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[i I came back to get some of my mother’s belongings.”]
Was that it? Elizabeth was just here to clear out any trace of her existence from this town that she’d known all her life? It seemed so insensitive. Was she going to come back and never even say bye? If not to him, then to Elaine? Or Helen? Her tears confused him. He couldn’t decide if they were the result of feelings rushing back into her heart or pure heartbreak because she had to see his sorry face again. Nonetheless, she seemed to brush him off as quickly as all possible.
Matthew kept standing there, the tension so strong you could cut it with a knife. Soon enough, she couldn’t even bring herself to look at him. There were so many things he could say circulating in his mind. There were so many things he wanted to say and so many things he wanted to know. Matthew was sure she never wanted to see him again. This wasn’t the way she expected today to go. But he had to [i know.] He had to hear her say it. It couldn’t come from a letter or the words of someone else.
Before she could pull herself away from him for the rest of their lives, Matthew spoke up after her. [b “Wait... Before you go, tell me one thing. One thing and you never have to deal with me again. Are you sure? Are you absolutely certain you can keep living like this? Are you certain that you don’t love me? That you’re willing to throw away everything and never return? Tell me this in all honesty... and I’ll let you go without another word.”]
His chest was tightening as his outburst came, flowing freely from his lips. He was already almost sure she’d tell him she already knew she wanted nothing to do with him since she left. [i But he had to hear it coming from her lips first.]
It felt almost as though time itself had stood still as the two seemed to take the time to look at each other as though there was no possible way that they could be stood in front of each other now. He seemed to be full of emotion just like her but based on their last conversation she figured that he would want nothing to do with her, that his emotion was born out of shock and displeasure for seeing her again. Elizabeth has no idea how he was truly feeling, regardless of the letter that Elaine had sent to her. She figured that it was all part of her meddling and that she had exaggerated things to make her believe, even for a minute, that there was something there to salvage.
[b “I...I’m sorry. I came back to get some of my mother’s belongings.”] Elizabeth was apologising because she assumed that he hadn’t wanted to see her again. She breathed deeply, bringing her hand up to her eyes so that she could wipe away the tears that gave away just how much she loved him. She could only assume that his rush of emotion was for a different reason, because he had been forced to see her again when he had expected to live his life with her.
Elizabeth cleared her throat and pulled her gaze away from him, knowing that if she looked into his eyes for another minute she would never be able to pull herself away from him. [b “I should...go inside.”]
The tears rushing down her face at the sight of him nearly sent him to his knees. Matthew tried to act tough and silent like a war veteran was supposed to, but she broke everything he thought he was in one look. He was standing there, only a few feet away from the only woman he’d ever loved and lost at the same time. She was so close that he could likely reach out and touch her if he tried. There was some otherworldly force acting to arrange them so that they met in the exact spot at the exact time. One moment later, and their paths may have never crossed. All at once, Matthew remembered everything he tried to push away. He tried to tell himself that he wasn’t worth loving or that he’d never see her again. He tried to tell himself that he’d moved on. [i But he was still so damn in love with her...] It didn’t make any sense that she was here, but she was.
Matthew heard his name escaping from her lips twice, and he wanted nothing more than to wipe off those tears with his thumbs and promise her it would be alright. But he’d made the mistakes. Matthew had let his temper take hold of him, not allowing him to hear her story. She was smart to run away from him... Matthew would have acted differently had he been aware of what was really happening. If he knew that Andrew cared enough to meddle in her life and tear them apart so devilishly, Matthew would have never let her go through it alone. Instead, he shut off any reasoning. He shut off feeling. But they were a waterfall threatening to rush out of him with that one teary-eyed gaze. It would be up to her if she forgave him. He knew that much.
Matthew stared into her eyes a moment longer before he let out a breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding. [b “I never thought I’d see you again.”] He worded, almost breathlessly.
