for your safety to protect your from further violence.’ Constable Brown said as he showed her what she needed to do.

‘Anne, what do you think?’ Ann asked her wife. She was unsure how this would end only she wanted to feel safe in their home if he should get someone to post bail for him.

‘I think it would be a good idea. Anne, can help you get it. I am sure she will take care of you, Ann.’ Jeremy said.

‘What if he ignores the AVO and tries to barge his way back into our home?’ Ann said.

‘If someone posts bail for him I plan to have someone keep watch on all the entries to Shibden over the next week or so. How many entrances are there?’ Constable Brown asked.

‘Only two main ones. But there are many smaller ones. I will post my men there. Tell them to watch out for a man. I will give them his description and tell them to call me if they should see him, Or call you which would be better.’ Anne inquired.

‘It would be best to call me then I can get the men I posted there to deal with it immediately. He will go back to jail if he violates the AVO.’ Anne and Ann locked eyes. They were thinking the same thing and said so. ‘I think we will get the AVO.’

‘It will not only protect Ann. It will also protect my family from him. Who knows what he is capable of doing. Who knows how far he will go to get what he wants.’

‘Anne, I am trying not to think about that. Let’s go to the courthouse and get the AVO.’ Ann said just as Elizabeth walked into the room. She had Mary and Sackville with her.’I think unless we are needed here George and I will take our children and go home. Thanks for taking care of them but they want to be with us.’

‘That’s okay, Liz. I don’t think we will be needing you. Thanks for coming to get them. Sorry, we spoiled your second honeymoon.’

‘To be honest it wasn’t much fun without Mary and Sackville.’ Elizabeth said. ‘We missed them waking us in the morning with all their hollering and hooting.’

‘Ah, parenthood, What joy? I know how you feel. I have three little ones and they wake my wife and me the same way every morning. Such a joy.’ Constable Brown said.

Elizabeth collected the children’s gear and bid them goodbye. The constable left to return to the station. Anne and Ann drove to the courthouse to organise the AVO. Of course, they realised Ainsworth would need to sign and abide by it. They were hoping he would. Of course, there was no way they could rely on  him sticking to his agreement.

They were surprised when he agreed to signing the AVO. They never imagined he would. He had found someone to post bail. They weren’t told who it was but they had a feeling they knew. There was only one person in Halifax who wanted revenge against Anne Lister. That person was Christopher Rawson. She knew he had enough money to post bail for Ainsworth. She also knew he was jealous because Anne was going to be rich than him now she was married to Ann Walker. Yet, money wasn’t the reason she married Ann. She genuinely loved Ann Walker. She didn’t know how or when those feelings began to take shape. She had often imagined Ann wouldn’t want to be with someone who was so conceited, so arrogant. She imagine the argument they would have when she told Ann she had feelings for her. She could hear Ann’s words in her head. You’re only playing with me. You look at me as if it is a game.then you will throw me out like all the others. Anne had never consider Ann would ever take her word as the truth. She never though Ann would even want to be near her. Yet, that night in the pub. That night when Ann approached her and offered to buy her a drink. That night she thought all her dreams were about to come true. They did. Now, here she was holding Ann so tightly that she felt she would burst into flames. The feelings, the desires that were swelling between her legs was so unbearable. She had to get Ann home. She wanted to fuck Ann until all Ann could do was whimper then fall asleep in her arms. She was brought back to the present by Ann

‘I think we have all we need now. Is that right, Anne?’ Ann looked up at her as she pulled away from Anne. ‘Yes, darling. We have all we need. He has signed the AVO. We can go home. I don’t think he will bother us unless he wants this to go against him in court.’

‘Are you okay?’ Ann asked sincerely. When she looked at Anne she could see she was worried about something. ‘What is wrong? What have you been thinking?’

Anne took a deep breath. Then said. ‘I am fine. Just thinking about us and how I never imagined we would be together. I think it is time we were totally honest with each other. Let’s go home.’

‘Oh kay!! We can do that.’ Ann said with concern in her voice. She didn’t know why Anne wanted to have this talk. She was a little afraid of what she should reveal to her.

‘Come on, Let’s go.’ Anne said as she grabbed Ann’s hand. They walked to the car. Anne drove them home in silence.

Anne and Ann walked into the house to find everyone waiting for them. They wanted to know if Ainsworth signed the AVO.

‘Yes, he signed it. We have a copy. I am going to put in it a safe place. They are sending me a copy by email.’ Anne said. Everyone sighed. They were relieved. No one wanted a repeat of what happened earlier.

‘Constable Brown will inform us what will happen next.’ Ann said. ‘We may have to testify in court. If they ask us to do that, do I have your support?’

‘Yes!!’ Aunt Anne said.’I am sure everyone here agrees with me. That was the scariest thing I have ever been through. I can’t imagine how you feel since you were the one he was looking for.’

‘Thank you, Aunt. Thank you, everyone. I know this has been traumatic for you all.’ Ann said. ‘I really do feel grateful that I am now a member of this family. I love you all.’ Aunt Anne pulled her in for a hug. She felt her warm arms engulf her and her Aunt’s love embrace her.’You are a member of this family now and we will protect you at all cost.’ Jeremy said. How could he not do that for her since she was the wife of his elder daughter. ‘Thanks, father. Now, let’s get to bed, darling. You have had a bad day and you must be very sleepy.’ Anne said with a smile on her face.

As they walked up to their bedroom Ann whispered ‘I’m sleepy, I wonder were you got that idea from. I know you want to fuck me.’

‘And you want to fuck me too. Don’t deny it I could see the look in your eyes when we were waiting at the court house.’

‘I was wondering if you noticed how i was feeling.’ They walked into their bedroom. Anne closed and locked the door. Anne pushed Ann against the door and smashed their lips together. Their bodies move in unison. They began to tear off each others’ clothes. Then Ann stopped. ‘Is this what we should be doing? Is this what you really want from me? I thought you wanted to talk first.’

‘I do if, that is okay with you. I just got carried away in the moment. How is it that you can distract me from what we need to do?’

‘Anne, I wasn’t distracting you. It’s just what you do to me. Please, let’s talk.’

So they sat on their bed a slight distance from each other so they wouldn’t be distracted. ‘Do you want to start or will I?’ They sat in silence for a beat. Ann didn’t know what to say. She had no idea how this would help their relationship. In fact she thought it would probably kill it completely.

‘I will start since I am the one who said we need to talk. Okay!!’

‘Okay.’ was all Ann could say. She didn’t expect to hear what Anne said next.’I have been in many relationships over the years. I know you have heard about most of them and I have told you what you haven’t heard but hear me out. This may not seem possible to you because of what I have been through. You see I have had feelings for you for a very long time. I don’t know how or when or why they began. I guess it was because you seemed so young, so innocent and wouldn’t want to be with someone like me.’

‘Anne!’

‘Please, let me finish.’ Ann nodded.’I always thought no one would ever love me the way you do. No one would want to be with me the way you do. Now. I am here with you right now, I still feel as though this is a dream. I will wake up and you will be gone. I will be here at Shibden with my shabby little family and no one to love me the way you are loving me right now. Tell me I am not dreaming.’ Anne said with tears welling in her eyes. Ann leaned over. Wiped the tears from Anne’s eyes and said.’If you are dreaming so am I. I never imagined you would ever want to be with someone like me. Someone who isn’t as worldly as all your past lovers. Someone who is often too afraid to go out in public in case someone saw her and realises she was gay then starting bullying her. Someone who loves you more than you may ever realise. Who wants to be with you for always. Anne, believe me when I say you are the only one I have ever loved. The only one I will ever love, Pony.’ Anne couldn’t hold her tears. They were rolling down her cheeks. Then Ann pulled her into a hug. They were like that for a long time. When they parted they undressed and climbed into bed. There would be no sex tonight. It was Ann’s turn to be honest.

‘Anne, I want to tell you how I met Ainsworth. This is important so please listen. I would like you to know. I hope it doesn’t change the way you feel about me. Ann said. ‘I met him because his wife and I were friends before he met her. She was a few years older than him. I’m not sure how many. I heard someone say fifteen. That may or may not be true. We would chat together. I often challenged him in a game of backgammon. I would always win. Sometimes, I wonder if that made him angry. He always like to think he was the best at everything. He would play these mind games with me. He was trying to get me to kiss him and when I wouldn’t he forced himself on me when his wife left the room.’ Anne was in shock she couldn’t believe what Ann was telling her. How could a clergyman throw himself on someone while his wife was in another room. While his wife was still living. ‘Does anyone know how she die?’ Anne asked. ‘They still think it was an accident.’ Ann said.

‘What happened?’ Anne said sincerely. Ann was silent for a beat. Then she said. ‘This is what Ainsworth told me when he asked me to marry him.’

‘Asked you to marry him! How long after his wife’s death did he do that?’Anne gave Ann a surprised look. 'I think it was a few days. My aunt, Catherine and Delia were at the house when he came to visit.’

‘Did he ask you in front of them?’

‘Yes!!!’ Ann said quietly. She didn’t know how Anne would react. Anne pulled her in for a tight hug. ‘Did they say anything?’

‘I think Catherine wanted to but when she opened her mouth Aunt Ann gave her a stern look. So, she closed it.’ Ann said. ‘So, no one said anything. After I said no to him I got the third degree from Aunt Ann after Catherine and Delia went home.’

‘Why did she do that?’ Anne held her tighter.

‘She wanted me to marry. She didn’t want to be responsible for me. Only she wasn’t. I was taking care of me. The tribe always think they have a right to tell me how to live my life. Remember the visit we got from Eliza the day after I stayed here.’

‘Yes, I do.’ Anne said. ‘I remember how mad she was that you were here. I would have understood if you had left with her. Yet, you decided to stay with me which made me feel good.’

‘Did it really?’

‘Yes, darling. It did.’

They snuggled together. They had said enough for now. Anne kissed Ann lightly on her forehead. ‘I think it’s time we slept. I have a feeling tomorrow is going to be a bigger day than what today was. Thank you for trusting me. For allowing me into your life. I love you, Ann Walker.’

‘i love you, Anne Lister. Good night, my beautiful wife.’

Good night, my beautiful wife.’Anne said as tears welled in her eyes. She wiped them away and fell into a deep sleep.

What is about to happen will possibly change their lives forever. Anne and Ann were happy now. Would that continue? They would need to learn to trust each other more than what they did now. Would that happen?

Chapter Text

They hoping that it was possible they wouldn’t have to appear in court. They couldn’t imagine how difficult that would be for Ann to cope with. She had been through so much in the past with Ainsworth. He wasn’t the nicest person to deal with at the best of times. Anne’s only experience with him was the day he barged into Shibden and their confrontation at Fortrose. Unfortunately, she didn’t see when he had a gun and was threatening her family. She didn’t want her family to have to endure the force of the court room dramas.

She knew her Aunt Anne wouldn’t know what to say or how to say it. She thought Marian would be a less than reliable witness. Marian couldn’t help it. She was prone to forgetting important information and remembering trivial information. If they went to court Anne would have to jog her memory before hand. Father has a problem hearing and there are times when he forgets to wear his hearing aids. Then there are times when he forgets to replace the batteries.

They were lying up in bed. The sun was just peeking above the horizon. Anne’s hand was massaging Ann’s back. Ann was moaning softly. She had been feeling tense for a while and the massage was melting away the tension.

‘Anne, do you think we will need to testify against Ainsworth in court?’ Ann said as she turned around to face Anne whose hand had moved to Ann’s breast. ‘I hope not because it might not be good for our cause.’ Anne said as she made circles around Ann’s right breast. Then she leaned in for to peck Ann on her cheek. ‘I can see my family making a hash of the processes and Ainsworth getting off with a slap on his hand.’ Ann looked surprised. Then she felt Anne’s hand between her thighs. Her clit was already throbbing. They were talking about Ainsworth, yet, Ann was dripping wet. ‘Anne, I am sure they will step up to the challenge if they need to. I think you underestimate what your family is capable of doing. Ann said.’you know…fuck Anne….how much they love me…oh  yes…yes…yes. How they will do their best for me. Oh Anne, I can’t think will you….fuck…Anne. Will you do that.’

Anne’s fingers were circling Ann’s clit. Ann’s hips were bucking off the bed. Ann was moaning loudly. She could feel her core clench as Anne inserting two fingers into her centre, as Anne continued to circle her clit with her thumb. As Anne’s mouth sucking on her nipples and her tongue licked them slowly and passionately. ‘Anne… yes,… right there…yes Anne….fuck Anne. Oh pony…Anne…’ Her body shuddered and she exploded. Her body stilled after a moment. Anne held her in her arms and kissed her gently. ‘Ann, you see I can take your mind off what we were talking about. Did you enjoy that?’

‘Fuck Anne Lister. How am I suppose to concentrate with you around. Yes, I did enjoy it as you most probably saw.’ Ann said. ‘Why did you do that?’

Anne looked at her seriously.’I could see you were getting very tense. I don’t want you to worry about Ainsworth for a while.I am sure it will be awhile before he goes on trial because they will need to collect evidence and statements for those who saw what happened.’

‘How long do you think that will take?’ Ann asked looking sadly at Anne. She was hoping the saga with Ainsworth would be dealt with quickly. Anne could see she was hoping it wouldn’t take long. Only she knew they could take quite a while.’ Ann didn’t want to hear that but she had to realise it was true. This could take months. It may even take a year. That was a year they wouldn’t be able to do much. They had only been married for a short time and now this was happening.

They got up, dressed and went downstairs to have breakfast with the family. While they were eating breakfast Aunt Anne, father and Marian who were talking rapidly about what happened. How Ainsworth had barged into their home and threatened them. Then he followed Ann upstairs and before he could enter Anne and Ann’s bedroom she had closed the door and locked it.

It seemed like hours that he had stood there banging on the door and demanding Ann let him in. They could hear Mary and Sackville crying out for their mum and Ann trying to calm them.

That was when Marian called Anne and told her to get home. Ainsworth didn’t hear her come inside. Then Anne went outside to see if she could climb into their bedroom through the window. Anne was listening. She should be taking this down only she didn’t have a pen or paper. Oh yes, she had her phone.

‘Can you begin your discussion again? I want to record it so you can remember what to say when they ask you for a statement. We can give them this. I hope that works.’ Anne pulled out her phone and started recording. After a couple of hiccups they seemed to remember what they said. ‘It’s all there. I hope the courts accept this. I suppose we will find out soon.’ Anne said.

‘What will happen if they don’t accept our recorded statements?’ Aunt Anne asked. Looking with concern at Anne. ‘I guess you will have to give them to the officer in person.’ Anne said. ‘I am sure you will remember what you need to say. Aunt your help is appreciated by both Ann and I.’ Ann was feeling bad about what was going to happen if the recorded statements couldn’t be used. She didn’t want her new family in the witness box.

 She didn’t know how they would feel about being called for the prosecution. Anne could see Ann was beginning to stress again. ‘Ann, are you okay? Do you need to talk to me? Would you like to go for a walk now?’ Anne stood up encouraging Ann to take her hand which Ann did. She didn’t say anything as Anne lead her out of the house and into the bright sunshine. They walked for quite sometime until Anne lead Ann to a wooden bench near the hothouse. They sat down together.

‘Ann, I think we need to talk. This trial could take a few months. You need to remember I will always be there with you. I won’t let anything happen to you.’ Anne said as she held Ann in a tight hug. She knew Ann would freak out if she had to get into the witness box but she also knew that would probably happen since she is the one Ainsworth had barged into Shibden Hall to see. She was the one whom he directed his anger towards even though he threatened everyone else. It wasn’t until he saw the blond curls as Ann was racing up the stairs that he ran after her.

‘I feel as though all this is my fault. I don’t know why you bothered marrying me. I am only causing your family a lot of unnecessary turmoil.; Why are you still with me?’

‘Ann Walker, how many times do I need to tell you I am not going anywhere. It isn’t your fault that he has tried to make everyone’s life miserable. He didn’t take the hint when we told him we are married. I don’t know how this is going to end but Ann Walker I want to be with you. I intend to support you through all of this.’ Ann looked at her, tears welling in her eyes and rolling down her cheeks. She couldn’t believe how lucky she was to have Anne Lister in her life.

‘Ann, everything will be fine. There is enough evidence to lock Ainsworth away for a long time.’

‘I hope so, Anne. I don’t want to see him again.’ Ann said quietly. She didn’t want anyone to know how she really felt about Ainsworth She thought he was despicable. She hated him with every fibre of her being. She wanted him gone from her life. Yet, she knew if her feelings towards him were known they could be used against her in court. She didn’t want to feel that he had an advantage over her. So, she willed those thoughts away. She also knew that the way she behaved could also be used against her.

‘Anne, they could use my inability to stop him from doing what he did to me against me. They could say I was too compliant. They could aso say I was the one who instigate everything when I didn’t. How would that make me look?’ Ann looked at Anne for answers but even Anne didn’t know what to say. She could feel Ann shaking in her arms. She knew that no matter what she said the flood gates would open up and Ann would be sobbing loudly.

‘Let’s stay where we are for a few more minutes. Until you feel okay to go back inside and talk to my family. Darling, I don’t want to put you into a place where you are uncomfortable. That isn’t how I roll. Okay!!’

‘Thank you, Pony. You are amazing. You care for me so much more than I ever imagined anyone would. I love you, Anne. Lister.’

‘I love you, Ann Walker. I never imagined someone like you would love someone like me.’ Anne managed to say before she had tears rolling down her face. ‘Anne, you are worthy of love. You are the most important person in my life. You are special.’

‘Thanks, darling. Now, what do you want to do?’ Anne said as she wiped her tears from her face. ‘I think we should go back inside to see how everyone is doing. I am sure Aunt Anne would like to know we are okay.’ Ann said as she rose from where they were seated. She took hold of Anne’s hand and gentle pulled her into a hug. They stood there for a few minutes then lead into each other for a kiss.

When they walked back inside Constable Brown was seated on the sofa talking to the others about their statements. He turned to Anne as they walked into the sitting room. ‘Aunt Anne tells me you recorded them talking about what happened. Can I listen to it? I don’t know if we will be able to use it in court but we can try. That way they won’t need to give their statements again,’ Anne reached into her pocket for her phone. She found the recording and played it for him. He was impressed with what they remembered. ‘I will have to check with the boss to see if we can use it. Okay!’ Constable Brown said. ‘I can’t promise you that we will be able to use it in court but we can try.’

‘Okay!’ Anne said for everyone in the room.

‘Will we have to be in the witness box.’ Marian asked. She could see Aunt Anne and Jeremy didn’t want to bother. They had their statement and they were hoping it could be used. ‘Unfortunately, you were witnesses to what happen. So, yes, you will be in the witness box.’

‘Is there a way we can be excused?’ Jeremy asked. Then he looked at Ann and realised she would have to be in the witness box too. Then he saw fear in her eyes. He stood up and moved to where Anne and Ann were standing and put his arms around Ann. ‘Sorry, I didn’t mean to say that. I want to help you. I just wonder if I will break down in the witness box and make it look bad for you, Ann.’

‘I understand.’ Ann said.’We are all under so much strain. This isn’t something I would have brought on to your family. Only he won’t let it be and let Anne and I have a life. He wants to think he can have me when it is obvious to everyone but him that I am not interested in him.’

‘Of course, you aren’t.’ Jeremy said.’You’re married to my elder daughter. Only why? She is often hard to handle. You are very brave taking her on.’

‘I think she is braver taking me on.’ Ann said. ‘I have my problems as we all do. I love her. Well, that helps. Doesn’t it?’

‘it certainly does help.’ Aunt Anne said. ‘but Jeremy is right she is a handful.’

‘Oh well, you see I have loved her for so long. She had been through so much. I just want to give her what she needs to feel accepted, to feel content with her life..’ Anne had been holding her tight. Ann could feel tears on Anne’s cheek because. Anne had her head buried in Ann’s shoulder. ‘Can we talk about something else?’ Anne said raspily.

‘Okay!’ Constable Brown said. They had forgotten he was still there with them.’I will check with the boss to see if we can use a recorded statement. We may need you to write it down and sign it. Okay!!’

I can do that today if you would like, Constable.’ Anne said.

‘Okay!!! Bring it into the station when you have done that and if we cannot use the recorded one, we will have the written one and all we will need to do is get them to sign it.’

‘Okay! I hope to bring that to you tomorrow morning. I will get to it now. I am sure Ann will help me.’ Ann nodded then they walked Constable Brown out the front door and to his car. He seemed concerned.’Keep an eye on your Aunt. She seems a little stressed. What happened has affected her more than I think we could ever imagine.’

‘We will.’ Anne said and Ann nodded agreeing with her. ‘Thanks for all you are doing for us. We really appreciate your prompt action.’

‘We are here to serve in whatever capacity we can.’ Constable Brown said as he open the door and got into his car. He drove off. Ann wondered again when this would all be over. Then they could have a normal life again.

Ann followed Anne back into the house and up to Anne’s library where her laptop was. They spent the next two hours working on transcribing the recorded statements into a word file. Then Anne saved the file to a USB drive and put it safely in her pocket. She thought now it was done they could take it down to the station.

‘I am going to take this down to the station.I don’t know if they will allow us to put these statements in as evidence. I hope so. We need to do something before this becomes a nightmare for us.’ Anne said. ‘Would you like to come with me, Ann?’ Anne said as she looked at Ann. She could see she didn’t want to say at home alone even though everyone else was there.

They walked back down stairs and found everyone in the sitting room watching tv. It was something to distract them from what was happening around them.

‘We are going to the police station to show Constable Brown the transcription of your statements.’ Anne said. ‘Do you need us to get anything while were are in Halifax.’

‘Just half a dozen beers.’ Father said.

‘What’s that for?’ Ann asked.

‘I think Anne senior needs something to calm her nerves.’ As if beer wouldn’t be right. Aunt said. ‘Make that a bottle of whiskey, please.’

‘Aunt!’ Anne said shocked.’You don’t drink whiskey.’

‘Not normally.’ Aunt Anne said.’But by god in need this today.’

‘Okay!!’ Anne and Ann said together. Then they walked over and gave her a hug while Marian watched on with a smile on her face. Maybe Aunt & father would get rather drunk tonight. It may help to lighten their moods. They were all too stressed and would probably do something they would regret later.

Anne and Ann drove into Halifax and arrived at the police station at 5 PM. just as Constable Brown was leaving for the day.

He followed them back inside. Anne showed him the USB drive. ‘Have you transcribed the statement already. That was quick. Can I check it out.’ Anne handed it to him and he uploaded the file to his computer. Then he read what Anne had transcribed. He had told them that they couldn’t use the recorded statements.

That they would need to come into the station and give separate statements. Ann seemed okay with that. While they were there she told him what happened and he wrote it down. After she read what he wrote she signed it and they left to return home to Shibden. On the way home they went to the bottle shop and bought what Jeremy and Aunt Anne requested. They couldn’t imagine Aunt would have more than one glass of whiskey and father would only have one bottle of beer. But they were going to find out later that wasn’t happening. Anne sent a text message to her Aunt.

AL  We have your goodies. Tell father and Marian we will be home soon.. Aunt Ainsworth tried to gain access to Shibden estate. John and Joseph stopped him in his tracks.

AL  Where is he now?

Aunt  I don’t know. Hurry with my whiskey. .Would you?

AL  Goodness, Aunt. Steady there.

Aunt  Didn’t he sign an AVO promising he would leave Ann alone.

AL Yes, he did. I better go so we can bring your goodies home. See you soon.

Aunt Take care. See you soon.

When they arrive back at Shibden John and Joseph told Anne what happened. They fear he will try this stunt again. Only they don’t know what they should do next time. He seems more determined than ever to get Ann. It doesn’t matter that she is already married to Anne Lister, ‘How do we stop him from entering Shibden estate again?’ John said. He could see the wheels turning in Anne’s head. He didn’t think she would let Ainsworth get away with this but he didn’t want her to do anything that would be against the law.

‘Give me time. I am sure I can find a way to keep him away from Shibden.’ Anne said with confidence. She was hoping that was going to be possible. She could see Ann didn’t want to talk to him at any time before or after the trial. She didn’t know how she was going to protect her wife but she planning to do her best. Ainsworth said he was a clergy man but he never behaved like one. He revealed his horrid side more often than what a clergy man should.

‘i think we should eat soon. I am getting hungry. What would you like Aunt before you swallow any of this..’ Anne said as she held up the bottle of whiskey to her Aunt. ‘I don’t want you with a bloody hangover. Okay!!’

‘Okay!!; I will do my best to stay sober.’ As if that is going to happen. Aunt Anne wonder what it would be like to be drunk. She couldn’t remember when she had been drunk. If she ever had been.

Aunt grabbed the bottle and waltzed into the kitchen to find a glass. Anne looked worried but she shouldn’t have been. Aunt Anne put the whiskey in the fridge for now and asked Cordingley what was for dinner.

While Anne and Aunt Anne were chatting Ann was deep in thought. She had often wondered what it would be like to be with someone who wanted to protect her. She didn’t know she would have that someone. Sometimes, it felt disarming, other times she felt so safe and secure when Anne draped her arms around her. Anne had her arms draped around her shoulders. She could hear her thoughts swirling through Anne’s brain. She turned around to face Anne.

‘Anne, what are you thinking?’ Ann said looking at her quizzically. Anne’s brow was creased and her eyes showed that she wasn’t really in the moment. Her mind was still thinking about Ainsworth and how to keep him away from Shibden.

‘I want to keep you safe, Ann. I hope he doesn’t turn up unannounced like he has done in the past.’

‘Shouldn’t the AVO be a deterrent?’ Ann said shyly.

‘As he has already proved to us today, it isn’t.’

‘So what do you plan to do? Take me somewhere he won’t find me.’

‘Ann, you’re a genius. Why didn’t I think of that?’ Anne said smiling. ‘I have a little hut on the estate. We could go there now if you would like to see it.’

‘Anne Lister, you saucy minx. What do you have in mind?’ Ann said smiling sheepishly.

‘Now, that would be telling but it wouldn’t be a surprise if I told you, now, would it?’

‘I guess not.’ Ann said. ‘Oh I know where we are going. You’re taking me to the Chaumiere. Aren’t you?’

‘Well, yes! Have I taken you there before?’ Anne said surprised.

‘Yes, you have. Don’t you remember?’ Ann said as she looked into Anne’s eyes.

‘I remember everything. Yet, please remind me.’

‘I think I was fearful of making too much noise when we made love. So we drove to the Chaumiere and stayed all night. Now, do you remember?’

‘Yes darling, Yes, I remember.’ Anne said. ‘We could go somewhere else away from this drama for a while.’

‘No, the Chaumiere will be fine. He won’t find us there, will he?’

‘I don’t think so. Only a few people know about it and I doubt if they would tell him.’

‘Dinner is being served if anyone is hungry.’ Marian yelled from the dining room. They ate in silence. Aunt seemed to be sucking her food in like a vacuum cleaner. She didn’t usually eat so fast but she was dying for a glass of whiskey and had promised she would eat dinner first.

‘Aunt drinking on an empty stomach isn’t good for you.’ Marian said.

Then there was a sharp knock on the front door and a loud voice. ‘I want to speak with Miss Walker.’ It was Ainsworth. This time he couldn’t barge his way in because the door was bolt from the inside. They didn’t know how he had gotten to the front door since the main entrance was patrolled by a police officer.

Anne pointed to the back of the house. Ann nodded. They quietly made their way to the back door, sneaked out on foot to the Chaumiere just as Marian answered the door. ‘You signed an AVO to stay away. If you don’t leave now I will have no other alternative than to call the cops. I am sure Constable Brown would drag your sorry arse off to jail.’

‘i need to see Miss Walker.’

‘As you can see she isn’t here.’ Marian said as she opened the door so he had a good view of the sitting room. I don’t know where she is and if I did I wouldn’t be tell the likes of you. So leave now.’

Anne and Ann raced to the Chaumiere. They heard enough to know they would need to thank Marian for the way she handled Ainsworth. ‘What a persistent brute he is.’ Ann said.

‘He certainly is. I wonder if Marian did call the cops on him. I am certain he wouldn’t have left. I sure if we went back he would still be there at the front door with Marian.’

‘I hope not.’ Ann said.’He has no right to do what he has done and uprooted everyone’s life.’

‘We go to court in a fortnight from Monday. I am sure all this will be dealt with then.’

‘I hope so.’

They sat on the couch in the Chaumiere and cuddled. Anne had planned to make love to Ann but it seemed too weird to do that now after what just happened. So, they cuddled.

They called Marian after they had been away for an hour. She had Aunt Anne call the cops while she tried to stop him from entering the hall. When they arrived Marian was in a state. Ainsworth thought it was a joke. She had told him he had violated his AVO. Constable Brown arrested Ainsworth and included another trespassing charge and  another for violating the AVO. He is back in jail awaiting his trial.

Anne and Ann walked back to Shibden to thank Marian for allowing them to escape from Ainsworth and for taking the brunt of his rudeness. They were resting in the sitting room when Marian appeared. She looked as though she had taken a hard blow. She seemed exhausted. ‘Are you all right, Marian?’ Anne said.

‘As you can see, Anne. I am not all right. He gave me the run around. I tried to get rid of him but he wouldn’t go. I yelled out to Aunt Anne. She called Constable Brown and arrested him. Oh he tried to escape but he couldn’t because he only knows the main entrance.’

‘Good!! Thanks for doing that,’ Ann said.’I think you did us a great deed and we really appreciate that.’

‘You’re welcome. I hope we never see him again other than in court. Not in this life or the next. What an arsehole!’ Marian said. ‘Are we ready to face him in court again in two weeks time.’

‘I’m not sure. I know they will try to blame me for what happened. They will probably say I asked for it. I was wearing something short and provocative. I wasn’t. I wasn’t looking at him in a seductive way. I only do that with Anne.. I don’t know. I just want over and done with.’

‘I can understand that. What will you do when the court case is over?’ Marian said.

‘I have no idea. I guess that will depend on how the case goes.’

‘What do you mean by that? We will win, Ann. You have to think positive. There is enough evidence to put him away for quite sometime.’ Anne said. She was angry but she didn’t mean to be. The ordeal with Ainsworth had her riled up so much she couldn’t think about anything else.

‘Are you okay, Anne?’ Ann asked so quietly only Anne could hear her.

‘’I am always all right.’ Anne said in a tone that didn’t sound like she was.

‘Come here let me hug you.’ Ann said. They held each other close. Ann rubbing Anne’s lower back with one hand and her cheek with the other. Ann could always calm Anne down. Anne was feeling better.

‘Are you afraid I will leave you and go somewhere alone?’ Ann said. ‘I will never do that, Anne. I want you with me for always. I didn’t marry you just to have him separate us because of what happened in my past. I would just love to go somewhere for a few days with you whether we win or lose..Anne sighed with relief. She had been worried. Ann had wanted to leave without her. That she wanted to go somewhere without her. ‘Yes, we can do that. Where would you like to go.’ Anne said.

‘Anywhere as long as you are there with me.’ Ann said. ‘You decide. I would follow you to the ends of the earth.’

‘Okay!!! Let me think about it. I will let you know soon.’ Anne said with a twinkle in her eyes. Ann wondered what she had in mind.

Then their eyes scanned over to where Aunt Anne was slumped in her chair. She looked a little forlorn. She seemed a little drunk. Then their eyes moved to the table beside her chair. There was the bottle of whiskey, top off and half drunk.

‘Aunt, did you drink all that by yourself.’

‘No, Marian had a small glass.’

‘Aunt!!!’ both Anne and Ann said in shock.

A fortnight had passed. Ainsworth’s trial began. He had been held in jail because he violated the AVO Ann had taken out against him, even though he promised he would abide by it.

Ann sat in the court room with Anne. Anne held her shaking hand. She knew they would both have to take the stand. They would need to tell their stories. What Ainsworth had done to Ann and how Anne felt about it. How Anne found Ann when she climbed in through their bedroom window.

Ainsworth walked into the court room flanked by two officers. He was handcuffed and wearing an orange prison jumpsuit. Anne could see he was scanning the court room to find Ann. So, Anne turned around just as he looked in their direction and distracted Ann.

‘Adney, look at me.’ Ann did as Anne requested just as Ainsworth tried to get her attention.’Everything is going to be fine.’

‘I could see he was looking for me. Thanks!! I don’t want to look at him.’ Ann said.

‘All stand for Judge Smith.’ The clerk of the court bellowed so they could all hear. Everyone stood up as Judge Smith walked into the room. She was a no nonsense judge who had no time for people who flouted the law for their own benefit. The judge sat. ‘Please be seated.’ Everyone sat down.

‘We will focus on the facts and nothing else. I will hope there will be no slinging of insults and innuendos.’ Judge Smith said...Mary Smith was a woman who could use a gavel when the court room fell into chaos like a ship’s captain uses a wheel to guide a ship on the ocean. She hoped that wouldn’t happen today. ‘The trial of Reverend Thomas Ainsworth will begin. The defense will make their statement to the jury.’ The jury comprised of six men and six women who were all outstanding citizens in the Halifax community.

‘We will prove beyond doubt that Reverend Ainsworth is a man of good character and while he has been accused by Ann Walker that he harassed her. We are here to prove that she only wants him to rot in jail because she doesn’t like him.’

‘That’s wrong!’ Ann said to Anne.

The defense counsel continues. ‘We also endeavour to prove with witnesses that Ainsworth is a minister with an impeccable reputation. How Ann Walker can say those things is beyond me.’

‘We only want the facts not your opinion.’ Judge Smith warns the defense counsel.

‘I apologise , your honour. That is all I have to say.’ He returns to his chair next to Ainsworth who seems to be a little smug about this hearing. Too smug and Anne seems to notice it and wonders why’.

‘Now, the prosecution will give their statement.’

‘We will endeavour to prove that Reverend Thomas Ainsworth forcefully enter Shibden Hall with a gun to harass and then force Ann Walker to go with him. He waved said gun in the faces of all who were there. Then he proceed to banged on Ann’s bedroom door after she had locked herself in and tried to get her to let him in. We will show evidence to prove he cannot be trust to keep a promise. Miss Walker had an AVO on him and he signed it to say he wouldn’t bother her. Only he did. That’s all I have to say, your honour.’

The defense will call the first witness.’

‘I call to the stand Reverend Thomas Ainsworth to the stand.’ Thomas Ainsworth stands and walks to the witness box. He places his hand on the bible which the clerk of the court is holding as the clerk asks him. ‘Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help you God?’f

‘I do.’ Ainsworth answers with a smirk. Ann and Anne could see from where they were seated that he was looking for where Ann was seated in the courtroom. They thought he couldn’t find Ann then his eyes blazed at hers. Anne pulled her in for a hug because she could see the look on his face. It was as if he knew this trial would favour him and she would be his.

Ann knew she would never be Ainsworth’s wife because she was already Anne’s wife. They both knew Ann was braver than what he ever imagined she would be. Only they hoped without hope that Ann wouldn’t need to testify as to what Ainsworth had done to her.

The trial began with the defense asking Ainsworth questions and Ainsworth answering in the dull clergy like tone which Annoyed Anne.

‘Reverend Ainsworth, do you know why you are here in this courtroom?’

‘I have had accusations brought against me of a rather delicate nature and I would have prefer if no one knew about it. Yet, here we are.’

‘Are the accusers in this courtroom. If so, can you point them out.’ Mr Black his defense attorney asked as Ainsworth lifted his hand and pointed to Anne and Ann who were seated to his right behind the prosecution’s table. Anne grabbed Ann’s hand. She was shaking. She didn’t want the courtroom to know who she was but there it was for all and sundry to see. Little Annie Walker was one of the accusers. ‘Don’t worry, Ann. They will soon enough know what a scoundrel Ainsworth is.’

‘I hope so.’ Ann said. ‘I never wanted it to go this far but he has forced me to do this. He is the one who tried to ruin my life.’

‘How do you know this person? What kind of relationship did you have with her?’

‘She was friends with my wife who died in a car accident just recently. She would visit us often. My wife and she became great friends. They met through the local church where I was the minister. We would often ask her to come to our place for lunch after church.’ Anne looked at Ann quizzically. Ann hadn’t told her about this and she wondered what other secrets Ann had that she had forgotten or was too afraid to tell. Her thoughts were interrupted by Ann. ‘Anne, what he says is true but there is more to those visits than what he is telling the courtroom.’ Ann said quietly so only Anne could hear her.

‘What was your relationship with Miss Walker?’

‘She was a member of my congregation. She would attend church at least once every Sunday. We held two services, one at 10 AM and another at 7 PM. She rare came to both.’

‘She is rather pretty. Is it possible you could have a crush on her.’

‘What are you trying to imply? I am a man of God. I would never put myself in a position of mistrust.’

‘What a liar!; Ann says. She could feel the hairs on her neck rise. She was getting frustrated with every comment he made.

‘’I am only trying gain an understanding of the situation you are in right now, Reverend. I hope you trust me.’

‘I do!!’

Then Ainsworth was asked about the accident. Ann didn’t think that would happen.’How did you learn about your wife’s death, Reverened?’ His counsel asked.

‘I had been at church with group of our church leaders. We were organising a fundraiser. We were planning to put food parcels together for the homeless. I got the call to say my wife had been in a bed accident and I was to go immediately. I did.’

‘What happened?’ Ainsworth seemed to stare into space looking for an answer that would help him. He didn’t seem to find that answer. All he said was that he felt a lose when she passed away. He was with her at the moment she went to God.

‘How do you feel now, Reverend?’ Without batting an eyelid he said.’I don’t know how to feel any more. I have lost the love of my life.’

‘Rather convincing, Isn’t he?’ Ann said tongue in cheek. ‘What a liar and he swore an oath to tell the truth. Fuck, I hope they are able to show his true side.’

‘That’s all the questions I have for the witness.’ His counsel said.

‘Reverend Ainsworth, why did you barged into Shibden Hall wanting to see Ann Walker when she was already married to Anne Lister?’

‘I thought it was just a game she was playing because I thought she wanted to marry me and she must of thought it would do the trick. Let’s pretend we are married so he will come after me.’

‘How did you feel when you found out they were married?’

‘I was angry, bitter, disappointed. I thought Anne Lister had cajoled her into marriage.’ Anne was about to stand and scream liar at him when Ann put her hand on Anne’s thigh to calm her. ‘Pony, He’s not worth getting kicked out of the courtroom over. Please, sit down . We both know what happened. How he harassed me and kept banging on our bedroom because I wouldn’t let him in. I felt bad about Mary and Sackville and how he upset them.’

‘Why? Weren’t you still grieving over your wife’s death?’

‘Yes, but I thought she would like to share some memories of my wife with me. That was all.’

‘Miss Walker relayed to me that you were banging on her bedroom door for her to let you in. She asked you to leave because you were scaring her niece and nephew who are just small children. She said they were cowering in the corner of the bedroom screaming for their mum, Ann Walker’s sister. How do you account for those actions? Why did you threaten Anne Lister’s family with a gun?’

‘I object.’

‘Overrule. Answer the question, Reverend.’

‘I was frantic. I wanted to talk to her. She kept saying she didn’t want to talk to me. She told me her niece and nephew were with her. At first I didn’t believe her. Then I heard them crying. Soon after the constable arrived and arrested me. I was taken by the police and locked up in jail. The gun was fake. I only wanted to scare them.’

‘Why? I am sure if you had asked politely she may have talked to you.’

‘Objection, your honour.’

‘Overruled.’

‘You said the gun was fake. How then did the police find bullets in your pocket?’

‘I don’t know how they got there. The gun was fake.’

‘I bring forward evidence #1. The supposedly fake gun. I have a video to show that it is real.’ the video rolled to show a police officer firing the weapon ‘You can see from the video that this gun isn’t fake.’

‘Yes, I can see that.’ Ainsworth said. ‘but is it the same one that has been put forward as evidence.’ Then there was a close up of the gun the police officer had used to show the identification number. Then the prosecution counsel showed the judge the evidence #1 and the numbers matched.

