Chapter 1: Working In
Mrs. Betty Slocombe has worked at Grace Brother’s Department Store for many years, and over those years many co-workers have come and gone, but one of the people who always stayed the same is Captain Stephen Peacock. He is the floor manager for the men’s and women’s clothing department. She’s loved him from the minute she set eyes on him.
Captain Peacock is strong and tall, but the characteristic that Betty likes best is his gallantry and chivalry. They are of the same era, both are around the age of twenty when World War II started and therefore have very vivid memories of the bombing of London, and they share an intense dislike of German people.
Mrs. Slocombe hates going to work at Grace Brother’s, but there is always one thing that keeps her going back, Captain Peacock. She sighs as she thinks of the man who holds her heart, though he doesn’t reciprocate, so she thinks. All these thoughts run through her head as she is dressing for work. Her cat is curled at her feet under the stool of her vanity.
Meanwhile, at Captain Peacock’s house, he has just kissed his wife good-bye, and jumped into his car. As usual his mind is wandering, this morning; however, his wanderings find a new target: Mrs. Slocombe. He has never thought of her as particularly attractive, but the more he thinks of her the more he discovers that she possesses all the qualities he has been looking for all along in a woman, and she certainly possesses all the qualities of a woman that his wife doesn’t. Captain Peacock suspects his wife is about to leave him, which is why he thinks the Grace Brother’s vacation to the Costa Plonka is coming at a perfect time. It will give his wife a chance to leave without him pleading for her to stay, and he won’t have to lose his pride.
Mrs. Slocombe and Captain Peacock arrive at the department store at the same time and ride up in the lift together, and if either had known what the other was thinking they would have been elated. They are both thinking about how wonderful it will be to be on vacation together for two weeks. Mrs. Slocombe, in her own devious way, is thinking how wonderful it will be to lay on the beach in the middle of the night with Stephen, and Stephen is thinking about how soundproof the walls of the rooms are, because, of course, he is thinking of something entirely different. Men, eh?
The reason that all the employees at Grace Brother’s are going on vacation at the same time is because the store is closed for refurbishing. Grace Brother’s has just had a sale to get rid of all the merchandise they possibly could and it went quite well. Now all the sale paraphernalia has to come down and as usual the senior members of staff: Mrs. Slocombe, Mr. Granger, Mr. Humphries and Captain Peacock are not involved in any of this, only the juniors: Miss Brahms, and Mr. Lucas, are actually working. Mrs. Slocombe and Mr. Granger refuse to get up on ladders any more to retrieve things, and besides they’ve done their bit as juniors, and Captain Peacock is a floor manager, not a salesman, so he says, although his selling skills are still in fine form.
Chapter 2: Mr. Humphries is stuck in the Lift
“Good morning everyone,” says Captain Peacock as he walks down the stairs from the lift. Suddenly a help, help comes from the lift, and a high pitched voice is behind the words. “That’s Mr. Humphries voice. Quick someone pry those doors open, the lift is stuck again.” Captain Peacock says taking control of the situation.
“Too bad that wasn’t Captain Peacock and I that got trapped in the lift.” Mrs. Slocombe voices with a giggle as she knows it will never be. After all she’s being trying to get stuck in the lift with Stephen Peacock for years. Captain Peacock secretly agrees, after his realizations of this morning he is far more willing to be stuck anywhere with Mrs. Betty Slocombe than he has been in previous years when he has avoided her like the plague.
Chapter 3: Flirting at Lunch and Getting Stuck in the Lift
At lunch that day instead of asking Mr. Granger to sit next to him Captain Peacock asks Mrs. Slocombe to take the place of honour at his right hand side. Betty is shocked and blushes, but is secretly happy to be sitting next to him. As she is eating Stephen Peacock rubs his foot up and down Mrs. Slocombe’s leg; Mrs. Slocombe thinks that it had been an accident of course because Stephen Peacock would never rub his foot on her leg never mind any other part of her body, but when it happens again she is less sure of herself and more happy than she’s been in years.
Captain Peacock and Mrs. Slocombe ride the lift back to the men’s and women’s clothing department together, alone. Mrs. Slocombe finally gets up the courage to ask Stephen what the hell had happened at lunch. “Did you do what I think you did at lunch?” she asks cautiously.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Stephen answers calmly. “I didn’t do anything at lunch.”
“Like hell,” Betty whispers in his ear, which is quite erotic in Stephen’s opinion, though he’s never thought of Betty quite like that before. “You were playing footsies with me under the table and don’t deny it because I felt it twice, not just once.”
"All right, maybe you’re right but what do you want me to say? I never thought in a million years that I would find you attractive, but when I was driving here this morning all I could think of was how wonderful it was going to be to be on vacation with you for two weeks, and how pretty you‘d look on the beach. Suddenly I’m thinking of you in ways I never thought I’d think of you, like romantic ways, which trust me is a new phenomenon for me.” Stephen is almost embarrassed to tell Betty the truth because he’s always been so insensitive towards her feelings for him.
“Really, but you’re married; we can’t possibly do anything, nothing must happen between us. I do love you, but I will not be a mistress.” Betty holds firm to her convictions even though she is dying to jump into Stephen’s arms and kiss him soundly.
“I know I’m married but somehow I don’t think that will last very much longer. My wife has been spending most nights away from home. I think she may be having an affair, after all I am a lot older than she is, she can’t be happy with me. Just wait until after the trip to the Costa Plonka, I’m sure she’ll leave while we’re all on vacation; she hates confrontation and will avoid it at all costs.” Stephen explains as the elevator comes to a grinding halt. It has finally happened: Stephen and Betty are trapped in the lift together.
“All right, I’ll see what happens after the vacation, but how will we ever survive being on the beach, in the heat, with each other half naked just a few feet away?” Betty asks cheekily.
“I don’t know. I’m having enough trouble resisting you now and we’re stuck in a lift, freezing cold, and fully clothed I might add.” Stephen says pacing up and down the very small lift which is feeling smaller every second they are there together especially because he can’t get past Betty without bumping into her.
“I’ve felt like that for years, you’ll just have to suffer a little until your wife leaves you. Then and only then will you be with me.” Betty says firmly. Stephen believes her, but isn’t about to wait for her. He’s never waited for any woman in his entire life and with this thought he starts walking towards her. When Stephen gets within an arms length of Betty he slips his arm around her waist. “You get off me now or I won’t wait for you at all. I’ll be gone and you won’t even have time to blink.” Betty threatens.
“Oh really?” Stephen questions. “Somehow, as believable as that tone of voice sounds, I don’t quite believe you. You’ve waited a long time for this and I doubt you’re about to give up now.” Stephen says in a husky voice still walking towards her and finally places a chaste kiss on her cheek. “You’ll have to see how fabulous this vacation is going to be. I can’t wait to see you in a bathing suit. I can hardly believe I’m saying so, however, I’d never thought of you as being particularly attractive, but now there’s such a magnetism that radiates from you I just can’t stand it.”
“You’ll have to stand it for now. How are we going to get out of this lift? I’d prefer not to lose pay over the fact that I’m late for a shift because the lift stalled, and I’d prefer not to hear the gossip Mr. Lucas is going to spread about the two of us being caught in here together.” Betty is trying to keep a calm head, but is going nuts with Stephen being as close as he is.
“What do you propose we do about it if you’re so smart? There aren’t any communications devices in here as I suggested. So, as no one knows we’re here, I suppose we’re stuck here for a bit.” Stephen says resignedly as he sits on the floor of the lift. He is sweating trying to hold his emotions in, so as he doesn’t do anything rash.
“Fat lot of help you are Stephen. Where’s the war hero spirit I know you’ve got.” Betty says this sarcastically as she sits down next to him, carefully tucking her legs under herself, so she doesn’t seem too unladylike though her speech is unladylike.
