Sorry it's taken so long to update. I was crazy busy with work and the new semester just started so I'm seriously stressed out. But writing always helps, so here you go! Hope you enjoy!
"I love you, Key." Key looked up and saw Annabel standing in front of him in his room. She had on a beautiful dress he had never seen before, but she seemed a little distant. The emotions usually found in those words were completely absent.
"I love you too, Annabel." He said, smiling at her. He stood to embrace her, but she took a step back before he could, her eyes finding his.
"But I can't marry you."
Key stopped abruptly. "What do you mean? Of course you can! I love you!"
She didn't even look apologetic. "But that isn't enough, Key." Her expression changed to a loving smile as she turned to face the man standing previously unseen behind her. "I've found my true soul mate. He can give me so much more than you, Key."
Her voice was fading as a loud roaring filled his ears. "Annabel!" He yelled over it. "We promised!"
Key jerked awake, fists clenching the bedclothes ready to fight the non-existent man in his dream. He sat up and stared into the darkness, convinced his fiancé was to make an appearance with a lover.
He fumbled with the things on his night table for his watch and squinted at it, eyes straining in the dark.
3:00 in the morning. He thought, slumping back to his pillow, feeling utterly drained. One would hope nightmares could be kept away.
He sighed and turned over in a futile attempt to sleep again. But the image of that infuriating smile appearing on Annabel's face as she turned to another man swam before his eyes.
Suddenly, Key sat upright in shock. What if that was it? What if that was the reason she had been so angry with him? What if it had all been a pretext to be with someone else? Shock flooded through him as this awful idea wormed through his mind, poisoning his thoughts.
He didn't give himself time to think things through. He got out of bed and dressed silently, his anger growing with every garment he put on.
He crept out of the room, taking care not to wake Jimmy, who was sleeping peacefully with no nighttime frights of his wife taking a lover to bother him.
Isn't he the lucky one.
Key made his way to the dining room and opened the door carefully. He wasn't interested in using the access door: it took longer. As he'd expected at three in the morning, the dining room was deserted. The tables and chairs were already set for breakfast for later that morning.
He felt as if he wasn't supposed to be here, in the silence and the darkness of the dining room usually filled with sound and light. He felt a wave of loneliness sweep over him, firming his resolve to speak to Annabel.
Key strode through the empty room and up the stairs, making his way through the luxurious first class section of the boat to the less so quarters of those in third class. The single bulbs were harsh in the stark wood walls and wooden floors. His eyes darted around as if paranoid of some lover popping out of nowhere to head to the cabin he now stood in front of.
He didn't even register his hand banging frantically against the door, imagining that he could hear talking behind it. When Annabel didn't open the door immediately, he wondered again whom she might be entertaining behind it.
He had just raised his hand to knock again when it opened tentatively. Key could see Annabel's familiar eyes peeking out. They widened when she saw who it was. She opened the door quickly and stepped out, shutting it behind her as quietly as she could.
"Key," She hissed. "What are you doing here at this hour? You almost woke my cabin-mate."
Key barreled right in without preamble. "Who is it?" He asked, staring her right in the eyes.
Annabel blinked, the surprise of his question ridding her of any anger she had felt a minute before. "What are you talking about? Who is who?"
"The man who has stolen your heart from me." Key said impatiently. "Tell me who it is so I can properly deal with him."
"I don't know what you're talking about!" Annabel said, exasperated. "There is no man who has my heart."
The words had scarcely left her mouth when Annabel realized what she had said. Key's face closed, as if a curtain had been drawn over his eyes.
"I see." Even his voice was stripped of emotion. He took a step back. "Then I apologize for interrupting your sleep."
He turned without another word and walked slowly down the hall, back the way he came.
Annabel rushed after him, disregarding her dressing gown and nightdress flapping around her ankles as she ran.
"Key! Key! Don't go, please let me explain!"
Key stopped at her cry, but he didn't turn around. "There is nothing to explain. I got my answer." He said quietly. "Don't trouble yourself."
Annabel actually stamped her foot. "Stop. Stop that right now." She said heatedly. Key turned in surprise, as she'd never spoken like that before. "Don't make assumptions about me. I did not mean that I don't have you. I swear Key, I have never loved anyone as I love you. Do you understand that?"
