This was a story long in the making for me. I don't know how many reviews or hits ill get but I feel it is a story that I needed to tell and write. If there seems to be an interest I have a few alternate endings in mind and would like to see them written out. So without further ado enjoy!
It was a rare thing for Jasper Whitlock to be amused these days. At the ripe age of 70, he found that a lot of the world just didn't hold that much laughter any more. His bones ached too much, his eyes strained to see any of the lovely colors around him. His stomach disagreed with anything worth eating, and the damned doctors had taken away his nightly glass of port- even though he had argued that it was purely for medicinal purposes.
No, any glee had left with the young faces of his grandchildren and two sons who just 'didn't have the time' to come, visit anymore. They were too taken up with the whirlwind that was the booming 20th century. His children had left to opposite ends of the country, their family now the prospering steel companies they had started. They didn't come to visit anymore. The only thing Jasper had to comfort him was the heavy check they sent every month to fill of the coffers of the rest home, in which he now was imprisoned.
So when he saw a flustered young woman with a mop of disheveled brown hair flittering about the sitting room with a pile of books he couldn't help the tingle a of amusement. She was arguing with Mrs. Langer, the head nurse who ruled the residents with an iron fist.
"Please, it will only take me a moment; I just need to speak with him." She pleaded.
"Miss, please you have to keep your voice down!"
"I have traveled all the way by train to St. Louis to see this man and I will see him if it's the last thing I do!"
Jasper was impressed. Not many young women had such vigor and passion in this day and age.
Mrs. Langer scrunched her homely face in a sneer. Obviously she was not as impressed as he was with the lady's determination.
"Mrs. Black," said the woman, "Mr. Whitlock is not very keen on visitors. I will speak with him on your behalf but other than that there is not much you ca..."
"Mrs. Langer," Jasper wheeled himself up to the bickering couple. The nurse looked at him in surprise. "I would be glad to meet with this young woman."
She sniffed indignantly. "Mr. Whitlock, you don't have to bother yourself with this…"
"I am quite capable of choosing what I will bother myself with. And I would like to hear what she has to say."
Said young woman turned and looked at him with startled green eyes that made the usually stoic man, falter. Her gaze, wide eyed, focused determined, brought back a flash of memory, and a face from the crypts of his mind.
The nurse huffed in exasperation and left calling over her shoulder to call if needed. The old hag would drive him mad someday.
The woman took a deep breath and gave him a small polite curtsy when they were alone
"Mr. Whitlock," she began "My name is Isabella Black, and I have come with a message from my father."
Jasper's white brows converged. Well, she certainly didn't beat around the bush. He didn't know this young woman. In fact he had never met her before in his life, let alone her father! He certainly didn't go cavorting with young ladies who could be his daughter. But she did look familiar; somehow he had seen her face before…
"I'm sorry, my dear," he said "I do not know..."
"You wouldn't know me sir," Isabella interrupted fidgeting a little on the balls of her feet. Obviously she was bursting with the knowledge that evaded him. "You knew my father a very long time ago when you were young."
She took a deep breath and sat down in the plush across from Emery.
"My father, Mr. Jasper Whitlock, his name is Edward Cullen."
Her words were a storm, a blustering gale that swept through Emery and clouded around his soul. The name Edward Cullen ripped a long forgotten scar off his heart, drilled down to the core and left him open without mercy. The wall of time had been broken and memories, swirled not unlike those moving picture shows that were all the rage now.
He saw red hair, grass green eyes, and the inside of a jail cell. He smelled sweat, the smell of men, and the stench of gun powder. He tasted the tip of a tongue, the sweetness of a naked shoulder, the disgust of blood. He heard the whispers of pleasure, the sound of rejection, and the moans of the dying. He felt the touch of Edward Cullen reaching to him through the void of old age and fear.
For the first time in such a long while Jasper felt something other than loneliness.
He looked over at the face of Bella, finally recognizing the features. He knew that that face was familiar. She was a beautiful as the man who had raised her.
"Do you remember him?" she asked quietly.
He nodded weak from the assault of sensation. Did he remember? What a loaded question. Yes...yes he would always remember. Remembering had been the most painful part of it all.
"I…I tried to forget." He grated aloud. "He spoke of me? Edward told you about me? Where is he, how did he know where to find me?"
Bella brushed her hands over some imaginary wrinkle in her skirt.
