SONS Chapters 3 & 4
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.”
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 station 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.
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 of you. You must get that a lot.”
“Reckon he’s a poof?”
“A poof. A queer.”
“The cunt was having it off under his case.”
“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.
“We’ve had to bring in extra food and drink because Fraulein Schmidt’s rations just won’t cover the needs of all her customers these days.” Schellenberg was getting out of the backseat of his car. It was still very warm outside. I followed behind him and the driver shut the door. We walked into an alley and Schellenberg opened a door that lead downstairs to another door. He rapped twice on the door and a small opening opened and then closed. The door was unlocked and opened from inside and three soldiers stood at attention as we entered.
“Heil Hitler,” Schellenberg and I returned. “This is Lieutenant Colonel Huber, men; he will be assisting on Operation Kitty.”
The room was filled with five tables that had recording devices and headphones. Wires protruded from the ceiling in all directions. There were no windows and only the door we had entered. I saw what looked like another room that might have been a bathroom. The air in the basement bordered on cold and was a huge contrast to the outside temperature.
Schellenberg walked over and picked up a set of headphones and put them on his ears. He listened for a moment and a smile broke out on his face. “How do you like it, Lieutenant?”
“Come listen. This is from last night I believe.” He gestured me over with his hand. He took the phones off his ears and put them on my head. A young woman was being very loud in her appreciation to whatever someone was doing to her. She moaned and groaned and let out little shrieks.
“Very entertaining as well as informative at times.” Schellenberg said. The men in the room were still at attention and I could see one of them was in a state of acute arousal. His erection was clearly showing through his pants. Before I could look away, Schellenberg followed my eyes to the soldier and smiled. “One of the benefits and frustrations of the job I’m afraid. At ease, men. Back to your posts.” The soldiers relaxed and took a seat at the tables. The soldier with the erection stood by Schellenberg and me and waited. I could see he was blushing. I took the phones off and handed them back to him. Schellenberg took me by my arm and led me to the door. “Come, I shall introduce you to your new students.”
We walked out of the alley and into the street and turned left. We made our way to the entrance at 11 Giesebrechtstrasse and Schellenberg knocked at the door. Another small opening in the door opened and Schellenberg said, “I come from Rothenberg.” The opening closed and the door opened.
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.” He paused. “The war came along at just the right time. I enlisted when I was eighteen. 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.
“I guess the honeymoon’s over.”
“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.
A light rain began to fall and streaked the windows on the outside. Miles was nodding off next to me as I looked at the passing countryside separated with hedgerows and populated with sheep and cows. England was so very different from Germany. But both countries would spend many years rebuilding after the destruction of the war. The differences between Miles and me were becoming more acute also. College educated in Berlin, sandy blond hair with green eyes, I was a direct contrast to Miles’ dark hair, blue eyes and uneducated background. His skin was smooth and white and when he blushed or exerted himself, his cheeks became a rosy red. My skin was tan and pink and I was hairy all over with short blond hairs, while Miles had little to no body hair. Although he had memorized Wordsworth, his working class roots were apparent in his speech and demeanor, and though charming in some situations, he would have a hard time with the upper middle and upper classes of both England and Germany.
The train pulled into the Milford Station in the late afternoon. Everything was wet from the earlier rains as Miles and I made our way to the platform. We inquired at the station about making our way to the manor. We were informed that there was only one cab in town and he had just left the station and should return in about an hour. We found a local pub to get something to eat. Miles was in a dark and brooding mood. His moods seemed as changeable as the weather.
“Is something bothering you, Miles?”
“What’s to become of us?”
“How do you mean?”
“Look at us, a couple of vagabonds.”
I ordered us some shepherd’s pie and two pints. Miles ate in silence as I considered my future with him.
“Try not to take things so seriously, Miles.” He smiled and took a drink of his beer. I continued, “We have a lot of work ahead of us, you know. I believe the manor has not had anyone caring for it in the four years since my mother died.”
“Did you know her?” He asked.
“I never knew she existed until about five months ago. Never knew my father either. He died when I was only four years old. I was raised by my grandparents. They died in the fire bombings.”
“Were they married?”
“No, silly, yer mom and dad.”
“I always thought they were.”
“I’m sorry. Well, it looks like we’re a couple of vagabond bastard orphans.” He wiped his bowl clean with a piece of bread and finished his beer. “We should go look for the cab.”
I paid the barkeep and we walked the few blocks back to the station. The cab was waiting at the curb.
“Are you the blokes what needs a lift?” The cabbie shouted as we approached.
“Yes, Reid Manor. Do you know it?” I asked.
“Sure, out past Windley about thirty minutes.”
We climbed in and soon the Midlands countryside was flashing past the car windows.
“Nobody goes out there much these days,” the driver remarked. “Not since her Ladyship passed away, ‘bout four years ago I think it was. His Lordship died just before the start of the war. Beautiful grounds, but no one’s been tending them properly in years. They tried to keep up with it, but gave up after his Lordship died.”
“Did you know them, Lord and Lady Reid?” I asked.
“No, they had a driver for their car and I usually picked folks up and drove them out to the Manor. Just saw them a few times here and there,” he replied. “Heard plenty though. Are you related?”
“Yes. I’ve inherited the estate.”
“Good Lord, I had no idea they had children.”
“I’m her son from a previous marriage.” I smiled at Miles who was grinning.
“Well, congratulations. You’ve certainly got yer hands full.”
We turned off a country road, passing through a gate with a sign on a brick post that read, “Fair Oaks.” The long gravel driveway took us past fields and forests until we arrived at an imposing three storied building made of limestone with several chimneys and covered in ivy. The entrance had a gothic arch as did all the windows facing the outside. Large oak trees surrounded the manor on all sides and one particular oak towered over the south wing. As we pulled up to the doorway, a middle-aged woman in a black dress stepped down the entrance stairs towards the car. The driver got out, made his way to my door closest to the house and opened it for me. I stepped out as he got our luggage from the boot.
“Welcome, home, sir,” she said to me and shook my hand.
“Mrs. Sellers?” She nodded, “Thank you. This is Miles Sheffington, the friend of mine I wired you who would be staying with us.”
Mrs. Sellers looked over my shoulder as Miles got out of the cab and put her hand over her mouth.
“Is something wrong?” I asked.
“It’s uncanny,” she replied.
“Mrs. Sellers, are you alright?”
She stood with her hand over her mouth and her eyes began to tear. Miles was looking around him and had not noticed her reaction or pretended not to at least.
“I’m sorry, but the resemblance..” She wiped her tears quickly with a handkerchief that seemed to appear out of nowhere and straightened her dress.
“I’ll show you to your rooms, dinner is ready if you would like to freshen up.” She looked at Miles who nodded to her and then turned and walked up the stairs to entrance. I paid the cabbie and Miles grabbed our luggage.
“I can carry my case,” I said.
“On no, yer Lordship. Gotta start earning my board and keep sometime.”
“Miles, please. Let me..”
He charged up the stairs passed me and followed Mrs. Sellers into the house. The foyer was stark and devoid of any accessories.
“I’m afraid the house is not what it used to be,” Mrs. Sellers said as she reached the center of the room, turning towards Miles and me. “Many things had to be sold to pay debts her Ladyship had acquired during her illness. She left me in charge of the place and it’s been my privilege to remain here and care for Fair Oaks. It’s just me and Lettie, the cook now. I’m afraid the place has gone to rack and ruin.” She was staring at Miles the entire time she spoke. She still had not smiled. She turned and walked to the staircase. “Please follow me to your rooms.”