Ulrika’s Second Wind

Anal

This story is set in Scotland and has taken me a while to write because I had other writing tasks to complete. I hope you like it and I may consider a spin off story later on with other characters.

Ulrika stared at her reflection in the mirror as she puckered her lips. At the age of twenty five she was starting to look more and more like her mother. Granted, she had her father’s grey-green eyes and his height but anyone who saw Ulrika and her mother together was left in no doubt that they were related. She had the same angular face and wedge-shaped jawline, her mother had shorter blonde hair whilst Ulrika’s was considerably longer, and although her mother had put on weight in her forties she was still considered slim.

There were other traits she shared with her mother though, a single-minded independent nature that meant she could dispense with romance whenever it got in the way of her goals. Three months ago she’d walked out of a marriage with her second husband after discovering his infidelities. It was still a momentous decision considering the fact she’d been married to John for the last twenty seven years. Her first marriage had lasted a mere eighteen months but despite the length of time spent together, Åsa was never going to be the third wheel. The decision had shaken Ulrika, because whilst she understood the motivation, he was still her father.

She stepped back and ran a cursory eye over her outfit, the pale peach blouse was fastened with a pussybow tie and tucked into a pair of white trousers that matched the white jacket on the bed. It wasn’t exactly classic interview attire but this wasn’t your atypical job either. She’d met Amelia for the first time some six weeks ago when she signed the agistment agreement for her horse, Thor. Amelia owned a pony club called The Bothy, located a few miles outside of Queenzieburn not far from Kilsyth and when she saw Ulrika’s name on the agreement a flicker of recognition came into her eyes.

“You were in the national team, am I right?”

“Yes,” she’d replied.

“Correct me if I’m wrong, but you dropped out, didn’t you?”

“Technically speaking it’s a sabbatical,” she replied, “I’ve signed up for an IVF procedure in the next six months.”

“Uh huh?” Amelia raised an eyebrow, “so you and your partner will be expecting the pitter patter of little feet soon?”

“I have no partner,” she shrugged, “it’s just me, I ended it with my girlfriend because I was too committed to my career and I could not give her what she needed. It wasn’t fair on either of us to be honest.”

The conversation had inevitably moved onto finances after that and whilst she had no financial worries at the moment, Ulrika was still considering part time work but in her words, she wasn’t willing to just pick up any part time job.

“My mother owns the flat where I live so I do not need to pay rent, but I will still need to find money for basics pretty soon.”

She’d thought that would be the end of the conversation but Amelia had planted a seed when she talked about the possibility of introducing training programs for equestrian events. It had been one of her dreams for a few years apparently but due to her geographical location she’d been unable to find anyone qualified enough to train riders. Granted, she’d not asked her outright but she had left it with her and thus Ulrika had continued on with her routine. Training was not something she felt qualified for but on the other hand she’d been part of the national team and if she hadn’t dropped out of the team she would have gone onto compete at Rio in the Olympics.

The ringing phone disturbed her and she picked it up.

“Hey, mama,” she smiled.

“How are you?”

“I’m good, I was just getting ready to leave for this interview.”

“What are you wearing?”

“A pink tie blouse and white trousers,” she replied.

“That is too formal, is it not?”

“Perhaps,” she shrugged, “for this job,” she moved away from the mirror, “but I don’t get to dress up so much these days and it is not as if I have not met Amelia,” she picked up the jacket.

“When are you coming up here next?”

“Maybe six weeks,” Åsa replied, “that is why I am calling. They just told me this morning that my transfer request has been approved, so I will be moving to the Edinburgh consulate.”

“They did not approve Glasgow?”

“It was my first choice but they said the only vacancy for someone with my qualifications was at Edinburgh, but they did say there would be an opportunity to spend some time there, it depends very much on what one of my colleagues there is doing. It is complicated.”

“So, you would be living here or somewhere else?” Ulrika exited the bedroom.

“That is what I have to decide,” Åsa replied, “they would let me rent a place in Edinburgh but I am thinking that if I just used the flat that it might give me some negotiating power to base myself at Glasgow instead of Edinburgh.”

“There is plenty of room here,” Ulrika paused by the couch, “it would be good to have you here, mama, I miss you.”

“And I miss you too,” she replied, Betturkey “I have to get back to work, let me know how it goes with your interview.”

