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Wind Whispers, Virginia Whitlock's Story

Summary:
Virginia Whitlock (or Ginny, as she prefers) is a very special person. Born in pre-Civil War America, she is far too independent for her own good. Her older brother Jasper doesn't help matters, either. She's always known she was different from everyone else, her abilities frighten her sometimes, but it's not until Jasper sneaks off to join the Confederate Army that she realizes just how strong she is. SM said Jasper had a little sister he left behind: this is her story, complete with spirits, shapeshifter, vampires, and a lot of love.


Notes:
Ginny is not mentioned in SM's books, but in interviews SM says that Jasper had a younger sister that he left behind when he ran away to serve in the Civil War. I was intrigued by the idea of her, I wondered how she felt when her beloved brother ran away...and I thought she might be special too, even though she's not a vampire. I have tried to be very historically accurate. Be aware of this when reading: if I make references to race or religious or political beliefs, or I accurately depict the mannerisms of speech for a particular group, do not confuse attention to detail with acceptance of the theory behind it.


2. Chapter 2: Abandoned

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Chapter 2: Abandoned

Shortly before I turned twelve, my world as I’d known it came crashing down around me.

For months before, my dreams and the whispers were my constant, unwanted companions, sleeping and waking, but not comforting or informative like they’d usually been. I couldn’t escape them. I thought I might be going mad. My lessons suffered, I dragged through the days like a zombie, food tasteless in my mouth…I’d drop into my bed at night and awake in the morning feeling exactly the same, as if I’d never slept. I begged God or whoever might listen to a little girl’s prayers to please, let this stop. I couldn’t take it anymore. I didn’t want to be special anymore, if it meant I could have a bit of peace.

Mama Dina fussed over me, that I was taking ill, stuffing her home-brewed medicines and tonics down me, preparing my favorite foods to try to tempt my appetite, anything she could think of to shake me out of my stupor. She watched me constantly, dark eyes full of worry and fear. I heard her praying a lot, when she didn’t think I could hear her: Oh Lord, Lord and Spirits above and all around, please watch over my golden girl, and take away this cross you’ve given her…

The images and whispers were always the same. War.

I saw men dying in my dreams, dark as thunderclouds boiling on the horizon, full of menace. I saw blood and smoke and heard screaming and gunshots as if they were in my room with me. I heard men and boys plead with their maker to take them away, to let the pain pass. I saw rows and rows of white crosses, marking graves. I saw brothers and cousins and best friends fighting one another, destruction and plague and rape.

A little girl shouldn’t see and hear such things. It changes you.

But worst of all, I saw my Jasper in the middle of it all.

He was leaving me.

No matter how often I begged him to promise me he wouldn’t sneak away, no matter how many times he made that promise, I always knew he was lying. I could see it on his face, and the whisperers told me so anyway. He’d always stroke my head and try to soothe me in his strange, familiar way…it might work for a while, but it was more like a painkiller, masking the sensation for a while until the drug wore off, leaving as much pain as before…perhaps even more, as you became suddenly aware of hurting again.

The day it all exploded, the day it all came to a head, was when Papa brought the paper home.

He’d been to a meeting in Houston, where the local assembly had gathered to discuss a resolution put forth in the State legislature, on whether or not Texas should join the other Secessionist States and leave the Union altogether. I knew what was coming. It was whispered in my ear as I sat in the kitchen, hearing Papa’s horse’s hooves pounding the turf in the stable yard outside the kitchen door.

He’d burst in with the news, that Texas had decided, Texas was out, Texas would stand with the Rebels for State’s Rights and against Unionist interference with the Southern way of life.

I watched Jasper furtively as Mama read the paper Papa had handed her. He knew what it meant. I saw the sly expression flicker across his face, could fairly read the plot he was ironing out in his thoughts. He was leaving. Soon. And I couldn’t stop him.

That night, after dinner, I tackled him and tried to use all of my available weapons to try to convince him to stay. Tears, threats, logic…None of it really worked.

