Night Kiss: Chapter Twenty-Eight

Chapter Twenty-Eight

Chapter Twenty-Eight
This is when everything changed for me.
Claire remembered it all. Finding the Bible. The confusion and emotion that wracked her mind and soul at such a young age. The ability, or not, to comprehend. How could a child understand, when an adult would find difficulty in grasping these kinds of notions?
Claire closed her eyes at the remembrance. That was the day she’d hardened her heart, in some respects. Put a wall up. The day she pushed her feelings deep inside and ignored what she’d read in this book. The stuff that sat just out of reach in the back recesses of her mind.
Not understanding.
Perhaps this is why relationships were difficult, and she controlled what she could? Her job, her schedule, and even when she would be with Jack? Her life was out of her control, already planned. Grab hold of what you can control and don’t let go?
Oh, what have I done?
Her gaze dropped to the Bible. Moving her finger down the rows of names, she said, “I was written into the family lineage before I was even born.”
The stories are told, Claire. It is written.
Oh, Mama…
Underneath Jack and Hannah’s names linked in marriage, was indeed the inscription as to Hannah’s death—in her handwriting. I wrote this. And then something foreign gripped her heart.
Her name, Jack’s name, were etched into the paper, written just as she had that day in 1718. No date. She hadn’t put a date because she had vowed when they were married she would add it then. So had they not married? Would they not ever marry? Would Claire never get back to him?
She jerked her hand away at the questions, but then, as she did, her gaze lowered. There was more.
Three spaces beneath hers and Jack’s names were more names. But it was the space, rather than the names, which occupied her thoughts at this moment. It was as though, in the blank space of parchment, names had faded from view, lost. It made her wonder. Whose names belonged there? What had happened to them?
What did it have to do with her?
And what of the additions since then? Marriages, deaths, births…generation after generation, adding limbs upon branches to the family tree. Until at last it stopped.
The names.
Emily Belle Parker and Edward James Winslow.
Emily Belle.
Claire had heard her father chime that name across the fields a hundred times. Emily…Belle. Hannah…Claire.
Anxiety raced through her. It couldn’t be. It couldn’t. Her finger raced upward over the list of names.
Hannah Amalie Bell.
Hannah, Jack’s wife…Hannah, her name. Amalie…Emily. Bell…Belle.
Her gaze raked over the list of names. Belle, Alma Lee, Clara, Claire, Amy Lee, Hannah, Anna, Carla, Anabel Lee.
There were too many coincidences.
They’re just family names, Claire, she told herself. Family names, similar names. It didn’t mean anything. Picked out because they were here in the Bible. Nothing to suggest…nothing to suggest….
The choices have been made, Claire. The decisions are out of our hands.
Taken aback for a moment, she sucked in a quick breath.
It was all so clear now. Hannah Claire Winslow was Hannah Amalie Bell. Claire had inherited Hannah’s soul, her spirit. And somehow, somehow her mother knew. Was a part of it. Perhaps her father too. Meant to be? As if it had been going on for generations. And would continue for eternity.
For eternity.
Complete the circle, Claire.
A tremble passed over her. A white throbbing light settled at the base of her skull. Clutching the Bible, she found herself falling, falling out of time into a swirling spiral of nothingness…
He stepped across the threshold and walked the length of the cabin to her. Now, Hannah. Now is the time to tell him.
Pain pierced her heart but she fought back the tears.
I don’t want you anymore, Jack. I want to go back to the mainland.
I was wrong. I can’t live here. I need the comforts of my parents’ home and the company of someone who loves me more than once in a while.
You’re gone too much. I’m lonely. I don’t love you anymore. I’m dying here.
His face screwed up in pain, as if he had no idea, no understanding what she was telling him. For he didn’t. Watching his chest heave in cursed pain, pained her also, but she couldn’t give in. She couldn’t. For she would die out here on this island. Feared it every day. She would die.
And she knew he would die right along with her.
The day was burning hot. Tiny lights swirled around him, piercing, penetrating his body. A red, throbbing, pulsating mass enveloped him. The surf crashed behind him, a terrified voice screamed out. He reached for her. Yes…for her. A woman. Yes…a woman was trying to get to him. Or was he trying to get to her?
