Hera Feelgood is in despair! Normally a most competent young woman she was frantic. Going for her smartphone Hera rang the one woman she always went to in a crisis. Her call was answered by a voice with the sweetest tone imaginable. Their conversation began with these words,
"Hera darling I was just about to call you. See you do have a bit of my gift. But seriously I have some great news!'
Too desperate to fully take in her mother's greeting, Hera said in a sad tone of voice
"Oh Mummy I cannot find anything to wear. Everything I like is only in the smallest sizes. There is no time to get anything altered by Andre. I can't go to your hospital charity ball in my old dresses. I just can't."
Finally Hera took a breath allowing her mother to get a word in. Still using her honeyed toned voice Mary Feelgood said,
"But sugar plumb I have found THE DRESS!'
Unpset with her mother for using that nursery name from her childhood Hera said in a cross tone of voice,
"Oh Mother how many times must I ask you not to call me by that ridiculous nickname. Really Nanny Upright should never have given me that nursery room name....Wait. What did you say after that? You found WHAT?"
Now her mother's delicious laugh could be heard clearly on Hera's smartphone. It was a laugh that was full bodied like its owner. But it also had traces of tinkling like a high pitched bell. To hear it was to smile and laugh along with its owner. Mary Feelgood said
"Hera I can always get you with that nickname. You are so easy. But do stop yelling darling sweetheart. Yes I found the perfect dress for you in......"
Too excited to let her mother finish Hera said in a hurried tone of voice
"What color is it? Is it my size? Does it have puffy sleeves? You know I hate puffy sleeves. Is it above the knee? How much above?..."
With the laughter now embedded in the very tone of her voice Mary Feelgood answered her daughter's questions in the order of asking,
"Its your favorite color! Exactly the same as your eyes. The size is perfect! There is no need for Andre's services this time around. No puffy sleeves. As if I would do that to you Hera sweetie. As for being 'above' the knee? Well its one of those new dual function dresses. I think it is called a "peeler". The Jazz dress is more like thigh length rather than knee length.......Hera stop squealing. You are too old for that.....What will your future husband think if he hears you squeal? .....Yes I know you are younger than I was when I got married but that does not excuse squealing... Now come home so I can show you this gorgeous dress.... He will fall in love with you at first sight! I promise..."
Hera could not believe how lucky she was to have such a treasure for a Mum. But something still worried her. So she said in a cautious tone of voice,
"Mum have you being inviting any of Dad's horrible choices for this ball? If so I am not going."
Mary knew when to take a firm line with her headstrong oldest daughter but this was not the time. So Mary said in a winning tone of voice
"Would I do such a vile thing? Hera I am surprised you would even think that of me."
Not put off by her mother's charming voice Hera demanded an answer to her question by clarifying its intent. She used her no nonsense tone of voice to say bluntly,
"Who then is this "future husband"? Why should I care if yet another man tells me that they have fallen "madly in love" with me? They all say that then never call you after the first date."
Betrayed by her own enthusiasm to get the news out about the dress Mary had to tell Hera the whole truth. She said in a fatalistic tone of voice
"Sorry I should never have told you that bit about your future. Your great aunts will scold me for that when then arrive. Still here goes. You are going to meet your future husband at this hospital charity ball. That is why I scoured the city boutiques for the perfect dress. A young woman in a city boutique off the main street knew exactly what I was describing. A tall young thing with stunning hair, she found the dress in the back waiting for shipment to another customer. But she gave it to me to buy. I must reward her for that as it was costing her commission on the sale. So sad about her boyfriend. But the right one is literally just around the corner. She will have seven children and...Wow! Hera should I warn her?'
With anyone else Hera would have just dismissed it all as fantasy talk. But this was her mother. She had a gift handed down from Hera's grandmother and great grandmother. The Irish strain in her descendants was strong on the female side. If her mother said that Hera would meet her future husband then it was almost certainly going to happen. So Hera said in a resigned tone of voice,
" Mum don't interfere. Let this young woman just get on with her life. I'll come home immediately but I want to hear more about that supposed husband. See you shortly."
