‘I’m just going to ask her father,’ James said, and then he picked up the phone and spoke in Arabic, not with Farrah but with the king.
He kept it brief.
‘I need Leila’s birth certificate,’ James said, and he knew the drama that would be going on in the palace tonight because he had had the audacity to call. ‘If I am to marry her.’
He was met with silence.
‘If it isn’t here within a week, then I will call every day,’ James said. ‘Or I will write letters, or I shall email, or I shall write to your press. I hope the noise I make—’ Manu’s lips pursed because of course what James would do would cause offence, but James had been practising this on his own and he cleared his throat ‘—will not upset your wife too much and in turn cause too many problems for you?’
It came in the post a week later.
Two days after that he stood with Leila in Central Park and married her on the very spot that James had told her he was in love with her. Then they had a photo taken on the bench where Leila had used to sit, drinking coffee, and where he had found her sitting that night. Already they had so many memories.
It was the tiniest of weddings.
Leila wore a cream robe that was threaded with silks that were the colours of the changing trees around them and, as James had said it would be, her favourite place in the world was spectacular at this time of the year.
James wore a suit but not socks and though he had had his hair cut for the day, on Leila’s instructions he hadn’t shaved.
They just grabbed passing joggers who were happy to stand for the brief service that was so terribly important to them but especially to Leila, for she wanted to be married before the baby was born.
James had been on the wagon for a little longer than he’d expected to be and tomorrow Leila was being induced because the baby was overdue. It lay low in her belly and kicked its applause as they shared a kiss that some passerby would make a fortune with when they sold it to the press.
No, Spencer would not be pleased.
They ate at her favourite restaurant and Habib made sure they had the very best table, but even with the best food and happiness on tap, Leila could not get comfortable.
‘Nothing,’ Leila said. ‘It’s been the best wedding I could have hoped for but now I just want to go home.’
When they got there Esther and Matthew were coming through the foyer and for once not arguing. ‘Esther! Matthew!’ James called out to them. ‘I’d like you meet my wife.’
The pride in James’s voice was unmistakable.
Leila felt completely at home and James never thought he’d be carrying his bride, let alone his very heavily pregnant bride, through any door, but it had never felt more right.
They made love as they had rather frantically for the last week because Muriel had said that it might bring the birth on.
Again, it didn’t.
Leila lay afterwards, listening to James sleep and watching the moon drift past her window and thinking of her new name.
Mrs Leila Chatsfield.
It was everything she could have hoped to be.
Her back was hurting and Leila had a long shower, then got back into bed, but nothing, not even happiness, could get her to sleep tonight. As she started to realise what was happening, she let out a moan because this wasn’t uncomfortable—this hurt.
‘It’s a dream,’ James said, and he rolled into her. ‘It’s just a dream.’
‘No, James it really hurts...’
‘I know...’ James started, but then he felt her stomach hard beneath his hand and he understood that it wasn’t some nightmare that Leila was locked in.
This was real.
‘This isn’t pain,’ Leila said later at the hospital as she refused an epidural.
Pain was what others did to others.
This was physical.
The need to bear down.
The need to have her husband’s face beside hers telling her she was almost there but the knowledge she could do this too.
‘A girl,’ James said as if they didn’t know that already.
And she looked at her baby that lay on her stomach. Even though she may not have been ready for a photo shoot, with her shrivelled skin from being ten days late, she was the most beautiful girl either had seen. Her feet were blue but already turning pink as Leila examined them as well as her once-perfect round nose, which was now flat from the delivery.