Smoke On the Horizon
"Sweeney! Come here, love. I made a new flavor combination for this sweet pie and I need your taste buds."
"Your experimentations with flavors don't always work too well, my dear." Sweeney said, his silhouette leaning on the door frame inside the kitchen.
Nellie placed her hands on her hips with a playful scowl. He was referring to her worst pies in London with the flavorings that she'd never admit the truth to. She took a small round pie from the cooling rack, holding it up to him. "It's chocolate and peach with a dash of chili pepper on top."
He looked at the pastry in her hands, unimpressed. "Chili pepper?"
"Mhmm, it adds a little spice." She held the pie closer to his face. "Please try it, just a bite?"
He sighed taking the pie from her hands and took a bite.
She bit her lip as he took his time thinking about the flavor. One of his brows cocked towards the ceiling in suspicion. "It's not bad." He admitted and she sighed in relief.
"Really?" she picked up another pie from the tray taking a bite herself. "Hmm, it's delicious." She mused then chuckled, seeing Sweeney take huge gulps of water. "If you like spicy things I suppose."
Nellie moved the spicy sweet pies over to the table where they could finish cooling and not take up all her counter space. She pulled out a few potatoes to begin peeling. "How does a chicken shepherd's pie sound for dinner love?"
"Sounds fine." Sweeney mumbled.
"Then be a dear and slice the chicken into pieces for me. My back is killing me already. I'd be in my shop still if it wasn't for this little bugger causing me pains."
"It won't be too long now." he mused, slicing the white meat in front of him into thin strips.
"Speaking of, I still haven't heard word from Nettie. I don't know what in bleedin' hell is wrong." The knife glided through the potato expertly removing the skins where they fell into the bin. "I hope she didn't die; you know." She said with a light snort. "Surely I would've heard word if she did." Nellie paused her peeling, staring out the window at nothing in particular. "Then again, Nettie's the only one in my family who knows that I'm alive. After what that wanted poster said about me."
"Perhaps its lost in the post."
"Could be." Nellie looked down at the potato, moving the knife to remove the last bit of brown peeling when something small and sharp poked her hard just under her left rib. The movement was so sudden, it caught her off guard and instead of the paring knife gliding across the potato, it gliding right off of Nellie's fore finger.
The knife in Sweeney's hand clattered to the wooden floor as Nellie yelped loudly followed by an awry of colorful language. Nellie clutched her hand continuing to seethe and curse. Blood dripped from her hand into the bin. "Hold still" Sweeney told her, rushing to find a bandage. He reached for a napkin, since it was the closest. He gently steered Nellie to the table to sit down, holding the quickly growing blood-soaked napkin to her hand. "Here, sit down." he pulled out the chair, easing her into it.
"I'm alright." Nellie said as Sweeney grabbed more napkins, wetting a few of them in cool water.
"Sweeney." She called, her good hand resting against her stomach.
"Keep pressure on it." he urged, grasping her bloodied hand with the clean napkins.
"Sweeney," Nellie grasps ahold of one of his hands placing it on her stomach. They paused for a minute, relishing in the tiny kicks coming from beneath Nellie's dress. For a second, Sweeney was convinced he'd start crying. "Little dear gave me quite the fright, it did." Nellie laughed.
He placed a kiss to her forehead before rushing to the bathroom to find a proper bandage.
Nellie stood in front of the mirror fuming as she yanked at the laces of her new crimson red maternity dress. Fixing the back of the dress had become an impossible task, she refused to holler to Sweeney for help however. After much struggle, she felt happy and confident that the dress was on properly.
Her hair on the other matter… she still hasn't resupplied her pins that went missing on their perilous hike in the past. She grabbed a hair tie from the dresser and attempted to keep her long corkscrews back.
She sighed, just getting ready to go out was enough to exhaust her anymore. She planned to visit her new friend, Alice and her dear daughter, Rosetta for tea this afternoon. Nellie and Alice had been talking the past few weeks out on the porch of the small cottage. She helped Nellie with the garden since she could barely bend down anymore. While on the subject of not being able to bend down, they talk increasingly about babies. With Alice being a mother of two, she's helped Nellie a lot with questions and myths. What's going to happen during the labor? What midwives will suggest? The sorts.