The Feelgood Charity Hospital Ball was a big social event in the harbor city. All eligible young women from the well to do families attended. It was the closest thing to a "coming out" party that was so still blatantly a social event. Started by Mary Feelgood some ten years previously, it was the highlight of the city's Autumn social season. Most young woman had kept their slim summer figures specifically to allow them to squeeze into impossibly tight dresses. Men came because the females were all from connected families. Matriarchs made sure all the city's eligible bachelors attended. Even the wives of military commanders got involved in a bit of matchmaking. One such wife was presuring her husband into ordering some of his officers to attend this ball. She started very craftily by saying in a wounded voice,
"Well I think it is just too much..... I said Ron that it is just to much!"
Colonel Ronald Mackenzie was trying to ignore his wife at breakfast time, just like he always did for the last twenty years. But he knew that tone of voice from his wife meant business so he obediently gave his cue line in a neutral tone of voice,
"What is too much dear?'
His wife now assumed her censorious tone of voice,
"That Admiral saying to the Prime Minister that his command will supply all the officers needed for the most important ball of the season. Who does he think he is? Why should those Naval officers be the only ones to go to the best Ball of the year. Mary Feelgood is the richest woman in Australia. And I hear that her sister Hilda will be there this year. Only the finest young ladies get to go to that ball. No it really is too much."
Noticing that his wife had given him another opportunity to be supportive, Colonel Mackenzie replied in a tone copied from that of his wife's current mood,
"That Admiral wants to be made the new Vice Admiral. Old Vice Admiral Voyages is retiring soon. The Prime Minister has a few Admirals to pick from but he won't do it without wide consultations. Everyone knows that Abraham Feelgood has a say in all military appointments. The Navy has huge construction contacts coming up. Feelgood has his fingers in many construction companies. He will want to squeeze out any rivals. Getting on Mary Feelgood's good books can not harm that Admiral's chances for the top job."
Mrs. Mackenzie now sprang her less than subtle trap. In a forceful tone of voice she exclaims,
"Just so Ronald. But why only him. If it works for a naval Admiral why can't it work for An army Colonel?'
The look she now gives her husband made him squirm. Colonel Mackenzie did not need reminding, especially by his wife, that he married a general's daughter. But that General was now retired. If Colonel Mackenzie wanted future promotions then he would need to impress his political masters. So he picked up on his wife's thread and said in a hesitant voice,
"So you think I should offer to send my officers, the young ones of course, along to this Feelgood run Ball?"
His wife gave him one of those smiles that spoke volumes to a whipped husband. But she kept the scorn out of her tone when she replied,
"Exactly so! I have a list here of all the young unmarried officers under your command. Major Lee kindly drew it up from personnel records. They could be all given provisional leave if they agree to go to the Ball. A few I had to delete after talking to some of the other army wives. We don't want any scandals coming back to threaten your promotion. Now do we?'
Any husband of twenty years of marriage knows the answer to that question. So Colonel Mackenzie replied in a deadpan tone of voice
Mrs. Mackenzie now sounded every inch the daughter of a general when she said,
"Indeed not. You can get Major Lee to write out the leave permissions in the morning. Best to leave the invites to me. I know a few ladies on that Hos[ital's charity committee. They owe me a favor or two. Don't forget to send the Office of the Prime Minister notice of your officers attending the Ball. He will then have to wangle an invite for you and me. Not what will we wear? Your dress uniform will have to go to the cleaners. My best dress will have to go to Andre. He is the best in the city. I hear that even Mary Feelgood uses him for her daughter's dresses. Now how old are they? Let me see the oldest is Hera. Yes she is old enough. Some might say a bit too old for a Ball but no daughter of Abraham Feelgood is ever too old. Then there is Hilda Feelgood. Yes she is just old enough.... So now who to call first?..."
Colonel Mackenzie slipped away to his office. He knew from past experiences that his wife would now ignore him whilst she buried herself in preparations. Ronald Mackenzie could not think of a more blissful outcome. Determined that nothing must up set this latest plan of his wife's fertile imagination he got Major Lee onto the leave formalities. He knew from bitter experience that a disappointed wife could make his life a living hell.
