[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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Elizabeth did not want to move away from him but she knew that they could not spend the rest of their time together in the barn. If not because his parents were likely waiting for him, for the fact that people might have spoken of their motivations for hiding away from the world. While she was petrified of the possibilities that might unfold when she was finally introduced to his parents, she knew that Jamie would be by her side and that might have given her some courage. Elizabeth could likely do just about anything with him by her side and that thought was both terrifying and calming at the same time.
He reached and brushed her lip, causing another wave of heat to rise to her face. How she longed for his lips to be upon hers once more. Even the thought of it sent the butterflies fluttering around her stomach without so much of a warning. His complement was enough to make her laugh timidly while she shook her head before they started to walk back to the house. All the while Jamie ensured to distract her mind with stories from his childhood, pointing out landmarks that were significant to his experiences. Elizabeth enjoyed learning more about him and she looked forward to learning more about him when the time came. When he spoke of how he jumped off walls at the age of seven, she was reminded of her own careless childhood before she was forced to become this woman she had grown into. She had her own scars and she was sure that she might share her own stories with him when they had more time. For now, she was content with him distracting her mind. As his hand tightened against hers, she looked up towards him and smiled to let him know that she was doing all right.
When they reached the door of the house, she allowed herself a moment to breathe deeply before Jamie looked towards her and sent her another one of his reassuring smiles. His smile seemed to have the powers to distract her from whatever she might have been thinking or feeling at the time. It highlighted the kindness in his eyes and that was one of the things she loved about him. Elizabeth returned his smile but could not hide the pure fear that he had so clearly detected. “That is easy for you to say. I believe that you may be a little bias.” She said with a laugh before he kissed her one final time. He did not wait for her to confirm that she was ready and she was actually rather glad of the fact because she might have turned around and ran away if he had.
When they walked into the house, he led her to the living room where his parents were occupying their minds with whatever hobbies they had chosen for themselves. Now she could feel the unease from Jamie and that only made her feel worse. It was as though she had forgotten to breathe and when she finally remembered she allowed herself a deep breath so that she could begin to calm her anxieties. Jamie introduced them and she simply smiled towards them. “It is lovely to finally meet you.” She said, trying to sound confident as she spoke towards them.
She was relieved to see his mother smile towards them but she knew as well as any that a woman’s smile could have masked a multitude of emotions. She had to stop herself from laughing when she nudged her husband and she blushed all too easily when his father addressed her as ‘the lady who our lad is obsessed with’. Any doubts that she had about his feelings for her had most certainly been wiped out by this visit and she was beginning to accept the fact that it was worth risking coming out here alone. What she had not anticipated was the embrace that his father pulled her into while Jamie still kept hold of his hand. She was more than happy to have returned it but he was seemingly trying to protect her from something she might have felt uncomfortable with. This time she was unable to contain her laugh as Jamie reacted to force his father to release her. She shared a look with him to tell him that it was something she was not uncomfortable with before he led her to a chair, still ensuring that they had contact with each other.
When his mother addressed her, she found that her throat started to tighten slightly and she had to swallow to ensure that she could talk. “It was purely by accident really. It was at my best friend’s engagement party. He had been chaperoning Ellie while he was in town and then we both seemed to be abandoned by our company that I just had to entertain him.” She laughed, looking towards him with a smile. “Then when Helen, my friend, cornered him, inviting him to her wedding as well he could hardly refuse her so I was lucky enough to spend more time with him.” She looked towards his mother with sincerity. “I think the world of him. I want you to know that.”
Jamie almost stepped towards her as she moved out of their embrace. It was a warm day and yet he could feel the sudden chill from the lack of heat now she was not held against him. It was daunting to know that after she left he would have to get used to the emptiness that surrounded him when she was not close. The way he was becoming dependent on her to be happy would have been scary if he did not feel so strongly about her. That day had already given him hope for their future, he was sure of her feelings for him and the wistful, love-dazed part of him believed that they could make a future work, he would move to the town and get a job if he had to. She was worth giving everything up for and he wanted to, to prove how much she meant to him.
As she took his hand he was reminded of his parents sitting back at home waiting for their return. Reaching up he brushed his thumb across her lips and smiled. “Is it possible that you are even more beautiful?” He said before dropping his hand. The walk back to the house seemed shorted and Jamie was purposefully slowing his steps down, trying to prolong their time together as much as possible. He could feel the uneasiness that was coming from Elizabeth and her possible fears about his parents. He tried to use their time to distract her, point out various things. “- And that is where I jumped off the wall and cut my leg open, I ended up having stitches which I still have a scar from.” He laughed, keeping his voice light. “I was only seven though. I stopped jumping off walls around that time.” His hand would tighten around hers reassuringly every so often, just as much for his own comfort as her.
They rounded the corner and followed the last of the path up until they were stood facing the front door to the farmhouse. Jamie turned to face Elizabeth and gave her the brightest smile he could muster, though his stomach was filled with nerves. He was putting all his faith in his parents now, it was important to him that they liked the girl he loved, it would be much harder for him to see her if they did not warm to her as he had. “Don’t look like that Love, they will adore you. It’s impossible not to.” He leaned forward and kissed her lips briefly before standing up. He chuckled at the pink of her cheeks and turned back to the door. “Ready?” He asked, and without waiting for an answer opened the door, keeping a hold on her hand, he led her into the sitting room that his mother and father were sat in.
Jamie rubbed the back of his neck for a second with his free hand, he wondered for a moment how nervous Elizabeth much have been if he was feeling like this. “Ma’ this is Elizabeth. You met earlier I believe.” He said, his voice coming out much politer than usual. Jamie looked down at Elizabeth, finding himself smiling again. “Elizabeth, these are my parents.”
His mother looked up from her cup of tea and smiled at Elizabeth, she then proceeded to elbow her husband in the ribs who looked up from his paper, confused for a moment before placing it down and standing up.
“Elizabeth? Ah, so you’re the lady who our lad is obsessed with. You know he sits in his room most nights, pining for you?” His father said, taking a few steps towards them. Jamie could feel the embarrassment heat his cheeks up and he kept his eyes on his father, not able to look at Elizabeth. His father reached his arms out and pulled her into a hug, as you would do a small child. Jamie still held onto her hand, feeling unusually protective. His father was so much bigger than Elizabeth and he swatted at his arm to tell him to let go of her before he ended up scaring her back off home.
His father laughed and moved back to his chair, motioning for the two to sit down. Jamie swallowed again, feeling his mouth go dry. His mother had been smiling at them the entire time but there was still the unknown fear of what she, or his father, would possibly say. Jamie led Elizabeth over to the chair and sat down next to her, his arm touching hers, side by side.
“So, tell me.” His mother started. “How did you two meet?” The question was aimed at Elizabeth rather than himself. He had already told his mother that they met during his visit to see his cousin but it seemed his mother was adamant to talk to Elizabeth.
She did not really know what to expect. They had spent several weeks apart and her longing for him could not be hidden from him anymore. She had wanted to kiss him the moment she lay her eyes upon him but knowing that there were people nearby that might have taken the opportunity to stare. She was unfamiliar with the countryside and the etiquette that came with it so she had been so careful of her actions. Now, they were alone and there was nothing in the world that would have been able to prevent her from tasting him once more. Regardless of the fact that she had felt nervous about instigating it because she would not know how he would react, the moments that his lips met hers, the fear had melted away. She was no longer self-conscious about what he might think or how she might approach it. All that mattered was that she was here with him and nothing could take that away from them.