Nellie also discovered weeks prior that Alice married Detective Zachary Wells and poor little Rosetta refuses to call him father. Nellie felt her and Sweeney could rest easy knowing the detective wasn't suddenly in town for them.
"I'm off to see Alice and little Rosetta, dear." Nellie chirped, tossing a coat on. She paused, turning to look at him on the settee. The fire place was roaring with life, he had a Charles Dickens book in his hands. She honestly didn't feel like leaving the house anymore and preferred to cuddle up next to him. He looked at her quizzically as she stood by the door staring at him. She placed a hand to her round belly, and he stood up in alarm.
"No, no. Everything's fine." She assured him. "There's been something on my mind lately that I've been meaning to tell you." She started.
He took a step towards her till they were inches apart. "Oh?"
Nellie took a deep breath and he placed both hands on her arms. "We can discuss this more when I get back, I'm already running late as it is."
"What it is Nell?" He asked? His tone was laced with concern but there was a sweetness there.
"I'm fairly certain the baby will be a boy." She bit her lip and out of nowhere, tears started pouring down her face.
She turned away from him, embarrassed. "I should get going."
"Nellie." He pulled her into his arms. "Don't cry, pet it's alright."
"I know, I'm so emotional all the time. I need to go." She frantically moved toward the door.
"Pet, your hair is falling down. Here." He gestured her to sit down and began moving his fingers through her hair, weaving strands together. He moved his fingers expertly, pulling her locks together in ways she's never felt before. He tied the end off with her ribbon and turned her to face him. "Now you look even more beautiful."
She moved her hand to touch this new foreign braid. "Oh love, you didn't need to… I have to go look at it." She rushed to the mirror in the bedroom, causing herself to be even more late for her tea party. The braid looked complicated and was beyond anything she could have done herself. It reminded her of the braid she attempted to pull off for their wedding, only more graceful.
"It looks great my love, thank you." She waltzed over to him, trapping him in her arms, placing a peck to his lips. "Now I really do need to get going. I'll try to rush back when I can."
"Enjoy your time." He spoke, glad that her tears had dried as if they never made an appearance in the first place.
"Sorry I'm late!" Nellie sang after stepping over Alice's threshold into a bigger, much lovelier and not quite by the sea, yellow cottage.
"Oh, I didn't even notice. I don't know what time it is anymore." Alice laughed.
"Mum! It's not in the laundry." Rosetta called from somewhere inside the house.
"She lost her favorite dress." Alice told Nellie who smiled warmly.
"Your home is so beautiful, Alice."
"Oh, it's a mess at the moment." She bent down to pick up toys from the floor to prove her point. "Thank you though."
A baby cooed from his crib in the living room. Alice rushed over to him. "I was hoping you wouldn't wake up yet." She smiled.
Nellie remained in the main hallway, marveling at the cottage around her, wishing she lived in something as nice as this someday.
"Margery." Alice called her over. "Would you like to hold him?" She didn't even wait for an answer before placing the babe into Nellie's arms. "It'll be good practice. Well, he's not a newborn anymore but still." She grinned.
Nellie smiled down at the baby boy in her arms still sluggish and sleepy from just waking up from a nap. Nellie rocked him gently, the boy snuggling into her touch. "See, you're a natural already." Alice spoke.
"Well, I have watched over a baby before. That was so long ago though."
"Mrs. Oakley!" Rosetta excitedly screams, throwing her small arms around Nellie's waste, knocking into her.
"Rosetta, careful love. She's carrying two babies at the moment." Alice said with a smile causing Nellie to laugh. "Here, sit down with him." Alice gestured Nellie to the settee. "I have a dress to find. Be back in moment." She hurried off being quite the busy bee.
Nellie had a feeling she shouldn't take these last weeks of quiet and peace for granted. She could just imagine herself now running around the house picking up toys and searching for clothing.
"You know I just now realized; I don't know this little dear's name." Nellie spoke to Rosetta who had jumped up on the settee to join her.
"Tommy," the girl said, poking her brother in the head with a small finger.
Tommy started fussing in Nellie's arms suddenly. "Uh oh," Nellie said, rocking the boy a bit more softly and whispering soothing words to shush him.
"I told you he cries all the time." Rosetta spoke.
Nellie looked up to see if Alice would return to the living room. "I believe he's hungry."
"Mumma! Tommy's hungry!" Rosetta hollers.
