This second part tells Georgy's story, what it was like for her growing up with Will, and then takes up their story going forward. The second half is entirely sequel, no back-story.
As always, I caution the reader this is just a story, in my made-up universe that sometimes looks like the real one but mostly doesn't, where things happen the way I want them to, not how they really do, so please just read and enjoy. If you liked it please vote, if you didn't then please tell me why, and if you want to email me feedback or a comment, I do reply to all email comments, just please leave a return email address if you want me to reply.
And many thanks to ChloeTzang for keeping my head pointing generally 'due-reality' most of the time...
Part One: There's Another Georgy Deep Inside
So where shall I start my story? The first time I recognised and managed to say Will's name? Or when I knew for real that Willie could keep the monsters away from me? Or when Willie first made me a secret den to hide in from the thunder-monsters that frightened the life out of me? Or when he left to do his duty (as he saw it) and I was deathly afraid I'd never see him again? They're all different kinds of beginnings, all different parts of the story of different parts of my life, but they all tell the same story; that the be-all and end-all of my world, the pivot on which my world turns, and the one part of my life that is mine and mine alone, is my sweet, brave, kind, gentle, generous, gorgeous Tyler Wilmot, the best and most adorable big brother in the world.
Will was always there, the main focus of my life even if he didn't know it; all my very earliest memories are about him. I distinctly remember when I was a small child, not yet three years old, sitting on his lap and poking my fingers in his mouth while he tried to bite me, and laughing uproariously; it really was the best, funniest game I knew, and Will never tired of playing it with me. Willie and his pretend biting and funny faces were the most important thing I had, only mummy and daddy made me feel as good as he did.
Every time I felt blue, or needed a special hug, Will had it for me; his arms around me, my hand in his, the way he'd pat the seat and make room for me on the couch so I could cuddle against him, all special, enduring memories; when my friends came over to play, after we'd had enough Barbie fashion parades, and doll's-house picnics and dolly tea-parties, Will would be the bear (because I asked him, and he never said no to me) so he could chase us through the house and hunt us down. Mummy only had a couple of rules: no playing in the bedrooms and jumping on the beds, and no chasing up and down the secret stairs, and when the bear caught us, he was only allowed to tickle me, I made sure of that. Everyone else got tagged, but I got tickled; my rules, my Will, my bear, ergo my tickles!
I was scared of thunder; it weakened my knees and rang alarm bells all through me, and only Will knew how to peel me off the ceiling and bring me back to reality. I won't lie to you; when a peal of thunder sounded, only his arms around me made me feel safe, not mummy, not daddy, not even Aunt Kay; only Willie could talk me down and put me back together. He even made me a den, a thunder-shelter to hide from the scary thunder-beasts when they came looking for me, a cave he made out of his blankets and bedclothes and his arms, and I knew when I ran and jumped in there I'be safe and protected because nothing could get me while my Will was protecting me in my secret thunder-shelter.
Mummy and daddy talked about sending Will away to school and I went bonkers-crazy; send him away? Not bloody likely, this was home, this was where he lived, with me, this was where he was staying, end of conversation! They didn't know I was playing under daddy's desk and listening in horror when they were talking about taking my Will, my big bear, away from me, how very dare they! Who was going to protect me if they sent him away? Nuh-uh, not happening, no way, no how!
Will was kind of the same; he knew mummy and daddy were thinking about boarding school for him, and he wasn't at all on-board with the idea; all his friends were here, all his favourite things were here, all his favourite places he and his friends from the local farms liked to play, places where they could build campfires and dens and tree-houses in the woods and build fires to wrap potatoes in foil and bake them in the coals, and build rope-swings. He never knew I knew he'd sneak out after bed-time so he and his friends could go poaching trout, or scrumping, stealing apples, pears, and soft fruit from our neighbours' orchards (why, I don't know, we had plenty of the same fruit orchards on the estate right outside the front door) plus I was here, and I wasn't going to let him go anywhere, no chance...