Her home looked cold and empty. Although, it wasn’t her home anymore. It had not felt like home since her mother had died and it certainly didn’t feel like home when she spent days upon days there alone while her father worked to come home and tell her that he had gambled away their home and business. It was simply a roof over her head, somewhere she stayed to keep her safe but it was no home. It was missing the fundamentals that a home needed to act as one. Love for one. That had left with Matthew when she received the telegram telling her that he had died in action. If Elizabeth would have known that Andrew had found a way to forge such a telegram she never would have lost hope, she might have even ran away from home sooner and stayed with Elaine who would have been happy to have her. It was all hindsight though and she did regret not doing that in the first place. Everything would have been different. She would be with Matthew now, perhaps even married.
Elizabeth lifted a hand to wipe a tear away from her eye and looked to the ground for a minute. She needed to gather herself and work herself up to entering the house so she could leave quickly and get back to the life she had created for herself, where everything was less complicated and she didn’t have to think about the heartache this town had caused her. There were too many memories here. Memories of her mother and of Matthew.
His voice cut through her then and for a moment she thought that she had imagined it. It was so unlikely that he would be walking down this street at the exact same moment that she had come to stand outside of her former home but she still took a minute to look around in case she hadn’t been imagining it. Her heart almost stopped when her eyes found him, stood there in his own version of shock all but a few feet away from her. [b “Matthew...”] Her voice was all but a whisper but her feet were rooted to the spot, unable to move. Everything she had tried to push aside cake rushing back in that moment. All the love she felt for him and in an instant there were tears running down her cheek. [b “Matthew...”]
Days passed and time ticked by. Every day seemed to hold the same routine. It was wake up, eat breakfast, work, eat lunch, work, have a beer, dinner, go to bed. He would still deliver his products to households, and there were still questions about his service and what it had entailed. Matthew still got the flashbacks and the nightmares. He still woke up sweating and shaking like a frail old man, despite his age and size. Things had changed in the war. Before, Matthew wasn’t so cautious or aware of his own mortality. He would drink and get into fights or into one night stands with women because he didn’t dare commit and leave Elaine stranded. Now, Elaine was in her own relationship and everyone else seemed happy but him. Helen and her husband were making a family together. He’d never had to go to war, mainly due to his success. Matthew envied him. There were times Helen came by, bringing food or just stopping to speak with he and Elaine. They were both huge parts of the reasons he ever found Elizabeth in the first place. Matthew was sure that their grand scheme was going to be the last of Elaine’s matchmaking. Instead, his life had been forever altered.
Helen would sometimes speak of Elizabeth, and he was sure it was on purpose. Anytime her name came up, Matthew just shook his head and went for a drink. He couldn’t think about her. He couldn’t think about what could have been or who she was with now. She whisked herself far enough away that she’d never have to deal with him or anything their home could remind her of. Matthew had tried going after her, but she didn’t want to be found. After all, he was justifiably angry at her for accepting Andrew’s proposal, but his short temper had once again gotten him into trouble. Matthew didn’t really [i hear] her when she told him she had no choice. He didn’t let her finish until it was too late. He lost her. Now, he’d have to spend every day wondering what he could have done differently.
Elaine never told him about the letter she sent. Instead, she let things play naturally as they had before. If the two were meant to be, Elizabeth would find her way back home. Matthew finished working early the next day, all of his projects done for the day. With nothing else to do, he decides to go for a walk. It was nice outside if only slightly chilly. A breeze picked up as he walked, going nowhere in particular. He hadn’t really noticed that he was walking the similar path to Elizabeth’s home. Normally, he tried to avoid it, but he was certain no one was there. It was almost abandoned, devoid of everything that once made it so alive. It had moved on too.
But this time it wasn’t alone. There was one figure standing there, facing towards the home. The wind picked up and caused her dress to flow, some strands of brown hair flying the same way. It was the picture of peace and solemnity at the same time. It was breathtaking. Her figure was petite yet always graceful. He knew that figure. Matthew froze. He stopped walking. His heart leaned into his throat, and his feet felt like they were suddenly cemented to the ground. Suddenly, his throat was dry. Staring at her a moment more, he finally spoke in pure shock, [b “Elizabeth?”]
