Disclaimer: Characters contained within do not belong to me.
Author's Notes: This story wouldn't be what it is without Lisa's help. Thank you hon!
Have You Lived Before This Life?
by Kristen Elizabeth
I could hear her calling my name, but I ignored her. The eastern fence, my last obstacle, was only a dozen yards away. I was so close and I wasn't about to be held back by my little sister.
"Jasper Whitlock, you stop right there!" she demanded, as if she had any authority over me. It was impossible not to admire her spirit. I liked to think she'd learned a little of that from me, considering the fact that she'd been following me around since the day she learned to walk.
"Jasper!" she tried again, her voice carrying on the wind as it rustled across the prairie. "Don't go!"
That was a harder plea to ignore. My gait slowed just enough to allow her to catch up with me. When I glanced back over my shoulder, she was standing only a few feet behind me, her hands balled up in fists and propped up on her hips. Her blond curls were askew and her bonnet hung down her back.
"You're gonna be freckled tomorrow," I warned her. "Mama'll have a fit."
Cadence might have been the youngest of my siblings and the only girl, but in a lot of ways, she was the cleverest of all of us. "No, she won't. Not if you're gone. She'll be too upset to care 'bout my face."
I sighed. "C'mon, Caddy. Don't be like this. I already told you…my mind's made up."
"You can't call me that anymore," she said haughtily. "I'm twelve now."
"All grown up," I snorted softly. "If that were really true, you'd understand why I'm goin'."
She scowled at me, looking an awful lot like a little thundercloud on legs. "You're goin' 'cause you wanna be a soldier. And you think if you stay here, you're only ever gonna be a rancher."
I set down my leather bag with another sigh. "It's more than that."
"You're not fightin' to keep any slaves, 'cause we don't have any. And Father says it don't matter two licks whether we're part of the Union or part of the Confederacy, 'cause government's government and they're all crooked."
I had to smile. She'd practically memorized our father's daily diatribes. "I know it's hard to see now, but I'm doin' the right thing." I walked to her and put a hand on her shoulder. Sometimes this worked, sometimes it didn't, but I usually ended up at least calming her down. "Everything's gonna be just fine. War won't last more than another couple of months and I'll be home again. You just don't worry your pretty head 'bout me, you hear?"
Her angry expression relaxed to the point where her lower lip began to tremble. "Mama says boys are dyin' left and right." Cadence threw her arms around my waist, squeezing me with all the strength her thin arms could muster. "Please don't go, Jasper," she pleaded, her voice muffled by my shirt. "You're 'posed to stay and marry Brett Sullivan. She likes you a whole lot. She'd make you real happy!"
Brett and I had known each other since we were squabbling children, pulling each other's hair outside the school house. I could no more think of her as a wife than I could my own sister. Besides, marrying Brett would have forever tied me to the simple life I was desperate to escape.
"What if there's someone out there who I'll like even more, but I wouldn't meet her if I stayed here?"
Cadence pulled back and looked up at me with a delicate sniff. "No one can see the future, Jasper," she informed me.
I always liked arguing with her, so I shot back, "You never know. I bet someone out there can."
The scowl reappeared on her pink face. She would be more than freckled in the morning; she'd be downright sunburned. I reached behind her and tugged her bonnet back into place over her curls.
"Be a lady while I'm gone." I kissed her forehead. "If that's possible."
Fat tears appeared in the corners of her blue eyes, the Whitlock eyes. "I got a real bad feelin' 'bout this," she whispered.
"No one can see the future, right?" I reminded her of her own words. But there was a lump in my throat even as I said it. Picking up my bag, I quickly backed up, waving as I went. "Goodbye."
On the other side of the fence, I glanced back. Cadence was still watching me; I could see the tracks of her tears on her face, glistening in the afternoon sunlight.
Two years later, on a lonely stretch of road leading to Galveston, as a pair of sharp, pearly teeth sank into my neck, I could see her still standing there with wet cheeks and sad blue eyes.
