J.T. Lewis On The Origins of Pepper & Longstreet-Part II
Over the next two weeks we spent every waking hour together, and I enjoyed myself immensely. For her part, she seemed to be enjoying my company as well.
But there was one odd thing that presented itself now and again. Periodically, she would seem to be having a conversation with someone else, someone that was not there. I noticed it infrequently at first, but as we got closer and spent even more time with each other, it seemed to occur more frequently. Bothered by it a little at first, I came to accept it, figuring I would find out eventually if we spent enough time together.
On the second to last night at camp, I was in a quandary. I liked Pepper immensely, and was certain that these two weeks were not going to be enough…not near enough. She had easily dug me out of the hole of gloom that I had previously been buried in, and had done so effortlessly.
But she had a life back home, and I wasn’t sure as to how to proceed. Although she seemed smitten with me as well, I did not want to force myself on her just because our time here was becoming short.
That night around the fire, she got up to retrieve something and tripped on a root in the ground. Losing her balance, she started to fall. I was up in a flash, easily catching her in my arms. As we stood there, staring into each other’s eyes, I could smell her sweet musk of lavender and Savanna dust.
Her smile told me everything I needed to know.
We held hands as we sat close to each other the rest of the night with nary a word passing between us. Although it would have been the easiest thing for either of us to fall into bed together that night, we just sat there and let the essence of each other soak into our souls.
I woke at sunrise in front of the now dead fire, she in my arms. We got up and got ready for our day…the last.
This day was going to be a treat for the customers; we would be riding elephants on our excursion today.
Getting everybody up on their pachyderm took awhile, but the porters and the elephants themselves seemed to take the wait in stride.
Everything was going great as we slowly lumbered our way through the plains, taking in the birds and other wildlife around us.
Suddenly Pepper’s elephant let out a loud trumpet as it started swinging its trunk side to side, clearly agitated about something.
As I watched in horror, her elephant reared up as Pepper was thrown from her seat, landing hard on the dry, packed earth. I tried to get off of my perch quickly, getting tangled up in the reigns for my effort. I finally unwound the leather straps from my feet and slid down the side….just as the other elephant fell…on Pepper!
By the time I reached her side, the damage had been done. I quickly helped the porter get the animal up and ran around to find Pepper. She laid flat on her back with those pale blue eyes staring up at the sky, a small smile on her lips, a line of blood running down her cheek.
Tears stained my cheeks as I kneeled beside her, wanting to hug her, but taking her hand gently in mine instead.
She rolled her head slightly to look at me, her smile as bright as the day we met.
“It would have been grand,” she said as a small tear formed in one eye, “grand indeed.”
“It’s not over! You are going to pull out of this!” I yelled at her, “You have to pull out of this! I Love You!”
“Aye, I’m thinkin I’m a wee bit in love with you too,” she whispered, an Irish lilt coming to the fore.
I smiled through my tears, “damn good thing!” I whispered back.
She smiled brightly at me, but then looked back up to the sky suddenly. Her eyes glazed over slightly as she raised her other arm to the sky, her smile returning once more.
“Longstreet, I think I may need your help one more time.”
So that’s my story of how Pepper and Longstreet came about. The stories of a teen detective and her ghostly partner, inspired by a love lost that left me a better man in the wake.