Author's Note: You guys must be so annoyed with my constant complaints about writers block. But it's so bad! It's like your fingers are itching to write something..but what? Meh..procrastination again. I'm just trying to get the blockage out by freewriting. Whatever comes to hand. I had fun writing this one. It's...different. But that seems to be the only thing I'm good at. Weird stuff. I don't even know what I'm talking about. Wish me luck you guys. Pray to whatever deity for written word there is, so that I may be able to write again, so I can start Chaos Entwined soon. Happy reading/writing and much love.
The beer flowed into my cup quickly. I smiled up at the tavern maid who graciously poured it for me. But I couldn't smile the way my men smiled. Already drooping over in their drunken stupor. Kissing strange women when they had wives and children at home. As morally wrong as it was, I could not bear to scold them for this madness. Their spirits had been down for quite some time. And though there was much bloodshed and death, the Battle of Chancellorsville was now at an end. For nearly a week we had been sleeping in trenches with rats and mud. Now there was warmth. Contentment. For all but me.
"Thank you, kind miss.." I smiled. She grinned back. She had a lovely smile. Rosy cheeks and a head full of luscious red curls
"Your men seem quite hungry." She spoke gently. "Are you sure you would not like something as well?"
I shook my head. "No. But thank you for your kindness." At that time, she nodded her head and left me to my peace. I put the cup to my lips and sipped back the liquid. At once I was disappointed. The beer was fine, but I wished I had gotten something a little stronger. I could not force myself into happiness. I just wanted to sleep for days and days. But how to sleep in silence when the sounds of cannons and gunshot had kept me awake and paranoid for so long? I shook my head in disdain and drank back more mouthfuls of the golden nectar. I pushed my ever growing blonde hair from my face and sighed miserably.
"Major Whitlock!" A kind voice called to me. I already knew it to be my friend, Geoffrey Scott. He and I had been companions since we were children. Our mothers were the best of friends and we were practically raised together as cousins. He always made it a point to tease me about my promotion five months ago to a major. To him, I was still the boy who he always beat in marbles. He offered me a handmade cigarette from a tin case. I shook my head at him and laughed.
"You know I don't smoke, Geoffrey."
My young friend with dusty brown hair and blue eyes smiled whole-heartedly at me and pulled up a chair beside me.
"Come on now, Jasper. Don't be stubborn! Celebrate. Look at the men enjoying themselves. Your weary spirits put a damper on the mood. They want to see you happy."
I sighed and lifted a small rolled cigarette from my friend's case and he offered me a box of matches. Quickly I lit the cigarette and let it burn between my fingers.
"Ada boy!" Geoffrey laughed. I smiled pitifully.
"Damn it, Jasper, what's the matter?" I looked over to him curiously. So he had not heard? Perhaps the other men hadn't as well, and that is why they seemed so carefree. I put the tip of the tobacco cigarette to my lips and inhaled softly. The smoke calmed my nerves, and that was the only reason I didn't put it out immediately.
"General Thomas has been shot." Geoffrey got a stern look. Immediately, I regretted telling him this. I had made his joyous mood go sour.
"Wh- Stonewall?" He asked, bewildered. I nodded. "How?" It was hard to believe such a courageous and cunning man had been taken down so easily. "Does he live?"
"He does. He was shot by one of our men. Last I heard, he had to have his arm amputated. The damage was too much. But I don't think they did it quick enough. He has a fever. They're trying to bring it down but-"
"Did they catch the man who did it? The traitor's going to burn in hell!"
"It was an accident. No one is speaking the man's name."
Geoffrey sighed. "You must not worry, Jasper. It's completely out of your control. It's up to God and the other generals now." He laughed. He picked up the cup of beer that I had neglected and swigged back the contents.
"We need him." I hissed. "He's the strongest general we have. And yes, this battle is won, but what about the next? And the one after that?"
"The worst is over! And besides, we have you. Everyone knows you were Stonewall's favorite. Maybe you could take over -"
I scoffed at his suggestion. As if I could take the place of a man so great.
"Jasper..You are too young to be so senile. If you worry for Thomas, then drink to his name!" At that point, my friend whistled loudly to the tavern maid and asked that she bring me another cup of beer. I did not want to drink anymore.
