Thomas Barrow, Jimmy Kent, Downton Abbey
Title: Letters From America
Length: 3 chapters
They're just words on a page, but Jimmy is confused just the same.
Everyone stood as Mr. Carson entered the servants' hall. He waved in their general direction indicating they were to sit, while he continued to sort through the mail.
"Ah, Daisy, one for you. Is that Alfred's hand?"
She practically beamed back at him. "Yes, Mr. Carson. He's been keeping me up to date. He's doing ever so well."
"Of course he is," Jimmy muttered under his breath.
"Pardon, James?" Mr Carson asked, not raising his eyes from the letters.
"Anything for me, Mr. Carson?"
"No, James. You don't get many letters, do you?"
Jimmy's mouth opened in surprise. You old bastard, how dare you ...
"Mr. Barrow, on the other hand," Mr Carson continued, sure that he had put Jimmy in his place, "is quite popular recently. Two more letters from America today. It would appear you made some friends," he noted as he handed the letters over.
From the other side of the table, John Bates snorted scornfully.
"Mr. Bates, are you getting a cold?" Jimmy sounded concerned. "Perhaps you should take some time off to rest. Colds can be particularly nasty for a man of your age." Thomas didn't raise his head from the page he was reading, but from the corner of his eye Jimmy saw him smirk. He leant back in his chair and crossed his arms, gratified because he felt that he had been able to recover from Carson's remark by disparaging someone else. And more importantly, that Thomas had obviously appreciated his effort.
Jimmy's self-satisfaction didn't last long. Carson's right. He is getting a lot of letters. I wonder who from? Under the pretense of stretching, Jimmy leant back further in his chair and tried to get a look at the envelope that Thomas had set on the table, but he couldn't make out anything other than scribbles and the stamp. Bugger. He pushed back and stood.
"Care to join me for a cigarette, Mr. Barrow?"
Thomas looked up. "Yes, good idea before the day gets away from us." He put the letter back in its envelope and slid both it and the unopened one into his jacket pocket.
"Don't be long, Mr. Barrow," Mr. Carson warned. "I want you to do the wine inventory this morning."
"Of course, Mr. Carson," Thomas replied as he followed Jimmy out of the hall. "Just what I need," he complained as he caught up to Jimmy, "an hour or so in a dark cellar, straining my eyes."
As they entered the yard, Jimmy reached back over his shoulder handing him a cigarette.
"The trials of being an under-butler, Mr. Barrow. Would you like to switch places with me and polish the silverware instead?"
His weak joke was rewarded with a laugh.
"I don't think so. It's something you're so good at I couldn't hope to compete." He held the lighter out to Jimmy first then lit his own cigarette.
They stood smoking for a minute, not speaking until Jimmy began awkwardly.
"You know, Mr. Barrow, you haven't told me much about America other than it was interesting and modern."
"Yes, I sort of expected you would have a few stories to share. Adventures, maybe."
Thomas exhaled a haze of smoke, staring into the distance as it dissolved.
"His Lordship kept me busy." He took another deep drag. "But I did manage to have some fun. Washington was a bit boring, but we spent time in New York. Now, that's quite the city."
Jimmy turned toward him, leaning his shoulder against the wall. "Is that where you made your friends then?"
"Only one really. I met him at one of the speakeasies."
"Oh?" Despite himself, Jimmy felt a prickle of jealousy. Now that's ridiculous. He can have friends other than me. Besides, this man's thousands of miles away and I'm here.
"He took me to a few places, showed me the town, so to speak. We had some good times." He dropped the butt of his cigarette, grinding it out with his heel. "Maybe I'll tell you more later if you like, but now we've got to go before Mr. Carson comes looking for us."
"How about tonight? I'll come to your room." Thomas's puzzled look told Jimmy he had seemed too anxious. Embarrassed, he cleared his throat. "Or another night."
"No, tonight by all means. It's just ..."
It was Thomas's turn to be uncomfortable. "I really didn't think you'd be interested in this type of thing. I mean my kind of ... people.
"Well, I'm your friend, right. I just want to know what you got up to." Jimmy reddened. "That didn't exactly come out he way I wanted. I ...uh, don't want those details. Shut up, Kent, you're digging the hole deeper. I mean I told you I was bored here and you obviously weren't, so ..." Still flustered, his voice trailed off.
"So I'll give you the bowdlerised version, shall I?"
"Hmm, yeah, I guess." What the hell does that mean?
Thomas laughed as they headed for the door.