"My father did not know at all where you were. I did a little investigating of my own. It wasn't hard. Your name was attached to a fair amount of steel products. The Whitlock Steel Companies."
She stared at him deeply as she spoke. Though her tone was conversational, Emery got the impression that she was searching for something, inside him, seeking an answer. Those green orbs, so much like her fathers, we like small hammers chiseling away at years of a well constructed fortress.
She wanted something from him of that he was certain. Clearing her throat, cocking her head, she began.
"Sir, before I answer your questions, I need to hear it from you first."
"I don't understand, what I could tell you that he possibly hasn't already. You obviously know what had happened and I have no wish to relive any of that. I am an old man Mrs. Black, too old for this sort of excitement…."
Jasper reached down to try and wheel himself away. Shame and indignation burned in his chest. He didn't want this. Already it hurt so much, so much like before when he woke up, from that fever and was alone. When his tender 17 - year - old heart had been faced with the impossibility of their situation. Of knowing he could never have what had made him feel whole.
"You mean pain." Bella's soft voice stalled him.
"What do you know of pain, Mrs. Black?"
For the first time, Jasper saw that determination backed by more than stubbornness and curiosity. For a panicky moment, he thought she was going to cry.
"I know," she whispered tremulously, "that I saw pain in his eyes when he spoke your name to me. But he never told me anything, nothing other than to find you and to perform a final duty. Please, sir, I need to know this. I promise what you say will remain between me and these four walls, and that when I get my answers I will explain everything, but I'm begging you, for my father's sake, please, just tell me what happened."
Jasper felt the tension in his chest grow, the lump in his throat rise and bob at the surface.
"It's really that important to you? You really want to know what was between your father and me."
Black curls moved up and down.
Was this secret worth sharing? He had buried those memories of 50 years past so deeply. To take them back out and analyze them and tell them to another, would mean that what had happened was real. If he did this, it would mean that most of his life had been one lie after another. To his friends, and family, and himself.
Was it worth it? Was it worth it?
For Edward Cullen's daughter, the child of the only person Jasper had ever loved, it was worth it. Resigned, he sat back in his chair, folded his hands, wishing he had that glass of port to swig down now. Bella sat primly, and waited for him to begin.
"Is it hard for you to remember?" she asked.
"No," there was a smile in his voice, "The older I get the more I remember the things that happened in my youth. It is an oddness that I can't seem to recall what I ate for breakfast this morning though yet, I can remember the weather of that day I met your father. It was sunny and warm, very strange for a March in the north." He could still feel the sunshine of that morning, washing away his wrinkles… "No Mrs. Black, I remember it all. It's been a long time since I have thought of it, and I never have told another living soul, not even my wife, Alice, what had happened that last year of the war. But I know by heart…..everything."
Jasper paused and took a great breath. The moment had come. The breath of his words were like opening a long forgotten tomb. Stale and dry, but holding onto a great secret. "I suppose I should start at the beginning, maybe tell you what had brought me to that Yankee jail cell in Kentucky. I'm from a little town maybe a stone's throw from here. I grew up on a modest farm, learning my craft from my daddy. I was young and rash and full of piss and vinegar when I decided to join the cause of the south. It wasn't that I believed in anything that the Confederacy was trying to preserve. Rather it was a way out of a life that had already been lived for me. My family's expectations were so narrow, so dull, in my mind the army was a path for me to escape. I didn't want to inherit the farm, get married and continue the Whitlock line. I wanted….." he paused, grasping his hands into a fist. "Something that made me feel new, excited, maybe even scandalous." Bella's eyes widened but she said nothing.
"So I signed up, said goodbye to my folks, and set out to Atlanta. General Lee became my commanding officer, and I, I became just another body in gray, marching on to the north. I won't bore you, Mrs. Black, with all the precluding details. That is not where the story you have come for takes place. Suffice to say I was careless on supplies run, and ended up in the hands of a very young Yankee, not much older than myself."
He looked at his young companion, smiling with a quirk to his lips. "Private Cullen was very excited about catching his 1st enemy….."
Jasper didn't hear Bella's surprised gasp at her father's name. Suddenly the world around him glided away into the past, to that summer forest in Kentucky, when he felt the weight of a warm body slam him to the ground, and he looked into the face that changed him forever…
He remembered that moment clear as crystal. He remembered being bound by the serious young man, drug into General Grant's tent, and being sentenced to imprisonment until further notice. Edward Cullen, eager to prove himself had been assigned to guard him day and night.