"You are the only free man here, and yet you refuse to kiss the lips of these beautiful women!"
I could do little but laugh. Laugh at how simple he took a woman to be.
"I cannot be like you Geoffrey. How could you possibly do such a thing? What about Sarah? You know she's waiting for you in Texas.." I inhaled from my cigarette again and looked to my friend critically, though he must have been able to see the smile behind my eyes as he continued to joke.
"And she knows I love her.." He said, almost in a sarcastic tone. Love! How could he mingle with these women as if they were nothing more than ladies of the night and then say he loved the woman he left back home? "Oh, Jasper you don't understand. You've been running from girls since we were young boys in school."
I eyed him evilly before turning away from him and watching my other mates. I observed as a young man in uniform suavely sat a beautiful woman on his lap and slunk his arm around her. In no time she was whispering sweet nothings in his ear. It was so easy for some. My friend was right. I never gave myself up to anyone. But it wasn't that I never tried. No woman had ever held my fascination. And now that I was a man of war, it was hard to tell if a woman loved me, or how many metals were on the breast of my jacket. But I did want it. Not the love that these men knew. Something deep and unadulterated.
"A woman can be as fair as my Sarah -No, fairer- and still, a man's eyes will wander. It happens to us all."
At that point, the chamber maid came to me and brought me my drink. I thanked her once again and brought the cup to my lips. Perhaps some alcohol would make this conversation between my friend and I more interesting. Or at the very least, give it some drunken meaning.
It was after a few more drinks, and getting a good game of poker going, that the tavern door burst open behind me, then. The warm wind of May felt oddly chilled and the atmosphere in the room seemed to change. I felt goosebumps rise on my skin. I turned around to see who had entered. At this point in time, I wish I never did. I wish I ignored my haywire senses and continued my game of cards without a care. But I did look. And what I saw was stunning. A woman. I watched her with a strange kind of curiosity as she lowered the black hood of her cloak from her head revealing silky strands of ebony hair. And her flesh! I craved to touch it. It looked unflawed. Pale as cream. Her full lips splayed a small smile that made me melt. About her waist was an ornate corset that made the contours of her body appear unearthly and wonderful. Was this woman so powerful, or had the alcohol caught up with me? The liquor, yes. No woman could truly be so beautiful. She briefly gazed over us as if she were tasting the atmosphere with her eyes. But when she looked at me, I could not even breathe. I felt a longing that I had never known in my entire existence. It made me feel uncomfortable, so I turned around quickly before she noticed my rude staring. It was only when I turned around that I noticed she had caught the eye of every single man in the room.
Slowly she sauntered in. She must have been fully aware that all eyes were on her. But her confidence never wavered. The way she carried herself with such grace swayed me. It was as if her feet never touched the floor. She sat lonesome, at a table across from me. I lowered my head and stared at the wooden table for something to concentrate on. How worn down and beaten it was.
"Come on then, men..." I fumbled with my words. "The stakes are high." I removed my pocket watch from the side of my pants and threw it on the table amidst the pile of coins and paper bills. Geoffrey, sitting beside me looked at me incredulously.
"Jasper, did see that?" He asked, winded.
"See what?" I pretended to be oblivious.
"Are you blind? The woman."
"I've seen many, in my day." I whispered. "Come on boys, place your bets!" At once, the people began to chatter again. A man bet a beautiful gold ring that was on his index finger. Another man folded, and bowed out of the game, as he had nothing more to give.
"Do not lie, Jasper." My friend continued to hiss in my ear. "You have never seen a woman as fair as she is. I know I haven't. Look at her...Look"
God, did I ever want to look at her. Just once more. But something deep within me made me feel as if staring too hard at the woman, and wanting her any more than this, would bring about something terrible. I took a drag of my slowly diminishing cigarette and stared at my cards. I only had two pairs of eights. But if I maintained my composure and kept up my bluff, I was confident I could walk away with it all.
"She's staring at you.." Geoff whispered.
I peered up, over my cards and looked over to the other table. Her eyes held mine for the longest time. Her rose petal lips turned up into a heartbreaking smile. Oh, if only I could watch her smile forever. She untied the cord around her neck and the dark cloak fell from her shoulders. The dark dress she wore, was a stark contrast to her skin. And I shuddered, as I saw more of that wonderful skin, about her neck and her chest. I felt my heart pound. What was this woman doing here, in a dark place like this, with desperate, war beaten men like us? Was she waiting for someone? The tavern maid came over and delivered a tray of drinking glasses and a bottle of rum. I called the pretty redhead over.