Blinking to attention, I glanced up at my wife. Alice was standing in the door to the closet we shared, clad in nothing but a matching set of black lace undergarments that had probably set our personal bank account back a couple of hundred. Not that we'd ever notice the loss. Money was fluid; Alice's knack with the stock market ensured that we'd probably made the money back almost as soon as she'd spent it.
"I want you to see my new dress," she beamed once she had my attention.
I smiled softly. "I like what you have on now."
She winked and disappeared into the closet. Only a few seconds passed before she reappeared wearing a floor-length satin gown that clung to her perfect body in all the right places. But what made me stand up in shock was the color.
I hadn't seen that exact shade of blue in well over a hundred years.
"Caddy," I whispered, unable to tear my eyes away from the dress.
Alice tilted her head to the side. "Jazz? What's wrong? Who's Caddy?"
It clearly worried her, not knowing. Really, she should have known. I should have told her years ago. Telling her now, after all this time, seemed like an impossibly hard task.
"No one," I lied. She frowned. She couldn't see for sure that I was lying…her gift didn't work like that…but she knew me well enough to know that I was holding something back. "It's a beautiful dress," I tried to cover. "What's the occasion?"
"Um…" She was blinking rapidly, something we didn't do naturally. It was a great indicator of how much I was upsetting my wife. Oh, if I only I could have hurt myself for hurting Alice. "I'm throwing Bella and Edward an anniversary party next week."
I tried to smile. "Bella will hate that."
"She'll get over it. She always does." Alice took a tentative step towards me. "I can't see you telling me what's on your mind." She shook her head. "I don't want there to be secrets between us."
I crossed to her in a flash and kissed her, hard and hot and deep. "Trust me," I soothed, lowering my voice. "Trust me, Alice."
It worked like it always did. Her tiny body relaxed and she nodded. "I do. You know I do."
With another kiss, I left her in the bedroom and headed downstairs. Anything to get away from that color and the hazy memories it invoked.
There was only one person in the large, airy living room our new mansion in Montana boasted. We'd moved from Forks just a year earlier, right around the time Nessie stopped growing and we could start over again, this time claiming Edward and Bella's daughter as yet another of Carlisle and Esme's adopted children.
It was clear that Bella missed the Olympic Peninsula. Even now as she sat in the living room, scribbling in her journal, I could feel how much she missed her father and the tiny, rain-soaked town she'd once loathed. In her melancholy, she'd dropped her mental shields.
I approached her silently, but her senses were as good as mine now. She greeted me without ever looking at me. "Hello, Jasper."
"Where is everyone?" I asked, taking a seat on the couch across from hers.
"Esme and Carlisle are at work. Edward's helping Rosalie with her new car. Emmett took Renesmee into town." Even now, she couldn't stand to use her daughter's nickname. "Jake is with them." Her teeth ground a little on this, but she was well past being too upset about his relationship with her daughter. It was something over which she had very little control. "And you probably know where Alice is." She looked me up and down with a curious, but cool eye. "Why do you ask?"
I hesitated. Of all the members of my strange little family, I'd spent the least time with Bella. After I'd nearly killed her at her own birthday party, it had become my habit to keep as much distance as possible between us, a habit that had continued even after she became one of us and was no longer in any danger from me.
"I need your help." I gestured in the general direction of Carlisle's study. "With the computer."
Bella's lips curled up into a faint snicker. "Jasper, you've had over thirty years to get used to computers. I think Alice even told me you bought original stock in Apple."
"Old dog," I pointed at myself. "New tricks." Somehow, in the twenty or so times I'd graduated from high school since the advent of the personal computer, I'd managed to avoid taking any classes in the subject, something that had become more difficult as computer studies increasingly became part of every school's core curriculum. Fortunately, I was very good at talking guidance counselors into overlooking this one missing section of my transcripts. Alice typed my papers and reports; Edward surfed the internet like he invented it. I'd never had to learn.
