[center [font "Calibri" When the Great War broke out there was a surge of patriotism and a rush of men signing up to fight for their country, thinking that the war would be over by Christmas. Four harsh years were taken from those that signed up to fight and for some of the soldiers their time in this world was over; their lives claimed by the horrors of war.]]
[center [font "Calibri" As the war was being fought on the Western Front there were real battles being fought every day back in England. Many women were fighting against the loss of their husbands, fathers and sons and loved ones. It was not uncommon and many banded together to deal with such loss. Still, life had to go on and soon enough the war would be over and those who had lost could work on rebuilding their lives whilst always remember those who had given up theirs.]]
[center [font "Calibri" Elizabeth lost a man whom she loved; a man who had once asked her to marry him but sadly it was the war that broke them apart and one day that dreaded telegram was delivered to her home letting her know that her soul mate had passed early on during the war. She had promised to wait for him until the war was over, but now she knew he would never return to her.]]
[center [font "Calibri" In 1918 a miracle happened and the war came to an end and with the end, came the return of the brave soldiers who had remained to fight for them. Elizabeth hadn’t expected that the man she had once loved would return to her after being pronounced dead but sure enough one day he showed up at her door, ready to give his entire world to her. Yet she seemed sad. It has been a year since she had been told he had died and with not one letter from him how could she had possibly hoped that he was still alive? For when he had returned she had been engaged to another to help with the debt that had been brought upon her family when her father passed.]]
[center [font "Calibri" I am wanting to start at the very beginning of this story. It will begin in 1914 just before the war breaks out. At some point along the line Elizabeth will meet your character, whether that be before the war breaks out or during one of his relief visits home. We can decide that together. I want to follow the story all the way through from them meeting to him returning to her after she had been told that he was dead. Again we can discuss the finer details if you decide to join me. I think after that point we can allow the roleplay to flow however it may.]]
[center [font "Calibri" I would like someone who would be willing to play Elizabeth's love interest. Please PM me to let me know that you are interested and we can discuss the details further. I generally post anything from 300 - 1500 words depending on the level of depth required although I do not require or produce this for every post, especially if there is a conversation taking place. When the time comes, I figured that both of us could have control of Elizabeth's fiance so that we can move the plot along.]]
[center [pic https://orig00.deviantart.net/b0ca/f/2018/004/9/f/c35e_by_burningsxn-dbyw6qk.jpg]]
[center [pic https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/236x/0f/32/92/0f3292a4a124cf8a1d4c43d52ade7c35--thomas-barrow-downton-abbey.jpg]
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It might had been foolish of Elizabeth to find herself excited at the prospect of spending more time with Jamie but she was not about to let the man she loved slip through her fingers again. They would find some way out of her engagement and they would be together again regardless of their current situation and that alone made her feel things she had not felt for a very long time. Hope had been something that had escaped her a long time ago, even though a small part of her wished for Jamie to come home one day, she never imagined that her wish would become a reality. Yet, here they were sat around his parent’s dinner table as though he had never been away in the first place.
However, she was not naive. Elizabeth understood all too well how much their time apart might have changed them as people and while her feelings for him were still stronger than ever, they were completely different people now than they were four years ago. Time and different experiences would have changed them both, especially Jamie. She had read about the soldiers who returned home, unable to find peace in their everyday lives because they were haunted by the images of war. It was clear now that the war was over, Britain had been shielded from the true horrors of the front line and it was only because of the return of their men that they learned just how horrific their lives out there had been. For that reason, Elizabeth was more than sure that Jamie was no longer the same person he was before he went to war and they would need time to get to know each other again and learn how to be themselves once more. God knows she had not been herself since the day Jamie left.
Elizabeth looked up from her plate towards Jamie’s mother who was seemingly already beginning to plan their future together. It seemed strange that the last time she was here, his mother was encouraging her to move on and find herself a husband. How disappointed she might be now to find out that was exactly what she had to do. Maybe her plans of the future would halt then or perhaps she would simply tell her that an engagement was not as binding as a marriage and that she still had time to walk away. She would if she had not promised her mother to take care of the family when she was gone although she was convinced that her mother would be encouraging her towards Jamie if she were alive to tell her to do so, regardless of what her father had done.
She couldn’t look at his mother much longer, mostly because she was ridden with guilt because she did not know that she was not Jamie’s just yet. Perhaps his mother would not be so excited if she learned of her engagement. It was what she had come here to tell her in the first place but none of that seemed to matter now. Her eyes moved back down to her plate as Jamie put a stop to all the talk of her future duties and she found relief wash over her as he did so. She glanced towards Jamie and smiled softly before returning her attention back to the food before them. Even now she felt lucky to have him protecting her in such a way. He could have so easily cast her aside because of her engagement to Sebastian but he did not and that filled her with more love for him. They might have changed, but her feelings for him were still there and they were evolving more with every minute she spent by his side.
After a minute of silence, Jamie broke it once more and the words he spoke caused her to blush and laugh to herself. The image of him chasing vegetables down the street seemed enough to cause his mother and father to both laugh once more and the tension seemed to melt away while they finished their dinner. The entire time she was finishing up her food she couldn’t help but wonder what kind of memories the two would build together now that they were no longer apart. When Elizabeth glanced around the table once more she found that everyone had finished their meals and she began to stand so that she could help his mother clean up but the moment she did the woman protested.
