Saturday, April 10, 2010


Chapter 3
The morning was a bright spring day and there was a slight chill in the air with feathery white clouds on the horizons. It was the kind of day when anything seemed possible. We hailed a cab which took us to the Waterloo Station. We didn’t speak a word on the way there. My mood had changed when I began to consider what might happen next. I paid for the cab and Miles stood on the curb as the cabby drove off.
“How much do I owe ye fer the room?” he asked.
“Ye just paid fer the cab. I have some money you know.”
“Save it.”
He stood there staring at me. “Well, I guess this is it, then.”
“Won’t we be on the same train going north?”
“Well then, why not travel together?” The thought of parting with Miles was breaking my heart.
“I suppose we could, but I..”
Miles’ eyes filled up with tears, welling over onto his cheeks. I wanted to hold him in my arms again. He looked so young and vulnerable. I looked around and saw that no one was watching us. I stayed strong, holding on tightly to my suitcase.
“What, Miles? What is it?”
“I..I have no one waiting fer me at home.”
“Come with me then. Come with me and stay with me in my new home.” Tears began to well in my eyes.
A young girl walked by and looked at us; two grown men standing staring at one another with tears in their eyes. She giggled as she walked away.
“I dinna wanna go home. There’s nothin’ there fer me.”
“Then come with me.”
He stood there looking at me, his eyes filled with tears and fear shadowing his face. “Alright. But I’ll earn my board and keep. I dinna want no more of yer charity.” He set his duffel on the ground, wiped away the tears and held out his hand. I shook his hand.
“If you like,” I said. “It’s a deal then.”
We walked into the station and got our tickets. We barely spoke as I considered our new future. What would it be like? How would we define ourselves in our new environment? I was completely reinventing myself, but how would Miles now fit into this new life? I had always thought I would find some young woman, settling into a life of domesticity and boredom, always yearning for what I knew I could not have. But now the possibility of what I could only dream about lay on the horizon. My heart began to soar and leap, but as I looked around the station at the looks on the faces of the people, I considered the other aspect of whom and what Miles and I were and what others would think. I saw the other side of the coin and what would happen if we were discovered. What would they think of what we had done the night before?
I wanted to speak to Miles but I dared not broach the subject. Perhaps he was only thinking he would come and work for me as a handyman or gardener. Perhaps even have a life completely separate from mine. I had inherited a small fortune and would need to sign all the papers soon with my mother’s solicitor to take possession. Perhaps I was being too presumptuous thinking Miles would be a part of all this.
I found a telegraph and wired to Mrs. Sellers, the housekeeper of Reid Manor that I had arrived in London and should be there sometime in the evening.
We boarded the train and found our compartment. We were alone for a while and silent. I looked out the window, watching the travelers on the platforms as they ran for their trains.
“What didja do in the war, Stephen?”
I turned and saw Miles staring at me. I sat back.
“Translating.” I closed my eyes and waited for the next question.
“What didja translate?”
“Deciphers and codes.” I opened my eyes and looked back out the window. Miles was silent.
The train began to move. The door opened and a middle-aged man in a suit entered our compartment. He looked at both of us and we nodded. He sat opposite us and stared at Miles. Miles was still looking at me and then turned to the gentleman.
“Miles Sheffington.” He held out his hand. “Good to meet thee.” The man hesitated a moment and then shook his hand.
“Rupert Evans.”
I held out my hand. “Stephen Reid.”
“Nice to meet you.” He held a briefcase on his lap.
“How far are ya traveling?” Miles asked.
“Just outside of London. Watford.”
The compartment fell silent as the train began to pick up speed. I watched London pass by outside my window. My new country. Undiscovered. I could see signs of the bombings here and there. Clean-up had commenced on a grand scale. I turned to see Miles looking at me and Rupert still staring at Miles. Rupert had one hand on top of his briefcase and the other hand under it. Miles smiled at me and then turned to Rupert.
“So, what is it that you do, Rupert?” Rupert was startled and jumped a little.
“I’m an accountant.”
“No.” Rupert stood up. He held his brief case in front of him. “Pardon me, but I need to..”
