The thirst was beginning to get to me. My throat felt parched, and with every stirring of the air I sensed the dizzying smell of blood miles away. I was still unused to this new lifestyle of restraint, where every moment was one of rigid self-denial.
Mostly to give myself something else to do, I went to go help Alice unpack. As I walked down the hallway of the still unfamiliar Cullen house, I couldn't help but smile at the thought of the bizarre things she had brought. Although she had danced empty-handed across the entryway to introduce us to our new family, within the next fifteen minutes she had, seemingly out of nowhere, produced a massive amount of … well, everything. Glittering bottles of nail polish, a million pairs of shoes, dresses in every color imaginable...
Suddenly, an earsplitting crash sounded. At once alert, I flew down the hall and through the door to the spare bedroom where Alice had been unpacking. Clothes were strewn over the bed, and cosmetics littered the floor, but otherwise the room was empty.
"Alice!" I called anxiously, keeping my voice low. No answer – how could she possibly not hear me? "Alice?" I called again, now loud enough for a human to hear. Still no answer.
Anxiety building, I tore through the hallway, calling her name. "Alice!"
I paused to search for her scent, and that was when I felt it – waves of anguish, from someone so dear to me they were multiplied a thousand times over to become more intense than any pain I had ever experienced. "ALICE!" I roared, and, suddenly catching the scent that had evaded me, I whipped wildly into –
She was standing alone by the glass window, her white skin glowing softly in the dusk. Her slender arms were wrapped around her body, and her face was twisted in a terrifying sorrow, her eyes burrowed shut. In an instant I was next to her, holding her tightly, and I felt her little fingers clutch the lapels on my shirt as she buried her face into my chest. Waves of grief poured out from her, so powerful they took my breath away.
"What's the matter?" I asked softly, trying to keep my voice even. "What happened?"
She shuddered, and for a moment was silent. Then she spoke into my shirt quietly. "I don't know. I was setting up in the guest bedroom and – oh, Jasper, I'm being ridiculous, but – well, evening started to fall and the room was so small and all of a sudden it seemed dark and I … I …" She stopped and I held her tighter.
"You what?" I asked quietly.
Her voice broke. "I don't know. It was just the darkness ... the closeness. I couldn't stand it – I felt like something caged. It was so strange – I felt like I was going to fall apart any second. It was the worst thing I've ever felt." I was silent, processing her feelings, both the barely controlled terror as well as her bewilderment. Then she laughed bitterly, turning her face away. "I feel like I'm going crazy, Jasper, but – but it also seemed horribly ... familiar." Her voice dropped so low, even I could barely hear it. "Like I was remembering the most horrible memory of my life. Except – I don't know how or why. I've never been locked up, never."
As she spoke, I could feel her fear building once more, the mysterious memory waiting to rise and claim her once more. We were silent for a moment, and then I sat down on the couch and swept her into my lap. I had to be careful now, for I had a fairly good guess as to the origin of this strange memory.
"Alice," I began hesitantly, the words dropping slowly off my tongue, "You say you have no memory of your human life?"
She froze in my arms, and was terribly still for an excruciatingly long moment. Then, all at once, I felt agony course through her once more, so raw and aching I felt physical pain.
"Jasper," she whispered shakily, her hands clutching me again, her dark eyes wide with a strangling fear. "What happened to me?"
Desperation clawed at me, and it took an immense effort to focus. I concentrated with all my strength, keeping my arms around her, and finally calm began to settle over both of us like a mist. I took her hands in mine and looked into her face. "Now let's talk," I said, relieved beyond measure to see that the hurt had gone from her eyes. Anything - anything was better than that.
But to my surprise she pulled away, tranquil but bitter. "Stop it, Jasper." Her voice cracked like a whip, unusually sharp.
I startled in surprise, dropping my hands from her as if I had been burned. "What?"
She stood before me, her hands on her hips, her eyes glinting. "You know as well as I do that this is a temporary solution. I can't run from my past forever. So stop it and let me deal." I hesitated, testing her emotions. An edge of fear, just a hint of what was to come, pushed into the calm atmosphere, and I wavered. But her dark eyes flamed with resolution. I loathed myself for what I was to do, but I had to do it.
So I made sure that she was in my arms before I let the boundary down.
Instantly she was shaken with tremors, her breath coming in ragged gasps as she was consumed with unspeakable dread, locked in the hold of this strange and terrible memory. For hours her slender body, so small she seemed little more than a wisp, trembled violently in my arms. She stared into space, into a world so terribly real, crying tearlessly, begging for her life, flinching from pains inflicted by the unseen. And I wanted nothing more than to crush these demons for her, but I could do nothing, and it was worse than anything I had ever known. I could only hold her tightly as the waves of anguish poured over us together.
Finally, around midnight, her sobs ceased and she grew still once more, and we sat together in silence, emotionally and physically exhausted. I froze, carefully gauging her emotions, but she turned her face to mine before I could speak. The terror was still there, but it had lessened to a manageable state, and her gaze had refocused to the present.
"Jasper?" she asked quietly, and relief coursed through me.
"Yes?" I kissed her dark hair tenderly, hiding my face in case it betrayed me.
Her soft, tinkling laugh rang quietly in my ear, but it had a sorrowful edge to it. "I'm sorry you had to stay for that."
I kissed her gently. "Don't apologize, love."
She sighed, avoiding my gaze. "I shouldn't be dragging you into my past," she said bitterly.
"Don't be ridiculous," I whispered. "You are worth it, a thousand times over."
She turned to gaze up at me, and, seeing confirmation in my eyes, she nestled close to me, and was silent again for a moment. Then she spoke softly, her voice hollow. "I don't know what this is about, Jasper. I don't know if I'll ever know. It's so strange, having a part of me locked somewhere inside where I can't get to it." She sighed. "But I'll have to live with it. I can't let my past affect my future."
I paused to mull over her words. Something was wrong. Then, with a click, I realized what it was.
"Our future," I said. "Together."
She smiled up at me, and I leaned down to kiss her.