Flash Fiction: Invisible Strings – Part 9

Written in 60 minutes.


Jason woke to the normal sound of a rooster crowing, streaks pink and orange streaking across the sky, the soft light illuminating through the lace curtains that hung over the window facing the bed. He had woken at dawn for most of his life, teased by family members for being an early riser who needed little sleep. As a child, he’d bounced from his bed and headed out to climb trees, go swimming, fishing, and find whatever trouble there was to be had. As an adult, he’d begun his work day, heading to the stables or town.

On this morning, two weeks after he had found himself in a church wedded to a woman he’d known little more than a day, Jason was content to remain just where he was, Elizabeth’s body snug against his own, her light breathing sometimes lulling him back into a light sleep. He nuzzled the side of her neck, sweeping her hair back so he could press his lips to the soft skin.

“Mmm,” she murmured, shifting slightly. Her hand found the arm slung across her and laced their fingers together. “Good morning.”

“You should rest,” Jason said, but he nibbled at her earlobe, and she turned to face him, her features only dimly visible in the weak light of the dawn. “You had little sleep.”

Elizabeth smiled, the curve of her lips drawing a matching expression on his own face. “Whose fault is that?” she teased.

“Well, the first time, it was me, but I believe it was your leg brushing against mine the second.”

“And the third?” she asked with an arch of brow, sliding a hand up his bare chest to touch his cheek, the leg in question moving ever so slightly so that he was cradled between them.

“I think that was mutual,” Jason managed as he dipped down to brush his mouth against hers, then his lips trailed down to her collarbone.

“Okay, but this one is definitely on you,” she said with a bit of laughter. He cut off the mirth with his mouth again, swallowing her giggles.

A few hour later, Jason strode into the jail house and tossed his hat over the post. He’d much rather be back at the house, working the horses, and with Elizabeth. Not that she needed him, he thought as he relieved the night deputy and checked on the few inhabitants of the cells in the back. But he still would rather be there.

Everyone was just where they were supposed to be, so Jason went back to the front room to see his cousin sitting at the desk, putting his feet up. “Comfortable?” he said dryly.

Dillon scrambled to his feet, flushing hard. “I didn’t—I didn’t know you were here—uh, where—you stabled Ronan, then?”

“Yes.” Jason folded his arms, trying to pretend he was still unhappy with his younger relative. It had been easier in the beginning to hold on to his irritation—whether or not Jason had decided to go through with Dillon’s insane plan, it had still been irresponsible and nearly cruel to drag a woman and her child across the country the way he had.

But over the last week, as Jason felt more and more like a husband, he had to admit that his cousin could have chosen far more poorly. It was likely Jason might have felt obligated to any woman his cousin had dumped on him in this situation, but Elizabeth wasn’t just any woman.

“You, uh, want me to head over to the postal office?” Dillon wanted to know, nervously shuffling his feet.

“Yeah, you do that.” Jason watched him scramble to leave, shaking his head. No, he wasn’t even a little irritated with the kid anymore, but that didn’t mean Dillon had to know that.

Elizabeth only wished she was feeling the same level of satisfaction Jason was at the moment. Miles away, she found herself a bit at her wit’s end, unsure how to fill the hours.

For more than four years, she had filled every hour of her day with hard work and little rest. Now, thanks to Alice, there wasn’t even mending to do. Not that Elizabeth could manage that — the first time, she’d tried, she’d been abruptly reminded how things had changed.

She sat on the sofa, flexing the fingers on her hand again — the missing piece of her index finger made it nearly impossible to hold a needle steady — something she hadn’t realized. Which meant much of the way she’d filled her time before Alex’s death and her parent sent her away was also out of the question. She’d enjoyed knitting and needlework — but all of that was lost to her.

“Mama…” Cameron came into the room, dragging a string which had a little wooden wagon attached to it. His face had a small chocolate stain — Elizabeth smiled. Her little boy was being spoiled beyond his—or her—wildest dreams. A bit of restlessness and boredom seemed  small price to pay for the happiness her son was enjoying.

“I see you’ve been bothering Alice again,” Elizabeth said, reaching for her handkerchief to dab at the chocolate. “You must let her see to her work.”

“She likes to give me treats,” Cameron said somberly. “It makes her happy. Mama, where is the papa?”

Elizabeth smiled at him, running her finger through his blonde hair, the curls of his toddler ears already straightening out. “Papa has a very important duty in town,” she reminded him. She lifted him into her lap, cuddling him closer. “He is the sheriff.”

