"Abilene!" I groaned quietly at the sound of Charlotte's yell and tucked tighter against the trunk of the tree that I was sitting in. Charlotte and Peter had been insisting for months that I should start coming with them to the city to feed. I had no desire to go to such a human infested place and had made this known.
The time between traveling parties had always been unpredictable and I'd been forced to learn control over my thirst from the beginning. As the time between the wagons had increased I had been forced to endure the thirst for longer and longer stretches, forcing myself to ignore the burn of my throat till the next meal presented itself. With the completion of the roadways that Charlotte and Peter said now spanned the entire country, the wagons that I had once depended on no longer existed and transients now utilized the railways and no longer traveled through my wilderness and my food source had become whatever Peter, Charlotte and Jasper brought back from their trips.
I refused to go in search for prey while the others traveled to the nearby cities and towns to curb the burn in their throats. I had left humanity with no intentions of ever going back. A part of me knew that I wasn't being rational, that without the wagon trains or the transients I was going to have to find another way to sustain myself but I had no idea of how to do that without going back to society and I rather starve then subject myself to that.
I heard foot steps coming my way and tensed, the steps slowed to a walk and I silently cursed. From the sound of the foot falls I knew they didn't belong to Charlotte and Peter was never far behind her, that left Jasper to be slowly walking closer. I almost preferred it to be Peter, even with Peter's intuition he wasn't allows able to find me when I intentionally hid from them, but with Jasper I doubted I would be so lucky. Even so, I wasn't going to make it easy on him. I held still, refusing to move as much as a muscle, even refusing to breathe encase it should give me away.
I heard the foot falls stop a couple yards from the tree. I could hear the shift of fabric against his skin as he likely looked around for me. I tried to keep my emotions locked down, a further measure to conceal my location, but I wasn't sure if I was succeeding or not. I heard a soft chuckle and the sound of clothing rubbing against bark.
"Abilene, can you please come down?" Jasper asked softly and I quickly fought to suppress my aggravation. There was another soft chuckle before I heard the creak of a branch taking on weight. I moved just enough to look down. Jasper had jumped up to a branch nearly ten feet below me in the neighboring tree. I could see his head turning, see his eyes staring up in my direction but they weren't focusing on me. It always confused me when the three of them would do that. They would search me out, presumably knowing where I was but never focusing on me till I gave in and addressed them. It was something that I had come to think was taught vampire behavior.
Jasper smirked and scaled higher up the tree till he was sitting on a branch that much closer to the height of the branch I was sitting on. His eyes still roamed as he remained crouched on the branch. I growled my frustration and his eyes seemed to zero in on me and he promptly took a seat on the branch, his eyes never leaving me.
"Why are you hiding, Abilene? Peter and Charlotte have been searching for you for a while." I glared in return, refusing to move or address him. Jasper tilted his head slightly, his leg gently dangling where it hung over the branch.
"I don't know how you do it. The thirst must be excruciating by now." At the mention of my thirst the pain flared and Jasper winced but nodded.
"Just as I thought. Why are you hiding?" Jasper asked again and I growled as I gave in.
"I escaped society once, I'm not going back." I snarled and Jasper's eye seemed to truly see me for the first time since sitting across from me.
"You don't have to go back if you don't want to." He said easily and I shook my head.
"How is going to a human city not returning to society?" I asked pointedly and Jasper perked up as he leaned slightly closer.
"Abilene, I think you've been out here a lot longer than we had thought.' Jasper stated and I grew frustrated once again.
"What does that have to do with anything?" I snapped and Jasper smiled.
"Human society has changed a lot since even I was human. Cities make it possible to hunt humans without humans even being aware that you were there. You would be able to hunt with your only human interaction being your prey just as you do now." Jasper explained and I was doubtful.
"Why do you have such a problem with human society? There has to be more than what you've told me. Would it be possible for you to explain it to me without being so ambiguous?" I turned away from his searching eyes, hating the conflict I felt within myself. I knew this wasn't Jasper's gift making me want for him to understand, it was something I couldn't quite explain, not even to myself.
After a long moment I growled lowly and gave up the pretense of privacy. With the persistence of the trio I was sure that I would have ended up telling them at some point, if only to finally be granted peace from their constant inquiries. I looked back to Jasper, his face carefully kept neutral of emotion as I decided how to explain. After a moment I figured the beginning would have to suffice, at least for him to completely understand the mockery that my human life had been to contribute to my hatred.
"My mother was a whore." I said bluntly and Jasper seemed taken aback by my words.
"She was from somewhere back east. From what I remember she was married to a wealthy businessman. A business venture brought them out west to the beginnings of what would be the mining town where I was born. He died not long after their arrival, leaving her a widow and trapped in a town full of men that saw very few women." I didn't remember all the details, but it wasn't like Madame had ever told me the story herself, though I doubt she would have if I'd asked.
