Chapter Twenty Four
"Are you alright Jasper?" Carlisle asked as we made our way through the forest.
"Yeah." One look at his incredulous face had me explaining. "All that grief. It was overwhelming."
"And here I thought it had something to do with Bella being there," Carlisle said lightly.
I frowned. "I'm just trying to respect her wishes and leave her alone," I said bitterly.
Carlisle laughed. "Oh young love," he murmured, grinning. I opted to stay silent. It was something I was good at. "You know, when I first created Esme, she wouldn't talk to me for two months. After I explained everything to her, that is. I dare say she was a bit...freaked out, if you will."
"What, and you just waited around?" I asked incredulously.
"Well son, women are very fickle. They don't always know what they want, or sometimes they just take a bit longer than they should to get around to going after it. Personally I've found persistence pays off," Carlisle said lightly, a small smile gracing his features.
"Hmm," I replied, preferring to be noncommittal.
As we neared the house I found Alice waiting outside for me.
"Jazz, that was a stupid decision to make," she chastised. "I just don't understand why."
"What?" I asked, caught off guard.
Alice rolled her eyes, taking a deep breath before continuing. "Don't tell me you didn't know how much Bella wanted to talk to you. Even with everyone else there, you're very in tune to her feelings."
Hurt. Jealousy. Longing. Exasperation.
I was also still very in tune to Alice's feelings.
"I believe she made it very clear how much she doesn't want to see me," I replied gruffly.
Alice frowned. "You're being 99.99% ridiculous. You know that." I shrugged. Alice's frown deepened and she closed her eyes, searching the future. When she alighted on something she seemed a bit pleased with, Edward's voice called down to us.
"Yes, I'll help you," he agreed, resigned.
Alice smiled, calling a thank you back. "You make things difficult, Jasper," she said lightly, patting my shoulder. "But it's alright. You can thank me later." With that she left me to stand there, perplexed as to what had just transpired.
"You can thank me later too," Edward's cheeky voice called down again.
Happy thoughts Jasper, happy thoughts.
I figured it was about time to buy a car. I'd been putting it off for such a long time, but with things how they were now I didn't exactly feel comfortable borrowing Alice or Edward's cars. Not to mention how possessive Rosalie was of hers. Carlisle used his for work, and well...there was no way I'd ride around in Emmett's jeep.
So I headed to the dealership, Rosalie agreeing to come with me. Upon reaching the place I immediately headed over to the Jaguar section, Alice's remark weighing in my mind. Bella would like a dark blue Jaguar. So of course I should get one.
"A Jaguar, Jasper?" Rosalie asked, a bit of a sneer on her face.
"Do you have a problem with them?" I asked her.
"Not at all. Just doesn't seem to be your style," she remarked.
"And what is?" I challenged.
Rosalie looked around the dealership before walking away, a casual wave of her hand telling me to follow her. She walked past the sports cars with carefully controlled longing, and led me over to a row of cars before pausing.
"Dark blue?" she asked. I nodded my head.
Rosalie glanced around, frowning. "Well, I could always just paint it for you," she told me. "An Acura. Sporty, of course. Now I know four doors are much more realistic, but trust me, a coupe just looks so much more fabulous. And besides, you don't really want to drive everyone around, do you? Perfect."
Rosalie smirked, turning to face the salesman that was making his way towards us. While she greeted the man I walked around the car, checking it out. It was a very nice car. A bit smaller than the Jaguar I was previously going to buy, but I liked the build more. It was more aesthetically pleasing. And besides, Rosalie was already halfway done haggling the price with the man.
"Trust me, you'll both love it," Rosalie told me confidently as we followed the man to his office.
"Alice doesn't exactly like non-convertibles," I replied. "Much like you."
"I wasn't talking about Alice," Rosalie said vaguely.
Huh. "And since when have has your distaste for Bella receded to such a civil level?" I asked her, both intrigued and bemused.
