September 5th 1947
Having already said his farewells to Sam's parents, Christopher Foyle was tactfully left alone in the hall with Sam to say goodnight to her. With a grin towards the closed sitting room door, Sam tugged at Foyle's hand, pulling him towards the front door. Once outside in the unlit porch, she smiled at her husband-to-be, who took the hint and pulled her gently into his arms. He could feel the fine tremor of her body as she moulded herself to him.
"Are you still nervous about tomorrow?"
Foyle could just make out her smile in the darkness.
"No. Very excited. Can't wait. Would probably run off with you now if you asked, though."
"I expect there would be a bit of a fuss."
"Gosh, I'll say. But Uncle Aubrey would calm everyone down with the threat of handing out his pea pod wine."
Foyle gave a soft laugh, remembering the awful concoction.
"Yes, that would do it."
"Are you nervous?"
Foyle gave the idea genuine consideration.
"Nno, I'm fairly sure not. The only thought that has given me any pause is the fact that I'm so much -"
Sam's fingers touched his lips.
"If you say 'older than you' I shall be very annoyed. You may finish the sentence with the words 'more experienced' or 'more worldly' or 'more knowledgeable'."
Sam could feel his laughter through her slight frame and was pleased to have amused him.
"Very well, I concede to 'more experienced', if I must."
Sam held him tighter.
"For which I am grateful."
Foyle sighed with real regret.
"I'd better go before your father appears."
Sam sighed heavily.
"If you must. See you tomorrow then, eleven o'clock sharp. Now please kiss me as if you'll miss me, to keep me going until tomorrow."
As all wise and happily married men already know, it is sensible to do as they are bid, wherever possible.
He kissed her.
She kissed him right back.
A minute turned into two. Then three.
Foyle broke off when he felt Sam's hand steal from his waist to the small of his back and tug at his shirt.
"Now I really do have to go."
He hardly recognised his own voice, let alone her breathless reply.
"Oh, must you?"
"I'm sure you are aware that it's not what I wish either, but I have no desire -"
Sam boldly proved him mistaken.
Foyle coughed as he expertly fielded her hand with fond familiarity.
"I have no desire to be caught like this by either of your parents."
Sam sobered and reluctantly eased away from him.
"Yes, you're quite correct. Are you absolutely sure you don't want to run off with me tonight?"
"Mmm, it is tempting..."
Foyle picked up his hat from where it had fallen to the ground. He dusted it, and set it on his head. He hadn't even noticed it drop from his hand, testament, if any were needed, that this woman was a powerful distraction. He wondered briefly if he would get much sleep tonight.
"...but, no. Tomorrow, eleven sharp, Miss Stewart."
Moonlight glinted on her teeth.
"Not for too much longer."
A few minutes after I'd closed the door on Mike, I was still leaning against it when the knocker rattled. I felt the vibration through my spine before I could push myself upright.
The last thing I wanted was company. I hesitated with my hand on the lock. There was only one person I wanted to see on the other side of the door and it wouldn't be him.
I supposed I could go upstairs and pretend that I hadn't heard anything...
The knocker rat-tatted again and curiosity got the better of me. I took a breath, braced myself to repel all boarders, and opened the door.
Mike stood on the top step.
All the air in my lungs whooshed out again, so all I could manage was a small "Oh."
"I've done as you asked, and I've thought about it. May I come in? Thank you."
He stepped around my stunned self and closed the door behind him. He guided me back to the kitchen and seated me at the table. He looked around the kitchen for the kettle and after having found it empty, he filled it with fresh water and switched it on.
"I noticed earlier that the Trust has not changed a great deal over the years, it still looks very...authentic."
I finally recovered my voice.
"It's not. It's clever modernization."
I remembered to be cross.
"You can't just waltz in here and make yourself at home."
Even if you do look the part.
Mike parked a thigh on the corner of the table, folded his arms and leaned over to me.
"I didn't; you let me in, remember? Still, I'm here now, and you look like you could do with something to eat and a drink. Tea, I assume? No coffee; too much caffeine, bad for the baby."
I scowled at him, annoyed at his take-charge attitude.
He doesn't need to know that coffee makes me puke.
"Tea's fine, as you're bothering. I'm not hungry."
My stomach gurgled loudly.
Mike lifted one eyebrow and managed to convey 'oh, really?' without uttering a word.
I was my usual gracious self.