"I need to search for someone," I told her.
Bella closed her journal and stood up in one fluid and graceful movement. "Anyone I know?"
"Someone I used to know." I paused. "My little sister."
My newest sister was quiet for a long moment. "From before?" she eventually asked. I inclined my head. "Does Alice…"
"No," I answered her question before she finished. "But she will know," I decided. "Soon."
I could feel Alice's relief from all the way upstairs. She wouldn't have heard our conversation, but my decision to tell her everything was something she could clearly see in our future.
"This is the internet," Bella explained with exaggerated patience a few minutes later. We had seated ourselves behind Carlisle's desk and the twenty-inch flat screen monitor Esme had given him upon moving into the new house. "Internet, this is Jasper." She lowered her voice and leaned towards the screen. "He doesn't believe in you."
Prepared for her teasing, I only sighed. "Just show me where to start looking."
"I would try the genealogy websites first." Her slender fingers flew over the keyboard at an inhuman speed. "Like this. Familysearch dot com." Within seconds, she had us registered and ready to go. "What was your sister's name?"
"Cadence Estella Whitlock." I was surprised at how easily the name rolled off my tongue after a century and a half. "She was born in…" I had to think for a moment. "1849. In Houston."
As Bella entered the information and we waited for any results, she glanced over at me. "What are you hoping to find out? I mean…you already know she will have died," she said as gently as possible.
"I don't know," I replied truthfully. "The last time I saw her she was twelve years old." I shrugged. "I suppose I'd like to know about her life."
Bella looked back at the screen, just as the results of our search came up. "Cadence Estella Sullivan. Maiden name Whitlock," she read. I saw her glance at me out of the corner of her eye. "I think we found her."
"Sullivan?" I frowned. "There was a family named Sullivan, down the road from our ranch. Did they have a son?" I asked out loud. "I can't remember."
"It would seem so. She married a William Charles Sullivan in 1865," Bella continued.
An unexpected swell of anger washed over me. "She would've only been sixteen!" I fumed.
Bella lifted an eyebrow. "Didn't most women marry young in those days?"
They had. But most women weren't my little sister. "What else does it say?" I snapped, still silently seething. A few seconds passed without a word. "Bella?"
She shook her head sadly. "I am so sorry, Jasper."
Worry made my throat close up. "What is it?"
"It says…" Bella hesitated. "It says here…she died in childbirth in 1866."
Everything felt cold. In the back of my mind, I'd known for quite a long time that my sister, all of my siblings in fact, had died at some point during my endless, frozen lifetime. For Cadence, I'd always imagined a quiet, peaceful death, an old woman's death in a warm bed, surrounded by children and grandchildren.
Knowing that had never happened, that she'd died in the prime of her youth while giving birth to a child her tiny body probably hadn't been prepared to bear…it was pain like I hadn't known in a very long time.
I felt Bella's hand on my shoulder. "The baby survived," she said quietly. "Do you want to know his name?"
I had a fairly good idea what name Cadence would have chosen with her last breath. She'd always adored me too much. My disappearance, my assumed death would have left a hole inside of her that she'd clearly tried to fill with marriage and motherhood. Rather than help her cope with losing her older brother, they'd been the means to her end.
By leaving for the war, I might as well have killed my own sister.
"Thank you for your help, Bella," I said, my voice sounding strange even to my own ears.
"Wait!" she called out, following me as I stood to go. "Don't you want to…I don't know…trace your family tree? You probably have descendents out there somewhere, children of the children of your sister's child."
I looked Edward's wife straight in the eye. "Are you suggesting that I seek them out? Perhaps introduce myself as their great-great-great-great uncle?
She lowered her chin. "I see your point. But still…you're not even a little bit curious?"
"Curious about what?"
We both looked at the door as Edward entered Carlisle's study, clearly having just come in from the garage. Although he was wiping motor oil off his hands with a rag, he had a smudge of it on his cheek which made Bella smile.