"Fine. Tonight it is."
They went their separate ways once inside. Jimmy quickly found Molesley and the awaiting silver. As he sat polishing what seemed to be an unending array, his mind wandered to the letters. I wonder what's in them. He must have had a couple of dozen since he got back and I guess he will have written as many. What could they find to talk about? He only knew this man for a month or so at the most and he writes that much. A sudden realisation hit him. What if he's planning something? What if he's going to leave and go to America? Or if this ... this person, is going to come to live here? Jimmy suddenly felt his neat little world start to crumble. His friendship with Thomas had become much more important than he had planned. 'I want to find you happy and healthy' No one but Thomas had bothered caring about how he felt in a long time.
Startled, Jimmy looked up.
"I already polished that piece."
"Sorry, Mr. Molesley." As he reached over to put the tureen back with the clean pieces, his sleeve caught the can of silver polish, tipping it and sending the contents spilling along the table, some of it dripping into his lap. "Damn."
Joseph Molesley stifled a friendly chuckle as he shook his head.
"You're really not here today are you? Better go change before Mr. Carson sees you."
"I'll be back as soon as I can."
As he trudged up the stairs to his room he fumed. Look at the mess I'm in because of those letters. And I don't even know what's in them. Walking down the hall towards his room, he paused at Thomas's door. I wonder if ... He shook his head. I shouldn't. They're private. Yet his hand was on the doorknob and he was in the room before he realised it. He stood for a moment, reconsidering. This is mad. Where do I even look? He had been in Thomas's room before, so he quickly assumed the only logical places were the dresser and the small chest on top of it. If I were Thomas, they'd be in the chest. Crossing to the dresser, he tried the lid. Locked. Oh well, in for a penny ... Bending down, he began to search the drawers, careful not to disturb the clothing. Nothing. I wonder if the key for that chest is around. Suddenly he stopped. What the hell am I doing? How would I feel if Thomas did this to me?
As he turned to leave, he spotted an envelope peeking out from a book on the small table beside the bed. I really can't be that lucky, can I? He walked over, then paused before reaching down and picking it up. Just so I know what I'm dealing with, he justified to himself. He wanted to take it with him, but he was certain Thomas would notice it missing, so he took a chance and sat on the arm of the chair, pulling out the letter. It was from a month ago.
Dear Thomas,The letter went on for a few pages, but Jimmy had read enough to tell him what he wanted. He glanced at the end.
Or do you want me to call you Tommy boy again? Tommy boy? What the hell? Remember the first night when I said that? I thought you were going to have a fit. It seems, though, you got over it as soon as you saw where it was leading. Leading? Any time I called you Tommy boy after that I could count on a reaction - a good reaction.
I'm a bit disappointed though that I haven't heard from you in a while. Ah, that's worth knowing. I thought we agreed we would keep writing no matter what. Well, it won't stop me, particularly since I have a surprise which I think you will like. I'm coming to England on business for a few weeks at the end of the month. I know it may be a bit short notice, it was for me too, but I hoped you might be able to come to London and show me around. Odd. That's next week and Thomas hasn't talked about taking time off. I'm particularly interested in that club you mentioned. Sounds like a place we would both enjoy. Birds of a feather and all that. What's this about a club? When would he go to a club? He hasn't been to London in a long time. Has he?
Love, Stuart Love?He folded it back into the envelope and made a quick exit, heading to his own room. As he changed he pieced together what he thought he knew. Obviously this Stuart and Thomas are more than friends. He realised what that implied, but chose not to pursue that for the moment. But Thomas hasn't been as reliable at writing as he should have been. Good. Still, he's going to London to see him. Or is he? And if he goes what does that mean?
He closed his bedroom door behind him and hurried down the stairs. I can't compete with someone who will give him ... well, give him more than I have. Why am I worrying though? He's only going to be here a few weeks, Thomas might get to see him once, then he'll be gone and Thomas will be mine again. That thought pulled him up short and he had to grab the handrail to stop from stumbling forward. That's absurd. He's not mine. Not in that way at least. Shit! Reading that letter made things worse.
He re-entered the room where Molesley was still busy polishing away. "Sorry, it took me longer than I thought. I had to mop at the spot so it wouldn't set." Should have done that.
"That's all right, James." Molesley waved his hand at the silverware that still needed to be done. "I saved you some. I couldn't have all the fun, could I?"
Jimmy picked up his cloth and began to tackle a large candelabra. Fuck Thomas and his letters from America.