I do not sleep at all that night. I play it over in my mind as if the only possible way of punishing myself further was to force every agonizing seconds to be relived in excruciating detail such as the red mark on his forehead, the liquid film that glazed over his eyes when he retrieved his novel, the panicked tones of his voice as he spoke and attempted to display a sense of happiness for my situation, because my employer was the most selfless man I have ever beheld and there was not a moment he would try to make sure I felt the least amount of guilt possible by hiding his overwhelming fear. He even attempts to smile, the honey-haired boy is trembling just inches from my reach, and he forces the corners of his mouth to lift as his eyes betray him with a uncommon shine all for the sake of making it easier for me.
It takes everything in my power not to pull him into my arms and tell him that it is all for his Wooster honour, whisper in his ear that he has produced a positive effect on my mind and that he had become an integral part of who I am, which encompassed his self-sacrificing nature, and I would remain his, in every other aspect of the concept. Instead, I let him pass me, allowing the broken excuse he created slide through the cracks, and listen as the apartment door shuts not long after.
I had begun to tell him that his drink rested on the living room table, once he had exited the bedroom, my professional instincts were reactive in nature, however I only get through half of the sentence before I hear the creak of the hinges, and the impact of its closing. I stand there for sometime, in the doorway of the bathroom, staring at the running water of the sink while my nails dig into the wooden framework of the rectangular arch. I turn off tap once I find movement once more, the mirror catching my attentions in the action.
Was there, in some impossible context, a version of ourselves that was incandescently happy? Where wars ceased to exist, where people found the exactly what they needed and never needing to throw themselves into situations that resulted in falling upon their own sword that represented in some abstract sense their own self serving contentment? I never believed in such a ignorant notion that the world could be good and honourable, however, he did. He had become that voice inside of my head that served as an anchor, a reminder of the best parts of humankind.
My dark hair is slicked back, the slight shine of the oil more apparent in the artificial light, there are lines under the creases of my eyes that appear deeper than I recall, my eyes are dull combination of brown and grey, my eyebrows harsh against the paleness of my skin. My looks are nothing to be desired, although looks in my social class are irrelevant as one is meant to lurk in the shadows of one’s masters not to be thought twice of, and I feel a sense of irritation at the familiarity of the details. I am the physical epitome of what one would expect of a servant and it has never ceased to cause me feudal annoyance.
(He reminds me of a deity; his dark blonde locks with large, blue eyes that soften when his attention is turned to you and you feel a desperation to keep on your person for as long as you can, dimples that surface when he smiles and it causes heads to turn that he doesn’t even realize are meant for him, his thin, wiry frame that seems to be enchanting when he moves, you cannot look away. He is the opposite of me; he commands the attention of a room when he walks in without the knowledge that he is doing it.)
I throw the drink into the kitchen sink with more force than I intend once I find it in my limbs to find synchrony with my mind. My thoughts remain with him; I think of where he is, it is likely a person he is close to such as a relative or Mr. Richard Little, but I linger on the fact he is prone to impulsive behaviour when faced with difficult emotional dilemmas. The fault in his character, although not particularly a bad one in its entirety, benefited me greatly. Any time he ended up in a situation that was, as he would deem it, rummy, although I detest the word, I was able to show my prowess in resolving it to his favour.
I had no worry that he was in good hands, but the hands in particular worried me despite my logical mindset. He wore his heart upon his sleeve and was a man who adored physical contact, especially coming from his friends that shared a similar educative background. Mr. Richard Little always stood out to me as a person that my employer shared a bond with beyond the realm of the common terminology Mr. Wooster had deemed as ‘school chum’ and I never quite understood the depth of their connection to one another. When Mr. Little had married not a few months prior, he had whispered to my employer “my promise still stands, married or not,” before walking down the aisle, and Mr. Wooster had told him that he was a fool while giving him a soft smile that I wasn’t fond of learning that it wasn’t solely for my person. I never, with good reason, asked for an explanation of this small happening and it felt too intimate to be of something that didn’t involve a matter beyond the concept of a normal friendship. It gnawed at my brain for quite sometime before I forced myself into a laying position until the clock struck four in the morning.
I bathed then, with time of the essence, and dressed with ease. I have already an idea in mind of my understudy but I have yet to ask him. I figure that it would not be a difficult task of convincing the individual, he is young and impressionable, however two weeks of training is hardly a lifetime’s worth of understanding the intricate situations my employer landed himself in and I need every moment’s worth to begin at least the surface of understanding the difficulties of the employment.
“I have a proposal to offer you,” I begin as he is sitting in the middle of the Ganymede club, it is nearly as full as it will ever be, as in the early mornings it is a time valets usually have to themselves, all dependent on the employer assuredly, with a novel in both palms. I can tell by the surprise etched in his features, he isn’t expecting my voice to be directed at him.
