Hey guys! Chapter 12 is ready for you! I’ve had a dodgy few days with this ‘surprise’ cold that just pounced on me, but it’s starting to fade, so fingers crossed I’ll be back to full speed again in no time! In the meantime, a little WW1 drama awaits for you. Press the little button of love if you feel so inclined! 😀
I had finished putting away some of Pamela’s newest purchases, and sat down for my afternoon cup of tea while she took her bath. It had been almost three weeks since we’d arrived in France, and I was just beginning to get into a routine where my work was concerned. The journey over was far from easy. Pam didn’t travel well by sea, and as such spent most of the journey trying to keep the contents of her stomach down. She swore left right and centre she would be a world traveller even if it killed her, and by the looks of her during that trip she might have been right about that, thought I hoped she was wrong. When she finally found her sea legs we were able to enjoy the remainder of the trip for what it was, the last remains of the pre-war world. In which Ladies were still treated like Ladies, and Gentlemen were still attempting to be Gentlemen, because once we got to France it was very clear things were changing, and fast.
Eighty miles in to the Capital city there were trenches, no one really offered an honest answer on any questions we had, and those that did seemed sketchy at best. It was a fright, to say the least, being so far from home and at least in my case being unable to speak the native tongue. There was also a somewhat callous attitude to the war itself, which confused me, we were it seemed, a lot more sympathetic back home and in England, but then maybe that was just their way of dealing with it all. I suspected, it didn’t mean they weren’t feeling the loss of all their young men to that horrible and almost certain death within the war, it was just their way of dealing with things. Little things took some getting used to, like their language for instance, that was a huge adjustment for this Louisiana girl. They also had a vast rage of candy and chocolate stores, which were not great for the waist line, but because of the war they were closed two days out of the week, as suspected the ration business was just as serious, if not more there, as it was back where we came from. Rations were placed on things like flour and sugar, and bread of course, but the food; in general the food had surpassed my expectations in so many ways. They say people go to Paris to fall in love, but I was beginning to think they meant with the food, for I for one was in love.
Pam’s home on the other hand was also shocking but for so many …other reasons. When she told me that she longed to embrace a more Bohemian way of life, I wasn’t as prepared as I would have liked when I realized that it was here, that she embraced such ways. Her home was as sumptuous as I had expected that was for sure, but what was absent was the traditionalist manner in which it was run. Here there were no uniforms for example, and the guests never announced themselves or expected special attentions, they came and they went and little fuss was made if they did so. There were also no set meal times, and the staff was small, consisting of just a cook and a driver, and I suppose, myself. Lafayette Reynolds her ‘chef’ hailed from Louisiana, though he had been living in France for many years himself, as an only child living in a new country found himself housebound a lot as a child and it was there he learned to love cooking. He had befriended Pam and the two had become close, he worked for her part time, and part time in a well to do area as a cook. He was a tall, black man, with strong shapely arms and a warm smile – and a penchant for wildly coloured scarves on his head while he cooked in the heat. He was a friendly, tactile man, and it took a little getting used to as well, as it was safe to say that tactile was the word of the day when it came to those in Pam’s household. If I didn’t know any better I would say she had the beginnings of a brothel house on her hands at times. Pam it seemed was all about sharing and caring, and I didn’t just mean in her weekly donations to the poor. Her ‘guests’ often shared rooms, and often they all just shared one room – hers. At first, I will admit I was stunned, it was not as if I did not know what was going on behind those closed doors, and even though everyone was of age and seemed happy to be doing what I imagined they were doing, it still didn’t sit well with me at first. How I was raised, it just wasn’t like that, not at all. A woman was to marry and be intimate with only her husband. At least, as a girl that’s what I believed, and I held true to it as well. But as the world opened up before my eyes, and in some ways crumbled at my feet with its startling reality, I began to question just whose teachings I should have been paying heed to.
“I was really pleased Sarah was able to make me those, the cost of the silk import hurts me, but the beauty of those dresses… I can live with it.” Pam sighed as she took another look at her
“I suppose with the tax costs, everything is that much more expensive now.”
“Very true, I haven’t treated myself in a while so I can justify it all nicely.” She giggled, pulling out a light blue dress with lovely lace work, it was an older dress, one I had unpacked for her when we first arrived.
“Would you like this? We’re about the same size, I think… I think this would suit your colouring too.”
I smiled, knowing she didn’t ‘believe’ in uniforms for her employees, that she hated them and said they were restrictive, even if the French Maid style of uniform ‘turned her on’. It meant that every day I had to have something of my own to wear, clean and pressed and presentable. It was more trouble than it was worth most days, but I had to admit that I liked being treated as an equal again; it had been a long time since I could be just, myself.
“Oh, it’s pretty… I like that.”
“Try it on, you’ve got bigger breasts than I have but it shouldn’t be an issue.”
“You were noticing my breasts again?” I scoffed.
She looked, a lot. She was actually worse than Eric in that regard and she wasn’t half as subtle. She just laughed rolling her eyes.
I just shook my head, it was just a joke between us at that point, but I was glad we could be humorous together.
“You miss him, don’t you?” She asked and it took me by surprise a little.
