|The Journey to Happiness
Author: ScarletCourt PM
How do Sybil and Tom get from a failed elopement to Lord Grantham's blessing and eventually married in Dublin? Interweaves with the scenes we see in S2E07 and S2E08 and eventually the C/S. Warning: Spoilers for S3! Runner-up in the January 2013 Highclere Awards in the Progress - Multi-Chapter category.Rated: Fiction M - English - Romance/Drama - Sybil C. & T. Branson - Chapters: 44 - Words: 180,047 - Reviews: 384 - Favs: 76 - Follows: 103 - Updated: 09-06-12 - Published: 12-23-11 - Status: Complete - id: 7666512
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
A/N: Thank you for all the reviews, etc., since the last chapter. Thanks to those who pointed out typos. Those have been fixed. :) Thank you to those who reviewed for the first time. No review is too long or too short or too dreary. ;) I always love hearing from my readers, long or short or somewhere in between, and if you have an account here, I will reply to each and every one of your reviews because I believe that every review deserves at least a thank you from me, where possible. While I may disagree with what your review says, I appreciate every one I get and you can be sure I read each one multiple times.
As always, many thanks to my ever patient betas, Tripp3235, mswainwright and _livingfree (on Twitter) without whom the quality of this story would be much poorer indeed!
Without further ado, I present the Molly chapter!
Disclaimer: Not mine. All Downton Abbey characters belong to Julian Fellowes and ITV. I'm just playing with them.
Tuesday evening after finishing the dinner dishes, Tom brought wedding invitations for his friends and spent an hour at O'Reilly's. Joe, Des, and Gavin were all there, and they made plans to take Tom carousing that Saturday evening.
Wednesday, Sybil's lesson was on personal apparel, which included learning what temperature the iron should be for ironing different fabrics, ironing mens clothing and polishing shoes. Up until now, either Mrs. Branson or Cathleen had checked the fabric of the clothes she was planning to wear that day to determine the heat of the iron. Food shopping that afternoon included ingredients for foods that could be made ahead of time or started early the next morning for the dinner with Mrs. Hayes.
Thursday was spent cooking from the time Cathleen and Connor left in the morning until lunch where they took a short break to eat and then shopping for the last minute foods such as meats. That morning, Sybil learned to make bread with starter dough and Irish soda bread and how to feed the starter dough. Mrs. Branson was going all out for the dinner and now Sybil knew why Mrs. Patmore always had so much help in the kitchen.
When Tom arrived at a quarter to five that evening as promised, Sybil was just putting the second to last course into its serving dish. The final course had just been placed in the oven to be baked. Mrs. Branson and Cathleen were setting the table.
"You're home early," said Cathleen when she saw her brother.
"Didn't want to miss when Molly arrived," said Tom as he walked over to give Sybil a kiss. "How is it going?" asked Tom, much more quietly so only Sybil heard.
After placing the cover on the dish and placing it on the shelf above the stove, Sybil wiped her brow before she replied, "This meal rivals Easter luncheon." Sybil raised her eyebrows for emphasis. "The good news is that I learned a couple of new recipes," she added as she started washing the remaining emptied pots.
"All for a good cause," said Tom as he gave her a kiss on the cheek before walking over to the table to help.
Just as he was about to pick up a dish, Mrs. Branson without looking said, "Have you washed up?"
"Sorry, Ma. I forgot," said Tom, blushing, as he walked to the bathroom.
As Tom disappeared into the bathroom, Mrs. Branson said, "Sybil, dear, you should get ready. We can wash the remaining dishes afterward."
"Of course, Mrs. Branson," said Sybil, wiping her hands dry.
Sybil smiled at Tom as she crossed paths with him as he left the bathroom when she went into the bedroom she shared with Cathleen to take off her apron and get ready. He happily returned her smile.
As Sybil changed into something more fitting for a family dinner, Tom helped Cathleen finish setting the table as Mrs. Branson did some last minute tidying. Just as Sybil exited the bedroom, there was a loud knock at the door and Cathleen said, "I'll get it," as she headed toward the flat door.
