Alfred walked out onto the balcony that was connected to the main hallway of the palace, He needed some fresh air and a quick cheroot to calm his nerves from the frustrated day he’s had. It was around two in the afternoon and the town of London beneath him was quieter than usual. The air was cool.
He leaned against the railing of the balcony as he took out a cheroot and a box of matches. Cheroots and whiskey were basically the only things that kept him sane from the dullness of his work in the palace, He loved working for the Queen and the Queen herself was a dear friend to him but these days there was not much for him to look forward to. He was forcefully married to his friend Wilhelmina and her aunt kept nagging them to have children, “I want two of each, two nieces and two nephews” she would say to them.
Children was the last thing Alfred wanted.
At this point, Alfred had wasted three matches as the slight wind kept blowing his fire out before he could light his cheroot, which only made him more frustrated every time he took another one out. He tried another but the breeze blew it out yet again. He flicked the burnt match off the balcony and took the cheroot out of his mouth.
“For god’s sake can’t anything go right anymore?”
He took a deep breath and decided to try one last match, hoping mother nature had heard his frustrations and would give him a chance. This time the match wouldn’t even light. He flicked it once, then twice and then a third time. Still, nothing.
“Having trouble?” said a voice behind him.
Alfred stopped and made a confused face. He knew that voice, but the owner of that voice had been dead for almost a year now.
He turned and saw Edward Drummond standing in the entryway of the balcony, leaning against the door-frame with his arms crossed and a calm yet concerned look on his face.
Alfred’s heart skipped a beat and his blood ran cold, dropping the box of matches he had in his hand, as he stumbled back a step.
Drummond’s eyes moved down with the falling box of matches and back up at Alfred, he raised his eyebrows and leaked a small smile.
Alfred was frozen. Not sure how to react, he blinked multiple times to see if he wasn’t hallucinating.
Drummond bent down, grabbed Alfred’s box of matches and handed the box back to him.
“I think you dropped this.”
Alfred looked down and took the box, still utterly distraught and confused,
He looked back up and saw that there was no one there. He was alone. Alfred walked back into the main corridor and still, no one. He looked back at the balcony and then down to his box of matches.
“ it’s been a very trying day .”
“ maybe I can help.”
Sadness clouded Alfred’s mind as old memories echoed his thoughts.
“ I never go anywhere without my tinderbox.”
Alfred’s thoughts were interrupted when he heard Wilhelmina call his name from across the hall, asking him if he’d like to do a duet with her on the piano. He smiled fakely in response
“I would be delighted to, darling.”
She smiled back as she walked into the sitting room where the palace piano was located. Alfred dropped his smile as she walked away and looked one last time at the balcony before he turned back and followed her.
Later that week, Alfred and Wilhelmina decided to go and have dinner at Ciro’s for once to let off the stress from the past couple of days. Both Alfred and Mina were enjoying themselves, laughing at how dramatic the Duchess of Buccleuch was on simple things — amongst other stuff — and enjoying a couple of glasses of champagne.
“How long do you think she will nag us about children before she realizes it’s not going to happen?” Alfred said taking yet another sip from his glass.
Wilhelmina chuckled, “God knows!... But if she does become that desperate we could always take in an orphan.”
Alfred sighed, he didn’t really want any children at all, but he knew Wilhelmina probably wanted one of sorts. Adoption would be easier for him when it came to be getting the child, but the paperwork and the rest of it sounded like a lot.
Alfred figured he’d have to think on it.
“I guess that is a possibility, but that shouldn’t be discussed now while we are having a stress-free dinner now should it?” Alfred lifted his half-empty champagne glass as the corners of his lips perked up.
Wilhelmina grinned back and lifted her glass as well,
“No, it shall not.”
They both drank some more champagne while simply enjoying each other’s company and their dinner.
After a while Wilhelmina noticed the restaurant started to get a bit stuffy, and wearing a tight corset was making the air around her harder to breathe.
“Excuse me Alfred, I need to catch a breath of fresh air. It’s gotten quite humid in here.”
Mina stood up from their table as Alfred nodded. He had just realized it has gotten a bit hot inside Ciro’s too.
Wilhelmina left, leaving Alfred alone with his thoughts at their table. He started fiddling with the small vase of flowers in front of him, noticing Ciro’s hadn’t really changed the type or color of flowers for their table pieces since he’s last been there.
Alfred heard a distant laugh from a table beside his own and looked in that direction out of instinct.
At the table he saw himself smiling widely, eyes filled with pure happiness. He then gazed over to the other side of the table and saw Drummond, laughing with the biggest grin on his face.
He was living .
The whole restaurant seemed to slow down around him when he looked at Drummond, hearing only his echoed laughs. Alfred realized he was looking at the table he dined with Drummond when they talked for the last time.
If only he had known it would be the last time he’d hear Drummond’s voice. Or his laugh.
Alfred kept staring at the living memory of him, realizing how beautiful Drummond really looked in Ciro’s candle light.
Drummond then looked back at him, his laughter fading immediately, along with his grin but he didn’t look angry. They held each other’s glances for a while, and then Drummond made a small sad smile to Alfred.
A waiter walked past Alfred’s table blocking his view from Drummond for a mere second. When the waiter had passed, the image of Drummond and himself was gone.
The table was empty, waiting for it’s next customers. The sounds around him didn’t come back into Alfred’s hearing though until Wilhelmina arrived back at her seat.
Immediately, Mina could notice a change in Alfred’s face. She asked him if everything was alright. He hesitated before he gave her an answer.
“I feel like it’s time...”
“Time for what?” Mina asked, all the possible situations that Alfred could be talking about popped into her head, making her anxious.
Alfred inhaled, hesitating again,
“I… I think it’s time to visit Edward’s grave.”
Wilhelmina blinked at him. She was stunned because out of all things she thought it would be, that was at the bottom of her list.
“Alfred are you sure? You said-“
“I know but I do feel like it is time and I would like to do so.”
He was looking at his glass, avoiding direct eye contact with Mina. She nodded slowly and figured Alfred was too determined to decide otherwise.
“I guess we can go tomorrow morning then, before your meeting with Her Majesty and the Prime Minister.”
“Thank you, Wilhelmina. I mean it.”
She smiled at him,
“I know you do.”