By: Alice W. Hale
Disclaimer: I do not have any connection to Stephenie Meyer or claim ownership to the Twilight series or the characters of Alice and Jasper.
"Come on, Jasper! I'm ready to go!" Alice called up the stairs. She'd been looking forward to today for a week and Jasper was being annoyingly slow. They were going to the new art gallery in Seattle and Alice was hoping to be there when the doors opened.
Before she could call him again, Jasper was at her side, "I'm sorry to keep you waiting, ma'am," he whispered in her ear, his Southern accent coming out more than usual.
"You'd better be," she grinned mischievously at him. "Let's go!" She was tossing the car keys in her right hand.
Jasper grabbed them before they landed in her tiny palm again a challenged, "Race you!"
A split second later, they were by the car; Alice was the driver's side door with Jasper leaning over her. "I win," she breathed, grinning again. A soft growl came from Jasper's throat and he kissed her cheek before giving her the keys.
As they drove, Alice happily chattered about the galleries that she was particularly looking forward to seeing. Jasper listened closely but said little. It was a comfortable situation to them: Alice had chattered to him and he's listened to her for decades.
When they arrived, Alice was happy to see that they were the first ones there, though another car entered the lot a moment later. It made Jasper smile to see his wife so happy, even because of something as ordinary as going to an art museum.
They left a hefty donation in the box at the door and went into the gallery to their left. It was full of 19th century paintings. Alice looked intently at each one, reading the information plaques, before moving to the next. Jasper was close to her side, commenting occasionally.
They toured another gallery that housed a few classical sculpture replicas before entering a gallery dedicated to various wars. Alice looked at each of them like she had the others, but Jasper lingered a bit longer.
"Is this what it was like where you were?" Alice asked him softly, referring to a painting of a lesser-known skirmish from the Civil War.
"Yes, from what I can recall. My troop was larger than this, however." He peered at the scene another moment and chuckled softly. "I met this artist once, I believe." The nameplate read 'Martin Houston.' "He toured the South, sketching battles as he went." Alice smiled and left him to his faint memories a moment longer.
As they continued to walk through the rooms, more people were filling the galleries. A child was crying two or three galleries over. His mother had scolded him for touching a painting.
"Come on, babe," Alice too his hand and guided him into the next room. "I want to see this last gallery then we can go. The ads said that it's the best 20th century collection in the state!" It was the one she'd most wanted to see and Jasper was happy to let her enjoy it.
There were lots of paintings, prints, and even some abstract artworks. In the corner of the room, there was a small painting, no more than a foot high, which caught Alice's attention.
"Jasper," she whispered almost inaudibly, tugging on his sleeve. Her eyes were locked on the painting; her mouth gaped open slightly.
It was of a girl who looked barely older than a child she was so small. Her skin was pale and sallow, as if she hadn't seen the sun in years. Her inky hair was cropped short and was unruly, her hands were buried in it making it wild. Her face looked terrified yet her eyes were completely emotionless, blank. The title read Unknown Girl in Asylum. The plaque said that it was painted in Bryson Asylum which is claimed was located in Mississippi.
"It's… she's… me," Alice finally said, shocked.
Jasper placed his hand on the small of her back and rubbed gently. "Ali, you don't know that. It could be anyone. Scenes like this were common in the teens and '20s."
She shook her head, "Look at her eyes. Don't tell me you've never seen that expression before!"
He couldn't deny it. It was the precise look that Alice got when she had a vision.
"What did they do to me? Look at my face… absolute horror…" She was shaking ever so slightly.
"Alice, darling, let's go home now," Jasper begged. He hated seeing her like this; he hated her imagining who she'd once been in such a negative way.
He took the car keys from her bag and led her away from the horrific painting.
On the drive home, they were silent. Jasper was constantly measuring her emotions, ready to calm her at a moment's notice.
"I want to know," she suddenly said. "I want to know about my life. I need to know, Jasper."
He didn't respond for a long moment. "What if you don't like what you find?" he finally asked.
She shook her head again, this time as if to clear it. "I need to know what kind of people they were, what kind of person I was. I must have been awful for them to do that to me!"
"Alice!" Jasper rebuked her as he pulled the car onto the shoulder of the road. "You do not know that." He pulled her small body into his lap and wrapped his arms around her. "You didn't do anything, Alice. It was them; they didn't take care of you." Tearless sobs were now shaking her tiny form. "Shh…" he soothed her. "They're not your family; we are. I am. I'll take care of you, Ali. You know how much I love you."
Her sobs slowed and she looked up at him, eyes wide and timid.
"I promise," he reassured her. "I love you." She just nodded and buried her head in his chest once more, hugging him tightly.
They sat in silence for some time longer, just holding each other.
"I'll help you," Jasper said finally. "I'll help you uncover your past."
She looked up at him. "Really?" she breathed.
"Of course." He kissed the top of her head and she snuggled back into his arms, instantly happier.