Disclaimer: I do not in any way own the characters or settings of Peaky Blinders. They are the creation of Steven Knight.
She grabbed whatever she could and stuck it in the suitcase. The dark wasn't a hindrance to her plan. She knew the basement better than anyone. She found the window perfectly fine and without tipping or knocking anything over. Taking out the bobby pin and paper clip she'd stolen from his office, she picked the lock he kept on the basement window. After months of chiseling away at the dried paste keeping it shut, Rose finally managed wiggling the wood free. He never noticed because the dim lighting kept the window in darkness. She was thankful for the darkness.
A cool breeze swept through the room the moment she opened the window. She took in the scent of the fresh air, and felt the stuffiness of her prison leaving her lungs. This is what freedom smells like, she thought. Shoving her small suitcase through the window, she climbed on top of the broken desk, and climbed. The dewy grass wet her palms and the earth tangled with the air in her nose, but she didn't care. The moment she stood, she ran. She didn't know where she'd go, but anywhere was better than the prison she once called home.
The flat hadn't been what she expected, but it'd be enough. The day she'd spent in Small Heath were too good to last, but this bump in the road wasn't completely unwelcome. Seeing drab curtains on either side of the grimy window, the cold fireplace dirtied by cobwebs and old ashes, a stained bathtub and the unused kitchen area, she figured nobody lived here in a long time. She was surprised the bed wasn't in disrepair or the mattress stained.
"It ain't much," the bartender told her, "But would it do?"
"Yes," Rose nodded, "Thank you Mr. Fenton."
Harry Fenton stood in the doorway; arms crossed and rag over his shoulder. He seemed like a kind enough man, and he'd been decent enough to let her stay, so she couldn't say 'no'. She thought he'd ask for one of those favors her father told her of, but he did nothing of the sort. In fact, he seemed more concerned with her working capability. She'd come in that morning asking for a job in his bar, The Garrison, and he'd reluctantly agreed. He told her she was too pretty for a dingy pub like his, but she proved she could handle the work by a practice run he gave her. When she'd proved she could handle the customers, the drinks, the spit buckets, and the cleaning and restocking, he kept her. When she mentioned she needed a place to stay, he offered up the old apartment upstairs.
"Harry is fine," he said. "With a little bit of work, this place might look pretty good."
"I don't mind," she replied. "Who lived here before, if you don't mind me asking?"
"Eh, nobody in particular. It's changed hands a lot over the years," he explained. "I think a barber lived here for a bit before you, then the war happened, and this place sort of fell apart. I didn't see the point in its upkeep, since nobody's asked to live in it."
She spotted the thick line of dust on the old dresser drawer. Yes, this place would definitely need work. She immediately thought of the home she'd left behind. He'd asked her to keep it immaculately clean. He even checked her work to see if she'd done it right. Now, she could do things her own way. Rose put her suitcase on the mattress, examining the patchwork quilt that someone must've left.
The world itself seemed so new and vibrant. She walked into the small town she'd stumbled upon, and looked around. It was mostly factories and warehouses. Big, sweaty men toiled by shoveling coal, chucking wood into large fire places, and heavy lifting. None of them truly noticed her, and neither did anyone walking by. She felt somewhat grateful for this invisibility. She stared around at the different shops, looked into store windows, and smiled. He never let her leave the house, but she knew. She knew there was life outside those walls. Here it was, right in front of her eyes.
She heard the clopping behind her. Clopping meant a horse surely. She turned around to see a man astride a brown horse. The horse wasn't saddled, but its rider didn't seem bothered. He wore a flat cap that matched his tweed suit. Rose couldn't see much of his face, yet she assumed he was wealthy to a point. His horse was a beautiful creature. She saw its hard muscles move with every step; its long legs were thin but strong. It huffed from its snout as it moved down the road. She'd only ever seen them in pictures. Seeing one so close felt almost unreal.
The man looked away from the road before him and noticed her. She gasped and turned her head elsewhere. Butterflies filled her stomach. She pretended to be looking at necklaces in a window. Certainly he'd keep on moving. She wasn't anyone important. Yet, the clopping stopped and the horse neighed.
"Are you lost, miss?" his voice was smooth and deep. It sent shivers down her spine.