I was surprised. Usually Edward knew not only the questions, but the answers before either were spoken out loud. "Do you really have to ask?"
My brother pointed at his wife with the stained rag. "She's blocking your thoughts."
When I glanced back at Bella, she lifted her shoulders. "You seemed like you wanted some privacy."
"Thank you," I told her sincerely. "But it's not necessary."
A moment passed before Edward raised his eyebrows. "You know who you should talk to about this?" he told me, having quickly scanned my thoughts once Bella let him. "Emmett."
"Why Emmett?" Bella asked.
Edward came up beside her and slipped his arm around her waist. "I didn't leave behind any family. Esme and Rosalie never wanted to see theirs again after what happened to them while they were still alive. Alice has living relatives, but she's chosen not to contact them. And after almost four hundred years, Carlisle's family tree has pretty much…um…dissipated." He paused. "But Emmett's met some of his descendents. About twenty years ago."
"How did that go?"
I answered for him. "He told them he was a distant cousin and they invited him home for supper. He spent the next two days regurgitating chicken and biscuits."
"But," Edward added, amused at the memory. "He also said it was very hard, seeing pictures of his brothers as old men, hearing about how they'd died from their grandchildren. They even talked about his death. Great Uncle Emmett who went into the woods and never came back."
"That's really sad," Bella murmured. She frowned. "It took two days?"
Edward laughed. "He had to eat a lot, to keep up appearances. Rosalie wouldn't even go near him until it was all gone. She said he smelled like gravy."
"He did." I started for the door, but Edward reached it first. He always was the fastest.
"What are we supposed to tell Alice when she notices you're gone?" he asked, blocking my path.
More often than not, having a mind-reader for a brother was a gigantic pain in the ass. "She probably already knows," I reminded him. He scowled at me with enough force to make me blink. I sometimes forgot how close my wife and my brother were. "Just tell her…" I shook my head. "Whatever you need to say so she won't worry about me."
Behind me, Bella sighed. I could feel her exasperation and it made me whip my head around to see her.
"I'm not ready to share this with her yet," I snapped. Looking back at Edward before he could say anything, I stared him down with a glare that would have withered a human. "Let me pass."
Without breaking eye contact, Edward stepped to the side. "She'll follow you."
"She can't." I walked past him, heading straight for the garage and the Maybach that Alice and I had bought together, a ridiculously expensive indulgence even for our lifestyle. "I don't even know where I'm going."
It wasn't until I'd cleared Colorado and was crossing the panhandle of Oklahoma that I decided where I was going. I hadn't even realized I'd been steering the car in the right direction all along. All I knew was that I had a hell of a head start on Alice. That was, of course, if my wife chose to come after me at all. I wouldn't blame her if she didn't.
I shifted on the leather seat, uncomfortable with the distance I'd put between us. In over fifty years, Alice and I had only ever been parted on a few occasions, and only once had been for any significant length of time. I missed my wife. I missed feeling her tiny hand cover mine as I shifted gears. I couldn't even smell her, that sweet flower scent that made my mouth water for something other than blood.
I'd thought about going back a hundred times since I'd peeled out of the garage, burning rubber in my haste to leave. I thought about just returning to Alice and telling her all about my sister. I didn't want secrets between us anymore than she did and the only reason I'd never talked about my long-dead human family was that my memories had always been so vague.
Until I saw that dress and saw the color that had once greeted me whenever I'd passed a looking glass. My old eyes…my sister's eyes…it was as if the fog around my past had been lifted and it felt like no more than a matter of days had passed since I left home. Left her behind.
I didn't stop for anything other than fuel until I reached Houston. When I came to a gas station on the outskirts of the city, I only got out to stretch my legs because an afternoon thunderstorm was brewing, covering the city with a dark bank of clouds. There was nothing familiar here. The rolling grass prairies of my youth had been developed into a metropolitan concrete world I didn't recognize. Whoever said you can't go home was right.