“It seems my dear, that I gave my courage to you along with my heart when I walked in this morning.” Stephen says nonchalantly as he mops his brow. The proximity between them is making him feel very incoherent for the first time ever. He hates not being in control.
“Your courage is something perhaps you should hang onto. I will gladly take your heart though, but only if you take mine in exchange. You’re an amazing man, Stephen, I’m not quite sure how I deserve you, but if you think I do, that’s good enough for me.” Betty says quietly putting her hand gently on Stephen’s so as not to startle him.
“I’ll take my courage back gladly. Now, back to business how do we get out of this bloody lift?” Stephen has tried very hard not to let Betty know that her holding his hand is not helping the situation or his concentration levels. Just at that moment the lift starts moving again. Stephen says a silent thank you to whatever being or higher power has fixed the problem. He is sad that he would soon have to be away from Betty, but the proximity is a little too close at the moment.
Chapter 4: Gossip
Just as Betty predicted Mr. Lucas starts creating scenarios and gossip about the two the second they step on the sales floor. Captain Peacock goes over, takes a hold of Mr. Lucas’ lapels and says, “If I hear another uncouth word out of your mouth about Mrs. Slocombe and myself you’ll find yourself in Mr. Rumboldt’s office for insubordination. Do you understand me?”
Mr. Lucas is cowering before the formidable Captain Peacock. He manages to say a quiet, “Yes, sir.”
“Good,” says Captain Peacock walking away and winking at Mrs. Slocombe as he goes and stands at his post.
“That just proves that something happened in that lift,” Mr. Lucas says. “Old Peacock would never wink at Mrs. Slocombe unless he was drunk or something very major happened in that lift.”
Mr. Humphries just shakes his head at Mr. Lucas’ words and doesn’t say a word in case he ends up in Mr. Rumboldt’s office. Mr. Humphries knows Captain Peacock has excellent hearing and doesn’t want to take any chances with his job.
“Come with me, Mr. Lucas, now!” Captain Peacock is livid. He doesn’t usually lose his temper, but this situation is an exception. “I’m sure Mr. Rumboldt would be interested to hear of your insubordination.”
Captain Peacock takes a hold of Mr. Lucas’ jacket collar and walks him down to Mr. Cuthbert Rumboldt’s office. Stephen is irate; no one is allowed to talk about Betty Slocombe like that especially someone with the intellect and reputation of Mr. Lucas. When they finally arrive at Mr. Rumboldt’s office Captain Peacock knocks and is granted admittance.
Chapter 5: Complaining to the Boss
Mr. Rumboldt looks up from his paper work, sees the look on Captain Peacock’s face and immediately knows something is wrong. “Whatever has happened, Peacock?”
“After lunch today, sir, Mrs. Slocombe and I rode back to the floor in the same lift, but on the way down it stalled and the two of us were stuck in the lift for about 15 minutes.” Captain Peacock begins with these details so he has some time to recover his composure.
“I know all this all ready, Peacock. I was informed earlier and you will not be docked pay, but that doesn’t really explain what Mr. Lucas is doing here and why it appears that you are trying to strangle him.” Mr. Rumboldt says as he presses his fingertips together. Captain Peacock immediately releases Mr. Lucas from his choke hold.
“Please, sir, may I continue? I have not finished the story quite yet.” Captain Peacock asks. Mr. Rumboldt merely nods his head. “When Mrs. Slocombe and myself returned to the floor Mr. Lucas made the assumption that we had stopped the lift ourselves and insinuated that we had been doing unprofessional things. Because he had said this about a senior sales associate and his floor manager I told him I’d bring him to you for insubordination if he made another comment. As I walked away I had something in my eye and I winked to get rid of it and I happened to wink in the direction of Mrs. Slocombe. Mr. Lucas proceeded to say that either something had happened in the lift or I was drunk because no one in their right mind would wink at Mrs. Slocombe. At this point I brought Mr. Lucas directly to you, sir.” Captain Peacock concludes.
“I see, Peacock, thank you. You may wait outside. I’ll deal with Mr. Lucas and then I want a word with you if I may.” Mr. Rumboldt says looking over the top of his glasses.
Chapter 6: Coming to Help and Reprimand
“Of course, sir.” Captain Peacock says as he excuses himself from the office. He leans against the wall as he waits to be called back into the office. As he stands there thinking about the day’s events Mrs. Slocombe comes walking down the hall. “What are you doing here?” Stephen hisses at Mrs. Slocombe as he grasps her upper arm and pulls her towards himself. “Mr. Rumboldt already thinks that something happened between us in that lift I could tell from the look on his face and you being here is only going to reinforce that. You need to go, now, before Rumboldt comes back!”
“I had to see you before you had to defend the two of us to Mr. Rumboldt. Thank you for defending me in front of the staff but I can’t ask you to do it in front of your superior. I am going with you and you can’t stop me. I’m perfectly capable of defending myself.” Mrs. Slocombe says whispering in Stephen’s ear.
“God bless you, Betty.” Stephen says quietly. He pulls her close to him and kisses her gently. “I’ll shield you as much as I can, but I don’t know how much good that will do.”
“If I’d known you were such a good kisser I would have let you kiss me in the lift.” Betty says very quietly indeed.
Just as they finish this conversation Mr. Rumboldt comes out of his office pushing Mr. Lucas before him. “Apologize, now.” is the command given by the pompous Mr. Rumboldt.
“I’m very sorry I made such an assumption about you and Mrs. Slocombe, Captain Peacock. It was wrong of me and it won’t happen again.” Mr. Lucas says in a phoney tone of voice.
“You two had better come in.” Mr. Rumboldt says to Mrs. Slocombe and Captain Peacock. “You may return to the floor for the rest of the day, Mr. Lucas, but after today you are on a two week probation.” Captain Peacock and Mrs. Slocombe look at each other and smile. This plays into their hands perfectly for the time being.
The three employees of Grace Brothers’ Department Store enter the office which is elegantly decorated and are asked to sit down. “Sit down you two. Would you like a drink?” Mr. Rumboldt asks as he pours himself one.
“No thank you, sir,” Mrs. Slocombe says meekly. “I don’t think I should go back to the floor smelling of alcohol.”
“None for me either sir, the faster this meeting is over and we can all get back to our jobs the better it will be.” Captain Peacock says hastily. Alcohol is only another way to loosen his inhibitions which are at a minimum anyways.
“You two do realize that inter-work relationships are frowned upon at Grace Brothers don’t you?” Mr. Rumboldt asks looking over the top of his glasses again.
“Yes, of course we do, sir that has always been made very clear.” Captain Peacock and Mrs. Slocombe both say quietly.
“Then I expect that your relationship will stay separate from your work and that nothing will become public until Captain Peacock has been through a divorce, correct?” Mr. Rumboldt asks jumping straight to the heart of the matter.
“Sir, there is no relationship between Mrs. Slocombe and I. I thought I made that perfectly clear when I walked in here with Mr. Lucas in tow.” Captain Peacock says trying not to look as though he is lying.
“Peacock, as much as this denial is very touching you would never have dragged Mr. Lucas down here unless there was something going on. You’ve certainly never defended Mrs. Slocombe against any rumours that were going around about her at any one time. One thing does interest me though. How did the two of you ever get together? I wasn’t under the impression that you’d even looked twice at her, Peacock.” Mr. Rumboldt says smiling over the rim of his rum.
“I wasn’t aware that I was that obvious, sir. To be honest I hadn’t really thought of Mrs. Slocombe romantically before, but now everything is entirely different. I’m finding that I’m enjoying her company and she is intoxicating somehow.” Captain Peacock admits sheepishly. Under the cover of the edge of Mr. Rumboldt’s desk Betty reaches for his hand and squeezes it tightly.
