(A/N: Clearly my first update in a LONG while. As I mentioned in my profile, I'll try to edit and improve upon this story as I go, so some of the older chapters may or may not be redone in the future . . . if I remember to do so. Thanks for your patience!)

Chapter Seventeen: Missing Pieces

The eyes of Bently and every single person on the porch were on me, awaiting my answer. Yes or no? Which one? What do I say? "N-no." My reply came out as a choked sob. I looked down at the ground and said softly, "No, I d-don't love him." Tears flowed endlessly down my cheeks, and dropped to the ground, making small spots on the snow.

Even though I could not see it, I could feel Christopher's eyes, seemingly boring into my head. I raised my eyes to meet his, but could not see his face; my vision was blurred all too much by my tears. I looked away again, for I couldn't look at Chris. Not now. His eyes had been filled with different emotions . . .

Hurt? Betrayal? Anger? One or the other, or all three?

I stifled a sob and Bently motioned for the others to take Joseph and Chris away. Please understand, Chris, I pleaded silently. Please understand what I've done was only to keep you from hurt. Please, Chris . . . And then I realized that I did hurt him. Although not, physically, of course. I knew I couldn't change my answer now. What would Bently do if I did? My answer had been final, but it had been a lie.

Chris looked at me a last time, then looked away, turning to follow his brother to who knows where?

"Chris - " I stepped forward, but someone held me back. All I could do now was watch as Christopher Trent was taken away. As much as I tried, I couldn't hold back my sobs any longer. As the sobs racked my body, Therese laid a hand on my arm. What have I done? How could I have done this?

Would Chris hear my sobs? Would he know how I really felt for him? Soon, it began to snow, and we all looked up at the sky.

"We . . . should head indoors. We'll catch our deaths if we stay out here much longer." We obeyed Mother's words, and proceeded inside, Father and Matthew helping Nathaniel to the sofa.

As I headed up the stairs silently, hearing Father give Nathaniel strict orders to stay on the sofa after he'd been bandaged. I laid down in my bed, pulled my new quilt close around my body, and sobbed myself to sleep.

"Do you think we should wake her up?" I was only waking up, and only faintly aware of the conversation taking place just outside the doorway. But still, I listened.

"Perhaps. Everyone else is already awake."

"But do you think she is well? After what happened last night?"

Matthew and Gabriel. Of course, they were talking about what had happened the previous night. With Chris and Joseph. And being the protective brothers they are, they were wondering if I could handle it.

I hoped I could.

"Cecilia? Cecilia, are you awake?" One of them knocked on the door, and the other called me softly. I sat up slowly and nodded.

"Well, come on now, breakfast is ready. And we'd best hurry, otherwise there will be no more seats left at Christmas mass."

Matthew's voice was laced with an attempt of cheerfulness, which would have been very believable, if not for that look in his eyes that said he was hiding something. In this case, his emotions.

I only nodded. I didn't trust myself to speak. At least, not yet.

"Well, come on, or are you simply going to stare at us?" I tried my best to smile, knowing that Gabriel had hoped for that result, but it was hard, knowing very well the reason why I felt as if my heart had been torn from my chest. Or, on a less drastic note, that a part of me had been taken away.

Which was the same as my heart being torn from my chest, in a sense.

But still, as I walked down with Matthew and Gabriel to breakfast, I tried to act as I usually would . . . I tried to follow my daily routine as best I could, all the while trying not to think of Chris and Joseph.

"Good morning, darling." Mother smiled at me as she set the last plate onto the table. I returned the gesture, even though it was a little slower than I originally would have. Mother's voice was in fact, cheerful, but it was her smile that showed she wasn't feeling joy at all. The smile had been a little forced, much like the smiles I'd given to Gabriel, and to her.

Of course, the reason was obvious. . . .

Why did this have to happen? I asked in my head. What did Chris or Joseph ever do wrong? No! Don't think of them. Just . . . focus on what his happening at the present moment. Forget about it. Act like nothing happened.

