- - - -
Walter stood by the kitchen window peering out, just as Flora had earlier that same day. He however was watching his father and mother as they left the drive. The doctor had just offered to give the two of them a lift into town to give the happy new to Mrs Corey senior senior, while Flora was fast asleep. Emily had been very reluctant to leave Flora alone so soon after giving birth, but they had assured her Walter would be there if she needed anything. So Walter now stood by the window, making sure she did in fact leave as she had finally decided.
After seeing her definitely leave with his father, Walter turned and walked back upstairs towards Flora's room. He hadn't asked to go and see Flora after Emily had come out of her room with the good news even though he had desperately wished he would be allowed. He knew however this wouldn't do any good if they were to keep their relationship secret…if it could be called a relationship. He had a feeling after how he had been treating her recently, distant and cruelly, she wouldn't want anything to do with him, which he would understand.
He tapped so lightly on the door she would only hear if she was awake. After hearing no answer he stepped inside the room. He tiptoed towards her bed, smiling as he studied her sleeping form. Leaning down he placed a gentle kiss on her forehead, sweeping back the few strands of sticky hair that clung to her cheeks.
Flora had only been dozing gently when Walter had knocked on the door, however she was far too exhausted to even open her eyes. Her whole body felt so battered she could hardly move. She knew Emily and Wally had gone into town, so she therefore knew that it had to be Walter and she didn't have the energy to feign waking up, just to face another argument with him.
"Oh I was so worried about you," she heard him whisper as he stroked her hair softly, "I'm not sure I could go through that…again."
He sighed gently, why did it have to be so much harder to say when she was awake? "I thought last time was hard, but for some reason this time seemed twice as difficult to cope with."
"Waiting out there while you were in here…goodness…brought back so many awful memories and…" he paused for a moment, waiting for the lump in his throat to disappear, "well I've already lost the first woman I loved and I sure as hell aren't ready to loose…" he trailed off unable to continue.
Flora was now desperate to sit up and kiss him with total abandonment until he knew for sure that she loved him with all her heart, however she somehow managed to control herself preferring to shift slightly and grin into her pillow…she really had his heart.
She felt him squeeze her hand carefully and raise himself from his place beside her bed. He made his way almost silently to the end of the bed, where he peered into the delicate crib. He couldn't help beaming at the tiny girl, with her wee nose, chubby little cheeks and the biggest pair of dazzling Corey blue eyes ever. Walter found it incredibly overwhelming, here was this little child who he wanted to love as his own and every time he looked at her, he knew there was going to be this constant reminder she was Robert's daughter every time he looked into those huge eyes.
Pushing these disturbing thoughts to the back of his mind, Walter leaned over and stroked the baby's cheek soothingly. Walter wondered what Flora had decided to call her. She had tried to get him involved when it came to choosing the baby's name. They had easily been able to agree on a boy's name…that wasn't much use though. The girls names had been slightly harder. They didn't seem to be able to agree on a name. In the end he had just told Flora it was up to her to decide, she was her daughter afterall. Walter had been very set on the name Isabelle, or Izzy for short. Flora wasn't so keen on the name however, so it seemed like Izzy was off the table.
Well whatever she decided he was sure it was going to be just perfect for her He tickled under her chin carefully as she stared up at him intrigued. "Less than 3 hours old and already you are as beautiful as your mother…which is saying something." He whispered to her. "I am going to take good care of you and your mother. You are going to grow up to be healthy and strong." The lump was back in his throat at this point as his recalled the last baby that had lay in this crib. He was perfect in every single way, yet he just wasn't quite strong enough to hold in there without the help of his mother.
"I know it may not say in writing that you are my little girl, but you are my little one and I'm going to spoil you rotten, just you wait and see. I'll win the prize for number one uncle in the world." The baby only gazed curiously up at him, before deciding he wasn't interesting enough to stay awake for and closed her eyes.
Walter tucked the blanket tighter around her and placed a little kiss on her tiny forehead. "And one day I promise to provide you with a little brother or sister…that can be our first secret, that no one can know except you and I." Walter chuckled slightly to himself as he stood up straight.
"We'll let your mother recuperate before we break the news to her I think," with that final comment, he glanced over Flora once again and strode from the room, closing the door silently behind him.
Deciding it was safe to open her eyes Flora sat up, a huge grin spreading across her face. He really loved her and it seemed he loved her daughter as well. Sliding slowly and carefully down to the bottom of the bed she stroked the few hairs on her daughters head, unable to believe how much she loved her. Kissing her cheek she whispered, "sleep well little Isabelle," before settling herself back down.
- - -
Over the next few months Izzy Corey did exactly what Walter had promised. She was growing quickly by the day, she was perfectly healthy, strong and to everyone's delight she had a huge set of lungs, which was perhaps appreciated most at 3 in the morning.
Flora was now quite used to the sleepless nights…if that is something one can get used too. It was certainly difficult only getting a couple of hours sleep every night, then having to get up next morning and care for her little darling, while continuing with her light chores. Emily was of course a dear through the day. She would often keep an eye on Isabelle as she made dinner, allowing Flora a chance for a quick nap. Or she would whisk her off into the gardens for half an hour, that way Flora could have a peaceful cup of tea in her baby free minutes or dash about the kitchen, regretting those further few minutes she had allowed herself to coo over her beautiful daughter after feeding her instead of preparing lunch.
