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History Hates Lovers

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As much as they all enjoyed music club, the ghosts were starting to struggle to think of songs that they hadn’t already shared at least a thousand times already, which had led to them pestering Alison about song recommendations for half a day until Alison had gave in and agreed to find each of them a few songs they might enjoy.

That’s how she found herself sitting on the couch by the TV with her laptop, some random home renovation show playing in the background while she scrolled through Spotify, occasionally adding a song or two to one of the playlists she had created for each of the ghosts respectively. She’d found a few songs by Bastille which she thought that Thomas might enjoy, one of which was quite literally just called ‘Poet’, as well as some more dance songs for Kitty. Clicking on the playlist she made for the Captain, she slowly scrolled through the list of songs she had selected for him. After reading through each one, her attention was then drawn to the suggested songs, specifically to a song titled ‘History Hates Lovers’. Curiosity getting the better of her, she pressed play and listened attentively as the gentle notes slowly filled the room.

~

‘Who’s gonna tell us the stories, that our textbooks don’t?

  Tales of love that stay blurry, cause our courses won’t

Ignore the way they’re designed to erase the past

To keep good intentions secret

To force.. a mask’

~

Alison heard the ghosts loudly chattering amongst themselves in the living room downstairs, their voices drifting through the halls slowly from where they were holding another one of their clubs. They seemed to be squabbling over something of very little consequence again, which was something rather common in the old manor house; She could clearly hear Pat and the Captain trying valiantly to restore the peace, though it would seem that it was to no avail. There was no doubt in her mind that the argument would end with the ghosts rushing up the stairs to find her, however at the moment she couldn’t find it within herself to care, much preferring to concentrate on the song playing from her laptop.

~

‘Too many handwritten letters

Signed to: my dearest, with love

All pulled from their papers, ripped out as cover up

To disguise endearment, as friendly notes

It doesn’t take a scholar, to know how this one goеs’

~

Alison remembered the articles she’d read about love letters that were written by LGBTQ+ couples throughout history, letters that a number of historians would adamantly insist were strictly platonic; they would sooner die than admit the true meaning of the original author’s affectionate messages. Letters sent between a writer and a poet, both women’s affections unmistakably penned onto the papers. Tragic tales of soldiers who fell in love while stationed overseas during the Second World War, only to be separated from each other by some cruel twist of fate.

The song played on as Alison remained lost in thought, the coffee she had made slowly losing heat on the small coffee table stood beside the couch.

~

‘And historians will call them,

Close friends, bеsties, roommates, colleagues, anything but lovers

History hates lovers

Sidekicks, family, good pals, buddies, anything but lovers

History hates lovers’

~

That day when she and Mike tried to tidy up the garden before Clare arrived to look at the house for the wedding booking came to the forefront of her mind. The Captain had been acting strangely for the whole day since hearing that they were digging up the garden, even after the bomb had gone off he had still seemed out of sorts, as if there was something else about that story that was not being said. ‘There is something buried down there that is potentially explosive if it gets out’ was a strange way to refer to a bomb, hence her disbelief and shock when the fire caused the mine to detonate.

She didn’t know what truly was buried in the box besides the bomb, and there was little to no chance of her ever finding out without asking the ghost himself given that anything that it could have been buried with is almost certainly destroyed entirely by now - even if she did ask the Captain, the chances of him actually telling her was incredibly slim - but she suspected that it could be something to do with his previous lieutenant when they were stationed at Button House during the war.

She was no fool, she did indeed notice Cap’s slip-up when referring to his second-in-command leaving for North Africa, saying ‘he left me’ only to hurriedly correct his mistake mere seconds later to ‘he left for the front’, however she knew that if she confronted him about it he’d either grasp at straws to change the subject, or he’d become defensive and put up every barrier he could, including the small few that he had gradually let down over time. Even later on in the night when they were all sitting on the couch watching a film together, Captain had perched himself on the windowsill, staring out of the window dismally, his shoulders sinking slightly in defeat. She remembered struggling to pay any attention to the film in front of her due to her frequently glancing over to the window, the ghost not taking his eyes off the front gate beyond the window for one second.

