“Good Morning, Douglas. I see you’re up to your neck in it.”
“I didn’t hear you sneaking up on me,” said Douglas, tossing a shovelful of soil out of the grave and grinning as he saw Sister Lillian weaving her way through the headstones towards him.
“I doubt if I pretended I was the Lord Jesus rising from the dead that you’d be shocked,” replied Sister Lillian, reaching the edge of the new grave and looking down at Douglas’ handiwork. “I don’t know how you do this job without getting the heebie jeebies.”
Douglas took a breather and admired Sister Lillian’s shapely legs which were uncommonly good for a woman of sixty-three.
“There’s nothing that’ll scare me,” boasted Douglas, propping his spade up against a muddy embankment. “I’ve seen just about everything. Besides, I’ve the lovely Sister Lily to bring me refreshments. What more could a man want?”
“Indeed,” laughed Sister Lillian, passing down a mug of chocolate and a blueberry muffin which Douglas gratefully accepted.
“You know, I’ll never forget when I put my foot through Montgomery’s casket. It didn’t scare me though, just caught me by surprise. I always said that family were cheapskates,” said Douglas, sipping his steaming drink.
“Definitely. And between you and me,’ said Sister Lillian leaning forward conspiratorially, “he never put more than a shilling in the plate!”
“Whole family were rotten misers,” grumbled Douglas, taking a bite of his muffin.
“So, which of our beloved parishioners has gone to the dear Lord? A few days away and I’ve missed all the news.”
“Well, Mr Perry popped his clogs from pneumonia on Friday: the funeral’s tomorrow. And that one over there,” Douglas pointed at a pile of earth covered in artificial grass further down the graveyard, “that one’s for Willard. He had a heart attack on Thursday. He was eighty-nine: a right good innings. Funeral’s this afternoon at two. I reckon there’ll be a big turnout what with him ringing the bells for fifty years.”
“I suppose Willard was ready enough, but poor Mr Perry. He was younger than both you and I. God rest his soul. Mrs Perry must be in a dreadful state.”
“She’s not so bad. But she wants a double ’un. So I gotta go down the best part of ten feet. It’ll be an early night for me.”
“Willard was lucky to live so long and with such good health,” Sister Lillian reflected. “You know, I remember him getting up to mischief when he was young. He was such a handsome man and could be utterly charming.”
“He wasn’t called Willy Willard for nothing.’”
“Douglas! Remember, I am a virtuous lady,” said Sister Lillian in mock horror.
“Don’t I know it, Sister Lily. Never failed to be reminded of it when I see Him hanging around your neck.”
“Now, now, Douglas. You mustn’t be jealous,” said Sister Lillian, touching the crucifix resting on her ample chest. “Remember good things come to those who wait.”
Douglas pulled a regretful face and sipped his chocolate, knowing Sister Lily would always be out of his grasp. She would have been a corker in her day. If only he’d arrived in Castleridge with his adoptive parents before she’d taken her oaths.
“So what do you know about Willy Willard then?” said Douglas, trying to distract himself from Sister Lily’s legs.
“Well, now he’s gone, I don’t suppose it can do any harm.”
Sister Lillian checked over her shoulder and, as they were still alone, she lowered herself down onto the rim of the grave, dangling her feet into its depths.
“It was years ago, I was a slip of a girl and used to polish the church brass for pocket money. One day, I was climbing the bell tower and I smelt cigar smoke drifting down the staircase. Then I heard Willard’s voice and a woman laughing and giggling… it wasn’t his wife as I knew her well and used to run errands for her. I was so upset, I didn’t know about things like that back then. It was all so shocking, I didn’t know what to do…so I ran back down, crying like a fool.”
“He was fornicating up the bell tower? Good Lord! No wonder he rang them bells for so many years!”
“But Willard…,”continued Sister Lillian, embellishing her story with relish, “he must have heard me crying. He chased after me, down the tower, across the altar, and caught me by my blazer. He begged me never to tell anyone…he said it was true love…that he couldn’t help it. I didn’t know what to believe but I never said anything. I was too scared.”
“Sounds like Willard was a bit of a fella after all,” said Douglas. “I bet he gave you a shock grabbing you like that, you being such a sweet young thing back then. ʼCourse, since you were corrupted by Him Upstairs no one’s had a look in.”
