The company finished their tea in silence, no one knowing what else to say, if there was anything even left to be said. They were overlooking the garden which was filled with beautiful flowers, a pond sitting in the center which had little fish swimming in it. The garden was a mash of hues of yellow and purple, looking beautifully blended in the scenery. Tall cat tails grew around the rock edge that was the foundation of the little pond, the sun casting their shadows across the water as mid day began to turn to dusk. All three were lost in thought when suddenly someone came out onto the patio, a loud gwaf was heard and the ladies jumped from having been startled. Charlie turned his head just enough to catch sight of who had invaded the serenity of the garden gazing, as he had been muddling over in his head just what he was going to do that night.
Without so much as a word, the invader clasped a hand on Charlie’s shoulder and nodded their head somberly. The grip was firm, yet warm and friendly. He glanced at the ladies and upon seeing Janielle, he gave a short formal now to her, “Lady Janielle, a speedy return is wished upon the Captain.” Then he turned his attention to Madam Bailey, removing his hand from Charlie’s shoulder, “The festivities, they are tonight, yes, Madam?“
Madam Bailey looked at him and nodded, “Yes, Lieutenant, they are. Will your Sergeant be there?“
The man nodded, “Sergeant Daniel will be there, Ma’am.“
She smiled faintly, “Good. I look forward to seeing you at tonight’s gathering.“
He turned and faced Charlie, “Corporal Charlie, pleasure to see you, Sir. Or is it Lieutenant now?“
Standing from his chair, Charlie greeted him with the salute, “They haven’t made it official, Lieutenant, but word is they want to promote me to Sergeant, Sir. They hope to find Corporal Jason first and return him safely home, Sir. They are planning for Sergeant Daniel to retire once the full company is accounted for, Sir.“
The gentleman nodded, “A well deserved promotion. At ease. It seems soon enough you’ll be challenging my orders and giving me a telling off. It wouldn’t do for you to be seen saluting someone you’re wiser than.” He chuckled, clapping Charlie’s shoulder again, “I can’t imagine a better Sergeant, you’ve done well.“
Laughing, Charlie gave him a hug, “Good to see you too, little cousin. You sing high praise but I am unconvinced of whether or not I deserve it.“
Both men relaxed, falling into laughter, “You are coming, aren’t you? Tonight we are celebrating our fallen and our heroes. There is something special planned, but I won’t bother if you aren’t there, cousin.“
Charlie sighed, frowing, “I hadn’t had intention of going. I worry of what the others might say, gossip among the men has grown to an astonishing level that I find most unbecoming.” As he spoke, his facial features crinkled, more and more with each word he spoke, his voice filled with disdain and disgust.
He looked around Charlie to the ladies, “Would you pardon us for a moment, ladies?“
Janielle and Madam Bailey nodded, Madam Bailey made a motion with her hand, “Feel free, gentlemen. I know you’ve much to discuss.“
Charlie turned and bowed to the ladies, “I shall see you later, ladies.“
He and his cousin then turned and left, headed back to the foyer. As they walked, upon reaching the far end they turned into the sitting room in which Charlie had been bandaged only hours ago. They sat in the chairs, Charlie’s cousin sitting in the one closest the ashtray. He picked it up and fiddled with it for a moment before looking at his cousin, “We need to talk about it. You’ve heard what they are saying. What do you know of the situation?“
Charlie shifted his weight uncomfortably in the chair, frowning as he gathered his thoughts for a moment. “They say Corporal Jason had gone off to find one of the men who had been killed in action. He had promised the lads sister he would bring him home, dead or alive. The fire fight had ended, and as he was escorted there by one of the soldiers, the fire fight started again.” Taking a deep shaky breath, his shoulders heaving as he spoke, “This was two nights past and the rest of the company has already came home.” Charlie’s trailed off, sighing.
“Come now, cousin, we both know the Corporal will come home. He always has. You haven’t told Mrs. Laikos, have you?“
He quickly shook his head, “No, I have not. I do not want to worry her more than she already is. She has enough to worry about right now.“
Raising a brow at Charlie, “So she is as the Corporal suspected then?“
Nodding, “Yes, it appears Mrs. Laikos with child. Corporal Jason was so proud, too. You cannot let her know you know, Niel. She must not know the Corporal knew.“
Charlie and his cousin stood, nodding to one another before heading out of the room together in silence. They headed toward the patio in search of the women, with the hopes of finding something to do with themselves to distance their minds and be of assistance in preparing for the gathering.
Instead of finding the ladies, they were met by the young lad who had tumbled into Charlie’s room just hours earlier. He was picking up the dishes and putting the chairs back where they belonged. His back was to the men, so when Charlie spoke, he jumped. “Young lad, where have the ladies gone?“
Startled, he spun around, “Oi, they went to the grand room, preppin’ up for the big fancy shindig, Sirs. Just down the hall till you read them big doors, Sirs.“
The men nodded and Charlie led the way to the grand room, as they approached they could hear someone screaming, “Light! Light already! How is it going to burn if it won’t light?!“
To find the beginning of this chapter, feel free to click here.