‘How do you account for that if this isn’t the same gun as that one on the screen?’

‘I don’t know.’

‘No more questions, your honour.’ Now, the defense called their next witness. ‘I call to the stand Christopher Rawson.’ Everyone waited for a moment. He was called again. There was still no sign of Christopher Rawson. ‘Where is your witness?’ The judge asked the defence counsel.

‘He said he would be here to defend Reverend Ainsworth. I don’t know why he isn’t.’ Then they heard a loud crash from the rear of the courtroom. Christopher Rawson was there but not sober enough to testify for Ainsworth. ‘Do you have any other witnesses?’ the judge asked. The defense was hoping Rawson would give a good account of Ainsworth’s character but that wouldn’t happen now. ‘Yes, but can we take a recess until tomorrow morning? Then maybe Mr Rawson will sober up and act as a witness for Reverend Ainsworth.’

‘Yes, we can do that but this is your last warning. If he appears drunk again tomorrow that’s it. There are no third chances in my courtroom.’ Everyone filed out of the courtroom while Ainsworth was lead back to the holding cell underneath the court house.

The following day Christopher Rawson made an appearance in the courtroom sober. He had his younger brother, Jeremiah with him. It seemed he was to be another witness to talk about Ainsworth’s ‘good’ character. Anne had an inkling that Christopher Rawson and Ainsworth had made a pack. They had planned to make Ann look as though she was weak.

‘All rise. Judge Mary Smith presiding. Judge Smith entered. ‘Everyone be seated. Anne and Ann sat down with the others there. Most people were there to see if Ainsworth got his just desserts.

‘I call the the stand Christopher Rawson.’ Mr Rawson took his place in the witness box. ‘Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help you god.’ The clerk of the court asked Rawson.

‘I do.’ came the reply.

‘Be seated’

‘How do you know Ann Walker?’ The defence counsel asked Rawson.

‘She is my cousin.’ Rawson said as he glance over at Ann and Anne seated together. He gave Ann a smug look which Anne didn’t miss. ‘He’s only trying to play tricks with your mind, Ann. Ignore him.’

‘How well do you know Ainsworth?’

‘I am a member of his congregation. I go to church every Sunday and give to his charity organisation.’

‘What charity organisation is that?’

‘I think it is save the children fund.’

‘Yes, that is a worthy cause.’

‘How would you describe Reverend Ainsworth? If you had to give him a character reference, what would you say about him?’

‘He is an honest, outstanding clergy man who helps those in need and practices what he preaches.’ Rawson said.

‘Rubbish!’ Anne was standing but Ann pulled her down to quieten her. ‘You don’t want to get kicked out. Do you, Anne?’

‘No, I just don’t like liars. Do you?’

‘No!! But you can’t yell out in a court room.’

‘Silence please.’ the judge roared as she hit her gavel on her desk. ‘Anyone else who yells out in this court room will be ejected.’

‘No more questions, your honour.’ The prosecuting lawyer began his questioning.

‘How much did you give to Reverend Ainsworth’s charity?’

‘Objection!’

‘Overruled. Answer the question, Mr Rawson.’

‘I give a substantial amount because it is a good cause.’

‘You need to tell us how much, Mr Rawson.’ The judge said.

‘Why is this relevant to this trial?’

‘We need to ascertain how involved you were in the day to day finances of Reverend Ainsworth’s church. So just answer the question honestly.’ the judge said as she looked at Rawson who seemed disinclined to answer.

Anne and Ann wondered why he didn’t seem to want to answer. They looked at each other and there was the answer. Ainsworth knew more about Rawson and vice versa. They were protecting each other from what. Anne was sure they would soon find out.

‘We can subpoena the information if you aren’t prepared to share it with us today.’The judge said. ‘That would only extend this trial and it may make you look worse than how you would like to be seen.’

The crowd in the courtroom that day watched Rawson’s reaction to the judge’s demands. They didn’t understand why he didn’t want to reveal his contributions to Ainsworth’s charity. Was he laundering money through Ainsworth’s church. Were they hiding something more sinister than Ainsworth barging his way into Shibden Hall and trapping Ann Walker in her bedroom with her niece and nephew. What else had he done? Would they find out?

Ann knew what he had done and hoped it wouldn’t be made common knowledge. While she had told Anne, Ann didn’t want everyone here to know. Yet, it seemed possible they would. It seemed necessary to speak of the truth.

‘Mr Rawson, we need to know or we will take necessary action to get that information.’

‘Okay!! I will tell you. Over a period of ten years my family business has contributed to Reverend Ainsworth’s charity to the sum of about five million dollars.’ Everyone in the courtroom gasped. They were amazed that Rawson was rich enough to part with that much money. They found it impossible to think that one person would donate that much money.

There were rumours floating around about Rawson, that he had been caught by his wife in bed with a mistress. If that was the truth, why did she stay with him.

 Some people thought it was his wealth. He had his fingers in so many businesses and she was always hosting parties for the elite of Halifax. Of course, Anne and Ann never attended even though they were invited. They were only invited so Ainsworth could ogle Ann. Yes, Ainsworth and his wife were usually amongst the guests.

‘Is that all you gave Reverend Ainsworth’s charity. We could find out if you gave more than that, Mr Rawson.’ Rawson wouldn’t answer. He had a feeling they were bluffing but there was a risk that they would find out what he had contributed to Reverend Ainsworth’s charity. If he was laundering the money through Ainsworth’s church they would know. Only while the charity was legit. Was it just a front to a myriad of illegal activities?

‘If you aren’t going to tell us, Mr Rawson. We will have to find out for ourselves. I can ask the clerk of the court to do that. Will you do that?’ the judge looks directly at the clerk of the court who nods and leaves the room.

‘No more questions for the present time, Your honouor.’

‘Does the defense have any more witnesses?’

‘Yes! I would like to call Jeremiah Rawson to the stand.’ Jeremiah seems to take his time walking to the witness box. He didn’t look comfortable and both Anne and Ann wondered why.

‘Do you swear to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth. So help you god.’

‘I…I do.’ He stammered ou.

‘What’s wrong with your cousin, Ann? He seems a bit nervous.’

‘I guess he doesn’t like telling fibs in court.’

‘How do you know Ann Walker?’

‘She is my cousin. She’s a year or two younger than me. We often spent time together when we were kids.’

‘Why are you here today, Mr Rawson?’

‘i am here to testify that Reverend Ainsworth is a man of good standing in the Halifax community.’

‘Can you tell me about Reverend Ainsworth?’

‘Until recently he was a happily married man. Although they had tried to have children they didn’t seem to be able to conceive.’

‘Why was that?’

‘I don’t know. I don’t even think that is relevant here.’

‘Well, you brought it up. What else can you tell me about him?’

‘He is a minister at the Baptist church. He gives to charity and cares for his community. He gives his time generously to those in need.’

‘Has he ever been raised his voice or showed anger towards anyone?’

‘No!!’

‘No further questions, your honour.’

Jeremiah rises to leave.

‘Could you remain seated the prosecution wants to ask you some questions.’ Judge Smith says.

‘Mr Rawson. Are you related to the previous witness, Christopher Rawson? It just seems strange you have the same name and Ann Walker is your cousin too.’

‘Yes, he is my brother. Why do you ask?’

‘No reason. Just curious, I guess.’

‘Can you give me some good examples of when Reverend Ainsworth has given to charity or helped the needy?’

‘He puts together food baskets for the needy and homeless weekly with the help from some members of his congregation.’

‘Yeah, he probably watches them from his office while they do all the work.’ Anne said quietly.

‘Do you have anything else to say?’

‘Reverend Ainsworth is a good man of God and he wouldn’t hurt anyone intentionally.’

Do you have any other witnesses for the prosecution.’

‘Yes'He was going to say Anne Lister. But he saw the look on Ainsworth’s face and changed his mind. ‘No more witnesses, your honour.’

Now the prosecution had its chance to put forward the case against Ainsworth. There were many people in the court room who would testify against Ainsworth. Yet, the prosecution had to determine which witnesses were going to bring about the outcome they wanted.

‘I request an adjournment for today and ask that we resume this trial tomorrow morning at nine o’clock sharp.’

‘Request allowed.’ Judge Smith said. ‘We will resume tomorrow morning. Court dismissed.’

‘All rise for Judge Smith.’ The judge removed herself to her chambers and the court room emptied. The jury were told not to talk about this trial until after the verdict had been passed.

‘Do you think I will be called as a witness tomorrow, Anne?’ Ann said as she looked to Anne with concern.

‘If you are, darling. All you need to do is tell the truth. They cannot demand from you any more than that.’ Anne said. ‘Remember I will be here with you. No matter what questions they ask you answer honestly. Okay!!’ Anne thought Ann would be called as a witness because it was vital to the prosecution to show all the facts and those facts to be heard from the person who seemed to be the victim of Ainsworth’s unnecessary attention . She also knew if this happened the truth about the sordid relationship between Ann Walker and Reverend Thomas Ainsworth would become common knowledge.

She was like everyone else who knew what Ainsworth was like and wanted him to pay for his crimes against Ann. Yet, she wondered if Ann would be able to endure the questions from the defense and would doubt the validity of the case against Ainsworth.

Anne spent the evening going over with Ann the questions she thought Ann would be asked. She asked them in the way a defense lawyer would ask the prosecution’s witness. Then she could gauge how Ann would cope which didn’t seem too well at the moment.

Anne had to find a way for Ann to be confident enough to answer the questions she would be asked. It seemed impossible to do that. Then Anne thought of something. ‘Imagine winning this trial. Imagine being free of Ainsworth’s attentions towards you. Can you see how much better your life will be? All you need to do is tell the truth and stay focused.’ She was going to say. We can deal with the fallout later. Only she knew Ann would freak if Ann knew she was worried that Ann would have a melt down.

The trial resumed at nine the next day. Ann was a bundle of nerves. Anne spent most of the morning trying to calm her down. She thought it was working until they arrived at the courthouse. When they took their seats Ann was shaking all over.

Anne grabs Ann’s hands and holds them gently. She rubs her thumb over Ann’s wrists and the back of Ann’s hands. Ann is calming down. Her shaking has ceased. ‘You will be fine, Ann. Just be honest. Okay!!’ Anne smiles at her then Ann feels Anne’s arms around her and for a moment they could be anywhere.

‘All rise for Judge Smith.’ bellows the court clerk. Anne and Ann jump apart as if hit by lightning. ‘Please be seated.’ They sit back down Ann’s hands still in Anne’s. Anne is still caressing them when the prosecution calls his first witness, Anne Lister senior. Aunt Anne hobbles to the witness box her cane tapping on the floor as she walks there. She swears an oath to tell the truth. The whole truth and nothing but the truth. Ann is listening but doesn’t take in what Aunt Anne is saying. All she can her is blah blah blah blah.

She does realise that the prosecution is now questioning Marian and then Father. They all give the same or similar answers. Even when the defense grills them they don’t change their story. Ann knows her turn is coming up. She looks at Anne when she is called. Anne smiles at her and squeeze her hand. Then it begins.

One step at a time to the witness box. It feels like it took her forever to get there. She swears an oath on the bible. Then the questions start.

‘How long have you know, Reverend Ainsworth?’

‘How many times have you visited his family home?’

‘Is it true that you were intimate with him while his wife was alive?’ It’s then that Ann realises she is ready to answer this question. She understands what she must say. Then it rolls off her tongue.

’I never encouraged him. He always said he loved me. I am not into him. See that woman over there. I am married to her. I am not and never was into men.’ She was surprised by the words that flowed out of her mouth. She was certain Christopher Rawson had told the defence lawyer about her intimacy with Ainsworth. She didn’t ask for it only he pushed himself on her whenever he was able to .

Then she could feel the room beginning to spin. Her head was throbbing. She knew she was going to pass out. Then she heard Anne. ‘Ann darling, wake up please. Talk to me. Are you okay?’ She had been taken to an office. She was lying on a couch.’What happened?’

‘You were being questioned, one minute you were fine then you passed out.’ Anne said. ‘You’re not needed as a witness any more. Your testimony today and your statement are enough. Ainsworth was found guilty by the jury. It only took then an hour to deliberate. He is going to be sentenced tomorrow.’

‘I must have been passed out for quite sometime.’

‘Yes, you were.’ Aunt Anne said from a chair close by. She had tears running down her face. ‘We were all worried about you. But it seems you are doing okay, little Ann.’

‘Can we go home?’

‘Certainly! Let me get the car. You can walk Aunt and father out into the foyer. I will meet you there.’ As Ann, Aunt and father walked out to the foyer they are greeted by Christopher Rawson. ‘Here’s little Miss Walker who cannot control her emotions. He won’t get a long sentence and when he comes out he will come looking for you.’

‘Christopher.’ Jeremiah said. He was standing next to him.’That’s rude.’

‘I was only joking.’

‘Leave before I call the cops on you.’ Aunt Anne hissed. She cradled Ann in her arms while Ann sobbed uncontrollably. When Anne found them they were seated in the foyer. Ann’s eyes were red and puffy. ‘What happened? You were happy a few minutes ago.’

‘Fucking Rawson.’ Her father bellowed. ‘He told her that she was weak and Ainsworth would only get a short sentence then he would come looking for her.’

‘Let him try that.’ Anne said.’Ann, he won’t get near you, darling.’ Anne held her close. They walked to the car. Aunt Anne and father seemed to understand that Anne would do all she could to keep Ann safe. They hoped she wouldn’t resort to anything illegal.

When they arrive home Anne takes Ann upstairs and gently lays her on their bed. Ann falls into a fitful sleep. Anne returns to the sitting room where Marian has been waiting for them.

 ‘How is she? Aunt told me what happened. Will she be alright?’

‘I don’t know. She was crying so hard I thought she would exhaust herself before Anne returned.’ Father said.

‘Well, the sentencing is tomorrow. I wonder if we should tell the prosecution what happened today!’ Aunt Anne said.

‘Aunt, I think we should. The judge needs to know what he said before passing sentence. Rawson’s ridiculous comment has really hurt her. Who knows if she will ever recover.’

‘I hope we can help her, Anne.’ Aunt says. ‘She is family and family stick together. Don’t they?’ Anne recalls a time when her Aunt had helped her. So many times she has lost count. She nods in agreement. She has no words. If she spoke she wouldn’t be able to control her emotions.

Anne decides to call the prosecuting lawyer. She tells him what her Aunt tells her what Rawson had said to Ann in the foyer. He was shocked. He said he would mention it to the judge tomorrow.

He did get an audience with the judge just before she entered the court room to hand down sentencing. Anne and Ann were alone today. Aunt Anne, Marian and father didn’t think they needed to be there. ‘All rise for Judge Smith.’ They did and when the judge sat down. ‘All be seated.’

‘It has been brought to my attention that Ann Walker was threatened by Christopher Rawson as she was leaving the courthouse yesterday. I don’t take these threats lightly. I find it hard to understand why a man of your standing in the community would stoop so low as to threaten a young lady who has gone through so much already. I cannot imagine why you did that. I do know that I cannot allow this to go unnoticed. What do you have say in your defence, Mr Rawson?’ There is silence in the court room as Rawson wonders how he is going to get out of this pickle he now finds himself in.

‘It was only a joke.’ He says

‘And the sickest joke I have ever heard. You may find it funny to tease someone so horribly they nearly have a breakdown. You are despicable, Rawson. I should have you in contempt of court.’

‘I will remind you how powerful I am in this community, Judge Smith.’

‘Is that a threat? You aren’t the law. You cannot threaten me too. You need to remember where you are and sit back down. I will only warn you once, Mr Rawson. Sit down and be quiet.’ Anne and Ann were seated in the back of the court room listening to what the judge was saying. They felt Rawson would in fact leave Ann alone. That was what Anne hoped would happen.

Ainsworth was ferried into the court room between two police officers. His head bowed. He knew he was going to jail. What he didn’t know was what Rawson had said to Ann yesterday. Although, he had knowledge of the interaction. Rawson had told him later when he visited Ainsworth.

‘Reverend Ainsworth, you have been found guilty of threatening with the use of a weapon the lives of others. Of harrassment to the point of terrorising someone until she thought she had no other choice than to submit to your needs. I sentence you to the maximum possible ten years with no parole period. I will add years to your sentence if I ever hear you have asked someone on the outside to threaten Miss Walker again. I find it despicable and horrid. You say you are a man of God. Well, act like it.’ The officers ferry Ainsworth out of the court room back to the cells. He glances over at Ann who is happily smiling at Anne again. He thinks to himself. You’re mine, bitch. Then he is gone.

Chapter Text

After the trial Anne and Ann were finally able to move forward in their lives.They hoped when Ainsworth was released from jail he would leave Ann alone. Was it possible he would do that?  

They had began discussing whether they should have children and whether they wanted to adopt or one of them will get pregnant and give birth. Anne seems less incline to do that and Ann, while the prospect of carrying a child for nine months and then giving birth daunts her a little, she still wants to be a mother in every sense of the word from the conception to the birth and for the rest of her life.

If Ann was to get pregnant they had wondered whether they should ask someone to be their sperm donor or use the nearest sperm bank. If they chose a sperm donor they would prefer that the donor wasn’t someone who would want to be involved in the upbringing of their child. Only they were wondering if the child should know the family history of the donor..

‘Ann, what are you thoughts about children? I know you wish to be a mum but do you want to give birth or should we adopt?’

‘I’m not sure what I want to do right now, I have watched Elizabeth give birth and while it was beautiful after the fact the whole idea of pushing something so big through something so small freaks me a bit.’ Anne looked surprised and somewhat unsure of what Ann was thinking.

‘Ann, I thought you wanted to have children.’

‘I do but its the birthing part that scares me.’ Ann said. ‘Do you think I should call Elizabeth to ask her a few questions?’

‘I think that might be a good idea. Although even though I have never given birth I would say that all pregnancies and births are different?’

Ann finds her phone and calls her big sister for advice.

‘Hi Ann, What’s up?’ Elizabeth knows her sister so well because she rarely calls so early in the morning. She is usually still in bed sleeping at 8 AM.

‘Anne and I are thinking about adopting or I am contemplating giving birth. I just wondering if you could answer a few questions for me. Questions I have been thinking about for a while now.’

‘Yeah, I can do that but you do realise if you want to know the truth about birth you need to accept that I will tell you the truth. I won’t fluff it up. Okay!!’

‘’Okay!!! I’m going to put you on speaker phone so I don’t have to rely the answers to Anne. Is that okay?’ Anne looks surprised but nods because she also wants to hear what Elizabeth has to say.

‘Yeah, that’s fine. I suppose if you decide you want to have a child yourself then I am guessing she will be there with you. Right?’

‘Yes, I will be there.’ Anne says.

‘Great to hear because it’s not an easy process to go through and having someone there to support you helps you relax more into the actual birth.’

‘Was George there for you?’

‘Yes, he was. Only he fainted just after Mary was born and he sat next to me when Sackville was born.’

‘Okay!! Question time now. How long did it take you to fall pregnant from the time you and George decided it was time until it happened?’

‘I think about 12 months. Of course, that too is different for every woman. Sometimes it takes longer and sometimes it’s quicker.’ Elizabeth said. ‘Why do you ask that? Of course, if you are going to use a sperm donor that could be different.’

‘Because Anne is nearly 35 and doesn’t want to wait too long. She sees her child at school when she is in her 50s.’

That makes sense and when your child is 20 she will be 55. Ouch!! Are you sure you want to do this, Anne Lister?‘

’Yes, I do!! Although I don’t want to give birth I still want to be a mum and while adoption could be the best route for us to go. Although, I would like to be the egg donor.’

Ann looked puzzled. ‘When did you decide that?’

‘When we first talked about it.’ Anne said. ‘Only we never got that far with our discussion. Did we?’

‘No!!’

‘Hey, I’m still here. Are we still having this chat?’ Elizabeth huffed.

‘Sorry, Liz. Where were we?’

‘How long does it take to get pregnant?’ Elizabeth said.

‘Yes, and you answered that in the best way possible.. Now, being pregnant. Did you have any cravings? Did you have morning sickness?’

‘No, to both of those questions but that doesn’t mean you won’t suffer morning sickness, Ann. Just be prepared for it and most times it only lasts for three months. It is very rare for morning sickness to last the whole nine months. There’s another thing most births go the full nine months but sometimes they don’t and sometimes they go a week or two longer than expected.’

‘Okay!! I suppose I could read up on this or ask someone else but I really want you to tell me. Is that okay?’

‘Yes, that’s fine. It makes me feel good to be a part of the process. I will finally be an auntie. Well, I suppose I am already but that’s with George’s siblings not you, Ann.’

‘Thanks, sis. I really appreciate your help here.’ Ann said. ‘I am pregnant now. Well, when I am that is. What changes will happen with my body?’

‘There will be hormonal changes which will determine your mood swings. Of course, you will gain weight and your belly will swell but that may not happen for quite sometime and you being a small woman you may never look pregnant only you will know all about it when the baby starts to kick.’

‘When does that happen?’

‘For the first child it’s twenty weeks and for the next child and subsequent children it’s sooner because you become more aware of your baby’s movements.’

‘Okay!!’

‘Sorry, I need to go Sackville needs me to help him get dressed. We can resume this chat later if you like. Okay!!’

‘That’s okay. You have given us lots to think about. Thanks, Liz. Take care and we will chat again soon. Bye!!’

‘Bye!!’

Ann hangs up. She still isn’t sure what she wants to do but she has something to think about.

‘Anne, I didn’t know you wanted to be part of this as much as you do. I love the idea that you provide the egg and I carry the baby. Then it will truly be our child. Won’t it?’

‘I had never thought of it that way. I just want a mini me running around.’

‘Yes, it would be a mini you and I love that idea. Only if we have more than one I think I want the next one to be a mini me.’

‘Okay!!!’

‘Are there twins in your family, Anne?’

‘Not that I am aware of.’

‘Good!!’ Ann said.’But that isn’t to say we won’t have twins. Is it?’

‘No, it is definitely not.’

‘Would you like twins?’ Ann asked.

‘Well, I’m not sure. You’re the one who has to carry them then give birth. So, I would hope for only one at a time. Okay!’

‘Okay!! I was thinking the same thing but we could have it all done in one pregnancy if we had twins.’

‘True. Only no one is pregnant yet and there’s still so much to do.’

‘I think we should try to adopt first. See how long the waiting list to adopt is and go from there.’ Ann said. She still was unsure about getting pregnant but she felt good that it would be Anne’s egg they would be using.

They found the local adoption agency in York and made an appointment to see them. Ann thought Anne’s age may be a hindrance to the chances but that wasn’t something she wanted to think about. Women Anne’s age got pregnant. So why couldn’t she adopt.

They arrived at the adoption agency ten minutes before the interview. Ann was worried that they would be reject. Anne was concerned that if they weren’t able to adopt would this force Ann to make a decision she wasn’t sure she wanted to make. Whether she will have a child or not.

‘Hi, we made an appointment for an interview to assess our chances of adopting a child.’ Anne said.

‘Names please.’

‘Anne Lister and Ann Walker.’

‘Single or married?’

‘Married! Why is that important?’

‘Married couples have more stable homes.’

‘Okay!!’

‘You need to fill out this form and take it with you when you’re interviewed.’

‘Okay!’

Anne and Ann find somewhere to sit. Anne fills in the information. Names, ages, address. Then she comes to guardian. ‘who would be the guardian if something happens to us.

’What about Marian?‘

‘What about Marian?’

‘As the child’s guardian.’ Ann said. ‘I will call her. Tell her what we are doing.’

Ann calls Marian.

‘Hello, Ann. What’s up?’

‘Anne and I are thinking about adopt a child.. We are at the adoption agency right now. Anne is filling out a form. They want to know who will be the guardian if something happens to us. Would you like to be our child’s guardian?’

‘Yes, I would. Only nothing is going to happen to you two for a long time.’

‘I hope not. Thanks, Marian. Oh one question we might need to answer. How old are you and when is your birthday?’

‘I will be 30 on 23rd of April this year.’

‘Goodness, that’s only a couple of weeks away. Do you want to celebrate?’

‘No, old maids don’t celebrate their birthdays. Do they?’

‘Marian, you’re not an old maid. We can go out and celebrate. You only turn 30 once in your lifetime. Right?’

‘Right!’‘

‘Anyway, thanks, Marian. Talk to you later and we will tell you how we got on. Bye.’

‘Bye.’

Ann disconnects the call.

‘Ann, I could have told you how old Marian is and when her birthday is.’

‘You did. I was only asking her to see what she would say.’ Ann said. ‘It seems your sister doesn’t get out often enough.’

‘Right! Now, back to this bloody form. Any convictions. Just a speeding ticket for me when I was 19. You!’

‘Nothing! I have a clean record.’

‘Bragging a bit. Aren’t we?’ Ann looked at Anne and smiled.

‘Got you back for bragging about Shibden and how it is your ancestral home. Remember that.’ Anne remembers then blushes.

‘Okay! Round one to you, funny lady.’

‘Any history of mental illness. Sorry, it’s a question. I guess we could lie. Couldn’t we?’ Ann didn’t expect this question. She didn’t know what to say. She wasn’t the kind of person who would lie about something like this but with her history of anxiety and depression she felt their chances of adopting were getting slimmer by the minute.

‘Tell the truth and see how we go from there.’ Ann said. She could feel tears welling in her eyes but did her best to blink them away.

‘Ann, we don’t have to do this if you don’t want them to know about this part of your life.’

‘That’s okay. It’s in my medical records. So they will find out even if we don’t tell them and that wouldn’t be a good idea. Would it?’ Ann said as she nervously fiddle with her shirt bottom.

‘Okay!! let’s be honest. Hey, we might be lucky. After all it happened a long time ago and you are doing fine now. Right!!’

‘Yes, as long as I am with you and we don’t see Reverend Ainsworth again in this life.’

‘You will always be with me and if we see him I am sure we will be able to deal with it, Ann.’

‘Anne Lister, Ann Walker, Mrs Gray is ready to interview you. Have you completed the form?’

‘Yes.’ Anne said. She had decided to be their spokesperson. Ann would answer questions only if she was asked.

‘Good morning, ladies. How are you today?’ Mrs Gray said. ‘You can call me Jane.’

‘Fine, Jane.’ They said together..

‘Good!! Can you hand me the form you were asked to fill in?’

Anne hands the form to Jane and she spends the next five minutes reading through it. She frowns when she gets to the mental health question.

‘It says here that you have anxiety and depression, Miss Walker. How long have you had this?’

‘Do you want me to answer for you, Ann?’

‘No. It’s okay. I can do this. It has been quite sometime now. I don’t want to go into the details. The experience left me in a mess but I am on antidepressants and doing fine.’

‘When was the last time you felt vulnerable?’

‘Why do you need to know that? Isn’t that a bit personal?’ Anne asked.

‘Yes and no. We need to assess whether your wife is capable of dealing with a child under stress.’ Jane said.

‘True! She has a niece and nephew whom she has looked after. They were with us for a few days only just recently.’

‘When was that?’

‘About six months ago. My sister and her husband went on a second honeymoon and we looked after them.’

‘Okay!! Did you have any problems with them?’

‘Not with them but they were upset when Reverend Ainsworth entered Shibden Hall with a gun. I ran up to our bedroom and locked the door. He tried to get me to let him in. Ann said. ‘It was his shouting that made them upset. I did what I could to calm them down. It was hard because he was threatening everyone. Anne’s family will vouch for what I am saying.’

‘Will they?’

‘Yes! That was the first time in month that. I was so glad to see Anne when she climbed through the window to rescue us.’

‘Did they call the cops?’

‘Yes, he was arrested. There was a court hearing and he was sentenced to ten years in jail.’ Ann was thinking. I hope he rots there. No, it’s not a nice thing to think about anyone but she hated him for what he did to her.

‘And you two were able to calm the children. How old were they?’

Yes, we did. They are six and four now. They were five and three at the time of the incident.’ Anne said. ‘And yes, they had counselling to help them recover from the traumatic experience.’

‘Do you have siblings?’

‘Yes, we both have a sister. Ann’s is older than her. Mine is younger than me.’

‘If I call them will they vouch that what you are saying is true?’

‘Yes’ They both said.

‘Can we do it now?’ Anne asked.

‘Now, would be the perfect time.’ Jane said.

Anne called Marian and Ann called Elizabeth. Elizabeth answered first.

‘Hi Ann, I didn’t expect to hear from you so soon. What’s up?’

‘We are at the adoption agency in York. The interviewer wants you to vouch for me about the incident at Shibden when Ainsworth barged his way in, threatened everyone and tried to get me to talk to him. Will you talk to her for us, please?’

‘Yes, I will do that.’

‘Okay!! I am going to give Jane Gray the phone.’

‘Hi, can I ask you how you know Ann Walker?’

‘She’s my baby sister.’

‘So, you know her pretty well.’

‘You could say that.’ Elizabeth had only been talking to her for a few minutes and she was beginning to get frustrated with her.

‘I have to ask questions like that to find out about your relationship with the applicant.’ Jane said.

‘What do you want to know?’

‘What happened on the day Ainsworth barged his way into Shibden?

‘Ann had locked herself in their bedroom. From what I understand Ainsworth was banging on the door and screaming out for Ann to open it and let him in. She told me my children were crying and shaking.’ Elizabeth said. ‘Anne entered the bedroom through an open window. I honestly don’t know how she did it because their bedroom is on the second floor.’

‘Were they able to calm the kids down?’

‘Yes, after the cops arrived and arrested Ainsworth. Ann and Anne had them calm until my husband and I arrived. They weren’t crying but they were visibly shaken.’ Elizabeth said. ‘I thought Ann would have been a mess but she was calm because Anne was with her.’

‘Good. One last question. How is she with your kids when she visits you?’

‘She’s wonderful. The kids can’t get enough of their Aunt Walker. She reads to them and builds sandcastles with them. She also loves to play games like hide and seek with them.’

‘So, she is an all round great aunt.’

‘Yes!’

Jane hands the phone back to Ann and she says thanks and goodbye to her sister.

Anne hands her phone over to Jane. Anne had been chatting with Marian while she was waiting.

‘Hello Marian. How well do you know Ann Walker? She is my sister’s wife. They have been married for just over a year now.’

‘Okay! I would like you to tell me what happened the day Ainsworth barged into your home.’

‘He threatened us with a gun. We, my aunt, father and I were in the sitting room watching tv. Ann was with us. While he was waving the gun about Ann managed to sneak upstairs. He didn’t notice her until she was near the top of the stairs.’

‘What happened then?’

‘She was able to get to their bedroom and lock herself in. I think she jammed a chair under the door handle as extra precaution.’ Marian said. ‘He stood there banging on the door. I had to call Anne because she was in Halifax at the time.’

‘What was she doing in Halifax?’

‘I honestly don’t know but she was back home ten minutes later. She came into the house and saw what was happening. Then she went back out. I called the cops. Next thing I knew she and Ann had somehow, I don’t know how, calmed Elizabeth’s children. The cops came and arrested Ainsworth.’

‘Then what happened?’

‘We all thought Ann would be a mess because of her anxiety. She wasn’t. I think my sister helped her but I think she is stronger than what people think.’

‘What about your sister?’

What about Anne?’

‘How is she around children?’

‘She helped raise me. Our mother was an alcoholic and father wasn’t always available to deal with day to day problems. Anne would often help me with school work. My sister might seem gruff but she is a good person and would be a great mum.’

‘What do you mean gruff?’

‘She has had many bad relationships and finds it hard to open up to anyway. I am surprised that Ann Walker has been able to get her to open up as much as she has.’

‘Okay!! Thanks, Marian. You have been a great help.’

‘You’re welcome.’

Jane passes Anne her phone and she says goodbye to Marian.’

‘Well ladies, everything seems to be fine there. Your application will be approved. We just need to do a police check. Okay!!’ Jane said. ‘There is only one problem though.’

‘What is that?’ Anne asked.

‘There is possibly a two year to a four year wait. Not many children and put up for adoption and if there is a possibility to adopted a child there is also an interview to gauge if the child is suitable for your family.’

‘Okay!! That gives us something to think about.’ Anne said.’But with the two to four year wait I wonder if this is the right way for us to go.’

‘I could suggest fostering a child but it doesn’t seem that you would want to do that.’

‘No!! Anyway, thanks for your time.’ Ann said.

‘It’s my pleasure to help any prospective parents who want to adopt a child.’ Jane said. ‘Just one more question. You didn’t mention what kind of job you have.’

‘We are both landowners. I inherited Shibden Hall from my uncle and Ann inherited half of Crow Nest from her parents.’

‘Who inherited the other half?’

‘My sister. The one you spoke to on the phone only a few minutes ago.’ Ann said.

‘Okay!! So, both properties have an income coming in on a regular basis.’

‘Yes.’ Anne said, ‘but I think that is irrelevant now since we don’t want to wait that long to have a child.’

‘Might I ask what you plan to do now?’ Jane questioned.

‘Find someone who will donate his sperm for us or find a sperm bank.’ Anne said. ‘Ann will carry the child and I will be the egg donor. So, the baby will be ours.’

‘I see! So do you want the sperm donor to be part of your family?’

‘Not really.’ Ann said. ‘I think he would want to have more say in how the child would be raised and we don’t want that.’

‘Okay!! I understand that.’ Jane said. ‘Anyway, let me know how you go. I think you both will be great parents.’

‘Thanks.’ They said in unison. ‘Have a great day.’

‘You too.’

Anne and Ann had to decide their next move.They walked back to Ann’s car and drove back to Shibden. They had to tell everyone what they were planning to do. It would have a big impact on everyone’s life but they were hoping that everyone would support them in their quest to be parents. Yet, after what happened with Elizabeth’s children Anne wasn’t sure what they would say.

‘We’re home.’ they yelled as they walked through the front door.

‘How’d it go?’ Aunt asked as she greeted them in the sitting room.

‘Better than I expected.’ Anne said. She wasn’t sure how much she should reveal until they knew what they were going to do.

‘Is this what you want, children?’ Marian said. ‘You do remember what happened when Ainsworth barged in and upset Ann’s niece and nephew. Don’t you?’

‘Yes, I do, Marian.’ Anne said. ‘I doubt if we will see him again.’

‘I hope not,’ They all said.

‘So, What happened?’ Marian asked.

‘We had to fill out a form. Then we called you and Elizabeth to vouch to our story about what happened when Ainsworth barged in. Thanks for that, Marian.’

‘No probs. She seemed to be a very lovely lady to talk to.’

‘She was, she is.’ Anne said. ‘But while we were accepted to adopt children. The waiting period is two to four years.’

‘And that isn’t what you want to do? Right?’ Aunt Anne said.

‘Right!! So we are going to find a sperm donor or sperm bank. I would love to be the egg donor. So, Ann will carry the baby and the baby will carry my genes.’ Marian seemed shocked by that.

‘So, we will have a mini you running around.’

‘Yes!’ Anne was a bit startled by Marian’s comment. ‘What’s wrong with that?’

‘Nothing!’

‘Okay!’

‘What do you need to do now?’ Aunt Anne asked.

‘We need to find suitable sperm to fertilise my eggs.’

‘Goodness!! That sounds like a lot of work just to make a baby. Father said as he walked into the sitting room.’Won’t that be expensive? Wouldn’t it be just as easy to use Ann’s eggs and find a donor who was similar in build, looks and abilities to you, Anne?’

‘That is something we could do, Anne. I know you want a mini you. We could get one without all the bother of collecting your eggs. Couldn’t we look into that?’ Ann said. Anne looked dejected. She really wanted to donate her eggs but it seemed Ann had other ideas.

‘Ann, can we see what I need to do to be an egg donor first. Please!’ Ann could see that this was important to her wife. So she nodded. Anne smiled. She was elated.

Anne would do anything for her wife and being an egg donor could be difficult but it’s what she wanted to do. Of course, they could use Ann’s eggs since Ann is five years younger her eggs would be easier to harvest once they went through the process to get them to that stage. But Ann could see Anne wanted their first child to be a mini version of her.

They did a Google search to find the nearest sperm bank. They found the address to one in Leeds which was only half an hour from Halifax. They decided to call and make an appointment to talk to someone about obtaining sperm to create a baby.they wanted sperm from someone who was a compatible donor someone who would be fit and healthy,  who had no history of any problems and someone who was well educated either a doctor, lawyer or professor.

They found a phone number. Anne called.

‘Hello, Semovo, Jonathan speaking. How can I help you today?’

‘We are two women who would love to have children. Only we need to procure sperm to do that. I would also like to be the egg donor and my wife will carry the child. How do we go about that process?’

‘I think it would be a good idea if you made an appointment. Where do you live?’ Jonathan asked.

‘Shibden Hall, Halifax.’

‘Am I talking to Anne LIster?’

‘Yes, why do you ask?’

‘I have heard so much about you, Miss Lister.’

‘Anne please. All bad I hope.’

‘Well, I know Isabelle Norcliffe.’

‘You know Tib. Lucky you. How is the old girl?’

‘She’s doing fine. Still drinking a bit more than she should.’

‘Yeah, I know that. Anyway, can we make an appointment to see someone soon.’ Anne said. ‘This old bird is getting a bit long in the tooth and wants to be a mum.’ Ann poked Anne in the ribs.

‘Old bird. I don’t think so.’ Ann whispered in Anne’s ear. ‘You’re still young at heart and this young thing loves you, pony.’

‘Okay!! Let’s see when our consultant is available to see you and your wife.’ He checked the consultant’s availability.

‘She can see you next Monday at 9 AM or 11 AM. Of course, she could see you sooner, tomorrow at 10 AM. Which one would suit you best.’

‘I think the soon we get started the better. Tomorrow at 10 AM would be fine.’

‘What is your wife’s name, Anne?’

‘Ann Walker without an E. Mine has a E. Okay!!’

‘Good. All done. See you tomorrow at 10. Could you arrive 15 minutes early so we can take down some of your details before the appointment.’

‘How much will all this cost?’

‘We will discuss that when you get here.’ Anne was still worrying about the expense side. Ann looked at her and frown.’

‘Okay. We will see you tomorrow. Bye.’

‘Goodbye.’

‘Anne, are you still worrying about expenses. This child will be our child. So we share the expense. Come on, we can do that. Can’t we, Pony?’

‘Yes.’

‘So, chill please. We will jump that hurdle when we get to it. All we have is an appointment for now. Don’t we?’

‘Yes.’

‘Anne, it’s only money. I wish you would see that. I know I didn’t do much to earn it but I have it to spend. So, let me do that.’

‘Ann, I know this but I also want you to realise that I have always been reliant on others until I inherited Shibden from my uncle. So, I often find it hard to accept help from anyone. Do you understand that?’

‘Yes, Pony, I do and I will listen to you as long as you remember to listen to me about our finances. Okay!!!’

‘I will do that.’

‘We will do that, Anne.’ Ann said. ‘You and me are partners now for life. We need to remember this always.’

‘Always, Adney. Always.’ Anne said with tears rolling down her cheeks. Ann leaned over and wiped them away.

‘Thank you!!’

‘What for, Pony?’

‘For just being the sweetest person I know.’

‘Oh gee, and I think you are the most handsome person I know.’

‘Okay you two can we quit the soppy stuff for now.’ Marian said as she came up to Anne’s office to find out what they wanted for dinner. Ann blushed. She didn’t like to be caught talking soppy stuff to her wife.

‘Ann, don’t worry. The secret is safe with me.’ Marian said.

‘Hey, let’s order a pizza. I feel like celebrating. We have an interview that the sperm bank in Leeds tomorrow at 10 AM.’

‘Okay! Will I order the usual pizza.’

‘What’s that, Anne?’ Ann asked.

‘Four meats and three cheeses.’

‘Okay!!’ Ann said. ‘Order two. If we don’t eat it all we can have leftovers for breakfast.’

‘For breakfast.’ Marian exclaimed.

