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Title: Misdirection
Author: lost_spook
Story: Heroes of the Revolution (Divide & Rule)
Flavor(s): Cookies & Cream 30 (climb) + Peach 16 (pay it forward)
Toppings/Extras: Malt (Edward & Julia get hopelessly lost in the countryside, from roisin_farrell) + Gummy Bunnies (also for origfic_bingo “holiday.”)
Rating: All ages
Word Count: 1505
Notes: Aug 1950; Edward Iveson/Julia Graves. (A shamefully slight piece that nevertheless fills a Malt and gets me a bingo.)
Summary: “That’s the third time we’ve passed that house now. People are beginning to stare.”

***

“Will you stop the car?” said Julia. “That’s the third time we’ve passed that house now. People are beginning to stare.”

Edward drove on for another minute, until he found a place where the country lane widened enough for him to pull in by the gate to a field, only just avoiding the nearby ditch in his annoyance. “I was following the signs – are you sure?”

Julia merely looked at him, only reached for the map and pulling it out onto her lap. “I told you I would map read for you, but you refused.”

“I checked the last leg of the route at our last stop,” said Edward. “It was perfectly straightforward.” He ran a hand through his hair and then held out the other hand for the map. “May I see?”

Julia raised an eyebrow. “Oh, you think I can’t?” She stared him out until he dropped his hand and leant back against the car seat with a small sound of irritation. “Now, we were heading for Nether Alton, yes?”

“Yes,” said Edward, turning again and leaning forward to point on the map. “Here’s where we came off – and you see, we just had to turn off again here, and I don’t understand it.”

“I think,” Julia said, “that maybe it’s not the map, darling. Could someone have knocked one of the sign-posts and that’s why we’re heading around in circles?”

Edward closed his eyes momentarily. “I think you’re right. Oh, blast. This isn’t getting us off to a good start, is it? This was supposed to be better than our official anniversary – and a proper time away, unlike the honeymoon –”

“Yes, well,” said Julia, “next time we pass the house with that odd chimney, we shall just have to stop and ask for directions. And,” she added, all in one breath, “it’s pointless to make such a fuss about one holiday. I liked the honeymoon, and the anniversary was fine after you stopped leaping into other people’s ponds –”

Edward began folding up the map, managing not to rise to that one. “And I don’t see why you make such a damned fuss if I try to do something special, even now. It’s not a crime, or it shouldn’t be.”

“I wasn’t,” said Julia. “I don’t.” She had the grace to colour at her blatant lie, but she wouldn’t look at him.

Edward gave a short laugh, and got out of the car for a bit of air. An old disagreement, a long car ride on a hot day, topped off with getting lost just as they were nearing their destination was not a recipe to improve anyone’s temper. He knew what Julia had lost over the past few years, and he should be more patient, even if her panic was ridiculous. If he went one inch over the line of what she considered to be a reasonable present, or merely wanted to surprise her with something nice, there it was again. He leant on the roof and then jumped back in alarm as the car gave a groan and made an alarming clanking noise before something fell off under it.

After a moment of silence, Julia climbed out of the car. She didn’t say anything; merely looked at him.

“I think,” said Edward, beginning to give a small, sheepish smile, “that I may need to take a walk. Do you want to stay here with the car or come with me?”

Julia glanced around her at the narrow lane and the surrounding fields and hedges. “What do you think? Just let me get at my case for a minute – I need a more sensible pair of shoes.”

Edward obliged and while she changed her shoes, he said, “You don’t have to, you know. I don’t suppose the nearest garage is very near.”

“Darling,” said Julia. “You’ve forgotten that you’re almost a VIP. What if someone recognises you? You might need a bodyguard and I’m all you’ve got. I can’t possibly let you wander around the countryside alone.”

He closed the map again and shot her a dark look. “Honestly, Julia, there’s no need to be ridiculous.”

“No, but I frequently am regardless,” she returned with a grin.

Edward helped her over the stile into the nearby field and along the uphill footpath there. “You’re happier now everything’s going wrong, aren’t you? God, you’re damned impossible sometimes!”