For someone who had showed such disinterest in ideas of love, she was certainly captivated by it now. A few weeks ago, she might have laughed at the idea if anyone were to predict that she might be caught up in the affections of another. It was becoming more and more evident that Jamie was unlike anyone she had ever met and that fact alone made her fall even more for him. As she deepened the kiss, Jamie moved his hand towards her waist, pulling her closer to him. Her heart beat raced in response to the feel of his body against hers and in that moment, she never wanted to be apart from him again. If it were at all possible, it was as though their bodies were made for each other. She fit perfect into his muscular frame and the feel of him only courage her to deepen the kiss further. During the passions of their kiss, she felt his heart beat, unsure of whether it was in fact her own that she was feeling. Elizabeth was almost sure that the two were beating in time with each other.
This kiss was certainly different from any they had shared before. While it was still filled with desperation, it also mirrored how much they had missed each other in their time apart. All the doubt she had felt on her journey had melted away and nothing else seemed to matter. Elizabeth could not help but smile against is lips as it progressed and she felt her body reacting to him in ways that she had never experienced. It was as though every nerve ending cried out for him, yearning to feel his touch and his kiss. Her arms snaked around his neck, echoing the desperation she felt for him. The kiss had become her oxygen and she was not about to break away from it, not until Jamie did first.
When he did, her breathing was heavy and her lips swollen, cheeks flushed from the heat that had risen between them. She had to bite her lip to stop herself from completely falling into him again. For a moment, their eyes connected and she gazed into them lovingly without having to exchange the words to confirm that she did in fact love him. If he did not know that from the kiss they had shared she would have been very surprised. The smile fixated upon her lips had become permanent and only the thought of leaving him again could have threatened to steal it away. There was no way that she was going to allow such thoughts to ruin the moment they had shared.
Elizabeth closed her eyes as he traced a kissed below her ear, sending another shiver down her spine and sending her slowing heart beat back into overdrive. The affect he had on her was unlike anything she had every felt before and even now, she still could not quite believe it. As his words found her, she lowered her head to rest on his shoulder, still enjoying the closeness that he had instigated between them. “The same thing that you are doing to me.” She said; her voice barely even a whisper as she spoke.
She did not know how long the two had stood there in an embrace that neither of them wanted to pull away from. It could have been seconds, minutes or hours but time had escaped her. As her heartbeat began to pace itself again, she slowly regained trust in herself to look up at him again. “I believe I have stolen you away from your family long enough Jamie.” Her voice was still soft, almost as though she lacked the energy to make it sound any different. Elizabeth smiled towards him and ran her fingertips across his cheek, all the while with a smile upon her face. “Should we head back to the house? Perhaps you could properly introduce me to your mother and father?” The very idea of meeting them terrified her but regardless of what anyone might have to say, especially her own father, it was her intention to spend the rest of her life with this man. Meeting his family would have been inevitable and there was no point in avoiding it. She moved her hand into his and prepared herself mentally for their meeting. She was ready to follow him anywhere.
It was a nail-biting feeling knowing that Elizabeth would actually meet his parents. Though he trusted his father to be kind and keep his mother in check, it suddenly made things so much more real between the two. His parents would see, as clear as day, how he felt about the girl as it was impossible not to. They would see that he was drawn to her and found that his movements were synced with hers. When she moved, so did he, keeping their bodies close enough that he didn’t have to feel the awful longing that came with space between them. They would pick up on how he watched her with an interested awe, as though every little expression, every time the corners of her mouth turned up in a smile, it was the most wonderful thing he had seen. Parents noticed these things, it was their job to. Growing up with such an open disinterest in commitment and courting, they were bound to see the sudden change in his behaviour and opinions and having his parent witness this made it almost final in his mind.
Thought turned from his parents and relationship back to Elizabeth as she reached out to touch the cow. He almost laughed at her expression. It was a silly oversight to not have guessed that she hadn’t seen many of the animals in the town and though his intent had been to tease her, he found that the joke had now been turned. His heart swelled as the animal buried its face into her hand and if it had been in his power he would have repeated this moment over a hundred times just to see her reaction over and over again. Jamie had always had a great affection for animals and he had witnessed more than one woman turn her nose up at the animals. It was only making Elizabeth more special, the fact that she had reached out to the animal with a careful kindness.
Jamie held his breath as she turned her body to him, placing her hands on his chest which provoked his heart to speed. He had not expected an answer from her but from the look in her eyes, she was intending to give him one. He had openly told her that she was the only one he would love and now his heart was in her hands he was prepared for the worst. As her lips parted he found himself smiling and the heat that was so common now spread across his cheeks.
The last time she had kissed him had been different. It had been a response to his own action and he had believed the champagne had given her courage. Never had he expected her to initiate another kiss. However, just like her being there in that moment with him on the farm, everything she did was a surprise. Jamie placed his hands on her hips, barely touching for a moment. She was precious and delicate and he had wanted to keep his head, to not smother her with the intensity that he could feel bubbling inside him, but the moment her lips touched his the pining and desperate feelings of missing her mixed with his quickly growing feelings for her broke his resolve. He moved his hands from her hips to her waist and kept her pressed close to him, needing to feel as much of her against him as was possible. His heart thumped against his chest, threatening to break free at any moment and he was almost sure she would be able to feel it against her hands. The kiss was so much more than before, he had thought of the moment when he could kiss her again for weeks, he had wanted it to be romantic and sweet, perfect like she deserved and yet he was stood her, holding onto her as though his life depended on it. Every part of his body was screaming out, burning against her skin. If any part of him was doubting his feelings, or her, the way his entire body and soul had reacted to kissing her had removed it.
The kiss could have lasted for the rest of his life if that was possible. However, Jamie slowly broke away from her though he didn’t release his grip on her waist. The flush of her cheeks and the pink of her lips caused a smile to break out across his face, he loved seeing that he affected her as much as she did him. He bent his head and pressed his lips to her jaw, just below her ear. “Elizabeth, Love, what are you doing to me?” He murmured against her skin, more to himself than to her. He could not move till his heart had calmed down, he did not trust himself not to kiss her again and refuse to let her go.
It was true that neither of them quite knew what would happen after her visit today. Elizabeth had only been thinking about seeing him and she had not seemed to factor in the time when she would have to leave. When he admitted it might kill him, he ensured that he laced his tone with humour but she could not help but feel that she might not be able to manage it herself. Even the thought of being led back to the car later made her heart ache. As though he could detect the pain, he gently applied pressure to her hand in a way that alleviated the ache that threatened to take over her. She looked up towards him with a smile before looking down at their interlinked hands. Elizabeth rather enjoyed the sight of that and begun to wonder what it might have been like to do this every day of her life.
Elizabeth wanted nothing more than to spend the rest of her days in Jamie’s arms, enjoying whatever life threw at them. Her family’s money and reputation did not matter to her because Jamie had stolen her heart and he was the only person she could think about. Whether that was selfish or not did not seem to come into play in her thoughts. She had always been thoughtful of those around her but when it came to this she wanted nothing more than to be a little bit selfish. Before meeting him, she had never been able to imagine spending her life in service of making a man happy but now that she was here, there was nothing she wanted more. Now she was beginning to understand what Helen had been talking to her about these past few months. When you find that one person, everything else seems to fade into the background.
When Jamie addressed his parents, she retained a smile, not showing the nerves that she felt about trying to make his family like her. She had always been carefree about the opinions of others as she was often confident that her charms made her a likeable human being. This was different. His parents’ opinion of her mattered and if they did not approve of their relationship then she had very little chance of being able to see him again. “I do hope that she will. I do not think I could steal you away from you mother if all she had were feelings of hate towards me.” A nervous smile crept across her lips while he spoke of his father. “I cannot say that I have spoken about you to my own father.” Elizabeth knew that he would understand why that might have been the case. He did not know that her father had been trying to force some kind of acquaintance with Sebastian who he had brought around the house a couple of times. She was not sure it would be wise to share that information with him either as there would not be much to gain from it. “I would love to take the time to meet your parents properly. Although I cannot promise you that I would have a single clue how to tackle such questions from your father.” She blushed slightly at the thought.
