Author's Note: When I published Live in My Memory, I had ideas for what would happen next, but was rather hesitant to write that story further. There are frankly a lot of amnesia stories out there, both generally and even for Mary and Matthew, so I did not want to go over ground that had already been covered. Thank you to all the readers who asked for a sequel and gave me the motivation to delve deeper into this tale.
Thanks to Lala-Kate for the original prompt that led to this modern AU, and Willa Dedalus and patsan for inspiration and motivation. I know it seems as though I am incapable of writing a one-shot and leaving it alone, but I think that's proving to be a good thing so far.
Gong Bar, Shangri-la Hotel, At the Shard, London, England, February 2015
"I love it here," Mary smiles as they come out of the elevator on to the 52nd floor. "The views are spectacular."
"Do you come here often?" Matthew smirks, looking at her playfully.
"Once or twice," she smiles back, the hilarity of his deliberate choice of words not lost on either of them.
"For two, Mr. Crawley?" the blonde-haired hostess in high heels and a Chinese-style dress smiles as they reach the doors to the bar.
"Yes, overlooking the Thames, please," Matthew nods.
"They know your name here," Mary notes, looking at him as they follow the hostess past couches and tables before reaching two burgundy leather chairs next to the bar and flush against the floor to ceiling windows.
"I told you, my publisher puts me up here whenever I'm in the city. I stayed here a few times over the summer," he explains, holding her chair out for her as she sits down. He slips into his own seat as menus are placed on the small table between them.
"I go wherever I feel inspired. Some nights I come up here and stare at the city and write. The staff knows me, as a result," he shrugs.
Mary smiles as she crosses her legs. She turns to look across evening London, lights stretching to the dark horizon. They are above every other building in the city, and it feels otherworldly, as though they are merely observing life happening below them, rather than sitting in a cocktail bar. She leans towards the window, resting her chin on her hand. It's been a very long day, a long week in fact, but she doesn't feel tired. Getting through her Aunt Rosamund's visitation has lifted a weight off her shoulders; even though she knows tomorrow's funeral will be difficult.
"Mr. Crawley," a smiling server nods, coming over and placing two linen napkins down in front of them.
"May I?" Matthew asks Mary, motioning to the large drinks menu.
"Please," she nods, her eyes narrowing as she wonders what he'll order for them. She suspects he'll think she's a martini or Bellini girl, or if he really has bad intentions, he'll order a strong Russian vodka – Stoli Elit or Kauffman Luxury Private Collection – to loosen her up before he makes his move.
"A large bottle of San Pellegrino for the table, with plenty of lime," Matthew instructs the server. "The Hakushu 18 year for me and the Lady will have a Limoncello and tonic. We'll also take the cheese board, please."
Mary arches her eyebrow but says nothing. Lucky guess, she thinks. Or maybe he's brought women up here before.
She turns her head and watches as the bartender immediately prepares their drinks. Soon, two glasses of sparkling water are placed before them, the bottle left in an ice bucket behind Matthew's chair. His Japanese whiskey is poured into a small ornately decorated cup, and her Limoncello and tonic water arrives in a large tumbler glass. She smiles at Matthew as he lifts his cup.
"We can drink to the memory of Lady Rosamund Painswick," he says kindly.
"Why not?" Mary nods, lifting up her own glass. They watch each other as they drink. She takes a long sip while he finishes his cup entirely. The Limoncello is silky and smooth, and perfectly cold. She places her glass back down as the cheese board arrives.
"Allow me," Matthew says, taking a small plate and slicing pieces of cheese for her.
She takes a moment to study him. Bespoke suit, probably Armani or Prada. But his hair is remarkably free of products and rather simple, actually. A loose lock falls across his forehead, and there's a thin layer of stubble across his chin. He looks up and meets her eyes, his lips curl into a small smile as he hands her the plate of cheese.
His eyes are reflecting the lights of London outside and the lights of the bar overhead. They're almost glowing, and Mary blinks, still holding his gaze. His photograph on the inside of the book jacket clearly did not properly capture his eyes. If it did, she would have remembered.
"Japanese whisky," she says, filling the silence as she places the plate in front of her and delicately takes a piece of cheese.
"A recently acquired taste," Matthew nods, looking down and slicing cheese for himself. "Honestly, I could never afford to drink it before."
She is surprised by this, but then there is no reason for why she should assume he was always rich. This is his first book, and she doesn't know what his circumstances were or what he did before he made it big.
"So you aren't from a long line of Manchester royalty?" she asks, raising her eyebrow.
"No," he laughs, shaking his head. "Papa was a doctor and Mother was a nurse before she retired. I'm an only child and never wanted for anything important, but after I left Manchester I learned rather quickly that there were other levels of wealth."
"Such as in Belgravia," Mary nods.
"Indeed," Matthew agrees. "But then again, I suppose every large city has its rich enclaves. Belgravia, St. James Square, Central Park West in New York. There's toffs everywhere you go in the world, isn't there?"
She laughs and nods, savouring the brie and crostini that she's just swallowed. She doesn't know if he's mocking her or not, but she doesn't care. He wouldn't be the first person to call her a toff, but she doesn't think there's any malice behind it.
"And how did you know my aunt, exactly?" she asks lightly, taking another sip of her drink.
"As I said, it's been quite a while since we last saw each other. Even back then, we only spoke a few times," Matthew says, reaching over and refilling his cup. "One thing I always respected about her was how fiercely loyal she was. She would defend her family with everything she had."
Mary nods, looking out the window wistfully.
"Were you close?" he asks quietly. "Is there any other family? I noticed you were alone when I arrived at the funeral home."
She shakes her head, still looking out the window. "I lived with her from the time I was sixteen. It was just the two of us by then. My uncle passed years before, and they never had any children."
She turns back to look at the cheese plate, not glancing up at him.
"She was quite protective of me, as you can imagine. She could be rather overbearing at times, and even meddlesome, but she always wanted the best for me. She thought I should have a certain type of life, and she did everything in her power to push me to it," Mary explains.
"She was a formidable woman and she was in your corner," Matthew says succinctly.
"Yes," Mary nods, finally looking up at him. "So, are you saying that the formidable woman in your book is based on my Aunt Rosamund?"
His eyes widen in shock, then he smiles.
"No," he laughs. "I certainly wasn't thinking about her when I wrote my book."
"Well, what secrets are you prepared to divulge, Matthew?" Mary smirks, sipping her drink again.
"What do you want to know?" he shoots back, his eyes upon her as he downs a second cup of whiskey.
"Seeing as your character is rather strong willed, I would have to say she must be based on someone close to you," Mary says.
Matthew squeezes a lime wedge into his glass of sparkling water and lifts it to his mouth.
"If she were based on someone in real life, then yes, that is a rather educated guess," he smiles, taking a sip.
"It couldn't be your mother," she shakes her head. "You put the character through too many trials and tribulations for that."
Matthew laughs and nods for her to go on.
"You don't have any siblings, so that leaves either a cousin or a girlfriend," she says confidently.
"Well, I will tell you that all my cousins are men actually," he says. "And at the time that I wrote that book, I didn't have a girlfriend."
"Ah," Mary smiles. "And now you're surely too busy to have one?"
"Something like that," he says, his eyes fixed upon her.
"So she's based on an old conquest. That's rather dull, isn't it? Writing an ode to a former flame?" she teases.
"I don't think one gets to choose one's muse," he shrugs. "Nor where inspiration comes from."
Mary sips her drink, the citrus and slightly bitter taste of the Limoncello feels delightful on her tongue.
"And have you told her that she's your muse?" she asks. "Wouldn't it be rather shocking for her to read about herself in your book?"
"I think it's sufficiently vague that she wouldn't be able to tell right from the off," he replies easily. "Besides, I wouldn't know. We didn't keep in touch."
"I see," Mary smiles mischievously. "And were you hoping to draw her out by writing this tale? Are you not over her yet?"
"Your questions are moving rather far afield, aren't they, Mary?" Matthew dodges. "I thought you only wanted to know who the character might be based on?"
"I'm sorry, Matthew," Mary smiles genuinely. "You're right. I don't need to know anything more."
"The character isn't entirely based upon her anyway," he says, sipping his water. "That would be rather amateurish, similar to putting myself in the book, for example."
"So you're saying that her lover isn't based on you?" she asks playfully.
"I think your questions on my book are used up, Mary," he says pointedly, his bright eyes show that he's not insulted, but that he won't say anything more.
"Very well," Mary nods, taking it all in good humour. "But what if I have more questions about the author?"
"Fire away," he smiles. "After I've finished freshening up."
Mary smiles as he rises from his chair and walks away in the direction of the washroom.
She sips the last of her drink and looks out the window again. She doesn't know what she's doing here, high above the city with a stranger drinking and flirting and entertaining all manner of thoughts. There's something about him that she can't quite put her finger on, but it's drawing her in. It's not just his looks. She's been bored by good looking men before. It's not because he's a celebrity, because truly he isn't. He's a published author with some buzz, but not a regular in the Daily Mail entertainment section or anything like that. It may be the novelty that he isn't intimidated by her the way most of the men she's been flung at have been. But then he doesn't know her, does he?
She can tell he's interested. It was his idea to come back here in the first place, wasn't it? Or perhaps it was hers and he agreed? In either case, sharing a drink with a handsome man in a posh intimate bar is preferable to going back to a dark and empty Painswick House. She takes another bite of cheese and smiles to herself, contemplating what questions to ask him when he returns, wondering just how deep he'll let her push into his life.