We were dancing an elaborate little masquerade, each of us with our own secrets that we were guarding, each of us pretending to believe the other’s lies. I couldn’t tell him I knew what he was planning, because then I’d have to tell him how I knew; he couldn’t tell me the truth about his plans to run away and join the army, because then he’d have to admit his lies to me.

How ironic!

After that night, things got even worse for me. Before, it had been a feeling of dread and foreboding. My dreams and the things that were whispered to me had been more indistinct and nebulous, before that night. With the actual declaration of secession, the images became more clear and frightening…what had been foretold in the spirit world was becoming reality, rapidly.

I turned twelve with little fanfare; Mama Dina made me a little cake, and Mama and Papa gave me a few gifts.

Mama gave me a beautiful set of combs and brushes and a mirror, elegant worked silver set with moonstones and mother-of-pearl. Mama Dina loved to brush my hair with them, and arrange the long locks in elaborate fashions, while we laughed at ourselves in the mirror.

Papa gave me a new set of leather-bound books, the plays of Shakespeare and the works of Milton and Chaucer and a collection of love poems. Also, I got a new pony, a sweet-tempered little dappled gray, which I named Cloud. I found a bit of comfort spending time with him in the stable, currying his coat to a gleaming sheen and braiding his long, silky mane and tail. We understood each other; sometimes I would lean my forehead against his strong neck, and he’d lay his long nose over my shoulder, making little snuffling noises into my ear, nibbling on my hair.

Spring progressed, and each day that marched by brought me closer to the inevitable. The day would come very soon, when I would wake up and Jasper would be gone.

My restless sleep evaporated into insomnia. I had to pretend to sleep, often sneaking into Jasper’s room to curl up with him, trying to keep him there with my presence. I knew it wouldn’t work, but I still tried.

Then it came. The day my world ended.

Jasper came home that afternoon with a different aura around him; his demeanor practically screamed deception to my keen sight. He kept glancing about, seeing who might be watching him. He was jumpy and nervous. And he refused to meet my eye.

After dinner we washed the dishes together, even getting into a little splashing match; he was trying so hard to seem normal. Once upstairs, I tackled him again, trying to weasel the truth out of him.

I used every weapon in my arsenal. Tears, pleading, logic…none of it worked. He lied to me, blatantly and boldly. Supposedly it wasn’t him that was sneaking off to war—it was his best friends, Henry and Newt Berryman, and Jasper was covering for them so they could get away safely. His eyes and voice pleaded with me to believe him, to trust him.

I realized the futility of my struggle; I felt something break inside me, felt something begin to wither and die. I’d fought and I’d lost: he was leaving. Tomorrow. My whisperers sighed into my ear, trying to comfort me, but I mentally shook them off in disgust. What good were whispers and dreams when you couldn’t even keep your own brother from getting himself killed?

I wished he’d trusted me. But he didn’t. No matter how much we loved each other, he didn’t trust me not to betray his plans to Mama and Papa.

I suppose he was right to not trust me. I couldn’t say with any surety that I wouldn’t have run to Mama and Papa to tell on him. I could have still done that, made them watch him more carefully, lie to them like he was doing to me…

Let him go .

As strong and united as they had been that day I had almost trod upon that rattlesnake, they commanded me, the voices full of authority, no longer whispers. I was amazed Jasper didn’t hear them.

So. I’d lost. I had to let him go. Why? I asked them silently, begging for an answer that might make it easier.

Jasper has a destiny all his own, it calls to him from the future. He must wander long and far and endure many things, but in the end he will be made whole, and fulfill his role in this world.

Again, they sounded so sure, totally indisputable.

All my defiance drained out of me. I felt as empty and alone as an abandoned shoe on the side of the road.

Numbly, I pretended to believe his lie. I agreed to cover for his “secret”, to not betray him to Mama and Papa. I played my role, the credulous little girl, though I felt like I was a million years old inside. I went through the motions of studying and doing our assignments for the next day, although I knew he was as distracted as I was…but his distraction was excited, his eyes shining with delight at the prospect of adventure and glory…My distraction was frantic and full of dread.

