Glorfindel took Erestor to the beach every day for the next week. Before they went, he would go to the village in the morning and buy their provisions whilst engaging in lighthearted banter with the local gentility on an assortment of subjects, mainly rising taxes, the current crop of apples on one of Mrs Bedlow-Squires’ apple trees and the summer fete.
“Dear Mr. Fin,” Mrs Bedlow-Squires gushed one morning, whilst looking up at him with simpering eyes. “How simply darling it is to meet you here this morning.” She leant forward a tiny bit. “I was just saying to dear Daisy, what would we do without our dear Mr. Fin to entertain us on our morning constitutionals.”
“How very kind of you,” Glorfindel smiled pleasantly at her plump face. “I have just bought some redcurrants from the greengrocer. They are very good quality. Perfect with a syllabub, I should say.”
“Oh how complimented I am, dear Mr. Fin, that you should appreciate the contents of my sweet little garden.” The gushing was such that Fin felt quite in awe of her abilities to do so.
“They came from your garden?” he asked.
“There were far too many for my table this year,” the seemingly pleasant gushing continued. “I am so happy that I was able to share them with my dear friends.”
“If you truly meant to share them, then you would have given them away,” was the tart observation from Daisy Hawkinghurst, who had walked up and stood alongside Mrs Bedlow-Squires.
“Dear Daisy,” Mrs Bedlow-Squires said in her most condescending manner. “I cannot show favouritism, no matter how much certain friends desire free fruit.”
“Well I shall not feel guilty about selling my whole pear tree crop to Mr Longbottom then. I am sure my fruit is as good as yours is, when it comes to being sold.” Daisy Hawkinghurst looked at her friend triumphantly.
“Ladies,” Glorfindel interjected. “I wonder which one of you could advise me on a day out for my cousin. He is feeling slightly better after his terrible injuries but still not well enough to walk very far.”
“Ah! Dear Mr. Fin,” Mrs Bedlow-Squires beamed. “That reminds me. I was passing your sweet little cottage and did not like to impose so I just left my card.”
Daisy Hawkinghurst looked at her old friend with a smug grin. She was right; they had not answered the door at all. She decided to go back to the day out for Mr. Erestor. “Perhaps you could take Mr. Erestor to Arundel?” She then reconsidered. “Or do you suppose the cobbled streets might be too much for him? Arundel Castle is an excellent subject for painting. Major Bellstone-Gibbons did a watercolour of it last year and it won first prize in the art exhibition here.”
“Capital idea,” the ever gushing Mrs Bedlow-Squires declared. “Perhaps Mr. Erestor would like to submit a work of art to stand alongside our little unpractised daubs. I must say, it is our good fortune to have one so talented within our midst.”
“I will ask him,” Glorfindel smiled. “Although at the moment he is working on a particularly difficult painting that requires most of his time and energy.” Then as an aside, he said in an almost throwaway comment, “You know how precious and temperamental these artists are.”
“Well, according to dear Rosemary, there was no living with the Major after his painting won first place,” Daisy said in agreement, and added darkly that he had even taking to wearing a beret, until a particularly fierce gust of wind had lifted it off his head and deposited it atop the church spire.
“Chichester Cathedral is also a good painting subject and there is a sweet little park with a lake that has some of the most beautiful swans on it.” Mrs Bedlow-Squires looked at her friend Daisy. “That is, if Mr. Erestor wants to paint. Maybe he requires a break from it.”
“Dear ladies, I think both must be excellent places to visit. How kind you both are.” He smiled at them both. “Now, how about continuing this delightfulness in the tea shop? The pleasure will be all mine.” Both ladies took an arm each and Glorfindel felt their fingers surreptitiously feeling his solidly muscled arms. “I am informed that their special is redcurrant tartlets. From your garden I believe, Mrs. Bedlow-Squires?”
Erestor sat in the house. Glorfindel would be back soon, and perhaps he would not want to take him to the beach as the clouds were gathering and it looked as if it would rain. The coolness was welcome after the heat of the morning and so he left the French doors open and watched as the first drops fell. Gradually the clean earth smell wafted gently around the room whilst the rain intensified. Erestor smiled and walked into the kitchen. He peeled potatoes and put them on to boil. Next he sautéed some leeks and onion. After mashing the potatoes, the contents of both pans were combined and then some milk and cream added to make a thick soup. The door opened and he could hear Glorfindel stamping his feet.
“I have made some lunch,” Erestor called out as he snipped some chives over both bowls of soup with a pair of scissors.
“I have bought some fresh bread and some fruit,” Glorfindel grinned. “Mmm, looks lovely.” He carried both bowls into the dining room and shut the French doors. The downpour was so hard when he dashed from the car to the front door that most of his head was soaking wet.
Erestor said nothing. He took a clean towel from the pile of dried washing, which was waiting from the previous day to be put away, and dried his lover’s hair.
“I will be all right,” Glorfindel said as he looked fondly at him. “Sit down, Meleth and eat your soup.”
Glorfindel’s heart sang. How he loved Erestor; he really was trying to get back to normal. They ate their fruit, cleared away the dishes, and washed up. “Still raining,” Erestor said looking out of the window. The rain pelted off the apple trees in the distance, making the fruit wobble on the branches. “Lucky the raspberry canes are sheltered.”