Matthew exhales and looks at himself in the mirror. His pulse has been racing since they left the funeral home and between the whisky and trying to appear calm, he's managed to relax a little bit. The absurdity of the situation tugs at him, but he can't turn back. She's gorgeous, and just as sharp and witty as ever. There's an edge to her, similar to when they first met, and he doesn't know if the years have allowed her to find her softer side again or whether her Aunt Rosamund drove it out of her entirely. He has so many questions. What is she doing now? Did she ever live her dream of going into fashion? What story did her aunt tell her about New York? Has she ever been curious about that time in her life? He was afraid to order her favourite drink for her, but she seemed to be impressed and not suspicious. He has no idea how far he should push this, but he's feeling brave and he's missed her desperately and his hotel room is a short elevator ride away.
He sighs and looks down at the sink, running his hand under the tap and splashing cold water over his face. How far should he push? They just left a funeral home, for God's sake! He should wrap this up, put her in a limo and send her home.
He looks at himself in the mirror one last time and curses that he's so bloody righteous before leaving the washroom.
Matthew frowns when he returns to their empty table. He glances around, scanning the room for Mary. He sits down and sighs. Perhaps she came to her senses? She had her fun and decided to escape before things became awkward or uncomfortable. He wonders how he'll deal with this tomorrow when he sees her at the funeral. Joke about it? Say something clever? Pretend it never happened?
"I needed to freshen up as well," Mary says cheerfully as she walks past him, brushing her hand lightly over his shoulder. He smiles as she takes her seat across from him.
"So, do you still have questions for me?" he asks.
"Yes," she nods. "What drove you into writing?"
"Ah," he smiles. "That isn't a very romantic tale, I'm afraid. I always enjoyed creating stories, even back when I was a child. I think all of my schoolteachers told my parents the same thing – Matthew has a vivid imagination."
She nods, the image of a blond-haired, blue-eyed child scribbling in a notebook making her smile.
"I think Papa probably wanted me to follow in his footsteps, but he never questioned my decisions. I expected him to disown me when I told him I was going to London to study English, but he didn't dissuade me. He gave me a warning that there may be some lean years if I decided to devote myself to writing, but he never discouraged me from doing it," Matthew says, smiling as though he's recalling a happy memory.
"And what do your parents think now that their son is a bestselling author?" she asks.
"Well, Papa died before I graduated actually. Cancer," he says quietly. "Mother is very proud, of course. I think she gave out copies of my book to all of her friends for Christmas."
She laughs, looking at him in understanding. He must have been in his late teens when he lost his father then, not much older than she was when she lost hers. This shared past between them makes her feel closer to him somehow, even though he hasn't asked about her parents and she hasn't mentioned them.
"After graduation," he continues. "I didn't quite know what to do with myself, but I had a crazy dream to go to New York and study there in the New York University Graduate Program in Creative Writing. I applied for the hell of it and, shockingly, they let me in."
"So New York is where you wrote your bestseller," she states.
"Most of it, yes," he nods. "New York is also where I wrote a lot of manuscripts that were rejected after the first chapter. Have you ever been?"
"Once, years ago," she replies. "It was nice, but I prefer London."
Matthew merely nods and quickly takes a sip of water.
"Is New York still home, then?" she asks.
"I suppose," he says indifferently. "I have a few friends there, and my publisher is there. I've been on the book tour for several months now so home is whichever hotel room I'm staying in, really. Mother is happy I'm in London, of course. I'll go see her next month."
"A citizen of the world," she smirks.
"Well, writing can be done anywhere, can't it?" he states.
Mary sips her water.
"What about you?" Matthew asks. "What do you do for a living, dare I ask?"
"Guess," she smiles.
"Hmm, well it must be something sophisticated like event planning or interior design," he muses. "And I expect you're in charge. You don't seem as though you would enjoy taking orders."
"Not bad," Mary nods. "I could never be an event planner; not a full time one anyway. The clients are too demanding. I should know. I've attended my fair share of events. Interior design is a bit of a hobby of mine. I think every woman enjoys decorating on some level. But officially I work at Tate Modern. I'm responsible for their Major Donor Program, and yes, I am in charge of a team."
"Ah," Matthew smiles. "Fundraising. You help bring art to the masses."
"Something like that," she laughs. "It's a lot of networking and ego stroking, really; telling people how they should spend their money and why supporting the gallery is better than donating to another charity or museum. On good days, such as when a major exhibition debuts that I raised the money for, work is really rewarding. On bad days, it seems as though I'm smiling and batting my eyelashes and begging for money with no end in sight."
"I'm sure you're very good at it; that you have more good days than bad," he nods.
"How would you know?" she laughs. "We've just met."
"Just a guess," he says vaguely. "You seem as though you know how to talk people into giving you what you want."
Mary looks out the window again, contemplating his words. He isn't quite making fun of her, but there is a teasing note to his voice. He's not afraid to spar with her; that is clear enough. She finds that she likes their exchanges. Most men cower or get their back up when she teases them.
"If your book continues to be so successful, you should consider a gift to the gallery," she suggests, smiling at him. "You know, leave a legacy of some sort here in London before you jet off again for New York."
"I don't know if a few drinks and pleasant conversation is enough to convince me of the worthiness of your cause, Mary," he answers. He's trying to appear casual but his one hand is gripping the armrest of the chair tightly and alarm bells are going off in his head. He's treading on dangerous ground here, going beyond playful flirting to imply that he wants something more. And of course he does. He yearns for her.
"What will convince you, then?" Mary asks, looking right at him.
Her bold words and unwavering stare are taking him back in time and he has to measure his answer to stop himself from giving in to desire.
"It's getting late," Matthew declares. "And it seems our drinks are done. Why don't we discuss this some more tomorrow? Or, even later if you have too many commitments to attend to after your aunt's funeral?"
"Everything is already planned, organized, arranged and ready to be executed," Mary shakes her head. "I just have to show up, though that won't make it easy, by any means."
"Of course not," he agrees. He has succeeded in turning their mood entirely sober and bringing the evening to a grinding halt. He stops himself from sighing and instead rises from his chair and offers her his hand.
"Let's get you home, then," he says, swallowing slightly as he realizes he extended his hand to her without thinking, the movement so natural to him he didn't bother wondering whether he should or not.
She places her hand in his and meets his eyes again as she gets up. He stares straight ahead as he escorts her out of the bar, but his fingers stay linked loosely with hers.
"What about the bill?" she asks as they reach the elevator hand-in-hand.
"They'll charge it to my room," he says, pushing the button with his free hand.
"Well, you must let me know what my share of the damage is," she says crisply.
The elevator doors slide open and he steps inside, bringing her with him.
"You can cover the next time," he smiles, looking away from her as he presses the button for the lobby.
"What makes you think there will be a next time?" Mary teases him. She hasn't even thought of releasing his hand. She's feeling happily lightheaded and as he turns to face her, she steps closer to him, his back leaning against the smooth wall of the elevator.
"How else are you going to persuade me to donate to Tate Modern?" he smiles, then licks his lips quickly as he realizes that their hands are still together and she's moved closer to him. Too close.
Her head is tilted up towards him and her eyes are dark. He knows that look. Her lips are parted and he can see her teeth. His breath catches and they're back in 2003 or 2004 or any of the other hundreds of times they kissed before. He's replayed those moments in his mind over and over for more than ten years and now she's here and he's here and they're alone and uninhibited and he can't quite remember why he shouldn't do what he's about to do.
She closes the distance quickly, her other hand sliding up and holding his cheek as she presses her lips against his. His other hand moves to her hip, and true arousal blasts through him for the first time in years. He wants to grope her and fondle her and push his tongue into her open mouth, hit the stop button on the elevator and take her against the wall as though this were some clichéd movie. But somehow a vestige of reason is still alive in his addled brain and he merely kisses her back softly and gently. He finally breathes when she steps back and laughs sultrily.
"There, will that convince you?" she asks, arching her eyebrow at him, their hands still joined.
"Convince me again," he says cheekily.
She smiles and he leans towards her and she closes her eyes, ready to kiss him again, but the elevator chimes and the doors open and the lights and noise of the lobby cause them to turn and release their hands from each other.
He walks out with her and his mind renews the battle with his heart and other body parts that has been going on all evening. If he rides along in the hotel car to drop her off at Painswick House, he most certainly will not be able to keep his hands or his lips to himself. The trip at this hour will be around twenty minutes and in that time he could destroy all that he's gained tonight with one wrong word or one wrong decision, and he thinks they're both in a state tonight where being wrong is intensely appealing.
A brief word to the concierge and a Mercedes with the hotel logo arrives at the kerb. The doorman opens the rear door for them and Matthew lightly pushes Mary forward, his hand on her back.
"Good night, Mary," he says as she turns towards him. "I'll see you tomorrow."
She nods and he kisses her cheek politely. She steps into the car and disappears behind tinted glass. He stands at the kerb and watches as the car pulls away and moves down the street, his brow furrowed when it passes from sight. He exhales as he turns around and heads back to the elevator, bound for his suite and a very cold shower.
Camden Coffee House, Ladbroke Grove, London, England, February 2015
"Hello," Mary smiles. "Have you been waiting long?"
"No, just got here," Anna says, leaning over and kissing Mary on the cheeks before sitting back down.
"It's so sunny out," Mary declares, taking a sip of her Earl Grey. "Such a lovely day for February."
"Since when do you get so happy over the weather?" Anna smiles, sipping her Chamomile.
"I'm merely making an observation," Mary replies easily, arching her eyebrow at her friend.
"Your chipper mood wouldn't have anything to do with Matthew Crawley, would it?" Anna teases.
"What are you on about?" Mary asks with feigned ignorance.
"Don't even try to deny it," Anna warns. "I saw the two of you after the funeral and you skipped yoga both days this week and spin class as well."
"I was busy with work," Mary says lightly.
"Is that what the kids are calling it now?" Anna smirks in amusement.
"Shut up," Mary says, but she can't hide a mysterious smile from crossing her lips as she sips her tea.