"Since I saw how happy she made you," Rosalie said lightly. "Now enough of this, you're pushing your luck."
I couldn't help but smile.
Through the paperwork. The payment. The drive home. The encounter with Alice. In my now, single, room.
Rosalie had given her blessing.
The days seemed longer than usual. I'd read all the books in my own library more times than I could remember, and there was really only so much yard work I could help Esme with around the house. I was going slightly insane.
Which is what I chalked it up to when I found myself in the trees outside of Bella's house in the dead of night. Because I knew she didn't want to see me, knew she really didn't feel like trying to make us work, but god I missed her.
I missed her smile, her blush, her scent, her hair, her lips. I missed her jokes, her general social ineptitude. I missed her laugh.
I was standing outside her window like a creepy stalker again. Guess old habits die hard after all.
She was asleep. I could sneak in for just a moment, see her, touch her again. She wouldn't wake up.
I hesitantly reached out to her window, holding my breath when it creaked too loudly, and keeping my eyes trained on Bella to make sure she was still asleep. She merely curled up a little bit more on her bed but otherwise remained immobile. I let out my breath.
Slipping silently across the floor was easy and familiar, but seemed a bit foreign after all these weeks of not being able to do so. She was so close now, if I just reached out my hand I could...
Stop it. I could look, I could definitely look, but I shouldn't touch her. If this was as close to Bella as I could get then so be it. She may want me out of her life but mine was nothing without her in it.
She was sleeping peacefully, for which I was grateful. I had been worried about how she might be sleeping since I wasn't around to soothe her. But she seemed fine. A bit sad, still guilty, but definitely on the mend. Her life was fixing itself. My lips quirked up into a smile at the thought.
I knelt down beside her and just stared at her. She was so peaceful, so beautiful as she slept. I had to grip the bed sheets as the urge to brush the hair off her face hit me hard. Control, Jasper, control.
Her nose scrunched up a little and she mumbled incoherently.
God I loved her so much.
She smiled then and I realized that she could feel my love. I didn't bother trying to reign it in. Because while I could lie to myself and the family and her when I had to, I couldn't bring myself to lie about it when I was alone and vulnerable. I just wanted to love her, plain and simple. In fact, I doubt there was anything I wanted quite as much as this right now.
I took a few controlling breaths then stood up to leave. This was too hard for me. As I walked silently to the window I felt Bella's mood change dramatically. Suddenly she was frightened and whimpering, caught in a nightmare. I hesitated for just a moment, but then she whimpered again and I was right by her side, brushing the hair off her face and calming her down. The latter was a bit unnecessary, but it'd been so long since I'd been able to do this I overdid it.
Bella calmed instantly, leaning into my palm and sighing. I couldn't help myself. I gently kissed Bella's forehead, staying as close as I could to wrap myself in the moment. She shifted, and I pulled back, frightened that she'd awoken.
Her eyes were open a bit, and she was staring up at me, a dazed, sleepy sort of smile gracing her face.
"Jasper," she mumbled. She smiled at me again, then sighed. "I love you." Bella dropped back off to sleep as if nothing has happened. As if we hadn't been apart for how many weeks, days, hours.
And she still loved me.
The thought both frustrated me and gave me hope. If Bella still loved me then maybe we could still be together and...no. No, when she woke up she wouldn't even remember. Things would go back to the way they were and she'd go on pretending I didn't exist, and I would let her. Sometimes you just have to know when to back down, and bow out gracefully, like Jacob. Maybe we could start our own little "Bella Doesn't Want to Be With Me" club, and hell, even invite Edward and Mike to join.
Ugh. Now I really was starting to sound like Edward with all the self pitying, do nothing attitude. That wasn't me. I was the go getter, the ruthless, do what I have to to get what I want type. Glancing back at Bella, I suddenly wondered where that Jasper went.