"With his death she turned to the only way for a woman to provide for herself. Those miners that hadn't seen a woman in months, if not years, paid good money to lay in her bed. I bet you didn't know this, but a whore was likely the richest person in a town like that. This is what stopped her from leaving once she had the means to get back east and instead she let greed take it's hold. As I figured out later, living like she did meant she didn't have to answer to a man and she held more power then she'd ever be allowed back east. It doesn't matter what the official records say, she ran that town. She had control of the money and the men and it suited her fine." Jasper already looked distinctly uncomfortable with my story, but he remained and I took grim satisfaction that he was just as unhappy to hear the story as I was to tell it.
"Eventually other women came, when the mine was up and running and the men were making a profit. That's also when the town got a lawman, a marshal. My mother set her eyes on the marshal. He was a threat to her control, so she was going to do whatever it took to make him see things her way. The marshal had a wife and a young boy, but that didn't stop her from seducing him into her bed. From those relations is how I came to be. The marshal didn't want anyone to know, an illegitimate child didn't look good on the reputation of a man that was supposed to have higher morals." I smirked at the irony.
"With the threat of his reputation my mother had full control of that town. Anything those men needed she had and that gave her the power. She controlled the saloon, the brothel and the law while also being the richest person in town." Jasper hummed.
"Now just because my existence got her power doesn't mean she loved me. In fact, she hated me. My mother refused to call the women she took into her care prostitutes, instead she called them doves. She took them under her wings and they loved and doted on her. I on the other hand, being just a child, was an inconvenience that required too much attention. She couldn't let me die without losing her control over the marshal, but she hated feeling forced to do anything so she left me to the mercy of the doves to be cared for. These were women often too young or too stupid to properly take care of a child and I suffered mightily from the collective neglect and there wasn't a single place I could go. Everyone in that town knew how I suffered but wouldn't do a damn thing and it only got worse as I got older." I broke eye contact as I came to the next part, not needing to see his expression.
"When I became of age, my mother was well aware that she couldn't marry me off, no one would allow their son to marry the daughter of a whore, even if she was the daughter of the madame. When Madame declared me at the age of womanhood, I was allowed to lay in a bed for the first time in my life and instead of it being a pleasure, it was the worst punishment I could have imagined as I was forced to lay with a man who was likely older than my own father." I felt the branch shift and snapped forward to see that Jasper had jumped from his branch to mine and now sat within reaching distance. His expression was pained and I fought against the instinct to lash out at him for coming so close. I knew he was trying to provide comfort but his closeness was not likely to bring it at this time.
"I tried to fight, but fighting the men only caused them to be rough with you and if they didn't get the pleasure they wanted, they wouldn't pay. If they didn't pay, Madame had no problem withholding food and water till you let the man do whatever they wanted and you once again earned your keep. This went on for years before I found my one ray of hope." I smiled as I remembered and I could feel Jasper's curiosity.
"His name was Jonah. His father was one of the miners that had come later and he wasn't very well liked, both because of the timing of his arrival when the mine was finally producing and because of his Indian wife. I'm not sure what tribe she was from, I don't even remember her name or what she looked like, I just remember thinking that she always looked so angry. Jonah was treated just as poorly as his parents, he was as much of an outcast as I was. Jonah was the only human being that ever treated me with any kindness." I said softly as I returned my gaze to Jasper.
"I would sneak away during the day and meet with Jonah in the field his father used to grow corn. We'd talk for hours on end, dreaming of a life away from the cruelty we lived in. Over time Jonah and I grew close and we believed ourselves in love. After one of the miners had been rougher than normal the night before, Jonah looked at the bruises left on my face and declared that we would run away." I could feel the pinch of what would have been tears had I still been able to cry and Jasper looked concerned.
"Jonah planned for over a week before coming to me and saying we would run away that night. He told me to sneak away while the other doves were busy and to meet him in the graveyard. He said that he had everything he'd need and nothing would be able to stop us. He was so certain and so determined and I just wanted to believe him, I wanted to be free." I smiled darkly at my own stupidity.
"We should have known better. Jonah had stolen a gun and stashed one of his father's horses for us to make our escape on. Jonah didn't realize that they both would be noticed so soon and reported to the marshal. When I snuck out and met Jonah in the graveyard, he led me through the trees to where he had tied up his father's horse. Jonah mounted first and was reaching down to help me up behind him when the marshal and some other men came out of the trees around us. The marshal called for Jonah to surrender and he tried to act like he was, till he drew the pistol that he'd stolen and fired it at the men. He hit one of them, the man bled out while the other men charged us, the horse reared and threw Jonah off, the fight was over before it really began." I took a deep breath and then another before continuing.
