Tybalt and Juliet Ch. 03

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Author’s Notes

All characters are at least 18 years old, except where stated otherwise.

Jake, Amy and their schoolmates are preparing to take their A level exams in late May and early June, before they go on to university in September or October.

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Despite some pre-match nerves all round, lunch with my parents was a great success. Mum liked Amy, she told me afterwards, and the conversation between them flowed easily. Dad was quieter (as farming-types often are), but was friendly enough.

Lunch over, I took Amy on a tour of the farm. The lambing shed had emptied somewhat during the preceding week. Most of the newborns and their mothers were already strong enough to have been put out to pasture and it was only those who’d been rejected by the ewes that remained.

“Do you wanna have a go at feeding them?” I asked her.

Amy turned and looked up at my, her eyes bright with excitement.

“Can I?” she asked.

I nodded. “Why don’t you sit on that straw bale there and I’ll make up some milk?”

I prepared a few bottles as she sat down in the centre of the barn. A few of the older lambs came over to her, anticipating their feed.

“They’re very tame,” she remarked as they started jostling for position around her.

“They are at this age,” I explained. “These ones haven’t been outside yet and they’re the orphans, so they don’t know to be wary of us yet.”

I shoed the more eager lambs away from my girlfriend and presented her with the first bottle of milk.

“It’s warm!” she said in surprise.

“Same temperature as mum!” I replied.

“So how do I do this?” she asked.

“Best thing is to let them come between your legs one-by-one,” I explained, conscious of the double entendre. “If the others start jostling you as you’re feeding, just be firm and push them away.”

Amy looked a little doubtful, but I smiled reassuringly and brought the first lamb over to her. I showed her how to support the animal’s head as it began to suckle.

“Can I pick him up?” she asked.

I shook my head. “No, sorry,” I said. “This is the best way of doing it. They drink so fast, they can choke if their head isn’t the right orientation. If he was drinking from mum, he’d be stretching his neck out in the same way.”

I took a few photos of Amy with her phone. Then I sat down next to her with the clipboard and wrote her initials ‘AN’ and the time against the lamb’s identification number. Once it had finished feeding, I showed her how to check for any signs of injury or disease.

“I hadn’t realised it was so technical,” she said. “All these records you have to keep!”

“We have to,” I said. “If a lamb gets ill, we need to deal with it quickly, otherwise the rest of the flock might catch something. And we need to know how much each one has fed, otherwise some get too much and others don’t get any. Plus, Lauren fed them this morning, we’re feeding them now, Dad will probably do the next feed late afternoon, and then it might be Uncle John before bedtime! We need to let each other know what we’ve done.”

“Yes, I suppose it’s obvious really,” she said. “But it’s just not what I was expecting.”

“People have this image of milkmaids in gingham dresses singing to their animals and knowing them all by name,” I said wryly. “But farming’s not like that, it hasn’t been like that for a hundred years, probably a lot longer.

“So how long have you been doing this?” she asked. “I mean feeding the lambs?”

“Oh years,” I said. “With Dad or Uncle John at first, then with Lauren – it’s easier with two. But certainly for the last two or three years on my own.”

“Your dad must really trust you,” she said, with a slightly sad look in her eyes.

“He does, and Lauren too,” I replied, “but he can easily check to make sure I’ve done everything properly – he can see the records. And if I’m not sure about anything – say a lamb doesn’t look right, I can send him a photo, or even a video and, if he needs to, he can call me or come over. Now it’s fine, we’ve just had lunch together and I know he’s five minutes away tops, but on another day, he might be the far side of the farm, maybe twenty minutes by tractor.”

“And do you have to do this, or are you doing this because you want to,” she asked slowly. “I mean, your parents aren’t forcing you to help out?”

“No,” I said. “I’m doing it because I want to. I love my animals – I don’t sing to them, but I do love them! Plus I do get paid for what I do. If we had a herdsman, then we’d have to pay a full-time salary and probably give accommodation. But if Lauren and I do a couple of hours a day during the busy times, then, well, everyone in the family wins.”

“And you don’t find it a bit repetitive?” she asked.

I took a deep breath. “Sometimes,” I admitted. “Doing an hour or so a day is fine and especially this time of year there’s so much going on, it’s not boring at all. But I think if I was doing this for a career, then yes, I would find it a bit dull. It can be very solitary at times and I’d miss being around other people. I’ve got too much of my Mum in me!”

Amy smiled at me.

“But Bostancı Escort I’m not going to be a farmer,” I said. “I’m going to be a vet.”