“Sheriffs protected the people.” Cameron sighed, and turned into her embrace, his breathing slowing as he began to doze, falling into his morning nap. “Want the papa to play.”

“Some day soon,” Elizabeth said, stroking her son’s back. Jason worked so much in town and didn’t spend much time at the ranch — Cameron didn’t have a lot of time with him. Elizabeth worried over that, but Alice said it was normal. Since his grandmother had saddled him with the position, Jason was at the jail more than at the ranch.

That was all right, Elizabeth thought. He came home to her every night and she knew he was happy with the arrangement so far, though they had little time for talk, she reflected. But she enjoyed what they had so far, and perhaps it would get better. He might hire another deputy — or even better, surely there would be a child. Oh, she wanted more children. A little brother or sister for Cameron. A baby would fill her time.

Yes, everything was lovely, just as she’d hoped. She only had to make sure they stayed that way.

To her surprise, Jason was home for supper that night and Cameron was delighted. She hoped he might one day stop calling Jason “the” papa, but it had helped to bridge an awkward situation, as the title seemed to make Jason smile.

Alice dished up a bowl of stew and set it in front of Cameron, then another for Jason. “Good to have you home, Master Jason,” she said a bright smile. “Pretty wife and handsome boy waiting for you all the long day—”

“Oh—” Elizabeth widened her eyes. “No, we’re quite all right,” she protested as Alice disappeared into the kitchen. “Alice told me you’re rarely here.”

“Grandmother,” Jason said with a wince, “thought having me appointed sheriff would be good for me. I’m sorry—”

“No,” Elizabeth repeated, with a shake of her head. He mustn’t think she was unhappy or complaining. “It’s an important duty.”

“Mama says you take care of people. All the people,” Cameron said, stirring his strew. “Can I be a people?”

Jason tilted his head. “You already are. Everyone in Port Charles and the area is under my protection.”

“But you always with the people,” Cameron continued. “You see them. Not me. So I not a people.”

“Cameron—”

“Want to fish and swim,” her son said, looking at Elizabeth. “You said no. So maybe the papa can.”

Jason’s brows drew together and he looked at Elizabeth who exhaled slowly and forced a smile. “He’s wanted to explore all the parts of the ranch, including the lake. It’s all I can do to keep in sight. I—I don’t know how to swim. Or fish. If there is someone who can show me, I’ll—”

“No.” Jason set down his spoon, and something passed over his face, a slight tightening of his jaw. It was gone so quickly she nearly missed it. Oh, he was unhappy. She was making demands of him. She hadn’t meant to— “No, you—if you want to learn, I can show you. I can teach you both.”

“Really, you don’t—”

“I haven’t made many adjustments to my life,” Jason said, and then he smiled but it didn’t feel real to her. It didn’t reach all the way to his eyes. “In town most of the day. Leaving you and Cameron on your own out here. I—”

“I really promise you it’s quite all right. I’ve told Cameron your duties—”

“I’ll take a day this week,” Jason interrupted and she closed her mouth, staring down into her stew, miserable. “With good weather. I’ll make sure to do that at least once a week. If not more. I’ve needed to hire another deputy—and I told my grandmother I didn’t want to be appointed next year.” When Elizabeth opened her mouth to protest, he continued, “I’d told her that months ago,” he said gently. “I’d rather be here. You and Cameron are giving me the excuse.”

“So I be a people then?” Cameron asked, screwing his face up in concentration.

“The most important people,” Jason pledged, and this time when he smiled it was genuine. Cameron’s face lit up. “I’ll teach you to swim and fish. And anything else you want.”

“See, Mama, I told you the papa would do it,” Cameron told Elizabeth who just smiled weakly and avoided Jason’s curious eyes.

That night, Elizabeth was almost dreading going to bed. She lingered over Cameron’s routine, sponging the day’s exertions from his little body, tugging the nightshirt over his head, tucking him into bed, telling him stories until he drifted into sleep, his precious body curled around a rag doll he’d brought with him from New York. Elizabeth had tried to fashion it into a puppy — Cameron loved dogs, and he wanted one quite desperately.

Finally, she had no reason to avoid her own bedroom and the light had disappeared, the sun had sunk below the horizon. Would Jason be irritated that Cameron had pushed him into a promise to spend time with him? Did he feel obligated?  She fretted over the possibilities, but it was time to face her husband and whatever reaction he had to the dinner.

