“You are my Sunshine, my only Sunshine…”
After an all too brief expanse of time, our train came to Paddington Station, London. I was saddened by this. I loathed leaving my view of Adrien, God’s own artistic masterpiece.
At the very same time I wanted nothing more than to excuse myself from the coach with all due haste. This was perhaps because of the fact that I had, in my youthful insecurity, recaptured my natural reserve. Earlier on our trip together this very reserve had guided my gaze away from Adrien’s once we had made our initial locking of the eyes. I pressed my will into rigorous service and used it to force my eyes to focus on anything or anyone other than the object of my ardent desire. I must admit, it was among the hardest things I have ever attempted in my life.
This was made particularly difficult in that Adrien did not share my reserve in the least. He was not rude, by any means, but I was among his more favourite loci of his attentions. His increasingly winsome gaze would find me with a steadiness of frequency that told me conclusively that he shared our mutual interest. Adrien’s pull was a force more powerful than gravity.
Yet, as assured as I was in his interest, I was not disposed to reach across the aisle in greeting. I was disquieted by my instant initial attraction to Adrien, truth be told. My soul bespoke a reticence that I could not name or place at the time. I can now, interestingly, in that my accumulated years have given to me some wisdom in such matters. A wisdom I had yet to attain at that tender young age.
My reticence was born of a singular fear.
Though it is not in my nature or upbringing to expose certain facets of my personhood to casual perusal, I find it of importance to reveal here one of my many deep seated weaknesses. I was born with a shyness that could be considered criminally vulgar by any probing analysis afforded. My experiences at Eaton would seem to draw one to the conclusion of something in me attesting to a more opposite temperament, namely a blooming extraversion, perhaps.
My apparent confidence, when observed, must only be seen of me as a mask to cover my true face. The Thalian Mask of Comedy covering the Melpomenean Mask of Tragedy, as it were. I fought most valiantly at Eaton to keep my weaknesses hidden with projected illusions of strength. The cost to me was a tiresome tension in my humour that kept me stiff and guarded at most times. It even extended itself into my resting. Sleep for me has never come with much ease, I fear. Not without the assistance of a smoky scotch or warmed cognac before my nightly retirement, in any case.
My projected illusions, I would find on that day’s meeting with Adrien, were to fail me miserably. When exposed to something as powerful as Eros’ dart being suddenly thrust within my heart, I could do nothing more than flee in my fear. I had no shield or sabre block that could perry Eros’ shaft. When let loose from his divine heart-shaped bow, it found its mark deep within me. Very deep. Frightfully so.
So, alas, taking up my silver topped cane and situating my grey silk top hat, I went forth from our coach to the platform to commence my trek to a waiting motor carriage bound for Piccadilly Circus. I had hired apartments there and wanted to inspect them to be sure my belongings had been transferred safely.
It was only my third time in a motor car and this added somewhat to my already nerve wracked condition. They moved awfully fast for such a small vehicle. By train I was accustomed to some speed but a horseless carriage capable of attaining 30 miles per hour made for a touch of apprehension.
This was perhaps a sound enough reason as to why I exclaimed rather loudly with an utterance akin to a horse being stung by a wasp upon hearing an unexpected voice close behind me.
“Si vous plaît, mon Seigneur. Ma’ ay trouble yeu fair e light? ”
It was a deep golden throated voice with just the touch of a rasp to it. It was thickly sauced with a deliciously French accent that I also recognised as being lightly spiced with Flemish. It was remarkably close to my ear given that I had not heard the footsteps that should have belonged to the voice coming from behind. Then again, train stations from my youth were rather noisy affairs with the hissings of steam and the soundings of hot steel settling along with the louder calls of voices trying to overcome the mechanical cacophony. A wonder it would have been indeed to have heard anything like footsteps.
After uttering my horse’s whinny, I found that I turned rather abruptly into the voice upon reflex. I then found myself, toe to toe, breast to breast and practically nose to nose with the grinning visage of my soul’s captor. The expression upon his handsome face was the very picture of mischievousness. He knew precisely what he had done and had done so with a deftness I could never fathom.
