If Gheorghe were a betting man, he’d have lost the farm the day John Saxby showed up in Scotland with a declaration on his lips and an apology in his tear-stained eyes.
Gheorghe knows that things never work out with a fairy-tale ending. Happily-ever-afters don’t happen to people like him, living on the fringes, working for white men who need his labor while resenting him for it, for his expertise and skill and existence. John wasn’t the only one to feel that way. Dreams aren’t for people like him, not in a place like this. The prince of the castle doesn’t want the servant to stay with him as an equal, just keep working for him.
The thing is, Gheorghe brought this on himself. He’d allowed the hope to grow, delicate and reaching, when John accepted his offer to stay and help a bit longer. He had kept a rein on it then, didn’t allow it past the boundary of another week or two of shared baths and cigarettes, soft private smiles. And then it had bloomed joyous and fruitful when John asked ( did he mean… ) only to wilt as John closed himself off, pint by pint, behind a wall of inebriated sulkiness. Gheorghe felt his hope ripped out of his heart by the roots in that bathroom, choking on it, and he had to get the fuck out of there - can’t believe he let himself think that he could have - fuck .
He should have known better. He did know better. His bunică had told him, sad-eyed, that his soft heart would cause him trouble, the day she found him crying over a lamb he hadn’t been able to save. He could still feel her work-hewn knuckles brushing his cheek, her chapped lips pressing a soft kiss to his forehead.
Gheorghe used his anger at John, at himself, to fuel his trip back to the house. He’d banged into the caravan, blindly stuffing his bag (that’s one benefit of owning virtually nothing). He remembered his postcard at the last minute, pulling it from the wall with gentle fingers. One thing about Gheorghe, even when he was losing his shit, he could keep his hands steady. No one was in the house - Deidre was still at the hospital - but he needed his wages for the week and he sure as fuck wasn’t going to wait around for them. He found a scrap of paper and scribbled a note to Deidre and Martin. Thank you for the job, his week was up, please send his wages to the following address. Simple, polite. They hadn’t exactly welcomed him, but they had been straightforward. Plus, he needed to get paid. Gheorghe was a practical man.
Time for a plan: get to the station, take a bus to Leeds, then on to Scotland. He’d be there earlier than they were expecting him, but they’d probably let him work right away. There was no guarantee that the Saxbys would actually pay him, and he was running dangerously low on money. There was enough for his bus fare, and if he only ate once a day, he could make it with a little to spare. Fuck John Saxby. It was too late to take a bus tonight. He’d sleep on a bench and take the first bus out of there.
He was trudging along the drive in the dark when he found himself in the Land Rover’s headlights and John - what the fuck was he doing driving that drunk - stumbled out. Gheorghe’s rage just bubbled right over. This careless, angry boy who had an opportunity to make the farm something real and honest if he’d just pull his head out of the sand, this boy was determined to piss away the very thing Gheorghe wanted so much his teeth hurt. He shoved John back against the hood of the car, and he watched John’s face open up, like he was going to say something, so Gheorghe waited, panting. John said nothing. Well, that was it.
He’d known from the beginning it would just be a week, but he was still bitter as hell it ended this way.
Gheorghe had been right to ask questions earlier. He couldn’t afford more instability, and he was right to be wary of growing roots in unstable soil; it would only erode away from underneath him at the first drops of rain. John didn’t want him enough to change anything. If Gheorghe was supposed to give up stable work in Scotland for John, he needed some kind of security. If he had stayed for John and everything fell apart a month or two from now, it would be too late in the season to find more work and he’d be at risk for deportation.
He slings sacks of potatoes in Scotland and finds himself repeating his reasons in his head every time his thoughts drift to John, that pale freckled skin flushed with work, with sex. The hands calloused and scabbed from hard graft, quietly reverent in the moonlight. His own fingers remember the shell of an ear, the outline of ribs. He’d wanted to feed John up, make him smile. Gheorghe had been right to ask questions. He’d been right to leave. He lifts another bag of potatoes.
When Gheorghe finds John asleep at the barn, cigarette butts scattered around his feet, he’s pissed at the presumption, but more so at himself for feeling hopeful
John Saxby shows up and says he wants to be together, and Gheorghe thinks maybe it can work . Hope is rising up from the soles of his feet and he wants to believe.
On a dark, quiet bus, with John’s head on his shoulder, Gheorghe knows he’d been right to leave. He thinks he’s right to come back, too.