Forging Forever

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Chapter 25

New York City

August 25, 1780

Cameron stared at the dark ceiling above him. The room was pitch black. He had come in about an hour ago, ostensibly to go to sleep. Sleep however would not come thanks to the copious amount of unasked questions bombarding his head. After dinner he went back to Annie’s room where they had spent the remainder of the evening watching movies. After finishing the last Harry Potter film Annie decided that they needed something a little less dark so she had put in Spaceballs which he had thought was brilliant. He had started laughing at the beginning of the film and did not stop until it was over. After that Annie pulled up another Mel Brooks film called Blazing Saddles which had been equally as hilarious. Cameron did not know who this Mel Brooks person was, but he was greatly appreciative of his comedic brilliance. The lightness of the evening had almost made him forget the shocking revelation Annie had told him earlier. But now, alone in the dark, that one horrific word and all its implications haunted him.

He had done his best to act normal around her, to show her that his feelings had not changed. Still, he found himself questioning every move that he made. He had made great strides in earning her trust over the last few weeks. That trust was displayed by the secret she had shared with him earlier this evening. He did not want to do anything to lose that trust. So he had been gentle tonight, not near as insistent as he had been in the last few weeks; he made sure that she dictated the actions of the night. The kiss she had given him before he left for the night was not as deep as he had wished it to be, but it was what she had wanted and he was happy to give it to her.

Rape. How any person could even consider, much less do that to another person was morally reprehensible and physically revolting, especially to him. He thought back to his teenage years, when his cousin had been violated by a drunken soldier. She had been on her way home from a friend’s house when her carriage struck the soldier in the road. Being the decent person that she was, she stopped and offered the man some assistance. She was driving him back to a local inn when he ripped the reins from her hands, shoved the carriage from the road, and raped her. The investigation ruined her. The local magistrate found a way to blame his cousin, saying that her kind offer to the soldier to drive him home was misinterpreted as an invitation for something else. In his estimation it was all just one big misunderstanding. The crime had destroyed not just her innocence, but her life. Physically she had recovered, but she was mentally and emotionally destroyed forever and ultimately the rape had caused her death. After a year of being shamed and looked down upon she had taken her life.

Cameron had so many questions he wanted to ask Annie, not about the rape itself, but how it was handled afterwards. Was she blamed? Was the bastard that violated her in jail? How had she found the strength to move through each day? Logic told him the answer to the first question was no, she wasn’t blamed and surely the man was in jail. Surely society had made great strides in the nearly two-hundred and fifty years separating his time and Annie’s. Surely there were no more excuses to explain away the rapists’ crimes. Surely society had moved past its medieval and quite frankly ludicrous view that women were to blame for men’s behavior towards them. Right?

Regardless of the answers to his questions, Cameron now held an even higher level of respect, admiration, and something stronger for Annie. The fact that she could overcome such a monumental tragedy without becoming jaded or depressed spoke volumes to her character. She was strong, he knew it. But she was still healing, he knew that. He shuddered to think what would happen if Major Andre disrupted that healing process. Annie had implied earlier that she would do whatever was necessary to save her country, and Cameron had the feeling that if faced with the decision to give herself to Major Andre in order to save this fledgling nation and its future versus saying no and saving herself, Annie would choose the former. A part of him respected her for that; the fact that she would consider the needs of the many above her own was admirable. At the same time he feared that her decision could be the result of a diminished view of her self-worth and not of patriotism and selflessness. One thing was certain though, Cameron would do whatever it took to prevent her from having to make that decision, even if it killed him.

As strong as his resolve was, there was nothing he could do tonight. Cameron rolled to his side and closed his eyes, willing himself to sleep. It took a long time for sleep to come.

Annie was wide awake despite the late hour. Cameron had gone to bed over an hour ago. She had fully intended to do the same. She had changed into her nightgown, doused the lights, and crawled into bed. Her body clamored with the need to rest, but her mind would not comply. Instead it chose to relive the events of the day, causing the knot of tension in her stomach to return. It was frustrating, especially after the enjoyable, albeit unusual night she had just shared with Cameron. The hours after dinner had been thoroughly enjoyable. The movies that she and Cameron had watched and the laughter that went along with it had done much to alleviate her anxiety. She hadn’t shed a tear since the end of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2. Well, that wasn’t exactly true, she had laughed so hard that she cried during the next two movies she and Cameron had watched. But that was different.

Annie loved watching the reactions Cameron had whenever he saw something new. It made her see things through a whole new lens. Every time they watched a movie together, she felt as if she were watching it for the first time. She knew that was due largely in part to Cameron; the rest came from her new experience in this old world. Knowing the times and understanding the way of life made her realize how wondrous things from the future were. Tonight had been a little different from nights past, but that was to be expected. Cameron was more cautious around her. It was almost as if he feared pushing her too far. She had done her best to keep things lighthearted, and for the most part she succeeded, but the easy intimacy that they usually shared was absent tonight.

Still, the night had been a good one, just what she needed after today. But now, alone and in the dark, she felt the absence of that intimacy and the hole it left within her. Only now was she beginning to realize just how much she cared for Cameron, and not just in a friendly sense. There was something more to it. It was a feeling unlike any she had ever known. She knew it should scare her, especially now. It was a complication that she did not need. Except it didn’t feel like a complication. It made her feel whole inside and significantly stronger, not to mention safer. Face it Annie, she said to herself, you’re in love with him. She knew those words were true. She did love him and she needed him. The question was, did he feel the same?

