A Vow Unsaid Ch. 02byoxytoxin©
This is the 2nd part of A Vow Unsaid. You may enjoy it more if you read the original work first. Thank you for the feedback, it is greatly appreciated.
I stood at the altar of Holy Cross Cathedral, slowly suffocating. The church was filled with candles and despite the snow falling outside, I felt as if I were melting. I wore my mother's wedding dress and while photographs proved it to be was beautiful and elegant on her, I was crushed beneath its weight. Layers of lace over silk, long sleeves and a high collar that brushed my neck on occasion and summoned memories of a public hanging I witnessed when I was 13. My vision was blurring, my mouth was dry and my head was swimming. The candles flickered, weak in the black bellow of the church. The statues of reverent martyrs with their heads bowed in prayer that had once seemed comforting now filled me with a deep, aching hopelessness. A slow melody punctured the heavy silence as the organist played the final notes of the bridal chorus...though tonight it sounded more like a dirge.
I could see that Father Landon's lips were moving but his words were lost on me. I felt Patrick's hand on mine as he gingerly slid a ring onto my finger. I felt my face going numb and even as he kissed me, I did not feel a thing.
I awoke screaming.
Nora shot up from beside me and hovered above me, her face white and stricken with panic. "Kaitlyn! What is it darling?!?!?" Someone was pounding on the door and desperately jiggling the handle. I heard Patrick's voice and thanked a God whose existence I so often doubted that the door was locked. I tried to speak but my voice caught and I fell back. I reached up and cupped Nora's cheek. Concern filled her beautiful green eyes. "I'm fine," I murmured hoarsely. "Tell him I'm fine."
"She's alright Patrick. Just a nightmare is all." I regained my voice and called out "I'll be downstairs in just a moment Patrick. I'm not dressed." Nora smirked and I couldn't help but smile. I heard Patrick's reply and listened as his footsteps faded.
I looked at Nora, her hair was rumpled and her lips slightly parted. Her brow was furrowed in confusion. I let my eyes wander, down the soft slope of her neck to her delicate collarbone. The curve of her breasts, still heaving with alarm. Her nipples were a deep exquisite pink, just a few shades lighter than the petals of a rose. Returning my gaze to her face, I devoured her with my eyes, her skin was white and smooth. At that moment, she seemed eternal to me, a goddess chiseled from a block of marble by some divine hand.
I leaned in and kissed her, slowly and slid my hand along the back of her neck, lazily entwining my fingers in her hair. Last night's memories flooded my consciousness, Nora's mouth traversing my body in reverence, her hands welding unspeakable pleasure between my legs and her kiss branding my soul forever. I felt a raw, primal need to touch her as she had touched me and my fingers brushed the inside of her thigh. She sighed, almost imperceptibly, into my mouth and then suddenly, she was gone.
My eyes flew open and she was sitting at the opposite end of the bed, the sheet wrapped around her, shaking.
"Why did you scream?"
I was bewildered at the seismic emotional shift that had occurred so quickly. She was eyeing me with what appeared to be suspicion. I felt my throat swell up and I choked a bit as I said, "I...I had a nightmare. Just like you said."
"About what?" Her voice was different then, so alienated I could barely recognize it as she glared icily at me.
I swallowed with some difficulty. "Patrick," I whispered.
Her face fell for a moment, betraying her and she looked away.
"Nora, please. Please don't do this now."
"You're engaged to my brother. We shouldn't even be having this conversation."
"I told you Nora, I don't love him!"
"But he loves you!" she hissed and sprang from the bed. I watched her march, naked across the small room, thinking she must be so very cold. She yanked open the top drawer of her dresser and rummaged violently through its contents, grabbing a pair of hose. I watched, paralyzed with shock and still very naked.
She was now shimming into her navy blue morning dress, refusing to meet my gaze.
"Nora, look at me."
She ignored me, reaching for her boots.
I tore off the sheet and strode toward her, feeling the rising goose bumps summoned by the cool air and the beautiful woman before me. She was concentrating on buttoning her dress and I extended my hand, gingerly tilting her chin up, forcing her to make eye contact with me.
"Nora, I love you." Her eyes grew moist and I saw the muscles in her jaw clench. She shook her head.
