A happening documented upon the eighth of August in the year 1883, at the New Haven lending library involving the wandering Mr. Alexander Endicott and the worthy Miss Adelaide Montgomery.
It was a struggle to adapt that Alex had not expected. This was where he'd grown up, the life he had lived for 18 years; a life which he now found intolerably dull. Bart did not seem to need or desire his assistance with the family business, the estate was essentially settled, and Alex had precious little money of own - certainly not enough to casually invest or start a business venture of his own.
In order to avoid spending entire days wandering aimlessly thinking about what to do with his life now, he took to the New Haven lending library to search out some books to occupy his thoughts.
He found himself confronted again with the sudden dual nature of his life, when he realized he had to consider what he ought to wear, to go to the library. Whether he wanted to be Endicott or Black. In the end he wore the single set of good clothes he'd bothered to have altered to fit, in favor of avoiding the possibility of generating curious questions or gossip.
It certainly made his life easier and was probably the best choice he could have made. There was not even a murmur as he opened the heavy doors and crossed the threshhold. Not one single person looked up to check his suitability. True, the librarian did offer him a sweetly polite smile but that was all.
The men sitting in the front wing chairs never lifted their attention from their papers. A slim redhead in a simple grey-lavendar gown remained standing with her back to him, absorbed in her search of the shelves.
He returned the librarian's smile, probably a bit more enthusiastically then she expected, but when he crossed to address her he kept his voice suitably quiet. Almost like a child in a library, trying to use his indoor voice. "I beg your pardon, madame, but do you suppose you might help me obtain a library card?"
"Oh, of course." The woman opened up a large leatherbound book with one hand while she drew a little box closer to her with the other. "Do you have proof of residency?" she asked.
"Ah..." He bit his lip, a little guiltily, "No. I, ah, I rather had a card once, some years ago. Would my address do?"
The woman offered him the professional sort of sympathy perfected by the service industry and slowly shook her head. "Anyone can quote an address, I'm afraid. We cannot accept that as proof. You do understand, don't you, Mr...?" She trailed off, uncertain of his name.
"Sorry, Endicott. Please call me Alex." He took a moment to consider the problem, "I fear I shan't be able to produce any post to a local address addressed to myself, I've been abroad some years. Is there something else that might do?"
"I can vouch for him," a soft voice interrupted from over his shoulder. "He's Mr. Bartholomew Endicott's infamous brother. You'll find him trustworthy enough, Caroline."
The librarian brightened immediately and nodded, bending to write the name down in the book. "Yes, I remember the name, Miss Adelaide."
Alex started to protest is supposed infamy but it caught in his throat when he turned to address the lady standing behind him, and the librarian said her name.
He glance rapidly over his shoulder at the librarian, then back at the redheaded woman with a kind of surprised realization. "Addie?"
She smiled, hazel eyes twinkling a bit with old mischief. "It's been a very long time, hasn't it?" she asked lightly. She seemed a bit taller than he remembered or maybe she was just standing straighter than he'd ever seen. Her bright hair was twisted back and low in a neat chignon and her dress was almost elegant in its simplicity, demurely cut but fitted well to her slim figure. She held her hands behind her; he couldn't see the way they shook.
A wide smile spread across his face, threatening to make him look a great deal more like the boy she remembered from years ago. Then, of course, he proceeded to make a scene, in the library, and stepped forward to embrace his childhood friend, "Its good to see you!"
"Alex!" Her outrage was soft and ladylike, however, and she still laughed. Her body tensed in his grip a bit. She did not quite hug him back but one of her hands did pat his shoulder a bit awkwardly.
"What?" He stepped back, not quite suitably embarrassed, "You surprised me. Sneaking up behind me, rescuing my reputation with the lending library."
"Are you sure it was a rescue?" she returned with a lifted eyebrow. "I did refer to you as infamous."
"I care not for the opinions of others, so long as I am granted the requested library card." He grinned, "Although I'm hardly infamous am I? Errant perhaps, but infamous implies a level of discussion and commonality of knowledge that is, admittedly, a bit disconcerting."