“Not this afternoon. My husband and I will clean up.” Elizabeth glanced quickly towards him and watched as a surprised expression find his face as though helping her clean up was the last thing he wanted to do but when his wife nudged him gently his expression changed again and he nodded. “You two go ahead and start catching up on all the time you have missed.” She said with a smile and for the first time, she did not protest about helping the woman. Elizabeth had always insisted on doing so but on this one occasion, being given the chance to talk to Jamie alone seemed like a better option. Elizabeth nodded and glanced towards Jamie.
“Shall we go for a walk?”
It would have been so easy to spend the entire meal just watching Elizabeth. Though her plate never seemed to empty of food, not as quickly as his own did, it was captivating to watch her. In fact, Jamie could have watched Elizabeth do the most mundane of chores and still found it fascinating to watch. It took almost everything in his power to not move his seat even closer to her. His fathers raised eyebrows and clenched jaw spoke more than words to Jamie. The man didn’t quite understand the situation – if he was being frank with himself, Jamie didn’t either. Even without knowing about Elizabeths situation, his father knew that both of them had dealt with emotional turmoil over the years, whether it be presumed deaths or missing letters, the pair had been through too much to simply go back to the way things had been.
Sitting there side by side, Jamie could see why his father would be confused. He had not witnessed the outburst, the tears or the distress. His father didn’t know that as Jamie sat there smiling at the beautiful woman who had captured his heart the man was plotting a million ways in which to free her from her engagement to another man. That was why Jamie did not move his seat closer, their short time together had already been filled with a thousand emotions and more passion than he had witnessed in four years. Elizabeth was no longer solely his and on top of that, they had grown as people, no longer the same young adults they had been before. He had promised himself to enjoy their time together and to do that he would need to keep his feet on solid ground. Daydreaming of their future which seemed very out of reach would do neither of them any good.
It was only moments before his mother started discussing other duties that Elizabeth would need to learn if she were one day to live with Jamie.
“Ma, enough with that kind of talk. Elizabeth and I have years’ worth of catching up. We need to spend some time getting to know each other again, just like I have with you.” He said nodding his head towards his parents. “This is all a lot to take in. Perhaps we can just enjoy our meal without any talk of the future.”
Jamie's mother nodded her head shyly and for a moment he felt a wave of guilt wash over him. He had not meant to scold her like a child, only to protect Elizabeth and himself from plans of a marriage and future that neither of them could talk about without bringing up her other man.
A few seconds of silence passed and Jamie felt worse about how he had spoken with each one. It was clear he had ruined the family atmosphere that had been causing Elizabeth to smile and his parents to relax. Lifting his fork to his mouth to take another taste of his food he shifted in his seat and looked at Elizabeth.
“I’m sure we will sell more than usual with you there. One look at your pretty face and everything will sell within minutes.” Jamie said, his voice much lighter than before, his brown eyes crinkling as he smiled. “The entire village will be talking about you by midday. It will finally stop them gossiping about how I managed to drop an entire cart of vegetables and chased them down the street last week.”
She too, had wished that they had more time together before his parents had come into the room but there would be plenty of time over the next couple of days for them to enjoy private moments. Elizabeth might have even gone out of her way to ensure that she would have some time alone with him before she would have to return home. Out here they need not care too much about social decorum and she knew that his parents would not judge either of them for wanting to spend as much time together as possible. It had been four years since they had last seen each other and her feelings were stronger than they had been then. She had been filled with such emotion only moments before that she was sure that those emotions would not subside any time soon, in fact she was confident that they would remain upon the surface for her remaining time upon this earth. Emotion that she had once told Helen would be something she never felt. How untrue that had been.
Elizabeth waited at the table patiently waiting for the rest of his family to join her. All the while she found herself thinking about how wonderful it would be for these gatherings to become a common occurrence. How they would visit his parents most weekends for family dinners from their very own home together. Maybe one day they would have a child or two running around the table too. She smiled to herself at the thoughts and knew that even though their future together was not something she could see happening anytime soon, it would happen. That much she knew. Her thoughts were interrupted by the feel of Jamie’s leg brush against her. Her cheeks burned with the heat that rose to them and she found herself trying hard to focus on the table before her. If she were to look at him now she was not sure that she would be able to pull her eyes away from him. Once he had finished putting food onto his plate she took her turn to fill her own plate although she did not seem to fill it with much, suddenly finding that her appetite was not as prominent as it had been when she had first started to prepare their food. It was as though she had returned to the state she had been when she had first met Jamie. It was so clear to her, the way she had skipped meals because her mind had been occupied with thoughts of him. It was the same now, suddenly without appetite.
She picked up her fork and shifted some food around her plate before she finally started to eat something. Elizabeth looked up when Jamie mentioned that she could go to market with him tomorrow. Something so simple filled her with joy and she couldn’t help but look towards him and smiled. She would have loved nothing more than to learn what Jamie did with his time, especially since this was going to be her future. When his mother interjected she looked towards her and held back a laugh. Elizabeth distracted herself by eating another bite of her food before she looked back towards Jamie’s father. “I wish to be useful while I am here. I would be more than happy to help, and you know how I hate to sit around and do nothing.” She smiled and looked towards Jamie. “I would love to come to market with you tomorrow."