By the evening both women would be absolutely exhausted and this is the point Walter delighted jumping in and acting the father figure. He was trying his best to be discrete, he knew his mother would never approve of his fathering Izzy, but he simply couldn't help it. After a hard days work there is nothing more he enjoyed than coming home, satisfying his empty stomach, then settling himself into a comfy chair with a brandy and playing with Izzy on his lap. Flora loved watching him with her. He would tickle her chin and do silly things in an effort to get some sort of reaction from her, but every time the little one simply stared at him, occasionally rested her eyes and sometimes, if he was lucky, he would hear a little squeaky cry from her.
Tonight was no exception. He was sat with Izzy in his arms trying to get her to do something remotely interesting, "Say cat," she just blinked at him. "cat," he repeated. Flora giggled at him from her chair. He was so adorable. "What about dog? d-o-g. She doesn't do much does she?"
"Except cry? Not really. Give her a good 7 months yet Walter," she smiled.
"Dog," he said again. He stroked her thin layer of soft hair. "Chicken?" He started to cluck like a chicken. "Well at least your mother thinks I'm hilarious," he sighed, smirking from the chuckling Flora to the uninterested look on her daughters face. "Flora I think she's broken, she doesn't see to be working. She just stares at me with that 'who on earth are you?' look on her face."
Flora beamed at him, however Emily tutted in his direction and scathing him with "oh Walter stop being such a hen!"
Flora gritted her teeth slightly and turned to Emily. Her attitude towards Walter's caring nature with Isabelle enraged her greatly from time to time. "Emily, it is important that she has a strong male role model. I personally can't think of anyone more suitable than Walter."
Walter smiled gratefully in her direction, while Emily glared at her. It was clear to both Flora and Walter that Emily disliked Walter bonding with Izzy because the more time he was spending playing with her the less he was spending looking for a new wife to mother his own children. Little did she know Walter was eyeing up the perfect woman he wished to have as his wife and all this fathering of Izzy was one of the best ways to reassure her that she was the one he wished to spend his time with instead of disappearing into town in search of someone else.
"She's really not happy with you is she?" Flora whispered, as Emily disappeared into the kitchen to prepare a fresh pot of tea.
"Of course not, having Izzy round her seems to be going to her head. Sending her even more grandchild crazy than before."
"Well maybe she is right," she began as Walter handed Izzy back to her, "you shouldn't be spending your evenings stuck at home with your mother and some tiny tot who 'does nothing'…oh and me," she added as an after thought. "You should be living it up in town not sat here bored out of your-"Walter wasn't about to allow her to finish that sentence however. He suddenly leaned forward and careful not to crush the now sleeping Izzy kissed her quickly yet firmly on the lips.
"I'd rather be with you any time and day of week," he whispered, before swiftly settling himself back into his chair as Emily made her way back into the sitting room, handing Flora a cup of tea. She stared at Emily dumbstruck for a moment before accepting the beverage from her.
"Flora? Are you alright?" She asked fussing, raising a hand to her forehead to see if she had a temperature. "Do you want to go lie down for a while?"
Flora didn't answer for a moment, still trying to recover from that passionate kiss he had just placed on her. Finally coming to her senses she grinned cheekily at him over the top of her teacup before sultry replying "oh I'm sure a good lie down would do me the world of good."
Walter raised his eyebrow at her, deciding not to open his mouth in fear of giving the game away. Instead he waited till Emily at disappeared for the some milk before whispering, "Well we'll have to see what we can do about that Flora my dear."
Flora had been so shocked the moment Walter had leaned over to kiss her earlier that evening. After learning that he did in fact care for her a lot on the day Izzy was born Flora had backed off slightly. She had decided that it would be best to give him time to get close to her in his own way. It had been very difficult not to jump on him at times, but this way was best. There had only been the tiniest hints of his affection over the last couple of months. He was very subtle, just the occasional squeeze of her hand or a flicker of a wink over lunch.
Neither had mentioned the arguments that had occurred before Izzy's birth. Flora had come up to her room one evening to find a freshly cut red rose on her best side table with a note beneath it that said 'sorry for being such a grumpy pain in the ass before. Can we start again?'. She hadn't replied through words, but he knew the next morning when he saw the smile on her face that this was the opportunity for a fresh start.
This evening Flora paced nervously up and down her room waiting to hear Emily and Wally retire for the evening. After their playful discussion earlier Flora had the inkling that tonight may well be 'the night'. Surely that had to have been what he meant earlier…
Loosening her dressing gown, she fumbled around her dressing table for her perfume, spraying it on her neck. She hesitated for a minute fingering her make up…she wanted to look nice…yet on the other hand how many people wear make up to bed, she didn't want to scare him away. No, she finally decided, the natural look would do, she didn't want him to think she was expecting anything.
She was just leaning over to check her darling Isabelle was sound asleep when she heard the faintest knock on her door. For a moment she froze, he had really come. The next more urgent knock stirred her from her stupor and she tip toed towards the door taking a deep breath before pulling it open.
