Mary stared numbly beyond the train that was ready for departure. She knew what she needed to say, but she hadn't the slightest clue how she was going to put it into words. The air was cold enough to freeze someone to the bone, but the exhaust from the train emitted hot steam creating a conflicting and false illusion of warmth. It was so early in the morning that the sky was still a gray haze, between the deep of night and optimism of day. The gray cast a sadness that Mary could not ignore. Lady Mary did not know whether it was the sky or the occasion for which she was at the train station that was causing the heavy-heartedness. She did not care to know. Mary wasn't sure how long she had been standing there, but, as if on cue, she turned around just in time to see Matthew walking up the platform to his compartment.
She looked at him with wide eyes, but quickly composed herself as she started towards him. With a smile plastered on her face, the familiar wrinkles around her eyes not present, she clasped her hands together as she came to a stop in front of him.
"Don't worry. I haven't come to undo your good work from the other night," she somewhat blurted out, not knowing what else to say.
"You must have been up before the servants," he replied incredulously, smiling at her. She once loved and yearned to see that smile. Now she could not bear it, for it was a smile one would wear for a friend. Mary did not want to be a friend. She wanted him to kiss her upon departure and even more when he returned. She did not care for the smile of simple pleasure in seeing her, but longed for a desperate kiss of having missed her more than anything.
"They were rather surprised to see me," she responded robotically, flashing him another grin that hid any hint of her pain. One she was so practiced at using. She breathed in quickly and hurried the conversation along.
"I wanted to give you this." She reached into the small purse she held and pulled out a small stuffed dog with buttons for eyes. "It's my lucky charm; I've had it always."
Matthew took it from her and studied it with curiosity. "You must promise to bring it back without a scratch," Mary grinned again, feeling slightly foolish, but he smiled and looked into her light brown eyes.
"Won't you need it?" he asked.
"Not as much as you. So, look after it... please," She added, knowing she wasn't just talking about the stuffed toy she was so fond of.
"I'll try not to be a hero, if that's what you're afraid of," Matthew said, safely tucking the toy away in his coat pocket.
"Just come back, safe and sound." She was being tested to what limits her simple and calm facade would be held to. She made sure her voice did not shake, though her insides were screaming for her to finally let go. Mary breathed in, holding back the tears that stung her eyes.
Trying to change the subject, Mary said, "Did you have a happy time yesterday?" The word happy burned as it left her lips. She looked into Matthew's crystal blue gaze.
He blinked back a look of sadness. "Showed Lavinia the places I like most. Gave her a few memories..." Mary tried to smile.
"Mary if I don't come back..." She began to interrupt him and gave him a reassuring smile, but he said, "No. If I don't, do remember how very glad I am that we made up when we had the chance. I mean it." He smiled genuinely. She nodded, taking in his happy expression and pushing down the thought that that may be the last time she would see it.
"You send me off to war a happy man." Again, the word happy made the pain flare up once more. He turned to board but stopped again. "Will you do something for me? Will you... Will you look after mother if anything happens?"
"Of course we will." The idea of Matthew, her Matthew, not returning sent a wave of horrid nausea through her once more. "But it won't."
"And Lavinia?" he added. Her heart fell, but her placid demeanor held. "She's young, and she'll find someone else. I hope she does anyway." He swallowed, tears pricking his eyes. "Until she does?"
Mary nodded, her strong exterior finally shattering as the whistle for boarding blew. She knew she wasn't going to have the strength to tell him how much she absolutely loved him. "Goodbye, then," she choked. She advanced toward him and softly placed a kiss to his cheek. Mary closed her eyes for a finally moment to take in his everything. His smell and the smooth skin of his cheek.
"Such good luck," she smiled through the tears that threatened.
He nodded, replaying her words in his head. "Goodbye, Mary." He smiled as well, his breath catching in his throat. "God bless you." She watched him step onto the train.
For a last moment, she imagined herself passionately kissing him goodbye, but was yanked out of her thoughts by the last whistle. The train started, taking her heart and the warmth of the early morning with it. She dropped the smile she kept just for her Matthew and slouched forward in defeat, letting the tears finally consume her. After one last glimpse of him, she knew the only thing that would keep her going was the hope of his safe return and the hope that she could one day kiss him upon return.