Memoirs of Her Scent
It Doesn't Hurt
–Same Day; A Few Hours Earlier, Part II
I know you mean the best every time you stop by.
I know you're right
And I know you're good,
'Cause I'm still moved by you.
The further away my steps take me from Bella, the harder it becomes to breathe, think, or continue to put one foot in front of the other, and keep running. As I continue to run, I sense that someone else is stealthily keeping pace with me at a small distance, but choosing to remain under the cloak of shadows, and for now, I allow it. Because, so far, I know there's no threat behind my pursuer's disquieting pursuing and my demon agrees that they do not pose a threat.
My thoughts turn inward as I pretend to not take notice of my pursuer. The task is easier than I would have expected. Since nothing else fills my mind than this desperate, innate need and want to retrace my steps right back through Bella's bedroom window to place her under house arrest. Surely, that way she won't be able to meet up with Edward and get things back to the way they were before...
Before he left, before I barged into her life and self-appointed myself as fit to be the glue that would hold her together in his absence, before I broke her again… Before I returned, before my soul recognized her and craved for her, and before my desire to possess her became a clandestine confession of unequivocal love.
Every cell in my body wages a war against the logic of my reasoning mind, trying to convince me to give into this barbaric desire and head back to the refuge of Isabella's room. I want her to be a prisoner of my embrace, where only she and I coexist, and nothing can get between us.
Not Edward and his promises of marriage and a happily ever after. Not Alice –with her interpretations of a future that'll most likely transpire into the realm of desolation and leave me to long after unfulfilled desires. And not the imminent disapproval of the only man I've ever openly admired: Carlisle.
In spite of that, I plough onward, going against my wishes, running deeper into these familiar woods. Failing to get lost in them, still, my mind becomes a tangled clutter of dusty spider webs without answers. My demon feels chained and deranged, restless and deprived of all the primal instincts I am negating it as I run away from what we instinctively want and need. Running from Bella. Running from home.
However, my demon remains uncharacteristically mute and without stirring in the wake of my delusions.
After a while, the disquiet and uncertainty emanating from my pursuer makes me feel slightly on edge. Seeing no other alternatives, I decide to stop ignoring and actually do something about it.
"If you think you're being inconspicuous, you should really give up now," I whisper in acknowledgement. A sharp intake of breath fallows my statement a few feet ahead of me and surprise is tangible in the atmosphere. Coming to a halt, I pause and my pursuer follows suit and like the perfect gossiper, the night allows the cool and bitter wind carry my voice to my pursuer's hiding place with whimsical ease. "I know you've been following me since I left Bella's."
"How observant of you," my pursuer's silvery voice grudgingly compliments. "The wind was in my favor…" Dropping from a branch ten feet ahead of me, she asks, "What gave me away?"
"Your emotions." Surprisingly, I find myself smiling at her cordially. "Otherwise, you were quite stealthy."
"Of course." She grins. "And if I didn't know any better," she teases, "I'd say you just paid me a compliment!"
"Perhaps," I allow, a tight smile tugging at the right corner of my lips. My moment of genuine cordiality is wearing thin and my lack of patience is becoming apparent. Licking my lips, I finally ask the question I'd been burning to ask, "What are you doing here, Alice?"
"I saw you," she says, by manner of explanation. "You were on your way home and I thought…" She shrugs, the movement giving way to bashfulness. "I wanted to meet you halfway."
"And for that reason you also tried to hide from me?" I ask, skeptic.
"I wasn't sure." Alice licks her lips nervously and avoids meeting my eyes, "I didn't get to see if I was… welcome."
"Since when have you been so sensitive?" I ask, with a sardonic smile in place to match the equally mocking tone.
"It's never too late to start," she says hopefully.
Grimacing slightly, I look away, unable to acknowledge or encourage her unfounded hope. "Look, I'm only going because Bella is on her way there now," I tell her.
"Alice," I interrupt, "I don't want to be insensitive and tell you this isn't about you and me but, well, it really isn't."
My tone isn't tactful and I almost feel guilty when I watch Alice's reactions. Simultaneously, her eyes flash with guarded emotion and she looks away from me before I can make out whatever feelings she might be hiding. Even so, I am perceptive enough to know I have wounded her pride.