Tom finished the last place setting and walked over to Sybil to take her hand as they heard Cathleen greet their guests. She looked at him and smiled nervously. Tom squeezed her hand for reassurance and whispered in her ear, "You look lovely." Sybil ducked and blushed at the compliment and reciprocated his hand squeeze.
When Molly and her boys followed Cathleen into the main living area, Tom led Sybil by the hand toward them. He could sense the tension radiating from her and that Sybil was working hard to keep her emotions in check to present a placid exterior. When he reached them, he said with a polite smile, "Hello, Molly. It's good to see you again. This is Sybil Crawley, my fiancée. Sybil, this is Molly Reid." Molly was about Sybil's height with sandy brown hair up in a bun, brown eyes and was smartly dressed in a brown suit. The first thing Tom noticed was that despite two children she still had her figure and that the years had been kind to her.
"It's Hayes now, Tom," said Molly with a twinkle in her eye. "How do you do, Miss Crawley?" said Molly as she held out her hand to shake Sybil's.
As they shook hands, Sybil spoke through her polite smile plastered on and a stiff nod of the head, "Mrs. Hayes." Sybil saw Mrs. Hayes as a well-dressed woman about Tom's age and had to admit that she was beautiful. Sensing Sybil's reaction to meeting Molly, Tom wished that there was a better way to reassure her than squeezing her hand.
"Call me Molly," said Molly as she smiled pleasantly at Sybil. "Everyone else here does."
"Molly, it is," said Sybil, returning the smile. "Please, call me Sybil."
Molly then lifted her left hand which was holding her younger son. "This is Rory. He's three." Rory, who had his mother's features, but strawberry-blond hair neatly combed, looked at Sybil and Tom shyly and tried to hide in his mother's skirts. Molly then turned behind her and brought the older boy to the forefront, leading him by the head, "And this is Eamon. He's five."
Tom's eyes widened slightly as Eamon came into view. At first glance, Eamon had all of Tom's colouring down to his blue eyes and a few features that looked like his own when he was a child. Meanwhile, Sybil was too distracted by Molly to notice the similarities between Eamon and Tom.
With two strangers looking at him, Eamon looked up at Tom. "How do you do, sir?"
Before Tom could say anything, Mrs. Branson said, "Come in and sit down, Molly. Cathleen, Connor, can you entertain the boys?"
Cathleen and Connor said in unison, "Yes, Ma." They then took one boy each and led them toward a small alcove away from the main living area where they had set out some toys that they kept for their nephews.
When they all sat down, Mrs. Branson asked, "Care for some tea?"
"No, no," said Molly with a smile. "Thank you though. We were just at Maire's down the street and she wouldn't let us go until we drank our fill."
Mrs. Branson nodded. "How is your sister?"
Tom had trouble focusing on the conversation as he took a seat that enabled him to look down the hall where the boys were playing with Cathleen and Connor.
"Busy. Tired," said Molly. "She's expecting her seventh over the summer. She wasn't sure where she was going to put this new one as the bedrooms are already full."
"Your sister needs to learn to say no," chided Mrs. Branson. "She needs to get the older ones out the door before she adds to the family." Sybil blushed at what Mrs. Branson implied. She was certain that this type of conversation never came up in a drawing room at Downton.
"Well, you know Maire," said Molly. "Ma got sick soon after she had Paddy and Maire don't want to wait."
"I know your sister," said Mrs. Branson as she nodded. "Still you need to have money to feed your children and a place for them to sleep." Changing the subject, she added, "So, did you manage to see your aunt and uncle this week?"
"We did," said Molly with a smile. "They had a grand old time with the boys when they took us to St. Stephen's Green for a picnic on Tuesday. Uncle Sorley flew a kite with Eamon."
"Sorley Reid flying a kite," said Mrs. Branson with a chuckle. "I can't imagine." Looking at Sybil, she added, "I went to school with her uncle, and he's the clumsiest man I ever did meet." Sybil smiled politely.
"I must say that it was mainly Eamon running with it around the park," Molly said with a laugh. "It lifted off a couple of times. Tired him out good, though."
"How do you find Killarney?" asked Tom to keep up with the conversation without too much thought.
