Andy wiped the condensation from the window and looked out over the windswept moor at the darkening sky. Life as a shepherd was lonely in summer, but in winter, with its dark days, bad weather and long
nights, it became intolerable " he sighed,
"You were right Mum, you usually were," he thought, "you always did say that I'd need a wife when you'd gone. But, where in heaven's name am I going to find a wife round here?"
Andy broke the room's silence " he seemed to talk more and more to himself these days, "Look man, think! You've got the internet. If you wanted shoes, you'd send for them mail order. What's the difference when it comes to a wife?"
That night, he searched the internet, filled in an application and emailed it to "Find Yourself an Asian Bride' " job done! Within two weeks, he had received three replies. After sending his photograph, only one person continued writing to him. Her name was Katy and she was gorgeous. Emails were replaced by weekly phone calls and a date was set for them to meet.
He wasn't best pleased to have to stump up five hundred quid. However, it was for the Agency fees and her airfare and he reasoned he would normally be expected to pay delivery charges with mail order anyway.
Two weeks before she was due to arrive, Katy phoned and, between sobs, managed to say,
"Andy, I need an operation and will have to fly back to Singapore for it next year. I hope you don't mind?"
He reassured her he didn't and agreed to meet her at Heathrow Airport. The day arrived, her flight landed and Andy searched the faces of the passengers as they spilled out into the Arrivals Hall.
"What if she's missed the flight? Nonsense!" he thought to himself, "she'd have got in touch with me " she's got my mobile number." He checked the Arrivals Board again " yes, her plane had landed.
He had it all planned. They would drive slowly back to his croft visiting several places on the way " it would be a sort of upside down honeymoon with the wedding in the Registry Office coming at the end of the trip. To start their relationship properly he had decided they would have separate rooms until they were husband and wife.
His thoughts were interrupted when he felt a light touch on his arm. Any misgivings he had vanished as he looked into the most beautiful eyes he had ever seen. He was aware of her perfume as she flung her arms around him and hugged him.
"Andy, so happy to be here " flight very long and I was very nervous that you might not like me."
"The man would be mad not to like you Katy. Here, let me push that heavy trolley and get the car before you change your mind and go back." She laughed, held on to his arm and they set off on their "honeymoon'.
The night before the wedding ceremony, they were sitting in the hotel, the last couple as usual to leave the cocktail bar before closing time.
"I've enjoyed your company, Katy, more than I ever thought possible. Each night I go to bed thinking of things to say to you and wake up next morning with more things I want to say. Even sharing silences with you is lovely. I don't think one lifetime is enough for all the fun we are going to have. I hope I can be a good husband to you."
Katy burst into tears, "I am happy too, Andy. I hope I make you a good wife. I have confession to make " I am very sorry but, Doctors say that, after the operation, I may never be able to have children."
Holding her in his arms, he wiped the tears from her eyes and, between kisses, told her that it was she he wanted and that children might come or might not " it didn't matter.
"My only concern is that you come through the operation safely and that you are happy and healthy," he said holding her tiny hand in his.
Next day, they were married and Andy arranged for them to have a candle-lit dinner in the hotel restaurant before making their way to the bridal suite. He thought the dinner would never end, but, eventually it did. He could hardly contain his excitement as he waited for Katy to join him in bed. He was sure she could hear his heart beat as she appeared in a beautiful negligee and slipped between the sheets. "At last!" he thought, as he held her close and let his passion take over "
"My darling Katy " What the!" Andy leapt out of bed quicker than a flea from a collie's back. "You're a bleeding bloke!"
"But Andy I told you I was kaytai " ladyboy."
"I thought that was your name " Katy. You certainly pulled the wool over my eyes. You'll catch the next plane back, you lying toad."
"No lie - you lie to me " you're not 6 foot 3 inch " you lucky to be 5 foot 5 inch. You not have brown hair " you have very few hairs and you nearer 50 than 30. But, I love you Andy " you good man " you laugh and smile with eyes. I no bloke, Andy, I am a woman with a bit extra trapped in a man's body. After I finish National Service, I become kaytai " need to send money home to family.
"Bit extra? A blinking important bit! And a squadie to boot! Heaven help me. You're a better man that me " I failed the medical for the Army."
"Andy, listen. Father die and I now 30. Thirty too old for kaytai and I want to live a good life " become respectable, have husband. Paid money to forge passport. Good forgery " fool many people, No? I go back for surgery to make myself complete woman."
"Shut up! I'm going out to get my head round this. When I get back I'll take the sofa " you take the bed." He'd have slammed the door shut but didn't want the rest of the guests to hear him. "I'm too polite," he thought. "Most men would have flung her out, suitcases and all."
When he came back to the bedroom, he heard some muffled crying sounds coming from the bed but ignored them.
"You keep your distance " if you lay one finger on me I'll punch you to kingdom come." Andy said as he lay down on the sofa fully dressed and hoped that morning came soon as he felt he wouldn't sleep a wink. However, sleep he did. Well, not quite. He had nightmares of guerrilla-type women chasing him, dressed in Army uniforms. He woke up sweating, looked at the bed and was relieved to see it was Katy and not a guerrilla woman lying there.
"Relieved to see her? I must be cracking up if I'm relieved to see that in my bed," he thought.
He coughed noisily to waken her and when he knew he had succeeded he tried to keep his voice steady and calm
"Best thing we can do is for me to pay your fare back and for you to leave within a month. That way we'll both keep face. Now, for a start " what's your name?"
"Buddhist name, Mei Ling " it means beautiful and delicate. Christian name, Angela. Kaytai name, Terry, but I prefer Rose."
"Rose it is then. And these were the only words that passed between them as they motored home.
During the next few weeks, he noticed that his shirts became cleaner and that knife-edge creases appeared on them and on his trousers. Flowerbeds and pathways appeared which had lain hidden under weeds for years. His breakfast was cooked for him before he left the croft each morning and, when he returned home, there was always a meal waiting on the table for him. He began to look forward to coming home to see her smiling face and to feel the cosiness she had created in the house.
"My, you've got a magic touch with that fire " it usually billows out smoke when I light it," he said as they sat in front of a roaring fire after a dinner of stewed rabbit one night. "And that rabbit you cooked was one of the finest I've ever had. To think you caught it " I don't think I've ever seen anyone handle a gun like that." He'd no sooner said it when the thought occurred to him that she had probably been a sniper in the Singapore Army.
The day came when they were due to visit the local Travel Agent to book her ticket back to Singapore but the car wouldn't start. The next day, the same thing happened. He felt a strange feeling of relief.
"Damn it," he thought, "I don't want her to leave. But, what if the people in the village find out what she is? Well, she hardly goes around with see-through clothes, does she? And, anyway, what do I care what they think " none of them cheer me up and make me laugh." He stood still for a moment thinking of the past few weeks and then strode into the house.
Rose had her back to him as he entered the kitchen
"Rose, do you think you could forgive me and consider staying here with me permanently?"
Rose smiled to herself - all she needed to do now was replace the spark plug in the car. She crossed the room quickly and put her arms around him " there was no need for words.