"Be right there loves." Alice cried from the kitchen.
Nellie smiled handing the babe to his sister so she could stand up a bit easier. She then took the baby back into her arms. Walking into the kitchen with the girl on her heels. Alice was preparing the square table for their lunch today. "Rosetta your dress was hanging on your bed frame."
"I looked there." The girl insisted.
"Well, you didn't look close enough." Alice teased. She held the dress out to her daughter, "Would you like to put it on? Show Mrs. Oakley?"
"Yes." She excitedly yanked the cloth from her mother and ran up the stairs.
Tommy was squalling in Nellie's arms at this point. "Oh it never stops." Alice moaned grabbing some baby food, stored milk pudding more specifically, from the cabinet.
"I don't think I want children anymore." Nellie teased and Alice laughed along with her. "No, honest all this is actually making me more excited."
"Children are never boring." Alice told her. "You'll have plenty to do. Would you like to feed him?"
"Yes, I don't mind." Nellie answered.
Tommy was placed in his high chair next to Nellie who was given a spoon and a bowl of milk pudding which she grimaced at. "Doesn't look and smell very appetizing." She commented. Baby Tommy didn't seem to mind the stuff though, opening his little mouth eagerly.
"When they're get too old for their mother's milk, foods like this one are recommended. Their stomachs and teeth can't too much you see. Milk pudding, porridge, boiled potatoes, a bit of bread once their teeth have grown in a bit."
"It all sounds pretty bland." Nellie said.
Alice joined her at the table setting a cup of tea in front of Nellie. "Mrs. Beeton explains everything in her Household Management book. How to properly take care of the home, everything there is to know about babies."
"Mrs. Beeton's Household Management?" Nellie asked. "I've never of it." That was a lie, she recalls Lucy having a copy of the book back in those days.
Rosetta returned downstairs in her pink dress, twirling for Nellie to see. "Aw, you look beautiful, love. That color really suites you."
"Thank you, ma'am." Rosetta spoke with a curtsey. "Can we have the tea party now, Mother?"
"Yes. All your guests are here my lady." Alice playfully called causing Rosetta to grin ear to ear with excitement.
This entire occasion warms Nellie's heart. She couldn't help but feel a melancholy feeling. Alice and Rosetta reminded her so much of Lucy and Johanna. In a good way perhaps. If Lucy had gotten the chance to have tea parties with Johanna, to watch her grow. Nellie felt a strong urge to cry and had to excuse herself from the table.
She returned from the washroom several minutes later, her eyes still red and puffy. The tea cups were empty and scones all eaten. Alice pulled her away to the living room once more, asking if she's alright.
"It's these blasted hormones dear, they got me all in shambles. You should see my poor husband; he frantically frets over me as I cry and stress over everything." Alice smiled, stroking her back. Nellie wiped at her eyes, making sure they were good and dry.
Alice noticed her hand for the first time all afternoon. "Margery," she grabbed Nellie's hand in her own. "What's happened?"
"Oh, did that a couple weeks ago, I did. Was careless with the kitchen knife."
"You should be more careful."
Nellie started chuckling, "Actually, it's funny see, because it was the first time the baby started kicking and it startle me so that I…" she gestured slicing at her fingers with her hands. "Well, I best be heading home. My husband is all by his lonesome. Besides, it doesn't take much to wear me down anymore. This little dear here saps all my energy."
"You'll have to come back by sometime. For dinner one night perhaps, when my husband, Zachary will be home from work. You can bring Sebastian too."
Nellie smiled, as lovely as it sounds, she can't see Sweeney wanting to eat dinner with a detective. "We'd love too, I'll hold off till after the child is born though."
"Not at all."
"I'm so excited to see your baby, ma'am." Rosetta tells Nellie.
"As am I." Alice said. "You're going to have the child at your family's home, yes? That's what you mentioned."
"Yes, in Liverpool." Nellie smiled.
"Liverpool?" Alice shrieked catching Nellie off guard. "That's so far from here. It's all the way across the country."
"That's where my family is." Nellie said.
"Oh dear, its not safe to travel this late in the pregnancy. It's too much stress on the child."
"I planned on going sooner you see, but I haven't heard back from my aunt. So, husband and I will just make the trip regardless."
"Well do be safe." Alice hugged her. "And write, you do plan on coming back to Grimsby?"