Annie stood up from the bed and turned up the lamp. Sleep was not going to happen, at least not yet. She paced the room for a bit, hoping the activity would calm her. It did not. She thought about reading, but realized that the battery on her tablet was dead. She would have to wait until tomorrow, after it had charged, to read anything. Finally she settled on Yoga. Yoga was relaxing and she knew almost all the motions. Yes, some music and Yoga would put her mind at ease. She pulled off her nightgown and changed into her shorts, t-shirt, and socks, then plugged her headphones into her phone, turned on some music and began her workout.

Cameron was awakened by a loud thump followed by a muffled curse. He immediately jumped out of his bed and ran into the hall, looking around for any type of intruder. He saw none. He was about to go back to bed when he saw a light coming from underneath Annie’s door. Panic rose up within him and he reached for the door, which was unlocked. He burst into the room, ready to do battle. What he actually saw was far stranger, and, at least to him, far more intimidating than an intruder. There, in the middle of the floor was Annie, clad in the clothes she had escaped the house in a month ago. Her body was twisted into a shape that seemed unnatural and impossible. Her shoulders were pressed hard into the ground, her knees planted firmly beside her head, and her toes touched the floor.

“Oh, hey, Cameron. Did I wake you,” Annie asked. Cameron did not answer. He was too baffled to speak. “I’m sorry if I did. I was just doing some Yoga to relax and, well, I’m embarrassed to say that I seem to have gotten myself stuck.”

Cameron walked over to her and gently unfolded her until she was in a sitting position. “Are you all right?”

“Yes. I was doing a back stand and I lost my balance. I’m really sorry if I woke you.”

Her face was flush with embarrassment. Sweat covered her body, causing her clothes to cling dangerously tight to her. He was reminded of the night he met her. Back then he had been scared, now he was anything but. “Well, if you’re all right I’d best be going back to bed.” He turned and walked towards the door, fully intending to leave before he did something he would regret. Annie stopped him.

“Cameron wait,” she said, placing her hand on his arm. She didn’t want him to go, didn’t want to be alone. After all, her conundrum over him was what led to this situation in the first place.

“Annie, it’s late. We both have a busy day ahead of us.”

Annie could feel him distancing himself from her and it made her heart ache. “Please, don’t leave me alone. Not tonight.”

The pleading look in her hazel eyes tore at his heart. He had no desire to go, but he knew he needed to. “Annie, I can’t stay,” he whispered.

“Because of what I told you earlier?” Tears welled in her eyes. Maybe she was wrong, maybe he did think less of her.

“Yes, no. I mean...dammit.” He raked a frustrated hand through his disheveled hair. “Annie, you’re so strong, but you’re not done healing. I can see that. If I stay I’m afraid that we’ll both do something that will hinder that healing process.”

Annie stepped closer to him, wrapped her arms around his neck, and kissed him. “Cameron, don’t leave me. I need you.” She gave him another kiss, this one deeper, hungrier. She felt him relent.

“Are you sure?” His voice was filled with longing and concern.

“Positive.” After that there were no more words, only loving motions and caresses, and finally, peace.

Cameron was propped up on one arm, watching Annie as she slept. Her hair was thoroughly tussled, her lips curved into a peaceful smile. The first rays of sunlight skimmed across her skin and hair, making her look ethereal. Her strong yet soft body was curled next to his. He had never felt so whole, so content, so happy, so in love. He wanted to stay like this forever. Unfortunately he had a mountain of work to do and Annie had a pretense to keep up. He gave her a soft kiss on her forehead and chuckled a bit when she crinkled her nose. “Annie,” he whispered, “it’s time to get up.”

“Five more minutes,” she grumbled.

“I wish we could Annie, but we both have things to do today. Please, wake up sweetheart.” Finally, Annie opened her eyes. “Good morning beautiful.” Cameron gave her a soft kiss.

“Good morning,” she replied, smiling at him. “You look happy this morning.”

He gave Annie a lopsided smile then grew serious. “Are you all right?”

“Yes, more than all right,” Annie replied definitively.

“You’re sure?”

“Positive. Why? Are you regretting last night?” She prayed that he didn’t. Everything had been miraculous and for the first time in several years she felt whole and healed.

“No, not at all. Do you?” His voice was laced with worry.

“No Cameron. You were exactly what I needed.” She sat up, pulling the sheet up around her. “I hope you know how much last night meant to me, how much you mean to me. For the first time in three years I feel like a whole person again, not someone who’s split in two, hiding who she really is.”

“I’m glad.” He pulled her closer and kissed her.

Annie cuddled in close to him, she wanted to stay like this forever. Unfortunately the real world had other plans. Her mind drifted to Major Andre and her role with him. Being intimate was no longer an option, even if the pain from three years ago had been erased. She loved Cameron and would only share herself with him. Still, she would have to keep up the pretense with Major Andre, which meant kisses and moonlit walks. Just the idea of it made her queasy. She sighed, “What are we going to do?”

Cameron did not have to ask what she was thinking. His thoughts had taken the same route. He knew they would have to hide their relationship, at least in public. The world needed to think she only had eyes for Major Andre, which meant occasional kisses and unsupervised moments. The thought of his hands on her, his lips touching hers, made Cameron ill. He could push that aside for a bit. But he would not tolerate Major Andre touching Annie the way he had just touched her. “Promise me something.”

“Okay.”

“Promise me that you will not give yourself to him, not your body and not your heart. If you promise me that I can handle the kissing and the flirting, as long as it goes no further.”

“I promise Cameron. I only want you,” she whispered.

“Good,” he replied, framing her face in his hands, “because I love you and I cannot bear sharing you. I will do anything to protect you. You have my heart, I trust that you will not break it.”

Annie smiled up at him, “I love you too and I trust that you will cherish my heart as I will cherish yours.”

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