|Behind Grey Eyes
Author: JoiForber PM
Captain Stephen Peacock is a floorwalker at Grace Brothers. What makes him tick? Is he really all mouth and trousers? This fic explores his inner thoughts and feelings. Written in the first-person.Rated: Fiction T - English - Hurt/Comfort/Romance - Chapters: 13 - Words: 13,242 - Reviews: 1 - Favs: 1 - Updated: 04-27-13 - Published: 02-16-12 - id: 7841492
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Going to See Betty AKA:
Don'Cha Love Her Madly?
It has been almost a year since I have had contact with or even seen Betty Slocombe. I screwed up. Badly. The look on her face when I told her I had to go back to Vivienne was awful. I left the Ladies' and Gents' Department and went to see Young Mr. Grace, taking my cards with me. He secured a job for me with another large department store- Woodward & Lothrop. I was unaware that I was starting back at Square One- the basement- Packing and Maintenance. Therefore, after my initial "welcome", I started working the 6 am to 6 pm shift, ensuring I was gone before Betty left for work and I was home after she returned from work. I would see the lights on at her flat and occasionally I would see her outside, but I made the utmost effort to ensure she never saw me. My heart ached for my Betty. I knew I could never approach Betty so long as I was still married, even if I lived separately from Vivienne. I submerged myself in work, volunteering to work double shifts, holiday shifts, inventory week, Boxing Day, anything to avoid being home alone with my thoughts.
The day my divorce finalized was bittersweet. I was glad to be rid of my miserable failure of a marriage, but I was faced with the uncertainty of bachelorhood. I managed fairly well on my own for the year. I adopted a stray cat; I take that back, "Neville" adopted me. He had been a source of comfort during my loneliness and I was happy to have someone to talk to about what I was going through who didn't grow tired of hearing the same story over and over.
I was tired of being lonely. I wondered if Betty had come to the point where she could or would forgive me. My feelings for her had not changed. I loved her. I loved her every bit as much as the day I walked out of Grace Brothers for the last time. Maybe even more so.
In the year working at Woodward & Lothrop, I had done a lot of growing. I had to humble myself- the men I worked with had also served in the war, some of them had seen close combat and had lost close friends. A few were my age and had similar marital problems. A few, like me, were divorced. They accepted me and my peccadilloes. They found it interesting that after working so hard to make it to floorwalker that I would willingly give that position up for Betty and muck in in the Packing and Maintenance Department. I was willing to risk a life of solitude if I couldn't have her.
Today was the day.
I arrived home on the bus and I mustered up every shred of courage within me and decided this was the day.
I was going to reintroduce myself to Betty as a new man: single and available, repentant, humbled, and still very much in love with her. Perhaps I should leave that part out for now; I didn't want to sound too desperate.
As I stepped off the bus, I stopped at the newspaper and flower stand. Naomi the flower girl greeted me as she did every day. I buy a newspaper on my way to work and we had struck up a friendship. She's young enough to be my daughter and she's quite outgoing and personable. Today I bought flowers. Naomi gave me a warm knowing smile as I paid for a bouquet of pink carnations.
"Who are the flowers for, Captain Peacock?" Naomi asked, smiling friendly.
"They're for Mrs. Slocombe."
"She's got blue hair, right?"
"On occasion, yes," I nodded.
"She seems nice. I've never talked to her. That'll be 95p, please."
I handed her a pound note and she handed me back 5p. I took the flowers and headed to Betty's, my stomach doing flip-flops and churning. I gave myself a pep talk, coaching myself along the way.
"Come on, Peacock!" I scolded myself, "Don't back down. You can do this."
I passed my flat and Neville was outside waiting for me on the stoop.
"I'm going to see Betty," I told him, "Wish me luck!"
He yowled at me and I continued up the street, Betty's flat coming into view. I was so nervous I felt as if I would throw up right there in the street and make a right fool of myself, but I persevered.
I lifted the latch on her gate and walked up the path to her door.
Her door was closed and I could here the sound of her hoovering the lounge. I rapped on the door and waited. It went quiet and I could see her outline through the frosted glass window. She opened the door and took one look at me and her expression was one of disgust. There was an awful jolt in the pit of my stomach.
"What do you want?" she snapped; I winced. I smiled nervously and scratched my chin along my jaw line. I licked my suddenly-dry lips and hoped my gesture would not be misconstrued.
My mind raced. I was going down in flames and had to think quickly.
I told her to go back inside and answer the door as if she'd never seen me before. It had to work, it just had to. She went inside and closed the door. This bought me a little bit of time. She opened the door and asked sarcastically, "Yes? May I help you?"
I introduced myself and said I lived in Number 5 and wondered if I could perhaps call on her sometime. She flatly told me that she wasn't interested in married men. I told her I was recently divorced and I think I saw her eyes light up; maybe I was hoping I saw that. I handed her the flowers.
She was wearing her Grace Brothers uniform and pink fuzzy house shoes- Pussy Boots. Her hair was blue, just like Naomi said. I smiled. Betty was so beautiful. She wasn't wearing a lot of make up; I liked it when she didn't wear a lot of make up. She was so gorgeous she didn't need much. I drank in every bit of her; I wanted to remember her when I went back to my flat.
