Title: The Ones We Left Behind 4/4
Author: Girl Who Writes
Characters: OC, Jasper
Word Count: 2,523
Genre: Angst, Drama
Summary: When someone dies and there isn't a body, you never stop looking for them. And you never know who you might pass on the street. The ones left behind, and their ghosts.
Notes: Thank you to everyone who has read, reviewed, favourited and follow so far! Here we are, at the end, with Jasper's chapter. My next fic will definitely be an Alice/Jasper one-shot of their first meeting, then I'm hoping for one of my longer projects to be ready. Thank you for reading.
Disclaimer: Twilight belongs to Stephenie Meyer; I make no profit from this fan-based venture.
Cecelia watched the candle light throw shadows against the wall. Another wretched night, thanks to the heat, and she couldn't sleep a wink. Aunt Josie had given her mother 'a little something' to help her sleep, and Louisa Whitlock was sleeping deeply, unaware her daughter was prowling the room, the sleeves of her nightgown rolled up, and her hair pins jabbing her scalp.
Laredo in the summer time was unbearable.
Her father had suggested it back in the winter, under the guise of investing in land and animals, when it had really been for Louisa to see her sister, and get away from the family house for a short time. Louisa had been rather reluctant, at first, coming up with dozens of reasons why it wasn't possible, until Jeremiah Whitlock had declared the entire family should go (only three of them now), and some Whitlock cousin would watch over their Houston property until their return.
Celia had agreed eagerly, hoping her mother would be happy to see Josie again. She was rather excited to see Aunt Josie – after all, she had been only a child last time Josie came to Houston, and she had always rather admired her cousins (it was completely unfair that her second-cousin looked like a jug with ears, but Gideon, her first-cousin, was possibly the handsomest boy Celia had ever seen).
Beside, it put Kitty Carter in her place when Celia had been able to talk about her father's possible Laredo investments during their last sewing circle. Kitty thought she was all that because she went to her own cousin's wedding in San Antonio the previous spring. But now Celia Whitlock looked quite the grown-up lady, thinking about her family's investment opportunities and travel plans, which Kitty was still bragging about some cousin's wedding.
Served Kitty right for telling her she looked like a pudding in pink dress.
But it hadn't at all what she expected. She was used to Texas heat, of course, but either this year was the hottest summer on record, or being close to the Mexican border did something to her or the weather, because it was completely unbearable. It didn't help that the stink of the garbage and animals from the yard seemed to fill the house in the afternoon, until Celia was tucked away in her room with a lavender-scented handkerchief over her mouth and nose, wishing feverently she was back in Houston, in her pudding-dress.
Her cousins Alma and Gideon had all sorts of appointments and invitations that meant they were never at home, and never invited her along, leaving her to read and sew her days away. She had written to everyone she could think of, including Kitty Carter, and started crocheting a blanket for Dolores Baker's baby.
Her father was busy, looking into land and animals and other investments, or going out with her Uncle Harrison – excursions that were not even slightly suitable for young ladies. And her mother and Josie preferred to shut themselves up in Josie's sitting room and talk quietly.
She had joined them once, and it had been unbearable – she'd escaped and had a cry in the kitchen, where only the maid would see and wouldn't tattle on her.
All of Jasper's letters scattered around Mother – the ones he had sent them and the ones they had sent him, horribly enough – the soldier that came to the house had brought them with him. A medal, too, that Mother carried with her. And the two tintypes of him they had – one was a portrait of him and Celia when Celia was too small to remember, and the other was of the entire family with Jeremiah's parents when she was only ten.
Her mother wept over them all, and Josie did her best to mop up the tears, and Celia did her best to pour tea and resist the urge to tell Josie it was no good. She had tried everything since the news came that Jasper was missing, presumed dead. Her mother did nothing but weep and plead for someone to bring Jasper to her.
Aunt Josie had been quite stern with her, that she needed to keep her spirits up and not make her mother worse. No more crying over Jasper's shirts or having terrible nightmares of how he died. No, she was a grown-up lady now, and Cecelia apparently had a responsibility now, to take care of her mother.
