Author's Note: Hi, everyone. I wrote this just a couple of months after Eclipse was released, and posted it in the exclusive archives. Now that I've returned to , I thought I should post it here.
I have to admit, the lack of feedback for my new story, The Attic, has been a bit of a blow to my ego. I'm caught between wondering if the alerts aren't working or wondering if it's just really that bad. Umph. Anyway, you should check it out--it's not like anything I've ever wrote before, but it's gonna get pretty exciting. (Assassins are involved.) Whether you like the story or not, I'm incredibly grateful for the tremendous amount of help and feedback I got for Beauty and the Beast. It means a lot to me. Now, please enjoy my stab at humor.
The familiar sound of Edward's Volvo peeling out of the driveway met my ears. The distinct scent of Edward and Bella combined began to dwindle and disappear altogether as the car got farther and farther away from the house. The bite on my arm stung; I put my hand over it absently, not paying enough attention to the pain to be properly irritated.
I stifled a grin as Alice pushed the long sleeves of her shirt up to her elbows. Her air was resolute. A strong feeling of determination washed over me as she set to work planning Bella's wedding. She began sketching, designing what was beginning to look like a bridesmaid's dress, and occasionally making little side notes on a separate sheet of paper. On her flawless face was a look of intense concentration. No one could match her exuberance when Alice was in a playful mood, but once she got into her working mode, nothing could impair her focus.
"Did you make the phone calls?" she asked as she drew.
"Of course, dear," Esme replied. "The packages will be here by next week."
"Perfect," Alice beamed, not having once paused or looked up from her work.
Esme sat next to her at the table with a pencil in her hand and a piece of paper placed in front of her. At the top of the page read 'Table Arrangements'. Her hand was still for the moment as she watching her daughter fondly, full of good humor. And there was another element to her emotions at present…a mixture of peace and relief.
I knew the cause for these emotions immediately. Esme had worried about Edward and Bella's situation more than any of us; her maternal instincts regarding both Edward and Bella had been too strong for even me to still her anxiety. She had agonized over Edward's future without Bella. And so had we all, if not to such a great degree. We all cared for Edward deeply–and I had felt his emotions during the months after he had left Bella. No one should have to feel that kind of pain.
So now, Esme's feelings reflected the overall atmosphere of our household. The contentment was tangible, radiating from every occupied room. Carlisle was whistling to himself as he worked in his office, and Emmett and Rosalie's combined laughter could be heard from upstairs. You could almost feel the puzzle-pieces fitting together, the train righting itself and jumping back on to its tracks. Things were finally as they were meant to be.
I watched Alice from my chair in the corner, luxuriating in the happiness and in the almost-imperceptible changing of her expressions. I'd become so familiar with her face that I felt as if those little changes were a part of me, engraved in my heart. The twitching of the corners of her lips, the tiny crease between her brows, the smallest wrinkle of her nose…
Alice gasped suddenly, and fell against the support of her chair.
Pulled out of my trance, I leapt up to help her, but Esme had already beaten me to it. She took one of Alice's tiny hands in her own. "What do you see, Alice?"
Alice didn't seem to hear her. Her eyes were distant and unfocused. She shook her head swiftly from side to side, as if trying to shake off an irksome fly. "No…I don't believe it…" she muttered to herself.
"Alice, what is it?" Esme repeated, sounding a little worried now.
Alice shook her head once more, and came back to us. When her eyes focused, they were amazed. She was filled with disbelief. She turned to me, her lips parted in surprise. "Oh my God," she said.
I gave her a questioning look.
"Jasper," she whispered, "I saw Edward and Bella. Together." Her eyes watched for my reaction.
"And?" I encouraged. Edward and Bella were always together. What was so incredibly shocking about that?
Alice clucked impatiently. "I mean together, Jasper. Together."
Everyone in the house froze in shock. Carlisle paused in the action of turning the page of his book, and Rose and Emmett halted their conversation mid-sentence.
No. He couldn't have. He wouldn't have. This was Edward and Bella we were talking about, wasn't it?
Esme was the first to speak, after an eternal-seeming period of silence. "Oh, my," she said faintly, bringing her hand up to cover her mouth.
The hilarity was there. I could feel it. It was in the back of my mind, in the back at everyone's mind, but kept at bay by the utter outrageousness of Alice's statement.
"Scandalous, isn't it?" giggled Alice, who had recovered her from her astonishment. Her ocher eyes danced mischievously.
That was it for me. I began to laugh uproariously, barely managing to say, "Well, it's about ti–"
My comment was cut off by loud whoops from upstairs. The house shook with Emmett's jubilation. "Go Edward! Holy shit! Jasper, can you believe it?"
