Ruby Shelby liked the tea-set Aunt Jessie had sent for her from London. She didn't like it as much as the toy horse and gun she'd inherited from her brothers but it wasn’t bad. It was like the one her mother used when Aunt Linda or Aunt Polly came to her home. Mum didn’t let her play with hers but always asked Ruby to make a cup of tea for her. She didn’t mind because Mum rarely played with her. She was mostly in her room with her colours and brushes. Aunt Polly said it was because Mum was not well and needed some time alone or she’d get sick. But Mum always read her a story at night and kissed her cheeks before putting her to sleep. Unlike Daddy, who was always late and never told her a story. He looked scary sometimes but Mum said it was because he was very tired.
‘Oliver, don’t go close to the grave.’ Mum told Oliver, who was still looking at the dead horse. Charlie had told them that Daddy killed the horse and had locked himself inside the wagon. But Oliver had hardly said anything and continued to stand near the hole Johnny Dogs was digging.
He never talked bad about Daddy and even fought with Charlie for saying he was bad, despite the fact that Daddy didn't come to his birthday.
But Mum always told him Daddy loved him a lot. She told everyone the same thing even though Daddy didn’t say it. Not even to her, unlike Uncle James, who always called Aunt Jessie ‘love’.
‘Charlie, come out now. Your Daddy is back.’ Mum said as she knocked on the door.
‘I won’t. He kills everyone.’
‘The horse was sick. He had to do it.’ She said softly.
‘He’s lying. Johnny said he was not sick.’
‘It was mercy, Charlie.’
‘Even you’re lying like Dad.’ Charlie shouted back.
Lily sighed and walked towards Ruby, who was playing with her toy horse.
‘What’re you doing, sweetie?’ She asked as she crouched down next to her.
‘Do you want a cup?’
‘Yes, I do. With two spoonfuls of sugar.’
‘Mum, will they bury the horse?’ Oliver asked as he wrapped his arms around her neck from behind and she kissed his hands.
‘Yes. So he can find his peace.’
‘Will Charlie come out?’
‘He isn’t listening to me. Why don’t you talk to him?’
‘He said Dad killed the horse. But he loves horses.’
‘Yes, he does.’ Lily agreed with a lifting of her eyebrows.
‘Look, Dad is back!’ Oliver shouted and everyone looked at the man riding along the ridge on the beautiful black horse. Even from the distance, Lily could discern that he had emptied another bottle of opium. But she didn't feel angry nor did she feel like reprimanding him; all she wanted to do was go back to Warwick or London. She had agreed to come to Lickey Hills only because the children were so excited. And she knew better than to let Tommy take them on his own, not that he would ever agree to such an arrangement. She was glad she'd come because till now, she had seen him kill a horse in the early hours of the day from inside, when he had thought he was hidden from everyone. He had then placed the gun on his temple and Lily hadn't been able to work up even an ounce of fear. She had shaken her head and moved back, wondering if she would hear a gun-shot or he would come inside, his face betraying none of his turmoil.
Brought back to the present as Tommy got down from his horse, she watched from the wagon steps as Ruby ran towards him and he opened his arms to lift her off the ground. She was thinking about his phone call when Oliver asked her to loosen the knot of his tie. Over the last three years, Oliver had changed more than her. He was always looking to please Tommy, all the while nursing an increasing grudge against him. He was too little to understand, but she knew a day will come when Oliver would stop caring. And she fervently hoped Tommy would come to his senses before that or their son, in hopes of being like his father would end up like him.
Tommy held Ruby in his arms and walked towards Lily, who was adjusting Oliver’s coat collar while sitting on the wagon steps. She barely looked at him and he knew it would be a while before they got on cordial terms again. It was partly his fault, even though it pained him to admit it. But she would come around, she always did. Until then, he was ready to give her space and let her paint to her heart's content, a diversion he didn't appreciate at all. He was surprised at her assent to coming down to Worcestershire considering she had barely left the house in the past year.
‘What did you do, Oliver?’ He asked his eldest son after he had put Ruby down and kept his hand on his shoulder.
‘I played.’ He mumbled, not making eye contact.
Tommy sighed and looked around, then asked Lily, who was still sitting, ‘Where’s Charles?’
‘He’s in the wagon, won’t come out. He heard Johnny talking in Rokka that you shot the horse. I didn't know he understood it.' She said, her words clear and without any emotion.
‘What did you say?’ He asked as he walked closer and leaned against the railing, taking in the eyes he was particularly fond of and which were presently sunken with blue shadows underneath them. She looked like she wasn't getting any more sleep than he was even though it was the sound of her breathing which provided him company every wakeful night.
‘I said he was sick and it was mercy. But he doesn’t understand.’ She said with a sigh and got up from the steps.
She went to stand near Ruby, who asked him, ‘Dad, why did you shoot him?’
Tommy didn’t answer and looked away, leaving Ruby with a confused expression. Lily looked down at her and smoothed her hair back as she gave a tight smile, then looked at Tommy as he walked towards the wagon.
‘Charles, come here,' He commanded and Charlie reluctantly came out, pouting a little. 'Sit down.’
‘The horse was sick. He was in pain. The vet couldn’t do anything. Even Curly couldn’t do anything. I put him to sleep. It’s what you do.’
Lily winced a little as Charlie retorted, ‘No, it’s what you do.’
‘Shoot horses. Shoot people. Everybody says.’
Charlie walked inside and Lily felt an odd tug at her heart as she saw Tommy staring into empty space, no doubt shook by his son's words. But the possible introspection was short-lived as Tommy walked towards the grave and took both the children with him.
Lily listened as he paid his respects, unable to get the image of the dead horse out of her mind. As Tommy's voice broke suddenly, Lily knit her brows and Ruby looked at him in surprise, ‘You’re crying?’
So the horse made you human, Lily thought as Tommy stopped and moved away from the scene, keeping a hand on Oliver’s back as he paused to talk to Johnny Dogs about Charlie’s revelation.
She walked away from them to look around the beautiful place; the dark clouds and the hills, hoping the grief in her heart would be washed away by the pleasant scene before her. She was beginning to walk towards the cliff when she saw a familiar car pull in. ‘Arthur?’ She said, baffled at his unexpected arrival.
‘I've called the house, the office. But if I tell you, you won't believe it. So I'll show you.’ Arthur said as he pulled open the newspaper in his hand and Tommy walked towards him. She looked on from the side as Tommy read the paper, all the while wondering what the big news was. So big that Arthur had driven out here when he had just talked to Tommy early in the morning.
The next exchange of words between the brothers proved the it was something about the stock market. And she didn't think a small fall in price would require the front page.
'Michael held on?'
'Yeah.' Arthur replied.
‘Michael. Michael held on?’
‘Yeah.’ Arthur repeated as Tommy looked around and readjusted his cap.
All too familiar with the change in Tommy’s expression, Lily wanted to hurry the kids inside and cover their ears, but she couldn’t. All she could do was make Ruby stand behind her and hold Oliver’s hand in hers.
‘Michael held on...and carried on dancing and playing...and fucking in the snow.’
She inhaled sharply while Ruby tried to understand the reason behind her father's anger; Oliver was all too familiar with it.
‘Charlie! Charlie, come out here now! Kid never fucking listens. Never listens, Lily! You never fucking listen!’ He said, pointing the paper at her. She stiffened but didn’t say anything, only took the paper from him and read the headline.
‘What do I have to do to make people fucking listen to me?!’ Tommy yelled and she knew they had lost big. Big enough to make him yell at her.
'Fuck,' Lily muttered under her breath, cursing Tommy and his drugged-up cousin. She, like Tommy, had no doubt that Michael was too busy with women and cocaine to pay attention. And now Tommy would pay for it, certainly by finding another illegal and dangerous channel which would make her regret the day she'd said yes to his proposal. She had no doubt that he regretted it too, especially in the past one year. But he was too old-fashioned to even consider freeing them both from the shackles.
'What do we do now, Tommy, eh? What do we do?' Arthur asked as Tommy began to walk towards the horse.
'Arthur, call a full meeting of the board of directors tomorrow at noon. A full fucking meeting.'
Lily turned to walk inside the wagon as Tommy told Arthur about his plan which presently involved thinking. She didn't think it would be that difficult, considering it was all he did when he was not working. Thinking about the Parliament, the Company, the kids, his family. She opened the wagon door only to hear him yell.
‘Lily! You go with Arthur to Birmingham.’
'I can't.' She said as she turned to face him and found him walking up the steps.
‘You do as I say. You’ll stay at the Midland Hotel-‘
She cut him and said, 'It doesn't make any difference if I stay in Small Heath or Warwick.'
Taking a long breath of exertion, he said, 'For once, think rationally. We lost a fortune in the fucking crash.'
'I'm not a part of your Company. There's no need for me to be there.'
'Don't come to the meeting. Stay in the Hotel and I'll come to take you tomorrow, eh?' He said slowly as he gingerly touched her face.
'Why can't I just go to your house?' She asked sullenly.
'Because I said so.’ He said.
'Please, Tommy. It's the least you can do.' She said finally and she knew he wouldn’t have an answer to that.
Rubbing his face one more time, he said, 'Send the driver in tomorrow.'
I know, not so happy...But don't worry, I'll be posting a scene from their past every alternative day, mostly featuring happy moments. I've not yet given up on them <3
Please share your thoughts and tell me all you liked and disliked. I'd love to hear it all <3
Chapter 2: The Wedding Part I
Flashback to the months leading to their wedding.
Two Months To Go
Lily woke up in her bed after a long night spent on her sofa. A very long night, she realised as she stretched her arms. She wondered if she had dreamt Tommy on one knee and looked at the ring again, which was shining brighter in the daylight.
Smiling, she put on her robe over the slip she was wearing and walked out of her room, looking for both Oliver and Tommy. A small sad part of her thought Tommy had left to attend to business. But she froze as she found both him and Oliver in the kitchen; Oliver sitting on the chair and Tommy putting a bread on his plate, still in his undershirt. She wanted to keep the beautiful scene in front of her forever and she rushed to get the camera Alexander had sent from Boston for Christmas. She went back in the hall and placed the camera in front of her waist as she flipped the switch.
Tommy looked up suddenly at the sound, possibly ruining the picture and she scowled at him. Keeping the camera back on the side table, she walked where Oliver was sitting.
‘Mum! Dad c-c-came back!’ Oliver shouted gleefully and she ruffled his hair.
‘Yes, he did. What are you doing, Oliver?’
‘Dad g-g-gave me b-b-bread!’ He said in equally excited tone and she kissed his cheek.
‘I’m impressed. It isn’t even burnt.’ She said as she looked at the bread.
Oliver smiled and went back to chewing as Tommy walked towards her, ‘How are you?’ he asked as he wrapped his arms around her waist, kissing her neck.
Slightly taken aback by his display of affection, she cleared her throat and asked in a low voice, ‘What are you doing?’
‘Kissing my wife.’
Blushing a little, she said, ‘We’re not married, yet.’
‘Then we'll get married today.’
‘I don’t have a dress.’
‘Wear the red one. Which made you look like a flower.’
She laughed, ‘Flower? How?’
‘Never mind.’ He said as he dropped his arms and walked outside to sit on the table. She watched in confusion as he pulled out a cigarette and lit it, his face suddenly an expressionless mask.
‘Come here, Oliver.’ Lily picked Oliver and deposited him on the sofa in the hall, giving him his favourite toys to keep him occupied.
She walked back towards Tommy who was surrounded by a cloud of smoke.
‘Tommy?’ She asked from behind, not wanting to inhale any of the irritant, since she had yet to take her medicine.
‘Yeah?’ He asked without looking at her.
‘What happened?’ She said and gave a small cough as the nicotine-laced cloud entered her nostrils.
‘Nothing,’ he abruptly stubbed the cigarette and took her away from the smoke, 'Nothing that should concern you.’ He said as he tucked her hair behind her ear.
‘I'll understand if you don’t want to get married.’ She said as she looked into his eyes.
‘I’m starting to think it’s you who doesn’t want to get married.’
‘I’m a thirty year old unwed mother who lives in London. Of course I want to get married.’ She scoffed.
‘You're thirty two.’ He corrected.
‘My birthday is next month.’ She retorted.
He sighed, ‘I’m not an easy man to be with, Lily.’
‘You think I don’t know that?' She said lightly.
‘What if I can’t be there for the kids?’
‘What do you mean?’
‘You didn’t see me in the past three months, Lily.'
'You don't have to suppress your emotions. I know it's not easy but I’ll be there for you, I promise.’ She put her arms across his chest and rested her chin on his shoulder. He was reaching for her hand when a sudden noise made her fall forward.
‘Lily! I heard that the Shelby came here last night.’ Jessie announced, her voice penetrating the wooden door.
‘Yes. And there’s an unidentified car in the driveway.’ James added.
‘Gerard has picked up his rifle.’ Colin said and the room vibrated with laughter coursing from outside.
‘I think it’s time you kept to your promise.’ Tommy said with a look of resignation at the door, on the other side of which stood the very people who wanted to kill him.
‘Come on, open the door. Oliver, we’ve brought cake.’
‘Mum! Open the d-d-door!’ Oliver cried, all the toys forgotten and ran towards the door.
‘I don’t think I can help you this time.’ She giggled and Tommy shook his head at her.
One Week To Go
‘How does this look? Lily asked as she showed him the new bracelet she’d bought. She had agreed to see him one last time before the wedding and had asked Jessie to look after Oliver for the night. Tomorrow morning, he was leaving with Tommy for Warwick so Lily could settle the work she'd miss after her wedding. She had yet to talk to him about their arrangement and she hoped he wouldn't spout his orthodox talk about how women shouldn't work outside and earn as much as men.
‘Good.’ He said as he lit a cigarette, his eyes on the flame of the lighter. 'Can I smoke?' He asked as the smoke wafted around them.
‘What’s wrong?’ She asked, noting his disinterest in everything.
‘I know it was your decision but we can wait if you think it’s too early.’
‘What’s too early?’ He looked at her for the first time after their lovemaking, his eyes questioning.
‘This. Us. The wedding.’
‘No. We’ve waited too long.’ He said as he drew circles on her arm, his eyes on the ceiling.
She looked up at him and said firmly, ‘And we can wait longer. I don’t want you to regret it.’
‘Shut up. Don’t blame your hesitancy on me.’
‘I’m hesitant?’ She asked, miffed. It was not she who acted as if she were in a different world every passing minute.
‘I’m not the one who rejected three proposals.’
‘They were business propositions. As if it were a contract.’
‘Marriage is a contract.’
Quickly changing the topic lest he get incensed, she asked, ‘What’ll you wear?’
‘Isn’t it supposed to be bad luck?’ He asked as he took out another cigarette from the packet he kept on the nightstand.
‘It’s alright for men.’ She said dismissively as she watched him light it.
‘I don’t know. I’ll decide later.’ He said as he kept the lighter back in its place.
‘Our wedding is in a week.’ She said, slightly riled up at his disregard.
‘Yeah. That’s why.’ He said with a raise of his eyebrows for emphasis.
‘You’re not serious! Polly took me to Paris for the wedding dress!’
‘I don’t think anyone looks at the groom.’
She smiled, mollified a little, ‘Groom. I like the sound of it.’
‘Do you, Mrs. Shelby?’
‘I like that too.’ she said as she kissed him and shifted so she was on top of him. He ran his hands down her back, till the curve of her bottom and she ground her hips in response.
Some time later, she groaned against his chest, completely drained from the exertion, ‘At this rate, I’ll be in labour by the weekend.’
‘Do you want another?’ He asked and she was unable to discern the emotion behind his impassive words.
‘I don’t know. But if I’m pregnant I would like to keep it.’ She said truthfully and she couldn't deny the possibility, considering his frequent visits.
‘I hope it’s a girl.’
‘You want a girl?’ She asked with a soft smile.
‘Maybe. Even though boys are easier.’ He shrugged.
‘Can you tell if I’m pregnant?’ She asked as she got up, giving him a magnificent view of her body.
‘What?’ He asked a moment later, after he was done taking in every inch of her. She wasn't shying away like she did before and it would kill him if her trust in him was ever broken. Not that he was any more alive but the time he spent with Lily in her comfortable home made him forget about the troubles that lay outside. And now, he would get to keep her forever, even though her constant questioning regarding his willingness was starting to annoy him. But he didn't blame her for her worry; as the wedding date neared, his dread grew along with the voices in his head.
‘Polly always did that. I thought maybe it was a Gypsy thing.’ She said lightly and settled back on the bed, her head on his arm.
‘Didn’t she tell you?’ He asked.
She looked at him in surprise and asked, ‘What?’
‘She told me yesterday. I came to tell you that.’ He said with the slightest smile.
Her reaction wasn't any better either as he watched her bite her lip and say, ‘Oh.’
She sighed, ‘There’s so much to do. And a baby would add to the work.’
‘You won’t work with a child of mine inside you.’ He said firmly, looking straight in her eyes.
‘It’s not much work. Only papers.’
‘You can come back after the baby’s born. Or join Shelby Company.’
‘And I’ll do what? I don’t know anything about horses and cars. Or your gin.’
‘You didn’t taste the gin.’
‘Distilled for the eradication of seemingly incurable sadness? I became sad even before the sentence ended.’ She said and laughed, very much pleased at her joke.
He continued, even though he didn't like her joke at all, ‘You can become a part of the board of directors. I’m making Arthur the Chairman of the board.’
‘Because I’ll be in the Parliament.’
‘Aren’t you a little too sure? What if you lost?’
‘I don’t think I’ll. And it makes me a bit unhappy.’ Tommy said with rare candour.
‘You can tell me if you have any troubles. I'm there for you, Tommy.' She said as she kept her hand on his.
'I know.' And I'm scared it wouldn't stay the same.
As Tommy put his arm around her shoulder, she said gently, 'I know your Company is good and I'll be closer to you, but I don't want to work there. I like the art and the paintings too much. I can't leave it.'
'I understand. But wait till the baby's born.'
'I will.' She said with a soft sigh, cursing herself for not being careful. She was pleased to have another child but the timing couldn't be worse. She couldn't come back just after the baby was born; it would be another year or more until she could continue her work. She would've to give up her presidency and maybe her job too. Looked like her time in the Guild was short-lived.
One Night To Go
'Tommy? You are still in your office? Why are you not in bed?'
'I should be asking you that.' He said, still checking the ledger.
'I couldn't sleep.'
'Having second thoughts?' He asked as he put the pen back in its place.
'No. I have spent too much on the dress to reconsider.'
'Then what is it?' He leaned back in his chair, wondering how she would look tomorrow.
'Do you want to marry me? Or you're doing it because you're supposed to, now that the elections are nearing.'
'Who have you been talking to?' He muttered as he pinched the bridge of his nose. He hadn't thought about it when he had proposed, but it was public knowledge that he had another son. And it wouldn't appear good that an MP kept his son away from him with his unmarried mother. So, he may have preponed the date they had initially set.
'No one, I just keep thinking about tomorrow. And I thought you'd awake, so I decided to call you.'
He didn't reply and Lily continued, ‘How are the kids?’
‘They’re good. They were asking for you.’
‘I miss them too.’
‘Come soon, Lily.’
‘You sound like you’re missing me.’ She said as she wrapped the cord around her finger.
‘I am.’ He said sincerely.
‘Think again. After tomorrow, you won’t be able to sleep around.’
‘You’re making me sound like a whore.’
‘You know what I want to say. But for the sake of the poor operator I’ll keep my mouth shut.’ She said and gave a chuckle.
‘Good night, Lillian.'
‘You will not call me that.' She yelled.
'It's your name.'
'No, it isn't.' She stressed.
'Thankfully, we don't have a church wedding or your name would've made me laugh.'
'I would love to see you laugh.' She said with a wistful note in her voice.
He cleared his throat and asked, 'How is me child?'
'Making me vomit all over the place. I hope she quiets down for tomorrow.' Lily said as she instinctively touched her belly.
'Take care of yourself.'
'You too. And tell me beforehand if you decide to run away.' She added before he ended the call.
'Go to bed, Lily. I'm not going anywhere.' He said and put the phone down, a small smile on his face.
'Are you certain, Tommy?' A woman with an Irish accent asked and Tommy leaned further in his chair, looking at the frame of his first wife.
Hey guys, thank you for reading! Please share your thoughts and insights on this 'happy chapter' and hit kudos if you liked it . I'll look forward to your feedback :)
Thank you KatieR and Nina for your comments :) Your love for Lily's character makes me want to do justice to her
Chapter 3: Tchaikovsky
Tommy deals with the Stock Market crash while Polly gives him a piece of her mind. Meanwhile, Lily has a mind-numbing experience.
Thank you KatieR and Sarah1495 for your comments :)
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Polly Gray had been missing Monte Carlo long before the timid Mr. Greene had called her decorative. She was sleep-deprived and her head was throbbing from the booze and Arthur's nervous chatter didn't help at all. But the New York Stock Exchange had other plans and she hoped Michael wasn't too deep in the American business. That he hadn’t let the money get to his head. He had been sent to New York for his own safety but now she wondered if they had made a mistake.
America had all the glitz and glamour and it was without the infamy of being a Peaky Blinder. Michael had always been involved in the legal side of business and she had no doubt where his inclinations lay.
‘Where’s Lily?’ She asked, slightly concerned but mostly to stop Linda.
‘She went to Warwick.’ Arthur said quietly, remembering the heated exchange of words between his brother and his wife.
‘What? She doesn’t know it’s a family meeting?’ Polly had thought she'd come with Tommy, but this news was shocking to her. Even at this time, she refused to leave her self-imposed exile.
‘She said she isn’t a part of the Company.’ Linda added, slightly envious of Lily’s hold on Tommy. Lily refused to associate with anything related to the Peaky Blinders and he let her stay in his mansion. As if she were a fucking queen who didn’t get her hands dirty in the mud of Small Heath. Just like her husband.
‘Fuck,’ Polly shook her head, annoyed at Lily’s stubbornness. She’d thought time would soften her and it had, but she’d become apathetic.
The door burst open and Tommy walked in, his urgency to deal with the matter clearly visible. Polly decided to wait until they were in more private stations until she grilled him about his marriage. They had a more pressing matter to deal with now. But she wasn’t letting him off this time, she had given him enough time.
‘How far have we got?' He asked as he set his briefcase down.
'We've established that ladies are decorative.' Polly answered, reading the sheet in her hand.
The Shelby family walked into the Garrison, which was roaring at the announcement of their arrival. Polly watched as Tommy was greeted by the people of Small Heath and felt proud at how far he'd come. If only he were so successful in the matters of the heart.
‘Right..’ She said after she had settled in the booth, after the pub was cleared and Arthur had done climbing on the furniture.
‘Right. Family meeting. First-’, Ada began but she stopped her.
‘Before you begin, Ada. I would like to talk about an absentee.' She looked up at Tommy with a meaningful glare. 'Tommy?’
‘She is in Warwick with the children.’ He said as he opened his cigarette case.
She put her hands on her head, ‘Don’t tell me she’s still grieving. It’s been a year.’
‘No, Polly. She came to Worcestershire.’
She gave a mocking laugh, ‘You think she came for you?’
‘Why’re we talking about her?’ Tommy asked as he ran the cigarette across his lip, not at all interested in bringing Lily in the middle of the meeting.
‘She’s a Shelby. She is supposed to be here.’ Polly said firmly.
‘She is happy there.’
‘Happy doing what? Painting?’ She asked scathingly.
‘She’s keeping herself occupied and that is good news.’ He said as he pointed the cigarette in her direction.
‘Has she asked for a divorce yet?’
Ada gasped and he rolled his eyes, ‘We can talk about it later.’
‘If you had talked to her, she wouldn’t be dying in that big house.’
‘I said she is fine.’ He said with more force, incensed at Polly's words.
‘Talk to her. Today. Or she’ll be gone and till you realise that, it will be too late.’
‘She is not going anywhere, Pol.’
‘Not from your prison, Tommy. Her prison.’
‘She isn’t like that.’ She isn’t like me.
‘She has changed.’
‘Everybody has changed, all right?’ Tommy said harshly and Polly knew it was futile to prod him further.
Sighing, she gestured at Ada, ‘Continue, Ada. Please.’
Lily Shelby walked down the stairs of the lavish mansion in her tiered skirt, her hair tied in a severe bun. Her steps were slow but they were still firm and as she walked, she had to touch the wall. The wall, which was once decorated with the paintings of her husband’s first wife, was presently bare and empty. It had been like that for a year; not because Tommy suddenly understood how amoral it was but because he was tired of answering curious guests about Grace.
She was neither happy nor sad when the paintings were removed. Because by then, she had stopped bothering herself with Tommy’s comings and goings. And it didn't matter if he removed the paintings because she knew Grace was still in his heart.
The first year of their marriage had been good and perhaps the best. During the second year, she had put in effort despite Tommy’s suddenly erratic behaviour. But after that, it had been going downhill, not just for him but for her too. And she had found herself grappling to keep herself sane. But she had an emotionally unavailable husband and three small kids to look after; she couldn’t let herself drown. Thus, she had learned to channel her stifled emotions in canvas, so she wouldn’t end up like…like someone she knew.
The only downside was that she didn’t stay with the kids as much as she liked. But she knew an absent mother was better than an insane mother. She didn't ignore them outright either, she made sure they ate well and slept on time. That they didn't fight or take Tommy's things; things like his guns, his bottles of cocaine and opium. She just didn't play with them anymore or talked to them every night before they went to bed. It took all her strength to read to Ruby every night, but she didn't want to end that link too.
She had been upstairs since the morning, adding colours on canvas as if it were her own colourless life. She would’ve stayed there until the afternoon were it not for Charlie’s outburst. He was still angry at Tommy and hadn’t talked to anyone, not even Oliver, who was his confidante most of the times. But not this time, since he wouldn’t say anything about Tommy.
She went to check on Charlie, who was taking his violin lessons downstairs along with Oliver. She reached the door, listening to sounds which were a little harsh on her ears. But they were seven year old kids, what more could she expect?
She waited for their lesson to get over and leaned against the wall, finding it difficult to even stand straight. She felt weaker than she ever had, finding it tedious to even walk from one corner to another and her asthma didn't help either. It was a good thing she was in Warwick or she might've taken the bed from the smoke of the city.
When the room quietened, she prepared herself to talk to Charlie. Only to stiffen when she heard the most beautiful melody from inside the room. So beautiful that she almost smiled. It couldn’t be the kids, for sure. So it must be their teacher; Mr. Hughes as she remembered, since Mrs. Milligan was taking care of her baby.
The door burst open suddenly and Oliver ran towards her, surprised on seeing her. ‘Mum! Mr. Hughes said I played good today.’
'Did you? Very good.' She said as she looked down at him and ruffled his hair, which was much shorter now. Just like Charlie's.
‘He said I played better than he did.’ Charlie added and Lily touched his head was beginning to praise him when another pair of shoes invaded her line of sight, which were a little shabby with a small hole at the left toe.
Lily looked up and found herself face to face with a man of her age, with light brown unkempt hair and eyes the colour of the hyacinths she had seen in Greece.
‘Good morning, Mrs. Shelby.’ He said politely.
‘Good morning, Mr. Hughes. I hope these boys were at their best behaviour.’ She said as she pulled them close to her waist.
‘Of course.’ He smiled and she didn't believe him for a second.
‘Mum, can I go to the stables? Please?’ Oliver looked at her with a pleading look on his face.
‘Go on. Take Charlie too.’
‘I won’t go with him.’ Charlie declared, unable to bring the anger in his words.
‘He’s your brother, Charlie. He would be sad if you don’t talk to him.’ She said gently.
'He said Dad didn't do wrong.'
Lily stiffened a little, embarrassed that the teacher was becoming privy to their private matters.
'Charlie, can you check if the driver has arrived?' He said and Lily gave him a silent thank you.
'Yes, Mr. Hughes.' He nodded and ran away, followed by Oliver.
'Thank you.' She said quietly and began to leave when he asked,
‘Are they twins? Because they’re both seven, right?’
‘No. Charlie is my husband’s son with his first wife.’ She said shortly, hoping he wouldn't ask more.
‘Oh.’ He said, doing a poor job of masking his confusion and surprise.
‘Who were you playing just now?’ She asked to divert him and because she couldn't get the tune out of her head.
She murmured in agreement, ‘I’ve heard of him. It was a beautiful piece.’
‘It was the second movement of his String Quartet No. 1 in D major.’
‘I don’t think I understood any of that.’ She gave a nervous smile.
‘It’s one of the saddest pieces ever composed.’ He smiled back.
‘Can you play it again?’ She asked, slightly more eager than she would've liked.
‘Of course, Mrs. Shelby.’
‘Thank you. You can call me Lily, it’s been a while since anyone called me that.’ She said, wondering why she was babbling away in front of this stranger.
‘He’s been busy.’ She said evasively, brought back to reality at the mention of Tommy.
'I'll take my violin out. Would you like to sit here?' He gestured at the stool.
'Yeah, sure.' She walked towards her seat, beginning to feel as if she were acting inappropriately, considering Tommy wasn't there and the violin teacher was a man.
‘Close your eyes. It’ll heighten your sense of hearing.’ He said, placing the violin in position.
‘All right.’ she said, slightly hesitant.
‘And take a calming breath. You seem a little tense.’ He added cautiously.
‘All right.’ she repeated as she exhaled and closed her eyes.
As Mr. Hughes played the melancholic tune on his violin, Lily felt the music flow inside her veins, taking a piece of the grief glued to her soul and making it disappear in thin air. She imagined herself getting lighter until she was in the open sky, out from the dark gallows. She found herself breathing again and her heart was no longer in a field of thorns. She was with Tommy, sitting in the meadows with her head on his lap and children were running around, laughing. She was then in her art gallery, troubling Gerard with every new painting they'd sold and taking away his glass of Scotch.
She didn’t know for how long she was caught up in her fantasy but her eyes opened suddenly when she felt a wary hand on her shoulder.
‘Mrs. Shelby? Lily?’ She looked into the hyacinth blue eyes which she’d seen some time ago, even though it felt as if it had been eons.
‘I’m sorry. I never nod off like that.’ She said as she began to get up, flustered at the incident.
‘Are you okay?’ He asked as he looked at her meaningfully and she felt the wetness on her cheeks. She wiped them furiously, horrified at her action. She had been crying in front of a complete stranger. And that too a man she had met for the first time. Who happened to be her sons’ teacher.
‘I’m fine. You must be getting late, I apologise for keeping you.’ She said hastily as she got up and moved towards the door.
‘It’s alright. I don’t have anyone waiting for me.’ He said lightly and she gave a small smile. There was no reason for her to behave like that; she was only talking to a visitor, just as any other woman would.
‘Thank you for playing that.’ She said sincerely.
‘It has been my pleasure.’ He said, mimicking her tone.
‘Good day, Mr. Hughes.’
‘You can call me Jack. It has been a while since anyone has not called me that.'
'Okay, Jack.' She said as she gave a slight chuckle.
Hey Readers! Hope you liked the chapter. Please share your thoughts and give your feedback!
I absolutely love the piece Jack plays for Lily and I hope I described it correctly.
Chapter 4: The Wedding Part II
Lily and Tommy get hitched, finally!!
Thank you KatieR and JMBH for your comments :))
Chapter edited ---Please re-read if you haven't.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Arrow House was bustling with activity on Thomas Shelby’s wedding day. The maids hurriedly cleaned the cutlery, the butlers set the tables and chairs, the chefs sweated while preparing food for close to eighty guests. They had very less time, considering the wedding was being held in the mansion itself. Out in the sprawling estates to be exact, a request made by the future Mrs. Shelby. She wasn't religious and had perhaps never visited the church in years. And it showed, since she'd borne a child out of wedlock, a gossip which had been regaled in the servants' quarters since the day she'd stepped in the mansion three years ago. But they had been forbidden from speaking ill of her or face grave consequences. And Mr Shelby was a man of his word, a theory no one wanted to disprove.
‘Ada! Are the kids ready?’ Polly Gray yelled at her niece, who was getting the two boys ready while she made sure Karl didn't hear anything obscene.
‘Oliver is refusing to wear a tie!’ Ada answered back.
‘Then let him be!', Polly yelled back and muttered, 'Sometimes that boy behaves just like Tommy.'
‘What’s wrong, Pol?’ Tommy asked as he settled on the sofa and reached for the newspaper.
‘What’re you doing?’ Polly asked after she'd confirmed that Tommy's wedding was today.
He looked up at her through his glasses as if she were asking him to count till ten.
‘Why aren’t you dressed?’ Polly asked as she took in his dark overcoat.
‘There’s still time. And I had an important-’
‘It’s your wedding day. Nothing should be important than that.’
‘It won’t take time. I’ll be there.’ Tommy said and went back to the paper.
‘You better be. She called me this morning to check if you were still in Birmingham.’ Polly said and exhaled, hoping he acted normal for one day.
‘It’s the nerves. It happens.’ He said with a small smile and flipped the page.
‘Tommy, you may be the expert here but it’s her first wedding. Show some respect.’ Polly said sharply and snatched the paper.
He sighed and took off his glasses, ‘I’m dressed. This is what I’ll wear today.’
‘You wore this last Saturday.’
‘I don’t have anything else.’ He said finally.
‘Wear the old one.’
‘Polly-’ He began to get up but she interrupted.
‘She wasn’t there. She doesn’t know.’
He looked around for a while and then sighed, ‘She deserves better than that.’
‘Thank God. Go upstairs and change, there’s a new suit in your room. I asked the boys to get it.’
‘Look who’s here?’ Ada’s voice intruded and they both turned to find her bringing Oliver and Charlie, both of them dressed up in suits. Tommy almost burst with pride at their sight, at the sight of his boys. He walked closer and sat down so he was at eye level with them, 'All ready, boys?'
'Auntie Ada gave me this, Dad.' Charlie said as he showed him the flower pinned on his coat.
'Good choice, Ada. And who do we have here?' He turned to look at Oliver, seeing him in a coat for the first time and he was proud to say that he looked like a Shelby. Oliver Shelby, his eldest son.
'I w-w-won't wear the t-t-tie.'
'All right. You look good without it.'
'W-w-where's Mum, Dad?'
'She's on her away. Are you ready with your gifts?' He asked them both.
'Lizzie chose it for us.' Charlie answered.
'Did she?' Tommy asked and looked up at Polly, who was interested in the paint on her nails.
'Polly?' He prodded further.
'She's an employee of Shelby Company Ltd. She can do that.'
'Not after she tells Lily to leave forever.'
'Get dressed. Her family is leaving Midland Hotel in an hour.'
'Is Grampa a-a-also c-c-coming, Dad?' Oliver asked hopefully, probably missing the people he'd grown up with.
'He is.' Tommy answered, remembering the 'meeting' he had had with Gerard Davis two months ago. That man had acted like Tommy had deflowered his young daughter and had repeatedly touched the rifle he kept in his office; which was a little too ostentatious even for Tommy's taste. And he never left the house without his holster. But he had reminded Tommy what a good father looked like and for that sole reason he had kept his rising irritation at bay. Now that Lily was pregnant again, he wasn't making any mistakes he had made with Oliver. He was going to give his kids the best life possible, the life neither he nor Lily had lived.
Another thing which had stayed with him after his meeting was Gerard's insistence that Lily continued working, that too in London. He wasn't opposed to the idea of her working outside but Lily was going to be a Shelby now and she shouldn't be working anywhere except the Shelby Company. Not because he was old-fashioned, as she liked to say but because he knew there was still a stigma attached to the Shelby name. And he didn't want her to face any kind of trouble.
But he hadn't voiced his opinion then. He knew she would understand it herself, saving both of them from another row.
‘As father of the bride, I would like to make a toast.’
Lily’s side of family cheered as their patriarch put on his reading glasses and unfolded a crumpled piece of paper. Then put it back in his pocket.
‘I don’t know how much I can say without putting her in trouble and by that I mean legal trouble.' He began and a few young boys howled. 'When she came in our life, she was guarded and wouldn’t ask for anyone’s help, so I chose to let her be. But I always remember that night when she came back late, smelling of whisky. I was of course very angry, she was only sixteen. So I went to her and prepared to give her a sound dressing-down. But this rascal,' he said with an affectionate smile in her direction, earning a few raised eyebrows from the Shelbys, 'smiled and told me, ‘Take it easy, Dad’. And hugged me.’
Lily wiped the looming tears from her eyes and smiled at the memory as Tommy held her gloved hand in his.
‘That day, years after I had lost my wife and daughter, I had cried and vowed to make sure she never got in trouble. But when she became unruly to the point of no return, I broke that vow and sent her to Birmingham. And when she came back, she was a changed woman. My daughter was all grown up and ready to become a mother. Thomas, you may not be my favourite person, but you’re good for Lily and she’s excellent for you and I want you to keep her happy. If you don’t, you’ve heard Colin.’
The Guild laughed in good nature while the Shelbys looked on in surprise and begrudging respect for the old man in rumpled suit. The man was openly threatening Tommy, in a way the Peaky Blinders but there was no doubt in the sincerity of his words. Tommy nodded a little, no doubt clenching his teeth while Lily gave him a smug smile.
A beautiful woman in lilac silk dress cleared her throat as she got up from the chair, ‘Since Gerard mentioned it and every other guest from Tommy’s side has been asking me this question, I would like to tell everyone about Lily’s sixteenth birthday.’
