Word Count: 1683
Prompt: come back
A/N: Written for musemuggers, Challenge #534, Option #1.
was in the way, so I told them to bugger off. I don’t think they understood, but they did leave me alone. The bed was like rocks, but I was too tired to care much either way, I just fell asleep. It’s amazing what one can become accustomed to when one must. More later. I must find some food in this accursed city.
30 April, 1919
My dearest Frederick,
Ah, things look better in the morning, don’t they? I would let you know that I’ve arrived, but I can’t seem to find a post-box in this backwards place, so you shall get my letters all at once in a packet.
I’ve had a walk around the place. I thought my Hungarian was up to snuff, but they natter on here, don’t you know. Oh, don’t worry about me, I’ll look sharp and land on my feet. I always do. It’s just a surprise, that’s all. I thought the language was the least of my worries. Ah, well. Once the job is sorted I’ll breathe easier.
I don’t want
It’s only been two weeks, but it feels like two months. Tell the girls I said hello, won’t you?
1 May 1919
My face is healing nicely. I’ll always have a bit of a scar, but I guess that’s to be expected. I found a man on the train just outside of Vienna who said he could help. I assume that’s what he said; he didn’t speak any language I understood. He just gestured at me. At any rate, I didn’t believe him, of course, but what did I have to lose? He removed the bandages and nodded, as if he’d seen it all before. I was still self-conscious about it, but he didn’t look at me again. He pulled this marble bowl and some herbs out of his bag, and he crushed them all together with a globule of his spit. I tried not to cringe, but if you’d seen what I’d seen on the road, well—let’s just say that things are different here in the east.
None of the passengers paid attention to him, even after he started chanting. I was motion sick and not a little tired, so I just waited to see what he would do. He smeared this stinking paste on my eyebrow and down the cheek. The wound had already begun to fester, but it didn’t sting when he applied his tincture. Afterwards, I tried to press a coin into his hand but he refused it even though the silver must have been more than he earned in a half a year. Truth be told, I just wanted him gone. I didn’t expect anything. But the next day, the pus was gone. The sight will never be restored to the eye, of course; he wasn’t a magician, after all. I was surprised to see the jagged red gash fade away into a white line as the edges healed. That is more than old Doctor Fitzwurst on Cleary Street could have done for me.
The accident wasn’t your fault, Freddie. I don’t know if you blame yourself. It was as much my fault for talking to Merkel instead of waiting. I always was too impulsive by half. It might have been a harsher lesson to flee the country and wander the streets of Hungary as a monster, but now I find I have a scar that gives me a rakish air; I should do just fine. Don’t worry a bit about me.
7 May, 1919
I still have yet to find the damned post. What they do here for mail is beyond me. The worst part is not hearing from you. I wonder if you think of me, if you worry that I made it. I want to tell you that I am fine.
Well, if fine can be considered being a full stone lighter. I find I don’t have a taste for the food here. The stews would be all right if not drowned in the local spice, something called paprika. So far, I have confined myself to nibbling on a portion of ewe’s cheese that I made a good barter for; it has seen me through several otherwise vomitous meals.
The honest truth is that I have been conserving my coin. It is probably fortunate that I cannot send this post. I would be inclined to write ever more often and it is an expense I can ill afford at the moment. I have yet to secure the position, and I grow more anxious by the day. Perhaps I will hear something presently. It keeps my spirits up to pretend that when I seal this, it goes straight to your hand, so please pray for me that I find your contact in this city presently.
21 May 1919
Your imaginary faith has been rewarded; I have at last found a job. And between you and I, not a moment too soon. It is most vulgar to speak of such matters, I know, but I find myself growing desperate in these days. I have no one to talk to. The gutteral rapidfire Hungarian assaults me from at all hours—even in my sleep, I would pledge it—and I long to hear the cultured vowels of the Englishman upon the lips of some wayward traveler. Alas and alack! I am alone here. Though I find I have honed my comprehension of the language, I have not formed a bond with my companions, and I am utterly lost for company.
You might notice the heading on this letter and wonder what I am doing so far from my agreed destination. Do not panic, my dear Freddie! I admit to a bit of agitation as May wore on and I could not find the contact—your “Mr. Tompkins”, as you had named him to me—for me to begin my apprenticeship. In fact, the situation was a bit worse than I might have mentioned in my letters, old boy. I had been turned out of the boardinghouse and had been in the streets for a few nights with naught to eat but an old crust of bread when it was my good fortune to have met a certain Mr. Petrescu. It turns out that Mr. P, hard nosed old bugger that he might be, is an entrepreneur of sorts and he offered me a job in his trade.
The catch? Yes, there’s always a catch. But let’s not talk of that. I’m warm and have a meal in my belly for the first time in—well, longer than I care to remember. Mr. P assures me that there is post where we are going (Romania), so I shall mail this packet when I arrive. We leave first thing in the morning, so I’m for bed. Tell the girls to remember me in their prayers as I remember them, and I remain, as ever, your devoted servant,
14 June, 1919
Forgive the lapse. I am bone weary these days—or nights, as the case may be. In fact, this shall be my last letter to you, as I am too tired to write anymore. I know now that you probably won’t even read it, if indeed it even finds you. Ah, well. I thought of you just yesterday, don’t you know. I was watching the sun set on the Danube, and the waves were just the color of your eyes. It made me ache for home. It was a stab in my heart no less sharp than when we used to race up the hill near Sainsbury Creek when we were boys. Remember that? Your lip is probably curling back now with disgust that I should have such a tender fondness for those days, but I can’t help it. I do. Of course I do. And why wouldn’t I? Those were the good times, Freddie, weren’t they? Before all this went bad and I lost my eye and the old biddies talked behind their hands about you. Before Louis was killed in the war. Yes, I think about those days more often than I care to admit.
I was watching the Danube and I suddenly knew that I won’t ever come back. I want to, of course. There’s nothing I want more in this life. I dream of it while I’m awake and while I sleep. Sometimes I don’t know which is which while I stumble around in this strange foreign place. To think I used to be so debonair! Anyway, I think the truth came upon me when I realized there was no Mr. Tompkins. I might have known it before that, but I couldn’t let myself feel it. I lived like a rat rather than think you’d let me go halfway round the world on my own.
The eye never hurt quite so much, nor was half as blind when it came to you. Ah, it’s done now. I don’t blame you, Freddie. It’s just how it always was with you. I don’t hate you. I wish it were different, but what’s the good of wishing? It’s done me no good up ‘til now, hasn’t it? So I’d best be done with wishes. Anyway, you have the girls to think of, so it all makes sense, in a way. I always did understand you, I can say that much. Don’t you worry; I’ll stay away. I’ll be gone and it will all work out.
Tell the girls about me, will you? I can’t bear to think that they would forget me. Just do that thing. If I turn and let slip this pack into the water, I don’t think it would be a loss, but don’t let them forget me. They never knew me as half blind and scarred. They will always remember me as young and beautiful and just gone, gone, gone at the end of a world with a river that has eyes as blue as yours.