Rosalie would have killed me if she'd been able to see the dust and mud and squashed bugs that decorated the sleek black contours of the sports car. The rain would wash it all away, I hoped. Alice and I didn't even love the car as much as Rose did. She was constantly on Emmett's case about buying one.
There was a flash of lightning and a crack of thunder as I stepped out of the car. Already I was drawing attention. Two other people pumping gas into their beat-up Chevy trucks had stopped to stare at the Maybach. I ignored them as I headed into the mini-mart.
The girl behind the desk was flipping through a magazine, clearly bored out of her mind. She didn't look any older than I was supposed to be. At the sound of the bell that signaled my entrance, she looked up with a great sigh.
Almost immediately her back straightened and she forgot all about her magazine. "Can I help you?" she asked, unconsciously smoothing stray strands of hair off her rather plain face as if it might make her more desirable. I would have smiled if it hadn't been such a fruitless attempt.
"I hope you can," I told her. It might not have been fair to lower my voice and stare at her like her efforts had paid off, but it was second nature. What did Edward always say? We were designed for this. "I need to find the old city cemetery." I flashed her a smile that I knew would be sharp and white. Irresistible. "I'm a history student at UT Dallas and I'm doing some Civil War research. I need to see graves from around that time."
"Um…" The girl was clearly flustered and if my brother had been there, he probably would be seeing some pretty raunchy scenes playing in her head. "Here." She fumbled behind the counter until she produced a map. With shaking hands, she unfolded it and reached for a pen. "There's one not too far from here."
I leaned in, but not close enough to catch a whiff of her. I'd left without hunting and wasn't about to take any chances. "You ever go there?"
She swallowed as she marked the map. "On Halloween sometimes. It's real creepy." The girl started to fold the map up again, but couldn't manage the complicated folds.
I helped her out by simply taking it from her, haphazardly folded as it was. "Thanks for your help."
Blowing out a long sweet breath that made venom seep into my mouth, she rested her chin in her hand dreamily. "You are so welcome."
The rain started as I stepped out of the store, exactly what I needed to clear my head of her scent. Alice would have been so proud of me.
I found my father's grave first.
It was set apart from the others, just like he'd separated himself from us in life. His headstone was large, but time hadn't been kind to it. There was a huge crack that had almost split it in half. I couldn't even read the date of his death.
My mother was buried at the base of the gentle hill upon which my father rested. Her marker was simple, but overgrown with prairie grasses. Mindless of the rain that had soaked me through, I knelt in front of it and pulled at the undergrowth until I could read the date of her death. 1882. She'd outlived her children, something no parent should have to go through. I suddenly wished I'd brought flowers, some kind of token to put on the grave of the woman who'd given me my first life.
My brothers were buried on either side of my mother, guarding her in death. One had died in the war, the battle of Spotsylvania, given the date; the other brother, later, from something unknown. Yellow fever, animal attack, riding accident, dueling…there had been so many ways to die while I was human that it was a wonder I'd survived long enough to run into a vampire.
There was no marker for me, no doubt my father's doing. I would have been dead to him the moment he realized I'd run away and he wouldn't have wasted anyone's time digging me an empty grave.
But my sister wasn't buried with our family. There weren't even any crumbled headstones nearby that might have been hers. She must have been buried with her husband's family. But the cemetery was large and the rain was coming down heavier, making searching almost impossible.
I took shelter under a tree not too far from my family. The leaves didn't provide much cover, but I was able to wipe the water from my face and lament the fact that I'd left my cell phone in the car. I needed to hear Alice's voice all of a sudden.
I had no idea how long I sat there, but it was long enough for the rain to slow to a weak drizzle as nightfall descended. I had to smile at the irony. A vampire hanging out in a cemetery after dark. It was so wonderfully clichéd.
I smelled her before I saw her. We'd been parted for 24 hours and I was already craving her. The poor gas station attendant…even if she'd been as beautiful as Rosalie, she never would have stood a chance. I was already married to an angel.
