Notes: Every few years, I write a Halloween fic, intentionally or not, and this year, I offer a bit of a ghostly tale. This is set the night before Charlotte and Chris's wedding, which would place it just after The Heart of a Friend, if you're keeping track. This is a story in the Echoes the Sea series, and many thanks to strangevisitor7 for the beta.
Summary: On the night before her wedding, Charlotte thinks back to a wedding a century before, leading her to a place and a reunion she hadn't expected.
Rancho Caballo Rojo, New Mexico Territory, October 1867
A hush had fallen over the night, and Charlotte felt as if she might be the only person not tucked into bed this midnight hour. Quietly moving across her bedroom, she came to the old trunk that sat under the window, undoing the hasp and raising the lid. The scent of cedar, cinnamon, and roses wafted out. Reaching in, she removed a small jewel chest of rosewood that glowed with the soft sheen of age and much use. Carrying the chest over to the bureau, she opened it, running light fingers over the objects held within, before picking up a locket on a fine gold chain and slipping it over her head. Then she removed an octagonal ebony box, banded with gold, and a domed lid, before walking to the rocking chair in front of the kiva fireplace and sitting down.
The dawn would bring with it her wedding day, and by this time tomorrow, she’d be Mrs. Larabee. A new future awaited; someone to share her life with, no longer alone, love and joy. As much as her thoughts were focused on what the day ahead would bring, she had also found herself remembering another wedding a century before. She could only pray that God would grant her and Chris the same years of happiness that she and Jack had shared. The young widow she had been on first meeting Jack Sparrow could not have imagined the life that lay ahead of her. And truth be told, she doubted her older self would be able to either. She might be Immortal, but she was still human, with a life to live that came with no map to follow.
Setting the box on her lap, Charlotte opened the locket hanging around her neck, looking down at the miniature portraits contained within of her and Jack. It had been his tenth anniversary present to her. She had gazed at his picture uncounted times when he’d been long at sea on voyages that she could not accompany him. Being able to look upon his face had given her comfort as the lonely days had passed till he returned safely home to her. With a soft sigh, she snapped it closed gently, letting it fall back into the folds of her dressing gown. Resting her hand on the box upon her lap, she wondered if she should open it. After all, she hardly required proof, did she? Shaking her head, she caressed the domed lid of lapis lazuli. No, and yet…she did desire to look upon it for the memories it held.
Decision made, she opened the small box, looking down at the compass contained within. It had been one of Jack’s most prized possessions and it had never been far from him in the decades they’d been married. This despite the fact he claimed it had never worked for him again after they’d met. Holding it up, she smiled, noting that the needle had not moved; which was as it should be. She knew full well where her heart’s desire lay.
Placing the compass back on her lap, she laid one hand upon it, while she fingered the smooth gold of the locket with the other. Slowly rocking the chair, she stared into the fire, casting her thoughts back to a place where the sound of the surf was a constant accompaniment, and the fragrance of salt and seaweed melded with the soft perfume of tropical blossoms. Gently, sleep took its hold, drawing her down into the domain of dreams….
The air was moist and warm, the earth soft under her bare feet as she walked the path down to the shore. Holding her arms out, she let her fingers skim the hibiscus that lined her way, breathing in deep the scent that would always take her to this place and this time.
Reaching the sands, she looked up at the moon, a feeling of serenity settling over her like the most delicate lace. She walked farther, towards the water, finally stopping at the edge of the surf, the damp sand pressing between her toes. A wave skittered across the smooth surface, just brushing at her ankles, leaving sparkling droplets of water on her skin as it fled back towards the ocean. How she’d loved it here, a part of her missing it still, so many years later. A place she was now only able to visit in dreams. They had been happy here, they had lived a life here, and they had loved here.
“It has been long since you’ve traveled to these far shores,” his voice said from somewhere behind her. “And this is likely the last time your heart will seek out this place.”
Charlotte pressed her fists against her throat, tightly closing her eyes. It all seemed so real, he sounded so real. A hand came to rest at the back of her neck, and she trembled, leaning into the touch.
“There now, my love, it is as it should be. Did I not tell you, those last hours we had together, that you weren’t to lock your heart in a chest? I am happy for you, my dearest.” She could feel his breath, warm against her skin.
