Chapter 4: A Lonely Wanderer
Disclaimer: S. Meyer owns Twilight Banner by Lady of Spain
Jasper noticed the beautiful paintings that adorned the halls of the funeral home. “Lottie’s done a right fine job of decoratin’ the place.”
Peter smiled, proud of his wife’s talents. “Are ya referrin’ to the art work hangin’ on these walls?”
“I reckon I am.”
Peter slipped his thumbs under his suspenders, stretching them outward. “I don’t mean to brag, but it ain’t braggin’ if’n it’s the truth. Lottie did all the paintin's ya see here. My wife is a very accomplished artist. She’s even sold quite a few.”
“Sure nuff? I would like to see more, if that’d be all right with Lottie.”
“She’d be plum honored to show ya some.”
Living the life of the undead was no bed of lilies. Still, the work at the funeral parlor turned out to be a fitting job for the major. He and Peter would pick up the corpses easily—and sometimes, they were the reason for the corpses. Science wasn’t as developed in 1908, and so nobody wondered that the bodies had been exsanguinated.
Peter had a pair of glasses made for Jasper with a dark brown tint to mask the red of his irises. He and Charlotte had matching ones. No one was inquisitive enough to ask about them, and the vampires never gave the general populace a look at their unnaturally occurring eye color.
The prediction Peter made about Jasper’s calming influence certainly came to pass as time went on. It was good for business. The recent widows especially seemed to be under his spell; their loss more endurable as he weaved his magic. It also helped that the lanky blonde with the Texas drawl was a polite young man, and easy on the eyes.
On days when there were no funeral arrangements to be made, the three of them would go out at twilight and slip through the trees nearby. Jasper would bring along his guitar and play for them. He existed for times like those, except for one day ...
His two companions were seated on the ground listening to his impromptu performance. “Will ya play Lorena for me?” Charlotte asked. “I always loved that song.”
Some faded human memories went sifting through his mind, as the melody wafted into the air. They were almost like a dream, a group of girls surrounding him as he strummed his guitar, a girl crying as he left to return to camp, his meeting that fateful day with three lone woman. When the song ended a melancholy feeling swept over him.
Charlotte appeared to be concerned. “What is it, Jasper?”
“Nothin’, just some old memories playin’ in my brain.” He shook his head trying to rid himself of the unwelcome thoughts. “How bout some Black Cat Rag?”
“Now ya are talkin’,” Peter remarked, with a grin.
Several more years went by. Ever since Jasper started working at the Peaceful Repose Funeral Home, he had a permanent address and would receive letters now and again from his kinfolk in Texas. He corresponded for awhile, but then the letters abruptly stopped. Had his parents died? Was his sister still alive? He ached to know, wanting to return to his home, but his loyalty to Peter and Charlotte kept him bound to them. They were his family now.
His melancholy continued until he finally confided in Charlotte. “I don’t reckon I can stay here much longer, Lottie. I just feel that I need somethin’ more.”
“Like, love, ya mean? You’re not foolin’ me, Jasper. Ya need a good woman. Come to my studio right quick. I’ve got somethin’ to show ya. Maybe I shoulda told ya sooner, but it woulda done no good, no how.”
Jasper followed her into her art studio. She motioned to him, to pull away a cloth covering off a painting she had made years ago. It was a portrait of a young woman with dark hair and dark blue eyes.
“I call it ... Alice. I don’t rightly know if Peter told ya or not, but sometimes I git these dreams? Well, maybe not dreams, but flashes of scenes or pictures. And these dreams—they keep a-comin’ ’til I do somethin’ about it. I’ve had so many about this woman. It was like I was catchin’ them pictures that she was sendin’ my way and she was tellin’ me to start on this here paintin’ and show it to ya. I saw her with ya, Jasper. She’s out there somewhere just a-waitin’ for ya. I saw her walkin’ toward a buildin’. That picture in the corner—that’s the buildin’. It’s a diner I think, and I have a strong feelin’ that’s where y’all will meet each other. Anyways, since I done that picture, I haven’t seen that woman in my head no more.
“She’s beautiful, ain’t she?” Charlotte picked up the portrait and offered it to Jasper. “Here, take this; I want ya to have it.”
Holding the canvas in his hands, Jasper stared at the young woman represented there. For some strange reason, he felt himself yearning for her.
As the years passed, Jasper continued to work, and even afforded himself a college education. Peter and Charlotte used to kid him about his Texan accent slowly starting to dissolve—it was all that highfallutin’ learnin’, as Charlotte expressed it. But even with all his studying and job related tasks, there was a missing something that would eat away at his heart, and every now and then, he would be drawn to that portrait. Could it be true? Was that woman waiting to be with him? How would he know when it was time to set eyes on her? More importantly, if he wanted to be with her, would he be forced to turn her and doom her to this non-life?