“Me?” He looks around, before looking at me once more, his french accent pouring through the single syllable.
“Indeed, you, Vivier.”
His name is Laurent Vivier and he had relocated to England just several months ago to work under Lord Charles Cuthbert. He was incredibly young for a valet, much likely several years younger than Mr. Wooster himself, but from what I had heard from many experienced individuals from our field, he was particularly gifted and picked up skills rather quickly. I used keep up with the social politics with intent interest, but had given it up while under the employ of Mr. Wooster as it held no intrinsic value to my future. He had stood out to me, however, as many had mentioned his name in passing as a climbing, ever-evolving individual that perhaps could surpass my own name by my age. Despite my fondness for my employer, I still greatly valued my own successes I created. Pride may be one of my deepest faults as well as one of my strongest attributes.
He places the book on his lap, “Anything at all, I’m glad to be of service, Mr. Jeeves.”
“I am to be married,” I say, the words still remain almost foreign to my tongue. Blue eyes and the tear stained face of Ruth Benjafield fill my thoughts and I continue, “The role of a valet is not suitable of one in matrimony, so I plan to have a shift in careers very quickly.”
“I give you my sincerest congratulations, Mr. Jeeves,” He gives me with a peering glance, “You will be sorely missed amongst the gentlemen of this establishment. If I’m genuinely honest, you will be missed by me personally, as well. Your name has carried great weight since I was very young,” His modest nature causes him to glance down at his knees, “and well, at any rate, you changed the concept of a valet rather substantially and although I do not know you very well, your accomplishments have impacted my own skills a great deal.”
An ever-evolving individual indeed, “I appreciate the compliment, but there is something greater than a congratulations I’m seeking.”
“I had guessed as much,” His features look rather nervous, but hopeful, “What is it that you seek?”
His eyes grew wide at my statement before returned to glancing at his knees. I give a quick thought to explaining the true nature of the situation; that I wanted to someone of high intellect to protect Mr. Wooster, someone that I could know without the shadow of a doubt could guarantee the safety and happiness of my employer without going mad with fear that I would read in the tabloids ‘Mr and Mrs. Wooster unite in Holy Matrimony’ followed by a polaroid of the miserable looking shell of my young master with a faceless female upon his arm, that I would be secure as I walked down the aisle of my own that he was being guarded in some fashion so that I didn’t have to feel as though my efforts have been in vain, that a part of me has known I have always done this for him, and would continue to the act through another individual by any means necessary.
Instead I say, “I have spent my life’s work on changing the fundamental role of a valet through subtle and detailed manners that I do not wish to be lost on the next generation of our kind.”
“And you wish me to learn these techniques from you,” He sounds almost awe-struck, his french accent thickening with each word, and I let myself revel in the satisfaction of the sound for a brief moment.
“If you are willing to learn, it would need to start immediately and I will not be easy to impress,” I know I have him, but I weave in the need for my approval to seal his psychological desire, in the art of being to be thorough.
“It is my day off with Lord Cuthbert, but I can start today, Mr. Jeeves,” He says in a rushed tone and he clears his voice a few times, “Where will this take place?”
“At the lodgings of my current employer. I have worked for him for some time, as you know I’m certain, and he is understanding of my situation and has allowed me the luxury of this final act as not only his valet, but as a valet entirely.”
Vivier nods and clumsily straightens his back as he stands, “It sounds as if he is quite the gentleman, what is his name?”
“Desolé, I do not recall his name in the Ganymede book,” He looks apologetic for a moment, and consider reprimanding him for the obvious display of emotion on his features and lecturing him about the importance of neutrality. Instead I hold my teachings for a later date. Although it wasn’t the truth of the matter, my desires to have some semblance of permanency in the field I had put in countless years of labour and effort into bubbled slightly at the bottom of my being. I would inevitably continue in a similar employ as my social class would remain the same, but my time in the Ganymede club would reach an end.
(You are saving another human being from ruins; you are better than sickeningly panicked fear that is clawing at your chest. This is to be expected, you knew in all your logic that you would not remain a member of the Ganymede club without being employed as a valet. Do not let yourself be swayed by that, you have in your palms the safety of Ruth Benjafield.)
“He is not in the book,” I burned his name from consideration for anybody else because I am selfish, possessive man that cannot look at him without thinking of my metaphorical claim to him. It felt there was a sense of irony in my actions now, “There was a peculiar incident at Brinkley Court, the home of one of his relatives, that involved destruction of some of its pages.”
“Pages?” Vivier lets flicker of amusement pass his freckled features, “An eccentric master of sorts, I presume?”
“He is most certainly unique,” I offer and I find myself with a pang that occurs in my chest cavity, “I shall write down the address for you. Meet me there in thirty minutes, my employer is currently out of the apartment and staying the night at an acquaintance of his, my estimate is that we will have a moderate window of time before he returns, is that suitable for you Mr. Vivier?”