"I knew it!" Anna laughs, jumping on the signal immediately. "So what's he like? He's absolutely gorgeous and his writing is brilliant, so he must be amazing. His imagination alone must make him rather creative."
"Anna!" Mary hisses, glancing around the busy café. "I haven't slept with him!"
"Yet…" Anna grins.
"We've just been spending time together, that's all," Mary says quietly. "I took him through the gallery, and we've had dinner. Nothing sordid."
"How many dinners?" Anna asks suspiciously.
"Every night since the funeral," Mary swallows, averting her eyes.
"You slut!" Anna laughs.
"Anna!" Mary cries, her mouth agape. After a second, they both burst out laughing.
"It's not like that. It's not!" Mary chuckles. "He's been a perfect gentleman, you know."
"And?" Anna probes further.
"And…he's a very good kisser," Mary arches her eyebrow, looking at her friend defiantly until they both laugh again.
"Oh Mary," Anna beams, reaching out and squeezing her friend's hand. "I'm so happy for you. This is just what you need."
"It's only been ten days, Anna. Don't get ahead of yourself. It's always fun in the beginning, you know. Everything is golden when things are new," Mary nods.
"Was it like this with Evelyn? Or Tony? Or Henry?" Anna asks pointedly. "Even in the beginning?"
"No," Mary admits, shaking her head. She looks away and seems lost in thought. "Nothing at all like this."
Anna squeals in delight before sipping her tea.
"We just…I don't know…connect. I assumed at first it was because he's a writer and he must be used to making conversation and what not, but it's beyond that. We spend hours on the phone like we're in sixth form or something. I tell him things, things I never imagined saying to anyone. I can't help it sometimes. I feel so…comfortable with him already," Mary gushes.
"I can't believe my ears," Anna shakes her head. "The ice queen is positively melting."
Mary huffs and rolls her eyes, sipping her tea and looking around idly.
"Are you going to his book signing?" Anna asks.
"Tomorrow night," Mary nods. "I've tried to get him to tell me what he's going to talk about, but he won't spill. It should be fascinating."
"You'll get a lot of daggers from his legion of female fans once they see him making eyes at you," Anna jokes.
"He doesn't 'make eyes at me', thank you," Mary says haughtily. "And I can deal with his fans. We've run into a few of them here and there, but not a lot. They're all actually quite nice. They always apologize over and over for interrupting or what not. It's so strange watching him take selfies with teenage girls one moment, lads the next and grandmothers after that."
"John loves Epiphany, perhaps more than I do," Anna says. "He finished it before I even got halfway through. He said the brawl scene was one of the most realistic descriptions he's ever read."
"Heady praise coming from him. You should both come to the signing," Mary suggests. "I'm sure that Matthew could get you past the line."
"He'll do you a favour if you do him one, will he?" Anna remarks.
"Anna…" Mary frowns.
"We would love to, but we're away this weekend visiting John's family in the Highlands," Anna shrugs. "He was gutted when I told him about the signing. I said he could meet Matthew at the wedding."
"Stop it!" Mary glares with pretend indignation. "Since when have you known me to plan my future around any man?"
"Never. That's why I know there must be something to this one because you're floating above the clouds," Anna grins.
Mary rolls her eyes.
"I actually know a bunch of people going," Anna continues. "Gwen, Daisy, William…they all got tickets the moment they came online."
"It's been sold out for months," Mary nods. "He said the line at the signing in Madrid was around the block, and most of them didn't even speak English."
"Brains, wit and fame all tied up in one handsome package. Who could ask for more?" Anna says cheerfully.
"He's not that perfect," Mary shakes her head. "I'm sure I'll find something wrong with him eventually. He lives in New York; that's one thing."
"But he's originally from Manchester so it wouldn't be out of the question for him to stay here for a while, with the right motivation," Anna notes slyly.
"How did you know he's from Manchester?" Mary asks.
"It's written in his bio on the book jacket," Anna explains. "And…I may have gone to his website once or twice."
Mary blushes. "Me too."
They both laugh again. Anna has heard Mary whinge about a lot of horrible dates over the past ten years that she's known her, so finally listening to her gossip about a good man is refreshing and most welcome.
"Anyway, so his living in New York is hardly a strike against him. What else is there?" Anna asks.
"I don't know, Anna!" Mary smiles. "I'm not deliberately trying to find fault with him, you know!"
"Well that's different," Anna blinks in surprise. "A week in and you've usually got at least ten things you don't like about anyone you've dated before."
"You should have more faith," Mary smiles.
"I think you should Google him," Anna says plainly, flipping open her tablet. "His website and the publishers' page are all filtered through PR staff and what not. If you want to find some real dirt, you need to dig."
"Anna, I just want to enjoy…whatever this is…" Mary complains. When her friend has the bit between her teeth, she can be relentless.
"I know, Mary, but it could be fun. We can find something you can tease him about. An embarrassing photo from a school play or something," Anna says, running her fingers over the screen.
Mary sips her tea, amused by her friend's antics. She reasons that it's harmless as Anna peruses the search results. There is a bit of a guarded side to Matthew. He tends to deflect certain questions with a joke or excuse. Finding some traces of his past could be fun, and would certainly feed this curious feeling she has about him.
"Here we are," Anna smiles. "There's quite a few fan pages about him actually, including some rather clever manips."
"I don't need to see those," Mary says indifferently.
"Epiphany is being made into a film," Anna says, impressed. "That could be really big for him."
"He's writing the screenplay now," Mary nods with an odd sense of pride. "He says the studio already wants him to change a number of things and he's being very stubborn about staying as close to his vision as possible."
"He's stubborn. Well, he better be to take you on," Anna mumbles as she keeps browsing.
"I heard that, you know," Mary rolls her eyes.
"His Wikipedia is the usual information – born and raised in Manchester; Bachelor of Arts in English, University College; Masters, New York University Creative Writing Program…" Anna recites.
"He's lived in New York since summer 2004," Mary says.
"Wasn't that the same time that you were in New York?" Anna asks absentmindedly.
"I suppose so. I was there from August until the accident. I know that much at least," Mary sighs.
Anna looks up at her and nods sympathetically. Those two years leading up to Mary's trip to New York and through to her return to London are still lost memories, despite the numerous therapy sessions, and the intense research the two of them carried on together. Mary met Anna during her recovery and the two of them became quite close rather quickly. Mary preferred Anna's honesty and sense of humour over the superficial games of Mary's Society friends that she has since stopped keeping in touch with. Aunt Rosamund filled in some of the moments from that lost time, but Mary still doesn't have any personal recollection. After a few years, Mary stopped going to therapy and accepted that there were chunks of her past that she would likely never get back.
"Wow, he was gorgeous even back then!" Anna exclaims.
She lifts the tablet and turns it towards Mary, showing her an NYU class photo from 2004 with Matthew sitting on a desk surrounded by other students, a silly expression on his face. His hair is lighter in colour and he has more of a beard. His face is thinner and he is dressed far more casually than she has seen him before. Anna is right, though. He's gorgeous.
"That was only ten years ago, Anna," Mary smiles. "People don't change that much."
"Well just be glad he wasn't overweight and ugly," Anna smiles, swiping her fingers across the tablet to continue her search. "It bodes well for the future."
Mary rolls her eyes yet again.
"Here we are! He was friends with someone named…Alex Lewis…back in New York," Anna says, reading the screen.
"How ever did you discover that?" Mary asks.
"His Instagram is public. Alex's, that is," Anna explains. "He tagged Matthew in an old pic."
"For Throwback Thursday?" Mary says derisively.
"Flashback Friday, rather," Anna smirks. "Hmm, looks the same as the class photo."
"What do you expect, Anna?" Mary laughs. "What's so important about finding a photo of Matthew having a drink with his mates or whatever?"
"To see if we can find an old girlfriend, of course!" Anna smiles playfully.
"Oh God," Mary shakes her head. "I don't care about any of that."
"Why not? Maybe he has a type," Anna says, gazing at her screen.
"And what if he does?" Mary scoffs. "I wouldn't want him to be looking up old photos of me and Evelyn, or Tony, so I shouldn't be…"
"Oh my God!" Anna gasps, her eyes widening as she looks at the tablet.
"If you found a photo of him with his arm around some blonde with big boobs, I don't want to see it," Mary says quickly. "She's probably a fan or an old classmate or…"
"Mary, you have to see this," Anna swallows in astonishment. She turns her tablet around and slides it across the table.
"What?" Mary exhales in exasperation. She looks down at the screen. The Instagram account of someone named ' elisabetholafsen' is displayed. Matthew is standing in the centre of the photo in what looks to be a rather crowded restaurant, surrounded by a group of friends laughing and smiling at the camera. The caption reads:
'Before he blew up! #TBT to 2004 waiting in line to introduce #matthewcrawley and friends to a NYC institution! #CarnegieDeli #NYC'.
Mary smiles at the photo. Matthew looks young and happy and it looks like they are all enjoying themselves.
"So?" Mary frowns, looking up at Anna. "He looks the same as he did in that class photo. What of it?"
"Mary, look in the background," Anna says seriously. She reaches over and presses her thumb and forefinger to the screen, zooming in on a part of the photo.
Mary looks back down at the screen. The image is a bit blurry, but there's a second row of people standing behind Matthew, all part of the same group. Mary looks over each of them, wondering what on Earth Anna is possibly referring to.
Mary gasps and her mouth falls open.
"But, how?" she whispers.
In the photograph, a woman is standing just behind Matthew, her face partially obscured by his shoulder, her arms wrapped around his waist.
"That's me," Mary says in shock.
Painswick House, Eaton Square, London, England, February 2015
"Will that be all, Milady?"
Mary stares into the fire, the warm blanket wrapped around her legs. She balances the cup of cocoa on her knees, which are curled up to her chest. She turns and smiles wanly at the butler.