Soon enough, they had arrived at the barn, which appeared to be their final destination. Confusion crossed her face as she begun to wonder why this would be the place where she would meet the first love of Jamie’s life. Instead of asking questions, she simply let Jamie lead the way and allowed the events to unfold before them. At first when they walked through the door he worked to block her view from whoever it was he was trying to show her. He definitely seemed the feel the need to drag this out but she found the humour in the situation. Elizabeth’s lips parted slightly in shock and a brow raised slightly as he told her that this girl had spent the evening giving birth. At first, she could not understand why there would be any need for someone who had given birth to be spending her first morning as a mother in a barn but as he slowly moved aside, the laugh built within her and she shook her head towards him to let him know that he had fooled her. She had never seen a cow up close before so when she started to make her way towards them she could not help but take a step forward with the look of fascination upon her face. Elizabeth stretched out her arm so that she could allow her to come to her. Her hand collided with the side of her face and Elizabeth smiled widely as she allowed it to stroke along her coat.
Elizabeth felt his breath upon her neck now, and the very feel of it caused a shudder to travel up her spine. She was sure that he would have seen the way that she reacted to his closeness. Her eyes started to close as he whispered to her, taking in every word and repeating it over in her mind. Her breath had become ragged and she could not bring herself to open her eyes initially but she gathered all of her strength to turn and to face him. Her head rested just below his chin and she allowed her hand to rest upon his chest. The weeks of farming had seemed to broaden it but his body close to hers was still a familiar feeling. She looked up to meet his eyes and she smiled before deciding that her reply would not be a verbal one. Instead, she allowed her lips to part slightly before claiming his with her own. The moment their lips collided, her heart seemed to jump and the butterflies that had begun to settle burst to life once more.
Jamie loved hearing her express that she had missed him. It was a selfish feeling, knowing that she had felt the same way he had, that overwhelming feeling that came with missing someone you treasured. As they strolled towards the cowshed, he looked down at her. He couldn’t stop beaming, in fact, part of him did not even believe that she was actually there. It felt so surreal that she had come all this way and although he was concerned about people finding out that she had come alone, he couldn’t have been happier. “You know I have missed you too, Elizabeth.” He looked away from her then, realising how hard it was to admit in person how difficult the past few weeks had been for him. Writing them in letters was an emotional outlet, but admitting them to her aloud made him fear for her responses.
“I do not know how I will cope when I must be apart from you again. I’m sure it will kill me.” He said, adding the last line with humour in his voice to alleviate the crushing feeling of his words.
He squeezed her hand reassuringly and looked up towards the blue sky, thinking for a moment. How wonderful life would be if Elizabeth could just stay? He would not have to miss her again, he could keep her close by so those feelings that threatened to engulf him when she was not near would rarely appear. He could do this, walk around the farm with her, eat breakfast each morning just like his parents had. The aversion he felt towards courting did not apply to Elizabeth. It was quite the opposite. He wanted her more than he ever thought humanly possible.
Snapping out of this thoughts he rolled his eyes at his mother's behaviour. “She doesn’t know you. Once she meets you she will love you, I promise.” He believed his own words, despite his mothers' cold nature towards Elizabeth, she had not spoken to the girl properly. Jamie knew his mother would warm up to her, who wouldn’t. She was enchanting and funny and he had become so completely besotted with her after such a short time, it would be impossible for his mother not to love her. “My father will want to meet you, I’m afraid I’ve spoken about you quite often.” He laughed softly, embarrassed. He could feel a heat flushing across his face and burning his neck. He had not meant to admit that he had spoken to his family about her but the words were out in a second. “Though please just ignore him if he starts asking about future grandchildren, he gets a bit carried away sometimes.” Jamie looked down at her and winked playfully.
As they neared the old barn Jamie felt himself beginning to laugh more. Her reaction to his comments about Bess had been so innocent and he wanted nothing more than to take her face in his hands and kiss her until she knew with every bone in her body that he would never love anyone but her, but they were still out in the open and he did not want to do anything that would possibly make her regret coming to see him. He never really wanted her to feel jealous but he was going to enjoy the look on her face when she realised he was referring to a cow and not another lady.
The barn door opened slowly and he turned to face Elizabeth, blocking her view of Bess and her calf. “Now, she’s only young and has spent the evening giving birth so she might be a bit grouchy with us.” Jamie looked over his shoulder to see the cow was awake and standing and her calf was lying on the straw bed. “Elizabeth, I would like you to meet my first love, Bess.” He said and pulled her into the barn quietly. He moved her gently so she was positioned in front of him but not enough that he couldn’t see her reaction, Bess in full view. He only lasted a few seconds before the cow spotted them and started to make her way over to Jamie, expecting food of some sort as he would usually have a treat in his pockets. Leaning down he placed his mouth close to Elizabeth's ear and whispered. “You are the first girl I’ve ever felt this way about, don’t forget that. You have nothing and no one to ever be jealous of.”
She might have known that he would not have rejected her presence here but she still felt the need to test the waters with him. Elizabeth was new to the world of courting and she had no idea if she had over-stepped merely being here. The very thought of courting might have even been an over-exaggeration on her part. Truthfully there was nothing clear about their relationship or their intentions past writing to each other but she made a mental note to ensure that she talk to him about such things before she left for home. For now, she didn’t want to think of going home or anything that didn’t involve Jamie and it was almost impossible for her to focus on anything else anyway.
As he brought up her hand to his lips she smiled and watched as he kissed each one in turn. The nerve endings on her fingers felt as though they were on fire and she wanted nothing more than to feel those lips upon hers but she was patient and she would wait for a more appropriate moment. He pulled her closer to him now and the contact between their bodies was enough to cause heat to rise to her face. She took the opportunity to allow her hands to snake around his back and breathe in the scent of him. The familiar scent intoxicated her senses and she couldn’t help but allow a smile to play along her lips. The silence did nothing to make her feel uncomfortable but she allowed herself to enjoy the feel of him for a moment longer. Elizabeth did not care about the presence of anyone else, nor did she notice it.
She allowed her eyes to meet his as he reached to push her hair back and she smiled lovingly towards him before moving her eye-line to his chest so that she could give herself a moment to stop them from wondering to his lips. She was not sure that she would be able to control herself if she even so much as looked at them.
“I have missed you so much.” She said in reply his acceptance before he started to question her about his mother. She laughed at his exclamation and she shook her head. “She did not say anything to me but she does not seem to like me very much.” As much as that thought bothered her, she didn’t allow it to show upon her face. She had hoped that if they were to ever be together, his parents would at least approve of them but it was obvious that she would have to work at earning the favour of his mother. He was worth the effort though. She already knew that she would do anything for him, even if that meant suffering whatever aversion his mother felt towards her.
“There is no scandal Jamie. My father is away on business and Helen is looking after my mother. Not a sole will even know I was here.” Elizabeth squeezed his hand gently to reassure him. The way he looked at her was enough to send her senses into overdrive again. She had such strong feelings for this man that she was no longer sure she would be able to get back into the car when the time came. If she could, she would have stayed with him forever, forgetting about whatever life she had built for herself in the town where she resided.
It was the sound of footsteps that roused her from her thoughts in that moment and she looked beyond him for a moment, assuming that it must have been his mother. It was apparent that Jamie was not ready for the two to meet again because as soon as he heard them he moved her away from the house gently, closing the door behind him. His motivations could have simply been that he wanted some more alone time with her before he inflicted his mother upon her and for that she was grateful. Elizabeth nodded with enthusiasm when he offered to show her the farm. There was nothing she wanted more than to learn more about him and his life here on the farm. After all, he had suffered her intolerable lifestyle for almost two weeks. The very thought of exploring his simple life was much more attractive to her. The two began to walk in rhythm with each other and Jamie began to tease her about meeting the love of his life and she raised her eyebrows wondering who he might have been referring to. Her stomach began to tighten and her throat began to close. A slight ache threatened her heart before she shook the feeling away.
