Chapter 3: As the Waves Roll By
The sand was warm to her unshod feet—the kind of warmth that told her she was living a life, and not the burning heat she endured while selling her soul in the bakehouse. She welcomed the uncommon warmth in her feet as well as the warmth of the sun kissing her pale face, but most of all, she revered on the warmth in her hands that was ensnared in the arm of her lover. She would have loved to feel the warmth by holding his hand, but it was still too intimate for him to display outside where people could see. And she understood; perfectly contented in knowing that he too was living life beside her.
She was sporting a wide grin in that bright, sunny day in Brighton; wearing a navy bathing costume with striped stockings that matched Sweeney's outfit. Although he was grudgingly lagging beside her with her old blanket slumped onto his shoulder, he did not put up much of a fight with his bathing costume. How could he? He was completely spent in bliss after their early morning rump when she forced his bathing costume on him. He simply could not refuse after all her effort to please him.
Such a shame it was not a bank holiday and there was not many to witness her parade in Sweeney's arm. How she so wanted to be the envy of the town—with such a handsome "husband".
Her pace quickened, dragging Sweeney with her, as the view of the sea came nearer. She could not wait to traipse on the water and possibly soak naked with Sweeney.
The beach was almost empty saved a few figures they could barely spot at the far side of the beach and some women already sea bathing. They chose not to dive in straight away to the sea and instead pick a spot in the middle to settle with their blanket, far from the two groups occupying the beach. It has only been a few minutes after she laid beside Sweeney when a man towered over them, determined to interrupt their moment. She wanted to kick the man for disrupting, as she was not even able to rub her knees on Sweeney's.
"Excuse me, Sir, Madam," the man coughed, "but this place is a segregated beach. In the interest of propriety and decorum, I must insist that the two of you separate and you, my good Sir, to go dipping with the men out there." He finished his speech with his chest puffed out and flourishing his arm to the men on the farthest side.
Nellie was at first at loss with words but when the situation dawned on her practical mind, she shot up to her feet, bringing Sweeney with her.
"But you see, Sir, we are just married and on our honeymoon." How smooth did the lies glide on her tongue, and how used Sweeney was to her skillful lies to not protest. "Surely you will not be so cruel as to separate us on this very important time of our life."
"I am sorry, Madam. But rules are rules, and I simply must impose them." The man countered, looking more self-important than before.
But Nellie had her way with men. "Why dear Sir…" She was already pulling down her blouse to show off more of her ample bosoms when Sweeney tugged it back up. Her tone shifted from flirty to business like in a matter of seconds. "How much will it take for you to turn a blind eye on us?" She already has her purse out in her hand.
The man's eyes danced in glee at the mention of money as if he had accomplished his mission. "Surely you don't mean to buy me off, Madam? Because I really cannot accept bribes." He said it quite seriously, but he could not deceive Nellie who saw how he rubbed his hands in anticipation of the pennies. "What you can do is to rent from me the very functional bathing machine over there." His pursed lips pointed to a lone contraption on the deserted part of the beach.
The exchange of pennies had been swift with the shake of their hands. In a blink, Nellie was speeding through the sand, flinging Aunt Nettie's blanket in the air, and Sweeney in stride by her elbow.
"I thought you say you were determined to be respectable on this trip, my pet?" Sweeney jested with a smirk plastered on his face.
"Oh, this is respectable enough, Mr. T. If I didn't want it to be, you will be chasing me now while I strip my bathing costume one by one."
When they reached the far spot the man pointed to, she urged Sweeney to dive first in the water, saying that she would be first inspecting the bathing machine. She entered the contraption, quite curious. There was nothing really. It was a tiny little box with an even tinier window on each side. She was about to exit on the other side when the box moved, making her shriek at the top of her lungs as she gripped the window to keep her balance.
"Enjoy the ride, Mrs. Lovett!" Sweeney shouted from the outside, as he pulled the bathing machine into the sea.