“What about your wife?” Mr. Rumboldt asks playing right into the fears of the two people sitting across from him.
“I believe very firmly that my wife will be leaving me very soon, sir. I suspect she may leave while we are on vacation. She hasn’t been home very much at all and I suspect she may be having an affair.” Stephen says while giving Betty’s hand a squeeze back.
“Well, I wish you both well in that case. Make sure that this relationship doesn’t interfere with your work here.” Mr. Rumboldt says as he put his drink down. “Dismissed, you two, thank you for your time. Peacock, thank your girlfriend for her support. She could have left you to take the fall, but she didn’t; that is real devotion.”
“Don’t I know it, sir. Thank you, Betty, it means a lot to me to have your support.” Stephen says putting his arm around Betty.
“You’ve always had my support even if you didn’t ask for it or want it. Nothing has changed for me,” Betty says quietly. “Except for the fact that you’ve finally noticed that I’m a woman that you could love.”
“Would you kiss her already?” Mr. Rumboldt asks. “The poor woman is pouring out her heart and you’re not doing anything.”
Stephen doesn’t have to be told twice. He leans over in his chair and kisses Betty. It is a magic, triumphant moment for both of them. When they pull apart Stephen stands up, takes Betty’s hand in his and walks out of the office in triumph.
Chapter 7: Flirting in the Lift
Betty breathes a sigh of relief as they exit the office. After a concerned look from Stephen she says, “That went much better than it could have, didn’t it? I thought I was going to be fired or something, but that was actually fairly painless.”
“Speak for yourself; that man has a gaze that could penetrate metal at times. It just bores into you; it’s disturbing.” Stephen says as they walk to the lift hand in hand.
“I’m just glad that we both still work here. I was sure that when he figured the situation out he’d fire one of us for sure.” Betty says this as they get in the lift.
The lift leaves the floor heading towards the men’s and women’s department, but part of the way up Stephen pushes the emergency stop button, grabs Betty by her hands and pulls her into a kiss. “Thank you for coming to back me up,” he says as he pulls away. “It meant the world to me.”
“I only did what I thought you would have done for me in the same situation. You would have done the same thing for me, wouldn’t you?” Betty asks looking deep into Stephen’s eyes. He is still holding her closely.
“Of course I would have. I’m just amazed that you defended me; I’ve never defended you before in my life and I certainly haven’t been very polite to you over the years. I don’t deserve what you just did.” Stephen says brushing his hands through Betty’s hair which despite the look of being so stiff that nothing could penetrate its depths is remarkably soft.
“Your feelings in the present are what concern me and in the present you love me and that is all that matters. You loving me is worth every sacrifice I have and will ever make. You did deserve what I just did because you love me. That is more than I ever expected.” Betty says quietly as she lays her head on Stephen’s chest.
“Ready to go back?” Stephen asks as he looks down into Betty’s incredibly blue eyes.
“I suppose.” Betty says with a sigh. “I wish it was the end of the day though. This day has been entirely emotionally exhausting.”
“I know what you mean.” Stephen says sympathetically. “Would you like to go to dinner with me tonight? It’s my wife’s bridge night and she’ll be out late. I usually go out with some of the boys, but I don’t want to tonight.”
“Are you sure that’s wise? I just don’t want to be caught doing something we shouldn’t. Wouldn’t it look suspicious if a married man and an unmarried woman were out to dinner just the two of them?” Betty wants to go so badly, but she has concerns that need to be answered first.
“What if I told you that I know a pub that serves divine food that hardly anybody is ever in? Would you come with me then? I can guarantee this will be a secret from everyone.” Stephen says as he drops his hold on Betty and paces the length of the lift.
“If that’s guaranteed then I will come, but I can’t go like this in my ugly, brown, Grace Brothers uniform. I’ll have to go home and change first.” Betty says looking down in disgust at the uniform and the icky colour she is forced to wear every day.
“Of course you can’t go to dinner dressed like that; I never expected you to. I’ll drive you home and you can change and then we’ll go to dinner. Is that okay?” Stephen asks turning to Betty and looking down at her. She is a full head and a half shorter than he is even in heels. “But, for heavens sake this is a casual dining environment you don’t have to dress up even though it is our first date.”
“Are you sure it’s safe for you to be seen driving me home? Perhaps it would be better if I go home my normal way and change and then you can come and pick me up.” Betty says concerned about the reaction of the staff.
“That is a ridiculous idea; that’s like doing twice the work to achieve the same result. I’m allowed to give a co-worker a ride home aren’t I? It would just be seen as a friendly gesture to those who know us well. I want to spend as much time with you as possible and that includes a drive back to your flat.” Stephen says all this as he lowers himself to the floor of the lift.
“All right, when you put it that way I suppose that’s just fine. My flat isn’t terribly clean at the moment though; I usually leave the cleaning until Sunday morning.” Betty says as she sits gently next to Stephen and lays her head on his shoulder.
“I don’t mind as long as I’m with you; your flat doesn’t matter to me, you do and that is never going to change. We should go I guess and finish off the day; there’s only another three hours left and then we can spend the evening together.” Stephen says as he stands up, offers his hand to Betty, pulls her up, pushes the emergency stop button again, and stands with his hands behind his back waiting for the lift to stop.
Chapter 8: The Rest of the Day
When the lift opens the two employees each go their separate ways: Mrs. Slocombe over to the ladies counter and Captain Peacock stands in the middle of the floor waiting to escort customers to the right location. The second Mrs. Slocombe gets to the ladies counter she is accosted by Miss Brahms who wants to know exactly what has happened, but for once in her life Mrs. Slocombe refuses to gossip about what has gone on in Mr. Rumbold’s office.
Thankfully, shortly after Miss Brahms’ comments a customer comes over that needs to find an evening gown for a special dinner and dance that her husband’s company is having in two days time. Mrs. Slocombe takes charge and marches the woman over to where the evening gowns are, asks what size the woman wears and pulls out five or six dresses that she feels are appropriate, and directs the woman towards the dressing rooms, and tells the woman that if she needs a second opinion feel free to ask her what she thinks.
When the woman has finally left completely satisfied with her dress Mrs. Slocombe has finally calmed down a bit after the excitement of the day. She looks at her watch and notices that she has an hour and a half to kill before she and Stephen can escape the drudgery of work. No customers come in for the next hour and a half, no customers for the woman’s department at least, and so consequentially the rest of the day passes very slowly indeed. Mrs. Slocombe even gets around to filing her nails which have needed doing for a while.
Finally five o’clock arrives and the whole staff rushes for the exits. Stephen and Betty hang back a little waiting until everyone else from their departments has disappeared for the day.
Chapter 9: Driving Home
Certain details in this chapter are not the same as in the show, specifically about Captain Peacock's car.
“Are you ready to go?” Stephen asks as he approaches the women’s department and Betty pulls her coat on.
“Yes, I’m ready to go. Just let me grab my bag and we can head out.” Betty says as she bends down under the counter to get her handbag.
The two walk out of the store not knowing that Mr. Rumboldt has watched them leave and is secretly smiling knowing that both people involved are now supremely happy.
When Stephen and Betty arrive at Stephen’s lovely little two-seater sports car Stephen opens the door for Betty and allows her to sink into the low leather seat before going around to his side of the car and hopping in beside her. “I never knew you had such a gorgeous car, Stephen. It’s very comfortable.” Betty says as she leans back into the seat.
“Neither does anyone else,” says Stephen. “I don’t like to let people know that I am able to save my salary and spend it on things I really want. Like this sports car for example, Rumboldt would have a fit because he knows he can’t afford such a car. This is only because he has no money management skills. Shall we head out?”
