Under The Streets Of London – Episode 52

Niall turned away.

“Don’t be. She’s out of my league, Brigid.”

“Rubbish,” Brigid countered staunchly. “You’re a fine young man.”

“And a poor one.”

“There’s more than one way to measure riches, lad. Now, when do I get to meet her?”

Niall grunted.

“When the cushions are in place,” he said grumpily.

Brigid smiled and reached for her big old duffel bag. Snapping it open, she drew out one, two, three, four brightly coloured cushion covers, carefully embroidered with Irish flowers.

“Best ask her over, then,” she said. “It’s time you, young Niall, got to be as happy as Seamus and me.”

Niall just shook his head. He couldn’t disagree with that at all and he’d ask Eliza over, of course he would, but he had no idea how things would ever be able to go any further. Eliza’s family would never allow it.

* * * *

Eliza fidgeted in the back seat of the cab and tugged at her skirt, unsure if it had been the right choice.

She’d tried on every dress she had before finally settling on this one but still it worried her. Was it too posh?

It wasn’t evening wear – she wasn’t that foolish – but it was her Sunday best. She loved the way the pale blue made her sun-touched skin glow and knew she looked attractive in it, but what if they were all just in workday clothes? She didn’t want to embarrass Niall or make him feel in any way inferior, because she didn’t see him that way at all.

It wasn’t his fault he’d been born into a family without the money for a proper education and every time she listened to him talk she was struck by how intelligent he was, with a real understanding of how the world worked and, more importantly, of how it could work with drive and imagination.

Niall saw everything as an opportunity and she loved that about him, but hated the squirming fear inside her that her father would not see it the same way.

She tugged again at her dress. Dinner, the invitation had said, though Niall had instantly told her that it wouldn’t be “fancy” and that she could say no if she wanted.

But of course she hadn’t wanted to say no. She’d been touched to be asked and she still was; she just hoped her dress was right.

“Henry is coming, too,” she reminded herself. He was likely to be far more of a peacock than she, but with Henry it just seemed right. He inhabited his fancy waistcoats as if they were a part of him and people accepted that.

Henry would see no more need to dress down for someone else than he would see the need for them to dress up for him. He saw the people, not the clothes – it was one of his great charms and she hoped Violet appreciated it. For Henry, it seemed, was courting the young girl and Eliza was delighted, especially as it might offer support of her own plans for the future.

“We thought,” Niall had told her when he’d revealed the guest list, “that perhaps if we invited some others it would be more . . . more suitable for you?”

Eliza had reached up and kissed him, her lips thrilling against his warm skin.

“I’d be delighted to come, whoever else was there, as long as it was with you,” she’d told him and he’d grabbed her close and taken her lips with his own.

“Even so,” he’d said when they’d reluctantly drawn apart. “You know Violet, don’t you? She was so happy to be invited, and her brother, too, young Will. I’ve been working with him in the trench these last weeks and he’s a great lad – hardworking and never complains once, though I swear his poor body must be aching with the unaccustomed work.

“He’s bringing his girl as well – a young nurse called Sophie. It’s going to be quite a party. Do say you’ll come.”

She’d said she would, touched that he was going to so much trouble, but now she was nervous.

Alan Spink

Alan is a member of the “Friend” Fiction Team. He enjoys working closely with writers and being part of the creative process, which sees storytelling ideas come to fruition. A keen reader, he also writes fiction and enjoys watching football and movies in his spare time. His one tip to new writers is “write from your imagination”.