Sequel: In Unexpected Places

Against the Odds

Against the Odds - Chapter Sixteen


Alex gave herself one day.

She took the day off of work, she kept Emma home from school, and she gave herself one day to cry it all out, to feel sorry for herself, and to let Emma be sad. They sobbed together, they watched hours and hours of Disney movies, they ate ice cream and cookies, and they got it all out of their system in one day.

Then on day two Alex got her shit together. She got out of bed in the morning and resolved to do what she had promised herself, Emma, and Harry that she would do. She was going to take these four months and do for her and not be sad all of the time.

So she did just that. Each day she got out of bed and went through the routine. She worked hard at work, and she played hard with Emma in the evenings. She kept herself going the best way she knew how.


That first weekend Alex, Emma, and Mia went to the Tower of London. Emma had been when she was very young, but Alex had wanted to take her back since the first tea party with Harry when he told Emma that little girls who lied to princes get locked in the Tower. Emma still laughed about that joke and when Alex had suggested going Emma’s excitement at the idea made it completely worth it. She called Mia and asked her to join, knowing Mia’s love of all things historical and wanting to talk to her about some things. Mia had readily agreed.

Mia really looked up to Alex. Alex had always been very warm and sweet to her, but had always remained somewhat closed off. As a result, her excitement at going with her and Emma to the Tower wasn’t completely about the historical aspect. She had been to the Tower plenty of times. She was excited that Alex had asked her to go and that she would get a chance to maybe get to know her better outside of work, other than just dropping and picking up Emma after Mia babysat.

The three of them had a great time going through all the different buildings. Alex had talked to Emma no less than three times before they went that she couldn’t tell the tea party story out loud at the Tower as they didn’t want other people to hear. Emma rolled her eyes the second two times, telling her mum that she understood the first time and she knew what a secret was. Alex had to laugh and concede that it was true. After all, Harry had been around for months now and Emma hadn’t gone around and told anyone about him. Even after her birthday party, when all the girls that had been there would ask if she saw Prince Harry anymore, Emma would just roll her eyes and say, “Prince Harry is far too busy to hang out with my mum, puh-lease.”

They had walked through the buildings and now Alex and Mia were sitting outside on one of the benches while Emma was off to the side looking at the ravens that lived at the Tower and listening to a very eloquent older man who had probably worked at the Tower forever talk about the story behind the ravens.

Keeping an eye on Emma, Alex smiled at Mia and finally began the process of bringing her into the “circle” as Molly had called it.

“So, I’m sure you’ve figured out by now that I’ve been seeing Harry,” Alex said with a soft smile.

Mia’s eyes went wide for a second before she recovered. Of course she knew, but she never expected Alex to actually admit it to her.

“Yes,” Mia said quietly, nodding her head. “I knew…um…know.”

Alex took a deep breath. “What you don’t know yet is that Harry got deployed. He left on Tuesday.”

“Oh my God,” Mia breathed. Her eyes welled with tears for Alex. Something about Mia’s reaction was so sincere, so heartfelt, that it made Alex feel so much more comfortable in that moment.

“Yeah,” Alex said, blinking back her own tears. “It was rough.”

“That’s why you weren’t at work on Wednesday.”

Alex nodded.

“Are you doing okay?” Mia asked.

“I’m doing better. That first day wasn’t fun, but I made a promise to Emma that we weren’t going to be sad all of the time. So here we are, out and about, having fun,” Alex laughed, taking a sip of the small cup of coffee she had bought from a small vendor cart.

“Well, thank you for inviting me. It means a lot,” Mia said, offering a slight, shy smile.

Alex glanced towards Emma, making sure she was doing okay, before throwing a side glance at Mia. “I’m glad you came. But actually, there is another reason I wanted you to come. I wanted to talk to you about some things.”

“Okay, go for it,” Mia said, sipping her own coffee.

Alex took a deep breath. “When Harry gets back, we are going to go public.”

“Ohhhh…” Mia’s eyes were wide, her mouth half hanging open.

Alex giggled. “It is a daunting thought sometimes, but I love him and we will have been together six months by that point. It’s time for us.”

All of the sudden Mia turned toward her and grabbed Alex’s free hand with hers. “You’re in love?!” she screeched.

Alex laughed, her eyes crinkling at the corners. “Mia, shhhh,” she whispered. “But yes, I am in love. We are in love.”

“I cannot even…” Mia mumbled, her words trailing off as turned and stared off into the distance.

