Notes: In the final part of Transformative Variations, Tony mentions a book his Aunt Peggy gave him as a boy. This is the story of where that book came from.
Character(s): Peggy Carter, Charlotte Sparrow
Summary: A few years after the war, two friends discuss loss, love, and moving on.
Tales of the Seven Seas
1952 ~ South Carolina
"You have a lovely home," Peggy Carter told her hostess. "I'm very glad that you convinced me to visit."
Charlotte looked around the inviting kitchen of her Revolutionary War era home and smiled. "Thank you." She poured more tea into her guest's cup. "I only had electricity put in a few years ago – I thought it was perfectly fine without, but Ezra complained bitterly when he and Molly visited. I gave in." She grinned, remembering Ezra's melodramatic protests at the lack of amenities in her old home. Then she shook her head. "It was time. I'd resisted changing anything about the place, wanting to keep it as it was when Jack and I lived here; even knowing Jack would consider it nonsense."
Peggy nodded. "How are Ezra and Molly?"
"They're well; currently living in San Francisco and enjoying married life."
"Everyone has moved on, it seems. Nick's with the CIA now, as I'm sure you know."
"We saw each other a few months ago when I took a trip up north." She sipped her tea before asking, "And Howard? I read about him in the papers; he's made Stark Industries a huge success."
Shaking her head, Peggy fingered the bone china saucer on the table in front of her. "The war changed him; he never forgave himself for not being able to find Steve—" her voice caught, "—Howard felt as if he failed him, failed me. There's a hardness about him now. He's driven, but not by the joy of invention and discovery as he used to be."
"I'm sorry." Charlotte reached out, squeezing Peggy's hand.
"I am too," she said wistfully.
Charlotte made her way down the stairs, shielding the candle flame with her hand. So much for electricity, she thought, amused. A storm had blown in just after supper, and it had increased in strength as the night lengthened. When the gusts of wind, hammering at the side of the house, had woken her, she'd realized the power was out. Reaching the bottom, she saw light coming from under the library door; her houseguest, no doubt. Reaching the door, she slowly pushed it open, spying Peggy curled up on the chesterfield, reading a book, a lit hurricane lamp on the table at her side.
"You couldn't sleep either?" Peggy asked, as Charlotte entered the room.
Shaking her head, Charlotte put the candleholder on the mantel, reaching down to pick up a piece of firewood, and placing it on the cheerful blaze in the hearth. Straightening, she said, "I'm glad I'm not at sea tonight."
"I'll wager he would have loved it," Peggy replied, pointing the book she was reading at the portrait above the fireplace.
"He would have," she agreed, looking up fondly at the painting of her late husband, Jack Sparrow. Captain Jack Sparrow, she reminded herself with a mental laugh.
"Do you still miss him?"
She looked over at her friend, seeing the sadness in her eyes. "Sometimes; I suppose I always shall." Crossing the floor, she sat down next to Peggy. "But we had many years together, and Jack lived a long and fulfilling life. There were no regrets; for either of us."
"It's not the same then, is it?" This was said more to herself than to Charlotte, but Charlotte knew exactly where her thoughts were.
"No, dearest Peggy, it isn't. What you had with Captain Rogers was the promise of a future yet to come, a future that was torn from you most cruelly, before you ever had a chance to experience it. That is a bitter grief, a grief that leaves a wound in your soul that is never wholly healed."
Peggy wiped at her eyes. "How many of those wounds do you bear?" she asked quietly.
The storm had blown itself out, and now, the brilliance of the day was as powerful as the wind of the night prior. Charlotte sat on the verandah in her rocking chair, shucking peas for the evening's supper, humming to herself quietly. The squeak of floorboards was soon followed by the creak of the porch swing as Peggy sat down, the book of the night before in her hand.
"Did Jack write this, or did you?" Peggy asked, indicating the book, A Pirate's Life For Me, Tales of the Seven Seas, that she held.
"Jack dictated, and I wrote. In the final months of his life, it was a way to keep himself entertained when he was confined to the house."
"And for you?" Peggy's voice held an understanding that belied her years.
"For me?" Charlotte looked into the distance. "I suppose it was a way to ward off reality, that my beloved was slipping away, and that soon, I would be alone, standing at his grave."
"How do you move on?"
"It isn't easy," Charlotte admitted. "But time, and finding another heart that speaks to us, can carry us past the pain and the loss, however impossible it might seem." She reached over, her fingers brushing the spine of the book in Peggy's hands. "And the knowledge that those we loved would want us to love again – to be loved again."
"How long will you stay here?" Peggy turned to Charlotte as they crossed the yard toward the beach.
"A few more years yet, then I think I shall return to the Caribbean for a time. It has been some years since I have been. There, I feel Jack's presence most strongly, but I think that now, that presence will bring comfort."
"And then you'll disappear." Peggy sounded resigned.
Charlotte hooked her arm with Peggy's. "I will, but my friends will know where to find me. You are always most welcome; whoever and wherever I may be."
"I'm glad, because this friend isn't ready to let you go quite yet."
"Nor I you."
"I've never been to the Caribbean," Peggy said. "Is it as lovely as they say?"
"It is! And you must come. The beaches, the rum…the handsome young men." Both women giggled. "I shall take you sailing, and we will hunt pirate treasure."
"Not much of a hunt when you know where it's buried," Peggy said with a laugh.
"Details! And it's been more than a century, after all; so something of a challenge, I think."
"How can I resist? It's a deal!"
Peggy pulled on her gloves as the cab arrived at the front of the house. "I've had a wonderful time, Charlotte. Thank you."
"It was my pleasure," Charlotte said, kissing Peggy on the cheek. "And this won't be our last visit."
"I look forward to it."
"Please remember me to Howard when you see him next."
Peggy started down the stairs, only to be stopped by Charlotte's hand on her arm.
"Wait! I almost forgot!" With that, Charlotte dashed in the front door, soon returning with a book in hand.
"Take this with you; to put you in the right mood for our Caribbean adventure."
"Charlotte, I couldn't—" she began to protest.
"Of course you can! And I have a few more copies stashed away here and there. I insist."
"Very well," Peggy said. "Thank you. I'll treasure it."
"And you're doing me a great favour."
Charlotte laughed lightly. "Jack always wanted to be remembered in story and song, so you taking the book aids in that wish."
"Then I shall make it my mission to assure that Captain Sparrow gets his wish."
Charlotte hugged her. "Fair journeys, my friend."
"Fair journeys, Charlotte; till we meet again."