He had been escaping from something; because he only agreed to meet her as far from crowds as was possible in a big city like London. She did not ask what he was hiding from, too afraid to, for fear of losing him.
They had three wonderful months together, meeting in parks, and in his room, when they could. Her visits to him were as secret as she could make them, though sometimes she wondered if the other servants guessed.
One evening, when she was lying in his arms, nervously knowing that she was late and that she should have already left his little room in his boarding house, hoping that she could avoid his landlady again, that he looked into her eyes so intensely that she was almost scared.
"There is something you need to know about yourself," he said.
"About myself?" She did not understand.
"Yes. You are not who you think you are," he said, gently tucking a lock of her hair behind her ear, and kissing her softly under her jaw, in the place that made her gasp with pleasure.
"I'm not? Who am I then?" She smiled, trying to make a joke of it, but feeling apprehensive.
"We share a secret, you and I," he said and locked eyes with her, but there was none of the usual laughter in them, only tenderness and... fear?
"I know..." she tried to sound light, "if they knew what I have been doing with you..."
"It has nothing to do with this," he said, tracing her shoulder with his finger, "And yet it has everything to do with this. I have put you in great danger."
She looked at him questioningly, waiting for an explanation.
The explanation came in short, hesitant sentences, while he held her tight, as if fearing she would break from his arms and run away. It was not what she had expected. While the words came out, she listened mutely, stiff as a statue, not believing what he said. Not wanting to believe anything he said, because every word confirmed the fear she had been trying to escape all her life. Every pretence of her being normal was shattered forever, there in the shadows of the ordinary little room that had witnessed their deep love for each other.
"I think they have found me. I saw one of them in the park, but none yet near this house," he finally said, "It is not safe for you to be seen with me anymore. After tonight I have to disappear. And you must promise not to try to find me here. If I am right, they will be observing this location soon, and will follow anyone who comes here, to see if that someone could lead them to me. You must believe me - your life is at stake. Please, for the sake of our love, don't come back here. I shall look for you again, when it is safe. And trust me, I will find you." He kissed her again.
That was their last day together. The following day she looked for his tall, unmistakeable figure, but it was not at their usual place in the park. Nor the day after that. She wandered around the park, searching everywhere, but knowing in her heart he would no longer be there. But she could not help herself. It took all the self-control she could muster to stay away from the boarding house.
And soon afterwards she found out she was with child.
She managed to keep her pregnancy a secret for a few months, but because she was so tall and thin, it began to show sooner rather than later. She could not hide in loose dresses much longer, and before too long they would throw her out of the house. She could not let her parents hear of her shame.
But where could she go? No one would take on a maid who was pregnant and unmarried. And she would never return back home, to be mocked by the villagers.
"What's up, Beanpole?" The grocery boy appeared suddenly at the top of the area steps, although she had thought no one was around when she went out to catch some fresh air and fight the nausea that was now her constant companion. "Not enjoying your position in the fancy house with all the toffs?"
She could not help a tear escaping and quickly wiped it away, leaning slightly forward so her dress did not stretch over her belly.
"I guessed it. Them pretty gels are teasing you all the time, aren't they? You mustn't let 'em upset you. You know what - I might have a place for you, Beanpole. One that would suit you better. My sister just got married and moved out and it's her landlady, what now needs a maid to help her. She's blind, you see. You might even be able to live there without paying rent, if you'd agree to look after her. I know my sister did. You wouldn't mind working for a very grumpy old blind lady, would you? The old girl's all right when you get to know her."
This time tears really began to fall. It was the answer to her prayers. An old lady who was blind!
"Tha.. thank you..." she managed to hiccup.
"There, there, gel..." the boy patted her hand, trying to appear older than his years. "And I've got news for you, too. I've got me call-up papers." He seemed proud and excited.
"Your - call-up papers? But - you're far too young to be conscripted!" Her own problems were forgotten for a moment.
"I'm eighteen, Beanpole. Just 'ad me birthday - so there we are."
"They won't send you overseas, though, will they? You're too young."
"Dunno. Have to wait and see. Well, aint you got a hug for a man what's going to serve 'is nation, Beanpole? Lovely scent you always have on, and I don't mean the smell of onions! I'd like to get a bit closer."
"Of course!" She felt a sudden rush of affection for him. He was so young. Absurdly young to fight.
He put his arms around her, not caring that his head only reached her chin - and immediately let her go and looked down at her belly in surprise.
"Put a bit of weight on round the middle, haven't you? Oh Beanpole - you aint in the family way, are yer?"
She nodded, mutely, tears springing into her eyes again.
"Who was it, my girl?" He looked angry, "Who did this to you?"
"I can't tell you," she whispered, trying to wipe the tears that refused to stop running.
The boy stood there quietly for a while, and then nodded his head.
"Good thing the old girl is blind. Just you carry on for another day or two, and my sis will fix things up with the old lady. You try to keep your secret a bit longer, and you'll be out of here in a couple of days, if they'll let you go."
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