A Druid Grove

The barman at the Druid Grove Public House stopped wiping the counter and let out a long, low whistle. “Did you see that blonde?” he whispered hoarsely to the ruddy-faced man standing at the corner of the bar. “The one who just popped in and slipped into the ladies’ ’loo?”

The man laughed. “Oh, I saw her. There’s not a red-blooded bloke in this pub likely to miss that ’un,” he said.

The barman smiled and nodded. “There is something about her, isn’t there? Do you have any idea who she is? I—I don’t know why, but she looks familiar, somehow.

“I was just thinking the exact same thing,” said another man leaning against the end of the bar. “She reminds me of someone, but—I don’t know. It’s like maybe you’ve seen her on the television or something, but you can’t quite put your finger on where it is you saw her.”

“That’s right,” said the ruddy-faced bar patron, nodding thoughtfully. “You know, didn’t she seem a bit flustered to you chaps? I’m thinking maybe there’s something wrong. Maybe I should go check on her, you know? Make sure everything’s okay?”

The barman tugged on the man’s sleeve and shook his head sternly. “Oh, no you don’t. You just sit tight right here. You leave that poor lady alone. If she’s got troubles, she certainly doesn’t need the likes of you lot adding to them.”

Inside the women’s restroom, the blonde woman craned her neck back over her shoulder to study her reflection in the mirror. She raised her arms to shoulder height and twisted her body from side to side, looking for any sign of a split seam or a torn hem on her brilliant white summer dress. To all appearances, it was a familiar, and tedious, ritual for the woman. She turned her right side toward the mirror, and with an almost frantic expression on her face, she traced the seam that ran down the side of the dress with her eyes and her fingertips, searching for any gaps. With total concentration, she turned and performed the same test on the other side of the dress.

This dress was a more loose-fitting style than most of her others, and she was hopeful that the looser fit would help prevent any unhappy accidents. She tucked her thumbs under the dress’s narrow shoulder straps. She pulled up on the straps, and the soft material of the dress slid smoothly over her body in response. She breathed a sigh of relief. She herself had sewn dozens of reinforcing stitches to ensure that the shoulder straps would stay securely fastened to the dress. She released the straps, and the dress slipped back down. Loose-fitting though it might have been, the material draped over her form in a delightful way that did nothing to mask the woman’s extraordinary figure.

Now she turned her attention to her shimmering silk stockings. She raised her skirt high enough to satisfy herself that the garters that held the stockings high up on her thighs were still securely in place. She extended each leg in turn, twisting it from side to side, searching intently for any rips or runs in the stockings. She found nothing amiss, and her brow was furrowed with a look of puzzlement.

Jenny—that was the woman’s name—had noticed the way men’s eyes followed her every move today. Long and bitter experience had taught her to check frequently for anything wrong with her clothing, but everything appeared to be perfect. So why were all those men staring at her? She shook her head slowly, bit her lip in puzzlement and frustration, and turned back to the mirror.

She raised her right arm again, and was renewing her careful inspection of her seams, when she heard a soft cough from behind her. She looked up, and in the mirror she saw a dark-haired woman who gazed at her with the most astonishing blue-gray eyes she had ever seen. A warm smile spread across the woman’s face. “Hiya,” the woman said, softly.

It would be an exaggeration to say that Jenny jumped a foot. In truth, she probably didn’t jump at all, but any witness who claimed she had jumped could certainly be forgiven for a natural mistake. Her sudden high-pitched shriek caused the dark-haired woman to wince and throw her hands over her ears.

“Oh, I’m so sorry! I’m so sorry!” Jenny said, red-faced and flustered. “I—I’m awfully sorry, really. I—I didn’t know you were there. You startled me!  Please forgive me.”

“It’s all right, dear,” the dark-haired woman said, with a disarming laugh. “Don’t you worry. I suppose I should have banged some pans together or something so you would know I was here. I didn’t want to disturb you—you seemed to be having some sort of problem.”

“Oh, that!” Jenny said. “Say, could you help me? Is—is there anything wrong with my clothes?” She turned around slowly for the other woman’s inspection. “I—I can’t help worrying that something’s popped out,” she said, blushing, “or that I’ve tucked my skirt into the back of my panties or something stupid like that.”