Jamie wished that his parents had waited longer to come in. Her words caused his throat to constrict and his hands to shake, it was almost too much for him to hear. She had told him she would follow him anywhere and he had told her he had never believed in love until he met her. If only he had known back then that his ideas of love were so underwhelming compared to what he felt now for her. How he wanted to tell her to leave everything and stay, to say that they didn’t need her father or to keep promises to anyone but each other. Another man would have done it and Jamie would have given anything to be that man at that moment, but Jamie had loved Elizabeth's mother, even if they had only met the once he had seen the love that had passed between mother and daughter and he was not about to be the reason Elizabeth broke her word.
If only he had time to tell her that she was the reason for everything he did, for every breath he took and without her he would have given up millions of times over. It was one thing to die for the person you loved, it was an entirely different thing to live for them. Jamie had endured the worst imaginable and he had endured it all for the sliver of hope that Elizabeth would be waiting for him when he returned. Jamie blinked back tears as she recalled the memories of their time together before the war broke them apart, wanting nothing more than to go back to those days. He had been so confident of their future back then and now everything was so delicate and unbalanced, the smallest of wrong choices could damn either of them to a future they did not want.
The kitchen door opened and his parents entered the room. His father looking between the two with a million questions on his tongue. Jamie suddenly felt a slight irritation towards his father. The man he had trusted and confided in had kept things from him, he had not told him that Elizabeth still visited them or that she had mourned him just as they had. Pushing back the unpleasant feelings, Jamie decided that he would deal with the older man when Elizabeth was not present, it would not be fair to her to witness his anger again, especially after his outburst when they had first seen each other.
Both his parents took their seats opposite each other, always choosing to sit side by side rather than opposite each other. Jamie sat next to Elizabeth, his leg brushing her briefly as he lowered himself into his seat. Knowing full well that his action would not go unnoticed by Elizabeth, Jamie kept his eyes forward and started to dish food onto his plate. It had been such a long time since the man had felt himself truly relax and although Elizabeth had just caused his heart to beat faster than humanly possible, sitting as a family together over dinner forced a smile from him.
Things would work out, even if it was difficult the destination would be worth the fight for their relationship. For now, Jamie swore to himself he would try to enjoy his limited time with Elizabeth until she returned home. There was no point dwelling on the negatives when they were lucky enough to have been given a second chance after everything.
“Are we ready for the market tomorrow?” Jamie's father asked before taking a bite of his dinner. Jamie nodded and finished loading his plate, purposefully making his hand brush Elizabeths as he placed the serving spoon back.
“I was thinking Elizabeth could come with me.” Jamie said, smiling at his father who frowned slightly as he considered it before receiving a sharp nudge from his mother.
“It will be good for her to learn how to manage parts of the farm, there's no harm in teaching her early.” His mother said, her implications clear. Jamie bit down on his fork and tried not to laugh as his father shook his head. His mother was always scheming, why did it surprise him that she was still so insensitive about it?
In her mind, Elizabeth knew that she should have tried to keep the distance between them, but it was as though her heart betrayed her and gave in to the fact that she needed to be near him. She had felt that need many years ago, every time they saw each other, and she was glad that the feeling had not faded away. Before now, all she had to keep her going were the memories of their time together. Memories of their time together at Helen’s engagement party, how it had started to rain and how he had helped her find shelter from it and made her feel something for the very first time. How he had stolen her heart from that very moment. She had known then that she would never find room in her heart for another and she remembered the time they had told each other a secret at Helen’s wedding and how she had proclaimed that she would go anywhere for him and give up her life just to be with him. That fact was truer now than it ever had been, and she wanted nothing more than to prove it.
Elizabeth allowed her eyes to close as his lips found her forehead, but she found herself wishing that it was her own lips that he had found. She was sure that she would find the next few days extremely difficult, although she was sure if Helen were here to advise her she would tell her to follow her heart. She smiled to herself at the thought and she looked up at Jamie as he proclaimed that his room reminded him of her scent. “Do you remember when you asked me to tell you a secret? Something that no one else knows?” She waited for some acknowledgement from him before continuing and she brought her hand to his cheek softly resting it against the contours of his jawline. “That is still true today. I would happily stay here and forget about my life back home, about the business if it meant that we could finally have the future that we deserve.”
Elizabeth knew that he would not allow that to happen, but she felt as though it was still important for her to say. “The day I met you my whole world changed. From acting foolish in the rain, to dancing at a wedding even though I know you hated dancing, to stolen kisses behind the tree…” Elizabeth blushed slightly at the memory but her smile still remained and her hand still lay where she had rested it. “I want to make more memories with you Jamie. Nothing in this world is going to stop that from happening. Not my father, not his business…not Sebastian.” Her tone made her sound so sure of herself and in the moment, she was. There was nothing that was going to stop her from being with him and that was a promise she was making for the both of them right now.
As she heard movement outside the kitchen she took back her hand and cleared her throat before taking a step back to put a little more distance between them as both of his parents entered the kitchen, ready to eat dinner together. Elizabeth greeted his father happily as she took note of the way his mother was still feeling rather proud of herself for orchestrated this meeting between them, but she was sure that would change if she were to find out that she was engaged. How strange that her whole reason for coming here was to tell her that she was going to be getting married and now that was the last thing she wanted to tell the woman. Instead, she ignored those thoughts and took a seat at the table and waited for everyone else to join her so that they could enjoy a meal together, the first meal she had ever shared with Jamie in such a way.