My eyes opened and caught sight of my wife standing in front of me, illuminated by a single beam of moonlight peaking through the disintegrating clouds.
An angel, yes…but a very angry one.
"You might have taken the fastest car," she said, answering my unspoken question. "But everyone knows I'm the fastest driver." Alice folded her arms tightly. "I was told you needed me."
I shook my head against the tree trunk. "I asked Edward not to worry you."
"Actually, it was Bella who told me. But she wouldn't say why." Alice lifted her chin a notch. "Are you going to?"
I ran my hand through my damp curls, combing them back from my face. "I had to find something."
"Your family's graves?" Alice nodded. "I saw them in your mind. You were looking for one in particular." She hesitated. "Did you find it?"
"Who is it you're looking for?" Alice's voice was small. Worried. "Did you…was it your…did you have a…a wife?"
I blinked before scrambling to my feet. "No. Alice…no!" I grasped her slender shoulders. "You are my wife. My first, my last, my only."
Some of the tension she'd been carrying melted away. "I just thought…Caddy is a woman's name. And you seemed so upset…"
I moved my hands up to cup her perfect face. "Caddy was my sister." Her eyes grew wide. "Cadence, actually. She didn't like it when called her Caddy."
You can't call me that anymore. I'm twelve now.
"You never told me you had a sister," Alice said, looking back and forth between my eyes. "Just two brothers." She wrenched her head out of my grasp. "Why didn't you tell me this before now?"
"Alice." I sighed. There was no good way to say what I needed to say. "If you had any memories of being human, you'd know how hazy they can be. Things you don't want to think about, you just don't. And after a hundred or so years…you forget to remember at all."
My words clearly stung, but she seemed determined to push past the hurt. "And you didn't want to remember your sister?" I nodded. "Why?"
"Because…she was right."
"Right about what?"
For the first time, I wished Edward was around to speak my thoughts for me. This was the moment of truth I'd run all the way to Texas to escape.
"She begged me to stay," I said after a long minute of silence. "She felt the danger I was headed straight towards…but I didn't listen. I just kept going. I was so desperate to get off that ranch."
Alice sniffed delicately. "What do you think would have happened if you'd stayed?"
"I don't know," I told her honestly. "But it probably would have kept my little sister from dying at seventeen while having the neighbor boy's kid."
"Are you blaming yourself for your sister's death?" Alice stepped closer to me. "You can't know that if you'd stayed she wouldn't have made the exact same choices."
"I know that if I'd stayed, I would have shot the Sullivan boy below the waist if he'd even looked at Caddy wrong."
The corners of her perfect lips turned up. "You're not responsible for events that were completely out of your control, Jazz. Besides…" She looked down at her Prada flats. "Let's say you had stayed. Never joined the army, never met Maria…" Alice looked up and our eyes met. "Where would I be now without you?"
A life without Alice…the idea of it chilled my very bones. What kind of a life would I have led if my soulmate hadn't even been born until I was a very old man? And what kind of immortality would Alice be suffering now if I'd lived an all-too brief human existence that had blinked out before her birth? She often said the only thing that kept her sane through all the visions was knowing that she'd find me one day. What if I hadn't been a part of her future?
Perhaps my sister's life was the sacrifice that had to be made in order to give me an eternity with Alice. Or maybe it was far simpler than that and fate had never intended Caddy to live past the bloom of her youth.
Maybe…it wasn't my fault.
I took her hands in mine and kissed her palms. "I'm sorry I left like I did."
Alice shook her head slowly. "Edward made it clear you weren't happy about it." She smiled. "Consider yourself forgiven."
We took a seat under the tree, waiting out the last vestiges of the storm. When the clouds cleared, the stars came out in force, bright and brilliant against the inky sky. With Alice curled up on my lap, her tiny fingers twisted into my hair, I felt warmer and happier than I ever had in my few years as a human.