"Word always travels fast. That hasn't changed." Finally, she extended her hand; it was steady now. "When did you return?"
"At the beginning of the month." He took her hand in both of his, "And I already don't know what to do with myself."
"So you decided that it was time to refresh your reading skills?" she teased. "I approve."
"I'm pleased to have your approval." He arched an eyebrow at her, "Would you do me the honor, of selecting a book for me?"
"I could but that would probably be presumptuous of me. Your taste might have changed from penny dreadfuls, after all." Lifting her hand, though, she motioned for him to follow her. "He'll be back for that card, Caroline."
"Yes, Miss Adelaide."
She smiled over her shoulder. "Let's see what we can find you, hmm?"
Alex followed her like an oversized school boy, "To be honest, I've become woefully under read. I suspect your judgement will be brilliant."
"And now you're just flattering me. A habit you picked up overseas?" She abruptly turned down one aisle and her laugh trailed behind her lowly.
"I'm not," He protested, "I'm pointing out the unfortunate state of my literary conquests." He quickened his pace a bit, to catch up with her.
"Mm. Those better be the only conquests you're about to describe to me." She stopped at one shelf and turned to study the rows of books. One hand absently played with the cuff of her opposite sleeve. "I'm glad to see you're home safe and sound, Alex."
He leaned against the shelves beside her, "My word, perhaps I am infamous. I'm not that sort of gentleman." And then shrugged, because he couldn't find an answer to the idea of being home safe and sound. "How have you been, Addie?"
"Well enough." She twisted again to look over her shoulder at him and offered him another smile that hovered between shy and teasing. "I've been keeping out of trouble."
"Oh, I don't doubt," He teased back, "Running about with us lads has taught you not to find yourself caught."
"I hardly remember you and Bart getting me into any serious scrapes. Unless I'm trying to forget dangerous information?"
"No I suppose you had better judgement then we did." He admitted, grinning, "What sort of book are you thinking of?"
At his reminder, Adelaide turned back to the bookcase in front of her, feeling Alex at her back. "I wasn't sure if your tastes had changed," she answered mildly. "I would think you've had enough of sea adventures."
"Not quite yet," He answered, with a new touch of wistfulness in his voice. Then, though she couldn't see his expression, she could practically hear his grin returning in his voice, "Of course, I expect I'll be more concerned with accuracy now."
"And that's why I won't be giving you one of those," she returned lightly.
"Ah well then, how else do you suppose my judgement regarding literature has shifted?"
"I'm not sure." She lifted a small hand to trail over the book spines in front of her.
"Perhaps you might simply choose a book you have particularly enjoyed." He suggested, turning to look at the books on the shelf behind him.
She glanced over her shoulder only to find him turned so she took the time to study him a bit more. "And what if I only read and enjoy romance novels?"
"I admit, I would find myself somewhat surprised. But I have never read one all the way through in the past, I expect it would be interesting." He had changed visibly, over the years, and even in waistcoat and jacket it was obvious his shoulders would have strained any clothing he had owned at 18 beyond the point of any possibility of a proper fit.
Adelaide bit her lip, expression unguarded while he was safely turned away. It was something between confusion and fondness and something almost like upset. "Well, I don't so you needn't worry," she finally answered with a small laugh. Quickly, she turned back to the shelves in front of her and picked a book at random. "I've learned better."
It was his turn to glance at her, and find her turned away. He wasn't oblivious enough to miss the implications of her offhand statement. "Learned better? Did you discover they're all composed of the same general plot and ending?"
"Something of that kind." She turned and held out the book; it was a generic jungle adventure by all indications of the title but it showed class in that it avoided any lurid cover illustrations. She smiled for him again.
He arched an eyebrow slightly at her answer and the book, apparently considering how much he believed in either. "There is small potential for issues of accuracy here as well," He said, finally, with a small smile, "Shall I report back to you upon the thoroughness of the esteemed author's research?"
"Only if it's over tea or something, Alex."
"If you insist. I can supply tea. Or coffee, if you prefer. Beyond that I am at something of a loss and I fear it would require a cafe."
She accepted his words with a faint laugh and a nod. "Of course. I don't want to bother you. It's just... it's been a while."
