‘At last! I am exhausted. Blow out the candles before you get in here, will you please?’
Alfred had barely stepped into the bedroom after washing up after a long day of accompanying the Prince on his trip to skulk at various locations, letting the princes and princesses ride his back and pretend-sword-fight (where the hell was that butler that usually did this???), and then endure a lengthy formal dinner and a somehow even lengthier informal brandy with the less than exciting royal entourage and he was really feeling the ennui sans Edward, who was in the comfort of their own home in London, miles and miles away.
And now Cecilia was ordering him about!
Lord and Lady Alfred Paget of course could not sleep apart when at Osborne House. They had to play the happy couple.
He crossed the room sighing and sat at the vanity to “borrow” some of Cecilia’s balms and creams before assessing how many wrinkles he had grown.
Cecilia checked what he was doing and groaned.
‘Just a minute!’ he replied, finishing up as fast as he could. ‘Are you this impatient with Charlotte as well?’
‘For different reasons,’ she grumbled and tried to cover her eyes from the offending candlelight with a pillow.
‘I’m here, I’m here,’ she could hear him say and sure enough the covers moved and the mattress dipped. When she resurfaced, only the scent of the candles still lingered around the room but no longer their light. At long last, Alfred had gone to bed. ‘I had a trying day! You didn’t have to listen to the Prince talk for a full hour about what a blessing children are!’
‘Excuse me?’ she glared at him from the other pillow in the darkness. ‘He was only talking to you about raising children, I daresay? Her Majesty on the other hand saw fit to advise me on how to make them. So do not speak to me about a trying day—’
‘Did you not want to go to sleep, my dearest wife?’
‘Oh, you…’ she began but he had a point and she slumped back down on the pillow. ‘Ugh. I can’t now. You shooed away my sleepiness.’
‘I’m sorry. What can I do to give it back?’
‘Well, we could make love.’
Cecilia looked at Alfred, who looked back at her, and she at him, and he at her.
And they burst into laughter presently.
‘Good night, Cecilia.’
‘Good night, Alfred.’
They were fast asleep soon enough. Well, Alfred was. Cecilia was woken all too soon.
She felt a cool breeze and realised the covers were gone. Turning around, she saw Alfred had stolen them in his sleep.
Frustrated, and very, very groggy now, she tried to yank them back.
She only succeeded somewhat. Where was Charlotte when she needed some more physical prowess? Charlotte wasn’t muscular as some men were but she could be surprisingly strong when a purpose demanded it.
But then, if Charlotte had been here, Cecilia would not be currently tugging on bed covers wrapped around Alfred.
Ah, success, he budged and turned on his back! Excellent, Cecilia could now have, well, more than just a corner of the blankets.
But the damage had already been done and she sneezed.
Crikey – if the tugging hadn’t woken him up, surely this would!
Luckily, though, he was still sleeping like an angel when she opened her eyes.
It was then that Cecilia was struck by the thought that the night could turn out excellent just yet.
Alfred had not noticed her relentless tugging on the blankets… nor her fairly loud sneeze… which begged the question:
What won’t Alfred notice?
She began with something simple: she found Alfred’s correspondence on the desk and rewrote every “Dear” to “Dreary.”
Then, while she was at it, she cut a piece of paper and fit it into Alfred’s medal that he always wore so that when he looked at it in the morning, instead of Mr Drummond’s hair, he would see it say “He who reads this is a fool!”
Yes, these were amusing enough… but not quite enough.
And so it was that half an hour later, Alfred woke in the dead of night to see Cecilia above him with a knife.
Her hand immediately flew to stifle his screams.
‘Shush, I’m done anyway,’ she said, discarding of the blade. ‘See, left you alone.’
‘Just what do you think you’re—’ Alfred asked, getting up and realising his nightshirt was falling off his shoulder. It was unbuttoned?! Why would Cecilia— then he was less concerned about the shirt and more about what was underneath it.
Horrified, he tried to feel it.
‘By… God… D-did you… Did you just…?!’
Alfred ran to the mirror of the vanity in the hopes that he would believe his eyes more than his hand. All the while Cecilia could not contain her laughter.
‘I can’t believe you did this.’
She was just laughing, laughing to the point of tears, proud of her work.
Because what Alfred was looking at in the moonlit room was a heart with a letter E inside it…
…shaved into his chest hair.
‘Where’s my blade?’ he asked in a deadpan voice.
‘Why, would you like to add a “+ A?”’
‘No,’ Alfred stood, buttoning up his nightshirt (wrongly, in his anger), ‘I should like to murder you with it!’
Cecilia acted fast and dropped the shaving knife in the drawer containing her bloomers.
‘Oh, you are really just sinking to new lows, you know,’ Alfred said, cranky, shocked to the core, and still not entirely certain he wasn’t simply having a most strange nightmare.
‘I know,’ Cecilia replied simply and got back into bed. ‘I’m sorry but you took the covers.’
‘Did it occur to you to wake me?!’ he hissed.
‘Oh… well… yes, but my way was far more amusing.’
Alfred cursed the day Charlotte suggested he befriended the world’s most mischievous marriageable woman.
Resigned, he returned to bed, too, sorry about the whole thing.
‘But why this?’ he lamented, feeling the patches of bare skin where that luscious, fair chest hair had been that Edward loved so dearly.
‘It’ll grow back by the time anyone – Edward – sees it.’
‘…Cecilia,’ Alfred said in a suddenly very strange, quiet, and solemn voice.
‘… do you not know?’
‘Chest hair never does grow back.’
Cecilia’s eyes widened.
‘By God, Alfred? Truly? I’m so sorry, oh my goodness, Alfred I—’
She ate her words as Alfred could not hold a straight face any longer and laughed.
‘Oh, you…’ she huffed, throwing a cushion at him.
‘So gullible for a trickster!’ he laughed and got comfortable again. ‘Happy now? Can we please go back to sleep without you holding a knife to my chest again or any such lunacy? Cecilia? Cecilia…?’
At last. She was fast asleep.
And hogging all the covers!