"Are you going to let me in or do I have to stand here all night?" He joked in a whisper, glancing nervously at his parent's bedroom door. The last thing he needed now was for one of them to decide they needed a glass of water and come out of their room find him stood outside Flora's bedroom door.
Stepping back she allowed him to enter his old room, before closing the door quietly behind him. "I thought you may have gone to sleep," he smiled nervously, small talk was good he had decided as he had downed his final brandy downstairs. He'd not been listening to a word his mother had been saying to him after Flora had gone upstairs. Something about him not fathering Izzy probably. He'd been far too busy coming up with a list of topics he and Flora could discuss that evening when he went to see her. The weather perhaps or… he'd got stuck after that. What did women like to talk about? He couldn't exactly talk to her about politics or such matters. It seemed to him all women talked about was fashion and so on, he was useless on such subjects.
"No no, I just managed to get Isabelle down, she's sleeping like an angel," Flora replied, settling herself down on the edge of her bed.
"She's gorgeous," Walter muttered almost to himself, as he ran a finger along the sleeping baby's cheek.
"She looks very sweet and innocent when she's asleep doesn't she?" Flora giggled slightly through a yawn. "However, you just know she's going to wake up screaming any minute."
Walter chuckled as quietly possible, not wanting to wake his mother who was only next door. Why couldn't she be a heavy sleeper like his father? "She was very tired earlier, I don't think you'll have much trouble from her tonight."
"I hope not," Flora murmured, her eyes widening suddenly as she noticed a loose stocking peeking out from under her bed. It had been a very hurried rush around earlier when she had come upstairs. She had been greeted by the absolute state of her room. Dirty clothes were scattered everywhere, books and the odd bit and bats littering her bedroom floor and every item of furniture. In the end she had just shoved it all under her bed and prayed he would find no reason to look under there.
"So…?" He whispered awkwardly, stepping away from Izzy's cot.
"Err, yes?" She muttered distractedly, as she shifted along the bed in order to reach her stocking.
"Today was beautiful wasn't it? The weather I mean. I thought it was going to rain…but it didn't, did it?"
"You're right it didn't," she replied, trying to reach her foot out to try and kick the stocking back to its safe place under the bed, but she couldn't quite reach it.
"The sun was so hot for this time of the year, don't you think?" He continued, breaking the silence that had descended and pacing round from the back of her bed to the side.
"I most certainly do," she smiled up at him, pulling her leg back in. "It was slightly windy though this morning when I took Izzy out."
"Was it? I didn't really notice." She nodded up at him, hoping that he wasn't about to look down at this feet which were close to her dirty stocking.
"But it wasn't really all that cold," Flora added, rising from the bed and stepping towards him.
"Well that's good, we…erm…we wouldn't want Izzy catching a cold," he stuttered slightly, as she approached him.
"No we wouldn't. Come sit," she smiled sultry at him. She grabbed at his shirt and pulled him back to sit on her bed, making sure that her foot dragged her stocking back along the floor before quickly flicking it far under her bed with her foot as they sat down.
It wasn't long before she jumped on him. The next thing Walter knew his shirt was being unbuttoned and Flora was practically sat on his lap. At first he had been too stunned to respond. He'd merely come up for a little chat and perhaps a bit of a snuggle but now it turned out he was quickly loosing his clothes. Flora must have sensed something wasn't quite right because she paused for a moment and looked up at him. He swallowed for a moment trying desperately to think of something to say.
"Erm…I wonder what the weather will be like tomorrow?" he stuttered, silently chiding himself for his stupidity.
She raised her eyebrow at him, was that really what he was thinking about? "To be honest I really couldn't give a damn." Trailing kisses down his chest she continued to remove his shirt.
Alright. She obviously didn't wish to talk about the weather. Fashion maybe? What did he know about fashion? "That really is a lovely…night dress…thingy."
"Thank you, but you know…" she slid his shirt off his shoulders throwing it across the room, "it looks better on the floor," she whispered in his ear, shrugging her dressing gown off to join his shirt on the floor.
"I'm sure it does. I think though, that may be an experiment for another night…"
"Of course," she smiled up at him, shifting back allowing him room to breath.
She sat back against the headboard, unable to meet his eye. "It's not that I don't want to. I do very much. You've just had Izzy though, mother is next door and also I think it should be perfect." He crawled up the bed to join her. "Perfect time, perfect setting."
She nodded, "I hate it when you are right."
"Well it doesn't happen very often so just let me enjoy the moment." She giggled kissing him quickly on the lips before settling herself down so her head rested on his chest. He gazed at the top of her head, stroking her hair softly. No words were spoken, both were enjoying the silence before he had to go again. 'God I love you' he thought, as she trailed a finger across his toned stomach. 'Just tell her you fool!'
But once again he couldn't.
Instead he began to sit up and scan the room for his clothes. Flora moaned, sitting up too and shaking her head at him. "Please don't go," she pleaded.
"Sweetie you know I have to, I can't fall asleep here." He quickly found his shirt and was just about to put it on when it was snatched from his hands. "Flora please!" She darted across the room to reach his jacket before he could reach it.