~

‘40 years living together

Wearing the same wedding bands

Two kids and a golden retriever

Just friends don’t live like that

They don’t look at each other

With love in their eyes

With hopes to settle down for the rest of their lives’

~

In contrast, on the day that the wedding happened within the house after the weather caused a last minute adjustment to the original plan, the Captain seemed happier than she had ever seen him in her entire time in the house. He’d bounced around the room, merely a few steps behind her as she arranged flowers and chairs around the room, enthusiastically advising her where to place the flowers around the room; He’d instructed her to place them at the end of each aisle ‘for streetlight’ as he had put it, and even measured the distances between each chair with his swagger stick.

The look on his face did not go unnoticed as the second bride emerged from the vehicle with her bridesmaids, all of them bracing against the biting cold outside while they frantically made their way to the house. He had gazed out of the window with a gentle, albeit slightly confused, smile as the rest of the ghosts asked a million and one different questions about the brides. She’d seen his smile falter for a moment as Fanny made her grievances known about the prospect of two women marrying each other, lamenting about the house being ‘brought into disrepute’ and that such a ceremony was scandalous before she quickly turned on her heels, storming a way from the group. Of all the things that Alison did not want the old ghost to take issue with regarding the ceremony, it was the fact that the ceremony was for a homosexual couple; she could say with even more certainty that she didn’t want her to complain about such a thing in front of the Captain of all people.

It would seem that some of the other ghosts may have shared Alison’s opinion in this matter, as she had noticed Thomas’ frown as Fanny marched from the room, his brow furrowing in what looked like a complicated mess of shock, concern and bewilderment.

Her relief was palpable when later in the day, Lady Button returned to the ceremony with Humphrey, having calmed down since her outburst earlier and she seemingly had accepted, or at the very least could tolerate, the fact that times and opinions have changed since she was alive. As the two brides walked down the aisle together, their hands entwined by their sides, Alison couldn’t help but smile as the Captain beamed at the two women, pride written on his face. While she did not know for certain, she couldn’t shake the feeling that the wedding had perhaps reminded the former CO of another soldier who had been stationed here, one who had apparently left for the North African front long ago.

~

‘How many decades of hiding?

21 centuries of hate

Some things may not have been okay back then

But it’s sure all right today

Too afraid to call it what it is’

~

“What are you listening to?” A voice said from behind the couch, causing Alison to jump. She turned the volume down low as she turned around to see Thomas stood behind her, Kitty stood at the door with her usual smile plastered onto her cheeks.

“It’s nothing, Thomas, I’m making those playlists with song recommendations for all of you, the ones you all asked for earlier today. While I was in the middle of talking to the people fixing the pipes under the sink, might I add.” Alison responded, adding a bit of an accusatory tone when talking about their interruption earlier, but there was no real anger behind it. Kitty immediately perked up as Alison mentioned the new song recommendations, bounding over to sit next to her.

“Did you find any for me? Oh, you simply must show me!” Kitty exclaimed, her excitement in no way hidden by any aspect of her demeanour. Alison informed her that she had found some more dance songs and turned around to where Thomas was standing to tell him about some of the songs which she thought that he would enjoy. However, her musings from earlier still plagued her mind, and she debated whether or not she should ask the older ghosts if they’d noticed anything about the Captain and his lieutenant when they were both stationed here, unsure if she was overstepping her bounds. It was the Captain’s life, after all, and if there’s anything that she does know about his life it is that he keeps almost everything about it under lock and key, such as his name, his family, his relationships and perhaps most importantly, his sexuality.

After a few moments of deliberation, and knowing that she would later feel guilty about it, her curiosity triumphed over reason and she found herself asking, “I know that this is slightly out of the blue, but do you remember anything about the Captain’s lieutenant? I think Cap said his name was Havers?”.

“Oh, the one who went to North Africa? He and the Captain were always together! Oh, he did look so upset when Havers left.” Kitty explained, Thomas nodding his head in agreement. He chimed in with his own retelling of the story, his tone teetering perilously on the edge of his ‘Poetry Voice’, something that Alison could really do without at the present time, however she let him continue regardless. The poet gestured towards the window she had seen the soldier sitting at on the day that they found the bomb in the garden before saying, “He sat by that window for hours after the lieutenant’s departure, staring at the front gates of the house where the other had left earlier in the evening, the lieutenant stopping only briefly upon reaching the gate to give on final salute to his captain before disappearing into the-”.