Preparing dinner shouldn’t have taken long, especially with the three of them working together. Both Elizabeth and his mother were efficient in the kitchen and it was clear they had their own routine. It was impossible not to watch Elizabeth as she worked, each movement was graceful and only conjured up more fantasies about what life would be like when they had their own home, together. Jamie was given only one task which had been to prepare and cook the meat, something that he couldn’t possibly ruin and yet he took his time with everything, dragging out the process just to work beside Elizabeth for a little longer. If he was hungry he didn’t realise, her eyes, her smile, it was enough to stop him from feeling anything other than the love that swelled in his chest.
With every touch of her hand against his and every brush of skin, Jamie was sure that he would drop everything he was doing and take her in his arms to kiss her with enough passion to make up for their lost years, even with his mother in the room. Nevertheless he kept their contact limited to the occasional touch, though small it was enough to send heat burning through his skin.
Everything still felt so surreal. So many times he had thought of moments like this, dreaming of the small things he was missing out on whilst being away from her. It was not just the physical things Jamie had missed, the touches, the stolen kisses and hand holding. It had been the conversation and the way she made him feel like a better person, just for loving her. Knowing he was losing time every day that passed, time that should have been spent together only made each moment with her now so much more important. Thoughts like that had hurt. Now Jamie knew that he could never live without her.
Seeing Elizabeth [i had ] bought pain initially. Finding out that she was engaged to someone else could have broken him and still he knew that through it all he would fight till she said she no longer wanted him. Even then, if she did turn around and tell him to leave her alone, he would never forget the way he felt stood there in that kitchen with her and that was only confirmation that what he felt was true pure love.
“I can’t disagree with that. All I have done since I got home has been eat. Home cooked food is one of the many things I’ve missed.” Jamie said, glancing over at his mother who was smiling proudly to herself. Cooking was something she had always prided herself in and she had only gotten better over the years. Jamie was glad that Elizabeth had stayed in contact with his family and knowing that she had bonded with his mother and helped them cope through their grief when they believed him dead only made him love her all the more.
Jamie was almost disappointed when the food was done. He stood back to watch Elizabeth and his mother set the table, not wanting to get in the way, and was once again pleased to know that this was not the end of their time together. His mother left the kitchen to find his father who was still working, something that Jamie had not done since Elizabeth arrived and he was sure that would come into conversation over dinner. Then Elizabeth was there, holding his hands, sending that heat through his body. It was almost certain that by the end of her stay he would still not be used to her touching him.
Her admission that she slept in his bed and the blush on her cheeks only made him laugh softly. She was so sweet and knowing she had still missed him and wanted to be close to him made his eyes sting. “Get used to it love, because I’m not going anywhere. Not ever again.” Jamie smiled back at her and gave her hands a reassuring squeeze and before he could stop himself he leant forward and pressed a light kiss to her forehead. It only lasted a second but it was enough to send his stomach into a thousand butterflies. Jamie pulled back and straightened up, aware that his parents would be back any moment. “At least I know I’m not going mad now. I was so sure my room smelt like you and I just assumed it was my mind playing tricks on me again.” He said and smiled.
It did not take long for Elizabeth to pick up where she had left the vegetables. Perhaps she had returned to her previous duties to change the conversation. While she understood why Jamie’s mother had not told her about him, perhaps he struggled to see why she would keep something like this from the two of them. The last thing she wanted was tension so distraction was the way forward in her mind. Although she wanted nothing more than to continue being near Jamie in their granted privacy, she knew that they would get the opportunity do so over the next couple of days since he had decided against asking her to leave, although she could never imagine a scenario where he might have just done that. She would not have blamed him if he did though. She was engaged to another and she did not want to implicate him in something more than he deserved but even after all the time that passed, she was glad to learn that he still had feelings for her.
Elizabeth laughed softly as Jamie attempted to tell her that she was a guest here. “Jamie, I’m sure your mother would agree that I’m no longer a guest in this house.” She glanced back at his mother who was offering her a kind smile. “She has welcomed me here as though I am a member of the family and I wish for that to continue.” It was true that his mother had very much treated her as though she were her own daughter and they had become close over the years, especially since she had been grieving the loss of a mother and his mother had been grieving the loss of a son. They had both helped each other to heal and their commitment to each other would not dwindle too easily now.
For now, she fell into a routine and found herself working next to Jamie who was working around her, seemingly finding excuses to just be near her. While she usually enjoyed preparing food with his mother, on this occasion she was grateful for the distance she granted them and as they continued to get dinner ready, she found herself smiling and glancing towards him at every opportunity she could find. “I’d like to think that I have honed my skills in the kitchen in recent years. I’ve been taught many things by your mother and she is a far better cook than anyone I know.” She said with a smile as he moved to the other side of her.
She watched him washing his hands and visions of a future in their own home, working around each other to prepare a meal for their own family entered her mind. It was something she wanted more than anything and the image was almost enough to convince her to stay indefinitely. Elizabeth would happily give everything up to be with him but a part of her knew that Jamie would not allow that to happen. He would not allow her to break her promise to her mother and for that, she loved him even more.
While they busied themselves, there were several stolen glances and moments where she was sure her heart would beat right out of her chest because she could feel his skin against her own or even inhale the scent of him; something she had missed more than she cared to admit. It was strange how familiar everything felt even after all of this time.
Soon enough they had finished preparing food and Elizabeth was moving the food into the middle of the table so that people could help themselves and she sighed happily as she observed that everything was in its rightful place. With that she removed her apron and turned to his mother who was telling her that she was about to fetch her husband and she found herself alone with Jamie again. As she ran her hands over the dress she wore to smooth the material, Elizabeth found herself moving towards him, unable to keep away and took his hands in her own.