Jason would have been surprised to learn Elizabeth worried so much about the promises extracted that evening. He missed being at the ranch, and having a small boy eager to play and be rowdy was the perfect excuse to take a day or two away from the job.

And it had been a bit jarring to hear that Elizabeth had been making her own excuses for his absence from Cameron’s life. Jason had always gone to work an hour or two after dawn, and returned near twilight. He hadn’t really thought about those hours coinciding with those that Cameron was awake. But now he worried — did Elizabeth think he was avoiding her son? Did Cameron feel unwelcome?

He went to their bedroom at the usual time, a bit surprised not to find Elizabeth already in bed. She’d fit in nicely wit his schedule but now he wondered — did she keep the same hours as he did because she might not otherwise see him?

He’d spent the whole day entirely satisfied with his marriage and life, but now he was afflicted with doubts. Had he been failing and not realized?

Elizabeth came in a few moments later, and turned up one of the gas lights. She smiled at him. “It was nice to have you here for supper,” she said, drawing her nightgown from the post next to the door. “A lovely surprise.”

“I’ll be going in later and coming home sooner,” Jason pledged. “I should see Cameron in the morning—” He paused. “Why didn’t you ask me about taking him swimming or fishing?”

Elizabeth frowned at him, her fingers paused over the buttons of her shirtwaist. “Because you were not here to ask,” she said after a long moment. “And I just assumed you would be too busy—”

He’d had a brother to show him all those things, no matter how little he and AJ had quarreled as adults, and Jason had thought of teaching his nephew one day. It shamed him a little that he hadn’t thought of taking Cameron out on the lake. For a little boy who called him “the” papa, it was no wonder Cameron didn’t view him as “his” papa.

Jason crossed to Elizabeth, brushing her fingers away from her button, accomplishing the task himself. “I am not too busy for you,” he told her. “Or for Cameron. But I cannot read minds. I hope that you will both ask me for what you want. Or need.”

“All right—” Her eyes searched his, and then she smiled a bit tremulously. “But you’ve done well so far without any guidance from me.”

“I am relieved to hear it.” He dipped his head and kissed her, his second favorite part of the day.

Comments

  • Thanks for the update.

    According to Shelly Samuel on August 22, 2022
  • They both need to be open with each other. I love how Cameron calls him the papa. He was so cute and Jason will be a good papa.

    According to arcoiris0502 on August 22, 2022
  • I love this story.

    According to Carolyn Grandchamp on August 22, 2022
  • “the” papa. Yes both are going to have to speak up about what they want. You have two strangers trying to live together, they are both going to half to talk since they can’t read the others mind. I too would be reluctant to ask Jason to spend time with me if I was a mail order bride.

    According to leasmom on August 22, 2022
  • Have I mentioned lately how much I love this story? I love how different it feels from Watch Me Burn, The Last Time, and all your others – and yet how familiar the characters are, how consistent to the core of the characters you remain. The cadence, the worries, the passion … and, of course, the cuteness known as Cameron and “the papa.” I will be so bummed to see this go on hiatus and I will definitely be counting some weeks/days until it returns. (Darn real life demands!)
    Here’s hoping you get answers from the docs this week and can start actual treatments to make you feel better!

    According to Living Liason on August 22, 2022
  • I LOVE LOVE LOVE this story!
    My little Cam! He better be getting that dog he wants & learn to swim & fish & whatever else his little heart desires

    He’s the best ‘a people’ ever

    I really love how Jason & Elizabeth are both thinking of the other & while I wish they’d talk more because neither can read minds I’m sure they’ll get there

    I think this might be my favourite of the flash fictions at the moment (but I love them all)
    Can’t wait for more

    According to Jess on August 23, 2022
  • Very lovely update. I am sure pretty soon the papa will become my papa.

    According to nanci on August 23, 2022
  • Married life but still miles apart.
    can’t wait to read about the first fishing trip

    According to Pamela Hedstrom on August 23, 2022
  • LOVE LOVE LOVE This story too! LOL Sad we missed the honeymoon.

    According to Tammy on August 23, 2022
  • Both Jason and Elizabeth need to speak up. I’m glad Cam spoke up and told Jason he wants to go swimming and fishing. Hopefully Elizabeth will go with them.

    According to Carla P on August 23, 2022