Dear Jane, 3/20/1918
I'm terribly sorry that I haven't been able to write in a while. Things have been rough over here. Thinking of your pretty smile has been the very thing that has enabled me to get through everything that is going on. I'm just doing my best to make it through each day unscathed. When times are worse than usual, I think back to the very first time we met. It was two years ago, at a party. From the very second you walked in the door, I knew you were the one. Do you believe in love at first sight? It wasn't just me who noticed you, another man I know to be named Alphonse had his eye on you. I knew I had to act. So I walked to where you were sitting all alone, and asked you to dance. I would much rather have me dancing with you than that other guy. You graciously said yes and took my hand, and we danced. I wasn't surprised when some other gentlemen asked you to dance only a couple minutes after I did, but not before I stole a kiss. I started to walk away and you pulled on my hand and said "I wasn't through dancing with you." Now I was shocked, you turning down that dashing devil to dance with me. But of course, I didn't object. So we danced and we danced until we couldn't dance anymore, so I just held you instead. Then I offered to drive you home, and do you remember what you said? You said, "I don't want you to leave me." As much as I loved to hear you speak those words, I had to leave. I was leaving for the army in two days. Please don't take this the wrong way, but I never meant to get close to care for you. But as I boarded the ship to leave for the war, I couldn't stop thinking of you. I couldn't bear the thought of leaving you, but there was no turning back. And that's when I realized I loved you. What a fool I was to sign up for the Navy. I would work in a factory if it meant I could stay with you. Have I ever told you I love you? I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you. I would tell you that a thousand times if it makes you happy. Is it foolish of me to think that you may just feel the same way? Well, I'll find out soon enough. No need to worry about finding a stamp to write me back, they're sending me home. I'll be home in two weeks and I'm just dying to see you. Meet me in the park at noon on April 3.
I folded the letter and placed it back in the drawer. I've read it so many times in the past two weeks that I have it memorized. He'll be home in just two days now. Two weeks seemed like so long at first, but now it all seems too short. How am I going to tell him? Two years was a long time and I got lonely. What am I going to say to Alphonse? I'm in love with a man I barely know. I don't want to hurt him like that, I love him. But I also love Oscar.
I looked up and stared at the girl in the mirror. A girl with hair like fire and eyes like ice stared back at me. "You're a wretched girl, you know that?" I scowled to my reflection.
"Jane dear, who are you talking to?"
I gasped and whirled around. A short, stout woman with deep black hair pulled back into a tight bun was standing in the door way, a feather duster in one hand and a vacuum in the other.
"Oh Josephina!" I cried. "You scared me!"
"I'm terribly sorry dear, but young Alphonse is waiting for you at the door," replied the maid. "He wants to know if you're ready yet to go dancing."
"Oh, is that tonight? It completely slipped my mind!" I said flustered. I had been so busy worrying about what I was going to do that I forgot Alphonse had asked me to go dancing. No matter, I will go with him. Tonight will be the night that I tell him.
"Tell him I'll be down in a few. I just need to get ready."
"Yes ma'am, right away," Josephina said, then turned and headed down the stairs.
I slowly crossed my room to shut the door, then walked back to my closet. I walked inside, letting my hands trace along the rows of dresses as I moved. I stopped when I reached a floor length peach dress with ruffles at the shoulders. I let my hand run over the smooth silk, remembering the last time I had worn it
"Jane! Jane, come on! Come out and dance with us!"
I looked up, my guard already up, prepared to say no. I didn't want to be here, I never liked going to dances. I was only here because I had been forced by my mother, seeing as she was the one hosting this event. It was a campaign, to help end the war. My mother was very adamant about this subject, due to my father being in the war himself.
"Alice, I told you, I can't dance," I called out, shutting my eyes and letting the music drown out any protests from her.
"It's all in the leading" a voice whispered in my ear.
I whipped my eyes open and instinctively leaned back. Staring down at me with a slight smirk on his face was a fair haired man of whom I've never met.
I'm sorry. Do I know you?" I stuttered.
He grinned. "Not at all. Dance with me." He held his hand out.
I slowly put my hand in his, letting him help me from my seat, not trusting my shaking legs. He wrapped his arm around my waist, and led me onto the dance floor. It was a slow number, so I put on hand on his shoulder with my other in his, and we moved in harmony with the beat.
