England countryside, 1919 – I should not have come.
He looked up at the windows on the second floor, blue eyes watching as guests meandered by, oblivious to the recovering, broken soldier beneath them.
Guests who were family friends and acquaintances that he hadn’t seen since before the beginning of the war.
His arms started to ache the longer he stood there and he solemnly turned towards the path off of the side that would lead him to the back of the mansion. He hobbled to the servants’ door and sat on the ground beside the single step.
When the door suddenly opened, he started and bumped his head against the brick wall. “Ow,” he muttered, rubbing the spot.
“Master Calvin? Is that you?”
He looked up to see the face of the kindly butler. “Hello, Nigel,” he said. “It’s been a long time, hasn’t it?”
Nigel chuckled and held out a hand. Calvin hesitated and took it, but forgetting his crutches, had to lean on the older man’s shoulder to stand.
“It’s good to see you home safe, sir,” Nigel said, vigorously shaking his hand. “You haven’t contacted us at all these last few years and your parents have been fearing the worst.”
“Yes, it’s good to see you too,” Calvin said, ignoring the part about his parents. “Could you let go of my hand now?”
“Oh, of course. Sorry, sir.” Nigel turned towards the door, still oblivious to Calvin’s missing limb. “Shall I go-”
“Oh, no!” Calvin blurted out as he struggled to stay balanced on one foot. “You-you don’t have to-whoa!”
Nigel caught his arm as he tipped backward and pulled him up straight. “I beg your pardon, sir, I didn’t realize-”
“It’s fine,” Calvin bent down and reached for his crutches, taking one as Nigel reached for the other.
“Are you sure, sir?” Nigel asked when Calvin was back on his foot. “Your whole family has been worried. Even Master Albert.”
Calvin scoffed. “Don’t try to diminish the gravity of the situation, Nigel. I nearly…you know. I assume everyone knows by now.”
“No, no. It hasn’t left the house. Anyone who happens to notice your brother’s scar and asks is told it was an accident.”
Except it wasn’t an accident.
Calvin chewed his lower lip. Perhaps it wouldn’t be so bad to see them all again. But why would they welcome him?
“Could I at least get you something to eat and drink, sir?”
Calvin shook his head.
A moment of silence.
“If I may, sir,” Nigel started. “Why did you come here if you’re not going to see your family?”
“I…I didn’t know where else to go.” All at once, he felt like a child again.
“All the same, I’m sure they’ll be happy to see you, sir.”
Calvin looked down as Nigel returned inside. Would they truly be happy to see him? Would his parents welcome him back? Would his sister no longer look at him in fear?
Would his brother forgive him?
He looked up. The door was partially open, letting a sliver of light spill out, but Nigel had disappeared. After another moment of indecision, he made his way inside.
©H.S. Kylian 2019
(Critiques are welcome and appreciated!)