The dark-haired woman dutifully inspected Jenny’s appearance, and shook her head. “I don’t see a thing wrong with you, Miss,” she said.

Jenny smiled, and said, “Oh, thank you!”

A curious look came over the dark-haired woman’s face. “May I ask you a question?” she said. “I feel a bit silly asking this, but—your name wouldn’t happen to be Jenny, would it?”

Jenny’s face turned pale. “How—how—how d-did you know that?” she asked, her voice trembling.

“Oh, dear, I’ve given you a fright,” said the dark-haired woman. “It’s just that you put me in mind of someone I’ve heard about. It was just a wild guess, really. You needn’t be frightened—it’s not witchcraft.” She furrowed her brow and muttered, “At least, I think it’s not witchcraft.”

“Sure, it—it’s just a coincidence,” Jenny said with a laugh, the color returning to her cheeks. “I feel so silly. I—I’ve been a little jumpy ever since my husband and I visited Stonehenge earlier this week.”

“Stonehenge?” the dark-haired woman asked, with a puzzled smile. “Why should visiting Stonehenge make you jumpy?”

“Oh, it’s just silly old me. It’s all in my head,” Jenny said, with an embarrassed laugh and a tap on her temple. “I’ve always been fascinated by ancient mysterious people and civilizations—Pharaohs, Vikings, Druids, all that Gaelic sort of stuff—so my husband and I went to Stonehenge. And when we were standing there, I just had this overwhelming sensation—how can I describe it?—this sense that I was actually in the presence of the ancient ones. I haven’t been able to shake that feeling. Ever since then, I keep noticing odd things happening—coincidences—like you guessing my name just now.” Her face reddened again, and she shook her head. “It’s silly, I know it.”

“Oh, it’s not silly at all!” said the dark-haired woman. “You know that line from Hamlet: ‘More things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy’? It’s no accident we’ve met, Jenny. So I guess I should introduce myself—my friends know me as Mama.”

“Glad to meet you, Mama,” Jenny said, smiling politely and shaking the woman’s hand. “I’m Jenny—but then, you already knew that.”

“Yes, I knew that,” Mama said, with a sly smile. “I’m very happy to meet you, too.”

For the first time, Jenny took a good look at the dark-haired woman. Mama was dressed all in black: she wore heavy leather boots, strong denim trousers that hugged the curves of her legs, a tank top, and a black leather jacket. Her body was every bit as voluptuous as Jenny’s own, and her outfit, which seemed chosen to be strictly utilitarian, did nothing to disguise that fact. There was a Mediterranean cast to her features. If she hadn’t already heard the woman’s soft English accent, Jenny would have guessed she was from Italy—a land with its own share of ancient mysteries. Mama was about Jenny’s own age—possibly a couple years older—but there was a knowing look in her eyes that seemed to reach back across centuries, and there was something about Mama’s playful smile that made Jenny think—for no particular reason at all—about the strange sensation she had felt standing amid the mysterious ruins at Stonehenge.

“What did you mean when you said it’s no accident we met?” Jenny asked.

Mama arched an eyebrow and smiled sweetly. “Don’t you believe everything that happens, happens for a purpose?” she asked. “I’m on my way right now to visit a druid grove just down the road. I’m interested in ancient mysteries myself. Would you care to join me?”

Jenny’s eyes grew wide and her face brightened. “A real druid grove?” she asked. “I noticed the name of this place when I came in, but I didn’t realize there was a real druid’s grove anywhere around here.”

“It’s real, so far as anyone can tell,” Mama said. “There’s not a lot that anyone knows for certain about the druids.”

“It sounds fascinating,” Jenny said brightly. Then she frowned. “I wish I could go with you, but I have to figure out how I’m going to meet up with my husband again.”

 “Oh?” the dark-haired woman said. “Where is he?”

“He wandered off yesterday,” Jenny replied. “He had to meet up with some fellow over here who he’d met on the internet. I guess this guy has done some favors for my husband, so John—that’s my husband—wanted to thank him. Apparently this fellow is a motorcycle enthusiast, and John has wanted a motorcycle for years. So now I’m supposed to meet John at some sort of motorcyclists’ convention. I’ve been all over town today, and I’ve seen a lot of people on motorcycles, but nobody can tell me where the Convention Center is.”

