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Ben wasn’t sure if he had heard the first knock on the door as he was concentrating so hard on what he was doing. It was probably only the second knock which penetrated his thoughts, making him sit back and sigh in frustration. Shit, he thought, I don’t need this interruption. His research paper was due in a few weeks and he needed to focus on it. He pushed back the chair from the table and with a frown on his face, walked to the front door. As he passed the hall window, he saw the long predicted rain had arrived. It was already mixed with sleet, and snow was forecast later on. He opened the door coming face to face with a bedraggled figure. It was a young door-to-door seller carrying a plastic box full of domestic bits and pieces. He had seen them before, boys or girls trying to make some money by knocking on doors to sell cheap dusters and scissors for twice their real price.

Before he could say anything, the figure in front of him waved a laminated card under his nose saying, ‘I’m not a criminal, I’m only trying to make some money. Will you buy something from me? I need money for the hostel tonight.’ It was a litany he had heard before, and he was going to say no, when he noticed how wet the figure was. He put his glasses on, thinking it was a boy, although with a baggy anorak and a hoodie over the head, it wasn’t easy to tell. Whoever it was looked soaked to the skin and exhausted. Ben was afraid the boy was going to collapse on the doorstep.

‘Are you alright?’ Ben asked.

‘Yeah, I’m OK, but will you buy something, please?’ Ben heard despair in the voice.

The figure staggered a little under the weight of the box and Ben’s hands went out instinctively to try to catch him before he fell. The boy didn’t look very old, and the wet hoodie and jeans didn’t conceal how thin he was. Ben knew he should send him on his way, but he couldn’t make him go back out in this weather in this state.

‘Look, you’re cold and soaked through. This weather isn’t going to ease up. Come in and dry off. I’ll make you a cup of tea or something. It’s freezing out here.’ Ben already felt the cold seeping through his own shirt.

The figure looked up and Ben thought he’d made a mistake. By the shape of the face and the eyes it might be a girl under the hoodie. Ben supposed he, or she, was trying to work out if he was a serial killer preying on young door-to-door salespeople. The primal need to be warm and dry seemed to overcome any reservations, ‘If I can come in for a few minutes, maybe have a tea?’ The voice was quiet and Ben still wasn’t able to tell if it was a boy or girl. He opened the door wide to let the figure past.


She had reached the end of her tether by the time she knocked on the door of the cottage. It was the last one in the lane before the countryside began. She didn’t hold out much hope of a sale. The people in these types of houses were more likely to call the police than buy anything from her. When the young guy opened the door, a frown on his face and glasses dangling from his fingers, she launched into her spiel. Experience had taught her to say it quickly before they had a chance to say no. She thought he was going to send her on her way, but he took a second glance at her, even put his glasses on, then made the offer for her to come inside for a tea. She hesitated, life had taught her to be wary about offers like this. But, she was soaking wet, cold and hungry. The thought of getting dry was enough to overcome her reservations. When he moved aside to let her in, she stepped inside, her senses alert for anything that looked off.

He told her to keep going straight, the kitchen was at the end of the corridor. He closed the front door following her in. Her cheap anorak and hoodie were so wet through they were dripping on the kitchen floor as she stood there clasping the box tightly as if she feared he would steal it.

‘Put your box on the floor, it won’t hurt the tiles,’ he said.

She cautiously lowered the box to the floor, her eyes trying to take everything in. It was a bright country kitchen with wooden cabinets, pottery jugs and flowery curtains. She felt a sudden pang as it made her think of her mother, back in the days when they were still talking.

‘Sit down. Here, use this chair.’ He pulled a wooden backed chair towards the table and she sat down, feeling the exhaustion sweep over her. She knew she shouldn’t stay, but the chance to get dry and have a cup of tea was too strong to pass up. He was filling the kettle, glancing over to her. She looked at him properly for the first time, thinking he looked OK, a bit nerdy, younger than she had first thought. He flicked the switch on the kettle before walking across to her.

‘Hi, I’m Ben,’ he said, holding out his hand. She was so surprised she shook the outstretched hand.

‘Oh, you’re so wet. Hang on, let me get you a towel to dry yourself.’ He opened a door, through which she glimpsed a washing machine and a pile of laundry on a work top. He came back with a towel and she took it gratefully, wiping her hands and face before starting to dry her hair.

‘Sorry, sinop escort is it OK if I dry my hair on it?’