"I like it there," said Molly as she looked at him affably. "It's not Dublin, but then, it's not the moon neither. Killarney is a good-sized place so you can get almost everything you can get in Dublin. We live in the city in a flat attached to Iasan's parents' store. He's a tailor and she's a dressmaker, both running their own businesses out of there. What I like best there is the free help I get with the boys." Looking at Mrs. Branson. "Iasan's parents are always taking the boys places. With Iasan being an only child, his parents are always willing to watch the boys when I need to work. Eamon's ready for school next year, but Rory will still need watching for a few years yet, so they've been very helpful."
"Is it as pretty as Dublin?" asked Sybil, feeling she should contribute to this conversation. Sybil could see why Tom had loved Molly once. She was beautiful, affable, amiable, capable and one of his kind. If she was honest with herself, Sybil was surprised that he didn't still love Molly.
"It's a beautiful area" said Molly as she looked at Sybil amiably. "Lots of open spaces and warmer in the winter than Dublin, but things are getting dangerous." Turning to look at Mrs. Branson and Tom, Molly added, "Since the fight for Ireland's freedom truly started this year, we've had quite a few skirmishes between us and the British in Killarney, sometimes almost daily. Iasan's parents want me to bring the boys here until things settle down, but Maire's place is already too full and Paddy is living in a boarding house. I came to see whether any of my Ma's family can take us in for a bit."
"I'm sorry to hear that," said Mrs. Branson. "Thank heaven that it hasn't been as bad in Dublin."
"If it wasn't for the chance of being caught in the crossfire, I wouldn't bother," said Molly with a sigh. "Rory isn't good with sudden, unexpected changes. He's a bit like his Da like that. Took him three months to adjust to the move and to his Grandda and Grandma. He's been fretful since we arrived on Saturday."
"I'm sorry to hear that Rory doesn't travel well," said Mrs. Branson. "But then young children rarely do. I remember when the older children were young and Declan's parents were still alive, we took the train with all four of them for a three day trip so that his mother could meet them and it felt like a month before we got there. Tom was just weaned then so Mairin would have been seven, Ciaran, five and Niamh, three. When the children were all finally asleep after we came home, Declan and I looked at one another and I said, 'Let's send your parents the money for them to take the train here.' He was so tired that all he could do was nod."
"Is that why Grandma and Grandda Branson visited every summer until they passed away?" asked Tom, who caught the last of what his mother had said.
"And it was worth every penny," said Mrs. Branson as she looked at her son.
"I hear that you're a columnist now, Tom?" asked Molly, genuinely curious.
"Yes," said Tom who had to focus on Molly. "I write the weekly political column at The Dublin Times. My first one came out on Tuesday. Did you see it?"
"In fact, I did," said Molly. "The uncle that we're staying with showed it to me yesterday and asked if it was the same young man I knew from school. It's a wonderful piece. I could hear your voice as I read it. I do hope that Dublin chooses to adopt the policies Limerick did. It might make the British listen."
"Thank you," said Tom as he glanced at Sybil to see that her face betrayed none of the tension he could feel in the limbs that were touching his as they sat side-by-side on the sofa. He then turned to Molly. "It's always nice to hear what people think of your work."
Just then, Cathleen came into the main living area. "Ma, Molly, can we take the boys to O'Neill park down the street? They're getting restless and dinner won't be for another hour."
Molly looked up at Cathleen. "I'm sorry, Cathleen. We've been visiting all day and they haven't had a chance to stretch their legs. I'm all right with them going to the park if your mother has no objections."
Cathleen looked hopefully at Mrs. Branson who nodded. "Go for a half hour."
"Yes, Ma," said Cathleen as she went to fetch everyone's jackets and hats.
Molly got up to help dress the boys and to tell them to mind Miss Cathleen and Mr. Connor and Mrs. Branson took the opportunity to check the dish that was baking in the oven.
"Is everything all right?" asked Tom as he took Sybil's hand in his. Thinking that perhaps Sybil saw the similarities in features between him and Eamon. "You seem tense."
"I'll tell you more later," said Sybil as she looked at her lap. "But I feel inadequate in comparison to her."
Sybil's answer puzzled Tom. If his mother hadn't returned to her chair he would have done more to reassure her, but as was, he gave her hand a loving squeeze and smiled at her.
