Disclaimer: I do not own Twilight or any of the characters.
A/N: This one-shot is a submission for The Epic T-Rated Contest. The rules are below for anyone who wants to enter. I urge you to do so as it is being continued in memory of a very talented writer, Daddy's Little Cannibal. My thoughts and prayers are with those who Stephanie has left behind.
This could very well be left off as just a one-shot, but I will most likely continue it in the future, once the contest is over, but it depends on the kind of response I get. This is my first story that is not Bella/Edward and I really hope you like it. Please let me know what you think of my first Alice/Jasper fic.
The Epic T-Rated Contest :) The rules are simple: 1. No lemons. Must be rated 'T.' 2. Has to have a line or reference to a cannibal. 3. Has to have a line or reference to a fireman. 4. All canon pairings. 5. Has to be a one-shot, but is allowed to be continued once the contest is finished. 6. Must copy/paste these rules to the top of your submission. Two entries per person. Collaborations acceptable. 7. Must PM either Daddy's Little Cannibal or Bronzehairedgirl620 to alert them of your entry so we can add your story to the C2 if it fits the requirements. The contest will run until June 6th, 11:59 MST (Mountain Standard Time.) Submissions need to be posted to FF and must follow the rules above. Have fun with it! We look forward to reading your entries. :) -Bronze and DLC
The Epic T-Rated Contest :)
The rules are simple:
1. No lemons. Must be rated 'T.'
2. Has to have a line or reference to a cannibal.
3. Has to have a line or reference to a fireman.
4. All canon pairings.
5. Has to be a one-shot, but is allowed to be continued once the contest is finished.
6. Must copy/paste these rules to the top of your submission. Two entries per person. Collaborations acceptable.
7. Must PM either Daddy's Little Cannibal or Bronzehairedgirl620 to alert them of your entry so we can add your story to the C2 if it fits the requirements.
The contest will run until June 6th, 11:59 MST (Mountain Standard Time.) Submissions need to be posted to FF and must follow the rules above. Have fun with it! We look forward to reading your entries. :)
-Bronze and DLC
I watched from my kitchen window everyday, as my golden-haired neighbor would leave for work. I wasn't sure what exactly it was that he did, but he often wore a tie, and carried a black leather satchel. He was by far one of the most handsome men I had ever seen. His eyes were a vibrant blue, his features defined and angular, as if chiseled from marble. He looked tall and muscular, though I couldn't really tell from this distance. I only assumed as much.
He had moved in about three weeks ago and I had never met the man. Not that I didn't want to introduce myself, it was simply that I could not. The thing was, is I haven't left my house in five years. Five long years I have been secluded to my two-story, three-bedroom home, and I doubt I will ever leave it.
My friends and family have long since given up on the notion that one day I will break free from this debilitating disease, as have I. I would never be able to leave my house and join the world once again. Ever since that fateful time in my life all those years ago, I have found myself unable to function in normal society, succumbing unwillingly to many a panic attack.
Before sliding into his car, the man looked up at me. He caught my gaze and I quickly looked away, embarrassed at being caught staring. I looked back, unable to keep myself from doing so. I had to see if he was still looking. What made him turn to me when he did? Did he know that I was watching?
When I looked back, I found him smiling softly at me, his blue eyes warm and inviting. He waved at me before getting into his car, and I watched him pull out of his driveway. Once he was out of sight, I buried my face in my hands and screamed my mortification. Why did he have to catch me?
I was caught off guard with the smile he sent my way. Most people – most normal people – would be put off with finding someone watching them, but he actually smiled and waved at me - a very friendly gesture that I was not expecting. For all he knew I was a cannibal, like Hannibal Lector. I could be some crazed sociopath who wanted nothing more than to eat his liver with some fava beans and a nice bottle of Chianti. Okay, so I wasn't a cannibal, but still, one could never be too careful. If I've learned anything from my experience, it's that you never truly know someone.
I decided to head upstairs and take a nice, long, hot shower. It was the normal start to my usual, day. I let the hot water wash over me, taking away the stress of my life and washing it down the drain, never to be seen again - until later.