"Would you just go over there already? You're driving Alice and me insane," Edward grumbled from the doorway of the bedroom.
"What?" I asked, looking up from my book where I had been reading the same sentence for the past two hours.
"To Bella's. Your indecision is giving Alice a headache, and it's not doing me any favors either," Edward replied crossly, leaning against the doorframe.
"She doesn't want me to go there," I responded curtly, returning to my book with no intention to read it.
Edward scoffed behind me. "This isn't the Jasper I know," he told me condescendingly. "The Jasper I know rips the limbs off of anyone that tries to get in between him and his love. The Jasper I know has absolutely no problem stalking and forcing meetings between himself and the love of his life, despite her absolute resistance. Where did that Jasper go?"
He was taunting me, trying to get a rise out of me. Get me to shut the hell up, figuratively, seeing as it was in my head, and go do something about this. After all, this was the Jasper that had served in war, had fought off humans and vampires alike with no reservations or second thoughts for the woman he loved. This was the Jasper who would follow Bella to the ends of the earth forever just to be able to see her one more time.
"Yeah, well that Jasper is pretty damn tired of being told to go away every time he tries to plead his case," I muttered gruffly.
There was a long silence. I could feel Edward's disappointment. "Right. Well then, at least make up your mind about it." He turned to leave, but stopped just outside my door. "And remember that there are those who wouldn't give up on her love so easily if we knew deep down that we still had it."
Guilt trip. That bastard. I knew Bella loved me. I could feel it, even if she refused to let it show. I knew she loved me. I just wished she would admit it to herself.
There was a light knock at my door. "Jasper," Esme called softly from the doorway.
I sighed quietly, before turning around and standing. "Please come in Esme."
Esme smiled at me, walking across the room and sitting on the small love seat I had in my room. She looked around for a few moments, before glancing back at me. "I love this room," she told me.
I laughed slightly. "Well I should hope so. You designed it after all."
Esme grinned. "I meant to say, I love it because I feel it is so much more you than any other room you've had before."
I nodded, also looking at my room. Esme had furnished it in mostly wooden articles of furniture, modern but with a vintage sort of look. She also had a few actual antique pieces, from my time, and I had to admit when I first stepped inside I felt like I was home for the first time in a long time.
"Well you did a wonderful job," I replied quietly. Esme just smiled at me in that motherly way of hers. She really did know us better than we gave her credit for. We sat quietly for a few minutes, and it was refreshing. But it also gave me the inextricable urge to ask her advice. After all, I'd never been able to ask my own mother for advice on love, and Esme's maternal nature had me regarding her as a mother whether or not I, or anyone else, would really admit it to her.
"It's okay Jasper, you can ask me anything," she told me after a moment.
"I just, I don't know what to do about Bella," I sighed. "She refuses to talk to me and runs the moment she sees me. Now I admit that I've done my fair share of running from her, which I know I shouldn't, but after being scorned so many times, it's getting real hard to keep trying."
Esme nodded her head sympathetically, taking a moment to determine what she would say. "Jasper, when I was a young girl I remember liking Johnny Waters so much. He was my high school sweetheart. But then one day I saw him talking to Veronica Pike, and oh I just got so jealous. I absolutely refused to talk to him, see him, let him carry my books or walk me home. It went on for at least a month, probably more."
I raised my eyebrows at her, unsure why she was telling me this story.
"What do you think Johnny did that entire time, Jasper?" Esme asked me.
"I haven't a clue."
"Wouldn't leave me alone for a minute," Esme confessed, chuckling. "Followed me to school in the morning, back home in the afternoon, chased me around during lunch. Never a moment when that boy would give up."
Esme's smile suddenly turned a bit forlorn. "What happened to Johnny?"I prompted.
"I don't really remember," Esme replied. "I remember I finally forgave him, and we got back together and had a wonderful time. But I don't think my parents liked him very much. I don't remember; everything gets very fuzzy after that."
"I'm sorry," I said softly.