"Yes, Meade, thank you," she says politely. "You can go ahead and retire. I'm just going to stay down here a little while longer."
Mary's iPad sits on the coffee table. After her discovery with Anna, she'd gone straight home and spent the past four hours combing the internet for photographs and information on Matthew moving to New York in 2004 and how she figured into all of it. She found a trove of information on him – reviews of some of his readings at various venues across Manhattan, a mention of his name playing for a local football team, and his times from a charity bicycle ride that he apparently has been doing each year since 2005.
There was nothing else about her.
The photograph on Instagram is grainy and slightly unfocused, clearly the product of a mobile phone or a cheap digital camera from back in 2004. Her hair is longer, of course, and she's wearing a shirt that she doesn't own anymore, but it's obviously her. What strikes her is how her hands rest across Matthew's stomach, her fingers linked together in a firm hold. Her mouth is blocked by him, but her eyes are bright. She can't understand what she is doing in this photo, or why she is so obviously comfortable with Matthew. If they knew each other back in 2004, then why has he never mentioned it in the past ten days that they've been seeing each other? Moreover, why did he specifically act as though they'd never met before, when clearly they have?
"Milady, I wanted to discuss a delicate matter with you, if I may?" Meade says formally.
Mary puts her concerns to the side and turns back to the butler. "Yes, of course, Meade," she nods. "Please, sit."
Meade walks stiffly around the sofa and takes a seat on a chair. He sits ramrod straight, somewhat nervously glancing about, as though he half expects Aunt Rosamund to come flying into the room and admonish him for sitting down in her living room.
"What is it, Meade?" Mary asks politely.
"Well, Milady, as you know, I served your aunt for many years, and her father-in-law for years before that," Meade begins. "I started here as a valet and worked my way up to butler."
"Yes, and the family has appreciated your years of loyal service, Meade," Mary says, perplexed as to where this conversation is going.
"Thank you, Milady," Meade nods. "With Lady Painswick passing on, I believe it's time for me to go back to Liverpool. My son has been begging me to return for years now, and I think it right to leave."
Mary blinks in surprise. She had not really thought about what would happen to Aunt Rosamund's servants. Meade and the cook and housekeeper were here before Mary even arrived, and their salaries are paid for as part of the trust established by her uncle when he died.
"Meade, you certainly deserve to choose your own path now," Mary nods. "It will seem strange to come back here each day and not see your face. But, I expect that your grandchildren need you now more than I do."
Meade smiles and nods at the mention of his family. "Thank you, Milady. I am happy to stay as long as you wish, until you find a proper replacement."
"That won't be necessary. You may take your leave whenever it is convenient for you to do so," Mary says properly. Truthfully she does not know if she will bother hiring another butler. She always considered Meade to be Aunt Rosamund's butler anyway. Mary's only butler passed away long ago.
"Thank you, Milady," Meade says, rising from his chair. "I expect I will be here for a few more days yet. Best of luck to you, Milady. If you allow me to say so, I have every confidence that your aunt would be so proud of the woman you've become."
Mary smiles and nods in acknowledgment. She looks back at the fire as the butler turns to leave. This house seems different to her now. Aunt Rosamund gone. Meade leaving. They both witnessed the most tumultuous years of her life.
"Meade, wait! One moment," Mary frowns, turning from the fire to her iPad again.
"Yes, Milady?" the butler asks, stopping at the doorway and turning back around.
"You remember when I went off to New York, don't you, Meade?" Mary asks, looking over at him.
"Yes, Milady, of course I do," Meade says. "You gave us all quite the scare. Your aunt was in hysterics when the hospital called about your accident. She was on the very next plane to bring you back home."
"Yes, she was," Mary agrees. "Do you recall when I left? I went over alone."
"Yes, Milady, in August, I believe it was," Meade nods quickly.
"Did Aunt Rosamund ever mention if I'd met anyone in New York?" Mary asks.
Meade frowns slightly at the inquiry. "No one in particular, Milady. I expect you must have met some people in the months that you were there, but Lady Painswick did not share such information with me."
"No, I expect that she wouldn't have," Mary says, looking back down at her iPad.
"You still don't remember anything about your time in America, do you, Milady?" Meade asks, approaching the sofa slowly.
"No, nothing beyond what Aunt Rosamund told me," Mary shakes her head sadly. "But it's strange. It appears that I met Matthew Crawley back then, though I don't particularly know how, or why."
"M-Matthew Crawley?" Meade blurts out, swallowing nervously.
"Yes, the author," Mary says, looking over at the butler's shocked expression. "He was at the funeral and we've been…talking…over the last few days. I thought I met him for the first time just recently, but apparently I must have known him years before."
Mary holds up her iPad and shows the old photograph to Meade. The butler looks at the screen and his eyes widen in surprise. He swallows and looks up at the ceiling.
"I know that it's rather shocking," Mary laughs nervously. "But I can't understand how I knew him, and rather well it seems, based on this picture, and yet he's never brought it up at all."
"You've been…spending time…with Mr. Crawley, have you, Milady?" Meade asks.
"Yes," Mary nods. "He's very pleasant company, but I feel as though he must not be telling me something. How could both of us forget that we knew each other ten years ago, and how could Aunt Rosamund not have known? Did I not tell her?"
Meade exhales a long breath. He closes his eyes and shakes his head several times. Finally, he opens his eyes and walks back to the chair he just vacated. Sitting down carefully, he glances over at the mantle of the fireplace, where photographs of Mary's uncle and aunt sit proudly on the mantle.
"I am sorry, Milady," Meade whispers, staring at Aunt Rosamund's portrait.
"Meade?" Mary frowns in confusion, looking at the butler.
"Lady Mary," Meade says carefully. "There is indeed a great deal that you do not know about your history with Matthew Crawley."
Hyde Park, London, England, February 2015
"I know they're probably horrible for me, but I can't help it," Matthew smiles, balling up the container that previously held his chips and throwing it in the recycling bin.
Mary holds her coffee with both hands as they walk along the path. Her mind is still reeling with all that Meade told her the night before. When she received Matthew's text this morning, she agreed to his suggestion to take a walk. The weather is pleasant enough, and she knows that she needs to talk to him. Now that she is with him though, she can't think of where to begin.
"Back in New York, there's every food you can imagine," Matthew continues. "I eat healthy enough, I like to think, although I still have a soft spot for milkshakes and burritos from time to time."
"How did you manage in your school days?" Mary asks. "Eating in New York can be quite expensive, I imagine."
"I didn't eat out very much at all, even take away," he laughs. "I tried to cook as much as possible, but I wasn't particularly good at it. I'd like to think that's also gotten better over time – my cooking."
"You didn't have a girlfriend to cook for you?" Mary asks, watching him carefully, her eyes hidden behind her dark sunglasses.
"I told you, I haven't had a girlfriend for quite some time," Matthew says softly. "But my last girlfriend was quite good in the kitchen actually, far better than I was."
Mary swallows. She closes her eyes briefly and steels her nerves. Ten years. Ten years and not one word from him.
"Well that's not surprising," she says, looking directly at him. "Cooking was one of my hobbies back then."
Matthew blinks suddenly. They stop walking. He slowly turns to face her. He cannot see her eyes, but her lips are pursed in a thin line.
"Excuse me?" he says cautiously.
"You remember, don't you, Matthew?" Mary says lightly. "Tell me, how often did I cook for you back in New York?"
"What are you talking about?" Matthew says, his eyes narrowing.
"Don't play with me," she says coldly. "I don't deserve it. Not from you."
Matthew swallows, his heart beating faster.
"We knew each other, didn't we?" Mary demands. "Back in 2004, in New York?"
"Yes, we did," Matthew nods, his eyes locked on hers.
"And were we…friends?" she manages to say.
"Yes," Matthew says immediately.
"Lovers?" she asks.
"Yes," is his firm reply.
"And how many other women did you have at the time, Matthew?" she asks. "Was I one of many? Did I have an assigned day? Perhaps I was granted every Thursday with you and every third weekend when you were feeling generous?"
Matthew's mouth opens. He can't believe what he's hearing.
"It was you, Mary, only you. Only ever you," he says with emphasis. "We moved to New York together. We lived together from the very start in a tiny apartment in Battery Park. You were going to be a fashion designer. Do you remember?"
"Of course I don't remember, Matthew!" Mary shouts at him. "It's been ten years and I don't remember a single moment! But you do! You knew! You knew everything all along! You knew what happened to me and you stayed away this entire time!"
"I didn't…I didn't want to, Mary," Matthew struggles, holding his hands up in front of him. "I didn't want to send you back to London, but your Aunt Rosamund insisted and she forbid me from going with you."
"She forbid you," Mary repeats his words incredulously. "Oh yes, in the same way that she forbid you from dating me in the first place? The same way she forbid me from following you to New York? So what if she forbid you, Matthew? Since when did you let that deter you? It was 2004, not 1904, for God's sake!"
"Mary, I wanted to come after you, I did! But I…" he pleads.
"But you didn't," she shoots back. She shakes her head and looks away.
"You know, all I kept thinking right after I came back, through all the therapy sessions and exercises and checkups and evaluations, all I kept thinking was: why hadn't I heard from anyone? I lived in New York for three months. I must have had friends, people who cared about me, people who wondered why I left so suddenly, people who wanted to know how I was doing. But I never heard from anyone. Not one call, one email, one text, nothing at all. And now I finally know why. I was right all along. No one in New York cared," she says, looking at him venomously.
"I wanted to get in touch with you, Mary, so many times," Matthew says. "Your aunt changed your mobile number, she blocked my email address, she deleted your chat accounts, everything! She threatened that if I ever thought about coming back here to find you, she would…"
"She would what?" Mary interrupts. "Throw you to her lawyers? Oh, it's such a shame that she didn't think of that ridiculous empty threat sooner. It would have saved me a trip to New York."