"The woman over there, with the dark hair. Send her a glass of wine. Your best, if you please." I reached within my pocket and removed two large coins to hand to the lady. She smiled and went off to get the beverage. Geoffrey elbowed me playfully in the arm.
"Now you're learning." He laughed. I watched as the maid came from the back and carried a tall glass of wine over to the dark angel's table. She looked bewildered. I saw her lips move, as she spoke to the maid. Probably telling her she ordered no wine. But then the gracious woman with red hair pointed over to me. The ravenous stranger looked over to me curiously again and smiled. I wanted badly to look away. To maintain some modesty. But she held me tight, in her gaze. The goddess smiled and picked up the glass. Put it to her lips. I watched as she savored the taste. Then she raised the glass in the air, sending her thanks to me. I smiled. When I looked back at the game, I realized that I had put down my cards and that someone else had claimed the bounty. I had lost.
"Well done, Jasper. You've lost a perfectly nice watch, to that oaf." He shook his head disappointedly and took a swig of rum.
"I have others." I said plainly. I had no shame anymore. Myself and the stranger had taken turns staring at one another bashfully, until we finally stopped and gave into the temptation of one another's eyes.
"Just go talk to her.." My friend said, annoyed.
"And say what? Her beauty slays me. I'll have no breath to speak." My friend rolled his eyes at me and continued to drink. I watched as she took small sip, after small sip. The red of the wine began to stain her delicate lips. She licked the alcohol from them and I felt my heart sink. I had to hear her voice. If only once. Like a zombie, I began to rise from my chair. Then time began to move so fast, and slowly at the same time. A shaggy man in his drunken stupor, swayed over to the fair maiden before my intoxicated mind could comprehend.
"Lookit you!" He shouted after her. "Ain't you a pretty one? C'mere darling. Give us a kiss. I...I pine for you. Come. I will give you what the little schoolboys you love can not!" He moved close to her. I fumed to think that his rancid smell of booze ever came close to the glory of her. Swiftly, she rose from her seat and moved away.
"Peace to you, sir. You are drunk. You have had too much to drink. Please, just leave me be." She said. Her voice nearly brought me to my knees. Infectious and haunting. But to hear that voice with a tinge of fear in it made me burn. The man began to advance again.
"Do not tell me what I am! I may be drunk..but I am able! I will show you!" Men from around the bar made no move to sit the man down and put him in his place. They only laughed loudly. I grew ashamed and angry at my men. Had they no respect for women? At the very least, this woman. Who was so beautiful, she surely could not be human. As the drunkard began to advance again. He grabbed onto the woman's wrist, and I could see by the wince in her eyes and the look of pain behind them, that she was afraid.
"Please!" She begged. She tried to pull herself away, but the gruff man was too strong. He began to pull at the skirt of her dress. The distress in the woman's voice grew. And so did my rage. At once I walked over to the brawl.
"I think that be enough, sir. Leave her alone." I spoke. The man looked at me. His face, red with rage.
"Are you g-going to stop me? M-Mr...Confederate? Hmm? You want this one for yourself, eh? You selfish brute! She's mine." He pushed at me. And though he could barely stay upright on his feet, he was indeed, quite strong.
I was about to retort, but then the man reached beneath his grungy tunic and pulled out a pistol from it's holster. At once, the tavern went up in a flame of anger and fear. People disbursed about the room. Some left. Some watched in horror. The angry man, with a shaky hand held the gun up. Pointing the barrel to my forehead. I knew my own gun was there, at my side. Waiting to be used should I ever need it. And a shiny blade stuck in the side of my boot. But if I made one move to get it, the man would shoot before I stood a chance of getting the thing out. So I stood, unafraid. Waiting for whatever may come. His finger began to twitch over the trigger. Time seemed to pass slowly. Agonizingly so, before he pulled it. It clicked. But no bullet was emitted. The tavern that was once stark quiet, was now in an uproar of laughter. The drunken man had humiliated himself. Be began to shout loud, and unintelligible words. In quick movements, he jumped on me. Tackled me to the ground, and began to beat his fist into the side of my face. I pinned him to the ground and punched him repeatedly. One blow to the head, and the man stopped moving. I let him fall to the ground and rose from the floor. I was shaking from the adrenaline running through my veins.