‘Yes, you haven’t lived until you have eat cold pizza for breakfast.’ Anne looked at Ann shocked.

‘You actually eat cold pizza?’

‘Yes.’ Ann said. ‘Haven’t you done that before?’

‘No, I usually zap leftover pizza in the microwave.’

‘I did that until there was one morning when we had a power outage and pizza was all we had. So, we ate it cold.’

‘Yuck!!’ Marian said as she made to fake puked.

‘Would you like to come to Leeds with us, Marian?’ Ann asked, ‘you could go shopping while we are at the sperm bank. They we could go out for lunch. We will pay for lunch for what you had to deal with when Ainsworth threatened you.’

‘You don’t need to buy me lunch but I would love to come to Leeds with you.’

‘Great!’ Anne said. ‘You do realise we will pay for your lunch, Marian.’

‘Okay!!’ Marian said. ‘What time would you like to leave in the morning?’

‘I guess we should leave at around 8.30. We will need to find out where the sperm bank is and where we can park the car.’ Anne said.

‘That will be okay! I will ask Aunt Anne if she there is anything she wants me to get her while we are in Leeds.’

The next day as they travel to Leeds. Ann sat quietly in the passenger seat as Anne and Marian banter about life. It seems so surreal for Ann to be where she is. She never thought Anne Lister would even give her the time of day but here they were married and planning to have children.

‘Aunt would like a new notebook and some pens.’ Marian said. ‘Father wants me to get him more beer.’

‘Has he only just finished off the ones we bought him before the trial?’ Ann asked.

‘Yes, he doesn’t drink that much. Only when he is a bit stressed and he was quite a bit stressed during the trial.’ Marian said.

‘Does aunt want some more Whiskey?’ Anne asked.

‘No, I think she was a bit more hungover than she expected. So, she has sworn off the stuff. It’s there if you want to finish it off later, Anne.’ Ann said. ‘I think it was a bit too strong for her palate too.’

‘Ah, we’re not alive, are we, if we’re not taking the odd risk now and again.’ Anne said. ‘And aunt took a risk and found it wasn’t to her liking.’

‘No. No, were not. Aunt was game enough to try whiskey. Wasn’t she?’ Marian said.

‘I guess she won’t be trying that again. Will she?’ Ann said.

‘Probably not. She will probably stick to beer next time.’ Anne said.

They dropped Marian off in Main Street and told her they would call her when their interview was over. Anne drove them to the sperm bank. Ann wondered if this was really happening or it was just a dream.

As if Anne could read her mind, she said, ‘Adney, you’re not dreaming because if you’re dreaming, I am too.’’

‘That’s good to hear.’ Ann said. ‘I really do want this. Pony.’

‘Well, I am pleased about that.’ Anne said as she parked the car. They walked into the sperm bank.

‘We have an appointment.’ Anne said.

‘Names please.’

‘Anne Lister & Ann Walker.’ Ann said.

‘You need to fill out this paperwork and hand it to the interviewer when you are called up. Full names, dates of birth, etc, plus parent who will carry baby and whose eggs are you going to use.’

‘Okay!!’ Anne said.

The desk clerk put the paper onto a clipboard and handed it to Anne. They sat together while Anne filled it out. She already knew Ann’s birth date and what they were going to do.’

‘Anne Lister, Ann Walker, Miss Cooper will see you know.’

Ann was a bit nervous. She had been playing with her shirt from the moment they sat down. Filling out the form distracted Anne but she really didn’t know what to expect. They were greeted by Miss Cooper who guided them to her office.

‘Please be seated. I will take the form now.’ Anne handed her the clipboard and she perused it. ‘I see you want to be the egg donor.’

‘Yes. What does the require me to do?’

‘It will require you to inject yourself with hormones daily. Then when your eggs are mature we will collect them and if you like freeze what we don’t use. It shows here that Ann Walker will be carrying the baby. Are you her?’

‘No, that’s me.’ Ann said.

‘Okay! So you truly want this child to be part of you both.’

‘Yes!!’ they said in unison.

‘So, we need to know your requirements for the sperm donor. Then we can begin the process. It could take one or two months for the eggs to mature. I will give you a list of all you need to inject yourself. Are you comfortable doing that, Miss Lister.’

‘I hope so because it seems as though I will be doing this every day for a while.’

‘Are there twins in the family?’

‘Not that I know of.’

‘Good.’ Miss Cooper said.

‘Will you supply us with the hormones too?’

‘Yes, we give you everything you need. When do you wish to begin?’

‘ASAP!’

‘Okay! I suppose you want a donor that looks like Miss Walker.’

‘I had never thought about that.’ Anne said. ‘And someone with a uni degree, doctor, lawyer etc., medium height and with no bad medical history.’

‘Explain please.’

‘Heart condition, diabetes, non smoker etc.’ Anne said.

‘I see!!’ Miss Cooper said. ‘I can check the records now for you. I am sure there will be someone who will fit what you desire.’ Miss Cooper types in all the information and two matches appear. One is an African American which will not do and the other a Caucasian only he is six foot four. She tells Anne and Ann. They agree the second one will be fine.

‘Hey, we can deal with that when the time comes. Height isn’t really an issue.’

Miss Cooper flags the match and saves it for later reference when Anne’s eggs are ready to be harvested.

‘Keep in touch on a weekly basis. We will need to harvest your eggs here and then fertilise them in a dish. They we can implant them into your uterus, Miss Walker.’

‘How long will all that take?’ Anne asked.

‘That will depend on how many eggs we fertilise and implant. Probably an hour or two. You both will need to be sedated to do that. So it might be a good idea to have a responsible driver to come with you.’

‘I wouldn’t say she was responsible but I will bring my sister with us next time.’

‘Cheeky. I think I should tell Marian what you just said.’ Ann said as she giggled uncontrollably. She was looking forward to being a mum and what they needed to go through was worth it.

‘How much does this cost?’ Ann asked.

‘Between $325 and $475 depending on the level you use.’

‘What about when you collect my eggs?’ Anne asked.

‘That is only a minimal fee for you about the same cost as the sperm donor. If they were a third party’s eggs the cost would be higher.’

So somewhere between 800 and 1,000 dollars. Yes, plus around $500 for all the medicine and paraphernalia. But that also will depend on how many times you will need to inject yourself, Miss Lister.’

‘Okay!!! Thank you for all your help today. Will you be seeing us through to the end of the process?’

‘Yes!! You can collect all you need on your way out. Mrs Belcombe will help you. She has it ready now.’

‘Thank you.’

Ann paid for and collected what Anne needed to use to inject herself with hormones and bring forth mature eggs. Anne wasn’t happy that Ann had paid out for this.

‘Ann, I want to help pay for this too.’

‘Anne, you will be jabbing needles in yourself until your eggs are ready to be harvested.’

‘And when they harvest my eggs and have them fertilised you will be the one who will carry our child for nine months.’

‘So, what!!’ Ann said.’You should know I will pay for things when I get a chance.’

‘Ah the quick or the dead.’

‘Well not really dead just slow.’ Ann grins. She thinks this might be the first time she has been one step ahead of Anne Lister.

Anne calls Marian. ‘Hi, have you finished your shopping, Marian?’

‘Yes, except for father’s beer but we can get that on our way home. Marian said. ‘I am in the Cafe across from the sperm bank. I have someone here who can’t wait to see you.’

‘Who?’ Anne asked surprised that Marian is chatting with someone she knows.Of course, when she walks into the cafe and sees Tib she is all smiles. Ann is still puzzled as who it is. Tib and Anne hug.

‘Ann, this is my oldest friend, Isabelle Norcliffe. Tib, this is my best find, my wife, Ann Walker.’ Ann reaches out her hand for Tib to shake. Then Tib pulls her into a bear hug.

‘She’s something else isn’t Ann!’ Anne says.

‘She certainly is.’ Tib said. ‘And cute to boot.’ Ann blushed. ‘Shall we eat I am famished.’

‘Yes, on us since we are paying for Marian’s we might as well pay for your meal.’ Anne said looking at Ann, ‘and I am paying.’ Ann nods she doesn’t want to upset her wife again today.

‘So, what’s happening? Marian says you were at the sperm bank. Are you planing to have kids. Anne Lister a mother. Is this a dream?’ Ann looks at Anne and frowns.

‘Yes, we are going to use Anne’s eggs and a sperm donor. I am going to carry the baby and giving birth so it will be ours.’ Ann said.

‘Anne Lister, have you gone soft in your old age.’ Tib said. Then looking at Ann. ‘This one.’ pointing to Anne.’Swore off motherhood as if it was a disease and she didn’t want to catch it.’

‘Really. Anne, what changed your mind?’

‘You did. It’s as easy at that. I want to have children with the woman I love.’

They ordered their lunch and continue to chat.

‘Do you plan to have godparents for this child?’ Tib asked.

‘We haven’t thought that far ahead. I have to inject myself with hormones to encourage my eggs to mature and then have them harvested.’ Anne said.

Then they fertilise those eggs with the chosen sperm and implant them into me.’ Ann said. ‘We hope the take otherwise we have no idea what we are going to do next.’

‘Yeah, its not as simple as putting a dick in a pussy. Is it? Tib Said.

‘No but you don’t need to be so graphic.’ Marian said as she swatted Tib’s arm.

‘Hey Marian, is there anyone in your life?’ Tib asked.

‘Not really. I thought Thomas Beech was interested in me. Turns out he was just flirting because he was bored and I was gullible. That’s what he said.’

‘Walk on the wild side. Hey, we could have fun together, you and me, Marian.’ Tib said.

‘You and me, Tib. Give me a few hours to think about it.’

‘Only a few hours.’

‘Ladies please!’ Ann said. ‘Get a room.’ They all laugh. Anne wonder if Marian would allow Tib to take her virginity. Yet, Marian seemed flatter that Tib would ask.

Their meals arrived and they ate in comfortable silence. When it was time to pay there was a scuffle between Tib and Anne.. Tib won.

‘What are you doing now, ladies?’ Tib said

‘Why? We were going home after we bought father his six pack of beer.’ Anne said.

‘I was wondering if you would like to have a visitor for a few days.’

‘Yes, you can come and stay for a few days. If you can put up with us for that long.’

‘Great! I have been wanting to visit you for a while now but I lost your phone number. So, I was surprised and delighted when I was Marian in town.’ Tib said. ‘Hey, Marian would you like to travel back to Shibden with me?’ Tib asked looking at Marian with pleading eyes.’I just need to pop home to collect some clothes.’

‘Yes & yes to your other question.’ Tib smiled.

Anne and Ann made their way back to Shibden Hall. Tib drove Marian to her home. They collected her clothes. Then they went to the bottle shop to buy father’s six pack of beer.

Chapter Text

The first inject Anne gave herself made her wince. She didn’t think it would be so painful .she didn’t know how long she would have to inject hormones into her body. She was glad Ann wasn’t there to see her. Anne was a mess. She had tears rolling down her cheeks and she was rubbing her butt to ease the pain.

Then she heard footsteps coming up the stairs. Then she heard their bedroom door open.

‘Anne, are you here?’ Anne tried to stay quiet. She wiped her eyes and breath out gently.’Anne, where are you? Marian wants me to go into town with her. Is there anything you need? Anne stayed in the bathroom. She could see the door handle turn.’Anne, here you are.’ Then Ann looked into her eyes. ‘What’s up, dearest?’

‘Nothing!! Anne said trying to sound as if she was okay.

‘You have been crying.’ Ann said concerned. ‘Tell me what’s the matter.’

‘Nothing is up!’

‘Anne Lister, you are talking to me. What’s wrong? I can see something is bothering you. Tell me.’ Ann said. She was getting worried. Anne always tried to be braver than was necessary and right now Anne could see it wasn’t working.

‘I can’t say.’ Anne said trying to hold back the tears.’I want this to work.’

‘What do you want to work?’ Ann looked at Anne and wondered why she wasn’t saying much. Then she realised today was the day she would start giving herself the injections.’You have just given yourself the first injection and it’s more painful than you thought. My tough wife isn’t so tough. Is she?’

‘I really want to do this for us, Ann. I want a mini me running around Shibden.. I never imagined I would want this but I do.’

‘What’s going on up there? Tib yelled from the bottom of the stairs.

‘Nothing.’ They both yelled back.

‘Come on, Lister. I know there is something up because you are whispering up there.’

‘Just discussing babies.’

‘Wrong. You don’t need to whisper about that.’ Tib yelled back. We are going into Halifax. Are you still coming with Marian and me Ann W.’

‘Yes, I will be right there’ Ann said. Then she whispered to Anne.’WE will talk about this later, dearest. Okay!!!’

‘Okay!!  we can do that. Can you get me some chocolate?’

‘Anne Lister needs chocolate. Yes, dearest. How many?’

‘No more than four or five.’ Ann looked at her in shock. She had never asked for chocolate before. It seemed her first injection was starting to work. Ann was hoping that this wouldn’t be their life for a while. She couldn’t imagine Anne eating that much chocolate.

Marian drove them into Halifax. She was all smiles with Tib sitting next to her. Ann could see that Marian was happy. Why shouldn’t she be. In all the time Ann had known Marian this was probably the happiest she had ever been.

‘When’s the big day? You can tell me. I won’t tell, Anne.’ Ann asked.

‘What big day? We are just friends with benefits for now.’ Marian said.

‘Yeah!!’ Tib replied.’Big benefits.’ Marian blushed but it was lovely to have someone to share her bed and maybe her life. She knew what Tib was like. Ann didn’t.

‘How did Anne go with her first injection this morning? Tib asked. ‘I don’t wish to seem like I am prying but I heard her scream.’

‘Oh, you know Anne. She will always say she is all right even when it is obvious she isn’t.’

‘Yes, I know that Anne.’Marian and Tib said in unison.

‘Hey, you can read each others’ minds. Has Anne mentioned anything to you about being our child’s godparents?’

‘No.’ Marian said.

‘Well, we decided since you two seem pretty palsy we would be sure you would make good godparents. You do know what they means. Don’t you?’ Ann said.

‘Not really!’ Tib said.

‘A guide to good godparents is that they need to babysit often, change at least one nappy and be there for any happy family photos.’ Ann said. ‘If you can think of anything else I will let you know.’

‘Ah, that seems fair enough but I am not sure about the nappy change. Aren’t they a little stinky when its a number two.’ Tib said.

‘That’s when they are on solids. When they are breastfed there is no smell.’ Ann said.

‘I suppose I can give it a go. You do realise that I will corrupt your child if I babysit them.’ Tib said.

‘I know but we want an all round baby. Not a child who is afraid to be themselves.’

‘You have thought this out well. Haven’t you?’

‘Yes.’

When they returned home from Halifax Anne was walking around the estate as if nothing had happened. Ann raced up to where she was planting a few shrubs ready for summer colour.

‘Dearest, what are you doing?’

‘Playing trains. Do you want to join me. It’s so much fun.’

‘So funny. I meant why are you working?’

‘This needs to be done and I feel better now. I think that was the affects just after the injection. Did you get me some chocolate? I seem to need sweet stuff right now.’

‘Yes, I did. I got you a good supply so we won’t need to go into Halifax everyday just for chocolate.’

‘I think the urge for chocolate was just a one off. At least I hope so. I don’t want to put on weight.’ Anne said.

Over the next few days Anne injected herself with the hormones and Ann watched on. Then Anne would eat another chocolate bar. Then Anne felt a popping. She wondered if that was her eggs. They called the sperm bank to say they were on their way. Anne didn’t remember when she last felt as excited as she did on that day.

They arrived and were taken into a sterile room, told to put on gowns and lay on the beds that were there. Marian and Tib had taken them and while they were at the sperm bank Marian and Tib went shopping. Anne was suspicious but didn’t say. Ann already knew but was sworn to secrecy.

Anne and Ann were sedated. It felt strange for Ann to be here. She never imagined in her wildest dreams that Anne and her would become parents. Hey, she didn’t even imagine she would be married to Anne Lister. It still felt like a dream.

Then she was dreaming. She could see Anne floating about her. She was talking to her only Ann couldn’t hear what she was saying. Anne was smiling so it must have been something good. Then there was a baby, no two, goodness, three babies. She wondered how they would cope with three babies. She certainly wasn’t ready for that.

When she woke Anne was still sedated.

‘We collected four eggs, fertilised them and implanted all of them.’

‘Why all four?’ Ann asked.

‘Because all four may not take but we have a chance at least one will.’

‘Okay. I just dreamed I had three babies.’

‘That’s also a possibility. You are young and healthy. Right?’

‘Yes!!’

‘Just rest for a while. You will be able to leave soon.’ Ann tried to sit up but her head began to spin so she laid back down. Hey, she thought. This is really happening.

‘Ann, did you say something?’

‘No!! Why?’

‘i thought you said hey, this is really happening.’

‘I thought I said that in my head.’ Ann said.

‘Adney, this is really happening and if the eggs implant themselves we could be parents soon. Couldn’t we?’

‘Very soon, dearest.’ Only to Ann nine months seemed a long way off especially when she was the one who was carrying the baby, babies.

Ann doesn’t know how she is feeling about this now the deed has been done.

She looks at Anne and frowns.

‘What’s up, Ann?’

‘Are we doing the right thing bringing a child into this world?’

‘Our child will have all they need or ever want. We will teach them about real life and how they should help others who are less fortunate than what they will be.’

‘Okay!!’ Ann said but she doesn’t feel less comfortable with the idea of carrying a baby to full term.

‘You’re still worried about something. Aren’t you, Adney?’

‘Just a little worried about giving birth.’

‘That’s nine months away. It could be longer if we aren’t successful this time.’

‘Why do you say that, Dearest?’

‘Because I don’t want you to hope this is all we need to do so you will get pregnant. They may not implant. Then we may have to try again.’

‘Are you willing to do that for us. Anne?’

‘Yes, Adney. Always.’

They laid there for what seemed like hours. Then the nurse entered the room.

‘I think you will be okay to get dressed now and go home. You do have a responsible driver to take you home.’

‘Yes.’ They said in unison. Only Anne thought that neither could be classed as too responsible.

Anne called Marian who seemed elated about something. She could hear Tib laughing in the background.

‘What’s so funny?’

‘Nothing.’

‘We’re done and ready to go home. Are you ready to pick us up.’

‘Yes, we have something we want to share with you.’

‘What now, Marian?’

‘You will have to wait and see.’

‘Will I? What about Ann? Or does she already know?’ Anne looked at Ann. She was shocked that her Ann would keep a secret from her. Ann acted coy. What did she know.

‘Not saying.’

‘We are to meet them out front in five minutes. They want to go for lunch at the cafe across the street.’ Anne and Ann walked outside.’here they are now.’ Goodness why does Marian look so happy. You would think she just got married.’

‘Not likely, Anne. She said she isn’t gay.’

They walked across the road and went into the cafe.

‘What’s with you two?’ Anne asked. Then Marian flashed a small diamond ring in her face. ‘Marian, you’re not going to marry Tib. Are you?’

‘Yes and no.’

‘What do you mean yes and no?’ Anne asked. So looked at Ann who only smiled at her. ‘How long have you been in on this ruse, Ann?’

‘Since Tib proposed to Marian about a week ago.’

‘Goodness me! Isabelle Norcliffe. We are related. Oh my goodness. Now, you will not only be our child’s godparents. You will also be their aunties.’ Anne said. ‘I think I need a stiff drink.’

‘Pony, that’s not possible because you still have some drugs in your system. Okay!!’ Anne seemed surprised that Ann, in her state, would remember that.

Ann spends the next few days doing light tasks. She paints for a while, reads, then paints again. Its becoming monotonous but she doesn’t want to do too much in case these eggs don’t implant themselves.

They make an appointment with their local obgyn to have scan just to see if implant into the walls of her uterus. It would be disappointing If none had but then they could try again. If it fails the second time they might go back to trying to adopt or foster a child. No, this is going to work or she would die trying.

Anne looked at her with concern. ‘You’re over thinking again, Miss Walker.’

‘S….sorry. I want this to happen only what if it doesn’t take.’

‘We can try again. Okay!!’

‘How many times do you want to try, dearest?’

‘However many times we need to, Adney.’

‘You should have seen the look on your face when Marian and Tib said they got married. It was priceless. A classic kodak moment.’

‘hahahahahaha!! You are so funny but I do love you, Adney.’

‘I know.’

They arrived at the doctor’s office and checked in. They would be having an ultrasound to see if the eggs implanted into Ann’s uterus. Ann was willing it to happen. So, was Anne because if it didn’t Ann would be devastated but Anne knew she would do anything for Ann and she would go through the injections again if they had to.

‘Anne Lister, Ann Walker. Doctor Foster will see you now. Come this way. Please.’

;Good morning, ladies. Please take a seat. I will do the scan shortly. First I want to know when the eggs were implanted.’

‘Two weeks, three days and one hour ago.’

“Goodness, we are precise, Aren’t we?’ Doctor Foster said.

‘How old are you, Miss Walker?’

‘I will be 30 in twelve days,’ As if reading the doctor’s mind said. ‘Anne just turned 35 last month.’

‘Okay!!’

‘No because this is my first pregnancy.’ Anne looked at Ann puzzled why the doctor would ask such as question. As if reading their minds she answered. ‘It’s just routine procedure. Standard questions. What about fitness and health.’

‘We try to keep fit but sometimes that isn’t possible. We are pretty healthy. I had my last checkup only a year ago just after we got married.’

‘I was asking Ann. Is there any record of mental illness?’

‘How do we answer that? Anne asked.

‘Honestly.’ the doctor said.

Oh, sexual assault.’ the doctor said.’Did you report this?’

‘’No! He is in jail on another charge.’

‘If he comes near you again which I am guessing you hope he doesn’t you need to press charges against him.’

‘Why?’ Anne and Ann asked.

‘Because sexual assault is often swept under the rug as if the victim is as guilty as the perpetrator.’

‘Anyway, Ann, I will leave you to slip this on.’ The doctor hands Ann a gown and leaves the room. ‘Call me when you’re ready.’

Anne stuck her head out the door when Ann had changed to put on the gown. ‘We’re ready.’

‘I’ll be there in a moment.’

Anne lifted Ann on to the bed. She always wanted to show her wife how fit and strong she was. Ann loved it when Anne did that. The doctor returned to find Ann propped up on the bed with Anne sitting next to her. ‘I was going to lower the bed so you could get on, Miss Walker. It seems like someone beat me to that.’

‘I am so small my wife can pick me up and gently deposit me anywhere she wishes.’

‘You are lucky. My husband complains when I ask him to take out the garbage.’ Doctor Foster said. ‘She turned on the screen and found the wand. She collected the lubricant.. ‘This is going to be cold.’

‘Okay!’ Ann said. She cringes for a moment as the doctor applied the lube. Then the doctor roll the wand over Ann’s belly.

‘How many eggs did they implant, Miss Walker?’

‘Four, I think!’

‘It seems as though two have implanted.’ Ann smiled she was hoping they would have twins. ‘Only it’s too early in the pregnancy so we will need to keep an eye on your little ones, Ann.’ the doctor said. ‘So, we will need to see you, probably every three weeks for a while. When you leave make another appointment at the desk.’

They were on a high when they returned home. Ann couldn’t believe that she had Anne’s fertilised eggs inside her. Anne knew that with lots of positive vibes this could happen but they weren’t in the clear until after the first trimester. It would be touch and go until then.

‘So, what’s the verdict? Does she have you DNA inside her?’ Tib asked.

‘Yes, if you want to put it like that.’ Anne said.

‘How many eggs implanted, Ann?’

‘Two.’ They both said.

‘I suppose we should find a way to distinguish them. AW could be little Ann. AL  could be big Anne.’ Marian said.

How many did they implant, little Ann? Tib asked.

‘Four.’

That’s a good outcome then. The others mustn’t have been strong enough.’

‘I guess not.’ Anne said.’Since when have you become an expert on making babies?’

‘Since you told me you and Ann were going to be mums. I have read lots about it since then. Oh, did Marian tell you we are going to renovate the barn and move into it?’

No! Don’t you have a home in Leeds to go back to.’

‘Not any more. I sold it a week ago..It was too big for just one person to rumble around in and anyone I want to be close to your kids so I can watch the grow up.’ Tib said. Anne looked shocked. Ann was over the moon. Another pair of eyes at the birth. Only they had a long way to go. Didn’t they?

‘Does Aunt know your plans?’ Anne asked.

‘She was the one who suggested it.’ Marian said.’She would like all her family to live close to her and since the barn hadn’t been used in about a century and was still sturdy she suggested we convert it to a home.’

‘She’s been watching too many fixer upper shows.’ Anne said. ‘But she is right. If we all live on the estate we can look after her and father in their old age.’

‘Who said I was old? Own up and accept your fate.’ They all pointed at Anne and Anne pointed at Marian. Marian punched Anne on her arm.

‘What was that for, Marian?

‘Nothing. We had an architect draw up plans and we will be submitting them to council next week. Since this is a grade two listed building we cannot change the external facade. That’s fine because I like it the way it is.’

You have nine months minus about three weeks to get it completed by. Can you do that?’ Anne said.

‘I hope so but the more noise you have around a baby the faster they settle into family life.’ Tib said.

‘Is that so?’ Ann asked. ‘We need a noisy home to have a settled baby. I suppose we will have to wait to see what happens. Won’t we?’

‘Yes we will. We will do our best to get it completed before the babies due date. ‘ Do you when that is.’ Marian asked.

‘not the exact date but sometime eight & a half months from now.’ Marian was doing the maths in her head. ‘That will be late December early January.;’

‘Yes, we will know on our next visit which is in three weeks time.’

‘We all hope that you and Ann are successful this time because what will you do if this pregnancy fails.’ Tib asked. She only wanted to ask but it seemed to shock Anne and had Ann in tears.

‘Are you all right, Ann?’ Anne asked.

‘I will feel better once the first trimester is over.’ Ann said quietly. Only Anne could hear the worry in her voice. She lent over and said ‘think positive and everything will work out fine.’ Ann smiled a little but she was still so worried.

The doctor’s appointment went without any problems. They had a scan and the babies were doing fine. It was the six week mark. There were heartbeats which made them both realise that what they wanted was really happening.

Ann was feeling so much better until they returned home. She raced upstairs so fast Anne had to sprint to catch her. Anne found her in their bathroom with her head over the sink puking up the contents of her breakfast.

‘I hate you right now so please leave while I can be sick in private.’

‘Ann, if I had know this was going to happen…’

‘What? You wouldn’t have bothered letting me get pregnant.’

‘No, Ann, I would have had the babies for us.’ Ann looked at her with bewilderment. ‘What?’ Ann said. ‘You told me you never wanted to give birth and now, I have morning sickness you suddenly want to.’

‘No, that isn’t what I said.’

‘Yes Anne, you did.’ Ann said. ‘So could you please leave me…’ She couldn’t finish because there in the toilet bowl was her breakfast and morning tea. ‘While I clean up the mess.’

‘I will do that. Please, go lie down and sleep for a while.’ Anne said. ‘I will see if I can find out if there is something that will help relieve your discomfort.’

Anne strode back downstairs. Everyone looked at Anne in shock.

‘What were you arguing about?’ Marian said. ‘Is Ann okay?’

‘She’s had her first bout of morning sickness. I guess her body has just realise it’s carry a foreign object.’

‘That’s not a nice way to talk about your children.’

‘I guess not but she said she hates me and it seems doesn’t want anything to do with me right now.’

‘Anne, she will be okay in a few. Just give her time to rest. It’s going to be hard for her if she is going to be sick every morning for the next few months. Can you imagine what that would be like?’ Aunt Anne said.’And remember what is carrying will be fully formed children one day soon. Only I don’t think it will be soon enough for Ann.’

‘Are you a pregnancy expert now, Aunt?’

‘No, I just remember what your mother went through when she had you and your siblings. No wonder she drank so much.’

‘’Why?’ Marian said.

‘Well, after six bouts of morning sickness and only three children surviving into adulthood you would too. Wouldn’t you?’

‘I never knew mother had morning sickness. She never told us anything all she did all day was drink.’. Anne said. ‘Maybe if we had had this conversation…’

‘It wouldn’t have happened. The death of a child no matter how old was never talked about. You had to grin and bear then move onto the next pregnancy.’ Tib said. ‘It was as if the child never existed.’

‘Oh my goodness. Let’s hope Ann doesn’t miscarry or give birth and lose one or both of our babies.’

‘I hope not too.’ Marian said. Who was so looking forward to being an aunt and with Tib as her wife they would have fun babysitting. That was a long way off at the moment.

‘Hey expert Norcliffe, do you know if there is anything we can give Ann to help ease her morning sickness?’ Anne said.

‘You could use ginger and make a ginger tea for Ann to drink or wait until carbonate ginger goes flat and slip it slowly throughout the day.’

‘Any other ideas.’ Anne said. Then Tib handed her phone to Anne which showed  the website she found when she did a search in Google.

Anne checked the site out. ‘These all seem like natural remedies. That’s great we can try one and if she doesn’t like it or it doesn’t help we can try something else. I don’t think she wants to put too many chemicals in her body while she is pregnant because we don’t know what affect they will on our babies.’

‘That is so true and you can’t be too careful in the first trimester. This is when everything starts forming.’

‘Yes, I forgot to mention that we heard their hearts beat for the first time. It was music to my ears. Ann was so elated she was in tears.’

‘Do you want to see what Marian and I have been up to with our renovations?’

‘Yes, I would like that. I think Ann will sleep for a while. Aunt, could you send someone to get me if she wakes before we return.’

‘Yes, I can do that.’

‘They all walked to the barn to see the progress. It had only just started but it was moving forward with a cracking pace since the Calderdale Council gave them approval to go ahead. The money from the sale of Tib’s house had gone through and Marian had saved some from her half yearly dividends. She had shares in environmentally sustainable industries and they were fairing nicely. She kept telling Anne to invest. Only Anne was too stubborn to take advice from her baby sister and never did. Only Ann did but Anne didn’t know.

‘So, what are you planning to create here?’ Anne asked.

‘This will be our living area. We plan to have two bedrooms in the loft to the side. A master and a guest room. There will be another master downstairs for when we get older and don’t wish to use the stairs or for when we are babysitting your kids and they have somewhere to sleep.’

‘Good, good.’

‘What about electricity?’ Anne asked. She already knew what Marian would say only she wanted to hear from Tib.

‘We are going solar and would like, with your permission to add a wind turbine on the property.’

‘Don’t they make lots of noise?’

‘Yes, but they also make lots of electricity and when we make more than what we can use we sell it back to the grid.’

‘So, you will still be connected to the grid!’ Anne was shocked because she thought they were going off the grid permanently.

‘Yes, and you are welcome to go solar and wind powered with us if you would help with the costs.’

‘Let, me check on what it would cost me and what I would make.’

‘You don’t need to do that. We have the figures here to show you. Marian has already done the leg work for you. Haven’t you, Maz?’

‘You call my sister, Maz?’

‘Yes, what is wrong with that. Ann calls you, Pony or dearest. We know only we won’t tell anyone. It’s our little secret.’

‘Good because Ann doesn’t want anyone else to know the nicknames we have for each other.’

‘What is the one you have for her?’

‘Not saying. That really is a secret.’ Anne said. ‘I will check this out later. I see Cordingley coming Ann is probably awake and needs me. Good lucky with your renovations. I will let you know about the solar and wind power later. Okay!!’

‘Okay!!!’

‘Miss Lister, Miss Walker is awake and wants to see you right away.’ Anne raced inside to find Ann. She was in the sitting room with Aunt Anne and father. She rose up and raced over to Anne and embraced her.

‘I’m sorry about what I said earlier. I feel much better now.’

‘That’s great to hear. Tib showed me a list of things you can take to help relieve your morning sickness and before you ask they are all natural remedies.’ Ann looked surprised.

‘How does Tib seem to know what to do and when?’

‘Oh I think that woman has a sixth sense about lots of things only she doesn’t realise that.’

‘I will have to thank her later.’

‘We can do that now. They are in the barn looking at the plans for the renovations. The workers have began preparing it to become their home. Would you like to go out there and take a look.’ Ann squealed with delight. She wanted to see what Marian and Tib were planning for the renovations.

‘I think you would like what they are going to do.’ Anne said.

They strolled out to the barn. As they were walking Anne told Ann about the solar and wind power Marian and Tib wished to include in the plans. Ann looked surprised then remembered Marian had shares in environmentally sustainable industry so she would want green energy in their home.

‘She told me about it earlier. She wondered then if we wanted green energy. I said yes but only if that’s what you want.’

‘She showed me the costings. I have to peruse them and then I will decide.’

‘Why, Anne? Why not just do it for the environment and just think when we have a power outage we won’t.’

‘Are there batteries involved?’ Anne said.

‘Yes, but with both we may not need them because when it’s bright and sunny the solar panels work and when it is windy well the wind turbine will work.’

‘What happens if neither work? What about at night?’

‘I guess a battery or three might keep us out of trouble. Okay!!’

‘Good!! Then I guess we can do that.’ Anne said.

‘Do what?’ Marian asked. She wasn’t sure but she thought they were talking about the babies.

‘Help you with the solar panels and wind turbine. Miss, I am six weeks pregnant says we should and she also tells me it is the right thing to do. So, let me know the final cost and we will give you half. Okay!!’

They showed Ann the plans and showed her around the site. Anne stood back and watched with delight. She could see her wife was glowing and loved how beautiful she was. Yet, they still had a few hurdles to jump over and a few hoops to jump through.

The first trimester flew by. Although Ann thought time had stood still. She was glad that she would finally be rid of morning sickness. Well, she thought she would be. Only a few days after their latest check up she was back in their bathroom throwing up in the toilet bowl. This time Anne wondered if this would be Ann’s lot until the babies were born. She hoped not. She made Ann a pot of ginger tea and took her a cup. It seemed to help when Ann sipped it often.

Anne and Ann had to decide where the nursery would be. Ann wanted it close enough to their bedroom so they could hear the children when they woke. Anne thought it would be possible to get a child monitor then the nursery didn’t need to be so close. Ann suggested then to compromise they could turn Marian’s old room into the nursery now that she and Tib were sleeping in a caravan. They still did everything else in the hall. Marian thought it was a wonderful idea. So, to avoid colours geared to the gender of a child they painted the nursery in soft yellow pastels, hung mobiles and plastered the walls with animal stickers. Ann loved the look. Of course, there was two of everything which to Aunt and father seemed a bit over the top. Oh well, then they could both bathe and change nappies and dress their babies which they hoped would avoid too much crying when they were hungry. Ann hadn’t decided if she was going to breast feed. It was still too soon for her.

‘What about names? Aunt Anne asked. ‘No more Annes please unless it’s her middle name.’

‘We had thought Jeremy and Samuel if we have two boys. Rebecca and Mary if we have two girls and if it is one of each then they will be called Jeremy and Mary after father and her mother. Is that okay, father?’ He was all smiles no matter whether they have boys or one boy and one girl one of the babies will have his name.

’I am gobsmacked. I didn’t think you wanted to be reminded about me, Anne. I thought you would be glad to see me gone.’ Anne was shocked. Of course, she realised she hadn’t been the perfect daughter but she didn’t think it was that hard on her father.

‘Father I will always want to remember you.I hope he looks a bit like you too.’ She wiped tears from her eyes before he noticed them.

‘Thank you. I am so proud of you, Anne.

‘Thank you, father. This will be Ann and my finest achievement and in many ways our hardest but when our babies are born you and Aunt will be the first to cradle them in your arms.’ Then looking at her aunt. ‘Just as you cradle me after I was born.’

‘That is my most memorable moment. I couldn’t believe I got to hold you before your mother did but she fell asleep as soon as you were born.’

‘Did she?’ Anne asked.

‘Yes, she was so exhausted. She slept for hours. She didn’t hold you until you wanted to be fed.’ Anne looked astonished.

‘How long did you cradle me, Aunt?’ Father was quiet because he was listening too. He was still in Ireland in the military.

‘About four hours. I couldn’t help but seen a resemblance between you and your Uncle James. I think that is one of the reason you are now mistress of Shibden.’

‘WOW!! And you’re just telling me now.’ Anne said.

‘Well, you never asked and we never had a chance to bring it up in conversation until now.’ Anne said.

‘What did James say when he saw Anne?’ Father asked.

‘He held her for a moment until she cried. She wanted to be with me. I took her and she settled as soon as I wrapped my arms around her body.’

‘Did I? Anne shot into the chatter.

‘Yes, and when your mother woke we told her.’ Aunt Anne said.

‘So, who named me?’ Anne asked.

‘Your mother said she would name you Anne since you were so comfortable in my arms and she said you looked like a mini me.’

‘Well, that changed. Didn’t it?’

‘She should have seen you when your Uncle James was holding you then she would have probably said let’s call her Jane. Well, James doesn’t sound right for a girl’s name. Does it?’

‘It doesn’t and I love that I carry your name with me for always.’ Anne said. ‘You have done more for me than my mother did.’

‘Now Anne, let’s not speak ill of the dead.’

‘I know I shouldn’t but she always wanted me to behave like a good little girl. I only wanted to be outside getting dirty and playing rough with Sam. I miss him so much.’

‘We know you do, Anne,’ Father said, ‘his death was hard on everyone including your mother.’

‘Yeah, I know. That’s when her drinking got worse. I know that was after I moved here into Shibden and now it is mine. Only I am happy to share it with both of you.’ Anne said as she looked at her aunt and father.

‘Anne, where are you? Anne, I need you now.’

‘What’s wrong. Adney?’

‘Come quickly. I can feel our babies kicking me.’

‘Coming.’ Anne yelled as she made her way to the nursery. Ann and Marian were in there quilting blankets for their children. Ann had laid down to rest for a moment and she could feel little kicks then bigger ones.

Marian had her hand on Ann’s stomach. ‘Come here, feel this. It’s amazing.’ Anne put her hand there just as they stopped. ‘I can’t feel anything right now.’

‘Don’t give up, relax and then you will feel it. That’s what Marian had to do.’ Then there it was a small foot then another kicking against her hand. She couldn’t hold her smile back if she had wanted to. It was amazing. Tears were flowing down her cheeks but she didn’t care. She was so happy. They must be twenty weeks in from what she remembered Elizabeth said about feeling baby movements.

From then on Anne would always be seen with her hand on Ann’s stomach waiting for their babies to kick her. So, it was hard nearly impossible for Ann to do anything and as the months slipped by Ann glowed more and Anne took care of Ann so much she hardly did anything.

Anne was so concerned about Ann she wouldn’t let her shower or dress without help. She made sure Ann had a healthy diet. No fast food or anything greasy. Poor Ann! She couldn’t wait until the babies were born.

When they reached the second trimester they only needed to see their doctor once a month. Their babies were growing at the right rate. Now, they could find out the gender if their babies. Only they said they wanted to wait until they were born.

Their doctor was slightly puzzled by their answer because most parents want to know the sex of their child/children before they are born.

‘I’m so happy that Anne and I will be parents soon but I want to be surprised on the sex when they are born.’ Ann said.

‘We already have names picked out and only close family members know what they are.’

‘Okay!!!’ Doctor Foster said. ‘You will need to attend prenatal classes. They are held every Tuesday afternoon for an hour. It will help you with pelvic floor exercise and help during birth.’

‘Do we need to sign up?’ Anne asked.

‘No I will sign you up. It’s held in the maternity wing. When you go there just go to the nurses station and she will direct you to where you need to go.’ Doctor Foster said. ‘They start this week. Wear something loose and comfortable.’

‘What me too? Anne said. ’

‘No, just Ann.’ Doctor Foster said. ‘You will be shown a few exercises you can do at home so your body is ready to give birth, Ann.’

‘Thank you for all your help over the last few months. Will you be there at the birth?’ Anne asked.

‘That depends on when they are born. Babies aren’t always born when you would like them to be.’ Ann frown because she liked Doctor Foster and was hoping she would be there for the birth.

