Tommy blinked. He wasn't certain he had heard the words properly at first. Only he had. They just hadn't quite sunk in properly yet. A baby. Saoirse was having a baby. They were having a baby. So why was she crying? This was what she wanted, what they both wanted. Wasn't it? Hadn't they just the night before lay in bed intertwined and talked about what their future children would look like? Or had that all just been a figment of his imagination?
"I thought this would have been a good thing?"
"A good thing?" Saoirse sobbed. "Tommy, I don't know how I haven't noticed but I've not had my
monthly since the night that we... which is the night that Joe did what he did. Now can you tell me you think this is a good thing?"
Tommy felt like she had dropped a bucket of ice cold water over his head instantaneously. Now he understood completely. If it was as it seemed and she was almost three months pregnant, there was no way to tell whether the baby was his or that bastard's. There was only a matter of hours difference in between the timing. His mind was whirring with all sorts of thoughts and feelings. His first thought was for Saoirse. Hadn't she been through enough? Wasn't He upstairs, the man that Polly prayed to daily and with such devotion for a woman who needed no man in her life, satisfied that He had put Saoirse through enough? And now, when her life was finally going the way she deserved, when she finally had the joy and happiness that she was worthy of, it was in danger of being destroyed.
It was funny that the thing that should have concerned him most in that moment was the knowledge that his wife was possibly carrying another man's child, yet he found that to be the furthest thing from his mind. She was his concern and nothing else. This beautiful woman who had come into his life and turned it up side down and made him happier than he ever thought he could be. This amazing strong woman who has gone through so much and managed to drag herself out of that life draining black pit of despair and hurt over and over again. But would she be able to drag herself out this time? It was obvious to Tommy that no matter whose baby it was, this wasn't the welcome new Saoirse wanted. He couldn't say he blamed her. After all, if the child was to be Joe's it would be a constant reminder of what he had done and how he had tried to break her. Because having her face scarred for life wasn't reminder enough apparently. But what if it was his? What if it was a child made out of love, their love?
"I don't want it," Saoirse croaked, disturbing him from his thoughts.
"You don't mean that," he said.
"I do," she took a shaky breath. "I don't want it, Tommy. I don't want anything of his growing in me. I want it gone."
"And if it's mine?"
"It won't be," she shook her head, her bottom lip wobbling. "I know it will be his because this is me. Nothing ever goes right for me."
"That's not true," Tommy cupped her face and put his forehead against hers. "What about us? We're married and we're happy... what's wrong about that?"
"Being married to you is the only good thing I've ever had in my life," Saoirse sighed. "But if I keep this baby then that's ruined; it's tarnished."
"No," Tommy said vehemently. "Don't say that. A baby is a blessing."
"It would be if it was yours," she agreed.
"And there's a fifty percent chance that it is mine."
Saoirse looked down at her hands, picking absentmindedly at her nails. She just wanted to close her eyes and pretend this was all a bad dream. When she was back in the orphanage, she used to close her eyes at night and convince herself that when she awoke in the morning, the nightmare would be over. But dawn would come with its mocking cheeriness and she would be forced to continue to live her hell. She was a grown woman now and she didn't have to live like that ever again. She had escaped Joe and the orphanage, and she wasn't going to be dragged down again. Keeping the baby would ensure the extinction of the last glimpse of light she possessed and that was why she was adamant she couldn't keep it.
"I don't expect you to understand, Tommy," she said finally. "But I expect you to respect my decision."
"Respect your decision?" Tommy scoffed. "You expect me to take you to some back alley butcher and let them cut the baby out of you? A baby that might be mine?"
"Yes," she whispered quietly. "Because if you loved me at all, you would understand why I can't do this."
"Don't you dare play that card," Tommy spat. "You know I love you, but I won't stand by and let you kill my baby."
"It might not be your baby."
"And it fucking might well be!" he roared, launching his cap across the stable in a fit of rage.
Saoirse had never in her life been afraid of Tommy. She knew he could be dangerous when truly provoked, but she had never really seen that side of him before. She wasn't scared of him in the way she ever had been of Joe because she knew deep down that Tommy would sooner die than lay a finger on her in anger, but she still didn't relish being the cause of his rage.