I picked at the breakfast, which was leftover food from the previous night.

"Could you take some food to Nathaniel?" Mother asked after I'd finished. "Your father and I would prefer it he didn't move much, after last night."

"Oh, of course." As I assembled the tray of food for Nathaniel, I couldn't help but remember the day that Chris and I had officially met. Like Chris, Nathaniel was obviously wounded. And just as I had before, I was the one to bring the food to the wounded person.

I sighed. Almost everything I thought of or saw reminded me of Chris . . . Perhaps 'forgetting about it' would be harder than I had hoped it would be.

I sat at the foot of the couch Nathaniel was laying on, and looked at my hands, thinking aimlessly about what would happen throughout the day.

I knew we would go to Christmas mass; that was obvious. After that, Katherine and David would leave to visit some relatives in Charles Town, and then Luke and Therese would go with their parents to visit their grandparents. They would all come back the day before the new year began.

"Oh, good, Nathaniel, you're awake. How are you feeling?" My head turned to the direction of Father's voice, and then to Nathaniel. He made to sit up and rest against the arm-rest of the sofa, but grimaced and laid back down. "I would say I'm fine," Nathaniel said, grinning in an almost painful manner.

"I would say that you should probably stay home today," Father frowned.

"No, Father, really. I'm fine. I'll be able to go to mass today."

"Maybe." Father retreated back into the kitchen, and Nathaniel asked, "Are you all right, Cecilia?"

"Me? You should be worrying about yourself, Nathaniel, I mean really! I'm fine." I gave him a small smile to prove my point, and Nathaniel nodded silently. "But maybe you should stay home."

"Have you gone mental, Cecilia? Have you suddenly turned into Mother or Father?"

He and I grinned as I replied, "I suppose so."

"Cecilia, darling, could you begin to get ready? I think we'll leave soon."

"Oh, yes, Mother, of course."

As I slowly walked up the stairs, I heard my parents talking. "Do you think Cecilia is well, William?"

"Evelyn, you really must stop worrying about the children like this. How can they grow up if we don't let them?"

"I can't help it, William. With what happened yesterday with Chris and Joseph . . . and Nathaniel being shot . . . " I should have known. That's why she was treating me differently. Almost . . . too kindly, if you ask me.

"What happened yesterday would have shocked anyone, Evelyn."

"But think about how close she and Chris were. She loves him, William. And Chris loves her."

I paused in the stairwell, waiting for Father's response. "I know, Evelyn." He sighed. "We shouldn't give her any reason to remember what happened last night, though. I don't think she would want to remember it."

"I know."

Father was right. I didn't want to remember it, but the memory had seemingly etched itself permanently into my mind.

I made the rest of the way up to my room and changed into a dress the color of red wine, with the gray lining on the hem and neckline. I sat before the mirror and began to pull my hair back into a single plait.

Oh, how I wished Chris were still here. We'd been joking that on Christmas day, we'd have a snowball fight outside like we had before, with all my siblings, and Therese, Luke, David, and Katherine. But, he wasn't here, and we weren't going to have a snowball fight, and . . . I missed him already.

I went back downstairs and sat back down at the foot of the sofa as Nathaniel ate breakfast.

"Are you sure that the two of you are well enough to go to Christmas mass?" Mother asked us.

"I am," I automatically replied.

"So am I."

"Nathaniel . . ."

"Cecilia, I'm fine, really. I'll be able to go."

"Have you always been so stubborn?"

"I am not stubborn." Father stood in front of us and looked at Nathaniel.

"Yes, Nathaniel, you are." I smiled. "I wouldn't smile, Cecilia. You're just as stubborn as him." My smile disappeared, as one appeared on Nathaniel's face. I noticed that even though we were smiling or joking, a sense of dread still remained.

We assembled in the sitting area and said a Rosary before mass, as usual. Father had decided that Nathaniel should stay home and rest, just so his wound could fully heal.

