Bella needed someone to talk to. The Reverend and her had finally consummated their relationship and instead of feeling closer to him, she felt herself inching away from him. Paul hated Willis, otherwise she might have gone to him but she wasn’t interested in hearing his opinions on Willis right now. When she finally found Jack he was at his stand. She found herself a seat next to him and sighed, waiting for him to finish up with a customer before she began to speak to him.
“I’m sorry I haven’t come to talk to you anymore. There’s a lot that’s been going on. Can we just talk for bit? I feel like you’re the only person in the world I want to talk to right now.”
Jack didn’t seem to notice Bella as she sat down at first, having pulled himself into a bubble of time to paint. In a matter of thirty seconds for everyone else, he’d painted the portrait of the couple sat across from him. To observers watching, the painting seemed to magically appear on the canvas- it was the only way ones brain could interpret the time difference. There was some applause and Jack passed the painting to the couple who were marveled by it while others tossed some tips in the bucket at the base of his stall for the seemingly magical performance.
As everyone cleared out, he heard Bella’s voice and turned to see her there, slightly startled. “Sorry, didn’t notice you sit down…” He chuckled as he cleaned his brushes to ready them for another painting. Hearing her need to talk, he nodded and pulled the sign out from the side of his chair saying he was going on break. “Let’s go to the back.” He said, wheeling behind the tarp that lined the back of his stall. “Bring the chair.”
She followed Jack behind the stall with her chair and parked it near him once they were away from prying eyes. “Jack you have no idea how confused I am right now.” She lifted and brought down her arms in a motion that caused the ground to shake a little bit. She sighed as she realized what she’d done accidentally.
She looked at him with a long pause and then finally spoke. “The Reverend and I…” she twisted her fingers within themselves. “...we finally got together.” She looked up at him to see his reaction. He’d known how long she’d had a thing for the Reverend, it was all she could talk about when she was a teen.
They’d both had a thing for older men growing up. Though he’d only confided in her about his attraction to Kieran once they’d gotten older (thanks to a night of drinking). But his shock was clear. He’d honestly always thought the Reverend was more chaste than others. Granted, he wasn’t naive enough to think he’d been celebate, he’d assumed an actual relationship was something he saved for his faith- or something. The Reverend was always someone Jack just never quite understood as a person. Which he’d never had much of an issue with because he did believe in his sermons and his faith in God. Recently, Jack had come into conflict with his own beliefs and how they conflicted with his relationship with Kieran. And while they weren’t completely resolved, he had decided to keep them separate.
“Really? I’d heard rumors, but y’know how this place can be.” He’d been dealing with his own around all the time jumping himself. “Wasn’t sure what to believe… an’ well… things have been a bit of a mess ‘round me of recent. So real sorry I’ve not been there for ya.”
Her eyes softened and she placed a hand on Jacks. “I know, I haven’t been around to see you either. I’m really sorry about…well, everything.” Jack and her had been friends since they were young but over the last year or so she had sort of forgotten about him. “How are things going between you and Kieran?” She could hold off on her own drama for a bit to offer an ear to Jack.
The truth was she was confused, and a bit scared if she was being totally honest. She couldn’t help questioning everything Willis did and watching his every move.
“They’re fine.” Jack said with a small shake of his head. Truthfully, they were still stressful and he felt like he was walking a thin line with his lover. He honestly didn’t feel like things would feel normal again until they actually got home. But he wasn’t the kind to trouble her with his relationship issues. “I think everyone’s a bit on edge with bein’ away from home.” He wondered if anyone else felt time being physically out of sync like he could- it was most likely just because of his sphere of magic. Still, he wished he could share it so they’d understand why he desired to go back so badly. ‘They’ being Kieran of course. “An’ dun be sorry. We got jobs an’ things goin’ on. I’m jus’ ‘bout as guilty as you are.”
She offered him a smile and nodded her head. “Yeah you’re right.” It wasn’t like he’d gone to see her either. And right now she really needed to tell someone or she might just explode. “Jack…” she sort of began to laugh and cry at the same time. “Jack he’s bad in bed.” She laughed at herself then and buried her face in her hands to hide from embarrassment.
“And I still love him so much but I don’t think he really loves me.” She adjusted herself to a more comfortable position in her chair. “It’s like, we were in the middle of...it, and for just one moment I thought I saw the real him.” She looked off into the distance with a wistful smile. Her eyes softened as she spoke next.
“And just like that, it vanished.”
Jack didn’t really want to think of a man of the cloth in bed, but then again he didn’t have much defense. “Not sure I can really say much m’self on that. Learned a lot with Kieran, but was different with girls.” Bella had never really approved of the girls he’d been with in the past. There few there were, were dancers in the coochie show who probably took pity on him. At least that’s what he’d always worried. None of them had stuck around long. “They sorta had t’do all the work.” He chuckled, rubbing his neck. “But I learned from Kieran y’gotta talk ‘bout it. It’s God Damn uncomfortable, but it works.