We talked for a while and she asked about the picture of us at the launderette. I handed her the picture and she blushed. My heart did a flip, but in a good way. She looked at me and she was smiling! My mind flooded with emotions. I missed her so much over this past year. I wanted to hold her in my arms, but I didn't want to overwhelm her all at once. Then she took my hands in hers. Oh, dear, oh, dear, oh, dear! She was touching me! She had my hands in hers. She rubbed the palms of my hands with her thumbs and I could see the shock in her eyes as she felt the rough calluses. Self-consciously, I pulled my hands away and balled them into fists. I forget all about my hands! Since I started working at Woodward & Lothrop, I stopped having manicures. I didn't see a need for smooth hands since there was little call for me to shake anyone's hand. I got defensive and looked down; I didn't want Betty to see my shame. She reached for my hands and I let her take them again. She wasn't horrified. She didn't mock me. Her eyes were tender and caring. She brought one of my hands to her lips and kissed the palm. My heart started pounding and I felt like I would go weak. Her lips were on my hand. Those beautiful lips I have not seen nor kissed in over a year. I smiled shyly, but inside my emotions were raging and swirling: longing, love, regret, humility.
"There's no shame in hard work, Stephen," she said softly. She said my name! She said it sweetly, not in anger like the last time she said it. Say it again! my mind screamed.
She asked me in for a cup of tea and I gladly accepted. We talked. We talked for what seemed like hours. I missed her so badly. I told her about my job and she didn't judge me. She didn't look at me with haughty or critical eyes; she looked at me with gentleness. I studied her face; I didn't want to forget what she looked like when I left. She poured me another cup of tea and offered me a biscuit. I had not eaten dinner, so I was famished. I had been too nervous to eat when I stepped off the bus; Betty's offer of biscuits was a welcome treat. I tried not to eat all of the biscuits. She kept staring at me and I started to feel self-conscious again.
"Have you eaten dinner, Stephen?" she asked, almost accusingly. Did I look thin?
I shook my head, "No."
"Would you like me to make you something? I've got some soup in the fridge."
My stomach started knotting up again, "No, thank you. Tea's fine. Really."
She could tell that tea wasn't fine. Betty in Charge!
"Nonsense! It won't take but a minute. I'll warm it for you."
She got up and went into the kitchen. I could hear the soup pan clanking out of the cupboard and the sound of the fridge door opening. I couldn't help looking down at the biscuit on my plate. I curled my hands into fists and rubbed the palms with my fingertips. The aroma of the soup wafted into the dining room and my stomach made a rather loud and incriminating growl. Embarrassed, I listened for any laughter from the kitchen that would indicate that Betty heard it. Nothing. Whew!
She returned with a steaming bowl of homemade beef and vegetable soup. It smelled wonderful; I really missed Betty's cooking. Truth be told, she could have brought me a bowl of Grace Brothers Gruel and it would have smelled wonderful.
I tried to eat slowly and politely, but it had been so long since I had eaten anything that didn't come from the pub, the chip shop, Frank's Caf', the company canteen, or made on the fly in my kitchen; I tucked in with gusto. Betty stared at me wide-eyed and I felt my face grow hot with embarrassment.
She put her hand on my arm and smiled, "You go ahead and eat and don't mind me. I'm just surprised to see you, that's all."
I relaxed and finished my soup. She was so beautiful. Her eyes followed me and I couldn't help staring at her. I was in my Betty's house! Her eyes were bright and dancing.
"Would you like some more?" she asked.
Was it that obvious? Did I have soup all over my chin? I wiped my mouth with the serviette that had been in my lap and I nodded.
"Yes, thank you," I smiled.
A few minutes later, Betty set another bowl of her delicious soup before me and this time I ate more slowly.
We talked for what seemed like hours, my heart drumming in my chest. I profusely apologized for everything; she said none of that mattered now, what's past is past and we move forward from this point on. I could have kissed her; I wanted to kiss her, but I refrained. I was afraid I'd overwhelm her. I was afraid I would be overwhelmed. I would have to take this slowly and work diligently to win her back.
It was getting late and I had to get up at 4:15 to be to work by 6 am. I apologized to Betty for having to leave, but she didn't seem cross with me.
It was time for me to go; I didn't want to, but if I was going to make it to work on time in the morning I had to get going.
"Leave the bowl, Stephen, I'll get it!" she smiled as I picked up the bowl to take it to the kitchen.
She walked me to the door and we stood for a long time looking at each other. I took her hands in mine, closed my eyes, and leaned in. I don't know if I expected a kiss or a hug or both. She cupped my face in her hands and she pecked my cheek. My eyes shot open and I gasped. She kissed me. Oh, my God, she kissed me! She didn't hate me. There was still hope. Her perfume was intoxicating and I felt my heart flutter and my head swim. I know it was just a peck on the cheek, but those were her lips on my cheek! I wanted to turn my face into her kiss and catch her full on the mouth, but I thought the better of it. Nice and slow.
"Thank you for coming by."
"Thank you for dinner, Betty. It was delicious. Really. May I call on you sometime?" I asked, my eyebrows raised in anticipation.
"Yes. That'd be nice. Thank you."
"Good night, Betty."
"Good night, Stephen."
She closed the door behind me and I heard the lock click. My heart did a somersault and my stomach fluttered. I loved her and I had to do everything I could to get her back. I did a little victory dance on the way back to my flat.
Neville scampered from my front doorstep to the gate to greet me.
"It went smashing, Neville! I had tea and dinner. She doesn't hate me!"
The cat circled round my legs, meowing and pawing at my trouser cuffs. I must be the daftest man on earth. I didn't care; I was in love. Madly.
That night I fell asleep with the image of Betty in my heart and I dreamt the most wonderful dreams.