I made myself totally unbearable around mummy and daddy; crying, throwing tantrums, snapping and snarling, flouncing around and having fits of outright brattish disobedience. Oh I worked so hard at making the olds understand just how super pissed-off I was with them for even thinking about putting my Tyler-Bear somewhere I couldn't have him whenever I wanted him. Mummy would panic in the mornings because my bed hadn't been slept in, and then she'd look for me and find me asleep in bed with Will, my Pooh bear with me so I had all my special bears when I went to sleep, making double-sure they couldn't magic him away in the middle of the night. I was taking no chances...
Eventually they twigged that perhaps, just perhaps, sending my pet bear away might, possibly, be a really, really bad idea; chalk one up to the power of nuclear ground-zero level obnoxious brattery...
Through all this, Aunt Kay was my voice of reason; Will and I were used to being under her orders, she and mummy ruled the house and just ran everything, but when mummy wasn't available, Aunt Kay always had a soft lap, a bag of jelly-babies and a soothing word for me. Will deferred to her automatically, he'd had her long before I had and he was used to her dampening his handkerchief so she could wipe smuts and grime off him, just as he was used to her ordering him around, and cowering at that look she gave him when he didn't do things exactly the way she'd told him to.
It took me a long time to realise Aunt Kay wasn't actually my auntie, that she was, in fact, mummy's housekeeper; all through my childhood she was the one who, when mummy wasn't around because she had to work, cooked my lunch, made me jam sandwiches, wiped off my milk moustache, brought me treats if I'd had a blue day, made me the occasional fried-egg sandwich as a special treat, and watched cartoons with me sitting on her lap. She was the one who admired my drawings and taped them to the fridge. She was the one who made Will tidy his room, and told me off when I spilled blackcurrant on the study carpet then helped me blot it up, and she was the one who looked after the two of us while daddy was away overseas with the regiment and mummy was running the business-side of the estate.
It took me even longer to understand we lived on a large estate, mostly because I wasn't allowed to wander around the way Tyler was. Until I was maybe seven or eight all I'd ever seen of the estate was The Lodge, the old estate gatehouse where Aunt Kay lived, the Lodge garden, where I was allowed to play under Aunt Kay's eye because it was fenced off so I couldn't go wandering, the rear courtyard and loose-boxes if Will was with me, or the playroom next to my room. The house was big, but not spooky, just old, and there were lots and lots of places to explore. Apart from the three hidden back staircases and landings, I could go pretty much where I pleased, as long as mummy, Aunt Kay, or Will knew where I was. As far as I knew, that was it; the fact that the estate covered a vast area of farmland, orchards, and villages didn't percolate down to me until I was older.
Will, of course, had scoped out the place many times, and he knew all the little nooks and crannies, the little hidden rooms and attics, and the huge grounds where all the fruit orchards and woodland were. I wasn't allowed to climb trees, so Will would scale one of Mummy's ornamental plum trees in her formal garden and get me a handful of lovely sweet, juicy golden plums, and then Aunt Kay would go off on him for getting me all sticky, and filling me up before dinner and ruining my appetite. When he did things like that for me, that's when I knew how much he loved me; he knew Aunt Kay would be mad but he did it anyway, because I liked them and I'd asked him, and he never refused me anything.
As I got older it began to seem more and more important to me that Will was where I could see him, hear him, feel him; if he wasn't around for any reason I'd get weirdly jumpy and scared, and everything would only back down when he showed up again. I didn't demand he spend all his time with me, he had his friends and I had mine, but if he was gone for a long time, and I don't mean school, then somehow Aunt Kay would know what was up with me and she'd take me with her to go find him, mostly to reassure myself that he was still around. Mummy and daddy talking about sending him to boarding school had set off all kinds of fears and suspicions inside me, and anytime I couldn't find him I started worrying mummy and daddy had sneaked him away when I wasn't looking.
Willie had also changed; he was Tyler now, his real name, not Will, his family nickname, and it seemed to be important to him that we now called him Tyler. He also seemed to be shooting up like a weed, every day he looked taller, bigger built, less clumsy; I was still just a little squirt and he was looming over me. Aunt Kay told me he was becoming a big boy, and I really didn't like the idea at all; if he became a big boy like all my friends' big brothers then he'd stop doing stuff with me and go and do it with someone else, and I wasn't going to allow that.