‘No, please.’ Lily beseeched with her eyes but Jessie waved her off.
‘Come on, Lily. We’re a family.’ Finn said, no doubt the only one who was dying to know the story.
‘So, we all girls barged in her room and prepared to surprise her with a birthday cake. But she was already sitting up with a bottle of Gerard’s Scotch in her hand.’
‘That’s where it went!’ Gerard shouted and looked at Lily, who lowered her head like a naughty child who'd been caught.
‘And she wasn’t even drinking. We said she’ll have to share or we’ll out her secret. She agreed after a while, because she loved Gerard and took us all to a secret spot. We all drank through the bottle and she barely had one sip. Interestingly, she was the only one who got drunk. So, I would request everyone to stop believing her story. She is unable to handle more than two glasses of whisky.’
‘We all know that.’ Finn said, slightly saddened by the insipid story.
‘I’ll tell you another one, then.’ Jessie said, insulted at the young boy's disregard for her story.
‘No, Jessie. Come on, everybody is starving.’ Lily said with a fake smile.
‘No, we’re not.’ More than four voices said in unison.
‘Back in 1920, we girls used to visit the Eden Club. It was owned by the Sabinis but I suppose you know about that already.’ Jessie looked at Tommy meaningfully.
‘Continue, Jessie.’ She said as Tommy ran his fingers along her ring. The ceremony had been quiet and quaint but he had liked it. It was unconventional too, with no hymns or music, just the cool breeze and family. It had been Lily's decision to get married there and he was internally pleased. So far, things were going as he had wanted. Arthur had been his best man but this time he had agreed to relinquish his speech rights. And as Lily's beautiful friend whose name put a thorn in his side told tales of her past, he couldn't decide if he was interested or annoyed.
‘So, we used to flirt with the manager to get special treatment. And Lily always ended up laughing and then we sang this song to mollify the poor man. Do you remember the song, Lily?’
‘I don’t want to.’ Lily grumbled, already displeased.
‘It was kind of like…Flowers want spring, spring wants garden…Flowers-’, She paused as she tried to remember the words.
‘That’s all right, Jessie. We can tell them later.’ Lily said already wishing for Gerard's Scotch.
‘Oh, I remember. It was 'Heart wants a heart and body wants a body. Everybody wants the union of the bodies.’
‘Thank you, Georgie.’ Lily said through clenched teeth.
‘What, Lily? Did I sing it wrong?’ She asked in concern.
‘Let’s eat.’ Tommy said for the table had gone suddenly very quiet.
‘My son-in-law looks a little stiff, doesn’t he?’ Gerard asked after dinner when all the couples were dancing except for a certain pair.
‘He smiles like he’s in pain. And he even refused to dance.’ His nephew agreed.
‘I can’t let my daughter’s wedding be ruined. Get me a glass of whisky.’
‘Are you thinking what I’m thinking?’ He asked conspiratorially.
‘Get it, boy.’ Gerard bit out as he watched Tommy talk with his older brother.
As Gerard put his ‘special potion for special occasion’ in the glass, Lily’s lady friends from the Guild gushed about the lavish manor.
‘There are so many sculptures of horses, Lily. Are you sure Tommy will know if one is missing?’
‘Let it be, Georgie.’
‘I saw an amazing vase in the hall. do you think I can fit it in my purse?’ Fiona asked.
‘Calm down, girls. Just enjoy the champagne and cake.’ I wish I could, Lily thought bitterly. She hadn't wanted Tommy to know what she did during the time she'd spent in the Guild. She was young and carefree and it seemed as if they were reminding her that she was still a part of the family. They didn't know that she would love them until she died and nothing could keep her away from them. Especially not Tommy, not that he would.
‘That painting of the beautiful woman, will it stay there on the wall?’ Jessie asked after everyone had busied themselves with the paintings.
‘I don’t mind. And I can’t ask him to remove it, she’s dead.’
‘His first wife?’ Jessie asked in shock, she'd thought she was a a sister.
‘Yes.’ She said with a sigh.
‘Lily, I know you love him. But does he love you too? Or knows how much you’ve been through?’
‘When I didn’t tell him, he pitied me. If he knew the whole truth, he’d run away. And he knows enough already.’
‘He didn’t even agree for a dance.’
‘His back is troubling him.’ Lily lied. She hadn't asked him but it was evident he wasn't in the mood. Even the man at the orchestra hadn't announced it.
Jessie gave her an understanding look and took another glass of champagne.
‘Are you up the duff again?’ She asked as she smiled into her glass.
‘What are you, Polly Gray of London?’
‘You’re not drinking. And you’re constantly smelling the flowers. Does he even know how bad your asthma gets when you’re pregnant?’
‘Why are you antagonising him? He’s my husband and I love him.’
‘I’m just saying he should know about you. And not just your favourite colour or your full name. Everything.’
Lily rolled her eyes and was wishing for everyone to leave when she heard a familiar voice. ‘Lily, may I have this dance?’ A tall man in an expensive tuxedo put his hand out and Lily beamed at him.
‘Of course, my American friend.’ She put her hand in his and he escorted her towards the floor.
‘What’s wrong with Thomas?’ Alexander asked as he took her hand in his and kept the other on her waist.
‘Nothing. He’s the same.’ She replied.
‘That is what’s wrong with him.’
She gave a short smile and asked, ‘Do you remember the dance we did in Greece?’
‘How can I forget? I miss home sometimes.’ He said wistfully.
‘I’m sure Lydia no longer thinks of you as the black sheep.’
‘She's a different woman. I’m thinking of bringing her to Boston with me.’
‘I’m still surprised Tommy lets you work for him.’ She chuckled softly.
‘He gets to keep me away from you. I’m the one who’s doing him a favour.’ He grumbled.
‘Oh. I miss you, too. You helped me with Oliver and I can't repay you ever.’
‘Shh. Don’t cry. Or Thomas will cut my eyes.’ He said as he wiped her eyes.
‘He will. And what is going on between you and Ada?’ She asked slyly.
‘Nothing. She’s my friend that’s all.’ He said plainly.
‘You don’t like her? She’s pretty.’
‘She’s Thomas Shelby’s sister.’
‘And I’ve found someone.’ He added quietly.
‘What? You liar, you didn’t say anything about it in your letters.’ She looked at him, unable to work up the anger.
‘I wanted to tell you in person.’
‘Who is she?’
‘Her name is Daisy. She’s studying in Wellesley College.’
‘She’s young.’ She observed.
‘Yeah. But I love her, Lily. But I don't know if she loves me too.'
She gave him a kind smile and said, ‘As a woman, I can only tell you that it feels good when a man takes the first step, because they are so scared of their feelings. If you tell her, she will start loving you even more than she actually does. ’
‘I’m calling her today.’
Tommy watched as Lily and the Greek danced in the hall. They weren’t so much dancing as they were talking and at one point, when Lily’s nose was suspiciously red, he wanted to pull them both apart and take her in his arms. But he couldn’t. Because Alexander understood her more than he ever could. He had known that she was lying when she’d agreed to Tommy’s half-hearted excuse for not dancing. He had known she wanted to dance because it was her fucking wedding day. He had known that a woman shouldn't be chatting about sculptures and paintings on such an important day.
But Tommy couldn't bring himself to do that. Because he knew he didn't deserve Lily and he was a selfish bastard for wanting to keep her for himself. She had been uncomfortable when her friends were talking about her but he had been strangely happy. Happy that she had struggled at some point too. That she was a human too and she wasn't just spouting horseshit about letting go. But he had also wondered what else she was hiding about her life.
'Aye, Tommy. Why aren't you dancing? It's your fucking wedding day.' Arthur walked with a glass of whisky, already half empty.
'Is he that associate from Greece? Why's he still fucking alive?' Arthur asked as he looked at Alexander with narrowed eyes.
'He works for us. In Boston.'
'You're a mad bastard, Tommy.' Arthur paused to take a sip and asked, 'No meeting in the kitchen this time?'
'Look at her family. They need a fucking meeting.' He said, his eyes on the women who were dancing too close to their partners.
'Did she sing that song?' Arthur asked, slightly hesitant.
'I don't know, Arthur. I don't fucking know her at all.' Tommy said as he watched her spin around the hall and Arthur left after a nervous chuckle.
When she had walked down the impromptu aisle with Gerard by her side, he had felt his heart beat faster than it should. And it was not the expensive dress or the diamonds she'd laden herself with. It was the smile on her face, it wasn't jaunty or contemptuous rather it was soft and trusting and he had felt strangely out of sorts. He wasn't used to people looking at him like that and at the moment, he had acquiesced himself with the humbling fact that she was hundred times the better person he was. And it would be a long time until he'd be able to match up with her. But he was ready to try, it was the least he could do. She was leaving everything behind for him; her home, her family, her profession and it would be only fair if he did his bit. He was impatiently waiting for the guests to leave so he could've the sweet little body for himself when someone stood next to him.
‘Thomas, how are you?’
‘Enjoying my wedding.’ He said without taking his eyes off of Lily, who still hadn't stopped dancing. He wanted to pull her away and make her lie down and give her a scolding for being careless; she was pregnant with his child, she shouldn't even be moving.
‘You look like you are.’ Gerard said as he gave him a glass of whisky.
‘It was a good speech you gave there. But I would be a bit careful if I were in your place.' Tommy said as took a sip of the bitter whisky.
‘I don’t have any fear of gang members or government. I just want my daughter to be happy.’
‘She looks happy.’ He said as he watched Alexander twirl her around.
‘Don’t you want to make her happy?’
‘If I didn’t, she wouldn’t be marrying me.’
‘Oh, I remember that promise. You managed to beat a lot of men, Thomas. That one in particular.’
‘You know him?’ Tommy asked, suddenly much more interested in the man next to him.
‘Met him a couple of times. Still calls Lily his first love.’ Gerard chuckled, internally wondering why the whisky wasn’t doing its work.
‘Excuse me, Mr. Davis.’ Tommy said as he walked towards the ballroom where his wife was getting too close to Alexander.
‘I would like to have my wife back.’ He said, not at all concerned about the people who were looking at him.
‘By all means.’ Alexander said politely and kissed Lily's cheek before going back.
‘What made you change your mind?’ She asked acidly, not even looking at him as he pulled her in his arms.
‘Well, you shouldn’t suffer just because your husband is a bore. It’s your only wedding.’ He said as he ran his finger down her arm.
‘What I wouldn’t give to make you a bore.’ She muttered, even as she felt a tickle.
‘Says the woman who stole for a livelihood.’ He quipped and she gave him a flinty stare.
‘How is your back?’ She asked bitterly, looking at the couples around her. They seemed happy but every once in a while they turned to look at the bride and the groom, who were not so happy.
‘The room looks beautiful.’ She said as she rested her chin on his shoulder.
He gently moved her so he could look at her. ‘You’ve every right to be angry,' he said quietly.
‘I’m not angry. Am I looking angry?’ She asked, her face stony.
‘You’re biting your cheek.’
‘Fuck off.’ She rolled her eyes and looked away.
‘Don’t swear. It’ll look bad.’ He said as he brought his face closer and touched her cheek. She scrunched her eyebrows at him and sniffed.
‘What did you drink?’ She asked, slightly agitated.
‘Is bad?’ Not the words I would like to hear, Tommy thought. But she shook her head hastily.
‘No. Did Gerard give you something?’
‘He gave me whisky.’
‘God. Why is he like that?’ She muttered and looked around the room for him.
‘I don’t understand.’ Tommy said, growing increasingly irritated by her family and their secrets.
‘He gave you his ‘special potion for special occasion’.’
‘What is that?’
‘You don’t want to know. But you seem normal.’ She said, wondering if she was overreacting.
‘My head hurts. And my fingers are tingling. And I’m unable to focus my vision.’ He counted.
‘What are you made of, Tommy?’ She asked, her mouth slightly agape.
‘We can make everyone leave. I’m not well.’ He said as he closed the space between them.
‘At least act natural.’ She rolled her eyes and he leaned to whisper in her ear, ‘I don’t act. I’m what I am.’
‘You were thinking about Grace.’ She said, tired to pretending things were normal.
‘Maybe. Because I didn’t want to repeat anything that I did with her this time.’
‘You shouldn’t have married me then.’ She said scathingly.
'I married you because I want you in my life forever. And marriage is the only thing that would keep you from running.'
She paused for a while and then leaned on his shoulder. She said softly, barely audible, 'I'm not strong Tommy. I'm still worried that you regret marrying me.'
'I'm scared I won't be able to give you what you deserve.'
'Shut up. You've given me three kids.'
'I'm not like Grace, Tommy; I don't have a family. The only family I know is them and they don't exactly match up with the British Army.'
He felt an odd smile tugging at the corners of his mouth. She hadn't seen anything if she thought he was ashamed of her family.
He touched her face and said, ‘I know you’ll miss your old life. But you can sing your songs for me.’
‘They never let me sing. I was always out of tune.’ She grumbled.
'I would never complain.' He said as he leaned in to kiss her and everyone around them gave a silent cheer.
Meanwhile, Colin asked Gerard, 'Did you even put it in his drink?'
'That man is a fucking horse.'
Thank you for reading!!! I know their relationship seems a little muddled up, but it's honest. And I hope you liked it. Please share your feedback and hit kudos if you liked it.
I know this chapter is longer than I always write and I want to know if you prefer them longer with more than 3k words or with less than 2k.
In the end, I love you all and I know they are not the ideal couple presently but we must know that love takes time. Especially if the man is Tommy Shelby circa 1923.
Chapter 5: Sweet Intoxication
Will Lily finally break her self-imposed exile?
Lily retired in her room after putting Ruby to bed, who had insisted that she tell her two stories this time. She and Tommy still shared the same bed despite their differences; because Tommy had a repute in the community. And if couldn't 'control' his wife, how could he help the people?
On some nights, they would put the old grudge aside and become what they had been before. But after they were done, Lily couldn't bear to look at him or herself. She felt as if she'd betrayed herself and the guilt would stay with her for days. He had understood it too and in the past two months, had stopped reaching for her in the middle of the night like he did before. Or he had found someone to keep him company. She still thought the latter was more plausible.
As she combed her hair in front of her vanity, she couldn't forget the incident with the violin teacher. She had cried after God knows how long and that too in front of a stranger who was also a man. But she couldn't deny the lightness she had felt as she'd heard the soft tune. It was the voice she imagined God spoke in, understanding her actions and forgiving her for the sins she'd committed. And she needed all the forgiveness she could get. The only thing that badgered her was the strait-laced Frances and her loyalty to Tommy. Even though she hadn't done anything wrong, she didn't want Tommy to find out.
She had tied her hair in a loose knot when she saw Oliver’s reflection in the mirror, looking small and nervous.
‘Oliver. What’s wrong?’ She asked as she got up and walked towards him.
He wrapped himself close to her waist and asked, ‘Mum? Can I sleep here?’
Feeling her motherly instincts jump in, she smoothed his hair and tried to pick him in her arms. Only to wobble slightly. She sighed and bent down, ‘Of course. What happened?’
‘Will you tell Dad?’ He asked, his eyes wide with trepidation.
‘No, I won’t. Come here now.’ She said as she pulled him in a hug, cursing Tommy and his tough love.
‘Dad will come tomorrow?’ He asked after she had tucked him in.
‘Yes, he will. Now, tell me what happened.’ She settled next to him on the bed, keeping his head on her lap.
‘Nothing.’ He muttered and Lily thought how similar he looked to Tommy.
‘Hmm. Are you sure? Because I think there’s a secret here.’ She said as she tickled his stomach. And went on until he became breathless with laughter.
‘Mum!’ He screamed in glee.
‘Shh. You’ll wake Ruby.’ She whispered and pulled him closer so he was sitting in her lap.
He turned his head and looked at her, ‘Mum, is Dad angry with you?’
‘No. Why would you say that?’ Lily remained oblivious, even though she could count close to five instances in the last week which would prove his assumption.
‘He said you don’t listen to him.’
‘I listen.’ She said and Oliver understood the finality in her voice.
‘Can I tell you a secret?’ He said as he gestured for her to pull her head down.
‘Yes.’ She consented with a bemused smile.
‘Dad said he’ll give me a watch on my birthday. The one he has.’ He whispered in her ear.
‘Will he? Then I should give you a pony.’ She said as she pulled his nose lightly, wondering when Tommy had talked to him. And that too about his birthday.
‘But I have a pony. I want a horse.’ He declared.
She scrunched her face in regret, ‘Horse? But I’m scared of horses.’
He mulled over her words for a moment, then acceded to her offer, ‘All right. You can give me a pony.’
Lily hugged him tightly and kissed his cheeks, ‘My sweet baby. I love you so much.’
‘I’m not a baby. Dad said I’m a big boy now.’ He said as he wiped his cheeks.
Kissing his cheek again, she murmured, ‘You’re a big boy now, Oliver.’
‘Will Grampa come for my birthday?’ He asked, the hope in his voice killing her softly.
‘He’ll try. You know he’s not well.’ She said quietly, hating herself for lying to her son.
‘Can we meet him, Mum?’ He said suddenly and she felt small and weak for being so helpless. Something she had never wanted to be.
‘Soon. Now go to bed. Or you’ll miss your violin practice.’ She said as she tucked him again, her voice suspiciously thick.
‘Yes. Or Charlie will take my violin.’
‘He’s your brother, Oliver. Don’t talk like that.’ She gently admonished as she pulled the sheets to cover both of them.
‘But he said Dad shoots people.’
‘He’s your little brother, he doesn’t understand.’ She said dismissively, thinking about Charlie's row with Tommy. He was angry now, but Tommy would talk him out of it. He always did.
‘But he knows how to speak like Dad. I don’t know, Mum.’ He said, the sadness in his voice making her eyes water.
‘You’ll know soon. But now, go to bed.’ She said and kissed the top of his head.
‘Okay. Goodnight, mum.’ He said as he gave a wide smile.
‘Goodnight. I’m putting the lamp off, all right?’
‘I love you, Mum.’ He said as he kissed her cheek.
‘I love you, too.’ She said softly.
Tommy returned to his mansion early morning the next day. There was a lot going in his head but he knew no one would understand him. Even if he tried, they would say he was spent in his head. It upset him that the one person who used to be interested in hearing him out didn’t even look at him now. And that thought plagued him more than he liked. And presently as he looked around the empty house, more than the fact that he had lost half a million in the New York Stock Exchange.
Some months ago, Lily would’ve wheedled every little detail about the crash from him whether he wanted or not. She would've given witty remarks and scathing retorts if he refused to divulge more than necessary. And then she would threaten to sleep in the guest wing, only to come back in the middle of the night, thinking he wouldn’t know. Because back then, he used to sleep at night and his dreams weren’t nightmares. It had been gradual and he couldn’t put a finger on the day he had begun to feel the paranoia. It was hard to ignore the irony that when she made fun of him for not sleeping, he actually slept. A lot more than he did now anyway.
Handing his cap and briefcase to Frances, he asked, ‘Where’s everyone?’ He was prepared for her answer but it had become a habit. And he had to talk to Charlie. Before he had left, he had asked Arthur to explain the incident with the horse and he wanted to check if things were alright.
‘Mrs Shelby is with the children in the stables.’ Frances answered and he stopped.
‘Lily?’ He asked to confirm. Linda's presence was more believable than Lily's.
‘Yes, Mr Shelby.'
‘With her easel and brush?’ He asked derisively.
‘No. She did take a book from your study.’
‘Odd day, today.'
‘I gathered.' Frances replied with a small smile.
He walked towards the stables and saw Oliver running around as Ruby tried to catch him. He had a ribbon in his hand and Tommy almost smiled as he watched him. At least one of his children knew how to be happy in difficult times. Lily might give him shit for not thinking of Oliver as his own and for being hard on him. But he only did it because he knew Oliver was not like Charlie at all. He was strong for a seven year old and he'd rarely seen him throw tantrums. The only thing that did bother him was that his son, like his mother wasn't too keen on talking to him. He knew the reason behind that and he was ready to give away all the riches to rectify that mistake.
He walked inside, looking for Charlie and found him sitting on the hay stacks with Lily by his side. She was reading softly so Charlie could listen too but she didn't look up, even though the stiffening of her shoulders was unmistakable.
'Did Arthur explain?' Tommy cleared his throat as he sat down next to Charlie, leaving his son between him and Lily, who still didn't acknowledge his presence; but she had stopped reading aloud.
'He said it's God's will.' Charlie said as he got up suddenly. 'But you're not God.' He retorted as he threw the reins down and walked out of the stables.
'No. Not yet.' He said as he took out his cigarette case while Lily looked on in disbelief.
'Charlie! Come back here.' Lily said as she got up to go after him.
‘Lily.’ Tommy stopped her as he held her wrist, which felt a lot thinner than before. All of her looked thin, he realised as he took in the light pink dress she was wearing, which hung from her shoulders.
'What?' She asked when he refused to leave her wrist.
'When did you come here?'
'An hour ago. The kids wanted to play and Charlie seemed down.' She said quietly, as if she was ashamed for leaving her paintings.
'Linda called yesterday.' He said and Lily sat down again, already tired from standing.
‘Yeah. She wanted me to visit her.’ She wasn't surprised that he knew about her call; the operators were in his pocket. Particularly the woman whose name she remembered was Maggie. Maybe she was his lover.
‘What for?’ He asked as took a puff of the cigarette, careful to exhale away from her.
‘I don’t know.’ She said, not wanting to continue the conversation at all.
‘I know,' he said as he dropped the ash. 'It’s about Arthur and me. About how we don’t talk.’
‘I don’t have anything to say.’
‘I know that too. Because that’s what you said.’ He said as he leaned back on the hay resting on his elbows.
'If you know then why are you asking?' She retorted, annoyed at his conceit.
He narrowed his eyes and pulled her closer. ‘You like this, don’t you? When I flit around you, ask after you.’ He gestured with his cigarette, speaking against her lips.
‘I didn’t ask you to come here. I didn’t ask you to talk to me. And I didn’t ask you to marry me.’ She said and pulled out of his hold.
'Come on, throw everything back on my face. I should remember my mistakes to avoid them in future.'
Lily swallowed but didn't falter, 'Yeah? How about all the money you lost in the crash? It was a lot, wasn't it?'
He furrowed his brows in mock-confusion and said, 'You're interested? I thought you weren't a part of the Company.'
'I'm not. But for the time being, I'm your wife and I deserve to know.'
'Because I asked for honesty when I married you. But since it's a mistake-' She couldn't complete because at the moment he pushed her on the hay stacks and climbed on top of her.
‘Is this what you want?’
‘Tommy, get off.' She said, looking around to make sure the stables were empty.
‘It's my fucking house. No one can stop us, Lily.’ He said as he kissed her lush lips and she couldn't help but kiss him back. It had been long since she'd felt them and she was reminded of how intoxicating his kisses were. As his hand inched up her skirt, she pulled away from him, slightly breathless.
‘Tommy, the children.’ She entreated, her eyes on the other door.
‘We’re their parents, Lily.’ He said as he touched her through the soft cotton of her bodice. He was going to do it in the stables, where anyone could barge in on them and she wanted to get as far away from him as possible.
‘Stop! I’m not your fucking whore.’ She pushed at him with all her strength, hating the sudden tears in her eyes.
She got up hastily while he looked down at her, ‘You are my fucking wife! And it’s time you start behaving like one.’
‘Or what?’ She snapped, in an equally loud voice.
Suddenly wiping her face, she asked as Oliver hurried towards her, his suit covered with mud and Ruby trudging behind him, ‘Yes, sweetie?’
‘I fell in the mud.’ He said needlessly.
‘Did you get hurt?’ She asked as she touched his face and looked for injuries.
‘Go and change, Oliver. You’ll catch a cold.’ Tommy said from beside her as he took Ruby in his arms.
‘Yes, Dad.’ He nodded and began to walk towards the door.
‘Wait, I’ll come with you.’ She said as she took Ruby from Tommy and gave him a withering look.
‘You’ve two more children to look after, Lily.’ He said in a low voice, so Ruby wouldn't hear.
‘So do you, Tommy.’ She replied.
Thank you for reading!! I hope you liked it :) Please share your thoughts in the comments and hit kudos if you liked it :)
P.s. - I know Tommy's not exactly the best man to be around, but I didn't want to go off the script, since he was struggling in season 5.
Chapter 6: Revelations
Lily opens up to Polly about her plans. Will Tommy try to stop her?
I know it was supposed to be a glimpse into the past, but I wanted to continue it and maybe add the flashbacks in the same chapter.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
The next two days, Lily found herself lingering outside the room where the boys took their violin lessons, ostensibly to check on them. While most of the lesson was spent in teaching, as it should; at the end, Jack Hughes played a known piece and Lily would again feel the same lightness, the same buoyancy. It became her opium; her dope which let her spend more time with the children and not dwell on the past.
On the second day of her ‘peeping’, she was caught again by the teacher and she adopted the reticent persona of the chatelaine. And a caring mother who was only looking after her children.
‘Mrs. Shelby.’ He nodded at her, slightly nervous.
‘Hello. How are the children?’ She asked coolly.
‘Good. They’re quick learners.’ He said without meeting her eyes.
‘Like their father.’ She murmured, remembering Tommy's business pursuits.
‘He plays the violin too?’ He asked and Lily almost wanted to laugh at the image of Tommy with a violin.
But she waved the question away, ‘No. He’s good in business.’
‘I’ve heard a lot about him.’
‘Of course you have.’ She said, unable to keep the bitterness out of her words.
‘Am I in trouble, Mrs. Shelby?’ He asked quietly and Lily realised her mistake.
‘Why would you say that?’
‘I’d heard that you were a…’
‘Recluse?’ She supplied, wondering what people said about her outside the vast estate.
‘A little reserved,' he said euphemistically and continued, 'And you’ve been at the door since our last meeting.’
‘I’m sorry for interfering. But I couldn't help but listen in, you play very well.’ She said sheepishly, the cold chatelaine forgotten.
‘I don’t mind at all. You can sit inside... if you’re not...not too busy.’ He stuttered.
‘I wouldn’t want to intrude.’ She said, cursing herself for being inquisitive.
‘I insist. I can use the company, if you don’t mind my forthrightness.’
‘I’ll try.’ She said, a smile threatening at his nervousness.
‘You have a pretty smile.’
‘No, I apologise. It's just that I’ve never seen you smile.’
‘I think the car is waiting.’
‘Yeah. Good day, Mrs. Shelby.’ He nodded and walked towards the stairs, almost tripping.
In the afternoon, she was combing Ruby's hair and tying it with her favorite ribbons when she heard Frances.
'Yes, Frances?' She asked without looking up, almost done with Ruby's braid.
'Mrs. Gray is here to see you.'
'Yeah, she called. I'll come down in a bit, please tell her to make herself comfortable.'
'She's in the drawing room.'
'I'll be there.'
'I'll be there too, Frances.' Ruby added and Lily smiled at her daughter's words.
'Of course, Ruby.'
Lily had been thinking about Polly's call since the morning and conjuring up reasons behind her visit. She hadn't met her for some time since Polly was busy travelling around the world and Lily was...in her world. It was funny how she spent the most time with the very person who was the reason behind her depression. She hadn't talked to him since their encounter in the stables and it wasn't anything new. She had spent an entire month without talking to him only to relent when he had used the trump; the children. He knew that she didn't want them to grow up in a broken home. And she had to give him credit for that; sometimes, she envied him for his guile and his ability to carry on without showing a single emotion.
‘Where have you been?’
‘Here.’ She replied and made herself comfortable on the sofa, as Ruby went to stand near Polly.
‘You look like you’ve seen a ghost and I can count your bones.’
‘How are you, Polly?’
‘I'm here to enquire about your absence from the meeting.'
‘I’m not involved in any way.’ She said as she poured tea in the cups.
‘Not legally. But you’re a Shelby.’ Polly reminded her as she took the cup from her.
‘For the time being.’ Lily muttered as she took a sip of the tea.
Polly looked up in surprise and Lily asked Ruby to play with her brothers. She didn't agree immediately but gave in after the promise of ice cream and Lily rang for Frances.
‘Should I be worried?’ Polly asked after Ruby had left the room with Frances.
‘Ask Tommy. He said it was a mistake.’ She said, feeling lesser for complaining. As if Polly could change his words. And feelings.
‘At least you both are talking. That’s a step.’ Polly said, inwardly worried.
‘A step to my freedom.’ Lily said bitterly.
‘Let’s forget who I am and what my relationship with Tommy is. If you do decide to divorce, even though I won't let you, where will you go? Tommy won’t let you keep the kids. And your family is-’
She interrupted Polly and said, ‘I’ll think of something. And they are my kids too.’
‘They’re going to run the Company one day. We need them.’ Polly said as she exhaled smoke through her nose.
‘Why are you doing this, Pol? You know what he did.’ Lily snapped, slightly hurt.
‘He did it for you. It was his way of showing love and you threw it across his face. Of course, he’s hurt.’ Polly said simply as if Lily was blowing things out of proportion.
‘He’s hurt? What did he lose?’
‘He lost you.’ She said plainly.
‘I know you’re a romantic Polly but I don’t think Tommy ever thought of me as someone significant.'
'He got on one knee for you. Shelbys don't do that.' Polly still found it hard to believe that Tommy had done that. And if that wasn't proof of his love, she didn't know what films Lily watched.
'Why? Do they have bad knees?'
Ignoring her bad joke, Polly said, ‘You still share the same bed, I suppose. What does he do at night?’
‘He reads. And drinks from that small bottle.' Lily answered, wondering if there was something more to his addiction. Or if he was even addicted.
‘And?’ Polly raised her brows, waiting for Lily to state the obvious.
‘Look, I know he’s not sleeping and I tried to talk to him but-’
‘He used his cock to stop you. Because he knows it won’t take long for you to put two and two together.’
‘Whatever it is, I’m done looking after him. I already have three kids to look after.’ She said, thinking about Ruby's birthday which was tomorrow.
‘He’s your fourth kid, all right.' Polly chuckled and leaned forward to stub the cigarette. 'Which reminds me-’
‘What?’ Lily asked and Polly looked at her with furrowed brows for a moment.
‘Ada is pregnant.’ She said and leaned back on the sofa.
‘That’s great news. Who’s the father? Not that it matters.’ Lily added, a smile on her face. And it didn't matter, because she'd lived comfortably without Tommy for five long years. She was struggling now when she'd everything a woman could aspire for. Of course, she didn't have proper employment, but people didn't think of that as a necessity. Why would a woman who lived in a mansion and had a politician husband want to work?
‘You’re like your husband in some ways.’
‘That’s what got me here.’ She sighed and Polly knew she wasn't talking about her residence.
‘When did you start feeling sorry for yourself?’
Her words acted like a spark to Lily's fueled up rage and she cracked up, ‘Ever since I was trapped in this marriage. I know I can’t leave him and honestly, I don’t want to. I knew what I was getting myself into and I know he’s not well.’
‘You know a lot. And I’m having trouble understanding you, love.’
‘I still love him. Even after what he did and that for me, is the most pathetic thing in the world.’
‘You know I’ll meet Tommy after this.’ Polly said, her smile getting broader by the second.
‘Tell him whatever you want. I don’t care.’ Lily sighed again, even as she hoped Polly wouldn't do that.
There was a strange lightness in Tommy’s steps that night. Polly had asked him to stop by and he’d agreed, for everyone would’ve been asleep by the time he reached anyway. And no one was exactly waiting for him. There was a time when it was Lily who took his cap and briefcase when he returned, not because she was the dutiful wife but because she liked to be the first one he talked to after his day at work. The one he told everything to. Sometimes in the morning, she would tie his tie and tell him which one brought out the colour of his eyes. And he would find himself smiling like a fool for the whole fucking day when he thought of her words.
But it all changed suddenly, for he was not supposed to be happy. She had tried to keep things normal initially but had given up when his fucked up mind caused her enough pain to last an eternity. He had tried to apologise but she hadn't listened. Then, he had given up too.
And today, when his mind was still reeling from the events of the preceding days, he had learnt something extraordinary. Extraordinary enough that he forgot about the reporter's murder and Michael's impending return.
If Lily hadn't been lying, it meant there was still some hope for them. It was a strange emotion and he was still adjusting to it as he climbed the stairs to his room. The last time they had talked, he hadn't been at his best behaviour. But he hadn't been able to stop himself. Her cold voice had felt like nails and he had become so embroiled in his quest for earning a reaction that he had said it without meaning it. Her face had scrunched up and he'd been unable to keep himself from pulling her closer; only that went wrong too and she'd started crying. May had been right; he should've taken a course of diplomacy and one in propriety while he was at it.
He opened the door and found her on the far corner of the bed, her small back facing him. Considering the lamp was still lit, he doubted she was asleep. And if she was, he'd wake her up.
‘You’re sleeping?’ He asked as he sat down on the stool in front of the mirror.
‘Yes.’ She said and turned away.
‘Polly came here today.' He continued, as if she hadn't just turned her back on him, literally.
‘And she told you everything.’ She said blankly, possibly drawing some pattern on the sheet.
‘There’s no need to lie, Lily. Polly will understand.’
‘She also said you’re not eating.’
‘She was here for two hours. She is hardly the best judge.’
‘Yeah? Frances said you don’t eat.’
‘She’ll agree to everything you want to hear. You're her God.'
‘Are we fighting now?’
‘I don’t know what I’ve been doing for the last year.’ She sighed and moved so she was facing the ceiling. As he saw the wetness around her cheeks, he wanted to pull her in his arms and keep her close forever.
‘When did that happen?’ He cleared his throat and asked, unable to think of anything else.
‘I remember the date. And time.’
'I remember something too, Lily. Your words about letting go.'
'Guess I was wrong. I apologise for being so optimistic, Thomas Shelby, OBE.'
He clenched his jaw, annoyed at her. But more than her, at himself for letting her become like him. ‘I would build a fucking art gallery for you.’
‘I’m tired, Tommy. Please let me sleep.’ She said, the bite in her voice evident.
‘All right,' he heaved a long sigh as he got up and said, 'But hear me out before you start snoring.'
Bringing his face close to her ear, he said softly, 'The next time you even think of leaving me, I swear I’ll cut you.’
She surprised him by facing him and pulling him closer by his collar, ‘If you even think of doing that, I’ll cut you with the butcher's knife. Then feed your pieces to that fat dog of yours. And run away to America.'
‘You wouldn't dare.' He said as he touched her cheek, feeling jubilant and aching to kiss her lips. And doing everything else that followed.
'You don't want to provoke me.' She whispered as she turned her back and went to sleep, for real.
I actually do, Lily. A lot. So I can have some semblance of my life back. He thought as he caressed her long tresses.
He sighed and took off his clothes, keeping them in a disorganised pile and pulled on his bedclothes. As he settled on the bed next to Lily, he couldn't stop himself from looking at her. She was still the same, yet so different. Her eyes were still the most beautiful but they were sunken and with deep shadows underneath. Her oval face was thinner and pale but still clear and soft. She hadn't been like this three months ago even though she didn't talk to him then. What had caused her to do something like this to herself?
This is not your life, Tommy. Your life is away from this. With me. You need to listen to the voices, Tommy. He stiffened at Grace's voice and looked up at the ceiling, listening to her but unable to touch her. She was not there but it felt good to see her. As if she'd come to end his pain. As if she'd come to free him and take him with her.
Thank you for reading!! I hope you liked it. And Tommy is not a bad person, especially in season 5, because he is definitely quite sick.
Please share your thoughts, and I love you all!!
Chapter 7: I Have You
Lily takes a trip down memory lane while Tommy is still struggles to keep it together.
Lily knew Tommy wasn’t thinking about the Crash. Nor was he thinking about the House of Commons. Even with her eyes closed, she was aware that he was seeing her. The first time she’d noticed it, she’d been a little scared. But she had accepted her presence, just like she’d accepted Tommy would never love her.
But she didn’t blame him; he had tried, tried to turn a blind eye to his demons and change for the kids. She still remembered the day he’d come back from work, working long hours despite the upcoming election. And she fell asleep reliving the memories of the past, something she had never done.
‘How’s my daughter?’ Tommy asked his wife's six-month pregnant stomach, which was presently veiled by her cotton housedress. She had had to give up her silks and linens as her waist thickened and she hated every second she spent in the frocks. He hadn't told her that he liked them, for they were easier to remove, especially when all he wanted to do was sheath himself in her warmth.
‘Wondering why Daddy doesn’t ask after Mum.’ Lily replied, disgruntled as she set her knitting aside.
‘Because Mum won’t stop working.’ He didn't look up and continued talking to his daughter.
‘It isn’t work. It’s an obligation.’ Lily sighed as she leaned further on the sofa. There was still a lot to do at the gallery and she hadn't been able to keep herself from working. The Guild hadn't foreseen her getting married so early and she hated putting them in a fix. So when Jessie had called a week after her wedding, she couldn't stop herself from taking some work. Tommy wasn't pleased in the least, but she'd told him all the work she used to do while expecting Oliver and he'd grudgingly relented. She knew it was wrong to guilt him into doing things but it was the truth. And she was only doing routine work, nothing strenuous.
‘Same thing.’ He said as he sat down beside her and rested his head backwards.
‘You play golf, Tommy?’ She asked lest he ask more about the work.
‘It’s fucking boring.’ He said with his eyes closed, loosening his tie knot.