"Its not a bother," He assured her immediately, "I'm just a terrible cook."
That drew another small laugh. "I would never dream of making you cook for me, Alex."
"Its probably for the best, I wouldn't dream of inflicting anything I tried to cook upon you."
"I'm glad you still think kindly of me. That just makes me really hope for the best in that book."
He grinned crookedly, "Picked it by the cover, did you?"
"Ah, I suppose that's a more viable method of comparison," He laughed.
"You'll notice the cover is green." She giggled and he was reminded abruptly of the younger girl he had last seen, years ago, Addie and not Adelaide. "I'm partial to green."
Alex smiled widely, "Color and title, I sincerely hope the contents can live up to the promise of their packaging."
"If they don't... I'll take the blame.
"Hardly, I think one might then take umbrage with the presumptuous binders who produced such a misleading display."
"... You're ridiclous." Without thinking, Adelaide reached out to take his hand, fingers lacing together instinctively so she could squeeze down. "I've missed you."
"I've missed you too." He smiled, squeezing her hand in return, lightly. "And thank you for your assistance with the librarian. I should have had to somehow convince Bart to come and vouch for me otherwise I expect."
Her smile twitched a bit at that. "And I can't see him being docile about that sort of thing."
He almost winced visibly, "I doubt it."
"Oh, I didn't mean to imply..." She trailed off and brought her other hand up to press his between both of hers. "I'm sorry."
"It's alright..." He signed and deflated just a little, "Some things remain... unresolved... between Bart and I."
Her heart-shaped face fell and she tucked her chin downwards, appearing to study their entwined hands. "I understand. He's... been through a lot."
Alex started to say something, perhaps something defensive, but stopped and shook his head, moving to cover her hands with his free one, "I'm sorry, this isn't something you should worry about."
She looked up then and met his eyes, something she had not quite done despite their entire conversation. "Alex, I worry about both of you," she answered and it was clear that she was controlling her voice carefully. "I can't help it. When you left and we had no word for ages, I... we nearly went mad."
"I wrote," He protested quietly, and frankly a bit weakly. Her reaction had him looking a little stricken.
"He told me, yes."
Alex frowned, looking down at their hands, "I didn't realize..."
"Realize?" She tugged a bit at his hands, alarmed at his reaction, until she could again look into his face. "Alex," she sighed, "please don't take that as complaint. I have no right to complain. Not anymore."
"I had to leave." He told her softly, embarrassed at the small pleading note he couldn't force out of his voice. He hadn't meant for his leaving, or his absence, to upset anyone so much. Hadn't, honestly, realized it might have.
"I know." She almost sounded like she did, in fact, know and understood and forgave.
"I don't know what to do with myself, now that I'm back." He didn't move to let go of her hands.
Adelaide smile again, gentle this time. "Well, I suggest renewing old acquaintances."
"I believe I've begun." He managed to smile slightly.
"Do you now? Quick worker. I can't imagine you've been back long."
"I haven't," he admitted, "But there aren't that many old acquaintances to renew."
"Well..." Adelaide again smiled and reached out to brush her hand lightly over his shoulder as if ridding him of dust. "Then you'll just have to take good care of those few, Alex."
Alex sighed, as if he felt he needed a deep breath, or had forgotten to breath, and released her other hand, "I think," He smiled slowly, "That we should have a picnic, the next time you have an afternoon free."
Her answer was in her own smile, a bit impish but still proper and polite. "I think that would be a nice change of pace. Some Saturday, perhaps. I'm occupied with my students during the week."
"Students?" He tilted his head slightly, in attitude that was more curious then concerned.
"My students, yes." She paused. "He never told you that I became a teacher?"
Alex shook his head, "Letters have been irregular at best." He paused, tucking the book she had picked under his arm, "Do you enjoy it?"
"I do," she admitted and her smile skewed a bit into the land of sheepish. "What was first necessity is now a pleasure. My children keep me out of trouble, amazingly enough."
His smile widened, started to drift back to its original cheerfulness, "I'm glad. That you enjoy it, not necessarily that your pupils keep you out of trouble."