She slowly turned, not looking at him directly, "I'm new to town, sir. I was just, um, looking for work." She hated admitting it out loud, especially to someone like him. She thought of what her father said: Men had insatiable appetites. They would take her in a second. She gripped her suitcase handle.
"Work?" He sounded curious. "I suggest you try The Garrison, then. Harry could use some help around the pub. It's just down the road and to the left."
"The Garrison," she repeated. How fitting, she'd be working in a pub. Pubs had been his favorite place, other than home. "Yes, thank you, sir."
He said nothing as he rode away. Rose looked up only to see the back of him. Why had he stopped? Why had he helped and not expected a return favor?
"I do want to tell you one thing though," Harry said. She noticed he seemed a bit nervous now, "I don't know if this placement will be permanent."
"What do you mean?" she asked.
"Well, I don't exactly own this pub," he said. "It belongs to The Peaky Blinders. They're the ones who took it from me and made it theirs. I just tend the bar and keep customers happy."
"Who are the Peaky Blinders?"
"They're a gang run by the Shelby brothers. They're all frequent customers here," he told her. "I'd have to check with Tommy to see if it's okay to rent this place to you, since he owns it."
"Oh…" she felt a bit disheartened by the news. What if this Shelby man didn't want her living there? "It's fine if he says 'no'. I can always find another place."
"I mean, I'm sure he wouldn't refuse a face like yours," he said, "Especially with all the business you'd bring in, but you never know with those Shelbys."
"So, you're saying I'd have to impress him somehow if I want to stay?"
"I suppose," he shrugged. "I can't say for certain. I just don't want to make any promises and then…You seem like a sweet girl, Rose. I wouldn't like throwing you out onto the curb. Maybe if you flashed some charm his way, he'd consider it."
'Charm'? Rose wasn't sure if she even had any charm. Charming was never needed where she'd lived. She'd never charmed anyone.
"I guess," she said, tucking a piece of hair behind her ear.
"Well," he sighed, "I'll let you get settled in. I think you're gonna do fine here."
"Thank you," she said.
He closed the door, and suddenly she felt the silence. She stared about the room once more before she clicked open her suitcase. Rose hadn't packed much. She supposed leaving in a rush can do that to someone. She'd packed a few pieces of clothing, her books, and a photo frame. The photo centered on a dark haired woman holding a baby with the sea behind her. Rose put the frame on the dusty dresser, and took a look in the large mirror above it. Her long chestnut hair stayed tied back in its ribbon with only a few stray strands hanging around her pale face. He always told her how peaky and miserable she looked. She tried not noticing the shadows underneath her jade-colored eyes or the burn scar on the edge of her left ear. She moved a piece of hair in front of the scar side of her hair line. Rose then remembered the tonic she'd left at home. She cursed herself, but moved back to the room.
She ripped off a piece of the old curtain and used it to wipe down the insides of the drawer. Then, she filled it with the clothes she'd brought. Everything neatly folded she put her suitcase under the bed along with her scuffed boots. She honestly didn't know where she'd start first, if this Shelby person even allowed her to stay. For now, she'd work with what she had on her. Feeling wary about the tub itself, she merely filled an old kettle from a cupboard with water; let it boil before running it over her body with another curtain piece.
He'd be angry when he found she'd gone, she thought. She'd already been gone a day, so surely he'd be sober enough. He'd scream, holler, throw things and then drink some more. She wondered how long it'd be until he started looking. Probably when he saw his dishes weren't clean, his clothes not washed, and his house in disarray. He might've been a drunk, but years in the service made him unbelievably organized and clean. He always told her if she left him, she'd get picked up by a pimp and become a whore. He said the world was dangerous and sinful, and that she would get lost in it if she dared leave. He even made sure she never left him. She thanked God for long sweaters and blouses.
She forgot about him as she pulled on her night dress. Getting onto her knees next to her bed, she prayed. "Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day, our daily bread, and forgive our debts as we also have forgiven out debtors. And lead us not into temptation and deliver us from evil. Amen." Evil. A fiend who'd been far too familiar with her. She prayed for a restful sleep and hopeful dreams. She hoped for a new day and a new beginning. She begged forgiveness for her abandonment, and for His understanding. She crossed her chest, and settled for the night. She found the mattress surprisingly comfortable.
Tomorrow would be a new day…she hoped.