She leaned forward suddenly and said, ‘I know. And your back starts hurting after two hits.’
‘You know how to play golf?’ He asked dubiously.
‘I know how to play tennis too. And that boring pall-mall or croquet as we call it now.’
‘You never mentioned it.’
‘You never asked.’ She retorted and prepared to get up but he stopped her.
‘What else do you know, Lily?’ He asked, amending his mistake.
‘I know that my husband knows nothing about me.’ She got up this time and went to take the papers she'd left on the desk.
‘I do.’ He said as he put his arms around her waist, careful to avoid the bump.
‘You love our kids.’
‘Who doesn’t?’ She 'humphed' and continued to put the papers in orders.
‘You don’t know how to sing. Or make tea.’
She turned and rolled her eyes at him. ‘Everyone knows that. Even Frances.’
Poor woman, Tommy thought but didn't deviate from the topic at hand, ‘I know that you’ll look much better without this.’ He said as he touched the sleeve of her dress.
She slapped his hand and chided him, ‘Is sex the only thing you think of? Go change your clothes, dinner is ready.’
He ignored her and moved to touch her lips gently, then travelled down to her collarbone. ‘I know you like it when I do this.’
‘I’m going to check on the boys,' She gave him a light push and went outside the room, leaving him confused and slightly guilty. She did that a lot to him, he realised as he thought of the last four months of their marriage.
She would ask for something baseless and he'd refuse plainly. Then she'd nonchalantly tell him something like how Oliver thought Alexander was his father before he knew Tommy. And he'd have to reluctantly give in; all the while wanting to sack the cocky Greek. And cut him.
Lily pulled her woollen shawl closer as she looked at the full moon from Arrow House's vast gardens. Tommy was in his study and she had walked out in the moonlight for fresh air. She also needed some space for she was unable to think past their conversation. Did he know nothing about her?
She'd carried his two kids but he still thought she was a thief with a tragic past? It wasn't a lie but she'd done a lot more, not exactly laudable but it had made her what she was. And she didn't want to keep him in the dark about that side of hers. It was time he knew things; he deserved to. It was his decision to feel pity or not; she had to do her bit first.
She was standing near the boundary when she heard his voice, slightly frantic, mostly breathless, ‘Why are you here?’
‘The moon looks beautiful.’ She said without looking at him.
‘You can see it from our bedroom.’ He walked closer, annoyed that she was annoyed at such trivial matter. So what if he didn't know anything? There was plenty of time to learn.
‘It feels good here. Reminds me of Greece.’ She said, her eyes still on the luminary. Tommy took in her glowing face for a moment, made even more beautiful by the silver of the moonlight. Her hair now reached her waist, just like it had when she'd returned in his life for the first time. It was still tousled and wavy like before, but this time, he could touch it and revel in its softness and she couldn't call him a lecher.
‘I thought you’d have forgotten about it by now.’ He stood next to her and put his hand on hers.
‘I loved that place. It…’ Lily stopped, she'd been on the verge of saying that her time in Greece had healed her heart. She was ready to be honest, but not too honest that she pitied herself.
‘What?’ He looked at her and she said,
‘It was beautiful.’
‘Do you wanna go there?’ He asked.
‘Almost every day,' she said wistfully and turned to look at him, 'Do you know the house I stayed in was just like yours?’ She said excitedly, remembering the manor she missed so much.
He pulled her closer in his arms and kissed her head, ‘Our house.’
Ignoring him, she said, even as her voice got softer, ‘And Oliver was always running around the place.’
‘When did he learn to walk?' He asked, a little ashamed for not knowing everything, to be honest, anything about his first child.
‘He was nine months old.’ She said, reveling in the steady beat of his heart.
‘That’s early.’ He said, proud at his son's achievement.
‘I know. Maybe that’s why I ignored it when he wouldn’t speak. Other kids would speak sentences while he was stuck with 'Ma' and 'Ba'. Lydia used to scold me for crying so much when I was pregnant. She said babies felt every emotion and that had made Oliver so fragile.’ Lily confessed. She had tried to stay taciturn but his words that removed the cork from the bottle of her memories and she hadn't been able to stop.
‘My son is not fragile.’ He deadpanned.
‘Babies are fragile.’ She said softly and kissed his jaw.
‘Not mine.’ He looked at her, his eyes hard with paternal proprietary.
She smiled a little and continued, ‘From my window I could see the large sea. And during the summers-'
‘Why did you cry?’
She sighed, regretting her decision to be honest; Tommy always asked question she didn't like to answer. ‘Because I was alone. And I hated that my baby would’ve to suffer all because his mother was too selfish.’ She said, unable to keep herself from crying. The initial months had been difficult; she had been a unmarried mother in a foreign country and despite the support from Alexander and his family, she had to do things on her own.
‘Hey,' Tommy wiped the looming tears and hugged her even closer, trying to take away every bad memory she had. 'They feel every emotion,' he told her after some time and smiled a little.
Suddenly, she jumped out of his arms and screamed with her hands on her belly, ‘Tommy!’
Alarmed, he looked at her stomach with watchful eyes, ‘What’s wrong?’
To his surprise, she looked up and beamed at him, ‘She kicked, Tommy.’ Before he could respond or breathe again, she frantically reached for his hand and placed it on the same place where she’d felt the push.
‘I don’t feel anything.’ He said, even as he felt a little disappointed.
But she held his hand and said, ‘Wait.' With her eyes closed, she focused her attention on her stomach, remembering how Oliver kicked at least two times and she wasn't disappointed. 'Did you feel it?’ She asked with the same wide smile.
But Tommy didn’t respond, for all his concentration was on his wife’s small bump. It was the first time he’d felt a baby through its mother’s womb. And it was his baby, his blood. It was an overwhelming emotion and he couldn’t quite understand the feeling; all he could think was how much he had missed.
He had two kids but he had never known them before they were born; Grace had been with her husband when Charlie was born and Lily had been in another country.
‘I think she fell asleep.’ Lily said softly after a while, tenderness washing over as he saw Tommy’s protective hand on her stomach. He reluctantly straightened up but didn’t remove his hand, his daughter could wake up at any moment.
He kissed Lily’s cheek and whispered in her ear, ‘I won’t let you cry this time, Lily.’
She smiled and said, ‘It’ll be difficult. But you’ll manage.’
He continued kissing her neck and shoulder and she hunched her shoulders, amazed that he still managed to illicit the same response after all this time. But she knew she could spend fifty years and her response wouldn't change.
'Can we sit down? My feet are hurting.' She said, slightly breathless and he held her hand as she relaxed on the grass, her legs extended and her palms flat against the cold ground.
'Sit on the chair.' He ordered, still leaning on the boundary.
‘I like it here. Don’t you want to sit?’ She asked as she looked up at him.
‘I’m good.' He said as he pulled out a cigarette.
Time to be honest again, Lily thought grudgingly as she cleared her throat. ‘Tommy, the reason I came here was because I need to be away from the smoke.’
‘Why? Didn’t you take medicine?’ He asked, the lighter casting a glow in the dark.
‘No, I stopped three months ago, it can harm the baby.'
He flung the cigarette away furiously and asked, ‘Why didn't you tell me before? I've been smoking in the fucking bed for three months.'
'It wasn't bad then. I'm sorry.' She muttered; it was not how she had expected him to react.
'Fucking shut up.' He admonished and settled down on the ground next to her.
‘It’s all right. I’ll try to be away when you’re smoking.’ She said amiably and re-positioned herself so her head was in his lap.
‘You’re not going anywhere.’
‘But I don’t like the smoke.’ She complained and he caressed her fuller cheek.
‘I can be careful for three months.’
Her eyes widened and she said, slightly incredulous, ‘That’s it, right. We'll have another child to look after in November.’
‘You still want to name her Ruby?’ He asked, unable to stop looking at her.
‘Polly suggested it. I can’t refuse her.’
‘Neither can I.’ He exhaled.
She furrowed her brows as she watched him, without his holster and cigarette, slightly afraid of his aunt. ‘Sometimes you seem so…normal.’
‘And other times?’
‘Like Scrooge.’ She said with a mischievous smile.
‘I’m not a miser.' He said lazily and bent to kiss her lightly.
‘I know. But you’re other things.’
‘And you still love me. Why, Lily?’ He asked as he tucked a wayward strand behind her ear.
She heaved herself up and sat closer to him, her head on his shoulder. ‘You’re quite good-looking,' she said as she looked up at the stars.
‘When I first saw you, that’s what I told Edward. That you were surprisingly good-looking.’ She smiled fondly at the memory. Who would've thought she'd end up marrying him?
She paused to contemplate and replied, quite straightforwardly, ‘The sex is good.’
Feeling strangely shy, he muttered, ‘I shouldn’t have asked.’
They were quiet for a while and Lily took his hand in hers. After a moment, she said, ‘Because I see myself in you.’
‘I don’t understand.’
‘Well, I was a little reckless some ten years ago.’
‘Reckless involves singing and flirting?’
‘No. That was when I was on my best behaviour.’ She laughed and he smiled back.
‘I used to fight a lot, drink a lot. Even tried snow once.’
‘Why are you averse to it now?’ He asked, even though he never wanted her to retract her stance on the use of cocaine.
‘I’m a mother, I don’t want to set that kind of example.’ She said primly and he ignored her obvious jab.
‘But drinking is all right?’
‘You want me to tell or not? I have better things to do.’
‘I did something and I had no recollection of how it happened.’ She professed, feeling oddly lighter at the confession. For years, she'd kept the event locked away and it felt liberating to be done with it, forever. She had been able to keep it away from Gerard but he'd known somehow, only he didn't tell her or reiterate it to her.
Tommy put his arm on her shoulder and wondered what else she had kept buried inside her. She had been through so much and still stood strong for him. All her talk about opening up made complete sense to him now; she'd done the opposite and had suffered in the worst way possible.
She continued, ‘I was ready to do anything to keep myself going. I was afraid that if I stopped…I would die, because I knew nothing other than stealing.’
‘How did you stop, then?’ He asked, more for himself than her.
‘I…I don’t know, it just happened. I had Oliver and I didn’t need anything else, I was somehow complete.’ She gave a small shrug.
‘I have you.’ He said quietly, slightly shook by the gravity of the words he'd uttered. It was the truth and he disliked that he'd taken so long to tell her that.
All vulnerability vanished and she looked at him in contempt, ‘Liar. You’re just saying it out of pity.’
He shook his head, a little angered at her disregard, ‘I don’t pity you, Lily. I could never pity you.’
She rolled her eyes at him and he asked, ‘You still don’t trust me?’
‘I told you I was ready to wait. You don’t have to say things you don’t mean.’ She said gently when all he wanted to do was make her understand the truth behind his words.
‘I never say things I don’t mean.’
‘Let’s go in. I’m cold and tired.’ She wrapped the shawl closer and got up without his help.
‘I mean it, Lily.’ He held her hand while still sitting on the wet grass.
She touched his face tenderly and said, ‘Of course you do. Hurry up, I’ve something to show you.’
'It involves the bedroom?' He asked as he got up and brushed the grass off his trousers. They were ruined but he knew if he even uttered a word, she would click her tongue at his snobbery.
‘It involves me in very expensive silk and you in nothing.’ She said as she bit her lip.
'And I think of sex everytime?'
She widened her eyes in exasperation, 'Come on. I can't wait to undress you.'
‘I don’t like the disparity.’ He tried to keep his voice impassive and repress the smirk.
‘You’ll to work hard to erase the disparity, Mr. MP. Very hard.’ She whispered suggestively.
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Tommy looked around the empty bed after he’d buttoned his shirt. Lily was probably busy with her paintings just like she was every other morning. After yesterday night’s proceedings, he had thought she would change her ways but she’d remained the same. A painter. A fucking painter.
Initially, he had been contemptuous of her hobby and had tried to veer her in different directions; but she hadn’t listened. She never listened; not even now, when he was striving to keep their heads above water. He knew she’d asked later about the crash but it hardly mattered; she’d turned her back on him for her fucking paintings. As if they would bring her father back to her.
He hadn’t been in the room where she painted and he had no intention of going there in the future. She painted to dis tract herself from the reality, from her duties and he had no respect for such work. It was a pastime with no significance and no value. He would much rather have her working in the Company or heading the children's homes but she refused to associate herself with them.
It was surprising she still loved him after all this but presently it was enough for him. It was one less thing to bother with, an assurance that she wouldn’t pack her bags and leave all of a sudden. He needed her despite their differences; her quiet presence was a respite from the turmoil that went inside his head but he wasn't going to tell her that. He didn’t want her to look at him like he was a wounded animal, too weak to work, too spent to function.
Taking a healthy gulp of the opium, he looked towards the window and furrowed his brows. He walked towards the window and stiffened. Not today.
‘All right, Ruby.’ Lily cooed to her daughter as she rubbed her back. She had woken up early this morning and Lily had rushed to her room before the maids could. Last night’s trip down memory lane had invigorated her in a way. She might not be the same person she’d been that night but it didn’t mean her children should suffer, that too when their father was preoccupied with his visions.
‘What will my princess wear on her birthday?’ She asked her as she carried her across the room.
‘Is that so? Which one?’ Lily asked with a smile and reached to tweak her nose.
At that moment, she heard a round of bullets fire in distance. While she would give anything to make them something else, something harmless, she knew enough to deny that probability. Who could it be? Was Tommy in danger? Were the children in danger? Oliver and Charlie had their violin lessons going on, were they all right?
As her heart thudded in her chest, Ruby shouted, ‘Thunder, Mum!’, with her hands on her ears.
‘Yeah, baby. It’s thunder. Nothing to be afraid of.’ Lily took Ruby away from the window as she reassured her. Or maybe herself. 'So, which dress do you want?' Lily asked, trying to distract her daughter, her voice distressed.
Ruby almost slipped from her hands when the sudden bang reverberated in the small room. She looked around frantically for the source of the noise. It shouldn't be happening in their house. It could only mean that Tommy was behind it.
‘Mum!’ She screamed and Lily tried to keep her grip strong, despite her clammy hands.
‘It’s all right, my baby. It’s nothing.’
But Ruby didn’t quiet down, her wails increasing with every passing second.
‘Mum!’ She cried again burying her head in Lily’s shoulder.
‘Hush, baby. It’s all over.’ Lily said after all quieted down and Ruby looked up at her.
Lily watched the tears in her daughter's eyes and felt helpless at her inability to keep her children safe, away from the gunshots and explosions. She wasn't like this, hadn't been like this. She wasn't a doormat wife who let her husband fulfil his lethal fantasies while their children were within earshot.
She sniffled a little and put Ruby down on her bed, trying to calm her with her toys, all the while her mind churned with panic-stricken thoughts.
‘Mrs. Shelby, the violin teacher was asking about the bangs.’ Frances said from the door few moments later.
‘I’ll talk to him, Frances.’ Lily said without looking up.
‘Is Ruby fine?' She asked as she looked at her sullen form.
‘I hope she is,’ she muttered and said in a louder voice, ‘Stay with her for a while, please. I’ll talk to Tommy.’
‘He’s in his study.’
She hurried downstairs and knocked on his door, with enough force to hurt her knuckles.
‘Tommy? What were you doing?’ She asked sharply as she entered and found him facing the window, cigarette smoke rising above his head.
‘Fireworks. I was trying 'em out for Saturday.’
‘Then why did you have your gun with you?’ She asked even though she wasn't sure if he had his gun. But she knew he had it with him.
‘Why are you asking, Lily?’ He didn't look around, still smoking.
‘I’m asking because there are possible landmines hidden in our house. We have kids, Tommy, anyone could’ve been hurt.’ She said vehemently even as her voice broke down.
‘Why didn’t you stop Charlie?’
Her face blanched at his words, ‘I didn’t know. I was with Ruby the entire time. She was crying after your 'firework' show.’ She said contemptuously and he turned around.
‘How is she now?’
‘Why do you care? And you’re not supposed to drink before dark.’
‘It’s pretty dark, Lily.’
‘Who was on the phone?’ She asked, trying to keep her voice composed.
‘Someone. Someone who wants me dead.’
‘Who?’ In reality, she wanted to ask, 'Which one this time?'
‘Go, please. I wouldn’t want to keep you from more important things.’
'I want you to answer my question.' She said firmly, even though his subtle jab that she didn't care enough for the children hurt.
'The door is open.'
'If I knew you were like this, I would've never married you!'
Lily gave him a vexing look and slammed the door behind her as she left, bubbling with anger. She was hurrying to check on Charlie when she almost collided with jack. She schooled her expression in front of him but couldn't stop herself from gritting her teeth.
‘Yes?’ She asked, irritated.
‘Is everything alright?’
She gave a tight smile, ‘Yes. My husband was trying out the fireworks. For the weekend.’
‘I apologise for the trouble.’ She amended, feeling guilty for taking out her anger on the poor man.
‘No, not all. Would you like if I played a piece for you? Not anything sad.’ He said hastily and Lily smiled a little at his timidity.
‘Thank you. But I’ve some work to do.’
‘Yeah. I shouldn’t have bothered you. I apologise.’
‘It’s all right. Have a good day.’ She said and began to walk forward but he asked suddenly,
‘Do you have a gramophone?’
‘I suppose so.’ She said, unaware of its existence.
He pointed one finger and said, ‘Wait here.’
Lily watched as he went to take out something from his bag, something flat and square and hurriedly walked towards her.
‘What’s this?’ She asked as she took the record in her hands.
‘It’s good music. You’ll like it.’ He said as he ran a hand in his hair which was almost in his eyes.
‘Thank you. I’ll listen to it.’ She smiled genuinely this time, slightly pleased at his concern.
‘And please come for the lesson tomorrow. I’ll play Vivaldi.’
‘I will. If you’ll excuse me, I’ll talk to Charlie.’ She said, reminded of Charlie's dangerous foray.
‘Yes please. He went to his father's study just now.'
'All right.' Lily said, relieved that Charlie didn't know much about the 'fireworks'. But she wasn't shirking away anymore, it was time to bring things back in order.
Lily spent the rest of her day keeping a close watch on the children, all the while listening to the soft melody floating from the gramophone. It was beautiful with a hint of sadness and a promise of hope and it was all Lily needed. At the moment. Tomorrow, she was going to talk to Tommy even if he used every possible tactic to keep her away. And if he wasn't willing, there was no reason for them to continue living under a pretense. When her husband couldn't even tell her about things, the very things that might kill him, they shouldn't insult the sacred institution of marriage by acting like a couple. The children were the only reason for them to be together presently and she would hate to keep a man from achieving his greatest wish just for their sake. They had been good before and they'll manage now too.
She lain in bed that night trying to think of ways to approach him and coming up short every time because of his reticence and retorts. She gave up finally and snuggled in the covers, tired of thinking about imaginary arguments.
An hour or so later, she blinked her eyes open at the stinging shine of light. Only to see Tommy, shrugging out of his waistcoat.
‘I didn’t know you were coming.’ She said as she rubbed her eyes and got up.
‘Why is he here?’ He glanced at Oliver, sleeping next to her in his bedclothes.
‘He has been having nightmares.’ She sighed, expecting another war of words.
‘Since when?’ He paused, his shirt half unbuttoned.
‘I don’t know. He only comes when you’re not here.’ She answered as she ran her hand in her tangled hair and stifled a yawn.
‘It’s not my fault.’ That he's like this, Lily completed for him in her head and leaned back on the headboard.
‘And I’m not blaming you. Can you sleep somewhere else tonight?’ She requested as he sat down on the bed.
He ignored her and laid down in his undershirt, his eyes on the ceiling and hand on his forehead.
‘What’s wrong?’ She asked from the opposite side, trying not to wake Oliver up.
‘Nothing. Go back to sleep.’ He said without looking at her.
‘Why did you come back?’
‘Because it’s my fucking house.’
‘It was your house on Oliver's birthday too.’ She couldn't help but remark.
He sighed a little and looked at her, ‘Keep it for tomorrow.'
She shook her head in annoyance and picked up the silk robe from the chair.
‘I’m going to sleep in the guest wing.’ She said as she shrugged on the robe and began to walk out but he held her wrist and pulled her closer.
‘Stay here. You know I won’t sleep for long.’
‘Is that something to be proud of?' she said scathingly and took a deep breath, then in a calmer voice, said, 'Tommy, I’m tired of watching you kill yourself. If you’re so keen on dying, then tell me. I’ll help you.’
‘By feeding me to Cyril?’ He asked impassively, his eyes closed.
‘Much worse. I’ll…put poison in your tea.’
‘Your tea is enough poison.’ He said, a small smile on his lips.
‘What are you laughing at? You could’ve died today. And the worst thing is, I know you wanted to die, Tommy.’ She said, unable to stop her tears from flowing down.
He got up suddenly and put his hand out, ‘Come here.’
‘No,' she walked away as she wiped her face, 'Just because I’m talking to you don’t think I’ve forgiven you.’
‘I’m not asking for forgiveness. I’m asking for my wife.’
She walked towards him reluctantly and sat down beside him, ignoring his outstretched hand.
‘Who called this morning?’ She asked as she drew patterns on the bed-sheet, not meeting his eye.
‘It was from Belfast.’
She furrowed her brows and looked up, 'What did they say?'
'I told you.' He stated but she'd been prepared for his reticence.
‘What’re you doing, Tommy? Why do they want you dead?'
'You won't understand. I don't understand.' He said and put an arm around her shoulders.
'At least give it a try.' She almost pleaded as she looked up at him.
He considered her newfound interest in bafflement, 'Why are behaving like this?'
She looked away from him and prepared to tell him the impromptu speech she'd thought of, 'This morning after you left, I decided that it's only going to work between us if you stopped keeping things from me. Otherwise, there's no reason for us to be together.'
'I gathered that much in the morning.' He stated, his face betraying not a single emotion.
'I'm ready to keep everything behind me for the children. Only if you're ready too.'
'You'll forget everything that happened?' He asked in disbelief.
'It's time I stopped wishing for impossible things. Nothing will bring them back in my life.' She sniffled as she said the bitter truth she'd been avoiding for almost a year.
'All right. We'll talk tomorrow.' He got up suddenly and she noticed a hint of anger in his words.
'No, we'll talk tonight. Now.' She asserted but he was reaching for his books already.
'You took your time. I need some time too.'
Thank you for reading!! I hope you liked the new developments in the story <3
'Frances, can you call the driver? I need to go to the market.'
'For Ruby's birthday?' She asked with a smile, more happy about Lily leaving the house. By her own will.
'At least you remember,' Lily muttered and said, 'Ask the chef to make something good tonight.'
'I will. And Mrs. Bradley sent a gift from London.'
'Give it to Ruby, she'll be happy.' Lily said with a tight smile.
'She sent a letter for you too.'
'Do what you always do with it, Frances.' She said with a finality in her voice.
Same date, 1926
Tommy Shelby hurried inside his mansion and almost flung his briefcase on the sofa. The Company and upcoming elections took most of his time and he had almost forgotten about Lily's telephone call from two hours ago.
‘How is she?’ He asked Polly who had just come out of the room where his wife was, supposedly. At that moment, an ear-splitting scream echoed in the house and Polly gave him a tolerant smile.
‘We should be in a hospital.’ He said with a slight shake of his head, reproaching Lily for her stubbornness.
‘She refused. Says she had Oliver in a fucking farm.’
‘Tell me there’s a doctor at least.’ He said as he took out his cigarette case from inside his coat.
‘Her family brought their own doctor. He said she’d be fine.’ Polly said as she sat down on the sofa.
He paused midway and asked, ‘Her family?’
Before she could respond, another scream interrupted them and Polly said kindly, ‘Go and sit beside her, she needs you.’
He walked inside the makeshift delivery room, taking in the midwives and one spectacled man, who looked no older than himself. His eyes stopped on the flushed woman, already soaking through her cotton shift and who was presently breathing at a markedly high rate.
'How are you?' He asked as he sat down opposite to her on the bed, slightly apprehensive.
‘You said… you’d be back….by twelve.’ She said through gritted teeth, all the while panting.
‘It’s only two.’
‘And look what…happened.’ She said after a particularly powerful contraction and the midwife rushed to wipe her damp face.
‘Try…having a…baby.’ She screamed and closed her eyes, while Tommy reached to wake her up.
‘It’s time.' The young doctor said from behind him and Tommy looked at him sharply.
'Mr Shelby, you should wait outside.’ The doctor replied placidly, not at all affected by his piercing gaze and walked near Lily.
‘You’re almost there, Lily. Just keep pushing.’
‘I am…you bastard.’ She screamed and the doctor walked away.
‘I’ve been called worse things.’ He said dismissively at Tommy's surprised expression.
‘I’ll be outside.’ He said after a comforting touch on her shoulder.
‘Go.’ She gritted out.
‘Tommy, her family is waiting in the drawing room.’
‘Who called them?’ He asked, reminded of their unfinished conversation.
‘She did.’ Polly said nonchalantly.
‘She called me two hours ago.’
‘Go downstairs and be a good son-in-law.’
‘Are all of them here?’ He asked as he reclined on the sofa, deciding to keep the enquiry for later.
‘Only five.’ She said as she poured him a cup of tea.
‘That’s a relief.’ He said as he took the cup from Polly.
‘Others will be visiting for the next few days.'
‘Fifty thieves in our house, Polly. Can you imagine?’
‘Never imagined we’ll have a house big enough to lodge fifty people.’
‘Why didn’t she call me first?’ He asked the nagging question.
‘She knows you’re busy with elections.’
‘I left as soon as I could and she called a fucking doctor on her own.’
‘It will take time. Especially when you refuse to remove these.’ Polly said as she gestured at Grace's painting on the wall.
‘It's here for Charlie. I don’t want him to forget her.’
‘Then you’ll have to suffice yourself with her love. Because I don’t see trust. Not yet.’
‘Then why did she say yes?’ He almost roared.
‘Ask her. But not today, it’s your daughter’s birthday.’ Polly smiled and he leaned back on the sofa, his eyes on the ceiling.
‘Another kid to raise, Polly. Another one to protect from the madness.’
‘You’ll be a good father, Tom. You are a good father.’ Polly said firmly.
‘But my son will always be hers first.’
‘Despite whatever she says, a mother loves her first born the most. Even more when she has single-handedly raised him for years.’
He considered her wise words for a second and decided he didn't like them at all. But he wasn't giving up yet, he wouldn't let his eldest son be estranged from him. And he was making progress, with his speech therapy and horse training.
‘Mr Shelby, it’s a girl.’ The doctor announced some time later and Tommy got up suddenly.
'How is Lily?'
'Frances, inform my in-laws.' He told the maid who had materialised at the doctor's announcement. He moved towards the doctor and extended his hand, 'Thank you, doctor...?'
'George Bennett. You can call me George.'
'Polly, the boys?'
‘Go see her first.'
He walked inside, feeling overwhelmed as he saw Lily cradling the small bundle in her arms.
‘It’s a girl, Tommy.’ She said as she looked up at him and he was amazed how much a woman could change in a few hours.
‘She’s…’ He said as looked at his daughter, unable to find the words. She was so small, so vulnerable.
‘Do you want to hold her?’ She smiled softly as she raised the baby a little. He gingerly took her in his arms, careful not to hurt her.
‘Look at you, now. She’s so small.’ He told Lily, who didn't take her eyes off the duo for a moment.
‘That’s good. Or I wouldn't be smiling.' She said as winced a little and shifted on the bed.
‘How are you?’ He sat down next to her, the baby still in his arms.
‘Tired.’ She smiled a little and leaned on his shoulder.
‘Your family is here.’ He said as he kissed her forehead, his eyes never leaving the baby.
‘I met them. And I told Paul not to touch anything.’
‘You didn’t call me first.’
‘You had business to attend to. And you still came late.'
'There was an urgent-'
She cut him, ‘I know. Where’s Polly?’
‘She’s with your family, telling them the good news. ’
‘We should tell Charlie and Oliver, too. They must've woken up by now.'
A knock intruded and Colin's voice warned, ‘We’re coming in,' and he didn't wait for their response as he pushed the doors open.
Tommy looked at her in disgruntlement and she smiled back apologetically as Colin tried to arrange the five adults in one line, ‘All right. Stand in line, everyone will get their turn. First, Mrs Gray.’
‘I don’t need to stand in a line, darling.’ Polly waved him off and walked to take the baby from her nephew.
‘Well said. Now, Gerard.’ Colin said, slightly flustered.
‘What the fuck’s wrong with you? Are you sure you’re a Davis?’ Gerard admonished as he waited for his turn.
‘Don’t swear. At least not now.’ Lily said from the bed and almost everyone burst out laughing. Even Tommy smirked as he got up from the bed and leaned next to the bedpost.
‘Ruby Shelby. She’ll be a star in a Hollywood movie.’ Polly prophesied.
‘She has your eyes, Polly.’ Lily said.
‘I know. That’s why I said she’ll be a star.’ She said and handed Ruby to Gerard.
'Your name is Ruby, is it?' He told her and looked at Tommy, 'I want her in the gallery if you're keeping my grandson, Thomas.'
‘Now, Jessie and James will take the baby.’ Colin said hastily, not wanting to relive the events of the wedding.
‘Look at her, she’s an angel.’ Jessie cooed as she kissed her head.
‘She looks like our Rosie. But her hair is different.’ James boomed.
‘Of course, James.’ She said with a long-suffering smile.
‘Paul. It’s your turn.’
‘She’s beautiful like you, Pol.’ He said as he winked at Polly, who smirked while the rest of the Guild rolled its eyes.
‘Colin, where are you going?’ Lily asked when she found him scuttling away.
He turned back and swallowed as he walked, not towards Paul but Tommy.
‘Mr Shelby, I hope we can put past things behind us.’
‘Of course, we’re a family Colin.’ Tommy said as he patted him on his back.
‘Thank you, Mr Shelby.’ He said, bursting from relief and finally took Ruby from Paul.
Lily gave a wide yawn and Gerard at once touched her head, ‘Get some rest. We’re going to stay in the Mudland Hotel tonight.’
Smiling slightly, she said, ‘You can stay here. There’s enough room for six, if George wants to stay too.’
‘We wouldn't want to intrude. And you should apologise to George.'
Lily winced a little.
‘Stay, Mr Davis. I’ll ask the maids to make arrangements.’ Tommy added.
‘All right.’ He said, looking at Tommy with a small amount of respect.
After the Guild filed out, Polly said firmly, 'I'll send your food upstairs. After which you'll go to bed, you need all the rest possible.'
'You're leaving?' She asked, holding Ruby closer to her chest.
'I'll come tomorrow again with the others. You come with me.' She told Tommy and they both walked out of the room.
After feeding herself and Ruby, Lily was sleeping for good amount of time when she felt a hand on her arm.
‘Oliver? Where were you all this time?' She got up carefully and pulled her son, no longer her only child, in a tight hug.
‘Is the b-baby here?’ He asked eagerly.
‘She is. Do you wanna hold her?’ She said as she gently picked Ruby up and showed her to him.
‘C-Can I?’ He asked gleefully.
‘Yes. Come, sit down here.’ she patted the unoccupied side of the side. He hurried to sit on the bed cross-legged and waited for her to put Ruby in his lap.
‘She’s s-sleeping, Mum.’ He said after he had looked at her unmoving form for almost five minutes.
‘Charlie, do you want to hold her too?’ She asked Charlie, who was looking at them in quiet interest.
He nodded and Lily carefully transferred Ruby to his lap, all the while trying not to put pressure on her abdomen.
‘She isn’t speaking.’
‘She will in some time. Do you know her name?’
‘Dad said it’s Ruby. But she isn’t red.’
‘You should see her when she cries. Red like a tomato.' Lily chuckled.
'I wanna see her cry!'
'Tomorrow,' she said hastily and asked, 'And why aren't you sleeping?'
'Dad said w-we could l-look at her.'
'Where is your Dad?' She asked in mild annoyance.
'He's in his office.'
Of course, she muttered and asked, 'Did you both have dinner?'
'Y-Yes. Frances m-made dessert.'
'Good. Now go to bed.'
'Can I k-kiss her o-once?'
'Carefully, or she'll wake up.'
He leaned to gently kiss Ruby's cheek and Lily almost cried at the sight. It was even more difficult to control her tears when Charlie repeated the same.
'Goodnight, Mum.' He said and kissed her cheek.
Tommy entered the bedroom late at night, after she'd put Ruby to sleep for the fifth time and was tired enough to ignore every sound in the room.
He undressed and laid down next to her, just like he did every night and gently kissed her neck.
‘You’re on your own tonight.’ She whispered as his hand inched towards her breasts.
‘Never on me own.’
‘Please turn the lamp off.’
He nodded and walked to the other side of the bed to put the lamp out. ‘Tell me if you need anything.’
After a while, when both made no attempt to move, Tommy asked, ‘Is she sleeping?’
‘Uh huh. But she’s a light sleeper.’
‘How do you know?’ He said as he sat down near her to look at her closely.
‘I’ve been with her for the last ten hours.’ She said, irritated at his preoccupation with work.
‘She’s so small. Smaller than my arm.’ He marvelled as he placed his hand next to the baby.
‘She’s barely a day old.’
‘I’ll make sure you never go to Hollywood.’ He told his sleeping daughter firmly.
‘Can we ever ignore Polly’s prophecy?’ She asked as she rested her head on her elbow to look at them.
‘We can when it comes to my daughter.’
‘This one takes after your family too. None of them look like me.’ She grumbled.
‘One of you is enough. I don’t want men buzzing around my daughter.’
‘God. It might be the first time you said something nice about me.’
‘I say nice things.’ He said as he picked Ruby and placed her in the crib.
'Try not to wake her up. And I don't remember any nice things.’ She said from behind.
‘I’m not going to remind you.’ He laid down next to her, one arm behind his head.
'All right.' She turned to lie flat on her back, her eyes on the ceiling.
'What's wrong?' He asked, surprised at her quick acquiescence.
'I feel so different. Like everything has changed.' She confessed, unable to put a finger on the feeling.
'It has changed.'
'It feels as if we're beginning something new. Like we're no longer the same.'
'What do you mean?'
'I mean, until now, we lived like we did four years back. Or how we did in Small Heath. Now, it feels like I'm actually married to you.'
'And?' He asked, slightly impatient for her to speak her mind out.
'And I feel so...domesticated. Looks like I am too used to my life in London.'
'You can't live in London all alone now.'
'But I'm not going to wither away while you immerse yourself in work either.'
'You can work. In my Company.'
'We talked about it, Tommy.'
'You can't work now. So let's discuss this later.'
She sighed and asked, 'What did Polly say to you before leaving?'
'She told me wait for some time.'
'In not so many words, I suppose.'
'I can occupy myself with other things,' He said as he flicked open the buttons of her dress.
'Like?' She asked as she touched his stubble and leaned in to kiss him gently.
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Chapter 10: The Letter
This is part one of this chapter.
Lily was waiting for the man to pack her cake in the bakery when she heard a familiar voice yell, ‘Mrs Shelby!’
‘Jack, what are you doing here?’ She asked as she watched the violin teacher walk closer, looking no different than he did at Arrow House.
‘I was buying some bread. Didn’t think I’ll meet you here, of all places.’ He said as he gestured at the small bakery.
‘It’s my daughter’s birthday. I was buying a cake.’ She smiled warmly, feeling excited about something in a very long time.
‘Happy birthday to her. So am I invited to the party?’
‘It’s a small affair. Times are hard.’ She shrugged a little.
‘I was just joking, Mrs Shelby.’ He said hastily.
‘So was I,' She placated him, finding his timidity comical. 'You can call me Lily. Here, that is.’ She said as she took the cake and began to walk out of the bakery. To her surprise, he fell into step beside her.
‘Did you listen to the record?’ He asked as he opened the door for her.
‘Oh, yes. It was beautiful. Who is the artist?’ She asked, eager to buy every composition of the artist. But he didn't reply and gave a small shrug.
She almost gasped and asked, ‘You? You’re very talented, Jack. Why are you…?’
‘An insignificant teacher of seven year old boys?'
‘I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it like that.’
‘No, it’s alright. The world of music is cruel to shoe-shiner’s son who is penniless and patron-less.’
Her heart clutched a she remembered his shabby but clean shoes from their first meeting. But she hated that the world hadn't been kind to a man of such brilliance, he was almost like the artists she had built the gallery for. And she couldn't help from muttering, ‘I know, I’ve had first-hand experience.’
‘You were an artist?’
She shook her head slightly, ‘I had an art gallery. In London.’
‘Really? What’s its name?’ He asked, warming up to her suddenly.
‘It shut down six months ago.’ She said nonchalantly, trying not to remember the dark day. They were near the car when he said,
‘Lily, if you don’t mind me asking…’
‘I do.’ She said as she placed the cake inside, but didn't open the door to sit.
‘It’s just what the maids say.’ He said sheepishly, back to his awkward demeanour.
‘That I’ve locked myself in a room full of paintings.' She completed for him.
‘I didn’t mean to…’
‘It’s alright. It’s the truth anyway.’ She said as she leaned against the car.
‘There was a time when I was desolate.’
‘I’m not desolate. And I think I should go, it's been good to see you.' She said, the steel in her voice enough to make anyone cower. But he didn't back down this time.
‘I’m talking about myself.’
'You?' She asked and continued walking, hoping to hear his story.
