Hi guys! New chapter already I hear you ask? Well, yes. See, I go through stages. A fic is dead, it’s never coming back, there are no ideas… etc. Then suddenly it’s alive again, and I update twice in a week while aiming to start the next update when I post this. It’s madness I tell you, MADNESS. But, alas, that is my brain, and I’m sorry. I’m also sorry for this ramble, that also happen a lot! Eh! Either way, here be thy update. Enjoyith, comment, rant at me thyself. Can you tell it’s almost 2.30am where I am? 😉
What seemed like hours with Pam and Claude, planning and talking, and they finally agreed to talk it out. Eric eventually got let inside, and in on the plan too, he was silent for the most part, with a lot of pragmatic sounding sighs. I didn’t have the time to plan with them, I was due on a boat in a matter of hours, but I could aim them both in the right direction and hope for the best.
“Look, as someone that has married for what I thought to be love… sometimes it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. Sometimes people turn out to be nothing like you expect. At least this way, you both secure your future, and continue to … live your lives the way you always have. On paper is where it counts for now.”
They were game, Pam practically giddy with the idea of a secret mission, like they were spies undercover. Whatever floats her boat, I thought, as long as it meant she end up happy – and for Pam happiness was a husband that had no interest in impregnating her. They had time to arrange something to their suiting, I was just happy I could help.
Our final real day in Paris and Pam insisted on taking us all out for dinner, a novelty since the city was at a standstill most of that week due to raids. But, a little thing like a war, never stopped Pam from living her high life. Lafayette, Eric, myself and Pam sat down to dinner with a timeless view of the Seine, and the falling leaves of the trees that lined the walk. I would be sad to see this city fade as I departed, but at least now I knew I had friends there, should I ever wish to return.
“I really don’t know what I am to do without you, Sookie.” Pam stated. “I have come to rely on you so much. Not just for my maid requirements, but as a friend, as a baker of crafty and low fattening goodies that were the sure fire cure for my hangover.”
“I’m not dying, we’ll see each other again. I promise.”
“We will. Maybe for my wedding…or for yours.” She winked, causing Eric to laugh. Lafayette just shook his head, still enjoying his food.
“Yes, Lafayette man?” I answered as he asked, causing us all to giggle at our choice of words.
“I will miss you. So much. I will miss the gossip, I will miss that sweet little smile of yours. I will miss your man friend and his manly fine self.”
“I will come back,” I looked to Eric who nodded. “I promise I’ve made too many good friends and too many amazing memories here to let it slip by.”
“Still it is a shame you must return to old life, one of upstairs downstairs divides.” He stated, before he sipped his wine. And it was true, it was that dreaded feeling in the pit of my stomach since we received the telephone call. I never wanted to go back to a life where I was treated like I was less than everyone else. I liked it there, with my new found freedom – even in the middle of a lock down and in a city surrounded by fear and war, I felt more free there than I had in my whole life. I also had Eric here. I had Eric in every sense of the word, and I didn’t want to let that go most of all. But, I had obligations, most noteable a signed contract that didn’t let up until Spring. So, until then, or until I found Bill Compton and got my divorce, I would swallow my pride and return.
“Not for long if I have any say in the matter.” Eric spoke up grabbing everyone’s attentions.
“Why?” Pam asked him.
“It’s bullshit.” The idea of us being separated angered him, as did the idea of the treatment I was going back to. I had to keep reminding him, millions of others had it far worse, but he was still unmoved. “All this fawning around with silly rules, dividing people and looking down on them because of their class. It’s bull.”
“It’s how we were all raised, most of us didn’t have the sense to question it.” Pam added.
“We’re old enough to question it now though. Nothing changes unless me make the change.”
“I think the war will change everything, if it ever ends.” I commented, taking a bite of food and waiting for the response.
“Amen to that.” Lafayette agreed. “At least it will have been for something, senseless death is never right. No matter what side we’re on.”
War made sense to those waging it, most of the time though, it made little to none for those fighting in it day after day. Those who risked their lives, their families, their future for someone else’s agenda. I had hoped it would be over soon, but I hoped harder that we came out on top. The idea of losing was almost unbearable. Even though France was under the Allied forces protection…or control, it differed however you chose to look at it. I chose to see it as controlled protection, sure there were armed men everywhere and getting in and out of the country was a pain, but at least we were still free to do that. If things went the other way, who knew what kind of extremes we’d be forced to endure!