"Oh, fine then, a cheese sarni will do. Thanks."
"Which is kept..?"
"In the pantry, it's..."
Before I could point to the door, Mike had already turned in its direction. He was back in seconds, loaded with bread, cheese, greenery; everything he required, he had found.
"That's refrigerated now. I see what you mean about clever modernization. Although the place has been updated as the years have passed – I suppose it had to with being available for letting – it still looks...authentic. It's odd, 'cos it looks modern, but it's still recognizably the place it once was."
He flung together two sandwiches – cheese salad, just how I like it – and passed one of them to me on a plate from the rack. His easy familiarity with the kitchen shouldn't have surprised me, but it did. When we weren't having fantastic sex, he'd kept me well fed back at my old place, so I knew that he was comfortable in any kitchen, but something was ticking on my radar.
After I was fed and watered, neither of which I honestly tasted, as I was anxious to find out what he had been thinking about, especially as he'd had only about two minutes worth on the doorstep.
I opened my mouth, but Mike held up one finger.
"One second, I just need to test the plumbing. Back in a tick."
Moments later I heard him running up the stairs and two minutes after that, the rumble of returning feet.
"You found it all right then?"
"Oh, yeah. Right where I expected it to be."
I felt a shiver go right through me.
I rubbed my arms.
"Yeah, just a ghost going over my grave."
As I looked at Mike seated opposite me at the table, I remembered sitting in this same room with Chris. It was creeping me out, this uncanny knack of knowing where everything was, until a thought popped into my head. I'll bet that he – Mike, that is - took the tour of the house when the Trust were looking after it. Simple explanation; I should stop imagining things.
"Right, now, I've been thinking, as you suggested -."
I scoffed - rudely, if the truth be told.
"Yeah, for two minutes!"
He stood up and rounded the table, before crouching beside me.
"Two minutes can be forever, given the right motivation. I have decided to take you up on your kind offer."
Ha! I didn't think he'd go for...hang on...accept my offer?
"It's quite simple. I've decided that I do want to be with you and our baby."
Mike took my cold hands in his and I could feel the warmth steal back into me. But how could I trust what I heard after only a couple of minutes consideration? Couldn't he change his mind again equally quickly?
"But it's not your baby."
Mike shook his head.
"Yes, it is, in every way that counts. I'll be his or her father; I'll be here for the first teeth, the first words, the first steps, the first anything-there-is, because I love you, and the baby is part of you."
I was in tears before he'd even got to the 'first steps' bit. I so wanted to believe him, because he was saying just what I needed to hear.
"No buts. No ifs or maybes. I want my name down on the birth certificate too; if you have any idea what TPTB would say about the biological father, well, I can tell you, the paperwork would be catastrophic. Much simpler this way."
"You want me to lie about the baby's father?"
"It's not a lie to keep the truth to oneself."
I rolled my eyes.
"So, I can let everyone assume that we've been having a relationship for ages?"
"Well, I was thinking that would work. Y'know, cracking the Ice Queen is a feather in my cap. The chicks dig a successful hunter, even if they don't admit it. They'll think I have something very special to melt you, and they'll want a piece of it."
My blood pressure shot up, I'm sure.
"Yes, it's true, but no, I won't be taking them up on it. Call me old fashioned, but once I'm married, that's it, no more burgers when I have steak at home."
The tears ran harder.
"You'll notice that I'm now kneeling. I don't have a ring for you, because I want you to pick one out when we shop together. You'll have to let me know how much to spend so that I'm seen neither as a cheapskate or spendthrift. I want it to be perfect."
"Why? Because you're perfect for me."
"No, I'm not. How could you decide in only two minutes? I'm -"
Mike gently placed his fingers on my lips to shush me. He climbed to his feet and pulled me up with him. He pulled a letter out of his pocket; a real, bona fide expensive, piece of paper.
"Lily, I love you. I can't look into your eyes without feeling that longing that you only read about in soppy romances. I can barely talk to you without wanting to express my love for you and everything you are in every way that I can. I want you, Lily, in the worst way. So badly that it's great."
Mike handed me the letter.
"This is an application for Banns to be read in the Church of St Mary Magdalene in Lyminster. I've already filled it all in - a week ago, actually - all you need to do is sign it at the bottom."
Mike wiped my tears away with his thumbs as he cradled my face. My heart was fit to burst out of my chest.
"Marry me Lily, because I can't breathe without you."