‘After I got out of school, I put my heart and soul in the music. I wouldn’t sleep or eat. Didn’t wash for weeks because I didn’t want to lose the ideas running around in my head. Six months later, I show my composition to my mentor who called it, ‘A new wave of flair and finesse’. He asked for my notes and I gave all of them to him, bursting with pride as I left his office. Three days later, I come to know that his son is performing the very same piece of music I put my blood and sweat into. It was…desolate.’
‘Did you talk to him?’ She asked, unable to keep the anger out of her voice. She wanted to bash that man's head and bring him to the court of law for stealing from a young boy. She might've stolen material things but it hurt to see someone's hardwork be taken away so cruelly. If it happened at the gallery, Gerard would've...
‘I gave him everything I had by my own will. And I didn’t have the resources to fight him in court.’ He said lightly.
‘This is atrocious. Tell me his name, I’ll ask…’ She stopped, unable to say the name.
‘Your husband?’ He finished.
‘Yes, my husband.’ She said, even though the doubt on her face was clear.
‘I don’t mean to disrespect you but your husband is…’
‘A practical man. I don’t think he’d want to meddle in a failed violinist’s career.’
‘You shouldn’t lose hope. You are a talented man.’ She lightly touched his arm.
‘I like teaching. And teaching children is a noble profession for me.’
‘You’ll do this for the rest of your life?’ She asked, not at all pleased that such art was going to waste.
‘Until I find inspiration again.’
‘Good luck.’ She said and turned to walk back to the car,
‘You have to tell your story.’
She looked around nervously and her gaze stopped on the driver standing near the car, knowing the look on his face well. ‘It’s getting late and Ruby's waiting for her cake. Maybe tomorrow?’
‘Of course. Have a good day, Mrs-Lily.’ He amended and she gave him a small smile, wondering if she would've told him everything if they were alone.
She was almost skipping on her feet when she entered the house with the cake in her hands.
'Please keep it inside. I hope it doesn't get spoiled.' She told Frances and began to walk towards Ruby's room when she stopped her.
'Mrs Shelby called while you were out.'
'Linda?' She asked in doubt. They had a cordial relationship but Lily knew about Linda's deep hatred for Tommy. She also knew the feeling was mutual, only in Tommy's case it was frank dismissal of his brother's Christian wife.
'I'll talk to her.'
Lily walked inside Tommy's empty study with a look of disdain at the disorganised table. While her hands itched to open the files and read the papers, she knew she wouldn't find anything of much importance. And she had been the one to keep herself out of his business.
'It's me, Lily.'
'I was waiting for your call.'
'How are you?' She asked as she hopped up to sit on the table. Tommy hated it when she was anywhere near his chair and she'd early on devised her own way of getting back.
'Do you know what your husband is up to now?'
'Considering your phone call, I think you know more than I do.'
'Fixing races is getting a bit old for him. He's planning to fix football now.'
'And you're calling me because?' She sighed, well-aware that talking about Tommy and his ‘whims’ won’t do any good.
'I know what you do to him. Everybody does. Talk to him and tell him to change his ways.'
'He is too busy to listen.' She turned down Linda's suggestion with a scoff.
'Then write him a fucking letter. He won't ignore it when you mention lawyers.'
'Are you writing one to your husband?' She asked as she picked up a pen and drew a small pattern on the empty sheet.
'I wrote two.' Linda said proudly and continued,' If Tommy carries on like this, he’ll live for another two, maybe three years. You should be prepared.’
She paused in her drawing, caught off-guard by Linda's words. He may not be the best man, sometimes not even a good man but it still caused a sharp pain to think about his present condition.
‘Linda, I don’t know about Arthur, but Tommy always does what pleases him . And no one can sway him.’
‘You can. I remember things, Lily.’ Linda said slyly.
‘I’ll try.’ She said finally, only to make Linda stop. And to stop the disturbing thoughts about Tommy's death.
‘And wish Ruby from my side.’ She said before putting the phone down.
'Come on, Ruby. Let's get dressed up for your birthday.'
'My dress is old. You don't wanna look old on your birthday, do you?'
'I'm three years old.' She said as she held up four fingers.
'But I'm thirty five.' Lily said, slightly horrified as she said the number. She pulled out some dresses from the wardrobe and kept them on her small bed.
'Aunt Jessie sent a gift for me.' She said gleefully.
'Did you like it?' Lily asked, wondering why Ruby liked her so much. And why Jessie pretended everything was still the same.
'It was a doll. But Charlie and Oliver won't play with me.'
'I'll play.' She said softly.
'Of course, my sweetie.' She said as she hugged her tightly.
'Will Daddy come on my birthday?' Ruby asked suddenly.
'I don't know. It's a surprise.' She said, plastering a fake smile on her face. And realised Ruby wasn't too keen either.
'What's wrong, Ruby?' She asked as she touched her cheek.
'I'm scared of Daddy, Mum.'
'Daddy is scary.'
Giving a false laugh, she said dismissively, 'He is not scary. He is a little...busy with work.' Then, picking up a dress from the pile, she asked, 'Do you like this dress?'
Ruby looked at her in slight disappointment and Lily wanted to cut herself for defending Tommy. Her reason was simple though; she didn't want her children to grow up hating their father. It was what Tommy and she did, not their children. But she might have to take Linda's advice after all.
That night, Tommy was surprised to find Lily in his study. Even more when he noticed the lipstick and diamond earrings she was wearing. He hadn't thought she would bounce back so quickly, especially after his subtle rejection of her offer. He didn't want her to leave but he didn't want her to have the upper hand either. It had been a risk but as he watched her fidget in her royal blue dress, he decided it was a risk worth taking. With the black cat dream and Michael's return, he didn't want to deal with any more drama. And he was beginning to miss her marvellous body, which could presently use some meat but was still capable of eliciting the same response.
‘Are you alright?’ He asked as he poured whisky in two glasses, his back facing her.
‘Yes.’ She said flatly.
'Are the kids alright?' He put the glass in front of her but she didn't reach for it.
'I suppose so.' She said with a slight roll of her eyes.
He walked to sit down on his chair, losing some of his confidence at her indifferent tone. ‘Do you wanna fuck? Didn't think so.' He answered for her, noticing the darkening of her eyes.
‘Sometimes I wish I was on the other side of the table. It gives you a deluded idea about your power.’
‘Did you need something?’ He sighed.
‘No, I just came here to talk.’
‘I’ve…business.’ He said, a little thrown off by her outright answer.
‘It can wait for a while.’ She said firmly. ‘Linda called today, about your recent foray in football. Didn’t know you liked the game.’
‘I didn’t know you were interested in our business.’
‘She also said she was writing a letter to your brother. But of course, he burnt it before reading it. She suggested I write one to you and threaten you with lawyers. Poor woman, she doesn’t know that it won’t affect you. It might even please you because you regret marrying me.’
Leaning further on his chair, he said, ‘As I remember, you were the one who called Linda a conniving woman who’ll burn you in hell and say it was God’s will.’
‘I say many things, Tommy. You don’t remember them.’
He lowered his brows a little. ‘Sadly, I remember every fucking word that has come out of your mouth. A pity that most of them were lies. Beginning with your Birmingham visit.’
‘What about you? What about your lies that your sporting days are over. That business will be legitimate. That you’ll be honest.’
‘What do you want?’ He asked finally, remembering her ability to always have the last word.
‘Do you know what day it is?’
He didn't reply but he knew it was something he should've remembered.
‘It’s Ruby’s birthday.’ She answered with contempt directed towards him.
His eyes flickered, as if checking the validity of her words.
‘I bought a cake and a gift and I would like if you came too. We're in the drawing room.' She said and got up to walk out of his study.
She stopped and turned to look at him.
‘I'm in a room...and they're coming at me. It's OK. I want 'em to. Last thing I want is silence. Standing up there, in silence, and someone says..."Sorry about all that noise. Sorry about all that...dust. Sorry about all that mud. And all that fucking blood." And you say, "Don't be sorry. Don't be sorry. It's all I can do now." You want me to write this down? Do you want me to write you a fucking letter? Me and Arthur can't write it down...cos they haven't invented the fucking words. We don't have the fucking words.'
She watched as he got up from his chair and looked outside the window, 'And the worst thing is, could've stayed at school. But we volunteered. Still don't have the fucking words.'
‘Not everything is about the war, Tommy. You need to-’
He scoffed, still facing the window, ‘Let go? So we both can lock ourselves in a room full of fucking paintings? Ignore the kids, the fucking reality?'
‘No. You need to stop making excuses for your guilt.’
‘Get out.’ He bit out, but didn't look at her.
'I'll leave. I was leaving anyway. But where will you go?'
Thank you for reading!! I hope you're liking this story. I know it's more from Lily's side but she's the hero in this Tommy-centric fanfic.
P. S. - I know I'm not as regular as I was with part I, but this pandemic has taken a toll and I'm unable to find the inspiration.
Chapter 11: The Past
almost paradoxical chapter title since it is based in 1929. (the present of this story, that is🤣 )
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Tommy put his hands on the table as he watched Lily close the door behind her, disappearing quietly. If he had talked like this some other time, she would’ve made a wisecrack and slammed the door for good measure. But now she made do with the quiet, cutting truth. As if she knew he wasn’t the same man she’d married, the same one who’d gotten down on one knee for her.
Where will you go?
Her words replayed in his mind until he reached for the ringing phone. He had to keep her cryptic words aside and concentrate on the looming trouble for now. Michael had met the Billy Boys and talked to them about their business, it was not long before he made acquaintance with the them himself. And he knew it would a black day, blacker than the Tuesday.
'Yeah, I wanna ask you some questions about the night you met Michael Gray.'
He sat down on his chair after the call, thinking about the upcoming days. There was trouble looming, even more now that Michael was involved. A fucking member of his family, who had also lost all the legitimate money in the stock market. From what he had gathered from their first meeting, his American wife was an active participant in his shenanigans. That's why it never did good to involve wives in business. Arthur had been able to ward off Linda but Tommy knew his struggle. And today, the same Linda had managed to invade Lily's tough mind too. Fucking letter writing.
His gaze fell on the intricate pattern on his letterhead and he wondered if she had drawn it while sitting on his desk. If she drew something like this in the small room he’d never visited. Or on the bedsheets when she was talking to him.
Where will you go?
It was as if she knew what went on inside in head, as if she was a silent spectator of his meetings with Grace. And he didn’t know if he felt ashamed or offended.
‘All right. No one will touch the cake before Ruby cuts it.’ Lily announced as the children stood around the cake. Tommy hadn't exited his study and she had no expectations either. It would do them good if the children did the same too. She had seen Oliver go through the same and it was a lot of heartache for a small child.
‘I want the red part.’ Oliver said, pointing his finger at the small flower.
‘Of course. Everyone will get the flower.’
‘No. I don’t want the flower.’
‘Then I’ll give the you flower-less part.’ She said, keeping her smile intact.
‘But it isn't red.'
‘Dad!’ Charlie yelled, stopping Lily from giving another retort. She looked up at his disoriented and silent form in mild surprise and watched as he sat down on the sofa.
‘You came!' Ruby said, more surprised than happy.
'Happy birthday, Ruby.' He said as he gently touched her head.
‘Come here all of you. I’m lighting the candle.’ Lily said as she opened the matchbox.
‘Where is my gift, Mum?’ Ruby asked and Lily reached for the small box she'd kept under the table.
‘It is here. But first we’ll cut the cake.’ She said, feeling Tommy's eyes on her. He wasn't talking nor did he make any attempt to join them as they wished Ruby. Might've stayed back in your study, she thought as the children sang the birthday song.
‘Come on, Ruby. Make a wish.’ Lily said as Ruby blew the candles and she pulled her daughter in a hug, kissing her dimples.
'Mum, I want the big piece.' Oliver announced, already taking the plate in his hand.
Lily busied herself with cutting the cake, keeping in mind their demands as the children played amongst themselves. She was deciding whether to set a plate for Tommy when he stood next to her.
‘I’ll be in my study.’
‘Thank you for your gracious presence.’ She muttered and watched him go back to his refuge.
'Mum, where is my cake?'
'Here, all of you. Take your plates and try not to dirty your clothes.' She said as she handed the plates to the children and then picked up another.
'Frances, take the rest of the cake to the kitchen after you've had yours.' She told the maid as she extended the plate in her direction.
'I would have it later, Mrs Shelby.'
'Eat it. It won't taste any different in the kitchen.' She said firmly, even though she might be at least ten years younger than Frances.
'Thank you. Aren't you eating?'
'All this sugar makes me nauseous.'
As Frances looked at her with a expectant smile, Lily hurried to say, 'Oh, no. These three are more than enough.'
'I'm not an expert but maybe another child can...'
Lily shook her head, a sad smile on her face, 'A child can never change how a person really is. It can soften him sometimes but can never fully change him.'
'Mum, I wanna open my present.' Ruby said as she tugged her skirt, already bored with her brothers.
'Let's do it, then.' She said as she took Ruby towards the sofa, pleased to end the conversation with Frances. She didn't hate her but conversations with her about Tommy didn't exactly appeal her. Especially when Lily couldn't keep her mouth shut around her.
She was showing the toys to her when she heard gravel crunching outside, a signal she knew all too well to ignore.
'Oliver, Charlie, let's go to bed.' She said as she got up and almost pushed them out of the room.
'I'll tell you all a story tonight.' She said as the engine sounds got closer.
'About a stubborn man.' Lily muttered and hurried them upstairs with Frances following behind.
‘Where’s Charlie?’ Lily asked after she'd reached the top of the stairs and was halfway towards her room.
‘He went to see Dad.’ Oliver said.
'What happened, Mum?'
She got on her knees in front of him and said, 'Oliver, I want you to stay in your room with your sister. I'll bring Charlie there, all right?'
He nodded and Lily kissed his cheek before rushing downstairs to bring Charlie, hoping he hadn't heard or seen anything. She didn't know who was on the other side and it would kill her if something happened to the boy. Tommy already thought she didn't care enough for him and she didn't like false accusations, especially when a small child was involved. She looked around the house frantically while walking towards the door. She sighed in relief when she saw him in front of the partially open door, restless in his pursuit to listen in.
‘Charlie! Come here at once.’ She whispered harshly.
‘Johnny Dogs is hurt.’ He told her, slightly excited.
‘Come here. Or I’ll not let you see the horses tomorrow.’ She scolded, while trying to make out Aberama Gold's words.
‘Dad is there, too.’ He said defensively.
‘Because he’s a fool. Come here.’ She gritted out, finally giving up and ignoring Tommy's yells and Johnny's cries of pain.
He reluctantly walked closer towards her and she pulled him in a hug, looking at the scene unfolding in front of her eyes. She had expected faceless enemies she’d heard about over the last eight years but never had she expected them, his very own men. And if that wasn’t enough to make her question everything, she didn’t know what was.
‘Let’s go to bed, all right.’
Tommy slowly walked upstairs after sending off Johnny Dogs and Aberama Gold, wanting to sit back and think things through; the calls could wait until tomorrow. He reached for the bedroom door, wondering if he had another battle waiting for him and stopped when he heard music. He opened the door abruptly and found Lily lying on the bed, still in her dress. She looked at him once and then closed her eyes, listening the pathetic tune with all her concentration.
He walked closer to the gramophone and shut it down, in the hopes of earning a reaction but she didn't indulge him. He sighed and sat down on the opposite side of the bed, mulling over the events of the night. Billy Boys had finally made their presence known and it was all going to go downhill if he didn't act fast.
‘Sent them to the hospital?’ She asked, invading his thought process.
‘Where were you?’ He stayed where he was, not willing to face the disgust she was possibly feeling.
‘I was with the children.’ She said calmly, as if two men hadn't tried to kill each other in front of her just now.
‘You could’ve called an ambulance. Aberama’s shoulder is shattered.’
‘We can’t have that happening to your trusted men. Men who were going to shoot each other in your house.' She said with little emotion, though there was a touch of reproach in her voice.
‘Are you done?’ He turned to look at her, taking in the skin visible from her clingy dress.
‘Go read somewhere else. The children might come in the middle of the night and I don’t want them to know your little secret.’ She declared nonchalantly and shifted so she was lying on her side.
‘I’m not going anywhere. Take this off.’ He said impassively as he reached for the bow on her dress and pulled it open.
‘I’m not ready for this.’ She began to turn back but he stopped her, caging her between his arms as he laid on top of her.
‘You were ready in the stables.’ He said as he touched her flushed skin.
‘When you forced yourself on me?’ She gritted out.
‘We both know you wanted it.’ He said as he pushed her dress up, drawing breath at the piece of lace. He bent down to kiss her and she didn't turn away, putting her hands on his cheek while he tugged the sleeves of her dress lower.
He moved down to kiss her bare shoulder and kept descending until he reached soft swell of her breast. She ran her hands in his hair and he revelled in the feel of it for a moment before fastening his lips on her nipple.
'Tommy...please.' She breathed out, arching against him.
'What, Lily? Are you ready now?' He asked as he looked up at her, basking in his win.
'Can we talk? Please.' She whispered and he noticed the wetness around her eyes. He abruptly pushed himself away from her and she got up to sit on the bed. He sat next to her as adjusted her dress back clumsily and hurriedly wiped her eyes.
'What?' He asked finally, still shaken by her response.
‘Do you know why I talked to you tonight?' She asked and continued, not waiting for his reply, 'Because of Ruby. She said she’s scared of you.’
'She's a little girl.' He said dismissively, even though he didn't like her revelation at all.
'You don't care two of your kids are scared of you? Or is it because they are mine?'
‘There is nothing that I wouldn’t do for my children. All of them are equal to me. You hear that? All three of them.’ He said with emphasis and picked a cigarette from the nightstand.
‘Tell this to Oliver. Have you ever seen how unhappy he is? He’ll end up like you one day!’ She shouted and he moved closer to quiet her down.
‘Better me than your London fops.’ He said in disparagement.
‘Don’t bring them in this.’ She said sharply and he continued as if she hadn't interrupted,
‘He’s going to take care of business and I need him strong for that.’ He finally lit the cigarette, filling the space between them with a cloud of smoke.
‘He’s a small boy.’ She said, tears falling down her cheeks at his harsh words.
‘I know how to raise my children.’
‘You know nothing. You have to be invited to their birthdays and you still choose your business over them.'
'I apologised. I fucking apologised to my son and he understood. It's time you did too.'
‘Do you know how scared he is? He thinks you’ll leave if he does something wrong.’ She cried, remembering his nightmares.
‘Who’s gonna tell me that, eh?’ He asked
‘He is your son, Tommy. You should know that.’
'After all this is done, I'll take him to-' He said in a calmer tone.
She waved him off and lashed out, ‘You don’t care for my children. Or you wouldn’t have let that happen tonight.’
‘This is my fucking business. This is what I do.’
‘At least keep this house away from your business.’ She snapped at him and got up from the bed.
‘Do you know why Aberama was here?’ He asked quietly as she took out her nightgown from the closet.
She walked towards him and said warily, ‘I don’t know. All I know is Charlie was going to get first-hand experience of your business.’
He stiffened but didn't stop in taking out the paper from his pocket. ‘Look at this. Nailed over the dead body of Bonnie Gold by the fucking Billy Boys.’
She gingerly took the crumpled piece of paper, slightly put off by the dried blood but didn't stop. 'The Protestant gang?' She whispered, her eyes reading the words again and again until he snatched it from her.
'The reason I don't talk is because you're not prepared for this stuff. You are not who you were, Lily.'
'What do you mean?' She looked at him in surprise.
'You're too hooked on the past.' He said as he lit another cigarette.
Scoffing at the irony, she asked, 'So what will you do about me? I'm not of any use to you, neither in business nor in bed. And you regret-'
'That is what I'm talking about, Lily,' He pointed the cigarette in her direction, 'Stop brooding and start doing something with your time.'
'I tried to, Tommy. But you had to interfere with that too.' She said scathingly, angered at his suggestions.
'It was for your benefit.' He muttered.
'Stop being so fucking benevolent, Tommy. Some of us aren't that needy.'
'Everybody fucking needs me, Lily.' He said as he blew smoke around them and gestured at the nightgown, 'Might as well forgo this, we're done talking.'
'Is that my new position then? Your go-to fuck when you run out of options?' She asked in contempt.
'You want me to pay you in cash or cheque?' He asked, looking at his pocket watch.
He didn't get to hear her response in words but she replied nonetheless. Because a loud smack reverberated in the room and he felt a sharp sting on his unsuspecting face. A very sharp sting because he almost wanted to touch his burning face.
'This is what you deserve. Bastard.' She said in distaste as she walked out their room.
Thank you for reading!! I hope you liked this chapter :))
Chapter 12: First Christmas
Christmas Eve, 1926
‘Tommy! If you don’t come out of your office, I swear I’ll burn the tree.’ Lily yelled from outside his study.
‘Just a moment.' He said as he signed the last of the papers.
‘What is so important that you can’t spend time with your children?’
‘All done.’ He opened the door and leaned in to kiss her.
‘Finally.’ She murmured and prolonged the light kiss, but not ready to forgive him.
‘Come here, now.’ He said as he took Ruby in his arms.
‘What were you doing?’ She asked him as they walked towards the drawing room.
‘There is a lot of work to do.’
‘The House of Commons will forgive you if you celebrate Christmas.'
'You're the one who's wasting time now.'
'I thought if we finished early then the kids will go to bed early.' She said in a low voice, even though he doubted Ruby was interested in their conversation.
'Do you have something planned?' He asked in mild interest.
'It's a surprise.' She beamed at him.
'I don't like surprises.'
'You'll like this one.' She winked and gave his jaw a kiss.
‘Dad! I put the star on the tree!’ Charlie said when they were in the drawing room.
‘And I p-put the l-lights!’ Oliver added.
‘Good work, both of you.’ He said, lightly ruffling their hair.
‘What about me? I helped them.’ Lily complained.
‘Thank you, Lily.’ He smiled and rewarded her with another kiss.
‘Ew. Dad is k-kissing Mum.’ Oliver made a face and Lily laughed at his expression.
‘That's what they do, son.'
Lily clapped her hands to summon the children and said, ‘Okay, both of you, put the plate for Santa and Rudolf.’
‘What do you say? We put them to bed or let them play here?’ He whispered in her ear as she watched the boys work together.
‘It’ll take me half hour to put Ruby to bed. If you can manage in that time, then please.’ She replied, her smile still intact.
‘I’ll put them to bed.’
‘My lovely Scrooge.’ She turned to put her arms around his neck.
‘I don’t like it, Lillian.’ He said coolly.
‘You have to. It’s Christmas Eve and I cannot ignore the similarities. Like how both of you don’t like Christmas.’ She separated herself from him and took Ruby in her own arms.
‘I like Christmas.’ He rebuffed her accusations.
‘You were in your study the entire evening.’
‘I was working.'
‘Let your workers enjoy Christmas. Their wives must be cursing you.’
‘Dad, Humbug!’ Oliver said and Lily looked at him in wide-eyed surprise.
She gave a horrified laugh and told Tommy, ‘I didn’t teach him that.’
‘I promise.’ She stressed as he looked at her with a clenched jaw.
‘Your father, of course.’
‘Why are you bringing the poor old man into this?’
‘The poor old man ruined my wedding night.’ Tommy stated and Lily couldn’t help the nervous blush.
The ‘special potion for special occasion’ had more consequences than Gerard liked to tell and while Tommy had been immune to most of them, he couldn’t escape the most embarrassing one. It had been quite unpleasant for him but she hadn’t been able to control her laughter. Which had only increased his annoyance.
'He did it because you were acting like a bore.'
'It's good we don't live in London.'
'He's still my father.' She retorted.
'Let's go to bed, boys.'
'But I w-wanna see S-Santa.' Oliver grumbled.
'Santa only comes if the children are sleeping. He doesn't like boys who stay up late.' Lily said as she smoothed his hair.
'Dad is not sleeping.' Charlie chimed in.
'He'll not get a gift then.'
'I'll give y-you my g-gift, Dad.'
'Aww, sweetie.' Lily said as she pulled him in a hug.
Tommy rolled his eyes but didn't say anything.
'Both of you, go to bed now with Daddy.'
'In your study. At ten.' She whispered in his ear and went off before he could stop her.
Lily double-knotted her robe as she silently closed the door behind her. Ruby had fallen asleep and if her estimation was right, she wouldn't wake up for the next two hours at least. Enough time for foreplay and to seduce Tommy into letting her work in London. She knew the methods were wrong but it was the only way to persuade him, for she had ran out stories about Oliver's struggle. And he was beginning to see through her lies anyway.
Looking at the empty study, she thought he was with the children and was happy that he hadn't called a maid or Frances to look after them.
She hopped on his desk, still cluttered and disorganised and looked at the stacks of paper and files. She was opening one of them when the phone rang and she hurried to pick it up, not wanting to wake anyone up.
'Hello?' She asked, hoping it was not someone important.
'This is Jessie Eden.'
Her pulse quickened but she kept her voice calm, 'Hello, Jessie.'
'Thomas asked me to call him at ten o'clock.' She replied but Lily sensed slight hesitation in her voice.
'I'm sorry. He's busy with the kids. Can I take a message?' She asked and hoped she said something about the communists or the factory. And not something confidential, which she couldn't share with her.
'It's all right. Merry Christmas.'
'Same to you.' She said and put the phone down, her hands shaking.
'I thought you wouldn't be so overdressed.' Tommy said as put his arms around her waist and kissed her neck.
‘You’re still meeting Jessie Eden?’ She asked, still facing the window.
He sighed and moved to look at her, ‘Yes.’
‘Why?’ She looked up at him in question.
‘She’s a communist and the Labour Party is the flag-bearer of socialism.’
She crossed her arms and leaned against the glass, ‘Are you still sleeping with her?’
‘No,' he denied firmly. 'This is just work.’ He said as touched her lush lips.
‘Then why did you sleep with her in the first place?’
‘That was business. Purely business.’
‘Did you meet her when I was pregnant? Is that why you came late when I was in labour?’ She asked, hating the frantic note in her words.
‘No. I'm a married man. Everyone knows that, she knows that.'
‘If she didn’t, you would sleep with her?’
‘I don't need to sleep with other women.' He walked closer and pulled her in his arms, gently kissing her.
‘Then why didn’t you tell me about her?’ She asked, her eyes watery.
‘Because she isn’t relevant. She means nothing.’ He touched her forehead with his and wiped her looming tears.
‘She campaigned for you.’ She muttered.
He gave a half-smile, ‘So did half of Small Heath.’
'You cooked food for her, Tommy.’
‘I got down on one knee for you.'
'And?' She almost scoffed as she sat up on his desk.
‘The thing is, you’re my wife and there’s no one I would rather spend the rest of my life with. There's no other woman in my life, Lily.’
‘You aren’t lying?’ She narrowed her eyes.
‘I can’t lie in front of women. Most women.’ He added.
She sighed and picked up his paperweight, ‘I know and that’s why I’m letting you off. But the day I see you getting friendly with another woman, I’ll hack you up in small bits and feed you to Cyril.’
‘Nothing else matters if you’re with me. I want you here, Lily. In my house, as my wife.’
‘That’s it? You don’t want me to work?’ She asked finally.
He cleared his throat and prepared himself. ‘You’re a Shelby now, Lily and you cannot avoid the name and the reputation. Birmingham is our home and it’ll treat you as its own. But London is not so welcoming to a Peaky Blinder.’
‘I’m a Peaky Blinder?’ She said and he found it difficult to discern the emotion behind her words.
‘I know it’s not the kind of life you had in mind, but-’
She stopped him and put her hands on his face, ‘No, Tommy. I love you and everything that makes you who you are.’
She continued, not in the mood of his sympathy. She knew he felt an urge to say something back every time she shared her feelings. Most of the time, she chose to keep quiet to avoid them. ‘I chose to be with you when I could’ve married the rich architect.’
‘What is that supposed to mean?’ He furrowed his brows.
‘Nothing. He was stable and formally educated and well-read-’
‘I don’t like where this is going.’ He said, trying not to clench his jaw.
‘He had everything yet he turned out to be a pig. With you, I know what to expect.’
'Is that supposed to appease me?’ He asked as he took out a cigarette.
‘I like being with you. You’re the one who makes me happy. But the gallery makes me happy too.’ She reached for the lighter before he could and kept it in front of him.
‘We’ll build another one here.’ He said as he moved closer to reach the flame.
‘But I miss them. A little.' She added when she realised she sounded like a small girl.
‘You’re married now. This is your home.’ He said and sat down on the chair.
‘What will I do when you are in Westminster?’
‘There is the institute to look after; the company too. And tea parties to attend.’
She winced, ‘This is all so boring.’
‘I’ll teach you how to ride horses and take you to Classics.'
'It sounds like a punishment. You know how I feel about horses.'
'We'll go to Greece when Ruby is old enough.'
'That's good. Let me write this down.'
'You're not serious?' He asked as she bent to write on a piece of paper, bestowing him with a generous view of her decolletage.
'With you, I can never be sure.'
'Anything else?' He asked as he moved closer and placed his elbows on the desk.
‘I’ll not sell my house in London.’
‘I’ll live there. It’ll keep me from missing you.’ He tucked a strand of her hair behind her ear.
‘I never thought I’d become a housewife.’ She said darkly.
'You're my wife. The mother of my children. You're not just a housewife.'
'I'd have to take money from you to buy everything.' She continued, unable to absorb her reality.
'What's mine is yours. Everything.' He said gently.
But not your heart, she thought but he understood nonetheless.
He got up from the chair and said, 'Tell you what, I'll pay rent for living in your apartment.'
'Shut up. I'll kill you if you ever tried to pay me.' She said sharply.
'But we agreed that everything-'
'Yes. My house is yours too and you don't need to pay me. I'm your wife not your-'
He put a finger on her lips, 'Shh. You'll never talk like that.'
She gave a grudging smile and put her arms around his neck, 'All right, Mr. Shelby. But you'll have to make up for your shortcomings.'
'I'm ready.' He said as he closed the space between them and kissed her passionately.
'On your desk?' She breathed as he divested himself of his waistcoat.
He paused for a second then nodded. 'Yes,' he rasped against her lips, 'Because you're the only one who'll ever be here. The only woman I'll make love to.'
'Forever?' She asked as she untied the belt of her robe.
He leaned in to kiss her and she wrapped her calves around his thighs, 'Forever.'
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Some Ten Months Into Their Marriage
Tommy had buttoned up his shirt when Lily came out of the bathroom wearing her cotton shift, drops of water falling from her damp hair. His back was to her so he couldn't see the expression on her face, which was somewhere between disdain and annoyance, a lethal combination when it came to her.
‘Why is your towel here?’ She asked as she dried her hair with her own bath towel.
‘Where?’ He asked without looking at her, busy searching his tie.
‘On the bed, Tommy. The whole pillow will be wet now.’ She huffed.
‘Then pick it up.’ He said, preoccupied with his tie.
‘You should pick it up yourself.’ She said in slight anger.
He sighed as he walked towards the bed and put the towel on the side table. For good measure, he turned the pillow so the damp side was on the sheets.
‘Happy?’ He asked and gave a light shake of his head.
‘Now the whole bedsheet will be wet.’ She chided him as she picked up the pillow and removed its cover.
‘I'm already late.' He muttered.
She continued without looking at him and asked, ‘And is this a place to keep shoes? Anyone could fall.’
As she pushed his haphazardly thrown shoes a little, he asked while putting on his waistcoat, ‘Do you want to fight?'
‘No, I’m just asking you to keep the house clean.’ She said from the dressing table, running a comb in her hair.
‘I pay a lot of people to keep this house clean.’ He said, mildly irritated at her daily bickering.
‘At least keep our room clean. Would you like to sleep on a wet bed?' She asked and he turned to look at her. The water already soaking through the thin fabric of her dress and he could very well see she was naked underneath it. It was as if she did it on purpose, just like she did in Watery Lane with her nightgowns.
He walked towards her and touched her soft body from behind, ‘Why is your hair so wet?’ He asked as he rested his chin on her head.
She gave a slight poke in his ribs with her elbow and admonished him, ‘Don’t try to sweet-talk me into having sex. You are so careless about things, Tommy.’
‘And you are not?’ He asked as he moved back, annoyed at her refusal.
‘Have you ever seen my side of the closet?’ She gloated.
‘Because you have nothing else to do.' He stated.
She opened her mouth in infuriation, ‘Is that so? I’ve a lot of work to do too. I’ve to-’
‘Take care of three kids, talk to my friends for the entire day and fold clothes.’ He completed, only the last two weren't going to make it to her list.
‘That isn’t all. I’m working for your institute too.’ She added.
‘Where you go once a month.’
‘Because I’m good at what I do. I don't need to visit everyday.' She brushed off his jibe airily.
‘You win. Now bring my briefcase downstairs.’ He said as put on his coat.
‘Do it yourself. I’ve other work to do.’ She said as she carefully picked a dress from the well-arranged closet.
‘Are you angry now?’ He asked as he put his hands around her waist.
She shrugged her shoulders at his touch and gritted out, ‘No. I prefer to spend my time doing productive things. Not talking to people like you.'
‘People like me, eh?' He asked as he pulled her closer, peppering kisses along the damp skin of her neck.
'Go. You're late.'
Tommy was looking through the ledger in his office when the telephone rang. He almost wished it was Lily but knowing their last quarrels, he knew she would die before giving in first.
‘Did you fight with her? Again?’
‘Pol?’ He asked, wondering if Polly was having visions again.
She continued, ‘Because she is here, working at the betting shop with Ruby in one hand.’
He clenched his jaw and said, ‘I’ve told her not to-’
‘Work? You think you can stop her?’
Remembering about Ruby, he asked, ‘Tell me she’s not-’
‘Nursing her? Not yet, but you never know.’
‘Why can’t that woman let me work in peace?’ He asked as he sifted through the stack of papers for his lost pen.
‘Call her in your office. The men are getting distracted.’ She said firmly with a hint of laughter in her words, which Tommy ignored.
'Fuck.' He muttered.
‘Lily, come here right now.’ An angry voice on the phone ordered Lily, who had carefully placed it between her shoulder and ear.
‘Who’s this?’ She asked as she filed her nails in Polly's office. Polly had gone out under the pretence of showing Ruby around but Lily knew she was calling Tommy from the other phone. She didn't mind that at all though, because she was only doing what Tommy had asked her to do. If he wanted to argue, she was all ready with her arguments.
‘This is your fucking husband.’
‘Look, mister husband, I don’t have time to waste. There’s a lot of work to do here.’ She said as she took out the small bottle of polish from her purse.
‘I’ve some work for you. come down at the office.’ He said calmly.
‘I am not here to have sex, Tommy. You can keep it in your trousers till the evening.’ She said in disparagement as she readjusted the telephone in its former position.
‘If you won’t come here, I will.’
‘Okay.’ She said nonchalantly as she put the phone down.
‘What did he say?’ Polly asked from the door after she had applied the pastel orange on her nails.
‘He’s coming here.’ Lily said as she dried her nails.
‘God help you, Lily.’
‘I don’t fear Thomas Shelby. I was him at some point.' She said airily.
'No you weren't.'
Lily clenched her teeth and took Ruby from her, 'I know. But what can he do? I am his wife, he has a reputation to maintain.'
‘One hour has passed and he’s still not here. How can you be wrong, Lily?’
‘Something is up, I can sense it.’ She said as she walked around the small office, her eyes narrowed in contemplation. The phone rang at that moment and she hurried to pick it up.
‘Mum?’ A small voice asked from the other side.
‘Oliver? How did you call?’ She asked, baffled.
‘Dad said you left for London without me.’ He almost cried.
‘No, sweetie. I’m in Small Heath, I told you.’ Lily cajoled him but he continued to cry,
‘But, Dad said you’re in London.’
‘Don’t you trust me?’
Gritting her teeth, she said, ‘I’m coming,' and put the phone down.
‘He used the trump.’ Polly stated.
‘I hate him.’
'Lily?' Tommy asked as he walked inside the sitting room and found her reading Anna Karenina. He sighed; it was going to be a long evening.
When she didn't respond, he poured himself a glass of whisky and sat beside her.
'When did you come back?'
She flipped another page, not at all affected by his presence.
‘Why are you angry?’ He asked as he snatched the book from her hands.
‘I’m not angry. I’m happy. Very happy.’ She said, her face sombre.
‘I brought something for you.’ He said as he opened his briefcase.
‘Flowers?’ She asked in mock excitement.
‘What is this?’ She asked as she looked though the papers, not reading them.
He pointed a finger at the papers and announced, ‘This...is your new job.’
‘You’re going to be one of the directors of our company.’
‘Your company? The same one you sent me out of today?’
‘You came and went of your own accord.’
‘You used our children to stop me from working. This is not fair at all.’ She said angrily.
‘I don’t want you at the betting shop. The place is full of miscreants-’
‘Polly is there.’
‘You aren't Polly.’
‘I worked there last year too.’
‘You weren’t my wife then.’
She scoffed in disbelief, ‘So it was okay if someone misbehaved with me then? Because you weren’t obliged to ‘save’ me?’
He shook his head in defeat, ‘I don’t need to save you. Besides, if you work at the betting shop, it would mean I’m paying you. And I don’t want that.’
‘My new job doesn’t pay?’ She asked snidely.
‘You’ll get the profits the company earns.’
Lily had to fight the smile threatening on her face and she said, ‘You’re so…manipulative.’
‘But you love me.’ He said as he leaned in to kiss her, his hand on her jaw.