Nellie was mildly shocked at his playful antics, and she wanted to reward him for putting an effort to claw out of his gloomy slump. Hurriedly, she pulled up the top of her bathing costume, and was just stepping out of the pool of her bloomers when he entered from the side leading to the sea. He almost tripped at the sight of her naked body when he opened the door.
Nothing but a coy smile in her face, she teased him, "I think you'll enjoy more the ride I'm going to give you Mr. T."
The squeal that came out of her as he pulled her to him was melodic. His lips feasted on her neck as she divested him of his garments. Her fingers were deft in unbuttoning his bathing shirt that in no time, she was palming the muscular plane of his chest. As he sucked in the crook of her neck, her hands made a beeline to his crotch, massaging his arousal through the striped fabric. She heard a deep groan before his own hands that was raking her back went to the band of his shorts, impatiently pushing it off him.
She was about to grab his arousal, but he hoisted her up by the hips leaving her without a choice but to snake her arms around his neck as her legs wrapped around his torso. Wanting to be even closer to him, she pulled his face to hungrily capture his mouth in a frenzied kiss. She felt him cupped her bottom and with his encouragement, shifted her entrance to align with the tip of his arousal.
They moaned in unison as he pushed into her, completing their union. She squeezed her walls around him as pleasure coursed through her core, prompting him to begin moving inside her. With her heated body tightly wrapped around him, he backed her to the wall beside the door opening to the sea where he pounded into her in a quickened pace. The bathing machine rolled into the sea with the intensity of their coupling, but they were in no state to mind.
She was still straddling him when one of his hands moved to cup her breast, making her to groan quietly in delight. His nimble fingers moved downward, disappearing between her legs, exploring her in a way that only he had done. She opened her eyes to see the look of pleasure and concentration in Sweeney's face at the same moment he touched something inside her that sent waves of pleasure through her quivering body.
As she screamed out loud, tightening her grip against Sweeney's back, he continued his intimate caresses on her body; pounding inside her until he too found his own release. Together, they slid down the floor still entangled in each other's limbs as the salty water that has long invaded the bathing machine drowned their bodies.
When she got hold of her senses, she noticed the door opened to the sea; the waves inviting them in. She pecked Sweeney's lips before she asked him quite sultrily, "Would you like to swim now, Mr. T?"
On the first week they were staying in Brighton, Jim—the young man who was minding the beach—was already making a living off them "renting" the isolated bathing machine. Sweeney idly wondered if it would be best for them if he would just slit the man's throat. She only had to mildly admonish him—reminding him of her wish to be respectable in this trip. Besides, they could both see the Jim was keen on Sweeney, and if only Sweeney was the sociable man that Benjamin was, they could be pals.
It was even through Jim's recommendation that they were seated at that moment in one of the outside tables of the greasy eatery, feasting on fish and chips. Most of the time, they would get their supper there—her reasoning out to Sweeney that she would rather go straight to bed and shag him than cook dinner. And by heavens, she truly did. But what she did not tell him was her overpowering hankering for the greasy meal. Her mouth was simply watering for it.
She had just finished her serving, but still wanted more. She eyed Sweeney's plate and without missing a bit, grabbed his fish and took a big bite off it. He just watched her with resigned air, rolling his eyes as he commented, "I told you to order three."
"But I know you'll always give me yours." She pouted and only grinned when he eventually pushed his plate to her. "Tomorrow, I'll order three when you promise you'll finish yours."
"You know you can finish all three, pet. Do you still have room for ice cream?" It has been their habit to go round the ice cream kiosk and get a cone to share—her of course getting more licks than him. She would always let him choose the flavor though and he would always choose vanilla—her favorite—making her heart flutter every time she licked on the ice cream. Sneakily, she would wait awhile to let the ice cream melt to his hand so she would have reason to lick his fingers clean.
As they got back to their lodgings with her still stuck to his arm, a surprise welcomed them. There was Mrs. Pye, coming out to greet them. She must have spied them from her window.
