Friday, June 15, 2012
Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square, Chapter 63
“Bugger.” Mr. Punch snorted when he opened his eyes. “This again.” He looked around the too-familiar room—that room inside the body that he shared with Julian, the room that only the two of them could see, the elegant apartment where “Julian” passed his time as “Mr. Punch” lived life.
The room had changed slightly since the last time Punch had been called to it—it was cozier and more richly appointed than it had seemed previously. That had been before he and Robert left New Orleans for London. Since that time, Punch had lived with little interruption from Julian who seemed content to watch from inside their body, pausing every so often to make a comment which only Punch could hear.
“Well, well. That’s not the reaction that I expected. Aren’t you glad to see me?” Julian asked.
At first, Mr. Punch couldn’t see the Duke of Fallbridge. Julian was seated in a darkened corner of the ethereal “room” within their shared shell. Punch looked up and saw the Duke. He looked older than Punch remembered. He certainly looked older than the face which looked back at Punch each day when he studied his reflection in the glass.
“Here, what do I look like in here?” Punch asked.
“Don’t you remember?” Julian smiled.
“No…well, I dunno. I guess I don’t recall ever seein’ me-self when we were both together.”
“There.” Julian pointed to a mirror which Punch hadn’t noticed before. Perhaps it wasn’t there before. Maybe it was. It seemed that in that magical space of their own, whatever either could imagine could be true.
Punch grinned at his reflection. “Humpy-back.” He chuckled. “Red nose, curvy-chin.”
“See?” Julian nodded. “In here, you look as you ought to. You look exactly as you feel. In here, you are Mr. Punch.”
“Big belly.” Punch giggled, running his imaginary hands over his stout gut. “I gotta say, I enjoy lookin’ like you, Your Grace. I truly do. You got such a nice face. And, Robert likes it so, he does. But, every so often, it’s nice to look like me-self.”
“I’m glad,” Julian replied.
“Only, you look different.” Punch squinted, turning around. “You look older, you do. Older than our body looks. Why’s that?”
“I’m ill.” Julian sighed.
“We’re both ill.” Punch nodded slowly. “Well, at least, the body is, then. What’s it all ‘bout?”
“I don’t know, Punch.” Julian replied. “Not exactly. However, I have my suspicions.”
“What are they?” Punch’s eyes widened. “What you think, then?”
“Do you recall when we went to America?”
“Course.” Punch smiled.
“When we first met Robert…and he told us, well…he told us about “us”?”
“Certainly.” Punch nodded again.
“Arthur was still alive.” Julian frowned.
“Horrible man. I’ll never forgive him what he done. I hope he’s rottin’ in hell, that one.”
“I have no doubt that he is.” Julian sighed. “Do you recall, Punch, when he poisoned me--Arthur?”
“I do.” Punch answered. “How could I forget…oh…” Punch grunted. “You don’t think?”
“That I cannot tell you, Mr. Punch, as I’m not entirely aware of all which happens outside of here. The longer you remain in control, the more comfortable I am. I don’t really care to pay too much attention, my dear. You’ve done quite well by us. I have no complaints—except for this illness. However, I recognize that this isn’t your doing. I’ve merely called you in here to see me so that I might share my idea. I leave it to you to sort out the details.”
“I see.” Punch sniffed. “Tell me, then. What do ya think?”
“’Bout our life?”
“What exactly about it?”
“Are ya happy?”
“Punch, I’ve never been happy. However, for the first time, I’m content. As I said, I approve of what you’ve been doing. Robert certainly was a wise choice for you, and, I must say he’s…” Julian paused, blushing slightly. “To be sure, he keeps things interesting. He has very nice hands and he’s quite gentle, which I appreciate. He’s quite handsome. I also rather like the way he smells. I know that must seem odd, but…well…it’s something that I notice. He smells quite good to me. His scent—it’s like soap, but also a bit like dinner. I can’t explain it. He has a nice scent about him.”
“I reckon he does.” Punch said slowly.
“Let’s not dwell on it.” Julian took a self-consciously deep breath. “As I was saying, I’m proud of the direction you’ve taken raising the child, my nephew. The household runs smoothly. Your designs and work are, frankly, more creative than anything I ever devised, and, you’ve found the continued favor of the Queen. So, I approve. Yes.”
“I ‘spose that’s all I can ask.” Punch shrugged.
“Let me ask you this, Mr. Punch.” Julian grinned. “Are you happy?”
“Oh, very…” Punch beamed.
“Then, we have no issues.” Julian nodded. “Now, you must awaken.”
“Why?” Punch asked. “I’ve not seen ya in months. Sure, I hear ya sometimes, I do, but it’s nice to chat with ya—like we did when you were a wee boy.”
“Charles and Gerard are concerned about you. They’ve summoned Miss Barrett.” Julian shook his head. “You must open your eyes and return to them.”
“As you wish.” Punch mumbled.
“You know I’m always in here with you,” Julian said quickly. “Never feel that you can’t speak with me.”
“Sure,” Punch winked.
“Yes?” Punch asked.
“I’m proud of you.” Julian said softly. “I know I said it already, however, it’s worth repeating.”
“Thank you, Your Grace.” Punch chirped.
“Now, open your eyes.” Julian whispered.
Punch opened his eyes. Gone was the room—that private, phantom room—replaced with the sight of his own bedchamber in the house on Belgrave Square. Gone was Julian… Charles and Gerard stared down at their master, looking concerned.
“Oh, Your Grace,” Charles gasped. “Thank goodness.”
“You had us worried, Sir.” Gerard grinned down at Punch as he blinked his eyes quickly.
“Were you asleep, Your Grace?” Charles asked.
“No,” Punch mumbled. “I was inside.”
“Pardon?” Gerard tilted his head.
“Nothin’, Gerry.” Punch rasped. “Ain’t nothin’. I…were…I were really sleepy.”
“We’ll let you rest, Sir.” Charles smiled.
“No.” Punch answered. “Please, stay with me. Least ‘til Dr. Halifax comes.”
“Yes, Sir.” Gerard agreed. Charles nodded, too.
“I wanna talk with you two ‘bout somethin’.” Punch began.
“What’s that, Sir?” Charles asked.
“Poison.” Punch coughed. “I wanna talk ‘bout poison.”
Did you miss Chapters 1-62? If so, you can read them here. Come back tomorrow for Chapter 64 of Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square.