‘Against my better judgement.’ She whispered and got up so she was straddling him. He ran his fingers in her loose bun and the long waves flowed down her back as he continued to kiss her.
‘Are the kids sleeping?’
‘Ruby is. The boys are playing in their room.' She breathed, thrown off by his interruption.
‘Didn't see them yesterday.' He said quietly and she slowly got down from his lap.
'You came back late.' She said softly.
'Yeah. I think I should stop working at the office for a while.' He exhaled.
'Why are working anyway? Arthur is already the chairman.' She picked up his briefcase and went to keep it in the study.
'You know how Linda is.' He said, well-aware of Linda's opposition of the contract.
'She's your family.' She yelled from the study.
'Fuck family. Can't even take out time for my own children.'
She walked towards him and sat down on the floor. Taking his hand in hers, she said, 'They understand that you're busy.'
'I don't remember the last time I put Ruby to bed. Does she even remember me?' He asked and she noticed his eyes weren't even looking at her; they were looking through her.
'What's wrong, Tommy? You can tell me.' She said as she touched his face, unable to keep the worry out of her voice.
'It's just work.' He shook his head and sighed.
'I'm there for you. Tell me if you ever want to talk.' She said gently.
'I will. First I need you to sign these.' He ordered, back to his former self.
'Tomorrow. Night time is not auspicious time.'
'I will sign it. Don't worry.' She said and kissed him again.
He tugged at her wayward flicks and said, 'Please don't do what you did today again.'
She raised her eyebrows at him, 'You're threatening me?'
'Yes, I am.' He said, a small smile lighting his tired face.
'That makes me wanna do it more.' She said as she loosened his tie.
He held her wrists and said, 'I'll have to punish you then.'
'What will you do?' She almost purred and he almost wished they were in the bedroom.
'I'll take you right here on the floor.' He said as he pushed her back on the sofa, earning a squeal from her.
'Anybody can walk in on us.' She said in excited tone, spreading her legs a little to accommodate him.
'They should know better than to interrupt me when I'm pleasuring my wife.' He said as he ran his hand down her pretty face.
Hey Readers!! Thank you for reading!! Please share your thoughts....
So, I've decided to tell you all about the past before I continue with the present.
'I cannot believe I agreed to come here.' Lily said as she readjusted her wide-brimmed floral hat.
'Neither can I.' Tommy replied as he and his wife walked inside the racecourses of Epsom, Derby. While Lily had no interest in the 'beautiful beasts', she was looking forward to a day away from the quiet bustle of Arrow House. Ruby was old enough to wean and she longer woke up with every passing second. Additionally, she wanted to check if May Carleton was still managing the horses, in person.
As they climbed the stairs of the enclosure, Lily asked, ‘Where is our horse?’
He paused and looked at her in doubt, '‘You want to see him?’
‘Of course. Why wouldn’t I?’ She asked, narrowing her eyes.
‘You aren’t scared?’ He leaned towards her and she said plainly, not bothered by his closeness, ‘No. But if you don’t want to, I’ll understand.’
Realisation dawned in his eyes and he gave a half-smile, ‘I know what you’re doing.’ He said, looking at her with his shrewd gaze.
‘What am I doing?’ She asked as she pulled the light blue silk wrap closer, looking straight ahead.
He chuckled and pulled her by her wrist, ‘Come. Let’s go down the ring.’
Down in the mud of the ring, Tommy watched his wife wander around the place and said finally, 'I brought you here to show you the horse.'
‘Which one is our horse?’ She asked distractedly, her eyes everywhere but at the only four-legged creature in the ring.
‘This one.’ Tommy pointed his cigarette at the chestnut stallion.
She finally turned to look at him and said, ‘It's good.’
‘Why are you so scared?’ He asked as he walked closer to her.
‘I’m not scared. See, I am touching it.’ She said as touched the horse with the tip of her fingernail. Quickly retracing it back, she said, 'I've seen the horse. Let's go back.'
He stopped her and held her closer, his hand on her chin, ‘Speak.'
She smiled a little then muttered, ‘You’ll laugh.’
‘I won’t.’ He leaned in closer and touched her forehead with his. She gave a light kiss on his lips and moved back to tell him the truth.
'I was doing some work when I was nineteen.' She said slowly.
‘Stealing?’ He asked and she gave him a sour look but didn't stop.
‘Yes. I made my way inside the house through the stables, the owner of which turned out to be your May's husband.’
‘Is that how you knew his name?’ He asked. He hadn't been able to probe the matter in the stables years back because of their 'fated' encounter and her discomfort around him. Sometimes, he wondered how it would've been for him if he had stopped her from going back to London. If he had let Oliver have a normal infant-hood and not a wandering life.
‘Yes. It was night time and I was groping in the dark to find my way in. Suddenly, my fingers touched two warm holes which turned out to be the horse’s nose. He grew nervous and I tried to calm him but he kicked me so hard I fell on something hard. When I went to the hospital in the morning, George said I had bruised three ribs. So, that's why I am a little cautious around them.' She finished, hating the paltry reason behind her massive fear.
‘I am sorry. But I don't blame the horse.’
She hit his chest and snapped, ‘I knew you would say that.’
‘You went to the doctor the next day?'
‘Apart from the incidence at Ada’s place, I’ve never returned without taking something.’ She stated proudly.
'Lily, you should know that all Shelbys are supposed to able to ride horses.'
'Since when?' She scoffed, never having seen any Shelby other than him ride a horse.
'It's a tradition. My mother taught me how to ride horses and I want you to teach my children.'
She snorted a laugh at his words and said, 'The cutthroat gangster suits you more, Tommy.'
‘Take my hand.'
‘Because you’re going to sit on the horse.’
She dismissed his words with a wave, ‘I’m not. I’m not supposed to.’
‘It’s my horse.’ He said and she regretted heckling him about his emotional speech.
‘I’m wearing a skirt.’ She gestured at the embroidered silk.
‘Do it side-saddle.’
‘No. I’ll fall.’
‘All right.’ He said as he bent down and lifted her off her feet.
‘Tommy! What are doing? Everybody is watching us!’ She squealed and he walked her closer to the horse.
‘I'll not put you down until you agree.'
Wow, you're strong, she thought inwardly as she touched his biceps. 'Okay, I disagree.' she said with a smile and put her arms around his neck.
'Let me remind you that you're wearing a skirt.' He said calmly.
Her eyes widened in alarm and she hit his chest, 'Let me down at this moment, Tommy.'
Giving up, she said, ‘I’ll never forgive you for this.'
He set her down on her feet and said, ‘I don’t want forgiveness. Put your shoe in the saddle.'
As she slowly obliged, Tommy couldn't help the smile on his face.
'These aren't even proper shoes.'
'It doesn't matter, Lily.' He said and furrowed his brows when he heard her mumble.
‘Oh Father in Heaven, hallowed..’
‘Shut up, Linda.’ He muttered, laughter bubbling inside him. It felt odd to hear the name of God from her mouth, especially in a non-blasphemous manner, but she had grown up in a church; something he always forgot.
'I hate you for doing this to me. I've never once said this prayer.'
'Hold the reins.'
‘Now can I get down? Please.’ Lily beseeched after a few seconds.
‘It’s good to see you like this.’
‘At my mercy.’
She narrowed her eyes at him, ‘I'll show you mercy at home.'
'Now I smell of horses. Why are you so obstinate?' Lily complained after they were seated on their chairs but inwardly, she was feeling jubilant at finally getting done with the stupid fear of horses.
'I have a call to make.' Tommy said, having forgotten about it while with Lily in the ring.
'You'll leave me here? All alone?' She grumbled.
‘Sit here, I’ll come back in a moment.’
‘The race is about to start.’
‘I won’t be long.’
‘Okay.’ She said shortly and he gave a light kiss before rushing downstairs.
Lily was rummaging in her purse for the small bottle of perfume when she heard a familiar voice, 'Mrs Shelby, so good to see you here. I thought I would never see you after the fundraiser.'
Lily smiled at the middle-aged woman and gestured for her to sit next to her.
Contrary to Tommy's wish that she pass her time in 'social gatherings' and 'family meetings', Lily had found her niche in the ordinary tasks after her proper retirement from the Guild. She was still working diligently at the new institutes for destitute children and had even come up with new events like women's racing and football matches to raise funds. But she enjoyed spending her days reading a new book, teaching the boys before their school began, sometimes even sewing and knitting. It was a well-balanced life and she was grateful for almost everything except Tommy's unbending loyalty to work. He took out time for them but she knew he was always thinking of something work-related even when not working. Like he was right now.
'I'm glad we met. Where are you seated?'
'Far right from here. My husband went to get himself a drink and I found you.'
'How are you, Mrs Branson?'
'Just the same. I heard your husband's horse is also running today.'
'Yes, he's in the fourth race, I suppose. His coat is chestnut coloured.' Lily added as the other woman looked at her in mild disappointment.
'I'll have my eye on it.'
'Please do. Tommy is certain he's going to win.'
'He always does.'
Mrs Branson left after a few minutes and Lily busied herself with looking around the place. She was contemplating going down and betting on a horse when she saw another familiar face in the aristocratic crowd. She immediately turned away before their eyes met, feeling her pulse quicken as she tried to hide the trepidation visible on her face.
A few moments later, she felt a hand on her arm and turned sharply, sighing in relief when she saw it was Tommy.
'Where were you?'
Before he could reply, a gruff voice boomed above their heads,
'Thomas Shelby, is this your beautiful wife?'
He looked up and then got up to greet the man and his male companion, ‘Lily, this is Charles Holland, the Duke of Northwood. And Lord Holland, this is-’
‘The lovely Lily of London.’ Charles Holland said as he took her hand and kissed it.
Lily smiled warmly and said, ‘Hello, Charles. Can’t believe you still have all your teeth.’
‘And I can’t believe you found a man willing to marry you,’ He laughed loudly and then looked at Tommy, ‘I hope she doesn’t bite. By her tongue not her teeth, if you know what I mean.’ He added and gave another bark of laughter while his companion stayed quiet and made no attempt to introduce himself.
‘Only when absolutely necessary.’ Tommy replied, a little confused at the turn of events. He had walked into the Duke while making his way to Lily, aware of his tardiness and he had insisted Tommy spare a few minutes for him. He had understood it was something about protection and had suggested they talk at his own seat, something he wouldn't have been able to do two or three years back. He had been a little pleased with himself and wanted Lily to meet the toffs but she had been a step ahead, like always.
Taking in Tommy's expression, the Duke revealed, ‘I and Lily go way back. She helped me with…some work.’
Tommy nodded in understanding while Lily looked like she had seen a ghost.
‘How have you been?’ She asked, fidgeting a little with her wrap.
‘Good. Thomas told me you have three children now.’
‘Yes. Two boys and a girl.’ She beamed and Tommy was pleased that she had accepted Charlie as her own. She treated him like her own but never tried to take the place Grace had in his life. She had done the same with Tommy too. Only sometimes he felt angry that she accepted him just as he was. She nagged him but she didn't ask for love, didn't hold his hand in public and didn't ask him to remove Grace's portraits. He wished she laid her claim on him just like he did. So he wouldn't feel...guilty. Guilty for replacing Grace, for keeping things from Lily, for loving Lily more than he had ever loved Grace.
‘Congratulations. I hope they aren’t cheeky like her.’ The Duke whispered to Tommy.
‘We don’t know yet.’ Tommy said and cleared this throat.
The Duke took the hint and gestured at the wheat-haired man of medium stature, somewhere in his thirties and said, 'Patrick, why don't you keep Lily company while I talk things with Thomas.' Then looking at Tommy, he said, 'Don't worry, Thomas, they are old friends.'
'Of course.' The man whose presence Lily had been trying to ignore and Tommy had already forgotten about agreed, much to the dismay of both of them. But before Lily could refuse, Tommy nodded in her direction, 'Go on.'
As Tommy talked to Charles Holland inside the enclosure, a some distance, in the open area, Lily played with the fringes of her wrap and Patrick smoked his cigarette. He was leaning on the banister in the almost empty corridor and she was hoping Tommy would be done with his 'covert' meeting sooner.
'I didn't think you liked men like him.' He said suddenly, breaking the silence Lily was revelling in.
'He's a rare gem.' She said with a small smile.
He straightened up and leaned against the wall, looking at her up and down. 'Why were you hiding from me?'
'I didn't recognise you.' She said as she looked away from him. He was just like he was seven years back, boastful and vain. It disgusted her that she had once...
He interrupted her train of thought and said as he took a puff of the cigarette, 'Neither did I. These dresses look much better than your trousers.'
'Haven't worn one in six years.' She took a step towards the stairs, not caring about her obligation. She would find someone in the crowd because presently, she needed to get as far away as possible from the lewd man beside her.
'I missed you in London.'
She scoffed, but it was getting difficult to control her nerves, 'Like you miss all your women?'
'You were never my woman, Lily.'
'I'll go and see the race now.' She declared and began to walk downstairs, trying not to run.
She gasped as he gripped her wrist in his, 'Three kids, Lily?'
'He keeps me happy.' She jutted her chin out and said firmly as she tried to wrench her wrist out of his grasp.
He forcefully pulled her against his chest and whispered in her ear, 'I can keep you happy.'
'Patrick, stop.' She gritted out while trying to push him away from her, his reeking body which was pressing too close to hers.
'He doesn't have to know.' He said as his hand inched towards her breasts.
She pushed him with all her strength and then turned to give him a resounding slap on his cheek. 'Shut up, you bastard.'
'You'll pay for this, bitch.'
She didn't listen nor did she reply, hurrying to walk where her husband was and promising herself to never mention the event to him.
Tommy was still thinking about the deal he had made with the Duke on the way back to Warwick. It was lucrative and the Duke was offering protection from the police too. But it was confidential too and he couldn't disclose it, especially to Lily who would give him a lecture on safety and crime and punishment. At present though, he didn't like her friendship with the Duke's son one bit. He had wanted to refuse the Duke's suggestion but he also wanted her to know that he didn't think bad of her old life. And had thus sent her with him as a symbol of acceptance but now, when she refused to say anything about the day, he was getting a little worried.
'Hmm?' She murmured, still looking out of the window, her wrap replaced by her long brown fur coat.
She sighed and leaned back in her seat, 'What did you talk to the Duke about?'
'He wants my help.' He said evasively.
'How much is he paying?' She asked with a small laugh, well aware of Charles' propositions.
'You don't want to stop me?'
'As long as you're not doing it. And no one else from our family is.' She said and leaned on his shoulder.
He kissed her the side of her head and said, 'No one. Only Aberama Gold and his men.'
He cleared his throat and said, 'So, Lily of London, eh?'
She finally gave her husky laugh and said, 'It's an old joke. Only he called me that.'
'How do you know him?'
'He told you.'
'But you talked like...' He stopped midway.
'I talked like that to everyone and it mostly got me in trouble. But Charles, for all his flaws, was a bit soft.'
'And his son?' He asked the most important question and his hold on the steering wheel tightened in reflex as he waited for her answer.
'I don't know him that well. I only met him once before today.' Lily said shortly and truthfully.
'I'm sorry for sending you with him. I thought you were friends.'
'Why are you apologising?' She asked in slight panic.
'You're my wife, Lily. No fucking bastard gets to be alone with you.'
She smiled warmly, loving him more than she ever had. 'It's all right. And I'm happy your horse won.'
'He had all the luck in the world.' he said and kissed the same site on her head again.
'You're being a little too romantic today.' She said softly and kissed his neck, slowly inching upwards.
'I'm happy our horse won.' He echoed he words.
I'm happy you care about me, Lily thought in her mind and contemplated saying it to him but couldn't find the strength. It was not selfish like 'I love you'. It was full of trust and gratitude and she didn't want to put any burden on Tommy. She understood him and loved him but she couldn't bring herself to trust him, even after a year of their marriage. She had once made the mistake of thinking he loved her wholeheartedly too and it had caused her unbearable pain. She wasn't ready to put herself in that position again.
'I hope you always wins.' She said at last.
Thank you for reading!!
Please share your thoughts and hit kudos if you liked it :))
Chapter 15: The Last Flashback
I'm starting to dislike the flashback arc and maybe you all are too. Keeping this in mind, I've decided to post a 'tell-it-all' chapter which will be fact based and quite long.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Lily had walked across the main hall for an infinite number of times when the door finally opened and Tommy walked in at two in the morning. She wondered if he had been with Jessie Eden or Lizzie Stark as she hurried towards him, concern and anger battling but relief overpowering both of them.
‘Is this a time to come home? Where were you all this time? I called everyone. Polly, Arthur and even your secretary. No one knew where you were.’ She went on as he kept walking towards the adjoining study, ignoring her words.
‘Tommy?’ She asked, noticing the clenched jaw and the almost indiscernible shake of his hands as he put his hands on the table, his back facing her.
‘Hmm?’ He spoke up finally but didn’t look at her.
She gently put her hand on his shoulder and asked, ‘What’s wrong, Tommy? Tell me.’
‘Do you remember the Duke we met in Derby?'
She furrowed her eyebrows but nodded, 'Charles. Yes I remember.'
‘Do you remember his son?’ He finally looked at her and she flinched at the fury in his eyes.
‘I thought we talked about him.' She said as nonchalantly as possible, her heart pounding. She had put behind the incidence at Derby and had almost forgotten about it. She knew Tommy had helped the Duke get rid of someone but it had been months since the event. His eerie behaviour and the mention of Patrick was enough to make her pulse quicken.
‘And I want you to tell me about him. Everything that happened between the two of you before Derby.' He said, the fire in his eyes contradicting the calm of his voice.
She took a deep breath and said, ‘I met him once before. But that’s all. Nothing happened.’
‘But it was going to happen.’ He said and she understood the reason behind his placid rage.
‘We just talked.’ She said gently and touched his face, trying to make him look at her.
He walked out of her hold and said, with his back to her , ‘Well, your frivolity almost cost me my reputation.’
He opened the bottle of gin and filled one glass with the clear liquid, taking his time to answer.
‘He was going to open his big fucking mouth about you and your past.'
‘And?’ She asked, her voice shaking with fear.
‘And I had to kill him.’ He stated blankly.
She scurried towards him, almost tripping, ‘Are you out of your mind? Why did you do that?’
He took a sip of the drink and bit out, ‘No bastard talks like that about my wife and gets to live.’
‘But why did you kill him? The Duke is going to…Fuck!’ She exclaimed loudly, running her hands in her hair.
‘Don’t tell me how to do my fucking job. Especially when I do it for you.’
She tried to calm herself when she was all ready to swoon on the carpet, ‘There are other ways to deal with things like that. You could’ve talked to me.’
‘And told you what? That he’ll only keep quiet if you fuck him?’
‘Shut up, Tommy. How can you talk like that about me?’
‘Imagine when an entitled bastard tells you that.’ He raised his voice for the first time but still didn’t lose the calm tenor.
Finding her feet unsteady, she almost collapsed as she sat on the chair. ‘Now what?’ She asked finally, knowing it was futile to debate the action with him.
He walked towards her, his body looming over hers and at that moment, she was frightened out of her wits. ‘Now, I beg you to stop meeting your fucking family.’
‘What have they got to do with this?’ She asked in frank confusion.
He said quietly as if he were trying to explain something to the children, ‘Lily, the Shelbys don’t mingle with the aristocracy and steal from them behind their backs.’
She felt her heckles rise and scoffed, ‘You think they’re to blame for this? You were the one who started offering your men to the MPs and Dukes.’
He pointed his finger at her and said scathingly, ‘You fucked him Lily. And now I’ve to fucking pay for it.’ He went to refill his glass, his back to her.
She wanted to correct him, to tell him the truth, to justify herself but she knew he would not listen to her or sadly, won’t even believe her.
‘Who killed him?’ she asked his tense back.
‘Go to bed. I’m not in a mood to talk.’
‘Neither am I. Just tell me you didn’t do it.’
‘You think I can’t do it anymore?’
‘You can do everything but don’t tell me you killed him.'
'Lily, I would suggest you keep out of my business.'
'You said you'll be honest.'
'Well, I lied.’ He said as he took another sip of the gin.
‘Tommy, I thank you for thinking about me. But we both know you did it because you could.’ She said as she left the study.
The Beginning of 1927
One night, after putting the children to bed, Lily retired in her bedroom, still waiting for Tommy to come back. She had important news to share and she fervently hoped he was in a good mood. Their relationship had changed a little after the ‘accidental death’ of Patrick Holland but six months later, life was back to normal, if they had ever been normal.
But his behaviour had still been erratic and he had agreed to visit a doctor in London, on Polly and Ada’s apparent suggestion after Lily’s grievances about his alcohol and opium addiction.
She was combing her hair when she heard a knock on the unlatched door. Furrowing her brows in doubt, she walked towards it and opened it, all the while wondering who it could be.
‘Excuse me? Is this where Thomas Shelby lives?’
She looked in confusion then gave a small smile as she said, ‘Yes. But he’s not here at the moment.’
‘Good.’ He said as he took a step forward.
‘And you are?’ Lily asked as she crossed her arms and leaned against the door frame.
‘I’ve met him a few times. You too. Do you remember the fundraiser?’ He asked, his voice husky.
Lily raised her eyebrows in recognition, ‘Oh, I remember. I’ve seen you a few times.’
‘And I’ve seen you watching.’ He said as he walked inside the room and she took a step backwards.
‘What brings you here, Mister…?’ She asked, slightly trepid.
‘Names aren’t important, Mrs. Shelby.’ He said as he touched her full lips with his callused thumb.
She murmured in agreement and moved closer to his warmth, ‘Let’s not waste time then.’
‘What do you mean?’ He asked, all brashness gone.
‘My husband won’t be here for another hour.’ She said as she rubbed the lapels of his coat.
He pushed away her hands and swallowed a little, ‘So?’
She whispered against his lips, ‘So, my house is empty. My bedroom is empty.’ She added and he held her wandering hands, which were presently on his belt.
She kept a finger on his lips and said, ‘Shh. No names.’
Then she pulled the coat down his shoulders and he asked in stiff tone, ‘What are you doing?’
‘Taking your clothes off. My husband doesn’t let me, he’s too busy with the House of Commons.’ She said against his lips, her hands on his shirt collar.
‘He has to earn money.’ He looked down at her, unable to believe the turn of events.
She leaned on his shoulder and kissed his neck, all the while moaning seductively, ‘He doesn’t know what romance is.’
‘I’m a stranger.’
‘That’s the fun.’ She said and pushed him on the bed. Before he could recover, she jumped on top of him, her long hair shrouding both of them.
'Wait!' Tommy said as he held her wrists.
‘Who started it? Huh?’ She said with a playful giggle and laid down next to him, her head on his outstretched arm.
‘This looks good on you.’ He said as he touched the expensive material of her red nightgown.
‘I’m so happy today, Tommy.’ She smiled up at him, bursting with pleasure.
‘Always be happy. But with me.’ He added with a sombre look.
‘I’ve two good news to share today.’ She said while he picked up a cigarette from the nightstand.
‘Tell.’ He prodded, a rare smile on his face.
'Gerard wants me to be a partner at the gallery. And before you object, he said I can be a secret partner, so no one can know about it.’
He clenched his jaw, not at all pleased with the good news. But she stayed oblivious to his crossed look.
'I don't have to permanently work in London. I can help them from here.' She continued, brimming with happiness.
‘And the other news?’
Her happiness faded a little at his lack of reaction and she said, ‘Jessie invited us to dinner.’
‘When?’ He asked as he took a puff of the cigarette.
‘I’m having some people over tomorrow.’ He said with little emotion.
‘Tommy, I haven’t met them in eight months.'
'I told you it'll be like that for a while. Be patient.'
'Patrick's death was accepted as an accident. There is no reason for me to-'
She stopped when he suddenly got up from the bed and picked up his discarded coat from the floor. She looked on in confusion as he took a piece of paper out from his pocket and extended it towards her.
‘Look at this. A copy of the telegraph sent by your ‘father’ to an Indian protester.’
‘How did you get it?’ She asked, shocked at his reach. Gerard was perhaps the only one who had managed to keep his activities concealed. She was even more shocked that Tommy had taken pains to get the telegraph.
‘I have friends.’
‘It could mean anything. Gerard has many friends in India.’
‘Read it, Lily. Or do you want me to read it for you?’
She unfolded the paper and skimmed through the words, stiffening when she reached the end of the paper.
‘This doesn’t prove anything.’ She said finally, not believing her own words.
'Tell your father to shut his business or soon, he’ll be living with people much worse than thieves.’
‘Why are you bothered by it?’ She questioned him, suspicious of him more than she was worried about Gerard’s philanthropic interests.
‘Because they’ll come for you. And then me.’
‘It won’t happen.’ She refuted his theory with a shake of her head.
‘It will and I won’t let my name be associated with traitors of the Crown.’
She scoffed and his eyes darkened, ‘Fuck you, Tommy. You know those people did no good to you. They only use you because you are-’
‘Say it, Lily. I’m a part of a razor-gang and I’ve no shame in admitting to it.’
‘I didn’t say that. They aren’t good people, they only know how to use things for their advantage.’ She tried to rectify her words but only ended up making it worse.
‘I think there is nothing more left to discuss.’ He declared and left the room, leaving her mentally slapping herself for her tactlessness.
Lily walked down the stairs of the house, careful to not slip on the recently mopped floor and made her way inside Tommy’s study.
‘Tommy, where are the kids?’ She asked without knocking and found him buried in the paperwork.
‘They are at Arthur’s.’ He replied without looking up so he didn’t see the new dress she was wearing nor did he say the three words she was waiting for. Not ‘I love you’, it was too far-fetched to hope for that but something else. Something very personal to her.
‘All of them?’ She asked, open-mouthed with disbelief.
He finally took off his glasses and looked up as he said casually, ‘Billy is alone in the big house.’
A knock interrupted him from complimenting her new dress and he barked, ‘Come.’
Frances walked in and said, ‘Mr Shelby, the trout you asked for is here.’
‘What?’ Lily looked between the two of them in shock, feeling left out in their private conversation.
‘Thank you, Frances. Keep it in the kitchen and ask everyone to leave.’
‘What is happening?’ She asked after Frances had left with a small smile on her face.
‘You’ll know. Come with me.’ He held her hand as he touched the emerald of her ring.
‘What are you doing, Tommy?’ She looked up at him in concern when they were inside the massive kitchen, presently bereft of any occupants. She was almost worried he had a kitchen sex fantasy and didn’t know if she was up to it.
‘It’s your birthday, Lily. We should be celebrating.’
While she was pleased he remembered, he still hadn't wished her. ‘I’m not in the mood.’ She said dismissively.
‘I’ll make us some dinner.’
‘You?’ She laughed.
‘I can cook.’ He said, mildly offended.
‘Jessie Eden knows better than me about that.’ she retorted as she hopped up on the wooden table.
He didn’t answer her and pretended to be interested in the befuddling number of knives in the kitchen.
‘Polly asked you to do this?’ She asked with her arms crossed around her chest.
‘Arthur then. He must know how to please them when they’re angry.’ She sighed, looking down at her nails.
‘I keep my problems to myself.’
‘And I don’t?’ She asked, angered at his insinuation.
‘I didn’t say that.’
She sighed again and gestured at the dead fish, ‘Cook. I’m waiting.’
‘Just let me find the knife.’ He muttered.
She pointed at the one on the far right and said, ‘It’s that one.’
‘I know. I was going to pick it anyways.’
She rolled her eyes at him but couldn’t stop the small smile from curving on her full lips. He inwardly sighed in relief and confidently began to descale the fish, only to cut an important digit.
'Fuck.' He muttered as blood gushed from his index finger.
‘Shit! Show me your hand.’ Lily immediately got down from the tabletop and reached for his hand.
‘No, no.’ He brushed her away but she tightened her hold on his hand, her eyes threatening.
She put the supposedly hurt finger inside her mouth to stop the bloodshed and said, ‘Shut up. You’ve cut your finger.’
While he was appreciating the way her lips curved around his finger, he didn’t want to anger her more, ‘No, Lily. it’s-’
‘Keep quiet.’ She said, her teeth biting his finger.
‘This finger is hurt.’ He said as he put his other hand up, which was red with blood.
She let go of his finger in mild embarrassment and he touched her face with his uninjured hand, ‘Now am I forgiven?’
While she wanted to bandage his finger first, she couldn’t forget the war of words they’d had over the gun Oliver had gotten his hands on yesterday.
She knew she had been right in asking him to be careful but he had blamed his snooping on her family and their profession. Which had in turn made her more angry about his hatred for them and he had divulged more information about Gerard’s rebellion.
‘You think I’ll forgive you if you shed some blood? What will it be next time, your hand?’ She asked snidely.
He closed the space between them and said with emphasis, ‘Lily, I want you to be safe. I want our kids to be safe. And your family is nothing but trouble.’
‘What are you then?’ She looked down and reached for his bloodied hand.
‘I’m worse than them. And it’s not going to end well if he continues to go against the police.’
‘He hasn’t done anything wrong.’ She pointed up as she took out his handkerchief and began to gently clean the blood.
‘Yet. He has caught the interest of the Yard. In no time, the government will pitch in.’
‘Does he know?’ She looked up in concern, almost tearing up and he hated himself for the next lie he was about to utter.
‘Yes, he does. But he’s not stopping.’
‘I’ll talk to him.’ She said firmly.
‘You won’t. I don’t want you to for some weeks until this all quiets down.’
She wanted to argue more but she left the topic at that. Gerard knew what he was doing and she knew he didn't like it when anyone tried to question him. And she knew Tommy would be there for them if anything ever went wrong.
‘Are you going to cook or not?’
‘I might need your help.’
‘You always need my help.’ She said cheekily as she put her arms around his neck.
‘I do.’ He leaned in to kiss her and felt lighter at the storm he had managed to avoid.
‘What is this, Ruby?’
‘Very good. And this?’
‘Excellent.’ She clapped her hands and was picking up another picture when Frances knocked.
‘There's a call for you, Mrs Shelby.’
‘Who is it?’ She asked.
‘It’s Mrs Bradley from London.’
She knit her brows in confusion then told Frances, ‘I’ll be there.’
As she walked to get the telephone, she tried to come up with reasons behind Jessie’s late night call. They had parted on a slightly bitter note after Tommy’s outright refusal and Lily’s lack of reason behind her rejection of the offer. She still called to ask after the kids and even took them with her to London sometimes but her visits had reduced and her calls infrequent.
‘Lily! Please come to London as soon as you can.’ Jessie sniffled.
‘Gerard has been shot! Fucking shot.’ She wailed.
‘How is he now?’ Lily gripped the phone tighter, ready to collapse any second.
‘He’s still being operated on. But the bastard who did it will rot in hell.’
‘Who did it?’ She asked frantically.
‘I don’t know. He was leaving the bar and a man...shot him.’ Jessie broke down and Lily could almost see the tears flowing down her pretty face.
‘I’ll come as soon as I can. Don’t worry.’
‘Please do, Lily. He needs you.'
Lily almost ran inside Tommy’s study, her face wet with unending tears and her breath coming in short breaks.
‘Tommy!’ she cried.
He put down his phone as he watched her hurry towards him, ‘Lily? what’s wrong?’
‘Gerard…he…he has been…’ she panted, unable to breath.
He touched her shoulders and made her sit on his chair. He picked up his glass of whisky and put in her shaking hands.
He smoothed her hair after her breath was back to normal, ‘Tell me what happened.’
‘Gerard is in the hospital. He has been shot.’
‘Who told you?’
She looked at him in incredulity, ‘It doesn’t matter. His life is in danger, Tommy.’
‘We’ll see him. But not for a few days.’
‘Why?’ She almost shouted, angered at his cold behaviour.
‘He was possibly attacked by his enemies and I can’t put you in danger.’
‘He’s all right. I’ll take you to see him in a few days.’
She continued to look at him and whispered, ‘Did you do it, Tommy?’
‘But someone else did it for you.’ she stated, unable to believe it.
‘He is all right. The wound isn’t serious.’ He said finally, realising he couldn't hide it anymore.
‘But why, Tommy? What did he ever do to you?’ she sobbed, tears streaming down her face.
‘I warned you, Lily. I told you he was dealing with dangerous people but you ignored it.’
She got up from his chair and hissed, ‘I can’t believe you would do something like that. He is my father.’
‘We both know he isn’t.’
‘It may not mean anything to you but he’s the reason why I’m alive today. And you tried to kill him.’
‘If I hadn’t done it someone else would’ve. And that someone else would’ve made sure he wasn’t alive.’
‘Shut up! You had no right, Tommy.’
‘Go check on the kids. I’ll come soon.’
‘How will I face him? How will I face them? You took away everything from me, Tommy.’ She screamed and he put his hands around her.
She pushed him away and shouted, 'Get away from me! I don't want to see your face.'
Lily didn’t talk to Tommy for the remainder of the month. She did talk to Gerard after he was well but he asked her to never call him again. The request broke her in more ways than possible and when Tommy returned home and found her looking down from the window, she said,
'I think we made a mistake, Tommy.'
She turned to look at him and said, 'But I don't want a divorce. I don't want the children to suffer.'
He nodded, 'All right. What do you want from me?'
'Nothing. I want nothing to do with you and your business.’ She said impassively.
‘I want you to remove me from the board of directors. I don’t want to work for the institute and I don’t want to be a Peaky Blinder.’ She said harshly.
He walked towards her, hiding every emotion he was feeling, ‘And then what will you do? You’re nothing without me, Lily.’
‘Without you, I was not happy but I was at peace. But I sacrificed everything for you, just to be with you. And now, you’re making me sad, Tommy.’ She said, the pain in her voice enough to make him shoot someone. Especially the person who had hurt her.
‘Everything is about you, isn’t it? Your sadness. Your fucking pain.’
‘No, Tommy. Everything is about you. I did everything for you. I let people call Oliver a bastard for your happiness. I left my family for you. But you didn’t even love me, not even a little.’
Tommy sighed and walked closer to her, ‘Lily, I love you. I love you more than anything in this world.’
She smiled sadly and touched his face, ‘Then will you let this all go? Or will you let me go?’
‘It’s all right, Tommy. You’ll always have me.’ Grace appeared behind her and Tommy found himself at a loss of words.
'Good night, Tommy.' Lily walked away from him and he couldn't even stop her, taken in by Grace's apparition.
Thank you for reading!! It is mostly from Lily's POV, we still don't know why Tommy did what he did
Please share your thoughts.
After she had cried for the better part of the night, Lily decided to forgo breakfast and went straight inside her 'painting room' the next morning. It had been a few days and she was itching to get some paint on her hands. Because slapping Tommy every time he hurt her wasn't always doable.
‘Why are you here?’ She stopped at the door when she found Tommy perusing the last drawing she'd made. She knew she wasn't much talented but her work was neat and clean and her hand steady. But now, as she watched him scrutinise her work for the first time, she felt as if she were naked.
‘It's my house.’ He answered, not taking his eyes off the painting. It was the first time he was seeing her work and he was quite impressed, which was a lot considering his contempt for her hobby.
She sighed, ‘I'll come back when you're done inspecting your house.’
‘I was worried about you.’
‘I’m alright. You can go now.’ She said coolly.
‘Is this what you draw?’ He gestured at the painting in water colour, ignoring her.
‘Yes.’ She said shortly and walked closer.
‘Where is it?' He asked, looking at the tree with pink leaves.
‘It’s nowhere.’ She said as she covered the painting.
‘What?’ She snapped, slightly annoyed at his lack of reaction about the painting. But she should've known better than to expect something from him.
‘I apologise for what I said last night.' He said sincerely.
‘I don’t care for your apologies, Tommy. But I’m happy you were upfront with what you feel about me. Dr Brooke would say you’re making progress.’
‘Your father called this morning.’ He said and she stopped suddenly.
‘He would never call you.’ She narrowed her eyes in suspicion.
‘But he did. And he wants you in London.’
‘Why?’ She asked, shaken by his words.
‘He’s getting old. Probably wants to rewrite his will.’ He said casually as he took out a cigarette and placed it between his lips. He walked to peruse the other painting, leaving her alone with her thoughts.
‘Why would he want me there?’ She asked herself more than him, facing his back.
‘You’ll know when you meet him.’ He said, annoyed at being her messenger. His words had been wrong last night and she'd told him that very clearly, the red imprint on his cheek enough proof of his mistake. It was still visible and he hoped it disappeared before he left for Westminster.
When she didn't reply, he turned to find her touching her head with her eyes closed, looking disoriented.
He reached for her just in time and caught her before she collapsed on the floor. As he looked at her unconscious body, he took note of her chalky and sunken face. He had told her to start eating but she had obviously ignored him and now he was going to be late. Livid at her carelessness, he picked her up in his arms, shocked at her light weight.
The maid came running and her eyes widened at Lily's prone body lying on bed. ‘Has she fainted again?’ She asked in concern.
'Call the doctor! Now!’ He barked.
Frances scuttled away after nodding and he chose to ignore her words, focusing on rubbing Lily's cold hands. But he couldn't stop thinking about Lily and her ill health and the change he was seeing in her in the past few months. There was something wrong and he wanted to know everything.
'Mr Shelby? I brought some smelling salts from the kitchen.'
'Thank you.' He said, his thoughts elsewhere.
'The doctor will be here in some time.' She told him and began to leave.
'Has she fainted like this before?'