My body was heavy and tired from lack of sleep, the nighttime hours bringing back my torment. Not every night, but on occasion I suffered from very vivid and very realistic night terrors. The nightmares would come at me full force, hitting me like a tidal wave, my attacker once again in front of me, taunting me, instead of dead, like I knew he was.
I shut off the water, the knob squeaking with wear, and the last droplets of water fell from the spout to the tub. I reluctantly removed myself from the calming haven of the shower and threw a towel around my body, the cotton soft against my skin.
I dressed quickly, and steered clear of the mirror so as to avoid the scars visible on my body. There weren't many, but there were enough to make me want to vomit from the memories of why they were there to begin with. I brushed through my short hair, always allowing it to air dry. Not that I was going anywhere, but I dressed in a pair of blue jeans and a light blue tank top.
For the next hour, I busied myself with a few things that needed to be done around the house. I cleaned and dried the dishes, placing them neatly back in the cupboards. I vacuumed the entire house, and all the laundry had been done, everything folded and in their proper drawers.
When I was satisfied with the way the house looked I decided to start on my work. I had a few jobs that I needed to get done by next Wednesday, and not being one to procrastinate, I decided to get a jump on things.
I was ahead of schedule – unsurprisingly - considering the only thing that consumed my life was my work, but I decided to push on anyway. Maybe I could get everything done by tomorrow. Not like I had anything to do or anywhere to go. I only had a couple friends who came over, sometimes twice a week, to keep me company. It was sweet that Bella and Rosalie would suffer being indoors every Friday just to be with me. It touched me that they wouldn't push me to get help – maybe see a therapist or take some medication for my condition.
My family didn't pester me either. My mother and father were supportive with any route that I chose to follow, and my brothers just wanted me to be happy and safe. If I wanted to seclude myself to my home, than so be it. No one would force me to do anything else.
My love life, if you could call it that, was completely non-existent. Having had my first and only boyfriend in college, he couldn't deal with my new introverted lifestyle. I didn't blame him in the least for ending things. After everything that happened I had more than a difficult time trusting any man who wasn't family anyway.
I was working on a brochure - a job for an airline company - and I was so immersed in my work that the ringing of the phone made me jump in my chair. My hand slipped from the mouse of my computer and I accidentally knocked my glass over, spilling the contents over my carefully constructed notes. Damn!
I picked up the phone as I ran to the kitchen to grab something to cleanup the mess. "Hello?" I said in a rush.
"Hey, sis. How've you been?
I grabbed a towel and darted back out to my desk, ready to try my damnedest to salvage those notes. "Hey, Edward. Not much – the usual. Just finishing up some work."
"Listen, I was just leaving the hospital. Is there anything you need before I head home?
Edward was always looking out for me. We were always so close growing up. How could we not be? We were twins, after all. But above that, we were best friends. Always together as kids – inseparable. Next to myself, I think what had happened to me affected Edward the most. That week was the single most horrifying week of my life. There are things that happened to me that I wish to never speak of again, but know that some day I may have to.
I don't know what Edward went through during that time. Someone still has yet to tell me, everybody refusing to put me through the anguish of knowing. I think they're afraid of how I will react. Apparently, Edward wasn't the same - he was a completely different person. Thinking that he had lost me he had almost given up all hope.
Those five days would stay with me for the rest of my life, never to leave me. They would only continue to hinder me, keeping me from living a normal life – the life that I wanted. The memories of that week passed through my mind everyday, my brain not understanding the meaning of a filter. I remembered every second of my torture with perfect clarity. My brain continuously mocked me with images during the day, but at night it was worse. When the terrors would happen, I couldn't ignore the gruesome pictures that flashed through my mind in my unconscious state. I was a slave to my dreams.
I couldn't get away from the metal of the instruments gleaming in the faint light of the windowless room. I couldn't cover my ears from the screams of pain, and I couldn't shelter my eyes from the blood pooling on the floor. The blood that only seemed to glow redder with each nightmare that passed.