Her comment about love made him shrug a bit. “Bein’ honest, only thing I know for sure ‘bout the Reverend is that when he talks about God, he believes.” You could almost feel the word. His faith was almost inspiring and tangible. “Y’should be with someone jus’ as devoted t’you.”
She listened because she knew that Jack and Kieran had something special. She didn’t quite agree with what they were doing together but they seemed to get each other. “I don’t know if he is. He spent 12 years just denying me. What if he just wants to be with me to shut me the hell up?”
It wouldn’t exactly surprise her, Bella wasn’t good at keeping her trap shut. “I don’t know what I’m doing, Jack. Maybe I’m just not meant to be with anyone.” The idea scared her cause she wanted kids of her own, and soon.
If only she knew that Willis could never give them to her.
He reached out and took her hand. “You deserve happiness Bell.” Jack insisted. “An’ if he thought sayin’ yes would just shut you up…” A brow arched. “I dun think he’s met you.” He teased. Jack had never known Bella to keep her opinion secret. When they were younger she tried to be like the young ladies who visited, keeping her mouth shut and being ‘proper’. But it never took. He’d never judged her for it either. She’d helped him come out of his shell, he’d been so quiet and scared when he was younger, always afraid people were judging him. It may have helped him become a better artist, but she’d helped to make him a better person. And he did like how they did have their faith in common as well. Able to go through those moments of questioning together. “But I’m not joshin’ ya do deserve someone who treats ya well and loves ya with all their heart.”
She let out a sad chuckle at Jack's astute observation about her. “Yeah I guess you’re right. I just don’t know if I found someone who loves me with all his heart. Not even sure there is much of a heart in there.” The more time she spent with him, the more she saw that.
She squeezed his hand in hers and tried to hold back her tears. Loving Willis was hard, always had been but why was it so much harder now?
“It’s recently been brought t’mah attention tha’ communication is important.” Jack said with a small shrug. His inability to communicate and trust as much as he should was probably the reason they ended up in 1950. “Have y’tried t’talk t’him? Let’em know how ya feel?”
Jack was right of course but Bella didn’t like to be in the wrong and she needed to make every excuse she could muster. “I’ve talked with him so many times Jack but communication goes both ways. It’s like I don’t even know anything about him. Like I’ve been working with him all these years and he’s practically a stranger to me.” She sighed and shook her head.
“You’re right, I should talk to him. It’s nothing I’m sure I’m just not used to being happy I guess.” They were excuses but they worked for her.
“How many times did ya actually spend social with him?” Jack asked. “Rev’s always seemed like a real close to the vest kinda guy. But, I’m also not th’best when it comes t’relationships.” He admitted. While his time in 2020 had made him more comfortable with being with Kieran, he didn’t hide it around the carnival as much anymore, he was still apprehensive about going back to 1920 and that things might go back to the way they were. It had taken him years to admit to the roommate he’d fallen asleep watching and dreamed of to admit he had feelings for him. “Prolly others y’d get better advice from than me. Mean, I get mine from Ben a lot-” He wrinkled his nose slightly, hoping he didn’t offend her for not going to her about it like with the girls he’d seen in the past.
Bella was religious, there was no doubt about it but she didn’t care what people were up to in their bedrooms. So long as everyone involved was an adult it didn’t matter much to her. And Jack, he’d been there for her since she was a girl so she never thought anything bad about the two of them. Except for maybe that the good doctor never made his way to a church service, he seemed like he was good to Jack.
“We have time from here to there.” She admitted which was not as much if she was honest with herself. “And don’t be silly, you’re about the only one I can count on for good advice. You and Kieran seem like you two are really in love and I could use advice from someone in love.” Hadn’t she been that not so long ago? What was happening to her?
“In love yea, but not without m’faults.” Jack replied with a slight frown. “Kinda messed up pretty big, recoverin’ now, but I thought I’d blown it up for a minute there.”
Bella’s brows knit as listened to Jack. “What happened?” She asked, because she needed to know how these things played out. Bella had never actually dated anyone and she knew there was going to be some way she messed it up.
Jack rubbed the back of his neck as he looked to his knees. “Y’remember ‘fore we left New Orleans, bunch a’folks left and came back hurt?” He asked. “I was part’a that. But, din really tell Kieran ‘fore I left. Sorta jus’ left a note.” His face contorted, showing the shame and guilt he felt for not trusting his lover. “Let’s jus’ say that din go over real well.”
She sighed and gave him a look over before forcing him to look her in the eye. “That’s nothing. There isn’t anything about that that's not forgivable.” She took his hands in hers and squeezed.
“If he’s really the one for you then you two can work through it, I know it.” It would be nice if Bella opened her eyes to that herself but she’d spent so much time in love with one man that she didn’t even know how to act in a relationship with him.
She looked at the time and offered him a smile. “I gotta get going. I’ll see you around?” She asked, standing from her chair.
“Just take y’r own advice Belle.” He said with a nod and smile. “Thanks f’comin by. We gotta stop bein’ such strangers. Least do more meals t’gether t’keep caught up or somethin’.” He proposed with a small wave.
She smiled at him as she walked away. “Count me in.” And with that she returned to the whip.