Chapter Twenty One

Alex awoke the next morning plastered to Beth's back. When she came back to the bedroom last night there had been no more words. Beth had slipped off her dress and lay in her underwear. Alex slept in her vest and boxers and grasped Beth as closely as she could. A shiver passed through her as she looked down at Beth's face asleep. She realised how close she had come to losing everything as she stroked the young girls honey coloured hair.

"I will never stray from you or disappoint you little bit. You are my life." she said as she lightly kissed her head.

"I know."

"I thought you were sleeping?" Alex said, continuing to stroke her head.

"I was but I heard you." She turned onto her back. "I don't want you to be walking on eggshells around me. I believe in you. You're loyal to the bone. I would have realised that if I had more time to think last night. It was just the shock of seeing another woman on you like that. My whole world collapsed in a second, but I know you wouldn't do that to me."

"I'm sorry my past has done this to us sweetheart."

"You always talk about that part of your life as if you were this bad person. I don't think that's so. You were a very sad and lonely person, looking for someone to care for you. I will do that. I promise I will always do that."

Alex felt the tears start again. It was the release of tension overwhelming her. She wiped them away frantically.

"I've never cried in front of anyone before in my life, before last night. Sorry you have to see me like this."

"You don't have to be the strong stoic one all the time. I'm honoured you would show me this side of you. Remember, when we are alone, this is the one place you can truly be yourself. I would never tell anyone. You are safe with me. I promise."

Alex buried her head into Beth's neck, seeking comfort like a child. She had never felt so vulnerable and safe at the same time.

"You like Greek Mythology?. Have you ever heard their story of soul mates?"

"No. Tell me."

"My father told me this story when I was a little girl. He believed my mother and he were soul mates. He told me to remember this when I fell in love and never settle for anything less. The Greeks believed that humans originally consisted of four arms, four legs, and a single head made of two faces, but Zeus feared their power and split them all in half, condemning them to spend their lives searching for the other half to complete them. I know I have found you."

"That was a beautiful story. I know we were meant to be together. You know sometimes I think your much older than twenty. You seem wise beyond your years."

"Only about us and our love. The ways of the world on the other hand, well, I need you."

"You'll always be safe and I'll always take care of things for us."

And soon I will ask you to be mine forever little bit. Alex thought.

"Now my lord, you mentioned something yesterday about Poni and you going riding?"

Alex laughed, the serious mood now broken. "Of course, Poni will be delighted and we did promise kitten."

"Lotty and I will have a lovely time gossiping about you both! Now let's get ready for breakfast."

The rest of the weekend was spent in quiet companionship with their two friends and Kat. Poni and Lotty had been delighted that Alex was able to reassure Beth after the events with Sally Weston and no harm was done. Alex was even more attentive than normal, never letting Beth out of her sight. Finally it came time to return to London and reality.

Alex dropped Beth off at home. They were both anxious about leaving each other, but for Alex at least she had plans to put in action. Monday morning came and they were back to work. Beth had noticed that Alex seemed preoccupied, but she tried to push the thoughts away. She came out of her office to speak to Beth and seemed very fidgety. Something was definitely not right.

"What day did you want off to go Christmas shopping with Lotty?"

"We thought tomorrow, before it starts getting too busy. We also have to go shopping Alex, Remember? To get some things for the Woodward's. It's less than two weeks to go now."

"Ah, yes em." Alex ran her hand nervously through her hair. "Tomorrow is good for you to go. Could you clear the diary for me for tomorrow and Wednesday, Thursday afternoon, and then maybe we could go on Friday? How about that?"

Beth eyed her somewhat suspiciously. 'She is hiding something.'

"That sounds fine. Your diary was pretty clear anyway. The soup kitchens and the foundation building have everything set up for Christmas last week. There will only be a few odds and ends to clear up."

"Okay fine, I just have some personal business to see to over the next couple of days." And with that she was back inside her office with door closed tight.

'What was that all about? Personal business, what can that mean? Stop it Beth! She doesn't have to tell you everything! Mind your own business!'

"I don't know how you can do it Lotty, but I need to know. I'll be with Poni at Garrads. Phone there and let us know. Please Lotty? I know you can do it. Yes, yes, I'll direct Poni to the most expensive jewellery for you while we're there. Oh thank you so much! Speak to you tomorrow. Goodbye." Alex rubbed her hands together. 'Everything is going perfectly!'

The next morning Lotty picked up Beth and they made their way to the shops.

"Good morning my dear, where shall we go first? Do you have some ideas for Alex?"

"I thought maybe a tie pin and some cuff links but I think we'll need to go somewhere a little bit different than Harrods's to suit my budget."

She and Alex had a discussion about Christmas presents. Beth worrying that she could never compete with Alex's gifts. Alex assured her that any gift from her, no matter how small, would mean the world to her as she'd never had a partner to buy her anything before.

"You know me Beth, I'm not a snob, I enjoy nothing better than a rummage around any shop! Some of best purchases have been in more down to earth shops."

Lotty had been racking her brains trying to find out how she could get round this but could only come up with the one idea. She had to go with it.

"Em, Poni talked about getting my engagement ring resized. She says this one looks too tight on me. What do you think?" She held her hand out for inspection. The young girl was always dazzled with Lotty's jewels. Poni certainly knew how to pick for her wife.

"It looks perfect to me."

"Hm, I'm not sure. You have smaller fingers than me. Why don't you try it and if it fits you then Poni is probably right and I've just gotten used to it being tight."

She pulled off the ring and handed it to Beth who put it on her engagement finger.

