They are so consumed with their work and with each other that they don’t notice the droplets at first.
Mary notices first, when a large raindrop falls on her nose, and a sensation of cold passes through her. She has heard of places with warm rain, as warm as bath water, but Yorkshire is not one of those places. Only now does she realize that it is raining fairly hard, and off in the distance, thunder rumbles.
“We should get to a shelter,” she says, glancing backward at Matthew, who is jotting down notes about a field and doesn’t notice how wet his paper is.
He reluctantly puts his notes down and looks up at the sky, getting a face full of water as he does so. Mary has to try hard to not giggle at him, but her attempts are not extremely successful. She is lucky that she has a good natured husband, she supposes, and she very gladly takes his arm. “I don’t suppose we could make it back to Downton, could we?”
Mary shakes her head. “It’s too far. We’ll be soaked halfway there.”
“At the rate we’re going, we’ll be soaked when we’re halfway anywhere,” Matthew replies.
“And whose fault is that?”
Matthew refuses to answer, instead looking around to seek out shelter. “There are a couple of empty cottages maybe a quarter mile from here. If we hurry, we’ll probably be able to get there before the worst of the storm.”
“Lead the way,” Mary says. He says nothing in reply but keeps her close as they traverse muddy paths in search of shelter. It isn’t lost on her that any time the thunder rolls, he stops suddenly.
The cottages are small, abandoned stone buildings, built close together. When they see the row of cottages, their pace quickens, and so does the pace of the rain.
It is a relief when Matthew pushes open the wooden door, the cottage thankfully unlocked, and they both stumble inside. The dry atmosphere is soothing, but it is dark. Mary is about to throw open the windows, but she sees a fire starting in the fireplace.
“How did you do that?” she asks, looking on in amazement.
Matthew shrugs and sits on the couch, groaning as he does so. “I know one thing we’re replacing if we ever renovate these cottages. But I had a lighter on me. Never know when you might need one.”
“Why did you have a lighter?”
“Same reason I have a flask of whiskey. They’re both good things to always have on you. Especially in the trenches, but even so now. Would you like some to drink? I’m not an advocate of excessive drink, but it does warm you up.” Matthew reaches into his pocket to pull out a dented metal flask. He takes a swig and sighs as he leans back again and swallows. He hands it to his wife and she takes it in her hands, turning it over.
She takes a dainty sip and hands it back to him. “What happened to my innocent solicitor from Manchester?”
“As I recall, you weren’t keen to marry that innocent solicitor from Manchester,” Matthew replies, a hint of hurt in his voice. He blows out a breath and takes another sip.
She shakes her head and looks away. “I was young and stupid and you were too. We both were, and this is not the place to dwell on past hurts.”
Matthew is about to reply, but a flash of lightning makes light flood the room, and seconds later, thunder rolls. Mary’s eyes focus immediately on Matthew, whose jaw is set, his eyes staring straight ahead, his hands shaking. Before she can think, she is sitting on the couch next to him, his hand in hers.
“Are you alright?” she asks quietly, her voice soothing.
He nods. His own voice is quiet, as if the words are hard to come by. “It sounds like guns.”
There is nothing more that needs to be said. Mary understands, and she wishes she could rid him of the memories, but there is little she can do. Except for one thing.
She presses her lips to his and takes his face in her hands. “Care for some distraction?”
He is still somewhat shaken, but this doesn’t prevent his from pulling her closer and whispering, “You could distract me more…”