"I don't want you to go."
"I don't want to go either but I have to. If mother knew I was here-"
"Oh you're such a mummy's boy," she hissed under her breath.
"Flora do you seriously not care about what people would think of you if they thought you were sleeping with your husband's brother?"
"No I wouldn't." She insisted, "because I just want to be with you so much I don't care what other people think or say…that's you who is bothered."
"That's not bloody fair," he growled at her. "If I want this job then I can't have any scandal against my name you know that and you agreed that we'd keep this a secret until I decided the time was right. Now give me my clothes." She shook her head firmly, backing away from him until she came in contact with the wall. "You know I could always force them off you, but that may wake up Isabelle and do you really want that?"
"No, but it would also wake up your mother and I know you don't want that."
"Alright, alright you got me," he stepped back. "I'll stay with you tonight." She smiled smugly pushing him back down to sit on his bed, before following him. "You're so gullible," he chuckled, suddenly jumping up and grabbing his clothes from the floor where she had dropped them.
"That is not fair!" She screamed at him as loud as she could, "You sneaky little-"
"Flora is everything alright?" She froze as she heard Emily's voice float from under the door.
"Well done," Walter hissed at her. "Now what do I do?"
"Is Isabelle playing up darling?" Emily continued from outside.
"Just a little," Flora answered, pointing at the window and smiling at Walter who was shaking his head at her in disbelief. "Well if you want her to find you that is fine with me…" she trailed off smirking at him.
"Flora I'll come in and give you a hand shall I?" At hearing this declaration from his mother, Walter dived towards the window, pushing it open as wide as it would go. Flora scanned the floor for her dressing gown and pulled it on, making sure Walter was out of sight before unlocking the door for Emily.
"Good god Flora, it's freezing," Emily fussed, tutting at her, before dashing over to coo over the now wailing Izzy.
Flora made her way over to the window to close it, peering out for a moment to see Walter clinging onto the windowsill. "Don't you dare close that window," he mouthed at her.
"Sorry," she mouthed in reply, blowing him a kiss, before closing the window tightly. It wasn't long before she heard a shriek from outside and the sound of him falling from her windowsill to the ground. She winced slightly as she pictured him climbing out from the rose bush that was below her window.
"What was that?" Emily whispered urgently at Flora, as they heard Walter curse loudly from outside. "We're being burgled!" She shrieked before Flora could stop her. Next moment she was barging down the stairs calling for Walter to wake up, her sleepy eyed husband trailing grumpily behind her.
"Walter get up quickly!" She shouted towards the sitting room, stopping however as she saw the kitchen door open and in wander a very ragged looking Walter. His hair was stuck up, his shirt unbuttoned and his jacket slung over his shoulder. He looked absolutely livid.
"Where the hell have you been?" Emily bellowed, her beady eyes eyeing him up and down. "Or do I not want to know?"
"It's none of your business Emily. Leave the poor lad alone." He smirked at his son, sending a wink in his direction.
"You know I don't approve of that sort of behaviour Walter!" She continued, glaring at her husband and Flora who was desperately stifling a giggle.
"I haven't been-" he never got the chance to finish his sentence.
"We'll be having words about this in the morning Walter. I do not want you creeping in and out of the house at night." Walter rolled his eyes at his mother.
"He's a grown boy, he can do as he wishes," his father told Emily. She gritted her teeth, spinning round and storming up the stairs to her room. "So?" His father encouraged.
"So what?" Walter asked, unable to believe the grin on his father's face at the idea of him 'in town'.
"Who is it?"
"Is she blonde Walter?" Flora cut in, pouring herself a glass of milk and settling herself down at the kitchen table, looking up at him with an amused expression on her face.
"You are dead!" He growled at her, as his father finally left them to go back to bed after much hassling.
"I am, am I?" She sniggered. "Oh come on it was funny!"
"Funny? You don't have your parents thinking that you've just…you don't have a dozen rose thorns sticking out of your backside!"
"Alright, alright! Calm down!" She sighed, downing the last of her milk and standing. He stamped his foot angrily and she couldn't resist laughing at him, he was so outraged. "Well if you want I'll rub your backside better tomorrow after I've got some sleep."
"Now there is an offer I can't refuse." His sulk faded a little and he winked at her before entering the sitting room, hoping to finally get some well needed sleep.
- - - -
"Walter, where are we going?" Flora giggled, struggling to release her wrists from his grasp and remove the blindfold he'd put across her eyes.
"Patience my dear and all will become clear," he cooed in her ear, as he carefully guided her up a couple of steps and into her finished house. "This way," he directed her towards the sitting room and letting her wrists free. Immediately her hands reached up to the scarf which she threw away, allowing her to see the finished house at last. "A palace for my princesses Flora and Izzy, allow me to give you the grand tour."
She couldn't respond, just stared around her and allowed Walter to rush her into every room in the house which was now complete and looking marvelous. It was clear that he had put all his effort into making this house perfect for her and Izzy. He hadn't just built the extension and moved all the furniture in, he'd decorated and added the unimportant things which he knew would make the house complete for her like flowers and the little feminine things he preferred not to know about.