“I would most certainly like to meet whoever it is that you seem to hold so dear in your affections. I suppose I must apologise for stealing you heart away from her too.” She took in the new sight of the farm as they made their way down a path near the back of his house. All the while, her hand remained in his as though that was its rightful place. Elizabeth wanted nothing more than to be able to do this every day of her life with him.
Jamie found himself smiling at her words, she was as innocent as ever. Believing that he did not want her there, that he was too busy for her. He could have been due to meet the Prime Minister and he would drop it, drop everything, just for her. Jamie took her hands and lifted them to his lips, kissing each one softly in turn. They were so small compared to his and where his were darkened from the sun, hers were as perfect as a fresh bowl of cream. His smile brightened and he pulled her in closer to him, still stood in the doorway, the country air filling the house as the door hung wide open, gently tapping against the brick wall in the breeze. Although there were people wandering by, working within earshot, the atmosphere and rules of society in the country were far more relaxed than Elizabeth's home. The people on the farm knew Jamie, they would leave their own daughters alone with him with no worries for they knew what a gentleman her was, though maybe not the kind that wore suits and used the right greetings.
"I would never ask you to leave. You have fulfilled all my dreams by coming here today. I have wished to see your face every morning since leaving and so this is the most perfect surprise." He said and let go of one of her hands to brush a strand of her hair from her face, his finger lingering against the soft strands. He took in her face, her closeness, how even after sitting in a car she still smelt like soap. For just a moment it was as if time stood still, before remembering that he had left his mother stood flustered in his room.
"My Ma' didn't say anything embarrassing to you did she? I will push her over a fence if she dared." He said, frowning slightly, his voice was light but his stomach tightened with fear that his mother had been inappropriate. Though she was a sweet women her comments about Elizabeth being too good for him had provoked nerves in him. It couldn't have been his father who opened the door to her, could it? His father would have known who she was straight away. His father had seen how much she meant to him and would have been thrilled at her arrival and would have welcomed her inside, and yet here she stood, on the threshold of the farm house.
"As much as I trust Helen, I do not want a scandal on your head because of my selfish wish to keep you here with me." Jamie dropped his hand from her hair but kept a gentle grip on her hand. He could feel his nerve endings on fire from the contact of their skin, spreading up his arm as though her touch was the sun. If he hadn't been sure before, holding her hand, her body close enough that if he just lent down slightly, he could kiss her forehead, the feeling of butterflies swimming in his stomach was enough to reinforce his knowledge that his feelings were true and real. The sun was shining down and knowing how long it would take to get her home before night, the farm boy realised he had just a few hours with the girl who had stolen his heart before he had to let her go once again.
Inside the house, footsteps tapped down the stairs. After living with someone for twenty-odd years you got to know the sound of their walk and Jamie knew it was his mother coming down the stairs. Stepping out of the doorway, gently guiding Elizabeth away from the house, Jamie closed the door softly behind him. "Would you like to see the farm?" He said softly. "I could show you around before you give me your letter." It was a strange feeling, knowing that she was going to see where he lived and worked, it was such a stark contrast to where she came from and suddenly he feared that it might change her opinion of him. It was true that he had little to offer her, she deserved more than to be a farmers wife and Jamie would happily suffer the polite, high society life for her, but he would always be a farmer at heart. Blinking a few times, Jamie realised for the first time in his life, he had actually thought about marriage. Could he marry a girl like Elizabeth? If he was to marry it would be to her. She was the life in his veins now and he found himself enjoying the idea of tying himself to her in the eyes of the law.
"I have someone that I'd like you to meet, if you would like to?" He paused watching the reaction on her face. He laughed softly and started to lead her down a small path around the back of the house. "I'll introduce you to her a bit later, she was the love of my life until I met you." He kept his words purposefully vague, enjoying her reaction. He did not really mean to make her jealous, his words were in reference to the cow and her new calf but Elizabeth did not know that and he was enjoying teasing her.
With each step Elizabeth took, she felt her heart beating faster, each step threatening to force her heart out of her chest. Her pace was slow as though she needed the time to work up the courage to even knock on the door. She watched her feet to distract herself from the oddities that crept into her mind. Elizabeth had begun with question the understated attire that she had selected before travelling here. She couldn’t help but wonder if it was suitable for the country, a place she had never visited before. She had purposely selected something rather plain so that Jamie’s family could not be quick to judge her based on the wealth of her family. She had analysed every single potential problem and tried to do something to avoid it but she knew that her very presence here could have been enough to anger Jamie’s parents. After all, this was their home and she was trespassing unannounced.
The farm itself seemed to be thriving. From what little she knew about this side of life, she could tell that it was experiencing a successful summer. The thought alone brought a smile to herself, to know that Jamie wasn’t suffering any kind of hardship in the life that he had made here in the country. As she looked around, she was beginning to piece together little things that told her a little bit more about Jamie and his life. It was exciting to think that she might see him in his own element rather than the environment that had been forced upon his when he had been invited to Helen’s wedding. Perhaps here, he would be different; More relaxed and comfortable, without feeling the need for the expected formalities of those that remained stuck in town life.
There were three separate occasions along the path where she almost stopped and turned around. Getting back in the car could have been so easy if it were not for the fact that she would regret not seeing him and that was the last thing she wanted to take away from the day. Her intention was to see him and Helen would undoubtedly reprimand her if she told her that she couldn’t do it. Besides, those working in the fields had stopped their work to take in the sight of the stranger walking towards the house. To turn around now would simply make her look ridiculous. She was glad to see that none of them were, in fact, Jamie himself. All she could do now was focus on the house and try to ignore the prying eyes that had settled upon her. This time it felt different. Such eyes belonged to those who were simply confused about who the woman was and what her motivations might have been for making an appearance. She had been so used to people looking at her purely because, in their eyes, she was an eligible and potential wife from a wealthy family.
As she neared she took a deep breath, not really knowing what to expect the moment she allowed her knuckles to tap against the door. Perhaps he wouldn’t even be here. Her journey could have simply been a waste and she might have to go home, knowing that she wouldn’t see him until he was finally able to get permission for leave from the farm. One final deep breath was all she needed to give herself the confidence to raise her arm and knock on the door that was now before her. It appeared that such courage had been mustered in vain though. As soon as her arm lifted to knock on the door a woman opened it. She must have seen her walking towards the house through her window and Elizabeth guessed that she was Jamie’s mother. There were some similar features that she shared with him that almost confirmed that she was exactly who she thought she was.
Elizabeth smiled at the woman who appeared to be glaring at her with confusion. “Can I help you? You look like you are a long way from home.” She said simply, taking in her appearance from head to toe as she spoke. Her demeanour was rather intimidating and it only encouraged her nerves to multiply as she stood there in hopes of seeing the one who had taken her heart; the one who this woman clearly wanted to protect herself.
“I’m looking for Jamie.” It appeared that was all she needed to say for his mother to know exactly who she was. Her lips parted for a moment as though she was going to say something but she seemed to decide against it and her lips pursed once more as she let go of the door that she had been holding on to. She nodded towards her and walked into the house, leaving her stood there alone once more. Elizabeth could only assume that she was about to fetch him so she could do nothing more than wait patiently with each second feeling like a lifetime.
The sight of him alone was enough to take her breath away. The smile that danced upon her lips echoed the happiness that had overcome her in that moment. It seemed as though he had been in a rush to get to the door and the way he fiddled with his shirt suggested that he had hurried to get dressed yet when he saw her, he seemed more surprised by the sight of her than she had expected. She could only assume that his mother did not tell him that she was here. Elizabeth had to expend all of her will power to not reach out for him and pull him into an intimate moment. In their time apart he had allowed his facial hair to grow out slightly and his sun-kissed skin only highlighted the handsome features that she had been seeing in her dreams and in her thoughts every day since they had met.
