Charles sat on his settee staring into the fire he’d built as soon as he’d returned home with his wife.
But yet, not his wife.
He’d married her, but only on paper.
Her name hadn’t changed, something he’d made sure the registrar understood.
No ring adorned the fourth finger of her left hand, another thing he’d had to scowl at the registrar over.
And all of that had been after Elsie had panicked and ran out of the room, him going after her, easily catching up to her with his long legs.
His poor lass had been breathing hard and curled into herself in a dark corner of an abandoned hallway.
“Elsie. Lass, it’s Charlie.”
“Charlie,” she whispered. “I, I’m sorry, I,”
“No, Lass. It’s alright,” he assured her as he gently approached her, his arms open, inviting her into his embrace.
Staring at his arms a moment, Elsie finally moved and collapsed against him. “I’m so sorry. I just,” she stopped and took a shuddering breath. “The registrar,”
“I’ll deal with him if you still want to go through with this. If not, we’ll just go to a quiet out of the way tea shop and have ourselves a bit of a day out.”
Grasping his lapels, Elsie looked up at him. “No. I want to do this. I,” she bit her lip and rested her head back against his chest. “I think this is something I need to do for me, Charlie.”
“Then I’ll deal with the registrar. Come on. You can stand outside with our friends while I have a few words with the man.”
Elsie shook her head. “No, Charlie. Let’s just go back and get this over with.”
“Whatever you want, Lass.” Charles murmured as he held out his hand to her, smiling at her when she looked up at him. “Don’t be startled if I happen to growl at the man.”
Elsie smiled as she took his hand. “Thank you, Charlie. I really am sorry for panicking. I thought I was prepared.”
“It’s alright, Lass. Remember, you’ll not have to say anything you don’t want to.”
The registrar, Charles was sure, was happy to see the backs of them as they walked out of his office, their license tucked safely in the inside pocket of Charles’ coat.
Elsie was upstairs napping, the day and its emotional turmoil having exhausted her. He had worried that she would wind up in the corner again, but so far he’d heard no movement which he hoped was a good sign that she was resting peacefully.
Pushing himself up, Charles decided he would go check to make sure Elsie was still alright. It was nearly time for dinner and he blessed Beryl once again for providing them with a few days worth of meals. The last thing he wanted to fuss with was making a meal. He could cook, he’d learned when he was a Cheerful Charlie, and he knew that Elsie could cook as he’d eaten a meal prepared by her. He also knew the fear that cooking could bring to her if something didn’t go right and it was the last thing he wanted for her. Adjusting to living with him was going to be enough for her to deal with for the time being.
Elsie turned her head when she heard movement at her door. “I’m awake, Charlie,” she whispered.
“Did you rest well, Lass?”
“I,” she sighed as she sat up, her eyes drawn to the corner of the room where a carefully made pallet had been prepared for her just in case. “Not very.”
Charles saw where she was looking and felt his heart ache. “You should have called, Lass. I would have held you if that’s what you needed or wanted.”
Looking up at Charles, Elsie gave him a watery smile. “I’m sorry.”
“I wasn’t scolding, just stating a fact. I’m here and I’m always going to be here. All you have to do is call out for me. That’s all. I’ll do whatever you need.”
Elsie nodded. “I’m sorry for not fixing dinner. I should have started by now.”
Charles shook his head and held out a hand. “No, Lass. That isn’t your job, not unless you want it to be.” Smiling down at her when she took his hand, he lifted his free hand and gently caressed her cheek. “Beryl has fixed us several days worth of food. After that is gone, we can cook together.”
Elsie smiled as she walked with him out of her room. “I would like that.”
“Good. Now, what would like to have tonight? Shepherd’s pie?”
“I’m not very hungry, but a little bit of that sounds fine.”
“Wine or tea?” Charles asked, doing his best not to frown that she didn’t seem to want to eat, knowing that she hadn’t had anything more than a cup of tea and a biscuit for her lunch.
“A small glass of wine, maybe?”
“If that is what you want. I have just the one. It’s your favorite.”
Elsie smiled as they stepped off the last stair and made their way to the kitchen. “You’re being too good to me, Charlie.”
“Never, Lass. I can never be good enough.”
“Oh no, Charlie.” Elsie tugged at his hand to stop him. “You’ve always been good enough, Charlie.”
Lifting her hand, Charles pressed a kiss to it then let go. “I’ll open the wine if you’ll get the glasses. They’re just there,” he pointed to them before turning to where he had his wine stored.
Elsie, having saw just where the glasses where, rolled her eyes and stood with her arms crossed as she waited for Charles to turn back around. “Charlie Carson,” she huffed.
Charles turned back to her, bottle of wine in mid-air. “What is it?”
Pointing over her shoulder at the cupboard where his glasses were, she frowned at him. “I’m little.”
Charles couldn’t help it, he burst out laughing causing Elsie to scowl at him and tap her foot. Shrugging helplessly, he continued to laugh as he moved to take down the glasses himself.
“Charlie! It isn’t that funny!”
Coughing to calm himself, Charles sat the wine and glasses down on the counter then turned and smiled at her. “I’m sorry, Lass, but you saying I’m little just struck me as funny. It isn’t something I thought I’d ever hear you say, though I’ll admit I’ve thought it over the years.”
“You’ve thought I was little?”
“Well, not so much little as,” he shrugged. “short.”
Elsie frowned at him then huffed. “Oh!” but her blue eyes were twinkling, the mirth laced with thanks for making her happy.
“Well, Lass, compared to me, most people are short.”
Elsie laughed at that. “Big ol’ bear,” she murmured.
“Rawr.” Charles half roared at her.
Elsie laughed at that and shook her head. “Oh Charlie. Thank you.”
Charles smiled, happy to hear that laugh and see the blue of her eyes shining. “You did call me a bear. That is what bears do, isn’t it?”
Elsie nodded. “But you’re more of a teddy bear.”
Charles frowned at that. “A teddy bear? I’m not fluff and stuff.”
Elsie smiled and nodded. “With me you are,” she told him quietly, shyly looking down at her hands.
Reaching out, Charles lifted her face to look up at him. “I suppose I am at that.”