Gone. Disappeared. Invisible.
Like a shooting star fading away in the night.
Then he saw her face. Hannah. His sweet angel’s face. Jack’s head thrashed from side to side. Sleep. All he could do was sleep. And the rum didn’t help.
I don’t want you anymore, Jack. I want to go back to the mainland.
I was wrong. I can’t live here. I need the comforts of my parents’ home and the company of someone who loves me more than once in a while.
You’re gone too much. I’m lonely. I don’t love you anymore. I’m dying here.
Bolting upright in the bedstead, Jack looked around him. A fire glowed low in the fireplace, but the cabin was empty. Funny how so many times he’d woke to ghostly images of Hannah scurrying about the cabin, her long blond hair flowing down her back, her green eyes snapping.
Oh, how he missed her so.
The arms of the old rocking chair were worn smooth with time. Claire smiled as she ran her fingertips over the satin patina of polished oak. How many mothers’ hands had lovingly caressed these arms as they rocked an infant to sleep? How many fingers of children had rubbed and polished the wood as they sat on their mother’s laps, huddling close to her breast for a lullaby? She wanted that experience.
Even more, she wanted to share that with Jack. The desire, longing, was great. That, coupled with the visions of the past few months, since she’d first laid hands on the Bible. As soon as the baby was strong enough to make the crossing, and when she was certain the elements of time and nature aligned, she would go. There was no stopping what was meant to be.
Later, again drawn to the Bible sitting on the lamp table, cleaned and polished, she pondered this merging of her present and the past. Past lives, one soul. And of loss.
Are we all searching for those mates to our soul, our spirits? Are we tied together with bonds that haunt and pull but have no earthly idea or clue of how to unravel the circumstances of the connection, to find each other again?
Had she and Jack somehow lucked upon this connection? Or was their love, the power between them, so intense it was inevitable?
Her gaze fell to the Bible. Next to it sat the silver cup made from Blackbeard’s skull. That was the item with which she would make the trek back to 1718. The Bible would remain in this time. It had somehow made its way into her parents’ home, and there it would stay for future generations.
Could objects exist in parallel universes?
She stared at them both, and just as had happened so many times over the past months, the visions came. They taught her so much about Hannah, so much about herself. And she knew she was Hannah Bell Porter. Had accepted that. Just as she knew she would see her husband again.
But Hannah had wanted to leave Jack. She couldn’t live his lifestyle. She wasn’t strong enough, not even with the bounds of their spirit working to tie them together.
What made Claire think she could survive that life with Jack, if Hannah couldn’t? The thought pierced her heart.
The dull pain, the white light settled at the base of her skull, signaling the beginning. The spinning and swirling escalated until she was lost in a cloudy mist, suspended somewhere between two worlds …
His hands were everywhere, and they were not kind. Rough, savagely rough as they ripped and tore through her clothing, then her flesh. Crying out, she knew her pleas were for naught, there was no one who could help her. The others were merely waiting in the wings for their turn.
Their turn.
He thrust her face down on the dirty bunk, and the pain increased as he plundered into her with his hands and his maleness; she stopped screaming, she stopped fighting. It only seemed to urge him on, and she wanted only to be free of him and his repulsiveness. In her mind she withdrew into another place, another dimension, and as he violated her body in ways she thought no man ever would, she found herself thinking of quiet mornings walking with Jack on the beach. Of how much she had loved that time with him. Playing in the surf, watching the horses. Of how she loved him, but told him she didn’t. Of telling him she wanted to leave.
And that pain was somehow more severe than the pain this pirate was inflicting on her body. For she did love Jack. She simply could not live in seclusion any longer, and he might fare better finding himself a wife who could.
When the tears slipped from her eyes onto the dingy pillow beneath her face, she was terrified, for she never wanted this man who was riding her body, squealing and snorting like a boar mounting a sow, to know that she hurt, that she was in pain. The tears weren’t for her physical pain. They were for the pain she felt in her heart, her spirit.