"Good evening, Mr. and Mrs. Todd," she greeted, "Have a nice sea bathing, have you?"
Then she dropped the surprise. She was going to host a dinner party for Mr. Pye's birthday the next day, she said. Would they mind showing up, she asked. Nellie blinked in surprise and the poor woman heartily took it that they accepted the invitation.
What happened to the high fences surrounding the house? Were they wrong to assume that the Pyes were not sociable people?
The next thing they knew they were outside the Pye's door—carrying a bottle of ale they brought from their Fleet Street stock—after a whole day of shagging. It was at half past six when they arrived, already a quarter of an hour late as they wanted to avoid much idle tattletales should they be early birds.
Mrs. Pye—Ada, she told them to call her—ushered them to the parlour where Mr. Pye—Martin—jumped to his feet and clapped his hands, cheerfully announcing they were ready to dine. Nellie was again, to say the least, surprised. At her second scan of the room, she knew she counted right. Apart from the Pyes and her and Sweeney, there were only three other persons present. Perhaps their first assumption was right—that the Pyes were not a sociable couple after all.
They were all swept to the dining hall before introductions could be made—not that it mattered much. In fact, Mrs. Pye—Ada—was already through serving her steamy clam chowder and the others were breaking bread when the relationship web was explained. Her and Sweeney was already acquainted with everyone in the room. There was Jim who was apparently Martin Pye's cousin. And the other couple, Willis Wright and her heavily expecting wife, Lula, ran the fish and chips hall they were frequenting. Apparently, Lula was Ada Pye's younger sister and Nellie should have connected the dots, but she was always so engrossed with Sweeney's sculpted physique to pay more attention to Ada and Lula's striking resemblance.
The food and drink flowed freely as Ada Pye, proving to be a gracious host in complete contrast to her Fleet Street counterpart, served them with roasts and potatoes and bread. But of the scrumptious spread, Nellie found herself still hankering for the fish and chips Lula brought to the small feast. The conversation flowed as freely as the food and Nellie was quite surprised with Sweeney adding to the talk when barbering was brought up. She could not keep the smile off her face when she realized that he really was starting to ease up. Maybe it was his revenge, or maybe the sea, or maybe the company. The one thing she was certain of was that in her heart, there was a glimmering hope for them to start anew.
"It's time for cake!" Ada announced, but instead of cutting the cake, Ada tucked it inside a basket and started ushering everyone out.
"Here, take this," Nellie was handed a shawl to wrap around her frame while Sweeney was handed a lighted oil lamp. In the confusion of it all, they found themselves following the little procession on their well threaded path to the beach. It was their little tradition—Jim said—to end the party with a bonfire. The party settled not far from their self-claimed bathing machine where a heap of wood was waiting to be lighted.
"I'd say this is how a good birthday should be!" Martin Pye cheered, pumping his arm up in the air with his bottle of gin as the other men started the bonfire.
They gathered round the celebrant and merrily sung while his wife brought him the cake to blow out the lighted candles.
"For he's a jolly good fellow,
for he's a jolly good fellow
For he's a jolly good fellow,
and so say all of us!"
The merry making continued as the slices of cake and bottles of gin made their round. The change of venue, with the soft glow of the fire and the light breeze of the sea, freed their inhibitions.
Jim was sat by himself closest to the fire, busily stringing a guitar that brought them a festive yet soothing melody in the background. She closed her eyes for a bit, willing for the sound to soothe the anxieties of her heart. She wondered then if at any time when she was tinkling the keys of her old accordion was she as untroubled as Jim was. The last music she could recall playing were, after all, sad and troubled ones.