A strange expression spread across the dark-haired woman’ face. “More things in heaven and earth,” she said, with a wry smile. “Look!” She turned, and showed Jenny a large colorful patch sewn on the back of her black leather jacket.

“Thorn Birds?” Jenny asked.

“It’s a bike club for lady bikers—birds, get it?” Mama said. “I’m the president of the Thorn Birds. The only motorcycle convention you’ll find around here is the bike rally I’m going to. The campground is just beyond the druid grove we were talking about.”

“Campground?” Jenny said, sounding frustrated. “Oh, why doesn’t he tell me these things! I’m not dressed right for an outdoor event, and my clothes are all at the hotel, way back in London. He told me the name of the town, and I hopped in a cab.”

“Just like a man,” Mama said, shaking her head. “Well, don’t worry about clothes. Once we get to the campground, I’m sure the Thorn Birds will be able to get you kitted out in something more serviceable.”

“Oh, I couldn’t put you to all that trouble,” Jenny said.

“No trouble at all,” Mama said. “Always delighted to help a fellow devotee of life’s ancient mysteries. And I know my husband will be thrilled to meet you—if he’s not, I’ll have to check him for a pulse!”

Jenny blushed and laughed. “Okay, if you’re sure. Lead the way!”

The ruddy-faced man at the bar drew a sharp breath. “I don’t believe it!” he whispered. “There’s two of ’em!” He nudged the man at the end of the bar, and said, “Why don’t you take the blonde and I’ll take the brunette? Fair enough?” To the bartender, he added, “Sorry, but you are on duty.”

The man at the end of the bar turned to see the two women who had just emerged from the ladies’ room. His jaw dropped. He seized the sleeve of the ruddy-faced man. “Good Lord, man! Don’t you know who that brunette is? That’s Mama Biker! Her husband once went after a bloke with a chainsaw when the guy got too chummy with the missus!”

“Pure nonsense!” said the bartender. “That whole story is nothing but a bloody rumor. They never proved a thing!”

The ruddy-faced man, who was suddenly looking unusually pale, didn’t appear to be reassured by this news. He sat in ashen-faced silence as Mama Biker and Jenny brushed past him on their way to the exit.

Mama led Jenny to a two-tone blue Kawasaki GPz 550. She got onto the bike, then turned to Jenny. “Hop on,” she said brightly.

“A motorcycle?” Jenny said, her voice trembling a bit.

Mama laughed softly. “What did you expect? We’re going to a bike rally, after all.”

Hesitantly, Jenny approached the bike. “You—you will ride carefully, won’t you? I’ve only ever done this once before.” Her face reddened at the recollection of that previous ride, offered by a Good Samaritan in a black leather jacket after Jenny’s car had suffered a flat tire.

“Just get on and relax, will you?” Mama said.

Jenny swallowed hard, and started to step onto the bike.

“Wait! Hold it!” Mama said suddenly.

Jenny froze. “What is it?” she asked.

Mama looked down at Jenny’s feet. “Those spike heels are dangerous. Look, you’ve snagged your skirt on the heel of your shoe. You might have ruined that lovely dress.”

Jenny’s face turned red, and she breathed a sigh of relief as she disentangled her dress from the heel of her shoe. “Oh, thank you!” she said. “I can’t tell you how much I appreciate you looking out for me.”

“No problem,” said Mama, whose brow was now creased with a worried look. “You know, I’m thinking that skirt is pretty long. We really don’t want it getting tangled up in the chain here. Can you raise the skirt—you know, tuck it up about six or eight inches?”

Jenny blushed even more. “I—I could, I guess, but then it would get all wrinkled where I’m sitting on it, wouldn’t it?”

Mama gave Jenny a sympathetic smile and nodded. “You’re probably right, but if the motorcycle chain catches on your skirt, it will probably rip the whole dress right off of you. And we’ll be getting you something else to wear once we reach the campground, anyway. So a few wrinkles aren’t that bad, are they?”

Jenny shook her head. The image of the bike chain ripping her dress off was very vivid in her mind, and it communicated Mama’s point perfectly. Jenny started to tuck up the hem of her skirt, thinking always about the bike chain, and tucking some more, turning the long, flowing skirt into a sort of lumpy miniskirt, and very much aware of the smiles growing on the faces of the men passing by as she exposed more and more of her shapely thighs.

