A Pack of Tales Ch. 08byNaokoSmith©
Copyright © 2013 Naoko Smith
Diolch yn fawr! to Bramblethorn for continuing to edit the story.
Please leave comments and feedback for me so I know what works and what doesn't as I write up the rest of this story.
This series has two kinds of chapters: story chapters, called '(story)' in the blurb and sex scenes, called '(scene)' in the blurb. The sex scenes will be diverse. You can choose to read them all or, if e.g. hetero sex isn't your thing, to skip some and only read the story chapters and e.g. lesbian sex scenes. You should be able to identify which scenes have what kind of sex from the tags and sometimes the category the chapter is uploaded into.
All characters in this story are fictional. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
Ch. 8. Red.
Christa twisted round in the front seat of Gavin's car to look at Red.
"You don't want anything special, sweetheart, just any old skirt?" she asked.
"I only want something for when I look for work," Red said.
"Stop off at Asda's," Christa said to Gavin. "I'm not going to the shops," she said, turning back round to Red again. "Gavin's going to drop me at Bryony's."
"Oh-h-h," Red said.
"She won't mind you," Christa said. "Don't tell the boys. Col's the next pack leader, they'll follow him whatever. Us women, we have to think of the cubs."
Red felt odd to hear Christa say 'us women'. As one of the pack Red was obliged to follow Rex and Col without question, but Christa was the pack mother and if Col hadn't been such a jerk, Bryony would have been the pack mother after Christa.
Red would do whatever Col told her to, but that didn't mean she didn't realise what a jerk he was. The pack all knew although they of course never said anything and snarled if anyone- else said anything.
Gavin dropped them at a modern red brick block of flats on the edge of the city. He drove off with a final friendly wave at Red. She was hesitant as she followed Christa up to a heavy security door. Christa pressed Bryony's button and Bryony buzzed them in. They went up some stairs and there she was standing in a doorway smiling to see them.
She saw Red, and her head tilted with a frown. Red flicked an anxious look at Christa but Christa just sailed on serenely through the open door.
"I'm sorry the bed's still out," Bryony said as she showed them into the bedsit. "It's too heavy, I can't take the risk of putting it up and down now."
Red lifted her eyes to Bryony and made a cringing smile, the kind that says you know you are on someone- else's territory but might you have a biscuit? Bryony scrunched her nose up in a scowl, rolled her eyes up as if to say, On your head be it. Red showed her teeth in a lightly panting grin in reply. She would be happy to put up with a nose smack for Bryony's sake.
Bryony had a futon sofa-bed, low to the ground. Red sat on the edge of it by Christa's side and lounged back. She liked being so near the ground.
Bryony still didn't look pregnant - except that her skin was blooming like an orchard in spring and her hair seemed to bounce with new life. She smiled softly and she smelled of love.
"Tea or coffee?" she said.
"I don't care!" Christa laughed. "Show me the pictures!"
Bryony laughed too, warm and soft like sunshine. "Let me make you a cup of tea first," she said.
She came back out of her kitchenette with the tea and some biscuits which she put on the floor at their feet. Red sat up and looked sideways at Christa. Christa wasn't paying attention so she sneaked three biscuits.
Bryony had gone to fetch a pretty folder with all flowers and hearts on it. She sat on the floor with a sigh, easing her back down, and took out some grey papery photos.
"These are scans of the baby," she explained patiently to Red.
Christa was so excited she could hardly sit still.
At first the small pictures just looked like a lot of grey and black splotches. Bryony was pointing and saying: "That's the heart. This is the head." Gradually Red picked out the shades and shapes of a bean with a strange alien-like head mushrooming out of it.
That was an actual living being inside Bryony, with a tiny dark spot of a heart already beating.
Red felt scared. She stole a look at Bryony who was so happy with her bean baby growing inside her. Red didn't think she would ever want to go through a change as vivid as the one taking over Bryony's body but she also thought Bryony was looking very beautiful. Her opinion of Col sank even lower.
"I haven't told them at work," Bryony said. "I've had a chat with the union, I'm just thinking over what I want to do before I tell them officially."
"Don't you want to go back to work after you've had the baby?" Red asked.
"I dunno," Bryony said lazily. "They're so lovely, 'specially now because they're sorry about Col – you know he used to work there too so they know him. Mum and dad want me to move in with them, or at least somewhere nearer to them so they can help out more."
"Oh, are they OK about it?" Red said in surprise.
Bryony laughed her sunny laugh. "They're so pleased to be getting a grandchild, there's no talking to them about anything else," she said with indulgent humour. "Although they miss Col," she added, a cloud passing through her gentle brown eyes.
"Did ...did they know about Col?" Red asked.
"Of course," Bryony said. "They loved him. Dad was sorry he couldn't take Col out with the dogs, y'know Col, he's so Alpha Plus he would've shredded them. But dad and my brother used to love going down the pub for a pint with him to talk about the football. Mum used to make such a fuss of him." She sighed.
"You'll be bored if you move back to the Border," Christa said anxiously. "I'll babysit if you want to go back to work."
Bryony smiled, laying an affectionate hand on Christa's arm. "I'll bring the baby to see you, whatever," she promised.
"Is it a boy or a girl? Did you ask?" Red had already caught Christa in Asda's inspecting blue and pink babygros.
"It's a girl," Bryony said proudly.