Key just looked at her. "Then what is it? If you love me, why do you insist on things that I cannot control?"
"What on earth do you mean, you cannot control? You can control whatever you wish, and you know it!"
"This is the one thing I don't feel that I can. I am sorry, Annabel, I truly am. I would like to give you what you wish, whatever you wish, but this is the one thing I cannot give you. No matter how much I would like to tell you what you want to know, the words refuse to leave my mouth."
"Key." Annabel said softly. "To have a relationship, there must be trust. Tell me honestly, do you trust me?"
"Annabel. I trust you more than anyone else in this world."
"Then tell me. Tell me your name."
Key's lips trembled before he whispered, "I can't."
"It goes against everything I have built for myself all my life. My mother named me after someone very great in the hopes that I could become just as great. But she overestimated me. I will never be greater than mediocre. If people were to know what my mother hoped for me, they would expect the same, and then they would be disappointed."
"I could never be disappointed in you."
"I know." Key sounded sad. "Maybe one day I will gather up the courage to tell you. But for now, you will have to trust me."
Annabel was silent for a moment, thinking. "I can't pretend I understand your reasoning, Key. But I will trust you. And I promise that I will never cast my eyes on another man as long as you are still around."
Key hadn't expected her to understand. But her trust and her words were all he needed. Her hand was warm around his and he didn't think he ever wanted her to let go. He felt something light and soft brush his lips and the warmth left his fingers. He opened his eyes and found that she was gone before he even registered her kiss.
It took a few minutes before Key could think coherently enough to move his legs down the hall.
If he wasn't fooling himself, he thought he had just reconciled with Annabel. The thought made him delirious with happiness and it was all he could do to not break into a dance right there in the hall.
He made his way back to the access hall before the dining room, his surroundings gradually growing more luxurious until he was back by the first class section of the boat. He opened the door to the access hallway and made his way in the dark to where his room lay waiting. He glanced at his watch by the light of a stray gleam of moonlight and saw that it was now almost four in the morning.
How interesting to think that only an hour ago, I was the unhappiest person on this boat.
He tiptoed back into his room, trying to be quiet enough to not wake Jimmy. He slid back under the covers fully dressed. He closed his eyes with a contented smile on his face, unnoticing of Jimmy's open eyes in the dark.
Jimmy listened as the silence was punctuated first with irregular breathing from the other side of the room turning gradually to deep, rhythmic breaths. He turned to his side and stared at the wall where he could just see the outline of his clarinet case on the floor beside it.
Key's happiness failed to reach his side of the room. He closed his eyes and Samantha's face swam before them. Her tired, exhausted eyes pleaded with him to help their situation. In the same instant, her face changed to resemble James', his face twisted into a mocking sneer, uncaring of his actions affected his mother, and in turn Jimmy's wife.
Jimmy opened his eyes to find the room filled with sunlight. Key was sitting up, looking vaguely confused as to why he was dressed. Jimmy watched as remembrance dawned on his face, which split into a huge smile. He all but jumped out of bed and faced Jimmy.
"What a beautiful morning! How nice it is to be here and be able to enjoy it!"
Truly my soul is the only one unsatisfied.
He got up himself and dressed quickly, dwelling as he did on the dream he had just allowed himself to have.
He knew he would never be completely contented unless James was made…aware of his actions. He composed a letter briefly in his head.
I suppose your work has improved since we have set out on this journey.
Even so, James needed a talk.
He found himself outside in the hall with his clarinet while he'd been busy with his thoughts. He blinked in surprise at his distraction, then turned to see Thomas and Matthew walking towards him, greeting him as they did.
James and Key came out last, making hurried adjustments to their clothing and Jimmy opened the door to the dining room. He caught James' arm before he could pass.
"I would like to speak with you after breakfast, if you don't mind."
James paused and searched the bandmasters face inquiringly. Jimmy betrayed nothing in his expression. After a long moment, James shrugged.
"I don't mind."
"Good. Thank you."
They continued onto the stage, Jimmy doing his best to ignore James' thoughtful stare at his back.
Why would he possibly need to speak with me?
James racked his memory of the few days they had been together on this boat for anything he may have done to upset the viola player, but came up with nothing.