Matthew grits his teeth, his hands closing into fists, then opening again as he struggles to restrain himself. From the moment they met in 2003 Mary was, more often than not, at odds with her Aunt Rosamund. Rosamund wanted Mary to be a socialite and wanted to marry her off to someone rich and powerful. Mary wanted to go into fashion and forge her own way in life. Matthew listened to all of Mary's complaints, encouraged her dreams and helped her find herself in New York.
But Rosamund is gone and Mary is angry and her questions have no easy answers and for every unsatisfactory response, her fury and regret need a target and Matthew is the only one here.
"And here you are now," Mary says. "You never wanted to pay your respects to Aunt Rosamund. You hated her. What did you think would happen? You would wine and dine me and one night reveal our past so I would swoon into your arms and you could have your way with me one last time?"
"No!" Matthew objects, his own anger beginning to pulse. "I didn't know what to expect, but I knew I had to come see you. These past days have been incredible, Mary, and I wanted to tell you, but it was so much to take in and it's been so long that I didn't know how you would react."
"Well, now you know," she spits bitterly. "How did you expect I would react to find out that the man I left England for, the man I left my family for, the man I left my life here for, abandoned me at the time I needed him most?"
"Darling, please," Matthew says holding his hands out to her. "I love you. I would do anything for you."
"Anything except stand by me!" she sputters, tears falling down her cheeks. "Anything except follow me back here and make sure I was all right and help me to remember two years of my life that are gone forever! What about that? Oh God, Matthew, how could you be so disappointing?"
"Mary," Matthew begs, reaching for her.
"No!" she snarls, slapping his hand away. "Don't you see what this means? Don't you see what a difference this makes? It means that you're not on my side, Matthew! It means that deep down, you're not on my side, and you never were!"
She storms off down the path, her steps hard and purposeful, leaving him behind as fast as she can.
He watches her leave, his mind racing for something to say, to call out her name, to make her stop. Her words echo in his ears, the sting sharp and painful. His explanations feel as hollow now as they did in that hospital room in New York ten years ago.
Painswick House, Eaton Square, London, England, February 2015
"Milady, your clothes have come back from the dry cleaners. I set them out in your room together with the shoes you picked out."
Mary frowns, then pauses on the stairs and turns her head.
"Thank you, Jane," she says crisply to the maid, then continues on upstairs.
She goes into her room and the outfit she picked out for tonight's book signing is waiting for her. She looks at the pink dress with the black floral print along the shoulders and sleeves and sighs. She picked this dress for Matthew's signing because it was rather playful for winter, stopping just above her knees. The pink Louboutin high heels that she chose to match the dress are placed neatly at the foot of her bed. She was going to show off her legs to him while she sat and listened to his talk about his book and see where the night would take them. She shakes her head and turns away.
Mary looks over to the door.
"This was just delivered for you, Milady," Meade says, holding out an envelope.
"Thank you, Meade," Mary says automatically, frowning as she takes the envelope from the butler. Meade turns and leaves and Mary walks over and sits down on her bed.
The envelope is unmarked, her name handwritten across the front. She has a strange feeling, but opens the envelope anyway. She scowls when she sees what's inside.
Matthew's script is elegant, for a man. The edges of his letters are somewhat sharp, but his writing isn't messy or childlike. Rather than a long apology or a desperate plea, his message is but a few words.
'Dear Mary. Please watch and decide afterward. Love always, Matthew.'
She stares at the USB memory stick for several minutes. She didn't answer any of the dozen text messages and phone calls he sent over the afternoon, so he probably felt he had no choice but to try this to get through to her. Then again, he has no way of knowing whether she would just throw the envelope in the bin without another thought either.
She sighs, then reaches for her laptop, inserting the memory stick and watching as the directory of files loads on to the screen.
She clicks over several files and realizes they're photographs; hundreds of them. She swallows and opens them.
There's a date stamp on each photo, showing that they were taken from May 2003 through to November 2004. Some of them are of Matthew, and some of them are of her, but most of them are of the two of them together. She recognizes restaurants and landmarks in London and Paris and Madrid and Toronto and New York. There's shots where they are both posing and others where he obviously caught her unaware. There are selfies before selfies were called selfies. There's even videos of them singing karaoke and of her cooking and a rather lengthy one of her ordering him to change clothes and authoritatively showing him the difference between his poor fashion sense and her superior one.
She blinks and breathes deeply as she watches. She can't shake one common fact which practically jumps off the screen at her and that links all the photographs and videos together.
From an early age, Mary was taught the art of the smile. Her parents brought her and her sisters to Society events as children. She saw her first Wimbledon match at four years old and attended her first Royal Ascot at six. She had a polite smile for mixed company, a wider grin for family and a beaming smile that lit up her face and reached her eyes for very rare occasions and very special people. One glance at her face would show her mood at the time. While it was never proper to show her anger, so too did she not show her pure pleasure or joy unless her guard was down and she was truly happy.
Her happy smile seemed to desert her after she lost her parents and sisters.
In her photographs and videos with Matthew, she looks joyful. She can't deny it. Her smile is glowing. She's even laughing in some of them. Even in the photographs where she's trying to show she isn't impressed that he's taking a picture of her or where she's annoyed that he's trying to kiss her on camera, her playful eyes betray her.
She looks at the list of files again. Eighteen months of memories that he's been carrying around with him for ten years. Eighteen months of their life together. She frowns again.
Eighteen months of a life that he allowed her to forget about.
She glances at her watch. His book signing starts in another hour.
Mary gets up from the bed and walks briskly over to her bathroom, unbuttoning her shirt as she goes.
The Auditorium at Foyles, Charing Cross Road, London, England, February 2015
By the time the last book is signed for the last breathless reader and the last pleasantry is exchanged with the last forgettable publishing executive, it's late and Matthew is tired. He bids goodbye to the organizers and staff and leaves the book store through a side entrance and disappears into the waiting car.
The driver takes him on a winding route past Covent Garden, by the Royal Opera House, across the Strand and finally along the Thames towards London Bridge. The night is dark and the lights are bright and he can see the spire of the Shard towering above the lit bridge and the rest of the city skyline. He checks his phone again, then glances out the window blankly.
His texts and voicemails have gone unanswered.
His package received no response. He doesn't even know if she opened it.
He grimaces as the car crosses over London Bridge, reality hitting him like a punch to his vital organs.
Mary did not come.
Westminster Suite, Shangri-la Hotel, At the Shard, London, England, February 2015
The car pulls up to the kerb at the hotel and a doorman nods politely as Matthew gets out. The elevator ride up is brisk and he wanders the hall toward his room, thinking on the past two weeks and the irony of everything.
Ten years ago, he and Mary barely had enough money to afford a decent meal out once a month in Manhattan. He was barely getting by on his NYU stipend and her trust fund was frozen for defying her aunt. They would usually track down a small co-op or ethnic grocery store, or go to weekend markets to buy their ingredients. They would find a recipe online and cook in large batches to last them for days. Their dates would consist of walking Greenwich Village hand-in-hand, strolling through SoHo and along Fifth Avenue while Mary raved about or critiqued the different fashions in the store windows, or attending Matthew's readings at KGB Bar, NYU and other literary stomping grounds across the city. They lived in an apartment that could fit inside a third of Matthew's hotel suite now, but they were happy and the future seemed limitless.
Ten years later and money is the last of his concerns. His suite probably costs £1000 per night, paid for by the publisher. His tailored suit, which he bought himself, cost more than what his mother made in half a year working as a nurse in Manchester. He never bothered to ask, but he assumes that between her trust fund and whatever Aunt Rosamund may have left her, Mary is now quite rich as well. He doesn't know if she'll stay at Painswick House or not, but it's likely hers if she wants it.
All alone with plenty of money and a house in Eaton Square? How could she imagine anything better? There's certainly no room in her life for a lying ex-boyfriend who didn't fight for her ten years ago.
The whir of the lock opening as he swipes his keycard across it is as mechanical as Matthew's robotic strides that take him into the suite. He has to spend some time in Manchester with his mother, and she'll pry into what happened with Mary and it will be a disaster to relive it all, but within a week he can be in New York and try and get on with his life. There's a draft of a screenplay that he needs to work on and there's already questions about his second book floating around and he's hopeful that he can drown in the reality of work for a few months and forget the dream he lived for a handful of glorious days before it all came crashing down.
Irony. Ten years ago, Lady Rosamund Painswick thought Matthew wasn't good enough for Mary because he wasn't from a rich family and didn't have a future where he could provide Mary with the lifestyle to which she was accustomed. In the end, it wasn't about the money.
He's debating whether to get very drunk here in his room or go upstairs to Gong, when he notices the lean silhouette against the large windows, backlit by the lights of the city below, and he realizes he isn't alone.
"Matthew," Mary says quietly.
"How did you get in?" he asks. He takes a step towards her and she looks at him warily, stepping away from the window and keeping the furniture between them. He approaches her slowly and carefully, studying her face which reveals nothing.
She's wearing a sleeveless black dress with a deeply cut neckline and a belt across her waist. Matthew knows next to nothing about women's fashion but he paid attention to what Mary tried to teach him ten years ago and her outfit is screaming at him now.
She's dressed to kill, and he's the only other person here.
"The concierge remembered me from before," she says. "He probably thought I was your girlfriend, or a groupie, or something."
"I see," he nods. "I'm surprised. I've never had anyone up here before so it's strange that they would allow you in so easily."
"I don't care if you've brought any women back here or not, Matthew," she rolls her eyes, crossing her arms in front of her.
"Mary," he tries again.
"Those photographs and videos that you sent didn't magically awaken anything inside me, you know? I don't remember you. I don't remember us. I probably never will," Mary says, and she's glaring at him and clearly angry and her words are poison, and he looks back at her with a stoic face, taking it all with barely a flinch.