"Tell me you don't love me," I whispered, as I leaned in, brushing my lips against hers as I spoke into her parted lips. "Tell me you don't love me, that there is nothing between us." I backed her up against the wall now. "Tell me you never want to touch me again and I will go. Tell me you regret making love to me...if you can speak those words, I will silence my longings and never breathe a word of this again."
She grabbed my upper arms in frustration and buried her face into my neck as she began to cry. I kissed the top of her head and wondered why I didn't feel guilty. "Ssshhh, love," I whispered rubbing her back as she sobbed in my arms.
I wanted to kiss her so desperately, to absolve her pain with my lips. I wanted to carry her back to bed and, with my mouth, mark her body as my own. But watching her weep, I knew I could do none of those things. She pulled away from me, wiping her eyes on the sleeve of her dress. Abruptly, she placed her hands on my cheeks, pulling me in for a kiss. Before I could respond, I felt her trickle from my arms and I heard the door open and close.
I sighed and pulled my morning dress over my head.
I did marry Patrick, about four weeks later. I don't remember much of it, although I recall a piercing sense of deja vue standing on the altar. Nora was there, though I could not bear to look at her because I knew if I did, I would burst into tears. I did catch a glimpse of her as we were leaving the church. She stood by a boisterous, talkative Brennan, head down and wringing her handkerchief.
Earlier in the week, Patrick had enlisted. Thanks to family ties and a respectable education, he was given a position as an officer. This meant I would accompany him to Charleston for training and where ever else fate led us.
Our coach clattered north on Route 17 as I allowed my head to fall back against the innermost wall. Patrick was smoking the pipe I bought him for Christmas and looking extremely content. My gaze drifted to the window and I watched sheets of snow plow into the earth, wondering if our driver could even see the road. I felt Patrick's arm loop around my shoulder and I immediately stiffened.
"I love you Kaitlyn."
I swallowed and felt as if my cheeks would crack as I offered a porcelain smile and replied mechanically.
"I love you too."
He beamed, apparently convinced and puffed on his pipe in self-satisfaction. I sighed, pitying him. He really had no idea.
And just like that, a wave of guilt washed over me, emptying my lungs and leaving me breathless. I inhaled sharply as memories possessed me. Patrick and I as children, chasing one another through the Kennedy's peach grove. Patrick teaching me how to shoot a marble and kissing my thumb when I winced in pain. Patrick's face when he asked me to dance at our first Cotillion.
And then I remembered writhing helplessly beneath his beautiful older sister.
I was suddenly afraid I might cry and I pursed my lips, fighting back tears. Emotion roiled within me, I both longed for Nora once more but longed to take it all back. I turned to face the window, willing to distract myself, to ponder anything except Nora. But her face was conjured before my mind's eye...from the quiet but devastating beauty of the silently falling snow.
I was quite familiar with Patrick's expectations as we checked into an inn just outside of Wentworth a few hours later. As he offered me his arm at the foot of the staircase, I longed, suddenly, for the cool touch of the keys of a piano. Furthermore, I longed to arrange the oscillating nocturne that had faded in and out of my consciousness all day. But as Patrick escorted me up the stairs, forever the perfect gentleman, I knew I had debts to pay.
I had never been distrustful of Patrick's intentions, but tonight, I felt as if all of his chivalry was a facade, in the name of anticipation.
As we ascended the staircase, I waged a war within myself. "Patrick loves you." I thought. "Isn't it only natural to want to consummate such love?" But I had never stiffened at Nora's touch.
By the time we had reached the second floor, I had committed to fulfilling my bridal duty. When Patrick unlocked the door with a soft click, I heard Nora's voice in my head.
Such is a woman's plight.
It was a century ago indeed and when Patrick took my hand and led me through the doorway, I heard the waves gently lapping the shores of the Savannah River. When he embraced me, I felt Nora bury her face into my neck, wetting it with hot tears. When he gently pushed me onto the bed, I saw Nora, pale and naked, rippling above me like a ghost. I watched from above, his lanky frame swaying over me and as he removed my clothes, I watched myself cower beneath him, shying away. I heard a muffled sob and suddenly I was underneath him again and his figure blotted out the light from the flickering candle in the windowsill.
"Kaitlyn." His voice was gentle. "What's wrong?"
I was silent and continued to fight back tears. What could I say?
He studied me for a moment and terror pierced my heart. He must know.
"We don't have to do this." He said at last, and rolled off of me. But his hand remained on my thigh. His concern fractured my last fibers of stoicism and I burst into tears.
