Chapter Two – Dreaming

Bella heard her father at the front door just as she pulled dinner out of the oven.

"You didn't have to cook, Bells! Not on your first day at school. I was going to suggest pizza." Her father hung up his jacket and sat at the place she'd set for him at his small kitchen table.

"That's okay, Dad, I like cooking. Besides, it helps me relax, and I needed something to keep my mind occupied." Bella slid two plates on the table and took her place, adjacent to her father.

"Why?" Charlie frowned at her, and she immediately realised her mistake. "Bad first day?"

"No, Dad, it was fine, really, just a lot to take in," she hastily reassured. "Everyone was very nice," she added.

"Well good. I want you to be happy here, Bells. I probably should have introduced you around before school started back, but you seemed happy to spend time on the rez."

"I was, Dad, it was nice to reconnect with Jacob, and Rachel while she was visiting." Bella had arrived in Forks just after Christmas, which she spent with her mother in Phoenix, and was pleased to discover her childhood friend was also home for the holidays.

"You seemed to get along well with Harry and Sue's kids too?"

"Yeah, I did. Leah is a bit abrupt, but once you get to know her she's cool. And Seth's a real sweetie."

Charlie barked out a laugh. "No teenage boy wants to be thought of as sweet!" he said in response to her raised eyebrows.

"Dad! He's about thirteen years old!"

"Oh, I know," he said. "Even so..." He chuckled some more.

"It's just a shame they don't go to school in town," she added.

"Yeah. There are lots of great local kids too though," he said. "I am sorry I couldn't take the whole week off to spend with you."

"Its fine, Dad. We probably would have just spent it at Billy's anyway." She smiled at him. "Truly, I'm not complaining. It was good to catch up with them. I have plenty of time to get to know the kids at school."

"So how did it go today? Did you meet some people you'd want to get to know?"

"Sure," she said. "There's a girl named Angela who seems nice. And lots of others too, I don't remember all their names." And one very, very beautiful boy—or man, she'd almost want to say—who she could almost swear she knew inside out. But he didn't seem to know her at all.

"That'd be Angela Weber, I guess. Reverend Weber's daughter."

"Oh yeah, that's right." She longed to ask him about the Cullens and Hales. Was that really his surname? She supposed it didn't mean anything, either way. After all, her own surname wasn't Williams now. But she couldn't bring herself to mention them. What could her father possibly say that would make things better?

Either it truly wasn't Jasper, her Jasper—and after all his eyes were a different colour—or it was, and he didn't know her at all, which was utterly unbearable to even contemplate. How could he not know her? No, it simply had to be a coincidence. And yet… When she'd said the name Whitlock, she was sure she'd heard him gasp. As though it did mean something to him. But how could it be him?

She realised they'd both finished eating and got up to clear the table.

"I've got the dishes tonight," Charlie said, shooing her away. "You must be tired after your first day, and besides, I bet you haven't called your mom yet, you should give her a call and then go up to bed."

"Oh, Char—Dad! I don't really feel like talking to Mom tonight. She'll want a description of every single person I spoke to. You know what she's like. I'll just send her an email to let her know it went okay. I can talk to her on the weekend, I should have more to say by then."

"Well, go do that then, and get some sleep."

"Okay, 'night, Dad." She kissed his cheek fondly and then took herself upstairs. He was right that she was tired, and if she was honest she was almost desperate to get to sleep. Maybe she would see him tonight.

After a quick shower in the small bathroom she now shared with her father, she cleaned her teeth then headed into her bedroom to boot up her ancient computer.

Sure enough, there was an email from Renee, wondering how her first day went. She sent off a quick reply, not really saying much of anything, but assuring her that everyone was very welcoming.

Her fun and outgoing mother never could quite understand how she had produced such an introverted daughter. Where Renee would no doubt already have made firm friends with a bunch of people, Bella was much more like her quiet father. She liked most of the kids she'd met today well enough, but she hated all the overt attention she got as the new girl, and knew it would probably take her weeks before she would call any of the kids here her friends.