The only sound that filled the stable was that of their heavy breathing and the gentle rustle of the horse eating its hay, seemingly unperturbed by the humans arguing in its temporary home. Tommy's hands were clenched into tightly wound fists at his side and he was shaking with the effort it took to keep his anger in check. It wasn't even Saoirse that he was mad at; he understood what she was saying completely. He was just mad at the entire situation. This wasn't how it was supposed to go, and he hated anything that was out of his control.
"I'm sorry," he muttered, clearing his throat. "I didn't mean to lose my temper."
"I'm sorry, too," Saoirse replied sadly. "I'm sorry that my choice hurts you but it's my choice, and I'm doing it with or without your approval."
"Look, why don't we just hold off from making any rash decisions right now?" Tommy sighed. "Let's visit the doctor and just see what he says, then we can decide what to do?"
"I've told you what I'm doing."
"Saoirse, please," Tommy pinched the bridge of his nose in an effort to stay calm. "Please just see the doctor and we'll talk?"
"Fine," she agreed.
She would let Tommy think he could reason with her if that helped the situation, but the truth was that she was getting rid of it no matter what he or the doctor, or even the King for that matter, said.
Tommy had them booked in to see the very best doctor in Birmingham the next day, but no matter how good he was he couldn't change the outcome of the situation. Saoirse was around ten weeks pregnant and no mortal knew who the father was; only the big man in the sky knew that and He was keeping his cards close to his chest. The silence during the car ride home had been deafening and Saoirse had sat as still as a statue, barely breathing, barely blinking. As the car pulled up on Watery Lane, Saoirse took a long breath before finally speaking.
"There's a woman in Stoke who will do it and she's far away enough to not know I'm married to a Shelby," her voice was quiet yet determined. "Polly or Ada can come with me so you don't have to and when I come back, we can forget all about this and live our lives how we intended to."
Tommy didn't trust himself to say a single word. Instead his back molar cracked under the intense pressure of his jaw grinding angrily as he tried to remain calm. In the end, he yanked open the car door and flew out down the road, his coat flailing behind him. Saoirse wanted so desperately to allow herself to feel guilty at hurting the person she loved the most in the world, but she couldn't because she hurt even more herself. A new life growing inside of her was supposed to be precious and joyful, but this felt like an amalgamation of every bad thing that she had ever gone through in her life. Only the night before she had dreamt that when the baby was born, it had been the spitting image of Joe and she had awoken sweating and panting with tears pouring down her face. It had terrified her to no end and she knew she could never love a child that might have been borne from the most horrific ordeal she had ever lived through.
Sighing, she wiped away the tiny tear that rolled down her cheek and sniffed, determined to pull herself together before she went into the house. She had to be strong and get through this. Tommy might not see that it was for the best right now, but in time he would.
In the week that passed, Tommy and Saoirse had barely looked at one another, let alone spoke. They lay in bed beside each other yet feeling further away than ever before. When the morning finally came for Saoirse to take the train to Stoke, Tommy was sat at the kitchen table smoking cigarette after cigarette while his wife packed her bag upstairs in their bedroom.
"Polly, have you seen my black heels?" Ada asked Polly as she chewed on a piece of toast and fixed her bobbed hair in the mirror.
"What's wrong with your boots?"
"Nothing," Ada shrugged. "But I just want to look nice."
"You want to look nice?" Tommy narrowed his eyes coldly at her. "You want to look nice while you take my wife to get rid of our baby?"
Ada grimaced at how thoughtless she had been. She hadn't meant to be so insensitive.
"I'm only going with her because she asked me to so she wasn't alone," Ada explained lamely.
"Yeah, that I understand," Tommy muttered, flinging his cigarette into the ashtray. "But what I don't understand is why you're behaving like it's a fucking day out to the seaside or something."
"Tommy," Arthur frowned, placing a reassuring hand on Ada's shoulder. "Ada didn't mean anything by it."
"She didn't?" Tommy frowned. "And you're privy to the inner workings of Ada's head, are you? No, of course you're not because you can't even make sense of the fucking pathetic thoughts in your own head, can you?"
"There's no need for that, Thomas," Polly admonished him sternly.