"He was already in trouble for being a thief, but killing a man was inexcusable. They waited till the next day and made a scene in the town square. Lead him through town and out into the graveyard to a tall oak tree. They stood Jonah on a barrel, wrapped a rope around his neck and tied it to a branch before kicking the barrel out from under him. We all heard the snap, but he still struggled. There was life in his eyes for what seemed like an eternity before he finally succumbed. They made me watch the whole time." I closed my eyes and, in that moment, I could see Jonah's body swinging from the rope on the back of my eye lids. My eyes opened again when I felt Jasper's hand on my own, there was a wave of calm and I took a steadying breath before continuing.
"The pain that erupted in my heart seemed to tear me to shreds. There was no sympathy from any of the other on lookers. They thought he deserved it, as if he had been in the wrong when he'd fought for what he loved. I remember screaming, but my screams went ignored. They probably all thought I deserved it too, that I deserved the pain for falling in love. I wished that they had killed me too, that they had strung me up alongside him. Wished they had at least given us the mercy of being together in death if it was to be forbidden in life, but Madame would never allow it. His beautiful dark eyes taunted me as they stared blankly at the ground while I was dragged away from the hanging tree, forced to continue on while he was to be thrown in the ground to be forgotten." There was another wave of calm as I realized I was being sucked back into the memory.
"I believe that was the most despicable punishment they could have sentenced me to. Watching him die and being forced to live on. It was in the dark of night that I was finally able to think, able to plan. I may not have been given mercy, but I would take it for myself. They left the very noose that had stolen his life hanging from the tree. It was a message, to me and anyone else that would dare to replicate his actions. They thought it would taunt me, wound me as a reminder that he had been stolen from me, but it wasn't. Instead it was a beacon of light in the darkness, one they were foolish enough to overlook." I once again met Jasper's gaze as I went on to tell him exactly what I had done.
"I was able to slip out once again. I made my way to the hanging tree and climbed onto the very barrel they had made Jonah stand on and wrapped the rope around my own neck. When it was secured I looked to the hastily filled grave not far from the tree and told Jonah I would see him soon before I jumped from the barrel. I felt a pain in my neck and thought it was finally over, I don't know how long it lasted but it wasn't long before the fire started." I silently watched Jasper's expression as he sifted through what I had told him. I waited a moment for it all to sink in before speaking my question.
"Would you be eager to mingle with the people from the society that had condoned my treatment?" I asked and Jasper winced. I took that as my answer and looked to him angrily as I continued.
"Why is it so important to the three of you that I go with you?" I demanded and he sighed.
"We're worried about you." He said and I raised a brow, waiting for him to explain more.
"The wagon trains are a thing of the past, Abilene. Without the wagon trains or the transients, this land is barren and it is impossible to predict how long it would be before a human wandered through. Being immortal does not have the same meaning as being indestructible, we can perish but our demise is brought about by violent and unpredictable means. We are all worried that should something happen to us while we are away, that you'd be left here to go mad with thirst." Jasper explained and I frowned.
"The three of you do not believe me capable of taking care of myself?" I asked harshly and Jasper struggled to find the words to answer.
"We are aware that you can take care of yourself, but we know that you'd likely neglect yourself for a long time before giving in to the thirst. We want to prevent that." Jasper said gently and I thought about it for a moment.
"And how does returning to society become a factor?" I asked.
"You don't have to return to society. I mean technically the three of us didn't return to society when we escaped Maria. We merely enjoy interaction with the humans, something that you wouldn't have to do if you didn't want to. We merely want to show you how we hunt." Jasper continued softly and I felt some of my anger wane.
"And, as a bonus. You wouldn't be forced to drink whatever Peter decides to bring back for you. I know you hate it when he brings back the drunks." Jasper grinned and I hummed. It was true, I hated the taint the alcohol left in the human blood.
"Fine, but I will not 'mingle' as Peter and Charlotte like to do." I said sternly and Jasper smiled.
"We wouldn't dare try to make you 'mingle'." Jasper said with a laugh and I finally let myself relax.
"Abilene!" Charlotte yelled out once again and startled me. I moved without caution of the branch that I was sitting on and fell, managing to catch myself on the next branch. I expected Jasper to laugh but looked up and noticed that he looked frustrated and his eyes were once again searching. He looked past me but continued to scrutinize the branches below him.
"Why do you sometimes look at me like that?" I asked and Jasper's eyes once again found me. I studied his reaction and he seemed confused by my question.
"You're asking why I look for you?" He was still confused and his return question frustrated me.
"Yes, I'm right here, but your eyes move right past me like I am not sitting here looking back at you." Jasper's confused expression stayed for a moment longer before he seemed to come to a realization that surprised him.
"You don't know." He said, his voice soft as if he was only talking to himself.
"What is it that I don't know?" I demanded and Jasper looked at me in amazement.
"Abilene, I look past you, because you disappear. You turn invisible."