‘Yes, yes, of course, there are plenty more towels. Is tea OK? I mean there’s coffee too, if you prefer?’

She wondered if she was dreaming. She never got asked in for tea, let alone whether she preferred coffee.

‘No, tea’s good, thanks.’ ‘Milk, sugar?’ he called across. ‘Milk, two sugars.’


He was now sure it was a girl, but she looked so androgynous that he forgave himself his mistake of thinking it was a boy. She had taken the hoodie off, her long hair soaking wet hair hung in curls down to her shoulders. Her face was devoid of makeup making her look boyish, he thought. He tried to place her accent. Somewhere up North, Manchester maybe, he thought, definitely not Birmingham or Liverpool. If so, she was a long way from home down here in the outer suburbs of London. She continued to dry her hair as he made the tea. Pouring the boiling water onto the tea bags, he stole a glance at her. He thought she looked quite presentable now her hair didn’t resemble a rat’s nest.

He walked across to the table, put a mug down in front of her before pulling up a chair for himself. He noticed the hoodie was still dripping on the floor.

‘Look, your top is soaking, if you want I can put it through the tumble dryer for you. It will never dry otherwise.’

‘No, no. I’m alright, it’ll dry in a minute.’

‘It’s dripping all over the floor, let me throw it in the dryer, it’ll be dry in ten minutes.’


She looked down at the floor where small puddles of water on the floor had formed from the dripping wet hoodie. She knew he was right, but every instinct she had was telling her to be careful. Sensing her hesitation, he said, ‘if you want you can borrow something of mine to wear while your top is drying. They’ll be a bit big but they should be OK.’ He went back into the laundry room, returning with a baggy sweatshirt.

‘Why are you doing this for me?’ she asked.

He paused before replying, ‘You looked so wet and miserable out there, I wasn’t going to send you on your way. Besides, tomorrow is Christmas Eve. it’s good to do something nice.’ She sat for a moment trying to work out if he was playing her, but tiredness made her cave in.

‘Drying out my hoodie would be great.’

He grinned, and she thought his smile transformed his face. He passed her the sweatshirt, ‘You can change in the downstairs cloakroom, it’s at the end of the corridor.’ At that instant her stomach rumbled loudly, a reminder she hadn’t eaten since breakfast.

He smiled, ‘Do you want a sandwich? There’s bread and ham and some cheese. You’ve reminded me I haven’t eaten, I get carried away when I’m working and forget to eat and drink.’

She thought, in for a penny, in for a pound. ‘A sandwich would be great, but are you sure?’

He grinned again, ‘Yeah, it’s only a sandwich, I can do one of those. I’ll have it done when you come back.’

She walked down the corridor and as she got to the door, she turned to look back. He was cutting the bread, and she thought maybe she might have had some good luck for once.

She closed the door of the cloakroom turning the key in the lock, just in case. She stripped off the hoodie dumping the sodden mess on the floor. Her t-shirt was also wet through and that joined the hoodie. The jeans were soaked from the knees down and she wondered if she could get them done too. She shrugged them off standing there in her knickers. She instinctively checked her face in the mirror. She looked tired, but that wasn’t surprising. She ran her hands over her small breasts and when she touched the nipples, they tingled making her shiver. She pulled on his baggy shirt which came down to the middle of her thighs. She decided it covered up pretty much everything well enough. She definitely didn’t want anything showing. After checking herself in the mirror once more, she unlocked the door and walked back to the kitchen.


As he made the sandwich he thought, it’s a good question. Why am I doing this? He didn’t need the interruption, but he knew his concentration was blown the moment he went to answer the door. Still, why had he asked her in? Why was he making her tea and sandwiches? He hadn’t seen anyone since Sean and Carol had left a few days earlier for their trip to the Amazonian rain forest. It meant that he would spend Christmas here, but that wasn’t a hardship as he hated the Christmas holiday. The whole commercial charade made him sick.

That had been part of the attraction though. House sitting for a couple of friends for a few months seemed an ideal way to get on with his research paper. He was, if anything a little ahead of schedule, so this little distraction probably wouldn’t cost him too much time.

He looked up as she came back into the kitchen wearing only his sweatshirt and carrying her wet clothes. The shirt was short enough to reveal quite a bit of her legs, and he felt himself go a little pink as she caught him looking at them.

‘Do you mind if I dry my sivas escort jeans too?’ she said.