Abraham Feelgood was another husband who was glad of a distracted wife. Though he loved Mary, Abraham Feelgood loved business better. He loved to make money of course but after the first billion he lost interest in the mere accumulation of wealth. Nowadays he was more interested in the power his wealth could attract. This meant alliances. Abraham Feelgood had being buying politicians for decades. But politicians came and went. Even Prime Ministers did not last for any extended length of time. Particularly in Australia, politicians had short power life cycles. But the rich families simply switched from the last to the newest political guru. These rich families held the reins of power. The richest man in Australia, Abraham Feelgood, was determined to be the driving force behind all future political power games.
This Charity Ball that his wife ran every year was a golden opportunity to curry favor with the rich families. Abraham Feelgood had done favors for many of the rich city families. He gave prospective husbands highly paid jobs, got rid of undesirables by any means available and directly funded any business ventures that would bind rich families to his future interests.
Now he was going to cash in a few favors. Abraham Feelgood had decided to win the support of the second richest family in the harbor city. This he would do the old fashioned way. Marriage was still more about money and wealth in the social circles with too much of both. The Horan family had a highly eligible son. The Feelgood family had two eligible young women. All three would be at this year's Charity Ball. Any marriage proposal would be the start of a family merger that would increase Abraham's Feelgood's power base. The Horan Family were the richest family in the harbor city after the Feelgoods. Lucas Horan was unmarried and available. But not for long if Abraham Feelgood had his way. Now all he had to do was convince his daughters and his wife.
The Feelgood Hospital Charity Ball was always going to be a big media event in Australia's largest harbor city. On the night the media pack had their hounds, their photographers, and their weapons -their microphones. So arrivals had to leave their stretch limos at the entrance to the largest ballroom in the southern hemisphere. The carpet to the ballroom entrance was not red it was golden. The rich families of the eastern seaboard paraded their most eligible bachelors and bachelorettes up this golden carpet as a rite of passage. On entering the ballroom the well dressed young rich kids had to descend a small flight of stairs. As for the carefully chosen young naval officers well they had to be brought in by a side door but where still eager to attend. When a large coach arrived some time later it was also directed to this side entrance.
By the time the Feelgood family arrived, minus one teenage daughter who was happy to be left alone back at the Feelgood's city mansion, the ballroom was packed. Abraham Feelgood made for the bar! Not to get a drink but to take his place as Charity Bar Chairman. Mary Feelgood raced off to the kitchens. She had got an SOS from Mrs. Horan about the French Chef they had flown in for this event. Mary felt the tension coming out of that kitchen from the moment her car pulled up at the entrance. Her two daughters went off to find their respective groupies. Hera Feelgood was mobbed by woman who had been to this Ball before but had left disappointed. Hera was their self appointed matchmaker! They wanted to find out who she had chosen to be their partners for the evening. Hilda Feelgood was attending her very first society Ball. She made a beeline for her friends. There was always strength in numbers.
As Hera handed out her last partner suggestion, receiving a grateful kiss from some veteran maiden, a man approached her with a saunter. Looking up Hera stopped him in his tracks with a stare that would strip paint off a cruise liner. She said in a threatening tone of voice,
"Go away Lucas. I am not even going to listen to your pathetic pick up line."
Lucas Horan, voted by some magazines as the most eligible bachelor in the harbor city, pretended to be hurt by these words. In fact his could not be hurt because he had packed his heart in ice a long time ago. But you did not get to be the number one city sleaze merchant by just giving up every time you got an initial knock back. So he said in a tone of voice that could impress most women,
"Hera darling. So good of you to finally notice me. Your Dad and my Dad thought it would be a good idea for the two of us to get acquainted. I love your stunning dress, its the latest "Peeler" fashion dress isn't it? All my partners were those to these events. Anyway how about it? A dance I mean of course."
Hera was not fooled by the oily charm dripping from this infamous womanizer. She answered in a tone of voice Lucas only ever heard from his paternal grandmother,
"I don't believe a word of it Lucas. No you can't have a dance. Not from me. Nothing ever from me. Is that clear?"