“Well, Mia, you’re going to have to,” Alex smirked.

Mia’s eyes, wide and excited, turned back to Alex. “What do you mean?”

“When we go public, the press is going to go nuts. They will dig, and they will dig deep. I don’t have anything to hide, but they will try to get to people in my life. They can find one sentence, one word, of anything anyone says and they can make it completely something it’s not.”

Mia immediately put a hand up. “I would never…”

Alex shook her head quickly, cutting her off. “I know, Mia,” she said, reaching over to squeeze her hand. “I know you wouldn’t. I’m just warning you because I have to. If anyone says my name, Harry’s name, or Emma’s name to you, you just cannot talk them.”

“I won’t. I promise.”

Alex nodded. “Again, I know that. It’s just something I have to say. Also, you help me with Emma quite a bit, and there will be times when you are out with her; times you pick her up or take her to dance class, or pick her up from school for me if I’ve got a session going on at work.”

“Paparazzi?” Mia asked instantly.

“Listen, I’m not saying it will be bad. Hopefully they will know that Emma is not game if I am not with her. But, if anyone ever follows you, takes a picture of you, or approaches you while she is with you, I need to know immediately,” Alex said, her eyes were intense and were fixed on Mia’s, communicating with her how important this was to her.

“I would absolutely do that,” Mia said firmly, sincerely. “You know I love Emma, right? I would die before I let anything happen to her.”

Alex blinked, a slow smile forming on her lips at Mia’s touching words. “Thank you. That means a lot.”

“And Alex?” Mia continued, a little nervously.


“I’m not just agreeing for Emma. I’m agreeing for you too. I mean, I’ve known you awhile, and I’ve always liked you…”

“And I always kept you at a distance,” Alex interrupted with a sigh and an apologetic look.

Mia shrugged looking away slightly. “I don’t blame you for that. I’m younger than you and we don’t have much in common.”

Alex laughed lightly. “Oh I think we have more in common than you think, than I thought.”

Mia swung her gaze back to Alex. “Really?”

“Really,” Alex nodded. “And I think that I was wrong to keep you out. I like you Mia, and I think that I’ve missed out on a good friendship. Plus, you’re only a few years younger than me and it would have never occurred to me to distance myself from you because of that. Besides, I need good friends that I can trust. I’ve missed out on that because of my own issues.”

Mia grinned. “Friends, then?”

“Friends,” Alex said with a matching grin.

Mia gave an exaggerated sigh of relief and then with a sly grin she leaned in closer to Alex. “Okay, since we are friends now, can I tell you something?”

“Sure,” Alex said before draining the last of her coffee.

“Alex, your boyfriend is so freaking hot.”

Alex threw her head back and shouted her laughter. “That he is, Mia,” she said with a wink when she got over her giggles.

Just then Emma went running back over to them. The information session on the ravens was over and, with the exuberance that only a six year old can muster, was ready to move on to move on to the next part of their tour.


It was late Sunday night that the media was made aware of Harry’s deployment. By Monday morning there were pictures of him everywhere once the news broke. Harry in his camouflage popped up on every internet site, on every TV, and every newspaper on every newsstand in London.

It was somewhat of a conundrum for Alex. God, she loved that handsome face of his so she almost couldn’t help herself to look at the pictures of him. However, the fact that everyone else was looking at the same pictures as she was made her irrationally irritated. He was hers and these people should not be looking at these pictures and mourning his deployment. She knew it was such a silly thing to think, that these people didn’t really know Harry, didn’t have the real life memories of him that she did.

But it was the girls in the coffee shop that morning with tears in their eyes at the thought of their hero going off to war that really did it for Alex. It was when Alex realized that she wanted to punch both of them right into face that she needed some help rationalize her weird emotions. So, she called Charlotte and asked her to lunch.

It turned out to be exactly what she needed.

“Oh for fuck’s sake, Alex, don’t let those people bother you. They don’t know Harry; they just think they know him based on an idea of him.

Alex rolled her eyes. “But you should have heard them. They were all like, ‘he’s my hero!’” she replied grumpily, imitating the girl’s voices.

Charlotte just laughed and shook her head. Then she put her fork up in the air and pointed it right at Alex. “You’re looking at it all wrong, darling.”

“What do you mean?”

“Those girls are jealous of you.”

“But they don’t know me. They don’t know that I’m Harry’s girlfriend.”

Charlotte sighed and put down her fork, leaning over closer to Alex and lowering her voice. “Listen to me. When those things happen, just remember that before he left, and when he comes back, you’re the one he’s fucking.”