“Of course, I can’t wait to get out of this straight jacketed uniform. It’s far too restricting and the colour is hideous.” Betty says with a chuckle.
“Do you suppose you could give me directions? I have no idea where I’m going after all. Which way do I have to turn to get to your flat?” Stephen asks teasing Betty a little. It is nice to have light banter like this before a first date. After all, first dates can be so uncomfortable.
“Oh, turn left as you exit the parking lot and then turn right on Queen Street and it’s the last apartment block on the left hand side of the street.” Mrs. Slocombe says as she giggles over her lack of foresight.
“So, you don’t live too far away; that’s very handy transportation wise. I can’t wait to just be able enjoy an evening out with you. It’s been so long since I’ve just been able to relax.” Stephen says as he drives down the street.
“Me neither and it’s been years since I’ve been on a date with a decent man. It feels odd at my age to be saying that I’m going on a date.” Mrs. Slocombe says as she leans her head on her hand and looks out the window at the sights of London.
“Why does it feel odd to be going on a date? I certainly hope I’m not making you feel uncomfortable. You shouldn’t feel odd about going on a date, you’re entitled to enjoy life and if that means going on a date now and then, then go ahead! Darling, you’re worth it!” Stephen says as they turn down Queen Street.
“I just never thought I’d be divorced and single at the age of fifty. It feels odd because I thought I’d only walk down the aisle once. I haven’t dated in years and the thought of dating again is terrifying.” Betty says this as they pull up in front of her apartment building.
“You need to stop being so hard on yourself. Don’t be so scared of dating; it’s not difficult, you’re just a little out of practice and we’ll go slowly, I promise.” Stephen says as he gets out of the car, comes around to Betty’s side, opens her door, and helps her out of the car.
“Thank you for being so understanding.” Mrs. Slocombe says as she pulls her key out of her handbag and walks to the front entrance of her apartment building. Stephen, however, hasn’t followed her. “Are you coming or not?” Betty asks giving him a funny look.
“You’re sure about this then? After all you seemed pretty sceptical about it earlier.” Stephen asks as he walks towards Betty. “I don’t want to pressure you into anything; the last thing I want to do is make you uncomfortable.”
“Stop, stop, I made my decision. I’m fine with this, and you couldn’t make me uncomfortable even if you tried. Now are you coming in or are you going to wait out here?” Betty asks taking Stephen’s hand in hers and kissing his cheek.
“I’m coming in with you. Just tell me this: you’d tell me if this whole thing of me being married is making you feel awkward wouldn’t you?” Stephen asks as he sighs.
“Is it making you feel uncomfortable or awkward, Stephen?” Betty asks as she opens the front door to the apartment building, walks in and presses the button to call the lift. “You seem to be the one bringing up the subject quite a bit.”
“No, of course not. I’ve fallen for you and nothing is going to stop me from pursuing this relationship; it’s that important. I just need to remember not to be so responsible all the time; my duty and responsibility is something that has been drummed into me my entire life and it’s time to break free.” Stephen says as they get into the lift.
Chapter 10: Out of Uniform and Pub Dinner
A few floors up one of Betty’s neighbours gets into the lift. “Hello, Betty,” Mrs. Ellen Hocking says as she enters the lift, “Are you going to introduce me to your friend? He’s very handsome.”
“Um, of course I’ll introduce you. Stephen this is Ellen Hocking; Ellen this is my friend Captain Stephen Peacock.” Betty says as she makes a split second decision about not introducing Stephen as her boyfriend.
“It’s lovely to meet you, Stephen” Ellen says as the lift stopped. “Isn’t this your floor, Betty?”
“Why yes, yes it is. Come on, Stephen, we can chat with Ellen some other time.” Betty says as she takes Stephen’s arm and walks out of the lift. “That was the most awkward moment of my entire day. Why did she have to ask to be introduced? That just made things so weird.”
“That was without doubt the most awkward I’ve felt today, too. Why didn’t you introduce me as your boyfriend, though? I thought that was very strange.” Stephen says as Betty lets them into her flat.
“One: because you’re still wearing your wedding ring and two: because I don’t know who your wife’s friends are. For all I know, Ellen could be off to your wife’s bridge night tonight.” Betty says as she goes into the kitchen, opens a cabinet, pulls out a bag of cat food, pours some into a dish against the wall, and refills the water bowl.
“Point taken, I didn’t realize you’d thought it out that well, but I certainly don’t remember Ellen Hocking from any of my wife’s bridge nights; we’re safe on that score at least. Now go get changed so we can go to dinner. I love your flat by the way; it’s very homey and comfortable.” Stephen says as he kisses Betty gently on the cheek.
“It’s just a house really, somewhere to come home to at the end of the day, but because I have no one to share it with it doesn’t seem as nice as it used to.” Betty says as she walks into the bedroom and closes the door behind her. “Feel free to make yourself at home. The bar is well stocked; have a drink if you like. Be careful where you sit though, the cat may be sitting in one of the chairs.”
Stephen sighs and looks around the room. It certainly has Mrs. Slocombe’s touch, but not in her usual way; it is tasteful and elegant, but vibrant and full of life just like she is. He pours himself a whisky and soda and sits down in one of Betty’s big cushy armchairs and sighs. It is wonderful to be with someone who loves him as much as she does.
Twenty minutes later Betty emerges from the bedroom dressed, pressed, and ready to go to dinner in a very nice skirt and top set she’d found in the back of the closet. It is something she hardly ever wears, but it is very elegant while still being casual. “What do you think?” she asks as she swirls into the room in a blaze of colour. The skirt is cream and the blouse a beautiful lilac.
Stephen is stunned at first. Never has he ever seen Betty looking so feminine, fragile, and demure as she does now standing in front of him waiting for his opinion. “You look absolutely beautiful. Where did you ever get that outfit? It suits you perfectly. Do you want to have a drink before we go to dinner?” Stephen finally manages to say this though how he never knows.
“Why don’t we have after dinner drinks here? I don’t know about you, but I’m starving, so let’s head out. I’m used to throwing some leftovers on to reheat the minute I get home.” Betty says as she bustles around tidying up the bar.
“After dinner drinks sound great. I’m famished, actually. When I get home dinner is usually plated and ready for consumption. Do you have a coat to wear with that outfit? It’s supposed to be cold tonight.” Stephen says caringly.
“I found an ivory tweed wool one in my closet. I’ll go get it. Do you think we’ll have snow for Christmas this year?” Betty asks as she rushes into her bedroom to get her coat. It’s the beginning of November now.
“I hope so,” Stephen says as Betty comes back out bundled in a cozy looking coat. “I love it when it snows at Christmas. Snow gives everything an air of calm and serenity.”
“Will we get to spend Christmas as a couple this year do you think?” Betty asks as they exit her apartment and she locks the door behind her. “It would be wonderful to have someone special to share Christmas with this year.”
“If my wife has left of course I’ll spend Christmas with you. There’s no place I’d rather be. We could even go out to the little country house I bought and enjoy Christmas there just the two of us. How many Christmases have you spent by yourself, Betty? It seems like a terrible time of year to be alone.” Stephen says as he slips his arm around her shoulders while they wait for the lift.
“I stopped counting how many Christmases I’d been alone at five. That was too many on its own and it’s been many years after that. Can I ask you something?” Betty asks as they get in the lift with Stephen’s arm still around Betty’s shoulders. Stephen nods calmly. “If your wife doesn’t leave would you leave her in order to be with me? Be honest, Stephen, don’t start this relationship off the wrong way.”