"You may have to build another wardrobe," she smiled as she gazed around her finished bedroom. It was her, how did Walter manage to get this so perfect for her?
"How many clothes do you own?" Walter asked his eyes widening as he looked at the large wardrobe already in the room.
Flora moved towards the wardrobe and opened it, "My clothes will just about fit in here…but where would you put yours?"
"My dear when I move in…" which may be a while, he thought, "I promise I will find somewhere to put my clothes. Whether it be they live in the kitchen sink or I bring my wardrobe from Mother's and I squeeze it in here."
"I'm sure we'll think of something," Flora replied bouncing on the bed. "Want to test out the bed springs?"
He shook his head at her in disbelief, "you don't know the meaning of patience do you?"
"Nope!" She exclaimed roughly grabbing at his shirt and pulling him closer. "Thank you for the lovely surprise," she whispered blowing hot air against his neck, while unbuttoning his shirt.
"Flora please stop it, you know we shouldn't be-" He was cut short as he went down colliding with the mattress. "Well the bed springs work," he muttered as she straddled him, a huge grin across her face, congratulating herself on her master plan of tripping him onto the bed.
"So you don't especially mind the idea of our child being conceived on here?" She murmured into his chest, as she placed soft kisses across his bare torso.
"No," he admitted, before regaining his senses again and trying to push her off, "but not just yet Flora."
"Not just yet?" She repeated, sitting up and pulling away from his slightly. "Exactly how long is 'not just yet' Walter because surprise surprise I'm not getting any younger and can't wait forever!"
"Flora we've talked about this many times now. I can't just jump into bed with you there are rules, we both know that. Robert's only been gone for about 9 months and you've just had his child for heavens sake!" He was sat up too now and angrily buttoning his shirt back up.
"I know all this," Flora whispered towards his back as he strode towards the door. "I've just gone and ruined a perfect afternoon haven't I? You went to so much trouble and I…" She sniffed, swiping at the lone tear that had fallen down her cheek.
"Flora," he muttered, turning back round to face her, "You know if I could I'd marry you right here, right now. Instead will you settle for an autumn wedding?"
"Autumn?" He replied, taking her hands and beckoning her to sit on the bed with him. "That gives us 6 months to court, which should please mother and the rest of the village enough."
"You are being serious aren't you?"
"Of course I am. We can't make the wedding official yet," he told her, lowering her onto the bed so her head rested comfortably on his shoulder, "but between you and me we're both free on the 15th of August so how about you marry me? I'll have my clothes all ready and packed so I can move them into the kitchen sink. Oh and once I live here I'll be able to decorate Izzy's room."
"You already have."
"The nursery may be decorated but what about the spare room. She's going to have to hand over the nursery at some time or other isn't she? Quite soon I should imagine if my plan goes well. We need to be close to the baby when it comes don't we?"
She giggled, running a playful finger down his nose, "is there nothing about our lives you haven't planned? How many children are we having for example?"
"2!" Flora was a little taken aback by his forcefulness and quickness in answering.
"I guessed you've named them as well?"
"Of course, Walter and Amy!"
"And what school are 'Walter' and 'Amy' going to?"
"My old school of course!"
She chuckled again, "You'll be telling me next you've picked out my wedding dress."
"I thought I'd leave all that feminine stuff to you," he replied, beginning to get a little offended by her teasing.
"Thank god for that," she managed to gasp out through her laughter.
"Are you laughing at my young lady?" He growled, sitting up suddenly and dislodging her from her cosy spot.
"No!" She shrieked as he pinned her down and began to tickle her. "Of course I wasn't laughing at you! Walter stop it!" He had a fair amount of his weight on her so she couldn't move from her spot on the bed. She was just about to get the better of him with the pillow she had managed to grasp when the bedroom door swung open and in stormed in a very stern looking Emily.
Walter immediately moved from his position on top of Flora to beside her on the bed, "What in God's name are you to doing?"
"I was just…" Walter began, breaking off coughing, giving himself time to come up with an excuse, "showing Flora the fantastic job I did on this ceiling. If you come and lay down mother and look up I'm sure you'll see the ever so thin line along the ceiling. The ceiling was a complete mess and I had to re-plaster the whole thing."
"Hmmmm, I think I'll pass," Emily growled, as Walter patted the bed for her to come and lay down.
Ceiling indeed? It was hardly appropriate for her son and her daughter-in-law to be rolling around on a bed as if they were a married couple. Emily knew that the ceiling excuse had to be a load of toss, but she didn't want to bring herself to think about the other option. She wouldn't mention to either of them what was really going through her head. Instead she would just do her best to keep the pair apart as much as she could for a while.
"Well we'd erm…better be going." Flora and Walter nodded in agreement and jumped up. "So Flora when are you thinking about moving in?" Emily asked, the sooner she got away from her son the better.
"I'm not sure really. I'm sure Walter is dying for his bed back."
"You're right! I'm not sure how much more my back can take of that sofa."
Emily stormed down the stairs in front of them. They both agreed through a silent look not to cross her today. She was obviously not in the best mood ever. "By the way," Flora muttered when she was sure Emily was out of ear shot, "if you think I'm naming our child Walter you've got another thing coming."