“Is this okay?” she said at last, awkwardly pressing the sides of the skirt against her thighs to prevent her work from being undone by gravity.

Mama’s eyebrows were arched in surprise, but she nodded. Jenny had raised the hem until she had almost exposed her panties. “That should be fine,” Mama said. She stepped off the bike to help Jenny to climb on without letting go of the hem of her skirt, then she resumed her own seat.

“All set back there?” Mama asked.

“Yes,” Jenny said faintly.

Mama turned the key and the engine roared to life.

“It—it’s v-vibrating quite a b-bit,” Jenny observed. “I-is th-this normal?”

“Oh, I know,” Mama said. “The poor thing needs a tune up, but I haven’t had time to work on it. Are you going to be okay?”

“I’m o-okay,” Jenny said. “It’s k-kind of n-nice, a-actually.”

“Good,” Mama said, smiling. “Hold on tight!” She revved the engine, and the bike darted down the road.

Jenny saw the front of her rolled up skirt flutter a bit as they zipped along the road, and she took some consolation from the realization that the wind couldn’t get much of a purchase on her shortened skirt. Counterbalancing this was the fact that everyone passing by got an excellent view of her long legs, all the way to the tops of her stockings. She hoped that the presence of Mama on the seat before her prevented anyone from getting a view even higher  up, to her sheer white panties.

The vibration of the motorcycle was soothing, in a strange way, and Jenny leaned forward a bit so that she could feel more of the soothing effect. Her entire body shook in time to the rhythm of the engine. It was a moment before she realized that the shoulder straps of her dress were moving to the rhythm, too—slowly slipping down off her shoulders. She hunched her shoulders to keep the straps from slipping further, but she was too late: the straps had already passed the points of her shoulders, and in the act of pulling her shoulders up, she actually caused the straps to slip even more.

Now Jenny saw her entire dress slipping inexorably down. She winced at the realization that her sheer lacy strapless bra would soon be exposed to everyone on the highway. It was one of her husband’s favorites, and she knew that her pink nipples could be clearly seen through the thin material. She had worn it to please him; she certainly never intended that everyone on this English roadway would see it. The dress continued to slide down her body. Jenny pressed her chest against Mama’s back, and tightened her grip on Mama’s body.

“Scared?” Mama asked. “Am I going too fast? Not to worry—we’re here already.” She slowed the bike and pulled over onto the grassy verge.

The motorcycle stopped vibrating when Mama shut off the engine, but Jenny was still shaking, and still clinging tight to Mama’s body. Mama chuckled. “You can let go now, Jenny. We’re here.”

Jenny waited until a string of cars had passed and the roadway was clear before she released her hold on Mama and leaned back. Her dress immediately started to slip down again. With one hand, she pressed the dress against her chest just in time to preserve her modesty. She breathed a deep sigh of relief, and with the other hand she tugged the drooping shoulder straps back up over her shoulders.

Mama dismounted from the bike and surveyed the landscape. “It’s not as flashy as Stonehenge,” she said, “but this is really a very spiritual place.” She drew a deep breath. “Even this close to the road and all the petrol fumes, this place seems very clean, somehow.”

Jenny smiled and got off the bike. She let her skirt drop back to its full length, and felt much better. She turned to admire the view, and took a single step toward Mama.

“Oh, these shoes are never going to do here,” Jenny said. “John likes for me to wear heels, and I think they look nice, but they’re not very practical out here, are they?” She steadied herself against the bike, raised each foot in turn and pulled her shoes off. “I’m glad it’s such a nice warm day today. It’s not being disrespectful to go barefoot here, is it?”

Mama raised her face toward the sky. “It is a beautiful day, isn’t it?” She looked down at the soft mossy path that led into the heart of the grove. “As a matter of fact, it might be more disrespectful to enter the grove with shoes on.” She knelt and started to untie her own boots.

Jenny smiled. Already the cool grass felt good under her feet. She knew that her silk stockings would never hold up here. She seated herself on the bike, checked that the nearby roadway was fairly clear in both directions, and reached under her skirt to unfasten the garters that held up her stockings. “I wish we weren’t so close to the road,” she said, as she started to roll the stockings down her long legs.