"We do." Nellie told her, another lie. "It may be about a year."
She waved and smiled goodbye to the two girls with a sigh of relief that the afternoon was over and she could return home to lay down on the settee by the fire with a Charles Dickens book.
"Oh, Margery, I forgot." Alice was chasing after her.
Nellie inhaled sharply, forcing a smile to her face as Alice caught up to her. "I'm so sorry I meant to ask you. Rosetta's birthday is in a four days' time. Tomorrow morning I'm picking up a cat that I bought off of someone in town. Tomorrow is the only day they'll be able to get the animal off their hands you see and I'll need somewhere to hide it…" Nellie didn't like where this was heading. "…So I can surprise Rosetta on her birthday. Would you and your husband by willing? I could pay if needed. It'll only be for a few days, and its not a kitten so the pet shouldn't be too much trouble."
Without even putting much thought into the matter and having her back and feet ache so much Nellie would do anything to just get home. So, she made the probably terrible decision to agree to hide the cat for her.
"Oh thank you Margery. Thank you." Alice squealed in excitement. "I'll drop the kitty by tomorrow."
"Sounds perfect." Nellie smiled. Oh, what has she done? Sweeney won't be too thrilled about this. Its only a couple of days, no harm in it.
"It's strange being around them. Alice and Rosetta." Nellie moved her position on the bed, crossing her legs, edging closer to Sweeney. He was slouched, with his back to the bed frame, sketching away on the paper in front of him. He hadn't shared his drawing with Nellie yet, it'll only be a matter of time before she'd be begging to have a peek. "They just look so much like… them." Nellie spoke referring to Lucy and Johanna. She knew this was a touchy subject for him that ended in Sweeney growling at her to be quiet or change the subject.
She looked upon his face. His hand gliding over the sketchbook, clearly doing his best to try and ignore her words. "Being around them, it feels like I'm looking through a window into another world. A world where those two blonde belles would've been together for longer." His silence was suffocating her. She swallowed, hearing him loud and clear and changed the subject.
"Sorry love. Just talking."
"Hm." He replied. "I don't like looking at them."
"Well, we can't shy away from every blonde in the world, eh? What if our own daughter had yellow hair?"
"My mother has yellow hair actually. It's turned a dark shade over the years though, but still." Nellie spoke.
"She'll have red hair. Auburn. A beautiful dark sunset, like yours."
He had once again made her speechless with his words.
"Where did you get your red curls from?" He asked.
"My father." Nellie leaned back on her palms. "And his mother. I look exactly like my grandmother, I do." Nellie smiled at the memories. "I wish you could've met her. She has a sister who lives in Scotland. In Glasscoe. At least she used too, I haven't heard from her in years."
"My parents both had dark hair." Sweeney spoke, dusting off his drawing with the side of his hand. "My father's sister has red hair."
"Ah," Nellie l send closer to him. "So you do have some ginger in your blood?"
"Unfortunately, yes." He smiled a tad bit before noticing how close she'd gotten just to look at his drawing. He flipped the sketchbook to his chest, out of her sight. "It's not ready yet."
She rolled onto her back over the blankets only to move over onto her side with a groan after a minute. "I keep forgetting I can't lie on my back anymore. It's hard to breathe. The little bugger starts attacking me with kicks. I'll get stuck, like a helpless beetle."
"You know I wouldn't let that happen. Is little bugger what you plan on naming him? Since that's all you ever call the child."
She chuckled at that. "What's your aunt's name?"
"Clara." Sweeney spoke.
"Clara." Nellie repeated a melodic flavor to her voice. "That's beautiful. Not that we'd name our daughter after your aunt. Unless you want."
"Hm." Sweeney blew pencil shavings off the page.
"I honestly haven't put much thought into names." Nellie said. She rubbed apart of her stomach soothing the kicks under her hand. "We'll soon need to fix that won't we?"
"I have one in mind. Only for a girl though." Sweeney said.
He made one more finishing touch on the drawing, setting his pencil down on the nightstand. "Scarlet."
Nellie turned her head to look at him. Oh, the love that filled her eyes as a whisper of the name rolled off her lips. She grinned, her hand continuing to glide over her pregnant belly.
Sweeney handed the drawing to her and her grin spread even wider.
"Is that supposed to be me?" She teased sitting up. "You always make me look so much younger."