“That might change,” said Sister Lillian, with a mischievous smile.
“What do you mean? Are you planning a date with the devil?”
“Bloody hell, you’re not converting and becoming a vicar? Preaching from the pulpit and all that stuff?”
“Oh, don’t be silly, Douglas. Once a Catholic, always a Catholic.”
Douglas felt a tinge of disappointment. If Sister Lily was converting, he might have stood a chance with her but it was obviously one of her guessing games. She loved quizzes and crosswords more than any woman he knew.
“So, spit it out then, Lily. I’ve got a grave to dig and I’ve not got time for your nonsense today.”
“Nonsense? Well now, perhaps you’re not really interested…”
“Of course, I’m interested. But get on with it; if you were mine I’d have you over my knee for being such a frightful tease.”
“Be careful what you say,” said Sister Lillian, her eyes sparkling with humour.
“So?” said Douglas, moving nearer as his curiosity got the better of him.
“You know I was away for a few days? I went to see the Bishop and Sister Paula, the Mother Superior.”
“And?” said Douglas, confused. He had no idea what Sister Lily’s preamble was leading to.
“And…I am no longer a nun.”
Douglas’s mouth fell open. He clutched his chest anticipating a coronary.
“You…you…are no longer a nun?” stuttered Douglas.
“But…but…you’ve been a nun for forty years.”
“It was time for a change.”
“But how can you leave the order? It’s been your life!”
“People change. I’ve devoted my best years to God but now I wish to devote the remainder of my earthly life to someone else. God is not an ogre. He understands more than you think.”
“But what happens to you now? You’ll have no home, nothing!” said Douglas, panicking at the thought of Lily thrown out from the convent.
“I’m not going to be cast out on the streets because I’ve left the order,” replied Lily, soothingly. “I shall continue to teach and do many of the things I do for the parish – but not as a nun. Eventually, I will have to move out of the convent, of course. But I was sort of hoping I might get some offers of help…”
“What do you mean when you say you want to devote yourself to someone else?” interrupted Douglas, overcome with outrage at the thought of any other man being with his lovely Lily. “Have you been carrying on whilst you’ve been in the cloth?”
“For goodness sake, what kind of woman do you think I am, Douglas? Of course I haven’t – there’s only ever been one man, other than the Good Lord, who I’ve ever been interested in. Surely you know that?”
Unconsciously, Douglas gripped Lily’s ankle. He felt the warmth of her flesh through her stockings, tingling in his fingers as the meaning of her words dawned on him.
“You’re too late,” said Douglas, looking mournfully up into Lily’s eyes.
“Thirty odd years I’ve waited for you, Lily. I’ve passed over all the beauties and stayed a bachelor because I loved you. Even when I was with other girls, I thought of you. But yesterday…I promised myself to Mrs Perry.”
“But Mr Perry only died last week!”
“I thought I should make up for lost time.”
“But…that’s outrageous. And I’ve loved you for nearly thirty years!”
“So you have, have you?” said Douglas with a wicked grin, jerking Lily’s ankle so that she slipped down into the grave, where he pinned her up against the muddy bank. “Well now I’m marrying Mrs Perry - so that’ll teach you to keep a man waiting for thirty years.”
“You’re lying aren’t you?” said Lily, her voice quavering, not quite sure if Douglas was teasing her but unable to focus on anything but his devilish eyes.
“Yes, I am.”
Douglas brushed his lips gently against Lily’s.
“Thirty years I’ve dreamt of this moment, Lily. Thirty years I’ve loved you from a distance, believing I would never hold you in my arms, never kiss you. It’s been a living hell. And now you say you love me…”
“We can make up for it.”
“That’s a lot of making up and making out to make up for thirty years abstinence, you know.”
“We can try,” said Lily, a tear running down her cheek.
“Best get started then,” said Douglas clamping his mouth on Lily’s.
“Douglas! This is the churchyard!” squealed Lily.
“Sometimes a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do. And I’ve waited thirty years. Nothing’s gonna stop me know!” said Douglas, running his tongue over Lily’s lips and letting his hand stray towards her breasts. He could feel her heart pounding beneath his palm, her soft welcoming mouth.
“Douglas, are you sure here is the right place?” said Lily, tearing her lips away.
“Have mercy on me, Lily. If we don’t make love now I shall explode,” pleaded Douglas, looking down at his trousers. “I’m like a jet propelled missile.”
