I can hear the faint sound of a child's laughter with every click of my heel. I try to ignore it as I take in my surroundings. Small heath looks the same as it did when my family fled. Mud coated pavement and smog so thick you can barely see a few feet in front of you. This place is a sickness. A corpse riddled graveyard that people carelessly choose to call home. There it is again. That laughter that unmistakable joy of a girl who doesn't know the darkness coming her way. I catch myself looking around for her. My eyes landing on the matted blonde hair and raggedy clothes that are two sizes two big. It would have been better to dress the poor thing in potato sacks. At least then the fabric wouldn't be holding on by a messily thread due to being worn by five other children before her. She looks happy. Dare I say content. As she runs around jumping barefoot in the mud her blue eyes still glimmering with hope. It's a shame she will learn the hard way. The mud will turn to blood and she'll be forced to leave her so called home. Small heath isn't a home. No it's a prison. I turn away from the scene only to turn back and reassure myself that what I was seeing wasn't real. It was a memory I can't shove down far enough. A nightmare that not even the daylight can suppress.
I walk into the betting shop my head held high as I take in these new surroundings. It's loud and smells of stale cigarettes and there's a faint scent of dried up whisky. I shouldn't find this place welcoming. No I should find it menacing, but it's nothing I haven't experienced before. I debated if I should turn on my heel and walk away before anyone even notices I'm here but it's too late.
"Ms are ya lost?" Someone questions. I stare up at the peaked cap he's wearing. The first thing I notice is the glint of metal carefully sewn under it. Oh great my first encounter with a peaky blinder and it's not the one I'm looking for.
"I'm here to see Mr Shelby," I state looking around for the man I was sent to see. "Thomas to be more specific."
"You a whore?" The bluntness should catch me off guard but it doesn't. I've dealt with men like this my whole life. "Well are ya?"
"No sir I'm not a whore. I'm here to talk to him about a job," I keep my voice calm looking around again. It appears that everyone has stopped what they're doing to pay attention to the strange women looking for their boss. "If you could tell him I'm here that would be lovely."
"He's not talking to anyone today. Looks like you've wasted your time coming our way," the man drawls.
"I've come a very long way. I think it would be wise if he made an exception just this once," I stand my ground looking the man over. He must be Tommy's younger brother. He has the same no one can fuck with me attitude and his smirk stretches up the corner of his mouth with the same curiousuty.
"I'll see what I can do," he excuses himself walking over to the corner office. I can hear yelling before the door swings open and out comes Thomas Shelby. They weren't lying when the described his eyes as enchanting. They're the bluest thing I've ever seen, but there's a lack of emotion behind them. No doubt from all the death he's seen and the weight of the war on his shoulders. I'm no stranger to a broken man. He just seems to play it off better than others I've seen.
"Fucking hurry up then. I'm only giving you ten minutes," he barks. "Everybody else back to work it's not like she's a circus clown she's a bloody woman." He turns back into his office and I take no time in following him. I can't help but stare at the photo he has on his desk. His wife was beautiful. I had heard the stories of her being shot and dying in his arms. Everyone had. If I were him I wouldn't be able to stare at that picture everyday, but then again I'm not him so maybe this is how he copes.
"It's very nice to meet you Mr. Shelby my name is Zelda Berke," I stick my hand out for him to shake but he keeps his arms tightly crossed narrowing his eyes at me. "I saw you were looking for someone to take care of your books. I've brought references." I pull out a piece of paper and slide it towards him pausing when I see his expression soften slightly before his lips purse again.
"Why should I trust you Ms Berke? What makes you think you're better suited than anyone else I could find to join my company?" Thomas questions leaning back in his seat amusement washing over his face.
"I said nothing about trusting me Mr Shelby. Let's be honest you shouldn't trust anyone. We live in a time where even our family would turn on us if they were offered the right amount of money," I can tell my bluntness has caught him off guard and I can't help but smile to myself. "And why am I better suited? Well that's simple who else is going to be this upfront with you?"
"Who sent you?" He leans on his elbows looking me over carefully. Wouldn't he like to know.
"I'm just a woman looking for a job there's no other motives here," I reply gathering my things to leave. I stop myself at his door before turning back to him. "You have my number so I'm sure I'll be hearing from you. Thank you for your time Thomas."
"Zelda wait!" I stop letting him catch up to me. "Monday 8 am on the dot or you won't have this job for very long. I don't tolerate tardiness."
"I'll see you then." I walk out of the betting shop my head still held high. This was like taking candy from a baby. I remember being taught to lie from the moment I could speak. I had heard all the warnings about the shelbys. Been told all the stories about how they are a family you don't want to mess with, but clearly no one knew what I was capable of. I had nothing to lose and everything to gain. A woman whose name was so unknown I was a ghost in this world. Thomas Shelby was in for something he was in no way prepared for.