It took Elizabeth all but thirty seconds to figure out who the handwriting belonged to. She recognised is as belonging to Matthew’s sister, Elaine. It was obvious then that Helen had passed the letter on for her, knowing that Helen would not betray her and tell anyone where she was. This was supposed to be her new start and she didn’t want anyone from her past knowing where she was especially Andrew or her father. Everything was better this way, or at least that is what she told herself every single day.
Elizabeth wiped at the sweat forming on her brow before sitting at the dining table so she could focus her attention on the letter, not really knowing why Elaine would write to her unless she was writing about Matthew and she didn’t really know what the letter might say so she felt sitting down was the best option. There was every chance that he could have gone back to fight and that this time he really was dead. She wasn’t sure how she would be able to manage if she had to grieve him again. There was a special place in her heart for him and she knew that he would always remain there.
The first thing that surprised her about the letter was reading about the fact that her home was empty. She had assumed that Andrew would have remained there even after she left since the house technically belonged to him now anyway. But as she read on her chest began to tighten slightly when she read the words that told her that Matthew was thinking of her and missing her. Although, she knew Elaine and Helen had played Cupid once before and they could potentially be doing that again. Matthew had made it clear to her that he didn’t want anything to do with her because she had betrayed him so it wouldn’t make sense that he was sat at home missing her when it was his choice in the first place.
And then became clear about why her home was empty. She was surprised to hear that Matthew had somehow managed to force Andrew’s hand to give the home and business back but that didn’t mean that anything any of it belonged to her. Besides, she had started a new life here and she didn’t want to go back to playing the businessman’s daughter.
When she finished reading the letter, she sighed heavily and folded it up, putting it back in its envelope neatly. Elizabeth would go back for a day simply to collect some of her mother’s things so that she had something of hers but she could not return to that place, not after everything that had come to pass, not after the memory of falling in love with Matthew and losing him all over again.
The very next day she was on a train heading back to the town that she had sworn she would never turn to with one focus: collect some things from the house and return soon as possible. The train journey was long but she had slept for most of it I’m by midday to stepping off the train onto the platform I’m walking towards what had once been her childhood home. Elizabeth‘s dad up at the building for a moment. Elaine was right, it did look completely empty even like her father hadn’t even lived there but then he was never there when he was in business and this was just more evidence of the fact that maybe he did get his business back. However, there she remained for quite some time, just staring at the building she couldn’t bring herself to walk inside.
Elaine noticed how much her brother was hurting. Despite spending most of her time with her newfound man, Sebastian, she couldn’t help but notice how reclusive and sorrowful he was. Matthew was a shell of his former shelf, and she knew war wasn’t all that was to it. He never wanted to talk about Elizabeth, often growing angry with her and opting to go for a walk that she assumed meant the nearest pub. He was always working, more than ever before. They were back on their feet, but he didn’t stop. Matthew would sometimes just zone out as she was cleaning or cooking, seemingly lost or broken. After a while, she knew he needed more. Elaine and Helen had smushed them together in the first place, so it was her duty as a good Cupid to make it to the end. This was her way of saying thank you to Matthew, even if he didn’t like her for it. So, Elaine wrote to Elizabeth in some of the prettiest, swooping handwriting of most of town. Some may recognize it on the personalized cards Matthew sent out with every piece.
[i “My dear Elizabeth, I couldn’t help but notice how different Matthew has acted since speaking with you. I have not seen you in town, and your house is always empty. I assume you left? Regardless of your reasons, I know how much my brother cares for you. Matthew has never been in love before, but I know he thinks about you every day. No matter what happened between you, I urge you to return to him. He came back home one day after telling me he got into a fight with Andrew and somehow convinced him to return your land and belongings. You are free, Elizabeth. Nothing is holding you back. Andrew is too much a coward to admit his embezzling, gambling, and manipulating. Not to mention that he looked terrible after Matthew got a hold of him. My point is, that Matthew needs you as much as you need him. Don’t give up so easily or you’ll miss an opportunity of two lifetimes. Literally. Best regards, Elaine.”]
