Author's Note: Hello again! It's been a while! It's been a whole year since I last updated and I can't believe it's been that long! So this chapter fills in quite a lot of missing pieces in this story, of who Martha was before she met Tommy, as well as what she has been through. A lot of it quite heavy so I will put a warning here. Hope you enjoy! All reviews are welcome and appreciated! Thank you!
The Whore and The Bandit
The atmosphere within the restaurant had shifted as Kimber pulled a chair to sit at the table. Tommy kept a watchful gaze upon Martha; her eyes shifted to Kimber in a panicked motion. She was fidgeting with her hands, bringing them up to touch her hair every opportunity she was given – a sign that notified Tommy just how uncomfortable she truly was. She kept her eyes down on the table, her anxiety causing her to shut down completely. Tommy turned his attention to Kimber who was staring at Martha with the same sickening smirk on his face.
"Well… please, don't stop the conversation on my account," Kimber spoke. "Seeing you two crazy kids out in public has caused me some concern."
"Oh yeah? How's that?" Tommy asked, impatient.
"Haven't you heard? You've got a price on your head, kid," Kimber commented, picking up the menu and scanning through it. "Are you sure you want all that trouble for a bit of skirt?"
"Don't talk about her like that," Tommy snarled, keeping his voice low. He felt his blood begin to boil as Kimber remained sat there with the annoying smirk playing on his face, enjoying the fact that he knew exactly where to hit Tommy. Martha was, and always would be, his weak point. He was protective of her, having been in her life for as long as he could remember, and having taken her in when the streets had become her home. He turned to Martha, saw the glisten of tears in her eyes.
He remembered the first time he laid eyes on her. He had been walking home one night from the pub. He had had too many when he became aware of the figure lying on the ground outside an empty and derelict building. Wrapped in thread-bare blankets that were thin enough that you could see through them, in the middle of winter, was a young girl. He had stumbled over to make sure that whoever it was had not perished in the bitter cold night. As he had stepped closer, wide eyes had met his own, and that was when he realised the situation he now found himself in. She had the same look of worry in her eyes sitting at the table with Kimber as that night he found her. She was frightened.
As he stared at her, taking in her fearful eyes, he remembered back to that night. A picture film began playing in his mind.
As he stumbled closer to the mound of blankets, he was unaware of what he would find. He came to stop, his eyes trying to navigate the figure hidden underneath. He cleared his throat, trying to capture their attention. A thick accent could be heard, but he was unable to comprehend what the person had said. The blankets began to move, and like a second skin, was shed and thrown to the cold ground as a young girl stood in front of him.
He took a moment to take in her appearance. She was shorter than him; her hair was clasped together in a messy and knotted bun; her dress was revealing and hung off her small frame; and lipstick was smeared around her mouth.
"Full sex is two and a half shillings," she said into the darkness. "A finger is three and a half shillings."
He was taken aback. He took another moment to look at her properly. It was then that he sobered, and noticed that she was younger than what he had originally believed her to be.
"Seeing as you're a younger and handsomer client, I'll give you a discount," she whispered seductively. She leaned against the brick wall, and slipped the strap of her dress off her shoulder to reveal more of her chest. Tommy automatically looked away.
She spoke again, and he would never forget her words. "Looking is free. But sooner or later, you'll want to touch me. Men like you always do."
Tommy moved to the mound of blankets, and lifted one up. He passed it to her.
"Cover yourself up," Tommy said sharply. The tone of his voice was enough for her to slowly slide the strap back up her shoulder and grab the blanket from him. Once she was covered, he looked back at her. "How old are you?"
She smirked. "Old enough."
"How old are you?"
"I can be whatever age you want me to be."
Tommy furrowed his brow at her comment. "Where did you come from?"
"How old are you?" He repeated for the third time.
"Eighteen," she said quickly. He took a step closer to her and shook his head.
"There's no way you're eighteen," he commented. "My sister is young, and even you look younger than her."
"Well, I must have good skin," she smirked. "Got it from my mam."
"Where you come from? Why are you here in Small Heath?"
It was then that she faltered, and Tommy could see that she was scared and frightened. Her entire body tensed at the seriousness in his voice.
"I ain't running from no-one," she said.
"I didn't ask that," he responded with a furrowed brow. "Have you eaten?"
With a small shake to her head, Tommy nodded. He continued. "When did you last have a hot dinner?"
The silence that came from her answered his question for him.