I would awake in the night in cold sweats, my body trembling from the onslaught of my horrific visions. There was no escaping my past. It would forever haunt me. I would always hear his whispers in my ear and feel his hot breath on my neck.
I shook the thoughts from my head. "No, Edward. I'm fine. Just go on home to Bella." I began mopping up the mess, cringing at the smeared ink. They weren't salvageable.
"You sure? I'm heading to the store anyway."
I smiled. Sometimes he was too much. It was a wonder Bella wasn't jealous of our relationship. Surprisingly, she never complained. In fact, sometimes she was just as bad as he was. They complimented each other quite nicely. Not many women would be able to handle a man who was constantly taking it upon himself to look after his sister, but it honestly didn't bother her. Perhaps it was because Bella and I were friends before they started dating, perhaps it was because she loved him so much that she just didn't care, or maybe it was because Bella was just that kind of person – truly selfless.
"Yes, Edward, I'm sure. Now go home."
He sighed and I could almost hear the gears turning in his head, figuring out some excuse for him to stop by and check in on me. "Go home," I said again, more forcefully this time.
"Fine, fine. I'm going," he relented.
"Tell Bella I said hi, would ya?"
"I will. Oh, before I forget. Check out the paper. Our wedding announcement was just posted." I could hear the smile in his voice. Ah, my brother, ever the sappy romantic. I didn't know of any man getting excited about his wedding announcement, but that was Edward for you - not your typical guy.
Edward and Bella had been together since high school and if it were up to them, they would have been married right after graduation. However, my parents, as well as Bella's, insisted that they wait until they finished school, and in Edward's case, Med school.
"I'll get the paper now. I'll call Bella later when I've read it. She must be just thrilled knowing her face is in the paper," I said, my voice dripping with sarcasm.
He chuckled. "You know her too well, Alice," he joked.
"Alright. I'll talk to you later."
"Bye, little sis," he teased.
I scowled, hoping he could feel my rage through the phone. "You're only two minutes older dimwit."
"I'm still older," he laughed.
I rolled my eyes. "Goodbye, Edward."
I hung up the phone, his laughter only growing as I hit the end button. I finished drying up my desk, all my papers ruined, the ink running down the pages, the notes washed away. Luckily I had completed most of them, but still…
"Damn," I muttered angrily. I tossed them aside, deciding to deal with them later, and headed to the door for the paper.
I didn't remember hearing a thud against my door earlier, like I usually did. The local paperboy knew to toss it on my porch, as close to my door as he could manage. Even going a couple steps onto my porch was a tremendous feat to ask of me.
I cracked the front door open, peeking out through the crevice to see if anyone was there. I knew there very well wouldn't be, but after five years it was just instinctual now – a natural reaction imbedded into my survival instincts.
I looked down at the porch, noticing it was completely empty. The paper was not where it was supposed to be. I glanced around and finally caught sight of it at the bottom of the steps on the walkway. I could feel myself beginning to hyperventilate with the prospect of having to go get it.
Breathe, Alice. Just breathe, I told myself. Just walk out there and get the damn paper.
I slowly inched my way out the door on shaky legs, my limbs suddenly feeling heavy with lead. I hadn't been outside in years, this being the furthest I've gone from my house in quite some time. The open spaces mocked me and began closing in on me. I found enough energy to place one foot on the porch floor, and then another. I held onto the doorframe for support as the world began to spin around me. My breathing was uneven and I began drawing in long breaths, trying to steady my nerves.
In, out. In, out, I chanted to myself encouragingly in an attempt to psych myself up.
I looked around me, scanning my surroundings. I registered that it was turning twilight, the dark slowly closing in on the day – the moon gradually pushing the sun away. There was no one in sight. The few houses on my street looked empty - the cars not in the driveways, the lights out inside the homes.