"I'm not asking for your opinion, Pol, so keep your nose out, eh?" Tommy glared.
"And I'm not giving you any opinion," Polly answered tartly. "But I'm not going to let you to talk to everyone like shit because you're in a terrible mood."
"And why's that, eh?" Tommy stood up angrily. "I'll tell you why, shall I? In two hours' time, my pregnant wife is going to get on a train to go to a city she doesn't know so she can let a woman shove a fucking crochet hook or something equally as horrible up her, all so she can get rid of a baby that may or may not be mine. And there's not a single fucking thing I can do about it because she's made up her mind and I don't have a fucking say in the matter. All I find myself wondering constantly is how I can get through to her that if she does this, if she gets on that train, she's going to regret it for the rest of her life."
"You can't," Arthur muttered.
"Tell me something I don't already know, Arthur."
"Arthur's right," Polly agreed with an almost wistful look upon her face. "You can't get it through to her, but just maybe I can."
Saoirse looked up at the sound of the gentle rap on the bedroom door.
She gave a wobbly smile when she saw Polly holding a cup of tea and a plate of toast.
"Thought you might be hungry?" Polly smiled warmly, setting them down on the bedside table.
"Thanks Pol, but I don't think I can eat anything," Saoirse sighed, sitting down on the bed and putting her last few things into her overnight bag. "Is Tommy alright? I thought I heard him shouting downstairs."
"You did," Polly nodded. "He's… well you don't need me to tell you how he is because you already know."
Saoirse chewed her lip and closed up her bag before looking at Polly with an unreadable expression.
"You think I'm horrid, don't you?"
"No," Polly shook her head, reaching forward to take one of Saoirse's hands. "I don't think that at all."
"You don't?" Saoirse couldn't hide her surprise at the sincere softness in Polly's tone.
"Not at all," Polly smiled, sitting down at the end of the bed. "I can't judge you for something I've done myself."
Saoirse looked up and gasped, before frowning as Polly's words sunk in.
"You? I didn't… When?"
"When I was seventeen," Polly sighed, looking at the clock on the bedside table, wishing she didn't have to relive that time but knowing it was necessary. "I was young and naive; I thought I was in love and that he was the one. Turned out he was having it off with anything with a pulse, and I doubt I was the only one that got pregnant by him. But there was no way I could have kept it. My parents would have killed me, and so I got rid of it. And not a single day of my life has gone by where I haven't thought about that baby. What would they be like? Would they be a boy or a girl? Would they have looked like me? Would they have been kind? Funny? But I'll never know and I've lived with the guilt all my life. It's funny really because even when I was there, having it done I didn't feel anything; no attachment towards the tiny being growing inside of me. But days later when the baby finally came away, I knew I had made the biggest mistake of my life and could do nothing to change it."
"And you think that's what I'll be doing if I go through with this?"
"Not necessarily," Polly shook her head. "You're your own person and your thoughts and feelings can't and shouldn't be changed by someone else. But what I would say is that if you are feeling even the slightest bit of doubt about going through with this then you need to think long and hard before it's too late."
Saoirse closed her eyes and let out a breath that made her shoulders slump with the weight of the burden she was carrying.
"I'm scared I won't love it," she whispered. "I'm terrified that if I keep the baby, it will come out looking just like Joe and that I'll never be able to love it. What kind of life is that for a child?"
"And if it comes out looking like Tommy?"
"That won't happen," Saoirse sighed sadly. "I just know it won't."
"You don't know that," Polly squeezed her hand once more. "And from one mother to another, I promise you that the very second that baby is placed in your arms, you will love it like nothing else you have ever known."
"I don't know what to do," Saoirse sobbed. "What should I do, Pol?"
"It's not for me to tell you, love," Polly answered truthfully. "This is something you have to decide for yourself, but remember it affects not just you but Tommy as well. Your decision will affect the rest of your lives as a married couple."
Saoirse nodded and rubbed her eyes wearily. When she had purchased the train ticket, she had been so convinced and certain in her decision, but as the days had passed that certainty had crumbled little by little. She had no idea what she was going to do, but one thing she definitely knew was that she had to decide fast.