She had been so young and naïve, and her circumstances were something he never imagined. She had been neglected by her family one day and had been left on the streets with nothing but the clothes on her back. She had wandered aimlessly through the streets of Birmingham asking people if they had seen her family, but they had all moved away from her like she had been riddled with the plague. It had been two days and there had been no sign of her family, when she had bumped into a woman who oozed grace and beauty and took her in like she was her own children, no questions asked.
But the woman had harboured a dark secret. Her wealth came from the work of other girls. It wasn't until she was twelve – two short years after first meeting her - that she understood why she lived in a house full of girls where men visited them at all hours of the day. And it was then that she understood first hand the trap she had been led into.
She had worked at the brothel for three years with every day being the same as the last. The urge to escape had always been at the forefront of her mind, but she had limited options. The majority of her money went to Madam Katharine, and the remaining money would be spent on board and food. She began to save money here and there, knowing that the time would come when she would need it. There was no way she was going to spend her remaining years living and working within the house. Though it was grand and beautiful outside, it was hell inside.
And one day, she had run as fast as she could away from that life she was so ashamed of. The house had fallen silent as night fell, and she knew it was her time to change her life.
The world had been dark and unwelcoming as she ran through the empty streets of Birmingham. She didn't know where she was going, and she didn't know how long she would survive, but she knew it was better than being in that house again. She would never return, she promised herself that.
And the girl that sat before Tommy now was so different to the girl he met that night. He had brought her home much to Aunt Pol's disgust, but with a hot bath to erase the months of dirt upon her skin, they were finally able to see the potential in her. She was bright and smart, and was simply a girl who had fallen in with the wrong crowd. They offered her food, and a seat by the warm fire, and she spoke about the abuse she had endured, the things she would do to survive, and Tommy had felt anger course through his veins at the thought of young Ada having to endure that.
He had found out that she was a few months younger than Ada who at sixteen years old seemed younger than her. She was street smart, had worked for three years in a brothel, and had spent the time she wasn't with clients reading as many books as she could find in the room filled with books.
They offered her a place to stay; a roof over her head, warm food in her stomach, and the love and support of a family. It had been everything she had wanted. But there had been a price and one that she had promised to keep more for herself than anyone else, and that was to never return to that life again.
Years had passed them by and she had thrived living within the Shelby house. And though Ada had Tommy as a brother, it was clear that both Martha and Tommy didn't share that type of relationship. Tommy was older but not by that much, and to her sixteen years of age, he had been twenty-one. And over the years they had fallen in love with each other, which Aunt Pol had told him to be careful of, knowing the downfall of a man in love. They had promised themselves for each other with the notes they would write each other and push underneath the door, with the gazes they would share, the smirks and the secret hand holding.
And then World War One had broke out, and the lives of men all around the world were hung by a delicate thread. And the plans they'd had to leave the coal covered streets were cut with sharp scissors.
"You know Tommy," Kimber began, grabbing the glass of wine in front of Tommy and gulping it down. "You've changed. We went to war together. We've seen the same things. But you're different. You're damaged, Tommy."
When Tommy refused to look at him and kept his gaze reassuringly upon Martha, he calmed his breathing down as much as he could despite feeling the familiar panic rush through his body. But that only seemed to fuel Kimber more.
"After everything we've been through… you still want to bring trouble to my door?" Kimber asked, to which Tommy then turned his attention to him.
"I haven't brought trouble to your door, Kimber," Tommy hit back. "What's that quote? Don't shit on your own door step? That's the one. You caused all this trouble, Kimber, and expected me to clean it up after you. We could've worked together well like we did over in France, but you're greedy and I don't like that."
Kimber stared at him for a moment before a smirk crept upon his face. "Is that so, Shelby?"
"Yeah, it is…" Tommy leant in closer. "And you know what? You coming here this evening has proved to me that working with you would've been hell on earth."
Kimber kept his smirk. "You get things wrong, Tommy. Nobody works with me. People work for me."
"And those men who work for you mustn't be all there, Kimber," Tommy replied. He looked behind Kimber, seeing the familiar faces of his brothers swarm the large restaurant. "Now I suggest you leave quietly."
As Kimber realised that he was outnumbered by the Peaky Blinders, he glanced at his men and nodded curtly. He stood and with one last smirk in their direction, mostly at Martha, they left the restaurant and were followed out by Tommy's men.
As the chatter within the restaurant continued, Tommy moved his attention onto Martha who was sat quietly.
"Would you like to go home?" he asked.
She shook her head. "No," she answered strongly. "I want to go to a party."