Adelaide laughed at that and shook her head. "Of course you wouldn't find that commendable," she teased lightly. "You were always talented at embracing trouble."
His smile turned a bit rueful, "Perhaps a bit too talented at it, though I can't say that has changed. I expect it never will."
"Well, when you call upon me for the picnic, I expect ust to avoid trouble at least that long." She reached up to tuck a loose curl of ginger red behind her ear. "I have a reputation now," she laughed.
"So do I apparently," He pointed out, dryly, "I may endanger yours."
"I think my reputation can bear up to yours."
"Yours must be extremely good then. Else I'm not as infamous as you suggest."
"A little of both, I should think."
"I'm actually remarkably respectable, for the most part." He grinned, "Or at least I think so."
"Well, since you've managed to stay on ships in good health without incident, I will bow to a certain level of respectablity and sensible behavior." Half-turning, she plucked a book from the shelf behind her; it was tucked up in her arm too quickly for him to read the cover. Then she tilted her head. "So... Saturday then?"
"Yes, absolutely." He leaned, ever so slightly, attempting to catch the title of the book. "Lunch? or Tea time?"
"Lunch. I'll pack the hamper."
"If you insist. I'll have to come up with something to bring then."
"Bring yourself, Alex. It'll be a treat." With another impish smile, Adelaide managed to shift the book more firmly into the crook of her arm as she fished her reticule up into her hands. Expertly, she drew out a small notebook and pencil stub. "I'll give you my address."
"Thank you." He leaned a little more exaggeratedly to attempt to see what the book she was keeping out of his view.
In neat, flowing handwriting, she drafted out an address on a sheet of paper and tore it from the book. Holding it out, she lifted a light eyebrow. "Looking at anything interesting?"
"Hmm, oh, no nothing." He said innocently, accepting the paper.
"So much for respectability." She smiled. "I'm glad you're home safely, Alex."
"I'm entirely, mostly, respectable." He protested, grinning.
"Except when you're being nosey."
"If I wanted to be respectful, ought I to have been more subtle?"
"In peeking or in asking me on a picnic?"
"In peeking." He said cheerfully, "I see no subtle way to ask a lady out on a picnic without being ludicrous."
"You surprise me. It's alright, though. I'll still go with you, Alex. If only to save you from infamy."
"I appreciate you effort to improve my respectability."
She smiled serenely and returned her notebook and pencil to her reticule. "I am a teacher. It's my business to improve others."
"I've always attempted to be a decent student." He grinned, in a manner that didn't entirely support his assertions of respectability.
"Mmhm. We'll see about that."
"I'll even accept any correction of my grammar gracefully."
"You're a reformed man, Alex Endicott." She let go of her reticule and it swung down, heavy, from her wrist. "So changed," she teased. "I suppose we all are."
"I suppose we are, at that." He smiled, "You've become quite proper, and you no longer wear pigtails. I'm pleased to see the freckles remain."
That had her wrinkling her nose at him, an old gesture that still remained. "Only because, as a lady, I can't wear the amount of make-up it would require to cover the dratted things," she sighed.
"I've always like them." He admitted, grinning.
She flushed, peaches-and-cream complexion coloring easily at the casual compliment. "If only your opinion was the popular sentiment," was her light answer, though.
"I'll work on that."
"I think you would."
"I would, if I had any idea how to influence what is considered fashionable."
"I'll leave you to that thought." She held out her free hand to him, cheeks still pink. "I have to make an appointment, Alex. It's been wonderful seeing you again. I missed you."
He took her hand warmly, "Until Saturday then. Running into you here was a lovely surprise."
"Very much so." Her hand squeezed his. "I look forward to Saturday."
"I do as well."
"Good." She smiled brilliantly and withdrew her hand. "I'll see you then, Alex." After a final nod, she turned on her heel and headed for the main desk with brisk steps. Within moments, she had secured her book and disappeared through the front doors, a twitch of her lavender-grey skirts his last sight before they closed heavily behind her.
Alex's gaze lingered on the doors for a moment, before he followed to approach the main desk and the librarian, "So, regarding that library card..."