Due to the force of my turn I found I had to readjust my hat to keep it from falling off of my ridiculous head. It took all that I had not to swoon when his intoxicating scent filled my nostrils.
It was a cologne of a make never seen in any store. Not even Herrods. I doubt it could have been found in the fine parfumeries of Paris. I should not lie: I actually do know that Adrien’s scent could never have been bought in Paris or London or even Cairo, Egypt for that matter. I know this because Adrien took me to a place in Aix d’Provence once to have my very own custom cologne made. It was the same parfumiere that made his own scent. It was unique to him and to his chemistry. It mixed with his manly musk in a way that always left me breathless. He would often say the same about the scent Andres made for me. Andres’ son, Sebastien, now makes my personal scent. I am asked often about where I obtain it, but never tell. That is a secret I left with Adrien…and it was on that day on that train platform that I fell in love with Adrien’s scent for the very first time.
“Zee light, with pardon, mon Seigneur?” He breathed into my face which must have caused my lashes to flutter. This caused him to give a small chuckle at my expense. This naturally bore me an affront. I was, after all, a Marquess, and was unaccustomed to such forward insolence! I was also unaccustomed to the peculiar quiverings and flutterings I found that had begun behind my waistcoat.
“How impertinent!” I huffed at Adrien while drawing away to regain some personal space. Yes, my first words spoken to the keeper of my heart were spoken in anger. Actually, they were spoken in fear and I had the normal reaction to fear that many an English Gentleman displays, a stuffily arrogant play at being slighted by forwardness.
“Ah, mes excuses, mon Seigneur. I meant no dizrezpect, but of course.” Adrien made quite a show of apologetic humility, turning his head away and averting his eyes to the ground. He glanced back up at me demurely and the effect of this charm was to cause the flutterings behind my waistcoat to magnify into the full flappings of sparrow wings through my body’s centre.
“Oh, oh that is quite all right, monsieur. You…you merely took me off guard, momentarily.” I assured Adrien but in a way that attempted to be offhanded and dismissive.
I attempted to turn away to continue my flight from my huntsman, but Adrien was not so easily dissuaded and his boldness was, to my amazement, quite driving. I was not going to escape him that easily.
“Mon Seigneur, merci beaucoup, but would you ‘ave a light perhaps?” Adrien closed the distance to me by half with a proffered cheroot which seemed to be the object in need of lighting. It smelled of cherries and tobacco and I have had an odd fascination with cherry tobacco cigarras ever since. I take them in chambers with a habit that oft makes my physician cringe.
“Oh very well!” I said with mock impatience. I reached into my breast pocket and offered my lighter which was intricately embossed with silver plate and enamelled with ivory. If it had been any other person I probably would never have parted with this treasure. Not that Adrien would have let me off the hook so easily by merely stealing my prized lighter. He was after more succulent game I would find.
Rather than taking my lighter and lighting his cheroot, he held it so that I would light it for him. An extremely impudent gesture bespeaking a foreigner’s ignorance of whom he was asking for a light or a wilful disregard for it. The French are notorious for needling English aristocrats in France. It is thought of as an act of universal revolution against all aristocrats throughout the world. Americans have a similar distaste for English Aristocracy though many in New England and New York tend to admire and seek to join it by marriage…very odd.
In any case, I could not resist Adrien and I did light his cheroot for him despite how demeaning it was for me to do so. Never once did his gleaming eyes leave mine during the procedure and behind the slight glow of his smoking aromatic cigarette he completely put me under his hypnotic spell.
“Merci beaucoup encore, meh Lord. I am your servant.” Adrien actually bowed to me, albeit playfully. I found myself shaking my head in utter confusion at this point.
“And how is it that you should think I am a ‘lord’, monsieur…” I left the invitation open for him to finally introduce himself to me. It was inevitable that we were to be drawn together and I was coming to accept that.