After she’d farewelled her mother, Ulrika contemplated this new turn of events. The terms of the settlement had meant that the house in Bayswater had to be sold, which left Åsa with this flat and the money from the settlement. Åsa had bought this flat some years ago and rented it out to students for a second income but these last twelve months it had been left vacant as her marriage descended into farce. Henrik’s infidelities had cut her to the quick and whilst Ulrika had been a support, she’d felt very much on the outer just observing the passive aggressiveness in full bloom. There was no physical violence but the remarks were definitely designed to provoke the other into responding in kind and so she’d focused on her career as a competition rider. Sensing her daughter’s distress, Åsa had finally suggested she relocate to Scotland and use the flat in Queenzieburn until she managed to sort out the divorce settlement.

A lot had changed since then though. Ulrika had decided to have a baby and because she was gay she elected to go the IVF route. Being so far from London also meant she was out of the loop so to speak and so she’d stepped down from the team for the foreseeable future. It was not such a bad idea once she got over the hump. Scotland had its own unique charm and there were plenty of good opportunities to ride competition here, in fact she was almost at the top of her grade but as yet she hadn’t competed, being content to just chill out and practice. The Bothy was well suited for these purposes and so she’d spent the last three months just honing her skills and trying to map out a career path that was more manageable.

Ulrika settled in behind the wheel and started the engine. Amelia’s offer had initially seemed almost counter intuitive. Instead of competing, she’d be teaching her skills to other riders but on balance she saw the logic behind it. Being at the pony club five days a week would give her some routine and she’d still be involved in the equestrian world without the pressure of competing. It would also mean she could still get pregnant and work through most of her pregnancy. Maybe by the time she’d given birth she might find her mojo again.

***

Ulrika slowed as she reached the driveway and glanced at the phone mounted on her dashboard and then she came to a stop as three women on horseback came towards her. They looked to be in their late teens and were dressed in casual clothes although the trousers at least were dressage related. Once they turned onto the road she accelerated and drove past the two riding circles, one was a lot bigger than the other one. A canopy of oak and ash trees blocked out the sky as she coasted towards a whitewashed stone cottage that had probably been the original bothy. It was ridiculously tiny, but immediately behind it was a much larger two-storey dwelling that was modern. Indeed, from this far back it almost seemed to be swallowing the house in front because of the large steel girders joining the two buildings together.

Ulrika’s eyes travelled to the right, taking in the stables and other buildings that extended around the arch and then she focused on the multilingual signpost that indicated the carpark to the left, the other languages were Spanish, German, Arabic, and Mandarin. The carpark was partially obscured by the house but it extended the length of the building and formed an elongated triangle with the narrowest end serving as the entrance and exit. It was almost empty and because she was ten minutes early, she took the time to check her makeup.

Movement at the periphery of her vision caused her to glance over just as a dark-haired woman came around the corner of the building and stopped. She was talking on her phone and unaware that Ulrika was observing her. The woman looked to be about twenty with long brown hair and an olive complexion, which contrasted nicely with her outfit, a white shirt under a light brown woollen jumper, creating a subtle contrast with a pair of pale blue jeans. The woman was looking right at her as if trying to recognise her but then she turned away to continue her conversation.

Ulrika put her hand on the door handle.

“Let’s do this,” she opened the door.

The woman was unfamiliar to her but that wasn’t so unusual, she’d only recognised one of the riders and she wasn’t normally here at this time of the day anyway. She saw the woman turn around again as she moved away from the car a few moments later and as she drew closer it was fairly obvious that she’d been recognised even though the woman didn’t say anything. Her body language was unmistakeable, a slight straightening up, a flick of the hair and the beginnings of a smile even as she kept talking. Ulrika forced herself to acknowledge the woman as she came closer with a slight smile and an upraised eyebrow and then she was moving past her and around the corner. She noticed the billboard with four different signs on it and she briefly scanned them as Betturkey Giriş she paused for a moment.

Office, Toilets, Stables, Parking. The inclusion of Mandarin and Arabic was an oddity for this part of the country despite the fact that Scotland was generally more open and inclusive.

“Excuse me, you’re Ulrika Jorgenson, aren’t you?”

Ulrika turned around to look at the woman she’d just passed. She was just pocketing her phone.