"What is wrong with the name Walter?" Walter protested.
"Don't even get me started!" She growled at him as she exited the house and quicken her pace to catch up to Emily so Walter couldn't argue with her.
- - - -
Emily had decided to get to work on keeping Flora and Walter apart as quickly as possible. She barely left them alone in a room together. She was currently preparing afternoon tea for the family, a rare treat but today was an exception. She had invited round a neighbour, Holly, who was simply perfect for Walter. What they needed around this place was a few more females for Walter to drool over, he'd quickly ignore Flora if he had more options around.
Holly had been brought up in their village but had moved away a few years ago after marrying. Yet her husband had died a month or so back and she'd moved back here a week or so ago so she could be closer to her family. Her father was head of the parish council and her mother had been a close friend of Emily's since they were young. Holly was a lovely lady, in her late twenties, so a little younger than Walter, but that would definitely not be a bad thing. The younger the better in fact, she could have her next grandchild on the way in less than a year.
"Flora are you planning on doing anything slightly useful today?" Emily asked harshly towards Flora, who was stood cooing over her daughter. Straightening up, Flora gritted her teeth and began to knead the dough Emily was pointing to. "Holly will be here in approximately 5 minutes and I really don't need you making the place look untidy."
Flora scowled, punching the dough forcefully. She'd heard nothing but Holly, Holly, Holly over the last few days. Emily had delighted in telling Flora how perfect she was for Walter and their family. Apparently she had shares in the family business, she was about to move into her own house and she was supposedly stunning, with beautiful long blonde hair, rosy red lips and a wee little nosey.
Before she knew what was happening Holly was being ushered into the sitting room by Emily, before she rushed off to find her son, leaving Flora to serve the tea. Flora felt very out of place during tea, Walter and Holly seemed to be getting on like a house on fire. Reminiscing the childhood they had had together in the village, laughing and joking about which friend had played which joke on which grumpy old man at the end of the road. It was sickening for Flora to watch the way Holly would playfully slap his shoulder when she laughed.
"Oh do you remember Heather?"
"Was she your really tiny friend with the ginger hair? Always used to have it in two plaits?" Walter asked, he was beginning to get a little sick of all the small talk. He wasn't sure he could sit through another story of her little friends who was now living with some incredibly well off man ten times her age.
"Yep. She has just had triplets which is such good news as she's been thinking for a while now that she couldn't have children but it turns out she can." Holly giggled excitedly.
He could always remember seeing Holly and her little group of friends sitting beneath the huge oak tree in the park. They would all be huddled in a group and they'd start giggling and staring as the older boys walked past. He'd never really spoken to her back then, the age difference back then had seemed so big compared to how it seemed now. He was a good ten years older than her so hadn't had much to do with her and her little cluster of friends.
"And remember Catherine? Well she's just married, apparently she's expecting, it's quite the scandal according to Heather…" she talked and talked, Emily was obviously hanging on to her every word, loving the gossip. Walter however had switched off by this point, just nodding and laughing occasionally just to pretend he was paying attention.
"Well I must be off," she said finally, "I'm afraid I've got lots of organising to do, moving and all tomorrow, things are a bit hectic."
"You know, I'm sure Walter would be delighted to come and give you an extra pair of hands if you need it?" Emily insisted, a new plot forming in her mind.
"Really? That would be amazing Walter! I could certainly do with a pair of strong hands."
"I bet you could," Flora whispered to herself from her seat as she cradled her daughter pretending to ignore what was happening at the door, while really listening to every single word intently.
"Well I'd be absolutely honoured to help you," Walter gushed in reply, beaming from Holly to his mother. At this Flora felt as if someone had reached down her throat and ripped out her heart. She had got the idea that Walter disliked her company and now he was offering to spend a day alone with this woman.
After the door had finally shut her out, Emily swung round to her son the smile plastered on her face. "So I take it you took to her?"
"Well…what can I say? She's pleasant enough-"
"I'd not really thought about- I suppose she is…quite attractive," he was very aware of Flora sat not so far away, he didn't want to say anything he may regret in front of her. Yet at the same time he was trying to convince his mother that Flora meant nothing to him and the best way to do that was to try and make her believe he'd taken to Holly.
"Well maybe after spending some quality time alone with her tomorrow you'll find her more than just 'pleasant' company. I just thought I should inform you I approve of her and so will your father so you can decide whether we'll be hearing wedding bells anytime soon."
"We just may be," he added, more to himself than to Emily. He wasn't thinking about Holly though, he was glancing towards Flora as he had said it. Emily was too delighted to follow his gaze, just kissed him on the cheek and almost skipped away shouting to her husband that their son was finally getting there.
As Emily dashed away to find her husband Walter strutted towards Flora, placing a loving kiss on her mouth. However when she didn't respond he pulled back concerned. "Darling, what's the matter?"
"I'll give you three guesses," she whispered, her throat very dry. The happiness had been rapidly drained from her and she felt empty and lost.
"Erm…Izzy's giving you hell?" He asked, only to receive a raised eyebrow from Flora as she cooed over Izzy, who was obviously sleeping like an angel. "That's not it…time of the month?" He chuckled slightly, lightly touching her cheek. Flora was hardly amused, glaring up at him. "Hmmm…you're annoyed with me for getting on so well with Holly and saying she was attractive." This wasn't even a question.