"Christ, Jasper! You've killed him!" one of the men shouted. I shook my head.
"He's not dead. Just knocked out. The lucky bastard.." I jested at his motionless body. I could taste blood in my mouth. We did good number on each other. But I was nowhere near as bloodied up as him.
I looked about the place. The angel. Where was she? She was nowhere to be seen. At once, and without thinking, I walked from the building. I heard my friends shouting after me to return, but I ignored them. I needed to find her. Cool, refreshing air rushed to my face as I stepped out into the night. I looked up and down the cobblestone streets to see if I could find her. And I could not. Part of my body mourned her absence. To know I would never see her again bothered me more than I would have liked. I began to walk up the candle-lit road. Making my way back to the inn I had rented a room in. I would not go back to the tavern tonight. The booze was already beginning to wear off. My head began to pound. I had to lie down. I walked. Slowly and lonely. Fixing my long coat around me and keeping my gait constant. Then, farther ahead and on the next road, I saw the sweeping of a dark dress rush by. The ill light could have been deceiving me. A mirage in these empty streets. But I wanted to believe it was true.
I ran as quickly as my legs would carry me. The pale moon cast eerie shadows of black and blue on the side of walls and on the ground. My hair blew into my eyes. I could not see, but part of me felt as if I didn't need eyes to find her. When I reached the end of the street, she was nowhere to be seen. I looked back and forth, but both ends of the road were empty. I began to bicker inwardly to myself and turned to head back to the inn. My mind was infected by her. I was seeing things that weren't there. She was long gone. I closed my eyes. And when I did, I felt the same euphoria that I felt in the tavern. My hair stood on end and my soul quivered. I heard a hard slam. I turned around to see that farther before me was a tall and mighty cathedral. One of it's wooden doors was not shut properly, and the wind was blowing it against the frame. Curiosity began to tickle me. I strode slowly, to the house of worship. Back home, wild horses could not make me step foot into a church. I found them all to be so pretentious and boastful. And the idea of a God? I laughed at it. But the woman from the tavern was indeed, an angel. And if angels exist, there must be a God to govern them. And something instinctual told me that the beautiful woman was inside. Claiming sanctuary from such a cruel and scary world. With a determined hand, I pulled one large wooden door open and let myself in. It was not dark inside, as I thought it would be. It was lit by hundreds of candles and smelled faintly of incense that had been burned earlier at mass this evening.
I walked down the shiny, marble isles, and in between the pews. The sound of my boots clicking on the floor echoed through the arched ceilings. This place was a thing of beauty. My breath nearly left me as I looked at the stained glass with the images of saints in it. I wished for a small moment that I actually believed in this. In something. Perhaps the belief would make the sight even more beautiful. The more I walked, the more my feet began to lead me to the altar. I made my way up the steps and stood before an ornate table. On the table there was a golden bowl filled with small circular wafers that the Catholics foolishly called 'The body of Christ'. And beside that there was a golden cup, and a crystal bottle of communion wine. My head continued to pound.
I picked up the bottle and pulled off the shiny, glass lid. I felt wrong, doing this. Drinking the wine that belonged to the church. But pain and delusions were coming over me. The angel was nowhere to be found. It was best to just drink some of the pain away and start back home. I poured the dark wine from the glass into the golden chalice. But as I poured, I saw that the liquid was much too thick, for wine. And it was a dark color. Almost black, if you didn't hold up the cup, so it's contents hit some candlelight. There was something wrong with it. Perhaps these people didn't use wine. Maybe a nectar of some kind. I scoffed as I came to the conclusion that there would be no further drunken release for me tonight and brought the cup to my lips to drink anyhow. Just to see what this foreign 'blood of Christ' tasted like.
Then I heard a giggle. A sweet giggle that sounded sinister and bizarre as it bounced off of the walls. At the very back of the church, I saw her. Leaning suavely against a stone pillar. Eyes watching me intently. I was so taken aback by her beauty, I almost dropped the cup. With a shaky hand I put the cup back down on the table. But in those brief moments when my eyes left her to do this, she was gone by the time I looked back. Was she playing games with me, or was my mind?