“Yes,” she registered her Scottish accent, “I am.”

“Oh my God,” her eyes shifted, “I thought it was you but then I thought that I must be wrong and then I remembered Amelia saying something about you might be coming to tutor us,” she paused for breath. “Sorry, I’m babbling,” her smile faded.

“It’s quite all right,” Ulrika’s smile deepened, “I had a few things to clear up first but I’m here now.”

“I’m Joanne,” the woman replied.

“It’s nice to meet you, Joanne,” Ulrika held out her hand, Joanne took it and then released it a few moments later.

“Wow, I hope you don’t mind me saying it, but you’re the reason I decided to start riding.”

“Oh, okay,” her smile remained fixed, “thank you,” she glanced at the building to her right, “I was just going to see Amelia, is she here now?”

“She’s in the office,” Joanne moved past her, “I could take you to her.”

“Thank you,” Ulrika fell into step beside her.

“She’s on a conference call at the moment but you can sit in the front room and wait,” she tucked a lock of hair behind her ear.

“Should I come back later?” Ulrika fiddled with her phone.

“No, it should be fine,” she opened the door, “I’ll just knock on the door and let her know you’re here.”

“All right,” Ulrika frowned as she looked around the front room. It had windows on three sides and she’d just walked around it to get here. Two wide L-shaped couches extended down opposite sides of the room, a reasonably large flat screen tv sat on a unit at the far end.

“Just take a seat and I’ll see if I can interrupt her.”

“Is that wise?”

“She’s very down to earth,” Joanne smiled, “I’m sure she won’t mind,” and with that she was exiting the room through a large double door at the far end.

Ulrika could see that there was yet another sitting room just beyond the doorway. She sat down on one of the couches and gave it the once over, they were wide enough to sleep on and no doubt other activities too she smiled. She noted the coffee table nests at each end of the couches and then her eyes moved up to the pictures of the wall, which were mostly landscapes and with that quick appraisal over, she leaned back to await Amelia’s arrival.

Joanne returned a minute or so later and sat on the opposite couch to inform her that Amelia would be a few more minutes.

“That’s fine, I can wait,” she stretched her legs out and fiddled with the cuff of her blouse, Joanne leaned forward on her palms and studied her boots.

“How long have you been riding for?” Ulrika asked her.

“Since I was sixteen,” she replied, “but it was just for fun then but I’ve been into horses ever since I was in Primary school, my aunt moved up here when I was in Primary Six to run this place.”

“Amelia’s your aunt?”

“Aye,” she looked across at her, “my mum’s sister.”

“All right,” Ulrika inclined her head, “so you live near here?”

“In Kilsyth,” she replied, “but I often stay here at the weekends to help out,” she glanced at the door as they heard someone approaching, “here she is the now.”

Amelia stepped into the room and Ulrika felt a slight weakness when she looked at her. She had fair hair that stopped just past her shoulders and a thin face. She was wearing a pink, wool-blend skirt suit and a cream-coloured ruffled blouse, the thin tie attached to the collar was tied into a bow and as she drew nearer Amelia noticed the outline of a bra behind the blouse.

“Hello, sorry about the wait,” Amelia smiled as Ulrika rose to greet her.

“It wasn’t that long,” she smiled.

Her handshake was firm but light, and unlike her niece, Amelia’s accent was definitely English.

“And I see you’ve met my niece.”

“Yes,” she replied.

“Joanne is hoping to follow in your footsteps,” she turned back to her, “let’s go to the office and chat some more. Would you like something to drink?”

Ulrika shook her head and Amelia led her through the other sitting room and into an office on the other side of the room. Three walls of the office were covered by bookshelves, most of the books looked impossibly old, a large mahogany desk stood in the middle with a leather executive chair on one side and two smaller office chairs facing it.

“Most of the books belong to my husband,” she followed Ulrika’s line of sight as she took off her jacket and hung it over the back of her chair, “he collects books the same way he collects women,” she sat down, “take a seat.”

Ulrika sat down suddenly, not knowing what to say about this casual throwaway line, she could be joking of course but Amelia wasn’t about to enlighten her as she leaned back in her chair. Her eyes were drawn to a photograph of a ten year old girl with a horse. She could see the resemblance almost straight away and this was confirmed by Amelia.