As Eamon and Rory walked past the main living area with Cathleen and Connor on their way out the door, Tom tried hard not to stare at the older boy as he wondered why Molly had never told him or his mother.
After they were out the door, and Molly sat down again, Mrs. Branson said, "Little boys need to run. I can't run much with my grandsons these days with my rheumatism, though Sybil told me about Aspirin and I haven't felt this good in years. Ever heard of it?"
"No," said Molly. Turning to Sybil, she asked amiably, "What is it?"
"It's an analgesic and an anti-inflammatory," said Sybil with a smile, finally able to talk about something she knew. Seeing a look of incomprehension on Molly's face, Sybil explained. "A painkiller that also reduces swelling. I was a nurse during the war and we used it mainly for pain and fever. When I heard that Mrs. Branson was suffering from rheumatism, I suggested it. You can purchase Aspirin from the apothecary, but don't follow the directions on the bottle, start with one and add more tablets as you need it. Less side effects that way." Tom felt her relax a little beside him as she spoke from her nursing knowledge.
"You were a nurse during the war?" asked Molly, suddenly eager. "Were you near the front?"
"No," said Sybil as she looked at Molly. "I worked at a hospital in a small village in Yorkshire called Gratham and at Downton Abbey, the seat of the Earl, when it became a convalescent home. It's where I met Tom."
Hearing his name, he was jolted out of his reverie. He smiled and paid a little more attention to the conversation, but his mind still whirled as thoughts of Eamon and the implications if what he suspected was true.
"He must have been handsome in his chauffeur's uniform?" said Molly as she winked at Sybil.
Sybil was taken aback by Molly's forwardness and just smiled. "Very handsome indeed."
"So did you work a lot with the heavily wounded?" asked Molly, changing the subject as Sybil didn't seem very interested in talking about Tom's physical attributes.
"I did," said Sybil with the first genuine smile of the evening. "When I worked at the hospital. Why do you ask?"
"My late husband was wounded at Battle of Pilckem Ridge at Passchendaele," said Molly. "But he never made it home. He died at a field hospital of partonitus? What is that?" Molly took a piece of paper out of her pocketbook and handed it to Sybil. "I've asked a few people since but none could help me."
"I'm so sorry to hear about your late husband," said Sybil as she took the piece of paper from Molly. The paper was the regular British Army Death Notice and it said,
It is my painful duty to inform you that a report
has this day been received from the War Office
notifying the death of (No.)_17985_
(Rank) _Corporal_ (Name) _Michael Iasan Hayes_
(Regiment) _25th Battalion, 16th Division_ which
occurred at _Corfu Field Hospital_ on
the _15th of September 1917_ and I am to
express to you the sympathy and regret of the
Army Council at your loss. The cause of death
Any application you may wish to make regarding
the late soldier's effects should be addressed to
"The Secretary, War Office, Whitehall, London, S.W."
and marked outside "Effects."
After reading through the salient parts, Sybil said, "It says here that he died of peritonitis, which is an inflammation of the peritoneum. The peritoneum is the lining of the abdomen. Likely he received a stomach wound and it became infected after surgery, which killed him." Sybil left out the part that peritonitis was an agonizing way to die and hoped that he was given laudanum or morphine in his final days.
"Would he have suffered?" asked Molly, desperate to know what might have happened to Iasan a year and a half later. "I only heard when I received the telegram and then this notice arrived along with a letter from his commanding officer who was much too vague on the details."
Handing the death notice back to Molly, Sybil said, "I'm certain they would have given him something for the pain in the last days. Where is he buried in France?" Tom noticed that the more Sybil spoke of her work, the more relax she became.
"Tyne Cott Cemetery," said Molly as she busied herself carefully putting the paper back into her pocketbook in order to try to check her emotions. "It was one of the few, precious details in his commanding officer's letter."
Seeing that Molly may wish to have some time alone to collect herself, Mrs. Branson said as she got up, "Tom, Sybil, can you both come into the kitchen to help me with something?"
As Tom and Sybil rose to follow Mrs. Branson, Molly dabbed her eyes with a handkerchief that she had pulled out of her pocketbook. "Sybil, might I ask you a few more questions?"
Sybil looked at Tom and then over to Mrs. Branson, who gave a slight nod. She then looked at Molly. "Of course."