"I'm only drawing what I see." She raised a brow at that before closing off the space between them, kissing him deeply.
She moved under the covers, getting ready to drift off. Sweeney followed suit, setting the sketchbook on the nightstand. He was just about to lean over and blow out the candles when Nellie remembers an important detail. "Oh, love I should tell you."
"We're getting a cat." He froze, turning to face her. She flashed a playful grin.
"Yes." He scowled, his brows knitting together in a demanding suspicion.
"It'll only be for a few days, I promise." She explained to him how Alice asked if they'd watch a cat for a short time.
"Why would you agree to such a thing?"
"I wasn't thinking properly, I was tired and achy and…"
"Gah." He growled, blowing out the candle.
"Are you allergic?"
"Not to cats, I just don't like them. I'm allergic to dogs." He spoke.
Nellie sat up to look at him, "To dogs, really? Well, no wonder you're so frowning and miserable all the bleedin' time. You poor thing." She settled back under the covers. "I love dogs. Had three of them when I was growing up."
"I thought you were tired from carrying my child all day." He teased.
Nellie scoffed. "Just imagine in over a month when I'm lying on a bed with my legs spread, screaming and cursing your name."
He sighed, "If I could switch places with you and carrying your plight, I would my love."
"Aw, that's sweet of you." He inched closer, wrapping an arm around her side and nuzzling into her neck.
The cat was a grey colored, frowning, angry little beast. It reminded Nellie of Sweeney and she rather liked him. The pet didn't belong to her, so giving the kitty a name would suit but, she couldn't help herself and she went around the house calling the cat Demon.
While Demon was ravaging the yarn balls she kept stashed by the settee, Nellie was busy pacing with worry. Alice's words of not traveling while pregnant was dawning on her. She was approaching the ninth month very quickly with still no word of her aunt. She stuck between just staying in Grimsby or making the trip to Liverpool as soon as possible. The answer unfortunately had to be Liverpool. They needed to move on anyway. It wouldn't be safe for them to linger in one place for too long. They've already ran into trouble being in Grimsby, with the murder on Christmas Eve, that man's brother showing up with a pistol in the shop.
Nellie plopped down on the couch. She liked Grimsby, if they could move to a better cottage, things would be perfect. She looked off to her right at the small room they used for just storage. The room Sweeney used to hide in when he wanted to be alone. It only held an old desk and bookshelf, a small could be placed but neither Sweeney or Nellie bothered with fixing it up. The room was too small, you wouldn't suit a child nicely anyway.
The first time Nellie heard from aunt Nettie, many months back, in her letter addressing her excitement over the pregnancy, she informed Nellie that she'd make the preparations for the nursey. All Nellie and Sweeney had to do was come down. Nettie was wealthy, her home was accommodable to hold all three of them and more. She wondered what midwife she found for her? Hopefully her and Nellie would get along.
Sweeney was in the arm chair to her left, that beautiful nose of his buried in a book. "Love?" Nellie began.
He turned a page, keeping his finger in place as he looked up at her.
"I think we should head to Lincoln. Get our tickets to ride the train to Liverpool."
"Could we make it today? Oh wait, this bleedin' cat." Nellie looked over her round stomach at the beast with his little paws curled up underneath him like a grey loaf of bread. "We can't go anywhere till this cat leaves."
"You're the one who agreed to watch it."
Nellie placed her hands over her face and groaned. "I just want this over with. All this worrying and…" her head hit the back of the sofa with a sigh. "I want it out of me. I hate this." She muttered that last bit to the ceiling.
Some how Sweeney managed to hear her as she felt his presence next to her on the settee. "No, you don't." he whispered, his finger brushing a curl behind her ear.
She turned her head to stare into his eyes for a time. They looked so soft, so full of concern but there was a love and passion to them. Or perhaps the hormones were causing Nellie's brain to conjure up such things. She frowned wanting to test the waters further. "Distract me from my pain?"
"Any way I can, pet."
She smiled softly and surprised Sweeney as she moved herself unto his lap, covering his lips with her own.
"Nellie, I don't think…"
"Shut up, take off your pants." She mumbled by his ear.
He sighed, amazed how her emotions and attitude can shift so easily. "Nellie I…"
She stopped to look at him, wondering why he didn't seem eager. Usually whenever she straddles him, he's completely willing. Of all times for him to be distant now when she needs him. "You said in any way."