But then his hands, his dirty callused hands, reached around her and grabbed her belly from either side as he plunged into her from the rear, again and again, his fingers ripping and tearing at her flesh, his male part penetrating fire into her womb. She screamed in terror, the tears indeed fell…
And the pain gripped Claire, starting low in her back and radiating around to her middle, one long steady pain encircling her pelvis and pulling, as she panted and slowed her erratically beating heart, her rapidly pounding pulse.
Then it stopped.
Suddenly alert in her chair, she gathered her senses within the second the vision left, trying to make sense of her pain. Not Hannah’s pain, but her own.
False labor? Perhaps. She’d heard of such.
A reaction from the vision? She didn’t know. Slowly, she rubbed her tummy. This couldn’t be happening now. She wasn’t ready.
She waited. Twenty minutes later it happened again. Then seventeen. Then twelve.
After the fifth pain, her water broke, and she began to panic. The baby was coming too soon. Vicki and Jeremiah were at work. And she’d left the damn cell phone downstairs earlier when she’d snuck down to do a load of laundry. Now she didn’t know if she wanted to risk descending the narrow and steep attic stairs while in the throes of labor to retrieve it. But she needed help. And according to everything she’d read on childbirth the past few months, she needed it quickly.
She had to get the phone.
The pains were excruciating. Between them, though, was a brief respite averaging from five to ten minutes. Five to ten minutes to get downstairs to the phone and call Vicki.
So she stood.
Immediately, the next pain took her to her knees, and she could swear she could feel a definite pressure low in her pelvis.
Oh God. Don’t let me have this baby here, now.
Tiny beads of perspiration popped out at her temples, dampening her hairline, but not her spirit. The baby was coming too soon and it would more than likely need medical assistance when it got here, so she stiffened her resolve to get downstairs as quickly as possible.
Before the next pain, she made it to the top of the stairs and sat. Her jumper, her underwear, and the insides of her legs were wet with fluid, but she sat and then slid down the steps on her bottom.
First one, then the other, and another.
As quickly as she dared, gripping the handrails at her shoulders, releasing a huge breath each time she made it one step further down.
Near the middle, it gripped her again, red-hot and penetrating her body like a poker left in the fire too long, leaving her trembling and panting as her fists continued to grip the railings, knuckles white and straining, her abdomen tight and hard. Then all at once, she let go with a fierce moan that wracked her body but seemed to calm her terrified nerves into a false sense of relaxation. Her body stilled, and she continued down the steps.
From there she made it through the kitchen into the laundry room, only stopping to grip the sink and brace her body for one more contraction. Breathing a long sigh of relief, she grasped the phone sitting on top the dryer and then collapsed into a huge pile of laundry at her feet when the next one hit. She rode out the crescendo of pain as it waxed and waned, leaving her weaker and more fatigued than before.
In fact, she barely had enough strength to lift the phone to punch the numbers. But she did. When she heard Vicki’s calm voice on the other end, she could barely speak her name. Simply knowing that she had reached her, calmed Claire’s ragged nerves.
Then she saw the bloodstained fluid on the dress between her legs and passed out cold on the laundry room floor.
She remembered nothing about the delivery of her son.
In his mind, Jack felt the dewy softness of her lips, the feather down of the tiny baby hairs framing her face, the firm apple of her cheek. The deep green of her eyes, the silk of her golden locks, and the pearls of her teeth reflected in the cold darkness of his mind.
Was he not a prisoner of his mind, locked until the death perhaps within these four solid walls of his misery? Or was his prison the simple fact Hannah was gone. A life of hell, no doubt, he would live without her.
He was cursed. Certainly, that was his curse, to live this life alone. In a different world from his beloved Hannah. And he didn’t know how to fix it.
He wanted her. He wanted her back so badly he could smell her lilac scent in his nostrils every night as he went to bed. He could taste the sweet roses of her lips when he pressed his to hers in his dreams. He could feel the curve of her breast in his palm, the dip of her waist, the tenderness of her inner thigh.
Hannah. He wanted her so.
A child. He’d wanted her child, yet she was so hesitant. Why had he not gotten her with child?
Why could he not remember? There was something…something nagged at him, just on the fringes of his mind…something incredibly important that he couldn’t yet grasp, but it was there. And it had something to do with Hannah…and the child he’d so desperately wanted.