I leaned my head on my hand, mimicking the lazy posture of the teenagers around me. In reality, I was still so new to this whole school thing that any lecture was enthralling. Edward said it would pass. To better fit in with the other students in my history class, I had to feign apathy. Humans were not rearing to go in their first period class.
Esme zipped through the living room, packing boxes with choreographed precision. It was clearly a dance she'd performed many times. Items were whipped off shelves, and carefully packaged in a row of clearly labeled boxes. A stack of newspapers lay at her side, and she moved so quickly that 3 or 4 items were removed, wrapped, and stowed in the course of a second.
I guess it made sense that Esme had packing and moving on down to a science. I had yet to witness it, but they had moved on, and quickly, countless times. I wondered when we would be moving on. The future had nothing to show me, and I furrowed my brow.
The teacher pulled a large map of the United States down over the chalkboard, noting to the site of an important Revolutionary War battle with his pointer. I carefully sketched a perfect replica in my notebook. Aside from art class, I loved history and science because they often gave me the opportunity to draw complex diagrams and maps.
As long as I could remember, I'd loved to draw. Mostly I drew Jasper. He had been my motivation long before I ever truly met him. I smiled, as my pencil sketched the outline of his face from memory. I wondered how he was doing at home. These days were tough for him, with me at school and him at home. But he wasn't ready to try it himself yet, and I wasn't going to push him.
The room was dark, with only a sliver of the hazy light from outside peeking through the side of the heavy curtain. Jasper sat on the hardwood floor. His knees were drawn up, and his head leaned back against the door. His eyes were clenched shut, rimmed by pale purple circles, and his hands balled up into fists as he nearly shook with frustration.
I bit my lip at the dull ache forming behind my eyes. It was really hard to see him like this. Every time I saw him struggle, I wanted to be there for him, as I had always been since I'd found him, to be his cheerleader, his confidante. But he knew how much the idea of going to school appealed to me, and he insisted I go with the others.
My pencil dug a whole in the paper, and I quickly flipped to a clean page. Focusing all my efforts on the page, I drew Jasper again, smiling this time, a sight that had been all too rare in these past few months since we'd joined the Cullens. On its own, it didn't matter much to him whether we had ever found them, but because it mattered so much to me, it mattered to him. Not for the first time, I sighed to myself, wondering if finding them was really worth the turmoil it seemed to be causing Jasper.
A car pulled into the drive, rumbling along the loose gravel. Esme glanced out the window as the older lady got out of the car, and began to scrounge around in the trunk of her car.
"Hello, Mrs. Waltham," she called, emerging from the house.
"Good day, Mrs. Cullen, I brought you some of those roses from my garden that I was telling you about. Look at the gorgeous coloring on them," she beamed, holding up a large bundle.
"Those are lovely," Esme smiled, reaching out to take them from the woman.
"Oh, dang it," Mrs. Waltham hissed, reaching for her handkerchief, "Those thorns are sharp."
Esme's head whipped upward at the sound of movement in the house.
"No!" I screamed, forgetting where I was. Suddenly I had thirty pairs of eyes on me, and I ran from the room, getting a hold of myself just enough to clasp my hand over my mouth as I had seen a human do before. Maybe I could make it home in time to prevent it. I was barely out of the hallway when another vision hit me. In my already agitated state I nearly fell to the ground.
Jasper came to a stop in the middle of some dense brush deep in the woods. In frustration he slammed his bloody fist into the tree nearest to him. It fell like a domino, taking its neighbor with it. He fell to his knees, letting his forehead follow forward to the ground, clenching his arms tightly over his head, rocking back and forth.
I gasped as I came to. Edward had his arm wrapped under my shoulders. He must have caught me as I fell.
"Come on," he said, guiding me along. "I heard you scream."
"We're too late," I whispered.
Edward nodded tersely. "It happens."
I knew it happened. This was not the first time that Jasper had slipped in our time together. But I also knew how much it devastated him when he did, and now that it wasn't just the two of us it affected…
"Go find him," Edward instructed. "I'll get the others, and we'll go help Esme get things taken care of."
I nodded, my lip firmly trapped between my upper and lower teeth.
"Alice, we move on a lot. We've moved on for almost all of us at some point. It happens," he reassured me.
With one final glance back at the school, I took off across the baseball field into the woods. My feet were moving of their own volition, deeper and deeper into the woods. I was sure I had crossed a state line by the time I slowed, and looked around.
The area was thick with vegetation, all wet from the evening's storms, and I had to focus my keen eyes to spot the two uprooted trees. I approached carefully. I didn't want to startle him. As long as I moved slowly, he'd sense my presence before I got to him. I could see him now, just hint of his white shirt through the thick vegetation. He was still rocking back and forth, forehead to the mud, arms crossed over the top of his head. His fingers were laced through his hair, pulling tightly at the golden curls.
As I approached I could feel the anguish and guilt pouring off of him. He couldn't control it when it got this bad. I pushed aside the branch of a large bush, and knelt in front of him. I wanted to wrap my arms around him and just hold him tightly, but I knew him well enough by now to know that this wasn't what he needed.
I lay my hand flat in the middle of his shoulders, worry, concern, and love flowing from me to him. I looked down at his hands: stark white skin, stained with deep red blood, threaded tightly through his messy honey-blond locks. I slid my own hand down slowly to rest on one of his, and he quickly yanked it away.