“I don’t know who you –“
“Yes you do, don’t lie. Eric, as if I need to tell you.”
I sighed and continued my folding.
“It’s for the best okay?” I offered after a few more seconds of silence. “He and I can’t go any further, so why bother torturing ourselves like that? It’s not right, it’s not fair – to either of us.”
“He misses you.” She stated calmly.
“You can’t know that.”
“I can, he wrote me.”
I turned to face her at that little confession.
“Really?” I asked trying not to sound too happy about it, but secretly, I suppose I was really pleased that he cared.
“Yes, and he talked a lot about you and how you both left things. He’s confused, Sookie. Eric hates being confused, it drives him nuts, and he loves knowing just exactly what he’s meant to do and he does it. This? This is not good for him.”
“Ah, but that’s where you’re wrong, he still knows what he’s meant to do, this time though he just doesn’t want to do it, not really.”
“With Lady –“
“Yes with her or whatever other Lady I’m sure Niall would deem suitable. I am not suitable.”
“I’d rather not…” I said confused at her choice of words.
“No… I mean fuck him and his ancient opinions, he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. This is just the question, the one question that matters… Do you miss Eric?”
She sat in the chair that sat in front of her opulent dressing table and mirror, the lights around the mirrors framing her beautiful face in a way that I hadn’t noticed before. She was earnest, and she meant what she was saying, so I decided to be just as honest.
“Yes. Of course I miss him. I hated the way I left things Pam, simply hated it. I never intended to…start anything with him – with anyone – and things just began to… escalate so fast and if I hadn’t have left, it would only have been worse for us, in the long run.”
“Oh, Sookie… I think you need to just talk to him, just even through a letter, you don’t have to see him now, so it might be easier? The distance might make it that much less difficult to express what you need to say.”
“I don’t think he wants to hear from me, Pam; the way I left things with him… we weren’t even speaking by the time I left in your motorcar. He wouldn’t even come downstairs. Maybe it’s best to let sleeping dogs lie?”
She sighed, I sighed, and we both looked back to our previous distractions. Here the paper on her desk, and I hid myself in her closet a while longer. She called me out about ten minutes later, where I noticed she had taken her hair down for dinner, and picked out a red and black dress too with matching shoes.
“I’m having a few people over for the night…” she said and I knew by now what that meant. Normally it would mean I had at least three bedrooms to set up, but in Pam’s home, it was almost always only the one bedroom – her bedroom – that was in use. We didn’t discuss what went on, but we both knew that I knew, and we both knew that I wasn’t to be one sitting in judgement of how she lived her life; it was after all none of my business. I wouldn’t press the issue until she brought it up, if she brought it up at all.
“How many for breakfast then?”
She grinned as I fixed her shoes, finishing her relaxed but as always very polished look for the evening.
“We’ll have to see who survives the night.”
I laughed a little because it was true, whatever went on in that room of hers most people who stayed were always late for breakfast, or Lafayette told me.
“You want to join us?” She asked, as she always did, and my answer was always the same. No.
“But thank you for offering.”
She shrugged before standing to admire herself in the mirror.
“Well, you know you’re more than welcome, I don’t run things like the old fuddy duddies.”
Of that I was very much aware.
“I know…thank you.”
“Okay, good night then, Sookie.”
“Yes. Good night.” I said as I made my way to the door.
“Oh and Sookie?”
“There is some writing stationery and some ink pens in the closet by the stairs, you know, in case you’re feeling…wordy.”
With a knowing smile, she left for her night with her ‘friends’ and I was left with a lot to contemplate.
“Thor? Come on boy, come on!” I said out by the gardens, giving him a good run around with the rubber ball I’d been throwing to him for at least a half an hour when the rain started to pour down. It had been a month since Sookie’s departure, and in that time I had taken my leave in London to attend to some things back in Scotland. Well, that was lie, I had taken my leave just to take my leave, and I needed a break from all of them. From Niall and Annabel, from the rest of the London crowd in truth too. I was simply just tired of it all and needed the silence that I knew the hills of rainy Scotland could provide. I looked around the vast estate, that I was to one day call my own and I still was at odds with myself over whether or not I could in good faith accept Niall’s offer. He didn’t have any other family, and if willed to me, I would own everything outright. It was a rather terrifying thought. I loved it there, no doubt. The quiet and solitude warmed my soul, even if the freezing rain froze just about everything else. But, it was also a lonely place when it wanted to be, full of people you did not really know or care to know, or worse, full of people you did not like. But, there were a select few that came along like a breath of fresh air, like Amelia that cared little about airs and graces, much like Sookie and Pam too. I had taken some time to write to Pamela, in hope that she would write back with news of Sookie too, I wasn’t too subtle in that regard, but it was Pam and if anyone understood the need to be blunt, it would be her.
I hated how she and I left things, after the final conversation I had taken to hiding in the library to avoid her, I didn’t want to say goodbye, I didn’t want to see her after such a rejection. And now, I regretted my actions because I missed her face, and her voice and I wanted to know that she was okay. When I got inside with Thor, shedding my wet jacket, I found Dawn in my study, leaving mail on my desk, as well as a hot cup of tea.
