A/N: I wish I could say that updates will come faster from here on out, but I don't want to lie to you all. I will however apologize for my incompetence. I'm incredibly sorry, but I hope you stick with the story through the slow updates. Thanks to Trumpet-geek for betaing, and I hope you all enjoy!
January 26th, 1942 14:20
I can't say that I hadn't been surprised when one day after lessons, Alfred suggested that we take a walk to town. For nearly every day of the past two months he'd scamper off right after our schooling and wouldn't reappear until dinnertime. I never brought it up, but I did find the sudden aberration a bit disconcerting.
"Town? Why, do you need something?" I asked as I put my pencil back in the small tin used to hold our writing utensils. Alfred eyed the can for a moment before looking back up to me.
"Nah, I just thought that we don't do much together anymore and it might be a nice change," he clucked his tongue as he waited for me to clean up my workspace. Mind you, Alfred left his own papers and books strewn everywhere in complete disarray.
"Did you ask your mother?"
He nodded as he adjusted his socks.
"I asked yesterday and she said it was fine as long we pick up some groceries while we're there," he paused, fishing around in his pocket before pulling out a small ration book and a few coins. "I think she said she wants some more grease and sugar."
"Oh, well that is your entire diet, isn't it?" I smiled, and Alfred poked me in the ribs.
"Hey, you make it sound like I'm fat. That's not true! I just have a hearty appetite 'cause I'm still growing!"
"Mm hmm," I agreed, nodding. "That's why your trousers have become a bit more snug, right, love?"
Alfred's face flushed, though whether it was from the jab or the pet name, I wasn't quite sure. He averted his eyes, looking at the floor with a forlorn expression before he spoke again.
"You'd still like me if I was fat, right?"
He slowly lifted his head back up as if afraid of my answer. I cocked my head and my brows drew together. He couldn't possibly be serious could he?
"Alfred, considering all we're getting are these measly rations, I hardly think it's an issue," I explained, though the pout on his lips told me he was unsatisfied with that response. "I was kidding you know," I continued. "And Alfred, if we survive this and these bloody rations, and you get old and plump, I will still love you."
I looked left and right ensuring Mrs. Jones was not around before I leant down and kissed Alfred's cheek. His pout was subdued and a smile replaced it as he rose from the floor and led me out the doorway.
"Thanks, Arthur," he said, a light blush still coating his cheeks just as I shut the library door.
We suited up in our coats and mittens. I even sported my green striped scarf that my mother had made me years ago. I imagined she'd have been happy to see me wear it.
After a quick goodbye to Alfred's mother, who wrote up a short shopping list because she didn't trust her son to remember all of four items, we were walking down the path that led to the small village. We walked along the dirt road and Alfred had to stop every few minutes to wipe away some of the soil that the wind brushed up on his glasses.
"Why don't we just go back and ask your mother to drive us?" I asked as I noticed Alfred had stopped to clean his glasses yet again. We were only about a quarter of the way there, and the chill nipped at my cheeks every time we had to stop for him.
"It'll be faster and you won't get your specs dirtied."
After wiping his glasses off on the fabric of his coat, he replaced them on the tip of his nose and shook his head vehemently.
"No, I wanna just spend some time with you. It's been a long time since we just took a walk, you know? Plus we gotta conserve gas!" He looked up at the sky, a bit overcast though not rainy, before turning back to me. He reached a hand out experimentally, and as if it were a natural reflex, I eased my own covered palm out of my pocket and took Alfred's. He grinned shortly before looking ahead once more, down the dusty path.
"So... how are things?"
I raised a brow at him before letting loose a small chuckle.
"You make it seem as if we haven't talked to each other in ages."
"Well, we haven't spent too much time together lately."
"And whose fault is that?" I asked, not meaning to have it come out as snarky as it did. Alfred frowned at me but did not release my hand.
"I've been busy. I'm sorry. I'll promise to make some more time for you in the future," he said and squeezed my hand. I would've asked him what exactly it was that was eating up all his precious time, but I didn't want to ruin what was a nice moment in time.
"Maybe come spring you can help me in the garden," I suggested and Alfred agreed.
"Yup! We need to grow more carrots for my x-ray vision," he supplied and I smiled. We both melted into a fit of laughs.
After that we walked in companionable and blissful silence for a time. Alfred had been right, it was nice to just walk and have some time alone. It felt lovely to just hold Alfred's hand with nothing around us but the slight breeze, and beautiful dark green grass and hills. I became a lot fonder of the countryside the longer I stayed with Alfred.
All the same, sometimes I did miss the hustle and bustle of London, the sounds of buses and women clicking down the streets in their high-heeled shoes. There were times when I missed my old room, the old school building, and the library where I used to go and just sit and read for hours on end as a child. Of course, what, or whom, I missed the most was my mother. I remembered how at 13 when the war had just begun, I'd wanted independence, which my mother found hard to give after just losing her husband. But now, after being away from her for nearly a year and a half, I was hanging on to every word in every letter she sent, and I missed her terribly. Sometimes I wished she'd come visit; I desperately wanted her to meet Alfred and I knew he'd love to meet her as well.