"I know, you're just… it's difficult, let's go to bed." She ignored him, placing a trial of sweet kisses down his neck. "Nellie, you're crushing me."
Her movements froze. She stood up and away from him so fast that she stepped on Demon. The cat made a loud screech and Sweeney launched to his feet, grabbing ahold of her before she could fall over. "Bloody cat." Sweeney scowled in the animal's direction.
Her hands were shaking on his shoulders. She looked so ashamed and angry. "Nellie," he made to stroke her back but she shoved his hands away. Walking into their bedroom. "I'm sorry, pet. I didn't mean anything by it."
She stopped, spinning back around. "I'm sorry I'm this ugly, fat, beached whale."
"You're not…" he placed a hand to his forehead. "I didn't say that. You're being pathetic." The door to their bedroom slammed.
He went after her, she was already a sobbing mess on the bed. "Nellie."
"I don't want to talk to you." He placed a hand on her back. She spun around spitting venom. "Leave me!"
He remained still, staring into her eyes, waiting for the fire to simmer out. Her anger melted to sadness and her head collapsed on his shoulder. He rubbed her back and held her close.
"We're taking the cat back to Alice in the morning. Tell her to give it to Rosetta early. They'll understand." Nellie lifted her head to look into his eyes. She sniffled and rubbed at her tear stains on his shoulder as if she could remove them. "I'm going into town. Get a coach to take us to Lincoln tomorrow. We'll hop to train in Liverpool."
Nellie nodded, easing back into a lying position. She faced the window and sad frown still etched on her face. Sweeney draped the blanket over her and a peck to her cheek. She heard his footsteps over the wooden floor. Nellie sat up again to look at him. "Sweeney."
He stopped at the door frame. He's dark hazel eyes shining in the shadows.
"I love you." She said and more tears fell.
He smiled warmly, "I know." His silhouette left leaving her all alone.
Nellie tried to take a nap but couldn't get her mind to stop racing. After many frustrated tossing and turnings, she got out of bed. If they were leaving tomorrow, she'd better start packing. Pulled out the bag they used when coming from fleet street. Packing lightly seemed to be the best option, they could always come back… It dawned on Nellie right then, that her and Sweeney may never return to Grimsby. She planned on staying in Liverpool at least a year, maybe two or three. That'll be plenty of time for them to hide in the shadows then return. Nellie made up her mind, they'll come back in a few years, the child will be a toddler, they'll find a nicer, bigger cottage by the sea to live in. She'll open the shop back up.
Nellie smiled to herself brightly as she stuffed some of Sweeney's clothes and her dresses in the bag. She grabbed a blanket off the bed. She could teach her baby how to bake, they could help around the shop. She stuffed Sweeney's sketchbook and pencils into the bag. She frowned, hands on her hips, pondering on what in the kitchen she could or should bring. "Would you like to help your mummsie with the baker, little one?" She asked, rubbing the swell of her stomach. She received a few kicks in reply which she was assuming would be a 'yes'.
She decided just clothing and small essentials would do for now and set the bag by the foot of the bed. Sweeney will look over her packing and add or remove things anyway. Nellie took a seat on the bed, staring out at the sea. She picked up her knitting needles and resumed the baby blanket she's been working on.
She managed to knit four more rows when her hands paused. Nellie turned her head to her left, sniffing the air. Her brows arched in confusion. She looked around the room continuing to sniff at the air before she eased to her feet. She was smelling smoke, but couldn't pin point exactly where the source was coming from. Swallowing her nerves, she touched the wood of the bedroom door, it didn't feel hot. Her hands shook as she reached for the handle.
Sweeney took his time in the market. After securing their place with a coach arriving tomorrow to take them to Lincoln, he stopped by the flower shop. Nellie's been stressed out of her mind lately and he wanted to get her something nice. They were coming upon December and the only flowers in season would be holly and poinsettias, primrose and camelia. The shop had a lovely supply of Lenten rose and gardenia in the bouquet. He paid the woman with a thank you and left the shop.
Carrying the flowers in hand, he walked past more shops debating grabbing something else. The jewelers? Nellie wasn't much a jewelry type person and he didn't have enough money on him for something fancy like a beautiful ruby that he does want to get her someday.