But it was inevitable that he did; Ty still played with me, he still climbed trees and chased me up and down the stairs, and helped me search for the way into Narnia in the huge old wardrobes stored in the attics, and sat still while I practiced being a nurse on him and glued his hands together with Scotch tape because Mummy and Aunt Kay wouldn't let me play with sticking plasters, but it was changing, he was changing; now, when his big, ugly, smelly, noisy, flatfooted friends showed up and barged around like a herd of trolls he'd disappear with them and I'd be sitting in a disconsolate sulk because he'd picked his friends over me.
When I reached my teens is when I really started to change; things were happening to me, to my body, yucky things; I itched all the time, my skin felt like it was too tight and looked like I'd been scrubbed with a cheese-grater. I erupted so badly I looked like an extra from 'Star Trek, all oily and blotchy with red-raw zits the size of match-heads bursting out all over me, but especially my face. I sweated at the least excuse (and Aunt Kay telling me when I complained that 'Horses sweat, men perspire, but ladies only glow' didn't help much, I just spent my time in the wettest glow possible feeling miserable about it...) and changing my clothes three times a day seemed like an awful lot of work, and it just never stopped.
I kept away from Ty all through this time; if he'd taken a close look at me he'd have run screaming from the room, and I needed him to be on my side here, not repulsed because I'd exploded, and then the weird conversations with mummy and Aunt Kay started, stuff about how I was becoming a woman, which freaked me out because just what in the Hell were they talking about? If becoming a woman meant I'd have to live looking like some sideshow freak then I wasn't having any of it, and if it was all the same to them, I'd just go back to being a girl and stay there, thank you very much...
Then they started telling us all about it in school, and showing us the most disgusting video-clips about what was going on with our bodies, oh ick! Barf! Gag-puke! Were they bloody serious? For the next forty years? I resolved to have nothing to do with it, not my problem, but it was, and it was really painful too. Eventually mummy took me to see a doctor with a waiting room full of teenage girls hugging cushions and looking miserable. She examined me, and we shall gloss over that, I'm trying to forget it, but the upshot was she gave me some pills, one a day, every day, read the instructions carefully, next!
The pills sort of worked, but the knowledge that this was my monthly fate forever didn't feel like a rite of passage, it felt like a curse, based on the cycle of the moon, just like a werewolf, only every month instead of going on a satisfying killing spree I get to bloat, cramp, crave chocolate, and cry a lot. Thank you, God...
At least my join-the-dots face cleared up, but that was a minor 'whoopee' compared to what was in store; it was like being told "congratulations, we're not cutting your leg off; unfortunately, you now have leprosy..."
In the midst of all this teen angst and turmoil, there was Will, looking more handsome and getting more distant every day. Okay, I got that he was a boy, he wasn't a playmate anymore, he was just my big brother now, and he wanted to do big-boy things with his friends, I got that; hated it, but I got it, which just made me feel even lower and more despondent, and to cap it all, daddy wasn't well; every time he came back from his regiment he looked thinner and more tired, and then one day he told me he wasn't going back, he'd retired from the regiment.
I was so happy, I had my daddy where I needed him, not somewhere else in the world being a soldier, but he was... different, always tired, and he'd started using a walking stick, and the worst part was, every time Will showed up, daddy suddenly turned into 'Mr. Sunshine', joking and bantering with Will, being helpful and just being the perfect dad, and I know it was all a lie, that he was hiding something from me, but even more so from Will.
And then I found out; they told me. Mummy and daddy cornered me one day when Willie was out with his friends and they told me how I was going to lie to Willie. It was no secret Will wanted to be an officer in daddy's regiment just like his daddy (and I'd had a minor freak-out when Mummy and Aunt Kay told me about Willie's daddy, that he'd been killed and mummy had remarried and that was why Willie was Tyler Wilmot and I was Georgina Lassiter; I never put it together, I'd always thought his name was different because that was just Will being Will...)