Closing down her computer her mind inevitably went back to Jasper Hale. As she climbed into bed, she told herself firmly to put him out of her mind and go to sleep. She rolled onto her side and closed her eyes, but sleep wouldn't come.

She'd been having trouble sleeping ever since she arrived in this cold, dreary town, unused to the almost constant sound of rain, or the wind in the forest that started not far from her window.

And she resented the lack of sleep, not only because it left her tired during the day, but because he'd been home last week, and she worried she was missing out on time with him. He was gone again now, but she didn't know whether he might be back soon.

Today, very briefly, she'd thought everything was about to change. She'd thought he would be in her life for real, on a day to day basis. Not off at the war, nor disapproved of by her father. Well, she didn't know that for sure of course. She hadn't mentioned him to Charlie. But she doubted he would disapprove.

She rolled over for what felt like the millionth time and looked at the clock: 1:34 am.

Come on brain! Stop thinking about Jasper Hale, who doesn't even know you, and go to sleep!

She tried flexing and relaxing every muscle in her body, one at a time, starting at her toes. That sometimes worked. As she lay there she thought back to the last time she had seen her Jasper, four nights ago.

"Hey there, darlin'! I thought maybe I wasn't going to see you today! I was hopin' Mary got you my message."

"Jasper!" She'd run over to where he waited for her under 'their' tree and thrown herself into his arms. "Mama kept me busy mending all morning, and then I had to help with the knitting. We've been making socks to send back with you for the soldiers."

"That's great, darlin', they will really appreciate that."

"How long..." She cleared her throat and leaned back to look up at him. "How long can you stay this time?"

He looked down at her sadly, tenderly lifting a strand of hair from where it had shifted into her eyes, smoothing it back from her face. "Only until tomorrow, love. There's going to be another battle at Galveston, and this time, we plan on winning. We evacuated most of the people there last year, but I've been ordered back to make sure."

"Oh, Jasper! When will this war be over? I want you to come home! You've already been made Major, surely my father would accept you now!"

"I don't know, darlin'. Maybe he would, maybe he wouldn't. But you know I can't desert my men now. Besides, with the draft, I couldn't leave even if I wanted to."

"I know." She buried her head back in his chest. "I just miss you so much."

"I know, darlin', me too. But let's not waste what little time we have today. Sit awhile with me and tell me what's been happenin' back here."

He laid his jacket on the ground for her beside their tree, so she sat down, leaning her back against the trunk, and spent the next hours updating her beautiful man on the local goings on. He lay with his head in her lap, and after a while they both fell silent, her fingers running through his hair.

As the sun started to sink, she knew she needed to head home, and she felt her mood sink with it. But she would be strong for him, she told herself. Swallowing back the tears that threatened, she asked in a small voice, already knowing the likely answer, "Will I see you tomorrow, Jasper?"

He sat up and reached with his thumb to wipe away the tears she hadn't realised were falling. "No, darlin', I'm sorry. I have to move out at dawn." He cupped her cheek with his hand, and she leaned into it.

"That's okay," she said quietly. "At least we had today right? Do you know when—is there any chance—?"

"I don't know, darlin'," he replied sadly. "I just don't know when I'll be back again. But you know what? You're right."

"About what?" She asked, confused.

"About your papa.

"Next time I'm able to come back, I mean to speak with him. You're eighteen now, so he'll be lookin' around. I am the youngest Major I know of in the whole Confederate army. That's gotta mean somethin', right? I want it to be official. I want to be able to put a ring on your finger and have everyone know. One day, you are going to be Mrs Jasper Whitlock. And I am goin' to be the happiest man alive."

By the time she was on her third time through relaxing her body the clock said 2:30 am, but she could finally feel herself drifting. She knew her dreams would not be as pleasant tonight, unless by some miracle Jasper was back already. They never were since he went away. But her body needed sleep, and she felt her present fading away.

.

