Monday's child is fair of face.
Tuesday's child is full of grace.
Wednesday's child is full of woe
And Thursday's child has far to go.
Friday's child is loving and giving.
Saturday's child works hard for its living.
But the child that is born on the Sabbath day
Is bonny and blithe and good and gay.
Old Nursery Rhyme
One evening in mid-September, three months after their wedding, the telephone rang and Becca answered it.
"Please may I speak to Mr Hardacre?" asked a young female voice.
"Hold on a moment. Who's speaking?"
"His niece, Becca."
"Hello? Are you still there?"
"Er, yes! I'm sorry you gave me a big surprise."
"Why? Who are you anyway?"
"His wife. We thought you'd vanished to darkest Australia for ever. Hang on a mo' and I'll get him."
She put the telephone down and ran to the sitting room. "Darling," she whispered, "it's your niece, Becca."
"What?" Steven gaped at her and then sprang to his feet and ran to the phone. "Becca, dearest! I thought you'd gone for ever. Where are you? How are you?"
There was a chuckle from the other end. "Slow down, Uncle Steven. I'm at Heathrow and would like to come and stay with you, just me. Ray's still in Australia. I'll tell you everything later but there's a train from St Pancras in fifty minutes' time which gets in to you at nine thirty-seven. I'll get a taxi from the station."
"You slow down, young lady. Yes, of course you can come and stay and no, you won't get a taxi: I'll meet you. You'd better fly or you'll miss your train. I can't wait to see you."
"Me too! I'll ring again if I miss it. 'Bye."
He returned to Becca in the sitting room shaking his head. She looked at him anxiously. He took her in his arms and kissed her nose.
"There's nothing to worry about, little one," he said. "She's coming to stay with us, that's all."
"But I've pinched her identity."
"She might be hurt and angry."
"Why? Because a girl who happened to be named Becca married her uncle and became Becca Hardacre? Anyway, she's probably Becca Bloggins now."
Becca giggled. "You'll be in your element," she teased. "Call Becca and two lovely young ladies will come running."
"Since when did you run, madam?"
"Whenever you call me."
Steven snorted and they both laughed. "I love you," they both said together and clung to each other laughing again.
"I'd better go and sort my old room out," said Becca eventually.
"What needs doing other than making the bed?"
"Dusting and vacuuming."
"I'll give you a hand."
Becca smiled lovingly at him. She still found his willingness to help her touching. "You don't have to, darling."
"She's my niece and I enjoy being with my wife."
"Your wife enjoys it too."
She took his hand and led him to the cupboard under the stairs. "Vacuum," she said.
She grinned at him and went to collect some dusters and furniture polish. She led him upstairs and collected sheets and pillow cases from the airing cupboard.
"Bed first," she said. "Making them always creates dust."
They made it together and then Becca dusted while Steven vacuumed. She gave the dressing table a quick polish.
"Thank you darling," she said. "That didn't take long."
"Many hands make light work," said Steven unctuously and received an elbow in the ribs for his pains.
Becca dabbed some furniture polish on his nose.
"There! There! Better now!" she laughed.
Steven grabbed her and, sitting on the newly made bed, put her across his knee. He raised her skirt and gave her two pats on the bottom.
"That's what happens to disrespectful wives," he said.
"More," she growled and they both collapsed with laughter.
Having tidied the bed again they went back downstairs and put everything away.
"I imagine Becca will be hungry. Shall we wait for supper until she arrives?" asked Becca.
"Yes, let's but in the meanwhile I think we both deserve a drink."
"What a good idea and we can have another one when she gets here."
"Even better. Are you going to come to the station with me?"
"No, darling. I suspect she'd prefer to be alone with you to start with. Anyway, I can deal with the supper while you're out."
Steven smiled gratefully at her.
They took their drinks through and sat together on the sofa.
"Cuddle me, darling," said Becca. "With someone staying we're not going to be able to as much as usual."
Steven shunted up the right hand end of the sofa and turned slightly inwards. Becca leant back into his right shoulder and his arm went round her.
"The trouble is I can't get at my drink," he grumbled.
"Don't worry, my precious. I'll feed you."
They sat or rather lay in contented silence.
"Darling," said Becca suddenly, "when do you want to start having children?"
"I haven't thought. What about you?"
"Half of me says now and the other half says give it a year. The now half is just my longing to have children and fulfil my ambition of bringing them up in the love I never had. The wait a year bit is my wish to give myself to you entirely without distraction and then the first part says that I've been doing that for two years. That isn't true because we weren't both involved in that."
"My mule period. Sorry, darling."
"Forget it. That's in the past but I do think that we ought to spend a bit longer just loving and enjoying each other selfishly. Is that all right?"
"Very. Why don't we talk about it again at Christmas unless the urge for motherhood overtakes you before then?"
She smiled gratefully at him and reached for his drink. "Suck," she said.
At half past eight she sighed. "I don't want to get up. I'm very happy where I am but I need to do some preparatory stuff for supper. Do you want to open a welcome home bottle of wine?"
