If you recognise it, it's not mine.
"Ent it hot, Will?" George asked, leaning on the gate. William nodded, staring over his shoulder at the sunlight streaming over the trees, making dappled patterns like the ripples in water...
"Will? You've gone all artist minded, haven't you?"
"Watercolour," William muttered, before blinking rapidly. George cocked his head on one side.
"Eh? You've been took all strange wi that expedition of yers cummin up. Talk less than you did when we were kids." George, now well over six feet tall, clapped his friend on the shoulder.
"It ent that far off, George. I need to git my pictures organised," William protested. George shrugged.
"Well, Ginnie's sent you some cakes. She says you've to eat them while they're fresh," he added, handing a package over. William thanked him, and the two friends chatted for a while before George headed off, saying he had some errands to run. William called his dog- not Sammy, but one of his descendants, Gracie- and gathered his sketchbook and pencils. As George had said, it was a lovely hot day. He may as well take a walk.
A train was just pulling in at the station, and a few minutes later, a young man came running down the path. William was caught up in another daydream, watching the way the residual smoke from the train was wafting away into the sky, and as such, the young man ran right into him, nearly knocking him over. Gracie started barking as William righted himself, reaching out a hand to help the stranger up.
"Gracie-" he began, trailing off mid-scold. Something about the man's long dark curly hair, pulled back in a ponytail, was very familiar.
"I say, I'm tremendously sorry for running into you like that. I'm on my way to meet an old friend, you see." The man stood up, brushing dirt off his smart suit. He peered at William, who was standing with his mouth hanging open, one hand tight in the fur on Gracie's neck. "I say, are you alright?" William found his voice.
"Zacharias Wrench, but jest Zach, it's shorter," he mumbled, staring incredulously. Zach- because of course it was him- studied this strange man. Not tall or especially stocky, his eyes blinked from under his soft blonde fringe. Suddenly he gave a great shout, leaping in the air, hands waving enthusiastically.
"When shall we three meet again! If it isn't my Will! You're quite the man now, aren't you! How have you been? Still doing your art? It was you I was rushing to see, actually. Just got off the train today. I must say, you've gone awfully pale. You look like you've seen a ghost! Will, are you-" He broke off abruptly, grabbing William's shoulders as the man swayed, face pale. Gracie began barking again. Zach guided the man to the grassy verge, sitting him down.
"There we go. Don't go unconscious there, that won't help anyone." William blinked dazedly at him.
"It's jest...yer dead, Zach." Zach laughed, then his face sobered as he realised what William meant.
"Oh. Oh. Will, there was a terrible bombing. The hospital where my parents were was crushed completely, they were both killed. It knocked me silly. I could barely remember my own name when they found me. I was adopted by this marvellous couple, Mary and Alex Woodward. The money my parents left me allowed me to go to proper acting school, and I've been touring with a Shakespeare troupe for the last seven years or so. They were coming down past here, so I thought I'd pop in for old times sake. Anyway, enough about me. What's been happening here? Carrie and George and everyone still around? How's Mister Tom?" William dropped his gaze, fiddling with a piece of grass. Gracie nosed his side anxiously.
"Dad died a couple o' years back," he muttered. Zach sighed sadly.
"I'm terribly sorry, Will. He was the greatest man I've ever met." William nodded, standing up. Gracie frisked round his ankles. Zach followed him down the road. "And what of Carrie? George? Ginnie? Does little Lucy still adore you?"
"Carrie's away bein' a lawyer in London." Zach cheered, startling a blackbird sitting in a tree.
"Oh, that's just brilliant! Hurrah! I knew she could do it!"
"George and Ginnie have a cottage up in the village, next door to Lucy and her husband, and a little boy."
"Hurrah again! What's the boy's name?" William turned to face him.
"They call him Zach," he said softly. Zach turned his face away, pretending to admire the trees.
"That's...that's... We must go to see them some time." They carried on in silence, punctuated by the soft chirping of birds in the hedgerows. Eventually, they arrived at what used to be Tom's house, and now belonged to William. It seemed barely changed, Zach thought as William unlocked the door. Then he stepped inside.
"My goodness, Will. These are..." he searched for the right word. William blushed as Zach wandered round the house. Nearly every space was covered in pictures. There were some of the landscape, some of various people from the village. A row of paintings above the coat pegs made Zach stop. A shiny wooden pipe on a mantlepiece next to an old photograph and a teapot. A warm painting of Mister Tom in a chair by the fire. And a bright, happy sketch of two children on a clifftop. On was small and skinny, dressed in blues and greys. The other seemed to be rising, or hovering slightly above the ground. His face was hidden by shadow, but you could clearly see the jersey he was wearing, made of a hundred different colours. Zach felt a tear roll down his face. William stood next to him, so different from the scared, skinny child Zach had first met almost fifteen years ago.
"We've grown up, ent we, Zach?" William murmured, country accent strong and steady. Zach nodded.
"Thy friendship makes us fresh," he quoted. William looked at him with that same puzzled frown from years ago.
"What's that mean, then?" he asked. Zach smiled.
"Wizzo," he said. And again, louder and louder in a shout of joy. "Wizzo, wizzo, wizzo!"