"You don't mind if I buy you something small now." Christa laid on a honeyed persuasive tone in her sing-song voice. "How about a blanket?"
Bryony laughed. "Mum's already knitted two! Mum and dad are coming out with me next week to look at stuff. They're going to keep it all at their house for now, there's no room here. Why don't you come too, we can all go for lunch." She got up and went to her wardrobe. She came back with a tiny pink cardigan. It had white daisies embroidered into it.
"I couldn't resist it," she giggled as she showed it off to Christa.
Red could not believe the baby would be so small as to fit into the tiny knitted garment. She felt the wave of love wafting from Bryony, that soft gentle irresistible smell.
As Red and Christa were getting up to go and catch the train back up the Valleys, Bryony got an envelope out of a drawer. Red saw that it was bursting full of money: tens and twenty pound notes.
"Give this back to Col," Bryony said in a cold voice. "I'll let him know when I want him to start paying – and how much."
Christa lifted suddenly sad eyes to the younger woman.
"He's waiting for your call," she said.
"He can wait forever," Bryony said in that voice that was like a winter snow shower in late spring. "I'm not going to go begging him to come back to me, and have him always bitching that if I hadn't screwed it all up he could have done this and that. He needs to grow up. I want a family man, not a boy racer."
Red saw her warm sunny face so cold and sad. Her eyes were full of tears. Red could almost hear the crack of Bryony's heart breaking. But Bryony had other things to think of, her life to plan and her bean baby with its dark spot of a heart growing inside her. The baby needed her to love it and plan for it even more than Col needed Bryony. As much as Col did need Bryony.
On the train journey up into the Valleys, Christa sat silently on the seat by Red, staring away into the carriage. Red sat holding her skirt in its plastic bag on her lap, looking out at the steep slopes of the hillsides and down into the tumbling river waters below the railway line. She felt a surging glad relief in her breast. Bryony wasn't alone. She had her family, they were there for her like a kind of pack. And like Christa had said, Bryony wouldn't be out of the pack unless she herself told all of them to 'foock off'.
Red liked the Valleys better than the city. The green hills reminded her of the mountains in which she had grown up. She liked the Valleys just for themselves too. There was peace up here, tinged with the melancholy memories of times when people had sweated and struggled in the mines and steelworks, only to be forced out and away to look for work elsewhere. The industrial black clouds of smoke had gone but small towns and villages remained, clinging in terraces to the steep slopes of former slagheaps, now green with new grass. A powerful sense of community kept people on here in spite of the lack of opportunities.
For the pack it was somewhere to breathe where people didn't ask too many questions. They accepted you if you just got on with it, buying a pint or two quietly with your butties.
When Red and Christa got into the farmhouse, Col was sitting at the kitchen table with Rex. Rex had just got in from work and had made the two of them a cup of tea.
Christa threw the envelope on the table in front of Col. It burst open, the notes slid out of it in an untidy sprawl.
"What d'you think you're playing at, boyo?" Christa's voice was vibrating with fury. "Do you think you can buy her back with small change?"
Col sat with his head of thick dark hair stooped over the table in silence.
"Tell me then!" Christa gave him a sharp smack on the back of the head. His head jerked but he still wouldn't look round at her. "You went down there and stuck this through her door, did you? You didn't even have the guts to knock on it and see if she was alright?"
"My mate Gareth who works in the same office," Col said in a muffled voice. "I asked him to give it to her."
"There's nice!" Christa said with heavy sarcasm. "Bryony didn't want to tell them at work yet but now your prick of a friend knows he can tell them all about it on the sly!"
"He didn't know what it was for!" Col protested.
"Oh, and he can't guess," Christa said.
Col was silent. Rex sat with his hands on his mug of tea and his eyes lifted sadly to Christa.
Eventually Col said: "I tried to sell my flat." His voice was taut with misery and the desolate fear of failure. "I thought I'd give her the money from that, I thought I'd sleep in the caravan. But the foocking housing market's dead. They wouldn't give me a good price on it. I don't know how to get the money for her unless I can sell the flat at a better price. I sold my foocking watch and all sorts of stuff to get that for her. I can't get the work in and I'm struggling to pay Rikki and Rob their wages. I can't do it, Christa. I've got to think of the cubs. I haven't got anything left for Bryony and a baby, I can't give up the business and go back to work for her. I've got to do right by the cubs. You know how we are. We can't sign on. The way they treat you, it sends the cubs berserk. Even if they find them a job, it's in foocking burger bars, it's nothing but trouble." His voice was aching with tears. Christa gave a heavy sigh.
"You're nothing but trouble," she said angrily. "Rent the flat out, Bryony will get something regular then." She paused, then said, "You can move into that room at the back since Red won't take it."
Col tilted his head sideways and bared his teeth in a grin at her. "Foocking puppy's better off without me in its life," he said bitterly.
"It's a girl!" Christa hissed furiously at him.
Col's face twisted up. His gaze slid at Red. The hairs rose on the back of Red's neck. She waited for him to rise up from the table and slap her about for daring to go down and see his bitch. He had told her he'd tear her limb from limb if she even sniffed at Bryony. Red couldn't explain to him how she felt about Bryony.
Col just gave a heavy sigh, as if he were thinking about everything Red might have been through and here was another one: a vulnerable bitch being brought into a world of pain.