‘Hey, if I can’t be there I will see you afterwards. I am sure you will do fine with out me, Ann. You seem to have a great support team.’

‘Thank you. I certainly do.’ Ann said as she smiled at her wife. ‘Of course, she would tell you I have been an angel. Believe me when I say morning sickness did bring out the bitch in me.’

‘Ann, it wasn’t that bad.’ Anne said.

‘No, it just felt like my insides wanted to be on the outside..’ Anne looked shocked when Ann said that.

‘It’s gone now. Right?’

‘Yes, thank goodness.’ Ann said.

‘that’s good. I will see you in a month’s time. Then you will be able to tell me about the prenatal classes.’ Doctor Foster said. ‘Go to reception and make an appointment for your next visit.’

They did that and then went straight home. Ann didn’t have the energy to do anything else. As soon as Anne left the car park at the doctors’ office Ann was sleeping beside her. Anne was hoping that this wouldn’t be their lives for awhile. It really didn’t see worthwhile having babies if she was going to gain a mother but lose her wife. She was beginning to feel a little forlorn and wondered if what others say it true that your life isn’t your own after you become a parent. All she could see in her future was lack of sleep, piles of dirty nappies and clothes, being puked on and peed on. She was feeling grim when they arrived back at Shibden.

Ann woke when Anne turned off the motor. She leaned over and kissed Anne. Then she could say Anne had been crying.

‘What;s wrong, Pony.’

‘Nothing.’

‘It’s can’t be nothing because you have been crying. What’s wrong, Pony?’

‘I was thinking about our future. I am going to be a mother and so are you.’

That’s good. Isn’t it?’

‘Yes but I feel we will lose what we have now.’

‘No, we won’t we need to plan for time away from babies. We also need to ensure we both get enough sleep and we should a nappy service.’

‘Can we do that?’ Anne said surprised.

‘I think so.’ Ann said. ‘Anne, if I thought that babies would take away what we have now I wouldn’t have volunteered to do this. I think we will be fine. Yes, it is going to be exhausting for awhile and all we may do in bed is sleep but give it a few months and we should have our routine down pat by then.’

‘Good I could only see you as our babies’ mother and nothing else.’

‘Pony, first and foremost you are the love of my life our children will need to learn that one day but for now they will need all the love we can give them to make them feel that we love them.’

‘How do you know so much?’

‘I have watched Elizabeth with Sackville and Mary.’ Ann said. ‘Now, they are older they seem to need her less.’

‘Yes, but they are four and six. How long was it before they started feeding themselves?’

‘Around two, I think. It was funny to watch them. They would make a mess everywhere but hey we all had to start somewhere. Didn’t we?’ Ann said as Anne looked on in horror. She thought that wouldn’t be fun to clean up.

‘Hey, that’s where mops and hot water come in handy.’ Ann said.

‘Okay!’

They were in the sitting room with Aunt Anne and Father. Marian and Tib had finally moved into their barn conversion. Shibden was on solar power. So, Anne was wondering what their first bill using solar would be like. They had six batteries installed, just in case there was no sun or wind, to store the power to keep the lights on and the television working. Aunt would be bored without her daytime shows. She loved watching Ellen. Anne was becoming less concerned about savings and more concerned about the environment and the smaller impact they would have on it.

Anne & Ann made it to their next appointment. Ann’s blood pressure was taken and she was weighed.  Ann was beginning to feel more uncomfortable. She was happy her weight hadn’t ballooned  and her blood pressure was only slightly elevated which could be due to the stress the pregnancy was having on her body. Yet, she still wasn’t too happy that she had lost sight of her feet so long ago she had forgotten when she had last seen them or in fact what they looked like. She was looked forward to the day when she could sleep on her belly or side without thinking about it.

Doctor Foster sympathised with her. She had seen it all too often how pregnancy affected some mothers to be. Anne tried to keep her positive. They talked about the prenatal classes and how much fun they were having doing the exercises together. Doctor Foster commented how good that was for the future when their children would need both their love and support they had for each other to get them through each day.

‘Kids can be a lot of work and they can drain all your energy. So, it’s great to see that you both love and support each other so much.’

‘Thank you, we try very hard to remember that it was us first and our children came later.’ Anne said.

‘I think lots of parents forget that and become too focused on their kids and forget they ever had a relationship at all.’ Doctor Foster said.

As they left the doctor’s office they made what they thought would be their last visit. Ann was so looking forward to the last days of this pregnancy. Only she was still not sure about giving birth. They had planned to have Elizabeth visit when the babies were due. So, she would be arriving in a couple of weeks.

As they curled up in bed that night Ann started to feel a twinge here and there, Her back began to ache more than it had ever done. They she felt a tightening in her abdomen. She ignore it as much as she could but as the night roll on the discomfort got worse. The time between contractions became short and the contractions got longer. She had to wake Anne. It was time. At least that’s what she thought.

‘Anne, wake up. I think we need to go to the hospital. Our babies want to be seen by us soon.’ Anne woke, got up and dressed quickly without thinking she raced to the door and left. It wasn’t until Ann called her back that she remembered why she was awake and dressed at 3am.

‘Sorry, Adney.’ Ann was calmer than she thought she would be. She was dressed, had her bag of stuff for her and the babies. They hugged and kissed.

‘Well, this is it, Mrs Lister. We are going to be parents not parents to be. Let’s get you to the hospital now.’

‘Leave a note for everyone or else they will be wondering what happened.’ Ann said. So Anne left a note and they were on their way.

 

 

Chapter Text

Anne guided Ann out to their car. It seemed to take a long time but every time Anne tried to get Ann to go faster she would say that the pain was unbearable. Anne drove them to the hospital slower than she wish. Only she could see Ann was in so much pain. The contractions were coming hard and fast.

She handed Ann her watch and had Ann time the contractions. How far apart they were and how long they lasted.. By the time they reached the hospital the contractions were about five minutes apart and last for at least ninety seconds.When the reached the hospital Anne grabbed a wheelchair. Ann sat in it and Anne pushed her to the maternity ward.

By the time they reached the maternity ward Ann was wishing it was all over. They checked in and Ann was taken from the wheelchair and put on a bed. Anne was told to gown up and wear a mask which was fine. Since it was nearly 4am there was no chance the doctor would be there the nurses put Ann’s legs into stirrups to see how far her cervix was dilated.

‘Miss Walker, your cervix is only 4cms dilated. You have a long way to go before you can start pushing. So, practice what you learned at the prenatal classes between contractions.’

‘How long will it take for Ann’s cervix to be fully dilated?’

‘It could take hours or minutes. Is this her first pregnancy?’

‘Yes.’ Anne said knowing what the nurse was about to say but she couldn’t stop her.

‘Then it will be a while. Just relax, Miss Walker, you can’t hurry nature. Even if you wanted to.’ Nurse Jones said. ‘Is there anything you would like?’

‘An orange juice please. I am very thirsty.’ Ann said. It was the first time she has spoken since they left home.

‘Would you like one too, Miss Lister?’

‘Yes please.’

The nurse returned with their drinks. Ann drank hers so fast Anne didn’t see her drink until she asked Anne to place her empty glass on the table next to the bed.

Ann’s contractions were beginning to come thick and fast and last so long she was only able to relax for a moment. She had been in hospital for over two hours now. She wondered when her cervix would be dilated enough so she could begin pushing. She was feeling depressed and Anne could see that.

‘Just keep puffing between contractions, Adney. Your cervix should be dilated soon then you can begin pushing. Hold my hand when you feel the need to.’ Ann did that and she squeezed Anne’s hand so hard Anne wonder if she had cut off circulation to her fingers.

‘Ease up a little, Adney, I can’t feel my fingers.’

‘Sorry, dearest. I feel I am ready to push. Could you get the nurse to take a look. It’s been hours since this started.’Anne called the nurse and she came over. She checked Ann’s cervix. It was nearly there.

‘Only 2cms to go. That often takes the longest time.’ It was nearly 7.30am so Anne called Shibden to see if her family had read the note she left.

‘Hello Anne.’ Aunt said.

‘Hi Aunt. Did you get my note?’

‘Yes, we did. Just let us know when we can come in to see your babies. I can hardly wait. You do remember promising that your father and I would be the first to hold them.’

‘Yes and that still stands. Of course, after the mums have held them, obviously.’ Anne said.

‘Yes, that’s a given, Anne.’ Aunt Anne said. ‘How long will it be before they are born?’

‘Not long now. Ann’s cervix is nearly fully dilated but Ann is so exhausted. I didn’t realise how much effort it takes to give birth. I don’t think I will ask her to do this again.’

‘What if she wants to, Anne?’ Marian asked. Aunt Anne had put her on speaker phone.

‘She was the one who said hey, if we have twins we will only need to do this once. Of course, it is up to her. We are using her eggs next time if she wants that.’

‘Okay.’ Marian said. ‘I guess we had better let you go. I know you don’t want to miss out on all the action. Do you?’

‘Marian!!’

‘Anne, take care.’

Anne disconnected the call and when she looked at Ann she was do her best not to push but she so desperately wanted to.

‘Get the nurse please. I cannot hold on any longer. The need to push is stronger that it has been all morning.’ Anne called the nurse over and told her what Ann had said. She checked Ann’s cervix and told her she could start pushing. She was so relieved. The nurse had brought Ann a glass of water while Anne was on the phone. Ann took a sip and began pushing and pushing. It seemed to be taking forever. Then the first baby’s head crowned.

‘Push a little hard. Come on, Miss Walker you can do that.’ Ann pushed and the shoulders appeared. Then the body. The nurse got two clamps and scissors to cut the first umbilical cord.

‘Would you like the honours, Miss Lister?’ Anne cut the cord and baby number one was cleaned up and weighed. It was a girl.

‘Do you have a name yet?’ Nurse Jones asked.

‘This one is Rebecca Mary Lister.’ Anne said with a big grin. We have named her after my mother and Ann’s mother.’ Then Ann had to push again. Number two baby was ready to be born. So, Ann pushed and pushed. As with the first baby soon the baby’s head was crowning, then the shoulders appeared and the baby’s body. Anne cut the cord again.

‘You have a son, ladies. Now, we wait for the placentas to be born. That shouldn’t take long. You can take a shower if you wish, Miss Walker. Then you will feel so much better.’ Nurse Jones said. ‘Do you want to save the placentas?’

‘What for?’ Anne asked.

‘In some countries they eat them. Here we tend to dig them into the ground and plant a tree or shrub there.’

‘What do you think, Ann?’ Anne asked. ‘Should we keep them and do that?’

‘Yes please, dearest.’

‘Good oh. I will pack them in ice until your family comes. They can take them home and freeze them until you decide what you care going to do.’

‘Okay.’ The placentas did come easier and Nurse Jones went away to pack them in ice. She returned a few minutes later.

‘I forgot to ask you your son’s name.’

‘Jeremy John Lister after my dad and Ann’s dad. He was so thrilled when we told him.’

‘I can only imagine he was. It would be great to have a grandchild name after you. Here are your babies. All cleaned up and wrapped up and ready for their first cuddles and feed.’ The nurse handed Jeremy to Ann because he was hungry and Rebecca to Anne. She seemed content just to be held close by her mummy..

Now they were cleaned up Jeremy had blonde hair like Ann and Rebecca had brunette hair like Anne. They never thought that was possible but there it was.

Jeremy was 45.5 cms long and weighed just shy of 2.6 kilos. Rebecca was 46.75 cms long and weighed the same as Jeremy. Ann was content now. She could roll over in bed and sleep without feeling something kicking her from the inside. Ann breastfed both her babies. She wasn’t sure how long she could do that. Anne called her Aunt again.

‘Hi Anne, what do we have?’

‘Rebecca Mary was born first then Jeremy John.’ Anne could hear her father in the background. He was jumping for joy and screaming so loud the neighbours must have heard him

‘When can we visit?’ Aunt Anne asked. She would be there now if Anne said now. Only she knew Ann needed to rest. So, she thought Anne would say later.

‘You can come now. Only you and father. Marian and Tib can wait until later.’

‘What will we tell them?’ Jeremy asked after he took the phone from his sister.

‘Just tell them they can visit later. I am sure they will understand.’

‘Okay!! We will be there soon. Bye!!!’ Father was on a high so Marian offered to drive them to the hospital. She and Tib went to the pub to wet the babies’ heads. It wasn’t long before it was all over town that Anne Lister and Ann Walker were parents to twins, a girl and a boy. Everyone seemed happy expect for Christopher Rawson who intended to pass the news along to Thomas Ainsworth who only had six years of his ten year sentence to serve. Marian and Tib were unaware that Rawson was there.  They were so happy for Anne and Ann they didn’t seem to care who they told. It wasn’t until he left that they saw him.

‘What’s he up to?’ Marian said as she looked up and saw him leave.

‘Who?’

‘Christopher Rawson! He came to the courthouse drunk on the first day of Ainsworth’s trial.’ Marian said.’I hope he’s not scheming something with Ainsworth.’

‘We need to tell Anne ASAP.’

As Aunt Anne and father cradled the new members of their family in another part of town at the local jail Christopher Rawson was relaying to Thomas Ainsworh what he learned in the local pub.

‘Ann Walker is a mother of twins. I heard from the mouths of Lister’s sister and some old broad she was with. They seemed pretty palsy. They didn’t notice I was there.’

‘So, I wonder who the father is.’ Ainsworth said.

‘From what I have heard on the grapevine they went to the Somovo sperm bank in Leeds. What are you going to do now when you get out?’

‘I’m not sure for now. But I do need to get rid of Anne Lister by whatever means possible.’

‘Do you want me to do something about that?’

‘No, I want to handle this one myself. I have plenty of time to think about what I am going to do.’

‘Okay. I hope you do realise Miss Lister isn’t someone you should go against. I have gone against her in the past and lost.’

‘I know I will win this time because i know.’

‘Good luck on that count.’

While Ainsworth and Rawson talk about what Rawson heard. The hospital  released Ann.it was late in the evening and she was rested and ready to go home and begin caring for her babies. Aunt Anne and father had gone home after a few cuddles and kisses and after a few tests with the help of the nurses Anne and Ann leave the hospital. They have Jeremy and Rebecca strapped in and are on their way.

‘Doctor Foster came to see me earlier when you went out to make a call to Aunt Anne. She says that our babies look healthy and would like to see us again in six weeks time.’ Ann said. ‘She asked me if I was going to breastfeed.’

‘I said yes for as long as I could. She also said I could supplement their feeds with formula. I am not sure I want to do that just yet.’

‘Let’s play it by ear or in this case by your energy levels. I don’t want you to get too tired breastfeeding them. Okay, Adney.’

‘Okay!!!’ Ann said. ‘Anyway, I am sure they will tell us when my milk isn’t keeping up with their appetites. I hope I can breastfeed them for at lease two months, anything after that will be a bonus. Won’t it?’

‘That’s a good marker and by then they will have be nourished well by their mum. I am so proud of you, Adney. You did a wonderful job in there this morning. You must be so sleepy.’ It’s when Anne hears little snores that she realises she is talking to herself. Ann is curled up in the passengers seat with her head on the door. Oh dear, I guess she has been awake for most of the night.

When she arrives home everyone is waiting. Marian And Tib help Anne take the babies into the house. They leave Ann in the car to sleep. When she wakes she is still so tired it takes her a while to remember what happened and where she is. Then she nearly has a panic attack because she can’t see her babies.

‘Anne, where are they? Anne. Anne.’ She screams. Anne comes racing out to the car to settle her.

‘Jeremy and Rebecca are inside being spoilt by their Aunts and grandpa. They are lapping it up. Of course, they will need a feed soon. How is my wife feeling?’

‘I’m still very sleepy. So if you don’t mind I think I will let you carry me to bed.’

‘I’m at your service, Miss Walker.’ Anne undid the seatbelt and put one arm behind Ann’s back and the other under her legs and carried her bridal style into the house and up the stairs into their bedroom.

She laid Ann on their bed and cover her in a blanket. She only removed her t-shirt and jeans. ‘I will come back and check on you in a few. Okay!! I need to lock the car and check on the kids.’

‘Okay!!’ It wasn’t long before Ann was fast asleep again.

When Anne reached the sitting room their babies were fast asleep. ‘They are due for a feed soon but I think I will let them sleep while Ann is sleeping’

‘We went to the local pub to wet the babies’s heads and while we were there Christopher Rawson snuck out. He thought we didn’t see him.’ Tib said.

‘Oh did he now. I wonder what scheme he is up to.’ Anne said.

‘I heard he goes to visit Ainsworth once a week. We were a little boisterous and told anyone who could hear that you and Ann have twins. Sorry. I didn’t think we would see that scoundrel.’ Marian said.

‘Ainsworth probably still thinks he can get Ann back but this time he has me to contend with.’

‘Just be careful, sis. I didn’t like the look on his face and I am sure Ainsworth will try to do something to you so Ainsworth has full access to Ann.’

Aunt Anne and father were in shock.

‘I think it is time we did something so everyone is safe from the scoundrel after what he did last time and if my memory serves me correctly he still has about six years of his sentence left to serve.’ Anne said. ‘I will look into having a security system installed in the house and we need to have protection. On us. Maybe pepper spray, a whistle or something similar.’

‘What about a security guard? Tib said.

‘We can’t afford that.’ Anne said.

‘I can.’ Tib said. ‘Would you like me to check it out?’

‘If you wish. I would feel safer if someone was watching the hall and barn for us.’ Aunt Anne said.

‘I would too.’ Ann said as she walked into the sitting room. ‘I heard most of what you said. What can we do if he comes here. It won’t be for a while.’

‘We hope it won’t be for awhile. Yet, even though he has a ten year sentence without parole that could change if he behaves. I know he will because he wants to get you back. Don’t worry, Ann. He won’t.’ Ann walked over to her wife and wrapped her arms around her. ‘If, anything happens to you I will be devastated, lost and I wouldn’t go near him. I hear that part.’ Ann said. ‘You are right we need to do something to protect everyone. And I am leaking like a sieve.’ Anne looked at her. Ann’s t-shirt was wet through.’Goodness, I think you might want to express. Should we buy a pump so you can do that. It might make feeding time easier.’

‘I got one only I don’t know how to use it.’ Anne looked shocked.

‘When did you buy that?’ She said as she followed Ann up to the nursery to retrieve it.

‘Tib and I will go into Halifax to tell Constable Brown what we saw today. I think he would like to know what is happening. I am sure he can help us find a security guard too.’

‘Good. Good.’ Father said. ‘We have two small people to take care of now. They don’t need him interrupting their lives.’

‘You’re right. They need a safe home to grow into well rounded adults.’ Tib said. She had a good family life and wanted the same for Anne and Ann’s little brood. ‘Call us if you need anything, beer, whiskey, Aunt.’

‘I would prefer to forget about that. I never thought my head would pound the way it did.’

‘A six pack of beer would be great, Tib.; father said. ‘And something sweet for the parents. You know what they like. .Don’t you?’

‘What are you up to, father? Anne said as she walked back into the sitting room. ‘Nothing. Just getting the girls to get me some more beer.’ Anne looked at him surprised. ‘More bee?’ Ann said. ‘I might need some too.’

‘Ann Walker, you are breastfeeding!’ Aunt Anne said.

‘I know it doesn’t hurt to start them young.’ Ann said. Both Anne and Aunt were in shock. They looked at Marian and Tib who were still standing at the door.

‘Okay ladies. You know what to do. Pop off! We will see you soon.’ Aunt Anne said.

Marian and Tib drove into Halifax. They went directly to the police station to see Constable Brown. He was seated at his desk talking to what seemed to be a new recruit. They went up to the front desk.

‘Can we see Constable Brown now?’

‘Who should I say is wanting to see him.’

‘Marian Lister. He has helped us in the past.’

‘Oh yes, the business with Ainsworth. Right?’

‘You are so right!’ Tib said. She had been told everything that happened and didn’t want him to get near Ann or her children. She went over to where Constable Brown was seated and told him.

‘Tell them I will be five minutes. You can take them to the break room and make them a drink.’ the desk clerk returned and told them what he said.

She took them to the break room where she made them a drink. Constable Brown walked into the room just as they were telling the desk clerk what they suspected might happen.

‘Miss Lister!! It’s good to see you. How are Anne and Ann? Who is this?’

‘This, constable Brown, is my soon to be wife. Meet Isabelle Norcliffe.’

‘You can call me Tib. Everyone else does.’

‘I guess you have heard Anne and Ann are parents of twins.’

‘I did hear the rumours. I also heard from a source that Rawson has been visited Ainsworth. I think they might be scheming something.’

‘How much longer does he have on his sentence?’ Constable Brown asked.

‘Anne said about six years. We are very concerned after what he tried to do to Ann last time. Anne wants to protect her, their babies and everyone else.’ Tib said. ‘Do you know of a good security service in town?’

‘Yes, I do. In fact I was going to suggest you find a good security company to help until this problem is dealt with.’ Constable Brown said. ‘I can call them now if you like.’

‘Yes please. Ann will feel safer if she knew someone was watching the hall.’ Marian said. She would also feel safer if there was a security guard watching the hall. Marian remembered too vividly what happened last time.

‘Come with me out to my desk. I have their number there and I can call them.’

‘Do that please.’ Marian said. Constable Brown called the security service. They decided to visit Shibden Hall and see what the family needed to keep them all safe. Tib told Constable Brown that money wasn’t an issue and she would pay them upfront for the first month. Marian said, ‘we also plan to install  security cameras on the property but we thought a security guard might be a better deterrent.

Marian and Tib were happy with the progress they had made. Tib was beginning to feel part of the Lister family again. They bought father’s six pack and went home. Ann was in the sitting room feeding Jeremy and Anne was feeding Rebecca. It looked like Anne was breastfeeding her, only Ann had been able to successfully express enough milk. They had found that Anne could faux breastfeed with the use of a bottle and tube. She would sit on the couch with the bottle behind her elevated she the milk would flow. The tube would sit just about her nipple. Rebecca was feeding well with this method and Anne got to see what it felt like to breastfeed.

It was a new thing. Yet, it this helped them deal with feed time then that would be great. As long as Ann could express milk Anne could feed her children.

‘Good grief, Lister. I never thought I was see you feeding a baby. Well, not like this.’ Tib said. ‘You are really taking parenting seriously. Good.’

‘Yes, I didn’t think I could do this until we saw it at the nursery shop and asked what it was.’ Anne said. ‘We have two.’

‘Tib has organised for a security service to come out tomorrow to help us decide where to put the security cameras and to meet with one of their security guards.’ Marian said. ‘She also paid a month in advance.’ Tib blushed she really didn’t want Marian to tell them that but she could see Marian was so proud of what she was doing for their family.

Marian still found it had to believe that Tib was her partner. ‘Let’s give Cordingley the night off and get Chinese for dinner.’ Ann said. ‘I don’t know how it will go with the babies. But we can deal with that when it happens.’

‘Cordingley!’ Anne called out. Cordingley appeared at the doorway..She was surprised to see Anne breastfeeding.

‘Yes, ma’am.’ Elizabeth said. ‘Are you breastfeeding Rebecca?’

‘No, but it looks like it. Doesn’t it? We are having Chinese for dinner. So you have to night off. You can join us if you wish.’ Anne said as she lifted Rebecca up and put her across her shoulder to burp her.’ Rebecca burped then farted which made everyone laugh. Then they heard something that sounded like squelching mud. Anne felt a wet patch near Rebecca’s bum. She had filled her nappy. So Mamma had to change her nappy and clean her up.

Anne and Ann had decided that Anne would be mamma and Ann would be mum. That wouldn’t confuse their babies. Well, they hoped it wouldn’t.

Marian and Tib drove into town and collected their order of Chinese. Cordingley couldn’t believe she was invited to eat with the Lister family but this was a special occasion. It wasn’t every day that someone in the family gave birth. Elizabeth had been working for the Lister’s for years and she had never seen Anne so happy. Even on their trip to the continent didn’t bring the sparkle into Anne’s eyes like the birth of her babies had.

‘I need to call my sister. With all the excitement of the day I had forgotten.’ Ann said.

‘I will grab your phone, Ann.’ Anne said.

‘It’s on the change table in the nursery.’

‘Which one, Ann?’ Goodness Ann thought we only have two.

‘You’ll find it.’ Anne scurried upstairs then was back and handed Ann her phone.

‘Hi Ann, what do I owe the pleasure of this call?’

‘Our babies were born this morning.’ Ann said.

‘And.’

‘And what?’

‘Well, what did you give birth to?’

‘Oh sorry, I am so tired. Jeremy and Rebecca.’

‘So you have given me a nephew and niece. I can hardly wait to see them. Would you still like me to visit next week?’

‘We would.’ Anne said when Ann had put the speaker phone on. ‘Bring the family. I am sure they would love to see their cousins.’

‘I will do that. George won’t be with us because he has a few meetings he needs to go to next week.’

‘How long can you stay.’ Aunt Anne said.

‘About three days if that’s okay. Where will we sleep?’

‘That’s all organised. You will find out when you get here and I am sure the kids will love it.’

Okay!! Anyway, see you then. Can you pick us up form the train station?’

‘Yes, Tib and I will do that.’ Marian said.

‘Thank you. See you soon. Bye.’ Ann disconnected the call.

‘Hey, are they staying in the barn with you and Tib, Marian.’ Ann asked.

‘Yes.’

‘I am sure the kids will love that.’

The next day the security company sent out an employee to check out Shibden and locate the best place to position the security cameras. Anne also wanted to be able to monitor people coming on to the estate.

‘Can we monitor who comes on to the property?’ Anne asked.

‘Yes, you can do it on your computer or phone. All you need to do it set it up once we have everything installed.’

‘Good!!’ Anne said ‘We have a problem we need to deal with. What about a guard?’

‘They usually work in eight hour shifts. They can be here all day or only when you think you need them.’

‘Where will they be stationed?’

‘That can be decided when you are ready.’

‘ASAP!!’ Anne said. ‘Tib has already paid for a month. We need to feel secure now.because he could be let out on good behaviour. We don’t want him sneaking up and catching us unawares.’

‘Okay!! Let’s take a look around to see how we could patrol the estate and be able to chase and catch an intruder no matter where they gained entrance.’

‘Good! Excellent. Let me show you around.’ Anne said. Then she handed Jeremy to Marian.

‘Thanks, Anne.’ Just as Marian began cradling Jeremy he filled his nappy. ‘Who’s going to change him?’

‘He who has him has to change him.’ Anne yelled as she walked out the door. She had a big grin on her face. She knew Marian wasn’t going to like this.

Anne and the security guy decided that they could set up a viewing room near the barn and it would give whoever was working a chance to go to the front or back of the hall. They only needed a caravan to use as their viewing room.

‘I will organise the caravan. I think one of my neighbours has one they aren’t using. We can hide the power cord in the dirt. Is that possible?’

‘Yes!! We don’t need that to be seen.’

‘Good. I will get onto it when we go back into the hall. What else do you need to know?’

I think we have everything organised. We will come later today or tomorrow to install the cameras.’

‘Later today would be better if that was possible.’ Anne said. ‘ I am worried if he gets to Ann I will lose her.’

‘Why? She seems to be a level headed lady.’

‘Oh she is but she is still exhausted from giving birth and he could carry her anywhere. I don’t want that.’

‘I am sure she wouldn’t let anyone take her anywhere without a fight.’

‘I hope not.’ Anne said knowing that she wouldn’t let Ann out of her sight until he was back in jail where he belongs.

Marian and Tib collected the Sutherland family from the train station the following Wednesday. Marian hugged Mary and Sackville. Elizabeth looked so excited to see Ann and the babies. ‘Come on, let’s get to Shibden. I want to see my sister.’ Elizabeth said. ‘I have been waiting for nine months for this day.’

‘We have to get something for father.’

‘More beer!’ Elizabeth said.

‘How do you know?’

‘It’s a male thing. They always find a reason to wet the baby’s head.’

‘Elizabeth, in our family it’s an everybody thing.’ Marian said. ‘I don’t think I have drunk so much beer in my life as I have in these past couple of weeks.’

‘Where are we sleeping?’ Mary asked.

‘You will see when we get to Shibden.’ Tib said.

‘Who are you?’ Sackville asked looking at Tib.

‘I am your Aunt Mar’s soon to be wife.’ Tib said.

‘Another Aunt to spoil us.’ the kids chorused. They were so happy.

When they arrived at Shibden everyone piled out of Tib’s car and inside.

‘Where are the babies, Aunt Lister?’ Mary asked. Anne had just put them down for a sleep.

‘They are sleeping. You can see them soon.’

‘How soon?’ Sackville asked.

‘If you are quiet I can take you up to the nursery and you can see them but you will have to be quiet.’

‘I will come with you, Anne. I will take Mary and you can take Sackville.’ Elizabeth said. They all climbed the stairs and disappeared into the nursery just as Ann walked into the sitting room. ‘Where are they?’

‘Checking out the babies.’ Tib said.

‘Ah, I thought that’s where they would go.’

‘Ann!!!’ She looked up and there was her sister. She hadn’t thought she would want to see her so much. Ann raced over to Elizabeth as she came into the sitting room. They embraced. ‘You have two beautiful babies, Annie.’

‘We sure do. Anne, is so smitten with them. She is a great mum and helps as much as she can.’

‘Good. Now, where do we sleep?’

‘Tib, show Liz where her and the kids will be sleeping.’

‘I hope you don’t mind sharing a room with your kids.’

‘No!’ Elizabeth said.

‘Just follow me.’ Tib said as she lead Elizabeth out to the barn.

‘This is Marian and my humble abode. It’s the old Lister barn converted into our home. We are very comfortable here and Marian is close to her Aunt and father.’ Tib said.

‘I love it. You have done a great job..

‘Here is your room while you are here. It will be our master bedroom when we get too old to walk upstairs every night. There’s an en suite and a closet for your use.’

‘Thanks! What about beds?’

‘Take a look and see what we have done.’

They walked over to the bedroom. Marian and Tib had brought the bunk beds from upstairs and put the against the wall and moved the double bed closer to the window.

‘This will be fine. Where do we eat? With you or inside?’

‘Even though we have a good size kitchen we usually eat in the hall.’

‘Well, I will have to cook my favourite meal for you and we can entertain everyone here.’

‘Would you do that for us?’ Tib said.

‘Yes, since we are invading your home and you probably don’t realise how much noise too kids make in the early morning.’

‘Ah but it is only for a few days. Right?’ Marian said as she came into the barn.

‘Yes! George is coming down to pick us up on Sunday. He has business in Halifax Saturday afternoon.’

‘Where is he staying Saturday night?’ Marian asked.

‘At the local hotel.’

‘Call him. Tell him he can stay here with us. It’s only one night.’

‘I will do that when I call him tonight.’

‘Good.’ Tib said.

When Elizabeth finally called George after dinner he seemed quite taken back by the offer. He didn’t think they would have room to accommodate his wife and children without making space for him. Yet, he was happy that he didn’t have to stay in a stuffy hotel. Even one night with his wife so close made him feel more lonely than he had ever felt.

‘Tell them I would love to spend the night in their company.’ George said.’We should surprise them with a meal out. Is that possible?’

‘I don’t know.’ Elizabeth said. ‘They are worried Rawson will see them and report back to Ainsworth. They heard today that he is going to be granted parole and will be out by the weekend.’

‘I thought he had a ten year sentence without parole.’

‘He did. Only it seems he has been a good boy in jail. So, he has only served just over four years of his term.’

‘’Well, let him come near my family and do what he wants while I sit back and watch. Hey, Liz, you know that will never happen.’

‘No! Could you bring your pistol with you? We might need it. I won’t tell the others. Okay!!’ Elizabeth said.

‘I carry it with me all the time. You never know when you may need to save a life.’

‘Thank you! What time will we see you on Saturday? Hey, we could get some dinner delivered or just get pizza. You know how they kids love their pizza.’

‘Pizza sounds fine to me. How are Anne and Ann’s babies?’

‘They look so much like their mother’s. Mary and Sackville adore them.’

‘That’s good to hear.’ George said. ‘Anyway, I had better be off. Give my love to everyone. I love you. See you Saturday. I will call you when I am on my way to Shibden.’

‘Take care. I love you too. Bye!!’

‘Bye!!’ Elizabeth disconnected the call. ‘He said he will. I don’t think he liked the idea of staying in a hotel when his family were so close.’ She said as she walked back into the sitting room. She walked outside to call George. It was a very mild evening.

As she sat next to Ann on the couch she asked if she could cradle Jeremy whom Ann was feeding. ‘Yes, when he is done chomping on my nipple. I never thought toothless babies could hurt so much.’

‘He is just playing. You need to remind him who is in charge. They get carried away. All you need to do it release him for a moment. You might get sprayed but I doubt if her will do that for awhile once he realises his food is taken from him.’

‘Okay!! He’s finished. He needs burping.’

‘That’s okay. I think I can do that.’ Elizabeth said as she laid Jeremy over her shoulder and before she could rub his back her let out an enormous burp. ‘Hey, young man that was my ear if you don’t mind.’ He had burped right next to Elizabeth’s ear. Everyone laughed. ‘He likes you, Liz. He only does that to people he likes. It has happened to everyone here.’ Anne said. Then the older Jeremy burped. ‘Like grandpa, like grandson.’ they all chimed. Father laughed. He was still on cloud nine.

His sister had never seen him so happy. She never thought he would ever become a grandfather not her a great aunt. Well, she already was a great aunt. Wasn’t she?

When George arrived on Saturday just after noon everyone was comfortably seated outside near the barn even with the security guard watching them. They had never imagined their lives would be like this. He was capable of taking care of them if someone uninvited should appear. The security guard knew that George would be driving through the main gate. Only what he wasn’t expecting or didn’t see that there was a figure crouched on the step of George’s twin cab ute.

Ainsworth jumped off just as they passed through the gate. George was aware there was someone there when Ainsworth jumped off. Only he disappeared so fast George didn’t see him vanish behind a bush.

When George drove up to where everyone was seated he gestured Anne away from the group before he even went over to his wife.

‘I think there was someone on the rear step of my ute. I am not sure but I think it was Ainsworth. Without scaring everyone I think we should lead them back into the house.’

‘Yes.’ Anne said. ‘Come on. Let’s do it now.’

‘Okay, children. I have a surprise for you. Let’s all go inside and then I can show you.’

‘Everyone!’ Aunt said. As she looked at Anne with concern.

‘Yes please everyone.’ So they did as they were told and wandered inside. It was then that Anne saw him stalking around to the rear of the hall. She wondered if the security guard had seen him.

Then they hear a scuffle outside. Someone yelled for help. George and Anne went outside to find Ainsworth pinned to the ground with the security guard on top of him.

‘I would say someone here made a good investment.’ George said.

‘Yes, you can thank Miss Norcliffe. Without her paying for his services Ainsworth would have gotten into the house.’

‘Is he armed again?’ The security guard searched his pockets and found a gun and bullets. ‘I wonder if that’s as fake as the last gun he had.’ Anne said. ‘do you want me to call Constable Brown?’

‘Yes. I think a few more years in the slammer will cool him down.’ George said.

‘I just wanted to see Ann.’ Ainsworth said. ‘And convince her you duped her into marrying you.’

‘Sunshine, I am the only one who she wants to be with. So, you could never convince her that I duped her. She has loved me since she was fifteen years old.’ Anne said. ‘You only saw her as a plaything.  Anne called Constable Brown. She told him what had happened. ‘If it hadn’t been for our security cameras and guard who knows what would have happened.’

‘I will be there ten minutes. He was true to his word. Ten minutes later he was standing next to Anne looking as Ainsworth who was still pinned to the ground by the security guard. ‘You haven’t learned your lesson, Ainsworth. Sometimes, young ladies don’t want to be bothered with by thugs like you. Oh, another thing. I see you were disqualified from ever preaching in a church of any denomination anywhere.’

That’s interesting.’ Anne said. Constable Brown handcuffed Ainsworth and took him away. They pressed charges of illegal entry and threats of violence.

‘What will happen to him now?’ Ann asked. ‘Will any of us have to testify against him in court?’

‘I don’t think so.’ Anne and Tib said together.

‘He broke his parole agreement and will be returned to jail with no chance of parole this time.’ Anne said.  Constable Brown called Anne to tell her that Ainsworth was back where he belonged but wondered how he knew you would be home when he got there. No one knew but Tib said. ‘He could have spies out watching our every move.’

‘I wonder who that could be?’ Anne said half to herself and half to Constable Brown.

‘Wasn’t it Rawson who tipped him off that Ann had given birth?’

‘Yes, it was.’ Anne said. ‘I think you should have a quiet talk with him at the station. Oh, I will ask his mother to come along. He is scared of her.’

‘You think if youI do that I will get the truth out of him because she will force him to tel the truth.’

‘Yes!! Do that. I think he will squeal like a pig.’

Chapter Text

Constable Brown visits Rawson at home. ‘I have some questions I would like you to come down to the station and answer them.’

‘Why? When?’

‘It’s in regards to Ainsworth illegally entering Shibden Hall to harass Ann Walker. We know you must have told Ainsworth that Ann Walker was living at Shibden and was a mother of twins.’ Constable Brown said. ‘Anne Lister’s sister saw you leave the pub after her and her friend had told the world Ann and Anne were parents.’

‘When?’ Rawson asked with a tinge of anger in his voice.

‘Right now. You can come peacefully or I will be forced to arrest you.’

‘Okay!!’ in the meantime Anne had called Nelly Rawson to meet her at the police station.

‘Why do you want to meet me there, Anne?’ Nelly said.

‘I think your son has been in cohorts with Thomas Ainsworth who, you know, barged his way into Shibden to get Ann to get with him. He scared my elderly aunt and father.’

‘So, what is it you want me to do, Anne?’

‘I need you there so he will tell the truth because I know he is scared of you.’

‘Yes, he sure is. I will be there now if you want me.’

‘Yes please, Nelly!! Ann and I will be forever grateful if you get your son to be honest with Constable Brown.’

‘I will do what I can for you.’ Nelly said. ‘I am on my way right now.’

‘Good. So, am I.’

Anne disconnected the call and then drove to the police station. She was the first one there. Nelly was five minutes behind her. When her chauffeur opened the back door to her limo Anne was there to greet her with a hug and she responded in kind.

‘What is happening, Anne? Do tell me?’

Anne told her all about the trial of Ainsworth. Nelly had only been given her son’s version.

‘What were you told by Christopher, Nelly?

 He told me Ainsworth only wanted to see Ann.He said  It was false information. Ainsworth didn’t have gun on him and hadn’t threatened your family with it. He did mention that Ann had locked herself in their bedroom with her sister’s children. They had been in there watching a video.’ Nelly said. ‘I assume he was arrested there.’

‘Yes.’ Anne said. ‘My sister called me. I was in Halifax at the time. I think he planned it so I was away from the hall.’

‘I see.’ Then Constable Brown arrived with Christopher Rawson. He eyed his mother in surprise.

‘Why is my mother here? She doesn’t need to know what is happening.’

‘Surprisingly she does because we want the truth.’

‘And you think my mother is the key to getting the truth out of me.’ Christopher said. ‘It won’t happen.’

‘Christopher, what do you have to say to Constable Brown?’ Nelly said as they walked into the police station.

‘Nothing, mother.’ Christopher said as he winced with fear. He tried to look at anything but her. He could feel her eyes boring into his skull. Anne wondered whether he could stand up to her constant belittling of him. ‘Come on, Christopher. I heard for a reliable source that you visited Ainsworth at the jail on a weekly basis. Don’t lie to me, Christopher. I will find out the truth one way or another.’ It seemed to all intent and purpose Nelly had taken over the interview. Constable Brown sat quietly in awe of this woman who could make anyone crumble with her overbearing voice.’So, what if I did. That doesn’t make me guilty of anything.’

‘No,it doesn’t. it’s not illegal to visit someone in jail for the right reasons. That is if your intention were for the right reasons.’ His mother said.