Her heart skipped when he whispered her name and took her face in his hands. How she had missed the feel of his skin against her own. Elizabeth allowed her eyes to close for a moment so that she could focus all her senses on that feeling; one that she had remembered all too well in the weeks that had passed. When her eyes opened she noticed that his gaze had wondered to the car that was parked at the end of the never-ending pathway that she had walked upon only moments ago. At least when he spoke again she did not detect any disappointment but it was apparent that he was concerned about her presence here, even if it was simply because she had journeyed here without a chaperone. She knew that it was reckless and impulsive but she would be willing to withstand the consequences should anything go wrong.
“You said that you did not know when you would have the time to leave the farm again. Time is all I have to give.” She said simply before bringing her hand up to meet the one that had dropped to her shoulder. Elizabeth was still fighting the urge to fall into him. “I cannot lie to you and tell you that I have any company other than the driver but you have nothing to worry about. Helen and her fiancé have it all in hand, as you know, Helen is quite the miracle worker when it comes to schemes.” She took a deep breath and handed him the letter. “I came to deliver this myself, so I could see you if only for a minute. If you do not want me here I can leave satisfied knowing that I was able to do just that.”
The days had passed, each one getting warmer and the work, in turn, had increased. Both men had thrown their all into ensuring that the harvest in a few months would be large, possibly the largest. Late spring germination had begun and the animal stock had increased in size overnight. Jamie's favourite lady, Bess the cow, had given birth and he had stayed up all night with her to ensure that Bess didn’t step on her baby, lie on her and was able to feed her properly. Everything had gone well and as the sun shined brightly the following day, he got up from his makeshift bed of fresh hay and made his way back to the house to clean the dust and mud off him.
He stopped on the way back to the house, caught by one of the workers in the fields asking about Bess and her calf. Jamie had felt his face glowing with pride as he gave all the details of the previous day and night. It was not often that something went wrong with the stock, but Bess was still a young’un herself and having a soft spot for the animal meant he had been on tender hooks all night. Squinting up at the sun he sighed and said goodbye to the worker before continuing his walk back to the house. It was moments like this that made him realise how much he loved his life on the farm.
Sitting in one of the large armchairs was his mother, she was fixing some of the shirts that had managed to catch and rip over the past few days. His father was rummaging around the kitchen, making as much noise as a thunderstorm. “Pa, what in heaven’s name are you doing?” He laughed, walking over to the pile of folded linens to pick up a clean shirt. “Your blasted mother has dropped her necklace behind the range.” He grunted, leaning over the counter, swiping pots out of the way as he tried in vain to reach the little piece of silver. Jamie laughed and made his way upstairs, he was used to the manic doings of his family and did not find their behaviour out of place.
Jamie had barely removed the top layer of dirt from his arms when his mother started banging on the door. The hot water stung a little as he washed the soap off his arms before moving onto rubbing some of the dust from his face. His mother thumped the door again, clearly irritated that he had not answered her the first time. “Ma’ I haven’t slept and I’m washing. Give it a rest.” He shouted. His mother took this as an invitation to enter the room and she swung open the door, her cheeks a little red. She ignored his state, dirty shirt strewn on the floor and semi-dirty face and body, and threw her arms up in the air.
“She’s here.” She said and waved her arm towards the window. The first thought in his head was that he hadn’t closed the stable door and the little calf had somehow followed him back to the house. He nodded his head at her, acknowledging, what she had said, splashed the remaining clean water on his face and grabbed a flannel top which he had only just pulled on by the time he reached the front door. His skin had darkened due to working in the sun and his hair had grown, shaving was a luxury when you worked long hours and as he rubbed the last of the water from his damp face, he could feel the stubble against his palm.
It was the last thing he had expected to see, stood at his front door, looking as lovely as the last time he had seen her. His heart stopped and it wasn’t until he took a deep breath that he realised he had stopped breathing altogether. “Elizabeth.” His voice was barely a whisper and he rubbed the back of his head, wondering if he was dreaming. Of course, he was tired but he had not expected to start hallucinating. Jamie stepped forward and gently took her face in his hands, looking her over. She had not changed in the weeks they had been apart and for that he was thankful, she was a beautiful as ever, if not more so due to their time apart. Looking over her shoulder he spotted the car that was waiting just down the road.
“Love, what are you doing here? Please, tell me you did not come alone.” He said dropping his hands to her shoulders. He could already feel the wrath of her parents if she had travelled alone. It was only a moment before he looked back from the car to her face and his heart raced again. She had come to see him, He could not have wished for anything else in the world.
A few more days passed since she sent the letter and when there was a knock at her door that morning, she thought that it might have been a reply. However, she had another surprise waiting for her. She checked her appearance in the mirror quickly before making her way towards the door and when she opened it she couldn’t help but smile at the sight of her best friend.
“Helen, you are back!” She said excitedly, throwing her arms around the woman as though they had been apart for years. Elizabeth’s eyes welled with tears as the woman moved into the house and closed the door behind her. “I have missed you. You have no idea how difficult it is to live in this town when your best friend is no longer here.” She said smiling, knowing that her tears must have made her look overly sentimental but Helen seemed to understand immediately. The two made their way into the sitting room where Elizbeth had called for some tea and they spent some time catching up on all the things that Helen had been doing with her new husband over the last couple of weeks. It seemed that she had travelled to parts of the country that she had never seen before and enjoyed plentiful walks around beautiful lakes. She couldn’t help but smile at the treatment she had been getting and she was so happy that her friend had found love so easily.
“Have you heard from Jamie?” She asked, knowing that the two had now had their fill of conversations regarding her marriage. As Elizabeth brought a cup of tea to her lips, she nodded in reply. Helen smiled widely, happy that they had both kept their promise to write to each other. For a while, the two talked about Elizabeth’s feelings towards the men she had met at her engagement party. “Have you thought about going to see him?” She asked as she took her final sip of tea.
“I cannot just leave and go to the country to see him Helen. What if he does not want me turning up at his home?” She asked, shaking her head at the very idea of walking onto his farm without a single announcement. "What would his parents think of me?"
“Elizabeth, it is very clear to me that you love this man and from what you speak of, he feels the same way about you. You must not simply wait for him to find the time to leave his farm again. He has work that he must tend to and every moment he is away might impact on that.” She stopped for a moment allowing a sigh to escape her lips. “Do you really think that I allowed my husband to be the one who approached the idea of courting? My dear, if you do not act upon your feelings and you simply wait around for him to come, you will regret it. You do not have any responsibility here that might stop you from going to him.” Almost as though she knew that she would use her mother as an excuse, she shook her head. “I will look after your mother while you are gone and I will do well to conceal that fact that you are not here. At least think about it Elizabeth. You want to see him again, do you not?”
There was a knock at the door that disturbed their conversation and she excused herself to see who it might have been. The moment she saw the letter her heart started to race and she could not help but smile. When she returned to the living room, she held it out, showing Helen. Elizabeth had intended to open the letter alone but she wanted nothing more than to read the words that were meant for her. Helen looked up from behind her cup at the way Elizabeth reacted to the letter, every so often taking note of a smile or the way that her hand moved to her heart as though she was nursing and ache that threatened it. When she had finished she allowed a sigh to escape her lips and she met Helen’s eyes with her own before summarising the letter.
“Is that not another reason for you to visit him? Elizabeth you simply must go.”
Elizabeth had decided to allow her heart to take over her actions from that moment on. Within three days, she had written a reply to his letter but she did not intend to allow another person to deliver it. Instead, she had taken Helen’s advice and decided that she would travel out to see him, even if it meant she could only stay for an hour to see him. She was almost sure that an hour would be enough.
Helen had arranged transportation for her. It appeared that her husband was supportive of Elizabeth and did what he could to keep the information from falling into her father’s lap and helped anyway he could. Now the day was here she could not help but feel herself overcome with nerves, not knowing how he might react to her impulse. She had no real clue how long she had been sitting in the car for, or even how long the journey would last but she knew that none of that mattered. As Jamie had said in his own letter, she would happily travel as long as it took for just a minute of his time.