And so ... after a funeral service one day, he overheard Peter and Charlotte laughing, followed by some passionate kissing and moaning. He felt like a pervert listening in on their intimate moment. How he longed for that someone who could complete him. Would it ever happen? He was so alone, and listening to them only emphasized his loneliness. What good did it do him to live forever if he had to exist on his own? It was time for a change. Maybe he could find this Alice, but if nothing else, he at least wouldn’t have to sit back and watch Charlotte and Peter as they basked in each other’s love.
That evening, he laid his cards out on the table. He knocked on Peter’s door. His friend opened it. “Hey, Jasper, ya look like a blue norther’s ’bout to descend on our heads.”
Peter waved him inside. “C’mon in and set a spell. Now, what’s got ya so mightily stirred up?”
Jasper stepped into the room, and lowered his eyes to the floor; this would be a difficult conversation. He sat across from his dearest friend. “Peter ... ya’ll have been my family for so long. I’m much obliged to you for all the help and care you and Lottie have given me. I feel though, that the time has come for me to be on my way. Notwithstandin’ your hospitality, I must move on. I’m aimin’ to find that lil’ gal in Lottie’s picture. I promise to finish out the week, then I’ll be headin’ out.”
Rubbing his chin, Peter lamented, “I’m sorry to see ya goin’, but I won’t stand in your way. No sir. I tell ya what—I’ll put up some money to git ya started. Don’t worry about payin’ me back. I’m glad to do it. I’ll git my money later by sellin’ off your furniture and such. I can rent out your cottage too. Why I’ll be makin’ out like a bandit.”
He leaned over and clapped Jasper on the shoulder. “Ya know, you’ll always have a home here with us. Why, ya can even bring that filly along with ya. She’d be more than welcome.”
Jasper stood, extending his hand. And the two men shook. “I thank you, truly. I’m just sorry I have to leave.”
That Friday evening he went into Chalotte’s studio and noticed three framed pictures on the wall—one was of him, another of Charlotte, Peter, and himself. The last one was a likeness of Jasper beside the black-haired pixie that was haunting his daytime dreams.
As promised, Jasper left amid an emotional goodbye that weekend. He decided against manipulating everyone’s feelings, and let his comrades freely grieve over his departure. He didn’t know when or if he would ever see them again. They were his only friends, and he would dearly miss them.
Wandering far and wide, he traveled for years, all the while getting more depressed about his way of existing.
He hated himself for taking human life, but sometimes he had no choice. Jasper abstained for as long as he could, depriving himself of needed sustenance. When his thirst was no longer tolerable, he tried to prey on the dregs of society—a man who was beating his horse, an abusive husband, a murderous thug. He couldn’t bring himself to feed on a woman or a child however, unless their death was imminent. His conscience wouldn’t allow it. Their deaths would certainly be a mercy killing, but still ... his unbeating heart cringed at the thought.
At last, his wanderings brought him back to the east coast, and it was there in Philadelphia in 1948, when on a rainy day, Jasper decided to duck into some shelter to shield himself from the downpour. In his sight was a familiar looking building. It was the diner that Charlotte had painted so long ago.
As he stepped through the door, he shook off the droplets of water, and stamped off the mud from his shoes. There were two other people inside—a man behind the counter, and a black-haired woman with her back to him. She turned immediately and smiled. His mouth flew open. It was her, the girl in the portrait—the girl that he daydreamed about all this time.
She stood from the table she was sitting at, and walked directly toward him. She was so petite, about 4’10’’. Her hair was dark, her features delicate, with skin like fine porcelain, but the eyes were all wrong. What were once blue, were now golden. He couldn’t detect a heartbeat, and she didn’t seem to show any signs of fear, in fact waves of affection were wafting in his direction. How could that be? She didn’t even know him, or what he was. It seemed like just maybe she was one of his kind though.
Jasper had never thought ahead as to what he would do or say if he had indeed met her. His tongue lay limply in his mouth, and he stared at her as she came closer. His 6’3’’ frame suddenly seemed as if it would buckle and tumble to the floor, it being no match for this little pixie. She already held him powerless in her gaze.
His eyes could not be torn away from her. She was so beautiful. He saw now that her likeness did not do her justice. He swallowed nervously—and he very seldom felt nervous, even in battle.
She barely reached up to his chest, and Jasper had to lean down to take her small hand in his. “My apologies, Ma’am,” he uttered, as he placed a kiss upon that gloved captive in his grasp.
With her head tilted at a rakish angle, she asked, “Are you ready to come with me?”
His wits returned momentarily. “I reckon I’d follow you to the ends of the earth, lil’ lady. And that’s a fact.”
Taking his hand, she led him back outside. She stopped, shaking her head, laughing. “You’re so polite. You don’t need to address me as ma’am, or miss or little lady. It’s Mary Alice Brandon. But I go by Alice.”
Jasper bent lower to meet her eyes. “Glad to meet your acquaintance. I’m Jasper Lamar Whitlock, but I have a feelin’ you already knew that.”
“Did you, now?” she retorted with a twinkle in those odd-colored eyes. “Well, c’mon, then. My car’s over there.”