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The Birds and the Bees

By:Milly Johnson
The Birds and the Bees
Milly Johnson


The Birds and the Bees: As well as being the gentle way of explaining  how creatures of nature ‘do business with one another', The Birds and  the Bees (Eun S'na Sheillein) is also a Scottish country dance  originating from the hamlet of Bonniebride (Buinne-Bhrìghde) in the  former county of Duffshire, famed locally for the large apiary and  aviary that once existed there. It is an energetic reel in which couples  complete a series of many cast-offs and changes of partner. It is  considered extremely fortuitous to dance this at weddings, due to its  connections with an ancient ritual dedicated to Creide, faery goddess of  women who ruled over love magick and the search for the perfect mate.

The Sassenach's Guide to the Wonders of Gaelic, by Maggie Knockater.

Chapter 1

Making a cake for Danny's school raffle was always going to be a messy  business, given Stevie's predilection for taste-testing the gloopy, raw  mixture at one-minute intervals. Not to mention her impatience in  waiting for the blades to stop whisking before she lifted them up, which  resulted in her splattering herself and the kitchen with chocolate  cream. Then, as usual, the bag of flour split and sent up a white  nuclear cloud to descend over all flat surfaces. She really must get a  proper flour container, she said to herself for the six-hundredth time,  knowing, deep down, that she never would.

With the cake rising nicely in the oven, she was just in the process of  licking out the bowl and the big spoon when the doorbell rang. However,  there was no need to panic and rush to clean herself up, Stevie decided,  as it could only be her friend Catherine bringing Danny home after a  post-school romp with her mob and the family mongrels. So she answered  the door garnished with flour and enough cocoa on her face to pass an  audition for the part of main slapstick stooge in a Christmas Panto.

The trouble was that it wasn't Catherine. It was, in fact, a big  rough-looking man, approximately the size of Edinburgh Castle, with a  long auburn ponytail, a wild red beard, a tribal-looking scar on his  left cheek and Blutoesque tattooed arms which he used to push gently  past Stevie in order to barge straight into her front room like the  proverbial bull looking for her best crockery.

‘Whurrrissseee?' came a broad Scottish burr that belonged on someone  with their face painted half-blue and half-white, wearing a battle kilt  and swinging an axe.

‘Excuse me, do you mind!' said Stevie, torn between calling the police  and reaching for some wet wipes. Tough decision but the wet wipes won on  embarrassment points.

‘Whurrr's Finch?'

‘Who the hell are you?'

‘Adam MacLean, Joanna MacLean's man.'

So this was the mythical creature Stevie had heard so much about then.  This loud, hard intruder standing on her sheepskin rug was him. She gave  his big muscular frame a quick once-over. And there she was, thinking  Jo had been exaggerating when describing the control-freak nutter she  was married to. No wonder Matthew was so sympathetic to her at work.  Well, Stevie wasn't going to be scared of him too and cower in a corner  of her own home waiting for him to stick his whisky-fuelled boot in,  like Jo did.

In the same second, Adam MacLean had affirmed that this woman was, in  fact, the greedy, lazy, rarely sober, slob thing that Jo had reported  her to be. That's why the kitchen behind her resembled Beirut on a bad  day and why she herself looked as if she had been hit at close range by a  chocolate bomb. On a binge, most likely. That's what these women who  sat at home did all day – eat cakes, drink sherry and watch Trisha. And  read all those stupid Midnight Moon crappy romance books that seemed to  be littered around the room, he noted. No wonder Jo had been so  sympathetic to the poor bloke at work, about to be married to that.

Stevie pulled herself up to her full height of five foot two.

‘Matthew is on business in Aberdeen.'

‘I think you'll find he's no',' said Adam grimly. ‘He's in bloody Magalluf with ma Jo!'

‘Don't be ridiculous!' said Stevie. Crikey, Matthew had said that the  Scot was a possessive, unhinged psycho with the part of his head empty  that should have had a brain in it, but she hadn't realized to what  degree. Poor Jo.