He cringed and Nelly could see that they might get him to squeal. Only he remained silent. Anne could see they would be here for hours. Then Nelly spoke again.

‘Come on, be a man and own up to what you and he were scheming.’ She said.

‘I won’t admit to something I didn’t do.’ Rawson said.

‘Why not?’ Anne shot in. She felt she needed to say something the tension was getting unbearable.

‘Because I am innocent and you cannot prove otherwise.’

‘You’re guilty because you are acting cagey around us.’ his mother said. ‘I know you better than anyone here, Christopher and I know when you are lying.’ Christopher looked at his mother. He knew she was right. He know they had brought her there to get the truth out of him. Only he wasn’t going to buckle to their wishes. Well, he hoped he wouldn’t . Then Nelly said something which may have made him change his mind.

‘Oh if only your father was here. Then he could whip you until you confessed.’ he felt his arse burn with the memory of a past indiscretion. He couldn’t sit down for hours after. He had got Jeremiah to cheat for him on a test. Only the principal found out and he called their father who left welts on his arse. ‘You will never do that again, Christopher or else what will happen next time will be worse.’ His father’s words echoed in his head

He really did mean what he had said. Only this time he was lured by the smell of money. The idea that Ainsworth’s church would launder his money and make it look as though he was giving to charity when it was going straight into an unknown overseas account which he was hoping no one would find out about.

‘You do realise that I can cut you out of my will, Christopher. I can also fire you from the family business.’

Yes, I know that.’

‘So cough up, tell us what is going on.’ Everyone was surprised when he did finally admit to the truth. That Ainsworth was planning to get rid of Anne by any means he could. That’s why he had the guns.. Anne was in shock. Even if he had succeeded Ann would never have gone with him and that would leave their children with one mother who would never recover from the loss of her wife.

‘Were you involved, Christopher?’ Nelly said.

‘No! I have too much respect for Anne to do that.’

‘Liar!’ Anne said. ‘You wanted in but he said he would do it himself. I know you hate me so why lie and say you respect me when you don’t.’

‘Okay!! I wanted in on it.’

Constable Brown had recorded the interview. ‘We have recorded it all, Mr Rawson. So, you are under arrest for admitting to being part of Ainsworth’s plan to get rid of Anne.’ Then Anne’s phone buzzed in her pocket.

‘I have to take this. It’s Ann probably wondering where I am since I left in a hurry and didn’t say what I was doing.’

‘Hi Adney. What’s up?’

‘Where are you? When will you be home?’ Ann said.

‘I am at the station in an interview with your cousin, Christopher Rawson. I will tell you why later. I won’t be long’

‘Okay!! Just be careful, dearest. I love you.’

‘I love you. Bye!!’

‘Bye.’ Anne disconnects the call then eyeballs Rawson. You would do this to you own cousin. What an arsehole you’re turning out to be!’

‘Mother, help me.’

‘Not this time, Christopher. I have already pulled you out of too many scrapes. How is it that my son, a man who could have done so much good in the community does so much harm. Lock him up before I beat him to a pulp. ‘ Nelly said. ‘Don’t give him bail. I don’t want to see his face for awhile. He has disgraced the Rawson name.’ Constable Brown takes Rawson down to the cells. Nelly looks disheartened. ‘Do you mind if I tag along with you? I think I need a break from all the angst he is causing.’

‘Of course, you can, Nelly. I am sure my aunt and my father will be please to see you.’

‘Thank you!’ Nelly said. ‘Let’s go to the bottle shop and get some whiskey. I need a stiff drink to calm my nerves. Christopher will be the death of me.’

‘I hope not.’ Anne said. ‘Come with me. You can dismiss your driver because someone will take you home.’

When they returned home George had ordered pizzas and everyone was having their share. Anne and Nelly joined in. Nelly felt as home with the Listers and Sutherlands. Anne teased her aunt when she waved the whiskey bottle in her face.

‘You know I won’t drink that again.’ Aunt said.

‘Why not?’ Nelly asked.

‘Long story. The short version is aunt and whiskey don’t mix well.’

‘Oh, a hangover as big as London.’

‘Yeah, something like that, Aunt Anne said.

‘’Mrs Rawson, would you like to cradle our new family members?’ Ann said.

‘Goodness, Ann call me Aunt Nelly. We are family. Aren’t we?’ Nelly said. ‘Much better than my immediate family.’ She whispered.

Ann handed Jeremy to Nelly. She was all smiles. She adores babies and loves to cuddle newborns. Ann gave her a towel just in case he needed burping because there are times when he burps he also pukes.

‘I have had more kids puke on me than you have had hot meals, Ann.’ Nelly said. ‘And if he does it will be a bonus after what has happened today.’

‘Just let me know when you want to go home. I will take you home. Okay!’ Anne said.

‘Thanks, Anne but if you don’t mind I think I will stay here for a while longer. I am comfortable where I am.’

‘That’s okay. Since you are a guest would you like to watch a movie?’ Aunt Anne said. ‘Anne and Ann have quite a collection between them. I am sure they have one you like.’

‘Do you have Steel Magnolias? That is my favourite. I heard Olympia Dukakis passed away nearly two weeks ago. So sad..’

‘I will get it from our collection.’ Ann said. ‘It’s easy to find because Anne has them in genre by alphabetical order.’

‘She is very thorough with everything.’ Anne blushed. She had a slight case of OCD and sometimes it annoyed her that she was so fussy.

When the movie ended Anne took Nelly home. On the drive to Stony Royd Nelly told Anne she hoped Christopher wasn’t doing anything illegal but she had an inkling that he was. Anne didn’t want to agree or disagree with Nelly. So she kept quiet. She knew what Christopher would do anything for money.

When Anne returned home she and Ann went to bed. It was then that she told Ann about what happened at the police station.

‘Ann, he wanted to help Ainsworth get rid of me so he had access to you.’ Anne said.

‘You do realise I would never go with that scoundrel even if you weren’t around. Only I hope it’s a long time before that happens. I want you here with me now we are a family. Thanks for taking care of me like you do and thanks for taking Aunt Nelly home. She is a treasure. I feel sorry for her. Christopher has smeared the family name.’

‘Yes. She said she would fired him from the family business. She will probably cut him out of her will.’

‘He doesn’t deserve anything after doing that.’ Ann said. ‘Dearest, what will happen now both Ainsworth and Christopher are in jail.’

‘I don’t know, Ann. I suppose we will find out soon. Won’t we?’

‘Yes, we will.’

The following day Elizabeth, George and their children returned home to Scotland. Anne and Ann promised to visit with their family when all this business with Ainsworth was over.

Elizabeth whispered into Ann’s ear as they were leaving.’Tell Anne she will be an aunt again. I am expecting number three.’ Ann smiled and as the family drove off she told Anne. Anne smiled. Their kids would have a cousin to play with besides her sister’s older children.

‘Why didn’t you tell me sooner, Liz?’ Ann asked.

‘I didn’t want to spoil your happiness.’ Elizabeth said.’I already have two children and this pregnancy is still a bit of a shock even to me.’

‘Okay.’ Ann said. ‘We will visit soon if you will have us tribe of four.’

‘Yes, visit. It will be great to see you and see how much the little ones have grown. Take care and remember Anne will always do all she can so Ainsworth won’t bother you.’

‘What was that I just hear? Anne said.

‘Nothing, sister-in-law of mine. Ann just mentioned you might visit Fortrose soon.’

‘Sounds like a great plan.’ Anne said. ‘I am sure Mary and Sackville will be happy to see their cousins again.’

‘Good.’ Elizabeth said.

‘Stay safe and drive carefully please. George. You can’t predict when a fool will be trying to drive down the road.’

‘I will. See you soon.’ He said as they drove off back home.

‘Did you enjoy having your sister here?’

‘Yes, I did. I miss her so much but she and I have different paths to walk down.’

‘Yes, that is true. George was more civil this time. What do you think your sister said to him.’

‘I don’t know.’ Ann said. ‘Of course, she could have told him about Ainsworth. You do remember his reaction when he appeared unannounced. Don’t You?’

‘I do. He certainly ruffled George’s feathers. Didn’t he?’

‘I will ask her when she calls again. Anne.’

‘Good. Only for now we must concentrate on what to do about Rawson and Ainsworth. I will visit our lawyer later today and even though we seem to be fine I will ask Tib to continue with the security guard.’

‘Do……….you think we can afford to help pay for their service?’

‘I will have to look into our finances but I am sure we could pay half at least for another six months, after that I don’t know.’

‘Okay, Anne.’

‘Good.’

In the police station Constable Brown was being shown information that would lead to the arrest of Christopher Rawson on money laundering charges. The prosecuting lawyer had been delving into Rawson’s so called donations to Ainsworth’s charity. It seemed to be legit when he searched the website and everything seemed good. The phone numbers and email addresses seemed real until he decided to go one step further and send the company an email. The email bounced back so fast he felt as though he had been hit.

It was then that he decided to search for overseas accounts in Rawson or Ainsworth’s name. He felt they were both in this up to their necks but for now he had no proof of that.

Constable Brown called Anne.

Hello, Constable. What can I do for you?’

‘Miss Lister, I think you might like to see what I am looking at. The prosecuting lawyer has been delving into Rawson’s donations to Ainsworth’s charity.’

‘He has. Has he?’ Anne said. ‘Can I see them now?’

‘Yes, you can. Come to the station and we will show you what we have found. Rawson and probably Ainsworth need to be put away from a long time.’

‘I will be there soon. I will let Ann know what is happening first. Bye!!’

Anne disconnected the call.

‘Ann, where are you?’

‘In the nursery with Marian and Tib bathing our kids. Why?’ Ann asked.

‘I have some interesting news to share with you.’ Anne said as she walked into the nursery.

‘And what would that be?’ Marian asked.

‘It seems we were not far off the mark when we thought Rawson was laundering money through Ainsworth’s charity.’ Ann was shocked.

‘What happens now?’

‘They need to prove that the overseas’ accounts are his.’ Anne said. Tib and Marian seem to be hatching a plan. Ann was still in shock that her cousin was capable of dirty dealings. Yet, she should have realised anything was possible after the way he treated her when she was younger. He would always tease her about her nerves and her shyness and laughed at her when she cried.

‘He would probably have used a different name but something tells me it would be one that someone who knows him would recognise.’ Tib said. ‘Most likely his mother’s or his wife’s maiden name.’

‘Too easy and too noticeable for him. I don’t think he is that stupid.’ Anne said and Ann nodded in. She agreed with Anne. It would probably be something he would imagine no one would think of.. Yet, Anne wonder why he was so forthcoming with his admissions of guilt..

‘There is probably more to this than what we know about.’ Anne said.

‘What are you implying, Lister?’ Tib said as she looked at Anne with concern. ‘We don’t need speculation here just facts and without facts there isn’t much we can do. Is there?’ Tib was right. Without facts and hard evidence the police had not reason to detain him other than his confession to offering to help Ainsworth get rid of Anne and that was their word against his. Yet, they had recorded the interview. Was it done without informing Rawson. Anne couldn’t remember.

She left Ann, Marian and Tib with her kids and drove done to the station. The ten minute drive gave her a moment to think about her life over the past couple of years. She had met Ann Walker in what would be described as a place Ann Walker wouldn’t normally frequent.

Shy little Annie Walker had proposed to her on their first or was it their second night together. She had taken Ann to Shibden because Ann didn’t want to go home in case Catherine was there.

They married after they had been together for two days. That had been an interesting roller coaster. Eliza Priestley had seen Catherine standing outside the town hall and wonder why she was there. Anne had forgotten how many times they had gone around the block before they gave up. Anne called Vere and told her what was happening.

They eventually married at Shibden after Eliza followed Catherine there in an uber so she wouldn’t be noticed.

They went on their honeymoon to the lake district then spent a few nights in Fortrose. Ann was so happy to see her sister. At first Anne didn’t know what to make of them. She soon settled in. Of course, the unexpected and unwanted visit from Ainsworth. How he knew they were there is still something Anne hasn’t figured out. She would one day.

They returned to Shibden and Ann officially moved in. She still thought it impossible that Ann Walker was her wife and they lived together.

She was shaken from her memory when some blasted on there car horn. She parked her car and went directly to the police station to find the prosecuting lawyer and Constable Brown deep in discussion about the information they had found.

‘Check this out. In the years since Rawson has been donating to Ainsworth’s charity he has given more than he said, Anne.’ Constable Brown said.

‘How much more?’

‘Two maybe three times more.’ The lawyer said. ‘And that isn’t all. They have been traveling around the world. It says here for business. What kind of business would Rawson be involved in overseas?’

‘I am guessing it would be illegal. What else would induce him to launder his money through Ainsworth’s charity?’ Anne said. She wonder how Ainsworth would agree to such a deal unless he was up to his neck in it too. Although, she couldn’t imagine a man of God agreeing to such a proposal. She always thought Ainsworth was only a minister to woo the ladies. He probably had heard that men of God and treated with respect.

‘We will have to delve into this more. I would love to find the evidence and put him away for good.’ Constable Brown said. Anne could see that Brown had had his fair share of men like Rawson who thought they were above the law because they had money and power.

‘Now, what do we do?’ Anne said.

‘Keep searching. It’s the only way we will get a conviction. Otherwise we don’t have enough to keep him locked up. Offering to help get rid of someone doesn’t mean he would actually commit the crime. Yeah, we both know he would put we can’t prove it. Can we?’

Anne returned to Shibden Hall to find everyone wondering why she left in a hurry. Anne explained what the lawyer had found on Rawson. He did have overseas accounts only they needed to be located and without knowing the name/s of the accounts there wasn’t much they could do.

‘I have decided to press charges against Ainsworth for trespassing with intention to cause emotional and bodily harm to you, Ann. I hope I haven’t overstepped the mark.’

‘No, dearest, you did the right thing. I was terrified when you were outside. I thought he would use his strength to escape the clutches of the security guard and hurt you.’

‘I know our security guard wouldn’t allow that to happen and while Ainsworth may seem strong to you he’s so weak he couldn’t knock the skin of a rice pudding even if he paid someone to do it.’

‘That bad.’

‘Yes, Adney, that bad. He was crying like a baby when Constable Brown and his officers cuffed him and hauled him away to the jail cell.’

‘He always come across as too macho for his own good. I guess he was trying to look tough but he did scare me so much. He….well, you know what he did, Anne.’ Everyone looked shocked when Ann said that. She had forgotten for a moment where they were. Anne and Ann seemed to be able to cocoon each other in their own world and often said and did things they probably shouldn’t have. This was one time Ann had done that but Anne soon pushed it aside. ‘Ann, has been stressed lately. So, there are times when she says something that doesn’t make sense.’ Ann looked at her in horror. Then she smiled. Anne was only doing the best for her wife. She didn’t want the others to ask too many questions less they upset her and she has another panic attack.

Although, Marian seemed to see something in the way Anne and Ann looked at each other. She knew that Ann was about to say something that would incriminate her horribly. She kept quiet until Ann and she were in the nursery with Jeremy and Rebecca.

‘Ann, I am not prying but I could see the way you and Anne looked at each other after your near slip today. What happened between you and Ainswroth?’

‘I would rather not talk about it, Marian. I know you would think less of me if you knew.’

‘Ann Walker, you are the mother of my niece and nephew. My sister’s wife and the love of her life. You are adored by all her including me. So, what happened?’

‘Can I call Anne? She seems to be able to explain things better than what I can.’

‘Do you want me to get her?’ Marian said.

‘Yes please, Maz.’

Marian went downstairs to Anne. She was sitting on the couch chatting with Tib. ‘Ann wants to see you now, please. It’s urgent.’

‘Can’t she come and get me?’ Anne said.

‘She asked me.’

‘Okay!!’ Anne rose from the couch and followed Marian to the nursery.

‘What’s up, Adney?’ Anne said as she looked at her bemused. Ann looked fine.

‘I would like you to explain to Marian what Ainsworth did to me.’

‘Why?’

‘Because, Anne, I could see from the way you looked at each other before that something wasn’t right.’ Marian said.

‘Okay. Will you close the door? I don’ t think Ann wants everyone to hear what I am about to say.’ Marian closed the door.

When Anne had finished Ann was in tears. Anne wrapped her in her arms. Marian was in shock. ‘Why the fuck wasn’t he arrested for sexual assault before this?’ Marian said.’Let me at him I want to ripe his balls off and fry them for Argus to eat.’

‘That’s why she never told anyone. Ann would prefer it was left in the past.’ Anne said.

‘And she has to suffer like this every time it is mentioned. Come on, Anne. Constable Brown needs to know about this otherwise Ainsworth will do it to someone else or even Ann again when he is released from jail.’

‘Marian is right, Ann. He will eventually be released from jail. You need to press charges.’

‘But it happened so long ago. What about the statute of limitations? Ann said. ‘Wouldn’t there be a limit to how long even a sexual assault charge can be brought against someone.’

‘I don’t think so.’

‘Hey, what’s going on in here?’ Tib said as she opened the door to find Ann crying and Anne with her arms around her.

‘Close the door and we will tell you only you need to promise it won’t leave this room. Okay!!’

So Anne repeated what she had told Marian. Ann was crying harder now two more people knew about her horrid past with Ainsworth.

‘I will cut off his balls, cook them and feed them to Argus.’ Tib said.

‘That’s what Marian said.’ Ann said shyly. ‘Only we can’t do that because then we would be stooping to his level. Wouldn’t we?’

‘He needs to suffer for what he did to you. I honestly thought he was a decent sort of chap. He just has this obsession with you, Ann.’ Tib said. ‘He needs to stay in jail and the only way to do that is tell the constable what he did to you and how you have suffered for all these years. What a prick.’ Then Marian began crying. ‘Hey Maz, there’s nothing we can do to change Ann’s past but we can help make her future brighter. Anne’s done that already. Hasn’t she?’

‘She certainly has and I am so lucky to have her in my life.’ Ann said and looked at her wife who was crying.

‘Not you too, Lister.’

‘Yeah, now you know I am a big softie at heart.’ Tib looked at Anne and realised Anne had been hiding her emotions from her all these years.

‘Why are you so open now when you never were before.’ Tib asked.

‘Because Ann has given me the courage to be myself when Mariana always wanted me to be more feminine and less masculine. She wanted me to act more ladylike. You know me I could never do that. Ann has always loved me the way I am.’ Tib was still in shock.

‘Hey Tibby, it has taken me awhile to get use to this version of my sister. I am so glad we have Ann in our lives. Now, we are aunts. Isn’t that amazing?’

It sure is, Maz but we need to tell Constable Brown what Ainsworth did to Ann.’ Then Tib looked at Ann.’If that is what you wish to do.’ The nursery door opened before Ann had a chance to answer. Aunt Anne stood there look at her four nieces.’And what have I interrupted?’

‘Nothing, Aunt.’ They said together.

‘Me thinks you are fibbing but I won’t push to find out. What are we having for dinner?’ Aunt Anne asked.

‘We need to go into Halifax.’ Anne said looking at Tib and Marian for help.

‘Yeah, we need to get father some more beer.’ Marian said.

‘I thought he already had enough. Plus it doesn’t take four people to buy a six pack of beer.’ Aunt said.

‘Well, someone else must have drunk it because he asked me to get him some more.’ Ann said.

‘When?’ Aunt said.

‘Before I came up to bath and feed the kids.’ Ann said.’We could get a pizza for dinner.’

‘Yes, get two and what we don’t eat we could have cold for breakfast.’ Aunt said remembering what Ann had said previously.

‘Very funny, Aunt. Yes, we can do that. We will be about an hour. I want to go to Whitley’s. He has a book there I ordered a week ago.’

‘Okay. Beer, pizza and books. What an interesting combination.’ Aunt said as she walked back downstairs.

‘Hey ladies, that was a close call. We had better get a move on before Aunt asks more questions.’ Ann said. ‘I will ask Aunt to listen out for the kids before we leave.’

Ann did that and they drove to the police station. Anne was remembering what she was thinking about last time she went into Halifax. She still found it hard to remember that Ann was with her for who she was not who she would change her to be. Anne leaned over the console while she drove and grabbed Ann’s hand. She pulled it up to her lips and kissed it.

‘What was that for, Anne?’ Ann asked.

‘Just for being you. The person I love so deeply.’ Anne said. Then she heard Tib in the back seat kiss Marian’s hand. She knew it was for the same reason.

They were walking into the police station as Constable Brown was about to walk out.

‘Where are you going?’ Anne asked.

‘Home. I have just finished my shift.’

‘Constable we need to talk to you. It is rather urgent.’ Constable Brown turned around and followed them back into the station ‘It is of a delicate nature,’ Anne said.

‘Come, follow me into the interview room. We won’ t be interrupted there.’

‘Well, what is so urgent? Constable Brown said. Then he could see Anne had her arms wrapped around Ann. She was crying.

‘Like I said it is a delicate situation and needs someone with understanding to listen.’ Anne said. ‘And only us four women know. Ann wants to tell you so this chapter of her life can be dealt with properly and she can move on to beginning living her life again.’ Anne went into detail about what Ainsworth did to Ann. Constable Brown was in shock. ‘You seem a well rounded young lady. I never thought someone in a position of trust would behave like a monster.’ he said. ‘I guess you want to lay charges, Miss Walker.’

‘Yes and I am prepared to give a statement too.’

‘Good but you do know it might be hard to convict him and he will get someone to tell the jury he is an good citizen. Although, we all know he isn’t because he isn’t a minister anymore. Is he?’ Constable Brown said.

‘Then it will be my word against his.’ Ann said.

‘No, Adney. It will be our word against his because while I didn’t see what he did I saw the affect it had on you. I think that should hold up in court. Shouldn’t it, Constable?’

‘We can only do our best.’ He said.

‘Yes, that’s all we can do.’ Marian said. ‘I am prepared to defend Ann against Ainsworth because as Anne was telling me about what he did I could see Ann was shaking. Yes, she was crying. She thought I would think less of her If she told me. I don’t know why she thought that.’ Marian could see Ann was trying so hard to be strong. She could also see streaks of wetness down her cheeks where she had been crying.

‘Would you like me to dictate your statement to me now. I will type it up and print out a copy for you to sign?’

‘Yes.’ Ann said. ‘I want my voice to be heard. He has controlled my life for long enough already.’ Anne smiled. She knew this wouldn’t be an easy thing for Ann to do but it was happening. Where this journey would take them no one knew but what Anne did know was Ann had courage she never imagined she would have.

Ann dictated to Constable Brown and he typed it up then printed a copy for Ann and a copy for her to sign. She did that. She couldn’t believe that she was finally telling others apart from Anne what Ainsworth had done to her.

They bought the pizzas and beer. Then Anne drove them home.

‘What if I am not the only person he has done this to? What if there are others?’ Ann said.

‘I have been wondering that for sometime now.’ Anne said. ‘How do we find anyone who has had Ainsworth sexually assault them?’

‘Counselor.’ Ann said. ‘I had been going to one for sometime. They really do help when you’re feel as though your life is in turmoil and there is no way out.’

‘How many would there be in the county of Yokrshire? Tib asked. Then they were checking Google on their phones. Well, all but Anne she was driving.. They all found four which they decided they would call later. Ann needed to get her life back and be able to begin enjoy life again.

‘Shit!’ Anne said. ‘I forgot to go into Whitley’s to collect a book I had on order.’

‘You haven’t ordered a book in weeks. Have you?’ Ann asked.

‘Well, it was a rouse to stay in town longer. That’s what I told Aunt Anne I was doing.’

‘Here.’ Marian said.’Take this I only bought it yesterday and left it in my handbag.’

‘What’s the title, Ann?’

‘Emma by the author of Pride and Prejudice.’ Ann said.

‘Okay! I think that will do but what have you been doing while I was at the book shop.’

‘We were there with you just browsing.’

‘Okay!!’ It’s funny how life comes up and bites you on the arse. That’s what it did when they arrived back home. Aunt Anne had called Whitley’s to see if Anne there only to be told she wasn’t.

‘She told me she had a book to collect today.’ Aunt said.

‘She has one on order but it hasn’t arrived yet.’Mr Whitley said. Oh the cheek of them lying to me. I will get to the bottom of this when they return home. So, as they strolled through the door there was Aunt Anne waiting to question them.

‘Where have you been?’ She asked.

‘To get beer, pizza and a book.’ They said as they held them up.

‘No you haven’t’ Aunt Anne said.’I called Whitley’s. He said he hadn’t seen you today. So, what’s going on?’

‘Nothing!’ Anne said. She didn’t think she could tell her aunt what they were planning to do. She didn’t want Aunt Anne to know what happened to Ann. Yet, it seemed like they would have to tell the truth.

‘Anne, I know you’re not telling me the truth. So, out with it.’

‘It’s a little delicate to be talked about here and we are hungry. So, can this wait until after dinner.’ Anne said and she looked at Ann because she knew Ann would prefer if they didn’t tell Aunt Anne. Then Ann stood close to her and wrapped her arms around her. She whispered only for Anne to hear. ‘I don’t mind if aunt knows. I am fed up with keeping it a secret from those who love me but we won’t tell father. Okay.’ Anne only nodded. She was so proud of her wife.

After dinner they all gathered in the nursery while Ann fed Jeremy and Anne bottle fed Rebecca with milk Ann had expressed. The tube on her boob was never going to be a success because the milk flowed too fast sometimes and not fast enough other times.

Anne tried to explain to her aunt as delicately as she could what Ainsworth had done to Ann.

‘You mean the scoundrel who barged into Shibden that day and tried to get Ann to let him in your bedroom?’

‘Yes.’ Ann said. She could see Aunt Anne was tearing up. She motion to Marian to give her a hug which she did.

‘Why would a man of God do that? What did he expect to gain from treating you life that, Ann?’ Aunt Anne said.

‘Oh he knows I have loads of money and he thought foolishly if he sexually assaulted me I would agree with him when he said I was damaged goods and no one would want to be with me only him.’

‘So.’ Aunt Anne said trying to get her brain around what Ann was saying.’he wanted you but only for your wealth. What a scoundrel. I hope that isn’t the reason you married Ann, Anne?’

‘No, It isn’t, aunt.’ Anne said. ‘I didn’t even know she was wealthy until just recently.’

‘Good. I don’t want Ann to think we are like him. Only out for what we can get and not worry about the health and well being of the person.’ Aunt Anne said. ‘I raised you better than that. Didn’t I, Anne Lister?’ She was waiting for Anne to reply. ‘Do you want me to take you out into the shed again?’

‘No, aunt. You did raise me to be a better person and I know you would never hurt me. Would you?’ The others including Marian listening to this banter and wondered if Aunt Anne and Anne would ever do anything to hurt one another.

‘Now, what do we do about this scoundrel, Ainsworth?’ Aunt asked.

‘Ann was wondering if there may have been more women he has done this to.’ Tib said.

‘There is that possibility. Didn’t his wife have a disability?’ Aunt Anne asked.

‘She did. Only it was unseen. I was friends with her for a while until she died in a car accident. Apparently the brakes on her car failed. She ran a red light and plowed into an oncoming semi.’ Ann said. ‘I think he, Ainsworth, had someone tamper with the brakes. He said he was away on business when it happened.’

‘It seems a tall tale to me told by someone who is riddled with guilt.’ aunt said. ‘Thanks for telling me, Ann. You are not to blame for what happened and you aren’t damaged goods. I think we all have a past that isn’t as pretty as we would like it to be.’

‘What are you implying by that, aunt. Marian said.

‘Nothing.’

‘It must be something otherwise you wouldn’t have said it.’ Aunt Anne looked at them all in turn. She did have a secret she felt she could share but she didn’t know were to begin.

‘Where should I start?’ aunt said. ‘To tell you my secret. I have held this in for so long.’

Well, the beginning would be a good place to start. Wouldn’t it?’Tib said.

Then the story began spilling from Aunt Anne’s lips. Anne and the others couldn’t believe what they were hearing. Aunt Anne had had a lover when she was in her 20s. A woman whom she adored more than life itself. They would go out dancing together. They would fuck into the early hours of the morning. But then it all fell apart. Her lover found someone who was richer and more affluent that Aunt Anne was and she had never recovered. That’s why she was still single now. ‘And I didn’t want you or Marian to go through that heartache.’

‘Aunt, so you are like us. Does father know?’

‘No, we could never talk about our emotions or our love life. Sometimes, I wish he had never married your mother. Then I wouldn’t have you two girls.’ aunt said as she pointed to Anne and Marian.

They sat in comfortable silence for some time until Ann remembered the search they had done for counselors in the area. She was changing Rebecca’s nappy. ‘What about the counselors we found on Google? Should we trying calling them?’

‘I think it might be a bit late to do that.’ aunt said as she hobbled out the door with her cane. It hit the floor with a mighty thud.

‘We could leave a message. They might be able to help us.’

‘Good idea. We need to strike while the iron is hot.’ Marian said as she brought up the list on her phone. ‘I will call the first two. You call the second two.’ She gave Tib the numbers and then they called them. The message they left was, if you have had a patient who has been sexually assaulted by a man of God please call me on this number. Thank you for listening.

‘I hope that helps.’ Marian said as she looked at Ann who was fiddling with the bottom of her t-shirt. ‘Don’t worry, Ann. Everything will come out in the wash.’

‘I hope you are right, Marian. I feel that I wasted my life thinking about what he had done to me.’ Ann said as Anne wrapped her arms around her and pulled her in close to kiss her on the cheek.

‘Ann, if someone comes up with more evidence against Ainsworth then we can really take him to the cleaners.’ Tib said. ‘Or push him off Victoria Falls in a beer barrel.’

‘Where’s Victoria Falls, Tib/’ Marian asked.

‘Somewhere in the USA between there and Canada. I think.’ Marian did a Google search. She couldn’t believe what she was looking at. ‘It’s fucking huge. Wouldn’t that kill him?’

‘Duh, Marian. Isn’t that what I am getting at?’

‘No, Tibby. We can’t and won’t stoop to his level; Okay!!!’

‘Okay, Maz.’

It was after midnight before they went to bed. Anne and Ann were very tired but Ann was feeling very horny. She had been so close to Anne for hours now and her body felt like it was on fire. She caressed Anne’s back with her hands. She rolled Anne over onto her back, lifted herself up and sat on Anne’s abdomen. It felt like it had been a long time since they had close intimacy. Ann leaned down and passionately kissed Anne’s lips. Anne responded in kind. Ann pushed her hand down Anne’s boxers which were already soaked. It seemed their closeness had affected Anne as much as it had Ann. Ann trailed kisses down Anne’s body.until she found her clit. Ann licked her clit with passion. She could feel Anne grab her hair and pull it gently. Anne’s hips rose from the bed as she inserted two fingers into her centre, as Ann licked her clit with her tongue. She licked her clit and dove her fingers inside Anne, pulling them out and pushing them in. ‘go faster please, Ann.’ So, Ann did. She went faster and faster. She licked harder and harder. Then Anne crashed over the edge. Her body shuddered. Ann wrapped her arms around Anne until her body stilled. They kissed passionately then snuggled together and fell into a deep sleep.

Chapter Text

The following day Tib received a call from the first counselor she called yesterday. They admitted they hadn’t had a patient mention being sexually assaulted by a man of God. Was it possible they would find someone who would say that a man of God sexually assaulted them?

Then Marian received a call from the second counselor she called. She did have someone who had been sexually assaulted by a man of God. She wouldn’t say who it was and had to talk to her patient to see if she would agree to disclosing her identity. Marian told Anne. She seemed elated but subdued when it seemed that the woman may not want to reveal her identity.

Anne and Ann ponder on what they will do if they were unable to find someone who Ainsworth had sexually assaulted who was prepared to state this fact in a courtroom. How was it possible they could get a conviction just on Ann’s words alone and even though Marian and Anne had offered to be witnesses for Ann they weren’t present when it happened, only Ann.

‘Do you still want to press charges against Ainsworth, Ann?’ Anne asked as she looked at her wife.

‘Yes, I am fed up with feeling insignificant around him. If it wasn’t for my money he would see me as an insect he could squash.’

‘Why do you still have such a poor opinion of yourself, Ann?’ Marian said.

‘I don’t when I am with Anne. When I am with Anne I can take on the world, Marian.’

‘It seems you are doing just that.’ Tib said. ‘And don’t stop because Anne will always be with you.’

‘How do you know that, Tib?’ Ann asked as she gave Tib a worried look.

‘Because I know Anne well enough to know she’s with you until the end.’

Then Tib’s phone buzzed in her pocket. She pulled it out and noticed the number was from the second counselor she called.

‘Hello.To whom am I speaking?’

‘Hello, this is Miss Parkhill. I am calling from The Women’s counseling service. You left a message yesterday.’

‘Yes!! I was wondering if you had a patient who had been sexually assaulted by a man of God.’

‘Yes!’

‘I was wondering if she would reveal who that man was.’ Tib asked.

‘I think we both know the answer to that one and yes she is prepared to help you get a conviction on the scoundrel. She read the papers when he was convicted of entering Shibden Hall and demanding to see Miss Walker. Is it Miss Walker I am talking to?’

‘No, it’s her sister-in-law. She is here though if you would like to talk to her.’ Tib looked at Ann for an answer and she nodded her head.

‘Yes. I would like to do that.’

‘Hello!, Miss Parkhill.’

‘Hello, Ann. Do you recognise me.’

‘Harriet, how are you?’

I am doing fine. What about you?’ Ann could hear the concern in Harriet’s voice. She didn’t know what to say. Then she heard Harriet again.

‘Ann, are you still there?’

‘I want this business with Ainsworth to be over. I think we need to talk face to face. Plus I would like to see you again.’

‘That would be great. I can’t imagine how much you have changed since I saw you last. When was that?’ Harriet asked.

‘I think it was my parent’s funeral.’

‘That was a sad occasion. How about lunch and a chat tomorrow about noon at the cafe we often frequented during high school. Okay!’

I will bring my wife and sisters-in=law with me if that’s okay.’

‘Wife?’

‘Yes, I am married to Anne Lister.’

‘I heard the rumour. I didn’t know if it was true or not. Then Catherine told me what happened. Good for you and yes, bring her and the others with you. See you tomorrow. Bye.’

‘Bye!’ Ann disconnected the call and handed Tib her phone.

‘Who was that, Ann?’ They asked together.

‘That was an old school friend. We haven’t seen each other in a long time. She, Catherine and I use to hang around together after school and on the weekends. We are meeting her in our old school haunt. The cafe on Main Street for lunch at noon. Is that okay?’

‘Yes, there is nothing more pressing than dealing with this situation. Does she have someone who is willing to testify against Ainsworth?’ Anne asked.

‘Yes. I think we might meet her tomorrow too.’

‘Well, that would be great if we did meet her tomorrow then we would know who the other witness will be.’ Anne said. She eyed Ann with concern. She was worried that this would tear Ann apart if she had to reveal what Ainsworth did to her in a courtroom. The last time she had to sit in the witness box she passed out. Only this time Ann seemed more bold than she was last time but they weren’t in a courtroom. They were at Shibden surrounded by the people who loved and supported Ann daily.

They arrive at the cafe ten minutes early. Anne ordered coffee for everyone and they checked out the lunch menu. Ann wasn’t hungry. She had had butterflies gnawing at her stomach all morning and even though she only ate a small breakfast she didn’t want anything to eat. So, Anne ordered a big serving of chips and four pieces of fish. She was sure Anne would get hungry later.

Harriet walked over to Ann as soon as she saw her. She had a woman with her would looked scared. She was trying to hide her face. Anne wondered why. Harriet pulled Ann into a tight hug.’You look as lovely as I remember you, Ann.’

‘You haven’t change much either, Harriet.’ Ann said as she eyed her from her head to her toes.

‘This is Joan Doe, not her real name. She will reveal that later when we have waded through what we need to do. Okay?’ Harriet said.

‘Hi, I’m Ann Walker. This is my wife, Anne Lister and my sisters-in-law, Marian Lister and Isabelle(Tib) Norcliffe.’

‘Marian, You’re Marian Lister, Anne’s sister.’

‘Yes!’

‘Don’t you recognise me?’ Marian looked at Joan Doe for a moment.

‘Not really. Prod my memory.’

‘The back of the gym in year ten. We were with that tall blonde guy. I think his name was Fred.’

‘Good grief. Can I say your name?’

‘I will, Frances Pickford. You can call me Pick.’

‘Pick.’ Marian said. They hugged. ‘I didn’t think it would be you that would be a witness against the scoundrel.’

‘I had thought I was the only one. I never imagined he would do it again after what I did to him.’

‘I fought him off in a way he will never forget. I don’t want to go into detail just in case someone here over hears what I say and tells Ainsworth.’

‘Good thinking.’ Anne said. ‘We can discuss that later.’

‘Let’s eat.’ Tib said. ‘I am starving.’

‘So am I now.’ Ann said.’thanks for ordering extra, dearest.’

Harriet and Ann spent the next hour catching up. They had a shared past. Anne seemed intrigued by the chatter that was happening between Ann and Harriet. Then there was France Pickford who asked s to be called Pick.

She was something else. Anne had always imagined herself to be rather masculine but not a man. Pick seemed to have all the qualities of a good gentleman with some of the gentility of a lady.

Then she eyed Marian and Tib. Was her sister really like her. She didn’t know. It was then that Marian pulled her out of her daydream.

‘Anne, what do you think we could go?’

‘What?’ Anne said. She must have missed something because she seemed lost. ‘Pick suggests that we go back to her place where they can talk more freely.’

‘Okay. As long as Harriet can spare the time.’

‘I don’t have another patient today. So, I am free for the rest of the day.’

Harriet said. ‘Pick only lives about ten minutes from here so we can walk.’

While they were walking Anne began to feel uncomfortable. She motioned to the others to keep going. ‘What’s up, dearest?’ Ann said.

‘Just keep walking. I think someone is following us. I want to find out.’ Anne stooped down to pretend she was adjusting the laces on her boots while the others continued walking. She turned around to find Jeremiah Rawson standing close by.

‘What’s the deal, Rawson? Why are you following us?’ Anne said.

‘I am not following you. I am going home.’

‘Since when do you go home this way. Taking a long hike today, are we?’

‘No, Miss Lister, this is the route I always take to go home.’

‘Well, Jeremiah, I find that hard to believe. So, when you visit your brother and Ainsworth next tell them I am on to their crooked dealings and don’t forget, Rawson. I know where you live too.’

Jeremiah scurried off like a scared rabbit. He never thought that he would be found out. Only he knew Miss Anne Lister wasn’t someone who would take too kindly to be treated like a fool.

Anne raced only to catch up with the others as they were walking into Pick’s house. It’s a modest two bedroom apartment not far from the main street. Anne reaches Ann and pulls her in for a tight hug.

‘Ann, it was Jeremiah Rawson who was following us. He denied any such thing. Said he was on his way home but we both know he doesn’t live in this part of town.’ Anne whispered to Ann.

‘Jeremiah is only doing what Christopher has told him to do. He is scared of his brother. He knows they are up to no good but he won’t go against what Christopher says.’

‘What are you two whispering about? Tib asked.

‘We were being follow by Rawson’s brother. I think he wanted to find out where you live Pick. How he knew about you we still have to find out. Rawson is protecting Ainsworth because he is laundering money through Ainsworth’s charity.’ Anne said.

‘What did you say that made him run off like a scared rabbit, Anne?’ Tib asked.

‘I told him I was on to their crooked dealings.’ Anne said.

‘Was that a wise thing to do?’ Marian said. ‘Now, her knows we know more than we should. Well, as far as he is concerned.’

‘I know and I hope that will bring more information to light.’ Anne said.

‘What do you mean, dearest?’ Ann looked at her wife and was concerned that someone would get hurt by being too open about what they knew.

‘It’s possible that now they know we know they will likely step up with their dealings and make a blunder. So, then we will catch them in the act.’

‘How are we going to do that, Madam detective?’ Marian said.