"Nope. I'm not annoyed with you for getting on so well with Holly and saying she was attractive…I'm livid with you for getting on so well with Holly and saying she was attractive…not to mention the fact you agreed to go help her move in. We were supposed to be going for a walk tomorrow or had you forgotten? You know your mother and father are going to be out all day so it was going to be the perfect opportunity for us to sneak off." She was speaking calmly, preferring to look at her lap in case she lost her temper.
"Flora, please listen to me. Mother knows about us, you know that. How else am I supposed to convince her that we aren't together?"
"Why should you need to! My husband has been dead for over 6 months now, we have nothing to hide!" She jumped up angrily, shouting him down, before freezing as though she was thinking hard. "Unless…you're embarrassed…or ashamed?" She spoke in a whisper now, turning to pick up Izzy from her basket.
"You know that is not the reason Flora for goodness sake!" He didn't have the energy to hurry after her as she stormed away.
- - -
Walter's mind was elsewhere next afternoon as he shifted boxes and furniture into Holly's new house. She was cheerfully instructing him in which room to place what, laughing and joking, unaware of his sombre mood. Walter had reluctantly left before Flora was up and about next morning. He had had many things to do before going to help Holly later that day and with all hope now the small object nestled in his pocket would be enough to bring Flora round later that evening when he finally got to speak to her.
"You are doing an amazing job," Holly giggled sitting in front of her dressing table and arranging a few of the objects she had already placed on it. "I feel quite guilty sitting here while you do all the strenuous work."
"It's my pleasure," Walter had insisted, as he placed another heavy box full of her feminine treasures beside her.
"Can I offer you something cool and refreshing?" Holly asked as she watched the sweat drip along the creases on his forehead.
"Maybe in a while. You wanted the rest of the boxes in the spare bedroom?" He asked, subtly brushing away her hand, which had been creeping up his bulging bicep. He had been trying to ignore her flirtatious behaviour. He wished that he could turn to her and tell her not to bother, that he wasn't interested in her at all, yet he knew that it would ruin his and Flora's cover. Just as long as he still had Flora had would be able to cope with Holly's tedious company.
"That would be wonderful if you could do that. Most of them contain my husband's belongings and I'm still trying to work out what to do with them. Do I want to get them out and imagine that he is here, or do I hid them away in a closet somewhere?" Walter didn't answer her. He could remembering having to make a similar decision after Marie's death. He had chosen the latter and regretted it later…Locked away in the closet under the stairs were many boxes containing Marie's belongings. That cupboard hadn't been opened for years and the what was inside haunted Walter's thoughts.
Walter had only managed to put these thoughts to the back of his head as he entered his yard that evening. He had heard Flora creeping around in the pantry, so making sure no one was around he slid in after her. He slid his arms around her while whispering playfully in her ear, "Are my parents back yet or do have the house to ourselves?"
"You sound like some eager teenager," she hissed bitterly at him, removing his arms from around her waist and striding out into the kitchen. "Maybe you should go have a bath…you smell like you've just got back from some tart's boudoir…oh no sorry I've just remembered, you have haven't you."
"You're not still on that are you?" He sighed, as he tried to encircle her waist again. "Darling can't we just forget about that, can't we just enjoyed this time we get to spend alone together?"
Freezing, she turned to glare at him in disgust, "you know maybe you've just like your brother below the belt and you're already brushing me off for someone else." Walter's face turned from one of desperation to one of revolt.
"All afternoon I ignored Holly's advances partly for you and then I return hoping to make things better between us and you dare compare me to my brother…" He glared at her for a second longer before storming into the sitting room.
Following him into sitting room, she found him searching through the chest that stood in the corner of the room. Seeming to find what he was looking for he straightened up, holding a key up in front of her. "You really want to know?" She looked at him puzzled as he led her out into the hall. "Do you honestly want me to share with you all the secrets that have been kept locked away for so long?" He asked her, as he pushed the key into the lock of the closet under the staircase. He paused waiting for an answer from her.
"I want to share my life with you Walter, that means knowing all the past and all the wounds as well as looking forward to a brighter future."
Smiling bravely at her, he twisted the key and breathing deeply pulled the door open, finally feeling ready to face the past with the help of the woman he truly loved.
The cupboard hadn't been opened since the morning Marie's things had been hidden away, not so long after her death. Flora didn't quite know what to expect as he opened the door. She knew it contained Marie's belongings but she didn't know the specifics.
Finally, after a few moments of just staring into the cupboard, Walter pulled out about half a dozen boxes and dragged them through to the sitting room. Stepping back, he observed the boxes in the room.
"Which one first?" He asked nervously and Flora randomly pointed to one of the boxes.
"Want to do it together?" She questioned, as she noticed he hesitated after settling down by the box. He waved at the first box, silently telling her she was going to have to do it for him. So after crawling towards it, she cautiously dragged it open.
On the very top was some neatly folded white material. After looking towards Walter for permission, she pulled out a beautiful, long flowing wedding dress. Flora's mouth dropped as she observed the delicate fabric and the intricate design.