"So I saw," she says tersely through clenched teeth and turns to walk away, her delicate shoulders hunched in defeat.
I did that, I can't help but think, wishing there was something I could say or do to make this easier on either of us. However, there's nothing, short of martyring myself to make Alice happy. Only… Coming to a conclusion, I make my decision, knowing that it won't make things any better but understanding that, at least, I'll be doing right by us.
"Alice…" I call, contrite, before she can get more than five feet on her way.
"Don't," she pleads, shaking her head and hunching her shoulders. Alice glances over her shoulders back at me and I instantly notice that her eyes are glazed with the vision of my impromptu decision as. "Don't do this. Not to us. Not now."
Seeing Alice looking so heartbroken and contrite almost breaks my resolve. Insanity or the familiarity that still remains between us making me want to just embrace her, ease her worries, and tell her that I am happy to see her and that nothing has changed between us. However, everything has changed between us. I've changed.
Struggling with the emotions purling inside me, I push them aside until they are separated from the rest of me, barely tangible in the recesses of overpowering emotions, and proceed to follow through with what I'd decided. For this to work out, I must be strong for the both of us.
"It has to happen now. It is time," I say.
My voice is low and contrite, letting her know that I don't want to have this conversation no more than she does. However, this conversation has to happen. Alice knows it and I know it. Therefore, it is happening now. Despite that, I taste Alice's bitterness as she shudders, trying to physically shove my words aside.
The only small comfort I can provide her with is to rule in my nature as an empath. In doing so, she'll be able to feel without the intrusion of my influence or my prodding to see, taste, or hear how she is feeling. Though a small courtesy, given the circumstances, it is the best I can do. It is the only way I can honor and mourn what we'll lose by the end of this conversation.
Alice sighs, her face contorting with traces of the pain and betrayal she is feeling. As if her emotions have a mind of their own, they reach out to prod and meet the tight coil of my own emotions, which I have wound around my frame in order to curb the temptation to temper with hers.
"All right." Nodding curtly, she acquiesces and her visage becomes cool and detached. She swallows thickly and with a defiant look in her eyes, she meets my gaze and asks, "Why now?"
"It is time," I simply repeat.
"You've all ready said that," she says, sounding irritable.
"Sooner or later, this was bound to happen," I tell her, keeping my voice even so I don't snap at her. "It would have been ideal for this to have happened earlier but cordiality wasn't in the cards for me. At least, not where you were concerned and civility is of the essence for this kind of conversation."
"I don't understand," she whispers, frowning with confusion. "Am I lacking in some way?"
I almost flinch at the vulnerability in her voice and have to visibly hold my ground so I don't let my protective instinct take over. No matter what happens, I can't physically comfort Alice anymore. She isn't mine to hold or protect.
"No," I answer, "you're not lacking in any way, Alice." Absentmindedly, I rake my fingers through my hair and frown. "In your own way," I add, "you are perfect. Always have been."
Alice smiles tentatively at this compliment and I allow a small smile of my own. Still, she frowns and wonders. "Why then?"
'Cause you just had to ask
"Honestly?" I sigh. "I'm tired." A pang of ache hits me square in the chest at these words, Alice's pain.
"You're tired of me?" she asks quietly, voice quivering. "Are you saying you're bored?"
"No. I'm saying I'm tired," I correct.
"I don't see the difference," she says defensively.
"If you would be willing to listen for a moment and let me finish what I was saying without interruption, you would," I say, curt. She scowls and I go on. "I'm tired of making efforts to be with you, only to have to endure your absence as yet another vision takes you from me."
"I can't help that!" she argues, outraged. "You can't hold me accountable for something I can't control."
"True," I acquiesce.
"Good to know you agree," she sneers.
"However," I continue, "you can help talking to me after, which is what you always fail to do. Instead, you cave in on yourself as I stand by, helpless, and keep it all inside as if I'm just there for decoration." Alice flinches at my harsh words, wrapping her arms across her torso. "As if I am inept to offer any kind of comfort or wisdom to my wife."
"Now that I realize, I can do better," she whispers and I have to bite back an incredulous scoff.
"It's too late for that." Alice grimaces. "You know what's most tiring about our relationship, Alice?" I ask rhetorically. "Your lack of faith in me is one of the main things that exhaust me beyond measure."