Mama peeled off her black socks and wiggled her toes on the soft carpet of moss underfoot. “That’s much better,” she said. She looked up to see Jenny pulling off her last stocking. “There’s a compartment under the seat where you can put your shoes and stockings. Let me show you.” In a moment the two women had stowed their footwear and started on the pathway into the druid grove.

“Oh, it feels wonderful,” Jenny said, with a giddy laugh, as the soles of her feet were tickled by the grass and the moss.

“Watch where you’re stepping and you should be fine,” Mama said, and the two women carefully walked deeper into the ancient grove.

Jenny looked about with a sense of awe. “It looks just like any old bunch of trees,” she whispered, “but you can really sense a presence here, can’t you?” She stopped for a moment to carefully disentangle her skirt from the branches of a squat bush at the edge of the path.

Mama smiled and nodded. “You sense that in part because you enter this grove reverently. The presence is always there, but you are not always open to it. Some people say the druids worshipped trees, but I think it might be more accurate to say they revered them. Trees are living things, just like people, cats, dogs, whales or dolphins. The druids believed that, like all other living things, a tree has a spirit.”

The wind moving through the leaves sounded like the breath of some giant soul. A shiver ran down Jenny’s spine. “In this place, I can believe it,” she said.

“You might say that different trees have different personalities,” Mama continued. “The apple tree here is thought to give wisdom and understanding. The bay tree over there has healing powers, and the oak is the tree of truth. The pine tree—sweetest of woods. Some believe that the ash tree is the ancestor of the human race, believe it or not. Some trees seem very sober and serious, and others are playful.”

“Eek!” said Jenny. “Can you tell this one I don’t want to play?” Her hair and her dress were snagged in the branches of a bramble tree.

“Don’t pull too hard,” Mama said, laughing. She stepped over to help Jenny free herself from the thorny branches. “You must always be respectful of the trees, especially in a place like this. We’re guests here, and we mustn’t be rude.” Carefully, she released Jenny from the last clinging branch. The branch sprang up, and the rustling of the leaves sounded a bit like a disappointed sigh.

“There are quite a few of these bramble trees right here,” Mama observed. She peered through the branches. “They’re often together to protect a fairy clearing, you know. If you listen to fairy stories or look at those old Maxfield Parrish paintings, you might think that fairies are sweet, harmless creatures. But you really don’t want to make them cross.”

Jenny eyed the bramble trees suspiciously. “I think I had best keep clear of the bramble trees, then,” she said. “Wouldn’t want to upset the fairies.”

“Aha! Here we are,” said Mama, as she continued along the grassy path. “This is the big clearing up ahead.” Jenny followed Mama into a large circular clearing ringed with many different kinds of the trees. “This is where we believe they would have held some of their most important rituals,” she added, walking to the center of the clearing. She breathed deeply of the fragrant air. She turned her face to the bright blue sky and felt the sun warm her face.

Jenny repeated Mama’s actions, closing her eyes and turning her face up to be warmed by the sun. “It’s like we’ve gone back in time,” she said softly.

“We know so very little about the druids,” Mama said. “The scholars are still trying to puzzle out the meanings of their rituals and artifacts. One thing does seem fairly certain—at least some of their rituals were done while sky-clad.”

Jenny sniffed the sweet smelling air. “Sky-clad. Oh, that sounds nice,” she said. She lowered her upturned face and looked at Mama. “What does it mean?”

Mama smiled, and stepped to the edge of the clearing. She took off her leather jacket and dropped it on the ground. “Sky-clad. You know—clothed with just the sun and the moon and the breeze.” She pulled her black tank top over her head, exposing a white cotton bra that strained to contain her breasts.

Jenny’s face turned red. “You—you mean naked?” she asked, incredulously.

“Oh, yes,” Mama said, nodding, as she released the hook at the back of her bra and freed her voluptuous bosom. “Remember, they respected nature, and their own place in it. And on a gorgeous day like today, you have to admit it makes perfect sense, doesn’t it?”

Jenny looked around nervously. They were far from the road now and screened from view in all directions by a thick curtain of trees. Nevertheless, she felt very uncomfortable when she saw Mama unzip her black denim trousers, and lower the trousers and her white cotton panties together to the ground.

