In the Yard
His chest ached. “She wouldn’t ‘ave.” Thomas mumbled, rolling his cigarette around his fingers, still staring at her black shoes, refusing to look up at her. He didn’t know he could reveal such a side of himself to O’Brien, but he was on his last legs. Everyone knew now what he was, and he could see it written on all of their faces. They were waiting for him to mess up again so they could finally say good riddance.
And then at her next statement, Thomas gave a cold laugh. He looked up at her, eyes red, face even more pale than usual. A sardonic smile rested on his lips. “Is that what you think?” He asked, his voice low, barely a whisper.
You should be horse-whipped!
“I don’t know what possessed Lord Grantham to keep me on, but I’m almost certain it was because I’m the best damn cricket player for Downton.” The game had gone very well, in spite of everything. At first he had felt relief, but the harsh reality was setting in. He smoothed out his hair. “As for Carson, you’re very wrong. He was ready to get rid of me. He’s been wanting to for years, and this was his chance.” Even if the man had seemed somewhat sympathetic, he knew he was looking forward to Thomas’ absence. “He’s not very happy about the current situation. Nor am I, really.”
“M’on very thin ice. You’ve won, Sarah.” Not to mention he was going to have to play Saint Thomas and be celibate for the rest of his life, lest he want the police to come to Downton and drag him away for sodomy. The worst part of it all was the look Jimmy gave him every day, every time he had to address him. “You’ve made me the least trusted person here. I feel as if I should hand in my notice, but I know Lord Grantham would be disappointed after he ‘fought so bloody hard,‘“his voice took a sarcastic tone, “to keep me on.”
He pinched the bridge of his nose. Thomas knew he had always been a loner, knew he never was a great presence among the staff, but now he felt completely isolated and detached. They all knew. Carson thought he was foul and should be horse-whipped. Mrs. Hughes pitied him. Everyone else hated him. And his closest friend was gone. He had no one. (That’s what he thought, anyway.)
“Everything you did to help me was for your own benefit as well. Don’t play a saint.” He said lowly after a couple of moments, trying to control his emotions. “I am grateful for everything you’ve done for me in the past, but don’t make it like you did it out of the kindness of your heart. I’m not bloody dumb. And once Alfred bloody showed up, you were ready to throw me to the wolves. Don’t deny it. And you knowthe boy should have taken baby steps.” His voice was filled with malice. “You wanted me to start teaching him how to valet before he was even ready to be a bloody footman. You know how hard I had to work to get to being a valet. I believe in bloody hard work.” And a little sabotage. But he didn’t feel it was right: that Alfred got to be bred to be a champion stallion while still a wee babe while he had difficulty every step of the way trying to make himself a better world. He wasn’t sure what was fair and what wasn’t, but he hated how O’Brien thought she could ask him to do something so stupid. Maybe in time he would have agreed, but not when the bloody bastard just started. And certainly not now, with the way Alfred looked at him as if he should be skinned alive and fed to wolves.
“How the bloody hell did you being a valet help me?”
She sneered at the notion and watched him in his heap, looking like a wretched, heap of a boy rather than the man she’d watched him become since he’d arrived at Downton. He’d been young, smartly dressed, a force of ingenuity and cunning to be reckoned with – not to match her, she’d known even then, but certainly with more about him that anyone else downstairs – and he’d needed moulding. Carson could teach him the necessary bits of his profession: how to set table and carry trays and polish the silver until it looked brand new, but she taken it upon herself to teach him how to advance and do well. Carson would have let him stagnate as a footman forever and Sarah had decided that this young lad needed her guidance in life.
She stared at him now, snivelling and sniffing with sorrow, clutching his cigarette like it was his only lifeline, eyes rimmed with old tears and all-but curled into a ball.
This was her fault.
“It doesn’t matter now.” She took a deep breath, inhaling the calming tendrils of her cigarette deep into her chest and tapping off the ash carefully away from him. She brought her other hand up to rub at her temples and rid herself of the pain that was gathering there. She’d had this headache for too long now, a constant niggle that came from always being on the alert, waiting for the next attack from the next idiot below stairs who thought they’d try their luck at talking back to the formidable O’Brien, or waiting for Mr Bates to say something now that he had knowledge of the secret she’d tried to squash for so many years now. That was the worst thing. Thomas had known something for years now, not the details, she’d never be that stupid, but he’d known and she’d found some comfort in the knowledge that he wouldn’t say anything because she’d known his secret to. They’d both played their hand now she supposed, but Bates still had her secret in the palm of his hand…or did he? That had been the source of her most recent headache – forever wondering what the valet knew.
“Does…” She leant down, resting her elbows on her knees and her head in her hands, just for a moment feeling as defeated as Thomas looked.
“Does Bates know everything about me? Because if he does and I lose my job then all the hard work in the world won’t help you once I’m bloody done lad.”