Now Lucas was angry. No woman ever refuses him anything. How dare this spoilt rich girl speak to him...HIM..like that....but then he remember what his father had said that he had to do. Any failure on Lucas's part was to be punished the only way it hurts such a reprobate like Lucas. He would lose his private jet. This was registered in the name of Horan Corporation! And Lucas' father was chairman of Horan Corporation. So Lucas swallowed his pride to return to the battle of wits with Hera. He sounded resigned when he said,
"Look I know that in the past I have had a few flings. But that is all over now. I am to be made CEO of Horan City Holdings. Time for me to settle down. So what do you say, will you help a me reform? Please."
Hera now laughed. It had that tinkle in it but with a very hard edge. She said in her no nonsense tone of voice,
"You must have rehearsed that for days. Ever thought of acting in the movies? But seriously I would have fallen for that repentance routine if I had not just spoken to the last three women you dumped. You are a ruthless lover Lucas! If you ever come near me or my close friends again I will hurt you bad. Do I make myself clear?"
Suddenly Lucas was in a flashback inside his brain. He was seven years old. His paternal grandmother was laying down the law. When his mother tried to shield him from censure, as she always had done since he was born, she received a blast of vitriol that shrunk her back into her shell. Lucas could see Grandmother Horan in Hera's eyes. Turning white from fear, not rage, he made a speedy retreat.
Another man laughed out aloud. He said without fanfare,
"Horrible Hera the demigod! HowI have missed that tongue of yours. That poor man did not stand a chance."
Looking round Hera saw a familiar face. She cheered, raced up to him and threw her arms around his neck. This was no gentle hug. He had to fight for breath but did not seem to care. Finally Hera said in a loving tone of voice
"Hunchy. My lovely Hunchy! When did you get into town? Let me look at you. You are a major now? Why Hunchy look at you. Yet your brothers said you would never make it in army life. You sure showed them and your father. How is that lovely mother of yours?'
Major Hutch Matterson beamed down at the secret love of his life. Well it really was no secret to Hera. Hutch had proposed ten times as they grew up together over the years. Usually at the many Feelgood Estate Christmas parties. A major in the Australian Army, Hutch was also the heir to an enormous family fortune. The Matterson Family owned more rural properties than anyone else in Australia. Even large agricultural corporations did not own as much rural land as the Mattersons. So when Hutch gave up all that for an army career, his father threatened to disinherit him. This was welcomed news to Hutch's siblings. But Mrs. Matterson put a stop to all that nonsense. She told her husband that if he did anything of the kind she would divorce him. That was nine years ago! Now father and son tolerated each other in Mrs. Matterson's presence but ignored each other when they could. Hutch had won battlefield promotions so many times the media called him Australia's war hero. Starting in Australia's elite Commando battalion, Hutch was sent to international peacekeeping zones. One time he had single handedly saved his patrol. Back in Australia he had been promoted in a secret army ceremony. Then he was sent again to a war zone hot spot. the same thing happened. Now he was the youngest Major in the Australian Army.
But Hutch Matterson's legs went to jelly in front of Hera Feelgood. He could never meet her gauze. Never was he able to ignore the churning in his stomach every time he saw this woman. Still he was a brave man. So he chided Hera by saying in a censorious tone of voice,
"Don't call me "Hunchy" . You know I hate it when you do that in public."
Not willing to give up her claim on this man, Hera said in a conciliatory tone of voice,
"Its what your soldiers call you isn't it? Surely your oldest friend can do the same?"
Now it was Hutch Matterson's turn to laugh. He had a good laugh and it did travel into his eyes. Hera saw it. She knew this is why she loved this man like a brother. He was her ideal male role model.
Just as these two were about to continue their verbal sparing a new voice was interjected. It was from a very attractive younger army officer. In a formal tone of voice it conveyed this message,
"All the men have arrived sir! Any orders?'
Resignedly the persona of Major Matterson now reappeared as Major Hutch Matterson answered,
"Lieutenant Champion isn't it? If you ever want to make Captain never interrupt a superior officer when he is talking to a beautiful woman. Tell the men to mingle. If they can cut out the Naval officers from the debutantes there is an extra days leave in it for those lucky ones. Now go away."