I picked up my pace, hoping to get this horrendous experience over with as soon as humanly possible, but I only managed to throw myself off balance. I ran into the railing of the porch, hitting it hard, the wind leaving me, a whooshing sound escaping from between my lips. I instantly grabbed my side, the spot throbbing slightly from where I hit it.
My vision was now hazy and my body felt numb, aside from the spot below my ribs, which continued to throb and pulse in an irritating pain. That would probably bruise in the morning. I dragged my heavy body and my fumbling feet, guiding myself along the railing. I reached the top of the stairs, my fingers gripping into the railing so tightly I could feel the wood splintering under my nails.
Everything began to swim in front of me and I was unable to focus on anything. I held onto the banister, determined to finish walking the fifteen feet from my door to the Goddamn paper.
With wobbly legs I descended the first step, still bracing myself against the old railing – my crutch, my lifeline. I was on the last step, ready to congratulate myself on a job well done, when everything began to take a turn for the worse. It all just seemed to go south from there.
My heart began to pound forcefully in my chest as my breathing became erratic and my limbs began to shake. My sight was starting to spot, the edges of my vision growing black, the darkness increasing from the outside in. It was a scary feeling, one that I was all too familiar with.
My legs finally gave way and I could feel myself falling forward. My body felt like it weighed quite literally a thousand pounds as it came closer and closer to the ground. I waited for the impact – waited for my face to come in contact with the cold, hard cement.
Before I reached the ground, I heard a man's voice calling out to me, somewhere in the distance. I should have been frightened, not knowing whom it was, but for some strange reason the voice was comforting. I felt two strong arms around my waist just before everything went black.
I was running. My legs were heavy and tired, but the adrenalin was coursing through my veins, pushing me forward. I didn't know if the adrenalin was from the feeling of finally being free, or from the fear of knowing that he could possibly find me again before I was able to find salvation. Either way, I didn't care. I was out. I had a chance.
I ran through the darkened forest, the bright moon my only guide. I could feel the skin of my bare feet slicing open as I ran over the forest floor, the jagged rocks and protruding roots digging into me, drawing blood. I ignored the pain and continued to run blindly through the unknown woods.
I stumbled along my way, my panting and the grunts and squeaks from the animals in the surrounding forest the only noises I heard. I pushed the pain away with every pass I made through the overgrown foliage, the branches and sharp leaves whipping across my face – stinging me, causing tears to well in my eyes.
After what felt like hours, I finally broke through the brush and my feet met pavement. I tripped over my feet as cars passed me by, never seeing me. I crawled out onto the road, my energy finally leaving me. I fell to my stomach, the cool stone feeling good against my overheated and aching body. Bright lights flash before my eyes a split second before I heard a car horn and the unmistakable sound of screeching tires.
I sat bolt up right, my eyes flashing open instantly. I immediately started gasping for breath, the fear coursing through me still. The same fear I felt then, the same fear I felt every day – will feel every day.
My body trembled with the overwhelming emotions pumping through me, and the tears cascade down my face, the sobs tumbling from my lips. It was all just too much for me to handle and I lost it yet again.
"Miss? Miss, are you alright?" a frantic voiced asked. I felt a gentle hand on my shoulder, but my immediate reaction was to pull away.
I flinched from the comforting gesture, turning abruptly to face the stranger who was now in my home. A new wave of fear washed over me, consuming my entire being.
I withdrew to the far corner of my couch, pulling away from the person who was quite obviously only trying to help me. Even though I knew this voice was not the same voice that tore through me all those years ago, my body still trembled with fear. Most people would enter the fight or flight mode of their body's survival instinct, I simply found myself freezing up.
"I'm sorry. Please don't be frightened. I didn't mean to scare you," the velvety voice soothed.
I blinked repeatedly, my sleepy eyes coming into focus, my vision no longer cloudy. The first thing that came into focus was the honey-blonde hair that I spied every morning, then I was able to make out those perfectly kissable lips, and then finally his piercing blue eyes. How did he get in here?
He was on his knees beside the couch, his hands up in a show of peace. His eyes were pleading with me to relax and I found that I couldn't refuse. I momentarily recalled my earlier episode. I was going outside to retrieve the paper, and not doing so well, I might add. My little adventure turned into quite the failure apparently.