The moon was almost full and hung over us like a great celestial lamp, casting a luminous glow on a cluster of aging graves on the other side of the cemetery. Frowning, I gently moved Alice to the soft grass.
"What is it?" I stood up and she followed me. "Jasper?"
There were only a few markers in this plot intact enough to be read; they all bore the surname Sullivan.
And one of them was my sister's.
It was small, but it was a monument to my sister's life that still stood proud a century and a half after it had ended.
"'Cadence Sullivan'," Alice read. "'1849 to 1866. A light from our household is gone, a voice we loved is stilled…a place is vacant in our hearts which never can be filled'." She slipped her hand into mine. "She was loved."
My chest felt heavy, but I managed to nod. "Yes, she was. She was the best of us all." I closed my eyes. "Maybe I could have saved her, Alice. If I'd known…I could have come and…" She put her fingers to my lips, but I wasn't easily dissuaded. "Is it any different than what Carlisle did? And he didn't even know any of them!"
"If you'd lived as Carlisle did back then, perhaps. But you know what you were," my wife reminded me as gently as possible. "Would you have invited your sister into that life?"
"Never," I hissed. She squeezed my hand and my rigid posture relaxed. "Never," I repeated, softer this time.
Alice darted away from me, but before I had a chance to miss her, she was back at my side, clutching a handful of wildflowers. With great reverence, Alice laid them on my sister's grave.
Even after almost sixty years together, I still found new reasons to love Alice every day.
"I'm taking care of your brother," Alice told the weathered headstone. "You can rest in peace, Cadence."
I touched the marker, running my fingers over the mossy edge of my sister's name. "Goodbye, Caddy."
We were about to leave when Alice noticed the headstone a few yards away from my sister's. My namesake. The nephew I never knew.
Jasper Whitlock Sullivan. 1866 to 1940. Husband, father, remembered with fondness by all who knew him.
Alice rested her cheek on my arm. "Did you find what you came for?" she murmured.
Nodding, I pulled her closer to my side. "Yeah. Let's go home."
Midnight in the Cullen house was always still, but never quiet.
Upstairs, Carlisle and Esme were doing their best to muffle the sounds of their lovemaking. Rosalie and Emmett weren't even trying. Bella was listening to Edward tinker on the piano, their usual foreplay. Nessie was actually sleeping, something she didn't really have to do, but often indulged in, mostly just to be with Jacob while he slept. It wouldn't be long before they discovered the nocturnal activities that kept the rest of us occupied on our endless, sleepless nights. I could feel it every time they looked at each other.
As for Alice and I, we were content to simply lie in our bed, in each other's arms until the sun came up. My chin rested on my wife's spiky cap of hair. The silk of her nightgown slid against my skin with every tiny movement she made. She felt like home.
"Tell me about your sister," she said, her musical voice breaking the silence. "What did she look like?"
"She looked like me," I replied. "But much prettier."
"Prettier than you?" Alice smirked as she traced her fingers over the familiar patterns of my scars. "I think I would have liked her." She stopped. "Would she have liked me?"
I didn't hesitate. "She would have adored you." I kissed her forehead. "You make me happier than Brett Sullivan ever could have."
A few minutes later, Alice bolted upright. "Who's Brett Sullivan?"
March 18, 1866
My dearest brother,
Five years have passed since I last saw you, but I can still see your face so clearly in my mind. Where are you, Jasper? I pray every morning that I might see you coming over the hill before the day is through. The war may have ended for everyone else, but for me, it will continue until you are home.
Would you even know me now? The little girl you knew is now a wife, soon to be a mother. I wonder if you would approve. I like to think you would. William is a good man and I love him dearly. Even now, he is building us a new home, a place of our own where our child will be born.
I miss you, brother. There are those who think me a fool for believing you are still alive. What am I to say to them? I do not feel that you are gone. You are lost, but one day, you will find your way back. Until then, I hope that wherever you are, you have found nothing but happiness and peace and perhaps even someone with whom to share it.
I shall keep this letter close to my heart until we meet again.