She allowed her mind to become distracted with the pretty sights of the country rather than wondering if that meant she was any closer. This was certainly one of the negative parts of living in a town. Such sights were not available for her to see on a day-to-day basis and she could not help but wonder what it might be like to live out here where the riches of the world had no yet tainted the land. A smile danced upon her lips as small country houses passed her by until they eventually came to a stop.
Her heart started to hammer against her chest, louder than it ever had before as she took in the sights. She knew they were here before the driver told her that she had arrived. As her hand went to open the door, the driver got out of the car and moved round to help her out and she showed her gratitude before he returned. There were people working in the fields as far as she could see and she figured one of them must have been him. The very thought of seeing him again almost rooted her to the ground as the nerves began to inhibit her ability to move. Elizabeth managed a deep breath and forced herself to walk towards the house, clutching the letter that she had promised to deliver herself.
It was the morning that Elizabeth’s letter arrived. Jamie was sat with his father in the garden enjoying the late spring sun whilst they ate breakfast, the fresh bread and eggs that his mother had prepared. His father was reading the paper and muttering under his breath about the imbalance of power in the world. For a farmer, he had such strong views. Jamie was thankful that Britain was a powerful, yet small state, for he believed that the isolation from Europe would keep them out of any conflicts should they arise. Britain was, after all, a huge empire. Why would they risk their security for another country?
Jamie stood up and stretched towards the blue sky, enjoying the last moments of peace before he started his work for the day. He couldn’t imagine anything disrupting the harmony of their life, especially something like a war. It would never reach him, he thought, especially being a country boy if there was any struggle for power he would be the last to hear about it.
“James, stop staring into space and get a move on.” His father said, throwing the remains of their breakfast on the ground, only for them to be quickly pecked at by Mary and Margaret, the two hens that roamed free in the garden. “You take the tractor. I’ll start turning in the far field” His father said, and with that he headed off, walking the distance to the furthest field with the familiar strut in his step. Jamie ran a hand through his messy hair and almost groaned, his family still owned a Saunderson drawing tractor, not having the money to update it to a newer model, it took more effort to get the thing going than it did to turn the earth by hand. Most likely why his father had given the damned contraption to him. Jamie grabbed his jacket and gloves off the back of the chair and headed over to the covered machine.
It was after a few hours of drawing the paint chipped machine that Jamie noticed someone coming towards him, jumping off he raised a hand, letting them know that it was safe to approach.
Jamie's mother was waving something in the air, it looked like a letter and before she could open her mouth to tell him, he had plucked it out of her hands.
“Whose writing to you?” She said, shielding her eyes from the sun to scrutinise his face.
“Someone I met when visiting Ellie.” He said, tucking the letter into his jacket. He would not read in in front of his mother for fear of rejection. “Anyway Ma’ you shouldn’t be prying.” His mother frowned and placed her hands on his hips. “Best not be one of those rich ladies, you won’t be doing yourself any favours falling for a girl you can’t afford.” She said, a disproving look on her face.
Jamie reached over and patted his mother’s cheek affectionately. “Elizabeth is not like that. She is different from the women you know Ma’.” He said. His mother was still not impressed and so Jamie quickly changed the subject, asking her if she had managed to fix the back gate, which she hadn’t. “I’ll go do it now.” He said and without waiting for a response, turned and started jogging back towards to farmhouse.
Once inside, Jamie made his way back upstairs to his room. He quickly stopped to wash his hands and face, not wanting to taint Elizabeth's letter with the dirt he was covered in. Sitting down at his desk he took the letter from his jacket and opened it, his heart surging with affection as his eyes traced every line twice, taking in everything she had written. He could imagine her writing it and a smile crossed his lips as he thought about her reading his letter.
[I My Darling Elizabeth,
Do not ever think that I could forget you. You occupy my thoughts more than anything else and I wish for nothing other than to leave everything here just to visit you. Seeing you again for just a moment would make my days much more bearable.
I am glad to hear that Helen is doing well and that they will soon have a place to call their own. I do hope that seeing her content does not make you want to run off and get married to a wealthy prince. I do not doubt that you have a line of men waiting for your devotion.
I hate to think of you feeling blue because of me if it was my choice I would pack my things and travel all night just to be with you. However, my parents may not look too kindly on me skipping out again. They have only just got me back and the extra pair of hands is needed. My father has already told me I can take leave of the farm for a longer period, I told him how much seeing you means and he was very supportive. He has already told me you are far too good for me. Though he has not met you, I can’t help but agree with him.
I will speak to them about visiting again once the bulk of work has been done, this is a busy time for farmers but I will work twice as hard if it means seeing you sooner. I’m afraid I will not be happy again until I have you at my side.
I promise that we will see each other again, I would travel to the ends of the earth just to see your smile again.
With all my love,
Looking over his letter, Jamie wondered how many days it would be until he could see her again. The days were already dragging and reading her letter and knowing that she missed him in return, was putting a pressure on his heart like nothing else. It would be impossible to leave her next time, he knew that well enough.
Her mother had fallen asleep within a few hours; the material from their needlework left on her lap and as Elizabeth finished her own handkerchief, she decided to pack the things away so that her mother did not accidentally catch herself on the needle if she moved in her sleep. Quietly and swiftly she removed the tools she had been using, ensuring that each one was returned to its rightful place in the box they had used to store the items. A smile danced upon her lips as she took a moment to adjust the sheets that lay so delicately across her mother’s body as she enjoyed her deep slumber. Elizabeth took the opportunity to place a kiss upon her mother’s head before making her way out of the bedroom, leaving her in peace for the rest of the day.
A sigh left her lips as she closed the door behind her. Although she still found her heart filled with sadness she also felt the relief of her mother’s blessing and only hoped that she might receive Jamie’s letter soon. It was moments like this where she found herself regretting that she had no real clue about where she might find him or where to write. If she could, she would have kicked herself for not getting this information from him before he left. Although perhaps it was a blessing in disguise. What might her have thought of her if she could not wait to write to him a little longer? Perhaps he would deem her to desperate to entertain. She would continue to be patient.
A week had passed since that day and there was still no sign of a letter from Jamie. For the rest of the day, she distracted herself, running a few errands, running in to town to pick up a few more items to help them celebrate her father’s birthday that was slowly creeping up on them. She had expected such an errand to take up a short amount of her time but when she arrived in town, she noticed that there were a lot more bodies on the street than normal. Raised voices shouted from the crowds as bustles of people moved towards the newsstand where they could buy their papers. Normally these crowds would not have cared so much about the news, simply buying a newspaper to occupy their minds and stay aware about current affairs so they might refer to them in conversation. There was clearly something big happening to cause such a disturbance.
As she moved swiftly through the crowds, she managed to catch the sight of the headline that they were all so desperate to read.
[center [b [font "Algerian" [size24 Tragedy of The Austrian Throne]]]]
[center [b [font "Algerian" [size18 Murder of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and His Wife]]]]
[Right [b [font "Times New Roman" Saturday June 29th, 1914]]]
Her lips parted in shock as she continued to walk through the crowds, hoping that she might be able to purchase a newspaper herself. Being a lady, many of the gentlemen let her through until eventually she managed to make her way to the front. She purchased a paper and moved towards the edge of town where she found a bench. It was the perfect place to permit herself the time to read the article that had been printed before making her way back home.
[left [pic https://i.imgur.com/6wfUx8H.jpg]][center [b [font "Times New Roman" [size14 A dark cloud of Fate seems to overhang the fortunes of the House of Habsburg... The circumstances are so peculiar that it is very difficult to understand the reasons for the crime or the exact motives of the murderer... His death is, we believe, a serious loss to Europe at large, as well as to Austria-Hungary herself... At a period when the world suffers from a lack of great personalities, the death of a man so strong and self-reliant as the Archduke Franz Ferdinand is a real disaster, of which it is difficult to overestimate the importance.]]]]