After Tom and Mrs. Branson were both in the kitchen, Molly moved to sit beside Sybil in the spot that Tom had vacated. "I'm sorry to be blubbering like this," said Molly as she dabbed at the fresh tears welling up in her eyes. "It's just that until now I had no idea how he had died and I've been carrying an empty, hollow feeling for a year and a half now. I was wondering if you might be able to tell me what a field hospital might have been like."
Sybil smiled sympathetically at the poor woman in front of her. "I've actually never been at a field hospital, but my cousin worked with the Red Cross in France, and she visited some of them in the course of her work. She told me that they were mainly makeshift structures housing up to a thousand men in each with a nursing staff that tended to the wounded and dying."
"So he would have been looked after?" asked Molly tearfully.
"Yes, the nurses would have tended to his needs," said Sybil, leaving out that likely they would have just gone on their rounds to provide medication and changed dressings. "War is a terrible business. May I ask why your late husband joined? I believe conscription never reached Ireland."
Molly dabbed her nose and eyes again, and smiled at Sybil. "Iasan had just lost his job when the factory he had been working at closed down after a strike. Eamon was just a baby then, so we needed the wages and he thought that it would help us get home rule. He joined up almost from the beginning as one of the support staff. He never thought he would be in the line of fire."
At this juncture, Molly dissolved into sobs and Sybil couldn't help but reach out and comfort her. Try as she might, now that she had met her, Sybil couldn't dislike Molly. Molly reminded Sybil of the women who had come to the hospital to see their wounded husbands.
After a few minutes, Molly pulled herself together and looked at Sybil with a watery smile, "I'm so sorry to have imposed on you. I asked my midwife and she didn't understand. I didn't know of anyone else who had medical knowledge. Thank you for explaining things to me. Now that I know he was looked after, well, it puts my soul at rest. May God and all the saints bless you."
Sybil and Molly discussed Sybil's work as a nurse and how Iasan's death had changed Molly's world while Mrs. Branson and Tom busied themselves with washing the remaining pots until the boys, Cathleen and Connor returned from the park. Then it was dinner time which passed quickly with stories of Tom as a schoolboy though Tom, himself, could not enjoy them in his state of mind.
After dinner, Connor returned to his school work as Sybil and Cathleen washed the dishes. As Mrs. Branson entertained the boys, Tom and Molly found themselves standing behind the sofa together as they watched his mother telling the boys the story of the three little pigs in the toy alcove.
"Before you ask," said Molly as she glanced at him briefly. "Eamon's not yours. He was born nine months to the day I married Iasan." She absentmindedly toyed with her wedding ring. "If he was, I would have come to your Ma and told her everything."
"But he has a lot of my colouring," said Tom as he looked at her confused. "And a few of my features."
Molly then reached down to the sofa where she had left her pocketbook, took out a picture and showed it to Tom. "This is my late husband, Iasan Hayes."
The man in the picture was in a soldier's uniform and looked somewhat similar to the face Tom saw in the mirror each morning.
"When Iasan and I first started walking out about two months after you and I last parted ways," said Molly as she waved back at Rory, "People used to tease me that Iasan looked like you. He was a few inches taller and more broadly built, but your facial features were similar. He wasn't as outspoken as you are and he had patience for me in a way that you never did."
"I'm glad you found someone who loved you as you deserved," said Tom with sincerity in his voice as he handed the picture back to Molly. "You and I got along on the short-term, but eventually we would have gotten on one another's nerves and we'd fight, which was why we never lasted much more than a few months at a time."
"Yes, we're both stubborn and we both have hot tempers," said Molly with a smile as she replaced the picture back into her pocketbook. "Not the best combination for a happy, long-lasting marriage."
"No," said Tom as he watched his mother start to huff as the wolf. Molly had always been the familiar in his life, as he had known her since he started school, but as he thought about it, the fights they had were one of the reasons he never felt like proposing.
After a short pause, Molly glanced over at Sybil and Cathleen at the sink and said quietly, "Your fiancée is remarkable. It couldn't have been easy for her to meet me. Does she know all about you and I?"
Tom nodded as he looked over at Sybil and admired her even more.
