She was the first person Edith met at the Sketch office, small and plain but awaiting her arrival with inexplicable excitement. She led her through the busy workplace to the editor’s office before returning to her desk just outside his door. At the time, the secretary had been an intricate detail folded into the fabric of new information. A new job. A new way of living. A new person she should have payed attention to, if only to brighten the memory of that day.
After the meeting she again led Edith to her destination. It was the last time she was necessitated to do so–surely Edith was not so stupid she couldn’t find her own way now– but as inexplicably as the excitement, she found herself by Edith’s side each time the woman moved about the building. She arrived, the secretary was there–and grew to be expected. They walked together and with each step a thread was wound creating a rope to bind the two in a wordless friendship. Wordless until a question was asked. Her name.
It was Russell. Louise Russell.
Louise had been born to a large family in London that was as poor as dirt; owning nothing but the shirts on their backs and the sparse furnishings of one room. And a sewing needle, but we’ll get back to that. Several of her siblings had died before they reached the revolting embrace of adulthood, but Louise (the baby by nearly ten years) had thrived in a household that seeped gentle hugs and warm words as though they were free. Her father broke his back day after day at the docks, her mother sewed until her fingers bled. Day after day. Each morning children were roused and sent to school stumbling on legs still being drug from sleep with nothing in their stomachs but biting hunger and a mouthful of porridge. The Russells were determined their children lead better lives than they. Louise was twenty-two years old and had wanted to be a writer from the moment she picked up a pen. So naturally, she became a secretary.
All of this was learned through miles of easy conversation. Louise’s story unfolded before her, urged on with subtle, polite questions. And in return, the asker offered the teller her own story. How she had been born, and continued to live in the shadow of her elder sister. How her first love had drowned in the icy atlantic, returning years later with a new voice and scarred face, only to disappear again. How her second love shoved her away before anything was allowed to begin. How she had drawn him back and he had left her in the dust, standing forgotten at the altar. Edith told Louise things she dare not whisper a word of to any of her family. The farmer that had kissed her and told her she should be a writer. The nudging feeling that she would soon be adding a third love to her list, one whose office she had been visiting. Louise confided similarly, the secrets tumbling from her lips with little trepidation. They were friends now. True friends. Edith could almost laugh at how pitiful the situation was–one not having a friend until one was almost 30 years of age. But at least Edith had Louise, and Louise had Edith. And it was enough.
Two months, really only four visits after the first, Edith invited her to tea. Louise picked the place, Edith offered to pay. It was modest to one, grand to the other. Three o’clock, two days later.
Two chairs in a crowded tearoom.
One occupied, one glaringly empty.
Wilting flowers. A feeling of being overdressed.
Another glance at the clock. Another minute she sat alone, totaling sixteen.
A fluttering stomach, a cup being turned round and round in its saucer.
Another glance. 17.
Maybe she’s not coming.
Another turn. 18.
Maybe she’s lost.
Another glance. 19.
Maybe she forgot.
Maybe– And suddenly she was there, the fresh air falling off her shoulders like smoke and pooling in the path she carved to their table.
"Sorry… Michael," the words tripped from her mouth in a messy explantation.
"It’s alright," she felt too loud and too tall. Too there. She wanted to slid herself under the table and disappear, like a magic trick. She didn’t, of course. But she wanted to. A pot of tea was brought, throats cleared, sandwiches nibbled, tea stirred, throats cleared again. And finally, a word offered. "Hello," it fell from her lips and lay, shivering between them, cold and lonely.
"Hello," a cracked smile, and the word was dropped a companion. There was a shift in the air, a minute, imperceptible shift. What had been stinging nervous energy melted into something electric and nearly tangible that wove itself around the two women, clinging like gossamer.
That table in that tearoom at that time was stapled onto every other Thursday. For two hours (sometimes more), they would sit, and talk. They would not be late, and they would not leave early. They would talk. When Louise’s mother her down her needle to lay on her deathbed, they talked. When seas stormy with change rocked Downton, they talked. When Mrs. Russell was abandoned in the unforgiving depths of the earth, they talked. When Michael asked Edith to dinner, they talked. When Louise was promoted and given a column, they talked.
The afternoon meetings were blinding stars strewn across the black expanse of the days that lay between. They could have carried on like that indefinitely, if it were not for one night and a cruel white piece of paper.
Author’s Note: This is just the beginning. Barely 1,000 words. I can make no promises as to when or how this story with a shitty cliché title will progress, I can only pray that it will. I can tell you that it won’t be for at least a week. I can tell you that the next chapter is unwritten. I can tell you that the only outline exists within my head. Please have faith in me. I wouldn’t have posted, but the bubbling excitement of a story you’ve been thinking about for weeks finally being put into words was to much to resist. Sorry.
imgoddamnpluckyremember asked: OMFG I NEED YOUR SHIRT! Where did you get it? It's amazing!
society 6, i think?
mary crawley (and edith, sybil, & matthew) is in my pants