My dreams of war flooded my mind. So much blood and death. He would be part of all that soon. And I couldn’t help him, couldn’t be with him.

Eventually we had to stop the charade of studying; I stood up and left the room, bidding him a good night, then trudged slowly to my room, where I lay upon my unslept-in bed, waiting for time to pass. Every minute crawled by, like molasses in January.

I knew I couldn’t go and sleep with him again that night. He wouldn’t be sleeping. And I couldn’t stand in the way of his destiny. So I lay there in the dark, my eyes burning with unshed tears, my fingers knotted into the quilt, as if I were trying to tie myself down. Perhaps I was.

It was the darkest, coldest part of the night when I heard it. The utter silence of the night seemed to amplify my hearing, as if I was there in the room with him.

Shuffling, whispering, the scrape of a boot across the windowsill in Jasper’s room. The creaking of the ivy trellis outside his window as someone climbed down. Footsteps padding quietly across the stable yard, toward the barn…the faint squeal of the stable door hinges…the barely discernable jingle of the bridle as he saddled Star…then quiet hoofbeats, fading with distance.

I couldn’t hold myself there any longer.

I tore out of my room, barreling down the hallway and down the stairs, fumbling with the latch on the back door. I had to see him go. I couldn’t let him go without one last look!

I stumbled out onto the back porch and down the steps into the dusty stable yard, my nightgown billowing around me like a ghost’s shroud. I strained my eyes to see into the darkness of the moonless night, for any glimpse of him.

Finally I caught the movement by the front gate, about half a mile away. A horse, two riders. Jasper and Henry on Star, silhouetted against the velvety black night. Cantering into the great unknown, away from me.

If he’d turned and looked back, he would’ve seen me there, would’ve seen me waving frantically, begging him with everything in me to see me, to at least say goodbye. But he never did.

I watched him go until I couldn’t see him any longer.

Then I sat down in the dust and drew my knees up to my chest, my chin atop them, huddling into myself against the cold pre-dawn air. A faint breeze kicked up around me, swirling my hair in tangles around my head, and the cold wind made my tears like rivers of ice down my cheeks.

He was gone. I’d been abandoned. I’d never speak to my brother again in this life, I knew.

I closed my eyes against the tears and stayed there in the dark and the dust and I cried and cried and cried.

Big John found me there a little while later; he was always the first one awake and around the farm.

I heard him coming, but I didn’t care. It didn’t matter. I didn’t turn and look at him, or even acknowledge his soft, surprised cry of alarm at realizing that I wasn’t just a bundle of rags in the middle of the yard.

He squatted down in front of me, his big, warm, hard hand gripping my chin gently and forcing me to look up at him. He had kind, liquid black eyes, and a broad, honest face that was full of sadness and shock.

“Well, Miss Ginny, what’s the matter?” he whispered, glancing around and then back at me. Likely he didn’t want anyone to discover me, sitting out there in the yard in my nightgown, dusty and tearstained. “Why’re you outside!”

I just shook my head and laid my face back onto my drawn-up knees, trying to ignore him.

Just then, from the house, there was a scream. Mama.

Jasper!”

Footsteps running. Papa yelling. Mama sobbing. They’d found something, probably a note. Seen his empty bed.

Then Mama Dina was there. “Ah, Lord, what now!” she muttered, scooping me up into her arms. She was so warm. She cradled me to her breast; my head lolled against her shoulder, my tears starting again.

“He’s gone, Mama, he left me all alone!” I finally whispered into her neck, tears wetting her smooth brown skin. I couldn’t close my eyes anymore. They burned so much.

She sighed heavily, walking now. “Well, chil’, you knew this was a’comin’, so don’ be surprised,” she replied softly, no accusation in her voice despite the words. “John, you go’n get things goin’ around here, Master Whitlock ain’t gonna be good for nothin’ t’day, baby,” she called over her shoulder.

John, always so quiet, nodded and went off toward the barn, jamming his hat down atop his head, his stride full of purpose.