I swallowed hard, replacing my hand on his upper back. I knew this wasn't personal, but it still stung. If his hands hadn't been covered in blood, he wouldn't have yanked them away. I lifted his head from the muddy ground, and though he tried to put it back down, I succeeded in landing him on my lap. He tensed instantly, laying now on his side, still curled into a tight ball.
"Don't…" I murmured, rubbing a circle on his back with my hand, using it to continue to hold him to me.
He stopped trying to inch away from me, settling for burying his head in my thigh. His knees were pulled firmly to his chest, his hands twisting the fabric of his trousers over and over in his hands. I ran my hands into his hair, causing him to flinch slightly. Softly, I raked my fingers through the curls, trailing my nails along his scalp, making up a random pattern as I went along.
Edward and Emmett stood with shovels next to a newly covered hole in the ground, far into the woods.
"It should be a while before anyone finds her here," Edward noted, scattering leaves over the fresh dirt.
Emmett laughed wryly. "This is the first time in years that moving on isn't my fault. He lasted longer than I expected him to."
Edward nodded in agreement.
The shaking had stopped, but Jasper was still buried deep within in his cocoon of torment and sorrow. It was time to draw him out. I suspected that his drawn up knees were covering more blood that he didn't want me to see on his shirt. Swiftly, I grasped the back of his collar, and tore the garment in two down his back. He jumped slightly, but didn't raise his head from its pillow on my thigh.
I tore off a large swatch of fabric from the back, clean part of the shirt, and dipped it in the rainwater that had pooled at the bottom of the tree.
"Give me your hands," I told him softly. "It's time to get you cleaned up."
Slowly, his hands released his trousers and he let me take hold of one. I scrubbed it hard with the improvised washcloth, the dried blood coming off easily. I tore a new piece of his ruined shirt, and repeated my actions on his other hand.
"Time to sit up," I instructed.
He let me pull him up to a seated position. His head was bowed, knees still drawn up, but not as tightly. I knelt beside him, pulling the remains of his soiled, bloody shirt from his shoulders. I tore one final scrap from it before tossing it into the brush. Gently, I rubbed the dried blood from the edges of his mouth, and the caked on mud from his forehead.
I let the cloth fall to the ground, and took his face between my hands, kissing his forehead, and over each of his still-closed eyes. He didn't want me to see the renewed vividness of the red in his eyes.
"It's okay," I murmured, my lips brushing against his eyelashes. "You can open them."
He shook his head, reaching up to wrap his arms around my waist, crushing me to him. I slid my arms around his neck, and knees around his waist, and clung tightly to him. Now that he was ready for my embrace, I was going to hold him as closely as I could.
After a long while, Jasper finally spoke, the same quiet words he always said to me after he slipped. "I'm sorry, Alice."
"It's gonna be okay," I cooed into his neck.
"I know how much this means to you," he was starting to shake again, and I tightened my grip on him.
"I know it's not going to help you right now to hear this," I started. "But this isn't the first time this has happened. They move on all the time because someone slips."
"I wanted to be strong for you," he whispered, barely audible.
"You were," I told him, kissing his neck. "You were doing so good."
He let out a breath, a cross between a snort and a sob. "Apparently my best isn't good enough."
"She cut her finger. If she hadn't—"
"She was an old lady!" he sobbed. "She was an old lady, and she was terrified, and I couldn't stop. I did it right in front of Esme. I couldn't stop."
His head fell to the side against mine, and I turned to kiss his cheek.
Carlisle carried a large stack of boxes to the car. Edward stood leaning against the trunk, staring off into the woods.
"How are they?" Carlisle asked, following Edward's gaze.
"Out of range," Edward sighed, opening the trunk.
Carlisle nodded. "We can afford to wait a few more hours."
I pulled my head back to face Jasper. "We should head back. They're getting ready to leave."
He didn't look up.
Finally, he opened his grief-filled, crimson eyes and looked at me wordlessly. "Maybe you should just go without—"
I fell forward into his chest, as a vision slammed into me.
Jasper took off through the woods in the opposite direction of the house, alone.
I shook my head violently against his chest, "No…no…no…" He couldn't leave. I didn't know what I would do if I lost him.
"Alice?" He rubbed his hand along my back. "Alice?" His voice was laced with worry now. He pressed his lips to my forehead kissing my temple over and over.
"Please don't leave me," I managed, my voice very small. I shook in his embrace. The thought of losing Jasper was the one thing I couldn't handle.
"I won't. I won't. I won't," he punctuated each with a kiss, pushing himself to his feet with me in his arms.
"I can't lose you…" my grip on his neck loosened now that the fear had lessened.
"I love you, Alice. I just want you to be happy," he murmured into my neck. "So, if you want me to stay, I will stay."
"I didn't mean to upset you like that, I just--."
I cupped his cheek in my hand, and kissed him tenderly, resting my forehead against his. "No matter what might happen, we'll get through it together."
Jasper nodded. "Together." His lips brushed mine again. "Let's get back to the family before they leave." Still clutching me to his chest, he took off at a run through the dense brush.
"Oh what a rash and bloody deed is this!" Hamlet, 3.4