It was then and there that his and Edward's story began.
Jasper who had been an outgoing person, couldn't keep silent for long. The days in the dingy tent were just too long and boring for him to sit in stony cold silence.
"I remember trying to get your father to speak to me." He chuckled fondly. "He was such a serious young man. For the first week he stood soundlessly and stoically at the entrance, as if I, bound and shackled could ever escape. But after a time I was able to crack his reserve a little. I don't really know how it happened. We were so different from the each other in so many ways, but there was something there. Something that pulled us together you might say. We became…..friends and confidants."
He paused in his tale for a moment, "I have to warn you Mrs. Black. You asked for this tale in its true form. What I have to tell you of my inner thoughts and feelings, they may be shocking and….."
"Please sir!" Bella waved her hand in annoyance," I am quite old enough to listen to this! I am certainly no blushing maid! Just tell me the story the best you can!"
Well since you asked. Jasper smiled indulgently and continued. "As I said before, we couldn't understand the pull of our friendship. I cannot speak for your father, but this is how it came to be for me."
"Up until that point I had to try and deal with the fact that your father wasn't a natural born enemy. That he was the same as you or me, and that was what made us friends. We realized that though politically we were on opposing sides, our dreams and goals, our hearts were one. That night I felt this bond this that we had, was based on something stronger. Maybe that is why I noticed him differently. This beautiful soul, who wanted to write and create, was forced to be an executioner for a cause that wasn't his to fight. I wanted to protect him..."
"I don't want to be here." Edwards's voice was hushed. They were lying side by side, staring into each other's eye's tasting the breath of secrets. It was as if the whole world disappeared within the cloth walls, and it was just the two of them. Two souls touching.
"Then why did you join?" Jasper asked. His hand flew down and lay a mere inch from Edwards's upward palm. Heat.
"It's what any good son from an abolitionist family would do. I didn't have much choice." To Jasper he looked sad, resigned to a fate that he hadn't asked for.
"If you could have done anything, if you weren't here now, where would it be?" Jasper wanted to take his mind off the sadness that seeped into his voice. Edward was not supposed to cry
The man next to him inhaled deeply, and looked up at the sky peeking through the tent top. He looked up to the stars. There was the place long ago he believed dreams might still come true.
"I would be sitting in my mother's parlor, on a Sunday afternoon playing my piano. I would play it over and over again till my fingers hurt…" he looked at Jasper and smiled a softly. "I wanted to be a composer."
Jasper could see it as he spoke. He saw the beautiful white sitting room, a large black piano front and center. And Edward he could see him too, sitting there on the bench lost in the music his long fingers gliding up and down the ivory petals.
That night Jasper dreamed about Edward playing his instrument. In the soft haze of his reverie he watched as Edwards strong shoulders bunched and relaxed with every movement, as his fingers, those music makers, made the melody that swirled around him. And suddenly the piano was gone being replaced by his own self. He became the piano and Edward was running those fingers, up and down, up and down his body…
The next morning Jasper awoke, sticky, and looked with wary eyes at the man slumbering at his side.
He trailed off, caught up in the past. That feeling, that fearful feeling was something he couldn't deal with at the time. He acted upon it. That was for damn sure.
"I remember when it happened and everything changed. We were both sitting, laughing about the horrible camp rations, and I made some comment about the teeth breaking hard tack. He was so amused, and the way he smiled, the light in his eyes…..he looked….unlike anything I had ever seen before. He was striking."
Yes, Edward with his green eyes, and auburn locks, and compelling personality, was what brought on what happened next.
And so he told her. He told her everything. From the tentative moment when they had been sitting in the dark and the secret had come to light. When he felt him brush against his hip smelled the tobacco on his fast breath. He told her about the timid touching of lips, and how that night for the first time Jasper felt love bloom in his heart. What an awkward instant that had been. How did a man kiss another man? Where did your hands go? Was he supposed to be soft and gentle? There had been so much uncertainty. But what they had done that night...
Jasper still marveled that even though this union was forbidden by all, their bodies, instinctive and primitive, had known how to touch and hold and pleasure. It had been fast and fierce, and had hurt and felt wonderful all at the same time. It had been limbs and teeth and warmth. He had been with one woman before this but that moment with Edward he had felt like his true virginity had been broken. In the aftermath they had stared in awe at each other, hardly believing that such a joining had taken place. Jasper spoke of the fear and shame that battled with the bubble of tenderness and, dare he say it….love….that filled him.
