About A Soldier
"Will you go to Maria?"
Jasper winces at the name. He's sitting in the small shack with Peter and Charlotte, two days after the incident with the officer.
He's told them he wants to leave.
"I can't go back to her," he says honestly. "I can't… I don't know if it's because I'm afraid she'll kill me, or if I couldn't stand knowing that I betrayed her. It was harder to leave than you might think."
"I know you loved her," Charlotte said quietly. "Everyone knew. And she did care for you, Jasper."
He shifts uncomfortably, wishing Charlotte would keep her pity to herself. "Thanks, Charlotte… but I can't go back."
"I think that's a good idea," Peter says. "Where will you go, then?"
"I don't know," he replies. "I may head south again, towards Florida. I can't go back to Texas."
"It's nice down there. Really sunny, though… be careful."
He smiles slightly as Charlotte reaches out and takes his hand. "We'll miss you, Jasper."
"Nah," he says. "You'll be so busy lovin' on each other you won't even have time to think about me."
If Charlotte could've blushed, Jasper thinks she would have. "Not true."
"You take care of her, Pete."
Peter frowns. "Will you…look for someone? A companion?"
"I think I'll fly solo for a while. A long while. I seem to feel better when I'm on my own."
"Oh," Charlotte's expression falls slightly. "I hate to think of you out there on your own, Jasper. Who knows, maybe you'll get swept off your feet."
Jasper laughs. "I doubt it. My feet are standing firmly on the ground, I promise you that."
"We'll see," she says in a sing-song voice.
"Evening will be here soon. I'll go then."
"So soon?" Peter asks, a hint of surprise in his voice. "I thought you'd stay at least until tomorrow."
"I'm afraid that if I stay, I'll change my mind."
Peter nods. "I understand."
He and Charlotte stand with Jasper, and Charlotte steps forward first, wrapping her arms around Jasper's neck. "Take care of yourself… I wanna see you again one day."
Jasper returns the hug, lifting her off the ground slightly. "Don't worry about me, worry about him. He wouldn't know what to do with himself without you."
Peter stands there, his hands shoved awkwardly in his pockets. "Well… you know, good luck, and all that…"
There's a brief moment of silence before Jasper feels himself dangerously close to being crushed between two arms. This time his feet are off the ground.
"Thank you, Jasper," Peter says into his shoulder. "If you hadn't let us go, I don't think any one of us would be here."
Jasper squirms. "That's… really sweet, Peter, but… put me down, will you?"
With his feet back on firm earth, Jasper sighs and glares at Peter. Then, his expression turns into a soft, fond gaze. He reaches out and claps him on the shoulder. "Thanks, Pete. For everything. Maybe I'll see you around in a few hundred years."
* * *
The first steps Jasper takes away from the shack, he feels, are his first steps to a new life. A life without Maria, without hate and, maybe, without pain. He'll live each day as it comes, taking what he learned from everyone – yes, even Maria – and using it to the best of his ability.
He'll live, as Peter said before, not just survive. And maybe, as Charlotte said, he'll find as place where he belongs. Even if it takes another whole lifetime to seek it out. He's got all the time in the world.
Time, he knows, is on his side.
Where he'll go, he doesn't know and he doesn't know what awaits him when he gets there. He chooses a direction based on the wind, and promises himself that he won't look back.
That is a promise that he can keep.