“My daughter, Nina,” she adjusted the frame slightly, “the pride and joy of my life.”

“She looks like you,” Ulrika ventured, “although you’ve probably heard that before.”

“I have indeed,” she leaned back in her seat.

“You’ve had quite a promising career so far, I remember watching your performances over the last few years with admiration,” she fiddled with her ruffled cuffs, “but you’ve recently dropped out of the team, why?”

Ulrika slid a lock of hair behind her ear as she replied.

“I’m planning on getting an IVF procedure done, and although I could have stayed on even after I fall pregnant, I’ve wanted to take a twelve month break to get some focus, but if the procedure is successful then I’ll be out of action for another year or so.”

“When is the procedure?”

“Six months,” she replied, “a clinic in Sweden can do it.”

“I see,” she shifted forward and leaned her elbows on the table, “and after the child is born? Will you still live here?”

“My parents are looking at buying a place in the area, but it depends on finances of course.”

Amelia studied the desk for a moment or two.

“The fringe benefits for this job do include the option to live on the premises, there’s a cottage that is being used to store my husband’s collection of tasteless art but we can review that option at a later date if you like,” she looked at her.

“And the job is fairly basic. We’re a riding school trying to teach people dressage, we’re a small school in a fairly remote location, so when I learned you’d moved into the area I thought I’d take a punt and offer you a position as a trainer. You’ll be working under my head trainer, Brian so you’re not being dropped in at the deep end,” she eyed a plastic folder at her side.

“Brian’s been with me for years, he used to live in the cottage but he moved in with his sister when her husband died some years ago. He’s a lovely man, very patient but he is getting on in years and he’d be grateful to have some of the weight lifted from his shoulders.”

“I’ve read the job description,” Ulrika replied, “and it’s certainly within my capabilities, although if this procedure is successful then there might be a few months where I’m out of action.”

“Of course,” she replied, “you’ll get maternity leave if you decide to stay on for longer that is, so the big question is, when can you start?”

“Tomorrow,” she replied.

“Make it the day after tomorrow,” she leaned back in her seat and stared at the window, Ulrika slid her cuff up to glance at her watch, certain that the interview was over and feeling relief that it had been such a short interview.

“On a more personal note,” Ulrika moved forward and slid her wedding ring back and forth, “can I ask your opinion on something of a more shall we say, intimate subject?”

Their eyes met as Ulrika tried to read the situation. Amelia’s businesslike persona seemed to recede as she kept playing with her ring.

“Intimate,” Ulrika finally came out of her trance, “you mean, sexual.”

“Yes,” she stopped fiddling with the ring, “I um, have this young lady who’s been coming to me for advice about lots of things over the years. She’s an old family friend so there’s no suggestion of any impropriety there but she looks on me as a role model I suppose you could say,” she pulled her cuff around a little and glanced down to fasten a button on the placket.

“She came to me the other week and said that she thought she might be gay,” she glanced up briefly, “I guess she thought because of my age that I might have some answers for her but I’m afraid that I’m all at sea on that subject. I do know gay women but whilst I’m not homophobic I don’t have any advice for her.”

“Okay.”

Ulrika glanced down at the cuff, the ruffle extended the length of the placket, coming to a finish at the end in another ruffle.

“Has your friend got any gay friends?”

“Not as far as I know and I’ve encouraged her to reach out at clubs or other social settings but she’s in a relationship with a guy, it’s not a healthy one either. I find him an obnoxious little shit but my friend is still not willing to just drop him,” she shifted in her seat.

“I guess what I’m trying to understand is the mindset, I mean what did it for you? Was it something you grew into or was it a light bulb moment?”

Amelia looked past her.

“Look, if you think I’m being inappropriate, I understand but she was only asking me the other day, just after I’d sent that email to you and it kind of threw me because I wouldn’t have thought she was that way inclined.”

Ulrika leaned on the arm of her chair and fiddled with her collar.

“For me, I was never that interested in boys. I mean I dated boys in school but I was always too busy with my riding lessons and other things, homework assignments, going out with girlfriends or just staying at home. Boys were always like honeybees circling a flower and I was just too much my own person to be tied down. I saw my girlfriends hanging off a guy’s arm and felt almost sorry for them in a way,” she glanced up.

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