Maybe he should have stopped but the words just kept flowing. Bella had sat in impassive silence her face giving away nothing. He continued.
"That joining Mrs. Black was more than anything that I had ever known. I had felt so wrong my entire life by doing what was expected of me. But in that single act of what society would deem horrifying I felt at peace with myself, within my soul for the first time. Lying in the arms of my sin I felt blessed."
Jasper rubbed his hand over his face. Now was where the good memories ceased. "But as much of a revelation as it was for me your father didn't feel the same. Any relationship we had built up to that point vanished. In the light of morning I was looked upon as the source of his failing in God. Our relationship…if that's what it was, had disappeared on his part."
The scorn of Edward's look that day had been something that filled Jasper with a wretchedness that touched him still. Lying there naked and cold exposed in body and soul. How he had reached out to him in love, pleaded with him to work out these feelings and emotions, but Edward Cullen was no sissy boy, no fag to ever be in love with a man.
Do you think I could ever be in love with you? Men don't love men! What happened between us was a mistake, a fluke of not having any women around. You shut the hell up about it and never tell anyone or I'll kill you myself you got that!
He had never felt more stripped or more alone then when Edward had hurled those words at him.
"What….What happened then?" Bella's voice quivered. She seemed not disgusted but enraptured with his tale.
"He didn't really talk to me after that. Just stood outside the tent watching. He had become the solider again. But all of that changed when I became ill. I will spare you the details but I came down with a fever and cough about a week after our joining. I….I don't remember much after that. A few days went by and I became delirious. I know there were hands touching me and someone bathing my head and helping me to drink. But I passed into a long sleep after awhile."
"When I woke up I was floored to find myself in a Confederate army hospital bed. The doctor told me I had been sick with influenza and had nearly died. When I asked him what had happened, how I got here….. I'll never forget the look on his face when he told me that a young union solider had dragged me to my camp. Gave me over to the stunned watchmen and turned and left."
Here Jasper paused and stared at his listener. Tears had sprung in her eyes. "Though it may be presumptuous to say , I had just known that somehow, it was your father who brought me back though I can never be sure why or how. I had assumed that he had either deserted or been killed for his freeing of me. In any case I regained my strength and was granted leave. I headed west to Texas, married Alice, started a small merchant business had some children. I did everything that I had hoped never to do. I became what they all wanted me to be."
He felt stillness come over him. He was done with this story. He had revealed himself to her and now Jasper wanted to know why.
Bella shifted uncomfortably in her seat and whispered, "Well, I… that wasn't what I had expected. I hadn't thought…" she shook her head, frowning. Jasper remained silent. Just watching her in anticipation as to why he had been asked to reveal this shameful secret.
"I suppose you would like to know why I'm here then, Mr. Whitlock?" A breath. "My father is dead." He felt a telling fist grip his stomach. "He died just three months ago. It was Pneumonia. He….. I was his only child. My husband Jacob and I cared for him until he passed. I was with him that afternoon, sir, when he went."
Here her breathing became heavy and her eyes glazed. "My father was always a private man. Even my late mother Rosalie, knew very little of his inner most thoughts. I think at the end he just wanted to tell someone. He wanted another soul to know his secret. He took my hand, sir, and whispered that he had to tell me something. He told me that his life had been a lie, that though he loved my mother, there was another. That there was someone who had always stood between them, and had haunted him for 50 years. He told me very little only that I had to find this person and give them his final words."
Here she took his wrinkled hand, the same that had cupped her father's face in their youth. Tears were streaming down her cheeks. "Bella," they were far past stiff formalities now. "I'm so sorry that you had to find out this." He felt he had to say something. Anything.
But she replied with a passionate fury, "No Jasper, no don't. I do not regret anything of this meeting." Her smile was sad, touching in a way. "I got to meet the man who my father loved all his life. I'm not going to say that it isn't strange or different but love….love is never wrong."
Here Jasper had to scoff. "You think your father loved me? He could hardly look at me those final days that I was there."
Bella paused and wiped her eyes. Jasper thought for a moment how young she looked, her nose running in an unladylike manner, but her gaze and demeanor changed his mind. She was here to give him something important.
Beside her was the stack of books she had been carrying with her when she arrived. Reaching down Bella produced a crumpled envelope, yellowed and worn with age.