‘Just give me a while to think about it. Anyway, we need to discuss how we are going to keep Ainsworth behind bars. Pick tell us your story. How you met Ainsworth and what he did to you? You don’t need to be too graphic. I remember how hard it was for Ann to tell me what he did to her.’

‘Miss Lister.’

‘Anne please.’

‘Anne, he used the way I look against me. He said no man would like a woman who was seen as more masculine than what he was. Only I knew from a very early age that I would never be with a man.’ Pick said.

‘How did you met?’ Ann asked.

‘Probably the same way you met him through his wife. He seemed to use her as his decoy. I always thought she was very pretty and would have liked to have been her girlfriend. Only she wasn’t like us.’

‘Yes, that’s exactly how it happened for me. I cannot believe we were duped by that only I don’t think his wife knew what he was doing. She was always very friendly and honestly. I miss her so much.’ Ann said.

‘Do you, Adney?’

‘Yes, only as a friend, dearest.’

‘Anne Lister, put your green eyed monster away. Ann Walker loves you more than anyone ever has. Just see the way she looks at you.’ Harriet said. She had heard about Anne’s past lovers and from past conversations with Catherine that Ann had always had a crush on Miss Lister of Shibden Hall.

Anne turned Ann around to look at her and could see she was crimson red.

‘Sorry for doubting you, Adney.’

‘That’s okay. I never imagined I would be with you. I always knew Mariana Lawton was your first real love. Mrs Ainsworth was just a good friend. Nothing more.’

They talked more about the statement Ann had made. They wanted to show Pick but decided it wouldn’t be a good idea to share Ann’s experience. They wanted to know Pick’s experience. So they decided their next move would be for Pick to go and see Constable Brown and make a statement which she did the following day.

Constable Brown warned her that this could become quite unbearable. He told her that if she feels uncomfortable about testify in court she should speak up now. Pick wanted this to be over. Like Ann she had been carrying the weight of what Ainsworth had done to her for so long she couldn’t remember when he never seemed to inveigle himself into her life.

‘How is it that two bright, intelligent young woman can be seduced by one foolish man?’ Constable Brown said.

‘It wasn’t what he said it was more the way he said it. He could twist his words to make himself the victim and you the predator. He also threatened me by telling me he would tell my family who I really was.’ Pick said.

‘Sex by blackmail. I see. I wonder if that’s what he did to Miss Walker.’

‘I would think so since it seemed his MO. I might not know Ann well enough but what I have seen of her, well, she could have been easily duped like I was. Yet, she is finally with someone who only has her best interests at heart.’

‘Do you think so? I have heard rumours about Miss Lister and wondered what truth there was in them.’ Constable Brown said.

‘You can’t always believe what you hear now. Can you?’ Pick said.

‘Okay!!f I guess you know her better than what I do.’

‘NO!! I don’t Constable. I only know what I have seen her do when Ann was upset. That alone would make a blind man realise that Anne Lister loves and cares for Ann Walker a great deal.’

‘Okay!!!

Pick left to go home. As she got closer to her home she could see someone snooping around. She immediately did a 180 and called Harriet.

‘I think Jeremiah found out where I live. There are two men snooping around my home. Should I call Constable Brown and tell him?’

‘Yes. I will call Ann and tell her. Her and Anne might be able to give you shelter until this mess is sorted.’

The police arrived on the scene five minutes after Pick called them. They didn’t catch the suspects but found enough evidence to show that someone wanted Pick out of the way, including a few sticks of dynamite. Soon after Anne and Ann were there to consul Pick.

‘You can stay with us. We have a guest room in the house and it would be no bother. We have put your life in danger and we didn’t want to do that.’ Anne said.

Thank you. I really appreciate what you are doing.’

‘No, thank you. I am so grateful that you are helping. What did Constable Brown say when you called him.’

‘He said there must be someone else out there who is feeding them information. We don’t know who but we will find out.’

‘Well, you will be safer at Shibden than you would be here. We have security cameras and a security guard watching us 24/7.’ Anne said.

‘Thanks, I would like to stay with you,’ Pick said.

‘That’s good to hear. As long as you don’t mind two babies squawking at all hours of the night.’

‘Hey, anything would be better than what is happening here. Right?’ Pick said. Ann and Anne didn’t know her well enough but she was helping them and if they gave her somewhere to stay until this ordeal was over they were sure Pick would be grateful.  

‘So, grab a few things and we can go home.’ Ann said.

‘Can you come inside with me just in case someone is in there?’ Pick said. She was too scared to enter her own home with Anne and Ann near she wouldn’t feel so afraid,

‘Pick, the police combed the house and they had the sniffer dogs check it out. It’s all clear but we will follow you inside. Okay!!’ Frances gingerly opened the front door and walked inside. Even though everything had been put back where the police found it she could still feel as though someone had been peering though all her stuff.

She grabbed some clothes. They locked up Pick’s house and drove to Shibden. Hall. Aunt Anne was standing in the hall way trying to console Jeremy. He was crying so hard he had worked himself into a state of exhaustion. ‘I think he might be hungry.’ Aunt said. ‘Where have you been? We didn’t think we would need to ration the breast milk you had expressed, Ann.’

‘S..s…sorry, Aunt. I forgot it was getting close to their feed time.’ Ann said.

Well, Rebecca has been fed. She is sleeping. It’s a wonder she can with all the noise he is making.’ Ann took Jeremy as soon as she cradled him in her arms he was groping around for a feed. Ann sat on the couch and fed him. Marian and Tib had been with Aunt Anne chatting for awhile.

‘I fed Rebecca because she seemed to be hungrier than Jeremy. Ann, would you leave two bottles of expressed breast milk next time. Then we can feed both kids. Even if it is only half. I am sure that would satisfy them until you returned.’ Marian said. Ann felt as though they were angry with her and she felt tears roll down her cheeks. Anne could see that and was next to her in a flash.

‘Ann, Marian was only trying to be helpful. She isn’t saying you are a bad mother. Anne said. ‘Adney we didn’t know we were going to be away for so long now. Did we?’

‘Sorry, Ann!’ Marian said as she looked at Ann with pleading eyes.

‘That’s okay, Marian. I think this ordeal is getting to me more than I thought it would. I will be glad when it is over.’

‘Amen to that.’ They all said.

‘Pick, this is my Aunt Anne and my father. Yes, we all live on this property. Marian and Tib converted the barn into quite a decent home. They will show you later. Cordingley is our chef and will cook us a lovely meal tonight.’ Anne said. ‘I will show you where you are sleeping after we have eaten.’

‘Hi, Pick.’ Aunt and father said.

‘Is that really your name?’ Aunt Anne asked.

‘No, my name is Frances Pickford. I prefer to be called Pick.’

‘Well, Pick it shall be.’ Father said. ‘Would you like to share a beer with an old man?’

‘I would like that. What should I call you?’ Pick said.

‘Aunt will be great. Since you are part of this motley crew.’

‘Father will be great.’ Pick was so surprised they had welcomed them into their family. They had tears streaming down their face. Marian reached over and gave her a hug. ‘Thanks Marian. I needed that. I has been a stressful couple of days.’ Pick said.

‘Yes, it certainly has and the sooner we get back to normal the better.’ Father said as he walked into the kitchen to grab the beers.

‘We have leftover pizza if you would like something to eat now, Pick.’ Ann said. ‘I love cold pizza. Do you?’

‘Thanks for the offer but I think I will wait for dinner.’

‘Are you trying to tell me something?’ Ann said laughing. ‘Marian said cold pizza was yucky even though I know she has never tired. It.’ Ann looked cautiously at Marian as she spoke.

‘Oh, I love cold pizza I’m just not hungry.’

‘Good! I have a cold pizza buddy.’ They all laughed.

The following day found them all except father and Aunt down at the police station talking to Constable Brown about the incident at Pick’s house. They hadn’t found any fingerprints or any evidence that there could give them some DNA. They had a suspicion they know who it might be. Only they needed proof and how would they get that. The man Constable Brown thought was the one who tried to kill Pick by blowing up her home was Mark Robinson. He had dealings in the past with Christopher Rawson. Constable Brown heard from the jail house that he had been visiting Rawson the previous night. How he knew about Pick was still a mystery. Yet, they would find out soon because Constable Brown had plans to interview Rawson and Ainsworth again. He was still putting the evidence together. So, the interviews wouldn’t be until sometime next week until then they need to stay safe. Now that Anne and Ann were contributing to the cost of the security guard they were able to feel safe at home. Tib was beginning to feel a part of the family.

She never imagined that Marian would want to be with her. She was, as she would admit, rather gruff and ill mannered. She would often drink more than what she should and say things which would make others feel uncomfortable. Yet, Marian seemed to love and respect her ,understand her and want to be with her. They were in their sitting room watching tv when Tib turned to Marian. She was holding something in her hands. As Tib slowly opened it up Marian saw what it was and began to cry.

‘Maz, what’s the matter?’

‘It’s so beautiful. It must have cost you a fortune.’

‘Darling, this is for you if you will have me. Will you marry me, Marian Lister?’

‘Yes.’ Tib reached for Marian’s hand a placed the ring on her finger. They had to go into the hall to tell the others the good news.

‘Now, I know why you bought the most expensive bottle of wine, Tib?’ Anne said. ‘Do you want to open it now to celebrate?’

‘Yes, grab some glasses please.’ Tib said. They open the bottle and celebrated. Anne made a speech. Ann asked when the big day was.

‘Not until after the trial is over. Then we can really have fun. Marian said she only wants family there. So, it will only be those who are here . Okay!!’

‘I thought you would have wanted to invite your family, Tib.’ Ann said as she looked at Tib with concern.

‘My family are here. I am not sure any of my other family would want to see me marry a Lister after what happened between you and me, Anne.’ Anne looked worried. She couldn’t remember if she had mentioned what happened between her and Tib. She looked at Ann and could see Ann was beginning to worry. ‘Can we go somewhere and talk. I need to tell you what happened. I don’t remember if I did. Did I?’ Anne reached to grab Ann’s hand she pulled away then Anne walked away. Ann followed her. She tried to grab Anne’s hand but Anne was too quick. They were in their bedroom before Anne could summon up the courage to reach out to Ann.

This time Ann took her hand turned it over and kissed her knuckles. ‘Talk to me, Anne. I need to know what Tib is talking about. We are married, dearest. I will never leave you.’

‘I left Tib to be with Mariana. She married Charles and left me dangling. Always wanting her but never loved by her. She said she would marry me when Charles dies. That is a many be sometime never event I’m was prepared to wait for but now I’m with you.. I am glad you are in my life, Adney. I will never leave you for her. I wish I had considered Tib’s feelings. She might not drink as much as so does now if I had done that.’

‘I don’t think she drinks as much now she is with Maz. I am sure Marian would have told her it’s either me or the bottle.’ Ann said with as much confidence as possible. There was a knock at the door. Someone downstairs answered it

‘Anne, Constable Brown is here to see you and Ann.’

‘We will be right down.’ Anne yelled. Then she whispered to Ann. ‘Is everything between us good now?’

‘Yes, Dearest. It always had been. I just didn’t understand what Tib was talking about. I love you.’

‘I love you.’

They strolled back downstairs to find Constable Brown relying to the others what they had found oust about Rawson and Ainwworth. They had been laundering money through the church’s charity. They would give a portion to the charity. The rest they would syphon into bank accounts they had in different counties.

They couldn’t remember how they had figured out the names of the accounts. They were all different but linked his mother’s home.and when they had  worked out the name of one the others came to them easily. Anne looked surprised. ‘I guess they needed a way to remember them.’ Anne said. ‘I would have had a more elaborate system than using her home jumbled in a specific order.’

‘Alphabetically, so I was told..’ Constable Brown said. ‘I leave all technical stuff to those who know what they are doing. I am technically challenge and I wonder if that will ever change.’

‘What do we do now?’ Ann and Tib said.

‘I don’t know. I was hoping someone here could come up with an idea.’

‘Did you get access to the accounts?’ Anne asked.

‘Yes, Rawson and Ainsworth have three each in Sweden, Switzerland and one in the USA. Although, I never imagined that they would be allowed to open an account there unless they were citizens.’

‘How much money is in each account?’ Marian asked. She knew Anne wanted to know. ‘Do you know how they made so much money?’

‘I can only guess child pornography, prostitution or trafficking.’ Constable Brown said.

‘What do you mean by trafficking?’ Ann asked. She thought she knew what he was talking about but it could be anything.’

‘Drugs. Didn’t I say that.’

‘What about refugees? Anne said. ‘There are many who would pay a price to flee the country where they were born.’

‘Yes, I have forgotten about that. Only we need proof before we can convict them. Didn’t he sexually assault you, Miss Walker?’

‘Yes and we were able to locate another woman who he sexually assaulted. Would that be enough?’

‘I honestly don’t know. We need to convict them. I had their bank accounts frozen. So, they can’t get access to them.’ Constable Brown said.

‘What did you say so the banks would freeze their accounts?’

‘I told them what was happening here with Rawson and Ainsworth. I told them that it was dirty money that had been laundering through what seemed to be a legit charity. So, they agreed to freezing them.’

‘What will happen to the money if they are.found guilty?’ Aunt Anne asked. She had been sitting quietly in the corner listening.

‘The police will claim it.’ Constable Brown said.

‘What do they did with that money?’ Aunt Anne said.

‘I don’t know. I have never been in the situation before. .This is Halifax. Nothing like this has ever happened here that I know of.’

She was concerned and wondering what would happen if Ainsworth was let out of jail again. As if reading her Aunt’s mind Marian said. ‘That won’t happen, Aunt Anne. After what he did to Ann. I think he will be there for awhile and much longer if he is found guilty.’ Then they heard crying from the nursery. ‘I think our children are awake. Come, Anne. We should get them.’ Ann said.

‘Okay!!! We will just be a moment.’ Anne said as the walked by the stairs to the nursery. They changed nappies and brought the children downstairs. Anne went into the kitchen to grabbed two bottles from the fridge to feed them with. She thought it would be easier to do that rather than have Ann breastfeed one or both while the constable was here. She warmed them up and brought the bottles into the sitting room, gave one to Ann and sat beside her.

They fed their children while the constable continued chatting. ‘We still don’t have any real evidence to convict them. We only have overseas bank accounts but they could have had them to avoid paying higher taxes. They did leave a paper trail which we are looking into. I don’t know if that will help. Does his mother know about any of his dealings.’

We could ask her. I could call her now to find out.; Anne said. ‘But I doubt it. He seems to have kept his cards close to his chest. Of course, we could interview Jeremiah again. He might be able to help us.We should do that.’ Anne called Nelly Rawson. .She answered on the second ring. ‘Anne, is everything all right?’

‘Just a quick question, Nelly? Were you privy to Christopher’s dealings?’

‘Yes, but I thought they were just trivial things, nothing illegal. I do have access to his office if you would like to take a peek. Could you get a warrant to search his office so there will be no implications thrown at me?’

‘I am sure Constable Brown can do that. Just hold on for a minute I will find oud.’

‘Nelly says we can search his office but she wants you to get a warrant so she isn’t implicated. Can you do that?’

‘Yes, we can go round there now if she doesn’t mind.’

‘Yes, He wants to strike while the iron is hot. Can we come say in about an hour?’ Anne said.

‘Yes, please. I would like to know what my son has been up to.’ Nelly said.

‘Good.’ Anne disconnected the call and informed Ann what they were doing. She handed Rebecca to Tib to finish feeding.

They drove to the station and were able to get the warrant.. It was an easy task. Then they drove to Stony Royd. Nelly was sitting outside waiting for them.

‘Are you sure this won’t implicate me?’ Nelly said.

‘Why are you so worried, Nelly? Anne asked.

‘I have heard he has friends who would do anything for him.’

‘Okay. Like what?’ Constable Brown said.

‘I honestly don’t know.’ Nelly took them to Rawson’s office. It was locked. The constable used a skeleton key to gain access. Once they were inside Nelly reached over and turned on the light. Filing cabinets lined one wall. There were two large windows that showed a good view of the gardens and a large oak desk in the middle. On it sat two laptops which were open but turned off.

Constable Brown to power them up. It seems Rawson had left in a hurry and didn’t have time to turn them off. They were able to locate one cord. So, they plugged it in. Then he turned it on. He was hoping that he wouldn’t need to search through the filing cabinets to find the information they needed. That would take days and he wanted to wrap up this case soon.

‘Do you know anything about computer, Miss Lister?’

‘Only enough to do what I need to do. Why?

‘I need someone to do a search on this to find something we could use against Rawson and Ainsworth.’

‘Okay.I may know someone. I will call them now.’  Anne calls Thomas Sowden. ‘He works with computers. So he may know what they need to do. Hi, Thomas.’

‘Hello, Miss Lister. What can I do for you today?’

‘Can you do a search to find hidden files on a computer?

‘Yes. Why?’

‘I will explain when I see you. Can you come now?’

‘Yes, Where?’

‘To Stony Royd. You know Old Mrs Rawson’s home.’

‘Yes, I know it. I am on my way.’ Thomas says as he walks out his home and into the bright sunshine. Suzannah is outside with their children.’I off to see Miss Lister, Sue. I hope not to be very long.’

‘Okay!! Will bangers and mash be fine for dinner?.’

‘Yes, darling. See you later.’

He drove over to Stony Royd and found Anne waiting at the front door for him. They greeted each other cordially then went to Christopher;s office where Constable Brown was trying to navigate Rawson’s computer.

‘Here, let me try that. You really do need to know what you are doing. I have a feeling what you’re looking for could be hidden in a file with a nondescript name. Something most of us wouldn’t think to look at.’ Thomas said. Nelly looked at him with surprise. She never thought of that. She always thought he would be stupid enough to put in there in full view. She was surprised they were able to access the computers at all.

‘What kind of nondescript name are you talking about?’ Anne asked.

‘something as simple as new folder, even a file that says photos, or family stuff. Something like that.’ Then they all spied it. The name for his overseas accounts. It was there nosty dory. So, easy to miss as if he had made a mistake. Thomas opened the file. There seemed to be little of interest until they all spied something at the bottom which said power.

‘Check that out.’ Anne said.  It was a file within a file. Thomas opened it up and there it was. All the details of their illegal activities. How they were laundering money through the church. They couldn’t understand why Rawson was so clever and yet, so careless.

‘I think we should take possession of both computers today and have Thomas search them.’ Constable Brown said.

‘You do have time to do this for us, Thomas.’ Nelly said. ‘I will pay you handsomely. My son needs to realise he cannot think he is above the law.’

You don’t need to pay me I want to help nail your son and Ainsworth for what they are doing.’ Thomas said.

Thomas spent the every available moment over the next week search and constantly finding more information to put both Rawson and Ainsworth away for some time. While he was doing that Anne was working with Ann and PIck to ensure they were able to take the witness box and tell the truth without breaking down. She was remembering the last time Ann was in the witness box. It wasn’t one of Ann’s brightest moments.

‘You need to remember, Adney, that I will be there in the courtroom. When you feel as though you are feeling as you were last time. Look at me because I will be sending you love and comfort. Remember you’re not on trail Ainswroth and Rawson are.’

‘I know.’ Ann said. ‘but that doesn’t mean I won’t feel stressed, have another panic attack and faint again as I did last time.’ Pick look shocked.

‘Did that happen?’ She asked as she looked at both Anne and Ann. Tib nodded and Marian began to cry.

‘I saw it all. I remember feeling bad for Ann. He was questioning her as if she was the guilty party. So, no wonder she thinks that will happen again.’Marian said through her tears. Tib hugged her and Marian laid her head on Tib’s shoulder while they all hoped Ann would be able to find the strength the tell the truth.Anne decided to have a mock trial to see how well Ann and Pick would react when questioned by the prosecuting lawyer. It wasn’t going to be easy for any of them and not just because Anne loved Ann. She didn’t want to stress Ann out too much before the trial that could push her over the edge and into another panic attack. Ann hadn’t had one in a long time. Not since the first trial.

‘Please bear with me, Adney. I want you to imagine I am the defense lawyer. I will ask you questions he would ask you. If, at any time you feel uncomfortable just put your head on your hands. Tib, you can be the judge and Marian you can be the court clerk. Okay!!’ They set up a makeshift courtroom in the kitchen. Cordingley eyed them with suspicion. She had no idea what they were up to. When Anne asked her to comment on proceedings when they were  done.

Cordingley sat down and watched.

‘All rise Judge Norcliffe presiding.’ Marian called. Everyone stood as the judge took her place and sat down. ‘All be seated.’ Tib banged the meat tenderiser they were using as a gavel on the desk. She loved the idea of being judge. If only for a moment. ‘Miss Lister, call your first witness.’ Tib roared.

‘Hey, mate, no need to yell. We can all hear you.’ Anne said.’ I call Miss Walker to the stand.’ Ann swore an oath on the bible to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

‘Miss Walker, is the defendant in this courtroom?’

‘Yes!’

‘Point him out.’

‘He is over there.’ Ann points to where she thinks Ainsworth would be seated.

‘Fine. How do you know this man?’

‘I was friends with his wife. I am certain he did that so he could get close to me.’

‘I only asked how you knew him. We don’t want to know what you think he did. That is just hearsay.’

‘Sorry!’ Ann said nearly crying. She pulled herself together before that happened.

‘Adney, this is just as hard for me, darling.’ Anne said. ‘What did he do to you?’

‘He made every effort to be close to me whether I was there at their place or at my place, Crow Nest. He would tell me he loved me and it wouldn’t be long before his wife died. She was older then he was.’

‘What do you mean? Would be long before his wife died?’

‘She was fifteen years older than him. She it was expected she would die first.’

‘I see. What would he do to you?’

‘He would try to kiss me. He would put his hands where he shouldn’t have especially when his wife was in the other room. He would try to touch me where he had no right to.’ Ann’s eyes went south to ensure her eyes showed without saying what she meant. ‘Did he have intimate knowledge of you?’ Anne asked. This was a question that they had never touched on. Only Anne already knew the answer when she looked at her wife. She could see that he had done something that had broke her and this is why she would often say to Anne that she was damaged goods. Right at that moment the children cried out. It was time for a feed.

‘I think you will be fine, Adney and if you follow that lead you will be fine too, Pick.’ Anne said.’I will return in a few.’ Anne went upstairs to the nursery. ‘Thanks kiddos for saving your mum from a rather embarrassing moment.’ Anne said to Jeremy and Rebecca even if they didn’t understand her. Ann did. As she walked into the nursery she said. ‘Thanks, dearest. I really appreciate what you are trying to do. I am sure I will be fine this time. Although we will have to wait and see. What about their money laundering? When will that trial be?’

‘Hopefully they can find a connection between both the sexual assaults and the money laundering.’ Anne said.

‘I hope they can do that. I want this to be over yesterday. I know that isn’t possible.’

‘I hope so too. Let’s put clean nappies on these two and head back down stairs.’ They changed the kids and went back down stairs to find Constable Brown was there. He had some information he thought they might be interested in  Anne retrieved Rebecca’s bottle from the fridge and wormed it up. Ann was breastfeeding Jeremy this time. They sat in the kitchen while the constable told them what he and Thomas had found.

It seemed insignificant to Anne that they had found an email from Ainsworth which had said no less than Little Annie Walker was going to be Ainsworth’s wife and how he was going to fool her into thinking she wasn’t good enough to be with anyone else. Ann was in tears. Anne leaned over to comfort her. What really annoyed Anne was his arrogance and the way he planned to seduce her.

Then he found another email.from Rawson which bluntly told Ainsworth that if he wanted help from him to get Ann Walker in his clutches he would have to agree to helping Rawson launder his money through Ainsworth’s charity.

‘I think we have got them. What do you think, Constable Brown?’

‘Yes, I think we have on both counts. Now, to show the prosecuting lawyer.as soon as possible.’

Constable Brown leaves. Anne and Ann wonder if they should take this information to their lawyer without delay. They are hoping it is possible to begin the trial. Anne looks at Pick and wonders, like Ann, if she is up to the pressure a trial like this will put her under. They both need to brave. They need to understand that if his actions go unchecked this time he will continue finding someone who he can sexually assault. This time the girl might not survive as they have.

‘Anne, do you think we should visit the lawyer with this information? Then he can get the trial underway. I am not sure when that will happen.’

‘Yes, I think we should. It would be great for you to get this done and dusted. I know you will be nervous on the day but don’t worry, Adney. I will be there for you no matter what happens. Please be strong for you.’ Ann looked at Anne as she spoke tears welling in her eyes. Anne pulled her close and kissed her forehead. ‘Come on. Let’s do this.’

‘Okay, Dearest. Let’s get the ball rolling.’

Anne and Ann drove into Halifax. The streets were busy. Ann spied Jeremiah heading towards the police station. ‘I wonder what he is up to.’ Ann said. ‘Look!! That’s where I thought he was going. Do you think he has the money to bail them out of jail, Anne?’

‘Let’s find out.’ Anne parked the car. They wandered into the station just in time to see Jeremiah hand over a fist full of cash. Constable Brown didn’t seem to be there. ‘Hey, are you going to let him use dirty money to bail criminals out of jail?’ Anne said to the officer behind the desk. She hadn’t seen him her before and wondered if he was the new officer they spotted talking to Constable Brown only a few weeks ago. Then Constable Brown strolled in. ‘How do, ladies?’ he said. Then he saw Jeremiah Rawson handing over money to the officer. ‘Hey, there’s no bail for those two so get out of here before I put you where they are for trying to get bail with dirty money.’

Jeremiah tried to grab the money and leave but the constable had other ideas. ‘Leave that. I think we may be able to use it as evidence.’ Jeremiah left knowing he had let his brother and Ainsworth down again.’If we can use the serial numbers to find out where this money come from then we might have more evidence to keep them locked away for a long time.’

‘I hope you are right. It doesn’t seem possible that we could trace who had this money last just by the serial numbers.’ Anne said.

‘Anything is possible in this world.’ Constable Brown said. ‘We could also check the money for finger prints. Only they could be covered in prints that we may not be able to see whose prints they are.’

‘We can try.’ Ann said.  So, they dusted most of the money and found quite a few prints. They scanned on the computer to see if they matched with what they had on their database. There were a couple of matches. The one that stood out the from the rest. It was the fingerprint of Mark Robinson. He was a known criminal who could be linked to Rawson through business dealings with him.

‘What do we do now?’ Anne asked Constable Brown.

‘Hand this evidence along with the other evidence we have found to the prosecuting lawyer and wait to see what happens.’ Constable Brown said. ‘We should bring Robinson in for questioning.’

‘When?’ Ann asked.

‘ASAP! I know you want this wrapped up soon, Miss Walker.’

Chapter Text

The day of the trial had arrived. Anne and Ann were seated in the rear of the courtroom. Ann was trembling because she knew that at any time during this trial she could be called up to testify against one or both of the defendants. Anne sat on her left and Pick sat on Anne’s right. She was just as worried about how this trial would pan out.

Pick thought about all the words Ainsworth had said to her. She often believed them to be true. Harriet Parkhill, her counselor, sat next to her. Harriet was constantly giving her back a rub and telling her everything would be fine. Marian and Tib sat on the bench seat in front of them. Marian was snuggled up to Tib as if her life depended on it . She wasn’t afraid to testify. She remembered what happened the day Ainsworth barged his way into their home and brandished a gun in their faces.

Marian remembered the look of fear on Aunt Anne’s face and could see her father was filled with rage. Only he was just as helpless as they were. There was nothing he could do. She remembered watching as Ann raced to her bedroom and then Ainsworth chased her. She was hoping Ann was able to close and locked the door before he reached her. Ann was able to do that. Only he insisted on slamming his fist against the door and asking Ann to let him in.

Marian could hear Elizabeth’s children crying and screaming out for their mother. Only he wouldn’t stop. She could also faintly hear Ann trying to calm them with her voice. She called Anne to come home. Anne was in Halifax. She didn’t know what she was doing there. She still doesn’t know.

Anne arrived home. She saw what was happening then disappeared outside. The police arrived just as Elizabeth’s children calmed down. They arrested Ainsworth. Anne and Ann walked out each carrying one of Elizabeth’s children who seemed calm but were still crying.

Then there was the trial which Marian thought would be the last they would see or hear of Ainsworth but now they were back in court dealing with him again and this time Christopher Rawson was on trial too.

‘Maz, are you okay?’ Tib asked.

‘I was just remembering the last trial. We all thought we would never have to deal with Ainsworth again. Now, here we are again dealing with not only him but Ann’s cousin, Christopher Rawson. I wish this wasn’t happening.’

‘I know. Ann was shaking so much this morning she couldn’t eat her breakfast. Anne took her into the kitchen where no one could see and fed her.’ Marian remembered watching them leave the room. She had never seen her sister so loving and compassionate as she is with Ann.

‘I noticed that too but didn’t say anything for fear of upsetting Ann. I hope Aunt Anne doesn’t have any problems with Jeremy and Rebecca.’

‘I left two bottles of expressed milk for Aunt Anne in case we weren’t home to feed them. She knows what to do.’ Ann said. Anne looked surprised. Their children were sleeping peacefully when they left.

‘Father said something about giving them a swig of beer if they woke up.’ Anne said. Ann was shocked.

‘I won’t harm them. It will help keep them quiet for awhile. Hey, father use to give me beer when I was a baby.’

‘Yeah, and now you drink whiskey.’ Ann said.

‘Yeah, but…’

‘I hope he doesn’t need to do that. They have been sleeping at least four hours between feeds. Sometimes longer. I gave them a good feed this morning. I think I might start them on solids next week.’

‘Good idea, Adney.’

‘Shhh.’ Marian said as the court clerk announced the arrival of Judge Smith.

‘All rise, Judge Smith presiding.’ He boomed across the room.

‘He doesn’t look half as good as you did. Marian.’ Tib said.

‘Thanks, Tibby.’

‘Please be seated.’ The court clerk boomed. They all sat down. Judge Smith read over the court preceding and was stunned to see that Thomas Ainsworth was on trial again. She was also stunned to see why. As she read on she could see Christopher Rawson was the other defendant. She wondered why. Then she read that he had blackmailed Ainsworth because Ainsworth had been laundering money through his church.

‘I cannot believe we are back here with you again, Mr Ainsworth. How is it that you cannot stay away from someone when it is clear she doesn’t want anything to do with you. I find it hard to imagine why you visited her at Shibden after what had previously happened. Now, here we are not only to sort out the mess you are in but to deal with Mr Rawson’s mess too and while you might think you will get away with this, Rawson, you need to remember I am in charge here not you.’ Judge Smith said. ‘Now, let the trial begin. The defense will give their opening statement.’

It was a different defense lawyer this time around. It was likely that Ainsworth hadn’t paid his lawyer or that Rawson thought his lawyer would do a better job.

‘I am here to prove the innocence of both Mr Ainsworth and Mr Rawson and to show that Miss Walker and Miss Pickford are only doing this for spite. I cannot imagine why two very distinguished men of the community would be branded as liars and cheats, who would indulge in illegal practices.’ The defense lawyer said. ‘I will show that their overseas accounts were only for tax evasion purposes. They will of course, pay what they owe now in taxes to the government. I will show that both Miss Walker and Miss Pickford are two women who are out to scam anyone they met.’ Anne cradled her arms around both Ann and Pick who were sobbing quietly. ‘Don’t worry. He wasn’t there so he doesn’t know the truth. Does he?’ she whispered to them. ‘He will find out he has bitten off more than he can chew taking on this case.’ Anne said.

‘I hope so.’ Ann said between sobs. Marian reached out and grabbed Ann’s hand. ‘Don’t worry. We will do our best to make sure he gets what he deserves.’ Marian said softly to Ann. Ann smiled. She knew she had lots of support now and was hoping this trial would be over soon.

‘I conclude that both Mr Ainsworth and Mr Rawson are innocent of any convictions brought against them in this court.’ The defense lawyer said.

‘Now, for the prosecuting lawyer’s opening statement.’ Judge Smith said. ‘And can we have silence in the courtroom while he speaks. I heard chatter before. Anymore and the culprit will be evicted from the courtroom.’

‘I will endeavour to show with evidence that Mr Ainsworth and Mr Rawson are guilty. I will also show that Mr Ainsworth threatened Miss Walker when he entered Shibden estate to see her without the legal right to do that. I will show with evidence how he was caught trying to enter the hall. Yes, we have video evidence of him standing at the back door of the hall trying to enter. Then as you will see the security guard who was on duty at the time confronted him and tackled him to the ground. You will hear what he had to say. Miss Walker and Miss Pickford will testify that he sexually assaulted them and told them no one else would want them because they were either damaged goods or looked too masculine for anyone else to want them. As you can see Miss Walker is with someone and Miss Pickford is happy with her life the way it is. I will conclude with saying that when this trial is over you will have found both Mr Ainsworth and Mr Rawson guilty of their crimes.’

‘I wonder if that will happen.’Tib whispered into Marian’s ear.

‘I hope so.’ Marian said.

‘ Will the defense lawyer call his first witness.’ Judge Smith said.

‘I call Mark Robinson to the stand.’

‘Raise your right hand and place it on the bible. Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.’ the court clerk said to Robinson.

‘I do.’ Then Ann’s phone buzzed in her pocket. There was a message from Aunt Anne. Where are the nappies? I have looked everyone and can’t find them.’

Ann replied. The clean ones are in the laundry, in the dryer. I forgot to take them out and fold them this morning.

Aunt Anne replied. Thanks.

They silently listened as the defense lawyer questioned Mark Robinson.

‘How well do you know the defendants?’

‘I know Mr Ainsworth and Mr Rawson. They both attended the same church I did. They were there every Sunday. Mr Rawson gave generously to the church’s charity and Mr Ainsworth was always ready to help others in need.’

‘So, they are good men.’

‘Yes!’ Robinson said.

‘Do you know the plaintiffs?’

‘Not really. I only heard about them when I was asked to defend Mr Ainsworth and Mr Rawson. I heard they were both dykes.’

‘Objection. Their sexuality isn’t under question here.’

‘Would the clerk please delete the last comment made by the witness from the record.’ Judge Smith said.

‘Done, your honour.’

‘Where do you work, Mr Robinson?’

‘I am a dealer in fine antique furniture. I sell all over the world. Why is that relevant to this case?’

‘I wanted to show the court that they are a good business man who wouldn’t indulge in anything illegal.’ The defense lawyer said.

‘Okay!’

‘No more questions, your honour.’

‘Now for the prosecution can question Mr Robinson.’

The prosecuting lawyer stands and walks over to where Robinson is seated. ‘How long have you had business dealings with Rawson?’

‘For about ten years now.’

‘What kind of business dealings do you have with him?’

‘He buys antique furniture from me which adorns the home he lives in with his elderly mother.’

‘Only because he has nowhere else to live.’

‘Mrs Rawson sit down and calm down.’ Judge Smith said. ‘Or I will have you evicted.’ Nelly nodded and sat back down.

‘Hey, when did she come in?’ Anne whispered to Ann.

‘I don’t know. I didn’t see her anywhere when we arrived.’

‘When did you last see the defendants?’

‘Why is that relevant?’ Robinson asked.

‘Just answer the question. It can’t be that hard. Can it?’ Judge Smith said.

‘I think it was about one month ago.’

‘Was it business or personal?’ Anne watched as Robinson wondered how he would answer that question. She could see he was squirming in his seat but didn’t know if it was nervous or he was getting hot. It was quite warm in the courtroom.

‘It was business and pleasure.’ Robinson had decided that was the best answer. He couldn’t see no other way out. If he lied he would be in contempt of court.

‘What kind of business?’

‘Mr Rawson wanted to buy an antique desk for his office. I had suggested a 19th century oak desk I had just recently bought. I showed him and he bought it. Then we went out for a meal.’ Robinson said. To everyone in the courtroom that seemed nothing out of the ordinary. Only the prosecuting lawyer had one more question to ask. Robinson.

‘Are antiques a good business to be dealing in?’

‘Yes, as long as you are careful to not be duped by copycat versions.’

‘What do you mean copycat versions.’

‘Modern furniture made to look like antiques.’

‘Good. I have no more questions for the witness.’ Robinson had allowed his arrogance to catch him out. Only he didn’t know it.

‘I call Mr Jeremiah Rawson to the witness box.’ Jeremiah walked slowly to the witness box and took the oath. He looked over at his brother who was seated next to Thomas Ainsworth. Then his eyes scanned the courtroom. He saw his mother who seemed to be eyeing him as if to say tell the truth. Christopher had drummed into him the day before what to say. Then he saw Anne and Ann seated with Pick. He could only guess what they were thinking. ‘Mr Rawson. Please be seated.’ Judge Smith said.

‘How do you know Christopher Rawson?’

‘He is my brother. He is older than me.’

‘Do you know Mark Robinson?’

‘Yes, we attend the same church. The one that Mr Ainsworth was minister at.’

‘What do you think of Robinson?’

‘He is a good business man. He has done well for himself. He owns a home here and has a business in York.’

‘Are you friends with Mr Ainsworth?’

‘Not really. I only ever saw him on Sundays and then we never talked much just about the service and maybe life.’

‘Did you know his wife?’

‘No, but she was friends with my wife. They were both members of the local craft club which met every Friday morning. It was sad when she died the way she did.’ Jeremiah said. ‘My wife often wonders who would have tampered with the brakes on her car. Who would have wanted her dead.’ All eyes in the courtroom went to Ainsworth. He was squirming in his seat and everyone knew it wasn’t from the heat.

‘No more questions, your honour.’

‘The witness is yours to cross examine.’

‘Mr Rawson, do you know what kind of business your brother is involved in?’ Jeremiah began squirming. His mother was eyeing him from where she sat. His brother was giving him daggers. He didn’t know what to say. So, he said. ‘No!’

‘So, you don’t know yet you are a partner in his business.’

‘I don’t deal with the day to day running of the business. I am only there to ensure the employees do as they are told.’

‘Do you know they defendants?’

‘I know Ann Walker. She is my cousin. I don’t know the other woman. I have never seen her before.’

‘How well do you know Miss Walker?’ Anne could see Christopher smile. This is what he wanted to put doubt into the jury’s heads that Ann was a reliable witness and could make a good account of what Ainsworth did to her.

‘As well as one can know their cousins. We would met often at family gatherings. She rarely spoke to anyone. I think she preferred to keep to herself. She was good with her sister’s children.’ Why didn’t he mention her anxiety? Christopher wondered.

‘No more questions, your honour.’

‘Do you have any more witnesses?’ Judge Smith said as she looked at the defending lawyer.

‘No, your honour.’

‘Then we will adjourn for the day and resume tomorrow morning at 9am sharp.’ Judge Smith said.

As they filed out of the courtroom Nelly came over to Anne and Ann to talk to them. They could see she was disappointed with her sons. Christopher seemed to have been laundering money for a long time. She knew he was trying to create wealth so he could command a higher position in society.

‘Anne.’ Nelly called out as she walked closer to them.’Can we go somewhere to talk.’

‘Yes, can I bring Ann, Marian, Tib and Pick with me?’

‘Yes, they need to know what I am thinking.’ Anne eyed Nelly with concern. Was it possible that she knew more than what she was saying.

‘Where would you like to go?’ Anne said.

‘Home. That’s the only place where I feel safe right now.’

‘Good, We will follow you there. Let’s go now.’

‘Mother, where are you going with these women?’

‘Why?’

‘They are part of the prosecuting team at Christopher’s trial.’ Nelly eyed him and wondered why he said that when everyone knew that.

‘What’s up, Jeremiah? Are you hiding something from your mother?’ Nelly said.

‘Nothing’s up and I am hiding nothing.’

‘Well, why are you bothering me?’ Nelly said angrily.

‘I just don’t want you to be blindsided by what they might tell you.’

‘These ladies would never blindside me. Go, Jeremiah. Go home. Your wife needs you. Leave me to do what is right for me. Come on, ladies. Let’s go to the casino.’ Nelly said.

‘I thought we were going to Nelly’s home.’ Ann said.

