“JAMES! JAMES! JAMES!” Anna waddled over to Evans and hugged him. Evans hugged back and kissed her.
Polly shouted “EWWWWW!!! KISSING!” at them.
Ignoring that, Evans queried Anna, “So, where’s Mary?”
“We have a dedicated babysitter,” Anna smiled, “I could get used to this lifestyle. And she’s with the babysitter now because little Mary had herself a little accident.”
“And how’s the little guy coming along?” Evans pointed to Anna’s belly.
“Almost here. Should be a few weeks,” She smiled and kissed him again.
“And this is Polly, like I’ve mentioned in my letters,” Evans pointed back at Polly, who was now sticking her tongue out at Evans, “Polly, is a Medal of Ethslin Second Class winning soldier. She is also going to be Lady Halsey eventually so she should not be acting so immature.”
“YES!” Polly shouted down at them
“Why do you call her Polly?”
“Her last name was Pollard, so we call her Polly.”
“And it’s fucking stupid,” Polly frowned, “Even Winny calls me Polly and it’s his own damn fault that my last name isn’t Pollard.”
“Well you can’t be called Ann, that would be way too confusing,” Evans pointed to Anna, “She’s Anna, and it’s one letter off. I wouldn’t want to be calling her name, expecting someone beautiful to show up and then you come around. Would just be horrid. I might vomit.”
“Well I’m married to somewhat much more important than she is, so that must mean that I’m more beautiful than her.”
“Excuse me, I’m right here.”
“Yeah, shut up, you aren’t a part of this,” Polly looked back to Evans, “So you should be honored that I showed up instead of her.”
“You know, I was pregnant almost immediately after my marriage started, and I got pregnant again like as soon as possible. While you remain childless. So it doesn’t seem like your husband doesn’t enjoy your company”
“Well my marriage was a massive scandal. My husband was pretty much disowned because…”
“This is the worst conversation,” Major Kestel limped up to the three, “The government has standards of beauty laid out for this very reason. I am most beautiful, followed by Mrs. Stoddart, and then Mrs. Evans. Now, Jim, Polly, once you’ve settled in, I’d like you two to meet my mother. She’ll be the one running most of this whole thing. And Jim?”
“Yes… What am I supposed to call you now?”
“Your Grace, Duchess Medway, or just plain old Duchess. Once you are back in the military, you should go back to calling me Major. But as to what I wanted… Uh, I can’t exactly walk up stairs until the cast comes off. Could you… Lord this is the most undignified question, Carry me up the stairs. I don’t have any servant’s right now they’re all in the army.”
“Yes Your Grace, I shall carry you wherever you need and it will be my deepest honor.” Evans reached down to the Major.
“No not yet. I still have some dignity.”
Evans nodded, gave Anna a quick kiss, and walked with the Major to the stairs. She gestured. “Uh, you are wearing a dress. I would really not want to… “
“Just grab me around the waist and lift straight up… That should work?”
Evans grabbed her waist.
“Alright… That hurts,” the Major winced, “I was completely wrong.”
“Very sorry Your Grace,” Evans set her down at the top of the stairs.
“Please, Jim, you are my best friend. you can cut the whole Your Grace thing. In private. No one besides me can hear you call me Demi. I guess Anna is fine too. But besides her, no one. It was OK to be somewhat public about our friendship when I was just Lady Demetria, but I’m important now.”
“I just, kind of liked calling you ‘your grace’ or ‘duchess.’ It makes me feel all fancy and special.”
“Well, I feel fancy and special all the time. Because I am fancy and special. I’d like to feel normal. And you are exceedingly normal Jim.”
“You know, I’m a war hero, that’s not normal. I’ve got several medals.”
“You’re a farmer, you’ve got a wife, you’re from a small town. And I like how you usually don’t treat me special. It’s hard for me to get friends… and…” Major Kestel pointed at the next set of stairs, “We’re inside now. So you can just carry me normally.”
“Alright Demi. Here we go,” Evans put the Major onto his shoulders and carried her up the stairs.
Once they got to the top of the stairs, he started to lower the Major down. Her legs knocked into a glass, which fell to the ground and shattered.
“ARTILLERY! GET DOWN!” Sergeant Griffith shouted to the platoon as they stood along the wall for Stand To. A split second later, Evans heard the telltale whistle of inbound shells. He sprinted into the dugout. A few seconds after he dived in, the first shell hit. It was the loudest sound Evans had ever heard.
As the dirt clumps fell around him, Evans crawled towards Anna, who was huddled in the corner. He tried to yell something towards her. She shook her head while yelling something back.
Evans opened his eyes. Major Kestel was looking down on him. He stood up, “Sorry, I just tripped.”
“You dropped me, then yelled at me and called me Zwev.”
“Can I be honest with you for a moment?” Evans looked at his feet, “I keep seeing things. Like the war. It’s usually dreams, but it’s occasionally when… something happens. It’s worse when I’m not fighting.”
There was a pause.
“Yeah… Me too.”