“Be my guest,” Miles offered. Rupert opened the compartment door. “Nice to have met thee, Rupert.”
“Uh,” Rupert stammered as he closed the door and was gone.
“Works every time. Unless of course they like to chat. Then yer stuck. He didn’t seem too chatty, though.”
“He certainly seemed taken with you though. Couldn’t keep his eyes off you. You must get that a lot.”
“Reckon he’s a poof?”
“A what?”
“A poof. A queer.”
“The cunt was having it off under his case.”
“I noticed.”
“Fuckin’ poofs. I hate ‘em.”
I looked at him to see if he was serious. He glared at me and then looked away. He jumped up and lay down on the opposite seat.
“Reckon I’ll catch a few whilst I can. Hard night, last night.” He closed his eyes and I looked at him for a moment. He seemed like a different person all of a sudden. Perhaps I had misjudged him. Maybe I should slow down and reconsider my options. What did I know of him? Nothing, really. All I knew was that he was without family or connections. A fear came over me as I looked back out the window. My heart was telling me one thing and my intuition another.
Outside the day was bright and clear with a few clouds forming what could be a spring shower approaching. My mind was spinning with possibilities. Miles seemed to have nodded off. I wanted to stay awake and watch the countryside, but soon I dozed off. I was awakened by the train pulling into a station. I sat up and saw that Miles was not in the compartment. A fear gripped my insides. I saw that his duffel was still in the upper compartment and my dread lessoned only to be replaced by the thoughts I had as I fell asleep.
The compartment door slid open and I turned to see Miles entering.
“Had to piss.”
He sat down opposite me. He leaned forward and put his hands on my knees.
“Don’t take it all so serious, Stevie.”
He sat back and looked out the window. The train began to move again and we pulled out of the station. I looked across at him and was once again filled with emotions as I took in his beauty. He turned back, looking at me his eyes filled with tenderness again.
“I think I love thee, Stevie.” I was stunned.
“What happened to your family, Miles?” I asked.
“I tell thee I love thee and ye ask me that?”
“I’m sorry; it’s just that I know nothing about you.”
“Well, I think I’m the one who ought to be asking the questions. But if ya must know, I’m the bastard son of a gamekeeper. My mother died when I was five of influenza and my father left for America before I was born. I was raised by my grandmother until she died, God rest her soul, when I was seventeen and then I was on my own. Been fending fer myself ever since. The war came along at just the right time. I enlisted when I was eighteen. I’m twenty-two. Anything else ya like to know, yer Lordship?”
I felt horrible. “I’m sorry, Miles. I just felt that we should get to know one another. I mean, especially after what we..”
“What? Since we sucked each other’s cocks? It was nothin’, Stevie. Just a drunken..”
“Miles, please. I’m sorry.”
We sat in silence as he looked out the window and I stared at the floor.
“Alright, yer Lordship. Yer turn.”
“Please stop calling me that.”
“How about Mr. High and Mighty then? Is that better?” He seemed angry and hurt.
“Miles, please.”
“I guess the honeymoon’s over.”
More silence.
“I’m not proud of what I did in the war. I was privy to many things that made me ashamed of myself and my country. I kept telling myself I had to do it. That it was my duty and that it was the right thing to do, but all the while in my heart I knew it was wrong. Very wrong. I hated myself for what I did and who I was. I wanted to start over. To forget the past and I thought with you it might all be possible. I’m sorry, Miles. Perhaps it was just a dream and fantasy that we could.. Please forgive me. If you like we can shake hands and have our memories.” I started to cry. “I had hoped that I could erase the past, start over and be a new person in a new country. Have something I never dreamed possible.” I brought my hands to my face and began to weep. Miles stood and sat beside me. He put his arm around me and drew me to him. Although he was fourteen years my junior, at times he seemed to be the elder.
“Like I said, Stevie, try not to be so serious.”
I had to laugh and looked up and saw a woman standing at the compartment window. Miles turned and smiled at her. She smiled back, nodded in understanding and moved on. Hopefully, she thought it was just a soldier comforting another soldier through his trauma of the war. Which is what it was.

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