Isabella was sitting in her family's parlour knitting socks with her mother. The news was that their army had had a resounding victory in Galveston, and it was hoped it might be a turning point in the war.

But they still needed more support. Jasper had told her how much the soldiers appreciated the supplies they received from the women back home. He'd clearly not wanted to worry her, but she knew from listening to her parents talk that conditions in the army were not good, so she was glad to be able to do something for them, even if it was just knitting more and more socks.

"And with Galveston retaken, perhaps the blockade will lift too," Mama was saying happily, "which would be good for your father's business." Bella knew that the blockade was responsible for the many shortages they were suffering, but she only half understood her father's personal stake in trade. She was far more interested in whether there were many casualties from the battle, but that, Mama didn't know.

Of course, regardless of trade, she understood that the abolitionists desire to free the slaves would affect their farm, but she'd heard it whispered that that would never have happened anyway, even without going to war. And she honestly didn't know how she felt about that.

Jasper said the war was important because it was about states' rights. It wasn't that long ago that Texas was a free country, and it wasn't right that the President could tell them what to do. But his family had always been against slavery anyway, and she thought they had a point. And now that the Confederate Congress insisted on drafting Texan men, she thought it made a mockery of state rights anyway.

Her older brother had been conscripted, which was probably fair enough (she'd secretly always thought it was wrong that he had stayed home as long as he had), but so had Jasper's father, and how were Mary and her mother supposed to run their farm without any of their menfolk? Jasper's little brother had already had to take over his share of the work, and he was only eleven, and not even as big as Mary.

"We should have some visitors later in the week, Isabella, I will need your help to watch your little brother, so don't go wondering off with your friend Mary, unless you take him with you."

"Yes, Mama," she replied, wondering when she might have a visitor again. Would Jasper be able to come home now?

She watched the sun setting through the window and thought again of her last moments with Jasper four days earlier.

"Oh, Jasper!" She'd leaned forward and wrapped her arms around his neck, burying her face in his collar. "Please promise me you'll stay safe," she said, her voice muffled by his shirt, "and come back to me soon!"

"I promise," he said, gently tilting her head back, his hand under her chin, and leaned forward to place a chaste kiss on her lips. "I love you."

"I love you, too."

.

Bella opened her eyes, the dark Forks morning a distinct contrast to the setting Texas sun she had been watching only minutes before. Her fingers brushed her lips, which seemed to tingle as she remembered again the kiss Jasper had pressed on them before walking her home that last time she'd seen him.

As she got ready for her second day at Forks High, Bella couldn't stop her mind flitting back and forth between the Jasper of her dreams, and the folks she would see today in school. Would she see Jasper Hale today?

She felt a little guilty even wondering. Was she betraying her Jasper, even thinking about it? She hadn't had an interest in anyone other than Jasper since her crush on Jonathan Marks back in the seventh grade. But she and Jasper had just been friends back then. He was just someone who'd always been there.

It wasn't until nearly the end of her Freshman year (not that nineteenth-century Isabella had been sent to high school) that they'd started seeing each other differently. Of course, Jasper was already sixteen then. And before he was seventeen, he'd joined the army, lying about his age, determined to make something of himself—to be someone her father would accept for her.

Were they truly not the same person? Her Jasper and Jasper Hale? Of course, they couldn't be, how could they? And she couldn't ask her Jasper, even if he were to come back tonight, because when she was dreaming, she never remembered this life.

Honestly, sometimes she wondered which was real and which the dream. But really, she knew. They were both real. It was just that the reality in which she had Jasper would always trump any reality in which he didn't exist. But what if he existed in both?


A/N Obviously, I don't own the Twilight Saga, and in fact I am very grateful to Stephenie Meyer for graciously letting us play in her universe.

Thanks to Kakarot1313 for proofing this chapter. You know you love it! : )

Words: 2539. First published: 18 March 2018, Australian time.

PS Thanks for all the kind reviews, favourites and follows! Now I get why authors are so into them, LOL!