Hey folks! Need a break from the story I'm currently working on, so I decided to write this little one-shot vignette. Thanks for reading!
'Tis a strange thing that happens when one falls in love. It almost feels like you've been yanked into something you cannot escape. Like the very blood inside you will not flow unless you're with that person. They are your life source. Your everything. And what seems like the most wonderful feeling in the world can also be the worst—especially when you are not near him. When you cannot touch him. Or when you know you'll never see him again. The very thought stops your breath and your vision tosses, suddenly realizing that you've become one with this person, and without him, there is no life. There are no laughs. Joy has disappeared. There is no point in living.
How long must one wait until they can rejoin their one true love? How long will time stand against you, creeping by slowly with each lengthy, agonizing day? You continue to live here in misery, waiting for your time.
Why do you stay?
For him. She thought to herself. Always for him.
Did she not promise to forever wait for his return? To greet him with loving, welcoming arms when he came back?
Promises. She pondered bitterly. What did he promise her? And even so, did it matter? Almost everything she knew about him was a lie. In a way, it was better that he was dead. She wasn't sure she'd be able to face him the same way again, knowing what he'd done. Oh, the horrible, unimaginable things he'd done. She'd been aware of his unofficial title, "The Butcher," but assumed it to be quite exaggerated.
However, she was wrong—so deadly wrong. But, oh, Lord did she miss him.
Angelica, or Ansley as her William affectionately called her, stood steadfastly in front of the wooden cross bearing the name of her dead fiancé. Grass had not yet grown over the fresh grave and it would not be green for some time. The gentle, but frosty gusts, mild remnants of the winter, played with the fallen and dead leaves and twirled them about the graves. William's tomb was one of about two dozen hastily dug graves outside the plains where the battle at Cowpens took place not long ago. There was no large stone monument with his name etched into the marble and surrounded by intricate carvings. No procession of mourners or ministers praying for him. There was only his Ansley. Perhaps the only person to miss a man thought to be horrible and treacherous by all. Ansley mulled over those words. Horrible? Treacherous?
He didn't seem so terrible when he held her in his arms at night, appreciating her warmth and love after so many days away from anything warm and adoring. He didn't seem so treacherous when he had awkwardly gotten to one knee, clearing his throat nervously and stumbling over the words asking for her hand in marriage. And he certainly did not appear murderous when he learned of their child that was to enter the world in nine months. No, he was not any of those things the people accused him of. He was only her William. The man that gave her the love her family had failed terribly to provide. That was her William.
But to everyone else, he was the "Butcher." A man to be feared and avoided at all costs. Were all the things said about him true? Did he murder children? Women? Innocent soldiers? Images flashed dreadfully through Ansley's mind. She tried to picture him slaying a child. It made her queasy to even imagine it. She next considered him shooting a woman, mercy found nowhere in the deep, azure orbs that also looked upon her with undying love.
Finding herself becoming upset, Ansley squeezed her eyes shut, the tears that had been welling now dribbling out and making warm trails down her cheeks. She wiped them away with the back of her hand, the cold metal of her engagement ring brushing against her pale skin. Ansley inhaled shakily, her breaths wheezing in and out from the tears in her throat.
Reasoning that it was probably time to leave, Ansley gathered her skirts and turned around, but stopped short. Her lips parted curiously at the man who stood visibly uncomfortably a few feet away. He had his tri-cornered hat in his hands, his tanned fingers tapping it nervously. He was probably in his mid-forties, and judging by his clothes and the manner in which he carried himself, Ansley guessed him to be a colonist. She couldn't help the frown that she felt on her features. For some years, it was drilled into her to dislike the colonists and consider them as ignorant farmers. So, naturally, a frown was in constant company whenever a colonist happened to appear.
Ansley was having a difficult time reading him. His eyes were sad and remorseful, his mouth stern and his strong jaw clenched. He continued to shift his weight from one foot to the other, gawking at her as if trying to figure her out just as much.
"Who are you?" Ansley demanded, the tears in her voice quite evident.
The man opened his mouth to answer, but closed it, pursing his lips. Taking a short breath, he tried again. "I'm a colonel with the Continental Army. I, uh—"
Ansley creased her forehead. "Why are you here?"
The graves that surrounded her fiancé's were all British. The American graves were on the opposite side. Was the man lost?
The colonel pointed hesitantly to the graves behind Ansley. "I've come to pay my respects, madam."
Ansley crossed her arms, tightening her shawl around her. "You're on the wrong side, Colonel." She spat, making her accent strong so there would be no doubt as to her nationality.
He made a nervous sort of chuckle, scratching the back of his head. "No, madam, I'm on the right side. I'm here to pray for the salvation of a particular man's soul."
Ansley felt something in her grow. Not hate, but stubbornness to let this man pass her. She felt it was her duty to stand here, defiantly protecting the men of her country. "Why pray for an enemy, Colonel?" Ansley's voice was quickly returning, the tears long forgotten.
He shrugged, shifting his weight again. "An enemy yes, but he still has a soul—somewhere."
Ansley felt her stubbornness subsiding and her form relaxed some. "And who do you intend to pray for?"
The American now scratched the side of his chin before answering. In a passing, insulting thought, Ansley wondered if the man had fleas or something. "A colonel, madam...a man I killed."
Ansley stared at him blankly, her eyes unblinking. A colonel? She turned slightly, her eyes perusing over the names on the crosses. Most of them were privates and corporals. A couple majors. There was only one colonel. Her colonel.
At that moment, she turned back to the colonist, hate evident in her gaze. "You killed him?"