‘No, not at all. Give them to me and I’ll put them through the dryer. Your sandwich is on the table.’

He disappeared into the laundry room putting her wet clothes into the dryer. She was attacking the sandwich as he came back in, making him think she hadn’t eaten for a while. He watched her eat as he drank his tea, and when she saw him looking said, ‘What?’

‘You didn’t tell me your name,’ he said.

‘Sandy,’ she said, ‘short for Alexandra.’

‘Nice name, where are you from?’

She looked back at him without answering.

‘Sorry,’ he said, ‘none of my business.’

She nodded, ‘Yep.’

Feeling a little rebuffed he went back to watching her eat. Elven, he thought, that’s her look. She was small and slender, with a pretty face and delicate hands, her hair tumbling down over her ears. He thought it wouldn’t be at all surprising if they were pointed. He smiled to himself, imagining she had come from Rivendell, straight out of the pages of Lord of the Rings.


She knew he was watching her, but she didn’t mind that too much. She probably shouldn’t have been so rude when he asked her where she came from, but it wasn’t any of his business. He was nice looking, not handsome, but interesting. She thought if he lost the glasses and got a better haircut he would look attractive. Thinking she should be nicer, considering what he was doing for her, she said, ‘Nice place you got here.’

‘Oh, no, it’s not mine. I’m house sitting for friends of my Professor while they’re away on an expedition. The Amazon. They’re biologists.’ He realised he was babbling. ‘I have some work to do on a research paper, so it’s good timing for us all.’ God, he thought, why did he always have to over explain himself?

‘What’s it about? Your paper, I mean.’

‘Oh, it’s not so interesting, honestly.’

‘Oh, you think I’m too stupid to understand?’ She meant it more light-heartedly than it sounded.

He went bright pink, ‘No, no, it’s just a bit obscure, it’s about the effectiveness of different therapies following male SRS. Sex reassignment…’

‘Surgery.’ She finished it off.

‘You know about SRS?’

She knew she shouldn’t have tried to show off by finishing off the sentence, but for some reason she wanted him to know she wasn’t stupid.

‘A bit, read about it. Friend of mine thought about doing it. Are you a doctor then?’

‘No, a psychologist. Did you friend go through with it?’

‘No, no, only talked about it. Are my clothes dry yet?’

He went to check before coming back frowning, ‘No, I’m sorry I pressed the wrong programme. I’ve never used this machine before. I’ve put in on the right one now. I’m sorry.’

‘Ok, if you have to do some work, go ahead, I’ll sit here and wait if you don’t mind.’


His laptop was in the next room so he thought it wouldn’t do any harm to leave her here. He could do some editing and make a fresh start tomorrow. He worked for a while, losing track of the time as he usually did. He heard the dryer announcing it had finished the cycle with an irritating electronic noise that would wake the dead. He listened, but he didn’t hear Sandy move as he assumed she would want to get her clothes out. He pushed back his chair and walked into the kitchen as the dryer continued to buzz its annoyance. Sandy was asleep at the table, her head on her arms. She must have been dog-tired he thought, the warmth and the food probably pushing her into sleep. He smiled as her face looked so peaceful, so he decided to leave her to sleep a little while longer.

He turned off the dryer, but she hadn’t moved when he returned. He crept past her to the room he had made his study sitting down at his laptop once more. He started to edit his work again, becoming so engrossed an hour had passed before he checked his watch. He listened, but couldn’t hear anything from the kitchen, so he walked through to find Sandy still asleep. The only change was she had shifted her head from one arm to the other. He hated to wake her, but it had to be done.

‘Sandy, Sandy, wake up.’ He spoke softly at first, but as she didn’t stir, he called her name louder and louder. When she didn’t wake, he rocked her shoulder with his hand but still she didn’t wake up. He thought she must have been exhausted to be in such a deep sleep. She reminded him of his sister’s children. They fell straight asleep and were out for the count. Nothing would wake them until they were good and ready. What to do with Sandy? He knew he should wake her, but she looked as if she needed the sleep.

There was a sofa pushed against the wall of the kitchen and he thought if he could get her to lay there she would be far better off. Once more he wondered why he was doing this. Fine, offering someone in need a cup of tea is one thing, but then drying their clothes and making them food is surely something else. Looking at her again, he thought there was something about the girl which touched him. He knew he had a thing for waifs tekirdağ escort and strays of all kinds, yet there was something more. He sensed a vulnerability in her which compelled him to help her.