“I still cannot believe that you are here. During my previous visits…I slept in your room.” Her cheeks turned a light shade of pink at the admission and she laughed nervously to herself as she looked down at their intertwined hands. “It helped me feel close to you. Yet, knowing that I will be in a room next to you…makes me feel closer to you still.” Elizabeth met his gaze now and smiled.
If seeing her for the first time in years hadn’t been perfect then her words telling him that she would be staying were. Despite everything with Sebastian they were being given a chance to spend time together uninterrupted by long distance, something they needed desperately after such a long time apart. Jamie only hoped that he would be able to cope when the time did come for her to leave. He would deal with that when the time came, right now he just needed to enjoy being with Elizabeth, the rest could wait.
“Don’t be silly love, I wouldn’t send you away for all the money in the world.” Jamie smiled and although he could feel the worry in her words he felt more relaxed than he had in a long time. It was obvious that they had a mess to get out of, it would take time and there was always the chance that they could not do it but Jamie knew there was no way he was going to let Elizabeth marry another man and he was willing to do what it took to get her back with him for good. In that moment the only worry that Jamie had was whether or not he was going to be able to get through the next couple of days without kissing her.
The kitchen door opened and Jamie reluctantly pulled his hand from Elizabeth's face and turned to face his mother. Although she was apologising she still had that look in her eye, the one that told him she was up to something. Before he could question his mother about her intentions Elizabeth spoke and stood from her seat.
“Elizabeth, you don’t have to make dinner. You’re a guest here.” He said, following her lead anyway and standing. He made his way over to the oven to start it warming and then picked up a knife ready to start preparing the meat.
“She’s right James, if we don’t all help then it will be well after dark by the time we eat.” Jamie looked over his shoulder at his mother who had started to clean the table just as she flashed him a grin. Of course, she would agree to this. It was just like his mother to side with Elizabeth especially when she knew that playing ‘house’ would only make Jamie want to keep Elizabeth here at home with him even more. There was nothing he wanted more in life than to have a home with her. Looking back to Elizabeth he couldn’t help but smile as she continued to prepare the vegetables. How was it that something so simple made his heart fill with love for her?
“I hope you’re a better cook than I am.” He said, still watching her with a slight awe. The meat was from their own farm and all the hard work had been done, it only needed cleaning, cutting and seasoning before it was ready to be cooked. Jamie moved to the sink to wash the knife and his hands from the farm dust, his arm brushing Elizabeth as he moved to the other side of her, still needing and wanting to touch her at every opportunity. It was a good thing his mother was now busying herself as she wouldn’t miss the looks he gave Elizabeth or the way he made any excuse to touch her.
Elizabeth could understand what he meant. She worried that he was a dream too. There had been many times where she had imagined him coming home to her but until today she knew that was not possible. It was hard for her to come to terms with the fact that he was actually alive and that the telegram his parents had received had been wrong. She always thought that if she had been granted with this moment that they would fall into each other and live the life they had talked about before he left for the war but being engaged to another man meant that there were certain things that she could not express. She wanted nothing more than to feel his lips pressed against hers again but that would likely have to wait for another time when she was free to show him how much she loved him and how much she had missed him. For now, feeling his hand upon her cheek was something she would have to savour.
Elizabeth leaned into his hand and allowed her eyes to fall upon his once more and she smiled towards him. “I know how you feel. I never thought this day would come. Everyday…every single day I wished that you were still alive, that the telegram had been a mistake and that one day you would come home to me.” Elizabeth sighed softly. “I usually stay for a couple of days when I visit your parents, Sebastian is away on business, so I used the opportunity to come here. It…it made me feel closer to you to be here and your parents, they helped me grieve. They helped me build myself back up again after I learned that you…” She couldn't seem to finish her words, not wanting to think about that had felt before.
Elizabeth brought her hand up to rest on his that still remained upon her cheek. “I’m afraid that you are going to be stuck with me for at least a couple of days. I do not have someone coming to pick me up. But, if you want me to go I can arrange for that to change.” She hoped that he did not want her to leave but she also understood that it was going to be hard for the two of them too be around each other knowing that they had quite a mess to try and get out of.
As her lips parted to add to her words the kitchen door opened once more and his mother returned, poking her head around the door as if to check that it was safe to come in. There was a satisfied smiled on her face and Elizabeth brought her hand away from his and she looked up towards his mother who was already apologising for not saying something the moment she walked through the door.
“It’s alright. I understand. At least now I know what had made you so happy.” Elizabeth looked back at Jamie and then towards his mother once more and she rose from where she had been sitting and moved back towards the food she had started to prepare. “Dinner has been delayed for quite some time. It might take all three of us to get food out onto the table today.”
Jamie felt his chest tighten at her words. It was going to take everything in him to let her go once their time together was up. It did not matter that he had gone years without her and still managed to survive, he finally had her back and if it wasn’t for this other man, Sebastian, he would have proposed to her the moment she told him she loved him. They would figure out a way to be together, despite everything that had happened she was there, telling him she did not want to go. That was enough for Jamie. It could have been easier for her to just lie and tell him she had found another, life would have been much simpler if she stayed with Sebastian but Elizabeth was willing to upheave it all to be with him.