‘We are she is just distracting Jeremiah. I think she wants to tell us something she doesn’t want him to hear.’ Marian said. Anne rolled her eyes because they already knew that.

They followed Nelly to her home and parked in the rear of the property. They followed Nelly inside. She took them to the sitting room. ‘Would you like a drink? I need one.’

‘Just water please, Nelly.’ Ann said. ‘I know Anne wants a whiskey not too much because she is driving. Tib will have a small whiskey too. Pick will have a scotch and Marian wants a beer if you have any.’

‘How do you know what they drink, Ann?’ Nelly looked at her wondering.

‘We all live at Shibden for now until this is over then Pick can return home.’

‘Okay!!’

‘I thought Robinson was in jail like Ainsworth and Christopher were.’ Nelly said.

‘He was but someone came up with enough bail money.’

‘Ouch!!’ Ann said. ‘Will he be on trial if they suspect him of being part of the money laundering?’

‘Who knows? He seems to be a shady fellow.’ Tib said. ‘I didn’t like the way he was looking at us when he was testifying today.’

‘I certainly didn’t like the way he was eyeing my wife.’ Anne said. ‘I thought he was submitting her looks to his memory.’

‘Now, I have been doing some snooping around in Christopher’s office. It’s been easy to do that while he isn’t here.’ Nelly said.

‘What did you find?’

‘I think he is trafficking drugs through Robinson’s antique business. I wouldn’t have thought that was possible because of customs but it seems Robinson has friends who work for customs and has stuff put through without too much searching.’ Anne looked at Nelly with a surprise on her face.

‘How do you know this?’ Nelly pulled out papers she had found which were hidden in his desk in a secret compact in one of the drawers.’ She handed it to Anne to look at. She perused it slowly and could see what Nelly was saying. ‘It says that Rawson has been paying hush money to Robinson to give the custom workers so their drugs get through.’ Anne said. ‘I think we need to show this to Constable Brown. Does anyone else know you have found this?’

‘No!! No one knows about this other than the six of us.’

‘Good.’ Tib said.’Because if they found out who knows what they would do to us.’

‘Ann, are you okay?’ Anne said as she leaned over to hug her weeping wife.

‘I am scared of what he may do to us if he finds out where we live.’ Ann said.

‘Don’t worry. He won’t break his bail conditions by coming to Shibden. Anyway, we are still protected by the security cameras and security guard.’ Marian said.

‘I hope you are right. He is a big man.’ Pick said. ‘He could take anyone down if he wanted to.’

‘Yes, he could do that but we have John Booth. He might seem a softie but he is a retired wrestler. He only works for Shibden because he couldn’t wrestle any more.’. Anne said.

‘Why can’t he wrestle any more?’ Tib asked Anne.

‘He didn’t say. All he said was he needed a job so he could pay for his daughters’ schooling. He is a widower. So working for me is ideal. He has somewhere to live and can keep an eye on his girls.’

‘Okay!!!’ Tib said. She thought Anne knew more than what she was telling them. Anne only nodded. She knew Isabelle Norcliffe better than she knew anyone else. She could see the suspicious look in Tib’s eyes. Only she wasn’t going to reveal what she knew about John. What she knew that they knew was that he was a good man and a hard worker. She could see he often felt guilty about his past. Only she didn’t see the need to mention it.

‘Anne!’ She was startled out of her thoughts by her wife. ‘Anne, we are leaving now to take this information to Constable Brown. Are you ready to go?’

‘Yes, I am ready to leave now. What are you going to do now, Nelly?’ Anne asked.

‘Stay here. This is my home.’

‘What if someone should come snooping around?’ Marian asked as she looked at Nelly. She seemed too old to defend herself for someone like Mark Robinson.

‘I’ll be fine. I have my little friend her.’She pulled a pistol from the pocket of her dress as she said that.’I think this will keep me safe.’

‘Just call me and let me know if you hear anything suspicious at any time of the day or night. We will come and check it out for you. Okay.’ Anne said.

‘Okay!’ Nelly said. ‘See you in court tomorrow.’ As they left they all gave Nelly a hug. She was glad she told them what she found.

Anne drove everyone to the police station. She was sure Constable Brown would want to see this now before the trial resumed in the morning. It was new evidence that could send Rawson and Robinson to jail for a long time. It could also implicate Ainsworth.

They arrived at the station to find Constable Brown getting ready to go home. He had been there since he left the courthouse two hours earlier. Anne showed him what Nelly had found in a secret compartment in one of the drawers in his office desk.

‘Nelly told me she was just looking around for more evidence. She opened the drawer and pulled it nearly all the way out. When the secret compartment hit the edge of the desk it flew open to reveal this.’ Anne said.

‘Hmm! This looks damning for Rawson. We really need to get a search warrant to search Robinson’s business.’ Constable Brown said.

‘When can that be done?’ Anne said.

‘As soon as I can arrange it.’

‘Great.’ They all said. The warrant was organised. Constable Brown drove out to Robinsons’ business. It was a warehouse on the edge of town. The police searched every inch of the warehouse. They hadn’t found anything until they began looking for hidden compartments in antique furniture. They found quite a few but thought they would never find any evidence to convict Robinson and Rawson for trafficking drugs until the looked in the very last piece of furniture. There it was traces of cocaine and heroine. Constable Brown took photos to show as evidence to show the prosecuting lawyer. It was later that night. Constable Brown called the prosecuting lawyer. He told him what they found and said he had emailed the photos he took to show the evidence.

The next day in the Judge’s chambers the prosecuting lawyer met with Judge Smith to show here the new evidence they had found at Robinson’s business.

‘You did get a search warrant.’

‘Yes, Judge.’

‘Good. Now, let’s go and convict them and Ainsworth. I am sure everyone wants this over yesterday. Especially Miss Walker and Miss Pickford.’

In the courtroom Anne held Ann. She was crying hard. Ann knew she might have to testify against Ainsworth who would be seated in next to his lawyer. She didn’t think she could do that.

‘Ann, you can do this. I am going to be sitting where you can see me. Okay!! Look at me when you feel uncomfortable and I will help you through this. You can do this. He needs to know he cannot get away with being able to treat someone the way he treated you.’

‘Thank you, Dearest. I don’t think I could do this without your support.’ Ann said. ‘Where is Pick?’

‘Here she is.’ Ann said as Pick walked into the courtroom. She had been with Marian and Tib. They had been consoling Pick. Like Ann she didn’t feel she was capable of testifying against Ainsworth. She thought she would break under pressure. She knew there would be lots of pressure put on her and Ann to say they had made it all up because they had a grudge against Ainsworth.

The proceedings began just as Nelly Rawson walked into the courtroom. She decided to sit next to Ann. They were seated as they were to previous day.

‘All rise, Judge Smith presiding.’ the court clerk bellowed. Everyone stood up. Christopher Rawson didn’t think he had to but his lawyer nudged him and he stood.

Judge Smith sat down. ‘Please be seated.’ the court clerk bellowed again.

Everyone sat down. The judge hit her gavel on her desk. ‘I will not have a disruptive courtroom as we had yesterday. You will all be silent while this court is in session. If your phone rings leave the room to answer it. Put your phones on silence now please.’ everyone reached for their phones and put them on silence. ‘Now, we will commence. I would like the prosecution to call their first witness.’

‘I call Ann Walker to the stand.’ Ann stood up and slowly made her way to the witness box. ‘Will you tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.’

‘I will.’ Ann said as she looked over at her wife. The woman who gave her the courage to live her life the way she wanted to. She sat down.

‘Miss Walker, is the person who assaulted you in this courtroom. If they are please point to them.’ Ann pointed to Ainsworth. He was looking directly at her smirking. She looked away quickly. She didn’t want to see him. She scanned the courtroom and looked directly into Anne’s eyes. She could see the confidence Anne had in her to testify today.

‘How long have you know the defendant?’ Ann had to think for a moment. The judge nudged her to hurry.

‘I have know Mr Ainsworth for about ten years. I was a teenager when we met. Mr Ainsworth had just moved to the area. He was to be the minister at the church I was attending.’

‘Do you still attend that church?’

‘No, I haven’t been there for a while now. Not since…the incident.’

‘What was the incident? Could you tell us?’ Ann looked at Anne for help. Anne mouthed you can do this to her.

‘It was a Friday night. He had invited some members of the church to his place for dinner. I didn’t know at the time why he included me on the list. I didn’t think he saw me.’

‘What happened that night?’

‘He cajoled me into helping make cups of coffee and tea for the others.’

‘Who was there?’ Ann had to think. It was so long ago she found it hard to bring up the memory. Then she closed her eyes and could see everyone. They were seated in the lounge room.

‘There were ten people there. Two I didn’t know. Of course, Mr and Mrs Ainsworth. .She and I were good friends but that night we weren’t that close. Christopher and his wife, Jeremiah and his on again off again girlfriend. .they are married now. Mark Robinson, me.’

‘He followed me into the kitchen. He said he was going to help me. I filled the kettle with water and put it on to boil. He laid out the cups and proceeded to make the drinks. I could see he was getting closer and closer to me.’ Ann could feel sweat pouring down her face. She knew she was feeling anxious. She didn’t want to pass out like she did last time. She had to show Ainsworth she was stronger than he thought she was. She pressed on.’Before I knew what was happening he had his arms around my waist and was kissing me. I thought my world had come to an end in that moment. If it hadn’t been for his wife walking in on us I don’t know how far he would have taken it.’

‘What did she say?’

‘It was as if she didn’t see anything. She hurriedly took the cake and biscuits into the sitting room.’ Ann said. ‘We didn’t see each other for a week after that because that was the night I decided to attend another church.’

‘Did he find out which church you were attending?’

‘Not for a few weeks. Then he was there. I can still see the look on his face. He was telling me he wanted to be with me. I didn’t want to be with him. Only he insisted we talk. He took me around the back of the church where no one could see us. I was afraid he would do something to me. I didn’t know what.’ Ann looked at Anne for confidence. She could see Anne was giving her the thumbs up. ‘It was dark. All I remember is his hands touching me in places I never thought they would. I was going to scream. I couldn’t because he had his mouth against mine. He had undone his trousers and pulled down his underpants. I could see his private. It happened so suddenly. He had removed my pants without me realising it until I felt a chill around my bum.’

‘What did he do then?’

‘What do you think he did?’ He put his dick where he shouldn’t have. He had pushed me against the church wall. I was trying to get out of his clutches only I could. Then I kicked his ankle so hard he had to pull out. I pushed him away and ran away. He was screaming in pain. I didn’t think I kicked him that hard.’

‘What happened after that night?’

‘He would stalk me when he saw me whether I was alone or with someone. He would send me letters saying I was damaged goods and no one would want me. I had never felt so humiliated in my life before that night.’

‘Why is it that you have left it so long before you spoke up about this?’

‘I had never been able to find the courage to tell anyone until now. I have the most supportive partner. I had never imagined she would want to be with someone like me. Only she is her helping me do what I am doing now.’

‘No more questions, your honour.’

‘You can cross examine the witness now.’ Judge Smith said as she looked at the defense lawyer.

He rose and walked over to where Ann was seated. ‘Miss Walker, I have only one question for you today. ‘Do you suffer from anxiety attacks?’

‘Objection.’ The prosecuting lawyer yelled.

‘Overruled. Just answer truthfully, Miss Walker.’

‘Yes, I have in the past. It all began when he….’ Ann pointed to Ainsworth.’sexually assaulted me but with Anne’s help I have hadn’t an anxiety attack for a while.’

‘Not since the last trial.’

‘Objection. Your honour, the witness fainted. It was hot in the courtroom and she passed out.’

‘Sustained.’

‘No more questions, your honour.’

‘You may return to your seat, Miss Walker.’ Ann stepped down and nearly ran back to where Anne was seated. She couldn’t believe she had done what she did. She sat next to Anne who wrapped her arms around her and said she had done a great job.

Anne didn’t know what Ainsworth had done to Ann. She was still in shock from the revelation. She knew he had sexually assaulted Ann but the way Ann had described the incident made her feel sick.

‘I call Frances Pickford to the stand.’ . Pick stood slowly and walked to the witness box. She looked over at Ainsworth who seemed to be sobbing. She thought that he had imagined Ann Walker wouldn’t be so brave but she was.

Only Pick felt that without her testimony Ainsworth would be set free.

‘Do you swear to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth.’

‘I do’ Pick said.

‘Be seated.’

‘Do you know the defendant, Thomas Ainsworth?’

‘Yes, I met him when I first joined his church about two years ago. He seemed a very likeable man. I became instant friends with his wife and we remained friends up until her death. What a sad affair that was.’

‘How long had you known him before he showed any interest in you?’

‘About six weeks. I first noticed the way he looked at me. He would smile when I caught him staring at me. I thought nothing of it. I thought he was just being friendly, most church ministers are. They want you to feel welcome in congregation. Only that wasn’t his intention.’

‘What was his intention?’

‘He wanted me to be his wife because he knew by then his wife wouldn’t live very long. She hadn’t been feeling too well. You do know she was fifteen years older than he was. He took her to see Doctor Kenny who diagnosed her with a rare heart disease. He told her she had to take it easy and not avoid any stressful situations.’

‘How did that work out?’

‘Not too well. She found out what he had done to me and it put both of us in a tailspin. I was able to free myself from his clutches. She couldn’t.’

‘What did he do to you, Frances?’

‘Call me Pick, please. He had invited me to dinner at their home. It was just going to be the three of us. Him, his wife and me. When I arrived there he said his wife was ill and wouldn’t be joining them. That’s when he made his advances on me. He had his hands around my waist. He was kissing me and pulling me in for a hug. I felt ill. I wanted to break free from his clutches. Only I never had a chance. He pulled me into the sitting room. I could see where he was taking me. All this time he had his hand up to my mouth to stop me from screaming out for help. I never felt him hit me over the head. I must have black out. When I woke he had his dick inside me and was fucking me. I screamed. I pushed him off me and did my best to escape. It was then his wife came down from their bedroom. She wondered what the commotion was.’

‘What happened next?’

‘All I remember is the look on her face. He was still on top of me and I was still in a daze. She yelled and I yelled. The neighbours must have heard us. By that time he was trying to tell her I had cajoled him into having sex. Thankfully she knew me better. She already knew I was gay. She booted him out of the house and we talked.’

‘How did he tell you that you weren’t good enough for anyone? That no one would want you.’

‘The same way he did with Ann. He sent me letters and text messages. Well, he did have my phone number too. I gave it to him not long after I met him.’

‘Why?’

‘Mr Ainsworth and his wife were the only ones who seemed to accept me. I didn’t realise at the time what a deviant he was.’

‘No more questions, your honour.’

‘Your witness.’ Judge Smith said as she looked at the defense lawyer.

‘Miss Pickford, is it true that you had tried to flirt with Mrs Ainsworth when you first met her.’

‘Objection.’

‘Sustained.’

‘Yes, she was very pretty and I didn’t think she was married even though she was older than me she didn’t look that old.’

‘Wasn’t Mr Ainsworth angry?’

‘Not that I can recall. I was just flirting. I meant no harm and she saw it that way.’

‘Are you saying she liked you flirting with her?’

‘I don’t know. She smiled at me when I did that. She was furious when she found out what he did to me.’

‘So, she witnessed that moment;’

‘Yes!!’

‘Now she isn’t here to speak out for you.’

‘No! Unfortunately, she isn’t. I wish she was.’

‘No more questions, your honour.’

‘You may return to your seat, Miss Pickford.’ Judge Smith said.

‘Do you have any more witnesses?’ Judged Smith asked the prosecuting lawyer.

‘I call Mrs Nelly Rawson the the stand.’

‘Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.’

‘I do.’

‘Please be seated.’ Judge Smith said.

‘How long have you known that Your son, Christopher and Mr Ainsworth were friends?’

‘They first met when Mr Ainsworth became the minister at our church. We had been attending that church for years. He and Christopher hit it off quickly and they were firm friends within the first month.’

‘How did you find out about the reason for their relationship?’

‘I was only informed recently what my son and this man were up to. I didn’t think that my son would stoop so low as to black mail a minister of the church and have him launder dirty money through his church.’

‘What warranted this blackmailing?’

‘It seems that Mr Ainsworth didn’t want his congregation to know what had occurred between him and Ann Walker and her cousin took advantage of that to traffic drugs into the country.’

‘Objection.’

‘Overruled. Do you have proof?’

‘Yes,’ the prosecuting lawyer said. ‘I give you exhibit one and two they are email messages from Rawson to Ainsworth then from Ainsworth to Rawson.’

‘Can I see them?’ He handed the evidence to the judge. She looked them over and handed them back.’How did you find them?’

‘Constable Brown gained a search warrant to search his office at his mother’s home. She gave us permission to do that.’ Nelly squirmed. Although, Christopher couldn’t do anything to her. He would be heading back to jail after today.

‘Do you know if your son was dealing in illegal activity?’

‘Yes. I opened a drawer in his office desk too far and as it hit the ledge of the desk a secret compartment was revealed.’

‘I submit exhibit three. This shows the transactions between Rawson and Mark Robinson. It shows that Rawson was paying Robinson to pay off custom officers so they could bring drugs into the country undetected.’

‘Mrs Rawson, how did they do that?’

‘Do what?’

‘How did they bring the drugs into the country?’

‘Constable Brown told me they were brought in the country in antique furniture Robinson was buying overseas. It seems the had secret compartments in the furniture where no one could see them.’

‘Do you have proof of that?’

‘Yes! I submit exhibit four, five and six. Photos showing the secret compartment with traces of cocaine on it. Someone got a bit lazy with their cleaning up.’

‘Can I see them?’

‘Yes, your honour.’ the prosecuting lawyer handed the photos to the judge.

‘This looks very incriminating, Mr Rawson and Mr Robinson. Did you know anything about this Mr Ainsworth?’

Ainsworth shook his head but the look on his face showed he was as guilty as the rest.

‘We also have overseas bank accounts that have six figure amounts. Of course they could have them for tax avoidance but I don’t that.’

‘Do you have proof of these accounts?’

‘Yes. I would like to submit exhibit seven, eight and nine. All three accounts have the same name. Onsty Dory or Stony Royd. Mrs Rawson’s home.’

‘You have been thorough. Do you have any more questions for Mrs Rawson?’

‘No!’

‘You can cross exam Mrs Rawson.’ Judge Smith said as she looked at the defense lawyer.

‘Only one question. How did you not know what your son was doing?’

‘A mother isn’t always privy to what her children are doing. Especially in their businesses. I never interfered more than I needed to. Christopher always kept his cards close to his chest.’

‘No more questions.’

‘Do you have any more witnesses?’ Judge Smith asked the prosecuting lawyer.

‘No!!’

‘We will adjourn for today and resume in the morning to hear the closing statements from the lawyers. Don’t leave the courtroom, Robinson. You are under arrest. Grab him now.’ Judge Smith said and before he could race out the door the police officers had caught him, handcuffed him and were leading him to the cells underneath the courtroom.

‘Do you feel safe now, Adney?’ Anne asked as they filed out of the courtroom.’Do you want to call home and see how our children are? We haven’t heard from Aunt all day.’

‘i will. I left two bottles for both. I expressed milk every time I fed them in the past couple of days.’

Ann called Aunt Anne. ‘Hello little Ann. How are you doing? How is the trial going?’

‘I’m doing fine Aunt. The trial will be concluding tomorrow. How are the kids?’

‘They are fine. When will you be home?’

‘Soon!’ Anne yelled so her Aunt could hear.

‘Good! What do you want for dinner?’

‘I was thinking about grabbing some Chinese on the way home. Is that okay?’

‘Yes.’

‘Good.’ When they arrived home Jeremy and Rebecca laying on their blankets on the floor. Aunt Anne was watching them. As soon as they heard their mothers’ voices they began to demand attention. Anne and Ann walked over to their children and picked them up. They soon settled in their mothers’ arms.

‘Thank you so much for taking care of them. I am sure all this will be over tomorrow. The police arrested Mark Robinson today before he had a chance to leave the courtroom. They have loads of evidence against Rawson, Ainsworth and Robinson to put them away for quite a while.’ Anne said. Ann nodded in agreement. Pick looked so tired. It was a grueling day for everyone.

‘I hope that happens. I think we could all do with a good stiff drink.’ Aunt Anne said. ‘Where is the whiskey?’

‘I thought you had sworn off that, Aunt.’ Tib said.

‘One glass won’t hurt me. Will it?’

‘Of course not, Aunt.’ Tib said and she went into the kitchen to locate it and two glasses to join her in a drink.

‘Isabelle Norcliffe, Only one please, Tibby darling.’ Marian said.

‘Yes, only one drink, Maz.’

‘Good.’ Marian said as she eyed her wife and wondered if she would stick to her promise. She did.

The next day in court the two lawyers gave their closing statements and the judge warned the jury to make sure they were all prepared to find the three men innocent or guilty on all charges. There had been enough evidence brought forward to put Mark Robinson away for a long time.

The jury were sent away to decide on the verdict. They returned after three hours of deliberating.

‘Do you find the defendants guilty or not guilty of the crimes brought against them here in this court?’

‘We find the three defendants guilty on all charges.’

‘We will adjourn for today. The sentencing of Mr Ainsworth, Mr Rawson and Mr Robinson will take place in three weeks time.’

‘All rise.’ the court clerk said and Judge Smith left the courtroom. Everyone cheered. It was over. Anne embraced Ann in a tight hug. ‘I knew you would eventually find courage to testify against Ainsworth. I knew one day his past would catch up with him.’

‘I wouldn’t have been able to do it without your support, dearest.; Ann said. ‘Thank you for everything. I love you.’

‘I love you.’

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Three weeks later….

They all assembled in the courtroom for the sentencing of Ainsworth, Rawson and Robinson even though there was no trial for Robinson there was enough evidence for the jury to have found him guilty.

‘Please rise, Judge Smith presiding.’ The court clerk bellowed. The judge walked in and took her seat. ‘Be seated.’

They all sat down. ‘We are here to day to sentence Mr Thomas Ainsworth, Mr Christopher Rawson and Mr Mark Robinson for the crimes of sexual assault and misconduct, money laundering, drug trafficking and tax evasion. On each of the charges they each get the maximum penalty twenty five years with no parole.’ Judge Smith said.

‘Is it possible that this is over? That they are all behind bars for twenty five years.’ Ann said as she scanned the faces of the women around her. Tib was first to speak up. ‘Yes!! it would seem that way. Only I wouldn’t trust any of them.’

‘Why do you say that?’ Anne asked. She eyed Tib with concern.

‘I don’t know but all this seems a bit off to me. ‘ Tib said. ‘I wouldn’t trust any of them. They may appeal against their conviction. I certainly don’t want that.’ Anne and Ann had brought Rebecca and Jeremy with them for the sentencing. So they had been sitting close to the door in case they had to leave. Anne saw Ainsworth look in their direction but couldn’t see the look on his face. She hopes he doesn’t have anyone with money to help him appeal against this conviction.

‘I don’t trust any of them.’ Ann said.’But I trust Anne will take care of me. I know we will all be safe at Shibden for now.’ Ann looked over to Pick. It was then that she realised Harriet had her arms around Pick holding her close. It could have been that she was just giving her a congratulatory hug but it didn’t look that way. Ann moved closer to Pick. ‘Is she your girlfriend.’ Ann said pointing to Harriet.

‘I guess you could say that. She suggests I find another counselor so there will be no conflict of interest on her part.’

‘Good.’ Anne said. ‘We are going out for dinner at our favourite restaurant in town. If you would like to come meet us there at six, Harriet. Or you would come to Shibden with us and meet the rest of the family?’

‘That would be lovely,’ Harriet said as they walked out the courthouse. She had never imagined she would find someone she could truly have a relationship with. Harriet never expected that relationship to be with one of her patients. Well, Pick was an ex patient now.

‘Anne, where are you all heading?’ Nelly screamed across the car park the all stood there.

‘Home to Shibden. We are planning to celebrate our success. Why?’

‘’Is it okay if I follow you there? I don’t want to be alone in that big house I own.’

‘Yes,’ Everyone said in unison. Nelly smiled she had grown to love all the ladies. She had always had a soft spot for Anne even though she was different. ‘You could send your driver home and come with us if you wish.’ Ann said as she looked at Nelly and grinned. ‘I will do that.’ Nelly said as she walked over to her car and dismissed her driver. She promised him she would pay him even though he wasn’t working.

They drove over to Shibden. Aunt Anne was waiting at the front door to greet them and ask how the sentencing went. She could tell from the smiles on their faces that all went well. ‘Aunt, they all got the maximum sentence because the judge deemed they were all responsible for what had happened. She also told them there would be no parole. They don’t deserve it.’ Ann said.

‘How are you, Little Ann?’

‘I feel as though a weight has been lifted from my shoulders, Aunt.’ Ann said.’I am so happy to be back home now.’

‘Good, good.’ Aunt Anne said. ‘We had Cordingley bake some treats for us all to celebrate. Come inside. Hello, Nelly, How are you?’

‘I think I will be okay. I am not sure if I will ever forgive my son for what he has done. It seems likely that I won’t see him again in this lifetime.’

‘Why do you say that, Mrs Rawson?’ Harriet asked as she looked at Nelly.

‘I won’t visit him in jail because I don’t want to see his face ever again. I am sure I will be dead before he is set free.’ Nelly said with tears in her eyes. They could see she loved her son only he had gone too far this time. She would never forgive him.

‘That is sad.’ Ann said.

‘I think we all understand how you feel when someone you love disappoints you like he did. It’s often hard to forgive and harder to forget.’Aunt Anne said as she looked at Anne. Anne realised what she was saying and began to feel embarrassed Ann noticed. She took her hand and lead her into the kitchen.

‘What’s the matter, Pony?’ Anne didn’t know what to say to Ann. She hadn’t imagined that her Aunt would remember her past failings. How she had been caught at school with Eliza Raine and what that seemed to have done to Eliza.

Only Anne had told Ann all about Eliza. So, why was she worried? Was it about Mariana? How that woman would treat her?

‘Adney, I didn’t realise Aunt Anne would remember things that happened in my past that were horrid. I often feel as though I have let her down terribly. I don’t know what to do?’

‘Just tell her how you feel. I am sure she will be there for you as it seems she always has been.’ Ann said. ‘And Pony, don’t forget, I am always here for you, dearest.’

‘Thank you, Adney. I really appreciate that. Let’s join the others or they will be wondering where we are.’

‘Okay!!’ They returned to the sitting room.. Marian and Tib were absent. They had gone out to the barn. Anne and Ann didn’t know why. Aunt Anne was chatting with Nelly. They seemed to be talking about children. Harriet and Pick were seated on the sofa cuddled up together. Harriet had her arm around Pick. Pick was napping. This morning this scene in front of them would have been hard to imagine.

Anne felt so blessed that all the people in her world meant so much to her. Her father called her to come to him. He was in his study. She left Ann holding Jeremy and placed Rebecca in Nelly’s arms. Their children had been playing on the floor but as soon as they heard their mothers they wanted to be with them.

Anne walked to her father’s study. She didn’t know what he wanted with her. She knocked on the door and he called out come in.

‘What’s up, father?’

‘I have something I have intended to give you when you married Ann Walker. Only I never did.’ He handed her a small, black box.’Open it.’ She did. Inside was a pair of gold cuff links. ‘These were my father’s and his father before him. There are suppose to be handed to a son when he marries. Only I have no son now. I was going to give them to Sam but we both know what happened there.’ Anne had tears welling in her eyes. She tried to blink them away without much success. ‘Thank you, father. I have a son I can pass them onto. I will show Ann later.’

‘Anyway, I think you should go back to the party. Okay!!’ She leaned over and gave him a peck then went back to the sitting room. Father sat alone in his study with tears in his eyes. Both his daughters were happily married now.  Who would have thought a trip with Anne and Ann to Leeds would lead to this day? Then he smiled. He was the happiest

Later when all was quiet. After Anne had taken Nelly home and everyone was in bed expect Anne, Ann and Aunt Anne. Anne decided it was time to deal with the elephant in the room.

‘Ann do you mind if I talk to my aunt in private. I know you know about my life but I will feel better if it is only Aunt Anne and me. You know what I am like.’

‘That’s okay. I need to check on our kids. Just remember I am here if you need me. Okay!!’

‘Okay, Adney. I will be up soon.’ Ann left to go to the nursery to check on their children. Anne sat closer to her Aunt. ‘I think we need to talk. I had the feeling that you hadn’t forgive me for what I had done to disgrace you all those years ago.’

‘Anne, what are you talking about?’ Aunt Anne said. ‘Does it have something to do with what I said to Nelly today?’

‘Yes. It has lots to do with what you said to Nelly.’

‘I wasn’t referring to anything that happened between us. All I was saying is that sometimes you find it hard to forgive and forget. I forgave you as soon as I saw you. I can never forget the look in your eyes when you walked in here that day. Anne, you are like a daughter to me. You always will be because your mother never saw you as you really are.’Aunt Anne said. ‘Always remember these words. You are the best version of yourself, Anne Lister. You always will be. Now, go to bed.’ Anne hugged her aunt. She had tears streaming down her face. She should have realised her Aunt would forgive her. Although, she never expected her to forget.

‘Thank you, Aunt. Goodnight.’

‘Goodnight, Anne. Now, go to your lovely wife.’

Anne walked into the nursery to find her wife reading to their children. They were listening intently. She was telling them their story. How they met.

‘Mamma and Mummy met at a bar. I was there with your cousin, Catherine, who had convinced me to go out for the evening. Your mamma just happened to be there. I offered to buy her a drink. She asked me why.’ Then Ann looked up and spied her wife.’Do you always listen in without making your presence know?’

‘Always, Adney. I can never resist a good story. That sounded like a good story. Did it end well?’

‘Oh yes, better than I ever imagined. And after today. So, much better than I ever thought it would be.’ Ann said.

‘Thank you. I didn’t know they would get the maximum sentence. I always thought they would only be given a slap on the wrist but it happened. I hope we never see or hear from them again.’

‘So, do I, Pony.’ Ann said.’Not in this world or the next. Dearest.’ They both looked at their children who were sleeping peacefully.’Let’s go to bed, Adney.’

‘Yes, Pony. We have had a long day.’ They walked to their bedroom, undressed and climbed into bed. This had been a long day.

‘Goodnight, Dearest.’

‘Goodnight, Adney.’

A few days later they were in the sitting room. Harriet and Pick were visiting. They had moved into Harriet’s apartment and Pick had sold her home. After what had happened she didn’t want to live there anymore. She was afraid that someone would try to kill her.

‘We can give you some good news today. Marian and I are finally getting married. We want you all to come and celebrate this day with us.’ Tib said as Marian snuggled into her.

‘When?’

‘In three weeks time. We would like Ann and Anne to be our witnesses.’

‘Actually, Ann and I were thinking about renewing our vows. Can we do it with you and Marian?’ Marian looked up with shock. She was seated on the sofa while Tib was giving them the news.

‘You want to renew your vows when Tib and I marry.’

‘Yes, if that’s okay with you. I think we can still be your witnesses and you can be ours. Deal!.’

‘Deal.’ Marian said. ‘I never thought I would be getting married and I never imagined my big sister would want to renew her vows with her wife on the same day.’

‘Great news. Now, where do we go for our wedding breakfast?’

‘It’s all organised. Cordingley has promised to make us all a wonderful meal. She had asked her sister to help with the cooking. We will pay them well.’

‘Great. I didn’t feel like eating out.’ Marian said. ‘And I have asked all the staff to join us.’

‘Why, Marian?’ Ann asked. It seemed like an obvious question but it seemed to upset Marian quite a bit. She started crying. Tib sat next to her and held Marian in her arms. ‘We have been trying to get pregnant. We have had three failed attempts and Marian hasn’t taken it too well.’ Ann rose from where she was seated. She went over to Marian and hugged her. She could feel Marian’s body shaking beneath her. She didn’t know what to say to her only that she needed some support.

‘Are you going to try again.’ Harriet asked as she looked at Tib and Marian.

‘’Yes, we are thinking about adopting but with the two to four year waiting period. It’s hard to decide what to do.’ Tib said as she looked at Marian.’What we want to focus on right now is getting married.’

‘Good. Have you decided what you are going to wear?’ Ann said.’Then we could wear something similar. Couldn’t we, Anne?’

‘Yes we could but, would you want to do that., Marian? I feel as though we are encroaching in on your special day.’

‘Yes, I would love for you and Ann to share this special day with us. We haven’t been that close in the past. I think this might bring us closer together.’

Good was all Anne could muster. She knew Marian was right when she said they weren’t that close but since Ann had come into her life she seemed to be able to relax more to feel less stressed by what was happening around her. Ann was a godsend. She couldn’t imagine life without her.

‘Anne, are you all right?’ Ann asked. ‘You seem far away, dearest.’

‘I am fine just thinking about us.’

‘What about us?’ Ann asked quizzically. She looked deeply into Anne’s eyes with concern on her face.

‘Just that I am married to the sweetest, most adorable woman I know. I never thought I would be with someone who would accept me as I am and it feels good every day.’

‘It is I who should be grateful that you accepted me as I am with my anxiety and panic attacks. I never thought you would want to be with someone like me, Anne. I don’t feel good enough to be in your company let alone be married to you.’

‘Ann Walker, you are deserving of love just as much as anybody else and I love you despite what you think. I will always love you, Adney. Now, what would you like when we exchange vows? Do you have anything you wish to wear that you couldn’t wear last time?’

‘I don’t know. I think I would like to pretty up a bit. I would like to invite Catherine again. I just hope Mrs Priestley doesn’t show up this time. Do you think she will do that?’

‘I certainly hope not.’ Aunt Anne said from the kitchen. Anne and Ann had been in the sitting room alone chatting. Tib had taken Marian back to the barn to relax. Harriet and Pick had left to go home. They were to return again next week for the big day.

‘Aunt Anne were you listening to everything we were saying to each other.’ Ann said.

‘No but I couldn’t help over hearing some of it. I hope Mrs Priestley has the decency to mind her own business or I will give her a piece of my mind and a large one at that.’

‘Hey, I hope that doesn’t happen, Aunt.’ Anne said. ‘I know you can seem meek and mild at most times but I do know you can rage too.’

‘Only when I am protecting someone I love who is being hurt by someone.’

‘Thank you, Aunt.’ Ann said.’I will remember to never do anything to hurt Anne.’

‘Ann Walker that would be neigh on impossible. You wouldn’t even hurt a flea and I don’t think you would hurt Anne intentionally. Would she, Anne?’

‘No, she wouldn’t. She hasn’t yet. So, I doubt if she ever would.’ Anne said.

‘Thank you for being so generous with your compliments. As I said. I never imagined this would be my life living her with Anne at Shibden with our twins. They are a delight.’

‘They certainly are.’ Aunt Anne said and as if they heard their names the children woke and began crying. ‘I think two little people need a bum change and fed. Let’s do that, Ann.’

‘We will be back down in a few, Aunt. Do you mind getting a bottle from the fridge and warming it up for Rebecca?’

‘I will do that. Can I feed her today?’

‘Yes, you can.’ Ann said as she raced up the stairs with Anne to the nursery to pick up their children and change their nappies. They returned to the sitting room where Aunt Anne had a bottle warming in a jug filled with hot water. Anne handed Rebecca to her aunt. Aunt tested the heat of the milk on her wrist and deemed it okay to feed her. Ann breastfed Jeremy. She had started them on solids only a few days ago. They were loving them. She had Cordingley mash milk arrowroot biscuits in breast milk.

They loved that. She wouldn’t start them on vegetables for a while yet. They could be too harsh on their bellies.

The weeks past as they prepared for the wedding of Marian and Tib. Marian had decided not to try again to get pregnant until after their wedding day. Anne and Ann decided on a cream dress for Ann and a blue suit for Anne. Even though it was only going to be at the registry office they wanted it to be a good day for both couples.

They arrived at the registry office with Aunt Anne and father. They could see Catherine was patiently waiting for them. She was dress prettily but not to give others the impression she was attending a wedding. Then Eliza Priestley just happened to be near. She spied Ann with Anne.

‘Ann, come back home to Crow Nest. She had cajoled you into this scam marriage. Why are you here again?’ Eliza screamed.

‘Can’t you mind your own business and leave Anne and Ann alone for once, Mrs Priestley. They are happy together and they have children. As if you didn’t know that already. Why are you pestering Ann with your foolish ideas. Go home to your husband he needs you.’ Aunt Anne yelled.

‘Why should I when I can bring Miss Walker to her senses?’

‘Ann, has sense enough to marry for love and not for any other reason. Ann is with me because she loves me and I her.’

‘Miss Lister, the odd freak. How can you know what love is?’

‘I might be a freak to you but to Ann I am her wife and she loves me.’ Anne said with tears rolling down her face. Ann had gently put her arms around her wife.

‘Go away, leave them in peace or you will have to deal with us.’ Tib and Marian screamed out. ‘They are happier than they have ever been. No thanks to your interfering, miss busybody. Leave.’ Eliza stormed off in a huff. They strolled arm in arm into the registry office. There they met Vere who was conducting the ceremony for Marian and Tib and again for Anne and Ann. Ann seemed a bit nervous. ‘Are you okay, Adney?’ Anne said.

‘I’m afraid Mrs Priestley will go home and get reinforcements to pull me away from you and take me where they think I belong. I will never see you or our children again because they will have me locked up this time.’

‘No they won’t. Not if Aunt Tib and Aunt Marian have anything to say about that.’ Tib said. She walked over and gave Ann a hug.’We are family and family take care of each other. Don’t they?’

‘They certainly do, Tib.’Ann said. ‘And we are family. We always will be.’

‘Let’s go this party started,’ Vere said. ‘I do believe Anne and Ann are here to renew their vows and Tib, You and Marian are getting married. Well, I never thought I would see the day when Isabelle Norcliffe would say, I do.’

‘Well, it is happening and I am happier now than I have ever been. I only wish I had realised soon that Marian was the one for me.’

‘Which couple would like to go first?’ Vere asked.

‘Let Marian and Tib go first since it is their first time.’ Ann said.

‘Marian and Tib had written their own vows and recited them to each other.

‘Dearest Maz, I never imagined you of all people would want to be with someone like me who is loud and obnoxious at times. Yet, here we are getting married. I only hope we will have a grand life together. I love you, Marian Lister. I take you as my wife on this day.’Tib leaned over and gave Marian a peck on the cheek. Marian had tears in her eyes. It was her turn.’

‘Tibby, I never imagined I would be married. I always thought I would be a spinster at Shibden taking care of my aunt and father while my sister.’ Marian looks at Anne while she says this.’Roams on the continent with someone or other. Only here we are sharing our special day with my sister and her wife. I will remember this day always.’ Ann and Anne gave Marian a quick smile. It would soon be their turn.’I love you, Tibby.’

They they exchanged rings. Marian’s had six small diamonds around a blue sapphire stone on a 24 carat band. Tib’s was a plain 24 carat band. She didn’t want to seem too feminine. They signed the register. Then Anne and Ann renew their vows again. It seemed more important this time than last. Jeremy and Rebecca squirmed in their strollers. They took more photos to go with the ones Anne and Ann had taken when they married nearly two years ago. This time they took photos with their children. ‘Vere, what are you doing later? We are going to Shibden to celebrate this time. If you would like to come. Don’t hesitate in bringing your family. Cordingley is baking us something delicious to eat.’

Nothing.. So, I will take you up on your offer, Anne.’ Vere said. ‘What time?’

‘Anytime from now on. We are going to the hilltop to take some photos. If we aren’t there I am sure Cordingley will attend to your needs. We shouldn’t be that far away.’

‘Okay!! I will call Donald and tell him to bring the kids and meet me there. I think he knows were the hall is. Everyone else in this town does. Don’t they?’

‘They certainly do.’

‘Good then, see you soon, Anne.’ They arrived at Shibden an hour later to find Donald, Vere and their children being entertained by Cordingley on stories about her life at Shibden. Anne looked worried.

