In The Game of Chequered Pasts- King Me!

"Trouble in Paradise, Cap'n Peacock?" Mr. Moulterd inquired. Captain Peacock was in his usual wing-back chair in front of the fire, reading.

"Mr. Moulterd, that's nothing to do with you. Now get back to your duties!" Captain Peacock waved him off like one would wave off an annoying fly buzzing about.

Honeymoon night number two and he still hadn't gotten past first base. He convinced himself that it had been so long since Betty had been with a man that she was just nervous and self-conscious.

Mr. Moulterd took his pipe from his jacket pocket, struck a match against the fireplace mantle and lit it, he took a long drag, smoke puffing out of the corners of his mouth, "Aye, but I'm not the one on my honeymoon sitting in the lounge reading a book, and it ain't Lady Chatterley's Lover neither! You know, contrary to what she says, we had it off quite regularly. She likes to forget that part since she came up in the world. Back then I was a rat catcher. I was dirty, unrefined, but she loved me. She was trained to milk cows, birth calves, gather eggs, make all kinds of soap, churn butter, and preserve food- girl duties. That was where she learnt to make all them salves and herb scrubs.

I was nineteen and working as a farm hand doing manual labor. She was sixteen. We would sneak off to the milking barn. One night we got caught and word got out. Her reputation was ruined, but I still loved her."

"You're lying!" Captain Peacock hissed.

"OK, I'm lyin'," Mr. Moulterd provoked him, "You ain't getting' nothin' from her, am I right?"

"It's none of your business, Mr. Moulterd!" Captain Peacock fumed, clenching his hands into fists.

"Try this then: You kiss her behind the ear, along her neck to her collar bone. See if she don't melt in your arms like butter. Then you can make up your mind whether I'm lyin' or not!"

Captain Peacock bristled. He glared at Mr. Moulterd, huffing, exhaling through clenched teeth. His nostrils flared and he could feel his face flush. Mr. Moulterd enjoyed this display; Captain Peacock's feathers were ruffled. Captain Peacock was on his feet and Mr. Moulterd wondered if they might come to blows.

"You leave my Betty alone!" he growled, closing the distance between them.

"Long a'fore she was 'your Betty', she was my Rachel. I have carried a torch for her all these years! Even when I married my wife and we had Mavis, I never forgot my first love."

"Well, she's my wife now!" he glowered, trying not to raise his voice.

"She'll be your wife in title only. She'll never give you what she gave me!"

"Shut up, Mr. Moulterd, and stop making accusations!" Captain Peacock spat, "Betty is refined and poised and beautiful."

"I'm not sayin' she ain't. You do what I told you," Mr. Moulterd said confidently and continued through the lounge and out the kitchen door to feed the chickens.

Miss Lovelock heard the whole exchange and entered the lounge.

"Bedroom trouble, Captain Peacock?" she jeered.

"I beg your pardon?" he cocked his head, trying to soften his countenance.

"Honeymoon not getting off to a good start?" she arched an eyebrow at him seductively.

His eyebrows flew up and his eyes popped wide, "Shut up, Jessica!" He brusquely pushed past her, brushing her shoulder.

Captain Peacock treaded the stairs quietly as not to disturb the others. He entered the room to find Betty still asleep. His stomach flip-flopped. Was Mr. Moulterd teasing him? Why would he tell such an elaborate story just to be cruel? Was there any truth to what he said? She was his wife now. He loved her, warts and all. Ghosts, skeletons, whatever was in her closet, he would accept.

He slipped under the duvet and snuggled up behind her, nuzzling her neck. He planted soft, open-mouthed kisses behind her ear and trailing down her neck. Betty's breath hitched and she moaned softly in her sleep and moved back against his chest. He tightened his embrace, running his hand along her side and resting it on her waist. He continued his ministrations and her breathing deepened.

She bolted awake and regained control of her faculties. She scooted out of his embrace, leapt out of the bed and turned to face him. He followed her, fearful she might storm out of the room.

"What did he tell you?" she snarled, her bright blue eyes blazing, her shoulders rising and falling with each breath.

"Why didn't you tell me the truth?" he asked, his quiet tone sad and hurt.

"I'm trying to forget my past, Stephen! He's trying to relive and recapture it!"

"You only had to be honest with me."

"How could I? Look at him! I didn't want anyone to know I had been with the likes of him!"

"You were young and naïve," he reasoned.

"But I loved him!" The words tumbled out. She clasped her hand to her mouth, eyes wide.

He smiled sympathetically at her, "Do you still love him?"

"No!" she shrieked, "Not after what he did to me!"

"What did he do to you?" A hard lump formed in his throat and he swallowed hard. He wasn't sure he wanted to know the answer to that question, but it was all coming out now.

She shook her head violently, tears streaming down her face in a steady torrent.

"I have suffered all these years on account of him!" Her cheeks burned with hot tears.

Captain Peacock took her in his arms and held her tightly, "It's alright, dear. Shh…shh."

"When he found out I was pregnant, he wanted to marry me. But he was poor and common as muck. We would have had nothing. I was sixteen. There was no way. So I was sent away to another farm to have the baby. People called me names, talked about me, and treated me very harshly. Then I gave birth; she was beautiful!"

"It was a girl?" he breathed.

"Yes. She was tiny and perfect and beautiful. I barely had a chance to see her or nurse her before they took her away from me."

Betty began crying bitterly, gasping and shaking uncontrollably. He held her, swaying unstably.

"Who took her from you?"

"The farmer's wife and the game handler. The tore her from my arms. I can still hear her screaming," Betty cried.

"You never knew what became of her?"

"No. The records were destroyed in a fire when they bombed London. They didn't really keep records of that sort of thing; they tried to keep it hush-hush, you know how they do. They worried about protecting the identity of the adoptive parents and shielding the baby from the mother's shame. They wanted the baby to have a clean slate. There was a lot of this going on during the war, so they had it all worked out.

They took my baby to a family who didn't ask where she came from. My baby was stolen from me and given away!" she sobbed, "I've never told anyone. My parents died in the bombing of London. I was alone. I gave birth during a terrible storm; the farmer's wife was so rough with me, like she was punishing me for my indiscretion. I was sixteen, Stephen. Sixteen!"

He just held her tightly as she emptied herself.

"Maurice tried to find me and what had become of our baby. I kept changing my name so he couldn't find me. I wanted to put as much distance between myself, the farm, the war, him, everything," she squared her shoulders.

He pulled back a little and studied her, "Feel better?"

He kissed her tear-soaked cheek.

She nodded, "A little, but I never stopped wondering what happened to her. I never once went a day where I didn't think about her. I would go out and about and I looked inside every pram to see if my baby was in there. When I worked at Lloyd's, every child what came in looked like mine. It was good when I started working in Ladies' Ready-made at Grace Brothers; I didn't see babies every day!

Cecil married me to save my reputation, but I couldn't be with him intimately. He never loved me and eventually ran off with the neighbor's wife."

"I'm sorry, Betty. I never knew…" he sighed heavily.

"See what you got into when you married me? I don't know if I can be with you like that either."

"I'll wait for as long as it takes. I love you, Betty," he whispered.

She smiled and hugged him, resting her head on his chest, finally spent.