Lambs fed, inspections completed and records updated, we secured the shed and struck out across the fields. My phone buzzed in my pocket – a photo from Lauren of the rowing boat prepared and ready on the millpond. ‘Cool bag in the hut,’ she’d written.

‘Thanks,’ I typed back, ‘I owe you one.’

‘Taking car out now,’ she texted. ‘Back at six.’

Amy looked at me expectantly.

“Only Lauren,” I said, indicating my phone.

“Not trying to steal you back, is she?” Amy teased.

I laughed, taking her hand to help her over the stile and into the second field.

“How old are these lambs?” she asked, looking over to the flock.

“Almost two months old,” I replied. “These ones were born at the end of February. It won’t be long ’til we take them away from the ewes,” I explained.

“Oh,” said Amy, “that’s sad.”

“Well, that’s farming,” I said. “Circle of life and all that.”

We were walking across the field now, moving closer to the flock.

“What’s that?” she asked, pointing her finger over to a taller animal with slightly darker wool.

“That’s one of our llamas!” I said. “They chase away foxes and dogs – anything that tries to attack the flock really.”

“Can we go and say hello?” she asked.

“Probably best not to,” I said. “They’re bred for their snootiness. They can spit if you get too close. And that one there has a particular problem with me,” I added.

“With you?” she asked. “What did you do to upset it?”

“She’s jealous ‘cos I started going out with you!” I teased.

Amy rolled her eyes at me and we walked on for another minute or so.

“You have horses?” she asked wide-eyed, motioning to the animals in the adjoining field.

“Yeah,” I said, “but those ones there belong to the Stables near the village. It’s our field, but we rent it out to them for grazing.”

“So where do you keep yours then?” she asked.

“Oh, they live at the Stables too,” I said. “We’ve got a very good relationship with Jackie – she’s the owner; she looks after our horses and we let her use a couple of our fields. We used to own the Stables too, but our grandparents sold them to her about five years ago when they retired. We still own the farm workers’ cottages next door, but they’re mainly used by people on equestrian holidays. We used to do B&B, but we just offer them as self-catering now. Lauren’s mum runs all the bookings and everything.”

“Oh,” said Amy, “that must be a nice little earner.”

“Well it is for about five months of the year,” I agreed, “but it’s quite difficult to fill self-catering cottages in the dead of winter, especially round here.”

We walked on a little further, but I noticed that Amy was still looking across at the horses.

“Do you ride?” I asked. She hadn’t mentioned riding to me before.

“I used to,” she said, “when I was eight or nine.” She sounded a little wistful.

“Why don’t you have a few lessons with Jackie over the summer?” I suggested.

“Oh, I’d love to do that,” she replied, “but wouldn’t it be very expensive?”

“I’m sure we can get a good rate with Jackie,” I said. “She owes me a favour or two, the number of times I’ve helped rescue one of her horses.”

“That would be good,” she said. “I’ll ask my Mum.”

We continued to walk across the fields. My girlfriend was fascinated by my life on the farm and kept up a constant barrage of questions: What time did we start miking? How much time did I spend working before school? How did I balance farm chores and a social life? How old was I when I first drove a tractor? She was intrigued by the way that family, home and business were so intertwined and how we all supported each other – it seemed so alien to her suburban lifestyle.

We’d reached the edge of the fields and were walking along the thin strip of woodland that covered the banks of the stream. Suddenly Amy pulled my hand and dragged me behind a large oak.

“W-w-what?” I protested as she pushed me against the broad tree trunk.

“Just kiss me Jake!” she commanded.

My cock flared in my jeans as I bent my head and our lips met. Our tongues attacked one another, wrestling for control as Amy ran her hands over me. We broke apart, gasping for breath.

“I’ve always wanted to do that to a man,” she revealed. “Drag him behind a tree and make out with him!”

“Any man, or just me?” I teased.

“Oh any man would do,” she shot back, “but you happen to be a particularly fine example!”

She flung her arms around me and squeezed me tightly. Then stepped back a little, inspecting the specimen in front of her.

She cocked her head, frowning as she listened.

“I can hear a river!” she exclaimed.

“Yes, it’s behind you – there, through the trees,” I pointed.

Amy took my hand and led me down the slope towards the water.

“It’s so clear!” she said.

“It’s a chalk stream,” I explained. “There isn’t any sediment – well not until it gets onto the clay. Come on, let’s go this way – I’ve got Anadolu Yakası Escort something to show you.”

We followed the river for a few hundred metres as the woodland began to thin out.