[center [b [font "Times New Roman" [size14 The immediate question is what the political consequences of this political crime will be. The already sufficiently tense relationships of Austria-Hungary will undoubtedly be aggravated, even if not great Serbian conspiracy is demonstrable, and only Austrian subjects of Serbian nationality participated in the crime.]]]]
The thought of such an event was devastating, even more so considering there had been talks of war for months. If Austria-Hungary were to declare war on Serbia there was no doubt that Germany stand with them. Soon there would be no avoidance of the matter and Elizabeth was sure that Britain would insert themselves in the wars of Europe. Although she was confident that war would not reach them directly, she knew that it would devastate her home. Men would be taken to war and those who were left behind would have to deal with the knowledge that their loved ones were living in constant danger; danger that might never permit them home. With a sigh, she began to fold the paper and make her way home.
Her journey home was uneventful and when she arrived at her residence, she had hoped that her afternoon would have been a quiet one. She expected to return home to an empty house as normal but she found herself to be greeted with an unfamiliar sight. For the first time in weeks, her father had found himself home before the house had already retired for the night and it seemed that he had company. As she looked upon the man, she realised that he was not someone who she recognised. Perhaps he was a new associate of her father’s. Either way, she remembered her manners, smiled towards them, and introduced herself to the stranger. His hair had been slicked back, every inch of it so perfectly combed so that there was not a single hair out of place. A handsome smile came into play the moment he saw her and she recognised the look almost instantly. Her father had clearly promised to introduce them and he had turned on his charm the second he realised just how beautiful his daughter was.
“Sebastian Gray, it is lovely to meet your acquaintance Elizabeth. Your father has told me so much about you.” He lifted her hand to place a kiss upon it. His air of confidence would not have been enough to make her forget about Jamie. This man was clearly here to win the heart of a woman who no longer had one to give. Her father turned to her with his false attitude, pulling her into his embrace as though it was something he did every single time he saw her. That could not be further than the truth but she was not about to give him away in front of a guest.
“To what do we owe this pleasure?” She asked them both as she took a step back and closed her left hand over her right and checked her posture. “We were not expected you home so soon today. You have been working such long days.” Elizabeth smiled towards his father while he explained that he had a meeting cancelled and that he had been meaning to show Sebastian around the house for some time. It appeared that somewhere along the line, her father had fallen into the habit of gaming with him; playing cards and gambling. The very idea that he was spending his evenings that way rather than spending time with his sick wife upset her, but she did not let it show. Instead, she nodded along politely while the three lost themselves in conversation. All the while, Elizabeth kept a safe distance from Sebastian, knowing that he was trying to impress her with some of the conversation topics he brought up. She would have given anything to have an excuse to get herself away from such company but it might have seemed impolite if she merely walked away from them with a proper reason.
As luck would have it, soon enough that reason had arrived. One of their staff members entered the room, clutching a letter and as soon as she saw it, her heart jumped. Perhaps her wait was over and Jamie had finally decided to write. The woman whispered into Elizabeth’s ear, knowing that her father would likely demand to see the letter if he knew that it was for her. She nodded and smiled towards the company she had been keeping. “If you would excuse me. I have some business to attend to.” She offered her hand before exiting the room with the woman at her side.
As soon as they were alone she handed her the letter. “Thank you Maria. I appreciate how discreet you were with my father. I will not forget that.”
“Anything Miss Elizabeth, when you have written your reply I will make sure that it finds its way.” She smiled before leaving Elizabeth alone to go up to her bedroom where she might fine the privacy to read Jamie’s words. Her heart began to beat just as quickly as it had the moment she met him as she read his apology for not writing sooner. A sigh escaped her lips as she continued to read and she lowered herself on the bed, placing a hand on her heart as if to steady it. Relief swam over her as she realised that he still thought about her. She would not hesitate to write back. She had kept some paper in her room and moved towards the drawer to take it out and instantly put pen to paper.
[center [font "Lucida Handwriting" Dearest Jamie,]]
[center [font "Lucida Handwriting" I cannot begin to describe how glad I was to finally receive your letter. The weeks have been feeling long and I was beginning to fear that you might have forgotten about me now that you had returned home to the country. It is a relief to hear that I have been in your thoughts as you have been in mine.]]
[center [font "Lucida Handwriting" Helen is wonderful. Her husband has taken her away for some time so that they might enjoy the wonders of marriage away from the rest of their family. When they return I believe that they will find a home to call their own rather than living with Helen’s parents as they are currently.]]
[center [font "Lucida Handwriting" I must admit that I am jealous of your family. I would give anything to see you and I fear that this time apart has already been too much for me. I think that every day we are apart, my heart breaks a little more and I find myself wondering how I might continue to go on this way.]]
[center [font "Lucida Handwriting" My family has started to take note of my withdrawal. In fact, my mother spoke to me about it just the other day. I am finding it hard to conceal my despair but I feel that now I have your letter, I can rekindle the hope I was losing that we might one day be together.]]
[center [font "Lucida Handwriting" I miss you more than my lungs would miss oxygen if they were ever cut off from it. I must apologise for my hast with replying to you, but I feel as though I have been waiting a lifetime for your letter. I did not feel as though I could waste a moment in returning mine. I do hope that we find a way to see each other again.]]
[center [font "Lucida Handwriting" Forever yours,]]
[center [font "Lucida Handwriting" Elizabeth.]]
As she read over the letter, she found her heart was still beating quickly, even as she proceeded to seal the letter and wrote Jamie’s address on the envelope. She did not waste any time finding Maria and as soon as she did, she gave clear instructions to ensure that the letter found its way to him as soon as possible.
The journey home from his cousins’ town had been one that he had never enjoyed, however this time it had given him the solitude he needed to gather his thoughts before returning to his normal life. The day had stretched on and Jamie had thought of Elizabeth every moment of, the little slip of paper with her address on kept in his breast pocket where he occasionally reached up to touch it, reassuring himself that the day before had not been a dream.
Upon arriving home, Jamie was greeted at the front door of the small farm house he shared with his parents. His father stood in the doorway, a warm smile spread across his face. “James, lad it’s good to see you home.” He said pulling his son into a familiar grip. “You’ve lost weight, your mother won’t be happy with you.” His father said laughing enough that his whole body shook with him. He was a large man, but it was expected from someone who worked in the fields all year around. His father didn’t believe in all these contraptions that some of the other farms had started using, he was a great believer in putting in the hard work by hand, for which Jamie had always admired.
Walking into the house Jamie smiled realising how he had missed their small cottage and the intimacy of it. Dropping his bags at the door he moved through the threshold to the kitchen, where his mother stood over a pot of something that was filling the house with an amazing smell. “I was expecting a fanfare, the favourite son is home.” He said, making his way to the table where he sat down with his father. Jamies mother turned to him and held her spoon up, a frown flushed across her face. “Maybe,” She started “If my son had written to me more than once.” She waved the spoon about threateningly. Anyone who knew her, would have been able to tell that she was not truly angry. Jamie sat back in his chair and laughed, picking up a piece of bread that was on the table.
“Ma’ I was preoccupied. I would have written but I was so busy.” He said and found himself ducking out of the way as his mother lent over the table to attempt to slap him over the head with a spoon. “You’re never too busy for your mother, ungrateful child.” But though her words were harsh a smile had broken on her face. Jamie tore the bread in his hands into small pieces, popping the bits in his mouth.
The three of them ate dinner together and for a short time Jamie didn’t feel the wrenching sadness that had lived in his stomach since saying goodbye to Elizabeth. He caught his mother up on the wedding he had attended and told his father about the new things happening in the town where his sister, Jamies Aunt, lived.