Something for the child would do nicely, but he wasn't sure of what toys to get till he knew exactly what the gender of their baby would be. Perhaps he could find something generic? A little stuffed bear or dog would be sweet.
The area of the living room from the front door past the fire place was engulfed in flames.
Nellie stared in disbelief for a few seconds, her mouth hung open like a cod fish. She was utterly paralyzed. How could this have happened?
The cottage made a hissing groaning sound and she screamed when a piece of wood fell from the ceiling. She needed to get out of there.
She looked around, the kitchen and back door that lie there were free of smoke and flames. Nellie coughed as if the smoke just now occurred to her.
"Demon!" she squeaked as the grey cat nervously meowed and ran around her feet. She flung open the back door, the cat bolted out into the grass before her. Nellie danced back and forth on her feet, should she grab anything? Another chunk of wood crashed somewhere, she took that as a no and stepped outside.
She backed away from the house, continuing to stare and marvel. It was all amazing and beautiful in a terrifying, heart wrenching way.
"Margery! Oh my goodness!" A voice shouted. Nellie turned to see their neighbor, Mrs. Taylor running towards her. "Are you alright?" she asked. Nellie didn't answer, their was a burn on her finger and thumb.
"You're hurt Anna?" Nellie asked her nonchalantly.
Mrs. Taylor looked down at the burn mark on her hand, "I tried to open the door. Are you hurt is the main thing?"
"No, I'm fine." Nellie continued watching the house.
"We've got to get you to a hospital, you could've inhaled some smoke." She made to place a hand on Nellie's stomach referring to the child but Nellie backed away. "Other neighbors alerted the firemen, it seems." Nellie looked in Anna's direction to see the brigade coming up the road.
It all happened so fast, Nellie could barley register it all. A constable came to her and escorted her to a hospital, she told him her husband was in town. "I'll send someone for him, have him meet you at the hospital. In the meantime, will get your home out." The officer said. The constable walked Nellie away from the scene. She kept glancing over her shoulder, wanting to see the fire fighters in action. Anna Taylor had disappeared, no longer being at her side. "How did you start do you reckon?" the man asked her.
"No idea." Nellie spoke.
Nellie felt fine, she wasn't coughing up smoke or anything else. She sulked in the hospital bed wishing they'd let her go so she could find Sweeney. Of course, wanting to go home was out of the question, since there was no home anymore. Her hands were shaking, she frantically stared at the door, where was her husband?
As if answering her prayers, the door opened.
"Nettie?" Nellie stuttered out, her mouth hanging low in disbelief once more.
Aunt Nettie of all bleedin' people stood in her hospital room, taking in the sight of her niece before letting out a cry and trapping Nellie into her arms. "Oh, my darling girl."
"What are you doing here?" Nellie stammered, still in shock.
"Well, I wanted to surprise you." Her aunt said. "I stopped by your house and it had bloody burned down."
Nellie let out a sharp, shrieking laugh. She covered her mouth with her palm. "It's not funny." Nellie grinned. "I can't believe this. I've pulling my hair out in worry over you."
"How so?" Nettie asked smoothing out Nellie's hair affectionately.
"You didn't write."
"Of course, I did." Nellie narrowed her eyes at her. "Oh bugger, it must have gotten lost in the post." Nellie grinned squeezing her aunt's hand. "Well, I'm here now."
There was a knock at the door as a young nurse stuck her head in. "Apologies ma'ams. There's a gentleman about to bust down doors looking for you."
"That'd be my husband." Nellie smiled with a light chuckle looking at Nettie.
"I'll send him back." The nurse spoke.
"Oh good, I'll get to meet my new son." Aunt Nettie smiled. "Speaking of sons." She grinned, placing her hands over Nellie's belly.
"I can't know that for sure." Nellie smiled.
"You're carrying low my dear."
"That's a myth Nettie." Her aunt chuckled brightly. "I've been doing research you know." Nellie spoke. The door swung open. "Sebastian." Sweeney's arms were around her before she could even finish speaking his fake name.
"Nellie," he whispered into her hair. Nellie saw the bouquet of flowers that he dropped on the bed before hugging her.
"You brought me flowers already?" Nellie teased, Sweeney cupped her face, kissing her deeply utterly unaware of Aunt Nettie in the room.
He pulled back to examine her. "Are you hurt?"
"No burns anywhere? Are you dizzy? Inhale a lot of smoke?" Nellie shook her head to all of his questions.