A staring Lieutenant only just recovered in time to reply,
"Yes Sir. May I say in passing that you were right. She is a beautiful woman. Sir!"
With that the Lieutenant walked away but never kept his eyes on Hera.
Strangely Hera found herself blushing. She listened as Hutch apologizes for his Lieutenant's rudeness. In a tired tone of voice he said,
"Sorry about that but its Colonel Mackenzie's direct order to bring these young men to your mother's Ball. I could have told him that they would not fit in to this set. But "Ronald the Racket" only listens to his wife. She was a General's daughter...Don't laugh its true. The poor Colonel is forever trying to live up to the standards set by his father-in-law. At least as they are portrayed by his wife. These young officers present here tonight were promised a four day leave pass if they attended tonight. But they have to behave because Colonel Mackenzie is here with Mrs. Mackenzie."
Hera was keeping that young lieutenant in view. Every time he went near a debutante her heart skipped a beat. But so far the Naval officers were prosecuting a successful blockade. So Hera could clear up one point with her childhood friend. She asked,
"But why are you here at all Hutchy? I mean the "Hero of Australia" as a junior officer nurse maid? It makes no sense."
Hutch Matterson was nodding his head before she had even finished her questions. He answered in a mater of fact tone of voice,
"It was meant to be Major Lee coming tonight. He is a hard officer. These young men would probably be still getting lectured on how to behave if Lee was here. But he got the flu bug that seems to be going around. I was a late minute replacement. Oh and by the way. No Lieutenant Champion is not married."
Confuse by this last comment Hera said in a faux tone of voice,
"Lieutenant Champion? And who might that be Hutchy? "
Hunch Matterson had known this woman too many years to be fooled so easily so he replied in his man about town tone of voice
"He is that army officer you can't take your eyes off. Adam Champion. That is his name. He is an expert on security and cyber warfare. Not that you care about anything but his eyes. I saw you gaze at each other. Hera I think you are smitten. Come on admit it."
Hera was not ready to admit to anything. So she replied in a brusque tone of voice,
"I could not care less what his name is or what is his expertise. I will dance with you all night Hutchy! Junior officers are so boring when they talk about their longed for overseas postings. Really is that the way to a young woman's heart? I ak you?'
Hunch Matterson was still not convinced that he had Hera's undivided attention. But he was not going to pass up on the opportunity of holding this woman as her dancing partner. So he said in a happy tone of voice,
"Great lets dance. Unless you want a drink or some food."
Now Hera unleashed the full seductive power of her best laugh. It had crystal bells running through it that were caught up to by peals of golden sunshine. She squealed,
"Lets dance the night away.'
Hunch Matterson grabbed this wondrous vision of womanhood and his heart leapt as they danced the next six dances in each other arms.
Of course happiness never last long. When Hunch left to get Hera a drink she was surrounded by naval officers. They formed a wedge to keep out any army advances. One army officer sees what is happening. He slips out of the ballroom. Making his way to the security room he tells the man on duty that he is needed at the front entrance. When the man leaves to race to this phantom emergency, Adam Champion types in a security protocol on the main computer panel. Suddenly all the fire alarms go off. Recorded announcements asked all attendees to make their way to the front entrance.
Everyone files out of the ballroom. But Hera feels her arm hooked as she is lead towards the kitchens. Getting ready to punch her attacker, Hera sees his face. Suddenly she becomes unusually compliant. As they enter the red lighted kitchen Adam Champion explains his actions,
"Sorry Miss Feelgood. I saw you being hassled by those Navy drones. Can't let the Major's girl be shanghied by the Navy. Now can we?"
Lieutenant Adam Champion flew into a besieged city. This was his second overseas posting. He had joined the Royal Australian Regimental Commandos at the early age of 20 years. A crack shot he was also very good at cyber warfare. Only his youth kept him in his front line position. His first overseas posting that had bloodied this young man in many combat situations. He had returned to Australia after this and was immediately sent to the national cyber warfare training facility. Lieutenant Champion got the top grade for all the military services inductees at that cyber warfare training facility. So good were his efforts that the cyber warfare senior officers wanted to permanently post him to the National Cyber Warfare counter terrorism unit. But Lieutenant Champion applied for a transfer back to his old commando unit. Reluctantly this was approved and Adam returned to his old battalion. That was four years ago. Now Lieutenant Champion was squad leader of number one platoon. Known as the "elites" this squad got all the hard dirty work. Adam's best friend was his second in command. Second Lieutenant John McCarrell was simply a rascal. He was a wild man in combat but a clown back at base camp.
