"Trust in the Lord with all your heart;
do not depend on your own understanding.
Seek his will in all you do,
and he will show you which path to take."
He looked across at the other, watching as his chest moved with each breath taken in and pushed out. Beautiful, really. A perfect, living sculpture. More than anything, he just wanted to jump across the room and take him.
But no. The other wasn't like him. The other liked girls.
The other boy wasn't attracted to him. Not like this.
~Entry taken from Jasper Whitlock Cullen's Notebook, pg. 269
Time passes rather slowly when you don't want it to. Like when you're staring at the floor, waiting for the minutes to tick faster so you can watch the premier show you've been wanting to see for the past month. Or when you're hurtled into a situation that you absolutely despise, and want to get done quickly. Whenever anything like that comes up, that's when the entire gravitational pull of the Earth seems to change against your favor.
This was one of those times.
My hand trailed steadily over my thick Roma Lussa journal, the one Carlisle and Esme had given me for my last birthday. I scowled as I tried to scrawl it all out fast enough, but my thoughts continued to once again race ahead of my physical ability. My fingers burned with the effort they were putting in to document it all. They were quickly becoming numb from the pain of my hard pencil pushing against them, but I ignored it.
It would be even worse to forget it later.
I suppose I should've been listening to the teacher's mind numbing droning, but as always, I managed to smother any common sense I may have originally had. The only thing I could concentrate on was the words that kept coming.
It felt good to get them down on paper.
Plus, this was Spanish. I was good at Spanish. I didn't need to listen as hard. Besides, I wasn't bothering anyone. Mrs. Goff was able to freely continue with her lecture on AR verbs without my attention, so it must not've been that important. And to add on top of it all, I was far from the only one who figured they had better things to do.
Every other desk, someone was having a nearly mute conversation with their neighbors, even up to the front row. Either that or they were passing a crumpled piece of paper back and forth, scribbling their own quick note and handing it back to be read.
I hated it when people did that.
Every last bit of gossip that seemed to be so completely enduring to the rest of them did nothing more than make my skin crawl. All it did for me was reflect the shallowness of human nature.
Most of us didn't even know we did it. Most of us didn't even notice how we automatically tried to tune in when a name or phrase caught our attention. Things like 'got knocked up' and 'caught doing drugs' drew us in like bees to honey. It was our nectar, the need to know things. We were attracted to the need to know other people's pain. Each and every one of us became more alert when we heard some juicy news about someone else. We waited to see each other in pain like vultures, diving at the opportunity for some fresh flesh. We all gathered around for the opportune moment, wanting our chance to laugh at the punishment of someone else.
Simple as that.
It was all ingrained on us; the world took it so naturally. Even in sports, like fishing. A normal, everyday thing, right? We all stand in line to go out on the waters. We take joy from seeing the living thing dangling there, a hook jammed through its' mouth, wriggling to get away as the life was slowly sucked away.
And then we cheered.
We laughed and smiled for whoever got the biggest catch. We'd cut out their guts and hang them on our wall, because after all, that's what it was—a trophy. A dead body was sure as hell definitely worth showing off, wasn't it? It was worth being proud of.
Of course it was. I mean, honestly, who'd want to forget the happy memory of torturing something until it died?
Apparently no one, because after all, it was a part of us. Normal.
The need to get our daily helping of gossip, so we could thrive off of the hurt of someone else. So we all listen for the low whispers and quick glances, hoping we can start a rumor of our own. Because really, the lower everyone else is, the higher you rise.
And humans always had had a need to be the highest.
It all disgusted me.
What disgusted me more was that I knew I was the same.
Couldn't seem to help it. I never talked about anything I heard, no. Never spread rumors or shared any secrets. But I still couldn't stop myself from becoming interested in the voices all around me when I heard someone else's name being mentioned. It was all instinct. It made me sick, but it was still there. I was still fucking normal enough to thrive off of information on what was happening in everyone's life. Just like everyone else, I sucked up the soap opera dramas like a sponge.
Exactly the same as the rest of the fucking world.
There were certain times in my life when I looked back to what I had done—certain actions I had made—and couldn't help but wonder the what ifs in all of it. One time, in our college years, Carlisle and I had gotten into a fight. I can't recall what it was over, but I remember starting to walk away from him. I got all of five yards before turning back. I had always wondered what would have happened if I kept on walking. Other times, I'd think of Charles, and wondered what would have happened if I had agreed to marry him. Other times, I wondered what would have happened if my reproductive system worked properly—if I had a biological child, with my hair and Carlisle's eyes, and if we ever would have gotten our other children. Tonight, I was thinking of Emmett; of what would have happened if he had never gotten leukemia when he was eight, and if Carlisle had never been his doctor, and if his parents had never gone out for a drive that night, and if he had died at his relapse of sickness when he was fourteen.