“Yes, I would leave my wife to be with you. We’ll see what happens when we come back from the Costa Plonka. If my wife is still at the house when we come back then I’ll tell her I’m leaving, but something tells me that won’t be necessary.” Stephen says as he kisses the top of Betty’s head.
“Good,” Betty says as they walk down the front steps to his car. “I’d hate for my instincts to be wrong.”
“What instincts?” Stephen asks as he gets in the car and revs the engine. “I hope you’re getting good vibes from me.”
“The instinct that we’re really meant to be. I hope I’m right. It’s such a wonderful feeling to feel needed and loved again. It’s been a long time.” Betty says as Stephen cruises down the street and pulls into a pub parking lot. “Is this where we’re going for dinner?”
“Yes, why, is something wrong?” Stephen asks as he reaches over to his door handle to get out of the car.
“I come in here a lot. It might be awkward if I’m recognized.” Betty says as she gets out of the car. “Never mind though, I do like the food here and it’s not that big a deal. I’m just being silly.”
Stephen and Betty walk into the pub and find a quiet area to sit. They look over the menu carefully and finally Betty decides on bangers and mash and Stephen decides on bubbles and squeak. “It’s funny that we’ve never seen each other here if you come here often.” Stephen says as he sips his wine.
“I try to avoid busy nights at this particular pub; it gets a little too rowdy here for me now. I like quieter nights though when I was younger I used to come here on a Friday or Saturday night. I could dance the night away.” Betty says as she swirls the contents of her glass.
“I know the feeling; my stamina level has dropped dramatically in recent years. It’s horrible. Old age seems to come on so quickly; one day you’re able to stay out at a party all night and the next you can hardly stay up until ten o’clock.” Stephen sighs and leans back in his chair a little.
“I know. I wish we’d known each other when we were much younger; it would have been fun to see a more carefree Stephen Peacock before the war made us all dutiful and responsible. You might have actually been fun to go to a party with.” Betty says as their meals arrive and they both tuck in. “Here’s to us, Stephen,” she says. “Let us make this relationship fun and fancy free the way we were when we were young.”
“Here’s to you, Betty. May you never be nervous to date for the rest of your life whether or not this relationship works out. Here’s to overcoming bad relationships and break-ups and persevering enough to have more relationships. Finally, here’s to us and love, darling we’re worth it!” Stephen says as the couple clink glasses together.
Chapter 11: Nighcap, Sex, and Staying Over
Dinner is a marvellous success and when the couple get back in the car they are both perfectly content with the evening. Both, however, are wondering about the rest of the night and wondering whether spending the night together would be pushing things a little bit. They arrive at Betty’s flat and go in for drinks. “What can I pour you, Stephen?” Betty asks as she pours herself a gin and tonic.
“Oh, whatever you’re drinking is fine; I’m not picky.” Stephen says as he takes off his suit jacket and settles onto the sofa.
Betty comes over and hands Stephen his tumbler and tucks her feet up on the sofa the way she always sits. She has curled into Stephen so naturally that neither person feels uncomfortable and as naturally as anything Stephen drops his arm around Betty’s shoulders. “Well,” Betty says looking up into Stephen’s wonderful blue-green eyes.
“Well, what?” Stephen asks as he slips off his shoes.
“What now?” Betty asks as she sighs and takes a large sip of her drink. She is nervous of what could happen. She’s been alone for too long.
“I’ll be honest: I don’t know. I’ve been thinking a lot about the rest of our evening and whether it would be appropriate to spend the night and whether it would be comfortable for both of us, but I haven’t come up with an answer yet.” Stephen says as he sighs, puts his drink down, and runs his fingers through his short hair.
“I wouldn’t mind if you stayed, Stephen.” Betty says quietly. “It would be nice as a matter of fact because both of us would finally be appreciated.”
“Really?” Stephen asks. “I don’t want to push anything. I never thought that I would hear you say that on the first date. It would be wonderful to be appreciated and loved again. I don’t have any pyjamas with me though.”
“Whoever said you would be needing pyjamas?” Betty asks cheekily. “Maybe I prefer men in my bed without pyjamas. Maybe we’ll both end up in bed with no clothes on anyway. Did you ever think of that?”
“Of course,” Stephen says awkwardly. “I didn’t want to be presumptuous though. Perhaps having someone’s arms around you all night was all you had in mind. How was I to know what you meant?”
“Maybe this will give you a clue.” Betty says firmly. She leans up to Stephen’s lips and gives him a warm, sensual kiss. She winds her hands into his hair and refuses to let go until she has to breathe. “Does that make it obvious?” she asks as she pulls away.
“That makes it blatantly obvious. Nobody could misinterpret that move.” Stephen says as he pulls Betty closer to him and runs his tongue along her lower lip hoping she would grant him access to her luscious mouth.
Betty responds quickly to the kiss that is unlike anything she has ever experienced before. She reaches up to Stephen’s tie and loosens it enough to give him some more air capacity to allow the kiss to continue.
Suddenly, after this action, Stephen pulls back and looks at Betty with intense eyes. “Are you absolutely sure about this? I don’t want you to regret this in the morning, after all a few hours ago you wouldn’t even let me touch you. The progression seems to be rapid. Tell me the truth.”
“I’m positive. I wouldn’t have initiated this if I wasn’t certain this was what I wanted. You’ll find that once I make up my mind I’m a very determined woman outside of work as well. As long as you’re in this world I will love you; that will never change and for the moment you love me back. Let’s take advantage of the situation while we can. Stephen listen, I love you enough to throw my inhibitions to the wind because I know that you will always do what you feel is right whether or not the other person does. I trust you enough to let go of my fears.” Betty says as she moves over and sits in Stephen’s lap which makes him very uncomfortable, but very happy.
“I see as usual you’re thinking one step ahead of me. I know you’re determined; trust me when I say that I’m not used to being so aggressively pursued and seduced, but damn, it’s working. What do you mean for the moment? I’ll always love you and I trust you too.” Stephen says reaching out and touching Betty’s hair.
“I just thought that you might not always feel like this about me and I don’t want to miss out on this opportunity. I’m glad my femininity and wiles are finally working on someone. It’s been a long time since I’ve been able to say that; at least about a man equal to or younger than me.” Betty snuggles into Stephen’s body and waits for his next move.
Stephen has decided that the time for words was past and he reaches down under Betty’s head and tilts her head up towards his. He bends his head down and engulfs Betty in a kiss. “Shall we continue?” Stephen asks as he pulls back.
Betty in the mean time can’t breathe so she merely nods and reaches out towards her boyfriend. She slides the knot of his tie down low enough to slip it over his head and then slides in towards Stephen. She reaches out and draws her fingers down Stephen’s chest and starts to unbutton his dress shirt. “Hold on you,” Stephen says as she starts to unbutton his shirt. “How is it that you’re still fully dressed and I’m about to lose a second piece of clothing.”
“One: a tie doesn’t count as a piece of clothing and two: you’re wearing more pieces of clothing than I am. Besides, it’s not as if you’re trying to take any of my clothes off. You don’t have to be so shy, you know. It’s certainly not as if it’s my first time; it’s just our first time together as a couple. You’re not frightened, are you?” Betty asks as she continues to unbutton Stephen’s shirt.
Suddenly, Betty gets the distinct impression she isn’t in control as much any more. Once Stephen’s shirt has been removed he reaches out to her waist and pulls her under him where he unbuttons her blouse and continues to kiss her. “Hmm, you may have to wear a higher necked blouse tomorrow because I seem to have given you a rather nice love bite.”
“Does it look like I care at the moment?” Betty asks as she reaches out to Stephen and removes his belt and starts to unbutton his pants.
“Hold on let’s move into the bedroom before we continue. I wouldn’t want you to have a crick in your back tomorrow; it’s difficult to work on your feet all day if you have a sore back.” Stephen says as he picks Betty up and walks into the bedroom.
