Ghosts of the Past

Lexi looked guilty, “The only full-length things I own are formal.”

Paul looked at her dress with it’s below-the-knee skirt, “Not all the stories in the house are pre 1900. I have a particular set of scenes in mind you’ll be perfect for.”

He stood and started directing his troops.

The first set of images where of the library and Lady Louisa. One of her great aunts had been a celebrated poet and Paul captured scenes of her reading, writing and contemplating. He then added in a set of Simon with her as, “Your friendship is an important a story as any in the history of this house.”

The rest of the day passed quickly. Paul proved to both a dedicated researcher and a master storyteller, weaving tales of triumph and hardship and caring around them. He didn’t ask for static, awkward poses, instead walking them through how a scene may have unfolded. He explained the people, their concerns and their passions, leaving them to pull those echoes into themselves and move and respond in any way that felt right.

He paused in his shoot of the ballroom, looking around.

“It’s a pity we couldn’t get any kids for today. The house was a makeshift school for evacuee children during the war and this room was used for classes and as a play area when the weather was bad.”

Simon smiled, “That’s how we ended up here. My grandfather was evacuated here as a child and moved back as soon as he was grown. He loved the place.”

Paul’s face set, “In that case, I’ll see about getting a shot done at a school somewhere. If I can more-or-less line up the windows for the light, a different room won’t matter quite so much.”

Lexi was about to question the value of such an effort but Simon’s expression stayed her tongue. A strange, wistful satisfaction settled on him as he found his own history within the house.

Mid afternoon, Ally had to call a time out and retreat to the kitchen – the only room with reliable internet – for a conference call with New York. 

Paul moved his equipment to a dusty sitting room and set all his models, other than Lexi, free.

“This is the last piece I want to shoot today and I only need the one person. It’s a twentieth century scene, so Lexi’s got the right profile for it.”

Cesca grinned and nudged Simon on their way out, “What do you want to bet he’s playing the other part?”

“What?”

“Twentieth century, country house, this is totally a love gone to war story.”

Simon started to turn and she grabbed him, “Don’t you dare. He’s been brewing this one all day and I won’t have you spoil it.”

He sighed and retreated.

Back in the sitting room, Lexi watched Paul warily. He was all business.

“The brother of this morning’s poet left his new bride to go off to the First World War. After a while, the letters stopped coming. She had no idea if he was dead or alive. This was her favourite room,she would have spent hours here as she waited for his return.”

“Was it a love match?”

“Yes. Lady Louisa says her Great Aunt’s diaries at the time spoke of their joy in each other and her concerns for her sister-in-law as time went by with no word.”

Lexi sat for a moment in thought, then began to move around the room, Paul quietly capturing her as she sat to read, then tidied, then moved to the window and stood there, looking out at the view beyond.

“I think she chose this room as it has a clear view of the driveway. She’d know the minute anyone approached the house.”

“I think you’re right. And one day, it was him, coming up the drive.”

Lexi turned to him, worry and hope warring within her. He had the camera on a tripod and checked it before moving to position her in the middle of the room, facing the door.

He then sat in a chair conveniently next to his camera and other gear, and started rolling up one trouser leg, watching her face.

“He came back and he came back alive, but not whole.”

Paul undid the straps of the prosthetic that filled the place his lower leg had been and let it fall.

“He lost a leg in the trenches.”

He leaned over and grabbed a set of battered, old-fashioned wooden crutches from the floor and used them to make his way over to her.

“How do you think she reacted?”, he swallowed, “Was she disgusted? Did she pity him?”

Lexi wiped a tear from her cheek, “You are such an idiot.”

She grabbed his shirt and pulled him into her kiss.

It was quite some time later, when she was curled up next to him on the sofa when she asked, “Well, what happened to them?”

“Hmmmm?”

“The bride and her husband who was probably nearly as much of an idiot as you.”

Paul grinned and leaned their foreheads together, “They’re Lady Louisa’s grandparents.”

Lexi smiled in satisfaction, “I knew she was smart.”, and kissed him again.

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