Title: The Lonely Sea
Length: 4 Chapters
By the time they reached Mrs. Purdy's the rain had all but ended. When they pulled up in front George jumped out to open the back door for Thomas. "It was good seeing you again, George. I always enjoy hearing from you, but it's not quite the same, is it?" "And you Thomas. I'll call with the details about London later this week." He got back in the car and rolled down the window. "Take care." Thomas watched as the car drove off then turned toward the steps. He stopped to wait when he saw Allan walking along the pavement toward him. "Was that a Rolls?" "I don't know for sure. I've never paid much attention to cars." "And I guess that was Lord Grantham and his chauffeur." "You're only partially right." They started up the steps together. "You had a good time?" Allan asked as he held open the door. "Very good as a matter of fact." Before Allan could try to get anything else out of him, Mrs. Purdy appeared at the kitchen doorway at the end of the hallway. "Dinner in half an hour. Are you sure you won't have anything, Mr. Barrow. I always make plenty." "No thank you, Mrs. Purdy. I'm just going to go up and do some reading. Tea and some of your delicious biscuits later of course. Wouldn't miss those. You spoil us you know." "Such blather!" She flapped her apron at him. "Away with you, you'll make be blush," she scolded before turning back to the kitchen. "You certainly are in a good mood," Allan remarked as they reached the landing beside his room. "I don't remember you ever joking with her like that before." "It's been one of those days, Allan. One of those rare, unusual but enjoyable days." "I hope I was one of the reasons for the enjoyable part." "In fact you were. So why not drop by after dinner. I have a nice whiskey you might enjoy." "Come to your flat?" "Yes." "Ted's going out so there's no cards tonight." "So if there had been a game of cards then my invitation would take second place." "What? No, that's not … That didn't come out right at all." Thomas laughed as he started up the stairs to his floor "You really do make this too easy. Shall we say seven o'clock." "After teasing Mrs. Purdy like that I should have bloody known," Allan muttered as he opened the door to his room. Thomas was still smiling as he took off his jacket and hung it in the wardrobe in his bedroom; that was followed by his waistcoat and tie. Even though it was October, the flat was pleasantly warm despite the unlit gas fire that stood in the old hearth in the living area. He unpacked his books and set them on the table beside his armchair in what had become the reading end of the room at the front bay window. Everything else was stored away and the whiskey and glasses set out before he sat down to think about what he had learned from his time with George and Dave. It was a fair amount to take in. And while he still had his reservations about Dave given how heartbroken George had been after their breakup the first time, he knew he was going to trust George on this. Besides his trip to London would provide a better opportunity to see for himself. He thought perhaps that was one of the reasons George had asked him, if in some way he was looking for his blessing. Settling back in his chair, he opened one of his new books. If that's so, it's not that surprising. Who in the family could he turn to? But I'm still flattered. --- The book lay open on his lap at the second page when a knock at the door woke him. "What the hell?" It took him a second or so to remember that he was expecting Allan. A glance at the mantle clock as he passed told him he was right on time. "You did say seven, right," Allan asked, eyeing his unusually less than neat appearance. "Yes." Thomas brushed at his hair with one hand and tucked his shirt further into his waistband with the other. "I must have dozed off. Come in. Have a seat on the sofa while I pour us a drink." While he waited, Allan looked around the room. He recognised that most of the furniture pieces were older, well made, expensive and wondered how Thomas could have afforded them. His father's extensive fortune had been made in the manufacture of high-end furniture and, although he had no real interest in the family business, he had learned how to recognise quality. Another puzzle to be solved. Thomas handed him a drink and pulled up a chair across from him. He raised his glass. "To the end of an eventful day." "And to more in the future," Allan replied before taking a sip. "You were right, this is very nice." "One of the perks of being a butler - you learn to appreciate good wine and whiskey. Among other things of course." "I take it then that your meeting with Lord Grantham went well." "It really wasn't a meeting in that sense, more a chance to get caught up on a few things. Turns out I'll be going to London to see him next month for a few days as well." "Correct me if I'm wrong, but that isn't the usual relationship between someone like Lord Grantham and a servant, is it?" "Well, you do become close in a way, but you're right that he and I are different." "Someday I'd like to know the story behind that." "It's one that's not just mine to tell." "You do like your mystery, don't you." Thomas shrugged and took another drink. "So how was the rest of your day?" Neatly sidestepped, Thomas. "I went to meet with the builder …" "The builder?" "Yes. I'm having the top two floors of the store renovated. Did you not know?" "No." Mrs. Purdy, dear, you've failed me. Thomas reached out for Allan's almost empty glass. "Let me refill that while you tell me." "I'm planning on living there. Two good-sized bedrooms, bath on the top floor, living area, kitchen and such on the first. The plans have been finalised and he starts early next month." "Mrs. Purdy won't be happy to lose you." "And I'll miss her, but she's known since I got here that I'm only short term. Besides it will probably be March before it's ready so she has lots of notice. You know she doesn't need our money, right?" "Yes, I think she takes in the likes of us in because otherwise she would be at a loss for something to do." Allan raised his glass again. "To change." Thomas thought about George. "To change. May it lead where we hope." They both drank, then sat quietly for a moment. As it turned out, it wasn't an awkward silence, more a preparation for things to come. Thomas decided that if he was going to say something it would be now. His whole idea of arranging for Allan to come tonight was to find out if his suspicions were right. It had been so long since anyone had shown an interest in him that he was still concerned he was courting disaster. But the whiskey had relaxed them both and, while it wasn't perhaps an ideal time, he felt that putting it off in the hope of a better one would be foolish. "What do you want, Allan? What are you expecting?" The unanticipated direction that their conversation had taken left Allan momentarily confused. "I don't understand. You invited me for a drink. Why would I want anything?" "It's not an accusation; I'm just curious. Do you want to be friends, is that it?" "Oh, I see. Yes." "And that's all?" "Y ... yes. Could there be something else?" The hesitation and the way he phrased the question gave Thomas his answer. With that, his caution disappeared as he moved to sit beside Allan on the sofa, letting his fingers rest on top of his hand. "You know there can be if you want." Allan turned his hand over and interlocked their fingers. "So I didn't get it wrong then?" Thomas leant over and kissed him. Neither did I. "It appears there's even more change to come." ~~~ end ~~~
It occurs to me that there are at least a few stories to spin out of this. Thomas's sister's visit. His trip to London. His developing relationship with Allan. Whether or not I'll ever write them is another matter.