"We're fine." She smiled. He sighed in relief, placing a kiss to her forehead, squeezing her hand. "Sebastian?" Sweeney looked at her quizzically and realized for the first time that another person was in the room with them. "This is my Aunt Nettie."
Sweeney stuck his hand out but was pulled into a hug instead. Nettie looked very similar to Nellie, with red hair pulled back into a bun, she was tall with wrinkles by her kind brown eyes as if she spent her time smiling and laughing a lot. "Nice to finally meet each other." Nettie told him, Sweeney nodded in response, his hand grasping onto Nellie's once more.
The doctors declare Nellie and the child in good health and released her. The constable who escorted Nellie to the hospital along with Detective Wells and Alice were all waiting for them outside. Alice hugged Nellie tight, asking if she was alright. She began apologizing confusing Nellie who then noticed that Rosetta was there with Demon the cat in her arms. "Mum told me everything. Thank you, Mrs. Oakley."
"I'm sorry, dear it was supposed to be a surprise." Nellie told the girl.
The constable stepped forward, "The fire is out. The bedroom being the farthest from the source is still intact, if there's anything you'd like to go find." He told Nellie and Sweeney. "The cause is still unknown I'm afraid."
"I'd like to question you about that, Mr. and Mrs. Oakley." The detective said, he looked at Nellie, "Do you any ideas what started the fire? Careless in the kitchen maybe?"
"What?" Nellie said offended.
Detective Wells shrugged, "It's just, you're pregnant, you were alone, accidents happen."
Nellie narrowed her eyes at him. "With all due respect detective, I'm a baker. I think I know how to turn off an oven." Sweeney smirked proudly. He could've sworn he heard Aunt Nettie snort, but she did a good job of hiding it.
"The fire started in the living room, Detective. Not the kitchen." The constable informed him.
Face flushed a bit with embarrassment, the Wells continued, "Right, of course. Well, then that leads our second theory, the cat here, started the fire."
"How does a cat start a fire Detective?" Nettie piped up.
"It could have knocked over a lamp."
"Oh what a load of horse shit." Nettie said. Alice gasped, covering Rosetta's ears even though it was too late. "Thank you, gentlemen, but I need to get my niece here to an innkeeper. She's had far too much excitement today." Aunt Nettie said, placing both hands on Nellie's shoulders in an attempt to steer her away from the group. Sweeney was growing fond of this woman.
"One moment, Nettie." Nellie spoke up. She turned back to look at the group, Detective Wells, Alice and her daughter, and the constable. "I do know what started the fire. It was arson."
"Nettie, take Nellie with you to Monika's inn. I'll stop by the house, see what I can find." Aunt Nettie nodded, hooking Nellie's arm in hers. "And take care of her." Sweeney nodded causing Nellie to glare at him playfully.
Nettie laughed, "I only practically raised the woman."
"Only on holidays dear aunt." Nellie argued. As her aunt laughed, Nellie removed herself from her arms chasing after Sweeney.
"One moment, love."
He faced her in question. "I did prepare a bag already, its by the bed. If what they say is true and the bedroom was spared from damage…"
"I'll get it." he spoke.
"I added your sketchbook to it, some clothes, but I just now realized dear." Nellie swallowed being out of breath from talking so fast. "I'm sorry, my love. I forgot to place your razor in the…" Sweeney pulled his razor half way out of his pocket to show that it was on him the whole time. "You carry it with you? Of course, you do."
"For protection." He spoke.
"I forgot the picture of… them. I don't know where it was, I'm assuming you brought it with you from Fleet Street." Nellie told him.
"Its alright, Nell." He grabbed her hands. "Stay close to your aunt."
"Please don't treat me like a child." Nellie leaned up to peck his cheek. All the while, Nettie was patiently watching their exchange out of ear shot.
"I believe you, Nellie. If it was arson then that means someone tried to kill you." Nellie frowned, "I don't know who it is but if I ever get my hands on them." Nellie squeezed his palms. "Stay away from fires alright?"
Nellie chuckled. "Yes, says the man who tried to toss me into a fire once." Her breath caught in her throat. Strange how such a traumatizing event was now simply a bad joke.
He was still for a moment and she thought she may have upset him, but he kissed her lips sweetly telling her. "I'll be back, my dear."