"I know," Matthew nods. He swallows slightly and his eyes reveal too much to her. They flicker, as though she's cut open his chest and he's only just now realizing it. She probably has. This is who she is. This is what she does when a man gets too close. Strike first. Wound deep. Stay safe.
"I don't know who you think I am," Mary says crisply, stepping around the couch until she's staring at him from several feet away. "I'm not the woman in your book. I'm not fierce and hard in public, but soft and gentle in private. That woman in your story has a heart. I don't. Everyone knows that."
"You're cold and careful," Matthew says softly, and it's not an accusation, but it feels as though he's breached her defences somehow.
"Yes,' Mary agrees slowly, and she frowns, her equilibrium seems off for some reason. She wonders why his stating the truth sounds wrong to her ears.
"You're horrid when you want to be," he says, stepping towards her, and she sees a flash in his eyes again, but this isn't pain, or sorrow, or anguish. She realizes belatedly that it looks like…amusement.
"Always," she says, and her voice catches slightly and she is mad at herself for slipping. She's already gotten him to admit that she isn't the type of person he wants, so why does she think that she's the one losing this exchange?
"But I still love you…madly," Matthew says, and his voice drips with conviction and belief and the whisper of a promise. Her eyes widen as he's somehow come closer without her reacting. If they were duelling, he would be within her guard. If they were dancing, he could step forward and they could easily tango, or worse, grind. She looks up at him to hold his gaze. He could take hold of her if he wanted to. His hands could easily slide across her hips from this distance. She doesn't know if she has the ability to stop him. She didn't stop him from getting this close. Her hands are dangling uselessly at her sides.
'Damn,' she curses silently. Cutting open his chest was a mistake.
"You would have to be mad to love someone like me," Mary stammers, fighting for purchase in this conversation as she feels his words are forcing her to give up ground. "And it doesn't matter even if you did. I have no recollection of this great love that you think we shared. Since then, I've had numerous men, you know? Does that sound like someone who had found her life partner in you?"
"Did any of them last?" he asks, his eyebrow arching in question. His eyes show that he already knows the answer.
"No," she admits, swallowing again. Her stare moves down to his lips briefly and she snaps them back up to his blue eyes, mad at herself once again when she sees that he noticed.
"Because they weren't clever enough?" he asks slowly.
She thinks of Tony and his boyish charm and equally boyish behaviour that ended up grating on her nerves.
"Maybe," she replies. He'll never meet any of her past suitors so there isn't any harm in telling him about them, is there?
"Because they weren't passionate enough?" he continues.
She remembers laughing with Evelyn and having wonderfully polite conversations. He married within the year after she broke up with him, and she was genuinely relieved, proud even when she saw he found a nice quiet girl with a pleasant disposition who was everything that Mary was not.
"That's neither here, nor there," Mary says, shaking her head.
"Because you couldn't see yourself growing old with any of them," Matthew states, and it isn't a question.
She's taken back to entering grand ballrooms and parties at Henry's side, nodding magnanimously at strangers, kissing cheeks and smiling regally, spending most of the night away from him as he socialized with the men and left her to gossip with the women. She always thought that in another century, being his wife would have been pleasant, but it's not enough for her today.
Mary shakes her head and refocuses on the man standing in front of her.
Matthew's voice is confident and certain. "Because they wouldn't drop everything and whisk you off for an impromptu date in the middle of the day. Because they wouldn't send flowers to you unless it was your birthday or Valentines. Because when you were sick, they didn't come over and nurse you back to health. Because when you wanted to talk to someone at two o'clock in the morning, you were afraid to wake them up. Because when you were driving with them and some stupidly addictive song came on the radio and you wanted to sing along, you didn't feel like you could in their presence. Because when you were with them, it felt as though you were carrying out a duty, doing what's expected, conforming to the fitness of things, rather than because you wanted to be with them more than anyone else in the world."
"Do you think it an effective strategy to compare yourself to my former boyfriends?" she bites back, pleased to have found something to throw at him. "Reminding me of the type of man that I usually favour is hardly recommended for someone in your position."
"I'm not comparing myself to them at all," Matthew says easily, his eyes still fixed upon hers. "I'm sure they're all good men in their own way. I wouldn't know. I've never met them."
She frowns, wondering what point he could possibly be trying to make.
"But seeing as none of them lasted makes it quite obvious that the past ten years have been rather unsatisfying for you in that area, doesn't it?" he smirks.
Anger and indignation flare inside of her and she grabs on to the familiar feeling of fury like a lifeline.
"And what have you been doing for the past ten years, Matthew?" Mary snarls, turning her back and taking two long strides away from him. She turns around and the distance between them is much safer and she smiles wickedly, as though she's found her range again.
"Pining after me from another country? Wondering what happened to me and doing nothing about it? Wanking off in your bed to an old photo of me on your phone?" The words fly like bullets and she's determined to empty her full clip this time.
"You're pathetic," Mary sneers, feasting on the uncertainty in his eyes. "You put your life on hold and threw yourself into writing some fantasy about a woman who's been gone for ten years. If Aunt Rosamund hadn't died, how long would you have stayed away? Fifteen years? Twenty? Forever? Tell me why I should even think about giving you another chance when you didn't have the balls to come after me for so long?"
Matthew looks down at the floor and Mary wants to desperately smile in victory. But she can't. She sees his shoulders slump, as though some part of him is draining away, and she doesn't feel vindicated at all. She feels a swelling sense of panic, as though she's ruined everything.
"Go home, Matthew," she says quietly. "Go back to New York and forget about me. Forget about us. I did."
She spins and heads for the door. She needs to get out of this room, get out of this hotel, get as far away from him as she can. The tears are coming and they're going to spill violently and if she stays, she'll collapse to the floor because her legs barely have the strength to carry her now.
Mary freezes as her ears pick up a soft melody. It's faint at first but grows louder. Her eyes widen and she turns around slowly.
Matthew is standing tall, his eyes staring at her intently, his phone held up in his hand.
She needs to back away. She needs to run. Her feet are rooted to the spot. The lyrics come and her heart hears them and she's paralyzed.
'There are places I remember…'
"Stop it," she hisses, gritting her teeth, but she can't turn off her ears.
"Your family butler introduced you to the Beatles when you were a little girl," Matthew says softly, taking a careful step toward her. The song plays on, crystal clear from his phone speaker.
"He would play vinyl records on an old Victrola at night in his office, and you would wander down there when you couldn't sleep and have hot cocoa and listen until your Mama came to fetch you and bring you back upstairs." Matthew's voice is smooth, his eyes watching her as he nears.
"Don't you dare mention them!" Mary snarls. "You never knew them!"
"Over the years, you would always listen to In My Life whenever you were feeling sad or lonely and it would make you feel better every time. You would dance to it in your room, or play it while riding the Tube, close your eyes and sway and remember Downton," Matthew continues, undaunted.
"You bastard," Mary chokes out, tears spilling down her cheeks, memories rolling through her head like brilliant storms of colours and sounds; the moments that comforted a young girl who lost her entire world in a freak accident.
Papa standing by the paddock with his faithful dog, clapping as Mary easily directed Diamond into a canter. Mama telling her some American idiom to comfort her when life was too unfair. Edith sniping with her over something petty before they both relented and went shopping without complaint. Sybil braiding her hair and asking her about boys and giggling.
No one knew what this song meant to her. Not her Aunt Rosamund. Not Anna or any of her friends. Not Evelyn, or Tony, or Henry. No one.
"You played this song the first night we made love," Matthew whispers, taking another step. "We were at my place. We were both so nervous, wanting to desperately, but still unsure because being together for the first time felt so…important; and you asked me if I could find this song on the internet, and I did, and you played it, and it put both of us at ease, and it was the greatest night of my life."
"You can't do this!" Mary cries angrily, sniffling as she fights to stop her tears. "You can't put yourself in my memories! You can't act like you know me better than anyone else! You can't show me this life that we had and expect it to make up for everything that's happened and change all that I know about myself! You can't!"
She slaps his phone out of his hand, sending it flying across the room. It lands on to the couch and the song keeps playing.
'In my life, I love you more…'
"Oh God!" Mary sobs and shuts her eyes hard, her hands balling into fists. The final notes of the song mercifully end.
His hands are on her cheeks, his thumbs rubbing the tracks of her tears. She reaches up and seizes his wrists with her fingers. She should pull his hands away. She should shove him back. Instead, she exhales and opens her eyes to see blue unlike any blue she'd ever seen before she met him staring back at her.
"I don't want to change you. I never did," Matthew says quietly. "You've lived your life, and I've lived mine, and now it's time we lived them together. You don't have to remember who we were. Just be who you are."
'Say no!' a quiet voice says in her mind amidst the roar of her own blood rushing through her veins. 'Say no and he'll leave and you won't get hurt!'
Her heart thrums madly in her chest. Her fingers massage the smooth skin of his wrists.
"Matthew," she breathes.
He moves towards her and her eyes close. Her lips open, her legs quivering as the moment sweeps her up in a dizzying wave where only the two of them exist, only the two of them matter. She was nervous before he got back to the hotel; about what she would say, how he would react. She's not nervous anymore.
It's light; surprisingly, amazingly light. She expected the rough press of his lips, the heat of his mouth, the sweep of his tongue against hers, releasing the pent up passion and restrained need that he'd been harbouring for ten years.
It's gentle; the softest caress as his lips meet hers and open, then close, then open again. He tilts her head slightly to angle her mouth towards his and she lets him, and his kisses aren't polite or casual, but he's being tender with her and it's overwhelming.
She sobs into his mouth, clutching his wrists tighter, returning his kiss, going as slowly as he is, mimicking the same movements. Open. Close. Open. Close.