"It seems to be a tiny bit too big for me, maybe one size too big. It's so beautiful. You're very lucky."

Beth looked at it longingly. The older woman smiled. 'You are going to be one happy woman Elizabeth Bentley! Now I just have to find a way to phone Alex.'

Lotty's driver dropped them at a more reasonable priced jeweller's. Lotty spied a phone box.

"Beth my dear, could you excuse me a moment? I forgot to tell my housekeeper that Poni wouldn't be requiring dinner this evening. She and Alex are dining out this evening."

"That's fine, I'll just wait here."'Funny, Alex never mentioned dining out this evening. I suppose I won't see her then.'

"I'll just be a minute."

Lotty lifted the handset in the phone box.

"Garrod's the jewellers please." she told the operator.

"One moment please." said the voice at the other end.

Alex and Poni were in the private room at the jewellers. Engagement rings of various types were laid out in front of them.

"I don't know Poni; I think Beth would prefer something simple."

They were comparing a simple square set diamond to a more elaborate ring with clusters of stones. A sales assistant entered the room. "Ms. Woodward, we have Mrs. Woodward on the phone for you."

"Excellent, I'll be right with you. Excuse me Alex, looks like Lotty's succeeded in her mission!"

"Go to it then."

Alex was left with a senior sales assistant. "Is there anything you haven't shown me? Remember price is no object."

"The only thing we haven't shown you is a diamond that has yet to be mounted. It could be mounted as simply as you wish. It is called the Rutherford diamond, named after the mine where it was excavated in South Africa. It is forty carats and internally flawless. If it were to be put in a ring setting, it would need to be cut down to around thirty three carats. I couldn't give you a price until we decided on the setting."

"Show me."

"Certainly Lord Dalton." The older man left the room high as a kite. If he could sell this gem, he would get the best commission of his life. Poni came back in and sat next to Alex.

"One size smaller than Lotty. They will have the exact size in their records. Where's our helper gone?"

"He told me about a special diamond that they have gotten in. The Rutherford diamond from a South African mine."

"The Rutherford diamond? I saw a piece about that in the Times a couple of weeks ago. It said that a famous London jeweller had bought it, but it didn't say what one for security reasons. It must be worth a pretty penny."

"They haven't told me yet. I'll know if it's the right one when I see it."

The salesmen came back in with a locked jewellery box and sat it on the table. He unlocked it and turned the box toward them. "This is the Rutherford diamond. It is unique and flawless."

Alex's face beamed, Poni just looked shocked.

"That is the most amazing jewel I have ever seen. That's it Poni .That's the one. It's perfect for Beth. How much if set in a plain square setting in twenty four carat gold?"

The assistant did a few calculations on his pad and said. I estimate £400,000 Lord Dalton."

"I'll take it! Can you have it finished for Christmas?"

"Of course m'lord, if I may be so bold, you're young lady must be very special."

"She is special and as unique as that diamond. Send me the account and I'll have my bank transfer the money."

"Of course, if you'll just give me a moment to return it to the safe then we will sort out the details."

After he left the room Alex turned and gave Poni the cheesiest smile.

"Wow, my friend, that's all I can say. You do realise I'm going to have to come up with something pretty amazing for Lotty's Christmas now you've bought that."

"I did promise her I would steer you toward the more expensive jewellery for helping me with the ring sizing."

"My bank account is not going to know what has hit it!" Moaned Poni.

"Don't you give me that! You love spoiling your wonderful wife."

"You know me too well old friend." They laughed together and counted themselves extremely lucky in their chosen partners.

Beth had a wonderful day shopping. It wasn't easy. What do you get someone who has everything? But she was pleased with what she had gotten and the gifts came from the heart. It was Friday and Beth was dragging Alex round some of the more expensive shops in London.

"Sweetheart, how can you enjoy this? Lotty and you go away for the whole day. What do you find to do?"

"It's the looking, the talking, the lunches, the afternoon tea, finding that one unusual thing you don't need but will make you happy. It's the whole experience!"

"Well I'm just glad you have a friend to go with and I only have to come on special occasions!"

Beth took Alex's hand and pulled her on. They had already purchased kittens gifts at the toy shop, and we're now on the hunt for Poni and Lotty's.

"I saw Lotty looking at a particular vase in this antique shop the last time we were out. Are you sure about the money?"

"Anything! I'll pay anything if we can just get this done and get some lunch!"

"Darling, it would be less trouble taking a four year old shopping, come on."

Alex pouted, but followed obediently.

The next week and a bit seemed to take an age to Alex. For the first time since she was a child, she couldn't wait for Christmas. Christmas was on a Saturday this year. They had shut up the office on Tuesday and that had given them the whole of Wednesday to get packed and ready. They wouldn't be opening the office again till after the New Year. Alex was to pick Beth up on Thursday morning so they would have the whole of Christmas Eve to enjoy setting up the tree and their presents.

Alex had called ahead to instruct Mrs. McKluskey to only get the tree up and ready for decorating. She and Beth would supervise the final dressing of the tree. From her conversations with Beth, this seemed to be very important to her. She had spent many a happy Christmas with her father doing just that and Alex intended to make this the best Christmas she had ever had. Alex came to pick her at nine o'clock. Agnes had left the day before to go and stay with her sister in Ambleton, so Beth had to lock up. They made good time and were soon pulling into the estate.

"No matter how many times I see it, I don't think I'll ever get used to how beautiful Dencotte looks!"

Alex beamed with pride.

"Come on, we've got decorating to do!"