“Would you stop rationalizing every little thing and just go on instinct for once. You’re driving me crazy.” Betty says as she pulls Stephen down into a kiss. “Just relax. I’m not going to judge you. It’s been too long for me to have anything to judge against.”
Without saying another word Stephen has Betty flat on her back on the bed and is kissing her neck and her breasts. He is trying to get her bra off, but like most men is struggling with the clasp. “Here, let me.” Betty says and she sits up and slips her bra off and then slips out of the rest of her articles of clothing except her panties. Stephen quickly follows suit. “You’re more attractive without clothes on I think.” Betty says as she continues to kiss Stephen.
“I could the exact same thing about you to be honest. You’re beautiful, Betty. You’d never know it under that uniform, though. It really does nothing for you.” Stephen says as his eyes and hands comb Betty’s body.
Betty has gotten quite bold and decides that enough is enough. She quickly takes off her panties and whips Stephen’s y-fronts off before he’s even had a chance to blink. Stephen has gotten the hint and quickly moves on to the main event.
Later when both are sated and happy and Betty is laying comfortably in Stephen’s arms they both take time to reflect. “I didn’t realize a woman could be that aggressive. I’ve apparently missed a chunk of my sexual education.” Stephen says as he caresses Betty’s arm.
“I wouldn’t say that you’ve missed any education in this department, actually. That was absolutely divine and I’m lucky to have a man like you.” Betty says as she kisses Stephen’s chest. “You may have to wear a very high collared shirt tomorrow if you want to cover that love bite I gave you.”
“Well, I suppose I gave only as good as I got. It’s been a wonderful night beyond even my high expectations. You were amazing you know.” Stephen says just before the couple drift off into a happy slumber.
Chapter 12: The Next Morning
The first thing Stephen hears the next morning is a quiet voice saying, “What would you like for breakfast, my angel?”
Stephen looks over to see Betty curled back in his arms, but with her awful uniform back on and her cat curled at the foot of the bed. ‘Where did the cat come from?” Stephen asks as he brushes the hair off his face, the sleep out of his eyes, and sits up.
“Well, good morning to you too. Now what would you like for breakfast?” Betty asks again trying not to be too put out that he hasn’t even said good morning yet.
“Good morning,” Stephen says as he leans over and gives Betty a kiss. “Breakfast, did you say? Whatever you’re having is fine. Breakfast is about my least favourite meal of the day.”
“Well, I whipped up pancakes; the griddle is already hot and I’ve cut some fresh fruit. It’s ready when you are.” Betty says as she puts the last touches on her uniform and make-up.
“You look much nicer in your own clothes or none at all.” Stephen says as he rolls over to look at Betty sitting at her vanity.
“Flatterer,” Betty says as she finishes off her rather understated make-up with some coloured lip gloss. It is far more subdued than usual, but she feels prettier and so she feels that she needs less make-up. “Now get dressed or you shan’t get any breakfast and we’ll be late for work.”
Stephen, disgruntled as he is to be ordered out of bed, realizes his girlfriend is right and looking at the clock realizes they needed to hurry. “Can I have a shower?” he asks timidly.
“Of course,” Betty says as she dishes out some cat food. “I’d join you, but as you can see I’m already dressed. There’s some non-feminine smelling soap in the cabinet under the sink.”
Stephen emerges a brief five minutes later to a plate of steaming hot pancakes and treacle and gorgeous fresh fruit. “Ta,” he says smiling at Betty as she hands him a plate. “This is the best looking breakfast I’ve had in a long time. Normally, I’m served porridge and a spoon of treacle, but this is lovely.”
“Well, hurry up and eat. I’ve had mine, so you enjoy. I’ve just got to change handbags from last night, but let me know if you want more pancakes.” Betty says as she scurries into the bedroom with a pile of her clothes in her hands. “Your jacket is on the back of the wingback chair and your shirt is pressed and hanging on the outside of the bedroom doorknob.”
“Thank you, Betty,” Stephen says as he grabs his jacket and his shirt and walks back into the bedroom. He kisses Betty on the cheek as he slips his shirt back on. “Do you think anyone will notice if I come in wearing the same shirt as I had on yesterday?”
“I doubt it.” Betty says calmly. “We all wear the same thing every day of our lives and besides everyone is too tired in the morning to notice anything and by the end of the day nobody cares enough to notice.”
“I notice you managed to find a shirt with a high enough collar to hide that little love bite I gave you last night.” Stephen says cheekily.
“I notice that your shirt doesn’t cover mine.” Betty says with a grin and she points to a large purple mark on Stephen’s neck. “I’ll just dab a little make-up on there and no one will even notice.”
“Damn,” Stephen exclaims. “What happens when I go home and my wife notices this? I’ll look a right fool then, won’t I?”
“Never mind. Just stay at my house until it goes away. Besides we’re going on vacation tomorrow and then you won’t have to fuss about it anyway.” Betty says trying to calm Stephen down.
“You’re right I suppose, but what happens when Mr. High and Mighty Cuthbert Rumboldt notices I’ve got a love bite. He’s the only one in the whole world that knows about the two of us.” Stephen asks as Betty daubs some make-up on the purple mark that now adorns Stephen’s neck. “Besides I have to go home to finish packing tonight.”
“Tell your wife you’re staying with a fellow employee so that you don’t wake her up too early tomorrow morning. That way you can just come here and we can head to the airport together tomorrow. Besides, that way I can cover over that little love bite tomorrow morning before we leave.” Betty says as she wipes her fingers on the towel from the bathroom and gets ready to leave.
“Why have you not been promoted to a supervisory or managerial position? Your instincts are dead on about many things. I’m surprised you have risen higher at Grace Brothers.” Stephen says as he buttons his shirt and puts on his suit jacket.
“There are two reasons I think that I haven’t been promoted. One is because I’m more of a social problem solver than a business one and two is because I’m a woman and men are steadier in the work force.” Betty says as they exit her flat for the second time in twenty-four hours.
Chapter 13: Mr. Rumbold Teases
I made Mr. Rumbold much more observant in this chapter than he actually is.
Betty and Stephen arrive twenty minutes before the rest of the sales staff arrives. “It’s very quiet. It’s almost spooky, really. A department store should never be this quiet.”
“Good morning you two,” Mr. Rumboldt says as he comee onto the sales floor. “You’re particularly early Mrs. Slocombe. From that fact can I deduce that last night went quite well for the two of you?”
“You can guess, sir, but Mrs. Slocombe and myself will never tell you what really happened last night. It would be unprofessional, but I will say this: it was a very enlightening evening.” Stephen says as he signs the roster.
“But you’re never here this early Mrs. Slocombe. There must be a reason for you being so early.”
Mrs. Slocombe glares at Mr. Rumboldt. “After Captain Peacock dropped me off last night he offered me a lift into work this morning.” She slips out of her coat as she says this and goes and hangs her coat in the ladies’ cloakroom.
“She can’t fool me. Things did go very well, didn’t they Peacock? You’re wearing the same shirt as yesterday and you have a make-up mark on your neck. Nothing of that sort ever escapes my attention.”
Stephen reels back in shock. He didn’t think that Mr. Rumboldt was that observant. “Perhaps it went better than I thought, but you mustn’t tell Mrs. Slocombe that I told you she’d be mortified. She’s really a very private person and I’d hate to disappoint her this early in our relationship.”
“Understood. You’re lucky you know to have found someone you truly love. My wife and I are not getting on well at all. We’re even staying in separate rooms now.” Rumboldt sighs and runs his hand over his shiny, bald head.