I looked up, ready to accuse him of dancing with a complete stranger, but couldn't remember what I had to say when my eyes met his.
His emerald eyes held mine, and he murmured, "Do you have a name?"
"Jane," I breathed.
"Hello Jane. My name is Oscar," he smiled and lightly kissed my cheek.
My breathing spiked.
Oscar laughed and pulled me closer "Something wrong, Jane?"
What brought this on?" I choked out. There was something about him that set my nerves on end. My whole body was electrified, but in the best possible way.
He chuckled, and bent to whisper in my ear. "I've been watching you all night. You captured my attention the moment you walked in the door. I knew I had to talk to you, dance with you if I was lucky, and so when I found my chance, I took it. And here we are."
"Here we are," I echoed.
He took his hand from mine and cupped it under my chin. I gasped softly, realizing his intention, but didn't object. He tilted my head up, pausing a moment when I closed my eyes. His lips met mine, and
*KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK*
I jumped, the noise bringing me back to reality.
"Jane? You best hurry or you'll miss the entire night!"
"Coming, Josephina!" I quickly yanked the dress off the hanger and pulled it on. Running to the mirror, dabbed on some makeup, and braided my hair.
Pulling on shoes, I walked to the head of the stairs and paused, taking a deep breath.
"Tonight's the night, Jane. Don't be a coward, tell him the truth," I muttered, then descended down the stairs.
"Hello Alphonse," I said as I reached the bottom of the stairs.
He took my hand and kissed it. "Hello Jane," he said smiling. "You look beautiful."
"You don't look too bad yourself," I replied.
"Shall we?" he asked, one hand holding mine with the other gesturing towards the car.
"Let's," I replied.
After arriving at the party, Alphonse and I danced for a while with each other and with others. After putting it off the entire night, I decided I couldn't wait any longer. During the last song, I found him within the crowd and pulled him out onto the balcony. I took a deep breath.
"Alphonse, I need to tell you something," I started.
"You can tell me anything," he said, looking at me curiously, his chocolate eyes still dancing from the excitement of the music.
I stared up at the stars, not sure how to start.
I looked over at Alphonse, shocked at what I saw. He looked
pained. As if he also had something to say, but it would hurt him to say it.
"Jane," he started again. "Are you finally going to tell me about Oscar?"
My mouth dropped open. "How
how did you know?"
He looked down at our entwined hands. "I'm ashamed to admit this, but a few days ago I found the letter from him in your drawer. Please don't think I was snooping, because I wasn't. I just saw a paper sticking partially out of your drawer, so I opened it so I could fix it." He pulled away from me and started pacing the balcony.
"I saw the handwriting, and I just got curious. It wasn't anyone's handwriting that I knew, so I just wondered who you had been writing to. I honestly didn't intend on reading the entire thing. I just wanted to read a couple lines to see if I would recognize the person. I don't know why I didn't just look at the name to begin with; instead I just read the letter. I'm so sorry, I understand if you're mad."
I stared at him in shock. "Mad? I'm not mad. I'm not the one who even should be mad. You should be mad at me!"
He looked up at me. "For falling in love?"
I looked down, embarrassed now. Of course he wouldn't get mad. He's too nice. That's one reason I fell head over heels for him so quickly. He's different from other guys. I'm an idiot.
He put his hand under my chin and lifted my face until I was looking him in the eye. "I love you Jane, which is why I'm letting you go."
On the drive home neither one of us spoke. I was thinking of how I didn't deserve him and he was probably thinking I was a waste of time. Alphonse parked in front of my house and walked me to my front door. He kissed me on the cheek and left without a final goodbye. I watched the taillights of his car until I couldn't see them anymore.
I stumbled inside and headed straight for my room, ignoring Josephina and my mother when they asked what was wrong. I flopped down onto my bed and started to cry.. Alphonse and I had a great time at the dance, and now we're through. The relief of finally having Alphonse know the truth wasn't nearly enough to trump the guilt of putting him through that. The strongest guilt of all, however, was knowing that I have't been faithful to Oscar. I committed the worst of crimes, and there is no going back. After my eyes ran dry, I drifted off into a dreamless sleep.