Alex almost choked on her bite of salad.

“Charlotte,” she groaned when she was finally able to swallow.

Charlotte shrugged. “Whatever…you know what I mean.”

“I’m not sure I do.”

“I swear Alex, sometimes we speak different languages.”

“We always speak different languages. It’s just usually you aren’t talking about my relationship like it’s a one night stand,” Alex said as she leaned back in her seat, cocking her eyebrow.

“Don’t be ridiculous,” Charlotte said with a wave of her hand. “Listen, you know I’m not flowery and romantic and all of that. I don’t do relationships so I don’t speak the language, but the gist of what I’m trying to say is that those girls…they don’t get what you do. They don’t know that of course, but they will in a little over four months. So, walk past them with your head held high and know that soon enough, they’ll be jealous of you.”

“I feel like that’s so…catty,” Alex murmured.

Charlotte groaned. “Oh my God. Alex. You are going to have to grow a pair. I’m not telling you to walk over to them and describe Harry’s penis in detail to get them riled up. I’m just saying, be proud of what you have and know that what those girls say means nothing and never will. Harry doesn’t love them, he loves you.”

It was then that Alex smiled. “Aw! Charlotte, you said love. You do speak the language.”

Charlotte rolled her eyes. “I do not. Don’t say that ever again.”

Alex laughed. “I can’t make any promises.”


Alex’s first class was on Wednesday afternoon. She had been nervous to go, but once she was in the lecture she got completely caught up in it and she knew she had made the right decision. She would be so much busier when she started taking more classes, but it was so worth it.

That evening when she got home and checked her mail is when she found that the first letter had arrived from Harry. Actually, as Alex discovered when she ripped open the large envelope as soon as she got through the door and locked it behind her, it was two letters contained in separate smaller envelopes; one for her and one for Emma.

Alex was home alone as Emma was still at dance class, and if she was being honest she was little glad she got to read her letter without anyone around, even if it was Emma. Her hands shook as she pulled open the envelope and pulled out the paper it contained. She had to force back the tears when she saw his familiar scrawl on the page. She wanted to actually read the letter, not just stare at it through a haze of tears.


Well, I made it here. It’s hot and dusty and I’m surrounded by a bunch sweaty blokes. It’s definitely an Army base and I am definitely in a war zone.

God, I miss you. I am already aching to come back to you. It’s odd not talking to you every day. In a way, it’s a good thing for my job because my attentions need to be here, making sure my men are safe on the ground, but at night when it’s quiet and I try to sleep, I can’t stop all of the thoughts of you and Emma that run through my head.

This will be in my journal, but I had to tell you here anyway. I taped your pictures up by my bunk as soon as I got here. I hope it is okay with you that the guys here see them. The guys in my regiment would never breathe a word of my personal life to anyone. It would be disrespectful to the Army and to me so it is just not done. Regardless of that, I took a fair amount of good natured ribbing over the one of me and Emma asleep, but they can all kiss my ass. That picture is…well, it makes me feel like I have a true home to go back to.

I would like to tell you though, that the picture you gave me of us at Balmoral caused quite a stir. The boys were pretty jealous of my luck in women. I can’t say I blame them on that one; I really do have the most beautiful girl at home. They all wish they were so damn lucky.

I’m not much of a writer, Alex, but I’ll try hard to write as often as I can. I may be able to get a few phone calls in, but I can’t promise you that. But, I will try because I’m dying to hear your voice.

I have to go now, but I hope to hear from you soon.

I love you. I love you. I love you.


Alex swiped away the tears that fell as she finished reading. It was a simple, beautiful, heartfelt letter that was very much who Harry was.

She had almost been afraid of this moment, the moment where the first words he had for her since he left arrived. In reality, the moment had been wonderful. She loved the letter, loved his words, loved that he took the time to send this to her. She went and placed the letter on her desk in her room so she could sit down later and write him back.

When she came back out she heard the telltale sign of a key being turned in her door and she suddenly got incredibly excited. Emma was home and she would be so incredibly thrilled she had a letter from Harry.

Molly and Emma came through the door, with Emma immediately running over and giving Alex a big hug. This is the way they were, always affectionate and open with each other.

“Thanks for picking her up,” Alex said to Molly as she gave her a hug as well. She noticed the necklace that Harry gave to her safely clasped around Molly’s neck and it warmed her heart.

“Of course,” Molly said with a smile as Emma ran back to her room to put her stuff away and change. “How was your first class?”