When Colonel Matterson had been chosen to lead a select group from his battalion on a six month rotation peacekeeping mission he had not hesitated in choosing Champion's squad. They were the best in his command and Champion was his best squad leader. This would be a nasty mission but hopefully not a deadly one. These Australian battalion commandos would be part of a multi nation joint peacemaking task force. Australia was sending one missile destroyer plus one full wing of state of the art bombers. But Australian ground troops would have to rely upon US Naval helicopters for air cover. They would share operational space with a United State Marine Battalion. Colonel Matterson's men would be under the direct command of a US Marine General.
As Adam's plane held its position whilst the flight controller checked the security status of various runways, the new arrivals looked down on their base for the next six months. It was not a very reassuring sight. This city was under siege from professional soldiers employed by a militant ex army chief. Having stood for election for the presidency but losing to the long term president of this country, this ex army chief tried to launch a military coup. His only problem was that he was less popular with the nations soldiers than with the voting public. So he sold out to a rich and powerful neighboring country. Their government gave him the gold bullion needed to buy the services of foreign professional soldiers. These mercenaries were heavily armed!
Adam leaned over the aisle of the transport jet to say to his best friend,
"Looks like another soft posting for the RAR Commandos. You may get that tan that seemed to elude you when you went on your R&R to Hawaii."
Lieutenant Johnny McCarrell laughed that liquid laugh that won him the admiration of many young ladies. He shot back in a tone of voice that promised some dry wit to follow this misleading opening statement,
"Hawaii has many places of interest!'
Now it was Adam's turn to laugh. His laugh was more full bodied but no less severe. Getting in quick before his friend could beat him to the witty remark he said in a deriding tone of voice,
"All of which you failed to visit on any of your five days of leave...No don'it bother denying it....I know because I hacked into your phone. Unless these places of interest were named Louise. Cheryl, Indira, Hayley, Sarheer and not forgetting May then you are lying. Not very Hawaiian sounding place names."
Johnny McCarrell, known as JMac to his peers, now had the laughter dancing in his green blue eyes. Women could not cope with him having a different color iris in each eye. They accused him of using colored contact lenses. This allowed JMac to get them in close to examine his eyes thoroughly. At such close quarters his charm was lethal. Now he was in full ironic mode when he pleaded his case,
"I was quietly sightseeing at famous Hawaiian tourist spots the whole time."
Adam breaks in before his friend can get up any steam. In a doubting tone of voice he yells out,
"NAME JUST ONE."
Assuming the appearance of a famous affronted politician who had been caught claiming for trade talk trips he never made, JMac said
"I will not credit that accusation with anything but the utter contempt it deserves. You sir shall hear from my lawyers."
As the whole plane load of soldiers break out into raucous laughter at the expert miming of a certain disgraced politician, JMac slips in a winner smile to all and sundry. But Adam is not letting his friend off that lightly. He gives the final hammer blow to his 2IC's credibility by revealing the extra evidence he had to present. In a prosecuting lawyer tone of voice he announces,
"You know that there were more than just names on your smartphone files. Lots of pictures of lovely young twenty something women making up a picture gallery of your Hawaiian conquests. Too many to give you any time for sightseeing. Now admit you did not visit a single tourist spot the whole time."
Johnny McCarrell could always get the better of Adam in a contest of wit. He was not going to start any losing streak. So he shot back this reply so quickly that Adam had barely finished presenting his evidence when his best friend won the whole debate. In a tone of voice loaded with just enough innuendo to be suggestive but not enough to be crude he said,
"But your Honor I did see many sights whilst on my R&R in Hawaii. So my claim was not false. The prosecutor is just splitting hairs.""