“Yes, I’m very lucky. The trade-off is quite good though. You just can’t see the consequences of last night on Betty because she found a blouse that covers all her marks.” Peacock smiles at the shocked look on Mr. Rumboldt’s face. Stephen’s little fling the night before would have been on par with one of Mr. Grace’s flings. Stephen walks away towards the ladies’ cloakroom. “Betty,” he calls “can I talk to you for a moment? It’s very important.”
“Coming,” Mrs. Slocombe steps out of the back room as she speaks. “What’s going on?” Betty asks looking at the concerned look on Stephen’s face.
“Mr. Rumboldt knows about last night. He noticed the shirt and the make-up mark on my neck and if he noticed Mr. Humphries most definitely will if he gets close enough.” Stephen sighs as he speaks.
“Oh my God! What are we going to do? He can’t keep a secret this big to save his life. We have to do something. We can’t let him tell anyone.” Betty is having trouble maintaining her composure.
“Well, if you have any brilliant idea of how to prevent him from telling everyone then I’d love to hear it because I have absolutely no clue. But at the same time Mr. Rumboldt is almost entirely socially inept perhaps he won’t consider it important enough to gossip about.” Stephen is hoping and perhaps reaching a little though.
“Stephen be serious. You are in a junior management position and you’re having an affair with a senior sales associate. Even Mr Rumboldt can figure out that this is big news. This is the kind of news this store thrives upon. I just never thought it would be me being gossiped about.” Betty runs a hand through her hair and sighs. This relationship has gotten quite complicated very quickly. It is something she hadn’t been prepared for. She isn’t ready to go public with her relationship with Stephen, but perhaps that is her best solution. “Stephen what do you think about beating Mr. Rumboldt to the gossip by announcing that we’re in a relationship ourselves before he has the chance?”
“That sounds dangerous, but it might just work. I wasn’t prepared to tell anyone any such thing, but it might be better this way.” Stephen sighs as well.
“You think I’m prepared? Good grief, I just wanted a chance to have a nice quiet relationship with you for a while, but it didn’t turn out that way because Mr. Rumboldt is more observant than we thought and now when we’re on vacation someone’s going to be watching us at all times. It’s going to be nerve-wracking and I have enough trouble with my nerves just considering putting a bathing suit on.” Betty flops onto a stool behind the counter. A tear trickles down her face as she finishes speaking.
“I hate to rush you, but we need to make decision soon before everyone else comes in. I think we should tell everyone now before Rumboldt has a chance to blow this all out of proportion. It’s up to you really.” Stephen sits next to her as he speaks and puts his hand on her knee.
“Alright, let’s do it. See if you can get Rumboldt back in his office so we can tell everyone before he has a chance.”
“It might be better for Rumboldt to remain then it won’t be so suspicious when he hears the rumours. We’ll tell him about our plan and then we can ask him to stay for the brief meeting.”
“Oh, that’s an even better idea than mine. C’mon we better do this quickly.” Betty stands up and smoothes her skirt before she and Stephen walk towards Mr. Rumboldt.
“Sir, Betty and I have decided that we’re going to tell our colleagues on this floor about our relationship this morning.”
“If you’re sure, but I did tell you, Peacock, that I wouldn’t tell anyone about any of this. That is if you want to keep it a secret for a little while longer.” Rumboldt shrugs his shoulders as he speaks.
“I think it’s easier this way, sir. We don’t want to spring anything on them later. No, it’s best to tell them now.” Betty smiles sweetly at Mr Rumboldt. She knows what he is thinking.
Damn, Mr Rumboldt thinks. They’ve figured out that I want to tell the staff about their relationship. Perhaps Mrs. Slocombe is smarter than I thought.
“Stephen are you going to keep holding my hand because we won’t even have to say anything if you do that. Our staff may not be really brilliant, but they are going to notice the two of us holding hands especially considering that you were so adamant that there were no feelings between us yesterday.”
“Do you want to have to make a big messy announcement or would you rather let people guess and then we can quietly discuss it at lunch?”
“A big, messy announcement will be more effective. People will want to hear from us that we’re in a relationship. They don’t want to have to speculate on whether we’re together or not. We want this to be as obvious as possible and that means saying something out loud.”
“All right, but I hate making announcements like this. It makes me very nervous.” Stephen speaks of his fears for the first time. He doesn’t generally discuss them with women. He likes to remain strong with women, but Betty is different. He is perfectly willing to open up to her.
“I’ll do it then. I don’t mind making announcements. Just as long as you don’t reject the facts when someone, namely Mr. Lucas, questions why in the hell you’d be in a relationship with me.” Betty says as she smiles cheekily at Stephen. She is delighting in his discomfort at the situation that now faces them.
“I’ll just tell him that you’re great in bed and that you’re really sexy in my opinion. Mr. Lucas has no right to question my reasons for being in a relationship. Just believe in the fact that I love you. You’ll do fine. You’re good at making yourself heard and this announcement is one the staff won’t want to miss.” Stephen says as the two of them pace up and down the floor.
Chapter 14: Annoucement to the Staff
The staff arrive and Betty takes a deep breath. “Can everyone join me for a brief staff meeting please? I have an announcement to make.” The staff grumble as they approach Mrs Slocombe. They hate staff meetings because they last so long. “I promise this will be brief. Captain Peacock and I thought we’d clear some things up before you heard any rumours about the two of us. He and I are in a relationship despite Captain Peacock’s denial of this yesterday. If anyone asks you about the two of us today you may tell them that and only that. We’d appreciate your support at this time.”
“I knew it!” Richard Lucas cries. “It was so obvious yesterday that something was going on between the two of you and it certainly seemed friendlier than you usually are to each other.”
“Please, please, we don’t want any fuss over this right now. This is a fresh, fragile relationship and we need some time to work things out on our own. I know that you’re all curious about what is going on, but Captain Peacock and I need space to make our own decisions. We would appreciate it if you would allow us to develop this relationship how we see fit, without advice and your own interpretations.” Betty says as she cringes at the thought of her whole staff putting in their own thoughts and ideas. “If we need advice we’ll come to you, but other than that we want to do this on our own for a while.”
“We promise, Mrs. Slocombe. We won’t meddle no matter how tempting it becomes. The two of you deserve some privacy, at least for a while.” Miss Brahms says as she hugs her long time friend.
“Does that mean we can’t tease you either? That’s no fun!” Mr. Lucas protests. He thrives on being able to tease the people he works with.
“In particular no teasing, Mr. Lucas.” Captain Peacock says. It is the first time he’s spoken since the meeting began. “This relationship will be difficult enough to cultivate without you picking on the two of us.”
Chapter 15: They're Both Cheating
All of a sudden a shrill voice comes from the direction of the lifts. “Stephen!”
Captain Peacock cringes when he hears the voice. It is his wife and now is not a particularly good moment for her to show up. “Pamela. What brings you here at this time of the morning?” Captain Peacock glares at his colleagues and dares them to say anything to his wife. He risks a worried look at Betty who looks as if she is about to faint. “Are you all right Mrs. Slocombe, you look positively ill?”
“I’m fine Captain Peacock, thank you. I’m just a little warm is all.” Betty finds it odd to be calling her boyfriend by his proper title, but under the circumstances she couldn’t call him by his first name.
“Stephen I’m here to tell you that I’m leaving you. I’ve found someone who deserves my love and doesn’t flirt with anybody else.” Pamela says as she tries to regain his attention.
“You’re having an affair. Is that what you’re trying to tell me? I was never unfaithful to you, Pamela. How can you possibly tell me this now? We’ve been married twenty-five years. Who is this cad you’ve chosen as your next sucker? All I can say is I hope he’s wiser in the ways of the world than I am. Maybe then he can stop you.” Stephen glares at his wife. “Draw up the divorce papers then. I don’t care anymore, but let’s be clear that I will not be compensating you. Keep the house, but you will get nothing else from me. Besides, I too have found someone else and she’s in this room right now.”