She hesitated for a second, then relented, 'Four or maybe five times in the last three months. But not for a while until today.'
'Did she tell you why?' He asked, looking at her unconscious form.
'No, Mr Shelby.'
He got up and smoothed the creases in his coat, 'Stay with her. And call me when she wakes up.'
Lily woke up with a start as the pungent smell of ammonia wafted inside her nose. As she looked around her surroundings through blinking eyes, she touched her head in dismay. She had fainted again and that too in Tommy's presence.
'How are you, Mrs Shelby?'
'I'm fine. Did Tommy leave?' She asked hopefully.
'No. I'll tell him you've woken up.'
'Yeah.' She muttered reluctantly, knowing she won't be able to stop Frances.
As Tommy walked in, she readjusted her posture on the bed, trying to appear as normal as possible.
‘How are you?' He asked as he sat down on the bed.
'I’m all right now.’ She said as she began to get up, only to feel dizzy again.
‘Sit down. A doctor is coming to see you.’
‘There’s no need.’
‘Sit down, Lily. I’m not finished.’
‘What?’ She asked in irritation.
‘Is there something you’re keeping from me?’
‘No.’ She said evasively.
‘Because if that doctor tells me otherwise I swear I’ll fucking-’
She cut him off and said bitterly, ‘Can I ever hide anything from you?’
‘And I want it to stay that way.’ He directed as he got up from the bed and smoothed his coat.
‘Tommy, is there something you’re hiding?’ She asked quietly and he looked at her in confusion.
‘There’s no reason for you to treat me like that.’ She said, mildly saddened by his lack of emotion. She had expected some kindness but he was still the same.
‘Like what?’ He asked, slightly dismissive of her entreat.
‘Like I’m some...woman. I know we weren’t talking before but now I feel like you don’t want me here.’ She said glumly.
‘What do you want? You were the one who decided I wasn’t good enough for you.’
She almost got up from the bed and rebuffed him, ‘I never said that. And I told you I was ready to forget everything.’
‘The doctor will be here soon. I don’t want you to move from here.’ He put on his cap and began to walk out of the door.
‘Fuck you, Tommy.’ She yelled and picked up the thick book he kept on the nightstand to throw at him. But her hand shook midway and he easily sidestepped the attack.
‘Been a while, yeah.’ He answered her before leaving.
Tommy hurried up the stairs and went towards his office after another session at the House of Commons. He had too many pressing matters to deal with and Lily's stunt this morning had not been calming at all. While he should be happy she was talking, he couldn't forget the look of absolute hatred she had given him the night they'd properly talked for the last time. And now she was keeping things from him. He wondered if she was expecting again but they hadn't...And if there was another man, he was prepared to kill him just like he had killed the Duke's son.
As he poured himself a drink, the phone rang and he reached for it, 'Thomas Shelby.'
‘Mr. Shelby, I'm Dr Fairfax.'
‘What happened to her?’ Tommy asked as he took a sip from the glass, impatient to know the truth.
‘A fainting spell, nothing serious. She’s quiet anaemic though.’
‘How?’ He asked.
‘She didn't say anything. But did she have any miscarriage in the past few months?’ The doctor asked and Tommy's hold on the glass tightened.
‘No.’ He said shortly.
‘Any…abortions?’ He asked hesitantly.
‘No.’ Tommy repeated, his knuckles white from gripping the glass.
‘Must be iron deficiency then. I’ve written a prescription for some tablets. Make sure she takes them after food and there might be some…’
'All right.' He said and hung up before the doctor could complete. He then picked the receiver again and asked the operator to connect him to George Bennett.
Lily had had three servings of soup for dinner that night and she was all ready for the fourth. Her dinner had been served in her room considering her health and Frances had almost forced the tablets and food down her throat. She wanted to tell her off but she was secretly thankful for her concern, she had been ignoring her declining health for too long and it was time to take charge again. But she wasn't ready to talk to Tommy right now. Or for a long time. His news about Gerard had caused her to faint in the first place and she still couldn't believe it in the first place.
Why did Gerard want to see her? Was he actually sick? But a year ago, he had made it clear that he didn't want her in his life. Nor had he made any attempt to reach out. Not even when they had had to sell the gallery due to shortage of funds. She had wanted to help them, with her own money but she hadn't. Perhaps out of malice or plain spinelessness, but she knew Gerard would've thrown the money in her face. She had been responsible for his attack in a way and his hatred was justified.
She hurriedly pulled the blanket over her head and pretended to be asleep when she heard footsteps nearing the bedroom door. She shut her eyes tightly, as if she wanted to hide away from everything.
'Lily?' He asked but she didn't respond, entirely concentrated on her performance.
He pulled the covers suddenly and asked, ‘When did it happen?’
‘This morning.’ She muttered.
He sighed as he sat down on the bed. 'You know what I’m talking about.’ He said as he rubbed the bridge of his nose in weariness.
‘I don’t.’ She said as she slowly got up from the bed, a little scared of him as she watched the sharp outline of his jaw, made more prominent by the clench of his teeth.
‘I talked to your doctor. Does that remind you of anything?’
'What doctor?' She asked as she rubbed her eye.
'George Bennett. Do you remember him?' He said sharply and she knew she couldn't keep it from him anymore.
She looked up at him and confessed in a low voice, ‘August.’
'In London?' He asked as he pulled out a cigarette from the metal case.
'Yes.' She said warily as he lit the cigarette and smoke wafted around them.
'Was it mine?'
'Go to hell.' She said in disgust and began to lie down but he stopped her by holding her arms.
'So why did you keep it from me, eh?'
‘I didn’t want to concern you. And it’s not like we wanted another child.’ She said as nonchalantly as possible. She knew he would find out one day but over the three months, she had almost forgotten about it. Only Polly's visit after the crash had reminded her of the another child she could've had. She had been in a dark place after the event but she had needed to do that. It wouldn't have done them any good to have another child but it still hurt as she sometimes touched her flat belly and looked at her gaunt face in the mirror.
‘You said you would never do that.' He reminded her as he took another puff of the cigarette.
She shrugged casually, 'I changed my mind. Just like you did about being faithful and honest.'
'What the fuck?' He muttered, his anger rising by the second.
She swung her legs down the bed so they were sitting side by side, so she didn't have to face him. ‘You were busy, Tommy. With Jessie Eden.’
‘You did that to get back at me?’
She looked at him in outrage, ‘Get back at you? You fucking slept with her on your son's birthday. I would’ve died but wouldn’t have brought your child in this world.’
‘Well, I didn't fucking want it either. But it was my decision.'
Her face softened and she nodded in understanding, 'It's all right, Tommy. You'll get more chances, considering your weekly visits in Small Heath with Jessie Eden.'
'I don't fuck her.' He bit out.
She asked in mock-surprise, ‘Is it someone else then? Maggie? Clara? Or have you gone back to Lizzie?’
She gasped, 'How could I forget Grace? But that would require you to be dead.' She lamented but suddenly reached for the gun in his holster.
'Lily, give it to me.' He said calmly as he extended his hand, sent back in time to the night he'd spent with the Russian Duchess.
'It's very easy, Tommy. All you need to do is pull the trigger. That's what Grace asks you to do, right?' She said in her manic voice as she held the gun in her hands.
'Give me the fucking gun!' He reached for her but she moved away from his reach, her face a mask.
'I'll show you how to do it. See?' She said as she placed the gun on her temple and then suddenly broke down in tears.
He walked closer to her and gently extricated the gun from her hands and then pulled her in his arms, 'What the fuck's gotten in you?'
'Something you have, Tommy. Guilt. I feel guilty for doing something so vile just for your happiness.' She whispered, her face wet with tears.
He lifted her from the floor and carried her towards the bed, thankfully, she didn't resist. 'Rest. You're not well.' He smoothed her hair and gently kissed her forehead, when he wanted to shake her for her stupidity and then never let her go. But he wasn't brave enough to help her, especially when he was responsible for her condition.
'I am sorry for not telling you sooner. But I don't regret it at all.' She said softly.
He felt his throat closing up but he kept his voice steady, 'Good night, Lily.'
Thank you for reading!! I hope you liked the chapter and are liking the story so far. I admit this is a different Lily from TTWSTH but I wanted to show that even the strongest have the right to sometimes fall in the face of adversity. Please share your thoughts :)))
Chapter 17: The Reunion
A nightmare plunges Lily in her darkest fear. Will Tommy help her?
This is part 1 of the reunion
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
'I'm sorry, Lily. But you can't live here anymore.'
'Please don't do this, Tommy. You're the only one I have.'
'I can't leave Grace. I need her.'
'I can't live without you.'
'You were dead the day you killed my child.'
‘Wake up, Mum!'
Lily woke up with a start, rapidly blinking her eyes to adjust to the reality. The nightmare had been real enough to make her soak through her dress, it's silky fabric sticking to her skin. While she hadn't had the 'dream' in a long time, it was still nerve-wrecking like always and left her with a sense of shame and helplessness. She felt disgusted at her dependency on Tommy and the way she begged for him to stay when he wasn't concerned for her at all. He was so done with her that he hadn't even woken her up in the morning.
‘Are you well?’ Oliver asked timidly, taking in her frantic form.
‘Yes, sweetie.' She wiped her face and answered firmly. 'Don’t you have class?’ She asked after looking at the bedside clock. She had overslept for almost four hours, a rare fete considering her restless sleep. Like Tommy, she wasn't able to sleep for long either. The only difference between them was Lily was better at convincing him that she was actually sleeping.
He replied and climbed beside her on the bed, ‘It’s over.’
‘What did you do?’ She asked, propping herself up against the headboard and keeping her arm around his shoulder.
‘I added numbers.’
‘Very good. Where’s Charlie?’ She asked, noticing the absence of his confidante after she was back in the real world.
‘He’s with Aunt Jessie.’
‘Jessie?’ She repeated, wondering if she was still sleeping. Over the last year, Jessie had tried to get Lily out of her darkness but she had refused her numerous attempts. She hadn't wanted to see anyone associated with the Guild; it was too painful and her wounds still fresh. After Lily's repeated snubbing, Jessie had given up but she had kept in touch with the kids, something Lily had bitterly accepted. She hated that Jessie was able to love her children more than her but she was grateful that at least someone was loving them.
‘Uh huh.' He nodded and said, 'And Rosie bit my hand.'
Maybe it was the nightmare or the rehashed memories or perhaps just plain loneliness but this time Lily didn't fake a headache or occupancy with work.
‘Okay, tell her I’ll come down in some time.’
After hurriedly washing and combing, Lily rushed down the stairs in her striped blue dress, her hair dampening the cotton. When she reached the sitting room, she found Ruby and Rosie playing on the floor and Oliver engaged in a serious conversation with Jessie as Charlie looked at her in wide-eyed fascination. She didn't blame him, Jessie's blonde hair and blue eyes were oddly reminiscent of Grace.
‘Why can't I call you Ollie?' Jessie asked after a brief nod in Lily's direction, acknowledging her presence while Lily sat down with the girls.
‘Dad doesn’t like it.’ He asserted and Jessie laughed as she ruffled his hair, ‘All right, Oliver Shelby.’
‘Did he say ‘loik’ it?’ Jessie asked Lily after the boys had occupied themselves in their game.
‘Birmingham.’ Lily said disparagingly as placed Rosie on her lap, 'I missed you, sweetheart,' she cooed to the blonde cherub.
‘How are you, Lily?’ Jessie asked gently and got up to sit beside her.
‘You didn’t have to come.’ Lily said politely, as she kissed Rosie's cheeks.
‘I wanted to.' She said plainly and then touched her long hair, 'When was the last time you had a haircut? And it’s 1929, the flappers are no longer in fashion.'
‘Jessie, I’m fine. There’s no need for you to feel pity.’
‘I didn’t come to commiserate. I came here to talk some sense in you.’ Jessie admonished and gestured for her to stand up. 'Play here girls, Lily and I will get some cakes for you.'
When they were in the sitting room, away from prying eyes and ears, Lily asked, ‘Who told you?’
Jessie lit a cigarette and took a hurried puff, ‘George. He was fucking shaking after your husband’s call.’
‘Poor him. I’ll have to apologise to him.' Lily touched her forehead in distress. In the preoccupation with her grief, she had forgotten about George and his difficult sitaution
‘Yes, you do. But before that you need to apologise to me. What the fuck were you thinking? You could’ve died.’ Jessie chided, gesturing at Lily with her cigarette.
‘I needed to do that.’ She said but didn't look at her. She had known it on Oliver's birthday, when the smell of bacon in breakfast had made her vomit her stomach contents out. She had smiled in more than six months, preparing to tell Tommy the good news. She hadn't thought of another child but the thought of getting rid of it hadn't once entered her mind. She had been brimming with hope and excitement, another child would heal their relationship and they would be the same again. But she hadn't known the baby inside her would be the end of her peace.
She came out of reverie when Jessie almost shook her shoulders, ‘You promised you would never do something like that again. You fucking tried to kill yourself the last time you did it!'
'Because I have three small kids to look after and a husband who still loves his first wife. I couldn’t afford to think for myself.’
‘When you married him, you knew what you were doing.’ She said, the reproach in her voice evident.
Lily shook her head, 'I love Tommy. I’m just tired of waiting for him.’
‘He loves you, Lily. He isn’t brave enough to say it.’ Jessie said gently but Lily couldn't ignore the sympathy.
‘He wants Grace and I can’t compete with a ghost.’
'It seems to me that you are.' Jessie had scathingly and Lily's eyes widened, horrified.
'I'm not dead.' She stated but her voice broke down.
Jessie swore and enveloped her in a hug, and said as she patted her back, 'Lily, you're the strongest person I know but I won't let you kill yourself everyday. You're coming with me to London.'
'I can't. Not after what I did.'
She moved back to look into her eyes and enunciated, ‘It was not your fault, Lily. Stop blaming yourself.’
‘He could’ve died.’ She whispered as she wiped her eyes, hating the fragility in her voice.
‘But he didn’t. And he wants to see you.'
‘I don’t deserve to see him.'
‘You’ll have to meet him. Or I’ll bring him here.’ She ordered, all softness gone.
‘That’s his choice. But he made it clear that I am no one to him.’ Lily replied in the same tone, only her sniffle made it a lot less convincing.
'He's dying, Lily.'
Her face blanched and she touched the pendant resting on her chest, 'Tommy didn't tell me.'
'Even I wouldn't have. But the man deserves to see his daughter before he takes his last breath.'
'I'll try to. If my conscience allows.'
Jessie wanted to give her an earful about her fucking conscience but she kept quiet. She knew Lily was suffering but she also knew that only Gerard could help her. It would only work if she used another tactic now that the first one had failed.
'Fine. But I want to see the paintings you're drawing.'
Tommy was returning to Warwick after another meeting with Jessie Eden in Small Heath. They kept their meetings out of the public eye to avoid suspicion. Only it led to Lily thinking that he slept with her. He had initially brushed off her concerns and not thought much of them, he knew he was faithful as far as sharing a bed was concerned; Grace was a completely different issue. But she had known about her anyway and on grounds of his supposed infidelity she had fucking…
He couldn't stop seeing her hysterical face when she had held a gun to her head. She had never behaved like that, so unhinged and vulnerable. Even after Gerard’s attack, she had calmly stated her terms and had been almost cordial. But inside, she had been withholding everything from him. Something as important as the death of their child. A child he had never known about, never gotten a chance to talk to, never got to feel.
While he knew he was too fucked up to raise another child, it was still his child and he had let Lily go through it alone, not even asking after her until she had fucking fainted in front of him. He should've been there for her and held her through the pain, but he hadn't even asked about her health, let alone the secret she kept buried inside her.
What troubled him more that she had known about Grace all along but hadn’t once questioned him about it. She had perhaps witnessed it too. And it was enough proof of that fact that Lily was a far better person than he was. He was surprised before but now, after yesterday's incident, he was shocked that she could breath in the same room as he did.
He heard noises from the drawing room and slowly stepped towards the room, his hand already on the gun in his holster. He opened the door suddenly and sighed in relief at the scene before him. Oliver and Charlie were playing cards and Lily was lying on the sofa with her head resting on a pillow, listening to the gramophone. But it was Lily and she was almost smiling.
He placed the gun back in the holster and walked closer to her. 'How are you?’ He asked, standing above her. He had left without checking on her but he hadn't wanted to wake her up. She had looked peaceful and he hadn't heard her snore in a long while, it was almost cathartic.
‘I’m fine.’ She replied without opening her eyes.
‘Why aren’t they in bed?’ He gestured at his two sons, who were throwing cards like professional gamblers.
‘They said they were missing you.’ She readjusted herself on the sofa, so she was sitting in the corner.
‘Doesn’t look like it.’ He said as Oliver threw the winning card and jumped up in victory.
‘They got bored waiting for you.’ She said and he sat down next to her. She didn't shift away from him, not even as he put his arm around her shoulder and he wondered if had imagined the last few months.
‘Dad! I won again!' He came running towards him with Charlie frowning behind.
He lifted him up and made him sit on his lap, everything was too good to ignore. ‘Good boy. What do you want?’
‘Your watch.’ He stated.
‘That’s for your birthday.’ Tommy reminded him with a pat on his head.
‘A horse, then.' He settled and Tommy almost smiled.
‘You’re too small for a horse.’
‘I am not.’ He asserted and Charlie walked towards Tommy after a quiet conversation with Lily, who was smiling a little.
‘He cheated, Dad.’
‘What did you do?’ Tommy asked in mock-admonishment.
Charlie chimed in before he could and said, ‘He said the queen is bigger than king.’
‘I didn’t know.’ He shrugged with his hands and jumped down from his father's lap. 'Let's play again, Charlie.'
‘Sometimes I forget whose grandson you are.’ He muttered as he watched them amble towards the playing area.
‘Your father’s.’ She retorted and he looked at her in surprise.
'He never met him.'
'He didn't meet my father either.' She answered back.
‘Ada gave some books for you. Said you’d like them.’ He halted the debate.
‘Thank you.’ She said uncertainly, still waiting for to know the purpose behind his concern. He had left in the morning without a word and hadn't even called her for the entire duration of the day. He hadn't once mentioned her behavior from last night, which was a relief but she could've pulled the trigger. Wasn't he worried for her?
‘I’m filing a case against George Bennett.’
And the truth comes out.
‘It wasn’t his fault, Tommy. He only did it because I asked him to.’ She said emphatically, almost rising from her seat to make him look at her.
He pulled out a cigarette and took his time to light it. After he had taken a puff, he cleared his throat and said, ‘He is a doctor, he should know about what is legal and what is not.’
‘Like you do? I only did what you’ve always done.’
Red appeared before his eyes and he shouted, ‘It was my fucking child!’
Both Oliver and Charlie looked at them, their eyes wide with fear and shock.
She gently touched his face and whispered, ‘Tommy, please.'
‘After I’ve dealt with everything, you and I are going to have a talk.’ He emphasised with his cigarette.
‘When will you have dealt with everything?’ She asked wearily, pushing her hair behind her ears.
‘When you stop acting like a child.’
She sighed as she got up from the sofa and then called the boys, ‘Charlie, Oliver, come on. Let’s go to bed.’
‘But we’re playing.’ Oliver complained.
‘Tomorrow.’ She said firmly and he got up reluctantly.
‘But tomorrow is violin practice.’ Charlie added and Oliver gave a jubilant smile, sitting back down.
‘I’ll ask Jack to leave you early. All right?' She said with a smile.
‘Fine.’ They grumbled but didn't argue further as she walked with them towards their room, leaving Tommy alone with his thoughts. And his Grace, Lily thought bitterly.
She took her time before going back to her bedroom, listening to their woes about math lessons and violin practice. On her way, she checked on Ruby too and found her sleeping comfortably. Still, she put the small bear she liked to play with by her side and finally reached the bedroom, smiling after a long time. Jessie had lightened up the dark with her jokes and James' anecdotes. At the same time, she was worried about Gerard and his declining health. He was still her father but she didn't know if she was brave enough to face him again.
Her smile disappeared when she saw Tommy with a glass of whisky in his hand, looking bleakly outside the window.
‘Who’s Jack?’ He asked without looking at her but it was hard to ignore the steel in his voice.
‘He is the violin teacher.’ She replied as she sat in front of the dressing table, already hating the conversation.
‘I thought it was a woman. Milligan.’
She reached for a comb from the dresser and parted her hair in two before aggressively combing through them. 'She had her baby a few months back. He’s her replacement.’
‘You’re on first name basis with him?’ He turned finally and looked at her reflection in the mirror.
She scoffed, ‘You’re questioning me? You?’
He walked towards her and kept the glass on the table. Then, touched the back of her dress and proceeded to unbutton it. ‘You talk to him.’
She hunched at his touch but still replied, 'I talk to everyone.’
He pulled down the sleeve of her dress and drew circles on the exposed skin of her shoulder, ‘Except me.’
Gritting her teeth, she got up from the seat and bit out, ‘You don’t talk, you argue.’
‘You can face jail time for what you did.’
‘Your men will arrest me? Or will it be actual police?’ She asked, crossing her arms across her chest.
He sighed and sat down on the bed, ‘Aren’t you sorry for what you’ve done?’
‘Why do you think I’m like this?' She shouted and gestured at her body, 'I haven’t had a proper meal since the twelfth of August. I haven’t been able to sleep without having nightmares. I cannot look at myself in the mirror anymore. But you didn’t notice that, did you? You were too busy with your fucking work.’
‘You shouldn’t have done that, Lily.’ He said, the warning in his voice clear.
She swallowed against the lump in her throat, ‘I had to, Tommy.'
‘I need you to come with me tomorrow.’
‘Why?’ She asked in doubt.
‘There's a doctor-'
'It's not necessary. I’m all right.’ She interrupted, piqued by his words.
'You were about to shoot yourself. And me.’
The foreboding was staring right at her and she said, keeping her voice firm, 'I am sorry for what I did yesterday. I was tired and angry but it wasn't my intention to hurt you.'
'I don't know that.'
'You think I'm mad? That I need to be checked into an institution?' She asked, terrified of her powerlessness.
'I went to a doctor for you. It's time you do too.'
She sat down beside him and took his hands in her, 'But I am all right. I swear.' She almost begged, tears spouting out her eyes.
He pulled her closer and touched her anguished face, 'I know, Lily. If there's anyone who's all right, it's you. But I don't want you to live like this anymore.'
'Like what?' She asked, confused.
'Like you're me.'
After a long train ride, which was quieter than the library Ada once worked at, Tommy drove in the main city with Lily making a knot of her handkerchief on his side. He knew she was scared but he had to do it. It was the least he could do for her or he would forever be plagued by her suicidal face.
When they were in front of a sprawling bungalow and Tommy braked the car to stop, she looked at him frantically, 'Why are we here?'
'I told you about his call.’ He said blankly and opened the car door. When she didn't make a move, he sighed and patiently waited for her.
She looked down at the skirt of her dress and said stonily, ‘I don’t want to see him.’
‘He wants to see you.’
She looked up at him and asked, her face etched with distress, ‘But, how will I face him?’
‘You're not to blame for everything that happened.’ He said quietly as he touched her face.
She shook her head and brushed off his words and touch, ‘I can’t hold you responsible for everything, I should've been careful.’
Careful of marrying someone who would disrupt my sanity, Tommy completed for her in his head and said, ‘You either get down or I'll send the police to arrest George Bennett.'
She exhaled and got down from the car. When he didn't follow, she asked, ‘Won’t you come in?’
He shook his head and looked down at his watch, ‘No. I’m already late.’
‘Call me if you visit Ada. I’ll pick you from there.’
‘Take your medicine on time.’
The car left as soon as the conversation ended, before Lily could change her mind. Taking a deep breath, Lily gently rang the doorbell but looked down to find the door unlocked. Clenching her shaking hands, she entered inside and looked around the house, still the same with some signs of disarray. It had been years since she had last visited the house she had grown up in, from whose windows she would climb out to drink and smoke.
And now as she gingerly walked further, she couldn't calm her nerves. ‘Hello? Gerard?’ She said, alarmed at the quiet.
‘Young lady, where were you all this time?’ A voice boomed from the corner and she screamed at the man in front of him, his beard whiter than the last time she had seen and hiding the wrinkles behind the smiling face. Why was he smiling? And was he wearing an apron?
‘Oh, my God! You’re all right.’
‘Why wouldn’t I be?’ He asked dubiously and walked towards her, furrowing his brows at her condition.
‘I thought you were ill.’ She said, touching her forehead at the sudden pain.
‘Jessie.' He shook his head and muttered.
‘Come, let’s sit inside.’ He took her hand and gestured towards the drawing room.
‘Gerard, I don’t think I should.’ She held her ground, even though it was a little difficult.
‘Kid, I might not be dying right now but I will be, sooner rather than later. And I don’t want to leave this world without making things right.’
‘I don’t understand.’
‘Then come in.’
When they were seated across each other in the room where they had once shared numerous glasses and anecdotes, he asked, ‘How are you?’
‘I’m good.’ She replied, tired of answering the question.
‘Is your husband not feeding you well?’ He asked with a veiled anger.
‘I’m alright. There’s just so much to look after.’
‘Take care of yourself.’
‘So, what happened?’ She asked, unable to live in suspense anymore. What did he have to make right?
‘I gather you and Thomas aren’t on talking terms.’
She rolled her eyes at his dallying, ‘We talk when necessary. That’s what married couples do.’
‘Not me and Violet.’
‘You both loved each other.’
‘And you don’t?’ He raised his eyebrow.
‘First tell me why you changed your mind.’ She said sharply, annoyed of his intrusive glare.
‘I realised I had been harsh and cold towards you. That you didn’t deserve it.’
She scoffed and asked, ‘And may I know the reason behind your insight?’
‘Do you remember your husband killed a very important client’s son a few years ago?’
‘Patrick. But what has he to do with you?’
‘After your ‘Derby incident’, he visited me in London and told me everything.’
‘There was nothing to tell. He was the one who forced himself-’
‘I know. But he also said things about your past relationship and threatened to divulge it all if you didn’t-’
‘Tommy told me that.’ She cut him, impatient to get to the truth.
‘Because I told him. I asked him to deal with it quietly and told him that though the Duke was no longer an important figure, he was still powerful. But he refused. Said, ‘No one talks like that about my wife’.’
‘He dealt with it. Made it look like a bar fight and Holland bought it, familiar with his son’s tomcatting.’
‘But he asked me not to talk to you.’
‘I told him to say that. I had to stay as distant from the Peaky Blinders as possible.’
‘But why me?’ She asked, angered at the secret meetings between Tommy and Gerard. They had made their feelings about each other clear from the start so why were they meeting behind her back?
‘You’re a Shelby, Lily.’
She shook her head, which was already spinning from the details.
He continued, his words with a hint of pity, ‘Then you refused my offer and I was incensed. I knew your husband was behind it but I didn’t know you were so subservient.’
'You know how London is. And you were apparently guilty of treason.’ She retorted, disoriented at the sudden change in the scenario.
‘But I was never prosecuted. The case shut before it even started, considering my connections in the Parliament.’ He said proudly.
‘He doesn’t know about your ‘connections’.’ She gritted out, feeling protective of Tommy and at the same time guilty for not trusting him. But he had shot him.
‘I don’t regret helping the protestors. But I should’ve been more open about it, could’ve dodged the bullet if I had.’ He shrugged.
‘I’m sorry, Gerard. I would never be able to forgive myself for it.’ She said, misery washing over her.
‘Lily, your husband did send men for me. But they didn’t shoot me.’
‘The Titanics shot me, possibly over a rift I had had with their boss.’
‘What business do you have with Titanics? How can you be so unconcerned about it? And if they shot you then why did Tommy…’
‘Because he didn’t know. Neither did I. He must have heard about the approaching attack and he sent his men. The Peaky Blinders came to protect me and in the scuffle, a bullet grazed my shoulder. In the dark, I only saw the peaked cap and drew my conclusion.’
Her eyes darkened and she gripped the glass antique on the table, ‘You…’
‘I know. I deserve every word that you utter. But as soon as I realised, I called him up and he was kind enough to relent.’
‘I spent the last year blaming myself for everything, blaming Tommy for everything and you’re saying it was all because of your worsening eyesight.’ She screamed at him.
‘Look, Lily, I am sorry. But you have to understand my position.’’
‘What position? I ignored my children for you, didn’t leave the house for ten months and you’re saying you're sorry?’
Gerard looked at her for a while then exhaled.
‘I have yet to open my bottle of Scotch. What do you say, for old times’ sake?’
She looked at him in contempt and hissed, ‘I always thought of you as my father. But I was nothing for you.’
‘You are my daughter, Lily. My only child. No one means more to me than you do.’ He said gently, touching her shoulder hesitantly.
‘But you didn’t trust me?’ She asked, her voice breaking.
‘You weren’t the same person anymore. You hosted charity dinners and did business with anarchists.’ He complained like Oliver did sometimes when she didn't give him another serving of dessert.
‘I got married, I had to look after things but I was the same.’ She stressed.
‘Then why did you refuse the offer?’ He asked.
‘I told you I was busy with the kids.’
‘Even when we lost the gallery?’
‘You asked me to never see you again.’
‘You were never so obliging before.’ He said quietly.
‘Gerard, you know you’re at fault. You can’t blame it on me.’
‘About the Scotch..’ He raised his finger and at that moment, Lily knew that Gerard's fault wasn't his lack of trust. It was his inability to let go of the time they had spent. He was old and lonely in the big house and she had been his family, closer than Colin. He had thought Tommy had forever taken her away from him and in his mistrust, he had expected the worst of him. She was far from forgiving him but before that she needed to ask for forgiveness herself. She had caused pain to more people than she could count on her hand, beginning with Tommy and her own children. Tommy might not love her but he had done everything he could do for her, taking every blame on himself so she wouldn't think bad of her father. She had never experienced love, but what Tommy had done ran deeper than her shoddy explanation of love and she could never forgive herself for that.
Looking at her, Gerard added, ‘I’ll apologise to Tommy. He has suffered because of me.’
‘I won’t be too sure of his reaction.; she muttered. 'Since I’m going to be here for the rest of afternoon, I might as well try the whisky.’
He smiled and opened his arms for a hug, looking at her warmly, his eyes expectant and a little sad.
'You're not yet forgiven.' She said but relented, finally lightened of a year long burden.
'Why are you wearing that?' She asked after a while, gesturing at the flowery apron.
Tommy didn’t think he could postpone the upcoming interrogation involving the journalist anymore. He hadn’t got any summons yet but he knew it didn’t take time for lies to spread when you were a Peaky Blinder. But more than that, he was worried about Lily's meeting with her father. If that thief fucked up things, he would have to pay for it. And he doubted the kids would be able to keep her from leaving anymore. But he was a Shelby and Shelbys didn't let their wives go, even when they took matters in their own hands and played with their lives.
He was on his way to his father-in-law's bungalow when Mosley interrupted him with his cloying smile.
‘I enjoyed your speech very much, Shelby.'
‘Yeah?’ He asked, folding his glasses and keeping them in his pocket.
‘I’m free in the evening. We can talk about our pending discussion over a bottle of Irish whisky.’
‘I wouldn’t mind but my wife is waiting for me.’ He said, even bringing a note of regret in his voice.
He looked at Tommy in mild disbelief, as if trying to check if he was being sarcastic or was actually devoted to his wife. In case of the latter, he needed to know about her. But for the moment, he sufficed himself with asking rhetorically, 'Aren't they always?'
'Yep. And I wouldn't want her wait any longer.' He said as he walked downstairs, leaving Mosley smirking.
As Lily rolled the dough into a flat circle in the kitchen, Gerard asked as he ground almonds for the frangipane, ‘When is he coming to take you?’
‘He’ll be here in some time. There is a lot to deal with in Westminster.’ She replied, focused on making the most delicious tart one had ever eaten.
‘I know.’ He nodded as he popped an almond in his mouth.
She stopped in her pursuit and looked at him in question, ‘Is there something I don’t know?’
‘I’ll tell you when he comes.’
She pursed her lips but didn't question him further. The tart was the priority and she wasn't letting Gerard's cryptic words divert her.
‘How are the kids?’ He asked suddenly as he cracked the egg in the bowl.
She smiled softly, remembering how Tommy had been with Oliver last night. ‘They’re growing with every passing second. Oliver was asking about you.’
‘Should’ve brought him. Of course, your husband was suspicious about my intentions.’
‘I don't blame him. But he’s suspicious of everyone and everything.' She said plainly, reminded of his questioning about Jack. She hadn't done anything but she still felt guilty of keeping it from him.
‘It’s good, it’ll keep him alive.’
If he doesn’t kill himself first, Lily thought as she wiped the sweat off her brows.
Thank you everyone for reading!! Please share your thoughts and hit kudos if you liked it :))
While the first part was about Lily and Gerard's reunion, this is about Lily and Tommy's
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
‘Lily! There’s someone at the door.’ Gerard shouted from the hall when the doorbell rang. While he was happy to have Lily back, he knew they were back to how they had been twenty years ago. She respected him but didn't trust him anymore. She was still wary around him, didn't open up like she did. But he could live with that. What he couldn't bear was the pain and suffering she was going through because of him.
‘Go open it.’ She shouted back distractedly from his study, busy searching the ledger to check if he was back in the business under the pretense of taking some books. She was bone tired after cooking for most of the afternoon but she had to know how he was sustaining himself after the shutting down of the gallery. While he had enough to live comfortably, he lived too lavishly for someone who had no source of income.
Outside, he sighed as he walked to get the door, muttering about his old age and lack of empathy.
'It's your husband.' He announced and she stiffened.
She closed the ledger and hurriedly smoothed her scraggly hair as she walked outside, her heart beating forcefully. In the morning, she was worried about facing Gerard but now all she wanted to do was hide from Tommy. She didn't know how to touch the topic about her cold behaviour and the trouble she had caused him. She hoped it wasn't too late for an apology. When she saw him, standing in the doorway with his peaked cap hiding his eyes, to she felt happiness bursting inside her and she knew she could live without his love as long as she had him with her.
Tommy watched her as she gave a nervous smile, her hair dishevelled and stains all over her dress. For a moment, he was taken back to the time when they were living in Watery Lane; when they had lived more like a family than they were living now. He had wanted a time machine on one fated Christmas and he still wanted one, so he could see Lily's smile everyday, so he could learn to let go of Grace, so he didn't hear the voices anymore.
‘There’s flour in your hair.’ He said incorrigibly.
She immediately brushed the powder from her hair and said, ‘Didn’t notice it. Come on in.’ She gestured and then left the room.
Gerard took over and said, ‘Have a seat, Thomas. Lily has cooked a tart.’
‘Lily?’ He raised his eyebrows as he took off his overcoat, taking in the extensively decorated room, mostly with paintings of a pretty women with dimples. There were few of Lily too, but before he could peruse them Gerard chuckled, 'Don’t worry, I already emptied the bottles of rat poison.’
He nodded a little and continued walking towards the painting of Lily in trousers with a golf stick in her hand, not smiling but her eyes sparkling with mischief. She looked no more than sixteen and he couldn't ignore the liveliness in her face. At sixteen, he had to worry about their next meal and could only dream of playing golf with the toffs.
'This is good but my favorite is that one.' Gerard said beside him and Tommy glanced at the painting on his right. It was of Lily and younger Gerard with a small boy, all three of them laughing in the garden.
'That's Colin. He was ten or eleven then and had lost his parents a year ago. Lily always had a soft spot for him. He still sends her letters.' Gerard revealed.
'But she doesn't reply.' Tommy answered.
'That's her choice.' He said with a shrug.
'No. That was your choice. You wanted her to stay away.' He said harshly, remembering the past few days.
'I would like to talk about our past misunderstandings.’
‘There was no misunderstanding on my part, Mr Davis.'
‘But there was some on mine and Lily’s. You both can talk later but I need to clear it out.’
‘Go on.’ Tommy said.
‘I’m sorry, from the bottom of my heart. I wanted Lily to get married but I liked having her close by. When she left, I was all alone and I blamed you for everything. I am sorry.’
Tommy nodded, uncomfortable that a man old enough to be his father was apologising to him. Not even his own father had apologised for abandoning his five kids, one of them barely a month old.
'Please don't look at those pictures, I look like a man.' Lily's grumble trudged towards them and Tommy found her setting a plate on the dining table.
'I'm afraid I ate most of the dessert. But it is enough for you.' Gerard told Tommy as they walked to the dining table.
‘Aren’t you eating?’ He asked Lily when she sat down next to him.
'I’m not hungry anymore.’
'Did you eat?' He asked in suspicion.
'I did. A lot.' She said with a hand on her stomach.
‘Thomas, how is work? Concerns from Mosley aside.’ Gerard asked as he filled three glasses with whisky
At Tommy’s sharp gaze, he replied, ‘Don’t look at her, I have many friends in the Parliament.’
‘I gathered.’ He muttered as he picked up the glass.
‘Oswald Mosley? The one who sleeps with his mother-in-law?' Lily asked, half-concerned and half-interested.
'How do you know him?' Tommy looked at her in question, wondering if Mosley was like the Duke's son too.
'He has a big house.' She said dismissively, hiding her face in the glass.
'You stole from him too?' He asked in disbelief.
Gerard cleared his throat at the blasphemy and Lily corrected, 'Colin was in Smethwick a few years back. He was asked to collect an antique.'
