“She scared the livin’ bejeezus outta me,” Miles laughed and turned to kiss me. “Gotta clean up the mess, lad.” He jumped from the bed, quickly dressed, picked up a towel on a stand and was out the door. I lay there staring at the ceiling and basked in my good fortune. But just as quickly thoughts of what the day might bring when we had to part filled my mind. A few minutes later the door opened, drawing me away from my thoughts. Miles came into the room, his hair slicked back and wet. “Had to take a quick whore’s bath. Your turn.” I got up, scrambled into my clothes and turned as I opened the door. “I’ll meet you downstairs.” “Done.” Miles smiled and I left for the bath with my kit. As I walked down the hall barefooted, an elderly couple from the next room was closing their door. “Good morning,” the woman said and smiled. I searched her face for any trace of forbidden knowledge and found none. “Good morning,” I replied. “Sally makes a lovely breakfast, be sure you don’t miss it.” The woman smiled and her husband looked at me with a frown and escorted her away. I hurriedly shaved, washed up and was soon in the dining room. Miles was across the room chatting with the elderly couple and another soldier. Time seemed to slow down as I watched him speaking, running his hand through his thick hair to push it off his forehead. His charms filled the room. He was like a god among mere mortals and I was amazed that I had held him in my arms. Miles spotted me and his smile drew me over to where he was standing. “Stephen, have ye met the Caffreys? Louise and Harold.” “We met briefly in the hallway. Nice to formally meet you.” I shook both their hands. Harold seemed a bit friendlier. “And this is Barry. He was stationed near Paris.” Barry stood awkwardly and I shook his hand. “Nice to meet you, Stephen. Miles was just telling us that you met on the crossing.” “Yes.” I was getting nervous and thankfully Sally came into the room. “Breakfast is on the buffet, dears. Please help yerselves.” She placed a final bowl on the buffet and hurried back into the kitchen. “I’m famished,” Miles said and made way for Louise and Harold. “Age before beauty,” Louise said as they crossed over to the buffet and Miles followed behind them. I followed him and Barry made his way right behind me. I turned to let him cross in front of me and noticed he was using a cane and was having a hard time walking. “No, please go ahead of me,” he said. “I’ll be there in a moment. Takes me a while to maneuver these days.” Sally came back into the room with a pot of tea. “Well, these two had a late night of it. Hope they didn’t wake anyone else but me.” She looked at me and winked. “Didn’t hear a thing,” Louise said as she sat with her plate at the table. “Tea, dear?” Sally asked. “Please. Thank you, Sally.” Louise held out her cup and set it on the table. Sally filled it and moved on to Harold’s cup as a young couple entered the dining room. “Oh, wonderful. I was afraid we might miss breakfast,” the woman said and tightly holding the young man’s hand made her way to the buffet. Sally turned and said. “This is Jill and Ronald Hill, everyone. Newly married after Ronald returned safely from the front.” “Jill Hill. Have to get used to that,” Jill laughed as she helped herself to the buffet. “Hello, everybody,” Ronald said and smiled a very bright and cheery grin. “I thought there might be someone on their honeymoon.” Barry said as he juggled his plate and cane. Miles glanced at me and grinned. “Let me help thee with that, mate.” Miles jumped up from the table and grabbed Barry’s plate and set it on the table. Jill blushed and held her head down as she made her way to her seat. “What branch of the service were you in, Stephen?” Louise asked. I froze. Here it was. The moment I had been dreading. “Army,” I replied. “What division.” Barry asked. “Intelligence.” I looked at Miles who tilted his head to the side and was staring at me with a quizzical look on his face. “How exciting,” Jill remarked. “Not really,” I replied. “Quite boring actually. Tons of paper work.” “Where were you stationed?” Barry asked. “Um…” “Oh, I see, top secret, eh?” Harold had perked up and seemed thrilled with the conversation. “Well, yes, a little.” I looked to Miles and he still had that perplexed look on his face. Everyone sat looking at me. I didn’t know what to say. “How about you, Ron? Where were you during the war?” Louise had jumped to my rescue. “On an island off the coast of Greece.” “How lovely.” Louise really was a lady. “It was until the Krauts invaded and put us all in a camp on far side of the island. We were POW for about a year.” Louise looked shocked. “Oh, how dreadful, Ronald, I’m so sorry.” “That’s why poor Ronnie is so thin,” Jill said. “I shall do my best to fatten him up.” She leaned over and kissed him on the cheek. Louise reached for his hand and patted it. “Thank God you made it home to marry Jill.” “Damn Krauts, we should have taken care of them like the Americans did the Japs,” Harold barked. “Never let them rise up again!” “Harold had some very bad experiences with the Germans in the last war.” Louise wiped her mouth and set her napkin back in her lap. Miles stood up. “It’s been lovely chattin’ with thee, but I’ve got a train to catch if I’m ever to make it home.” “Yes, thank you all and I wish you all the best.” I had folded my napkin and placed it on the table. “Miles, I’ll settle up with Sally, if you can grab our bags in the room.” “Where is home for you, Stephen?” Barry asked. There was something about his nature that was beginning to unsettle me. “Midlands,” I replied. I gave a little bow with my head as I turned and walked out the door to the lobby. I heard Barry remark to the room after I had left. “Seems too good for likes of us.” I made a mental note to not be so nervous when people questioned me. I met Miles in the lobby after paying Sally for the lodging. Miles came down the stairs with my suitcase and his duffel bag thrown over his soldier. He came over and gave Sally a kiss on the cheek. “Thanks fer everthing, Sally. Yer a peach.” “Yer quite welcome, I’m sure. Please come back and visit an old woman when yer in London Town again.” “I’ll be sure to do that.” “Thank you again, Sally. It has been a pleasure,” I said. “And you come back too, yer Lordship.” Sally winked at Miles and he laughed. “I thought he was a Lord fer sure when I first met ‘im.” I blushed and shook Sally’s hand. Why couldn’t I be more like Miles? I took my suitcase from Miles and walked out the front door with Miles following behind me.
"An artist has always gotta be in the state of becoming"... Bob Dylan...
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