"When have I–?" she begins to ask but I cut her off.
"It is tiring, how you're always expecting me to mess up."
"I'm just looking out for you," she whispers, trembling as her arms wrap tightly around her.
"Do you know how degrading it is to have you looking ahead to see if I'll suck some innocent bystander within the next couple of hours, Alice?"
"That isn't my intention–"
"That's right, you don't," I interrupt. "You've never bothered to ask me if that's okay with me."
"Why didn't you tell me it bothered you before?" she argues. "You clearly don't have any qualms about speaking your mind."
"That's a good question." I tilt my head to the side, as if appraising her and taking a few steps back, I lean against a tree and cross my arms over my chest. "However, I have a better question. Would you have listened?"
"No," she admits through gritted teeth.
"There's your answer, darlin'," I smile, "you know I never speak if I don't have anything constructive or worth hearing to say. Or at least, I thought you did."
"I've been trying to do what's right by you." Her words are so tightly wound together as she says this that they almost sound like a growl.
Despite the severity of the situation, I realize I'm amused. "Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think you meant to say that you've been doing what you think is right by me."
Silence follows my words. The woods groan and rustle around us, a few litters scurrying around the moist grounds and filling the heavy silence. I am triumphant. I wait. I want an answer. "That's all I've ever tried to do," Alice finally manages to say. "I know how hard this diet is on you and you wouldn't be doing it if it wasn't for me–"
"Alice," I interrupt once again, "let me stop you right there." She clenches her jaw but nods, letting me proceed. "Another one of the things I'm tired of, Alice, is your assuming. Assumptions are so very cripplin', darlin', didn't you know?" Meeting Alice's gaze with a leveled look, I blatantly challenge her to argue otherwise. When she doesn't, I nod and continue, saying, "Sure, I hate our diet and every single day I struggle with it. I crave human blood. It is in my nature. It is in yours. Therefore, don't tell me that it isn't as hard for you as it is for me. I know it is. I feel it every day as it twines with mine and increases it along with Edward's, Rose's, and Emmett's."
"That only proves it is harder for you." She sounds triumphant as she says this and for a moment, I let her believe it. Reclined against the tree, I bring up the sole of my left foot to rest against the bark in a more relaxed pose. Alice watches me warily, trying to read me. One thing I've always been good at is being spontaneous, never planning too much and acting a whole lot.
"Alice," I begin, my tone condescending, "all the external influence in the world can't make me loose control." She looks stunned. Shows how much she knows me. "All I have to do is turn it off."
"If that's the case, then…" she trails off, letting her would-be question hang lamely between us.
Still, I answer, "But then, there in lies the problem. You see, what everyone else feels is what keeps me in control and not my demon. However, my demon is constantly tempting me with the prospect of shutting it all off and killing that bit of humanity I still have left." Alice couldn't look any more surprised if she tried. Knowingly, I smirk. "And that is my true constant struggle; it has never truly been about the blood. Though, the blood plays a large part in it because once I give in to the thirst, my demon has more of an advantage and what I feel becomes a weapon rather than a hindrance for it. And that is what makes me lethal and why Maria had me fighting her war."
At the mention of the war, Alice shivers. "You've never told me any of this," she says, tone accusatory.
So I don't roll my eyes at her, I shrug. "You never asked. In fact," I say, contemplative, "there are many things you've never asked me about."
"What else haven't I asked you about," Alice asks, almost wary.
"Ah…" I smirk. "Well darlin', I can't go around asking your questions for you. That'd be rather ungentlemanly of me. Besides, you just heard how I feel about assuming so I can't start assuming that you actually want to know me better when you haven't bothered in all these last few years."
Judging by Alice's stung face, my sharp word hit their mark better than expected. "I've wanted to ask," she admits, voice raw with emotion.
"What stopped you?"
"I didn't want to probe." Looking away from my beseeching gaze, she glances down at her shuffling feet and says, "Also, there was the gnawing thought that our future still showed you were going to leave me, no matter what I did to counter it. If I kept myself at a distance, I thought this moment would hurt less."
Don't know what to say
Don't know how to act
Closing my eyes, I exhale sharply and rake my fingers through my hair, fisting them there in frustration. It took reigning in every last chord of self-control I still had in me, not to scoff, scream, or curse at Alice. "Oh, Alice," I bemoan. "What a shitty excuse. No, scratch that, what a shitty decision."