“Adrien, mon Seigneur…d’Saint Michele. Enchanté.” He offered his hand to shake and I tentatively took it…rather softly as I recall. His grip was rather delicate as if he did not want to hurt me. It was such a tender thing. But then, he wouldn’t quite let go of my hand after shaking. He caressed my knuckles with his thumb lightly, but covered for it with a diplomat’s tact.
“This material is quite refined, mon Seigneur! I ‘ave not zeen zis make since last I was in Paris. Cashmere?” He asked after my glove and continued to fondle my hand most disconcertingly. So much so that I made a weak attempt to retrieve my hand. But, alas, it was less than a half-hearted attempt and I allowed my every instinct to cover my fortitude. I would never want Adrien to leave go my hand and I actually double-cursed my gloves for separating me from his warm touch.
“Vicuña…if you should know.” The coldness with which I tried to inflect my words did not come off as I thought. I only sounded vulnerable.
“Ah…plus exotique, no? This is quite exquisite!” with that Adrien d’Saint Michele released my hand and seemed to pause as if waiting for something. So mesmerized was I that I had taken leave of my etiquette utterly. I fought a longing for him to retrieve my hand and never let go again.
“Oh, dear me. My apologies. I am indeed Lord Temple, Marquess of Buckingham.” I had actually apologized to Adrien at that point, so affected by him as I was. In so doing, I’d raised him to a peer though I would have thought that would not have meant anything to him. But, my Adrien was always so full of surprises for me.
“You do me honour, my Lord, but your apology is tres unnecessary. Again, it is I who am in your debt. It was I who startled you and yet your kindness afforded me a light for my cherute. I am blessed, also, to know that I was correct about your pedigree.” Adrien bowed slightly again, not a deep bow, but a very practiced diplomats bow. I wondered if, indeed, he was a counsel or diplomat himself, perchance.
“Well met then, good sir. Good day to you then.” I bid Adrien farewell as I made to make my turn to complete my escape. But…
“My Lord, may I pray upon your indulgence onze more, Si vous plaît?” Adrien adroitly stepped to my side and took to the rhythm of my rapid gait with ease.
“Really, monsieur, I must be away. My motor carriage awaits me and I detest being made late to things.” I snuffed at my pursuer with affected haughtiness. I should have known that none of my feeble defences were to be a match for Adrien. He was so much more schooled in getting around defences than I was at putting them up.
“Je vous demande votre indulgence, mon Seigneur. You zee, I am a bit lost. I do not uzually tek the Paddington Station, no? As well I am attempting to go to the Piccadilly Circus. Might I trouble you for passage? I will afford you the cost.” Adrien had managed to get a bit in front of me succeeding in slowing my hurried progress. He must have known how unusually out of place it was to ask a member of the Aristocracy for any kind of passage whatsoever. In times past this poor Frenchman would have been clubbed for such an affront.
Thankfully, for both Adrien and I, neither of us still lived in Twelfth Century England.
Then there was the matter of Adrien’s….eyes. For the first time I saw a twinkling there that was so obsessed with gaining and keeping my attention that I found I could not, in any event, refuse them once those eyes were set on me. He looked on me with such…hope. I would find, in later years, that I would never again be able to resist Adrien’s spell so long as he looked at me with that longing gaze.
I sighed a most exasperated sigh and assented to his desire. Secretly, I was overjoyed that he would care to come with me anywhere. But this I would not let on at that juncture. As mystified as I was by Adrien, I still could not trust his motives. I did not know this man and yet I was allowing him such liberties.
“Merci encore! You truly are un Noble. You know, zis is only ma’ segund tahm in London, oui?” Adrien began his chatting to which I would respond in monosyllabics. I did not wish to be rude but his English at the time was not very good. It was often hard for me to understand when he spoke at speed. So I switched our conversation into French in which I am mildly fluent.
(In the French: “Only your second time in London? Then I should think that you have not even scratched the surface.”) I replied in French to Adrien’s shock and delight.
(My Lord! By the Sacred Blue! You speak French tolerably well! I am most impressed!) Adrien blurted in a way that was, for most Frenchmen, to be considered a high complement. No Frenchman will ever say that someone who is not born French can speak the language perfectly or fluently.