Tommy sighed and put his fork in the tart as Lily waited for him to say something. When he only wiped his mouth with his napkin, Gerard chuckled.
‘When I look at the both of you, I’m reminded of the olden times. That was the era of love, caring for each other without saying it out loud. Treasure this love, like these paintings. Whenever some dust settles on them, make sure to wipe it off.’
Lily's face grew sombre and she fiddled with her napkin while Tommy answered for them as he looked at her, ‘I’ll do that.’
‘Now go. But don’t leave for Birmingham tonight.’
‘Why, are you sending someone?’ She laughed.
‘I’ll cut your tongue off, Lily.’
‘Can I talk to you for a moment?’ Tommy asked Gerard and he nodded in understanding.
‘Yes. Lily, I brought some toys for the children. Take them before you leave.’
In the Bentley, Tommy coughed a little and cleared his throat, in hopes of listening to Lily talk again. She was quieter than she had been at Gerard's house where she was openly joking. He wondered if she even knew the truth, because her behaviour was definitely pointing towards a camaraderie with the very man behind their present condition.
‘Is everything alright between both of you?’ He asked finally. In response, he heard a muffled sniffle and looked at her sharply.
‘I am sorry.’ She blubbered.
‘Hey,’ He touched her shoulder and slowed down the car.
‘No, don’t stop. I’m all right.’ She hastily wiped her face.
‘We’ll be home soon.’
She murmured in agreement and sniffled again.
He coughed and continued, ‘We’ll go to Birmingham tomorrow. It is late.’
'Can we stop at Ada's? I don't have any clothes.' She complained, all apologies forgotten.
'She's busy. I'll have someone from her house get them for you.' He said evasively.
'Why is she working so late? She's pregnant.' She chided him.
'She's busy because Ben Younger is with her right now.'
'Is he...?' She asked, well-aware of their relationship.
'He is.' He said shortly.
'Does he know?'
'I don't know. Women like to keep such things from men, though.' He said sardonically.
She ignored his very obvious jab and said, ‘I’ll have to call Frances. The kids must be waiting.’
At their apartment, Lily had emptied the entire wardrobe in hopes of finding a piece of her clothing. She was itching to take the dress off which stank of onions and butter and was more suited for cleaning now. But in absence of a substitute, she would have to settle with smelling of the kitchen because she was not sleeping naked in the same bed with Tommy. For now.
'Here, take this.' Tommy dropped a light pink cloth beside her and she looked up at him.
'What is this?' She asked but it sounded more like, 'Whose is it?'
'It's yours. From some years back.' He clarified as he took a sip of the whisky and then coughed.
‘Your cough is getting worse.’ She commented as she picked the lacy dress and unfolded it.
But she wasn't interested in that anymore because the dress in her hands wasn't a dress at all. 'Tommy, this is..'
'What?' He asked, annoyed of her complaints.
'This is a chemise.' She enunciated as she held it up for him to see.
'What is the difference?' He shrugged a little as he began to divest himself of his waistcoat.
'This is an undergarment. I can't sleep in this.' She said in outrage.
'You'll have to.' He said with a derisive look at the oil stains on her dress as he unbuttoned his shirt.
'Fine.' She rolled her eyes and he proceeded to unbutton his pants. When he was in his bedclothes, he was considering going through the papers in his briefcase but paused when he saw her undressing then and there.
Well aware of Tommy's eyes on her, Lily asked as she took off the collared grey dress, 'What is your connection with Mosley?’
‘Nothing that should concern you.’ He replied as he laid down on the bed, taking in every inch of her body.
'What were you and Gerard talking about then?' She asked with her back facing him as she unclasped the hook of her bra.
'Somethings.' He said, busy watching her, clad only in silk knickers.
‘Did he kill Bonnie?’
‘I don’t know. But I know he did business with Jimmy.' He told her flat stomach and the curve of her waist.
‘How much did you lose in the crash?’
He looked up suddenly and found her smirking a little.
‘Enough to make me fix football and go in Chinatown.’ He replied and she finally put on the chemise he had supplied.
She walked towards the bed and laid down next to him but still kept a respectful distance between them.
‘Finn got shot there, didn’t he?’ She asked as she pulled the covers up to her neck.
‘He says I don’t pay attention to him.’ He said as he lit a cigarette.
‘I don’t blame you. I still think of him as a kid.’ She said with a small smile, remembering the first time she had met him in Small Heath. He had sweat running down his forehead and she knew he was no different now too, despite boasting about cocaine and opium and women.
‘He’s no longer a kid, Lily. He's a general.’ He admonished her as he took a puff of the cigarette.
She chuckled a little, pleased to hear him talk after so long. ‘I heard he’s into…whores.’
‘How do you know?’
‘Linda is visiting. Polly comes sometimes too.’ She said simply.
‘Do you miss your friends in London?'
She shrugged, ‘Sometimes. But Birmingham is my home now and you’re the only…’ She broke off suddenly, afraid of telling him.
‘What?’ He looked down at her suddenly.
‘You’re the only one I have.’ She confessed.
'What about your father?'
She shook her head, 'He's different. I know I love him but I can't forgive him.'
'Do you love me?' He asked. Before, he used to be confident of her answer and enjoyed hearing her say it. But now, he wasn't so sure.
'I do.' She said automatically but didn't ask him the same, so he couldn't tell her the truth.
'But you don't trust me. Even after all these years, even after all I did.'
'I trust you.' She said as she kept a hand on his chest.
'Why do you keep things from me, Lily? Why aren't there any paintings of you in the house?'
'There was no space.' She said with a bitter laugh.
'You could've asked me to remove them.'
'I wanted you to do it without my saying so. And removing them means nothing when she's still in your heart.' She said plainly, without a hint of bitterness or reproach just sad acceptance.
He looked at her and suddenly kissed her, taking her by surprise. He continued kissing her with feverish need while she touched his face, responding slowly but not moving away. His hand inched towards the lace of the garment and as he touched her breast through it, a low moan escaped from her lips. Feeling more certain, he climbed on top of her, pulling the straps of the chemise down, leaving her naked from chest up. She shivered at the sudden cold and he reached down to feel her through the silk of her knickers. She arched at his touch and he kissed her neck, going down until he reached the swell of her breasts.
'Tommy..' She breathed.
'What?' He got up suddenly, anticipating tears again.
Closing her eyes, she swallowed, ‘When you touch me, I think of the other women you touch. And I remember what I did because of that.'
‘Lily, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it now. I never fucking slept with any other woman.’
But she ignored him and continued, ‘I don’t blame you, Tommy. But, I need some time.'
He turned away from her sharply and bit out, 'Take all the time you want. But don't ever act like a fucking tease again.'
She put her arms around his chest from behind and kissed the side of his face. 'I love you, Tommy. More than anyone in the world and even more after what you did for me. You understood how important Gerard was for me and you didn't let me think bad of him. But I want to you wait, just for a few days.'
'I can wait, Lily.' He said shortly but felt a strange warmth in his chest at her words of praise and appreciation. He wanted to say it back to her but he couldn't especially when he conjured up Grace with his bottle of opium everytime he felt the pain or the cold.
He began to get up but she tightened her hold on him.
'Please don't go.' She whispered like Ruby did when she woke up in the middle of the night and he patted her back to sleep.
'What's wrong?' He asked in concern.
'Can you sleep here? Just for today.'
I'll be here everyday, he thought as he hugged her closer and kissed the top of her head.
Will you, Tommy? Will you ignore the voices in your head? Can you ignore them? Grace asked him and he couldn't agree with her more.
Thank you so much for reading!!! Please share your thoughts and hit kudos if you liked it <3
Chapter 19: Strategy
Based on the episode 'Strategy'
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
In the next days of the week, life fell into semblance for Lily. She no longer felt the guilt for Gerard's attempted murder nor did she question her decision of marrying Tommy, something she did everyday.
It was, in a way, her fault for hoping he would change and become the kind of man he was before the war. He was not the perfect man, some might even call him a bad one for sleeping with other women and taking his first wife's name in his sleep. But three years ago, when she had realised that she was depriving her son of his father's love, she had made a promise to herself. A promise to give her heart to Tommy but not her soul until he felt the same for her. And if he didn't, she had at least made her son happy. She didn't regret losing her own happiness when Oliver called himself Thomas Shelby's son.
Her resolve had shaken a bit when Linda had left her house without any preamble or warning, leaving Arthur in mad fury. He had come to Arrow House on the night she left and Lily had almost squirmed under his suspicious glare.
'If you know anything, it's better to say it.' Tommy had said quietly.
'I don't know anything. I haven't talked to her since...' She had let the word 'letter' hang in the air without saying it and Arthur eyes had darkened even more.
'Ya call me first thing when ya hear from her. Ya get that?' He had bit out.
'I do Arthur. She'll come back, give her some time.' She had said, trying to calm him.
'You don't fucking leave a Shelby.' Arthur had muttered while pacing across the study, ignoring her words.
'She hasn't left you, Arthur. She loves you.' Lily had said with a hopeful smile and both of them had looked at her in...disgust.
'Lily, go and get some whisky for Arthur.' Tommy had said in hopes of getting her to leave.
Before she could refuse, Arthur had gotten up from the sofa and barked, 'I'll leave, Tommy. Need some time alone.'
'Goodnight, Arthur. Come for dinner whenever you want to.' She had said with kind smile and he had nodded, as if in pain.
The day before Polly's birthday, when Lily was busy gift-wrapping a set of china she knew Polly would never use, an old acquaintance paid her visit.
'I didn't expect to see you, to be honest.' Lily said when Jane from the Grace Shelby Foundation had made herself comfortable on the sofa.
'We can't forget your betrayal, Mrs Shelby.' Jane said but her tone was jesting. She continued in a sombre tone, 'We have encountered an issue that needs to be resolved as early as possible.'
'What is it?' Lily asked, the tea in her cup sloshing at her movement.
'This is a report on St. Hilda's orphanage in Sparkhill. I want you to read it.' Jane took out a file and placed it before her.
'I am longer a part of the foundation, Jane. You should talk to Tommy or Polly.' She said even as she opened the file.
'Lily, you and I both grew up in orphanages. I want you to know what is happening in these places.' Jane said firmly.
'Is it bad?' Lily asked, raising her brows at a few sentences.
'It's the worst I've ever seen. I need you to deal with it and come back to the foundation.'
'I can't assure you anything on my return. But I'll make sure this is sorted by tomorrow.'
Tommy arrived much late that night, after everyone had had dinner and Lily was putting the children to bed. She had yet to understand why he didn't stay the night in London and return in the morning like he did before. But from what she had gathered from Ada, it had something to do with Michael's return. She hadn't met him or American wife and she had no intention of meeting them. She knew they were young and ambitious and felt like they understood how the world worked but it was no reason to do betray Tommy behind his back.
The crash had triggered Tommy into a dangerous territory and she would never forgive Michael for being responsible for the upcoming war with the Billy Boys. And Tommy's connection with Oswald Mosley.
But first, she needed to talk to him about the orphanage. With the file in her hand, she opened the door of his study and asked, ‘Tommy? Do you have some time?’
He looked up sharply, his hand on the telephone and asked in half-irritation, half-concern, ‘I don’t know. What happened?’
‘I met Jane from Sparkhill today.’
‘Yeah?’ He asked as he poured another glass of whisky for himself.
‘You fund an institute of orphan children there.’ She prodded, hoping to jog his memory as she took, almost snatched the glass from him.
‘I know. Continue.’ He said impatiently and filled another glass.
She extended the file in her hands towards him and said, ‘She gave me this.’
He flipped through the pages and asked, ‘What’s in this?’
‘It’s about the girls. They are being tortured and beaten there. And a small girl hung herself.’ She said, still unable to forget the words in the file.
‘Why did she give you this?’
‘She knows where I come from.’ She said quietly.
He looked up at her in surprise and silently asked her the question in concern.
She waved off his sympathy and said casually, ‘It’s in the past. But I wouldn’t want anyone to go through that.’
‘I’ll let them know I'm coming tomorrow.’ He said, a little ominously.
'It's Polly's birthday tomorrow, right?' She asked as she took a sip from the glass.
'Yep.' He said as he rummaged in the pile of papers.
'Is there a celebration?'
'No. We have work.' He said with a meaningful glance.
She opened her mouth in outrage and put the glass on the table, 'Fine, then. Some friends are coming down from London tomorrow to visit. I was thinking if you would come for dinner?'
‘I have an important meeting.’
‘With whom?’ She asked, well-aware of his impending meeting with Jessie Eden.
‘Someone important.’ He said shortly.
While it could be Jessie, Lily knew it was Oswald Mosley after overhearing him and guilting Gerard into telling her about it. She was scared but she kept her concern to herself, aware of his defensive attitude. Instead, she said, ‘We're going to the racecourses. Can I take Charlie?’
‘Why wouldn’t you?’ He asked, furrowing his brows.
‘You never liked it before.’ She said with a small shrug, knowing Tommy's dislike for her family.
‘He’s your son too.’
A smile threatened and she asked, ‘Where is this coming from, Thomas?’
‘You always say you have three kids.’
Her smile broadened and she was about to kiss him then and there, perhaps more but he was back to work. Feeling slightly hopeful, she asked, ‘Are you coming to bed?’
‘In a while.’ He said, busy in the papers.
‘Don’t stay up till late, you have to wake up early.’ She said and walked to the door, a little crestfallen.
‘I won’t.' He replied, watching her receding back until she disappeared. While he was relieved Lily was 'normal' again, he was too busy to revel in it. Things were beginning to look grim and he needed to act fast. It didn't help that the men he counted on were dealing with their own shit. Aberama and Johnny Dogs would be fine but Arthur was too hooked up on Linda's departure. He could only hope for her to come back considering her utter dislike of Arthur's work.
With Mosley and the Billy Boys breathing down his neck, he had to play his cards right or he'd soon be dead meat.
He took a quick gulp of the opium and touched the photoframe of the kids he kept on his table. He wondered if they would miss him after he was gone. Charlie might, considering their 'long' bond but Oliver hated him and Ruby was afraid of him. Fucking afraid of her own father, he thought as he looked up at the ceiling. He abruptly moved forwards and opened the file Lily had left. He stiffened as he read the details, angered at himself for not paying attention. The girls at the orphanage were no more older than his own kids and they were being treated worse than animals. He had to make things right for them at least, so he could erase some of the darkness that plagued him.
'It's not darkness, Tommy. It's the light which will put an end to all your pain.' Grace said from behind him and he closed his eyes at the soothing sound. But firmed himself to pick up the phone and call the orphanage and then Polly.
The next day, Tommy was long gone when Lily woke up. Hurriedly washing and dressing up in her favorite lilac dress, she went to wake up Ruby and get her ready for the outing.
She was going to take the boys from the lesson with Ruby in tow when she met their teacher on her way.
'How are you, Mrs Shelby?' He asked with a tentative smile.
'I'm good. How are you, Jack?' She asked with a wide smile of her own. Jack or his music was responsible for the change in her and she couldn't thank him enough for it. And with her relationship with Tommy back to normal, she didn't feel the need to hide their friendship.
'Very good. I thought you were still angry with me.'
'Why would I be angry?' She asked in confusion.
'I called you desolate.'
Her eyes widened in mock fury and she said, 'Of course I am angry. You didn't play Vivaldi.'
'I was waiting for you. But now that you are here, I must fulfil my promise.'
She laughed and said, 'I heard the boys have a violin concert soon.'
'Yeah, next month.' He replied.
'How are they looking?'
'Very good. For seven-year-olds, that is.' He added with a small smile.
'I think it's Charlie who inherited the musical trait. Oliver plays it like he's about to saw it in half.' She divulged, familiar with where the boys' interests lay.
He laughed nervously and Lily gently touched his arm, 'It's fine, I know my kids.'
'It's a little tricky when you have two different kind of students. You can't praise one and criticise another.'
'You've done a marvellous job, my head would explode after hearing that noise.'
'Enough talk, Mrs Shelby. I have to play Vivaldi today.'
She gave him a apologetic smile and said, 'Well, I am sorry but it'll have to wait till tomorrow. I am meeting some friends today.'
'It's all right, I can wait.' He said hastily, afraid of overstepping his boundaries.
'See you tomorrow.' She said with a smile and left.
Lily was ready to collapse when she arrived from her outing with Jessie and Georgie. It was fun but tiring with a total of five kids bustling about around them and Lily had sighed in relief when the car had reached Arrow House. The kids were too tired to argue with her about bedtime and went to sleep without any debates. As she walked upstairs in her own room, she was surprised and a little hurt to find Tommy had yet to arrive from Small Heath. She ignored it though, focusing on rubbing the kinks in her feet.
She had changed into her nightgown and was combing her hair when Tommy bustled in.
'Your friends left?' He asked, his words a little slurred.
She got up immediately and walked closer to him. ‘You’re drunk.’ She declared in anger.
‘I am all right.’ He gently brushed off her hands away from him but she didn't budge until he was sitting on the bed.
‘No. You stink of booze and cigarettes. You had champagne?’ She asked in resentment. Why was it always whisky for her and champagne for Jessie Eden?
‘Why are you wearing this?’ He asked as he leaned on her and buried his face in her neck. When he reached to pull the sleeve of her gown down, she gave him a light push.
‘Tommy…’ She said uneasily, moving back a little.
‘What? You still want me to wait?’
‘I know you were with Jessie Eden.’ She stated.
He looked away towards the wall and muttered, 'Even Johnny Dogs is getting laid in my house and I have to fucking wait.'
'What?' She asked, muffling a surprised chuckle.
'Yeah. When did you come back?'
'When I came back you had already left. To meet someone in Small Heath.'
'Was Linda here?'
'If she was, I didn't meet her. Did Frances say otherwise?' She asked in concern, well-aware of Arthur's increasing fury
'What happens now?'
'I'll talk to Arthur and let him know.'
'Let her be, Tommy. Sometimes, you need to put your happiness first and Linda is definitely not happy right now.' She said gently, trying to convince him into stopping his brother. If Linda didn't want to come, who were they to force her?
'I need me brother in one piece. You marry a Shelby, you stay fucking married.' He declared.
She rolled her eyes and walked away from the bed to sit down in front of the dressing table and comb her tangled hair. Is that why they were still married? Because it was against his principles? Was he with her just because they were supposed to be together and not because of affection on his part? For the past year, she had thought that she was the one tolerating him. But now it felt like it was the other way around.
His voice broke through her retrospection and he said, quite abruptly, ‘Ada is pregnant.’
‘I know. She had her check-up few days back.’ She replied as she parted her hair into three sections.
‘Michael’s wife had her check up too. The kid’s heart is beating strong.’ He continued and she wondered if he was trying to make her feel guilty.
‘Good for him.’ She said and kept braiding her hair.
‘You could be having a check-up too.’
Her hands paused and she said lightly. ‘I’ve had two check-ups. They are enough.’
She walked closer to him and gingerly touched his hair. In response, he held her by her slim waist and looked straight at her stomach.
‘I’m sorry I was insensitive about you. If I were not so….’
‘It’s fine, Tommy. I understand.’ She interrupted him and tried to stop the looming tears.
‘No, you don’t.' He brushed her off and continued talking to the imaginary baby, 'I am sorry I wasn't there for you. Or anyone.'
‘Tommy, you’re a good father. They all love you, a lot.’ She said firmly and believed it too.
He scoffed, ‘What child is scared of her father?’
She moved out of his grasp and went to open the small drawer next to the bed. He looked at her in question and watched as she pulled out some drawing sheets and handed it to him.
‘Look at this,' she pointed at the one with five people around a cake, 'Oliver drew this to give you on your birthday but you were in New York. And this one when you took him horse-riding.’ She gestured at the drawing similar to the one that was in his Small Heath office.
‘He likes to draw?’
She went on as he continued to look at the colorful picture in his hands, ‘Charlie is after you with his violin. And he’s always eager to learn Rokka, so he can talk like you.’
When he didn't respond, she sat down in front of him on her knees and took his hands in hers. ‘The first word Ruby said was Dad. And she runs in your arms whenever you come back from work.’ She said softly and he looked at her with newfound wonder.
‘Why are you so kind to me?’ He asked as he touched her face.
‘Because I love you.’ She said nonchalantly and kept her hand on his.
‘Even when I fuck other women?’
‘That’s your wish,' she said against the stab in her heart as she got up to sit beside him, 'But you’re first man I’ve loved. And after you I won’t be able to love anyone else.’ She confessed.
‘I’ll cut his fucking eyes if anyone ever looks at you.’ He said in a low voice as he moved closer.
‘Jealous?’ She breathed as he kissed her exposed neck.
‘Very.’ He replied before kissing her lips and pushing her on the bed.
His hands ran along the sides of her nightgown and pushed it up, leaving himself open to the view of legs he hadn't felt in months. As he moved to settle on top of her, she asked, ‘Did you sleep with her?’
‘You’re the last and only woman I’ll ever fuck.’ He answered while touching her breasts through the satin.
She yanked his head upwards by his hair and muttered, ‘Disgusting. Who uses that word, Tommy?’
‘You’re the last and only woman who’ll ever be in my bed. And on my desk. And in my car.’ He said as he kissed her again, all the while touching her through her silk knickers.
She sighed, ‘Better. But you still haven’t answered my question.’
He paused, knowing she won't relent until he answered her. ‘I never slept with anyone after our marriage, I swear on my children.’
Instead of continuing, she got up in sitting position and said, much to his irritation, ‘I think I can trust that. But then why didn’t you come on Oliver’s birthday?’
‘I had business.’ He said shortly.
‘The whole night?’ She asked in disbelief.
‘Yes, the whole night. And I tried to call you but no one picked up.’
‘I was so angry I threw the telephone.’ She muttered, shocked to the core and brimming with guilt.
‘It cost us our kid.’ He couldn't stop himself from saying.
Her eyes welled up and she said, ‘I was going to tell you about it that night. I thought we would be the same after the baby came.’
He pulled her closer in his arms and said quietly, ‘We can always try for another.’
‘No, I’m too old. And imagine me after another baby, I would spread like a ginger.’ She tried to laugh but a strangled voice came out instead.
‘Hey.’ He touched her face and wiped her eyes.
‘I’m sorry.’ She sniffled and suddenly got up from the bed, 'Excuse me.'
He held her hand to stop her and said, ‘I talked to the nuns this morning.’
‘What happened?’ She asked, her eyes swollen but alerted.
‘The institute is taking all the children back in their own homes for orphan and stopping all funding to St. Hilda's Orphanage.'
‘Thank you,' she said and then asked the question he was dreading, 'What about your meeting with Mosley?'
'Let's talk tomorrow.' He said as he walked towards her and embraced her from behind.
'I'm too tired tonight. Tomorrow?' She said apologetically.
'I know what you're doing.' He said as he let her go.
'I am tired. Try taking care of three children all alone.' She said, irked at his insinuation.
'I'll be in my study. Let me know if you change your mind.' He said and she made herself comfortable on the bed, happily ignoring him.
'Goodnight.' She said as she turned off the lamp.
Thank you so much for reading !! Please share your thoughts and hit kudos if you liked it.
Chapter 20: Swan Lake
Season 5 episode 4 from Lily's POV
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
‘Where are you going?’ Lily asked as she watched Tommy take out his hunting rifle from the cupboard.
‘Work.’ He said shortly.
‘It’s a Sunday, Tommy.’ She said in mild dismay but went back to writing her letter.
He paused and walked closer to her, 'I'll be back in the afternoon, do you need something?’ He asked as he tried to read the letter.
‘Nothing in particular. But I was thinking of inviting Arthur to dinner tonight, he must be lonely there.’
‘He’s not in Birmingham.’ He said, not taking his eyes from the piece of paper meant for Alexander Kalogeropoulos of Boston.
‘Where is he, then?’ She looked up in surprise and Tommy remembered what he had said.
‘He is in Glasgow.’ He said, already regretting his mistake.
‘I thought Linda was in Bournville.’
He made a non-committal sound and her hackles rose.
‘What is it, Tommy?'
‘He’s in Glasgow to stop Aberama from killing Jimmy McCavern. Happy?’ He said slowly, as if she were a child.
‘No. Why are you stopping him? Jimmy is the enemy.’ She pointed out simply.
If only it were that simple, Tommy thought and said, ‘I need him alive.’
Her shoulders drooped and her eyes went downcast, 'Tommy... Why?'
He gave her a quick kiss on her lips and said, ‘We’ll talk more when I come back.'
'Bring something for the children if you aren't taking them to the zoo.' She told his retreating back.
Tommy arrived late at night and found Lily sleeping. He might not have woken her up were it not for what he had just seen. He needed to find out the truth.
'What is it?' She asked in her sleep-heavy voice as she rubbed her eyelids.
'I found an empty bottle of opium. What's going on?'
'It can be yours.' She mumbled, her eyes already closing again.
He clucked his tongue in impatience. 'Why did you take it?'
She sighed and got up a little, 'I had stomach pain.'
His jaw clenched and he bit out, 'It isn't for stomach pain.'
She rolled her eyes and said, 'I'll keep that in mind.'
'Don't hide things from me.' He ordered.
'My stomach hurts during my monthly cycle, so I took some of it.' She revealed, hoping he stopped his questions.
He exhaled, 'You could've told me.' He said, slightly embarrassed.
'It's nothing much. Everyone has it.' She said with a raise of her eyebrows at the patriarchy.
His gaze sharpened and he said, 'You never had it before. Is it because of your little secret?'
Her jaw hardened but she still replied, 'Maybe. George said it's normal.'
'What does he fucking know?' He asked, angered at the mention of the doctor. It took all his control to stop himself from going after that...sorry excuse of a man.
'More than I do. Now, if you don't mind, I would like to sleep. I'm starting to see two of you.' She said, only half-jokingly.
He picked up the empty bottle and pointed it towards her, 'Never take this again. Or I'll send your doctor to prison.'
She gasped at his threat and said, 'You are one to say, you drink it like water.'
'I know.' She said bitterly and covered herself with the blanket.
The next day, Lily left for Polly's Sutton mansion to give her belated birthday wishes. It had been a while since they had met and she hoped she hadn't chosen a wrong time, now that Michael was back. They hadn't been on friendly terms even before her marriage but they had a polite relationship. Now, she wasn't willing to see him until his innocence was proven. Maybe not even after that, considering Tommy's furtive behaviour.
'I am sorry I couldn't come for your birthday. But I brought a gift.' Lily said as she hung her coat on the hook.
Polly looked at the gift in mild distaste, 'Don't tell me it's that horrible china again.'
'You will like it.' She said reassuringly and sat down on the sofa. Then looking around, she asked, 'Are you alone?'
'For the time being.' Polly replied with her minx-like smile.
Lily's face lit up and she asked, 'Are you expecting someone? Someone by the name of Aberama Gold.'
She gave a small whoop and asked, 'Do I hear wedding bells, Pol?'
‘If Aberama agrees to my conditions. My past history with men is questionable at best.' Polly said as she looked at her nails.
'He seems nice enough for a Peaky Blinder.' Lily said and believed it too.
'That is not saying much.' she said a slight roll of her eyes.
She touched Polly's hand and smiled, 'Take a chance. It feels right to me, now that he has cut his hair.’
‘Did you hear about Linda?’ Polly asked after they had helped themselves to tea.
‘Tommy said she’s in Bournville.’ Lily replied, not quite interested. What Linda and Arthur had, she had had with Tommy too. But they were still together. She didn't doubt Linda's stay in Bournville was going to last long.
‘You know nothing then.’
‘What happened?’ She asked in concern.
‘Arthur went there to get her. After your husband told him that she has been talking to a man.’
‘Wait till you hear the rest of it. He cut his face, very badly.’
‘Did he go to the Police?’ She asked, mentally reproaching herself for not asking after the poor man.
‘We dealt with it. But I doubt Linda is ever coming back.’
‘At least she’s happy.’ She said hopefully.
‘At what cost?’
They were silent for a while until Lily said, 'I hope Arthur doesn't do anything rash.'
'Tommy will keep a watch on him.'
'Who is keeping a watch on Tommy?' She muttered, annoyed at Tommy's 'concern' for everyone and everything.
Polly leaned back on the sofa and said, 'I heard you're back to being Mrs Shelby again. Do you trust him now?'
'Of course I do. I always did.' She said with a shrug of her shoulders, hiding her face in the cup.
'I know what you did to your son.' Polly said as she lit a cigarette.
'Polly!' She gasped.
'It was a son you took away from us, from Tommy. You should thank me for keeping it from him.' She said as smoke blew out of her nostrils.
'He already has two sons.'
'They're nothing like him. They're like their mothers. He wanted one who was his from the beginning.'
Lily rarely saw Tommy for the next week, he was either in Westminster or at Charlie's yard, busy doing whatever he liked to do. But he made sure she kept herself busy lest she should start asking questions and pry. She didn't know much but she knew he was on another adventure again, courtesy Gerard. It was good that she was occupied though, considering the sudden revelations and changes she had gone through in the past few days. She had thought it would be normal again now that Tommy's fidelity was proven, but his erratic behaviour and Polly's prophecy had crushed her. She hadn't known Tommy thought like that about the boys, especially not Charlie, who had lived with him since the beginning. Now, she had reached a point where it didn't matter to her what Tommy thought or felt about her. All she wanted was for him to stay alive.
One morning, she woke up with a start, maybe by a bad dream or a strange intuition. She looked by her side in reflex, only to find Tommy’s body shivering and drenched with sweat.
She gently touched his face and said in concern, ‘Tommy?’
His eyes flickered but stayed close and she said again, more loudly, ‘Tommy? Wake up.'
‘I need you.’
The words were almost muted and it took her a while to discern them. When she did, she wished she hadn't. Tommy never needed anybody except one person and she at once knew who he was dreaming about. ‘It’s all right.’ She said as she made an attempt to wipe the sweat off his forehead, all the while swallowing the lump in her throat. She had heard him say her name sometimes and brushed off the pain, but this time it was unbearable. She made an attempt to move away from him but he grabbed her hands suddenly and pulled her closer.
‘Don’t go.’ He said before kissing her frantically and she responded in kind, almost thoughtlessly. In a smooth movement, he climbed on top of her as she ran her hands down his bare back, reveling in his touch.
'I don't want to fucking wait.' He said to himself as he pulled the skirt of her silk nightgown up to her waist and sucked in a breath.
She didn't answer but spread her legs, drugged by his kisses and touch. Tommy took off his briefs and pushed inside her swiftly, making her arch at the entrance.
'Tommy...' She whispered as he kept thrusting into her with increasing need.
'What?' He asked but didn't wait for her to reply, his head buried in her neck.
The selfish part of her wanted him to continue but another part, a tired part wanted to give up all hopes and face the truth. 'Stop.'
His brows furrowed and he asked in slight fury, 'What now, Lily?'
He watched as she turned on the bed, so she was lying on her stomach, her body naked from the waist down.
'I want you to fuck me like this.'
He stiffened but didn't let his surprise show at her request. 'Is this what you want?' He asked as he touched her round bottom.
She swallowed, 'Yes.'
He positioned himself behind her and ran his cock along her opening, 'All right,' he said and rammed into her.
'Fuck!' She cried out at the sudden, hard feel of him inside her but he didn't stop in his pursuit.
'You wanted this, didn't you?' He asked in scorn as he bent closer to her, his hand fondling her silk-encased breasts.
She whimpered in response, unable to speak against the liquid fire in her womb. His thrusts weren't slow and controlled like always, they were rapid and forceful and it wasn't long before she found herself climaxing around his shaft, tired to her bones. He followed suit and laid down on top of her, his damp chest soaking her back.
The room reverberated with the sounds of their breathing but both of them made no attempt to move. Finally, Lily shifted under him and said, 'You'll be late for work.'
'Fuck work.' He muttered but pulled out of her and got up from bed.
Lily made no attempt to move from the bed, feigning sleep until he left for work at six in the morning. She had done that for Tommy's happiness, but it was wrong, so wrong that she found it difficult to face herself.
She woke up after some time only to stay inside the hot bath for a long while. She left the warmth only after she had steeled herself against the cold. She had decided to marry him even when she had known how he felt about her, there was no reason for her to behave like he was keeping her as a whore.
She was soon dressed in her checked beige dress and hurrying downstairs, only to find Jack packing his violin case.
'I missed it today.' She said redundantly as he flashed her a quick smile.
'It's all right. I hope you're all right.' He said and walked closer.
'Why wouldn't I be?' She asked sharply.
'You didn't seem well last week.' He said quietly, his ears flushing.
'Oh. I'm well.' She said with a small smile.
He cut through the odd silence and said, ‘So, I heard there’s a ballet performance on the 16th.’
‘Yes, it’s Swan Lake.’ She replied with a relieved smile. Over time, she had began to consider Jack as someone more than a passing acquaintance. He was like her friend even though she met him for less than an hour every week. He had been kind but had not pitied her and had always known his boundaries. He had helped her without helping her, offering support while respecting her pride and will. He was like Alexander in some ways, who was presently married to Daisy and a father of one cherubic girl and rarely replied to her letters .She definitely didn't want to lose Jack's friendship, not now at least.
Jack nodded and said, ‘Tchaikovsky. You must be pleased.’
She gave a sheepish smile and said, ‘I don't know much about it. Except that it's a love story.'
‘You don’t know the entire story?’ He asked, horrified.
‘I’ll know soon.’ She said defensively.
‘I could tell you some things.’
She looked down at her watch. She had to talk to the caterers and chef about the arrangements, go through the guest rooms and complete the strange list of demands Tommy had made. Talking to Jack would delay everything and disrupt her schedule. But a part of her didn’t want to leave. Maybe because someone was willing to tell her things, even as trivial as ballets and music. He was someone who had suffered at the hands of the powerful like someone she loved . But unlike Tommy, he had opened up to her. Talking to him made her feel like there was some hope for her, that she was still the same Lily who had given birth to her son in a horse stable, alone and fearless.
‘Alright. But you'll have to be quick.'
He beamed at her and said, ‘There are four acts in total. In the first act, Prince Siegfried is shown celebrating his birthday in the courtyards. His...'
Sometime later, as Lily heard the menu reiterated by the chef, she wished she hadn’t agreed to Jack’s proposal. Because it was getting painfully difficult for her to brush away the similarities between Swan Lake and her or rather Tommy’s life. In the beginning, it was easy to ignore them. But as she learnt about the one-sided love of Odile and the Prince's obsession with Odette, she had felt like a mirror had been put in front of her, to remind her of what she had done to earn Tommy's love. Today, she had gone as far as letting him pretend that she was someone else, just to make him happy.
His words continued to play inside her head even when she was in her room after finishing her work for the day.
'The Prince said he would rather die with Odette...'
When her head began to pound from all the noises, Lily reached for bottle of snow Tommy kept in the drawer. She stared at it for a long moment, looking at the blue glass which held enough snow to revive a horse. She had done it before, everyone she knew did it. One line couldn't hurt.
She pulled out the cork with shaking hands and tapped the bottle against her dressing table, forming a small pyramid of powder. Gingerly reaching for her purse, she took out a note and rolled it into a joint. Taking a deep breath, she bent forward and place the note in front of her nose, awaiting the high and rush she had experienced ten years ago.
'Odile is so blinded by her love...he loves someone else.’
Suddenly the door burst open and she fumbled to hide it from the intruder. She looked up in the mirror and found a nervous Oliver looking at her in confusion. If she hadn't gone through enough heartaches, seeing her son look at her like that was enough to break it into proper two pieces.
'Mum?' Oliver asked as he took cautious steps towards her, his violin scratching along the floor.
'What is it?' She asked sharply and walked towards him.
'Will you listen to my violin?'
'Not now, Oliver. I'm busy.' She said as she put her hand on his back and took him out of the room.
'But I have a concert.'
'I'll listen to it at night. Now, go and do your number work.' She gestured towards the stairs.
'I hate you!' He stomped his feet and left in anger.
'So do I.' She muttered against the lump in her throat and rubbed her eyes.
Thank you so much reading!!! I hope you liked it. Please share your thoughts...Please do, I've missed it for the past ten days <3
I know Lily said she was going to change but I don't think it's that easy when the reason behind her condition continues to harm himself (I'm talking about you, Tommy.)
But things will change...maybe...
Chapter 21: Doubt
Mosely plants a seed of doubt in Tommy's head...Will he act on it??
The flask of whisky Tommy kept in his office was unsurprisingly empty, just like everything was these days. He took out the bottle of laudanum he kept in his drawer and took a quick swig, ignoring the implications of consuming it at this time of the day. Perhaps he was even anticipating them.
The door of his office burst open and he kept the bottle back, wiping his mouth as Oswald Mosley sauntered in.
'How on earth did you get a ballet company to come to your bloody house?' He asked, flinging the invite in his hand.
'It's an independent dance company dedicated to bringing ballet to the people. We share a philosophy. I'm a patron.' Tommy replied and Mosley cleared his throat. He continued, 'I also gave them a lot of money.'
Keeping his hands on his desk, he inhaled, finding it hard to keep the mask on in Mosley's presence. The man was one of the most abominable person he had ever met and considering his past enemies, it was saying a lot.
Mosley walked towards the opposite side and said, 'Hmm. A few days ago I realised we have another acquaintance in common.' At Tommy's lack of reaction he elucidated, 'Simon Hunt. He was betrothed to your wife for more than a month until you swooped in.'
Mosley waited for a change in Thomas Shelby's countenance, looking for a clench of his jaw but all he said, quite carelessly was, 'I don't recall.'