“Oh,” she said in surprise, “there’s a lake!”

The thin triangle of silver lay before us, stretching away towards the dam half a mile or so away. The mill that had been here was long gone, but my family had maintained the pond down the generations.

Lauren and I had loved the millpond as children, spending as much time there as we could as we became more independent. We’d both fallen in more times than we could remember, and we’d caught fish, tadpoles, newts, you name it, there. A pair of swans would nest each year on the far bank, and we’d spend our Easter school holidays watching them with their cygnets. Of all the places around the farm, this was where I felt happiest. It seemed right to be bringing Amy here too and to be sharing, if not a secret, then a special, private place that very few of my schoolmates had visited.

“It’s so peaceful,” Amy said quietly, reverently.

“Yeah, not many people know about it” I explained. “There’s a local angling club that uses it, but it’s the close season at the moment – they can’t fish ’til the middle of June.”

We squeezed past the side of the Fishermen’s Hut, the wooden shed that we let the angling club use to store odd bits of tackle and bait boxes. Amy gasped as we reached the edge of the water.

“You’ve got a boat!” she exclaimed.

“Yes, I thought we could go for a row,” I replied.

I opened the door to the hut and retrieved the oars, Lauren’s cool bag and a couple of cushions. I held the boat steady as Amy stepped nimbly onboard. She sat down in the stern and I slid the oars into the rowlocks with a clunk.

“You OK?” I asked.

She nodded.

I stepped into the boat and cast off.

“Oh strawberries,” Amy exclaimed, examining the contents of the cool bag. She brought out two paper bowls covered with cling film, that Lauren had distributed the fruit between. “You are so organised,” she said, beaming at me.

I decided to keep my cousin’s involvement from Amy, so I simply smiled back at her. “Let me row us out for a bit,” I said, “and then we can eat.”

We’d reached the far end of the millpond and, having gorged ourselves on the strawberries, I turned the boat round.

“Do you want to have a row?” I asked.

Amy shook her head. “No, it’s OK,” she responded. “I’m enjoying you doing all the hard work!”

We watched as a mother duck led her ducklings across the water in front of the boat.

“It’s wonderfully quiet,” Amy said dreamily.

“Well, a few hundred years ago it would have been pretty noisy actually,” I said, taking the opportunity to show off my knowledge of local history.

“Noisy?” she asked incredulously.

“Yeah, this was an old hammer pond,” I explained. “They used to mine iron ore a few miles away, then they’d bring it here to smelt it. The water was used to power the bellows for the furnace and a big hammer to beat the metal into shape. That’s why the mill was here – it wasn’t for grinding grain, it was to make all the cannons for the Navy.”

“Oh,” she said. “How come I didn’t know that?”

“Not many people do,” I said. “A few hundred years ago there were about thirty or forty ponds like this all around here. Now there’s maybe a dozen at most.”

“So what happened to the hammers?” she asked.

“The Industrial Revolution,” I replied. “We don’t have any coal round here, you see, so they’d have used charcoal for smelting. But they couldn’t really get it hot enough for best quality metal. As soon as they’d worked out how to produce iron and steel with coke up north, everyone down south was put out of business. That was the start of the 1700s.”

“So the mills just closed down?”

I nodded. “Some were converted for flour, but there wasn’t enough wheat or barley round here for them all to survive.”

“Wow,” she said smiling. “I never knew. It’s amazing how much history there is under your nose that you never notice.” She paused. “So how come the lake’s still here?” she asked.

“Well after the mill closed, it would have been a reserve water supply for the farm,” I explained. “But now we just rent it out to the fishermen. We don’t get much money, but it’s enough to get the dam inspected and repaired every few years.”

“What do you want to do next week?” I asked after I’d tied the boat back up on the jetty.

“I think Mum, Rob and the boys are going off for an Easter Egg Hunt on Monday,” she said. “So it would be really nice if you could come over,” she looked at me hopefully.

“I’d love to,” I said, “but are you sure they don’t mind me spending so much time with you? I don’t want to monopolise you.”

“I think Mum really likes you,” she said. “She thinks your work ethic is a good influence on me.”

“If only she knew!” I said wryly.

“But as it’s Bank Holiday Monday,” she added, “I thought we could maybe go for a run together, or something, just to break up the day. You won’t be able to go to the library, so you can stay with me in Ataşehir Escort the afternoon, if you like.”

“Good idea,” I said. “I’ll put my trainers and running shorts in the car when Lauren gets back.”

