Giving birth was the worst thing I had ever done in my life. I never imagined it would be so painful, the nurses had thought I was dying the screams were so loud. Electra Belgravia came out of the womb with the umbilical cord wrapped around her neck, which the doctors had thankfully fixed. I hadn’t chosen her name until the moment I saw her, when I thought of the tumultuous circumstances of her conception, and of her delivery, Electra had came straight to mind.
She was the most incredible thing, with her sweet smiling face, bright blue eyes, and lovely blonde hair. Strangers would remark how alike we were ‘she has definitely inherited her mommys hair!’ they would skquark as they leaned over the stroller to inspect her. If only they knew it was Riley’s hair, not mine.
She soon became adapt in everything a toddler needed, learning to walk, talk, and poop in quick succession. Watching her making those first tentative steps towards me was one of the proudest moments of my life, and from that moment on I knew I’d never sleep safe again unless she was safe.
Money brought safety. Being a Belgravia had taught me that much at least, which was why I had been on several dates with Maxwell ‘Max’ Elphinstone. He was actually rather interesting, totally not my style, but he had money, and I had to make sure Electra was cared for. Tonights date would be our 8th since I had first met him at the bar, which I was still doing shifts at. I knew I had to look great for this one, although it was kind of hard to make sure I looked good when the only mirror in the house was in the bathroom, which had a blown light. Trying to achieve beauty by the moon light was not for me.
When I arrived at Perdrix D’Or an hour later, after putting Electra in her crib and making sure Darcy (who I had bribed into babysitting by offering to cover one of her shifts) had my phone number, I was thrilled to find we had a private room, just my style. After downing three bottles of wine between us my tounge began to loosen, if I was going to marry this man I should at least tell him the truth, shouldn’t I?
“Max, I know you want to know about Electra’s father, yes?” I couldn’t seem to stop myself telling him, I hadn’t told anyone about my brutal rape, I just had to get it off my chest.
“If you’re ready to talk about it yes.”
“Well the truth is…” Could I really say it out loud, it all began to feel so real, it felt like a distant memory if I just focused on the good that came out of it, the birth of little Electra, but now that I was about to say it I wasn’t so sure, “…I was raped Max. Sorry to just blurt it out, but I had to tell someone. I’m so ashamed.” I was tripping over my words in nerves, my hands shaking so much that my glass fell out of my hand and shattered to the floor, staining the Persian Rug with red wine.
His mouth dropped in horror for a few seconds before he regained his composure, oh god he was going to run out on me, then Electra would grow up with nothing. “Mary, don’t be ashamed. It should be the despicable thing that did that to you that should be ashamed.” He looked down gravely for a few seconds, “I assume this man is Electra’s father?” I nodded back slowly, wiping away a tear that threatened to spill onto the dress I had stolen from Carlie’s wardrobe before I left Miami.
“Max while I’m telling the truth I have another confession,” he was going to think I was a nutcase, with all my lies, “my name isn’t Mary, it’s Olive. I changed it when I ran away, I didn’t want anyone to find me, I was just so embarrassed and ashamed…” what had I gotten myself into? Saying things out loud made me realise the severity of my situation. I was a single mother, working in a bar, trying to raise a child who was the result of a rape in a one bedroom cottage while living under a false name. How had this happened?!
“I know.” he said, throwing his arms up. He knew? What?!
“What do you mean you know?” I asked, deeply confused.
“I know that you’re Olive Belgravia. You’re far too beautiful and cultured to be common Olive. I had my PI do some research on you, and now that you’ve told me the truth…” He jumped out of his chair and got down on one knee. Was this really happening?!
“Olive. You told me the truth, about everything. You are a beautiful woman that I now know I can trust, I can give you the life you left behind back. Will you marry me?” He opened the box, flashing the huge diamond in my face. I hesitated for only a second.
“Of course I will!” I screamed as he slipped the diamond onto my hand, my plan had come together even better than I expected.
Returning home in a daze I found Darcy asleep on the sofa. Quickly shooing her out and running upstairs I grabbed Electra out of her bed and swung her around the room in joy. “Mommy’s getting married sweetie, you hear me, we’re moving out of here!” As happy I was that I could now buy my own Chanel, I was happier that Electra had some security, Max would take care of her, I knew he would. Besides, I had a plan to make sure he couldn’t leave us with nothing.
* * *
Three weeks later I went to meet Max’s parents, which I was actually nervous about. I’d never even had a boyfriend before, and now I was engaged to be married, it was surreal. As the taxi pulled up outside the gates of the ancestral Elphinstone manor I felt the nerves getting worse. What if they hated me, what if they refused to allow Max to marry me? What on earth was I saying, he was 52 years old for god sake, he could do what he wanted.
In the foyer I was met by Elizabeth Elphinstone, an overly made up woman in her eighties in a pink Chanel suit who reeked of old money, supposedly a great beauty in her day although I didn’t see it, and Albert Elphinstone, Max’s ruthless father, who had clawed his way to the top of the business, destroying anyone who got in his way.
“It’s so nice to meet you.” I said, extending a hand, which Elizabeth ignored and Albert shook so hard I thought my fingers may break.
“Come dear, lets leave the boys to talk. I want to show you the grounds.” Elizabeth hurried off ahead of me. I was impressed by the gardens, especially the pond, but I had to admit the house was a little daunting. It was a true manor, grand and imposing, whereas my childhood house was really a home, cosy and friendly.
“Now dear I hope you will agree to be married here, just I as was, and my mother before me, and her mother before her. This house has been in my family for generations.” It was becoming clear that this was the woman who ran the show. Her husband had taken her ancient family name when they married, Mrs. Rom wasn’t a name that had appealed to stuck up Elizabeth.
“Yes of course, I couldn’t think of a better setting. I was thinking of doing it over there by the pond.”
“Yes, I think that’s doable…” She mused, looking around her perfectly manicured gardens.
“Maybe have a band over there, and a whole bunch of doves released when we exchange the rings.” I hadn’t really thought about the wedding, I just wanted to get it over with.
“Darling! Doves? You simply cannot, now I know you’re relatively new money but you must have some class.” New money? I was a third generation heiress, or I would be if I hadn’t ran away. Now why don’t you just leave everything in my very capable hands, I’ll make sure it’s the perfect wedding.” She spread her arms wide in what I guessed was supposed to be a caring gesture, god she was definitely going to make things hard for me.
“Oh and darling, I took the initiative and booked you a dress fitting, it’s at 5.” She began to walk back to the house before spinning around with a last thought, “Oh, and I do hope you’re not hiding any post-baby weight under that black jumper. A fat bride is most unbecoming.” Yep. Definitely trouble.