They hadn't had much to do with each other, to be honest. Jimmy had been nothing but polite in the rare times they ever conversed.
James considered this. No, they never truly conversed per se. And the few times they exchanged words, now that he thought about it, there had been a certain cold undertone in Jimmy's polite words.
James dropped his eyes to his bow and paid attention to his cello for the first time this whole meal. He put the matter firmly in the back of his mind until it presented itself after the meal.
Soon he found his mind wandering yet again and his gaze searched out the table in the middle of the room.
He caught Abigail's eye and found, to his pleasant surprise, that instead of the usual glare and nose in the air, she smiled at him. His heart gave a small flutter and he smiled back at her.
He held her gaze until a sharp look from Jimmy had him hurriedly looking back at his fingers. But he still felt her eyes on him, causing his cheeks to redden ever so slightly.
They played on, carried by the music they made. The next time James looked up, Abigail's table was empty, and he caught a glimpse of the train of her skirt rounding the corner, following her mother.
Now that his distraction was gone, James found his mind puzzling over the nature of Jimmy's bid for conversation once again. They concluded the final request and rested their instruments.
As usual, the dining room had emptied out as they played, and now there were only the few dawdlers left. They began putting their instruments away and filing back behind the stage.
Jimmy moved next to James, who pretended he had forgotten about their upcoming conversation, though Jimmy wasn't fooled. He knew James had been wondering. To be honest, he had been wondering himself about what he would say to James without sounding foolish.
"Oh yes, just a moment." James said, avoiding his eyes.
Both went to their respective rooms to deposit their instruments inside, then emerged. They left the dining room and sought out an empty room, which they entered and closed the door.
James looked at Jimmy expectantly.
Suddenly faced with reality, Jimmy didn't quite know where to begin.
"When I saw that you were to be a musician on this ship as well as me, I can't deny that I wasn't very happy about it."
Whatever James had thought Jimmy was about to say, that wasn't it. He gaped at the violist as if he'd never seen anyone quite like him. He was almost too shocked to be offended.
"What does that mean?" He asked coolly.
Jimmy hadn't meant for that to come out quite so baldly, but he plowed on nevertheless. "We are connected in a way that you probably weren't aware of until now, Mr. Albany."
"And how is that?"
"Your mother is my wife's employer. I don't know how often you visit the home in which you grew up, but don't think it cleans itself. My wife is your mother's maid."
James looked at Jimmy curiously. That wasn't something he had been expecting. But then again, this whole conversation was a little out of the ordinary.
"All right, but what does that have to do with you being unhappy with me?"
"I'll tell you. Being a maid is a difficult job in itself regardless of any added stress. But I cannot bear to see my wife coming home every day, unable to cope in her own home, from being worked to the bone whenever your mother is in a temper."
"Well, that's more often then you would like, I'm sure." James said. "But again, what does that have to do with me?"
Jimmy took a calming breath. "The days she seems to be in a temper seem to be the ones in which she visits you. My wife tells me of those visits, both when you are in the house, and when your mother leaves to go to you."
James turned red. "Forgive me for saying so, Mr. Parker, but I don't believe my family dynamics are any of your concern."
"I understand that, Mr. Albany. But I can't think of anyone else who would be able to help the situation. I am not telling you how to act with your mother; that is between you and her. But you can do something to help my wife, much more than I can."
James considered his words. He wasn't sure if he felt Jimmy had overstepped himself, but a small part of him admired the viola players' devotion to his wife.
"I…I can't promise anything…" He stammered out.
"I'm not asking for a promise." Jimmy said. "All I ask for is a commitment to try."
James nodded, now completely speechless. Jimmy smiled with relief and shook his hand, leaving the room a minute later.
James remained where he was. He had never seen that sort of devotion between a husband and wife. His parents had certainly never displayed such a thing.
Wouldn't I like to have someone thinking of me and taking care of me. Almost instantly, James regretted that thought. Are you a woman? Will you get passionate over every emotion shown in front of you?
But still, he found himself contemplating the absurd idea of marriage, the first time since Eliza. He had long ago resigned himself to the life of a bachelor; however, he could see the remote possibility as Abigail's face came to mind.
He sighed, leaning against the wall and crossing his arms.
Damn this boat.