Lauren drove me into town on Easter Monday morning, taking advantage of her first opportunity to grill me on Amy’s visit to the farm.

“So, how did it go loverboy?” she asked.

“I think it went really well,” I said. “Thanks for sorting the rowing boat out – Amy really enjoyed that.”

“Not a problem,” Lauren replied. “Did you show her round the farm?”

“Yes, I showed her most places,” I answered. “We fed the lambs and we looked at the llamas with the sheep.”

“And you didn’t bore her to tears with a lecture on animal husbandry or artificial insemination?” She looked at me pointedly.

“No, I did as you said,” I replied, “and only gave her my five-minute thesis on risk factors for mastitis in dairy herds.”

“Well, at least the poor girl knows what she’s let herself in for now” Lauren rolled her eyes.

“So, what are you up to today?” I asked. “The library’s closed because of the Bank Holiday.”

“Oh, I’m going to revise with Alicja in the morning,” she said cagily, “and then I might see a couple of other peeps later on. What are you and Amy going to get up to?” she asked, abruptly changing the subject.

“Oh,” I said, “I thought Alicja was going to Poland to see her family over Easter.”

“Nah,” she replied, “that’s at Half Term.”

I’d knew my cousin well enough to know when she was lying, but I didn’t pursue it. Lauren was obviously doing something that she didn’t want me to know about but, especially as I was asking her to keep schtum about Amy and me, it wasn’t fair to press her.

“What are you doing with Amy today?” she repeated.

“Revising on her dining room table,” I said, “and no, that’s not a euphemism.”

Amy’s mum, step-dad and eight-year-old step-brothers left us around ten o’clock to head off to the Easter Egg Hunt, but the my girlfriend and I continued to work for another hour or so. By eleven, I was satisfied that I could draw detailed diagrams of the heart and kidney from memory and could analyse the various patterns of inheritance for both autosomal and sex-linked genetic diseases.

I quietly put down my pencil. Amy was still working and, not wanting to disturb her, I slowly got up and walked down the hallway to the kitchen. I filled a tumbler with water and stood in front of the patio doors, looking out into the garden. It was a grey, overcast day, but at least it wasn’t raining.

Amy came up behind me, placing her hands on my chest and leaning her head against my back. I tried to turn round, but she held me tightly, preventing me from doing so.

“No, stay,” she said quietly. “I want to hold you like this.”

“But I want to kiss you,” I protested.

“Yes, but we know where that will lead,” she replied.

“And that’s a problem?” I queried.

I placed my hands over hers as she squeezed me, then after a few seconds, she relaxed her grip and I turned to face her.

“D’you want to go for that run?” I asked, “or do you want to stay here instead?” I smiled.

Amy paused, weighing up the options.

“Yes,” she said, “let’s go for a run. You get so little exercise when you’re revising all day.”

I changed into my jogging gear in the sitting room, swapping my underwear for a pair of black compression shorts and pulling on a sports t-shirt and tracksuit bottoms. I knew that Amy would take longer, and so I pulled out my phone. There was a message from James, inviting me to a party on the Saturday evening. I decided to wait before answering – I’d already messaged Danny to ask if he wanted to go for a curry the same night, but he hadn’t yet replied.

The door opened and Amy entered.

“You ready?” she asked.

I looked up from my phone. “Wow!” I exclaimed, “You look, you look amazing.”

And she did. Amy was wearing a tight, bright-pink, cropped running top and skin-hugging black leggings, which showed off her boyish hips. I gasped. I’d never seen her wear anything like it. Fuck she was sexy. My cock flared.

“Come on,” she said, jolting me back to reality. “We need to stretch and get going.”

It wasn’t a very long run, maybe twenty minutes at most. Amy lived on small estate of detached houses that had been built about five years previously. It wasn’t a part of town that I knew well, but I remembered the drawn-out fight between the locals, who desperately wanted to block the proposals, and the developer promoting the scheme. In the end, the townsfolk lost (as they always did) but one of the few compromises that they’d managed to wrangle from the council, was to have the neighbouring area of woodland designated as a nature reserve.

There was nothing particularly special about the woodland; the protected status was political, nothing more. The trees were relatively young (mostly beech and birch) but their branches provided decent shade to run beneath. There was a clear circular route, perhaps a little over half a mile in total, which we completed maybe three or four times. Although the weather had been dry for the preceding few days, the clay soil was still wet and relatively muddy, which meant that much of the time we had to jog in single file. I let Amy lead, ostensibly so that she could set the pace, conveniently giving me a good view of her pert backside!

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