Sealed and stamped, the letter soon found its way into Elizabeth’s hands as a last resort to pull the two unlikely halves together as a whole. Matthew, none the wiser, continued in his monotonous work. He sometimes wrote letters back and forth to members of his squadron, reminiscing on the good times and the bad. Luckily for Andrew, they hadn’t encountered each other again. Business was as good as ever, but his life was in shambles. Elaine was there to pick him up though for all the times he had saved her. She owed him this. Now, it was up to Elizabeth if she would righr all that had gone wrong with one trip back home.
Time passed by slowly but Elizabeth has stopped keeping track of the days some time ago, focusing on building her business with everything that Matthew had taught her. In this small village, she was quick to built clientele, no one overly concerned with the fact that she was a woman like they would have been back in her home town. This village had clearly adapted with the war and accepted that women were beginning to take their place in society. She had moved out of the hotel and into the home of the woman she had rented the workshop from, the two becoming close friends in the short time they had known each other. She had needed help with the bills and Elizabeth needed somewhere to stay so the arrangement worked out nicely for the both of them.
She missed Matthew so much, not one day passing by where she didn’t think about him. She still loved him and nothing was ever going to change that but it was clear by their last altercation that he wanted nothing more to do with her and she couldn’t live that way, knowing that he was only a few streets away from her but never able to actually be with him. She certainly couldn’t go through with her marriage to Andrew and she had no idea what was happening back home in that respect. As far as she was concerned, she was free from that now and even in her letters to Helen, they both avoided talking about her father or Andrew. Of course Elizabeth had let Helen know where she was, wanting her friend to come and visit her some time and see what she had made for herself.
Matthew would be proud of what she had achieved if he still cared for her, that much she was sure about but she had to try and move on from him, although she knew that she would never find love or happiness with another. Her heart still belonged to him and it always would.
[i “Elizabeth! You’ve got another letter here!”] The woman’s voice passed through the workshop and she Elizabeth finished off the piece she was working on before heading up the house for a glass of water and to pick up the letter. This was different. She didn’t recognise the handwriting so it clearly wasn’t from Helen.
[b “Who could this be?”] She thought out loud as she peeled back the envelope.
Matthew looked damn near everywhere for her. He tried as many hotels as he could, but the clerks either didn’t care enough o help him or thought he was trying something immoral. He didn’t really know what he was doing or how he’d ever find her. Soon enough, it was dark outside. Matthew has made no progress. He wasn’t getting anywhere. Cursing, he dejectedly returned to Elaine and their home. Elizabeth was gone, and she wasn’t coming back. It seemed like there was too much that had happened between them to ever right itself. She left with all her money and things she’d saved. The woman didn’t plan on returning for a reason.
Matthew fell into a routine. He’d gradually regained his clients until his business was booming more than ever. More and more people agreed to buy from him due to his military service and titles. He could pay for the house and avoid any eviction notices that Elaine was worried about. They weren’t fearing for where they’d sleep or what they’d eat. He still drank when he felt miserable. However, it had been a while since he’d seen Andrew. An anonymous tip came in to return the Stone business and home back to its rightful owners. But Matthew hasn’t returned there to that family name or land.
Instead, he wrote to his squadron, reliving memories and trying to see how many died or were alive from their service. Adam hadn’t made it out, but there were a few of the others that did. Matthew tried to see the positives, but it was like everything he did was pulling him deeper and deeper into sadness and regret and misery. There were nights that he had dreams about Adam being shot and the cool eyes of the German soldier who took his life. He would hear a loud noise and become apprehensive. Sometimes, even the buzz of the saw was too much to bear, and he’d have to take a walk or something of those sorts.
Elaine, in the meantime, found herself starting to fall for a man of the war, and Matthew spent some time ensuring he was decent. But he wasn’t happy. Matthew had effectively defeated Andrew and was not jumping in joy for it. Instead, he was going day but day, wishing he could change everything. He wished he knew what was going to happen before it did to change everything he ever did. Matthew wasn’t so lucky. In the workshop, his projects became everything. Elaine was out with her new man, and he had everything to himself. Again, he didn’t exactly take care of himself. He would never be happy again. He would never love again. He would never be the same again...
