When Jasper finds an old basswood guitar at a rummage sale, will he rediscover an old passion in himself?
6. Chapter 6
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Again, I waited until the house was empty. For some reason, I couldn’t bring myself to ask Edward to lend me the guitar. I should not have felt this way; he had now completely discarded the instrument, returning to his piano. I felt like I needed to keep this part of me safe.
Once again, I was waved into the hospital without qualm. Perhaps I didn’t carry the name of Cullen, but in a way I belonged to Carlisle, and was afforded the respect he had earned.
When I entered Hank’s room, he was more coherent than he was on my last visit. He sat up, smiled at me. Offered his hand, which I shook. I was alarmed at the temperature of his skin. He was burning with fever. He probably didn’t even notice the chill of my own fingers.
“Come to play me a tune, son?” he asked.
“Yes sir,” I replied. “Any requests?”
“None that you’d know,” he laughed heartily.
I couldn’t help but smile. “Try me.”
“How ‘bout… Hank Williams.”
“All right,” I grinned. “How about… I’ll Be a Bachelor Till I Die?”
“Sounds about right,” he laughed.
I pulled a chair close to the bed and sat down. I slipped the sling over my head and settled the guitar on my right thigh, twisting my left foot behind the leg of the chair. Placing my left hand on the neck, I curled my fingers over the frets. A few strokes of my thumb over the strings brought the notes from the belly of the instrument, clear and soft and perfect, and nothing had felt so right in so long.
Bouncing my knee a few times to get the beat, I began to pluck out the tune.
“I'll take you to the picture show, and babe I'll hold your hand, I'll sit up in your parlor, let you cool me with your fan, I'll listen to your troubles, and pet you when you cry, But get that marryin' out of your head, I'll be a bachelor till I die.”
I finished out the song, then ran through a few more oldies. Occasionally, Hank would join in, adding his gruffer bass to mine. After a bit, I tilted the guitar up, to feign a rest. Throughout, the joy I felt coming from the other man only added to my own. It was incredible how good this felt; it was almost like learning who I was.
“Ah, yer a natural sonnie,” Hank complemented. “Never heard anyone play so good, ‘cept maybe my brother.”
“Oh yes. Jake, he could play, he could. Pick out a tune on just about anything. Used to play that old guitar for the boys, at night when the sun was a’ settin’. That was before we was hit. War, somethin’ you should never see. I pray every night that young’uns like you’ll never see things that I’ve seen.”
He was getting farther away, sorrow coming on like a storm. His eyes filled, grew distant. “Yep. I’ve seen things you could never think. Your worst dream, your biggest fear, that’s what war is a hundred times over.”
“Yes sir,” I said quietly. “I know something of it.”
The words just came unplanned, unbidden. Immediately I was horrified, that I could come so close so easily to exposing myself, my family. But he seemed to just absorb it, understand it, accept it, know it was truth and not question it.
“Yes, I believe you do son, I believe you do.”
“Where is your brother now?” I ventured after a pause.
He turned his head to me, started to answer, and began to cough violently. It was a sudden, and fierce onslaught, and blood was quick to stain the corners of his mouth. Monitors and charts began to fly, whirring and flashing lights.
At the first sign of blood I had risen to my feet, but I seemed frozen in place. I was unbothered by the scent, only fear for this man’s life held me. This I realized with shock; then Carlisle was there. He swept into the room, at Hank’s side in seconds. His eyes flashed to me, and I felt the fear, then shock, then guilt coming fast and furious. His hands found Hank’s shoulders and held him to the bed.
“Out, Jasper, please,” he said quietly.
His voice broke the spell, and I nodded once before stepping out the door. I passed to nurses on my way out, headed in to assist Carlisle. I practically ran to the Jeep once I had hit the parking lot. Slamming the door, I froze for a second before slumping in the seat.
Wild, erratic thoughts were all I could grasp. This wasn’t me. It isn’t this easy. Am I losing myself? And why, oh why, is this so hard?