"Can't you put the heat on or something?" I asked, shivering in the crisp night air.
Alice looked at me, surprised. "Sorry, didn't even think about that." She flipped a switch and hot air blasted through the vents. "I've never used these before," she commented, and then expertly threw car in gear and maneuvered down the driveway.
"Are you going to drive fast?" I asked apprehensively.
She slammed her foot on the gas, and beamed at the sound of the humming engine. "Most certainly."
I sighed, watching the trees whiz by as we headed for the highway, blurring into a shadowy swirl before me. "I figured."
She made an alarmingly sharp turn with ease, and then patted the steering wheel lovingly. "I love my little car. It's the perfect blend of fast, smooth, and beautiful."
"And yellow," I reminded her.
She grinned. "And yellow … and perfect."
I laughed. "You can't think of anything you don't like about it?" I asked teasingly.
She cocked her head to the side for a moment, her mouth screwed up in thought. "Well," she said finally. "The back's a little small for Jazz and me."
I paused in confusion, but then I got her meaning, and a brilliant blush spread over my cheeks. The car was silent for a moment as we zipped down the deserted road. I focused on the gold light emanating from the glowing streetlights, wishing myself miles away, but at the same time dying to ask for more information. I thought of Edward, and myself, and what was going to happen two weeks from now, and felt a sick feeling in my stomach as panic overtook me. Not only was I worried about leaving Charlie, breaking the news to Renée, not flunking out of Calculus, and becoming an immortal, I had to worry about the wedding night, too. It was just too much.
I could tell that Alice had sensed my change in mood. Normally she would have been chattering a mile a minute, but now she was silent, looking lost in thought as we zoomed down the road. Finally, after five long minutes in heavy silence, she turned to look at me.
"Bella," she said, her musical voice gentle. "You're as dear to me as a sister. I would never want to pry … but remember that you can talk to me about anything."
The blush rose to my cheeks again. "Anything?" I asked, shifting uncomfortably in the seat.
She smiled, looking back at the road again, her lips twitching slightly. "Why do you think I took you on the road tonight? No one can hear what we're talking about."
I looked down at my lap. "Yeah." And her expression was so understanding and sympathetic that the words tumbled out before I could help myself. "I'm nervous," I confessed.
"Well, you're brave enough to hang with vampires," she said lightly, her voice a little teasing.
"But it's nothing compared to … that," I protested, feeling myself blush again. Inside the close confines of the car, I hoped it wasn't making me smell too yummy.
Her expression became serious. "I know … I was nervous, too, you know," she added. "Everyone is a little bit."
I bit my lip. "But you were a vampire," I said slowly, cringing at how obvious it sounded.
She tilted her head to the side, confused. "Of course." Her eyes went blank for a moment, scanning into the future, and then she sighed wearily. "So that's it."
"You were a vampire – already strong and perfect and beautiful!" I said. Tears suddenly stung my eyes, surprising me.
"I'm not perfect, Bella," she said kindly, and reached out a hand to touch my shoulder. "None of us are."
I looked at her white face, her elfin features glowing with a delicate perfection, and then at my own blemished reflection in the side mirror, the contrast painfully evident. "But you're beautiful!"
"You're beautiful too, Bella."
"But Edward is …" I tried to think of a word to describe how incredibly flawless he was, how I could never possible compare.
She cut me off. "Edward is madly and eternally in love with you, Bella," she said firmly. "There's nothing to be worried about."
I wrung my hands together. "But … I'm not like him. I'm not perfect enough for him to love me," I said in a small voice, feeling stupid and petty and embarrassed but at the same time relieved to finally tell this to someone.
She went quiet for a long moment, looking at the long and dark highway that stretched before us, the only sound in the car the steady hum of the motor. When she spoke, her voice was unusually tired.
"Bella, do you remember when Jasper showed you his scars?"
I nodded, remembering how unusually communicative he had been that day, how he had pulled back his shirt sleeve to show the tiny, almost invisible lines all over his forearm. I frowned, wondering where she was taking this.
She smiled at my confused expression. "Well, to you they seem almost invisible – you can only see them under a bright light, and you have to look hard. But to a vampire … all our senses are heightened, Bella. To a vampire, they're the first thing we notice. For some, it's difficult to see past them, for they are reminders of danger and violence. They're warnings, Bella. And Jasper is covered with them.
"And he's scarred deeper than that. His whole past has been carnage and bloodshed. Even though it's been a long time since then, the effects aren't going to go away. I know that as well as he does. It's a struggle every single day, keeping control, adapting to a strange lifestyle of peace. It's terribly difficult for him, and for me as well. I have to be his strength. I can never afford to be weak, to make a misstep, and no matter how hard he tries, I'm still going to have to watch him suffer every day, for the rest of our lives."
Taking her eyes off the road, she turned to look at me, a strange burning behind her dark eyes. "Bella, I love Jasper with all my heart. He is my life, he is my reason for existing. But after telling you all of this, do you really think that I love him because he is perfect?"
Then, all of a sudden, everything became clear, and I didn't – couldn't – answer for a moment. She reached over and wiped a tear from my cheek, her brow creasing. "Don't be upset," she said, a little anxiously. "I was trying to make you feel better."
"You have," I said sincerely, sniffling a little. "I … I really think I understand now." And I did. I no longer felt undeserving and unworthy of Edward's love. It might not make sense, but no matter what, he would love me anyway. A fresh flood of warm tears ran down my cheeks.
Keeping one hand on the wheel, Alice pressed her fingers to her temple, like a human might if they had a migraine. "God, I did this all wrong. Girl talk isn't supposed to go like this … I'm not sure where I went off track, but you're definitely not supposed to end up crying in my car." She opened her eyes to look at me in exasperation. "I was supposed to go into details about the wedding night."
"That's fine, I'll be okay," I said hastily, wiping the last of the tears off my cheek.
Her eyes went blank for a moment, and then she glanced at the clock on the radio. "Good, because I should be getting home soon."
"Why?" I asked curiously, wondering what she would need to do at this hour.
A wicked smile danced around her mouth. "Jazz is waiting for me." She sighed indulgently. "That boy can only have one thing on his mind."
A brilliant blush rose again to my cheeks, and I put my head in my hands. "Way, way too much information, Alice."
Her musical laughter rang into the night, and the car sped forward. "Well, you asked for it!"
Hope everyone liked this. For a different take on Jasper's scars, see my other piece, "Moonlight".
And make sure to add me to author alert, because I have some other stuff in the making right now ;)