“What are you talking about?” yet another unexpected voice from behind them, all of them freezing when they recognised the voice as that of the Captain’s. They all turned to face the door, where the source of the voice stood, his swagger stick clasped tightly in his hands in front of him. Alison could see that despite the nonchalant façade he was trying to put up, his hands were shaking slightly as he bounced on the balls of his feet, his anxiety quietly seeping into the air around him. Clearly the soldier had been listening into their conversation for longer than she’d initially thought.

Muting her laptop completely before quickly floundering for an appropriate response, Alison responded, “I was asking Thomas and Kitty what they remembered about the time when you were still alive. It's hard to live in a house like this one and be constantly surrounded by ghosts without being just a little bit interested in history. I remembered that you’d mentioned your second-in-command that day in the garden so I thought they might remember him.”.

Even as she said it, she knew that she wouldn’t have believed that excuse had someone said that to her, however the Captain seemed to accept it anyway, adjusting his shirt collar as he shifted on his feet nervously.

“Yes, well…” His words tapered off, ostensibly dying in his throat until finally he managed to force out, “Jolly good, uh, carry on.”. He turned on his heel sharply, ready to walk off in the other direction, only to stop in his tracks when Alison called out to him.

“Wait, hold on a minute, Cap, maybe you could tell us a little bit about him instead? Surely you have some stories to tell about your time here, I’m sure we’d love to hear them!” Alison said delicately, feeling very much like she was treading on eggshells, fearing that if she pushed too hard, the man stood in the doorway would hightail it out of the room and as far away from the current conversation as he could get.

Kitty giggled excitedly from her place next to Alison. “Oh, I do love stories! Please, Captain, tell us!” she said cheerily, patting the space beside her on the couch (Or at least she tried to, her hand simply phasing through the cushions, not that the ghost seemed to mind or even notice). The Captain turned his head back to them, his feet still facing the open corridor ahead of him, the cogs in his mind clearly turning as he silently debated whether or not to join them by the TV. When the former soldier turned completely and made his way over to the couch, Alison let out a breath that she wasn’t even aware that she had held in the first place.

Taking his place between Kitty and Alison, with Thomas perched on the arm of the chair at Kitty’s side, the Captain took a deep steadying breath before racking his brain for something to say. He only had to tell a few stories about Havers, right? He certainly had enough of them to tell, there are very few things he did not remember of the man; he had committed as many random facts and stories about his lieutenant to his memory as he possibly could, hiding them in the corners of his mind where they would remain hidden until he was left alone to his thoughts. It was times such as those when they would gently but purposefully force themselves to the forefront of his mind, just as Havers had cautiously surpassed all of the walls that Captain had defensively constructed around himself.

Swallowing the lump in his throat, he began, “Very well, then…I suppose I could start by saying that Lieutenant Havers was a bally good soldier, one of the best that I knew. He was well-liked by the rest of the unit, too, he could always make them laugh or smile in the rare free times we did have. He could often restore the order better than I ever could.”.

He faltered, trying not to say too much, but Alison and the two older ghosts sat patiently, silently urging him to continue. “He was incredibly hard-working, I often found myself reminding him to go back to his room and get some sleep whenever we’d been working late on reports or any other paperwork in my office, otherwise he would likely have stayed there all night.” Captain continued, the corners of his mouth twisting up into a smile as he recalled the memories of the nights that Havers had fallen asleep at his desk, the candles stood on the wooden surface softly lighting up the lieutenant's features. His expression had been softened by sleep, any signs of stress or worry from the day before long since melted away; Captain remembered how he’d gently shook the younger man’s shoulders to wake him, the lieutenant slowly stirring and blinking up at him tiredly before giving an exhausted smile, temporarily knocking the breath from the Captain’s lungs. Before his thoughts could stray any further, he shook his head slightly and unintentionally met Alison’s gaze, looking back down at his hands after seeing her smiling gently at him. On Alison’s laptop, unheard by anyone in the room, the song continued playing soundlessly.