Celia had felt like stamping her foot and pointing out that Josie still had both her siblings alive and well, even if scattered through Texas, and one mourning a beloved son. Josie still had both her children, hale and hearty (though, now that she wasn't quite so young, Gideon wasn't quite so handsome, and he was… well, an arrogant blow-hard with a weak chin.) Louisa had lost her son, Celia had lost her brother, and Josie could shove her bossiness where it best fit!
Celia wondered if anyone would be so devastated if she went missing. Perhaps if she had been a nurse? She wasn't bad with blood, since she always helped patch Jasper up after a spill, and her father insisted he had no patience with girls taken to squeamishness, but she was terrible at nursing the sick – Jasper often joked that everyone in the family was far too scared to ever get ill, lest they be placed in her rather brutal care.
Jasper had been a good brother, even if he was a frightful flirt with her friends. She remembered the nights she would listen to her mother worry that he'd get some girl 'in trouble', and her father laughing it off. All boys were the same, and Jasper was smart. He'd marry well, when the time came, and there was no harm in a wink and a smile at a pretty girl.
She hadn't spoken to him for a month after he kissed Nancy Anderson behind the church after Dolores' wedding; all Nancy could talk about for weeks afterwards was how wonderful Jasper was, and it was sickening and boring – especially when the other girls joined in!
She'd told Nancy that when she discovered Nancy was already picking out baby names that sounded good with Whitlock and, well, she wasn't really friends with Nancy anymore.
And she'd caught Ellen Bell sneaking out of the barn after dark, with her clothing all mussed, but that could have been one of the other workers her father employed. Her mother was always muttering about the workers and their 'goings on', forbidding her from going anywhere near them without her father or brother.
Even if Ellen Bell had been making eyes at Jasper for weeks before hand.
Celia hadn't thought of Ellen Bell in a long time. They'd be friends as children, but drifted into different social circles as they got older. Ellen had been sent away just after Jasper left, when it was discovered she was in the family way. It had been very shocking, quite the scandal at the time. She wasn't even supposed to know why Ellen had gone, but Kitty Carter knew everything – it was the only reason Celia even bothered with her.
Well, that and the fact the other girls could be so drippy at times! And Kitty had never nursed a ridiculous crush on Jasper. It had actually gotten worse after he'd run away to join the army. She'd spent months dreading which ninny he'd end up marrying when he got home, because she couldn't bear the idea that he'd marry any of the simpering nitwits in Houston.
But Jasper had had his good moments, too. He taught her to ride, how to repair the fences, how they did the family accounts. He told her all the things that Mother and Father didn't think she needed to know, like the war. He'd been so determined to go and fight, even though he was too young.
He bought her books, too, ones that Mother never would have let her read. If it wasn't poetry or some gentle girl's story, Mother made sure it was locked up in Father's study.
Her favourite times with Jasper were when she would sit out on the veranda and sew, and Jasper would read from the newspaper for her, not skipping over anything.
And when they were young, and Mother was in bed sick with the baby that would be born cold and dead, she remembered how he would braid her hair, so gently, and made sure she always had ribbons that matched her clothed.
Even if he did hide snakes in her shoes, and fill her apron pockets with jelly, he'd been a good person. He would have been a good soldier too – he died a Major, and she knew that had made their father proud.
Sighing, Celia got up, carefully picking up the candle and her newest book. It had been a gift from the sewing circle, and picked by Kitty – a rather treacly romance between a soldier with amnesia and terrible burns upon his face that required bandages, and a nurse who was mourning the death of her husband in battle. Celia was less than halfway through, and she already knew that when the bandages came off, the nurse would discover the soldier was her husband. It seemed like a terrible insensitive choice, but perhaps it was meant to comfort Celia, that maybe Jasper would be found alive.
She padded through the halls. Aunt Josie probably wouldn't mind too much if she sat in the kitchen and read, with a cool drink. Better than risking waking her mother.
Her aunt's maid, Caroline, slept in the room off the kitchen, and was clearly about to go to bed when Celia emerged into the kitchen. Dough was rising on the counters, the kitchen was scrubbed clean and everything was ready for the next morning, though the bins were gone and the door unlatched. Surely, Caroline wouldn't mind if she sat in the kitchen for awhile – she was more than capable of cleaning up after herself.