Regardless of the fact that Elizabeth was completely heartbroken and grieving all over again, she had made some progress in setting herself up for this new life she had to build for herself. She had agreed on renting a little workshop down near the beach and she had already established roots of a potential alliance and friendship in the woman who had owned it. The had both been in the side of kiss in the war and they bonded over their mutual experiences and they even spent a few hours talking over coffee after they had negotiated a a rental price on the workshop. It was time for her to go back to her hotel room not so long after that, wanting to try and find some peace and maybe even get food in her system since she had eaten since breakfast of the morning Matthew had returned from the dead and then ripped her heart out because he couldn’t seem to understand her motivations behind some of the decisions she had made, not that she had much of a choice really.
Her hotel room was quaint and comfortable. She had ensured that she went for the cheapest accommodation that wasn’t completely run down because she needed to establish a flow of money before looking for somewhere more permanent. The money she had wouldn’t be enough for her to rent a place to live if she didn’t have any other income so she had to be smart and think and little more carefully about how she was going to juggle everything now. After getting herself changed and washed up she made her way to the cafe at the end of the street and ordered something basic, not having too much of an appetite but knowing that she needed to eat in order to keep her energy up. Despite her brooding she knew that she needed to take care of herself.
Elizabeth didn’t stay for long, only eating what she needed to before she returned to her hotel room and shut herself away into her room with a book so that she could escape whatever the real world made her feel right then. She knew that this would never make her forget what she had lost but it was a start to building her own life away from Andrew and her father, something she should have done the moment she heard of Matthew’s passing but she had felt so trapped and without an form of income she wouldn’t have even been able to make it here. Eventually her eyes grew heavy and the woman fell asleep on top of the end with the book open on her chest.
Bloody-nosed Andrew opened the door. Matthew was almost ready to knock his lights out again, but the man told him what he needed to know. [i "You won't find her here... You made her leave, coming back here making her feel for you again."] Matthew's world halted again. Andrew could have pressed charges on him, effectively stripping him and Elaine of the house and business forever. However, Andrew didn't want anyone to know that his ass had been thoroughly kicked by anyone. He was [i that] kind of man. Andrew acted like he was all that, but he just inherited all the money he had. The boy didn't know anything about making a living for himself or protecting himself, and his clients couldn't know that. Lucky for Matthew...
There were so many reasons he wanted to list to Andrew for why Elizabeth did not love him. It may have been countless. From the fact that he was selfish, greedy, and was essentially holding her hostage, Matthew couldn't see how anyone would EVER even care for him one drop. Matthew hadn't despised someone more. He hated the position that Andrew put Elizabeth in. He hated that he took advantage of her and just expected her to agree to marriage after blackmailing her. Matthew would have loved to end him for it, but he was better than that. The war had taught him some things at least.
But the urge was hard to stop when he admitted what had happened. He was the entire reason behind Elizabeth and Elaine believing that he was dead. It was the reason she accepted in the first place to a marriage that she never once wanted. Andrew was the reason for it all. Matthew's blood was literally boiling. [i The telegram I sent didn't even work straight away, it took another couple of months but she was mine then."] Matthew just gritted his teeth then, stepping forward and grabbing hold of his shirt before slamming him against the wall, literally lifting him off his feet in anger. Finally, Matthew understood that Elizabeth was telling him the truth. And it was all Andrew's fault. [b "If you don't back off of Elizabeth and return the home and business to her, then I promise I will fucking end you. I've learned just a little bit about how to inflict pain... unbearable pain on men. Not to mention I know how to cover some things up that don't need to be seen. I will find that telegram that you forged, and I swear I will find men who hate you as much as I do. I will find everything you've ever done from blackmailing to gambling, and you will fall from your titles forever. I will fucking bury you, Andrew. I will bury you alive in your own wrongdoings."] Finally, letting him down, Andrew slumped pathetically against the wall, trying to beg Matthew not to go.