Sometimes I wondered. And sometimes, all I could do was wonder what other what ifs were coming.
"Emmett?" My oldest son's head shot up from where he had been staring at his plate, tired eyes wide as they looked on unknowingly at my husband.
"What?" The word fell from his lips too quickly, the fork he had been using to twist uneaten spaghetti falling from his hand.
Carlisle's brow pulled down slightly. "I asked how your day was."
He shrugged. "Fine."
Carlisle glanced at me, partly in surprise, partly in worry. Edward and Jasper were quiet, passing by answers in the typical teenage way. Emmett had always been more than happy to share what had transpired over his time away from us, eager to a point. It wasn't like him to give such monosyllabic answers.
Another shrug in answer to my question. "I guess."
He went back to staring at his plate.
It was silent again, the only sound being the hitting of silverware against porcelain and hushed chewing. Jasper finally cleared his throat, breaking the awkward tension, soft voice laced just barely in the slightly southern accent he had never broken out of. "I was wondering if I could go to La Push tomorrow night. They're having a bonfire." He swallowed hard. "Jake asked if I could come."
I smiled at him, though pain still staggered in my heart. Eight years he had been living with us, and he had never broken the habit of not wanting to ask for things. I couldn't stand it half the time. "Of course you can honey. Just be sure to drive safely. It's only supposed to sprinkle tomorrow, but the streets are still pretty icy." I looked back towards Carlisle in confirmation, but he was still staring across to Emmett, watching him intently; how he leaned heavily into the palm of his hand, and how his normally vacuum-like appetite seemed to have disappeared, just like every other meal of this week.
"Thanks," Jasper mumbled, folding back in on himself as he took another small bite of his mozzarella covered chicken.
Besides Edward's request of leaving for Bella's, no one else said anything until the end of dinner, the boys quick to excuse themselves—Edward to get to his place of happiness, Jasper to be away from us all, and Emmett to make the escape of the stares that had been aimed at him with more frequency as the time progressed. Carlisle and I remained, sitting silently at the dimly lit, circular dining room table. The edge in front of me had been chipped, an eternal remembrance of when Edward had decided he wanted to attempt roller-skating. This decision had been made alone, and when I got home from the store, blood had been splattered across the kitchen and Edward was in the corner, clutching his forehead and outright sobbing. It had been one of the most pitiful things I had ever seen.
"He hardly touched his food."
"And he was so tired, Esme. God, did you see the way he looked when he came home from school? He hardly made it to the couch before he collapsed."
I knew it was true. "Coach Clapp just found a new trainer for the team. You know he's been running them harder than Mr. Hurn ever did. And it's the end of the semester; he's been studying for exams so much. You know how he is with his grades."
Carlisle pinched the bridge of his nose, leaning back further into his chair. "I came home at three in the morning today at the end of my shift, only to find him still in the living room asleep, surrounded by open books and an empty cup of coffee."
My lip quirked slightly. If ever there was a caffeine addict, it came by my baby. "Give it time dear. As soon as exams are over, he'll balance it out better."
"Esme," he murmured, looking at me with a face I had gotten all too used to seeing over the years. "He hasn't been eating. Don't tell me that you haven't noticed. He doesn't talk anymore from the exhaustion, and whenever he can be he's alone." He bit his lip. "It's just…this isn't Em. This isn't normal."
I spun my wedding ring around on my finger, attention directed towards the spider that was crawling across the corner ceiling at present. Amazing, how spiders could do that. "Carlisle, he's an eighteen year old boy. We're not supposed to expect him to act 'normal' all the time."
"I worry about him Es."
I kicked at the leg of the table slightly. The spider was starting to make its web. "You're not the only one."
"I know he's a teenager, but Emmett's not the same as everyone else. It takes so much to bring him down, and I just—"
"Can't help being a father." I cut him off, knowing all too well the feeling; the constant nagging that something was wrong, and that no matter how hard you may try, you couldn't get rid of it. "I know, and I understand. But we need to give him some space to work whatever this is out on his own."
He groaned slightly. "I love him with all my heart, but you know as well as I do that he's not good at working things out on his own. He cares as much about his own wellbeing as he does about keeping his room clean."
I pushed away, stacking the dishes on top of each other and carrying them wordlessly over to the sink, socked feet sliding easily over the tiled floor. Warming the water and splashing some soap over the mess, I grabbed a rag, scrubbing hard at the bread pan that would never fully be clean again. Its sides had been long ago blackened by use, and no matter how much I worked at it, I never could regain the shine. It held things just the same though.
I heard him come up behind me, feet hitting the floor evenly before he stood behind me, arms slowly wrapping themselves around my waist. An electric thrill ran the length of my body as he inhaled deeply at my neck, taking in the small hints of perfume left from where I had sprayed it this morning. Edward had gotten it for me after I had pointed out to him how I envied my friend for having some, and hated me for never getting around to buying some of my own.