Alice's head snaps up and her eyes flash to mine, a silent and feral snarl distorting her mouth. "Stop dismissing my feelings so easily, Jasper," she hisses. "Your condescending words are less than welcome."
"Atta girl!" Clapping in congratulations, my lips curl and my smile is sardonic. Alice's eyes turn to slits at my blatant provocation. "I've never seen you get angry, much less stand up for yourself." I nod in her direction, appraising. "This is a start."
"Are you purposefully provoking me?" she growls.
"That's what you think I'm doing?" I ask, mock surprised. "And here I thought we were finally getting to know each other for real. None of that superficial chatter left to discuss or getting in the way." Sneering, I add, "As you said, better late than never, darlin'. We're making progress."
Alice is visibly trembling with fury where she stands. Closing her eyes, she inhales sharply and exhales slowly, trying to regain some small semblance of control. Repeating the process a few times over, she finally opens her eyes and openly glares at me.
You are a woman
I am wind
I am the sand
I am scared
And I'm fine,
'Cause I deserve the time to feel
"What will you have me do, Jasper?" she finally asks, voice trembling. "This isn't like you… Do I even know you anymore?"
And this time, my smile is genuine as I push off against my tree and begin walking circles around a rigid Alice. Brushing my fingers across her shoulders, I nod and come to a halt before her, crossing my arms over my chest. "Now you're starting to ask the right questions, Alice."
"The right questions?" Alice is gaping at me openly, clearly beyond confused. "There's a right and wrong here?" she scoffs.
"Sure there is." I nod. "Alice, have you ever truly known me?"
Shaking my head, I interrupt her argument. "Alice, do you know what my favorite story is?" I ask, honestly curious.
Alice looks baffled but she still attempts to answer. "The Pearl Harbor?" Though her answer is a little uncertain, she looks positive as she adds, "You've always been into history."
"Alice," I smile sadly. "I abhor thinking about history. Especially about the war." Laughing darkly at the shock passing over Alice's face, I shake my head and sigh. "I'm part of history. I've been there. I fought in the war –human and vampire, both wars. You know that much." Still stunned, she nods, agreeing. "And most of that history I've lived through is like a reoccurring nightmare. Every waking moment I spend on this earth, I find myself desperately seeking for ways to forget that."
"Talk about it?" Alice nods. "Because there's always someone wanting to know about it and because it is my past and there's nothing I can do to change it." Again, I sigh and continue, "I can only reflect on my past mistakes. Though there's nothing glorifying about it, if my mistakes can help to avoid history repeating itself, in some small way, I think it is worthy reliving those horrors."
To this cryptic reply, Alice said nothing. She had nothing to add, it would seem. However, what she did was ask, "Would you tell me what your favorite story is, Jasper?" Her face looking so hopeful as she asked that it almost made her seem desperate.
Smiling ruefully in reply, gently as possible, I say, "Next time you see Bella, why don't you ask her?" At my words, Alice looks as if I'd just detached her head from her shoulders.
"You told her?" she asks accusingly. "How come you told her but won't tell me?"
"It's simple." I shrug. "Bella never had to ask."
"Then how–?" she began to ask, looking murderous.
"She ventured a guess," I say, cutting her off, "and I simply took a moment to state she was right."
"How did she–?"
"We took the time to talk to each other, Alice," I interrupt, yet again, sighing tiredly. "That's what people do when they are curious about someone else and wish to know more." My tone is biting and sarcastic but I'm growing irate of caring for sensibility.
"We used to talk..." Alice trails off, lost to her nostalgia. I nod in agreement; we did use to talk, before. Still, even then, those talks were merely superficial. There wasn't any real effort involved behind the topics to suggest how committed either of us was in allowing the other to know each other.
"Alice," I murmur, drawing her attention back to the present and me. Looking straight into her eyes, in the hopes that she can see the honesty laying in mine, I wait for her to acknowledge me before I continue. And I do as soon as she nods. "There was a time when you were indispensable to me. I wanted to feel and see everything with you. Wanted to go in search of lost time... Many times I closed my eyes and simply followed you in order to allow myself to do that. But not anymore."
"Jasper, I don't understand," she whispered, sounding fearful.