Her heart is bursting and she wants to laugh and cry and shout with glee all at once. Comprehension comes and she runs her hands down his arms and over his back, pulling him closer, kissing him again and again with the same ease and confidence as he does.
He knows her. It's that simple. Ten years have passed. She doesn't know how they met. She doesn't know what happened on their first date. She doesn't know what drove her to disobey Aunt Rosamund and run off to New York with him. She doesn't know what adventures they had there, and what it must have been like for him to let her go.
Time has changed them. How could it not? She has been made different by the loss of her memories. She looks different then the woman he knew. She acts differently as well. She doesn't know if she can ever be that Mary Crawley again.
But Matthew knows. Somehow, he knows that she's the same Mary Crawley where it matters. She can feel it in his kiss. He isn't trying to claim her, or dominate her, or try to transform her back into who she was through sheer force and desire. His soft and loving kiss tells her everything she needs to know – he will always love her, and they have all the time in the world for resurrecting old memories and creating new ones.
"Mary," he whispers.
He breaks the kiss and pulls her into his arms. One hand is across her back, the other cradles her head and she's crying into his shoulder and clutching him hard. He fills her mind. His scent. His voice. His touch. She doesn't know if she's remembering anything or not, but there's something familiar about being in his embrace and she decides she likes it very much.
He picks her up off the floor, carrying her as she nuzzles his neck and closes her eyes. He lays her down on the couch and retrieves his phone. He spreads out next to her and pulls her across his body, her head resting against his neck once more, his arm across her back.
"Matthew," she sobs.
"Shh," he says, pressing a finger against her lips. "Later, darling. Later."
Her song starts playing again and he kisses the top of her head and holds her, his one hand rubbing soothing circles across her back, his other linking with hers.
Mary doesn't know what he expects of her. An apology? Sex? A promise that she'll accept him and they can start again? The movement of his hands and the warmth of his body and the music are making her drowsy. She opens her mouth to say something but instead she remains silent and squeezes his hand. He must know she's going to fall asleep. He must be all right with that.
After all, Matthew knows her better than anyone.
Mary wakes up and it's still dark outside. She blinks and scissors her legs across the soft sheets. She raises up and realizes she's lying in bed. Matthew's bed. Her hand moves up and touches the pendant of her necklace. She then notices she's wearing one of Matthew's dress shirts and very little else.
She glances around the dark bedroom, trying to piece together the evening's events. She knows she fell asleep with Matthew on the couch in the living room. She also knows she wasn't wearing his shirt. She pulls herself slowly out of bed and stretches her arms, a delightful shiver running up her back. The other side of the bed is undisturbed.
She wanders into the bathroom and notices her dress and belt neatly placed on a hanger. She stares at her reflection as she fixes her hair. She doesn't look particularly dishevelled. She checks her neck and chest and there aren't any love bites. She frowns. She may not remember what it was like to make love to Matthew ten years ago, but she surely would remember if they had made love tonight.
She quietly walks out into the darkened living room. Matthew is sleeping on the couch, a blanket covering his legs. His chest is bare and his arm is thrown across his face. He doesn't look particularly comfortable. Mary smiles as she watches him sleep.
She kneels on the carpeted floor next to him and leans over, kissing him and caressing his cheek. Matthew kisses her back, then opens his eyes. When he sees her smiling face, he sits up suddenly.
"Mary!" he swallows. "I…we didn't do anything! After you fell asleep, I thought you'd be more comfortable in the bed so I carried you there, but that's it, I swear!"
His anxiousness is quite adorable. He's seen her naked before, but because she can't remember that, he was apparently afraid to try anything last night. She finds his gallantry cute, but can't pass up this chance to make him squirm a bit.
"And what about my dress?" she asks.
"I removed it because I expected you didn't want it wrinkled," he says carefully. "You like to…well, you used to like to sleep in my shirts."
"It is comfortable," she nods. She had to roll the sleeves up to get her hands free. "And my bra?"
Matthew's eyes widen. "I was facing your back when I took it off! I know it can be uncomfortable to sleep in. I didn't look, if that's what you're asking."
Mary smiles. "I believe you, Matthew."
He swallows, hoping her changed mood is a good sign.
"When you say that we didn't 'do anything' though, that's not entirely true, is it?" she asks, arching her eyebrow.
"What do you mean?" he frowns.
"Well, we did this, didn't we?" she smirks, leaning forward and kissing him softly.
His hands move to her hips and he smiles once she releases his lips.
"Yes, we did," he confirms.
"And this?" she asks, kissing him again, longer this time.
He can only nod dumbly.
"And I was very much hoping we could move on to this," she says playfully before sitting in his lap and taking hold of his face. Her mouth is upon his and her tongue slides past his lips. She tastes him and his chest shakes against hers as he groans, his hands holding her to him.
"All right there, Matthew?" she grins, his dazed expression irresistible.
"God, Mary," he sighs, bringing her hand up to his lips and kissing her fingers. "I've missed you so much."
She kisses him lightly, and they look at each other, no urgency to do anything more for now. Her fingers find her pendant once again and he looks at her necklace and smiles.
"You…you bought this for me, didn't you?" she whispers. "In New York?"
"At Tiffany on Fifth Avenue," he nods. "I…I couldn't afford anything with diamonds at the time. I was surprised you still had it when I saw you at the funeral home."
She smiles and nods. "Aunt Rosamund wondered why I wore it so much. She must not have known it came from you."
He nods and sits back, holding her close.
"Why didn't you tell me what she did when you first saw me? You said she was nice when we both know she was anything but," Mary asks.
"It didn't seem worth it to speak ill of her at this point," Matthew shrugs. "She thought she was protecting you back then, and I can see why she did, even if I didn't agree. She was partly right. We didn't have enough medical insurance for you to stay in New York. That's why I called her in the first place to fly over. I knew she thought I was horrible for you, but I never expected that she would go to such extremes to keep us apart. Even still, what was important was for you to get better, and so I capitulated."
"I can't imagine what that must have been like for you, or what it's been like since," she says, running her hand through his hair.
"A lot of suffering," he looks at her. "But I felt it was fair. I didn't think I deserved to be happy after what I'd done."
"My darling," she whispers, kissing him again. "And what are your plans now?"
"I'll stay as long as you want me to," he smiles. "Answer whatever questions you have. Tell you about the places we went to, the things we saw. Show you the rest of our photographs and videos."
"You mean you didn't send me all of them?" she asks in amusement.
"I didn't want you to be shocked by some of the more…risqué ones," he smirks.
"Matthew!" she gasps.
"They were all your idea, actually, darling," he chuckles.
"I don't believe it," she blushes. "That's just not the kind of thing I would have done!"
"Well they were rather tasteful, for the most part," Matthew reasons.
"You're enjoying this," Mary rolls her eyes.
"It's all right," he says genuinely. "We can skip over whatever you wish. Our past is exactly that. I'm more interested in our future, if you are."
She kisses him in reply.
"Why don't we get some sleep first?" she smiles. "Come to bed. There's no need for you to banish yourself to the couch."
"All right," he says softly, lifting her up and carrying her to the bedroom.
Designer Showrooms, London Fashion Week, Somerset House, London, England, February 2015
"Rather marvellous, aren't they?" Mary smiles, looking all around. Her head seems to be on a swivel, glancing about as her feet carry her from one showroom to another.
"Lovely," Matthew says politely. His hands are linked behind his back as they stroll. He's looking forward but not focusing on anything in particular.
"Darling," Mary smiles, taking his hand in hers. "Are you bored?"
"No!" he shakes his head profusely. "Of course not! Mary, I want to nurture your interest in fashion, you know that. You were very keen on it before, and even if you don't have a career in it, I think it nice for you to dabble in it from time to time."
"You're cute," she smiles. She wonders if she was this supportive of his interests ten years ago. Did she sit with him through football matches? Did she allow him to go out for long bike rides without her or to the pub with his mates? Did she let him choose what films they would watch? She's afraid to ask in case she did any of those things and he expects it of her again and she ends up hating it.
They've spent most of her free moments over the past week together. True to his word, Matthew hasn't resurrected their past unless she asks him about it. She'll often fire a question at him out of nowhere, wondering if they've eaten at a particular restaurant before or whether she liked some of the same things during those lost two years as she does now. He answers patiently and she drops the subject afterwards, only to spring a fresh question on him an hour later while they're discussing or doing something entirely unrelated.
They haven't made love yet either. There has been more than enough opportunity, but when their kisses become particularly heated, one of them pulls back. Most of the time, it's Matthew, though she's usually relieved when he does. She has no doubt that she wants him, and his desire for her is very obvious, but still they hesitate, as though to sleep together would elevate their relationship to another level, and for now, they are both enjoying just being together and learning each other again.
"They're all so brave," Mary muses, looking from one designer to another. "They work so hard for so long and their entire career can be made or broken in these two weeks. I don't know if I could ever do that."
"You're strong, and brave," Matthew says, squeezing her hand. "And truly, you can do whatever you want, Mary. There's no one that you have to answer to. I mean it."
Mary stays quiet as they move to the next showroom, lost in thought as she holds on to his hand.
Cyclebeat, Lombard Court, London, England, February 2015
"Is Mary coming today?" Gwen asks, lifting her leg and stretching.
"Doubt it," Anna shrugs, tying her shoes. "She's been…busy."
"If I were her, I'd be very busy," Daisy laughs.
"Don't be vulgar," William nudges her. "And don't go swooning over her man either."
"I'm not swooning," Daisy shakes head at him playfully. "But the man is right fit, isn't he?"
Anna winks at Gwen.
"It's all cause he's got expensive suits and hairdressers and makeup people and all of that," William grumbles. "Underneath it all, he's probably a wuss."
"I doubt that," Anna smirks.