"What happened?" I asked, allowing my body to relax, wiping my eyes.
He put his hands down and sighed in relief. "When I came home I noticed you having trouble on your porch," he said. "I came over to see if you were alright when you passed out. I managed to catch you just before you hit the ground."
"Oh," I said, my embarrassment growing exponentially with each word that came out of his mouth.
I couldn't believe my freaking luck. I blacked out and the only one around was my new neighbor - the man whom I happen to have been pining over for the past few weeks. Just great!
I hastily pulled myself off the couch, straightening my clothes and brushing through my hair in a silly attempt to compose myself. He rose to his full height, which looked to be about 6'3", completely towering over me. God I was tiny.
There was a moment of silence – an awkward pause, neither of us knowing what to say. He cleared his throat and held out his hand. I eyed it curiously.
"I'm Jasper Whitlock – your new neighbor."
I hesitantly took his hand, his skin rough yet soft against my own. "Alice Cullen."
He smiled and shook my hand lightly, never taking his eyes from mine. "Sorry I haven't been over sooner to introduce myself, but I've been pretty busy with work and settling in."
I was mesmerized by his voice, his accent making me weak at the knees. He had a slight twang, and I couldn't pinpoint the origin. Louisiana? Tennessee? I was terrible with accents.
"That's okay, " I said, dropping my hand back to my side. "It's nice to meet you, Jasper."
"It's a pleasure," he smiled, his lips parting, revealing perfectly white teeth.
A silence descended upon us again, but only for a moment. His eyes suddenly turned worrisome, his brow furrowing. "So, um, Alice," he said warily. "Are you okay? That looked like a pretty nasty fall you took."
I nodded my head quickly. "Yes, I'm fine. Don't worry about me," I assured him.
He didn't seem to believe me. "Are you sure? Should I call an ambulance, maybe take you to the hospital? I would have called for help earlier, but you were only out for a minute."
"No, no. I'm perfectly fine." I wasn't lying. It was the half-truth. Technically, I wasn't okay, what with me being agoraphobic and all, but a panic attack was nothing to go to the hospital over. Especially since I was so used to them.
He looked at me, concerned, his eyebrows still scrunched together, and he was now biting his lip. "Would you like some coffee - something to drink?" I asked, hoping to steer the attention off of me and my little crying fit just now. Hopefully he wouldn't ask about that.
He seemed a little surprised by the question, maybe a bit thrown off guard, but he smiled anyway. "Coffee sounds nice," he nodded slowly.
I stayed in the kitchen making the coffee, occasionally peeking into the living room to steal glances of Jasper. I couldn't believe he was in my house. I had been admiring him from a distance for quite some time and now he was in my home. The last I looked he was perusing the photos on my mantle.
I placed the mugs on the counter and leaned against it as the coffee brewed next to me. Jasper was looking at a picture of Edward and I when we were younger. Edward was pushing me on a swing. It was a snapshot of happier days.
We were about eight at the time and mom had taken us to the park. It was a rare sunny day in Forks and she wanted to take the family outside. We spent most of the day on those swings, taking turns pushing each other. We would get as high as we could and then jump off, marking off where we landed, competing for the farthest distance. Edward always won. It wasn't fair. He was taller - still is. Not that being taller than me was such an accomplishment.
I watched Jasper as he moved about my home. I was fascinated by the way his muscles moved under his shirt, how his shaggy blonde hair would bounce with each turn of his head.
Other than my father and brothers, I hadn't been around a man in years. I should have been frightened that Jasper was in my house, alone with me, but I wasn't. He had a very calming aura about him. He seemed sweet and gentle and for some reason I felt like I could trust him. It may have been crazy, but I decided to go with my instincts on this one.
My eyes lingered on his body, watching his every move. They roamed over every inch of him, and as they moved their way up his body, he turned around, almost like he knew I was watching. His eyes caught mine and he smiled. I quickly turned away, cursing myself for being caught staring twice in one day, and busied myself with wiping down the counter.