I awoke the next morning to a start, realizing that today was the day Oscar was coming home! A pang of guilt hit me, realizing Oscar would have to know about Alphonse, but quickly shook it off, deciding to cross that bridge when it came. I looked over at the clock and saw that it read 11:32. Had I really slept in that long? It's almost noon! Why didn't anyone wake me? That's when I remembered locking my door before falling asleep. Silly me.
I jumped up and ran to my closet. I picked out my best dress and then headed over to the mirror. I shook out my hair and ran a brush through it. My hair had pretty waves in it after never taking out the braid from the night before, so I decided to leave it down. With one last look in the mirror, I sprinted downstairs.
"I'm off to meet Oscar. I don't know when I'll be back," I sang as I headed through the door.
I strolled down the street until I reached the park, whistling as I went. I sat on a nearby bench and looked around, wondering if I would even recognize Oscar when I saw him.
I turned around. "Oscar!!" I screamed. I jumped up and ran over to him. "Oscar it's you! It's really you!"
He laughed. "Of course it's me silly."
I hugged him. "I love you Oscar, I really do."
He grinned. "As I love you."
Two weeks after Oscar's arrival and hearing nothing from Alphonse the entire time, I became sick. The doctors aren't sure what it is I have yet; all I know is that it's very difficult to breathe. I have been told to lie in bed, but I want to see Alphonse so bad. I finally told Oscar about Alphonse yesterday, and he didn't even get angry. He told me everyone makes mistakes, and it's better to own up to them. Maybe it's because I'm sick, or maybe he really wasn't angry, like Alphonse wasn't, but it made me nervous getting off so easily. Oscar did leave though. He said he would only be gone for a little while, had some things to think about. I trust he will be back soon.
Another day has gone by, and I'm not any better. I've started to get these spots over my cheekbones, Mahogany spots I believe they're called. I didn't think it was possible, but it's even harder to breathe. My breaths come out in ragged gasps, sometimes not at all. I now know what is wrong with me. I'll be taken to the hospital soon, but there's something I want, no, have to do before I go.
"Josephina," I called out in a raspy voice. Now a day's she's always hovering around my bedroom door, just in case I need anything.
"What's wrong?" Josephina asked worriedly as she bustled into my room.
"Is Oscar back yet?" I breathed.
"No dear, he's
" Josephina looked out into the hall as the doorbell rang. "Hold that thought, dear."
She hurries out of the room to see who was at the door, afraid of leaving me alone for too long. I hear a mumble of voices, but nothing I could make out. My eyes start to close, and my head lolls to the side. All of a sudden, I hear running footsteps coming up the stairs. I open my eyes and stare at the door expectantly. Bursting into the room was Alphonse, with Oscar following at his heels.
Alphonse rushed to my bedside and took my hand, looking into my eyes. Oscar stood farther back and watched.
"Jane, honey, Oscar told me you're sick. What do you have?" Alphonse asked worriedly.
I looked over at Oscar, and back at Alphonse. "Do you like him?" I breathed. Why did it have to be so difficult to talk when I had so many things I needed to say?
"What? Who?" Alphonse asked confused.
"Oscar," I replied.
Alphonse chuckled sadly. "Oh Jane, only you would try to change the subject when people worry over you."
"I know it's wrong, but I love you Oscar, and I also love you Alphonse," I said, looking at them both.
"I love you Jane," they replied in unison, then looked at each other.
"Oscar," I said. "Come here please. I need to ask you something."
Oscar walked around Alphonse and kneeled near my head. He stroked my hair and looked me in the eye while saying, "Anything for you Jane."
I looked up at him. "Will you carry me to the park? Alphonse, I would like you to come too. I need to tell you both something." I had to tell them I was dying.
Oscar looked at Alphonse. "Sure Jane." Alphonse nodded.
Oscar picked me up and I clung to him with the little strength I had left. He walked down the stairs and out the door with Alphonse following. When we reached the park, I asked him to set me down in the grass under the big oak tree.
With my back resting against the tree, I spotted some caterpillars nearby. I laid my hand down to let them climb on. I knew it was time to say goodbye. I wasn't going to live through this. I overheard the doctor telling my mother that I had the influenza. All my symptoms are right, there's no denying it. It was after getting the Mahogany spots that I knew I only had hours left. I felt a tickle on my hand and looked down. The caterpillars softly wiggled in my hand spelling out "goodbye".