“Of course, Mr. Jeeves,” He says, “But you needn’t write it down. I shall remember it when you tell to me.”
There is such an apparent shine of determination in his tenseness of his jaw and the stiff movement of his hands placed behind his back. I tell him the address, and he gives the air of hesitation in his right arm, a slight jerk forward of the shoulder. I extend my left hand to give him a subtle sign of understanding and he shakes my hand, the buzzing of his nervousness dissipating into a smooth hum, “Do not be late, Mr. Vivier.”
I make my exit from my club and I purposefully fill my thoughts with progressions and concepts, courses of action, possible outcomes, consequences and benefits to each. I consciously try to stay away from any emotion connected to the situation at hand, viewing as an abstract problem I had to solve rather than the disintegration of my daily life as I knew it to be.
I return to the apartment, beginning my daily chores as I thought, the watering of plants, dusting of the bookshelves and his piano that lay in the corner, the removal of his bed sheets. I am at the final of my listed tasks, when find myself lost in it for a long moment. I had been pulling the cover off a pillow when the aromas of soap, cigarettes, and this sweet unidentifiable scent that is distinctly him hit my senses. Suddenly it is only him in my thoughts, and his beautiful half asleep gaze where he throws himself around a pillow, his arms curled around its rounded edges, his lithe legs pulled as close as possible to its end, the way he let his pink tongue slide against his bottom lip as he holds himself with a death grip to the object, in a trance like state, until I pull open the curtains and his hair and eyes come to life as if fuel by the sun itself. The desire to be an inanimate object is pointless, however, the knowledge does not dissuade my head in that area. He looks charming in a way that is difficult to put into words, he is mesmerizing in the mornings, beyond anything else put on this earth.
There is a disturbance in my revery, as I sat on the very edge of the bed empty of its covertures, and it is a even knock on the door. I know who it is, and I give myself a moment to place the clean, folded sheets that lay on the dresser, a top of the bare mattress before answering the door.
“Mr. Jeeves, hello,” The ‘h’ in Vivier’s greeting is silent due to the accent he attempts to cover under careful pronunciation, “I trust I am on time?”
“Simply ‘Jeeves’ is acceptable and indeed you are,” I motion for him to enter, “I do not wish to waste any time in beginning our lessons. I want to start with your ability to control your emotions under strenuous circumstances.”
“Right,” He seems to be taken off guard by the bluntness of my tone but conceals it in time. It is rough, but I could work with it, assuredly.
“You are young,” I shimmy, as my employer would call it, to the kitchen, Vivier at my heels, “Age can play a factor in the skill set.”
“I do not mean to speak out of turn, but I am a quick study,” He retorts with a careful politeness.
“As was I,” I feel a genuine flicker of empathy at his resolute demeanor, “However, when one has not experienced a multitude of different and ranging scenarios of complexity, one generally will assume that the task of mastering reactions is a simple one.”
“That is,” He is struggling to swallow his pride and desist retorting again. I felt for a moment as though I was peering into my own past self, “a fair assessment.”
“Indeed. I will be testing you later tonight with some statements that will be meant to shock or cause changes in your facial expressions, I will trust that you will attempt to show me with much of the capabilities that you can maintain a air of neutrality in both your body language and your features,” I slide the cloth that hung below the cupboard off of its hook, “In this moment, I will be testing you basic abilities, and giving you feedback on the way you perform the common tasks of cleaning and moving with confidence in an unfamiliar area.”
“If I were a less intelligent individual, I would think you were delegating your tasks onto me,” He states with a grin he smothers with an attempt of unaffected mask.
It nearly makes me laugh, nearly nowhere close to actuality, and glance at him with a subdued incredulous expression, “I assure you that I would be able to perform these tasks at a much better and faster rate you could imagine, and it will be much more of a trial to watch it be done in a manner that is less than satisfactory, to which,”
“I did say, if I was a less intelligent individual, which I am not,” He interjects with sudden nervousness and I raise an eyebrow, “I apologize for the light hearted jab and the interruption, I will demonstrate my best work to you,”
“I expect nothing less.”
He begins in the living room and I observe him from the doorway. He is slightly broader than Mr. Wooster, but he is tall enough to appear thinner than the average build. He has dark hair, similar to my own, but it had such a curly disposition to its genetics that he is unable to simply flatten with oil and, from what I can assume, needs to maintain it at a shorter length to give the perception it is somewhat styled in the subservient fashion. His face is splashed with freckles and I could perceive that he attempts to lighten closer to his skin colour with theatre makeup. He moves quietly and with diligence, there are some choices he makes in terms of the order of importance when it comes to cleaning I note to mention to him, the movements of his dusting seem a bit choppy but there was likely a sense of pressure I am applying by watching him intently.