“You shall always dwell in my heart, Jack Sparrow.” Slowly, she turned, almost afraid, opening her eyes. But what might have been fear quickly turned to delight on seeing her beloved standing there, the devilish smile that had always brightened the cloudiest day on his lips. The smile she’d fallen in love with. Reaching out a hesitant hand, she took one step forward. “I miss you still.”
“And yet, I have always been here.” He took her hand tight in his, drawing her closer. “You had only to call.”
Smiling softly, she brushed his lips with her fingertips. “How I wish that were so.”
“You doubt, m’lady? Perchance you think this be but a dream, over and forgotten once the cock crows?” He laughed. “You always did have trouble believing in what wasn’t right under your nose,” he admonished gently.
She shook her head. Even in her dreams, he never changed. “Very well, husband, I shall humour you and accept that somehow, this night, I have come to walk that place between the worlds and commune with the shades of the dead.”
He threw up his hands. “You needn’t be quite so blunt about it, lass! Dead I may be, but there’s no call making a point of it,” he huffed.
Laughing gaily, she said, “Apologies, dearest. It was not my intention to remind you of your altered state.”
“You always were a contrary wench,” he said warmly, stroking her hair. “And by the gods, I loved you for it.” Taking her hand once more, they began to walk down the beach. “You wed upon the morrow.”
He chuckled. “I remember well enough the day you said those words to me.”
She felt a pang of guilt. “Jack, I’m sorry—“
“For what, Charlotte? For falling in love? For finding happiness in the arms of another? It is all I ever wanted for you, dear heart. You must know that.”
Nodding uncertainly, she squeezed his hand. “I know, but still I feel as if I have betrayed your memory; wedding another.”
“You truly love him, do you not?”
“I love him very much. Chris heals that place in my soul, Jack. That sad and dark place that I thought would always be with me.”
“I am glad, Charlotte. You deserve such love, even if it is only for a little while.” He sounded somber.
Charlotte’s heart clenched. A little while? “What do you mean, Jack?” she demanded. “Do you have some window into my future?”
Jack stopped, pulling her around to face him. “Hush now, you see shadows where none are. I only meant that with your unnatural span of years, that all such bonds are for but a brief moment.”
She searched his eyes, trying to find the lie, but finding none. Haltingly, she nodded. “I’m sorry…of course….” But still, she felt unsettled. It is only a dream! Nothing more.
He drew her close, his lips settling over hers, kissing her gently, a kiss she returned, melding against him like the tide into the reef. He smelled like the sun and the sea and tasted like rum and black powder. To her nose and her tongue – and her heart – he was home.
“If I could only keep you here,” he whispered against her lips, “I would, and be damned what’s right and proper.”
“Shhhh…. It cannot be, nor should it. Greet the dawn, my dearest love, and embrace he who loves you. Be happy, Charlotte. Be happy.” His voice sounded very far away and he looked almost translucent, his touch now feeling no more substantial than spider webs against her skin.
The first rays of the sun traced ruby fingers over the horizon and across the sands. No! It was too soon! She had so much she needed to say. “Please don’t go!” she cried.
A gust of wind blew across the waves, buffeting her with its strength, and in that wind she thought she heard, “I love you.”
She raised her face to the Morning Star. “And I love you.”
Charlotte moved restlessly in her chair, hands twisting the fabric of her dressing gown in tight fists. She awoke with a start, frantically searching her bedroom, heart racing, as the memory of her dream poured into her waking mind. Pressing her fingers against her lips, she shook her head. It had all seemed so very real. Taking a deep, steadying breath, she stood, gripping the compass in her hand. Only a dream, she told herself, the sound of gulls calming her.
Shock suffused her. Gulls? And not just gulls, she could hear waves crashing against the shore. Whirling, she stared at the French doors leading to her rose garden, doors that had been closed. Except now, those doors were open wide, and the scent of the sea was wafting past her. None of these things should exist in the desert of New Mexico.
"A wedding present, if you like; I know how much you have missed the sea", she thought she heard Jack’s voice say, as something, or someone, pushed gently at the small of her back. Complying, she walked to the door, stepping out onto the verandah…and watched the sun rise over the Caribbean.