Mama Dina carried me into the kitchen, setting me down next to the stove, and proceeded to scrub my face and hands with cold water til I felt the blood beginning to circulate in me again. Then she produced a comb from somewhere and smoothed down my wind-tangled hair, murmuring prayers under her breath the entire time. Occasionally she’d shoot a worried glance toward the kitchen door, as if waiting for one of my parents to come in and catch her cleaning me up. She dashed into the laundry pantry and emerged a moment later with a clean nightgown, and re-dressed me quickly, tossing the dusty, tear-stained one into a hamper of dishtowels.

Finally, I must have met her standards, for she took my face between her big hands and looked me straight in the eye, her face deadly serious.

“Listen to me, Ginny Whitlock,” she began, her voice stern. I perked up a bit in surprise; she never called me by my name. “You gots t’ be strong, for your mama an’ your papa. They’s goin’ to be terrible sad, an’ you know your mama ain’t in the best of health.”

My eyes widened, remembering.

Ever since my birth, Mama had been sick off and on all the time, and she couldn’t walk or stand for long periods of time without getting very tired. The doctors had told her giving birth to me had damaged something inside her, and that she had a weak heart anyway, and she should take care not to become overly excited or anxious. That was one reason we all walked on eggshells around her. I didn’t want to make my mother sicker; I knew Jasper had been her favorite, although I was the baby of the family, and it had never bothered me before. It still didn’t, I realized abruptly: I just didn’t want her to be upset, or any more upset than she already was. I couldn’t add to her pain by behaving like a zombie.

I nodded mutely, staring up into Mama Dina’s face. Tears threatened again but I fought them back, taking several deep breaths until I gained control, blinking savagely to keep my eyes dry.

She nodded in approval, patting my cheek. “Good girl. You be strong. Don’ worry, Mister Jasper will be all right. Jes’ listen t’yer dreams, they’ll show you.”

I sighed, looking down at the floor and nodding absently. I knew the whisperers would tell me things, but it wouldn’t be nearly so good as having him nearby. I couldn’t watch over him from so far away!

Mama Dina got up from her crouch, pulling me to my feet with her. She turned me to face the stove, pointing over my shoulder at the big cast-iron pot, where she always prepared our morning oatmeal. “You start on that, young ‘un, I’m gonna go see t’your Mama for a moment,” she admonished me, and bustled out of the kitchen, wiping her hands on her apron.

I sighed again. Perhaps mundane tasks would help me forget my abandonment. So I set myself to the job ahead. I didn’t stop at the oatmeal; I sliced the bread and put it to toast in the oven, sliced the apples for the oatmeal, strained the new milk that waited in the stone jar by the kitchen door. I brewed Papa’s coffee, and made Mama’s tea. I set the table for everyone, putting out the butter and sugar and jam and molasses.

I was right: it did help distract me from my pain. The familiar movements of my body, performing such simple, homey tasks, was comforting. But even at my most distracted, the knowledge of Jasper’s absence still ached inside me.

Eventually Mama Dina came back, shaking her head sadly. She stopped, looking at the table and at the breakfast waiting, ready, on the sideboard, her eyes wide and incredulous. “Well, chil’, you do seem to be listenin’ this mornin’…for once…”

She beckoned me over to her, looking back toward the door again as she furtively pulled something from her apron pocket, pressing it into my hand. I didn’t need to look at it to know it was a letter from Jasper.

“Don’ tell your Papa I gave this t’you, all right, baby?” she whispered, curling my fingers around the paper. “He had it in his desk, locked up, like he never meant to give it t’you…but I think it’s better to have it, right?”

I nodded violently in agreement, shoving the letter into the pocket of my nightgown. “What now?” I whispered back.

Mama Dina shook her head again, biting her lower lip. “Well, y’Mama is in bed. She’s terrible sad. Your Papa gave ‘er some of that medicine Doc B left for ‘er, that laudanum, it’ll help ‘er sleep.” I frowned, I hated that medicine, it made Mama sleep like the dead, and when she did wake she was often dizzy and disoriented. But maybe that was best right now.