~

It doesn’t take a scholar, to understand this

And historians will call them

Close friends, besties, roommates, colleagues, anything but lovers

History hates lovers

Sidekicks, family, good pals, buddies, anything but lovers

History hates lovers’

~

“Was he your best friend, Captain?” Kitty asked cheerily, her smile even wider than before as she shuffled closer to the Captain in her excitement. Captain couldn’t help but smile at her antics; he’d always felt rather protective of her and her almost child-like enthusiasm about the world around her. As a result, he found himself smiling before saying, “Yes, Kitty, I rather think that he was. I didn’t always get along well with some of the other soldiers, but Havers was a very easy man to become friends with. If the men were celebrating downstairs for one reason or another, he would try to convince me to come down and join them, but upon failing that he would stay up in my office with me, ‘so I wasn’t locked away on my own’ he would say. There was one Christmas Eve when he had came upstairs to find me and he dragged me away from my desk to stargaze with him; his older brother had taught him about the constellations when he was a child and he was very eager to share his knowledge of the stars with me. I must admit, I’d never cared much for the stars before then, however I listened very carefully to what he had to say simply because he had seemed so excited to share what his brother had taught him.”.

He looked around at the others, trying to figure out what they were thinking and if he was saying too much, giving too much away. Was he boring them? Were they just pretending to be interested to get more ammunition to hold over him like blackmail? Would they tell the other ghosts about what he had said today? If they began to piece together the truth, they’d surely never look at him the same; He didn’t even know what had come over him to start talking about any of this in the first place. For over seventy years or more he had locked all of these foolish little emotions away, pushing them deep down where nobody could ever find them, and now he was sharing them completely of his own volition simply because Alison had inquired vaguely about his previous lieutenant.

~

Keep it hidden

Rewrite history

Leave it wrapped up in a mystery

Because no one can figure it out (I think they figured it out)

Stash the proof, hide the evidence

Keep it locked until it’s relevant

Because they can’t figure it out (I think they figured it out)

 

Because no one can figure it out

I think they figured it out’

~

He saw Thomas and Alison smiling knowingly, and felt as if a huge lump was forming at the back of his throat again, making it difficult to speak or even breathe. His mind screamed at him to run away, to hide somewhere he wouldn’t be found, but his racing thoughts were interrupted by Alison reaching out to put her hand on his thigh, before she remembered that she couldn’t and settled for holding it an inch or so above his leg.

“It’s okay for you to talk about this, you know, Cap. You aren’t bothering anyone, we asked you to tell us a few things about your time here during the war, so we asked for this. On the other hand, if you want to stop there for tonight, you can, that’s completely fine too.” Alison said calmly, looking up at him with a kind expression on her face. The Captain cleared his throat loudly, adjusting his grip on his swagger stick.

“Uh, yes, well…I…I think that’s quite enough for today, uh, jolly good.” He stammered hastily, standing up from his place on the couch and beginning to walk towards the door.

“Hold on, just wait a minute Cap,” Alison called after him, watching as the man in question took one last look into the room, “Before you got here I was making the playlists that you and the others asked for earlier, maybe I could show you the one I made for you tomorrow?”.

The Captain gave a quick nod before making his escape down the old hallways towards his room. Kitty made to follow the former soldier but was stopped by Thomas placing a hand on her shoulder. “Let’s leave him be, Kitty, he’s probably exhausted. It’s not often that he shares things about himself like that.” The poet said delicately, glancing over to Alison who quietly nodded in agreement.

Turning to the hallway once more only to see it completely empty, Alison spoke again, “Do you think we should tell the others to leave him alone for tonight?”.

Thomas hummed a small noise of agreement before also standing from his place on the arm of the chair, “Yes, I think they’re all still downstairs, if I’m correct, would you like me to go find them?”.

Alison shook her head before getting up, “No I’ll come as well, I started the conversation after all.”.

Leaving the room with the two ghosts, the laptop remained forgotten on the ground, still playing the song noiselessly to the empty room:

~

‘And historians will call them

Close friends, besties, roommates, colleagues, anything but lovers

Sidekicks, family, good pals, buddies, anything but lovers

Close friends, besties, roommates, colleagues, anything but lovers

History hates lovers

Sidekicks, family, good pals, buddies, anything but lovers

History hates lovers’

~