When her eyes opened, she saw the Pyes too engrossed with themselves sharing cake and gin, with Martin Pye uncharacteristically feeding his wife a slice off his hand. A smile instantly graced her lips at the sweet moment she witnessed between man and wife, before a pang of jealousy surfaced in her weary heart. Would her and Mr. T, ever reach that point of domestic bliss, she wondered. He let her share his portions and lick the ice cream on his hand, but would there come a time that he would lovingly feed her on his own accord? Her heart said there was hope.
The Wrights were sat beside them with Lula's head pillowed on her husband's lap, her fingers playfully drumming across her pregnant belly in tune with Jim's music. In one moment, the peace of her expression was briefly replaced with surprise, before an even wider grin lighted her face as she guided her husband's hand to feel her tummy.
Nellie's hand drifted to her own stomach—never bloated to cradle a babe—knowingly feeling its emptiness. She wondered, would she ever be blessed with a little one—her own to love and cared for? In the deepest pit of her heart, she dearly hoped so. Her eyes glanced at the man who could make her dream come true. She followed his gaze, but he was lost to the fire. His one hand draped across her knee, however, was all she needed to continue hoping.
As Nellie looked around her, perched on the borrowed shawl, her heart longed for the contentment etched on the others' faces as they simply enjoyed themselves, celebrating life as they all lounged by the fire. She shifted closer to her lover, her head coming to rest on his shoulder. When a sigh of contentment escaped him as the top of her head nuzzled the side of his neck, her heart fluttered to ease.
As she peered through the window that morning, the sun reigning supreme in the sky above greeted her. It was the day she was waiting for to parade down the esplanade with the red polka dot parasol she brought from London on one hand, and her other side stuck to Sweeney's arms.
Clad only in her flimsy robe, she flew to kitchen hurriedly preparing a fry up of eggs and bacon and toasts plus a strong cuppa for the delectable aroma wafting through the small room could tickle Sweeney's nose. She debated with her inner self whether to wake Sweeney up, knowing that he only started to really sleep when they came to the seaside. Her own selfish whim of parading on the esplanade won, however. Plate of breakfast fry in hand, she went to serve Sweeney in bed, effectively waking him up with a chaste kiss. He groaned sleepily as she pulled away from him.
"You want more of that, Mr. T? Get up and eat this plateful, and maybe we can continue that later tonight," she said coyly with a wink.
Sweeney guessed right away where their destination would be as she pulled over her striped red and cream gown, she always told him she would wear during their walk on the esplanade.
Nellie was bouncing on the heels of her boots at the esplanade's entrance. She would have sprinted to the end—rue society and all—had it not been for Sweeney's very placid steps dictating both their pace. She contented herself then to savor the salty air while leaning the side of her face on Sweeney's shoulder where she admired the view. With the sea on both their sides, she felt like floating on a boat and she knew it was the closest to a boat ride with Sweeney she would get. The darkened look on Sweeney's face the first and only time she asked him to ride a boat with her was still very vivid in her mind. A while later, he told her in bits and pieces the harrowing ordeal he experienced escaping Botany Bay in a stolen boat. It was an experience she did not want him to relieve, even for her.
They went round the esplanade twice arm in arm—her pulling Sweeney to stop in particular spots and admire the view. All her haughty plans of making those frumpy well brought up ladies envious of her gown and parasol, and the handsome man she was snaked around slipped out of her mind. A breath of the salty fresh air and the view of the sea sparkling from the ray of sun almost filled her heart to the brim.
Nellie would have implored Sweeney to stay longer, but her rumbling stomach distracted her from the beautiful scene before them. She was, again, hankering for the Wright's fish and chips. When her hunger overpowered her serenity, she tugged Sweeney on the way to greasy eatery, but with a solemn vow to come back to the esplanade.
Her disappointment was paramount when she noticed that the tables outside were empty, and there was no line of people ordering fish and chips. When they drew closer, only Jim was there, checking the locks.
"Jim!" She called, not being able to contain her curiosity any longer. Jim's' face lighted when he recognized his visitors. "Howdy, my favorite lovers! Will you be visiting your bathing machine?"