"You weren't at the book signing though," William protests. "He didn't look so special to me. I tell you, these writers, sitting at their keyboards all day and night. Man can probably barely do a push up, I bet."
Suddenly, Gwen elbows Anna in the arm.
"Ow! What?" Anna frowns at her.
"Mary's here!" Gwen hisses. "And she brought the wuss with her!"
All of them turn in the direction of the locker room, and watch as Mary comes into the spin studio with Matthew trailing behind her.
"Oh my. She certainly did, didn't she?" Anna whispers.
Gwen and Daisy cannot respond. They're too busy staring.
"Nice of you to grace us with your presence finally, Milady," Anna says dramatically, curtseying to Mary.
"Ha ha," Mary says sarcastically as she exchanges cheek kisses with her. Mary turns to Matthew and motions to her friends. "This is Anna, Gwen, Daisy and William. Everyone, this is Matthew."
"I hope you don't mind me joining in," Matthew smiles at them. "Mary mentioned she had a spin class today and I thought I'd have a go."
"Nope, don't mind," Anna shakes her head.
"Definitely not," Gwen adds.
Daisy just shakes her head slowly, her mouth still hanging open.
"William, can you show Matthew which bikes we usually ride?" Mary asks.
"Sure, right over here," William smiles tightly, walking Matthew across the room to where their group usually spends the class together.
"Why didn't you tell us you were bringing him?" Anna growls, slapping Mary on the arm.
"Ow! He just decided at the last minute to come along. What difference does it make?" Mary glares, rubbing her arm.
"Oh, it makes a difference!" Anna nods.
"I would have done something with me hair," Gwen shrugs, staring at Matthew across the room.
"We're in a spin class, not a debutante ball!" Mary rolls her eyes.
"So, he's coming with you to spin class now," Anna teases. "Is he wanting to get a peek perhaps?"
"No," Mary blushes. "He's actually a serious cyclist. He rides a few times a week when it's warm enough in New York. He even has those special shoes."
"Mmm hmm," Anna says, unconvinced. "And you just happened to forget your t-shirt today did you?"
"I've worn just this in class before," Mary says airily, adjusting the strap of her sports bra.
"Right," Anna nods.
"I gotta take a picture of this," Gwen says, reaching into her bag for her smartphone.
"What is wrong with you all?" Mary shakes her head. "There's plenty of men in this class. Why is Matthew being here so special?"
"Erm, that's why," Daisy says, nodding her head across the room.
They all turn and look in the same direction. Matthew is facing away from them, leaning forward and stretching as he speaks with William. He's changed out of the tracksuit he arrived in and is wearing a short-sleeved spandex cycling bodysuit that stops above his knees.
"Is that his calf?" Gwen asks.
"Why are you looking at his calf, of all things?" Anna whispers.
Mary wants to censor them, or tell them to be quiet, or something, but she's gone rather silent herself. She's seen Matthew topless before, but this view is rather…different.
"Mary, do you mind switching bikes today?" Daisy asks innocently.
"Yes, I do mind," Mary says curtly before leaving to cross the room and place her water bottle on the bike directly behind Matthew's.
"Ready?" Matthew asks her as he finishes adjusting the height of the seat of his bike.
"Ready," Mary says cheerfully, getting on her bike. "There's a fair number of beginners in this class so the pace tends to be easier."
"Good," Matthew smiles. "Maybe I'll shine by comparison."
He gets on his bike and clips his shoes into the pedals. Standing up, he bends over the handlebars to adjust his position, giving Mary a rather appealing view.
"Maybe you will," she says, swallowing as the music starts and the class begins.
Westminster Suite, Shangri-la Hotel, At the Shard, London, England, February 2015
Matthew's fingers are stroking the nape of her neck as they kiss and it's making her shiver. Her hands are in his hair, her tongue caressing his, and tiny shocks are flying up and down her spine, which only makes her press against him harder and reminds her that a few wisps of cotton are all that separates them from being skin-to-skin.
She moves her hand from his hair, down past his neck and along his bare chest. His skin is warm and she's feeling bold as she shifts in his lap. His very obvious arousal is pressing against her thigh and she reaches her hand down, undoing his belt quickly and delving into his pants.
Matthew groans at her touch and rather than warn her that they're going beyond what they've done so far, the sound only encourages her. She moves her hand past waistbands and cloth and grasps him. They both groan at the sensation.
Waiting has proven to be a dangerous decision, because now they're both obviously needy for each other and anticipation and expectation are blurring together. Mary realizes that while she's waited the past few weeks leading up to this, Matthew has waited ten years more than that.
She feels a nervous twinge in her chest as the enormity of the moment falls upon her. He remembers what they did ten years ago with vivid clarity. It's part of his precise nature. For the same reason that he saved all of their photographs and videos and can remember walks they took in Manhattan with startling detail, he knows exactly what it feels like to make love to her.
Not only does Mary not remember what it feels like to be with him, she's not the same person she was in 2004. She was younger then, more daring, more fun, more…everything. The more she's learned about all the escapades they got up to in New York, she wonders who the woman is that Matthew is describing, because it isn't her, surely.
She kisses him firmly, then sits up, straddling his legs and pushing him back on to the bed. His eyes are closed and he's breathing deeply. Is he comparing what she's doing now to what she used to do back then? Will he be disappointed with her if it's not the same?
Matthew's eyes open slowly. Mary is sitting astride him. Her hair is a bit tousled. Her shirt is hanging off her bare shoulder. His hands move up her thighs and her eyelids flutter. He reaches for the rest of her shirt buttons but she takes his hands and pushes them back down. He inhales in anticipation.
Mary locks her eyes on his. Her fingers unbutton the rest of her blouse and she slowly peels it down her arms and off. His gaze falls to her breasts, then back up to her eyes. She reaches behind her and undoes her bra, pausing a moment before she removes it.
Matthew gasps audibly and his reaction makes her smile and arch her eyebrow in intrigue. His eyes are wandering all over her bare skin and she blushes slightly from the sheer openness of his admiration.
Mary leans down and kisses his chest, drawing another gasp from him. She smiles as she moves down his body and across his firm stomach. No, she isn't the same woman she was before, the woman that Matthew knew. But she knows from the way he looks at her, the way his muscles tighten beneath her lips, that she could never be a disappointment to him.
She removes the rest of his clothing and she can hear and feel his every breath. His fingers flex and he's sitting up slightly, watching her every move. She can tell he wants to do something – anything – to release the tension that she's building up inside of him, but he's being patient with her, and that makes her want him even more.
He sighs and his head falls back as she kisses his thigh, her hand stroking him. Her mouth soon follows her fingers and she's reducing him to a gasping and babbling mess. She doesn't have time to think as she's drunk on the heady combination of power and lust and the knowledge that they will finally be together in every way. As his hips move in rhythm beneath her lips and hands, she discovers that there is one advantage to her memory loss – she gets to learn his body all over again.
It's all too much for Matthew. Finding Mary again, almost losing her, then convincing her to give them another try, and now this. He lifts her up and turns her on to her back, her arms and legs wrapping around him encouraging him to move even faster. He kisses her firmly and steals the moan from her mouth as he enters her, and though he wants to open his eyes and watch as she tumbles over the edge, he can't control himself enough to do so, and fleetingly thinks he'll have to save that for next time as he cries out her name and they fall together.
"Matthew?" she calls out to the darkness.
"Mmm," he answers. He's lying on his back just behind her. She's lying on her side, facing away from him, her skin still delightfully warm.
"Was it like before?" she asks quietly, afraid to look at him.
Matthew turns toward her and wraps an arm over her hip and across her stomach, his hand settling just below her breasts. He pulls her back against his chest and kisses her shoulder as he fits his body against hers.
"Better, darling," he says, kissing her neck. "Even better."
Mary smiles and covers his hand with hers and allows herself to fall asleep.
Terminal 5, London Heathrow Airport, West London, England, March 2015
"Are you sure?" Matthew asks. "We can always just stay here and go over later in the Spring when it's warmer."
"I am sure," Mary smiles, squeezing his hand. "I'm not expecting to have any…revelations…when we arrive. But I want to see what your life is like over there, and discover the city again."
"Well, as I said, I live in a small apartment. The neighbourhood's beautiful, but I never really put much effort into making the place a true home. It didn't feel as though there was any point," he says.
Mary nods. "Perhaps I'll make decorating your apartment my project while I'm there?"
"Please do," Matthew smiles. "You have my full permission."
"Who's still around over there?" Mary asks. "From before, I mean?"
"Alex and Elisabeth – they can't wait to see you again," he replies. "I suppose we have her to thank for reuniting us, in a strange way."
"We do," Mary smiles. "And I am looking forward to taking some new pictures."
"The kind that you can post online, or the kind that we took last week?" Matthew whispers, raising his eyebrows at her playfully.
"I suppose we'll have to see," Mary says lightly. "The more I enjoy our trip, the more generous I am likely to be."
"Noted," Matthew says smugly.
The British Airways gate attendant announces that First class passengers are invited to pre-board. Matthew and Mary rise from their seats and make their way towards the gate.
"Seat 2E, Mr. Crawley, thank you," the attendant says, scanning Matthew's ticket and handing it back to him. Matthew takes it and walks toward the tunnel leading to the plane.
"And seat 2F, Mrs. Crawley, thank you," the attendant says, scanning Mary's ticket.
"Oh, it's not Mrs. Crawley," Mary blushes, taking her ticket back. "It's Lady Mary Crawley. We're not married."
"I'm sorry, Lady Mary," the attendant says, smiling in embarrassment.
Mary looks over at Matthew waiting patiently for her several steps ahead.
"That's all right. It's an honest mistake," she smiles.
"Enjoy your trip to New York, Lady Mary," the attendant nods.
"Thank you. I'm sure I will," Mary says, walking briskly to rejoin Matthew.