“Well you’re going on vacation with my new beau. He happens to be your boss, Cuthbert Rumboldt.” Pamela says vindictively.
Stephen’s jaw drops and he has no words to say what he is feeling. Betty steps forward and stands just slightly behind him and puts her hand on Stephen’s back gently. “How dare you! You’re willing to give up a perfectly wonderful man for a toad and an idiot! I pity you. I wish you a long, boring life with Mr. Rumboldt because that is precisely what you’re going to get. All men married or not flirt and you are so insecure that you couldn’t even handle him flirting harmlessly. Just wait, if you think Stephen is an incorrigible flirt, just wait until you see Cuthbert Rumboldt in action.”
“So you’re the tart he’s chosen over me. Good to know that looks didn’t come into the equation for him. I thought he was perfectly shallow, but I see know he was looking for something more than beauty, which you certainly don’t have.” Pamela says acidly.
“He was looking for more. He was looking for someone to love him unconditionally. It seems that you certainly don’t fulfil that role and you spent all his money. He rode the Underground most days because you had the car and half the time by pay day your husband was broke and you never gave a damn! I actually care about the person he is and I’m fairly financially independent on my own, so he needn’t worry about me.” Betty says fighting back. Pamela’s comments don’t hurt her as much as they would have before she was in a relationship.
“Well done Mrs. Slocombe. That needed to be said. She had no right to say what she said and besides, I think she’s a fool and she’s snotty and she’s rude. You’re much nicer Mrs. Slocombe.” Miss Brahms says feeling she has to defend her colleague.
“I agree with Miss Brahms. How did you ever marry such a woman, Stephen?” Mr. Granger asks.
“I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but I agree with Mrs. Slocombe, too. Mrs. Peacock you’re horrible.” Mr. Lucas says practically cringing at agreeing that Mrs. Slocombe isn’t so very bad after all.
“I have to agree with my esteemed colleagues. No wonder you came to work so stressed out every morning Captain Peacock. I suspect she’s a terrible nag, too.” Mr. Humphries says boldly.
“Yeah, but he’s a terrible nag, too” Mr. Lucas says quickly.
“He was nagging us because he was getting nagged so much and he needed to take his anger out on someone, but rather than getting angry he decided to nag just like his wife.” Mr. Humphries says smartly.
“That’s all too true I’m afraid and I have to apologize to each and every one of you for the abominable behaviour which I sometimes displayed and for my manners and way of speaking which could be sharp and sarcastic. It shan’t happen as often now and that is a promise.” Captain Peacock says addressing the staff truthfully.
“We understand now Captain Peacock. I suspect your personality will take an upturn in the next few days and weeks. The vacation will do wonders as long as your soon to be ex-wife doesn’t get to come too.” Mr. Humpheries says quickly.
At that moment Mr. Rumboldt comes out of his office and says, “Pamela, you get to come on the vacation with us. Mr. Grace just approved my request. I hope things won’t be too awkward between you and Captain Peacock.”
“Oh, don’t worry about me, sir. I’ve already moved on as well. I do hope that Betty and I don’t keep you and Pamela up at night.” Stephen says cheekily.
“How do you know that you and Mrs. Slocombe will get to share a room? Perhaps you have to share with one of the other men.” Mr. Rumboldt says trying not to blush.
“I asked Mr. Grace if we could share a room and he didn’t have a problem with it. Besides, I have everything worked out. Mr. Humpheries and Miss Brahms will share and Mr. Lucas and Mr. Granger will share and that solves all the problems.” Stephen says in effect telling Mr Rumboldt that he’s an idiot.
“Well, I suppose some work has to be done in this store, so get to it.” Mr. Rumboldt says as he stalks back to his office. “Come along, Pamela.” He’s not happy.
Chapter 16: Frustrated and Stuck
"Ooh, those two really grind my gears." Stephen says angrily. Betty can see the steam coming out of his ears. He doesn't hide his anger well.
"Remain calm. They want to make you angry, but we'll show them. We'll be together and happy long after they've broken up." Betty says as she places her hand on Stephen's shoulder.
"Right, breathe. I'll be okay. Please let this day be over soon without any more incidents. I can't take any more." Captain Peacock says trying to maintain his temper. He's struggling with his emotions and normally he never lets his emotions show so much at work.
Betty breathes a sigh of relief when Stephen decides to go back to his job. "Thank heaven for that. If he'd blown a gasket it could have been disastrous." Betty whispers to Miss Brahms.
"You're so protective of him. It's sweet." Miss Brahms says as she puts her handbag away.
"Someone has to protect him from the idiocy of Mr. Rumboldt and his soon to be ex-wife. He's been awfully emotional over the last little while and I don't blame him at all, but I'm not always sure how to help him, mostly because he won't always tell me precisely what is wrong." Betty says as she slumps onto a stool. "He's more sensitive than I thought he would be though."
"That's a good quality in a man though, isn't it? I would love to find a man like that." Miss Brahms says in frustration.
"It's a wonderful quality and quite a rare quality as well. He's definitely a unique type of person which is perfect because so am I." Mrs. Slocombe says kindly. She smiles at Stephen as he stands at his post in the centre of the floor waiting for customers.
"It sure is quiet in here today. There haven't been any customers for a long time." Miss Brahms observes.
"You're quite right, Miss Brahms. It has been particularly slow today. No wonder I've been so bored today. Normally I have more to do." Mrs. Slocombe frowns.
"I wonder what's going on. Normally we have even the little old ladies in to shop." Miss Brahms queries.
Mr. Rumboldt comes on the floor just as Miss Brahms finishes speaking. "Excuse me everyone. I hate to interrupt your work, but the weather's been rather terrible all day and we just got a bulletin to say that all transport systems have been shut down until further notice due to the amount of snow on the tracks and the roads. I'm afraid we're all trapped here unless someone has a car."
"Wonderful, my worst nightmare has just come true. What are we going to do if we're stuck here?" Mrs Slocombe says the first part under her breath and then directs her question to Mr. Rumboldt.
Captain Peacock walks over to her and hugs her gently. "It's going to be alright, Betty. We can always grab some things from the camping department to stay on."
"I do not stay on the floor anywhere and I am unanimous in that." Mrs Slocombe says turning her nose up at the idea.
"We may not have a choice. Even with a car the streets of London will be crammed with people. It would hardly be worth it to try and head home." Captain Peacock says logically.
Mrs Slocombe mumbles under her breath for a few moments before she replies, "If that's the only way then I'll stay I suppose, but don't imagine that I'm happy about any of this. I better get to stay with Stephen or I won't be very happy."
"Well, now, I don't know about that, after all the two of you are not married. I don't think that would be entirely proper." Mr. Rumboldt says with a wicked smile on his face.
"What's not entirely proper is you sleeping with your secretary when you knew she was married to someone else! Don't lecture me on impropriety, Mr. Rumboldt! You have no right!" Mrs Slocombe says loudly.
"Oh, sure, throw that in his face! That's a good way to get him to let you and Captain Peacock stay together! That was really dumb!" Mr. Lucas crows.
"I'll thank you to keep your nose out of this!" Mrs Slocombe says hostilely.
Captain Peacock watches Mr. Rumboldt very closely. He can see the wheels turning in Mr. Rumboldt's mind. "Alright, Mrs. Slocombe you and Captain Peacock can share while this transit strike is on." He then walks away.
"Why do I get the feeling we're going to pay for this privilege later?" Betty whispers to Stephen.
"Probably because we are. Mr. Rumboldt can't stand anyone getting their own way except for him." Stephen whispers back.