‘I thought you might say that,' said Adam, reaching in his back pocket  to bring out a crumpled piece of paper, which he stuck under Stevie's  nose. She pulled back, reclaiming some of her personal space, unfolded  it impatiently and looked straight at a confirmation letter of bookings,  hotel, flight numbers, today's date and names: Sunshine Holidays, Hotel  Flora, Magalluf, Mr Matthew Finch and Ms Joanna MacLean, 25 April for 7  days. It had their address in the top corner: 15 Blossom Lane, Dodmoor.  She would have slumped to the chair had the doorbell not rung again.                       


‘Excuse me, it's my son,' said Stevie in a half-daze. She opened the  door to find her best friend there, holding the hand of her small  bespectacled boy. The half-daze expanded into a full daze as she noticed  that Catherine's normally auburn hair was now bright pink, like  candyfloss. The only things that were missing were the stick, the  plastic bag and a fair in the background.

I'm going mad, thought Stevie, blinking twice, but no – the hair was still pink.

Adam, seeing the guest there on the doorstep, was unsurprised. He  noticed the cheap trollop hair. That she had friends who went out  looking like that further confirmed his low opinion of the woman in  whose house he was standing. And the boy was too old to be Finch's if  they had only been together a couple of years. Boy, she sure got around,  didn't she?

‘Hi, what a day, I've brought Dan-' Catherine looked at her friend's  pale and chocolate-splodged face then spotted the man beyond her. ‘Are  you all right?'

‘No, not really,' said Stevie. ‘Just got … something … to do.'

Catherine did a quick assessment of the situation and bobbed down to the little fair-haired boy.

‘Danny, let's go for a bun and some orange juice to the café round the  corner for half an hour. Mummy's just sorting something out.'

‘Cool!' said Danny with a face-splitting grin. That was the cherry on the perfect-day cake for him.

Catherine then turned to Stevie. ‘Go on, it's fine. I'll see you in a bit.'

‘Thanks, Cath,' said Stevie, gulping back a big ball of emotion that she couldn't quite put a name to.

As Stevie came slowly back into the room, Adam said with a subdued  cough, ‘I'm sorry, I never thought about your wee wan being here.'

Stevie answered him with a glare loaded with loathing as she dropped to  the sofa. Adam continued to tower over her like the Cairngorms as he  continued, ‘I found that note this morning when she'd gone. To a health  farm in Wales, so she said. That explained the bikini but didnae explain  why she'd taken her passporrrt.'

It was all too big to take in. Stevie hoped it was her brain playing  tricks on her – early menopause or something – or that the raw eggs in the  cake-mix had caused a rogue hallucination. Something which had become  more of a possibility when she saw the state of Catherine's hair.

One part of her head was telling her that Matthew wouldn't ever do  anything like that. He'd known how hurt she was by what had happened to  her in the past and had sworn that he would never put her through pain  like that. Matthew was thoughtful and considerate. Matthew was the sort  of man who befriended his work colleague, Jo MacLean, a woman  desperately trying to muster the courage to leave her brute of a husband  because he made her so unhappy – and you couldn't fake those sorts of  tears! She and Jo had been shopping together. She had even cooked Jo  tea. And bought her a birthday present. Matthew wouldn't have brought  her home if there had been anything going on – NO! There was no question  but that she trusted both of them implicitly. Jo had become a friend in  her own right now. Jo was sweet and uncomplicated, and she was lovely to  Danny. She had even been allowed to see the dress that was hanging up  in the spare room. She and Jo had talked for hours and Jo would be a  wedding guest when Stevie put it on and married Matthew in exactly  thirty-nine days' time.

However, the other part of her brain governed the eyes, and those were  reading over and over again the brutal evidence on the paper that she  was still holding limply in her trembling hands.

‘You could have made this up yourself on a computer!' Stevie blurted out.

‘Aye,' said Adam MacLean, clicking his fingers in an ‘I am undone' way.  ‘Do you know, I have so much spare time I often do things like this. I  really must stop it, it's becoming a dreadful habit.'

Okay, so she believed it wasn't a fake. Then again, she knew Jo and she  knew Matthew and she didn't know this blaze-haired thug. Then again,  Matthew had bought three pairs of shorts last week. For the honeymoon,  he'd said. Then again, this was Matthew! Her head felt like a John  McEnroe, Bjorn Borg Wimbledon final, batting arguments back and forth  over a net of reason. Advantage, deuce, advantage, deuce …