Chapter One: Farewell

I don't hear the somber words being released into the damp Seattle air. I don't feel them seep into me, or even the muddy earth beneath my booted feet. Because all I can hear are the words I heard a few days ago... "Alice is dead." And all I can feel is the shock of their sound. And the weightlessness of my body as it continues to swirl around me. Alice is dead. Alice is dead. Alice is dead.

I feel like I'm floating. Hovering somewhere above this place, this scene. Looking down at it as if at someone's dream. As if I can actually see it slip from behind their eyelids and onto their pillows, the stage. And I watch, but I don't, too. Because my eyes don't know where to look. They haven't for days. Because this play… this dream… isn't one, no matter what's happened, or what I feared could, that I ever wished to see, my eyes open or closed.

I didn't want this. This ending that I didn't write, and never would have. Not for Alice. Not even if she wanted it for me.

I had hoped that someday things would be different. The same again. That with time…

Well, it's pointless to even think about that now. Because I'm never getting my friend back. I'm never getting another hello from her. Or even a goodbye. Not a different one than the hateful one I got less than a week ago. The one I couldn't see, and was glad I couldn't. Because there was something better for me to look at that day. Something good to focus my eyes on. My eyes that still don't know where to look today. Not because there's no good near me…

But because there might be too much. And it might be too wrong for me to think there is. Good wrapped in this terrible ending that has my heart and my head and my eyes so confused.

Should they turn towards Heaven in a thankful prayer? Or should they fall in shame for even considering it?

Should they memorize this earth that will cradle my lifelong friend in its arms for eternity? And with her, the single greatest threat to my very existence? Or should they search instead the faces of those who will continue to be witness to it?

Aly, with her brightness and light, and, in both, her long overdue trust in how important she is. How loved and treasured…

Or Edward, with his stone-set jaw, and emotionless features… that betray all that he feels for me… for both of us...

Or Jasper, with his weary, though tear free, blue eyes and straight mouth… neither of which convey how much he's truly lost. Because he's lost everything...

Charlie isn't here at Alice's final resting place, but I wonder about what his face would tell me if he was. Would it speak? Or have returned to the silence I heard from him for years?

If any of them spoke to me now, the men in my life, would I hear truth? Or more of the lies they've all sworn on their own lives to tell? To protect me, and from my own silent cries of both.

I feel Edward's hand grip mine more firmly and I let out the breath I didn't realize I'd been holding, an instant surrender to his unspoken order. Let it go, Bella. A thing I've been struggling to do since the day we got the call, mere hours after Edward returned home from what he said was an important consultation on a baffling murder case, and the only kind of work he does for the FBI now.

Am I saying he was somewhere doing something other than what he told me? No, I'm not. But Alice's sudden and cruelly violent, yet surprisingly nonsexual in any way, death while she slept alone in the bed she shared with Jasper happened while I slept alone in ours. And two days after I'd called to wish Jasper a happy birthday and she told me I'd never have another if I ever called him again. And after I told Edward of her threat. And after Edward relayed that threat to the man it, and our ended friendship, was over.

I don't know how Charlie found out about it, but he, too, was aware. And angry. And, like Jasper on the night his wife was killed, not at home in his bed.

Was Alice's threat silenced by a random psychopath on a random night, after not hearing anything but perhaps a sinister voice in his own head? Or was it silenced, to never again be heard by anyone, by someone who'd heard it or of it one too many times?

Would the men–any one of them–who love me go that far to prove that they do? And then keep that proof to themselves?

Would any of them end someone's life to protect mine?

I think I know the answer to that, for two of the them, anyway. But the someone whose life was ended… well, shouldn't that make me not? Shouldn't it change that two I know? Or narrow it down to just a one?

Yes, it should. But it doesn't.

And when my eyes land on Jasper's face, and find his–again, tear free–already on me…

Well, I don't know, or want to know, anything. But that I'll leave this place, unlike Alice, with my life ahead of me instead of behind.

It was certainly a risk to come here… back to the place where I came unraveled. Especially since, for the very reason I did come, I would be surrounded by so many dangerous-to-me people. All of Jasper's colleagues are here paying their respects. To the life lost, and the one not. Their friend and fellow officer of the law… who, unbeknownst to them, disrespected it in every way. For me.

That's why I'm here. For Jasper. Because he stood by me no matter the risk to himself.

And because he told me I needed to be. Because he–and Edward–said it would look suspicious if I wasn't. And neither one of them ever wants me to look that way.

I didn't want to bring Aly, but, in the end, there was no other choice to make. If it were merely a few hours, or even those of a day, she'd have been fine, but we couldn't find a same day return flight. And the look on her face when I told her that her friend Lorelei's mother had said she was welcome to stay with them for as long as our trip would take…

Well, I just couldn't leave her. No one with any heart at all could have turned and walked away from that little girl... whose eyes needed to never be confused about where to look. Or be afraid to close because what they needed to see wasn't there.

I'll never do that to her.

And as I look at her face now, because I could feel it turned upwards to look at me, I know that I won't ever be confused again about where to look. And, even as I hear the dirt thump against Alice's eternal wooden bed for one just feet from where we stand–the ending scene I don't watch–that I can't be sorry about the kind of goodbye I never heard. Or that she was unable to say. Because as long as she was able to say anything at all, the only ending to be written, or goodbye to be said, or stake ever again to be pounded into any claimed piece of earth, or body lowered, would have been mine.


I know this is very short, but due to the nature of it, short was best. And as for that nature... I imagine most might not be happy with me for it, but that won't change it, or my reasons for doing it.

That being said, if anyone chooses to stay after what I did, welcome, and I'll see you soon, hopefully. And a little later in time in the next one.