Scoffing, Matthew turned towards the kitchen counter, trying to find any indication where she was. A note on the counter read in her unmistakable handwriting that she stated she could not be his wife. Elizabeth had left the much more expensive and sparkly ring Andrew proposed to her with on the note. There was no indication as to where she left to. Matthew cursed loudly, leaving the nearly unconscious Andrew on the floor to try and find an indication of where she went in her room. Matthew never would have done such a thing before, snooping and such, but he knew not what else to do. Finally, he found a journal entry that stated she was planning on taking a train and paying for a hotel somewhere. Cursing to himself, Matthew hoped he wasn't too late. Before he left, a few wood pieces caught his eye. Examining them, Matthew smiled to himself. [i That's my girl...] She had been making some small carpentry pieces as a result of what he'd taught her, saving the money to try and make a life for herself. [i Damn, I love this woman.] Matthew thought before stepping deliberately over Andrew's feet. Before he left, he turned his head over his shoulder and warned, [b "Oh and find another place to live. This isn't yours anymore."] Slamming the door shut, Matthew rushed to find Helen and borrow her and her husband's car.
Helen, being Elizabeth's best friend, quickly agreed. Matthew needed to make it to the train station, and he was willing to pay with the last bits of money he had left to board one and chase her. Matthew knew what she was saying now. Matthew knew that she truly didn't want to marry Andrew, and she had no choice. Now, he just needed to find her... before it was truly too late.
Elizabeth took one last look around the house that had been her home since birth and spent a little bit of time in her mother’s room, talking as though she was there to listen to her. Most of her words were apologies that she couldn’t keep her promise to look after the house and the business. Elizabeth felt like a complete let down, not even knowing how she had managed to screw everything up so much. It had been so painful to lose her mother and the man she loved in the space of a year and the person she had become was easily broken down after finding out she would never see Matthew again. She hasn’t expected that the telegram could ever be a mistake because a person was either dead or alive, that wasn’t a mistake they could make.
After spending a few more minutes crying out every emotion possible, she gathered her things and walked out of the door, knowing if she didn’t leave now, Andrew or her father would be home soon to stop her from leaving. At the train station she waited patiently as she wrote a letter to Helen explaining everything that had come to pass and where she was going because she was her best friend and she couldn’t bear to think that the woman was worrying about her because she had disappeared into thin air. She handed the letter over to someone at the station who would get the letter to her by morning and then the train pulled in and she was readying herself to leave town. Her journey was a few hours long and was she arrived in the coastal town she found herself a hotel with a comfortable room and got herself comfortable for the night, exhausted from the emotion and tears she had she’d throughout the day.
The next day she worked to familiarise herself with the town, spending the morning on the beach in an attempt to find some peace before she set herself about finding some work. She came across an old workshop that had a sign for rent outside. A woman had lost her husband to the war and now had the space but she had little or no interest until now. Elizabeth met with the woman and spoke to her about everything that had happened and she agreed to let her rent the space for a reasonable price with no judgment about the fact that she was a woman. She clearly understood that things were changing with the war overseas.
Back home Andrew was dripping with blood after going to a pub to drown his sorrows about Elizabeth leaving, not having any idea that the reason behind it had been that Matthew has returned. Obviously seeing him there and having him attack him made sense but he spent some time gathering himself before he went home, only to find Matthew on his doorstep.
[i “You won’t find her here. Surely you have to know that! I was rattling my brain all night, wondering what I did wrong to make her leave but now I know. You. You made her leave, coming back here making her feel for you again.”] He sighed as he stood there with his arms crossed. [i “God that woman has a ridiculous amount of love for you and I can’t find one reason why. You have no money and you certainly can’t give her anything that I can. She turned me down sixteen times before I realised I had to kill you to make it happen. The telegram I sent didn’t even work straight away, it took her another couple of months but she was mine then. Now you come sweeping in and take her from under me! You have no right to be here.”]