Esme shook her head slightly, turning back to smile at me again. "It was a very long time ago. I don't remember what happened, but I do remember that we cared for each other very much. And that for a long time we were together and happy. But to think, none of those wonderful things would have happened if he'd given up so easily." Esme stood then, and I followed suit. She leaned forward and up, kissing my cheek. "And don't even get me started on Carlisle's persistence," she laughed, walking out of the room.
I watched her exit, staring after her for a long while. She was right, after all. I was giving up too easily. I had to keep at it, no matter how frustrating and anxious it might make me. After all, mothers know best.
Esme had let me help her with her gardening this year, and some late spring flowers were in bloom. After gaining her consent I canvassed the flowers, breaking off the ones that were fully opened. I wasn't very good with flower arrangements, but the bouquet I picked looked decent enough, and I'm sure Bella would appreciate it more than if I had bought her one.
I patted my coat pocket, double checking that the letter was still there. I carefully laid the flowers next to the basket of strawberries I'd picked this morning. Maybe it was overkill but I couldn't help myself.
I tried to keep calm on the drive to Bella's house. I only hoped that this would go okay. That she would give me just a few minutes to try and talk to her. But even if she didn't I couldn't give up.
Bella wasn't home. Her truck wasn't in the driveway, nor was the cruiser. I walked up to the door anyway and knocked. No answer. I reached under the mat and grabbed the spare key, unlocking the door. Really though, under the mat was an awful place to hide a spare key. I left everything on the counter, placing the letter on top.
Disappointed I left the house. Charlie pulled up as I was leaving. "Jasper," he greeted, stepping out. "Haven't seen you in a while."
"Charlie," I greeted. "How have you been?"
"Oh I've been alright. Working. Keeping busy." Charlie paused for a while. "So you and Bella aren't..."
"No," I replied, uncomfortable. "But I aim to fix that."
"Good, good," Charlie agreed.
"Well, I should be going," I said, breaking the uncomfortable silence. "I'll see you soon."
"See you," Charlie responded.
When I returned to the house Esme was waiting on the porch. "She wasn't home," I told her. Before she could become concerned I added, "Don't worry. I'm not giving up."
"Good." Esme led the way into the house where Alice was lounging on one of the couches.
"She's going to love the letter," Alice called out. "So quit running away."
Despite my fervid conviction to persistence and trying to win Bella back I couldn't help but lose confidence in the week following with no response from Bella. So now the get what you want Jasper was gone, replaced by meek, fold to everyone's whim's Jasper for an undisclosed amount of time. When finally Bella came to the house I ran out of there as fast as I could, claiming I had to hunt.
Which was obviously a lie, because who needs to hunt three days in a row after having drunk an entire bear the first time?
So here I was, sitting on a chair next to the woman I scorned, who was once again best friends, or as close as she could be, to the one person who I loved more than anything, while my rival stood poised in the doorway, a small smirk on his face. I couldn't help but glare at him as he listened to my train of thought.
"Alice, why am I going?" I asked, tugging at the tuxedo she had forced on me.
Alice paused, the mascara wand dangerously close to her eye, to glare at me. "Because, Jasper, this is my Senior Prom and there's no way I'm missing it. Now quit being a baby and go wait with Edward or something. But I swear to god if either of you mess up my hard work you'll regret it." Alice finished her makeup and rounded on me. "I'll be back at six and then we can go."
I sighed irritably. I really, really did not want to do this. Maybe I could somehow get in a battle with a bear and get my legs ripped off or...
Alice laughed. "Good luck with that, Jasper," she told me before she disappeared to god knows where.
"She's right. Emmett's already cleared out the bears in this area," Edward told me.
"Thanks for the help," I muttered darkly. I knew I was being unfair, but I couldn't help being grouchy. Not that it had anything to do with a certain human girl or anything ridiculous like that.
