It was the sound of Mrs K vacuuming that woke them both the next morning. Although it was wonderful to be curled up in bed in Mark’s arms at last, Rachel couldn’t help wondering what kind of reception they would get when her own empty bed was discovered
Mark jumped out of bed and pulled on a tee-shirt and jeans. “Mrs K has made me promise not to wander around the house naked. I fear that we may have offended her sensibilities this morning. Stay put and I’ll try to pour oil on some troubled waters.”
Rachel grinned and slid back down under the duvet.
“Good morning, Mrs K!” said Mark cheerfully as he opened the kitchen door. “How are we this morning?”
“’WE are fine. I hope you aren’t playing fast and loose with our Rachel. We didn’t have that sort of thing going on in my day.”
Mark leaned against the kitchen table. “I have no intention of doing anything to upset Rachel, but yes. We are now an item. Lou doesn’t know yet, so if you could give us a chance to tell her before the jungle drums start beating, we’d both be grateful. I am officially on leave due to the fact that I have had complaints made against me by Rachel’s ex, and the entire Davenport-Hooper family, and my boss needs me to keep my head down.”
As he had suspected, Mrs Kneller’s initially cool response to Mark and Rachel’s new sleeping arrangements turned to total outrage against the absolute cheek of Sam and the D-H family to make complaints about him. He took the opportunity to nip down the corridor and fetch Rachel’s dressing gown before Mrs K had drawn breath.
“There’s orange juice there for the pair of you. Make sure you remember to bring the glasses back. Pluto’s been out for a wee and I’ve fed him. I take it that Lou will be your first stop once you’re up and about? I’ll finish off here and leave you to make your own breakfasts.”
Rachel was waiting behind the bedroom door and pulled on her dressing gown quickly before going into the kitchen. Mark went back into the bedroom, sat on the bed and kept his fingers crossed.
“I know it’s not the way things were done in your day Mrs K, but please be happy for us?” said Rachel. “You know that you are so much more to us both than the next-door neighbour who comes in and does. You are the Mum that neither of us ever knew, and the last thing either of wants to do is upset or offend you.”
Mrs K looked at Rachel over the top of her spectacles; she shook her head but gave Rachel a hug of forgiveness. “Heaven knows, I’ve had my mind set on you two becoming a couple, but I thought there might be a bit more courting before you jumped into bed together. This isn’t just a fling though, is it?”
“I can only speak for myself but I’m hoping that this will be a permanent arrangement.”
“An engagement and wedding then?”
“Possibly but we need to focus on Pete’s funeral, and getting Lou and the girls through it first. Whatever Pete became in the end, he was from this Village, and should be sent off by properly by his family and old friends. Will you help us with it?”
“I suppose it will be a bit less work in this house with only one bed to make; the pair of you have known sadness in your lives, so you need to make up for it in your own way. Your Mum indeed! Go and get our Mark, and I’ll put the kettle on for some coffee.”
“Thank you.” Rachel gave Mrs Kneller another hug, and almost skipped back to the bedroom where Mark, now fully clothed was waiting for her.
“I heard. Detectives need to have good hearing. Rachel, you are indeed a clever wordsmith.”
“I meant it Mark. Whatever other people may think of Mrs K, she has a huge heart, and I hated the thought of her being offended by our behaviour.”
“You gave all the right answers.”
“All of them?”
“If I had a ring on me, I would be down on one knee asking for your hand in marriage. Perhaps we are both more old-fashioned than we realise? Your being here has improved my life one hundred percent, and I love the thought of sharing the rest of it with you.”
Rachel wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry, so she did both and buried her face in Mark’s chest.
“Is that a yes then?”
“No one’s every proposed to me before – with or without a ring – but yes, please. You make me feel so happy, and able to do all the things that I want to do.”
“Get dressed then and I’ll put the toast on, and ask Mrs K for her blessing.”
Grabbing her clothes from the night before, Rachel downed the orange juice and ran down the corridor to her bedroom, hiding her face. Mrs Kneller watched her go and turned to Mark. “You haven’t upset her already, have you?”
“I don’t think so. Tears of happiness, I hope. I just asked her to marry me and she said yes. We need to go and buy a ring though, so I can do it properly. You can release the news at lunchtime if you like?”
“Good lad. Well, for what it’s worth, you have my congratulations.”
“It’s a blessing from you that we need.”
“Go on with you. It’s what I’ve wanted since the first time I met our Rachel. She’s pure gold. I’ve put some toast on, and once Rachel’s dressed, I’ll strip and remake her bed. She may as well keep her clothes in that wardrobe, you haven’t much room in yours with all that police stuff.”
“I thought about getting her a proper desk and chair so that she can write in there, rather than on the kitchen table or balancing on the dressing table. If she wants one that is. There’s a lot to think about, but Lou and the girls come first.”
Having dried her eyes and got dressed, Rachel came back into the kitchen to the welcome sight of Mrs K and Mark in a very congratulatory hug. He raised his head and grinned. “Mrs K will wait till midday before making the official announcement; that should be enough time to put a ring on your finger, and make us both more respectable? You aren’t having second thoughts, are you?”
Rachel took Mark’s hand and shook her head. “Not a chance. Perhaps I should go and put a dress on if there’s going to be an event?”
“Good idea lovely, and you Mark, need a shave. It’s all very well being on leave, but no one likes to kiss a man with stubble. I’m right aren’t I, Rachel?”
Rubbing her hand along Mark’s chin and cheek, Rachel nodded. “Designer stubble may be very trendy up in London, but I do love a nice clean shave.”
Remembering that Sam had been sporting a great deal of stubble when he turned up in the village, Mark hastened to the bathroom. By the time he had returned shaven and smooth, Rachel was waiting for him, and wearing a dress that he hadn’t seen before.
“I like that one as well. Is it new?”
“I bought it at Ben’s friend’s shop. You waited outside in the car so that I could browse in peace, and make my own choices. It was another thing about you that I appreciated.”
Mark put his arm around Rachel’s waist and gave her a squeeze. Mrs K looked on with an approving smile. “Well, you certainly make a handsome couple, I must say. If you’re going shopping you can leave Pluto with me. I expect the girls will want to come and take him out when they come home from school anyway. Out of my way now, I have work to do!”