At the thought, I turned and smiled at Alfred, who returned the gesture with a sunny grin.
I wanted Alfred to visit London the most, I thought. He had showed me all around the area, and the town, and he'd even designed my room for me. All I wanted was to do the same for Alfred and show him London, show him our flat, and my school, and even trivial things like where my mother and I used to go to buy groceries. I used to think that was a brilliant idea, but I was quickly reminded of why it couldn't come true. There was a reason I'd left London, after all. The last thing I wanted was to have something go wrong. The sirens, and running, and what if I lost Alfred? What if he didn't know his way to a shelter? What if he got caught under some type of debris or worse?
I felt my arm go taught and then relaxed again. Alfred had pulled my arm and was now shaking both our limbs up and down.
"What're you thinking about?" he asked, looking worried. "You got a little pale there for a second."
I was embarrassed at my own thoughts. That I fretted over losing Alfred when he wasn't even in any danger, was rather ridiculous. I pulled at my scarf and ducked my chin inside, hoping to hide the humiliation that must have shown on my cheeks.
"Ah, nothing. I think the cold is just getting to me."
Alfred looked unconvinced but he didn't argue. He glanced back down the path and I followed his gaze to find the small town now in view, not too far ahead in the distance. To the left of the small high street there were a few scattered houses, and to its right, the train station where I'd arrived. I stared at the tracks that seemed to curl around a hill and disappeared into the horizon.
"At least we're not too far now," Alfred said after a moment and then let go of my hand to point at something. I did look at where his index finger was pointing and saw that a train was coming around the bend, headed south into the station and then presumably back to London or maybe Manchester.
"I bet you'd like to be on that train, huh?" Alfred spoke out loud and I turned to him just as the train pulled into the station. "I mean not right now, obviously. But when the war is over."
I nodded and looked back at the train. I couldn't make out much but it seemed like there was a couple parting ways on the platform. The man waved to the woman he'd been with as he boarded the train.
"Yes, I mean of course I'd like to go home, but you'd have to be completely barmy to ride it now."
Alfred laughed, and we watched as the train started up once again, moving out of the station.
"Barmy, Arthur?" he said through small peals of laughter. "What a British thing to say."
And so we walked the rest of the way to town with Alfred asking me what other strange words I knew, and me replying that they were not strange, that that's the way I'd grown up and the way I'd learned to speak.
"I'm sure there must be strange American terms as well," I said at some point as we approached the outskirts of the town.
"Well for one thing you're always calling your trousers pants when pants are in fact your undergarments."
Alfred rolled his eyes as I snickered.
"What difference does that make?" he asked in a huff. "And I think it's you who's got it wrong. Pants aren't underwear. They're different."
"Right, of course," I nodded just to make sure Alfred didn't fuss. He grinned in satisfaction and then walked in front of me to open the door to the grocer's.
"Ladies first," he sang, but my glare quickly shut him up. He offered an apologetic smile as we continued our way into the store.
We picked up the items Mrs. Jones had requested, and I ripped each stamp out of the ration book as Alfred fiddled with the coins. I was just putting a loaf of bread on the counter to pay when Alfred called me over. I excused myself but the shopkeeper just waved me off with a kind smile.
"What?" I asked, but I saw it before Alfred even had time to answer the question. In a small pile near the exit was a bundle of the day's newspaper. Alfred had always been interested with the news but I knew what it was it was that intrigued him in this case. Across the front of the paper the headline read: First American Forces Land in Northern Ireland.
"You want it, don't you?" I asked, but it was a stupid question; we both knew what the answer was. Alfred nodded his head vigorously before he replied.
"Yeah, but I didn't bring any money. Did yo-"
But I was already pulling a coin out of my coat pocket. Alfred's face expanded into his usual blinding grin and I almost fell over when he caught me in a hug.
"Aw you're the best, Artie! Thank you, thank you, thank you! I'll pay you back as soon as we get home!"
I knew that was a lie. I'd never see that money again, but it was ok. The kiss Alfred gave me as we walked back home was payment enough.
February 19th, 1942 17:35
I'd been curled up on an armchair in the library reading a nonfiction piece about the Victorian Era when I heard some clicks and clangs of pots and pans. At first I wrote it off as Mrs Jones getting ready to cook, but as the sounds continued for another 15 minutes I got suspicious. I quickly dog-eared my book and made my way downstairs to the source of the noise. Of all the things I was expecting to see, Alfred surrounded by a sea of metal trinkets was not one of them.
"What are you up to?" I asked curiously as I stepped over what seemed to be a piece of an old bicycle. The kitchen floor was covered in metal contraptions from aluminum pans and cans to an old pram, which I never recalled seeing in all my time in the Jones household. Alfred spun around at the sound of my voice, an old tin toy in his hands.