I felt his arms around my shoulders as he pulled me in for a hug. It was meant to be comforting but I was so agitated by my vigilance and fear that I jerked away. Patrick was looking at me now and I could not meet his gaze. He took a deep breath, turned from me and reached for my bag. He handed me a nightgown.
"Thank you." I whispered, in a voice so frail I scarcely recognized it as my own.
When I slipped it over my head, Patrick reached for my hand. I knew he was searching for a respectful way to question my fears of physical intimacy. But there wasn't one, because like all proper ladies and gentleman, we did not discuss such things.
I felt a stirring within me, a surge of courage. I had to tell him.
He squeezed my hand and leaned over to kiss my forehead. "We don't have to talk about darling. I understand if you aren't...ready."
He thought I wasn't ready. Of course.
I shook my head in disbelief and lie down with my back towards him.
Nora held my hand as we retraced our steps through the north field. We crossed over to my family's property and climbed the steps of our wide wrap around porch. I opened the front door. The house was completely empty. The clock stood still.
I sat down on the piano bench and began a warm-up scale. Strange, there was no sound. But I felt Nora behind me, kissing my neck and my fingers slowed to a standstill. Her breath was warm on my collarbone, slightly tickling me. I turned to her and kissed her on the lips. Then, I took her hand and let her to my room.
"Watching you play piano, with those beautiful hands, I can't help myself." A smile played across her lips.
I unbuttoned her blouse, slowly, pressing my lips against her bare shoulder. She moaned.
I slowly began to back her up, until I felt the reverberation as she stopped suddenly, her knees against the foot of my bed. I put my hands on her shoulders, guiding her on to her back. Her hair fanned out onto my pillow, long, black and silky. She closed her eyes as I continued kiss her shoulder, my fingers now sliding beneath her waist band. She parted her lips and gasped softly. She looked like an angel.
I watched her, encouraged by her obvious enjoyment. I tugged her skirt down past her ankles and it fell silently to the floor. She pulled my shirt over my head and rid me of my remaining clothes. My lips wandered down to her delicate collarbone and my hand continued its journey to her sex.
I touched her and she gripped my forearms tightly, jaw clenched at first, then relaxed as she threw her head back, calling my name. I pulled her upright, onto my lap and plunged my fingers deeper into her. I felt her clenching and I buried my face in her neck, kissing down to her breasts and circling her nipple with my tongue. Her hands were in my hair, grabbing, pulling and dragging nails down my back.
And my hand was very warm, wet with her. She was breathing heavily.
"I wish you could feel how I love you." She said breathlessly.
I cradled her, still in my lap and laid her down onto the bed. I kissed her navel and pushed her legs apart.
"Oh Kaitlyn, I can't again. Not just yet."
"I think you can." I smiled impishly.
"Oh, oh, ohhhhhhh..." Her hips jerked violently as my tongue found its mark. Her legs began to quiver beneath my hands.
"Aaaaaaaaaaah..." And I tasted her, sweet on my tongue. She pulled me up and on top of her and I felt her nipples brush mine. She kissed me full, on the mouth, her hands cupping my face.
"My darling." She whispered. "My darling."
And I awoke, sun filtering through the curtains, just outside Wentworth. Patrick was sleeping soundly, his arm draped across me.
I wonder how many times Nora had dreamt of me, only to wake up in Brennan's lecherous grip.
Patrick and I continued to travel north, and it was on New Year's Eve that he received a letter in a thick, unmarked envelope. As he slit it open with his knife, I felt a strange premonition wash over me. He frowned as he read the smooth parchment and I noticed an elaborate insignia at the top. "Confederate States of America."
He glanced up to tell me what I already knew and then sighed when he saw my face.
"It will be alright Kaitlyn. Don't fret."
As much as I dreaded Patrick's touch, I loved him dearly and feared for his life on the battlefield. I knew, logically, that he was in danger, but the blood red letterhead reminded me that the past week of my life, my marriage, failed bridal duties and the threat the my husband's life were indeed real.
"We should expect the official secession in January. Governor Pickens expects Georgia and Virginia will secede as well. I am to report to Camp Patton by April and to Manassas Junction by June. I shall meet Brennan in Asheville, he has received a similar letter."
"But what will become of Nora?!" I blurted out immediately.
"Well...I expect she will return home to stay with mother and father, as Brennan is not an officer and thus not permitted to bring her along."