“Thank you.” I said, letting her pass.
“You’re welcome, is there anything else while I’m here?” she asked, and such an innocent question it was, when asked by anyone else but with her it meant something else entirely.
I looked at her sharply, I had thought we had moved past this, but clearly I had been mistaken.
“No, thank you…”
“Eric, you know it’s not right, you being up here all by yourself all day with no one to talk to. It’s just not healthy.” She looked concerned I’ll give her that much, but I was scared in truth to get too comfortable with her again, after the last time I got far too comfortable and all hell broke loose.
“I know that, but really, it’s good to be around people, people that care about you….”
“Like… me.” She said, shyly, a small smile on her soft face. Dawn really was a beautiful girl, she just wasn’t very sane, and I had made a mistake in leading her on like I had. Things in my head hadn’t really been all that straight when I literally fell into bed with her that night so long ago now, but it had come back to haunt me ever since.
“Dawn, I appreciate …your kindness. I really do, so please don’t take this the wrong way…”
“I care about you, Eric. That’s all I’m saying here. I care.”
I nodded, “And for that, I thank you, it’s very sweet but I just…we …” I held my hands up, “this is as far as that caring goes, I need to make that clear.”
She nodded, fixing her apron in a fidgeting motion.
“Dawn I don’t want to hurt you here, you’re a great girl, you’re beautiful and everything any man could possibly want –“
“But I’m not what you want, am I?”
I didn’t answer her, how could I say that? Say that no, you’re not what I want. I wasn’t a cruel man.
“I hope you find it then, whatever it is you’re looking for, Eric.”
“I’m sorry, Dawn, I –“
“No, don’t do that. Don’t be sorry, you’re not sorry, so please don’t pretend to be.”
She left with a sour look on her face and yet again I was left to contemplate my actions. I found it ironically humorous that the two women currently in my life that I had an intimate history were the complete opposite of each other in just about every way possible, if you didn’t count their job title that is. The one I wanted desperately – didn’t want me, and the one I knew I had to avoid was the one that was in a sense, chasing after me with all she had. I tried to ignore it all and filtered through my mail, my train tickets sat to my left and I knew I’d soon have to start packing. I was bound for Sweden, to check on the business there. I hadn’t been in over a year, so I dreaded the thought as to what I might be facing. Having lost most of my younger workers to mandatory enlisting, I knew the business would suffer and not just money wise.
Then I found one letter in a hand writing I didn’t recognize. I opened it swiftly, and found it to be from Sookie.
Sookie of all people, this I wasn’t expecting at all. I smiled as I noted her delicate handwriting, and what seemed to be her well thought out words. She said she wrote to me, to hopefully clear the air, and that she hated how she left things with me. She told me of their traumatic journey and how Pam had been ill. I had suspected as much, Pam did not travel well, least of all on boats. She told me of Paris and her impressions, and then she told me of her regrets towards me. Wishing that she had not acted the way she had but ‘given her circumstances’ she saw no other way around things. I longed to know what those circumstances were, I knew she had a past – as we all did, but something told me that in hers lay something dark, something that scared her so deeply that she feared it would ruin the rest of her life. I could have been a bastard and pushed to know, but I also know that if Sookie was anything like me, that pushing and demanding something from her would only make her revert further into her shell. I revered into myself in times of trouble, I had seen that in myself more recently than ever, but then she came along and slowly pried it open without so much of a scratch. I had come out of my shell for her, without even realizing it. I longed for that feeling again, one that I knew now only she could provide me. In her letter she asked for my forgiveness, for her behaviour, and that she hoped to one day be able to ‘explain things to me without repercussion’. She aimed to make light of things too, saying that she was doing this for those reasons, of wanting to fix things between us and to give me something new to read in her absence, for like her fondness of walking she knew of my fondness for reading. I smiled imagining her face as she wrote her little joke, before she signed off with a large elegant ‘S’ at the end of her page.
I had so much to say to her, things that needed to be said but not by letter. I needed her to know that I accepted that she had her secrets, just as I had mine, and that in time if she wanted, I would gladly be there to hear them. I had learned a long time ago that there was rarely a person that came without some sort of emotional baggage. I myself had tons of it, so I knew only too well how easy it was to acquire. I pondered my desire for a time, before I realized I wouldn’t, nor could I; put it off until she came back – if she came back at all. I thought of Dawn and the heartbroken look on her face as I rejected her, and I wondered if that’s how I looked to Sookie. Either way, she had reached out to me again, she had taken the time to write down the feelings she couldn’t express to my face, and it sounded like she wanted to fix things. I wanted to fix things too, but how? Nothing had changed since she left; I was still expected to marry someone I held no romantic feelings for, and she was still held a class status that would be frowned upon by everyone, should we make things official. The inner torment was tiring to say the least, we both knew these things, and yet there it was in black and white, in her elegant hand, telling me that she cared for me, and that regretted how things were left between us. Surely those reasons if nothing else meant that she wanted a different outcome for us both? That it meant that if I could quell her regret in some way, surely I should do it? I made a note for Bobby to add to my travel itinerary, one way or another I would find out for myself, in France.