Nathaniel resentfully agreed, and Tom reassured him, "Oh, come now, Nathaniel. You're not the only one in your family to have missed a Christmas mass."

"I know."

The rest of my family and I got into the carriages after harnessing the horses, and finally made our way to town.

We hurried into the church, not too surprised to see how crowded it was inside. I saw Therese and Katherine with their families, along with some of my other friends. We exchanged small waves as I followed Elizabeth into one of the wooden pews.

The mass soon started, with the church filled to capacity. The church wasn't small, but not particularly large either. I liked the hymns, and how the interior of the church was simple and beautiful, but the only thing that I didn't like was the mixture of all the perfumes.

The varying, heavy scents of the women's perfumes hovered around us like a cloud, and I did all I could not to cough. I looked up at Elizabeth, and found her expression mirrored mine. Neither one of us coughed or made a sound, excluding hymns and prayers.

When mass was over, and we were able to go outside, we were all relieved. We breathed in the fresh air, even though it was cold.

Father coughed a few times, then smiled. "I suppose Mrs. Brown and Mrs. Andrews like their perfumes very much. I thought there was a cloud of it hovering above us."

"William, really." Mother scolded him, but not very well. I knew she agreed with him; she was smiling.

"It's true," Gabriel added.

There was a tap on my shoulder, and when I turned, I saw Katherine and Therese. Their parents began talking to mine, and our brothers conversed; Elizabeth and Veronica began to talk with some of their other friends.

There was a slightly awkward pause between us, then Katherine took a deep breath and asked, "Is Nathaniel at home?"

"Yes. He said he was 'well' enough to go, but Father somehow proved him wrong. Therese, you and Luke are leaving to see your grandparents, aren't you?"

"Yes. I think we'll be leaving soon."

"What about you, Katherine?"

"We're going to our uncle's house. Your family isn't going anywhere, am I correct?"

"Yes. We never told anyone we would. Besides, even if we were going to, I wouldn't think we would, what with Nathaniel being hurt and all."


"Therese!" The two of them were called over by their brothers, and so I followed them, then waved as they got into their carriages to leave.


"See you soon, Cecilia!"

"We'll see you in a week or so." We waved until they were out of view.

As my family and I turned to leave, we were called over by Reverend Peter, and we stopped as he came over.

Reverend Peter Collins was a kind, fatherly man, and he seemed to be friends to everyone.

"Hello, Reverend," Father greeted him.

"Hello, Travers family," Reverend smiled. He surveyed us and grinned. "William, I only count five of your children. Did you lose one?"

There was a murmur of laughter as Father replied, "No, Nathaniel isn't here. He's not feeling well."

"Ah, well, that's unfortunate. Feeling unwell on Christmas."

"Yes, of course." Reverend Peter surveyed us again and asked, "Cecilia, where is young Christopher? I didn't see him at mass."

Chris and Reverend Peter had grown familiar with each other during all the SUnday masses we'd attended. They'd become good acquaintances.

"Oh," I began. "I'm not sure where he is at the moment. I believe he's with his brother." I was telling the truth by saying that, after all.

"Oh, really? His brother arrived?"

"Yes. Yesterday evening," I replied.

"That's good."

"Well, we'd best be off. Merry Christmas, Reverend."

"Merry Christmas to you, too." We departed in silence from the church and made our way back home.

Over the course of the next few days, I wished more and more that Chris were still with us. I missed him so much! All I could do was think about him, and nearly everything I did or saw reminded me of him.

For example, while I was feeding the horses, I remembered the day he'd pretended to fall off of the horse, scaring me half to death. As I looked out the bedroom window, I thought of how Chris would liked to have sketched that scene. I woke up in the middle of the night occasionally, after dreaming about him.

What was happening to me?

(A/N: Reviews and constructive criticism are always appreciated :D We'll see how my editing goes if I ever get around to it. Hopefully!)