He moves to dust the piano and I feel a sudden surge of possessiveness I do not anticipate, “I have already completed the piano, it does not need to be done another time.”
It throws him, for a small moment, before he nods at the order. He continues with grace, gliding past the musical instrument and to the tall bookshelves just a few steps ahead. My heart feels slightly tight following my outburst but I attempt to continue cataloguing critiques for my review of his abilities.
The handle of the front door twists and Vivier throws himself into an upright position with his hands clasped behind his back. My stomach twists at the sound and I follow suite.
Mr. Wooster appears to be absolutely disheveled as he opens the door and I feel as though my heart might exit through my throat at the sight. His hair unruly, its honey coloured strands wild and tangled, he is wearing clothes that are not his own and much too large (my mind wishes to wander at the thought of him in another set of clothes that would also be much too large for his svelte figure, but I do not let it, as it will inevitably end in the mentally imagery that involved no clothing of any kind) for him, and his eyes are red around the rims and bloodshot.
“What ho, Jeeves,” He says weakly, and had I been closing my eyes, I do not believe I would have thought it came from him at all, “I was just paying a visit to Bingo, after I had retrieved my watch, but time has a way of slipping by you when you are surrounded by good company, what? He insisted I stay the night, decent chap through and through, and I took him up on-” He pauses when he realizes the other party in the room.
“How bally well rude of me, Jeeves,” He exclaims with facade of exuberance that doesn’t reach his eyes, his voice remaining uncommonly soft, “Who is this young chappie you have in our midst?”
“This is Laurent Vivier, he is the valet I have taken under my wing, sir.”
“It is a pleasure to meet you, sir,” Vivier gives him a small bow and Mr. Wooster seems to warm to it in an instant. My teeth feel pressed together with some force and I could not pinpoint the root cause.
“I say, if you under the proverbial wing of a marvel such as Jeeves, I can safely assure you are in the best hands possible,” He praises me even still and it twists the metaphorical sword in that rests in the base of my stomach further, “Are you from France? You have a dash of an accent although I’m afraid I’m not one to place your bets on for geography, if geography is the word I’m looking for.”
“Yes, sir, from the east of Paris,”
“I spent a summer in Paris with a few school chums when I was attending Oxford, exciting stuff there but I can’t say I have much knack for languages which made the whole experience a bit of an odd one,” He shrugs out of his coat and I take it from him, my hand grazing his for a brief moment and he pulls it back as if it had been painful to the touch. His eyes flicker to me with a instantaneous expression of panic before returning to Vivier with his facade still place, “You seem younger than any valet I’ve come across in my day. That’s not to imply that you are incapable due to your age, my dear chap, just that you must be rare breed if you are so dashed far in your career in your prime,”
“Thank you, sir, that is a compliment far beyond what is necessary,” Vivier seems nearly flustered by my employer’s doting nature and my knuckles feel white.
“Tosh! It is perfectly necessary if Jeeves has selected you,” He kicks off his shoes and he continues warm demeanor, “Jeeves?”
“Bingo may join me this evening here, along with a couple of old chums. I’m not quite sure yet but I like to give you a bit of warning just in case a swarm of misfits arrive at our,” His voice dies and the facade begins to dissolve into a look that could only perceived as vacant. He runs a hand through his tangled hair, “my apartment, old thing. It is a jolly good fortune that we have Vivier here to aid us if the occasion presents itself.”
He throws another warm smile in the direction of Vivier, who seems to flush under the attention and I find myself in giving a slight cough which directs his eyes back at my person.
“It is fortunate occurrence, sir.”
“Do you need the night off, Jeeves?” He asks quietly, his voice barely above a whisper. Vivier seems to instinctively duck his head down, knowing that the statement was meant for me alone, and I’m grateful for his display of professionalism, “I know that you are, that you rather have a lot on your plate, and I do not wish to,”
“I do not, sir, although I appreciate your kindness, my current disposition will not affect my employ until the date of its termination,” I meant to say it with a sense of softness, but it merely produces a stricken expression that washes over the features of my Mr. Wooster before he turns himself towards his bedroom door.
(You want to tell him, you want him to know the entire truth but it is impossible to utter; you want to place your hands upon his tiny waist and wait for his reaction, you want to know if there is difference between his kindness and his desires.)
“I need to bathe, so I shall go run myself one, do not worry about assisting this Wooster, just continue with your happenings, and pretend as though I hadn’t interrupted in the slightest.”
I watch as he walks himself to his room, shutting the door lightly, and I realize Vivier is watching with a similar interest. I breathe in deeply before I speak, “We can start with the motions of your right arm when you are cleaning places of which are beyond your reach,”
(The sword twists deeper into my body as I try to will myself not ponder if he thinks of me as well.)