“Ta-dah! Sky-clad!” Mama declared, striking a humorous pose. She stepped back to the center of the clearing, a broad smile across her face. “Care to join me, Jenny?” she asked. “I have no doubt the ancient ones would approve.”

Jenny’s face turned an even brighter shade of red, and she shrunk from Mama. “Oh, no—n-not for me, thanks,” she said, nervously backing out of the center of the clearing. “Some—some other time, maybe. Or—or some other lifetime, more like it.”

The ground was uneven near the edge of the clearing, and Jenny, taking another step backward, stumbled and fell, arms flailing. She fell into the low-hanging branches of a tree at the edge of the clearing. The branches weren’t strong enough to break her fall, but they did snag the shoulder straps of her dress. As she fell, the dress slipped up over her head as neatly as could be.

Jenny landed flat on her back with a great thud. She saw the branches that had snagged her dress spring up, relieved of the weight of her falling body. She saw her beautiful white summer dress tossed into the air and sailing, sailing, caught for a moment by a playful breeze, landing at last on a very high bough of a pine tree at the edge of the clearing.

“Oh, my—oooOOOOOOOOOOOWWWWWWWWWWW!” Jenny howled.

Mama had rushed to Jenny’s side. “Are you alright?” she asked, breathlessly. “What’s wrong?”

“Ooooooowwwww! Ow! Ow! Ow!” Jenny moaned. It had taken a moment for her to become sensible to the sharp stabbing pain in her backside. She recognized it for what it was: she had plopped down right on top of a particularly prickly bush of some sort. Quickly, she rolled to her left to get away from the stinging prickles. She realized her mistake instantly—the ground was carpeted with the prickly plants, and now she felt the sting on her front side, too.

“Oh, you’ve landed in stinging nettles!” Mama cried. “Here, let me help you up!” She seized Jenny’s arm and hoisted her from her painful position. She immediately set to work plucking off the tiny burrs that still clung to Jenny’s body.

“Owww!” Jenny cried. “They’re still sticking me! Get them off me, please!”

“Oh, dear,” Mama said, “they’re sticking to your clothes.” She plucked more of the tiny stingers from Jenny’s bra while Jenny fidgeted and whimpered. Mama shook her head in frustration. “There’s too many of them. They’re sticking to the material. I’m afraid you’ll have to take your things off.”

A look of mortification crossed over Jenny’s features, but she made no argument. She peeled her panties off in a swift motion, and gasped at the welcome relief of that much misery. She reached behind her back to undo the clasp on her bra, but the motion caused the nettles to poke more painfully into Jenny’s tender breasts. She turned her back toward Mama, and said “Oh, help me, please!”

Mama nodded, and quickly undid the clasp at the back of Jenny’s bra. The bra dropped to Jenny’s feet.

“Oh, thank you!” Jenny said with a deep sigh of relief. She rubbed her sore breasts. Fortunately, the nettles seemed to stick only to her clothing, not to her skin.

Both women were startled by a sudden growing noise from depths of the wood. They watched as the sound of rustling leaves, snapping twigs, and shouting voices grew louder and closer. They watched as dozens of men and women, all dressed in biker gear, emerged from the shroud of the trees. “We heard someone screaming,” a voice shouted. “Is everything alright?”

Jenny’s face turned beet red when she saw her husband, John, approaching. “Oh… my… God!” she breathed.

John smiled when he saw the warm flush grow in Jenny’s cheeks. He turned to a man who walked beside him. “I told you she wouldn’t let us down, pal. Biker, I would like you to meet my blushing bride, Jenny!”

The man looked up and down Jenny’s body, and a broad smile grew across his face. Jenny thought the man looked familiar, but she couldn’t quite place him. He gave a polite little bow, and said, “I’ve heard so much about you, Jenny. It’s delightful to finally meet you in the flesh.”

The man turned toward John, and said, “I’d like you to meet my own better half. John, say hello to Mama Biker.”

Now it was Mama’s turn to blush. John’s eyes roamed eagerly over her naked body, and there was a twinkle in his eye which didn’t seem entirely innocent. “A real pleasure,” he said, and kissed her hand.

The crowd was coalescing now. John stepped back and took in the sight of the two blushing naked women. He turned to Biker and said, “Well, I have to admit you were right. England certainly is beautiful at this time of the year.”