"Can you come with me please, Samuel?" Mr Everson asked me after I had served luncheon. I followed him through to a dark office, with a large, oak wood desk placed prominently in the centre of the room. It was basic and lacked any decorations, like the rest of downstairs. The only decoration he had was a small plant pot in the far corner of the room which held a wilting flower, deprived of sunlight. "It is Lord Barrington's wish that you become first footman instead of George." He explained as if it pained him. "I have told him that you could start tomorrow."
I nodded politely. "Thank you."
"Send George in, I will have to tell him." I thanked him once again and said that I would, but before I could leave he added. "Oh, and Samuel? Please don't undermine me like that again." I nodded silently and left before he could say any more.
"Mr Everson would like to speak to you." I told George, puffing out my chest proudly as I walked into the servant's hall. There were two people, Miss Wilson and Mrs Brown, in the room. They both stopped talking as I entered.
"Why..?" He asked suspiciously, getting up anyway.
"You'll find out when you get there, won't you?" I remarked sarcastically.
George sighed, straightening his waistcoat before giving me another suspicious look and stalking off.
"What is it?" Miss Wilson asked keenly.
"Well, I've just been promoted to first footman!" I announced.
Miss Wilson laughed and went back to discussing something with Mrs Brown, but I wasn't really paying attention, instead I started sketching inside an old drawing book. It was a hobby I had picked up in the trenches; I would draw images of the battlefield or of the other soldiers. Jamie had always wanted to see what was inside the book, but I never let him. It was when he decided to look for himself, that he found countless drawings of him inside.
“James?” I say quietly, startling him. He drops the book suddenly, standing up from my bed and clearing his throat. He is wearing the khaki shirt, tie and trousers of his uniform, but has ditched his jacket. The shirt fits tightly so that I can see the defined muscles of his chest underneath and his raven black hair is tousled slightly after the exhausting day.
“You’re a talented artist.” His voice wavers slightly.
“Look, James, what’s in there, it doesn’t mean anything; I just draw what I see.” I insist, it’s a lie and it’s an obvious one. He looks at me, his deep blue eyes shining in the dim light. I am weary of several other soldiers in the room. “Can we talk about this somewhere else?” I gesture towards them.
He nods, walking out the room for me to follow. I did so as he led me into an alcove outside. The alcove is small, and our bodies are so intimately close together, I feel as if he can hear the loud thumping of my heart beat. It’s a cold night, but heat radiates from his body and mine gladly accepts it. The sounds of bombs and guns have calmed down now as the warfare has stopped for a peaceful while, but the air stinks of gun powder and cigarette smoke.
James still hasn’t said much and says nothing further as we stand together in the cold, dark hole.
“I don’t know what to say…” I admit. “I’m sorry. You shouldn’t have seen them.”
“Then you’re little secret would still be so.” I can’t tell whether his tone is malicious.
I look down ashamedly at my boots, which were barely visible in the darkness. “You probably think I’m disgusting don’t you?” He said nothing. “But I’m not. I’m just like you… Just different.” I look back up to see him looking intensely back at me.
He doesn’t say a word. Instead, he takes a small step forward, closing the little distance we had between us. He captures my lips with his and kisses me deeply. His hands move to my neck and mine travel to his waist. I start to kiss him back passionately, but he pulls back all too quickly, looking around cautiously.
“I didn’t know you-“I begin.
“Oh… Right…” I don’t say anything else. I just smile like an idiot, hands still around his waist.
"What do you think, Sam?" Miss Wilson asked, pulling me roughly out of my thoughts.
"At the dinner party? Straight or wavy for her Ladyship's hair? We're trying to decide so Miss Wilson doesn't embarrass herself." Mrs Brown explained.
"Oh, I don't know...” I said dismissively. They continued to look expectantly at me. “When is the party, anyway?" I asked, avoiding the question.
“Oh ages away, but I have to plan ahead! Just guess... What would you expect?" Miss Wilson pushed.
"Oh...Erm, I guess er, wavy?"
"See? I told you!" Miss Wilson triumphed. "Thank you, Sam."
I smiled apologetically to Mrs Brown and made excuses to leave to my room, listening to Mrs Brown protest about me being a man and not knowing about such things as I walked slowly to my room.
I began to unpack my things reluctantly. There wasn’t much, but I was only halfway through when George stormed through the door, making a loud bang. "Knock, knock." I said flatly, turning to look at him.
"Congratulations." He said sarcastically, folding his arms.
"On?" I asked, sounding as innocent as possible.
"Stealing my job."
"Stealing? I wasn't aware of stealing anything." I replied, returning to my packing. I tried to ignore the glare solely directed at the back of my neck.
"Yes, you did. That was my job and you took it!" He took an aggressive step toward me. "You had no right."
I stopped again to look at him squarely in the face "I think you'll find that the job was offered to me first." His stare grew cold and after what seemed like forever and a half, George spoke. "You'll regret this." He stormed out of the room. I laughed, just loud enough for him to hear and carried on with my bag.
When I had finally finished, I walked down to the servant’s hall where a lovely display of silverware awaited me to clean. I was thankful, though, that I was not alone as Mr Charles was there, shining Lord Barrington's Buttons. "So, George came to warn me about taking his job." I said awkwardly in an attempt to start a conversation with him.
"Oh just ignore him, most of us try to anyway."
I laughed, "I don't blame you... He seems like a handful."
"Ah, he's not that bad. He tends to stay in his room most of the time."
“What do you mean?” I questioned.
He shrugged. “I don’t know. He just doesn’t seem to have any friends, or even get along with anybody. He concentrates his time mainly on his work.”
Mr Charles laughed. “Yeah, have you metthe man?” I laughed with him, but I couldn’t help but feel a small pang of sympathy.
Talking to Mr Charles helped pass the time and it felt like in no time that I was finished and had to get changed for dinner where both Lord and Lady Barrington had invited their parents.
After serving their tea, it was time for us to have ours. Stella, one of the housemaids, asked me to sit with her and I, of course, felt no reason not to. Although, I regretted it slightly after. She spent the entire meal touching my arm and giggling incessantly at my every word.
"So, Samuel, How was your first day?" Mrs Brown asked me kindly.
"Please, call me Sam... Samuel sounds so formal!" I explained "But it was good, not as bad as I thought it would be." Stella giggled; it wasn't intended to be funny.
"Why did you think it would be bad?" Mrs Brown questioned bluntly.
"Oh no, I just mean I was very nervous, that's all." I hurried.
"You don't need to be nervous any more Sam, I'll help you." Stella giggled.
I smiled politely "Erm, thank you, Stella."
She giggled again, her laugh was so annoying!
As soon as I could, I made my excuses to leave, not wanting to be near Stella for much longer. I decided to return to my room, dreading the consequences of sleep.