"Come on," Edward said, a hint of a grin on his face that I sort of wanted to wipe off. "Quit being a sourpuss. Emmett wants to challenge you in his new video game."
"Sourpuss?" I asked, my eyebrows arching high at the ridiculous term.
"Forgive me. Would you rather I had called you a-"
Oh shut it, I thought miserably, making my way slowly downstairs.
Edward followed me down, and we made our way over to Emmett who was currently sprawled out on the couch.
"You came!" he greeted cheerfully.
"Yes, well you wouldn't shut up about it, would you?" Edward replied mildly, grabbing one of the controllers. He picked the other one up and threw it at me.
This was utterly ridiculous. A war game. Seriously, as if we hadn't just had a real life battle. Sometimes I imagined how...enthusiastic...Emmett would have been had he been able to fight in a real war. Nothing seemed to daunt the man.
"Believe me, he's fantasized about it enough," Edward told me as I sat down. "Now quit being a child and enjoy killing the zombies."
Alice was back promptly at six, looking her usual stunning self. However, when she saw my disarrayed hair and slightly wrinkled outfit she about threw a tantrum.
"I was gone for two hours," she muttered darkly, pulling a comb through my hair and trying to make it look as though I hadn't just spent the past couple of hours tugging at it in frustration whenever a zombie killed me. "And you!" she cried, shooting daggers at Edward, who was ironing his coat, "don't you dare move. We're going to be late now thanks to you two."
Alice tugged at my hair several more times before throwing her hands in the air. "I give up! You have three minutes to go iron your clothes while I work on Edward."
I rolled my eyes and headed to the hot iron, Edward and I trading places. I removed my coat and shirt, ironing them as quickly as I could, lest Alice decide to really throw a tantrum.
Alice had little success with Edward's hair either, and promptly just left the room.
"She'll be waiting for you in your car," Edward told me. I raised my eyebrow at him but he shrugged nonchalantly. "Honestly Jasper, she's just trying to make this night special," Edward replied. I wasn't sure if the bitterness I felt was his or my own.
"Sure, sure," I muttered, buttoning my shirt and throwing on my coat.
"Really, picking up habits from that dog now?" Edward chided.
I said something not so nice in my head but Edward merely laughed. Alice was indeed waiting for me in my car, and I slipped inside, waiting for Edward to come in as well.
"He's driving himself," Alice told me. For a moment I was confused, but Alice anticipated such a reaction and explained, "He's picking up Bella."
Edward had told me they weren't together any more, but it still stung. He got to see her, talk to her, laugh with her, touch her, while I was kept at a firm distance.
Alice put her hand over mine. "Calm down Jazz. Don't worry about it," she murmured.
I felt guilty. "Sorry Alice. I promise we'll have a great night." Alice merely gave me a small smile. I brought the engine to life and pulled out smoothly, waving back at Esme who was standing on the porch with Carlisle, watching us leave. She always was sentimental about these things, regardless of how many times we'd all been to prom.
I wanted to make conversation with Alice, but let's be honest, Bella was going to be there, and I was a bit preoccupied with the different courses of action I might take. I'd been pretty good at avoiding her these past few times, but this one might be a bit more tricky. Of course, I could always do the man thing and say hello.
"Don't worry so much," she told me.
The witty retort died on my tongue as I glanced over at her. She'd really put a lot of effort into tonight, and she looked amazing. The old part of me that still loved her was overwhelmed with the desire to kiss her and tell her as much.
Alice laughed somewhat forlornly and gave me half a smile. "Thanks Jasper," she said softly.
"You're welcome," I told her. "I mean it though. You look amazing." I pulled into the parking lot of the school and turned off the engine. "And I'll do my best so that you enjoy this night as much as you should, because you definitely deserve it."
Alice leaned over and pecked my cheek. "Thanks Jazz, that means a lot."