Early that next morning, I finished laying out Pam’s clothes for that day, she watched with sad eyes from her bed.
“But I just do not want you to leave. What shall I do without you here?”
“My replacement is very nice, I’ve met her.”
“Still…” She pouted making me smile. “How are you and Eric going to cope now, being apart but being inside the same house. It seems so outlandish.”
“It is, in fact it’s pretty insane. But, I just won’t count my chickens Pam, not until they’re well and truly hatched.”
“And by hatched you mean?”
“Finding Bill or him finding me, whichever comes first. Eric has promised that he can be rather persuasive when the time comes.”
She chuckled finally getting out from under her blankets.
“Yes, I am sure he can be plenty ‘persuasive’ when he needs to be, in many areas when it comes to you.”
I fought my blush at her tone. She really never sugar coated anything.
“It’ll be horrid for both of you, waiting around until you find the ex, or Niall bites the dust.”
“What? He’s old as the hills, Sookie. And he smokes cigars like they’re going out of style, he should know better! I like the man, he’s a fantastic host, and a good friend, but he’s completely stuck in the wrong era.”
“He’s set in his ways.” I agreed.
“Yes, snobbish and prudish ways. He wasn’t always so uptight. Before Sophie and her brother died, he was funny and jolly, but like anything, tragedy changes people.”
It had certainly had an affect on Eric.
“Eric has asked me, but not asked me, to marry him.”
“And have you said yes, but not really said it?” She giggled.
“I love him, I feel I know more about him than I ever knew about Bill – even after we were married. With Bill, I didn’t get a chance to know him before I became his wife and it was an awful thing when the real Bill stood up to me for who he really was.”
“I don’t know this Bill, but from all I’ve heard he’s a scary, manipulated arse. Eric is none of those things.”
“I know that, so already we’re a thousand paces ahead of where I was back then. Besides, I’m more worldly now, I know more of the world and how to live in it alone. I’m not that scared little girl anymore.” I said, proudly, as I handed Pam her gown.
“Yes, and I am just one of the many people in your live that is thankful for that. I wonder which of us will marry first? You to the love of your life? Or me, to the… convenience of mine.” She giggled. We spent a lot of that day in laughter, as it was our last together for a time, we enjoyed each other’s company, she was a true friend.
I didn’t much like travel by boat, it was long and tiresome, and full of snobs for the most part. But at least this time, I had Eric. He and I stayed in our room when it wasn’t required to leave for food or other matters. It was just us, as far as we were concerned, in our comfortable floating bedroom taking us back to England. When we finally broke apart for a trip around the upper deck, I found Eric deep in thought.
“Penny for your thoughts, my Love.”
“I like that you can call me that. I won’t like it so much when we have to pretend to be less than what we are…again.”
It was a sticking subject with us, it had been since we’d agreed to go back after all, and nothing had been resolved. I still refused to go there as his mistress. I couldn’t go in there as his fiance, since I was legally still married and it wouldn’t have been real either. Until things were settled for real, I wasn’t jumping the gun.
“And you know how I feel about this too, Darling. This isn’t going to be easy, but nothing in life is ever easy, and the things that are, are usually the ones we aren’t fighting for. I fight for what I want in life, I have for a long time now, you’re no different.”
He touched my face, before he leaned in to kiss my lips.
“I just love you, that’s all.”
“And I love you, we can do this. It’ll only be for a while, not forever. We’ll get a hold of old Billy boy, and your lawyers can kiss his lily white ass or I can!” I grinned.
“You’re so American, I love it.”
“Damn straight. Though I fear my time in the land of ‘good and proper’ has softened my brash American-self a little. Can’t be having that.” I shook my head, exaggerating what was left of my Southern accent for him.
“No, we can’t be having that at all. I love you just how you are.”
“And I love you just as you are too, my love. Now, let’s sneak back to our room while we still have time alone, I want you all to myself before we’re forced to spend our nights alone.”
“And yet we could un-force-”
“Eric…” I warned and he sighed, finally giving up.
“Okay, okay, I give up – for now.” He grinned that boyish grin that made me melt in the best possible way. I pulled myself away from my swooning to take his hand like a lady, and let him escort me back to the bedroom. In the bedroom I didn’t have to act like a lady at all.
I heard her intake a sharp breath as the car rounded the entrance of the estate and there it was, the large house in all it’s imposing glory.