I heard the creaking of the floorboards as he made his way through the hall. "Need any help?" he asked.
I turned around with two steaming mugs of coffee. "Nope. All done." I placed the cups on the kitchen table and gestured to a chair. "Please, sit." He slid into the chair, smiling up at me.
I hesitantly smiled back and strode over to the fridge. "Milk? Sugar?" I asked, opening the refrigerator door.
"Just milk, please."
I sat down across from him and poured the milk into his mug, the dark brown of the coffee turning into a swirling mocha. I grabbed my mug and began to blow on the hot liquid.
He raised an eyebrow at me. "You take it black?"
I nodded. "I like it strong."
He swirled the spoon around his mug, tapping it twice on the edge and then laying it down on the napkin. "So," he said as I took a sip of my delicious black coffee. "What is it that you do, Alice? For a living, I mean."
"I'm a graphic designer. I work freelance from my home." I blew on my coffee as I watched the steam rise out of the cup.
"Did you always want to do that?" he asked, taking a swig from his cup. He didn't even flinch from the scalding temperature of the liquid. He must have a throat of steel.
I shook my head, smiling, and swallowed another sip. "I wanted to sculpt – be an artist. But I realized it wasn't a very steady or logical career path."
"So you just fell into graphic design?" His curiosity drew him closer, his forearms resting on the tabletop.
"Do you still sculpt?"
"Sometimes," I shrugged. Truth was, I hadn't sculpted in years. I just couldn't bring myself to. "What about you?" I asked.
He shook his head. "Nope. Don't sculpt. Not artistic at all." He smiled and took another sip from his mug, peering at me over the top of it, humor alight in his eyes.
"Very funny," I grinned. "I meant, what do you do?"
"Oh," he said, drawing the word out, feigning ignorance. "I'm sorry – my mistake. I'm a teacher at the high school. History to be exact."
I brought one leg up and tucked it under the other, leaning further onto the table. "Did you always want to be a teacher?"
He shook his head and his soft curls fell over his forehead. He smiled and looked down at the table, laughing lightly to himself. "Actually, as a kid I wanted to be a clown."
I laughed, nearly spitting up my coffee. "Are you serious?" I could just imagine him in big red shoes, oversized pants and suspenders, the goofy makeup, and a red nose.
"Uh huh. When I was five I even tried joining the circus."
"And how did that turn out?" I giggled, resting my chin in my hand.
"Well, I packed my suitcase – cowboy print I might add – grabbed my stuffed monkey, Herbert and said, Mama, I'm joining the circus. Don't try and stop me. I'll write you when I get there." His eyes sparkled as he recounted the story, the color of them seeming bluer.
I felt my smile grow. "What did she do?"
He laughed lightly. "She told me she'd miss me and to be careful on the road."
"She didn't really let you go, though," I mused softly.
"Nah," he said, shaking his head. "She followed me in her car all the way down the block. I stood at the corner for five minutes, realizing that I couldn't cross the street. I didn't take into account that I wasn't allowed to cross by myself yet." He smiled.
"What did you do then?"
"My mom came up to me and said, Jasper, sweetie, you know I'd miss you terribly if you left, as would your daddy. Why don't you wait a few more years before leaving us?" He ran a hand through his hair and leaned back against the chair. "I agreed, rather reluctantly, and got in the car."
"It was sweet of her to make you think it was your decision not to go," I said.
He nodded, his soft, golden curls bouncing. "When I was ten I decided I didn't want to be a clown anymore."
He gave me a disbelieving look. "They're creepy. Have you ever seen the movie It?" he asked incredulously.
I nodded, completely understanding. "Oh yeah, that movie scared the crap out of me," I laughed. "It kept me up for months. I still can't watch it." I shuddered just thinking about Pennywise.
"See what I mean. After that I wanted to be a fireman. But when I realized I would have to go into burning buildings, I quickly squashed that idea."