He couldn’t think of a way to get her across to the sofa without carrying her, and that was out of the question. He had dealt with vulnerable people before and the risks involved in any physical contact were too high to contemplate. All he came up with was to place a pillow gently beneath her head and to cover her up with a blanket. He folded her clothes, noticing how threadbare they were, placing them next to her on the table. Glancing out of the window he saw the rain had turned to snow. Small flakes being blown around by the wind like confetti at a wedding. This wasn’t going to let up for a few hours, so he thought he would let her sleep, she wouldn’t be able to go far in this weather.

He returned to his laptop and sighed as he realised he wouldn’t be getting any more work done today. It was coming up to six o’clock now, so he logged off from his paper and spent the next hour catching up on emails which he had been neglecting for the past few days. He hesitated, then signed into his cloud account, where he kept his stories. He tried to write at least a couple of pages each day. It was his way of relaxing and to exercise his imagination in a way that the rigid demands of his academic work would not allow him. These stories were definitely never going to be published except anonymously in on-line websites, but he felt compelled to keep writing them. He had written a few lines for the story he was working on when he heard a noise from next door. He guessed it was Sandy waking up, so he lowered the screen on his laptop as she burst through the door. She had her clothes in her hands and an angry look on her face.

‘Why did you let me sleep? I have to go. I need to get to the hostel or they’ll give away my bed. Shit, shit, shit.’ She started to drag her jeans on as she swore under her breath.

‘I tried to wake you, but you were out for the count. Besides you can’t go out in this,’ he said, gesturing out of the window where it seemed the snow was still falling even harder than before.

‘Fuck, can’t you do something?’ she said, getting increasingly agitated.

‘Like what? I can’t stop it snowing.’

‘I don’t know, can’t you drive me or something?’

‘No, I don’t have a car. Anyway, it wouldn’t be any good if I did, I can’t drive.’

‘What? Everyone can drive.’ She was getting increasingly angry now. ‘You have to do something. This is your fault.’

He paused, trying to control his impulse to snap back at her. ‘Well, I can’t drive, never needed to, or wanted to. What is my fault, anyway?’

She stared at him, ‘You let me sleep and now I’ll miss the deadline at the hostel, I’ll have to sleep on the street tonight, that’s what’s your fault.’

She intended the words to sting, and they found their mark. He flushed as he realised that his act of kindness had created such an unintended consequence for the girl.

‘I’m sorry, I didn’t realise, I thought it would be better for you to sleep, especially in this weather.’

‘Yeah, my entire fucking life people have been making decisions for me, without asking me first.’

He knew she wasn’t being fair, but the words hurt all the same. He absolutely knew that he shouldn’t say what he was about to, but he said it anyway, ‘Why don’t you stay here tonight?’

She stopped trying to pull her jeans up and glared at him. ‘What? You can’t be serious.’

‘Why not? There’s a spare room and I don’t want you to sleep rough because of something I’ve done. You can get a good night’s sleep and be on your way in the morning.’ He knew he was being reckless, but he found himself wanting her to say yes.


She had woken slowly, trying to work out where she was, before remembering how the guy had invited her to get dry. The first thing she saw were her clothes on the table beside her. She thought she must have dozed off for a few minutes. She stretched and yawned, then caught sight of the clock on the wall. ‘Fuck,’ she said out loud. The clock showed 7.45, and she had to be at the hostel by 8 o’clock to claim her bed. Why hadn’t he woken her up? She grabbed her clothes and ran into the other room where she found him hunched over his laptop.

His explanation for why he hadn’t woken her was pathetic. Why did everybody want to do her thinking for her? All through her life, other people had been making decisions for her without asking her what she wanted. He was just another one, deciding what was best for her. Why didn’t they ever learn to ask her first? She saw that her words had hurt him, but she didn’t care. She would have to sleep rough tonight because of what he had done. She wanted him to know that.

Then, he made his offer. She didn’t believe what he had said at first. Stay the night here? Well, that was never going to happen. Then she looked out of the window where he was waving his arm. The snow was coming down hard like a white sheet covering the window. Her heart sank as she knew she couldn’t go back out in that. Should she risk staying here? He seemed OK, but experience had taught her that was no guarantee of safety. Living as she did though, had also taught her not to turn her nose up at an opportunity.

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