“I’ve told you a hundred times not to make a fuss,” said Julia, struggling to keep up with him. “And yet you will do it.”

Edward realised he had sped up in his annoyance and slowed down a little. “It’s not a fuss. I want to celebrate our anniversary; I want to make up for our terrible beginning, and I want us to have nice time away together. There’s nothing unreasonable about any of that!”

“All right,” said Julia, and laughed. “It’s only my guilt, that’s all. I’ve explained before, but I take so much, sometimes I feel so awful if you try and give me more yet.”

Edward had to laugh. “Julia. I understand at least some of that, but –”

“Don’t tell me none of that matters if I love you. That might be true, but there are plenty of people out there who can do the accounting and in cold, hard terms, I’ve gained a lot.”

Edward pulled up abruptly and rounded on her, making her jump. “Oh, have you? I suppose if money is the only valuation you accept, perhaps. But shall we stop and consider what it would have cost me to have Mrs Crosbie in every day, or get a housekeeper, and then someone to do the decorating? The house needed it, after all. And I’d still have no one to talk to at nights. Perhaps I was the one who got a bargain.”

Julia fell silent. “I’m not sure,” she said eventually, “that I like you putting it like that.”

“Well, then, let’s not,” said Edward. “Besides, all this nonsense about taking all the time – it’s rot.”

Julia tensed beside him. “People do talk, Edward. Stupid people, but they do. They think I must have married you for your money –”

“Some of them may,” said Edward, unable to keep back amusement, “but others believe that I married you for your money. Equally stupid people, of course.”

That stopped her. She stared back at him. “But – how could they?”

“Well, you and I know that you loathe your uncle, but other people don’t – and he happens to be a partner in a well-established London bank,” said Edward. “And since the most obvious explanation for a hasty marriage didn’t materialise, people have moved onto wondering if I, as a new MP, wanted a bit of extra financial backing and found it in you.”

“Really?”

He nodded and held out his hand to her. “Come on.”

As they walked on up the footpath, climbing the hill, Julia glanced at him several times. “Yes, but it isn’t really the money, is it? I wanted an admirer and that’s pretty awful, you have to admit.”

“No, I don’t think I do,” said Edward. He faced her. “Julia, stop this. You’ve given me so much that I can never repay you, not with a hundred holidays, or all the gifts in the world. I can’t imagine what I would do without you, and I don’t want to try. And I didn’t even give you a proper honeymoon, and I am going to at least manage the anniversary, damn it, and you will just have to put up with it!”

Julia laughed and then put her arms around him, kissing him and holding on. “I’m not going anywhere, Edward, I promise.”

He wanted to protest that he hadn’t meant that, but she was too close, and anyway, he wasn’t entirely sure she was wrong: if she feared tempting the gods to retribution for mortal happiness, then perhaps he wanted to try and make the most of the time they had, before she disappeared somewhere. He couldn’t help but feel that she must leave him one day.

“Neither of us are going anywhere, that’s the problem,” he said, pulling away and nodding at the countryside around them. “We do need to at least find a farm house and settle the question of exactly where we are, or we’ll be wandering around here forever.”

Julia slipped her hand into his again. “We’re somewhere on the Quantocks – together. Won’t that do for now?”

“We’ll eventually get somewhere, I suppose,” he said, a smile beginning to grow. “Perhaps it is enough for the moment.”

She squeezed his hand. “You say that, and it’s very sweet of you, but I know full well it won’t take more than half an hour, if that, before you start fretting about whether or not the car is all right and if we’ll ever get to the hotel before it’s too late, so we had better find someone to ask, after all.”

“Nonsense,” said Edward, even though he knew she was right.

***

Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
winebabe
Jun. 13th, 2017 03:58 pm (UTC)
Here I am, thinking how adorable this piece is and how funny their back-and-forth is, and then I'm hit with: He couldn’t help but feel that she must leave him one day.
lost_spook
Jun. 15th, 2017 01:27 pm (UTC)
Thank you! :-)
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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