I laughed, running my finger along the rim of the mug. "You didn't know that already?" I teased.
"Hell no! I just wanted to slide down the pole." We both laughed at the childlike absurdity of it. "It wasn't until high school that I found my calling as a teacher," he continued.
"Always history?" I asked curiously, tucking a lock of hair behind my ear.
"Pretty much," he said, moving his mug off to the side. "In Texas, we're big into the Civil War. I guess it was inevitable." He shrugged.
"Ah, that's the accent," I noted, smiling. "I couldn't place it."
"Yes, ma'am." His drawl was even more pronounced as he said this.
For a moment we just looked at each other, the atmosphere growing thick, suddenly charged with energy. I bit my lip anxiously, his eyes following the gesture. He shook his head, tearing his gaze away from my lips, his eyes landing on mine again.
"You always lived around her, Alice?" His eyes bore into mine and I felt as if he were trying to look right through me.
I nodded numbly, never taking my eyes from his. "Born and raised," I breathed, the air still thick. "My whole family still lives here in fact."
I groaned. "Yeah. Two brothers. There's Emmett, who's older and annoying, and then there's Edward - my twin. Though, Edward insists that since he came out of our mother's womb two minutes before me, he's older."
"Was that Edward in the picture, pushing you on the swing?" he asked, jutting his thumb over his shoulder.
"Yup. That's him. He's very protective - they both are, actually. Overbearingly so."
He smiled and leaned back, throwing an arm over the back of the chair, relaxing casually across from me. "They usually are. I would expect nothing less."
I rolled my eyes. "You didn't have to grow up with them." I didn't mind their protectiveness so much now, because the truth was, I needed it. But in high school it was a nightmare.
"True," he mused. "But I bet, deep down, you love that they care so much."
"True." I smiled, picking up our mugs and heading to the counter. "More coffee?"
He waved a hand in protest and patted his stomach lightly. "None for me. I'm good."
I began rinsing the cups under the faucet and glanced out the window at the ever-darkening sky. The moon was high in the sky, the stars twinkling brightly. "You have any brothers or sisters, Jasper?"
"Nope. Only child."
"So it's just you and your folks?" I asked, placing the mugs in the dishwasher.
He was suddenly quite and I feared that I had touched on a sensitive subject. I shut off the water and turned back to him.
"Not anymore," he said quietly, his eyes filling with sadness, their earlier liveliness gone. "They passed away a few years ago."
"I'm so sorry, Jasper," I said, closing my eyes in my shame. "I had no idea."
"Of course you didn't, Alice. It's perfectly alright. It was a while ago. I got through it." He smiled, trying to reassure me that he was okay, but I wasn't fooled. He was obviously still hurting.
"Still," I said. "I'm truly sorry. I may not know personally what it's like to lose someone, but I know what's its like to go through something so life changing."
He watched me for a moment and I could sense that he was debating on whether or not to ask any further questions about what I meant. Luckily, he didn't. Thank God.
"Thank you, Alice. That means a lot."
After that, conversation was on much lighter subjects. We talked for the next few hours, our discussion moving into the living room. We were both sitting in the middle of the couch, our bodies turned towards each other. Jasper was leaning carelessly against the sofa cushion, his left arm draped along the back. I sat close, but not too close, both my legs tucked under me.
We were so consumed in each other - discussing our childhood, our likes and dislikes. I delved deeper into my passion for art - something I hadn't done in a long time – and he surprised me by admitting to a love of poetry. We had breezed through an array of topics like books, music and currently, movies. We were just discussing some of movies most memorable and completely out of left field endings when I noticed the time.
"Wow, I can't believe it's eight already," I noted lightly.
"Yeah," he said, rolling his neck to work out the kinks. "I've been here for three hours. It doesn't seem that long, though."
His eyes locked on mine again. "So, um, Alice," he said hesitantly, almost nervously. "Would you like to get something to eat? I'd really hate the night to end."
I bit my lip, desperately wanting to say yes, but knowing I could do no such thing. "I don't think that's such a good idea," I said regrettably.