She had dropped her eyes from him and Jamie felt a distance between them that he didn’t want. Kissing her cheek had been risky. Elizabeth was still engaged to another man and kissing her, even in a chaste way was still crossing a line. Yet Jamie still wasn’t happy. Every inch of him wanted to get closer to her. Sitting as they were was not enough for him. His hand reached out and softly brushed her cheek, his palm gently resting against her skin. Jamie let out a sigh and shook his head, a smile forming on his lips.
“I’m worried you’re a dream.” He said, his heart constricting. It wouldn’t have been the first time he had dreamt of Elizabeth. “I’m worried that if I close my eyes now you’re going to disappear. These past years- .” Jamie swallowed and blinked back the stinging tears in his eyes. “I thought of you every day, love. Every time it rained I thought of you, every time the sun shined or the moon came out. It was a living hell and yet I’d do it all again if it meant being someone that deserved you.”
He had almost forgotten what it was all for but seeing Elizabeth sat in front of him and the way his heart seemed to beat for the first time in forever every time she spoke, he remembered why he had not given up every time he had fallen. Despite how happy it had made him to see his family and be back on the farm, he had not felt truly home, not until Elizabeth had been in his arms.
“I don’t think I can let you go again.” He said truthfully. “I’m not ready to say goodbye, I’ve only just gotten you back.” Jamie was showing more weakness than he intended and talking of leaving so soon after her arriving was not something that they needed to approach and yet he couldn’t stop the words coming out.
Jamie had been scared of many things at war and yet he had never felt fear like being without Elizabeth again. What if she decided that it was all too much? What if her feelings were only because she had thought him dead and sometime apart would reveal her that she did not really love him? Maybe she only pitied him, maybe she would return home and fall in love with Sebastian. It could happen, Jamie himself had fallen so quickly for Elizabeth that it wasn’t unrealistic for it to happen with someone else.
All the while she spoke, he kept his hands around hers. It was comforting but she thought that he might let go of her when he realised what she had done. Elizabeth found it a lot harder to tell him than she had initially anticipated. She was worried that he might think less of her for agreeing to such a deal with a man who was blackmailing her. She wished that she had been strong enough to detach herself from her family and to turn Sebastian down but she would not have been able to survive on her own without a home or any money. If she had any hope at all that Jamie might have been alive, she would have turned him down and resided herself to a life in the countryside, waiting for Jamie to return home on the farm with his parents.
While she spoke she could detect the anger coming from Jamie but she was not sure where it was placed. Was he angry with her or with the situation? She could only hope that he was not angry with her. Elizabeth was not sure she would be able to cope if the one person she loved more than anything in the world was angry with her because of a decision she had made to protect her family. However, he had kept his hand around hers the entire time and that told her that he still cared about her.
She wanted nothing more than to stay here with him and to never return home and if she was a different woman she might have simply suggested that, but a promise meant more to her than most. Elizabeth could not betray her mother like that and it almost broke her heart to think that she would have to leave him so soon after getting him back in her life.
Elizabeth smiled softly when Jamie brought her hand up to his lips and she allowed her eyes to close for a moment as if remembering what it felt like to feel his lips upon her skin. It only spurred a new set of tears to leave her eyes. When she opened them again, she looked upon his face as he spoke. It did not matter if his words were selfish because she would give anything to simply act selfishly and stay here with him. She was glad to hear that he was not simply going to leave her to the life she had almost settled for and when he told her that they would figure out a way for them to be together she was smiling once more.
As his lips pressed against her cheek she felt a familiar heat rise within her and she pressed her hand against his cheek softly and looked into his eyes. The idea of having Jamie as her husband one day was more than enough to keep her going.
“You have no idea how much I wish that I could stay here with you like we always said. I want nothing more than the life we had planned together and I will do anything to make sure we get there.” She looked into his eyes deeply and swallowed hard as she tried to supress the overwhelming need to kiss him. The last thing she wanted to do was overstep any boundaries, especially since she was still engaged to another man and she did not want to implicate him in any behaviour that might have been deemed unacceptable. She wasn’t sure she would be able to stop herself from kissing him if she didn’t pull her eyes away from his so she simply looked at their hands, still wrapped around each other on the table.
“I do not wish to leave you.”
Jamie listened as Elizabeth spoke. Her tears had subsided and yet he was sure his were about to make an appearance. As soon as they sat at the table he regretted letting go of her. The distance between them was too much, he could feel the cool air on his skin and the ghost feeling of her in his arms. It was almost a miracle that he had gone so long without her, without touching her every chance he got. He was home now and he would not make the same mistake. Jamie shifted in his seat so that his legs brushed up against Elizabeth and his hands reached out to wrap around her own.
Her words passed over his ears; difficult to hear but important nonetheless. He certainly was angry. Not at Elizabeth but at her father for leaving her in such a position. This was a man that Jamie had wanted to approve of him, a man he had gone to war for, in the hopes of being seen as worthy of this daughter. The tables had turned and now this man was not worthy to call himself her father. Jamie drew in a deep breath and closed his eyes as she continued her story. It was taking everything in him not to storm out of that house and hunt down both her father and this Sebastian. How could a man like that lay claim to the woman he loved?
Elizabeths last words caused the anger to dwindle. Yes, she did not love him and that was what was important here. Jamie didn’t believe Elizabeth would give up her father, leave everything behind and start again with him. Especially after making such a promise to her mother. Instead, he needed to untangle the web around her and then he could offer her a life she deserved. Jamie opened his eyes and brought her hands to his mouth where he kissed each one softly before placing them back on the table, enclosed in his own.
