EchoesofTwilight provided me with the drabble prompts (and helped with the French). Thanks, love! Mwah!. Thanks to SorceressCirce for being my ever-lovely beta.
As ever, I do not own Twlight. Its characters own me, heart and soul. I hope you enjoy. Oh, and ummm…tissue warning, probably. bites lip.
“Pardonez-moi. Connaissez-vous cet homme?”
My French is barely discernible through my twang, but I try.
I show his picture to anyone who will stop long enough to watch and listen. Every time I get the same response: a look of sympathy, a “Non, je suis désolé.”
It’s been three weeks since he said he would be here. His last letter before D-Day let me know he was safe – for the moment.
But that was before…
It’s been five years since I saw him, and I’ve all but given up hope. I have to keep trying – for him.
“Connaissez-vous cet homme?”
I go through every channel I know, pull every string I have – and some that I don’t – collecting debts, incurring others.
It all leads to nothing.
Around me, life is lived again, people breathing in freedom for the first time in years. It should lift my spirits, but it doesn’t – instead it leaves me hollow, hurting, and alone.
No one here knows him, or if they do, they don’t know what became of him.
I watch as spring turns to summer, but it means little to me now.
I should have been there.
He should be here.
“Where are you?”
Finally, a lead – or so I thought.
Someone claimed to have seen him in Strasbourg. I travel there on idle hope.
I keep moving forward, pushing on when I don’t think I can go any further, pulling on reserves I didn’t know I had. I spend weeks in the area, again asking everyone if they’ve seen him.
His picture’s become bent, creased from the many times it’s been handled. Each night before bed, I straighten it out with tender fingers, allowing myself a moment of hope that tomorrow may be the day I find him.
“Please come back to me.”
Another dead end.
I’m back in Paris, wandering the Champs-Élysées aimlessly.
The tenuous hold I have on my emotions is breaking, fissures forming on my heart like glaze on porcelain.
I’ve given up everything to try to find him, and I’m starting to worry I never will – or that, if I do, all I will find is a possibility buried in an unmarked grave.
A brisk wind sends shivers down my spine, and for the first time, I take in my surroundings.
Fall is approaching, the leaves turning auburn, reminding me of him.
My knees give way as I crumble.
I read her letter for the tenth time as I try to formulate my thoughts for a response.
Finally, I sit at my desk, fountain pen hovering inches above the paper, but no words come out. Instead, I keep seeing the lines, “Enough, Jasper, it’s time to come home. Mama needs you. She’s dying,” flashing in front of my eyes.
The ink drips onto the paper, as dark as my emotions. Mama needs me, and it pains me to know I’m not there, but he needs me more.
I need to be here.
I cannot leave now. Not without knowing…
The fog that envelopes Paris feels almost like it’s invading all my senses. My mind can’t focus on anything. My body merely trudges along and goes through the motions out of habit.
People are still returning to this city, bringing news from faraway places. It is the only thing keeping me going. Every time I see new faces, I ask my question, but the answer is still the same.
Until one day.
“Oui. Please…do you know him?”
My heart is racing, hope flaring high once more, only to stop beating when I catch the words “camp” and “Auschwitz.”
How I made it home, I don’t know. I sit on my bed, looking out of my window with unseeing eyes, tears running down my face.
He’s wrong. It can’t have been him. It just can’t!
I take his picture out of my pocket, my thumb brushing his cheek as I stare at his familiar face.
He can’t be gone.
But it’s been months now without a word, and the man had given an accurate account of him.
My heart wants for this to be a mistaken identity, for him to be alive, well, and simply lost.
My mind wars.
I pull my coat tight around me, shivering as I walk along the Seine toward my goal: the Eiffel Tower.
We had planned to go here – and all the other tourist sites. He loved this city and had wanted to share it with me. He was going to show me everything.
I stare up at this monument of steel and iron and feel nothing.
I go to the top. The view is magnificent even now, ravaged and semi-rebuilt as Paris is, but it doesn’t move me, because he’s not here to share this with me.
Once again, I curse fate.
I walk daily along the Seine now – a ritual I hold to, because there is nothing else.
It keeps me moving when all I want is to curl up, fall asleep, and never wake again, for my world isn’t worth living without him in it.
Christmas is a mere two days away. All around me, the spirit of the holiday is abundant, even if the supplies for feasts still leave much to be desired.
In spite of myself, I find myself praying for a Christmas miracle.
My landlady wishes me a “Joyeux Noel, Monsieur Whitlock.”
I barely manage a return.
It’s Christmas morning. I have nowhere to be, nothing to celebrate, so I walk.