"I know–it appears that Virtuous Edward wasn't quite so virtuous, after all," I replied, nearly bent double by the force of my laughter. My enthusiasm was catching–even Carlisle was chuckling by now.
"Who would have thought?" called Rosalie, laughing.
Esme's hand still covered her mouth, but now it was to hide a smile.
"Was he enjoying it, Alice?" Emmett hollered. "After all those years of abstinence, it's a wonder Bella's still alive!"
She giggled, replying, "Oh, I'm almost positive that she's alive. Everything seems to be functioning properly."
"Alice!" Esme expostulated, still muffling her laughter with her hand. Unrepentant, Alice grinned wickedly.
"Alright, that will do," said Carlisle with an attempt at sternness. "And Jasper, for heaven's sake, calm down. You're going to give Emmett an apoplexy."
"I don't think that's possible, Carlisle," I answered. But nevertheless, I began to calm myself down and to get a firmer grip on my emotions.
Emmett's thunderous laughter faded and died. After a suitable period of silence, he said, "I can't wait till Edward gets home."
"Agreed," chimed Rosalie.
"Agreed," I affirmed.
Alice just laughed, her eyes twinkling as she saw what Edward's future looked like once he stepped into the house.
"Now, that's enough," Esme commanded. "No one threw a party for your first time, Emmett, dear. And what happens between Edward and Bella is absolutely none of any of your businesses. Now, Alice, we still have a wedding to plan, whether or not the bride can wear white in all honesty–"
I suddenly felt disappointment swell up within Alice. "No need, Mother," she said glumly. "The bride can wear white, all right."
Now I could feel disappointment welling up in everyone.
"What?" I asked. "Someone changed their mind?"
"Yes." Alice sighed.
Emmett muttered grumpily, "I wonder who that was."
"Damn him," huffed Rosalie. "He always ruins my fun."
Alice drew in a sharp breath, then laughed.
"What is it now, Alice?" asked Rosalie sullenly.
"You'd be surprised, Emmett," said Alice gleefully.
"Bella?" Esme gasped.
"Yep." Alice moved from her perch at the table to crawl into my lap.
There was silence as we all contemplated that. "Interesting," Carlisle finally murmured to himself. "I wonder why…"
"Edward's prudishness has probably rubbed off on Bella after all this time," I guessed.
"Well, it's not as great as it would have been before, but it's something," mused Emmett. "We can still have a chat with him when he gets home."
"He'll probably be keeled over with dejection, after being so blatantly refused by his true love," cooed Rosalie in mock-sympathy. "Now, we'd never poke fun at him for it, would we? Not in such a time of need as this, when he'll so desperately need the support of his family." The emotions coming off of Rosalie belied her words, however. The way she felt right now was like her feelings when we were hunting together, and she was circling her prey. It was a good thing that Edward gave as good as he got.
"Oh, yes we will," I muttered, grinning. "I haven't had quite enough fun for the evening."
Alice giggled, then sighed, and I was surprised to feel the tiniest spark of guilt in her emotions. "We're such terrible siblings," she sighed again.
"Aww, no we're not, Alice," Emmett called, chuckling. "We just put things in...perspective for him. That's one of the duties of a sibling, isn't it?"
Before returning to his book, Carlisle said in a resigned voice, "Just make sure they aren't too enthusiastic, Jasper. Edward's going through a stressful time right now."
As if I didn't know that better than anyone. All of Edward's stress was enough to make me perpetually crabby.
"Don't worry, Carlisle. Edward's a big boy. He can handle us wicked siblings," Rosalie assured him.
"I do wonder, though, why Bella refused him," Alice thought aloud. "From what I've seen, she's always the one throwing herself at him."
"That's what I've seen, too," I agreed, my curiosity aroused. Mischievously, I looked down at Alice, still sitting in my lap. "Maybe we should ask her."
Alice shook her head, quickly coming to the defense of her friend. "No, don't make poor Bella squirm," she ordered. "You know how uncomfortable it makes you when she blushes."
"Yes," agreed Emmett. "We'll have enough time for that sort of thing once she's a vampire."
Once again, Esme called us to order. "Emmett, I'm sure you have something better to do. Jasper, leave Alice alone so that she can plan Bella's wedding. We have a time-budget to work with."
Reluctantly, I complied. Alice had to get back into working mode. She returned to her seat at the table, with one last snicker, and began sketching again.
Before the house was engulfed by silence once more, Emmett said, "I still can't wait till Edward gets home."