"Will they be safe there?" Georgia was far enough south that I imagined she would be fine for a while but I wanted to be sure.
"She will be fine. They say the Yankees won't make it through Virginia."
I smiled, genuinely, for the first time since my wedding. Relief flooded through me.
"What do you say we stop for a bite at the tavern across the street? I could go for some ale."
I patted his hand before pulling my own away and said, "I think that'd be fine."
Patrick and I shared a bed for many nights without intimate contact and never did he question my impotency. But one morning in March, over breakfast in Richmond, he breached the subject of children.
"Father has written me."
"Oh? And what does he have to say?" I prayed for news, something, anything, from Nora.
"He has asked if you are yet carrying a child."
My heart sank. I should've known. With Patrick's life at risk, the least I could do, as a loving wife, was reassure him and his parents with word of a child on the way.
Patrick was staring at me intently. I said nothing.
"Don't you want children Kaitlyn? You will be such a wonderful mother."
I grimaced at the thought. Children wouldn't be so bad, it was the making of them I wished to avoid.
Patrick sighed and dropped the subject as he remarked on the morning paper. I watched him reading and thought him still very handsome. I always had. He had beautiful silky black hair, like Nora and the same green eyes. But he had never stirred me from within as she had. I watched him fold the paper, his nails were always clean and he smelled wonderful as usual, a comforting leather and peppermint mixture. As I peered into my tea, I wondered what our children might look like, if we had them. I couldn't imagine they would be fair-haired and gray-eyed like I was, not with the Kennedy's strong features to contend with. My sister Elizabeth had brown hair and blue eyes, unlike myself. But the Kennedys looked so alike, were Nora and Patrick not of different sexes, you might mistake them for one another.
And I felt guilty, refusing Patrick an explanation. I hadn't considered confessing my affair with his sister since the words died on my lips the night of our wedding. And it was clear Patrick loved me, more than his spousal obligations required. I had heard stories of husbands who forced their wives to submit to them, often violently. I knew Patrick must care for and respect me deeply, having exercised restraint for so long. I imagined he was completely bewildered by my lack of desire for him, or maybe he thought me coy.
"Come, let us inquire about tickets to see that ballet." He reached for my shawl and held open the door as we departed.
Camp Patton was, in a word, surreal.
Gunshots, drum rolls, whistling, yelling. Trumpets.
I had never cared for trumpets and now I thoroughly detested them.
It had been months since I had touched I piano. But I comforted myself in writing scores, I had amassed over 150 compositions since my wedding. I had not played since we left Richmond.
Patrick found bought an old violin off of one of the privates.
"I know you'd prefer the piano but I thought you could occupy yourself with this until we are settled in with the grandest piano money can buy." He grinned and I hugged him.
"By the time we return to Savannah, I'll bet you can teach Nora a thing or two."
That was just ridiculous. Nora was the finest musician I knew. Not that I was biased.
At the mention of her name, I felt tears brimming on my eyelids. I kissed Patrick's cheek and wiped them off.
"Thank you Patrick."
The violin is a difficult instrument to play, even when one receives instruction. But, I had enough experience reading music and had a good enough ear to figure it out. Within a few weeks, I could play the treble clef of my scores. I always thought of Nora as I played, remembering her beautiful lips pursed in concentration, her nimble fingers commanding the strings and the muscles in her forearm subtly flexing as she flourished the bow. I felt connected to her as I played, comforted by the thought that in Savannah, she might be doing the same thing.
Patrick and I ambled along the street just outside of the Asheville courthouse. Brennan was collecting some documents inside, along with a check that I imagined he would fill his flask with later. I loathed Brennan; his presence ignited a silent anger within me that I sought to keep a secret. The thought of him touching Nora pierced me, crippling my resolve. He was so pathetic, so unworthy of her.
How I longed for Nora in those days! Endless days spent with the violin, the papers and a book or two. But I would often aid in cooking and cleaning around the camp, to detract from some of my idleness. And my dreams proved to be no escape. They were filled with Nora, smiling as she offered me a daisy, playing the violin and singing softly, or throwing her head back in rapture as she called out for me. I wished to write her letters, and I often started to. But words seemed to fail me, I knew not what to say after all of this time. So my letters provided little release, save the grim satisfaction of watching the parchment burn among the coals of the camp fire.