When Jasper finds an old basswood guitar at a rummage sale, will he rediscover an old passion in himself?
4. Chapter 4
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It was three days later before I made a decision. Alice had been avoiding me, claiming that I gave her a headache, and I didn’t doubt that I was.
I found Emmett in the den, and dropped the new videogame I’d bought in his lap. He picked it up and examined the cover, then glanced at me with raised eyebrows.
“I need the jeep,” I said by way of explanation.
He dug the keys from his pocket and tossed them at me. He had the game in the console before I was out the door. I nodded to Esme, who was in the front garden on her knees, up to her elbows in potting soil, then backed the jeep down the drive.
I was taking a risk, going to the hospital during Carlisle’s hours. The chance that I would meet up with him was already high, him being Hank Jones primary physician, but I couldn’t wait any longer. I was getting jittery. I found myself bouncing my knee up and down at hyper-speed or tapping my fingers on my thigh. I normally tried to keep myself in a sort of emotional limbo, keeping myself calm, letting the emotions of others come and go in a slow easy wave. I couldn’t handle these nerves.
I pulled into visitor parking and headed to the entrance. My face was perhaps the least known of us all, but the name Cullen was like a magic pass at the door. A heavyset, African American woman smiled and offered to page Carlisle for me, but I explained that I was there to visit a friend, and slipped off down the hall before she could ask any questions. I don’t know how I knew which room was Hank’s, I just seemed to end up there.
I paused a moment in the open doorway before stepping inside. He had diminished visibly since I’d seen him last. He lay limp against the crisp white sheets, pulled tight over the mattress of the bed. Steel rails framed his body, tubes darting in and out, a screen monitoring heart rate, blood pressure, oxygen levels, everything that marked him for what he was, while I, in perfect fault, stood untouched. His skin was creased heavily, his eyelids translucent and fluttering in sleep.
Pulling a chair near the bed, I sat with elbows on knees. I breathed in the scent of him, heard his heartbeat, and knew that he had little time left. Perhaps it was that the held off the lust, the want, but as I sat motionless for twenty minutes, thirty, forty-five, the thirst did not come. We were the same somehow, kindred spirits perhaps, each bound in a shared past still unknown to the other.
My patience paid off. Hank came slowly awake, eyes opening, breathing changing slightly. He looked about himself a moment then focused on me.
“Jake,” he said softly, “You in here too.”
I remained silent, only slightly puzzled by his words.
“Our battalion was hit, hit along the left side. They said we wouldn’t be.” He murmured this only a bit incoherently. “Yes, took a bullet in the leg I did. I can feel it, burning, you know the feeling.”
I nodded. Yes, I knew the burn.
“You were hit too. You better now though Jake, You’s was only nicked. You’s gonna’ be alright now.” He seemed to sink back a bit, to relax some small amount.
I watched him quietly, wondering if perhaps I should correct his perceptions, but I saw no harm in them.
“You still got the old guitar?” he asked with sudden clarity.
“Yes, sir, I’ve still got it,” I replied quickly.
“You bring it next time. You come see me next time, Jake, and you bring it with you. You can play me a tune on that old guitar, just like before. Just like before when we was sittin’ on the porch back home, before this war.”
His speaking slowed, and his eye drifted shut as he wandered back towards sleep. Quietly, and a bit disturbed and unsure, I stood to leave. When I reached the door, he called out to me again.
“Jake,” he called, “Jake, you’s gonna come see me again?” His voice trembled, a child’s fear in his voice.
“I’ll be back Hank,” I assured him. “I’ll be back and I play you a song.”
He smiled and drifted off once more. I watched a moment longer, then took my leave.