"My father, when he laid there in bed, he told me your name. 'Find him' he demanded 'find Jasper Whitlock and give him this'. He gave me a note. Since I was a little girl I had seen this letter. Every day when my father would reach for his wallet or tobacco he kept in his breast pocket, there was this letter. My father kept it with him for years, not once taking it out. As a child you don't think of things like that and even as an adult I must say it never occurred to me that it was odd." She smiled watery at him and held out the paper note. "I didn't open it. I couldn't. I think that even then I felt that it was something private."
The air stilled around them and Jasper felt himself reaching forward and hesitantly taking the letter. His gnarled hands curled around it. Edward had touched this paper was his vague thought as he gently tore the edge open. The letter inside was long almost two pages, and Jasper could hardly make out the tiny writing.
"I'm sorry; my sight isn't what it used to be. Would you mind?" He implored.
"Of course if you're sure." She took the letter and in a soft low voice read him the words of his long ago lover. The letter wasn't addressed to him, but simply began almost as if it were a conversation Edward was having with Jasper.
It is 2 o'clock in the morning. Once again I find myself unable to sleep, Jasper. Oh, I'm sure they would tell me it's the pre wedding cold feet. I am getting married tomorrow, can you imagine it? I am finally settling down with Rosalie Hale and giving my mother grandchildren. Nerves I suppose are normal for a wedding, but I wish that I could say that it was the nerves of the unknown that keep me awake.
I will not be able to keep this journal anymore Jasper. Our conversations after this will have to end, for I fear what would happen if Rosalie were to find these words, I am about to write. With the breaking of dawn I will have to say goodbye to you again and burry my feelings forever. Perhaps it is this idea of farewell to you, and everything that you were to me that keeps me awake. But if I am to close the door to you for good then there is something that I must get down, something that must be said to you. Though you aren't here I still want to write this. I have held these words in me for so long, since that moment together that I find that I can no longer keep them in.
Jasper, we met in the worst of places at the worst of times. I still cannot comprehend, how our why we had come together. The Bible teaches that such an attraction is a sin. But oh, how I have sinned in the best way. That moment when you took me into your body, the feelings that I felt, they were so frightening. It felt right. That situation was so wrong but I felt right. I knew that you felt it too. I saw it in your eyes. But after Jasper when the world came back to me and I heard you whisper tenderness in my ear, and felt that well of emotion rising… it scared me terribly. How could I a good Presbyterian son be a sodomite? It was never out of disgust for you that I hurled such hateful words, but revulsion for myself and my weakness. Please understand how much it crushed me to crush you.
But now looking back, 5 years later, I cannot help but wonder what would have happened with us had the world been different, had I been different. Had I instead told you that I loved you? Though then I don't even think I would have recognized love and what it meant. But now, now that I have seen what love was supposed to be, how I was supposed to love Rosalie, I know now that I loved you Jasper Whitlock with everything that I was.
And now as I awake on my wedding morn I know that even though I love Rosalie, that I honor her as a friend, it will be your face I wish I could see. It is impossible but in my mind, in that little tent in the middle of a god forsaken war, I found how things that could seem unthinkable were completely possible.
In a way I wish you do still love me, but in others I hope you don't. I wish for you to despise me because of the pain you have to keep inside, and the secret that can never be free. Hate me for that Jasper, it will be much easier I promise you.
I say goodbye now Jasper and I hope that wherever you are now, that you have found happiness. I will try to find mine. I will always love you.
Bella's voice was shaken with tears, and she was trembling as she read the last words to him. Jasper felt his own tears streaming down his hallow checks.
"Oh Jasper," she whispered, "I'm so sorry." She took his hand. But when Bella met his eyes she was surprised to find Jasper smiling, though his sobs.
"What? I don't understand! How can you be happy?"
For the first time in a long time, Jasper felt a long lost sensation of joy return to him, no matter how bitter sweet it stung.
"Because, even though I am old and alone now, though my children have left me and my wife is long dead, I know now, that someone thought about me. That the person who I have loved my whole life, has loved me back. That my dear is the happiest thing I have heard in a long while."
And he wasn't an old man anymore, sitting in a wheel chair, dying and alone. He was back in that camp in that tent, in the arms of Edward Cullen, and thinking of an impossible future.
Jasper knew this because he had Edward's heart. He had had it for 50 years. Here in his hands was the heart of his lover, in the form of a breast pocket letter.
Please let me know what you think! I would really appreciate some feedback!