‘Don’t stress, Anne. She has told me anything bad about you. It’s all been good. We wish we have a maid like Cordingley living with us She told us you were the best employer she had ever had.’ Anne blushed because she knew Elizabeth fudged over the truth a bit. She must remember to give her a pay rise and a few days holiday soon. Only she didn’t know how they would cope with Cordingley away but she knew they would.

‘Shall we eat now,; Cordingley said. She had remembered the servants were allowed to share this meal with them. John and Joseph were already seated at the table. Although John was a bit nervous. He had never thought he would ever share a meal with his boss but it was happening.

Anne retrieved their best wine from the wine rack and opened it. The meal began with a cheer from all to both couples. Ann blushed more than she had in a long time. Marian felt as though her life was finally as she wanted it to be. Tib and Anne smiled at each other they both had found someone who would accept them as they were. There was no chance that would change. Elizabeth made a toast to the couples. Anne and Tib replied. Tib with a thank you. Anne with along winded speech which made her wife squirm in her seat. It was all about how Ann Walker had come into her life unexpectedly and place her small, tender hands around her heart and caressed it gently. Father nearly chocked when she said that.

He never imagined his daughter to be so affectionate towards someone. She was. There was more to Anne Lister than her father ever imagined and Ann Walker was the reason for the change. ‘I salute you, Miss Walker, you and only you have been able to bring out the best in our Anne. She has smiled more since you came into her life than what she had done in the previous 42 years. Thank you.’ Father said.

‘I am here to do what I can for Anne. I know there are time when we will disagree or argue. That happens with all couples while they are learning to make a life together.’ Ann said. Anne blushed so much she turned bright red.

‘Ann and I, Tib and Marian, would love to thank you all for helping us celebrate this day. I know that while Ann and I only renewed our vows. We are closer than we were the first time. I find it hard to believe that we are parents of two lovely kids who when I mention them they cry. Just give them a moment to decide. ‘ Anne said and just as she finished they did cry out. ‘There they are. I will be back in a moment.’

‘Anne, would you like me to help you?’ Ann asked.

‘No, I think I will be fine. I’ve had plenty of practise, Adney. You enjoy your meal. I will return in a few.’

‘I could help you.’ Aunt Anne said as she stood to follow Anne up to the nursery.

‘Yes please.’ So Aunt Anne followed Anne to the nursery. While they were changed nappies and clothes Anne asked her aunt if she could have imagined either herself or Marian with anyone else.

‘Anne, you are with the one person who accepts you as you are and Marian is with someone who will always love her . Haven’t you seen the way Ann looks at you and Tib looks at Marian. Don’t be fooled by what you hear and remember Ann will never wants you to be any different.’

‘Aunt, I feel blessed to be with Ann but sometimes I wonder if she is truly happy living here at Shabby Shibden.’

‘I think Ann would be happy living in a tent in the woods as long as you were there with her. Anne Lister. If you doubt her love just tell her so. I am sure she will set your mind at ease. One day you will realise that she really does love you. Its not a rouse to get you to…well, you know.’ Anne blushed when her aunt said that.

‘I know but after the way Mariana treated me I sometimes feel lost and alone.’

‘Tell Ann. She will listen to you and tell you how she feels about you. Hey, she married you twice. Didn’t she?’

‘Yes, Thank you, Aunt, for listening to me. Now, let’s get their kids fed so they can kick about on the floor for a while.’

They returned downstairs to find everyone in the sitting room and the dinner table cleared. Tib was boasting about their day. She was so happy to be living on the Shibden estate with her wife and her family. She never imagined she would be Anne Lister’s sister in law. She was amazed how her life had turned around since she met Anne, Ann and Marian at the cafe in Leeds.

‘What a day that was.’ Anne said. ‘Now, look at us. I consider this life a blessing and we are all family together. I never imagined this was possible.’

‘Marian, in front of our family I would love to say that you are the best thing that has happened to me in a long time. I never imagined I would be married to Anne Lister’s sister. Ever the poet. Aren’t I?’ Tib smiled. They were all getting a bit mushy. ‘Hey, it had been a good day no matter what Eliza tried to do. Wasn’t it.’

The following day Tib and Marian returned to the sperm bank. Marian was determined to be a mum and this time she knew it would work. Anne and Ann went with them for moral support. Ann thought it would be great for the kids to have cousins close by even though Elizabeth was pregnant again and due to give birth soon. Anne and she wouldn’t see them often.

The procedure went better this time than it had before. Tib had driven up. Anne volunteered to drive home because Marian had been sedated and Tib wanted to be close to her in case she wanted to put her head on Tib’s lap and sleep. They had used Tib’s eggs before and the sperm bank had frozen the ones they didn’t use.

It would be hard for the first three months but Marian was prepared to take that risk. Only she was certain this would be the last time. So, they had two embryo implanted into her uterus so they would embedded themselves into the wall.

Tib had plans to make sure Marian didn’t do anything strenuous for the first three months.

Marian found it hard. She had everyone on her back. Anne and Ann would make sure she was resting. Aunt and father didn’t their best to alert Tib if they saw Marian doing more than what she should. Poor Marian! She was so happy when the first three months were up and she could do what she wanted.

‘Yahoo.’ Marian said and she walked into the hall. ‘I am free to do what I want now I an in the second trimester.’

‘Don’t be too certain!’ Ann said. ‘They watched me like a hawk when I was pregnant with the twins. Anne here wouldn’t let me lift a finger. You would have thought I had a terminal illness. I was just having a baby. In my case two.’

‘Do you know if you are having twins, Marian?’ Anne asked.

‘We know but we aren’t telling you. You will find out when they are born. Only six months to wait. Ain’t that going to be fun?’ Marian said.

‘A barrel of laughs.’ Anne huffed. She wanted to know and she would do all she could to find out.

Anne and Ann helped Tib and Marian decorate the upstairs bedroom for the new arrival. They painted the walls a non gender colour and plastered stickers of animals on them. Anne wondered when they were going to buy baby furniture but to Anne’s surprise they had already done that. It was in storage at the store until Marian went into labour. Then Tib would call them and had it delivered to the estate.

‘So, we won’t find out until the day they are born whether you have one or two children.’ Anne said. Marian smiled. Anne wondered why she was grinning so much. She knew she would find out soon.

Jeremy and Rebecca were crawling now and getting into mischief. They had to put locks on the cupboards. Elizabeth found them in the kitchen one morning covered in flour. They had emptied the contents of the flour bin all over themselves. She took a photo on her phone and showed Anne and Ann. They thought it was hilarious. So, they got a print, framed it and hung it in the nursery to remind Anne and Ann when they are naughty that they can also be fun to have around.

Anne was kept busy on the estate. Marian was nesting. The due date was only two weeks away. She had this urge to clean up and re-arrange the furniture which annoyed Tib no end.

So, Tib was in the hall while this was in progress. ‘Hey Ann, did you nest before the twins were born?’

‘No, Anne was the one who fussed over how the nursery looked.’

‘Well, could you go tell my wife she is driving me insane. I don’t know how many times she has scrubbed the kitchen floor or more the sofa this morning. Help me! I am going crazy.’

‘What’s up, Tib?’ Anne said as she walked through the back door as Ann walked out. ‘Where’s my wife going?’

‘To see if Marian is still scrubbing the kitchen floor.’ Then they heard a scream.

‘Tib come quickly. I think Marian is in labour. She’s in a lot of pain.’ Ann called.

Tib ran so fast to the barn. Anne had never seen her do that before. She went over to Marian who was puffing. ‘How far apart are your contractions, Maz?’

‘I haven’t time then yet.’

‘Let me.’ Anne said as she reached in to her pocket for her pocket watch. ‘Tell me when you have one.’

‘Having one now.’ Marian said through gritted teeth. A minute later it was over.

‘Okay! One minute and five seconds.’ Five minutes later there was another one. This one lasted slightly longer.

Tib grabbed Marian’s bag and nearly forgot her wife. She went barging out the door, jumped in the car and was about to drive off when Marian scream out.

‘What about me?’ Oh shit thought Tib. She returned to their kitchen and lifted Marian bridal style. When she was settled into the car Tib drove her to the hospital.

It was only five minutes away but it felt like five hours to Marian. By the time they reached the maternity ward a head was crowning and Marian was in need to push. Tib gently placed Marian on the hospital bed and stood back to watch.

‘I need you next to me, Tibby. I want you here while I give birth to hold my hand and make this easier than what it feels.’

‘Gown up, Miss Norcliffe and we need to gown you too, Miss Marian.. I will check out to see how much longer you need to wait before you can push, Miss Marian.’ The midwife looked to see and she could see the top of a head crowning. ‘You can push now, Marian baby is ready to be born.’ Marian pushed. She knew she was giving birth to more than one. They had three heart beats when they had an ultrasound only a fortnight ago. The photo was in pride of place on their vanity where Tib had placed it on the day of the scan.

As Marian pushed Tib held her hand and gave her encouragement. ‘Maz dearest, you can do this. Push!’ The head, then the shoulders, Arms, body and finally legs and feet appeared.

‘You have a boy!’ The midwife said. ;What is his name?’

‘We haven’t decided yet. Have we Marian?’

‘i was thinking Sam after my brother. What do you think, Tibby?’

‘ I like that. What’s his last name to be?’ Marian and Tib looked at each other. They hadn’t thought about that. Then the midwife was encouraging Marian to push again. The next child born was another boy and they had to think about a name for him. ‘Goodness, the midwife said. ‘There’s another one coming. Push, Miss Marian.’ She did. This time they had a girl.

‘Anymore,’ Tib asked.

‘No, we will wait for the placentas and bag them if you want to do what your sister and her wife did Miss Marian.’

‘Yes, please. Now, to name the other two.’ Tib said ‘What about James after your uncle James and….’

‘Isabella after you, Tibby’. Marian said. ‘But what about their last names.’. She always thought her children would never have her name but she couldn’t deny Tib the chance to pass her name on. ‘What about we use Lister, Marian?’

‘I would like that, Tibby but isn’t your family name important to you?’

‘Yes, but not as important as you and our babies are to me.’

‘We could come up with a hyphenated name. What about Norcliffe-Lister or Lister-Norcliffe.’ Marian said. ‘Either way suits me, Tibby,’

‘Sounds good to me, Maz.’ Tib said. ‘I think we will go with Lister-Norcliffe.’

Tib called Anne to give her the good news. Anne couldn’t believe they had done one better with three. Goodness, how will Aunt Anne and father cope with five children under two.

‘What are the names of the babies?’ Anne asked. She was in tears when Tib told her they had named the first boy Sam after her brother. Then James after her uncle and Isabella after Tib.

‘WOW!! Anne said. ‘I guess Marian has decided against breastfeeding.’

‘Here talk to her.’ Tib said as she handed the phone to Marian. Anne was still trying to hold back her tears when Marian spoke. ‘Sister, I hope you are not too upset with me naming my first son after our brother, Sam.’

‘No, I am so happy. I never thought to name my son after Sam. At least when he asks why you named him Sam you will be able to tell him. Won’t you? Are you going to breastfeed?’

‘I’m not sure. They want to keep me here for a couple of days because my iron level has dropped slightly and they want to make sure I am well enough to go home and take care of three little ones. Anne, can you imagine five children under two. WOW!!’

‘I will pass the news onto everyone here. See you soon, mummy.’ Anne said with a big grin on her face. Anne walked into the sitting room where everyone was. The children were standing up holding on to the sofa then Rebecca let go and took a step across to Anne. Anne was so stunned. Thankfully her wife had her phone ready to take a photo. It was only one step then she feel on her bottom. They all laughed.

‘Good news. Marian and Tib have one daughter and……..two sons.’ Anne looked at Aunt Anne when she said that. She could see the look of horror on her aunt’s face until she smiled. ‘What are their names?’

‘In order of birth, Sam, James and Isabella junior.’

‘Lovely. At least Rebecca has one female cousin who she can play with.’ Ann said.

‘Hey, what if Rebecca prefers to play with the boys?’ Anne said as she eyed Ann cautiously. ‘Well, her mother did that.’

‘Did you, Anne?’

‘Yes!’ Aunt Anne and father said in unison.’What else was a tomboy to do!’

Then Jeremy let go of the sofa and walked two steps. He was trying to outdo his sister even though she was older than him but only by minutes. They laughed again when he lost his balance and fell on his bottom.

They visited Marian and the newborns in hospital the next day. Marian was pleased to see Ann. She had lots of questions she wanted to ask her about breastfeeding and she couldn’t wait until she was home.

‘Ann!’ Marian said softly.

‘What now, Marian?’ Anne said.

‘Not you Little Ann. Can I talk to you for a few minutes?’

‘Yes!!’ Ann moved closer and pulled a chair next to Marian’s bed. ‘What do you want to know?’

‘How hard was it to breastfeed two babies?’ Ann looked at her.

‘It was hard to begin with until the milk came in. Then there was more than enough that I could express without no bother.’ Ann said. ‘I have weaned them now because it was making me too tired but I did breastfeed for nearly ten months which I think was enough and they are thriving on solids and slightly diluted cow’s milk. Are you going to try and breastfeed three?’

‘I don’t know. I just wanted to know how you went.’

‘Okay.’ Ann said as she looked at Marian puzzled. ‘I think if you don’t try you will probably regret it. It’s the most wonderful way to bond with your babies. I would do it again in a heartbeat.’

‘You’re not having more.’ Marian asked.

‘Not right now or maybe not ever if Anne has her way. I think there will be enough fights with your three and our two to last a lifetime. Don’t you think?’

‘Yes, that’s true.’

‘What were you two mothers yakking about?’ Anne and Tib asked.

;Just babies and breastfeeding,’ Ann said and Marian nodded her head.

‘Good! Are you going to breastfeed three, Marian? Anne asked. She was curious and Marian could tell by the look on her face.

‘Maybe. I have tried with a small amount of success. I can’t wait to get home to get them settled and have some time with my wife.’

‘Good luck on that last one, Marian. We haven’t had much time alone in the last year but I have been told it gets better. At least I think that’s what they said.’

‘Great. Now, we have to wait so we can spend time together, Tibby.’

‘Don’t worry, Maz. I think we can work something out. Okay!!’ Tib said.

‘Whatever you say, darling.’

They arrived home two days later. Marian’s iron levels weren’t perfect but they were better. Tib was the proudest mum in the world. Marian was exhausted. Tib put her to bed and with Anne and Ann’s help they brought the babies into the hall. They had just been fed at the hospital. So, they wouldn’t need another feed for a few hours.

‘Maz is resting. I don’t think she will be breastfeeding for very long. It takes so much of her energy to feed three and I won’t allow her to do that. She needs to be alert for our children. I only hope she understands that. Ann, you might need to talk to her again. Will you?’

‘I will do my best but she is a Lister. You know how stubborn they can get.’ Ann said that as she scanned the room to look at Aunt Anne, Anne and father. No one seemed to hear what she said except Anne who had a scowl look on her face.

‘How dare you say that I am stubborn!’ Anne said to her wife.

‘Did I say that? Goodness me. It must have slipped out. Sorry.’

‘Yeah, you look sorry too. Hahaha!!’

‘Anyway, I will try for you, Tib. I can only try and at least they got some colostrum. That is suppose to be packed with antibodies.’

‘Thanks!’

Ann spoke to Marian and told her about Tib’s fears. Marian had wanted to breastfeed but realise she couldn’t. She also knew not everyone could. So, she was content with that. Marian sent Tib out to get what they needed. Their babies were due to be fed soon. Tib took Ann with her and they chatted on the way into town.

‘Was it this exciting for you and Anne when your babies were born?. I am so happy I could stand on the tallest building in town and tell everyone.’

‘Yes, it was and that feeling hasn’t faded yet. I want to do that. Only I want to stand on the highest mountain and tell the world.’ Ann said. ‘Oh there are times when you would like to gag them but they are only telling you what they need, bum change, feed or sleep. You will get to know the different cries and will be able to distinguish one from another.’

‘I hope so!!’ Tib said. ‘I never thought Anne would be a mum. She always said she never wanted to give birth.’

‘I know. Now, look at her. She is so wrapped up in our children I often wonder if she has forgotten about their other mother.’ Ann said.

‘Oh don’t worry. When you not with us all she talks about is how you are with the kids and how lucky she is to have you in her life.’

‘Thanks, Tib!!’ Ann said as she blushed a little.

‘Let’s get this stuff and go home.’

‘Okay!!’

When Anne and Tib returned home they made up the half dozen bottles they had bought so Marian didn’t need to worry about it for the next two feeds. Aunt Anne was nursing Sam and James and father had Isabella junior in his arms. They were quite content for the moment.

Marian had thought it would be hard to bottle feed her three babies. She had read that there were times when children wouldn’t take to the bottle as easily as they took to the breast. So, she was relieved when they were happy to be bottle fed. She guessed they were so hungry that they realised anything that resembled food was food and they drank greedily.

It was a few days later after Ann had spoken to Elizabeth on the phone. Her newborn was six months old now and she was wondering when Anne and Ann and their two toddlers were going to visit. Mary and Sackville had been asking her for a few weeks now.

‘So, little sister, when will we see you, your wife and your brood?’

‘I will talk to Anne and let you know, big sister.’

‘Good. I hope it will be soon. I loved the photos you have been sending us but I want to see them I person.’

‘Yes, they are walking now and talking gibberish. They do say mamma and mummy, Artie and Pappa. Their grandfather loves that. They follow him everywhere. I think they like his gruff voice and the treats he has in his pockets for them.’

‘Dear me. They are getting spoilt already. Aren’t they?’

‘Yes. I am guess soon he will have five to spoil.’

‘What do you mean? You only have two, Ann. Right?’

‘Yes. Marian and Tib had triplets.’

WOW!! That’s a handful and then some. Are they coping?’

‘Yes, they are. Well, they have us to help them.’

‘Good. Anyway, let me know when you will be visiting.’

‘Oh, Anne just came inside. I will ask her now while I have you on the phone. Just hang on for a minute, please.’

‘Okay!!’ Elizabeth said.

‘Anne, Elizabeth wants to know when we are going to visit them next.’

‘How about next week? Does that sound fine?’

‘Did you hear what Anne said?’ Ann said.

‘Yes, that would be great. Could you get something yummy for dinner before you get here. Then I can have the night off cooking. Please, Ann.’

‘I think we can do that.’ Ann and Anne said together.

Chapter Text

Anne, Ann and their children left for Fortrose a week later. Marian and Tib had their children settled into a routine which they found easy with the help of everyone in the house including Cordingley who adored children.

Anne had never thought it was possible to have five children under two in one household. Yet, here she was with her wife and their twins on the way to see her wife’s sister and her husband.

She was hoping that while they were there they would be able to enjoy themselves. She knew Elizabeth would fuss over their children and they were fuss over Elisabeth. She couldn’t wait to see how Mary and Sackville would react to Rebecca and Jeremy who were one year old now and talking up a storm.

She was sure her children would be a little shy about being around other children. Then she remembered what she had been told she was like and knew she had nothing to worry about but she didn’t know what Ann had been like as a baby. She had been meaning to ask her but had never thought about that until now.

‘Ann, I was just wondering.’

‘What were you wondering, Dearest?’ Ann looked at her quizzically as she drove them to Fortrose. It was going to be a long day. Although they had decided to stay overnight in Edinburgh tonight.

‘I was just wondering what you were like as a child. Were you shy? I was told I wasn’t.’

‘I don’t remember anyone telling me much about my childhood. I always had imagined I was a shy child. I was when I first met you. I guess you don’t remember.’

‘Remind me, Adney.’ Anne said as she looked at Ann shyly. They had stopped to have a snack. Rebecca and Jeremy were hungry. She could remember only she wanted Ann to tell her. Then she would know if they shared the same memory.

‘It was when my parents died. I was so forlorn. The tribe had tried to wrap me up in cotton wool. They wouldn’t let me out of their sight. I was never left alone. I always had someone fussing over me. Are you all right, Ann? How is our invalid? Do you want anything, Little Annie? Will you be okay? They drove me crazy .I just wanted to be left alone so I could mourn in silence. They never gave me a chance to do that. Then on the day of the funeral I just felt as though I was trapped and had nowhere to go. Then you were there and I was able to smile for the first time since the accident.’

‘I thought they had died of natural causes. How old were they?’

‘I didn’t know until I saw their death certificates. Mother was only 55. Father was five years older. They had gone on a trip to Ireland and had decided to go up in a hot air balloon. The gas canister leaked and there was a loud explosion. We were told they died from the heat and smoke. There was nothing left of the balloon when it reached the ground.’

‘I’m so sorry, Ann. I didn’t know it was that bad.’ Anne said with tears in her eyes.

‘Why are you crying, Anne?’

‘I don’t know. I just feel so sad for your lost. I still have my father and Aunt.’

‘And they are my family now, too. Aren’t they?’ Ann said. Anyway, when I saw you and you spoke to me you made me feel as though I was important. I wasn’t someone to pity and feel sorry for. I thank you for that moment.’

‘I didn’t realise I had had such a big impact on you that day. I was so wrapped up in Mariana and what she had done for me. Only now I look back I can see you standing there wanting someone to hold you and make you feel as though you matter. I could see your family fussing over you but they really weren’t. Were they?’

‘No they were. You came over to me and held me for a moment. I had never felt that close to anyone before or until you came back into my life the night I saw you in the pub.’

‘Can I buy you a drink, Miss Lister?’ Anne said and smiled. ‘I was there drowning in my sorrows. Then you were there cheering me up. I still don’t why I was there that night. I vaguely remember arguing with Mariana and leaving her but that could be another memory.’

‘I was there because my cousin, Catherine was fed up with me mopping around the house. She thought I needed to go out and blow the cobwebs out.’

‘Blow the cobwebs out.’ They were on their way again. Jeremy and Rebecca were nearly asleep.’What did she mean by that?’

‘I think she thought I was getting dull and uninteresting. I had never intended to be there. Only I am glad I went. I would have never met you if I had stayed home.’

‘No you wouldn’t have. We have had an interesting ride since then. Haven’t we?’ Anne said expecting Ann to say not really. She hadn’t imagined what the impact would be when Ann saw Ainsworth again. She was so glad she had been there. Well, she hadn’t but then she was after Marian called her. She had driven home so fast she thought the cops would pull her over and book her for speeding.

When she arrived home and bounded inside she was shocked to see what was happening. The look of fear in the eyes of her father, aunt and Marian. She knew something was up when Marian let her eyes gaze up the stairs. There was Ainsworth banging on their bedroom door. Oh she could hear it but thought it was Cordingley making bread again. She often would thump it down.

She ran back outside and went around the back of the hall. Their bedroom window was opened. She had climbed up as best she could.

What she saw and heard shocked her. Ann was trying her hardest to calm the children. They were in the corner of the room crying out for their mother.

What a memory. She never wanted that to happen again. ‘Are you all right, Pony.’

‘Yes, I was just remember that day.’ Anne didn’t need to say more she knew Ann knew what she was talking about. T

They drove the rest of the way to Edinburgh in companionable silence. Ann had never been able to trust anyone the way she trusted Anne. She felt alive when Anne held her in her arms. She knew that Anne would never hurt her, not intentionally.

They spent the night in a luxury motel. Ann couldn’t believe all the amenities they had, tv, internet, a small bar fridge and a huge walk in shower. Anne and Ann planned to make the most of that if the kids would let them. Anything was possible as they settled their twins to sleep in their portable cots which made it easier for Anne and Ann to settle their twins down for the night.

‘Shall we try that bloody huge shower, Adney?’ Anne asked.

‘If that’s what you want to do, dearest. Yes, I would like that.’ Ann looked at Anne then looked at their children. ‘Aren’t they such angels when they are sleeping.’

‘We are two lucky mums. I never thought my life would be like this. Let’s go before they wake up.’ Ann followed Anne into the bathroom. They stripped off their clothes. There were two fluffy blue toweling wraps there for them when they emerged from the shower.

Anne turned on the shower and waited for warm water to spray. She climbed under. She grabbed Ann’s hand and pulled her under. The spray hit their faces and they smiled. It was lovely to have this time alone. Anne felt Ann wrap her arms around her waist. Ann was ready for anything. She knew how wet she was before Anne pulled her in the shower. She could feel her desires increasing as Anne pulled her in and kissed her passionately, on her neck, her cheek and then her lips. Ann was moaning into Anne’s mouth. Anne’s hand was tracing a route down to Ann’s clit. She made circles around it slowly. It infuriated Ann but it also made her body thrash wildly. Ann could feel her heart racing in her chest. She was aching for Anne to touch her.’Anne Lister, I need you to go inside me. I need you to fuck me, Anne. Please!!!’ She knew she sounded desperate. Only she was desperate. She couldn’t help it.

Anne pushed two fingers inside her. She continued to circle her clit with her thumb. She pushed her fingers in and out of Ann’s centre faster and faster. That was what Ann wanted. Ann’s hips bucked in response. She bit into Anne’s neck and left a mark. It didn’t bother Anne. She thrust harder and harder into Ann. Ann found her lips so she could scream into her mouth. She didn’t want to wake their kids. Ann screamed and moaned loudly as she came around Anne’s fingers. Anne held her until her body rested and she came back to Anne.

The shower began to chill. Anne turned off the water and they grabbed the wraps. They dressed and strolled back into the bedroom to find their children still sleeping. It was possible the best sight they had had all day. ‘I would never have had this experience if I wasn’t with you. Adney.’ Anne looked at Ann and smiled.’Ah I could say the same, Pony. We are two very lucky women. We have each other and two adorable kids who are more adorable when they are sleeping.’

‘Let’s sleep I am sure that Mary and Sackville will want us to play with them tomorrow, Adney.’

‘I am sure they will. Thanks for today and everyday we have had together so far. I love you, dearest.’

‘I love you, too.’ They snuggled down between the sheets and slept until the sun streamed through the window. Anne woke first. As she usually does. Rebecca was sitting about looking around,. Jeremy was still sleeping. Ann woke. She had to get up and pee. It was such a blissful moment. Anne was hoping this moment would last forever. Then Rebecca cried out. She wanted to be with her mamma and mummy.

Ann picked her up as she returned to their bed. ‘We had a lovely evening, didn’t we, Pony?’

‘We sure did and once we get everyone dressed and fed we can be on our way to Fortrose. I am sure Mary and Sackville have been up since about five wondering when we will be there.’

‘Would you like me to call them?’

‘Yes, call Elizabeth.’

‘Hi.’ Liz said as she answered the phone on the fourth ring.

‘You sound sleepy.’ Ann said.

‘You would too if you had been woken out of a deep sleep at five thirty this morning. Hell, when will you be here then I will get a good night’s sleep.’

‘We are going to grab some breakfast and leave. So, probably two hours. Maybe three. That depends on whether we need to stop because we have two restless kids.’

‘Okay. Say hi to Anne for me. See you soon.’

‘Liz says hi.’ Ann said after she disconnected the call.

‘You tell me now after you disconnect the call. I could have talked to her.;

‘I think she was ready for a nap. She is tired. Her kids woke her at five thirty this morning wondering when we would be there.’

‘Good grief. Well, it is a good thing we are buying food for dinner tonight. What do you think we should take?’

‘Chinese!’

‘What about the kids? They may not like Chinese.’

‘I guess we can make them marmite sandwiches. What do you think?’ Ann said.

I suppose we should get a couple of loaves of bread then.’

‘Yes, dearest. We should and some marmite just in case Elizabeth doesn’t have any.’

‘Okay!!’

They ate breakfast at the motel. Loaded kids and gear into their car and drove to Fortrose stopping on the way in Inverness to be Chinese, bread and marmite. They were greeted by Mary and Sackville as Anne brought their car to a stop near the front entrance. Elizabeth was standing in the doorway watching her children with young Elisabeth in her arms. She yelled out hello and then came to the car to greet them.

‘Liz, you sounded very sleepy over the phone. How are you feeling now?’

‘Much better I took a nap in the lounge room while the kids watched tv. I am so glad you offered to bring dinner. What did you get?’

‘Chinese. We also got a couple of loaves of bread and marmite just in case the kids don’t like Chinese.’

‘Okay! Although, I only bought another jar of marmite yesterday.’

‘Okay but our kids love the stuff. I don’t know why.’ Anne said. ‘It reminds me of something disgusting.’

‘So, there’s always more for me and the kiddos.’ Ann laughed. ‘Some people have no taste.’

‘Yeah and some people have no taste buds.’

‘Speak for yourself.’

‘Now ladies. Let’s get everyone settled inside. Your family can sleep in the room you slept in when you were here last time. I’m sure Mary and Sackville will help you with your gear.’

‘Yes, we will.’ They yelled in unison.

Mary grabbed Ann’s bag and Sackville grabbed Anne’s. Anne grabbed the kids bag and follow Mary and Sackville up to their room. They would take the portable cots up later. Ann had set them up. Jeremy and Rebecca were playing in them.

‘So, twins. How does it feel now they are twelve months old?’ Elizabeth asked Ann.

‘It’s been an exhausting twelve months but they..’ Ann said that as she pointed to her kids. ‘and Anne kept me grounded. I thought I was going to go to pieces at the trial. I am glad we didn’t need to call you to come down and testify for us. Anne gave me the strength to do what I had to do. Ainsworth got a twenty five year sentence with no chance of parole.

‘What about Christopher and the other fellow.’

‘Mark Robinson. They both got twenty five years too.’

‘How is Nelly coping?’

‘Not so good. Her son has disappointed her so much. She doesn’t think she will ever be able to forgive him. She told us she isn’t going to visit him in jail.’

‘That’s sad.’

‘What’s more she thinks she will be dead before he is released in twenty four years time. Well, just a bit more than that.’

‘Are you two talking about me?’ Anne said as she returned to the lounge room.’You set up the portable cots. That’s good because the twins are sleeping.’

‘They must need it even though they slept most of the way up here.’

‘How’s George doing?’

‘Okay. I guess. I haven’t seem him in ages.’ Elizabeth said shyly.

‘What?’ Anne and Ann said together.

‘He is living with his mother for awhile. He couldn’t stand a house filled with noisy kids.’

‘He didn’t want to be here when we were here. Is that what you’re saying?’

‘I thought he didn’t like that we are together. You know how much Anne means to me, Liz?’ Ann said.

‘I do that’s why I told him to go. I will see him later when he gets his shit together and realise that you are not different now than what you were. I miss him so much.’

‘Would you like me to call him? Maybe I can get him to come back home. I wondered why Sackville seemed so excited about helping me.’Anne said.

‘You could try but I don’t think he would answer. You can use my phone then he might answer.’

Anne called. He did answer only because he thought it was his wife.

‘Hello, Liz. I know I should be there.’

‘Hello, George. Yes, you should be and please don’t hang up. Sackville is missing you so much. No, he didn’t tell me. I could tell by the way he was acting. Come home. We want to see you.’ Anne said.

‘Why?’

‘I thought we had dealt with this problem before. Your wife needs you here. She isn’t coping without you.’ Anne said. ‘We need to talk about this. We cannot be made responsible for breaking up a family. Come on, George. Come home. We have bought Chinese for dinner.’

‘Oh okay. I will be there in half an hour. Thanks for calling me. I feel silly now. You and Anne are family. I was just worried about how our kids would see you and want to be like you.’

‘We are just Aunt Walker and Aunt Lister and now we have kids which they think is a bonus. See you soon, George.’

‘’What did you say to get him to come home, Anne?’ Elizabeth said as she looked at Anne.

‘I just told him you wanted him home because you were missing him.’ Anne said. She could see Elizabeth had been crying. She reached over and gave her a hug. Well, as much as she could while Elizabeth was holding her youngest and breastfeeding her.

‘You will be fine, Liz.’ Ann said. ‘I just hope we can sort this out and he will stay here while we are here.’  When George returned home he had two bottles of the best wine he could afford and a big smile on his face. When he walked through the front door Elizabeth gave Elisabeth to Ann and raced over to him. She gave him a big hug and kiss. ‘Liz, not in front of the guests, darling.’

‘I think they know us well enough by now and they are family.’

‘That is true. When do we eat?’

‘When we have reheated the Chinese.’ Ann said.

‘I’m famished. Mother went away yesterday and I have been fending for myself. You know how good a cook I am, Liz. Don’t you?’

‘Yes, I certainly do you silly man.’ Liz said. ‘Come on! Let’s eat.’

‘That’s a good idea. I think our kids are hungry too. They have just woke from a nap,’

They ate in companionable silence until George asked ‘Do you enjoy being mothers to twins?’

‘Yes!!’ They said.

Then he said what they never imagined George would say.’Do you really?’

‘Yes, but it can be hard worked and sometimes it can feel as though you in a daze. I often feel sleep deprived but that’s part of being a parent. Isn’t it?’

‘Yes, Elizabeth seems to be constantly trying to catch up on sleep. Little Elisabeth is a lovely child but with Mary and Sackville added to the mix it can be hectic at times. Do you plan to have more?’

‘Not right now.’ Ann said.

‘Not ever.’ Anne said.

‘I think you two need to talk about that. It seems Ann here wants more.’ Elizabeth said as she pointed to her sister. ‘And you seem to think you have enough. What is it going to be?’

‘I don’t know.’ Anne finally said. ‘I’m happy with two.’

‘What about you, Ann?’ Liz said.

‘I think Anne and I need to talk about this when we get back home.’

‘That we do.’ Anne said. She wondered how they would be able to agree on this when Ann seemed so determined to have more and she thought two was enough.’

‘Would you like to watch a movie.?’ George asked as they all strolled into the lounge room. George turned on the television as Anne folded the cots to take them up to their bedroom. Ann helped her. When they returned George was watching the news.

‘Breaking news. Reverend Thomas Ainsworth who was serving a twenty five year sentence for the sexual assault of Miss Ann Walker and for money laundering and drug trafficking has died today after he was found hanging in his jail cell.. He was barely breathing when they found him. The note he left said. I cannot live this life. I feel responsible for all the trouble I caused Miss Walker. I hope one day she will find it in her heart to forgive me.’ Ann only heard the last part of the broadcast then George changed channels just in cast the announcer said more. ‘What was that about? Ann said as she returned to the lounge room.

‘Nothing.’ George said. He remembered what Ainsworth tried to do when he came to Fortrose unannounced over eighteen months ago. He wasn’t going to tell Ann because he could see Anne didn’t want her to know otherwise she would feeling guilty for something she had no control over. Only there was another breaking news which flashed across the bottom of the screen. Anne could see Ann was reading it. ‘Anne, is that what the breaking news was before?’ Ann asked.

‘Yes.’ Anne said tentatively. She could see Ann beginning to tear up. She knew she would feel responsible for put him in jail and giving him reason to do this.

‘You are not responsible for his actions, Adney. You did nothing to cause him to take his own life.’

‘Anne, I put him behind bars.’ Ann said sadly.

‘No, you didn’t. The law did that and he couldn’t cope. He probably realised what he put you through.’

‘Who knows? He is trying to make me feel guilty even after he died. I don’t know why he thought after what he did to me that I would want to be with him. I am sure he was only after my money.’ Ann said. ‘I am glad he’s gone. Although I do feel a bit guilty. Wouldn’t you?’

‘No.’ They all said.

‘He brought this on himself.’ George said. ‘He sexually assaulted you and was sent to jail.’

‘He had to face the consequences of his actions and you, little sister, aren’t responsible. I just glad you have Anne Lister in your life to take care of you.’ Liz said as she looked at Anne and smiled. Anne blushed. She had finally been accepted by Ann’s family. ‘Now, can we watch a movie?’

‘What did you want to watch?’ Ann asked.

‘We have most of Robin Williams movies. How about Mrs Doubtfire?’ Liz said.

‘That sounds good to me. Let Anne and I put our kids to bed then we will be free for a while.’ They scooped up Rebecca and Jeremy and took them to bed. Ann read to them . It had become a night time ritual which usually only took ten minutes. They were sleeping soundly. When Anne and Ann returned to the lounge room Liz had the DVD ready to hit play. They settled down. Mary and Sackville were in bed sleeping too. Little Liz was the only child away. As soon as Elizabeth had finished feeding her she would be in bed too.

Anne’s phone buzz in her pocket. ‘I need to take this. It is Marian. She must have seen the story about Ainsworth on the news.’

‘Hi Marian.’

Hi Anne. We saw the news story about Ainsworth. How is Ann coping?’

‘She is okay now. She was feeling responsible when she hear the story.’

‘Good because she isn’t responsible. Is she? Can I talk to her.’ Marian said.

‘Ann, Marian wants to talk to you.’ Ann rose from where she was seated. Anne gave her the phone.

‘Hi Maz..’

Hi, Ann. How are you doing?’

‘I am doing fine now. I felt responsible for causing Ainsworth to end his life. Only now I know I didn’t.’

‘No, you didn’t.’ Aunt Anne, father and Tib yelled out.

‘Tell them thanks and thanks for calling. I had a feeling you were worried about me.’

‘Not worried just concerned, little sister. Talk to you later. Take care. Okay!!’

‘And you, Marian. Bye.’

‘Bye.’ Ann disconnected the call. She gave Anne her phone back, sat next to her and they watched the movie.

For the next week Anne and Ann totally engrossed themselves into family life. They hadn’t been able to do that since the trial. Anne was more attentive around Mary and Sackville. She had never seen them as she does now she is a mum. Ann can see a change in her wife that wasn’t there before.

She could see a softer side to Anne Lister, rather than the grumpy one who seemed to stomp around when things didn’t go her way. They were able to spend more time with their twins and watch them learn about life in their own curious way. It felt like a burden and also a release that they would never see Ainsworth again.

Ann would often bring up her feelings of guilty but Anne was able to sooth them away telling her what he did to himself was less than what he did to her. She had to live with it daily. He’s gone so there is no remorse from him. There never will be.

They were able to show George that they were a loving couple. He was able to see that is prejudices against them were unfounded. In moments of misunderstanding they were able to air their differences of opinion. George learned that love is love no matter who you love. Anne and Ann were consider family and they saw George more as a brother than a brother in law. Elizabeth was happy that her sister, sister in law and husband had a better relationship when Anne and Ann left Fortrose one week after they had arrive. As they saw them off when they left to go home Anne could hear George say to Elizabeth. ‘I hope they visit again real soon.’

‘I hope they do too. Next time let’s take them out to dinner.Okay!!’

Anne smiled. It was the first time her partner’s family had fully accepted her.

‘Anne, are you all right. Ann asked as they drove back home.

‘I’m always all right. Why shouldn’t I be?’

‘Yes, I know you always say that but are you really all right, dearest?’

‘Yes, this time I really am all right. Did you hear what George said to Elizabeth?’

“Yes, I think our chats with him really did help. Well, your chats. I still don’t understand why there is so much hatred and bigotry in this world.’

‘Neither do I but we can do our best to rise above it. Can’t we, Adney?’

‘We can but sometimes it is so hard to ignore what others say about us. We aren’t ducks and their words aren’t water. Are they?’ Ann said softly. She didn’t often feel she had the strength to be as strong as her wife. She never thought she had a much courage as Anne did.

‘Yes, it is hard and when it is hard we need to remember we have each other for support and encouragement.’

‘What happens when we aren’t together and someone tells me I shouldn’t be with you in a way that is degrading. Dearest, what should I do?’

‘Do your best to ignore them. If that doesn’t work scream as loud as you can and run away. Then call me. Tell me what has been said. I will do my best to make you feel good. I hope I can.’

‘Anne, you always have an answer to all our problems.’ Ann said looking tenderly at her wife.

‘I don’t always know what to do but I always aim to do my best always.’ Anne said.’That is all we can do in this life.’

‘Yes, that is so true.’ Ann said. ‘Can we stop soon I am getting hungry and I think our babies need their bums changed. What do you think?’

‘An excellent idea. How did I manage to marry a genius who knows my needs without asking me?’ Anne said.

‘I guess you just got lucky,’ Ann said shyly.