Lily looked down and saw a huge bulge in Douglas’ trousers. Then, daringly, she placed her hand over it. “It moves.”
“Of course it moves. What do you think it does?”
“I don’t know…I don’t know how these things work. I’m a nun.”
“Correction. You were a nun and now you’re my wife to be and I’m going to educate you. Right this is…” Douglas looked down at the gigantic stiff in his pants and seemed lost for words. “This is…my…my…manhood.”
“Your manhood? Isn’t that a bit old fashioned?”
“Look, exactly how much do you know?”
“Right, I’ll keep it simple then. This is my manhood and it moves. Usually I make it move but then sometimes…it does its own thing.”
“Not in church I hope.”
“You’re going to get a spanking in a minute.”
“Douglas! Remember I am a virgin.”
Douglas clasped his hands together in prayer, closed his eyes and began to mutter.
“Not in my wildest, wildest dreams have I dreamt this. I’m finally getting to make out with the woman I love who, not only is a nun, but a virgin. Dear God, you’ve kept me waiting for such a long, long time but I thank you from the very bottom of my heart.”
“Um…Douglas. The lesson?” interrupted Lily.
“Yes, yes. Right, so this is my manhood,” said Douglas opening his eyes, “And these are…your breasts!”
“I know they’re my breasts. What do you think?” giggled Lily.
Douglas stood in awe gaping at Lily’s breasts bulging over a large wired bra as she pushed them towards him.
“Oh my God, they are magnificent, Lily. Magnificent! The best pair of boobs I have ever seen!”
“Now you’re exaggerating, Douglas. They’re good but not that good.”
“Believe me, Lily, they are bloody marvellous,” grinned Douglas. “Can I touch them?”
“Since you’re now my husband to be, I suppose that’s all right,” said Lily shyly, her cheeks flushing pink.
Douglas leaned forward and gently touched the curve of Lily’s left breast as he ran his other hand up between her thighs.
“Bloody hell, what’s going on down there?” said Douglas, pulling away and hitching up Lily’s pleated navy skirt. “What the hell are these?”
“My thermals,” replied Lily, looking down at her pink long johns.
“So thermals, tights and, presumably…knickers?”
“Yes. I like to feel…safe.”
“What from…a panzer tank?”
“We shall have to do something about this. I can’t have a wife who wears old maid’s undies. Right, let’s be getting them off.”
“I can’t take off my underwear in the church yard!”
“Of course, you can, Lily. Besides, we’re almost married now. The vows are just a formality.”
Douglas slipped his fingers over the waistband of her thermals and tights and started to pull them down.
“Jesus Christ. It’s like Second Front,” said Douglas, struggling with thermals, now stuck half way down Lily’s thighs.
“I’m not sure this is a good idea,” said Lily, anxiously.
“Trust me, my love, we’re perfectly safe. This is not the job where you get a lot of onlookers. Right, there you go. I’ll leave them around your ankles – them you can hitch them up fast if we do hear anyone.”
“This is not quite how I imagined our first romantic encounter,” said Lily looking bemused at the thermals and tights bunched up around her feet.
“I’ve left your knickers on: I don’t want you getting a chill before I’ve warmed you up.”
“Why, thank you, Douglas. And to think I gave up the nunnery for you. What was I thinking of?”
“We were destined to be together, my love,” said Douglas, beaming.
“I know,” replied Lily. “It just took me a while to figure it out.”
“Thirty years, even for a woman to figure something out, must be a record,” grinned Douglas. “Anyway, I’m going to show you what you’ve been missing.”
Douglas began to stroke Lily again over the top of her knickers.
“Now, my Lily, Lesson Number Two: you need to stroke my head.”
Douglas tensed involuntarily in anticipation. He felt Lily’s hands begin to stroke his head. And his nose. And his ears.
“You have lovely hair. And hardly any grey. And your ears are so small,” said Lily with affection.
“Not that head. The other one!” said Douglas.
“What other one? You've only got one head, Douglas. Oh dear, maybe this has all been too much for you…”
“Oh, my God, I don’t believe this!” said Douglas, raising his eyes in despair. “A head…well a head is also a nickname for…well, you know…”
“No, I don’t.”
“The end bit of that bit down there,” said Douglas, eyeing up the bulge in his trousers again.
