I was taught that broken women are strong women. That weakness wasn't an option for me. That love wasn't a necessity in marriage but simply a bonus. I loved Alfie. I loved that man with every fiber of my being. Deep down I knew if it wasn't for him I would be dead now. He saved me from my own thoughts. From the demons in my mind that told me I didn't not deserve to live. The war took its toll. And even though we both came back changed it still worked. We still fit together like two pieces of a puzzle, but there was something about Thomas Shelby that had me questioning that love. Was it real? Or had I brainwashed myself into believing it was because neither of us knew how to live without the other any longer. Once you show someone else your darkness you don't believe you'll be able to show another your light. Broken women are strong women. I must learn that so are the women you have put themselves back together.
One thing I never expected to hear when I entered the betting shop was a child's laughter. Yet here I was listening to what sounded like music. It was joyous. It was pure. I had to shake my head to convince myself that this time it was real. It wasn't like the visions of my younger self playing in the streets. There was a child here. I carefully walked towards the laughter my heart taking a little leap when I saw the young boy sat into of Tommy's lap as he scribbled on scrap pieces of paper. The smile on the man's face was so genuine it reminded me of what I was told I could never have. The chance to be a mother. The chance to raise a child on my own and teach them the ways of life. Teach them of fairy tales and nursery rhymes despite the world outside us being so full of darkness.
"You must be Charlie," sugary sweet words danced off my tongue as I picked up the small boy who was reaching out for me. "You're a cute little things aren't you puppet." I gently booped him in the nose. "I do believe I have some biscuits hiding in my desk. If it's okay with daddy maybe I can take you for a minute and he can get to his work."
"Daddy?" His little voice squealed Thomas nodded a yes and mouthed a thank you as Charlie and I left for my desk. After a few biscuits the little boy was fast asleep in my arms and I was able to get some work done. The kindest thing my mother ever said to me was that I was a natural at parenting. It was a shame I didn't get to find that out though.
"Are you a child whisperer?" Tommy asked as he carefully took Charlie back from me. "He never goes down that easily."
"It appears I might be. He's a very good little boy." I kissed the child's head. "I always wanted one." That was a stupid thing to say. He didn't need to know that. I needed to bring this back to being professional.
"I have to take him home, but knowing him he will be furious if he wakes up and you aren't there. Spend the day with us?"
"Thomas I shouldn't."
"It's for Charlie not me Zelda. Please?" Tommy asked.
"How could I say no to Charlie?"
I could feel the maids watching us as Tommy, Charlie and I explored Arrow House. From the whispers I overheard it was very uncommon for women visitors to be here during the day. It made me warm knowing I had been an exception. I wanted nothing more then to suppress that warmth but with every accidental touch it grew. It consumed me as if Alfie did not exist. In many ways he didn't. Not here. Not when I was still using my mother's maiden name. I knew he had mistresses, but I turned a blind eye to them. He was afraid of us having a child so he kept our sex life very short and cordial. I missed it. Being touched. Being kissed. Being loved so intimately.
"Should we show her the fish Charlie?" Tommy asked the little boy. A huge grin grew across his chubby cheeks as he nodded a yes.
"Moma! Fish!" Tommy and I looked at each other as if we had just seen a ghost. The light draining from his eyes as he looked at the little boy defeated. "Daddy! Fish!"
"I'm sorry," I whispered as I took the boy from him. "Go have a drink I can watch him. Or I can go."
"Stay." He croaked. "He's just a kid he doesn't know any better."
"Let's see these fish Charlie," I set him down letting him drag me towards the pond. Me getting close to Thomas Shelby was no longer out of revenge. It was out of stupidity, but I couldn't put a stop to it. Alfie would kill me if he found out. So I just had to make sure he didn't. Or if he did convince him it was all an act...maybe I could convince myself the same.