A DOWNTON ABBEY STORY FOLLOWING ON FROM THE SERIES 3 FINALE
Follows on from The Downton Abbey Series 3 conclusion "A Journey to the Highlands"
"So are you coming?" Thomas begged.
Jimmy looked at him. He had never noticed before how blue Thomas' eyes were, blue and penetrating. He was still annoyed at how Thomas had crept into his room that night over a year ago - but since the day when Thomas had come to his rescue at Thirsk fair - well, he had said he would be Thomas' friend so he had to at least give Thomas' request some consideration.
Thomas Barrow, normally seen wearing either a scowl or a smirk, and usually heard downgrading everyone he spoke about, stood before him - a tall, athletic and fiercely handsome man, dressed beautifully in his under butlers attire - but he looked now like a child pleading for an ice cream or a new toy. Not a trace of malice or ill will was in his expression. He reeved his nose a little, impatient as to the reply. Was Jimmy going to answer him?
Jimmy looked down uneasily. He liked being alone on his days off, it gave him time to escape the hustle and bustle life of Downton Abbey and to focus on the things he liked to do. He looked up again and was met by Thomas' eager eyes. Strangely they made Jimmy feel guilty. Unable to resist anymore, he spoke softly.
"Ok?" Thomas asked with widening eyes.
"Yes" Jimmy nodded.
Thomas beamed from ear to ear. "Thank you Jimmy." He seemed hardly able to contain himself. "What time?"
"Uh..." Jimmy shrugged. He couldn't think straight, already contemplating the consequences of his decision. "You say."
"Ok...how about I meet you in the servants hall at ten?"
"Fine" Jimmy nodded as casually as he could.
"Ok...well, see you around" Thomas replied, grinning like a fool, and walked off to attend to his duties.
Jimmy sighed. What had he done? It was only a walk to the village and then lunch at the Grantham Arms. But what if Thomas tried anything again? He could live to regret this! Jimmy put his head into his hands, just as Mr Carson entered the corridor.
"James?" he quizzed. Jimmy dropped his hands quickly and almost pulled a muscle standing to attention.
"Is everything alright?"
"Yes Mr Carson! I was just....I was just..." (why had he even started that sentence?!)
"You were just?" came Mr Carson's inquiry.
Jimmy went red as he willed something sensible to come out of his mouth. "I was thinking hard about me next duty!" he almost shouted. He gave a sigh. Not sure how convincing that was.
"I see" Mr Carson replied doubtfully, "and that would be....?"
Jimmy dropped his gaze to the floor, an intense frown on his brow. After his chat with Thomas his mind was a blank.
"Cleaning the silver perhaps?" Mr Carson answered for him.
"Yes Mr Carson" Jimmy said dejectedly.
"Well, don't let me stand in your way" Mr Carson replied with a grin on his face, and he strode past Jimmy, almost skipping down the corridor. He halted suddenly though and span on his heels.
"James" he said seriously "you would say if something was bothering you, wouldn't you?"
Jimmy glanced away. Something was bothering him. "Of course Mr Carson" he nodded, feeling guilty as he lied.
"Good" Mr Carson smiled, "very good" and he carried on his way, whistling as he went.
Jimmy watched him go. He's in a good mood. Normally he'd eat me for breakfast.
He entered the pantry and started the tedious job of polishing the silver, which took him right up to lunch time.
Lunchtime was awkward. Jimmy sat as far away from Thomas as he could. He didn't want it to look like he and Thomas were now the best of friends - people might get the wrong idea - but he couldn't help looking across at him every now and again, just to see if Thomas was watching him.
Alfred was wittering away to Jimmy about work but Jimmy wasn't tuned in, all he could think of was what Thomas was planning for tomorrow. Why had he agreed to go with him?
"Why do you keep looking across at Mr Barrow?" Alfred whispered loudly, so that ones nearby heard him.
Jimmy turned and gave him his best scowl. Honestly! Alfred could be so indiscreet at times!
"What?" Alfred asked, clueless.