Even Adam could not stop himself laughing at that comeback. So as the plane finally touched down on a secure runway the whole commando contingent were cocooned inside a laughter bubble. Unfortunately for everyone on board that plane their "bubble" would burst very soon.
Back in the harbor city Abraham Feelgood was getting suspicious about what Hera was really doing whilst holidaying in Singapore. Abraham went looking for his wife. She had that gift from her grandmother. At this point Abraham Feelgood felt someone walking on his grave. Shaking off this superstitious dread he became even more determined to make things go the way he wanted.
Luckily for Mary Feelgood she could read her husband's face even from a distance. As he approached with obvious relish Mary got in a preemptive strike by saying in a mock peeved tone of voice,
"Really it was too much of Hera to go gallivanting off to Singapore. I would not be surprised if you did not insist on her immediate return to help us celebrate Easter. Your Easter Party is the biggest country social event for our friends. "
Abraham Feelgood had been married too long to be so easily gulled. He said in a demanding tone of voice,
"Hera is up to something! Do you think Mary that there was another reason for her going? Was she just using her cousin's difficult pregnancy to get out of going to our party?"
Seeing that her husband was dangerously close to the truth Mary Feelgood acted to distract him with a horror story. Using a tone of voice that would make more sense delivered to a kindergarten class she announced'
"Oh Ab did I tell you that my aunts are coming to the Easter Party? Won't that be nice?"
When your whole world spins under your feet you only notice when it stops. For Abraham Feelgood his world had stopped spinning. He felt as if he was going to fall off into space. When he recovered his sense of balance he yelled in a frightened tone of voice,
"NICE? DID YOU USE THE WORD NICE TO DESCRIBE YOUR AUNTS? ARE YOU MAD? THAT ONE CALLED...OH I FORGET BUT SHE PUT A CURSE ON ME. NOW SHE IS COMING HERE?"
Inwardly patting herself on the back for such a successful diversionary tactic Mary Feelgood put on a mask of solicitude. In a mock defensive tone of voice she said,
"But Abraham, Aunt Tyrrn only did that because she overheard you say something nasty about Mama during her funeral wake."
Now Abraham was really frightened. If Hera's aunts were only horrid then her mother was evil, according to this much harassed son-in-law. Whereas Mary was only half Irish her mother was full Irish. Not the kindly Irish that stupid movie directors insisted on typecasting. But the real southern Irish who could both see through you in an instant and go through you the next second. He seriously doubted that he could have summed up that woman's malignancy in a short aside at a funeral. No though this crushed son-in-law it would take a bible length book to do that justice. But he was not going to let his wife see that he was scared of three little old Irish women. So he blustered back this re joiner,
"What about your Aunt Murna? She threatened to have be boiled in oil!'
Much pleased with the way this was all taking her husband away from his moment of clarity concerning Hera's real intentions Mary played along by assuming a penitent wife persona when she replied to this fresh charge,
"Aunt Murna thought you were going to harm the girls. You know what she always said about her great nieces. To her mind Hera was the future witch, Hilda the future martyr and Hannah the future leader. No one could make any sense of that you know. She is getting old as she begins to confuse the past with the present. Because of course we had an ancestor also called Hera who was a witch. Or so they said when they burned her alive three hundred years ago. As for Hilda being a martyr well we had one of those as well back when the English invaders sent by Elizabeth the First burned down our ancestor's village. Hannah though puzzles me. No past Hannah's are know as leaders."
Now Abraham Feelgood's head was spinning with too much family history. He grumpily tried to reassert his right to feel harassed.by saying,
"Well what about you Aunt Penar'dun? She never looked at me without giving me the evil eye. What about her Mary?'
Laughing on the inside but wearing a mask of concern for her husband she said in a tone of defeat,
"Yes....you are right as always Abraham. Aunt Penar'dun never really liked you. But what can you do. She is a witch!"
Feeling as if he had won but not sure what he had won Abraham Feelgood walked out of the breakfast room.
Mary Feelgood now could smile as she said to the air,
"Thank you my wonderful aunts for looking after Hera in this time of need."
Only Mary Feelgood heard her aunt's reply.