The color drained from the man's face and he took in a deep breath, grasping the fact that this woman was here for the same person. He bowed his head a moment, apparently waiting for something. Harsh words? Spittle? A slap? No, Ansley did none of these things, only stared at the man, her lower lip trembling. This was the being that took the greatest love she'd ever experienced away from her. He tore it out of her very hands.
Her delicate fingers curled into fists at her sides as she clenched and unclenched her hands. Her breathing quickened but she remained calm. She remembered William grumbling something about a certain foe of his. This, "Ghost," that really did seem to haunt him. Ansley had often wondered whether the Ghost had something against her fiancé in particular. Some unpaid debt. Or perhaps revenge?
"Are you the 'Ghost'?"
The man seemed somewhat surprised by the question and he raised his head to look at her. He must have expected some sort of retaliation by the young woman. A simple nod of his head told Ansley the truth. She sniffed, biting her lip. This answered a few questions she'd had.
"All I know is that Will—Colonel Tavington did something to you. I was never told the details."
The colonel's eyes reflected sadness again and they glazed a bit. "Yes, he did. He destroyed my life—a portion of it anyway."
He wasn't going to tell her. So Ansley could only guess that William had hurt this man's family in some fashion. Not really wanting to know how, Ansley sniffed again, the tears threatening to return.
"Well, sir, on behalf of the Colonel, you have my apologies for your sufferings—"
"Please, madam," The man held a hand up, gesturing for her to silence herself, "he did not apologize then, I don't believe it right for you to apologize for him now."
Ansley suddenly felt a pinch and wet warmth in her hands. She unclenched them, having forgotten the force she put upon them. Red liquid smeared them, her nails having dug into her palms enough to break skin. Her hands shaking, she hastily searched for a handkerchief. But without another moment passing, a dark green handkerchief appeared in front of her. Ansley looked up to see the colonel staring sympathetically and proffering the cloth. Ansley took it cautiously, wiping her hands.
"Keep it." He said matter-of-factly.
"I intend to." Ansley retorted.
His head bowed, the man walked past her to the spot Ansley had previously occupied. He crossed his hands, followed by making the sign of the cross. Ansley's brows drew together. A papist? Such people were rare in the colonies and often ostracized. Though she supposed if they kept a low profile, they could practice their Catholic ways freely. But this only added another dislike to the long list Ansley was forming against this man.
Still wiping her hands, Ansley watched him carefully. He looked completely at peace as he prayed. But sensing her stare, the man opened his blue eyes and shifted them, giving her a sidelong glance. Sighing, Ansley looked away, leaving him be. She walked a few feet away, removing the last of the blood that was starting to dry in between her fingers.
After some time, the Colonel finished and backed away from the grave. Ansley crossed her arms, waiting for him to do something, preferably to leave. He put on his hat and looked like he was about to grant Ansley's wish, but stopped, appearing to have a question.
"How did you know him?"
Ansley felt an uncomfortable lump form in her throat. "I...was his fiancée."
The Colonel squeezed his lids shut a moment. When he opened them, he fixed her with a remorseful gaze. He took a breath to speak, but she cut him off.
"Don't say you're sorry, Colonel," Ansley said frostily, "I know you aren't."
The man curled his lip, nodding. "What—what do you plan to do now?"
Why must he make conversation?! She thought bitterly. Sighing impatiently, Ansley answered, "William had bought some land in Ohio as part of our wedding gift. I will probably settle there," She put a hand to the barely visible protrusion on her stomach, "raise his child...and wait for him, as always." She finished, the last words more for herself.
Scratching the side of his chin again, he grunted. "Mmhm...and, do you have, uh, sufficient funds to—to take care of—"
"I'm quite wealthy..." she paused, "thank you." She answered, somehow getting it across humbly.
"Well," the Colonel straightened his hat and cleared his throat, "good day to you, madam, and best of luck."
Ansley nodded coolly and was about to turn away, when a glint from the man's chest caught her eye. She stopped, long enough to see the small, metal trinket attached to a leather chord that hung from the man's neck and dangled at his mid-torso. It looked hauntingly familiar, and the man halted upon seeing her expression. He followed her gaze to the charm. Ansley tore her eyes away from it and down to her hand, to an engagement ring with a diamond cut neatly into the shape of the North Star. Tears returned as she pulled the ring off her finger, bringing it closer for examination. She remembered the night he gave it to her, saying he'd gotten it from a local tradesman. Try as she might, Ansley could not remember seeing a lie in his eyes. Then again, she'd had no reason to look for one.
A tear fell to the diamond, causing it to twinkle in the late afternoon sun. As more tears reddened her eyes, Ansley looked to the man, who'd stepped closer, his mouth slightly agape.
"He stole this from your home, didn't he?" Ansley choked out, the ring trembling in her shaking hands.
The man stared at the ring, his own pale blue eyes glossing over. "I thought it'd been lost when he burned my sister-in-law's house. I'd given it to her for safekeeping."
Afraid of such an answer, Ansley released a shaky breath. She moistened her dry lips, carefully wiping the salty water from the sparkling facets of the diamond.
Her heart wrenching at her decision, Ansley ignored it and hesitantly held the ring out to the colonel.
"This belongs to you." She said shakily.
The colonel stared longingly at the ring, then looked down to the necklace, holding the metal star against the sun's light, letting it reflect off it beautifully. He shook his head, giving Ansley a small, but sincere smile.
"We should all have something to remember our loved ones by. I have mine...you keep yours."
He then took her other hand, kissing it gently. Backing away, he gave a slight bow of his head and walked off towards the battlefield.
If you still hate Tavington, I don't blame you, but I figured sometime in his lifetime, somebody had to have liked the guy... :) thank you for reading and hope you all have a wonderful holiday!!