My hands stuffed in my pockets, I keep my head down as I trudge along familiar paths.
The streets are mostly empty, reflecting my heart. I relish the silence, wishing for more.
There’s one other person out, seated on a bench overlooking the Seine, hunched over, alone. An air of pain, suffering, and loneliness surrounds him.
As I get closer, I feel something change, my body recognizing him before my mind does.
I feel dizzy, disoriented, confused.
His hair’s darker than I remember.
“Edward?” I choke.
He looks up, disbelief and confusion clear on a face etched with pain and endured hardship.
My eyes are focused on him as I take one tentative step after another, bridging the distance between us. I’m afraid that if I go faster, he will disappear in smoke.
Once I reach him, I fall to my knees in front of him, our gaze almost level as we stare at each other. The stone is cold beneath my body, but I don’t care – it doesn’t matter because my heart is beating again.
I touch his cheek, trembling.
“It’s really you?” I whisper.
He nods, seemingly lost for words as his unsteady fingers run over my face, through my hair.
My own follow suit, touching for the sake of reality – reassurance neither is dreaming.
His eyes are swimming, brimming over with tears as he pulls me harshly to him. His arms wrap around me like a vise even as his lips lock on mine with reckless abandon.
We stay like that for a long time, beyond caring what people will think or do. We need this, just to breathe again. To feel.
When we part, he whispers hoarsely, “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry…”
He sobs into my neck as I hold him, falling apart at the seams as I try desperately to keep it together.
When I feel him shivering, I realize it’s the cold, and that finally gives me the motivation to move. I have to get him inside, warm, safe.
Slowly, I rise and help him do the same, my arm around him in support as he leans against me.
Once we reach my room, I take his coat and gently urge him to sit on the bed – the only place to sit aside from the single chair in the corner.
I make coffee, allowing us both a moment to our thoughts.
He alternately stares out my window and at me. I smile at him whenever our eyes meet, happy to know he’s alive – here.
But when he looks away, I take him in, noticing every change.
He’s lost a lot of weight. His hair is thinner, darker, matte.
The Edward I knew is gone, no longer self-assured and full of life.
Instead, I see a man who saw – and lived – too much horror.
He’s a ghost.
He turns to me again and smiles my smile, and I dare to hope.
We sit next to each other, some part of us always touching as he tells me everything he’s been through since our last communication.
I listen in silent terror as he explains being picked up the very day he sent his last letter, being interrogated by the Gestapo, refusing to betray his friends in the resistance. How, ultimately, he was sent to Majdanek along with other POWs, when it became apparent the Germans were fighting a losing battle.
He pauses often, needing to regroup before being able to continue.
He tells me he was sure he was going to die.
I’m flooded with relief as he tells me about being liberated. Even though I can plainly see – and touch – the evidence of that myself, it is still as if I’m right there with him.
His voice cracks with emotion. I pull him into my arms, needing to hold him close, for both our sakes.
He explains it took him weeks to make it to Paris.
“They told me to go home. I was supposed to go to the consulate to get papers…”
He looks at me, touching my cheek.
“I couldn’t. I don’t know why, but I couldn’t leave here.”
I cover his hand with my own and feel the tears I hadn’t realized were falling.
My voice trembles as I force out the words I had refused to utter, unwilling to let them be real, to betray him by truly giving up.
“I thought you were dead…”
For a moment, we stare at each other.
“They told me…Auschwitz…I-I didn’t…couldn’t…”
I shudder, closing my eyes tightly.
His lips brush against mine, lightly touching as he shushes me, assures me he’s here – alive, safe, never leaving again.
I whisper, “I wasn’t living without you.”
“You won’t have to.”
We spend hours talking as we lie in bed. Our hands explore remembered and long sought after territory.
When words are no longer enough and altogether too much, we let our bodies take over. I’m worried at first; he’s so frail now, but his plea to feel – to make new memories so we can put the past behind us – is my undoing.
Soon, we fall into familiar patterns as we dance this dance of lovers again, the only sounds those of mutual desire, whispered love, and promises of the future as we become one.
With our release, we come home.
He falls asleep soon after, curled up against me with his head nestled on my shoulder.
I’m tired, too, but cannot tear my eyes away from his face – what I can see of it, at least. He looks peaceful now, content, a little of my Edward shining through in his slumber.
I kiss the top of his head, my fingers brushing his skin lightly, the motion soothing – familiar.
His breathing’s even. I find myself entranced by the sound of it, along with the feel of his heart beating against my side.
I fall asleep, knowing tomorrow he’ll still be here.