"What are we having?"
"Yum! Definitely. Where did you learn to cook that?"
"I found a stack of old Cordon Bleu recipes at the second hand bookshop."
"You are a clever girl."
"Yup!" She smiled. "What I do for my man!"
"Do you want any help?"
"No thanks, darling, unless you want to sit and chat. You probably would like to watch the news headlines at nine before you go to the station.
"I can do both."
Steven left at quarter past nine. Becca was nervous about meeting his niece. She was his only remaining family and she, Becca, had stolen her identity. Not for long though. Once she was sixteen and Chief Superintendent Nick Crossley had quietly removed her name from the missing persons list she had no need of an alibi. She had kept the name Becca though because it separated her from her past. The real Becca could not fault her on that. That their names were the same could perfectly well be chance. On the other hand there was the family side to the equation. Would Becca take exception to her for some reason? There was none for her to. Steven had fought off his love for her for two years before admitting to it. Becca could hardly hold that against her. Nevertheless she was still nervous.
Steven had reckoned that unless the train was running badly late he would be home by ten fifteen at the latest. He was not and Becca fretted.
The train was not late. Steven embraced his niece warmly. She was still the little dark-haired elf that he had always been so fond of. He led her to his car and they both got in whereupon Becca flung her arms round his neck and burst into tears, not emotional tears of being back with someone she loved but real gut-wrenching ones; ones that told of fear and deep mental distress. Steven held her silently. At length she calmed down and sniffed. She found a tissue and blew her nose.
"I'm sorry, Uncle Steven," she said. "It's just that I'm overwrought about leaving Ray and I'm also frightened for him and for me."
"Why are you frightened, Becca?"
"Because he was doing something criminal, which is why I left him, and I think his accomplices may try to take both of us out because my leaving him may make them think we are a danger to them."
"So that's why you came to me rather than your mother."
"Becca, my sweet, I hate to tell you but she's dead."
This produced further tears and a need to be held. Finally, she managed to pull herself together.
"I'm sorry, Uncle Steven, I'm a bit of a mess at the moment. What happened to Mum? Did she get cancer or something?"
"No, my dear. She was killed in a hit and run accident about a month after you vanished."
"It was almost instantaneous, if that's any help."
There were, unsurprisingly, more tears. Finally they stopped.
"I need to get you home and fed," said Steven gently. "You'll feel better after that."
"But I'm in no state to meet your wife."
"Nonsense. She won't mind what state you're in unless you keep her waiting and, if you need comforting, she is one of the best people in the world at giving it. Come on, sweetheart."
He disentangled himself and started the engine.
"How long have you been married?"
"Three months plus."
"How long have you known her?"
"Two and a half years."
"What's her name?"
"Wait and see."
"Wait and see."
"How old is she?"
"Wait and see."
"Oh, you!" She was clearly intrigued despite being a little piqued and it helped to cheer her up. "I'm going to have to bash you up."
Steven chuckled again. "She'll probably help you if the supper's overcooked."
They continued in silence for the remaining two minutes of the journey.
Becca met them in the hall. The two girls looked at each other Niece Becca's eyes widened.
"Becca meet Becca," said Steven smiling from ear to ear.
Wife Becca held out both hands and Niece Becca took them. "You're the same age as me," she said incredulously. She turned to Steven, "No wonder you wouldn't tell me her name or age, you beastly man."
Steven continued to smile broadly but there was a tinge of smugness about it too.
"And you're beautiful too," she added turning back to Wife Becca who squeezed her hands and smiled warmly at her.
"Thank you," she said quietly. "So are you. Much better than the photographs. Anyway, you must be starving. Would you like a drink before we eat?"
"I'd love one."
"What would you like?" asked Steven.
"Whisky and soda, please. It's not my usual drink," she added hurriedly, "but I think it's what I need just now."
Wife Becca took her jacket and hung it over the banisters while Steven went and dealt with the drinks. She led her to the sitting room where they both sat on the sofa.
"How..." they both started and giggled. The ice was broken.
"You first," said Wife Becca.
Niece Becca smiled back. "How did you two meet?" she asked.
"In the park. I was cold, wet and hungry having run away from the children's home two days earlier. He found me, fed me, clothed me and took me on as his housekeeper."
"I also had to take her on as my niece to provide her with an alibi," said Steven as he gave them their drinks, "which is why she's another Becca."
"I could have given up the name when we came clean and I was no longer on the missing persons' list but it represented the break in my life and so I kept it. I hope you don't mind."
"I'm almost flattered actually but we can't both go on being Becca. What if I used my second name, Mary?"
"No, if anyone should change their name it's me."
"Normally I would agree," said Steven, "but from what you told me in the car, sweetheart, it might be a better idea for you to change your name."
Niece Becca nodded.
"What's all this?" asked Wife Becca.
"After supper," said Steven decisively.
"OK," said Niece Becca. "Mary I am."