"She made it herself…with help from her mother," Walter whispered to her, reaching out to run a hand along the stunning silky bodice.
"It's amazing, certainly more impressive than what I wore to my wedding."
"I don't think I've ever seen anyone look quite so elegant as she did when I first saw her in this dress," Walter croaked, desperately holding back tears.
Flora swallowed hard as she listened to him intently. She knew she should be livid with him for spending the day with Holly, but she couldn't bring herself to it. She just wanted to reach out and squeeze him in her embrace until she took all his pain away. "I'm sure she looked absolutely delightful," Flora smiled encouragingly.
Nodding, Walter leaned forward, braving to continue himself. The rest of the box contained mainly clothes. Walter gave her a sombre commentary on which items of clothing she was wearing on their first trip out together, which clothes she wore the night he took her out to dinner and proposed to her, which clothes had a huge dirty gravy stain on them from Sunday dinner when she hadn't been able to control her giggles and had ended up spilling gravy all over herself (much to the annoyance of Emily) and so on.
The next box contained a few bit and bobs that had been lying around their room, a hair brush, a half full bottle of perfume, a book with a bookmark hanging out of the middle. Towards the bottom was a shirt which Flora was quite sure didn't belong to Marie.
"I've been looking for this everywhere," Walter murmured, pulling out the shirt. "I'd forgotten that she was re-sewing a button," he added, pointing at the thread and needle hanging off from the button. "She was amazing with a needle, could whip you up a baby garment in minutes…" He trailed off and moved towards the labelled box he wished to open.
"Baby clothes," Flora whispered, preferring to stare at the box, than have to view the tears rolling down Walter's cheeks as he pulled out the tiny clothes.
"He was the most adorable creature you can imagine. Not so unlike Izzy actually. Yet he was so tiny and weak I was scared to even hold him at first. He looked so delicate, I didn't want to hurt him in anyway. I just wanted to keep him locked tightly away until he looked big enough to face the world."
"What happened?" Flora asked, not entirely sure she wanted to hear this story.
"Marie never got chance to hold him…I can just remember her lying in bed, absolutely motionless. She looked so peaceful, while I was in so much pain. I shook her, trying to prove to the doctor that she wouldn't give up on our son and myself just yet…of course she didn't wake." He paused, running his fingers over the soft material beneath his hands.
"The baby was never named. I struggled for weeks, but nothing seemed perfect enough to fit my darling little one. He lived for just over 2 weeks before passing away. He just wasn't quite strong enough and capable of surviving without his mother. I've never felt so inadequate, I couldn't even look after my own child. I felt so ashamed, as if I'd failed Marie. She lived on in that little baby and then one morning I woke up find they were both gone for good. So that is when I decided to lock away all the memories. I couldn't wake up every morning and open my wardrobe to find Marie's clothing, I couldn't bare the fact that everywhere I turned there was something that reminded me of her or the baby. I thought locking everything away would help me forget…"
"But it didn't, did it?" Flora replied, swiping at the tears on her face before moving towards him, gently taking his hand.
He shook his head
"The reason I wanted to share this with you Flora is because I'm ready now. I want to face the memories because I've realised I can't go forward until this is done with. I can't share my life with you if I'm still holding on to the past."
"And that is really what you wish to do? Share your life with me? No more secrets from each other?"
Smiling up at her, he trailed the back of his finger along her face, before answering, "You know that is what I want."
Tapping his pocket, he reached his hand inside and pulled out the little box he'd been playing with earlier.
"I know it must have been hard for you, me not wanting anyway to know about us yet…but I hope this will convince you that I am never ever going to leave you," Walter whispered, passing the box to her to open.
Inside was the most gorgeous delicate ring she had ever seen in her life. A thin gold band, unique, with a stunning jewel on the top, "it belonged to my grandmother, on my mother's side. It's been in the vaults since she died, too beautiful to be pawned I believe, even for Robert. Marie inherited her grandmother's engagement ring so this was almost forgotten about…" he trailed off, reaching out for her hand and sliding the dazzling ring onto her finger, smiling up at the staggered expression on her face.
"I hope you will understand and respect the fact that I don't wish you to wear it just yet…in a couple of weeks I promise it'll be time for the two of us to come clean to the world and you will be able to wear it for the rest of your life."
"I really don't know what to say…" she murmured dreamily, "I suppose I should begin by apologising for the assumptions I made earlier." He shook his head, touching her chin tenderly.
"I'm not Robert, Flora, you just have to trust me…can you do that?"
"Over the years, after so many incidents have happened and you've been through so much…you begin to realise that you can't trust anyone…not even yourself at times. I'm not sure I can quite look you in the eye and tell you with all sincerity that I'd trust you with my life."
"I don't expect you to." He reassured her, "I know you've been through so much and I appreciate that, but you must know that I'm nothing like my brother and could happily swear that to you. I'd never do anything that I know would hurt you or jeopardise what we have together. I l…care for you so much, you know that and I'm sure in time you'll learn to trust me just as much as I trust you. Until then however, you must remember that nothing is or will ever happen between myself and Mrs. Holly Dawson. You have my word."