Under The Streets Of London – Episode 62

“That he will,” John agreed, steering Mary away from the continued battle to shore up the works, and pointing them towards home. “We should be grateful William is turning into a man we can be proud of, but we might need a little more work on young Bertie!”

“That’s true,” Mary said ruefully, but still the picture of William hurrying away from them, his wet clothes clinging to his young frame, troubled her.

“We need to get the second shop open!”

John almost fell over in his astonishment.

“I thought you didn’t like it?”

Mary felt ashamed.

“No, John. It’s a wonderful idea and you’ve been so brave and so sharp about it. It’s just been these dratted tunnel works making me nervous, that’s all. But now that it’s almost done and it seems the Fleet isn’t going to wreck it after all, I think it would be a good time to get the shop up and running.”

“What I think you mean, my love, is that you want William working there instead of in the tunnel?” he suggested quietly.

Mary smiled; as ever, her husband had seen right through her.

“Don’t you?” she challenged.

“Of course I do, Mary, but we need a little more time to get back in profit here before we can fund the stock to start up the second place.”

They stopped before their precious little grocer’s shop.

“You’re right,” Mary agreed reluctantly. “I just wish that there was some way . . .”

John kissed her.

“Cup of tea?” he suggested gently and, nodding, she let him lead her inside.

She made for the stove whilst he went upstairs to check all was well with the children. Setting water to boil, she reached for the teapot, then stopped dead.

There, tucked inside the handle like a gift from the fairies, was a neat little envelope with her name upon it, as clear as day!

With trembling hands, Mary plucked it from its resting place and prised open the flap. What she saw inside made her cry out in shock.

“John! John, come quick!”

She was shouting loud enough to wake all the children, she knew, but she didn’t care.

She leaned back against the sideboard as footsteps pounded down the stairs, and let her still-trembling fingers run through this money that had somehow, magically, landed in their lives – enough money to stock the second shop; enough money to get William out of the trenches.

Enough money to draw a line under the last few troubled months and start afresh.

Her eyes locked on to John’s as he tumbled into the kitchen and stared at the fan of notes in her hand.

“Where on earth did that come from?” he demanded.

But when it came to that all-important question, Mary had no idea.

*  *  *  *

The lusty bawl of a hungry young mouth was as welcome a sound to Niall as the sweetest music would have been.

He rushed through the door of the little house he and Seamus called home, and saw his brother pacing with a tiny but powerfully loud baby in his arms.

He ran forward and Seamus turned to him, his eyes lit up with joy.

“’Tis a boy, Niall. I have a son! A healthy son!”

“A noisy son,” Niall said wryly. He hugged Seamus and the little lad tight, enfolding them in his weary arms, so grateful they’d all made it through the strange night. “And Brigid?” he asked. “She’s well?”

“She’s a miracle,” Seamus said, eyes misting. “She was so strong, Niall, so brave. And it was all so quick!

“Sure, he was born not so long after you’d left. Didn’t even wait for the midwife to come and help his mammy, did you, boy? Not that she needed it. Fierce, she was!” He beamed proudly.

“Were you there?” Niall asked.

Seamus nodded and gave his brother a little grimace.

“I had to be. She shouted me in and I could hardly say no, could I now? Wanted to hold my hand. She near squeezed all the blood out of my poor fingers! I thought I’d not be able to hold the child when it was born. But here he is and I’m managing right enough.”

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”.