An excerpt with obligatory flashback

Here’s an excerpt from something that may or may not ever be written. (Warning: there is a flashback that may injure the tenderhearted)

Time passing.

Ben spent a lot of his life watching time pass, looking interested or uninterested as they talked on about their concerns or business. He’d learned long ago that they didn’t necessarily expect an answer and sometimes not even a response, but a look of quiet concern and interest would do the trick.

And when an upward inflection indicated an agreement was necessary, the words came automatically. “Very true, my lord. Exactly so, sir. Indeed.”

And meanwhile his mind would wander where it would as his hands dealt with buttons and folds and all the niceties of milord’s dress.

Time passed. He waited for the time when his life, his real life would begin, a life that had started some twenty years ago, when first he met Marie.

He, wasting time (they’d say) or exploring (he’d say) his lordship’s library, with the buzz of a bee against the mullioned windows, the comforting rich smell of leather and beeswax, shafts of light with dust dancing like he was in church. But this was better than church, and with the added excitement of getting caught. Running his hands over the spines of leather books, daring to take one down and open it to pictures of strange lands and creatures, and row upon row of words. Or this, spinning the great globe, watching continents and seas blur into brown and blue and green, the surface smooth beneath his fingers, sunlight dancing off the golden bonds that held it in place..

Another hand, small and clean, reddened by daily immersion in soap and water, stilled the globe.

“That’s where you come from, Ben.” Pointing to a great brown mass like a pear upside down.

“No, t’aint. I come from here. I always been here.”

“No you don’t. Here. Africa. That’s what they says in the kitchen.”

He looked at their hands together on the globe, hers so pale and his dark, dark as the ink that named the continents and countries and cities and that he couldn’t read.

“I always been here,” he repeated. “I was born in this house, I was.”

“Silly,” she said and she touched his hand with one of her delicate fingers. The globe shifted at the movement.

The globe revolved again at her touch, and she moved it just a little more, and more again, halfway round the world.

“Here,” she said. “Here’s London. That’s where I was born.”

He looked at the familiar triangle of Britain. Yes, London. He could read that. You watched it on the milestones when milord and milady traveled to town with the servants and where he saw all sorts of people, strangers and foreigners and some even like himself.

“I’ll go back to London.” She tossed her head and removed her hand from the globe to take some of the weight of the folded linens she carried. “When I’m a grown woman, I shall be maid to a great lady and dress as fine as she, and eat meat three times a day.”

He darted in and kissed her rosy cheek. “And I’ll marry you.”

She shrieked and giggled and ran off, shoes slapping on the wooden floor, her fair hair tumbling out from under her linen cap. Her shoes were a little too big for her, just as her gown was a little too faded and short.

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