“Oh, I see,” exclaimed Lily, her eyes following Douglas’s gaze.
“Thank God for that.”
“I really am out of touch aren't I?”
“Not to worry, my Lily,” grinned Douglas. “I would've been worried if you’d been reading Cosmopolitan instead of your missal every night.”
“Shall we try again then?” said Lily, gaining confidence. “Maybe you should take off your trousers?”
Douglas eagerly unzipped his trousers and pulled them down. “I need to take my boots off. Just move along a bit so I’ve got more room.”
Douglas bent over to take off his boots as Lily moved down the grave, forgetting her tights were round her ankles.
“Ahhh,” screamed Lily as she tripped over her tights and fell headlong into the grave.
“What is it, what’s the matter?” said Douglas, looking up and catching a foot in his trousers and tumbling on top of Lily.
“Uhhh,” mumbled Lily, now covered in the mud and squashed beneath Douglas.
“Are you alright?”
“Well I was, till you landed on me,” said Lily, spitting out some dirt.
“Sorry. I’ll move.”
Douglas pushed himself up on his elbows and yelled.
“What, what is it?”
“Fucking spade just landed on my head.”
“Don’t try and be clever,” said Douglas, rubbing his head and sitting up.
Lily pulled herself up and turned around to face Douglas.
“You know, I think God’s trying to tell us something here.”
“You could be right, my love,” said Douglas grinning. “Although, I don’t think anything else could possibly get between us now.”
“Douglas, Douglas! Are you all right?” called a voice across the churchyard.
“Oh dear, it’s Father Patrick,” said Lily, hurriedly hoisting up her tights.
“Don’t move!” whispered Douglas, jumping to his feet as best he could with his trousers still in disarray. He popped his head up over the side of the grave; Father Patrick was marching across the churchyard. Douglas put up his hand to halt him.
“I wouldn’t come any closer, Father.”
“Is everything all right, Douglas? I thought I heard screaming.”
“I just found something gruesome that’s all, Father.”
“Do you…need some help?” stuttered Father Patrick already looking ashen and queasy at the thought of having to assist Douglas.
“No, no. It’s nothing for you to worry about, Father. You go back to work and I’ll sort it out. It just took me surprise that’s all.”
“Right, right,” replied Father Patrick, trying to disguise his relief. “Are you absolutely sure?”
“Absolutely, Father. No problem.”
Douglas watched Father Patrick turn hastily around and hurry back to the presbytery.
“Phew, that was close,” said Douglas, sinking back down into the grave.
“You lied to him” said Lily.
“No, I didn't ” said Douglas, picking a monstrous worm of his shirt and dangling it in front of Lily’s face. “Look at the size of that bugger. Like a fucking python!”
“You know, I really do think God’s trying to tell us something here,” said Lily.
“I know, I know. I suppose I can wait till we’re married.”
“I love you, Douglas.”
“I love you too.”
Douglas kissed Lily gently on the lips and then he leaned back and looked into her eyes.
“So how about next week then?”
“Why not?” smiled Lily. “We’ve waited long enough.”
“After all these years, I’ll finally have someone to call “family,” said Douglas. “It’s been a while since my parents passed on. I’ve been on my own a long time.”
“But now you’ll have me,” said Lily, returning Douglas’s kiss.
“I tell you, Mona, I feel like I’ve been here all my life,” said a loud voice, carrying across the empty graveyard.
“Jesus. What now?” said Douglas, reluctantly pulling away from Lily’s parted lips and zipping up his trousers.
“It’s a pity we never got to meet Willard but at least I got to know the truth,” said the approaching voice.
“The truth will always out,” replied a woman. “That’s what my mother used to say.”
“Hello, hello. What have we here? Another grave. Looks like some other poor bugger has snuffed it,” said the man’s voice.
“Oh don’t go over, Jim. It’s just a hole. Let’s go and warm up in the car before the service.”
“Just a minute. I’ve always been fascinated by graves. Interested party I guess,” laughed the man. “This one looks like it might be double ‘un.”
Douglas looked up just as a man appeared on top of the mound of earth piled by the graveside. Lily backed away trying to look inconspicuous as the man stared down into the dark recesses.
“Oh, my God,” said the stranger.
“Oh, my God,” said Douglas.
“Bloody hell,” exclaimed the stranger.
