A Daisy for Hannah Jane: Chapter XIII

From the ongoing novel A Daisy for Hannah Jane.

Rachel St. Louis, Copy Chief

A Daisy for Hannah Jane


Chapter XIII

He watched Hannah Jane stoke the fire with an expert hand, firelight fleeting across her distraught face.

Even in the dark she was beautiful. Light cascaded over her cheekbones and her straight, thin nose. Then it flickered over the tiny cleft in her chin, extending to her flawless jawline that was bronze in the fire’s glow.

But her smooth forehead converted to a group of wrinkles. A few veins were visible even from a few feet away. It hurt Jamison to see her so bereaved of cheerfulness, as if her depression was his own. And it is.

Hannah Jane steadied herself and stood, using her small, nimble fingers to tuck some of her thick chestnut hair behind her ear. Jamison thought her little movements endearing. Everything she did was so… pleasant. Still, in spite of herself, Janie thought she was a wretched girl. It was beyond him. Why can’t she see the good? Everyone grieves and everyone makes mistakes, billions of them. She shouldn’t be hung up on hopeless expectations.

Let’s face it: She can’t be the social woman her grandmother wants her to be, and she can’t turn into a cold shell like Mrs. Chauldings, either. The pressure after Raymond’s death, losing their house, and having to move here only to find out I was Raymond’s younger sibling wasn’t her fault. So when will she be who she is without so much stress? No person, living or dead, is perfect. Please, Mrs. Chauldings, give her a break!

Jamison rubbed his temple, pondering over the petite Hannah Jane. Her obvious innocence proved her a young teenager, but her experiences, even those of the past few months, painted her with years. Yet, through it all, young life bloomed in and around her. She’d always had that confident air of expectation for the future, even when Jamison had first met her.

He remembered that day when she stood blankly at the door in a simple dress, her untamed hair tumbling down her back and her cheeks full like a child’s while round, lustrous irises were set heavy in her eyes. She’d had nerve then, more nerve than what Sir Henry had thought. Her silence was only a trap. From then on, she was out for the kill. Hannah Jane was still smart and crisp, but sometimes he wondered…

“More tea, sir?” a maid inquired, snapping him back to the present. He shook his head without processing her question first. No matter. He never liked tea anyway.

The maid hurried over to the fireplace and looked at Hannah Jane’s hands as if they were covered in poison instead of a light dusting of ashes. “Oh, you mustn’t be touching that; the lady of the house would disapprove. Let me take care of that, miss.”

Indignant, Hannah Jane rose and allowed the hired girl to rearrange the fire she’d built, ruining it and blocking air flow from under the kindling. Jamison watched her fingers curl into her palms and then release themselves when she spotted strawberry tarts on a tray the nosy maid had brought in. A happy smile lit her face as if she was but seven and helped herself.

Hannah Jane could feel his stare. She turned to face him, the hem of her dress floating over her slippered feet. “What do you find so amusing?”

“I beg your pardon, miss. Was I laughing?”

Her dimples couldn’t hide. “If you may be so bold.”

Jamison chuckled comfortably. Hannah Jane was eager for all things good and was a pleasure to be around. Yet he knew she was missing full maturity, like she lacked spiritual soundness and a firm foundation of who she really was. Jamison often pondered over Hannah Jane at night, distressed from sleep’s messages. Nightmares haunted him often now, which was strange because he couldn’t remember having frightful dreams in the past. Most of the time the dreams consisted of Jamison trying to save Hannah Jane from some fatal catastrophe, whether it was a tornado, a fall from a cliff, an earthquake, a boat crash, fighting on the fronts, or even watching her fade into thin air helplessly.

The worst one, though, was only last night. It had awakened him with a start. Jamison closed his eyes as Hannah Jane sat on a couch and ate her fill of tarts, fatigued from the memory.

He had fallen asleep after candlelit hours of prayer, only to enter the land of dreams and see that the sky was overcast. It seemed angry, sending tormenting winds down to earth. Only there was no earth, no cracks in the dry land to even slip through. Jamison stood hunched over in a small boat, gripping its rough wooden edge and restraining the bile that rose to his burning throat. He had trouble seeing. The wind and the fierce rain were misting his eyes. Agonizing screams for help reached his ears and he was suddenly confused with the urge to save the caller. He scrambled between wiping his eyes, keeping his food down, and staying in the flimsy boat. It felt like ages until he could see through the storm — not that it had calmed in the least — and saw the shape of a body being flung to and fro in the abyss of an unforgiving sea. No one else was in sight, as he was alone on the makeshift dingy. Large debris was churned in the swirling black waters, the person among them. When the boat was thrusted further into the maelstrom, he recognized the destitute person. Hannah Jane.

She shrieked like no human could shriek while she was being spun in circles, faster and faster. Jamison tried to shout to her. “I’ll save you!” he hollered over the din. “I’ll rescue you! It’ll be okay! It’ll be okay!” He exerted all the strength he could to bellow through the storm, but the oblivious Hannah Jane drowned his voice with her own. She went under and Jamison’s heart nearly stopped beating. When her head bobbed up, it was covered in mire so that he couldn’t tell the filth from her face. He looked up, chest flaming. Both of them were closer and closer to the center of the massive whirlpool.

He committed the bravest of suicides and let the sea take him, telling it to restore Hannah Jane instead like it was a real human tyrant. “Let her live,” he cried into the foul vortex of hate. “Let her live!”

But as soon as he said it, the sea pushed him through the currents and into Hannah Jane. He grasped her muddy hand and used his own to wipe her face. Her wide eyes were full of nothing but uncontrollable fear. He wouldn’t let her go, locking ankles with her while they drifted further. She tried to speak but couldn’t. He tried to soothe her but couldn’t. He just couldn’t.

A few locks of grimy hair were plastered to her haggard face, framing the blue veins near her temples that began to fail at pulsing. Her face turned blue and then to ice, something ghastly covering her paralyzed body. Only her eyes, those big, empty eyes yet so full of terror remained. “Janie, no!” He was losing her. “Oh, God, no!

His last three words echoed in the night. He was up with a start, his nightshirt soaked, his whole body jittering and drenched in sweat. He could see the outline of his wet back on the sheets. I’m alive, he had thought to himself. Janie’s alive. It was a dream. It was only a dream.

“Jamison, you’re really pale.” Hannah Jane pressed her cool hand to his forehead. “Are you all right? You look like you’re about to faint. Do you need to lie down?”

His eyelids fluttered open and he looked up into her concerned face. No blueness, no terror. Everything was fine.

“Fine. I’m fine,” he replied, repeating his thoughts. He noticed he did that a lot lately. Do I have some weird problem? Maybe I don’t tell people much.

Hannah Jane’s brow furrowed tighter. “Are you sure?”

Jamison smiled. “Will you do me a favor, miss?”

She gave him a look. “Hannah Jane.”

“Will you do me a favor, Hannah Jane?”

She clasped her hands behind her back. “Of course, Sir Jamison II.”

He raised his eyebrow imperiously and motioned to the doorway. “Could you please give me the book that’s on my desk in the study?”

She looked confused, but answered him anyway. “Sure. Is it important?”

He spread his hands behind his head and leaned back. “Some would think so.” Because he was going to read her something very, very important.