"M-miss? Are you there?" I called. There was silence for a while. And then I could hear tiny footsteps. But I could still see no one.
"Where are you?" I spoke. Still no answer. Maybe she was afraid. She fled the tavern to be away from all those awful drunk men, only to be followed to a church by one. I fixed my stubborn hair so it was away from my eyes again and looked to find her.
"I promise..I won't hurt you." I said. Then I heard laughter. I jumped when I turned. She was standing right beside me.
"Hurt me..." She smiled. "I'd love to see you try.." The vision of her. Her very voice, shook me. She was infectious. Then she did something unthinkable. She reached her gorgeous fingertips up towards my face..and she touched me. The feeling of her skin was something incredible.
"You're so cold..." I whispered. My voice wavered. She must have noticed this, because the sweetest smile came over her lips.
"No, you are too warm..." She said. Her fingers slid from my face to the silver buttons of my jacket. She touched the medals I had earned, ever so briefly before moving on. My heart began to pound. And it made my head hurt all the more, as her hand moved down to the red confederate sash around my waist. She watched me intently as she did this. Her eyes flickered. And then I saw the color. Burgundy. Red as blood could be. I inhaled a sharp breath and she only smiled more deeply. Something was wrong. I could feel it. And though I wanted to move, I felt as if my feet were rooted. When she cast the sash aside, she unbuttoned my jacket and let it fall to the ground. She fiddled with the strings on my white peasant blouse.
She treated me as if I were the lover she had been with for years as she slunk her arms around my neck, and lay her head on my chest. I was so immobile that I could not even return the embrace. I literally stopped breathing as I felt her fingers run through my hair and touch the scalp of my head without tugging at one strand of my blonde hair. When I managed to speak, I could only say what I was thinking. And I cringed to hear my voice say it.
"Are you an angel?" I whispered.
She laughed. "No..."
"Do you believe in God?.." I asked.
"No.." She laughed again. Her voice was music.
"Then why did you come here?"
"To see how far you'd follow.." I could feel her smile against my chest.
"Anywhere.." I whispered. I leaned my cheek down, into her hair. She smelled like the purest rain. She was so soft. I could not bring myself to hold her, but I hoped she would never let go of me.
"I'd follow you anywhere. Protect you from anything.." Why was I saying this? I meant it, but I didn't want to frighten her with the loyalty I had developed to her in such a short time.
"You can't protect me...not yet Jasper.." She whispered. Her voice saying my name nearly killed me.
"You're not strong enough.." She said, then. At that moment, an embarrassment and anger filled me. I managed to move away from her grasp and look at her. Into those beautiful, reddened eyes.
"How dare you?" I said. Though, my voice was not nearly as strong as I would have liked for it to be.
"I have killed hundreds of men. Maybe thousands. I am strong enough!"
I am strong enough to be yours...
The angel did little but smile at my anger. Which made me feel foolish. She shushed me. Placed her fingers on my lips to silence me, before stroking my cheek again.
"Of course you are strong, my love..." She said. "But there are things in this world that cannot be killed by a sword, or a musket. But I can make you strong. Jasper, I could give you such strength and power you've only dreamed of...If you give yourself to me.." She breathed.
My legs very nearly gave out from beneath me. She touched my forehead. My nose. My lips. Then she leaned forward and kissed me, ever so gently, as if she thought she could break me. I felt as if some wonderful drug had been driven into my veins. And when she pulled her lips from mine, I immediately began to feel the withdraws. She leaned into me, then, so our cheeks were touching, and her mouth was near my ear.
"I can show you the world..." She said in her beautiful voice.
"Show me.." I said gently. I ran my fingers through her raven hair. "Show me everything."
Then I felt her cold breath at the hollow of my neck. Planting small, sweet kisses. But the fourth kiss hurt. And it didn't stop. It stung. I felt my heart pounding in fear. And the more my heart pound, the more the pain grew. I sank to the altar on my knees. As if I were praying. She came down with me. Her pretty face never leaving my neck. I cried out, but my voice was swallowed up by the secrecy of the church. I tried to push the woman away, but her body would not be moved. My body was rigid. I saw black. And I could hear angels singing.