The shriek Celia heard was not like the ones in her books. Those were clear, strong and loud, enough to bring any number of heroes to the rescue. This was hoarse and feeble and utterly terrified.
And no one else would hear it.
Hurriedly placing her candle and book onto the table, Celia darted to the door, to peer into the night.
The kitchen waste was strewn through the yard, and two dark figures were standing there; she couldn't make out any faces.
But she could see Caroline's face quite clearly.
And Caroline was very, very dead.
Celia herself nearly screamed. She certainly wet herself. Caroline had been very nice and an excellent cook and seamstress, always a kind word. Now, her head was short of ripped from her neck, blood everywhere. She had seen animals being born, injured, being slaughtered, being butchered, all of that, and it was nothing like this. That was controlled, neat, and necessary.
This was none of those things. The blood was splattered on the walls and ground and across the dark figures. It was black like oil, in the dark, and had a proper smell.
And Caroline's blank eyes just stared in horror and pain and fear.
A low chuckle broke through her thoughts, as the person holding Caroline stepped forward, tossing her to the ground, into the thin moonlight, Celia broke. There was no way she would ever be the same Celia again after this night. Not again, not anymore.
Jasper hadn't changed enough since he'd been gone. He looked almost the same – older, harder. Definitely taller, and Mother would have had such a fit at the length of his hair.
His eyes were all wrong, but she couldn't work out why, and his clothing was torn and completely filthy, Caroline's blood adding to the stains and grime. And that smirk, his mouth smeared with blood.
It was something like the smirk he gave Nancy and Ellen and all those other drippy girls, but crueller. Jasper had always been a little careless but never intentionally cruel. And his expression was cruel, uncaring, utterly terrible.
Celia couldn't move a muscle.
"It stinks here," he said, nudging Caroline with his toe. "I'm going back."
"Of course, mi amor," a female figure said, hidden by the shadows. "We need to return before dawn, but I have some business to attend to."
Jasper nodded once and vanished suddenly – fast enough that Celia nearly gasped. The woman followed, her blue skirts twirling in the darkness.
Celia scrambled out of the doorway, hands shaking as she ran towards Caroline. She wasn't even sure why. Caroline was quite, quite dead and no amount of rough nursing or screaming for help would bring her back. And however they had inflicted death (her brother) had been truly terrible; nothing Caroline would want to survive.
The muck of the yard – animals, garbage, waste and now blood – soaked her feet, and then her nightgown, as she knelt beside poor Caroline, staring. The necklace she wore had fallen into the wound, and she wanted to fish it out, wanted to do something so this wasn't so terrible to look at, so that when she fetched help, they wouldn't be forced to see what Celia had …
"Hello little mouse."
Celia gasped and turned around to see the woman who had been with her brother. In better light, she was lovely – dark hair framed her face, her complexion flawless. She was average height and build, but was the loveliest girl Celia had ever seen in her life – she looked more like a painting.
"I thought I heard you scurrying about," the woman said, appearing in front of her before Celia could even blink.
"I'm afraid I was a little thoughtless, letting Jasper have your friend there. I'm still peckish, after all. Though, I suppose it was better than letting him go through the building and helping himself," the woman laughed, and Celia pressed closer to Caroline. "Newborns can be so messy. No mind, though: his year is almost up and he can invade as many houses as he wants."
She didn't even have it in her to beg. She just stared.
She had heard her parents say so many times, if they only knew what had happened. Had Jasper taken a bullet and died? Been ambushed? Been ill? The fact they had never known what had become of him had haunted both Louisa and Jeremiah, added lines to their face and grey to their hair.
All she could think is that she wished she didn't know, wished for those nightmares of Jasper dying slowly and in pain, rotting in the desert sun, that were almost sweet compared to this horror.
"If you scream, I'll kill everyone in the house once I'm finished with you, right down to the little lap dog." The voice was honeyed and sweet, like a mother confiding in a child, and Celia finally realised what was wrong with their eyes.
They were red as rubies, as the blood smeared over their mouths.
Celia let out a sob and closed her eyes.