Title: To Give the Past
Char-- Cleveland and Miss C
Word Count 675
To Give the Past
She leaned against him, and his arm went numb.
Christopher reclined in the soft bed, and felt the strange numbness in his arm, and smiled and smiled. She did not ask why he was smiling like a fool, she was smiling too, and every so often she leaned up to give him a kiss. That was better than fine. They talked about childhood things, kites and books, and schoolmasters.
“ But you left home at 12?” Saphronia said
“That is why-- better to start young, there is so much to learn.”
“I wish I had known you then.”
“You might not have liked me. You probably would have liked Mr Kennedy better.”
Cleveland had walked the dockside with Kennedy exactly once. They had been 15 then, and Kennedy had not gone with the girls who opportuned him. But the memory was scalding still.
“Is he the tall dark one?”
“No. That is Hornblower. Kennedy is the smaller reddish one. Girls seem to like him.”
“I suppose--” She said slowly. “ But only think, Christopher, if we had met when we were 12, we could have loved each other even earlier. We would have had more time together. What were you like then? Tell me?”
Christopher thought of himself, as he had been then, round-faced, foolish, afraid. Old Captain Keane had frightened him. The ship itself had seemed hopelessly confusing. Archie Kennedy had come in the same week. He had been a friend. He had been kind. They had struggled in parallel. Then Simpson had come, and changed everything. Simpson turned his attention to Archie, and Christopher had found out how weak he really was.
Christopher had looked away, he had done nothing. Worse than that, even though he tried not to remember, Simpson had made him watch, or help. Had made him part of Archie's pain and horror.
This shame he would never share with Saphronia. He did not speak of it to anyone, except once obliquely to Kennedy. He, Archie, had been newly returned to them then. He had been so thin and pale. It had not ruined his looks, but made him glow from the inside somehow. Which figured, Christopher thought. On that day he had been standing astern watching the wake. His mind was far away. Christopher could see that, and he moved to stand next to Archie, wordless, but nearby.
“Simpson is dead.” Archie had said.
“Aye, and in hell.” Christopher had replied.
Archie had given a soundless snort, a sort of huff through the nose, a sound of amusement.
“Hell is in France.”
He had said it, and he had walked away. The silence had beat around Christopher then, like the moment when cannon fire stops. It was the closest Archie had ever come to a rebuke. It had been more than enough.
But Saphronia was waiting to hear stories of his early life. He picked through and found things to tell her-- lesser mistakes to amuse her. She rested against his numb arm, and laughed and asked questions. She looked at him as if he was twice as handsome as Kennedy, and five times as clever. That felt as good as anything, ever. It felt as good as moving inside her, as knowing she wanted him to.
They talked slow and sleepy, and they both began to yawn. Finally he let the tide of sleep wash over him. He knew he would wake at 8 bells in the morning. He supposed she would not, and he could watch her sleep. Maybe he would wake her up. There would be breakfast then, and coffee, bacon maybe. And there would be more time to talk in the morning. She had turned in his arms, now, and she was delicately snoring. It was a delightful sound, nothing like the snores of men. What a funny creature she was. His, his.