Alex’s eyes softened. “Wonderful. It’s good to be back in school.”

“I’m so glad for you,” Molly said. Her eyes softened then and she lowered her voice a little bit to ask, “Have you heard from Harry?”

Alex grinned, her eyes lighting up. “I got my first letter today, actually. I just read it. He sent one for Emma to. I’ll help her read it here shortly.”

“He’s a good man,” Molly said with a wink.

Alex chuckled. “That he is. I’ll make sure to tell him you said so when I write him back.”

“Please do, and give him my best as well,” Molly answered congenially before giving Alex another hug and turning to leave.

Alex locked the door behind Molly and turned to go find Emma.

“Emma!” she called down the hall to her room. “Hurry out. A surprise came for you today.”

Emma’s door immediately swung open and she went flying down the hallway towards her mom. “What is it?” she squealed.

Alex laughed and reached out for her daughter’s hand, pulling her towards the living room. “It’s a letter from Harry. Come on, I’ll help you read it.”

“He sent me a letter?” Emma asked, almost in disbelief.

“Yes. He sent us both one. Don’t you want to read it?”

“Yes, Mummy, I really want to!”

With an excited smile that matched her daughter’s, Alex grabbed the letter and sat with Emma on the couch. She let Emma open it, which she did very slowly, being careful not to tear any part of anything Harry had sent her. Once it was open Emma unfolded the paper and Alex helped her to read through it.

Dearest Emma,

I just wanted to let you know that I made it safely to Afghanistan. I know you were worried about me, but so far, I’m fine.

I hope that you cheered up a bit after I left. If you ever get sad, or if your mum gets sad, just remember what I told you…I will be back to do so many fun things with the both of you.

Why don’t you start a list of all of the things you want us to do? Keep it for me and when I get back we will see how many of those items we can check off of the list. I promise that anything you want to do, if we can do it, we will.

I will write you again soon, and I hope you will write to me. Give your mum anything you write and she will make sure I get it.

Keep your chin up and remember that I love you, Emma.


When they finished Emma was absolutely beside herself with joy and Alex had to blink back the tears.

“Will you help me write him back right now?” Emma pleaded immediately. She jumped off the couch and clasped her hands in front of her like she was begging. Well, she was begging, but Alex wasn’t about to deny her this.

“Of course,” Alex answered right away. She laughed to herself as Emma immediately ran from the room to get paper and something to write with. It was funny…Alex was dying to write her own letter to Harry, but somehow this seemed more important at the moment, helping her daughter write to this amazing man who had somehow become such a force in both of their lives.


As the first two weeks of Harry’s deployment and the month of March came to a close, Alex felt as if she were finding her feet. Even if she missed him terribly and wished for him to be there every second of every day, she had filled her days with enough activities to keep herself occupied.

Little did she know that as they moved into April and as spring started to really bloom in London that even without Harry there, she was about to become embedded just a little bit deeper into his life.

It all started when Charlotte called her that Saturday afternoon, the last day of March. Alex was busy cleaning her apartment from top to bottom and wasn’t really in the mood to talk, but answered the phone away.

“Hello?” she asked, a little breathless the energy she had been exerting scrubbing her kitchen floor.

“Hello Alex, darling,” Charlotte sang through the phone.

Alex plopped herself down in one of the kitchen chairs, smirking at the tone in Charlotte’s voice. “Don’t you sound chipper? What’s going on?”

“Oh, I’ll tell you what is going on. Your presence has been requested tonight by a couple people I’d love for you to meet. Can you find a sitter for Emma?” Charlotte said eagerly.

Alex sighed. “I’m not sure I feel like doing anything this evening, Charlotte. I’ve been cleaning all day, I’m…”

“It’s Harry’s cousins,” Charlotte interrupted. “Beatrice and Eugenie. They heard about you from Harry and asked me if they could meet you. They are both good friends of mine and I think it’s about time you are introduced.”

Alex was stunned for a moment. “I don’t know if Harry…”

“Oh quit with the excuses. Harry would be thrilled for you to meet them. Find a sitter for Emma, put on a dress and some heels, and come out,” Charlotte said in that bossy way that only she could get away with.

Alex sat there in indecision for a moment before she realized how silly she was being. Harry’s cousins wanted to meet her and she was trying to make excuses to get out of it to do what…scrub her bathroom floors? Talk about being an idiot.

Here decision was made.

“Alright,” she said with a grin. “I’m in.”