"Oh hey, Arthur! I was just moving all the stuff I collected inside. I think we'll take it all into town to donate tomorrow."
I took a few more careful steps and looked around. Besides all the metal contraptions, the floor was also lined with jam jars, some worn books and stacks upon stacks of previously used paper. I made my way over to the books, and picked up the first one on the top of a pile.
"Is this the book of fairytales we read on New Year's Eve?" I asked, but flipping through it I knew it was. I didn't remember reading any of the other books in the stack but I sent Alfred a questioning glance regardless.
"Yeah," Alfred responded as he put the toy car he was holding down and walked over to me. He picked up another book and thumbed through it. "I thought since we already read it we could donate it." He glanced at me and then back at the book in his hands. "And the rest of these were pretty worn out but still good. I thought they could be put to better use too."
"Where will they be donated?"
I replaced the book on the pile and glanced at the other items cluttering the room.
"Well I'm not really sure how it's divided, but I know some would go to the troops and some would be used to restock libraries that were burned in the Blitz." I looked up at him and he smiled. "I've been reading up on how to help in the war effort ever since, ya know..." he trailed off but I understood. He made his way back amongst the random scraps of metal and I listened as he explained everything to me.
"I read that aluminum can be used to make planes," he said pointing to some pots and cans. "And other scrap metal can be helpful too. That's what all this other stuff is for," he continued, motioning to the assortment of items. "Old paper can be recycled and reused and I can't remember what the jars were for but I know they're helpful!" He took a few steps to his left and picked up a rather large tin which he started to shake.
"I've even been collecting all the meat and chicken bones from our meals," he said with a grin as a look of repulsion crossed my face. "Apparently they can be turned into aircraft glue!"
He put down the tin and moved to fiddle with something else on the floor.
"Is this what you've been doing for the better part of two months?" I asked, moving toward the piles of loose paper.
He nodded and picked up the toy car he'd been holding earlier.
"Yeah. I mean we gotta help out. We have to do our part, even if that means making some serious sacrifices."
I turned and saw the way Alfred was admiring the toy in his hands. I wondered if he'd gotten it as a boy and if it reminded him of his home in America.
"You do realise that most, if not all of this will probably go to the British troops, not the Americans."
He looked at me and back to the small car. It was painted red with a few yellow accents.
"I know. But we're all in the same boat now. Allies, remember?"
I smiled and imagined what it might have been like if we'd come to that conclusion earlier. All the fights we could have avoided, all the harsh words and cold stares. What if instead of fighting and then spending so much time apart we'd worked together, through thick and thin? How marvelous that would've been.
"Yes, of course. Forever allies."
Alfred cocked his head and smiled. After a few seconds he stood, resting the car upon the kitchen counter. I saw as he checked in both directions to see if his mother was near, and I knew what came next.
"We're more than allies, though, right?"
I didn't know when the conversation turned from being about to America and England to me and Alfred, but I liked where it was going.
"Yes, we're friends."
"Just friends?" he whispered in my ear and I shivered.
He wrapped his arms around my middle and hugged me tight. I could have sworn he was becoming more adventurous and nibbling on my ear but I was probably imagining it.
"Beaus," he said, and it was more of a statement than a suggestion.
"Yes, okay we're beaus," I agreed and I felt the smile on Alfred's lips when he kissed me. This time I was sure of the gentle biting as Alfred pulled back and nipped lightly at the edges of my lips. I blushed and tried to get his contact back on the center of mouth, but when I did that he moved farther away, kissing at my jaw and then further down at my neck.
"Alfred," I sighed contently, but pushed him back nonetheless. I was enjoying the treatment but his bold new signs of affection were moving a bit fast for me. He looked up, not dejected, if only a bit concerned.
"Ya don't like that?" he asked, holding me at arm's length.
"No it's not that, I just..." I averted my eyes feeling a bit uncomfortable under his gaze. "I like it," I assured him, not really knowing what else to say.
"I understand," he said with a smile. "We'll pick it up later when we go upstairs," he said, waggling his eyebrows. I scowled at Alfred but it didn't have the desired effect while a bright blush was staining my cheeks.
"In the meantime you wanna help me move some more stuff? I gotta get it to fit in the car somehow."
"Sure," I agreed and Alfred turned with a spring in his step, out of the kitchen and toward the door. I started to follow but paused for a second when a piece of paper caught my eye. On top of one of the many piles Alfred had gathered was an old piece of schoolwork that I recognised. I picked it up and read the messy heading, scribbled in Alfred's handwriting:
Is there such a thing as "forbidden love"?
In a moment my heart fell. I read it over, and smiled despite the sinking feeling that was quickly taking over. How long ago had it been? Why was Alfred going to throw these words away— words that were so beautiful and inspiring and meant so much?
"Arthur? You coming?" Alfred called from the front door and I snapped back to attention, looking in his direction.
I glanced the note over one last time before stuffing it in my trouser pocket and running to catch up with my beau. There were some sacrifices I was just not willing to make.