“I’ll be honest with you. I’m glad you do not love him and you are only marrying him because of your foolish father.” Jamie looked at her and could feel the sadness surrounding her. He wished nothing more than to remove every tear from her eye and put a smile back on her face.
“I know that is a selfish thing to say, I would never wish your fathers bad luck on anyone but it would be harder for me to hear you loved him. At least now, we can figure out a way to untangle you from this mess.”
“I’m not quite sure how we’re going to do it, but I promise that we’ll end up together and happy. I love you and I’ll walk through hell to get you back with me where you belong.” He said, not wanting to add that he had, indeed, already walked through hell, or an earthly version of it. Jamie ran a hand through his hair and let out a soft sigh. How did one win back a business and dissolve an engagement? It was clear that he would need to talk to Elizabeth’s father, at least to understand how deep this agreement ran. It was not going to be a pleasant meeting and Jamie decided then that he would do it first, and tell Elizabeth about it later. There was no reason to upset her or put pressure on her.
“Give me a few days to think this over. Whatever we end up doing we will need to be careful. Sebastian might not take lightly to a stranger coming in and shaking up his world, especially one who's trying to steal his fiancée.” Jamie swallowed, trying to ignore how sick he felt at the idea of Elizabeth being engaged to anyone other than him. “I hope you realise, love, that once all this is over I’m never letting you go again. If I could have my way, I would keep you here with me now. I’d even risk being charged for kidnapping if it meant keeping you from returning to that man.” Jamie smiled then and leant forward, placing a kiss on her cheek.
“Yes, once this is all over I’m going to be the one you’ll be calling husband, not that man.”
How she was supposed to explain herself to him was a mystery to her. She wanted nothing more than for their reunion to be different. If the war had been over a month before now things would have been so different. She would not be engaged to Sebastian and her father’s business would have still be his and even if he lost it, she would not care enough about it to help him. She would have had Jamie. Yet he returned just as she had made a promise to another; a promise that she had no intention of keeping now that her one true love was alive after all this time of thinking that he was not.
It was not long before Jamie started to wrap his arms around her and she felt that familiar hold he had over her begin to surface. Simply being in his arms roused a desire within her that only Jamie could awake. Elizabeth thought that she would never feel this way again and right now she could only hope that it would last forever and that the two of them could simply forget about the world around them. Before the war, she had talked about leaving the town life behind to spend the rest of her days in the countryside with him and now the thoughts crossed her mind once more and she found herself wondering what the consequences might be if she simply never went home. No one knew she was here except for Helen and if she sent word to her about what happened she might have been able to keep her from looking for her.
It was foolish to think that things could be that easy, no matter how much she wished that it was. She had promised her mother that she would look out for her father and his business while she was gone and so far she had failed on that front. Perhaps that is why she agreed to marry Sebastian; because she felt as though she had let her mother down and by doing this she was saving her family’s reputation and her father’s business. It truly was complicated and she had no idea where to start with trying to explain all of this to Jamie.
His voice found her in such soft tones and as he spoke her tears began to subside. Whether that was because Jamie was simply capable of removing her sorrows or whether she had simply ran out of tears to cry, she did not know. Elizabeth breathed in deeply, trying to steady the erratic breathing that had come with the tears and listened carefully to his words. How she wished that none of it mattered but she knew that the moment she told him why things were so complicated he would understand. What she would not give to make it all go away.
After a short silence Jamie pulled back from her so that he could look upon her face and she met his eyes with her own. He still managed to make her heart quicken even after all this time. His touch felt electric against her skin and she closed her eyes momentarily to commit it to her memory as though she may never get the chance to feel his hand against her cheek in such a way. When he spoke is final words she did not even let him finish before she started to shake her head. She [I needed] him to understand that she was not happy; that she would not be without him in her life.
“I do not want to marry another or start a family with someone who is not you. I do not know how to explain this to you. It might anger you or it might change what you think of me. I’m not exactly proud it this.” She said as she lifted her hand to her cheek and started to wipe away at the tears that were beginning to dry up. “Perhaps we should sit down.” Elizabeth gestured towards the table and took his hand, pulling him with her gently. “My mother died a few weeks after you left and when that happened my father started to drink more and gamble. We had lost quite a lot of money and the only things that we had left was our house and his business. Sebastian, the man you saw me with the other day, was involved in a game of cards with my father and he had drank so much.” She stopped for a moment thinking about the moment he came home to tell her that he had lost it all. “He ran out of money so decided to raise the stakes with our home and his business and he lost it. Sebastian now owns the house and the business and he promised that…he promised that if I married him that we would not lose our home or our livelihood, that he would make sure my father still had a job and that people would assume that he had simply passed the business on rather than lost it in a game of cards. I agreed to protect our family from the shame.” She shook her head and looked towards Jamie in attempt to gauge how he might be feeling. “I do not love him. I do not want to be with him Jamie. I love you.”
It was much easier when he was angry. The past week he had been angry at the world and with reason. Guilt, sadness and heartbreak were much harder to deal with, to process, than anger was. It was as though his heart was struggling to beat and his lungs refused to fill with oxygen. Tears filled his eyes and he blinked them away without success. Each word Elizabeth spoke felt like another knife to his stomach. She had waited for him. The only thing he had wished for every day had been that she wait for him, that he could return to her. He silently cursed, how could they have told his family and his love that he had died? It didn’t make sense and yet it had happened.