“Come here,” Glorfindel said in the tone his lover knew only too well. “Sit on my lap.”
Erestor sat on Glorfindel facing him, and kissed his mouth. His hand moved under the blond’s linen shirt whilst the other one held the back of his neck.
“I am so proud of you,” Glorfindel said. “You cooked lunch without me being there.”
“The fire on the stove can be controlled and so I will not get hurt,” Erestor replied. “I see that now, but I could not go near a bonfire still.”
“How did you light it?” Glorfindel asked. Erestor had been frightened of the loud bang the new gas cooker made when being lit; he had nearly jumped out of his skin, terrified and clinging on desperately to him when he first encountered it.
“I used one of the long tapers for lighting candles, which I lit using the lighter you bought from the hardware store.” Erestor looked pleased. “It is easier to use than the ones the army issues.”
“Small steps,” Glorfindel said, looking into his lover’s face. “We are getting there. It is nearly time for our afternoon jaunt.”
“But it is raining,” Erestor said with a worried frown. “Surely you are not suggesting we sit on a beach in the pouring rain?”
“I thought today we could go for a drive along the coast and maybe stop for some tea somewhere?”
“No,” Erestor said, tensing his muscles. “I do not want people looking at me. Please do not make me go. Didn’t you say I was coming on all right? Why do I have to do two steps in one day?” He looked ready to cry.
“No one will know who you are, and I promise we will not stop anywhere until we reach some far out of the way place.” Glorfindel looked determined; he was not going to let Erestor go backwards, no matter what action it took.
Erestor lost his temper and began yelling at his lover as he tried to get off his lap. “You don’t know what it is like,” he yelled at the top of his voice. “You do not care about me. You do not love me anymore. Why are you torturing me? Why don’t you just leave me alone?” His fists clenched and Glorfindel knew Erestor would have struck him if he had not held his arms down.
“Perhaps we should not do this,” Glorfindel said in a sad, calm voice when his lover had calmed down. “Perhaps it would be better for you if I took you back to Craiglockhart. I see now that I was deluded in thinking that I could help you. I am so sorry that I have failed you, but I had the best of intentions.”
“Please do not take me back,” a small voice pleaded. “I can only do so much.” A huge sob. “I want to be with you.”
Glorfindel gave a heavy sigh. “I am trying to help you Erestor, but I really do not think that I am able to do this anymore. I am not skilled enough and I do not want to upset you further. I fear breaking you.”
“I do not want to go back,” Erestor said with his face against Glorfindel’s chest. “I want to be with you. I love you.”
“When we bound we promised each other that we would walk where the other led. You are leading me into your world of uncertainty, insecurity and irrational fear, and I am trying to lead you into happiness, stability and peace. Why fight it?”Glorfindel stroked his lover’s shaking body.
“I keep seeing visions of dead soldiers and when I look properly, they disappear. Sometimes I see the flash of light from the shell that exploded beside me. I smell the damp of the rooms built into the trenches and hear the screams of the injured nearly every day. I do not think that I want to go somewhere nice and see that, because nothing will be happy anymore.” Erestor looked up at Glorfindel. “The dead soldiers keep looking at me and asking why I am not dead.”
“Meleth, why did you not tell me this before?” Glorfindel soothed. “Do you see the bodies when we go to the beach?” Erestor nodded that he did. “Then you must tell them that you are not dead because you did not die.” He stroked the short dark hair on the head nestled against his neck. “This is your mind doing this to stop you from going into danger again. You have to show it that you are strong and can enjoy freedom and all the nice things in life so that you can win and be happy again.”
“I feel so guilty that I survived. The dead bodies I left behind in No Man’s Land make me feel guilty when they ask why I did not save them.”
“I would rather you sat on my lap and felt guilty than be dead and buried under the ground in a wooden box,” Glorfindel said and kissed the top of Erestor’s head. “I will not take you back to Craiglockhart; however, you must trust me in what we are going to do to make you better. Always know that I have your best interests at heart and I love you. You do not need the threat of being sent away hanging over you when you have so many other problems.”
“Thank you,” Erestor said, and seemed to relax for the first time.
“We have to focus on the future, meleth,” Glorfindel continued. “I feel that our time here is ending and we have to work on being able to make the journey over the sea. The only way to go west is to travel on a liner, and that involves being around many people. Let this be our goal and not worry about the people here in the village. Nothing they might say to you matters, neither do the questions of the dead. Nothing here matters anymore except that we are able to sail, and that is what we must work towards.”
“We will not be of this world anymore and I am glad of that,” Erestor said quietly.
“We made the mistake of becoming embroiled in the problems of humans. They will always have their wars and their disagreements and I tire of them never learning from their own history. It is time to say goodbye with a light heart and leave them behind. We are not of their race and it is time to go home.” Glorfindel kissed his lover. “And we won’t have to make out we are cousins anymore. We can shag to our hearts content in Valinor and no one will raise an eyebrow.”
Erestor grinned. “Except Elrond. He raises his eyebrow at everything. It is the only expression he knows.”
They sat together for a while longer, and then when the rain stopped they made their way out to the car. Glorfindel drove along the newly built coast road, and even though the dead lined the sides and pointed at Erestor, loudly shouting that he should have died, he ignored them as Glorfindel had told him to.
Erestor was not one of them anymore; he had a new future ahead. He was an elf and so everything was different.
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