“Bloody hell,” exclaimed Douglas.
“Who are you?” said the stranger, turning white.
“Who are you?” replied Douglas
“Watch out, Jim. You’re slipping!” screamed Mona.
“Watch out, Douglas. He’s slipping!” echoed Lily.
The stranger swayed for a moment and toppled forward. There was a yell, a thud and then it all went quiet.
Douglas opened his eyes. The sky above him was a fuzzy blue and the sound of piped organ music rang in his ears. His body felt weighted down and his legs trapped.
“I’m dead,” he groaned.
“Are you alright, Douglas?” said Lily, squashed up against the far wall of the grave. “I can’t get to you.”
“I can’t move,” groaned Douglas.
“Can you wiggle your toes?” said an anxious woman’s voice.
Douglas tried to wiggle in his toes inside his big sturdy boots.
“Aye, I think so.”
“We’ll get you out in a jiffy, Douglas,” said Father Patrick, peering over the edge of the grave. “The Paramedics will be here in just a moment.”
“Ughhh,” moaned a voice.
A head rose from its resting place on Douglas’s stomach and flopped down again.
“Ahhhh,” screamed Douglas, seeing the stranger and trying to pull himself away. “A ghost!”
“It’s alright. It’s my husband,” cried the now familiar voice of the woman “He’s fallen in on top of you. Try and push him to one side a bit. He’s coming around now.”
The stranger groaned again.
“Jim, Jim… are you alright?” said the woman, leaning over the edge of the grave.
A face appeared above Douglas again, followed by the torso and arms of a short, stocky man. Douglas screamed even louder.
"Ahhhhhhhh!” screamed Jim in reply.
“It’s me!” said Douglas.
“It’s me!” said Jim.
“I’m dead,” yelled Douglas.
“I’m dead,” yelled Jim.
“Excuse me,” interrupted Father Patrick from his graveside vigil. “Now may God forgive me for taking his name in vain. But, Jesus Christ, you two are you two a pair of stupid fuckers. You’re obviously brothers. Twin brothers.”
“It certainly looks that way,” said Lily, looking from one identical face to the other.
“Oh my goodness, this is so exciting,” said the woman. “We knew Jim had a twin. But we couldn’t trace him. And now we come to his father’s funeral and we find him. And not only that but his brother’s an identical twin!”
“His father’s funeral? said Lily.
“Why, yes. William Willard was Jim’s father. But we only found out two weeks ago and by the time we’d made our arrangements to travel here, we heard he was dead. It’s so sad that after all these years they never got to meet. But now we've found Jim’s brother. Oh this is so exciting!”
“You’re my brother?” said Douglas.
“Yep, looks like it,” said Jim, rubbing his head.
“And Willard is my father?” said Douglas.
“No doubt about it,” said Jim. “He got some floozy pregnant and we were adopted.”
“Oh, my God,” said Douglas. “I thought I had no family.”
“God ain't got anything to do with it, bro. Our Willy was a randy old bugger.”
Two paramedics appeared at the edge of the grave and in a short while the two men were hauled to the top and being checked over.
“You know,” said Lily to Douglas and Jim when the paramedics had left. “How old are you two?”
“Fifty-seven,” said Jim and Douglas in unison.
“That would make your births the year I saw Willard up the bell tower. It’s all coming together now.”
Douglas, Jim, Lily, Mona, Father Patrick and the large party of now confused parishioners who had come for Willard’s funeral made their way across the graveyard to the church.
“So, you’re a grave digger then?” said Jim, turning to Douglas.
“Aye, that I am, Jim. And you?”
“I’m a funeral director.”
“Never!” said Douglas.
“Well,” said Jim, wrapping his arm around Douglas and laughing. “We’d better go into partnership.”
“Aye, indeed,” said Douglas, grinning. “And to think I thought I had no family and now I've got a wife-to-be, a brother and a sister-in-law. I'm a lucky man.”
“You are indeed, Douglas,” said Father Patrick. “They say the Lord moves in mysterious ways but I have to say this is one of his more curious ones.”
Father Patrick closed the church door behind his flock. He knew that families came in many shapes and forms and, as the organist began to play, he acknowledged that Douglas’s new family was probably going to be a strange but rather special one.
Feedback always welcome, Readers. Good, bad, indifferent, whether you wanted to put a bag over your head. That kind of stuff.