Secrets that's all our lives were. Lie after lie. As we convinced ourselves that the truth was either too much to bare or not worthy of the person we were deceiving. My mother lied to my father. At the time she believed it was the only way. She needed a new life. A fresh start and she wasn't keen on the one her father was setting up for her. So she married a Jewish man and hid herself away in Camden town. It wasn't until my grandfather fell ill that she pulled us back to small heath. Tiny caravans and talk of Gypsy curses filled my adolescence. Something had always pulled me back here. Maybe my hairitage. Maybe the fact my mother loathed the idea of it. I wasn't sure. I was never sure. That was my problem. As much as I hated small heath I was beginning to feel safe here. My boxes were being unpacked and I was making connections in places I shouldn't have been. I needed to go home before I buried myself here.
"I see this is becoming part of your routine Mr. Shelby," I chuckled as I let Thomas into my flat. He had been appearing on my doorstep every Saturday morning for the last month. Some days he was broken. Some days he was whole. I wasn't sure why he chose me to mend him, but at the same time I hoped he didn't change his mind and go find someone else. "The usual?" I reached for two glasses before he could reply. "You're awfully quiet today."
"I don't have much to say. I just needed the company." Thomas sucked in his breath as he focused on the brown liquid in his cup. He slowly swirled the alcohol his eyes never looking up at me. "Why did you ask me not to bury you in the mud?"
"Because I've already spent too much time in it," I sat on the coffee table in front of him gently lifting his chin up so our eyes could meet. Something flicked across them when they locked on me sending goosebumps across my arms. "You and I aren't as different as you think we are I'm afraid. I have very similar nightmares to yours and don't tell me you don't have nightmares I know what a man plagued by war looks like."
"Tell me about them." His voice was barely above a whisper.
"I wouldn't want to bore you," my words tremble. "Thomas I..." I stopped myself letting him take my hands in his. His rough fingers drew circles on my boney palms as I rattled my brain to start. "I was eighteen when I decided to become a combat nurse. My husband had just been enlisted and because we didn't have children I wanted to do what I could to. So despite my mother begging me not to go I packed my bags took the necessary training and hopped on the first train to the front lines of Paris." I felt the tears gathering in my eyes but I didn't want to break our contact. "I can still hear them pleading with me some nights. Crying to be sent home. Crying for the pain to be over."
"And your husband? Did he die in the war?" I chewed on the inside of my cheek until I could taste blood.
"A part of him did. I can say with 100% honesty the man I married no longer lives in our house," I blinked out the tears pulling away from him and walking towards the window. Why was I telling him this. Why was I being so vulnerable. This wasn't a part of the plan. I wasn't supposed to humanize myself. No I was supposed to seduce him. That's it. That's all, and yet I was feeling for the man in my living room. The man I once described as the devil. "The woman he married doesn't live there either though." I felt thomas' hands brushing my hair away from my face. His teeth lightly nipping at the sensitive skin of my neck. "I can't." I breathed.
"But do you want to?"
"What I want has never really mattered Mr Shelby. I made a vow and I don't intend to break that vow." I kissed his cheek lingering just inches away from his mouth. I could lean in right now. I could give into temptation.
"I'll see you Monday 8 am not a minute later."
"Of course. I'll see you then."