Elaine came back to a hurting Matthew. She’d know the news of Elizabeth engagement, but she too had thought her brother dead. The large man was overjoyed to see his sister of course, but he was in no mood to be trifled with. After a quick hug, Matthew didn’t have to explain much more when he said he went to visit Elizabeth. Elaine was silent. She knew what he’d promised, and she knew their charade had been gone a long time ago. Matthew not dying had thrown a huge wrench in everything. Elaine told him that they were close to losing the house. She only just found work manufacturing weapons for the war, but she’d had to use all her charm and resources to do so. It wasn’t anything like the revenue they got with Matthew’s carpentry business, and she couldn’t produce the detail he could. Matthew only regretted his decision even more. He shouldn’t have gone. His life would have been so right if he never walked out that door.
Elaine silently busied herself with the glass pieces as Matthew excused himself and all but passed out on his bed. The next morning, he still felt incredibly numb. Even taking a shower in hot water, the former soldier felt empty. He should have been excited to wake up to homemade pancakes Elaine set out, but he wasn’t. After all the disgusting rations he got then the hospital food, it should have been a blessing. Instead, it was just something to keep him running.
Once it was over, Matthew trudged down to the workshop, the sight of many things he wanted to forget at this point. It was dusty and dark, a shadow of its former glory. He spent the rest of the day cleaning everything and setting up tools, supplies, and equipment. He was back, and Elaine needed him or they’d lose the house too. Maybe throwing himself into work would be all he needed.. Soon enough, Matthew was working the craft he’d never forgotten. He went out to the homes he used to work for, explaining that he had not died and that he needed the money. Some of the more generous families gave him donations just for the fact that he’d served for them. Others scoffed and shut the door in his face. Nonetheless, he’d started to regain some of his clientele.
There was no telling how many pieces of furniture he’d made. Anger was fueling him. He worked fast, and he worked efficiently. If anyone else was watching, they may have thought he was a machine. Once he was satisfied, Matthew finally cleaned up, washing off all the sweat, blood, and tears that literally escaped his body. Carpentry was therapeutic almost, so it kept him sane for at least that day. It didn’t last long. Without the buzz of the saw in his head or the preciseness of the measurements, Matthew found himself itching for another drink.
Finally, he decided to splurge and headed out to a pub where lots of men were already gathered. Taking a heavy seat, Matthew lifted his hand to scalp for whiskey or something strong like that. Matthew threw back a few before he noticed something out of the corner of his eye. His hand clenched so tight on the glass that it seemed it may break. He snapped. [i Andrew.] Standing tall, he locked eyes with the force of a raging fire to him. Nothing else made sense. Before he could think, Matthew was beating the ever living hell out of him. He was on the floor, bleeding when Matthew finally looked up. Everyone was shocked, staring at him like he would hurt them as well.
Matthew didn’t know where to go or what he was really doing. Finally standing, he stumbled out of the pub and just went the one place he could think of. He was on Elizabeth’s doorstep, bruised and bleeding from the fight although Andrew was certainly worse off. He needed help. He needed [i her.]
Elizabeth’s world can crashing down around her. She thought that he would understand. She thought he was dead and she was put in a situation where she would have found herself homeless if she didn’t go along with what her father and Andrew had propositioned. However, she could see the anger and betrayal in his eyes and it killed her to see it, knowing that none of this would have happened if she hadn’t received the news that he was dead. She could see that some of his anger was disappointed that she had taken his offer of marriage over trying to formulate and alternative but Matthew wasn’t here to see how much she had tried but the only jobs women could get now was nursing or working in the munitions factories making weapons for the war.
Women were doing men’s work but they were still not respected enough to be able to run a business. She had spoke to lawyers and since her father had signed a document before gambling away his business, fortune and home, everything was entirely legal. His words hit her hard and with each once she felt her heart breaking and it hurt more than it ever had before. It was like someone was plunging a knife into her chest constantly. This was worse that any pain she had ever felt because she had been given hope and now it was being taken away from her and it was his choice.
[b “Matthew...no that’s not true.”] She didn’t like the insinuation that she wanted a man with money. What she wanted was to protect her family and keep the home that was the only thing she had left of her mother’s. Each word tore into her and she couldn’t help but let the tears fall fast as they developed into sobs when he told her to live her life. He was leaving and she couldn’t bear it. [b “No Matthew!”] She tried to hold onto him but he was walking off in a fast pace and something about his tone told her not to follow him and even though she wanted to, she had seen how angry he could get before.
