I know I'm not lost, I'm just alone
Through the small, square window, Alice saw how the beautiful afternoon sun was sinking, while the sky prepared to be colored black. The swaying contours of the tall trees made the girl think of all those she had lost, and she had to take a deep breath to keep her tears from rising.
She had endured too much pain at an all too young age; she had lost her soul too early. Her heart carried on a deep sorrow, and the thing that made it even worse was that she knew there was no turning back. She was trapped, stuck, no matter what she did. There was no longer anything worth living for, worth fighting for. It was all over.
A few times she had thought of taking her life, and how easy and painless it would be. No one would miss her, no one would wonder where she had gone. He wouldn’t even notice anything. She would just be gone. But that would be too easy, and nothing came without a price. There was no escape for her; she had to live. And she had to make herself want to live, because she was her own hero, her own warrior, and she refused to depend on anyone because after all, they were only human.
Alice closed her eyes quickly to prevent the tears she knew were there. She didn’t cry, not now, not ever. Annabelle could come at any time, and Annabelle couldn’t see her cry. The girl rose from the bed and shook wildly on her head to make her thoughts disappear. Then she pinched her cheeks hard, to give them the that innocent red color that made her look so alive. After that, she tried to smile.
He would, after all, come tonight.
He saw her coming from far away, even if it was only her silhouette. The sun was hidden behind the trees and the sky was colored in a soft orange hue. The clouds lay as white streaks across the evening sky. Her dress danced around her legs as she ran to meet him, and her hair stood like an aura around her head, and he had to smile at the sight.
When he had received her letter, where it stood how much she missed him and how much she wanted to see him again, he had realized how much she actually meant to him, and he bitterly regretted that he had not told her about it before. And now, as he stood there leaning against the mighty oak tree just where the meadow became the forest, he realized how much he had missed her.
“Alice”, he whispered as she embraced him, and breathed in her dirty scent. She nodded softly against his neck and suddenly it felt as if the hunger for her within him was endless; as if it were eating him up from inside. “Alice”, he said again, a little louder this time, and tore himself away from her, just to see her face and catch her gaze. “God, I've missed you, Alice.” She smiled, and he was suddenly reminded of his childhood summers, when they had been inseparable.
“I missed you too”, she said, and stroked him gently over the cheek. His eyes shone with too much innocent and honesty that she couldn’t blame him for what he had done. She forgave him, if only for a night. “So, tell me, how are things at home?” He nodded to her to sit down on the grass, and then sat down himself.
“Oh, nothing is the same.” He laughed, and looked at her. “If you were to come home now you wouldn’t believe your eyes.” He stopped when he saw the look in her eyes. “Oh no, no. Don’t worry - no one has died. And nobody knows about our secret, for that matter. But since the confederate currency barely holds anything of value any longer, I’m afraid that we can’t pay Mr. Winchester his salary - and without our “father” people will start to wonder, Alice. People will realize that I’m not the one they thought. You’re not in danger though, not as long as you stay here, or at Johnson’s. And I’m afraid we must stop writing to each other; I’ve already burned all the letters at home. Also, we can’t meet up anymore. People get suspicious when I leave for no reason, and Annabelle is smart.”
Alice saw the faint smile that passed over his lips when her name was mentioned, and her heart hurt. She couldn’t forgive him, not after everything he had done to her, to their family. Then he looked around and lowered his voice to a whisper.
“Are you sure no one will know you are here?” Alice nodded, because even if Annabelle noticed she was gone, she would never look for her. She sighed deeply.
“I still haven’t told her. I know that the time is running out, but she’s not ready. She has to trust me, and she doesn’t, not yet. Then we have a problem too.” Alice paused and looked seriously into his emerald green eyes. “The Irishman - he’s here. And it’s only a matter of time before he says things to her that he shouldn’t”, she shook on her head, clearly irritated, “and then Annabelle will never trust me.” She could hear how he clenched his jaw, and how thoughts flew around in his head.
“Get rid of him, Alice. Or make Annabelle hate him. We have no other choice.” The girl took a deep breath, afraid of her brother’s words.
“That’s not necessary. He’s dying of tuberculosis, and every evening I pray for him to die before he says anything to her.” She gently touched the grass with her bare hands. Then she swallowed, and rose. “I have to go”, she whispered, looking nervously at the house, “before Annabelle or Mrs. Ericsson discover that I’m gone.” He nodded, and rose too.
“But remember your promise; you have to tell Annabelle the truth before he does it.” Alice forced herself to smile.
“I promise.” Then she turned around as if to start walking before began to talk again. “But then you have promise to solve the situation at home. Explain our problem to Mr. Winchester, or just tell everyone that “father” had to join the army. Or, you could just say that he died. No one really cares, do they?” She shrugged lightly on her shoulders and started walking again.
“Goodbye, Alice”, he yelled after her, and waved farewell. She turned around and waved back.
“Goodbye, John. Take care of yourself.”
She saw him slowly disappear into the woods, and the meadow echoed empty without him. To her surprise, her chest was full of sadness and melancholy, but not because John had left her. The feelings hadn’t been brought out by him, but by the words he had said. She took a deep breath.
John had changed. The war had changed him. Alice opened her eyes to the sky and tried to stop the tears that rose within. He was the only family she had left, and she couldn’t lose him like she had lost the others.