His face fell noticeably and it broke my heart to know I caused this. I hated that I had to refuse, but there was no other answer I could give him. I couldn't remember the last time I had enjoyed myself so much. Jasper made me feel comfortable and at ease. I felt completely safe in his presence, even though I had only just met him a few hours ago. I found myself laughing more than I ever had, and I didn't want this feeling I felt around him to go away. I hated that I was ruining this – whatever it was - before it even had a chance to start.
"Oh," he said, casting his head down. "I just thought…..Forget it," he said, shaking his head absentmindedly.
He got up to leave and I jumped to my feet to follow. "You just thought what?" I asked desperately. That you had found the woman you were going to marry? Yeah, right.
He turned to me tentatively. "I just thought we had a connection, but I guess I was wrong and I misread some things. It's fine, though. My mistake." He turned to the door and latched onto the knob, his large hand just about to turn it.
"I'm agoraphobic," I blurted out, immediately clamping my hands over my mouth. Dear God, what did I just do?
He turned back to me, a look of pure confusion on his face. "Excuse me?"
I sighed, removing my hands from my mouth. There was no turning back now. Might as well run with it.
"I'm agoraphobic," I said again, this time a little calmer. "It's an anxiety disorder." I cast my eyes down, away from his penetrating gaze.
I saw his feet move toward me. "I've heard of agoraphobia," he said soothingly, with no hint of judgment in his voice.
I lifted my eyes, summoning the courage to look at him. "Well, mine is a very extreme case," I said hesitantly. I paused to quickly swallow the lump that had formed in my throat. "You see, I haven't been out of my house in five years."
The shock was clear as day on his beautiful face. If he was going to run it would be now, but he didn't move. He simply stared at me, his mouth hanging open. "Five years?" he whispered.
I nodded, ashamed. Why couldn't I beat this? This would have been so much easier if I were normal. I could have just said yes and perhaps had a nice evening out with this gorgeous man.
"Do you mind if I ask why?" he asked uncertainly.
"I won't go into details, because you really don't need to hear them. But something happened to me a long time ago, and ever since then I've been unable to leave my house." I breathed in deeply, fighting back the mental images that were working their way to the forefront of my mind, and continued on. "Whenever I go outside, I feel as if the world is closing in on me. It's not something that I have any control over. I just get this sudden, overwhelming feeling like I can't escape. It causes me to have panic attacks and pass out."
He gestured to the door with his hand. "Is that what happened earlier?"
"Yes. And that's why this isn't such a good idea." I motioned between us. "I didn't want you thinking it was because I didn't want to see you again, because I do. It's simply because you'd be better off not getting involved with me. I'll just complicate your life. You don't need that."
Immediately, he pulled his phone out of his pocket and dialed a number. He eyed me with a small smile as the phone rang on the other end.
"Yeah, I'd like to order a large pie," he said. "Hold on a second."
He pulled the phone away from his ear, holding it against his shoulder. "What do you like on your pizza?"
"Pineapple and ham," I said, utterly confused.
He gave me a disgusted look and put the phone back to his ear. "Half peppers and onions, half pineapple and ham." He nodded. "Uh huh…..Thirty-four Randall Drive……Okay……No problem……Thanks. See you then." He hung up and placed the phone back in his pocket.
"What are you doing?" I asked.
He smiled and moved closer, his body only an inch from mine. "I'm complicating my life."
A/N: A little trivia for you. Now, keep in mind that my source is Wikipedia, and we can't be sure how true this is, but when I was researching agoraphobia it had a list of celebrity agoraphobes, and guess who was on that list. Yup. None other than Robert Pattinson. Now, besides on Wikipedia I have never heard this news. It could be completely false or it could actually be true, because not all agoraphobes are as bad as I'm making Alice out to be. Some just can't stand large spaces and have a hard time being in public. The most extreme seclude themselves to their homes for the rest of their lives. Anyway, I just thought you'd all like to know that little tidbit I learned while doing my research. Weird, huh?
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