"What I'm saying is, Alice, I won't do you the dishonor of saying I never loved you. As I mentioned, I love you still, Alice. I really do. You came into my life and you taught me many, many valuable things..." Licking my lips thoughtfully, I took a moment to gather my thoughts. It felt strange... voicing all of my thoughts like this. "Things don't happen just because, right?"
Cause what will you say
That you haven't said?
"No. They don't." Hesitating for a moment, Alice finally manages to ask, "What are you getting at, Jasper?"
"Putting it bluntly, you're not who I thought... Who I believed you to be." I sigh. "You're not even the same woman I lost and let go." Laughing darkly, I shake my head in wonderment. "Finding you... I found pain."
"I don't..." Alice's expression looks stricken as her mouth opens and closes but no words come out. She's lost in the torrent of emotions my words have stirred and unable to form her racing thoughts into proper words. "How can you say something so cruel?" she finally manages.
"You know, Alice..." I muse, thinking back, "there were so many times in the past in which you'd do something so insensitive I had no choice but to bring it up and then, you'd pretend to listen to me and brush it off with a sorry." Alice blinks rapidly, looking like she's trying to blink back tears. "You would look so remorseful that I would let it go... God, you were constantly lying to me, weren't you?"
"No!" she protests.
"It doesn't matter anymore..." I murmur. Nodding to myself, I am surprised to find just how honest my words are and look at Alice in a new light as my thoughts race ahead. "Don't even try telling me otherwise," I tell her when she opens her mouth again, looking argumentative. "At this point, I don't even have the strength to feel anything," I tell her honestly. "So don't even worry about that."
"Jasper..." My name is a strangled garble rolled into a sob. "How about what I feel?
"Alice, find your own way. Without me. Get back the time you've wasted on me." My tone is one of finality as I say this, but it is also kind. "We're better off without each other. I'm better off without you."
I know you're freaked
And I know it's safer if
You would just let me be
"That's not possible," argues Alice, her tone feeble and reaching, "we were meant to find each other."
"Perhaps," I allow. "However, lately, I've been thinking back to what each of us brought into our marriage –what we each gave to make it work..."
"And?" she implores.
"You've never been who I asked for, Alice..." I answer. "And as of late, I've finally begun to understand just who I am, and you played a big part in it."
"Playing a big part in you finding who you are isn't enough for me, Jasper!" Alice hisses, seething. "Can't we give this –us– another shot?"
"It's going to have to be enough," I inform her curtly. She blinks rapidly. "There's no going back, Alice. So be content with the fact that I won't be able to forget you. You're as much a part of me as I am a part of you."
"How can you let go this easily?" Alice demands, voice cracking.
The questions you ask me
Just make me feel better I left
"You were a beautiful illusion, Ali..." I try to be as gentle as possible with my blunt honesty but I know my words are harsh. "Now it's time for you to let go and set me free."
"I can't..." Alice sinks to a crouch and hugs her knees to her chest as she repeats the words over and over in a strangled whisper. "You're meant for me, to be my mate, I know it... I saw it… we… I can't ignore that... I can't…"
"Listen to me," I growl. "For once, Mary Alice Brandon, listen to someone other than yourself."
"I can't..." she mutters. Jilted by my use of her full name, she presses her palms over her ears to block the sound of my voice. Losing patience, I close my eyes and sigh.
"I'm nothing without her..." I say. My voice is a quiet whisper that carries to Alice in the sudden stillness as the air around us holds its breath to listen to my plea. "There isn't enough oxygen in the world if I'm not near her." I hesitate before confessing, "She's the unknown, Alice, and as such, she terrifies me. Bella–"
I don't feel anything,
Unless I think of her
I don't feel anything,
Unless I try to talk about her
"Don't say her name!" Alice screeches violently, her face transforming into something grotesque due to her jealousy.
"Have you ever felt anything like that for me?" I demand of her as if the interruption never happened. Alice stares at me uncomprehendingly and so I repeat my question.
"Yes," she finally whispers, avoiding my eyes. Instantly, I taste the lie in the air between us.
"Liar." She stiffens, quivering. "Stop being absurd. Take your so-called love with you, Alice, and set me free. Love isn't meant to be something ephemeral and that's the depth of your love for me... Ephemeral and inconsistent."