When Tom wasn't going to add more, Molly continued. "Then, it would have been difficult and in her shoes, I know I wouldn't have been nearly as polite and caring. I don't know how to thank her for answering my questions about Iasan's last days and what he died of. My soul is now truly at rest on the matter and when the boys are older, I can tell them about what their father's last days would have been like and how he died."
It was then that the boys came running toward their mother as Mrs. Branson finished her story and followed them into the main living area after she knocked on Connor's bedroom door to get him to say goodbye. Eamon was smiling and said, "Ma, Mrs. Branson was a real good wolf. She knew how to huff and puff and everything." Rory on the other hand was rubbing his eyes as he hugged her skirt.
Molly then lowered herself to their level. "I think it's time for us to return to Uncle Daire and Aunt Enda's for the night."
"Yes, Ma." said Eamon, though by his tone it was not his wish.
"Please say thank you to Mrs. Branson and the others for the dinner, Eamon," said Molly. At this juncture, Cathleen and Sybil had finished the dishes, and Cathleen had gone to get their hats and the boys' jackets.
"Thank you, Mrs. Branson, Miss Cathleen, Mr. Connor and everyone for everything!" shouted Eamon as he was twirling with the energy only a five year old could have at this hour.
"Eamon Iasan Hayes," said Molly forcefully as she was dressing the sleepy Rory. "Please lower your voice and get dressed."
"Do you need help with them?" asked Mrs. Branson as Rory was falling asleep on his mother's shoulders. "Tom and Sybil could walk you back to your uncle's."
"No, I don't want to trouble you," said Molly as she glanced at Tom and Sybil.
"It's no trouble at all," said Sybil as she saw Molly struggling with one sleeping child while the other was still twirling about. "I'll go get my gloves, hat and jacket. Tom?"
Taking the cue from Sybil, Tom said, "Let me take Rory." He then took the boy from Molly while Molly went after Eamon.
Soon, the party of five was ready to go and after goodbyes were out the door. On the street, Molly held Eamon's hand, while Sybil was on the other side of Eamon and Tom followed with Rory sleeping soundly with his head on Tom's shoulder. Molly and Sybil talked about how Sybil was finding Dublin and Eamon even asked a few questions when he found out she was a nurse.
After Sybil and Tom dropped Molly and her boys off, they were finally alone. Sybil took Tom's arm after the door of the flat closed and Tom put his free hand on hers. They didn't speak in fear of being overheard, but before they exited the building, Tom stopped them and pulled her to one side of the corridor to kiss her thoroughly. He had been wanting to do that since Sybil so patiently answered Molly's questions.
When they broke apart, Tom ducked his head to be closer to her said softly, "Thank you for being so kind to Molly. I know this dinner was hard for you and you didn't have to be, but I couldn't love you more for it."
Sybil looked at him in the dim light of the corridor and said in an equally quiet voice, "You know I like to be helpful and she reminded me of the women who came to see their husbands at the hospital. They just want to know what happened. I'm glad I was able to help her."
Just then, someone came through the building door. Both Sybil and Tom blushed in the dim light and decided to continue their conversation on the streets.
As they walked back to Mrs. Branson's flat, Tom asked, "What did you think of Molly and her boys?"
"At first I was jealous of her," said Sybil as she ducked her head and blushed in the dying light of the day. "She is so beautiful and affable and amiable and so like you and your family. She also looked to be a capable mother who had two lovely boys that I wondered how it was that you didn't still love her. In the end, though, I couldn't help but like her."
Tom smiled at her. "She thought you were remarkable."
"Was that what you spoke of when Cathleen and I were washing the dishes?" asked Sybil.
"That and other things," said Tom. "You needn't worry. She has no intentions of trying to snatch me from you for the boys." He kissed her temple to reassure her.
"Good," said Sybil with a twinkle in her eye. "Because I would then be all alone in a strange city with no one to turn to."
"And we can't have that," said Tom with a smile.
They walked in silence for the next few minutes just enjoying the time alone together.