I tended to agree in that my French was quite efficient for communication, but it lacked any art whatsoever. Adrien was later to show me how to properly ‘growl’ my ‘r’s in the French way. This was no mean feat being that such a sound rarely exists in proper English.
(“Where is it that you will be staying, Monsieur d’San Michele?”) I inquired.
(“Oh, by your leave, my Lord Temple, if you would call me Adrien only. I am happy enough that you should call me by the name my Maman gave to me.”) Adrien said in such a hushed way and in a form that leant its meaning to me that it would be an intimate honour that I should call him only Adrien. So this I did from then on.
(“Very good, Adrien. Now, where will you be keeping yourself in Piccadilly? Along Regents Street or off of Leicester Square?”) We were coming to my carriage and I needed to tell the driver where to make his stop.
(“I am not so certain, but I have made reservations for a room in the new Piccadilly Hotel. I understand that it is all the rage at the moment.”) Adrien said rather proudly seeming to feel like he was somehow in touch with London society. For all of me, at that moment, he was my master on that account. I had no connection to London society whatsoever at the time.
I was a bit taken aback when Adrien made mention of the newest luxury hotel in London. I feared that he had, perhaps, fallen victim to a terrible plot of some kind. The Piccadilly Hotel was by no means an inexpensive place to find rest or refreshment. Besides wealthy merchants, international heads of state, and local High Society, few could dare afford the Piccadilly Hotel.
(“My compliments, Adrien. Such a place is not easy to afford. I would have trouble affording a fortnight there myself.”) It was as gentle a warning as I could provide in French with my lack of nuance.
(“Ah, yes. Indeed it is very richly appointed and luxuriously priced. I shall, perhaps, need to take on debt to pay for my all too short of a stay. But, thank you, it will be living well in truth if only to live a day in such delectably refined comforts.”) I had to blush as I heard Adrien’s poetic lilting French. He spoke from a station of grace such that it made me wonder about his own pedigree.
But then the precariousness of Adrien’s situation wore upon me and I found I had to switch back to English so as to be clear in my speech.
“If I may ask, how long was your supposed stay?” I felt I knew an answer but wished confirmation of my fears.
(“Yes, well, I am scheduled to abide in London for no less than two weeks, my Lord.”) Adrien said as if it was nothing. He remained in the French so as to retain his clarity of speech as well.
“Why, where then will you stay after your ‘Jour de Confort Doux’?” I could not know how sweet any day of comfort could be when one had no idea where one would be staying after said day.
“I shall check zee pepers. Zere ez alwayz a place.” Adrien assured me with that beautifully winsome smile. Never in my life had I met someone so unconcerned about tomorrow at the expense of today.
So that then became my opening as an unlocked door presented itself to me: “I will not have that. Cancel your reservations at the Piccadilly. I think you will find the comforts my new home provides as equally appealing as what a Hotel can offer you.” I said this with an air of command and with a tone that would brook no argument.
(“Ah….no, my Lord. I could not impose upon you so. Such a thing is not a thing a man does in the world. My own way I’ll find without troubling your Grace.”) Adrien intoned with an argument anyway.
“Nonsense. But, perhaps I can meet you half way and perhaps convince you that you would be no imposition to me. I’ll have my driver take me to my apartments. We shall take tea and you can inform your decision better after such exposure to my hospitality. I warn you, it is ill advised to dismiss such an invitation in my country. By the rules of honor and etiquette you are bound to attend.” I stopped and stood myself straight and imperious before Adrien.
He rubbed his chin for effect, perhaps to whet my irritation. Then finally:
(“Then far be it from me to counter the rules of hospitality of my host. I shall maintain my honour and take coffee with you. Only some dumb idiot would let go of such an invitation.”) Adrien, I would find, could never develop a fondness for tea, alas.
So it was then and there that the sun rose on my life and my long day of sweet comforts began.
Adrien was the sunshine that would light my days from then on. Even to this very day my memories of those times brings back a bit of that old sunlight that still imparts a dim glow to my present twilight.
Lost in the sun I had found my heart’s home.