The Night Before Poll Count Day
Thomas Shelby was seated behind his desk, cross-checking the new power structure of Shelby Company Ltd. Tomorrow, he would no longer be an ordinary businessman, though some years ago even that might've been a monumental thing for a young bookmaker. He was sure of his victory, just like he had been sure that his wife would accept his proposal. Lily might've been a hard nut to crack but he had been able to bring her in his life. He had proposed four times, even though she considered the unsuccessful ones to be business propositions.
Their marriage had even bettered his chances in the election. She was an attractive and successful woman with a tragic past and though he never admitted it loudly, she had been a part of his 'sympathy' quota. While Grace had been beautiful and of royal blood, she had come out as an untouchable, a woman much above the plebs of Small Heath. Lily was the opposite, she had grown up in streets like theirs and had stayed with the Shelbys in their difficult time.
The biggest irony was that while Grace hadn't been a favorite, especially of Polly, Tommy had loved her unconditionally. And in Lily's case...
He walked upstairs towards the room he shared with Lily and went inside to find the boys huddled around her with Ruby in her lap. He stopped before they could see him and leaned against the door to watch them.
‘I want ice c-cream, Mum.’ Oliver said, his stammer barely noticeable now. Tommy couldn't deny the pride and relief he felt when he spoke fluently. Lily had argued with him but he hadn't budged in his decision of getting him a speech therapist.
‘It’s a little late. Maybe tomorrow, after we come back and celebrate your father’s win?’ Lily cajoled him and he gave a smile.
‘I wanna go to the zoo.’ Charlie chimed in and Lily touched his cheek gently.
‘Next Sunday, Charlie. We'll have a picnic too.'
‘It’s a relief you can’t speak yet, Ruby.’ She muttered as their daughter cried loudly.
‘Mum, is D-Dad going to b-become the King?’ Oliver asked as Lily gently patted Ruby's back.
‘No, we already have a King. Your Dad is going to help the people of the country in solving their problems.’ She explained and Tommy felt a little overwhelmed on hearing her description.
‘How?’ Charlie asked, his eyes wide in attention.
‘By listening to their problems and telling the Parliament about them.’
Lily paused for a moment, wondering how to describe it. Then settled with, ‘A place where laws are made.’
‘Enough. Go to bed, both of you.’ Tommy declared as he came in and took off his waistcoat.
‘But Lily didn’t tell us a story, Dad.’
‘Tomorrow night? Your Dad has an important day tomorrow and he wants to sleep early.' Lily told him gently and he agreed at once. He went back in his room with Frances after wishing everyone Goodnight but his other son didn't budge.
‘I wanna s-sleep here.’ Oliver set his demand and hid behind Lily.
'I told you, Oliver.'
Lily interrupted him and said, ‘Your sister will cry at night. And then you’ll have to put her back to sleep.’
‘I won’t d-do that.’ He refused vehemently.
‘Then give me a kiss and go to bed.’ She brought her cheek closer to his face.
‘Good n-night, Mum.’ He kissed her cheek and wrapped his small hands across her neck, then left the room without a glance in Tommy's direction.
‘Why’s he ignoring me?’ He asked in confusion as he unbuttoned his shirt cuffs.
‘Because you always try to send him away.’ She said as she put Ruby in her crib, which she insisted on keeping in their room despite his reluctance.
‘What the fuck are you talking about?’ He unbuttoned his shirt with excess force, making some of them fly.
‘Tommy, you do remember how you shouted at him last night.’ She stood back up and faced him.
‘When we were fucking?’ He walked closer to her and she continued, even though her neck was beginning to flame. While they weren't supposed to have sex, something here and there couldn't hurt. Only it didn't involve clothes and Oliver has walked in without a knock. He was scared and Tommy hadn't been tactful in dealing with the situation. It added fuel to the fire for Oliver, who still hated going to speech therapy.
‘We weren't having sex. He gets scared alone. He always slept in my bed before our marriage.’
‘Well, it’s time he grew up.’ He said as he put his arm around her waist, a little soft after the pregnancy and he liked to think it was his child she'd carried in that lush body.
‘He just turned four.’ She rolled her eyes and looked away, hating his touch on her body. She had changed and while she didn't like to admit it, she looked fat. Especially next to him.
‘Charlie is younger. But he never did something like that.’
‘They’re different. They’ve grown up in different environment.’
He narrowed his eyes, as if trying to see a distant object, ‘How? Charlie lost his mother. Oliver had it all.’
‘Do I have to die to make you love Oliver more?’ She whispered sharply.
‘Fucking shut up.’ He gritted as he took her face in his hands.
‘I never treated them any different. I love Charlie as much as I love Oliver and Ruby.’
‘Never mind. I’m not the best company.’ He said and turned away but she held his hand.
‘Are you worried about tomorrow?’ She asked as she rested her cheek on his chest.
‘No.’ He said firmly.
‘Are you worried about what’ll happen after tomorrow?’ She looked up and he tucked her long hair behind her ear.
‘Do you mind that he still calls you Lily?’
‘We talked about it, Tommy. He’s still adjusting to everything and I don’t mind it at all. Just like I don’t mind the paintings and the photo frames.’ She added, feeling a little spiteful.
‘When is your gallery starting?’ He asked as she sat down in front of the mirror and began to brush her hair.
‘It never shut down, I stopped going. Gerard called this morning too, there are many things to do.’ She said quietly, trying not to sound whiny.
‘And you want to shift to London?’ He sat down on the bed, both of their backs facing each other.
‘I would like to, now that you’ll be in Westminster anyway. And I miss them.’ He heard her and wondered if she had planned everything.
‘Ruby is only a month old.’
‘I’m not saying tomorrow. A couple of months maybe.’
‘A year. At the very least.’
‘That’s too long. I love your house but it's lonely here. And the staff is nosy and omnipresent.’ Her voice grew closer, until he felt her chin on his shoulder and her arms across his chest.
He held her wrist and said, ‘If you come, then the kids come too. I might as well sell this house.’ He gestured around their room.
‘London is not too bad. And we can spend the weekends here.’ She said cheerfully and kissed his cheek.
‘I should’ve known.’He pushed away her arm lightly and got up to light a cigarette.
‘Known what?’ She asked, befuddled at his reaction.
‘You wouldn’t be able to leave them behind.’ He said with a flick of the cigarette.
‘I came to Birmingham for you. I gave up my position in the company.’ She said, unable to bear his grouchiness.
‘I don’t think it was something to cry over. Your ‘father’ gifted it to you to help you heal.’ He said as he exhaled a stream of smoke.
She didn't yell nor did she give a sassy comeback. She only reached for the sheets and said, ‘I’m going to bed.’
‘Aren't you missing something?' He asked, certain she was angry enough to murder him in cold blood.
'Poison?' She asked and he laid down next to her, putting an arm across her waist. She didn't respond at his touch and he said, 'I need all the luck for tomorrow,' and inched his hand towards her bountiful breasts.
'I'm not feeling well. Good night, Tommy.'