Another embarrassment. Gregory Weller rubbed his tired eyes. He’d gotten so far this time.

“I- terribly sorry, but I forgot- I’ve a train to catch.”

“A train?” Abilene frowned. “Where on earth are you going? You’ve never mentioned a train before.”

Gregory tried his best to ignore the sweat gathering about his forehead. “Of course I have- you must have not been paying attention. At any rate, I must be off. Gooday.”

“But wait-” 

“I’ll see you again soon!” And he left, without a glance behind him. He couldn’t look at the soft curve of her face, or he was sure to lose his nerve. 

Gregory sprinted through the crowd, weaving past pedestrians with a practiced ease one could only have learned had they spent time deep in the city. 

A couple blocks later, the morning train’s engine was coming to a halting, chugging start, and the man had no choice but to sprint ahead and leap onto the back.

Only, his foot slipped-

And the rushing ground met his face with a tumble that ended with Gregory in a scraped and bloody heap. 

He groaned and cursed as he struggled to his feet. He’d have to catch a taxi, or at least change to a different disguise until the next train. It was risky, changing to a different alias in the same town, but it would have to do for now. 

Gregory ducked in an alley and opened up his briefcase to his collection of hats, facial hair, fake IDs, and other assorted things to change Gregory Weller to the next character- Jeremy Kits. keeping an eye on the openings of the alley, he swiftly exchanged his long beige coat for a black jacket with matching trousers, a cigarette in the mouth, and fingerless gloves. Using a knife, he held his curly hair taught and sliced it into an uneven mess, then pulled it back before shoving on a hat. He brushed his fingers along the soot-stained wall and rubbed beneath his eyes, and his jaw,  then, collar pulled up, hat pushed down, he slammed his briefcase closed and, with a cocky gait, strode from the alley. 

“Bin a nippy mornin’, hasn’t it?” he remarked to a man not much older than himself passing by. The man, with a raised brow, gave Gregory a once-over and, deciding that Gregory was most likely the kind of person to offer him an expensive watch from the dark folds of his jacket, quickened his pace. 

Gregory cursed under his breath. Not because of the man’s reaction, but because he had bothered to seek it. The man was Dean, and in the past six months he’d spent in Whitby, Gregory had gotten to know him particularly well. They’d worked in the same post office, (Which Gregory would be leaving without a trace, as usual), they’d gone to the pub together whenever Gregory needed relationship advice (which was quite often, as it happened), and Gregory even watched his kids while Dean and his wife were gone. (Nasty little devils, them). Gregory knew it was out of habit that made him acknowledge Dean so casually, but the painful part was that Gregory’s best friend didn’t even recognize him. Perhaps he’d been a bit too sketchy with this particular disguise. He needed to secure a taxi, and quickly, before anyone recognized him. And not many people were willing to offer their confidence to a man who had “alley rat” written all over him.

But even that wasn’t the worst part of this whole affair. No, by far the most diabolical bit was that he was leaving the only woman he ever loved. 

Well, no time to dwell on the past. He didn’t have much time left, as it was. So Gregory, (filthy hands deep in his pockets, head down), marched south along the sidewalk toward Hild street- By far the busiest street in the city. If he couldn’t find a taxi there, there was no hope for him. 

On his way to Hild, he passed a neat little street known as Gurkee, where lopsided, and tumbledown houses crowded together under a crooked set of lamp posts. Gregory tried his best not to look, but even from the corner of his eye, he could just make out the green cottage, cocooned in geraniums and roses, where Abilene lived. It was here, amongst the overgrown flowers, that they’d shared their first endearing, however awkward kiss. 

Shaking his head, Gregory swallowed back the lump in his throat and lengthened his stride. He couldn’t afford anymore sentiment to keep him from going. It was over now. She’d caught him in his words, discovered him to be a liar. And there was no marrying a man like him. She must have figured that much, surely. 

But Gregory wasn’t just any man, and he knew it. Strictly speaking, the death wasn’t his fault, but he couldn’t stand it nonetheless. 

Five years ago, when he was still living with his parents in Pemberley, a storm had struck, blowing so many houses to nothing more than shrapnel. And poor Henry… Gregory shoved the thought away. Nothing in the past could be changed, no matter how much he hated himself for it. Yes, Gregory hated himself, more than he hated anything. Or, more accurately, he hated Frank Grey. The boy who couldn’t even save his own brother. 

He at last reached Hild street, and promptly set his briefcase down to await a taxi. 

“Gregory?” Gregory flinched, and whirled around, nearly colliding into a much shorter figure with raven hair. 

“Abilene!” he sputtered, “What could you possibly-”

“Do me a favor and don’t do that.” she said, after a confused glance at his appearance. (something in Gregory couldn’t deny the relief that flooded him when she recognized him through the costume, even if it meant more of an inconvenience).

“Do what?”

“Feign ignorance. You know why I’m here.”

Gregory opened his mouth, closed it. Tried again, “I really don’t.”

When she huffed in that cute way she did, Gregory almost wanted to laugh. “I knew you were fake.” she snapped, “ And I was right.” As always, her intelligence was sharp, and to the point.

Gregory blinked. Five years of name changing, train jumping, lying, rebuilding, and never once had he felt this way. He’d been caught plenty of times, of course; that often justified his disappearance. But for once, the person who caught him didn’t look as angry as she did hurt. He hadn’t a clue what to say. 

“Stop running.” she said. “The person I fell in love with may not be you right now, no matter how much I want it to be, but-” she sniffed, but despite her watering eyes, she didn’t lose her focus. “Just decide. Pick who you want to be, and for goodness sake, and let it be the real you. Or you may end up hurting someone else besides a pathetic girl from Whitby.” She quickly wiped a tear from her cheek and glared at him indignantly. 

“Abilene-” his voice faltered. “I-” he swallowed. This was always the part where he ran, made an excuse, pretended he didn’t recognize the person.

“Gregory, please say something.”

It was then that it an absurd thought occurred to him; it had been five years since anyone had called him by his real name. Suddenly her saying Gregory felt wrong. He winced. 

“Don’t call me that.”

“Oh, my apologies, have you already been cast to a new part? Who the heck are you? And don’t you dare lie to me.”

“Frank Grey.” the name sent a strange homesickness down his tongue. He forced himself to continue. “You’re right, Abilene, I lied about everything. I’m not the type of person you deserve. Even if I change, and turn everything around, I’d still be inadequate. But for what it’s worth, there’s one thing I didn’t lie about. I love you.”

Abilene stared at him, breathing hard. “I love you too, Frank. And I would love to be with you, but- but whatever you’ve been running from needs to be set right first. I don’t want to be with Gregory. I want to be with Frank Grey. Once I learn to trust him again, anyway.”

Frank smiled. “I promise.” He pulled her into a tight hug. The girl’s angry hiccups slowed, and eventually ceased. “When I return, I swear I’ll be as worthy as anyone.” he told her. It was as though a massive burden had been lifted from his shoulders. If Abilene could forgive, surely his parents could. He took a deep, cleansing breath, and released her, at last meeting her charming amber gaze. She smiled that wide, beautiful smile of hers. “I think... I think everything will be alright.” she said. And for the first time in five years, Frank Grey believed it.

January 31, 2020 21:18

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