The weeks passed and Jamie had thrown himself into work on the farm with a motivation that he had never had before. He woke before the sun rose and went to bed well after it had set, his body aching with a satisfying discomfort. Every evening he went up to his room, sat in front of his desk and stared at the paper in front of him. For two weeks he had not known what to write. He worried that the girl he had fallen for would have moved on, thinking of their time together as a fleeting fling. He closed his eyes, sitting back in his chair, thinking of her face as they had said goodbye and the pain returned to his chest.
When the door suddenly opened, his father entered, holding a broken piece of wood which had snapped off something on the farm. Before explaining what had happened to it, he suddenly stopped as he saw Jamie, sadness clear on his face. “Lad, whats wrong?” He said, coming to sit on the edge of the bed. Jamie shifted his body in the hair round to look at him and handed his father the slip of paper which had Elizabeths address written on it. His father looked over it a few times before standing up again.
“A lady? One that’s too good for you I assume.” Jamie nodded his head, again thinking of the beauty of his love. His father placed a hand on his shoulder and sighed. “If she means that much to you then whatever you have to say to her will be enough.” His father gave his shoulder a quick pat.
Jamie looked up at his father and took the address back from him, though he had it memorised, it was the only thing of hers he had. “What if she does not reply?” He said, feeling like a small child for the first time in years. He had never intended to talk to his father about such things as affection was not a topic that came up between the two men. “If you don’t write to her, then you will never know.”
His father left then and Jamie thought about his words for a whle. He could not face her rejection but he if that was what she returned then it was best that he found out soon. If, however, her feelings were true and she responded to him then he had everything to gain from it.
[i Dear Elizabeth,
I'm sorry I did not write sooner, in truth I was unsure what to say. My greatest fear these past two weeks has been that you have moved on, forgotten me. But I can write with certainty that you have been the only thing on my mind.
I hope your family are well and that Helen is enjoying her life as a new
wife. She seems like a good friend and I am glad that you have someone like her around.
My parents were happy to have me home, and in a way I am glad to be back. It does not feel the same though, since I met you. I find myself wondering how you would see my life here and if you would think less of me once you saw me, the suits changed for muddy clothes. I have to admit, I would quite enjoy to see you on the farm.
I hope you don't mind me being so forward, Elizabeth, but It is easier to write my feelings than say them. I have missed you more than I could have imagined. I've spent every waking hour working out in the fields in hope that I could remove you from my mind but it has not worked. I'm not sure my heart will ever be right until I am with you again. I will not ask you if I still have your heart but I want you to know that you will always have mine.
Waiting eagely for your reply,
Always yours, Jamie. ]
Elizabeth had succeeded in distracting her mind for the majority of the day, allowing the guests to entertain them as they approached and Helen had made sure that she had not left Elizabeth’s side for the rest of the day, knowing that she might have found herself drowning in her own despair if she had. Although she refused to dance with those who offered, she enjoyed watching those who had taken to the dance floor. Every now and then, she would scan the room and find Jamie talking and joking with some of the men that had attended. It seemed that he had managed to find some way to enjoy their company after all, and for that, she was grateful. She hated the idea of him sticking around and detesting every moment of the function.
As the hours passed, the number of guests depleted and she found herself saying goodbye to several guests, none of them had been Jamie until this point. Eventually he found his way towards them and she found that the pit in her stomach had returned. She allowed the smile upon her face to conceal the pain of their final goodbye and watched as Jamie politely said goodnight to Helen. Within twenty-four hours, he would find himself back in the country and Elizabeth would be left without him. Her heart ached at the fact and she found herself wondering how he could have made her feel as though she might not be able to function without him.
When he turned to her, her breath caught in her throat. She nodded and returned his smile, each moment her heart beating so quickly that she thought it might burst out of her chest. A blush found her cheeks as she was reminded of the moment they had shared earlier that day. “I believe that it is I who must thank you. I have enjoyed your company.” She reached out to take his hand and while she made it look as though it was part of her goodbye, it was so that she could hand him a piece of paper with her address written upon it. They had promised to write and he would not have been able to do that if he did not know where to write. Her eyes smiled towards him knowingly as she took back her hand. “Goodbye Jamie.”
The days seemed to pass by slowly and seamlessly. It was becoming harder for Elizabeth to tell one day from the next due to the lack of sleep that she had experienced ever since she had found herself parting from the man who had stolen her heart at her best friend’s wedding. On this morning, she found herself spending time with her mother who seemed of high spirits again. She could barely bring herself to see anyone but it was different with her mother. Every day it seemed as though something threatened to take her from this world so she tried to put on a brave face as she sat in the chair next to her bed. They had fallen into a comfortable silence as the two began to stitch decorations into the handkerchiefs that they had purchased for her father’s birthday.
Every time she had been left alone with her thoughts they managed to find Jamie. Memories of his hand tracing her cheek and his lips upon hers would pass her by as if to torture her. She remembered the look in his eyes the moment they had parted and the promise he had made to her; one that was yet to be fulfilled. Although it had only been a few days she couldn’t help but grow impatient, wondering whether he would ever find the time to write to her. She understood that he must have been busy with his work though and she would wait as long as it took for him to write to her. A sigh escaped her lips, rousing her mother’s attention from the sewing that she had engrossed herself in. Her mother placed the material down onto her lap and adjusted herself slightly so that she was more comfortable before taking a minute to look over Elizabeth’s face.
“Elizabeth dear. You simply must tell me what has you in such low spirits. You are usually so happy; I cannot help but wonder that something has happened to change your mood.” Her tone was not unkind as she addressed her daughter but it was laced with concern. For a moment, Elizabeth continued to embroider patterns onto the material before her, lost in thought until she finally realised that her mother had addressed her. She laughed, noticing the distance that she had in her eyes and shook her head. “There is something on your mind dear.” She did not repeating herself but she prompted Elizabeth to talk by breaking the silence again.
“Please accept my apology mother. I do not mean to allow my thoughts to encroach on our time together. I’m not sure that this is something you would want to hear about.” She said simply, not knowing how her mother would feel about her antics with a complete stranger. As though to answer, she stared blankly and blinked a few times, waiting for her to continue her explanation. For the first time in days, she smiled and decided against her better judgement, divulging everything there was to know about Jamie. If a daughter could not speak to her mother about such things then whom could she speak to? All the while, her mother reserved judgement, nodding at different parts of her explanation to show that she was listening to every word and by the time she finished she found herself taking in a deep breath and releasing a sigh, as though telling her released some kind of pressure that the must have been holding over herself.
There was a moment of silence as her mother began to process what she had said and she found that her heart had quickened slightly with the anticipation of what opinion she would offer. There was every chance that she would see her as a disgrace, running out of a reception with some boy from the country to indulge some fantasy that could never be. She knew that if it were her father, he would have told her how much dishonour she had brought upon the family by acting upon her own desires. The silence felt like a lifetime but soon enough she broke it.
“It sounds like you have strong feelings for this boy. You should not make the same mistake as I did.” She paused for a moment, wondering whether it was appropriate for her to share such an intimate detail about her marriage with the product of such a union. “When I met your father I knew that he was not someone I would ever see myself marrying, yet I felt so much pressure from my parents that I allowed him to court me. When the time came and he proposed I could not see any other option but to say yes. There is not a day that goes by where I do not wish that I had waited to find a man who would take my heart and keep it safe. I do not regret marrying your father, we got you out of this union and you are the most precious thing that I hold so dear in this life.” Her hand reached out to enclose Elizabeth’s and she smiled. “But I do wish that I had the chance to experience real love. You do! You must not allow anything to stand in the way of that, not even your father. I may not be around forever, but for as long as I can I will protect you from his judgement.”
The sentiment brought a tear to her eye and there was nothing more left to be said between the two as they both resumed their task of needlework. Although her sadness would not subside, she was glad to know that her mother did not object to her feelings.
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