Elizabeth remained there on the grass for an hour after he left, crying harder ran she had before. Everything was a mess and it was her fault. It would be better for everyone if she wasn’t here anymore. She couldn’t marry Andrew knowing that Matthew was alive and she couldn’t go to Matthew either. He didn’t want her now. With tear stained eyes she made her way into the house and found a case, packing some basic things to get her though a few days and she found some paper and a pen.
[i I cannot do this. I cannot be your wife.] She said the ring off her finger and placed it on top of the paper and moved towards her safe where she kept the money she had been making from small carpentry projects on the side. She couldn’t keep Matthew’s business going without him but she did do some things for herself in hopes that she might be able to make enough money to get her out of this situation. That was why she was delaying the marriage as much as possible. Now the money would get her on a train and would pay for a hotel room for a few weeks while she figured out what she was going to do now. All she knew was that she couldn’t be this close to Mathew knowing she could never have him.
[i Anger, regret, betrayal, and disappointment.]
Matthew couldn’t really hear the rest of what she was saying when she dropped the bombshell. [i “I’m engaged.”] He was a fool to think it would be that easy. Matthew let her in, opened his heart to the one thing he vowed against. [i Love.] He fought for her. He would fight for her again if that was what it took, but she gave in so easily. There was some rambling excuse about her father gambling away the whole business and home to the prickliest of all pricks, Andrew. It hurt even worse that she was engaged to [i him.] Matthew remembered telling him off when dancing with Elizabeth and then nearly decking him at her mother’s funeral. Now, Matthew was starting to think of ways to plan his own funeral by sending him six feet under with one timely punch...
But he was also angry with Elizabeth. She was smart and resourceful. There had to have been something she could do. Why just say yes to marrying the jackass? Did he not matter to her? Every reasoning that came from her lips meant nothing to him. He was numb again. Matthew didn’t even want to look at her. His hand run through his long, blonde hair, smoothing out his coat. How could she? How dare she? Elizabeth ripped his heart out and stomped on it in a matter of seconds. Matthew felt like he’d been shot twenty times. It was worse pain than the damn bullet hole in his fucking shoulder. Matthew wanted a drink. No, he needed a drink before he did something he regretted too.
[i “I do not love him. I do not want to be with him Matthew. I love you.”] She was pleading with him, begging him to take her back into his arms and just act like it was okay. This wasn’t supposed to happen. He [i knew] deep down that it would though. It was too good to be true. She was too good to be true. Cold water splashed on his face and woke him up abruptly from this dream he was living in. Matthew shielded himself from this all so long. Finally, Matthew spoke. A waterfall went off in inside, and he couldn’t stop himself even if he wanted to.
[b “Stop. Just stop, Elizabeth! You’ve said more than enough. You should have waited. You should have asked anyone else what to do. But you didn’t. You just fucking gave in to that jackass of a man to live the rest of your damn life with!? I thought I trained you to be smarter than this. Did you forget all the times I taught you how to run a business in my workshop? I showed you everything you would have ever needed... I did that because I wanted you to be successful, to do what you wanted with your life. I guess all you fucking wanted was someone with money.”]
Scoffing, Matthew looked at her then, his eyes full of rage and sorrow mixed together. [b “You know... I thought war was hard. I thought getting shot hurt. I thought seeing men I cared about as brothers being killed before my eyes was the worst heartbreak I could ever experience. It’s nothing compared to this. Live your life. At least he’ll provide for you. I knew I was too much of a beast to love anyway.”] With that, Matthew stormed off, tears finally streaming down his cheeks. Yes, he was a monster of a man, but he couldn’t stop from breaking down then and there.
When he got back home, he found the alcohol and threw it back. Old habits die hard. His reflection in the alcohol made him more angry, thinking about everything that just happened. Maybe it would have been better if he died. Hurtling the glass to the wall, it broke in a million little pieces, but it only reminded him more of Elizabeth. He wasn’t ever recovering from this one.
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