“Papa?” I asked, dreading the answer.

She took a deep breath, exhaling slowly. “Well, he’s not much better, tho’ he’s still walkin’ around. He said he’ll be down f’breakfast anytime now.” She pushed me toward the door. “You scoot on now, baby, go get dressed. Then come down an’ eat, an’ try t’be the good, sweet, strong girl you are, all right?”

I left without another word.

In my room, once the door was shut tight, I allowed myself to crumple to the floor, sliding down the door and leaning against it, clutching Jasper’s letter in both hands against my chest. Silent, tearless sobs shook my whole body.

I stayed there for a long while, until the wracking sobs had run their course. I stared down at the letter again, his handwriting so neat and straight as it wrote my name across the front of the envelope.

With trembling fingers I managed to rip it open and pull out the single small sheet of paper.

Dear Ginny,

I know I lied to you about leaving you, and about what I was planning, but please believe me when I say it wasn’t to hurt you. It hurt more than you can ever know. I am so sorry for that, but you have to understand that I feel like this is what I have to do, for myself, and to provide you with the kind of example of what a man should be. You are the best thing in my life, and I will come home to you and Mother and Father as soon as I’ve done my duty to God and Country, with my head held high. I promise I’ll write you as often as I can. Please think of me and pray for me, Ginny, that it will be soon when I am able to hear your voice again. I love you very much, little sister.

Jasper.”

I struggled with myself to not crumple the paper into a ball, or to tear it to a million shreds. My anguish was turning into anger with every passing second.

How dare he?? Liar. He didn’t even say goodbye, didn’t even turn around!

Immediately the whispers swelled into a raging tide all around me, scolding, admonishing.

Brave boy. Good man. Don’t be awful. Everyone has their place, their destiny.

All the separate voices, talking at once, like I was in a crowded room.

Overwhelmed, I clapped my hands over my ears and screamed. “Be quiet!!!”

They stopped. For a moment, blessed silence reigned. I leaned my head back against the door, my burning eyes sliding shut. I was so, so very tired…

Finally, after a while, one whisper breathed into my ear, hesitant.

You have a destiny too, you know.

Like I care! I shouted back at them from within my mind, not wanting to draw any more attention with more noise.

The whisperer persisted. You have no idea, Virginia. There are many things, wonderful and awful things both, for you in the years ahead. You must be strong. It is very, very important. For you and for your family.

I sighed, scrubbing my hot, aching face with my hands in frustration. “All right, all right…just shut up for a while, please?” I begged them in a whisper of my own.

They didn’t reply. I supposed that was their answer.

In the strange, echoing silence, I crawled to my feet and managed to make it to my bed, where I curled up around my pillow, burying my face in it. I lay there for a long time, time drifting by unmarked; I almost dozed.

“Ginny? Sweetheart? Can you…can you come down, to have breakfast with me?”

Papa’s voice, muffled from behind my door. He didn’t try the doorknob. Even through the wood he sounded different. Older. Sad.

“Please?”

The sound of his own grief suddenly dawned on me. My god, what a selfish little brat I am!

I rolled off the bed and ducked into my closet, searching for something to wear. “Of course, Papa, I’ll be down in just a moment, I’m dressing!” I called back, trying to make my voice sound like something resembling human.

I heard him sigh, and a sound like something gently press against the door. I think it was him leaning his forehead against the door, wearily. “All right, Ginny. I’ll see you downstairs, then.” His footstep faded away.

I stared at myself in the mirror that hung on the wall beside my bed. My face was pale and my eyes were bloodshot, but other than that I looked…normal enough. Taking a deep breath, I buttoned my dress and straightened my skirts, pulling my hair back and fixing it atop my head with one of Mama’s combs. I pinched my cheeks hard, to bring some color into them. Turned and faced the door, marched out, headed downstairs to eat a breakfast I had absolutely no appetite for.

My time of deceptions and brave faces had begun.