“Are you nervous?” I asked as I squeezed her gloved hand.
“Terrified. I don’t know how we’re meant to be now. Before it seemed easily done. Now..” she exhaled. “Not so much with the easy when it’s put right in front of you.”
Yes, the reality of our predicament wouldn’t be easy.
The staff were out to greet us, a custom I found funny, since I knew they had better things to do with their time rather than stand around just to say hello. But, traditional ways were nothing if not expected with Niall.
Sookie sighed again.
“I can’t go inside with you.” She stated.
“What? Whyever not?”
It made my skin crawl.
“This is just beyond ridiculous, you’re coming in the front door with me.”
“I can’t, it’s not allowed.”
“Says who!?” I spat, more angry than I recalled being in a long time. Stupid fucking ancient traditions.
She just patted my knee, as if to placate me. I hated how accepting she was to all the insanity that we embraced once we were feet from that house. It was as if in mere moments she went from being my vivacious, amazingly outspoken Sookie, to being this timid little house maid.
I got out of the car before the chauffeur could open the door, I helped Sookie out too, even if she glared a little that I would dare to do that.
“Eric, my boy! You’re home!” Niall exclaimed from his wheelchair, he looked like he had aged ten years since I had last seen him, it wasn’t a pleasant sight to behold.
“I am indeed. Hello, everyone.” I said, nodding to the staff, and a beaming Dawn. There were three new additions to the lineup, I assumed they were the doctors.
“Well, excellent. I trust your journey’s went well?” He asked, his eyes flickering to Sookie who stood silently behind me.
“Yes.” I said, glancing to her myself, “Sookie?”
She looked frightened.
“Uh. Yes. Sir… Ma’Lord. It was plain sailing, as they say, thankfully. A few checkpoints at the border and such, but nothing out of the ordinary.”
“Good. You seem well. I trust Pamela was a good and fair employer?”
“Yes Lord Brigant, she was most welcoming.”
I fought the urge to smirk, I knew just the kind of ‘welcome’ Pam gave her.
“Good, well let’s get inside before we freeze. Eric, when you get settled, come see me in my study if you will. Dinner is in an hour.”
I watched as Sookie made her move to walk to the side of the house, I wasn’t having it. Instead I went and grabbed her case.
“Please, Miss Stackhouse let me.”
It caught everyone’s attention, as Sookie then had to walk beside me in by the front door. They could jump off a pier if they thought I cared. She just blushed, fixing to remove her hat.
I fought the urge to sigh, this wasn’t how I wanted our dynamic to be – but she was right, if we wanted to do things right and her way was proper, then we’d just have to wait.
“Sir how was your travels? I trust they were fruitful?” Bobby asked as he took my bags from the driver.
“They were indeed, in business and in life, I enjoyed my time in France ememcilly. I am sad to be back a little, I must admit.” I admitted so Sookie would know, before she took her case from me, with a curt thank you. I watched as she walked down the hallway, through the door and down the stairs. Everything was so different already, and it had only been ten minutes.
Bobby continued to talk as we reached my quarters, the fire lit, the tray of tea and cakes sitting on the usual table, in many ways it was as if I had never left.
“I asked how Miss Pamela was keeping? I am sorry I couldn’t make it with you overseas, how terrible it must have been without your Valet.”
I wanted to tell him I manged just fine, but I didn’t want to undermine him or his position here, he was a good man and hard worker, that’s what counted.
“I hope Stackhouse wasn’t much trouble on the journey back, Sir.”
Or I had thought him a good person, before.
“Sookie, Sir. She’s a handful that one, never really knows when to mind her own business, I can just imagine she was as bad as Dawn when it came to trying to grab your attentions.”
I looked at him, and he must have been able to tell with the look on my face that I wasn’t pleased, he looked back sheepishly in an instant.
“Miss Stackhouse, Bobby, was a pleasure to be around, not at all needy in my attentions. And excellent company if you must know, as she had been here prior to our time away separately. She is a good woman, and a great friend, I do not take well to you insulting my -”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t realise you and she were so … close.”
The staff talked, of course they did. The fact that Sookie and I went on walks together had her the subject of kitchen gossip for weeks. The fact that we were in Paris together at the same time, and travelling back for days, alone, of course was going to be a talking point.
“Home Sweet bloody Home.” I commented somewhat sarcastically as I all but threw myself down on the bed. Home Sweet Home, indeed.