Her next words were all Jamie needed to hear. She hadn’t fallen for another man and in time things would be able to return to the way they were before the war. Not the same, but they would be together and that was all that mattered. Jamie wrapped his arms around Elizabeth and held her tightly to him. His face pressed against the top of her head, one hand stroking the back of her hair as she cried. Jamie closed his eyes and breathed in, wishing that – despite the crying – she could stay there forever, in his arms where they were safe and together.
Jamie did not pull away as he spoke, instead he softly spoke his words against her hair. “What has happened in the past four years no longer matter, love. I’m alive, you’re here and we’re together. Whatever else the world has thrown at us does not matter.” He believed every word he spoke. What was stopping them now? If she was involved with another man it didn’t matter, she had told him she did not love anyone else. She could break it off and they could pick up where they left off without any resistance.
Jamie pulled back then so that he could see her face. Even after crying she was still the most beautiful and precious thing to him. He moved the hand that had been stroking her hair, in an attempt to soothe her, and cupper her cheek, ignoring the tears.
“Complicated how? I’m sure we can fix whatever it is.” The softness in his voice, the one that had been so present before the war had returned. It seemed that Elizabeth had the power to calm the horrors in his mind just by being close to him. He no longer thought of the blood and death. No thoughts of the other man in her life crossed his mind, it was just Elizabeth and the budding thoughts of their future together.
If she hadn’t have been so upset he might have kissed her then, but Jamie was still aware – even if he wished it wasn’t true – that they had been apart for many years and though once upon a time he would have kissed her so openly, he was unsure of their relationship. Perhaps even more so than the first time he had met her, at least then he had not been so apprehensive to touch her. Jamie sighed softly and brushed her hair back from her face. It was not the reunion they should have had, not the one he had thought of so many times. Yet she was here in his arms and they would fix her problems and finally, after so much time, they would be able to start their life together. If, that was what she still wanted.
Jamie swallowed and tensed his jaw. He had not even thought to ask her if she wanted to still be with him. Sure, she had said she loved no other but that had not been a declaration of love by far. Heat flushed his cheeks and he met her eyes.
“Unless… Unless you are happy with this new man. I just assumed that-” Jamie let his voice trail off for a moment, trying to gather his thoughts. His emotions were so out of control. He drew in a deep breath and tried to word his thoughts as carefully as he could.
“I will always be here Elizabeth. You have always and will always own my heart. I will be with no other, even if you decided to get married and have children with another man. I am yours and only yours.”
Perhaps she had no right to feel hurt in this moment. His death had clearly been a mistake and she should have been happy to see that the man who held her heart stood before her now very much alive. Elizabeth should have taken the opportunity to embrace him and tell him that everything they had talked about before they left could now play out but she couldn’t. She was promised to another now and she had no idea how things would play out in the end. However, those thoughts still evaded her. With Jamie here, Sebastian was not on her mind at all and in that moment, she could not think of a reason why Jamie wouldn’t have come home to her if he did still love her.
It was never her intention to make Jamie feel guilty but she could tell by the change in him that was exactly how he was feeling now. Neither of them had intended to get hurt yet they were both stood here bearing wounds that she would not heal so easily. A part of her wish that he had stayed so that she never had to grieve him but she knew that their lives together wouldn’t have started well if she stopped him from doing something that was important to him but seeing the look on his face now suggested that he wished he had never left for war in the first place.
Elizabeth watched through blurry eyes as Jamie finally began to close the distance between them. He was close to her now and his familiar scent began to intoxicate her in the way that it used to. While she remembered his aroma well, her memories were nothing compared to the real thing. If she was thinking about the fact that she was engaged to another man she might have stepped away but she couldn’t bring herself to. She wanted to step closer still, closing whatever distance was left between them but she managed to stop herself from that. His hands came towards her face and delicately brushed away the tears that were falling but she could not seem to calm herself long enough to get them to stop. She had cried over Jamie so many times before now yet this seemed like it would never end.
Elizabeth inhaled deeply as he spoke and her eyebrows were knotted with confusion as he spoke of coming to her. She would have known if he did surely but when he continued to speak the realisation of what happened came crashing down on her. She shook her head now, guilt finding her and overtaking her emotions. Anger subsided into something else and she struggled to find the words that would explain why he had seen her with another man. She swallowed when he spoke again she leaned into the hand that hovered next to her cheek and she closed her eyes.
“Oh Jamie…this is all such a mess.” She allowed a silence to fall between them for a moment so that she could think of how she might be able to explain what happened. “I waited for you Jamie. I wrote so many letters and I thought that you were avoiding me. I thought perhaps that the war had become too much for you and that you thought that you were no longer good enough for me. So…I came here about a year into the war. I wanted answers; I wanted to know why you stopped writing to me and then they told me…they told me you were dead and my whole world came crashing down around me.” She shook her head. “I waited for you even after I knew that you were dead because, dead or alive, you own my heart Jamie.” The tears began to fall once more and she reached out to take his hand so that she could have further confirmation that it was him stood before her.
“I never moved on Jamie. I could [I never] love someone else because I do not have room for anyone but you. However, I do not know how to explain what you saw. Jamie everything is so messed up and my life has been so complicated these last couple of months. I…I don’t know what to do.” She said as she finally gave in and fell into his arms, resting her head on his chest and crying for as long as it took to get it out of her system. Elizabeth would have some explaining to do when her tears finally subsided but for now she just wanted to let out every emotion she had been feeling since laying eyes upon him again.
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