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Often She Smiles

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Tony's never struck her. She's also sure that he would never try. But that doesn't stop Bren from flinching when his hand casts a shadow across her face. She remembers one morning at the canteen before any of the other ladies had arrived. Tony had lifted his hand to brush at some mascara on her cheek and she'd closed her eyes to the gesture. She'd hoped it would go unnoticed but she wasn't that fortunate.

"I'm not gonna smack you Bren," Tony had laughed though the sound had died on his lips at the expression in her eyes.

He'd placed a tender hand to her shoulder and her eyes had moved to meet his, "Oh Bren, I'm sorry. Has someone been unkind?"

Bren had struggled to find the words. How do you tell someone that you'd had a drunk of a husband who liked to get a bit rough now and then? Besides, it's been years gone now and she doesn't think of it much anymore. She tries not to think of it because she's never liked to dwell on things that have been a bother in the past.

There had been something about the way Tony had looked at her that made her eyes brim red and she thought for a moment she might tell him. There was an honesty there, a concern... human emotions seldom spent on her. In the quiet canteen it seemed possible to tell him everything, to be unerringly candid, perhaps in hopes that he'd leave her now, not later when she was more involved.

Voices had sounded loudly in the canteen's dining area and Dolly and Jean had pushed through the door in another conversation about Jean's hip size.

Bren had shrugged slightly out of Tony's grasp and she'd patted his arm with a reassuring smile, "I've got to get the toast on."

They'd never returned to the subject after that day. Things had gotten more complicated without either of them realizing it until the moment Tony had kissed her in the dark next to the Christmas lights. The moment had felt perfect as they'd pressed their lips together and then their bodies in a right proper snog that Bren had felt from the tip of her toes to the top of her head.

Then Martin had turned up, breaking their arrangement and forcing Bren to introduce Tony to her husband. She hadn't had time to explain that they were getting a divorce, that "husband" didn't mean the two were still in a functioning relationship. Had their relationship ever been functional? Tony had left abruptly and Martin had torn her jacket after a few unsuccessful attempts at getting her to go for a drink to discuss the dissolve of their marriage.

It had felt the lowest point of her life then. Nothing her mother had ever done to her had compared to that feeling. Nothing Martin had ever done for that matter. The reason why had been obvious. She hadn't really cared about either of them, had she?

Her mother, there for money whenever she needed any and robbing Bren of the little life she had made for herself after being raised in care homes. Her husband who had scared her into marrying him in the first place and had proceeded to make the following ten years of her life a living hell. Neither of them meant anything to her.

Tony had meant everything.

On Christmas Eve, on the birthday she never celebrated, Tony had replaced her torn jacket. He'd held her close to his chest, had taken her to Scotland to spend Christmas.

Bren found it very hard nowadays to feel sorry for lost time. None of it did seem wasted when she had someone who loved her the way that Tony did.

She had very much to smile about.