Eventually, Sybil broke the silence. "You know, I do I feel badly for Molly that she's had to raise her boys almost entirely by herself and I feel badly for the boys who are growing up without a father." When Tom said nothing, Sybil continued. "Did you know that her husband joined up two months after the war was declared because they needed the wages? Eamon was only six months old at the time. With how often leave was granted, he probably has no real memories of his father. As for Rory, I wonder if he could've recognized his father when he returned from the war, if he had survived."
"She's young still," said Tom. "She could remarry."
"If she does, I think it will likely be in Killarney," said Sybil. "She feels an obligation to her late husband's parents and she wouldn't want to take the boys away from them."
Just then, they arrived at the stoop in front of Mrs. Branson's building. Tom turned to Sybil and asked, "What are the plans for tomorrow?"
"It will be back working on the dresses and more housekeeping lessons," said Sybil as she looked at him. "I also have to go through the letters to compile the addresses for Saturday and address the remainder of the invitations."
"How many places will we be visiting on Saturday?" asked Tom as he looked at Sybil with love. "I was hoping to look at some rings, while we were out."
"I wrote to seven places," said Sybil. "I think we got five replies. Did you want to walk me up to your mother's flat?"
Tom looked at her puzzled and Sybil said as she discreetly ran her gloved fingers up his arm. "You know the light by your mother's door is broken."
Sybil didn't have to say any more as Tom took her hand and led her up the stoop and into the building. Once inside, they sprinted up the two flights of stairs to the second storey and down the corridor where Mrs. Branson's flat was and like Sybil said, the candle was not lit.
"The glass cracked when the candle Connor put in last week fell over," said Sybil as she removed her gloves and looked lovingly at him. "Your mother is in dispute with Mr. Walsh over who ought to replace it."
Leading them into the darkest corner beside his mother's flat door, Tom pressed Sybil against the wall and kissed her hurriedly. With the weight of Eamon's parentage resolved, Tom felt more free to kiss Sybil than he had for nearly two weeks. Soon, he slid his tongue into her mouth to taste her and she engaged him quickly with her own as her arms encircled his neck to pull him closer and she played with the edge of his hair under the cap. Meanwhile, he ran his hands down her back and cupped her backside which made her gasp and break their kiss. But soon his mouth was on hers again as the feral part of him desperately wanted to make her his. Next he ran his right hand over her clothed breast and willing his hands not to try to unbutton her blouse as he ran his fingers over the buttons.
As he moved to kiss her jaw and then down her neck, he whispered against her skin. "God, I love you, Sybil."
"Oh, Tom," sighed Sybil as she held his head against her. "Four more weeks," Sybil sighed into his ear. "I don't know if I can wait."
Tom then pressed Sybil against the wall with his body and grounded himself against her hip. He then found her mouth again and they kissed hungrily. Just as he thought of pulling her skirt up, the sound of running water could be heard through the walls as someone in the flat, likely his mother, turned on the tap in the kitchen, which brought Tom to his senses.
Tom broke the kiss and said as he breathed heavily, "We can't do this, not now. Not until after the wedding."
Sybil looked at Tom in the dim light and realized how close they could have gotten and in a darkened corridor outside his mother's flat, too. Suddenly shy, Sybil pulled her arms from around his neck, looked down. "I'm sorry."
Tom took her hands in his and kissed them. "Don't be. It's as much my fault as yours and I should know better. This is what I meant when I said one thing would lead to another."
"I better go in and you better go," said Sybil as she looked at him with love. "Your mother might send out a search party soon and I'd rather she not find us huddled outside her front door."
Not wanting to try his luck by kissing her, he kissed her hand again instead as he looked at her and said, "Until tomorrow, my love."
Sybil blushed and said quietly, "I love you, Tom. Until tomorrow."
When he released her hand, she watched him as he descended down the stairs and into the night before she took off her hat which had been set askew from their amorous activities, unlocked the door with the key Mrs. Branson had given her this evening and entered Mrs. Branson's flat.
A/N2: So ends Molly's dinner chapter. I think it's likely to be the longest chapter of the entire story. Did you end up liking Molly like Sybil did? Did you like how I made Tom squirm a bit before I let him off the hook?
As always, please feel free to point out any typos and grammatical errors. Sometimes no matter how hard you or your betas look, these things get missed. As always, I'd love to hear what you think of this chapter good or bad, so please do review. :)