I learned that my daddy and his daddy had studied and trained together, graduated together, served together, been the best of friends, and when his daddy was killed in an accident, daddy had helped mummy raise his best friend's little boy, and along the way he fell in love with mummy, and that's where I came from. Will wanted to be what his daddy was, an armoured vehicle crew commander in the Household Cavalry Regiment. Willie wanted more than anything in the world to be part of the Blues and Royals, like daddy, and like his daddy before him.
What they told me shattered my world; daddy had cancer, it was bad, Mummy was trying to deal with it, and she and Aunt Kay were heartbroken, but they and daddy were adamant in one thing; Will wasn't to know, because if he knew he'd kick his dreams to the kerb in a heartbeat just to be with daddy and mummy, and neither of them wanted that. Will was his father's son, but he was daddy's son too, and if he knew daddy was so sick it would destroy him. And so I promised I'd help mummy and daddy and Aunt Kay lie to him and keep him from blowing his life and dreams apart over something he couldn't change.
I was only fourteen, and I thought my world was ending; I was going to lose my daddy, Will was being prepared to go and learn how to be a soldier so he could go off and fight on the other side of the planet, and I was supposed to smile and lie to him and watch him do it, but I did, because I loved my Will, I loved and adored my favourite Bear, and so I allowed myself to hurt if it meant he didn't have to.
The day he left I nearly blurted it all out just to make him stay; when it came time to let him go I really, really didn't want to; the effort it took to bite my tongue nearly killed me, and I still broke and tried to stop him leaving, I actually tried to stop him getting in the car, I couldn't let him go, I needed my Will, he was MY Tyler Wilmot, not the bloody army's, the best thing I had and I wasn't about to let him go. I saw the look on Will's face when he got in the car, and I honestly believe if I'd had five more minutes I could have made him forget all that army nonsense and stay home where I needed him.
But he shut the car door and mummy and daddy drove away and I cried with Aunt Kay until the car disappeared in the distance.
Georgy-Girl, Bring Out All The Love You Hide:
When mummy and daddy arrived back home I did what I do to all traitors who betray me, hurt me, or let me down: I ignored them, I cut them dead, and I looked right through them; if they thought I'd been a brat before they were in for an eye-opener or two; they let my Will go, they actually, no kidding, for God-damned real took him away, and they want me to play nice? So not happening, no way!
Mummy tried to cosy up to me but I wasn't having it; SHE let him go; SHE helped him leave; SHE made me lie so he'd go; SHE made me part of the lie, they all had, I couldn't bear to be around any of them, everyone had hurt me and cost me my Will, I was never going to forgive them!
Eventually Aunt Kay knocked on my door. I shouted at her to go away but she came in anyway, angering me even more; this was MY room, how dare she just barge in where she wasn't wanted! I started to tell her exactly what I thought of all of them but she shut me down with "that" look.
"Georgy, I know you're angry now, but please, listen; Will wanted to go, this was something he needed to do, would you have taken that away from him? Think before you answer, Georgy, think about Will, about what he wanted, not you. Your dear mother loves you, baby, and she loves Will too, and because she loves him she had to let him go so he could be what he always wanted to be. I know you hate that, I know you're lonely, but please, think of everything Willie ever meant to you, how much he cared for you, how much he adored his baby sister; how easy do you think it was for him to leave?"
My jaw dropped as realisation struck; Willie going away was what he needed, but it didn't mean it was easy for him; all I'd thought about was me, how about him? Oh God!
Aunt Kay held her arms open as I collapsed in a storm of weeping, tears for me, for mummy, but mostly for Willie, alone far away, doing what he thought he needed to do, and how must mummy be feeling with him gone and me hating her like a spiteful baby? And daddy, sick and needing all of us and this was how I was behaving!
"It's okay, Georgy, it's okay to cry, sweetheart," she crooned, her eyes shining with unshed tears, "I know how sad you are, I am too, I had Will before I had you, baby, I miss him as much as you do, but we had to let him go, it's what he needed, but I still need him, baby, he's my Will too. It will get better, sweetie, I promise, we'll make it better again."
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry..." was all I could keep repeating, but Aunt Kay's arms around me let me know it was alright, we were alright, except for that hollow space inside me where my Will should have been; I missed him so much, and all I had was that empty space inside me, how was that ever going to get better?