Ignoring the slight blushing of her cheeks, she asked, "Where's Lula? They're never closed!"
"You didn't hear? The baby came today! I'm going to their house now to take a peek."
"The baby?! I want to visit too. Can we come with you?" Nellie did not wait for Jim's response for she was already pulling Sweeney to lead the way.
The babe and his new mother were sleeping peacefully when they came, effectively cutting their visit short. There were only the ever-proud father and the obviously elated Aunt Ada who solicited their promise to return. Nellie eagerly did, as she was already thinking of a present to get for the little one. Maybe there was time later before bed when she could quickly knit a cute little bonnet.
"Do you want to go have a drink with me?" Jim asked as they departed Wright's home. "We can drink right by your bathing machine so you can go straight to it," he added teasingly.
Ignoring Jim's ribbing, she sought Sweeney's eyes to ask his permission for once, but her grip on his arm was very tight, letting him know how badly she wanted to go. When Sweeney nodded his assent, she could not contain her excitement and pecked his cheeks even with Jim looking.
"Come this way, I know a shortcut so we can drink sooner, and you can go to your bathing machine," Jim said leading the way as he chuckled on the lovers' antics.
A short distance away from the Wright's home, Jim stopped by to open a wicket gate leading to an old, abandoned cottage. "This is where I hide my gin stash. The old couple who owned it has passed and their daughters already settled in London," Jim explained, going into the cottage.
Nellie followed in a much calmer pace, bringing Sweeney with her. She took her time scanning the outside where the yard is a mixture of overgrown and dried shrubs. There was a wooden swing for two that could carry both children and grownups alike. She was tempted to ask Sweeney to push her while they wait for Jim, but her curiosity to further explore the neglected cottage won over.
The paint of the house was already faded with time and neglect against it, but when she closed her eyes for a while, she could picture it clearly with the pale blue walls of her dreams and the wraparound porch painted white. She let go of Sweeney's arms to enter the cottage. The spacious but bare living room welcomed her. She imagined the walls papered with floral wallpaper or hand painted with gillyflowers, and the floor carpeted with plush rugs. She could place her rocking chair beside the huge bay window with Sweeney's armchair opposite her where she could always steal a glance in between her knitting.
"Feel free to explore around while I get the gin!" Jim shouted, probably from the kitchen. "You can go upstairs too if you want. Don't worry, the stairs are safe."
She found the stairs at the left side of the house, still taking careful steps despite Jim's reassurance. There was a loud creak on the third step, making anyone who would dare sneak at night to get caught. She wondered whether it would be her or Sweeney hankering for a little nightcap? Or the children just being naughty.
There were three bedrooms upstairs—all bare. The room closest to the stairs was the smallest. It could be the guest room—but would there be friends to stay the night? Maybe it could be an all-purpose room, or a storage perhaps? She went past the largest one in the middle knowing full well how she would want to decorate had it been hers and Sweeney's. Truth to be told, a huge bouncy bed with Mr. T is all she needed.
Instead, she went inside the third room, with a window displaying the perfect calm view of the sea. As she peered into the sea, she felt the wind blowing on her face, and she imagined soft curtains fluttering with the wind. She knew perfectly well what she wanted the room to be. She closed her eyes again, trying to hear her imagined soft cries and soothing lullabies bouncing off the walls.
"Do you want to live here?"
Had she heard him correctly, or was it a wistful part of her imaginings? She simply looked at her, eyes wide with wonder, "Mr. T?"
Awkwardly shifting his weight between his feet, he asked again, "Do you want to live here?"
The tears dancing in her eyes were clear enough response for him—enough for him to know that yes, it was all she ever wanted. Instead, she answered in a choking voice, "But I haven't seen the kitchen yet."
Hello, All! The past months have been so full of anxiety for me as I left my job and look for a new one. There were sleepless nights and I was out of sorts, I cannot even read Sweenett. But life has been good again and I'm so excited to finish this story. I hope you like it.