'Now that we're going to be conquering the world together, we need to have no secrets. We should know each other's weaknesses.'
Tommy kept looking at him without a change in his expression but silently motioned him to continue.
‘Simon Hunt is a distant relation of mine. On one drunken night, he let slip that he could be the possible father of your daughter. But of course, you trust your wife.' He added to soften the blow after he had seen the flicker of muted fire in Tommy's eyes.
‘A lot more than I trust a drunk I’ve never had the misfortune of meeting.’ He said coolly, keeping in every emotion in hold.
‘Tales about her exquisite taste were quite common in London. I never had the fortune of meeting her, but according to my cousin, she is in every sense marvellous. Perhaps, I could make acquaintance too. I am invited to stay the night, yes?'
Tommy looked at him for a long moment and said, 'I, too, have done some research, Sir Oswald. Yeah, I researched your wife and your wife's younger sister, and your wife's stepmother, Lady Curzon. All of whom you are fucking. If such things were to take place on a narrow boat, the church would get involved.'
Mosley said in a soft whisper, 'But...it's not happening on a narrow boat.'
'No. It's taking place in your apartment, in your country house, sometimes even in your office here in the House of Commons.' he clicked his tongue in disparagement and continued, 'So, no secrets. And yes. Yes, you are invited to stay the night with whichever member of your family finds favour. Now, if you don't mind, I was about to leave. I need to lock up me office.'
'Actually, I will come alone. In society, you are judged by your hospitality I will expect adventure.' Then, Mosley whispered as he took a puff of his cigarette, 'Such rogues we are, aren't we? Sing like songbirds in the House. And then afterwards, relieve ourselves in the bodies of whomever we choose. Two men for whom forbidding is forbidden. Should be quite a party.'
The next morning, as Jack packed up his case Lily asked suddenly, 'Why did you become a violinist, Jack?'
Last day had been emotionally draining for her to the point that she had called Jessie at 2 in the morning, because she was the only one she trusted. Polly and Ada were close but they were Tommy's family despite their reassurances. All she had was the Guild, which was presently scattered in different parts of the world leaving only Gerard and Jessie and she still found it difficult to talk to him. Times like this, she selfishly wished Alexander was with her and not looking after his daughter, Hyacinth and wife, Daisy in Boston. He understood her, just like the young teacher in front of her, who was presently giving her a sheepish smile.
'The reason a bit absurd.'
Her eyes widened and she prodded, 'Now you have to tell me.'
'It was because of a girl.'
'Who is she?' She asked, beaming at the disclosure.
'She was from my village, my neighbour to be precise. And she liked music, a lot.'
While the story was romantic, the wistfulness in his voice wasn't missed by her. 'Where is she now?' She questioned softly.
Clearing his throat, he said, 'She died of the flu ten years back. I was by her side during her final days and her last wish was that I play Tchaikovsky for her.'
She gasped. 'The same one you played the first time we met?'
He nodded distractedly, 'Yeah. I hadn't played it since her death.'
She placed her hand on top of his in reflex and said earnestly, 'I'm sorry, Jack. I shouldn't have asked you.'
'No, Lily,' he stressed as he put his hand over hers 'You helped me in a way. Even after ten years, I hadn't been able to forget her. Playing the piece again made me realise that Emma wouldn't have wanted me to live the way I was living.'
'She wouldn't have. She also wouldn't want you to stop in your pursuit.' She said kindly, trying to ignore their entangled hands.
'I know. I just need some time.' He kept looking at her, his hyacinth blue eyes locking with her warm brown ones. Suddenly the air around her felt too oppressive and she looked away and pulled her hands out of his grasp.
'I'll see you next week.' She muttered without looking at him and hurried out of the room.
As Lily walked downstairs, she tried not to think of the recent episode with Jack. Nothing had happened and nothing ever would, there was no reason for her to feel guilty. Talking to someone didn't count as infidelity, especially when it happened under her roof with Tommy and the kids around. She hadn't left their house like Linda and she loved Tommy. Who was probably still in Small Heath, doing whatever he did at the yard.
Lily pushed open the door of the study and almost stumbled when she found Tommy sitting behind his desk, his coat thrown on the sofa and an empty glass in his hand. She furrowed her brows and took a hesitant step backwards, not quite ready to talk to him. But he was quicker in noticing her and gestured her in. 'How are things looking?' He leaned back on his chair, acutely aware of her reluctance. But he wasn't letting her out of his sight, not after what had transpired yesterday. He wondered if Ada had told her what he had done but considering her pleasant countenance, he highly doubted it.
'Good.' She said as she walked inside and sat down on the chair in front of him, still not accepting his presence, 'When did you come back?'
'A while ago.'
'Should've called me. You must be starving.' She said in quiet concern.
'Where were you?' He had first gone in their bedroom after arriving from London, only to find it empty. He had dismissed it initially, but now looking at her dressed up form, he wasn't so sure. There was fucking lipstick on her face.
'I was with the kids. Oliver wasn't talking to me.' She said. It was the truth, perhaps not the complete one but there was no reason to feel guilty about it.
He took off his glasses and leaned back on his chair, slightly amused at the development. 'Why?'
'I yelled at him. But we're alright now.' She added nonchalantly and got up from the chair. 'Come, I'll ask Frances to set the table.'
He shook his head and went back to his books, 'I'm not hungry. And I need to go to the yard.'
'It will take less than ten minutes, Mr Shelby.' She said in mock-admonishment and he almost smiled.
He came back home that evening to hear familiar voices from the drawing room. As he handed his briefcase to Frances, she said, 'Mrs Bradley and her husband are here.'
'Since when?' He asked her as he took off his cap.
'An hour or so.'
He had every intention of leaving the house and was turning his back when he heard Oliver screech, 'Up! Again!'
He walked closer towards the door and listened in to hear Lily's rebuke, 'Put him down, James. He'll throw up.'
The laughter that followed made him enter inside the room abruptly, earning surprised glances from the occupants. James was the one to recover first, carefully putting Oliver down as he nodded in Tommy's direction.
'Dad! Aunt Jessie brought toys for me.' Oliver said, jumping on his feet in glee.
'Did she, now?' He asked as he gently ruffled his hair.
'She got me a toy car too.' Charlie added, a bright smile on his face.
'Hello, Thomas.' A manly voice boomed and Tommy looked at the forty-something man, whose delicate features seemed at odds with his burly appearance.
'James.' He said as he shook hands with him. He moved to his wife, who always managed to irk him with her pointed glances at Grace's portraits and clucks over Lily's absence from London.
Still, he liked to believe they had a cordial relationship. He nodded in her direction, 'Mrs Bradley.' He never, despite all provocation from her, called her by her first time.
'Thomas.' She replied in the same cool tone.
Lily cut through the chilly atmosphere as she handed a glass of whisky to Tommy and sat down beside him, keeping a respectable distance between them. 'I was just telling Jessie about the ballet tomorrow. She is very well trained in ballet.' She added with motherly pride.
Tommy nodded again as he sipped the whisky.
'All thanks to Lily. She made me sign up for it with her and then left after three days.' She said with a click of her tongue.
'Because it was so painful. My toenails still hurt.' She moaned.
'And mine didn't? Poor James used to stay up all night to work out the kinks in my legs.' She said with a loving hand on her husband's neck.
'Anything for you, love.' He murmured and kissed her lips, indifferent to the audience. The boys were too busy in their toys to notice and Lily hid her face in her glass of whisky but cast an occasional glance in their direction. An action not hidden from Tommy's sharp gaze, who didn't look away until he heard someone knock on the door.
'Mrs Shelby, Ruby is asking for you. She won't stop crying.' The maid said and Tommy was about to get up, when something stopped him.
'I just put her to bed.' Lily said but got up immediately, hurrying towards the door before telling them all, ‘Sit here. I’ll put her to bed.’
Tommy got up too but for entirely different reasons.‘I’ve some work. I’ll be in my study.’ He declared.
‘Tommy, please.’ Lily pleaded while glaring at him.
‘It’s fine, Lily. We wouldn’t want to hold up our MP.’ Jessie said from the sofa, her eyes glinting.
‘I’ll be back in a minute.’ She said apologetically and almost ran upstairs.
In the drawing room, Jessie gave a short nod to her husband before getting up from the sofa.
'I'm not letting him get away this time.' She said firmly.
'Be careful.' Was all he said as his wife walked towards the lion's den.
Tommy looked up sharply when the door of his study opened; he wasn't expecting anyone who could come in without knocking.
‘Why are you here?’ He asked as the woman walked in leaving him shocked to his core.
‘I was getting bored in the hall.’ She said dismissively and walked to his side, leaving barely any space between her and his chair.
He inhaled and spoke with all his control, ‘Mrs Bradley.’
She ignored him and propped herself up on his table. ‘I don’t think it’s anything new for you. I've heard that lots of women have been on your table.’
‘I’m guessing you don’t want to be one of them. Not with your husband right outside.' He said scornfully, suddenly wary of the beautiful woman.
‘Do you know that Lily is an orphan?’ She asked as she picked up the cigarette case from his table.
‘I do.’ He replied coolly.
‘Do you also know her grandparents left her on the doorstep of a church? And everyday, the nuns used to taunt her about it, some even hit her.’ She added further, pulling out a cigarette and lighting it with his lighter.
He leaned back on his chair and entwined his fingers, appraising her with his cold gaze. ‘I know everything that I need to know. I also know that you used to be a 'mistress' to many aristocrats, sometimes even important public figures.'
To his mild shock, she only took a deep puff, dismissing his insult and went on with her speech, ‘Then you probably don’t know what her adoptive father did to her.’
His hold on the arm of the chair tightened as he stated, ‘I know.’
She looked at him in disbelief, feigning surprise. ‘Strange. What about the time she spent with Oliver in Greece? She left the country after seeing you in London with her.’ She pointed her cigarette towards Grace's photoframe.
Inhaling sharply, he asked, ‘What do you want?’
‘I know you are a smart man, Thomas. You are either blind to Lily’s pain or you like seeing her like this. Weak, at your service.’ She sneered.
‘She is a free woman. She does whatever she wants.’ He said with a motion of his hands, reminding her of what she had done.
She scoffed. ‘Aren’t you responsible for it? I know what happens in that apartment. And don't forget that you lied about everything so you could go scot-free.’ She said scathingly.
His eyes flashed and he said, ‘We have a deal.’
‘Which holds only if you do what you’ve been asked to. She isn’t any more different than before.’
He kept looking at her impassively for a moment, all the while contemplating whether to shoot her or strangle her for her insouciance.
‘Who do you have, Thomas? Your kids don’t like you, your wife is as good as dead, the wife you want is actually dead.' She said, contempt dripping from her words.
Tommy put his hand on her jaw, holding her soft cheeks by his calloused fingers. Bringing her stoic face closer to his, he whispered, ‘You think you can come in my house and talk shit about my family?’
Her face softened with sympathy and she touched his face, ‘Look, Thomas. You’ve been through a lot, but so has Lily. If you can’t love her then let her go. She has no use of a man who is still after another woman.’
His eyes blazed but his hold on her loosened, her words hitting home and she got down from the table. She was stubbing out his cigarette when the door opened again and Lily walked in, ‘Jessie? What are you doing here?’ She asked in mild accusatory tone. Jessie knew James must have told her about it and she didn't regret it one bit.
‘Lily, I didn’t know there was an antique painting in your house. Thankfully, your husband was kind enough to show me around.’
‘Tommy? I’m impressed.’ Lily replied with a sideways glance in her husband's direction.
‘So, tell me what this ballet is about?’
An hour later, Tommy was reclining shirtless on the bed with a cigarette in his hand as Lily pulled out her dress for tomorrow from the wardrobe. He hadn't said a word about Jessie's presence in his study but the tension in the room was palpable enough to cut through. She kept humming tunelessly as she put the shimmery dress through a hanger, indifferent to the number of cigarettes he had stubbed.
‘What do you want, Lily?’
She looked up with a start but didn't show a change of expression. ‘Nothing,' she said and closed the door of the closet with a loud slam.
‘Are you unhappy?’
‘No.' She lied shortly and walked closer to him. 'What’s wrong?,' she asked, leaning against the column of their four poster bed.
‘We have a ballet performance tomorrow.’
‘You’re worried about that.’ She said but her tone was condescending.
‘I’m worried about what’s gonna happen.’ he said, forming a spiral of smoke as he gestured with his hand.
She sighed and began to sit down next to him, but he pulled her closer so she was almost sitting on his lap. ‘Why?’
‘Mosley will be there. Do you know him?’
Her brows furrowed and she replied slowly, ‘I’ve heard about him and I’ve seen him once or twice. But I never talked to him.’
'He's heard about you too.' He stated but the accusation in his voice wasn't concealed.
'Tommy, it was years ago. I'm not proud of it but I can't change it.' She said with an apologetic shrug.
His jaw clenched as he touched her face. ‘If he tries to misbehave with you, he’ll be a dead man.’
‘You’re worrying over nothing. He is just an over-entitled toff.’ She said dismissively, trying not to think about his threat.
You don't know him at all, he thought as he looked at her. She wouldn't lie about Ruby, she knew how he felt about such things. But if she had...it was something he wasn't ready to face yet.
‘If anything happens, tell me.’
She gave a hollow laugh then pushed back the long strands of his hair. ‘Why is your hair is long?’ She asked softly.
In response, he kissed her lips, softly at first then more frantically. His hands fondled her through the soft cotton and she gently touched his face. In a short moment, she was lying flat on her back and he was pulling her dress up to her waist all the while kissing her passionately.
As he tucked his thumbs in the waistband of her knickers, she pulled away from him and breathed, ‘What did Jessie tell you?'
‘Nothing that should concern you.' He replied and continued to divest her of her knickers.
Piqued, she gave him a light push and readjusted her skirt as she got up in sitting position. ‘You don’t have to pretend, Tommy. And honestly, I don’t want to pressurise you.’ She said in muted resentment.
He looked at her in confusion, his breath still coming in pants. ‘Into what?’
‘Into loving me.’ She forced out, feeling more humiliated than she had when Oliver had caught her doing...almost doing coke.
Swearing under his breath, he kissed her suddenly, running his hands in her hair while she whimpered against his lips. He paused only to help her out of her dress, leaving her completely naked. He covered her body with his and she kissed him, preparing for the sting but he kept kissing her chin then her neck.
‘What are you doing?’
He dragged his mouth over her throat, breasts, stomach making her moan softly until he finally stopped above her soft mound.
‘You need a validation of everything. Just giving you that.’
She whimpered, embarrassment veiling her delight as he continued his sweet torture. Her shaking hands sifted through his hair and she tugged at them as his tongue probed deeper.
Soon, she was rising against him in surges, crying out with every breath.
He lifted his body over hers and spread her thighs apart, while she tried to bring her breath back to normal.
‘Are you all right?’ He asked as he touched her face and entered her before she could answer.
Her head tossed back and he kissed her throat and shoulder, muttering something incorrigible, unfamiliar to her ears. When release seemed near, he thrust into her deeply for one last time and she shuddered, overwhelmed by the power of her climax. It wasn’t anything new but it felt different, like everything was nice and rosy. Like everything was normal.
Sometime later, when she was lying beside him and her breath was finally back to normal, she asked, ‘What did you say?’
‘When?’ He asked, already lighting another cigarette.
She rolled her eyes and reached for the sheets, feeling cold and exposed suddenly. She couldn't help thinking that Tommy wasn't any different than he was before they had fucked. He was closed off until she took off her clothes for him and after he was done, he went back to his regular self.
She closed her eyes and turned her back to him, deciding to forgo the nightgown for the night; Tommy would soon leave the room anyway.
‘It was in Romani.’ He said after a while and put his hand around her waist, his hard body pressed against her back.
‘What did it mean?’ She asked, putting her hand on his and touching his gold ring.
‘I’ll tell you tomorrow.’ He replied and kissed her neck.
'Good night, Tommy.' She whispered and closed her eyes.
After an hour, when he was certain from her snores that she was sleeping, he moved away from her and dressed in his discarded clothes.
Before leaving for his study, he stopped and stood next to her sleeping form. Pushing back her hair, he kissed her forehead and said, 'It meant I love you, Lily.'
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Hope you liked it
Chapter 22: The Ballet
Swan Lake just got real and Lily will do anything to keep herself sane. At the cost of her sanity.
Lily Shelby was late for an occasion which was happening in her own house. But it wasn't her fault, because the moment she had reached downstairs, her son had thrown a fit about not being able to attend the event. She had spent almost half an hour convincing him, earning a headache in the process. When he was done playing his violin, she had gone inside her room to give herself a final perusal.
As she looked at herself in the mirror, she decided that the only redeeming factor about her tonight was her dress. Because her unruly hair, restricted in a sophisticated bun was beginning to curl at the corners. Her dress was a floor-length, champagne coloured gown which had a neckline low enough to make her forgo her chemise. There were no sequins or embellishments on her dress, making it appear almost plain in contrast to Polly’s skintight gold gown and Gina’s sequined dress. But the diamond necklace around her neck, a gift from her husband for her thirty second birthday made up for every inadequacy. It was expensive and unapologetically lavish and Lily wondered if the Labour Party sometimes suspected where Tommy's true loyalties lay.
With a tug at the next to non-existent straps of her dress, she begin to look around for any glitches or issues, ignoring the biggest issue of her husband. She hadn't even seen Tommy since he had left their bedroom with a look of annoyance and impatience when Clara was setting her hair for the event.
As the door of the room opened and the immaculately dressed Thomas Shelby appeared, she hurried to get up from the ottoman.
'I was just coming.' She said quietly and continued when he didn't say anything, 'Oliver wanted to come and see the ballet. I was putting him to bed.' She said nervously, annoyed at herself for flustering around him. She turned to pick up her small purse and stiffened when she felt him behind her.
He had stopped when he was standing behind her, her high heels bringing her at nose-level with him.
‘You’re wearing this?’ He asked gruffly as he touched the strap of her dress.
She kept looking at their reflection in the mirror, leaning towards him a little when his hand dipped lower. ‘Do you like it?’ She breathed as he touched the bodice of her dress.
‘I want to burn it.’ He said flatly and bent to kiss the nape of her neck, inhaling the flowery scent he was so fond of.
Her shoulders hunched and she closed her eyes, unable to remember the last time she was so aroused just by his touch. ‘It’s expensive. Very expensive.’ She sighed.
‘I don’t fucking care.’ With that, he turned her around and kissed her without warning, making her eyes widen. She recovered soon enough and raised her hands to touch his freshly shaved jaw, still cool under her fingertips. He deepened their kiss by pulling her closer, his hands circling around her waist.
‘You need to fucking eat,’ he almost growled as he touched her through the soft fabric, his hands inching further down as he kissed her neck. She half-sighed, half-moaned in response, arching to giving him better access. But it was redundant since Tommy was already pushing them towards the bed.
‘Tommy…It’s…’ She breathed in outrage as he positioned himself on top of her, impatiently pushing up her voluminous skirt.
‘It’s my fucking house and you’re my wife.’ He stated, putting an end to every argument she wanted to put forward. She contemplated whether to feel euphoric or miserable, considering the sole purpose of Tommy Shelby’s wife was to spread her legs at her husband’s every beck and call. She was wife when he wanted a fuck. Rest of the times, she might as well be the maid.
He must have seen the shadow that eclipsed her pretty face because he tenderly reached to touch her cheek, his callous thumb rubbing the shadows under eyes, presently hidden behind the powder but not from him.
He muttered something in Romani as he pulled down the sleeves of her dress, amazed at the bare skin he uncovered.
‘I think you forgot something, Mrs Shelby.’ He looked down at her, his voice gruffer than ever. He bent down to closely appreciate her soft skin but she ran her fingers in his hair and tugged, hard. ‘Tell me what you were saying.’
He kissed her hand and whispered, ‘You’re mine, Lily. Mine.’
In the next few seconds, Tommy’s trousers came undone and Lily’s knickers were as good as torn. Pushing herself up, she kissed the side of his mouth and whispered, ‘Are you mine?’
Luckily for her, the question was drowned by the loud moan that escaped her mouth when he entered her in a fluid motion. Her nails clawed at his thick tuxedo as he continued to thrust into her with increased urgency. She touched his face to bring him closer, so she could look into his eyes and convince herself that everything was alright, that he wasn't thinking of someone else while having sex with her. But he just kissed her, his movements almost mechanical as she began to reach her climax.
‘You’re mine, Lily.’ He said before thrusting inside her for the last time.
She didn’t answer him, still taken back by the torrent of events. She couldn’t put a finger on it but there was something different about Tommy tonight. He had behaved just like this when…when she had let him think she was Grace. And tonight, they were hosting ballet about a love story which couldn’t be more similar to their lives.
A tear fell down her cheek before she could swallow it. She shifted to wipe it away, a movement not unnoticed by him and he looked up at her with furrowed brows.
Clearing her throat, she said as evenly as she could, ‘Let’s go. The guests must be waiting.’
He reached to touch her tear, ‘Lily…’
‘It’s nothing.’ She said even as she sniffled and shifted from under him, already readjusting her clothes.
Tommy was slower, taking his time as he pulled out his cigarette and lit it with his lighter. Taking a very unhealthy puff, he said, ‘Mosely knows your former…friend. Simon Hunt.’ He added, hiding his bitterness as he gestured at Lily with the cigarette, who was reapplying her lipstick.
She stopped suddenly, as if caught in the act, making Tommy’s eyes light up with muted fury. But she was preoccupied with her own anger to notice.
‘Why are we talking about him?’ She asked, crossing her arms across her chest.
‘You were going to marry him.’ He stated.
She shook her head and said, ‘We’ve talked about it Tommy. He meant nothing, I barely remember his face.’ She emphasised.
‘He told Mosely…’ He broke off suddenly, unable to say it. He had told Polly about it and she had spoken enough sharp words that he didn't think about it, for a while. But he hadn't forgotten it.
‘What?’ She asked, feeling a strange premonition. A knock on the door interrupted them.
‘Mrs Shelby, Mrs Gray is asking for you.’
‘Tell her I’m coming, Frances.’ Lily said over her shoulder and heard the maid scuttle away. Fixing Tommy with her fierce gaze, she said, ‘After you’re done impressing people, you’ll tell me everything that man told you.’
He didn’t like that she was talking to him like that. But more than that, he hated that her anger was warranted. ‘Fuck off.’
‘I’m done with your games, Tommy. You have no right to judge me for my past.’ She said, infuriated that someone like Tommy was making comments about her life.
Tommy looked at her, uncharacteristically pissed off. Ideally, he had no right to judge her at all. She was a hundred times better than him but before that, she was his and no man got to talk like that about his wife. Also, it was her fault for getting involved with an arse.
‘Should’ve thought that before you fucked him.’ He said before getting up from the bed.
She raised her hands in defeat and bit out, ‘Go to hell, Tommy.’
She looked at his hand with enough fire that he was surprised it didn’t fall off on the floor, charred. Still she took it, with visible reluctance.
‘I can’t wait for this evening to end.’ She muttered with a final tug at the sleeves of her dress.
‘Neither can I.’ He murmured before kissing her cheek.
In the hall, Tommy left her to mingle with the guests, walking towards his study as if he hadn’t just fucked her mindless before leaving her burning with fury.
‘Who are these women?' Lily asked as she picked up a glass from the table, uncaring of the response. She had never seen the maids wear name tags before and she might not have said anything were it any other day. But tonight, she was wary of everything.
‘It’s your staff.’ Polly replied, busy drinking and smoking.
‘I don’t think so, Polly. They seem…’
‘Expensive? Because they fucking are.’ She cackled. Only Polly could say an expletive without losing her classy demeanour and Lily might have been in awe, were it not for the revelation she had just heard.
‘Oh, my God! There are whores here!’ She almost shouted, her eyes wide in shock.
‘No need to look so scandalised. They are not for your husband.’ Polly simpered.
She threw an exasperated look in Polly’s direction who just smirked again. ‘Who are they for, pray tell?’ She asked, taking a small sip of her whisky.
Lily looked around in a fit of pique, angered that a man she had never seen was running things in her house. Her husband’s house, that is. But the mention of Mosely was enough to raise her suspicions. ‘What did he tell Tommy?’ She asked quietly.
Polly’s face sobered, which was a lot considering Lily could feel how drunk she was. ‘Nothing of importance, darlin'.’
‘Polly..’ Lily said in mild warning. She could take it if Mosely was calling her a drunk or a user, contrary to what her husband and Polly liked to believe.
‘He said that your architect friend is Ruby’s father.’
Her mouth grew slack as an inaudible gasp left her mouth. So that's why Tommy was asking about Simon. Fucking...The tears Lily had held back in her bedroom welled up, brimming to fall down her cheeks. Still, composing herself, she asked calmly, ‘What did Tommy say?’
Polly touched her face and said, ‘Lily…’
‘He believed him?’ She shook her head, her hate for Mosely increasing by the second.
‘No.’ Polly said firmly.
‘But he doesn’t believe me.’ Lily concluded and emptied the glass in her hand, only to pick up another.
‘He’ll talk to you about it.’
‘He better.’ She muttered and took a deep swig of the whisky. She couldn't pick which situation was worse; that her husband talked to his dead wife or that he thought he wasn't the father of their child. But she knew her situation was pitiful.
At that moment, she saw an abominably tall man with the most abominable moustache walking towards her, escorted by an increasingly abominable Tommy, looking around the house with mild disdain, as if Tommy was undeserving of the place. They both came to a stop before her and Polly and Lily had to literally wipe the scowl with another sip of her drink.
‘Sir Oswald, this is my wife, Lily. Lily, Sir Oswald.’ Tommy said stiffly, not looking at either of them after he had made the introduction.
Mosley was the one to break the uncomfortable silence and he began what seemed like a prepared speech with a greasy smile, ‘The lovely Lily of London. I believe that’s what the Charles Holland called you, Mrs Shelby.' Before Lily could react, he continued, 'Tell me, did you ever think we would meet here, of all places? And not in a fancy room at the Ritz?’
Lily had to swallow the scoff at the shameless gall of the man. ‘Well, at the risk of offending you, I had never heard of you, Mr Mosely.’ She said, working hard to sound disappointed. Then brightening up, she added, ‘Except of course from Irene, who was quite a gossip at the parties.’ She divulged, as if Mosley was her close socialite friend and not the man she wanted to kill with her bare hands.
‘Is it true that you both...?’ Lily didn’t feel the need to complete her sentence because Mosely was no longer smiling smugly, having exchanged his smile with Lily’s permanent scowl.
The announcement interrupted them before anyone could continue, ‘Ladies and gentleman, the dance is about to begin.’
Lily kept her smile until Mosely turned around, not looking at anyone, especially Tommy. She was silent when Tommy called out, his glass raised, ‘Mr Mosley, a toast, if I may. To the end of our deal. And the beginning of something more.’
He turned to look at her and she let a small smile slip, taken aback by the sparkle in his eyes.
‘This way.’ He gestured at Mosley after taking a healthy gulp of his drink.
Lily's scowl loosened a little as she watched both the men leave the hall. She knew Mosely still had the upper hand and she was not going to forgive Tommy until he apologised. On his knees. She picked up another glass and emptied it in one gulp, the liquid burning her insides.
She was about to pick another when Polly forced it out her hands and drank it herself. ‘So, what did they do?’ Polly asked slyly.
‘I don’t know. I never met her.’ Lily replied with a shrug of her shoulders.
‘He looks like someone who would do something inappropriate with his wife’s sister.’ She said darkly before letting out a bark of laughter and Polly watched in concern, certain that the booze was slowly working its way inside Lily's head.
In the garden of Arrow House, as Lily heard the melodic tunes of Tchaikovsky, she was sent back to the first time she had heard him. Jack had played a String Quartet (with some mathematical number she didn’t quite remember) for her. Just for her. And she had cried in front of him, like he was her trusted confidant, not her sons’ teacher. Or a man her husband paid.
She knew it was hardly appropriate for her to think about another man, more so in her husband’s presence. But she didn’t want to look at the beautiful swan anymore nor did she want to hold Tommy’s hand. She doubted he would even notice; he was so enthralled by the performance. She had tried to focus on the performance, but Polly and Aberama’s furtive escape and Arthur’s snores had managed to distract her. She had even turned to peek a glance in Michael and Gina’s direction, only to turn around when she caught the glint in Mosely’s eye.
It was almost laughable, she thought as looked at Tommy, who was looking at the swan with questionable intensity. They were both sitting together and had had sex less than an hour ago but they both were thinking about other people. She was surprised that she didn’t feel guilty about it, considering another man was responsible for Arthur and Linda’s recent separation. On the other hand, she left vindicated. No man mattered as long as she loved Tommy, who loved her just enough to never say that he did. Also, she might’ve drank too much whisky, she realised as she blinked her eyes, trying to refocus her gaze. Between Tommy’s fixation with Swan Lake and his doubts about Ruby, she had needed it. But she hadn’t suspected that her tolerance towards the drink would decrease in mere months.
Polly must be having sex right now, Lily thought miserably as she leaned back a little on her seat. The chair was too uncomfortable and her hair was probably stinking with sweat right now. She reached up to loosen a hairpin and Tommy turned his head at the same time, probably to look at Arthur. The sigh he let out after settling back made her look at him in question but he was already nodding at Michael.
Fuck the Shelbys, Lily thought as she shifted in her chair and Tommy continued to relay his orders silently, indifferent to the fact that he thought his daughter wasn't his. How could a man be so heartless? She wondered and wished she could leave like Linda, then straightened up suddenly.
No. She didn't want to leave. She loved Tommy. And she had promised to never leave him. But he had promised to honest and caring. And she had yet to see both.
As she watched Arthur get up from his chair and walk out of the garden with determined steps, she wondered if Linda was back; it was difficult to see which car it was from such a distance when alcohol was the deciding factor. If she was back, Lily might as well ask her if it was wrong to think about a man who wasn't your husband, that too when your husband was Thomas Shelby.
Will he watch the Swan die? Lily thought sadly as she rested her head on Tommy’s shoulder.
‘What?’ Tommy shifted to look down at her and inhaled sharply when he saw the glazed look in her eyes.
She continued to look at him in irritation, annoyed at him for ruining her moment. He looked around the place then bent down to whisper sharply in her ear, ‘How much did you fucking drink?’
She rolled her eyes and looked in front with her complete attention before muttering, ‘Shut up.’
As the swan spun around in broken steps with death and the Prince beckoning her, Tommy got up suddenly from his chair. Lily suppressed her miserable gasp and kept looking at the scene before her, trying not to cry at her outright rejection. But Tommy touched her hand and gave her the slightest of nods. To anyone else, they would look like a couple going out for a bonk but for Lily, it was like balm on her bruised heart.
She might be pretty pathetic if that made her feel better about herself.
Thank you for reading!! I ended it quite suddenly but I'll update soon. Please share your thoughts <3 and feedback
Chapter 23: THE END
So, this might be the final chapter from me. I had great fun writing Lily's story but I must learn to let go. I shouldn't have stretched it so much and everyday I grew disillusioned by what I was writing. Please let me know what you think about it.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Everyone has retired in their rooms; Polly and Aberama are in their room, Arthur is with Linda and Lily is burning with fury as she walks towards her room.
'Fucking bastard.' She didn't know who deserved the curse more; Mosley or Tommy but both of them deserved it, period. Her already rising anger skyrocketed when she opened the door of her bedroom and found Tommy drinking and smoking like his life depended on it. He never brought the bottle to their bedroom and she deduced that the guest of honour had something to do with it.
‘Tommy!’ She yelled, uncaring of the guests and propriety.
He let out a cloud of smoke before answering in the same tone, ‘What?’
‘What did he tell you?’ She demanded as she scurried towards him, trying not to fling his bloody bottle on his head.
‘Nothing.’ He muttered and went back to more 'pressing' concerns, ignoring the woman who was shooting daggers above him.
Taking a deep inhale lest she make a fool of herself by crying, she began, ‘You don’t think you’re Ruby’s…’
He immediately held her by her waist and pulled her closer as he rasped, ‘Shh. She is mine. Just like the boys are.’
'How can I believe you when he is still here?' She screamed, her mouth twisting into an ugly snarl.
He got up at that and pulled her closer as he said sardonically, ‘Lily, trust me for once.'
‘All right, Tommy. I’ll be honest with you. I love you more than anyone, maybe that’s why I’m still here. But I don’t trust you. I never did and perhaps I never will. You are my husband and the father of my children, but I would rather die than let you be the judge of what’s best for us.’
He grasped her wrists in his, his hold tightening to the point of bruising her.
‘You don't understand it, Lily.'
‘How would I? Have you ever needed me for anything other than a fuck?’
‘Don’t.’ He warned, but she was relentless.
‘Or what, Tommy? Why should everyone fall on your feet?’
‘Because everything you have is mine. Your fucking clothes and diamonds, everything. I own it.’
She tried to pull out of his grasp as she bit out, ‘You don’t own me, Tommy.’
He suddenly pushed her towards the bed at that and before she could make sense of it, pinned her underneath his weight. Just like someone had twenty years ago.
She tried to push him off by raising her knee but he was quicker despite the alcohol and opium. Separating her legs with a hard knee, he had bent to kiss her when she scoffed mockingly, ‘That’s it, Tommy? That’s all you can do? You don’t know anything about me if you think this will shut me up.’
Realisation dawned on his face like a bucket of ice cold water and he promptly loosened his hold on her, racked by the look of anguish on her face.
‘Go on. Don’t stop, Tommy.’ She prodded, her pitch of her voice higher than normal.
‘Shut up! Shut up.' He added softly, gently cupping her face in his hands but she remained closed off and kept staring at the ceiling with moist eyes.
‘Why? At least now I know how low you can stoop.’ She said calmly, still not looking at him.
Tommy Shelby had many sins but he had never thought a the crime of being a rapist would end up making the cut.
‘Lily, I…I am sorry.’ He stuttered out and got off from top of her.
She got up slowly, still shaking from the ordeal and settled in a corner of the bed. ‘I thought you didn’t apologise. Why change the rules for someone like me?'
‘Lily.’ He warned.
‘What, Tommy? You think Ruby’s not yours. How I can ever talk to you?’ The tears she had held back finally turned loose, spreading the eye-liner on her face.
He gingerly touched her shoulder and made her look at him as he stressed, ‘She’s mine. She’s my daughter. Mosley is fucking going to pay for it, I promise you.’
She touched his hand and said in a pleading voice, ‘You heard him tonight, Tommy. He is evil. Do you want to be around a man like that? A man who openly disrespects everyone around you? Who asks your wife to join him in his bed?’
‘Why do you hate me so much, Tommy?’ She cried.
He gave a bitter laugh and lit his cigarette as he said, ‘If I hated you, you wouldn’t be alive Lily. I fucking forgave you for killing my kid.’
‘You didn’t want it!’ She said accusingly.
He shook his head and muttered, ‘You think you know me, Lily. But you couldn’t be more wrong.’
She moved to face him and looked at him with fire in her eyes. ‘Then tell me. Tell me why you married me. Tell me why you took away the one thing I had.’
‘Because I fucking love you!’
Her face blanched, more at the intensity than at the actual words; it was like a cry for help not ardour admission of one's love.
In a more controlled voice, he said, ‘I love you, Lily. I have since the day you smiled at me in the fucking pub.’
It was her turn to scoff in disbelief. ‘You lie, Tommy. You hated me until you realised Oliver was your son.’
But he went on with his ground-breaking admission, ‘I loved you when you called me Thomas for the first time. When you came to our house for the first time, looking like a rose. When you made that horrible tea. But I knew it for certain when you hugged me for the first time.’
Hiding her surprise at his memory, she muttered with a shake of her head, ‘You barely remembered me.’
Flinging the cigarette away, he focussed on the dying embers as he said, ‘I forgot about you because you were fucking up with my head.’
She raised her hands in defeat. ‘This is all so nice, Tommy. So fucking convenient.’
‘Everybody needs me, Lily but you don’t. You don’t need me at all. And that fucking kills me. I took away everything from you but you didn't ask for anything. Not even fucking love!'
'Why do you think I stayed? I wanted to leave when you came back smelling of perfume, when you had bloodstains on your shirt, when you ignored me for days. But I couldn’t leave, maybe for the kids but mostly for myself. I wanted you to love me like you loved Grace. And maybe that was my mistake, because I could never be Grace. I am Lily Peyton, an orphan who doesn’t know her father’s name.'
If his heart wasn't broken already, it was crushed into pieces at her revelation. Holding her closer, he whispered, 'You are the one I love, Lily. I promise. And you'll have to trust me for once.'
She stammered a little as she admitted, 'I...I never had anyone to trust. And you are always so far.'
'I'll make an effort. All right?'
She nodded shakily, wondering if it was his way of quieting her down.
He smirked as he wrapped his arms around her waist and said, 'And before you accuse me of manipulating you, I don't give a fuck about Mosley or his fucking fascist party if you're not alright. And I'll make sure that bastard pays in the worst way possible.'
She leaned against his chest and whispered, 'I love you.'
He gently patted her hair and replied, 'I love you too, Lily. More than I would like to.'
'Shut up for a moment. You're ruining it.'
Thank you all of you for reading it and bearing with my story for so long. It was your appreciation which made me continue amidst the 'burnt out-ness' I LOVE YOU ALL>