Former British Army Lieutenant Adam Merryweather survived the Western Front of WWI and has slowly recovered from his injuries. But can he heal from a broken heart?
Torn between family duty and personal happiness, he sacrificed his love for Alf and has never ceased to regret it in the two years since the war ended.
Adam is slowly putting his empty life back together, working for the family firm in the city centre of Bristol and trying to stop his mother’s meddling to find him the perfect socially acceptable bride. When he happens to meet Alf out of the blue, Adam is determined to try again. But convincing Alf to give him another chance may be too much to hope for.
Can a chance meeting bring them back together? Or has Adam lost another chance for love forever?
He’d not really registered Alf much on their first meeting. He and his pals had been on leave in Paris and ended up in some dive in Montmartre and bumped into a group of lads from a Warwickshire regiment. Adam had exchanged a few words with Alf but despite the pleasantries, he had been initially dismissive.
Adam had just seen the superficial aspects of his new acquaintance. A mere Corporal to his rank of Lieutenant. The unremarkable appearance, thick spectacles, quiet manner and West Midlands accent, the fact he was a hands-on engineer by trade. Despite the smiling camaraderie within the group of soldiers, Adam had inwardly dismissed him as a lower-middle-class grammar school boy with not much going for him.
Looking back at his callow younger self, this only proved that Mrs. Merryweather’s social snobbery had rubbed off on him, he thought ruefully.
The next night, they’d all reconvened in the same scruffy bar before the majority of them took off for the seedy delights of the Folies Bergeres. With no interest in rapacious dancers bouncing around the stage and showing their bloomers, Adam remained at the table while most of the others finished their drinks and started to take their leave. To ensure he wouldn’t be swept along with them, Adam had ordered another bottle of rough red wine from the patron.
The general conversation had touched on poetry, specifically the new style of raw, heartfelt poems which had emanated from the battlefield since the start of the war. Such matters were widely discussed by soldiers, but as the party gradually broke up and moved on elsewhere, Adam and Alf were left to themselves, in the midst of a heated discussion between merits of Siegfried Sassoon versus Wilfred Owen, who Alf could quote by heart.
As he argued on the superior meter of Owen’s poetry, comparing it to the inventiveness of Gerard Manley Hopkins, Alf removed his glasses for emphasis as he reiterated a verse from memory.
While he spoke, Adam wondered how he could have ever thought Alf plain, dull or unprepossessing. The sharp, passionate intelligence in those expressive eyes, green as a perfectly ripe gooseberry, lit his finely-featured face from within. In hindsight, Adam knew that was the moment he started to fall in love with him.
They had finished the final bottle and their animated discussion and by unspoken accord, left the smoky bar and stumbled out into the cobbled streets of Montmartre, clinging a little to each other for balance, laughing together. Walking along, their physical closeness became more of an embrace, with neither one nor the other pulling away. It was an unspoken signal and Adam remembered it filled him with dizzying excitement.
As they had reached the darkened alleyway leading to the pension where Adam was staying, they wordlessly leaned in for a kiss. It felt risky, daring even, to touch each other openly in the street. However, this was Montmartre. Even if there was anyone around, no one could see them in the darkness or frankly would care in such a louche area where anything and everything went without remark.
Adam collected his door key from the grumpy concierge and led the way up the winding staircase to the attic room he was billeted in.
He apologised nervously, saying, “It’s hardly the Ritz, but ...” he’d smiled unsteadily, lighting the old fashioned gas lamp.
“It's fine,” Alf said smiling, his eyes gleaming with more than passion for poetry and they had stood close together in the cramped, quiet room. Adam bent his head to kiss the smaller man and the way they fitted together felt effortless.
Then came the tugging at uniform buttons and layers of clothing, as they helped each other undress increasingly eagerly. The reveal of the removal of each garment only added to the sense of anticipation. Finally, their clothes lay in a heap on the floor and they were naked together on the bed, blissfully skin to skin.