I got out and opened her door, offering my arm. She took it and we walked to the entrance together, Alice handing over our tickets and heading us straight over to the dance floor. I decided against questioning why she skipped over the pictures, which were always the first thing we did, no matter how long it took, and merely followed her to the center of the dance floor.
Alice was always one of the first to dance, she always enjoyed it so much, and I was always happy to oblige. Of course, it was always more fun when Rosalie and Emmett were there so that we might change partners, but Alice was always a fun dance partner, so I couldn't complain.
We started off waltzing across the floor, but Alice soon decided she'd rather dance like the contemporaries, and broke away, mingling into the crowd, knowing full well I refused to dance in such an inappropriate manner.
I made my way off the dance floor, much more content to stand by the sidelines and watch rather than engage in dancing with people I didn't know. A few minutes passed in such a manner. Alice was dancing with some of her classmates on the far side of gym. The doorway got dark, signaling someone else entering, and my breath hitched. I turned slowly and saw Bella in all her splendor. Hair in soft waves, soft and flowing dress, holding onto Edward's arm and looking as uncomfortable as ever.
Edward leaned down to whisper something in her ear, and she blushed slightly, her cheeks blossoming pink, and she playfully slapped Edward's arm. He just smiled at her. My body was moving before I knew what I was doing. Edward glanced up at me and slightly scooted Bella forward. She looked up, confused, just as I arrived, stopping just short of her.
"Hey," I said breathlessly.
"Hey," she repeated. Her heart was fluttering and I knew I wasn't any better than her. My throat seized up and I couldn't for the life of me find anything to say. Because after running away from her so much, here I was, standing in front of her ready to profess my love and I couldn't say anything more elegant than 'hey'.
"Jasper," Edward said quietly, clapping my reassuringly on the shoulder before he walked away.
"Jasper, I know I pushed you away, Refused to talk to you, was an absolute...an absolute brat these past few weeks," Bella started. "And, and I know I'm not very good at saying what I want to say. I usually jumble things up in my head so when they leave my mouth they sound even worse than they should."
Bella paused and looked up at me, and I gazed down at her, surprised and unable to reply.
"Okay. Well, I mean, it took me long enough to figure things out the first time around. And then things were great, and then everything went and got messed up, and I made bad choices, and then one thing led to another and one day I found myself sitting there realizing that-that..."
"Bella," I said quietly, holding a finger to her mouth to stop her. "You've refused to talk to me for weeks. Ignored my calls and talk to everyone else in the family but me." Bella mumbled something, but I shook my head. "I fought wolves and vampires and even humans for you. I conquered my thirst, made friends with my mortal enemy and even faced Charlie."
I released Bella and looked down at her hard. "Now darlin', you better have realized something damn important."
Bella stared at me for a moment, mouth slightly open, before she gathered her courage, squared her jaw, looking my right in the eyes. "I realized that even a forever with you would never be enough time. So why was I sitting here wasting it?"
I stared at her for a few moments, searching her face. She was anxious, determined, and damn full of love.
At last I smiled, cupping her face and pulling her close to me. Bella let out a squeak of surprise, but it was quickly smothered by my lips on hers. I ignited her passion instantly, and she knotted her hands in my hair slipping her tongue in my mouth. I eagerly allowed her entrance and drew her as close to me as I could.
At last Bella broke away, trying to catch her breath.
"I love you," she told me, the feeling bursting from her violently.
"For now?" I asked teasingly, letting my absolute love and adoration for this woman through.
A/N: It's finally, finally done. I really hope that I have not disappointed you guys with this last chapter. I was so nervous and just unsure about how this would turn out. I always suck at last chapters. Anyway. I'm also so sorry for how long this took, but I want to thank ALL of you guys, especially everyone who emailed me and requested an update. The guilt you inspired in me has at last paid off. I just want to send a huge amount of love to JaspersBella and SunshineandChocolate for their support and help throughout this whole thing. And I just really hope you guys enjoyed the story. I love you all!