If she is to be separated from their son, Grace tells him without preamble, then she wants Ada to take care of Charlie in her stead. She wants him to tell his sister what exactly is going to occur, to tell her help him. This is her only request, and she knows Tommy has never been able to deny her anything. His wife boards the train in the early morning light, blonde waves obscured by a large hat. His cheek is still warm from her kiss as he watches the train pull away, mind whirling with what step he should take next. They’ve devised a plan, a public funeral with a closed, empty casket, a plan which shall hopefully dupe everyone into thinking Grace is gone from this world. And then, when everything has been sorted out and it is safe once more, she will return...hopefully before their second child is due to be born. He doesn’t think she'll ever forgive him if he misses the birth of what Grace is confident shall be a daughter. He doesn’t think he’d forgive himself.
He fulfils the second half of Grace’s request after the funeral has concluded, drawing Ada away from the rest of the family and driving hurriedly home, ignoring Arthur’s shouts of confusion. Ada has already volunteered to take care of Charlie, told him that she'll move in with Karl for a few months or so to make sure the baby isn’t too upset by his mother’s sudden absence. But that offer had come when Ada believed Grace to be dead, and now here he is, telling her she isn’t. To her credit, Ada merely furrows her brow at his confession, crossing her arms as she thinks.
“Will it ever be safe though, Tommy?” she finally queries. They are so very alike, he and Ada. Both have their mother’s dark hair, both have been forced to part from the ones they love. But whilst Freddie’s departure had been rendered permanent, he is determined not to let the same fate befall Grace. It isn’t only their son that needs her, but Tommy himself. In the weeks since the shooting and her hurried departure, he’s found himself near unable to sleep, unable to eat, unable to breathe, Grace’s scent fading from the clothes she left behind and her photograph a pale imitation of her beauty. He misses her so much he fears the feeling shall overwhelm him entirely, and he’s glad Grace demanded he tell Ada the exact circumstances of her departure - if only because he needs to share this burden with someone, needs someone else to be aware that Grace is alive, to reassure him that he isn’t dreaming.
He lights a cigarette, thankful that his sister has simply accepted his words and not challenged them. “I’m going to make it safe,” he answers, mostly to himself. I am, I am, I am. He draws quickly on the cigarette, inhales the smoke with ease. “I promised her.”
Ada merely nods in acceptance, taking the seat opposite him and pouring herself a whiskey, no water. “You still want me to take care of Charlie?” she asks, looking directly at him.
It still surprises him sometimes, that fact that his little sister has grown up to be the very image of their mother - what little Tommy can remember of the woman whom left their lives all too quickly after John’s birth. But that isn’t why he’d trust no one else with Charlie’s care, not even Polly. No, Ada is a fine mother, a loyal sister, and he trusts her. No matter how different their political stances, no matter how frequently and recklessly they quarrel, she would never do anything to betray him. She’d never do anything to harm the small sliver of happiness he has carved out for himself in this miserable world.
Tommy nods, stubbing out his cigarette with perhaps more force than necessary. “Mary has said she’ll take care of him, but I don’t want her putting him to sleep of a night, not when...not when Grace can’t.”
Grace’s most beloved time of day is when it comes time for Charlie to go to sleep. As soon as their son grew and became more aware of the world around him, more alert, she began singing to him when it was his bedtime, songs from her own childhood that her mother had sung to her. Whenever Tommy can, whenever he is home, he’ll stand in the doorway to his son’s nursery and watch Grace sing Charlie to sleep, her voice still as beautiful as the first time he heard it. Now, because of him his son has to go bereft of his mother’s voice, his mother’s touch. Tommy knows that Charlie will never remember the months Grace spends away from them, but he still mourns for his son, mourns for himself, because this grand house he bought for her seems so very cold without Grace in it.
He inhales, grateful for the cool metal of his wedding band against his finger. Grace is alive, he tells himself. She’s alive, and you are going to make it safe again.
“She’ll be able to put him to sleep soon enough,” Ada tells him, coming to stand beside him. Her hand rests lightly on his shoulder, a comforting touch Tommy welcomes. He can barely stomach the looks the rest of the family are giving him, Polly’s pitiful glances when he knows she’s still infuriated by Grace’s presence in their lives, Arthur’s desire to make everything better without knowing how, John’s barely contained fury at all of Tommy's decisions, fury that makes him want to scream – what if she had really died John? What if my fucking wife had really died? He knows that it is mostly upon him that the fact that their enemies even dared to try and hurt Grace in the first place falls. He knows this more than he knows his own name, and it keeps him awake at night, thinking about what could have happened if Arthur hadn’t knocked the gunman to the ground. Still, he cannot help but curse the day John ever thought himself to be in love with Lizzie Stark, because even more than four years later, even with Esme, two more children to add to Martha's three, and another on the way, his brother is more than willing to wreak havoc for the feelings that linger in his heart.
He deplores the looks they all give him, the pity, the uncertainty of what to say. Ada understands though, having been through it all before. She perhaps is the only one whom really does, and he's grateful for her silence upon the matter, even before he told her the truth. It’s been three years since Freddie’s death, and his sister has somehow managed to cope through all the pain whilst raising Karl alone. It’s been three weeks since he watched Grace leave, and he’s barely managed to remember how to breathe. He wants to ask his sister how she does it, how she manages to go on existing with half her heart missing, but he swallows the question alongside a slosh of whiskey instead.
“But while she can’t, Karl and I will,” Ada continues. “He adores Charlie, you know.” She grins at the thought, shaking her head lightly. “His adoration probably more to do with Charlie’s array of toys, but still.” She runs her hand gently over his shoulder, the way she did when they returned from France and Ada wept at the sight of her brothers, all three of them broken but still whole, still alive, just like they had promised. “We’ll take care of him, Tommy.”
He’s silent, inherently conscious of the quietness of the house. Charlie is napping, his servants scattered in fear of encountering him in a bout of grief. It’s far too quiet, too gloomy, without Grace, and he wonders why he ever bought such a large house in the first place. She would have been happy all those years ago, in her tiny, biscuit-free one room in Birmingham, if he'd only given them a proper chance at happiness. Tommy, Grace and Charlie, and the other baby hopefully just as safe as its mother. That’s all they really need, not this house with far too many bedrooms. Grace had refused to let Charlie sleep anywhere else than in the room connected to theirs, a room perhaps meant more for storing her clothes than for housing their son, and he should have known then and there that such a large house was unnecessary.
“Thank you for telling me,” Ada murmurs, sipping at her whiskey. “You keep too much locked up, Tom. It worries me, how much you don’t tell us.”
His lips twitch at her words, for whilst he might not tell his family everything, but he does tell Grace. Ever since she came to him at the races and confessed both her pregnancy and her love, he’s made a point of telling her everything…even if sometimes he doesn’t tell her things at the exact time they occur. Now, without her here, he supposes it is upon Ada that his confessions shall fall. He can only hope that the presence of Charlie, Ada and Karl will be enough to fill the void Grace has left in his life, in his heart, in his very soul, because he doesn’t like to think about the man he could become with such a wound left gaping for months of end. He takes one last sip of his whiskey, inhaling sharply.
"Now," Ada says, smoothing down her black dress, the very same one she wore to Freddie's funeral. "What do you need me to do?”