"That's not true," she denies vehemently, her gaze clashing to mine with a glare.
"Everything about you..." I continue, ignoring her glare and attempting to make her see reason, as I say, "Your skin... Your words and visions, it all poisoned my heart once and sent me into a solitude I couldn't escape but that isn't the case now. You can no longer stand by and watch me suffer while I continue to love you. I might never be able to forget you but I'll make sure never to think of you."
"This isn't happening..."
Unless you think of me
You don't even cry
Unless you open your eyes
You don't need to kick or scream
No, it doesn't hurt
Unless I walk…
"It sure isn't happening the way I wanted it to," I agree under my breath, frustrated with the turn of events. "I at least..."
"What is it about her?" Alice demands. "You don't deserve her, you know?"
'Cause you just had to ask…
"I know," I agree, a genuine smile curving my mouth.
"If you know, why bother?" Alice's shock is almost comical. "She'll never be yours."
"It doesn't matter… Not anymore. When I stayed behind, you see," I say, same smile still in place, "I was staying for her sake. Arrogantly thinking I could somehow help her gather the broken pieces of herself and in the process show her how to put them back together."
"As it turns out," I muse, "I was the one who was in for a surprise."
"I might have helped Bella piece herself back together, slowly, but she also helped me."
"And how, exactly, did she manage to do that," Alice asks bitterly.
"In essence? By showing me the rewards of rising from the ashes," I say, smiling fondly. "I might have reached for her in her darkest hour but it was her who found me, pulled me in, and coaxed me out of the ashes without even knowing she was doing so."
"Would you stop talking in riddles?" she asks frustrated.
"To put it simply, Bella never really needed rescuing." I chuckle, startling Alice yet again. "I did, however. For that reason, I was the one that gravitated toward her, without realizing that she'd be the perfect person for the task –even in her broken state."
"I feel... I feel like I really don't know you," Alice admitted, looking at me with her head tilted to one side as if seeing me for the first time. And maybe she was.
"That's because you don't."
"I thought I did," she whispers, almost like a whimper.
"You thought wrong."
"I'm not used to being wrong."
"No," I correct, "you're not used to admitting you're wrong."
"That too," she allows grudgingly. "Is this okay with you?" Alice asks after a lull in the conversation.
"That you've broken my heart," she clarifies. "That in doing so you've taken all of my dreams with you…"
"Love hurts and it sometimes kills," I answer calmly, kindly. Still showing her some degree of respect for her wounded feelings.
"If you… I won't have anywhere to go… I won't have a place to belong," she says, voicing her fears.
"Then don't say goodbye."
"Ever?" she questions.
"We are still family, Alice, even if I'm not by your side," I reason. "I'm sure Carlisle and the others will feel the same."
"You sound so sure…"
"Because I'm the one who's doing you wrong, Alice, I can be sure of this absurd truth." Feeling slightly restless, I begin to pace, saying, "If anything, I'll be the one to go…"
"Alice, I'm trying to make this easier on you," I point out. "You need to let me go and if some distance can help you do that, that's what I'll do."
"I don't– It's okay, you don't need to do that," she whispers frightfully. "I know I can't promise you I'll let you go but I can promise to keep my distance… please, Jasper, I can't dismiss you as easily as you've dismissed me."
"If this was easy, Alice," I say gravely, "you and I wouldn't be having this conversation, believe me."
"I really want to believe you, Jasper," she says, hugging her torso. "But all I know is that you're leaving me behind to return to the cold void I used to know before you."
"I've just found other reasons to live for…" Looking into Alice's pleading eyes, I tell her, "You should do the same."
"We should go…" Alice tells me. Her eyes are distant and I know she's lost, not in a vision, but in her own turmoil. "She'll be almost home by now."
Silently, I agree and we are on our way. As long as Alice keeps her distance, that'll have to do for now.
A/N: Okay, so I am officially frustrated with this chapter. I feel like I haven't been able to move on with the story but this chapter needed to happen. Jasper and Alice needed to have a talk without Bella being there and now they have. It just ended up being a longer conversation than I had originally intended. Anyway, next part, I want to do the whole thing where Bella has the Cullen's voting For or Against her immortality. After that, I can move on from this nightmare of an arch! Can't wait!
Thank you for reading. Until next chapter.