Jimmy went red. Daisy had been putting plates on the table opposite him, their eyes met and she gave him a sort of half-smile. Jimmy quickly looked down, embarrassed. Whatever were people thinking? Maybe he should cancel his outing with Thomas tomorrow, it would be safer...but then, he had said yes, and Thomas would only ask him another time, probably next week. He knew Thomas would be disappointed if he cancelled though. Jimmy had always hated being let down by others and it seemed to happen rather a lot to him; he seemed to get more than his fair share for some reason. No, he would go through with it and not let Thomas down. He'd face it like a man.
He diffidently looked over in Thomas' direction again, just as Thomas glanced over at him. Thomas gave him a shy smile before he looked back at his newspaper. Jimmy hadn't returned the smile, too much was going through his mind. Oh what was tomorrow going to bring?
The next morning was beautiful. The sky was blue, the birds were singing and the sun had warmed the earth, but it was not too warm. Jimmy had had a nice lie in so he felt well rested and not irritable like he did some mornings when he started work early. He wasn't quite so apprehensive about today as he had been yesterday, but he still wondered how it was all going to pan out. He washed and put on a clean white shirt and his grey suit. He only had two suits to his name but they both looked smart and clean. He looked at himself in the mirror as he straightened his tie.
'Oh well, here goes' he said to himself and he picked up his cap and went downstairs to meet Thomas. He had decided to be a few minutes late, so that Thomas wouldn't think he was too keen. He got to the servants hall and found Thomas talking to Anna. The conversation dissipated as Jimmy entered.
"There he is" Thomas said happily. "Are you all set Jimmy?"
Jimmy quickly looked at Anna to see her reaction but she just gave him a sweet smile as always.
"Ready as I'll ever be" Jimmy replied sarcastically, but no one seemed to notice.
"Well, have a good time you two" Anna smiled.
Jimmy blushed. For an awful second it felt like people were already thinking of them as a twosome, but then he realized he was reading too much into a friendly comment. Anna wouldn't have meant anything by it, she had been nothing but kind to him.
"Thank you Anna" he replied, trying to sound nonchalant. "Got to make the most of this fine weather," and he fixed his cap squarely onto his head.
"Indeed" Anna replied with an amused smile and she walked off to attend to her chores.
They left Downton by the back servants door and walked down the path that led to the village. Thomas strode on ahead while Jimmy lagged a little behind, feeling very awkward about the whole thing already. As they left the grounds of Downton, Thomas suddenly stopped and turned to face him.
"Jimmy...is everything alright?" he asked with a frown.
Jimmy stopped too. "Yes Mr Barrow" he replied rather unemotionally.
"You don't seem alright" Thomas replied cautiously. He thought for a moment. "Jimmy...I don't think you're very happy being here with me."
Jimmy stared at the ground. He didn't know what to say. It was a very awkward silence.
"I'm sorry!" Thomas suddenly burst out. "I'm sorry about that night, I'm sorry that I upset you!"
Jimmy looked up in surprise. Thomas' face was contorted with emotion.
"I...I thought you felt the same way. Otherwise I wouldn't have....I'm sorry!"
Thomas turned his back to Jimmy to hide the tears that now flowed freely down his face.
Jimmy couldn't respond for a moment, it took him a while to take it all in. Presently he came around to face Thomas.
"I forgive you" Jimmy said softly, "and thank you for saying sorry....it means a lot."
Thomas looked at him through cloudy eyes.
"I did feel awkward about today, I must admit" Jimmy continued, "but now...well, I don't feel like that now. I know you're sorry, and I'm sorry too."
"I only wanted to spend some time with you as a friend" Thomas admitted pitifully. "I don't really have any friends, you see..."
Thomas looked so forlorn that Jimmy knew unquestionably what he should do.
"Well, I'm your friend" he said with conviction, "and I'd be honoured to accompany you today Mr Barrow." He gave Thomas a sweet smile.
Thomas choked up inside; Jimmy's words meant so much. Unable to voice his gratitude, he nodded his appreciation.
As they continued once more down the lane, their conversation faded into the distance with them.
"Where shall we go to first Mr Barrow?"
"Please, call me Thomas...and why don't you choose?"
"Alright...Thomas...well I'd like to see..."