"You're so beautiful."
"And you could proclaim yourself king of the world and all the women would bow down in worship."
He chuckled deeply, kissing my cheek lightly before grabbing a towel. "May I dry, Mrs. Cullen?"
"Why Dr. Cullen, I thought you'd never ask. We'll need to be careful not to be seen together though. Forks is a small town. Scandals travel fast."
"I do enjoy gossip."
Edward traced my face, fingers trailing down my neck as the pulse below them began to flutter. His touch, though cold, was something of a relief after our time away from each other. Even if short to an outsider, every second that ticked by without him near me seemed to take more and more from the clock, causing it to slow down. Sad, that I thought such things, but true. Maybe it was just my first real high school crush, but it felt like so much more. I hoped it was so much more.
"Do you know how exquisite your skin is?"
An eyebrow rose. "Hmm?"
He threw me a lopsided smile from where he was laying beside me on my bed, causing another shudder to tremble through my spine. "Your skin. Most people have a greater roughness. Yours is smoother, almost more delicate in a way." He leaned down, kissing below my chin where his hand had just sat. "Exquisite."
I rolled my eyes, though the tingling sensation refused to leave all the same. "What if it weren't?"
"Bella, what are you talking about?" His tone had turned playful, a song curving his voice.
"If I were to burst out into a horrible acne tomorrow and my nose was covered in witch pimples. What then?"
His kisses traveled up, lingering at the edge of my mouth. Only the edge though. "I have always felt the Wicked Witch of the West was severely misunderstood. Nobody ever gave her a real chance." I remained still as he moved to poise himself above me, mouth just millimeters away from mine and minty breath warmly welcoming against me. "Unless, of course, you were going more towards Harry Potter. I can change the imaging if you'd like."
My pulse thudded harder. "You know, I used to be a rather big Harry Potter fan. Saying that Hermione had a skin problem is really rather insulting."
He snickered. "I remember." He exhaled theatrically. "I was so excited to get into fifth grade, until I found out the you had gone off to join the wizarding fan club, and I didn't have the right password."
My breathing quickened as he leaned closer. "It was Dumbledore's beard," I whispered, realizing only after I had said it just how ridiculous it sounded.
"Hmm." His tongue just faintly traced my bottom lip. "How fitting. It has a ring of eloquence I suppose."
And then I couldn't take it: I grabbed his head, and pulled him down to me."
I hesitated just outside Emmett's door, fist raised in preparation for a knock, though it took me a good half minute before I actually lowered it against the wood.
"What?" A wave of relief washed over me to find I hadn't waked him, though at the same time a disappointment hit me hard. Even his voice sounded weary.
Pushing it aside, I stepped into his room, kicking aside a shirt as I did so in order for the door to get fully open. He cares as much about his own wellbeing as he does about keeping his room clean. I grimaced as my words from before repeated in my head like a broken record that wouldn't stop. Truth often had a way of being horribly cruel.
He was on his bed, lying on his stomach, chewing heavily at a pencil as his eyes pored over a textbook. The seam was falling apart from old age, though it hardly came as a shock; God forbid Forks High School ever be blessed with the slightest raise in government support. According to their encyclopedias, the Soviet Union was still in a thriving existence.
"Hey," I started softly, making my way over to him, sitting down at his side. The mattress squealed in protestation. Every time Esme and I had tried to coax him into letting us get a new one, he ignored us. Never mind the spine problems he'd have in fifty years, new mattresses 'smelled funny.'
He didn't answer me. Instead, he grabbed a page of notes, scribbling something quickly down before tossing it back to its original position, continuing on in his reading.
Though his attitude as of late had screamed to keep a distance from him, I pushed it back. Cautiously, I reached out, letting my palm rest lightly on his shoulder for a long moment. He froze momentarily beneath my touch, muscles tensing, though quickly resumed what he was doing, ignoring me for the most part.
Taking it as enough permission, I began to carefully kneed my fingers down in a gentle massage, the knots in his back clearly defined. It made the idea of a new mattress all the more tempting.
I sat mutely for a long moment, attempting to organize my thoughts into a plan of action, trying to find a starting place, though the only thing I could come up with was the lame beginning of "Are you doing alright?"
He became further rigid beneath my probing contact, nonmoving as I searched for the pressure points that I could only assume were causing him discomfort. Constantly leaning over desks wasn't much of a help when he was already handled as a punching bag during football practice. "I'm fine."
Of course he was.
Frustrated, I went for the only subject that generally made him talk, no matter the circumstances. "I haven't seen Rosalie around here for a while. How's she doing."
"I don't know." He didn't offer anything else.
My hands slipped beneath his shirt, and as I molded down into the small of his back, I pushed further. "You don't know?"
He didn't seem to enjoy the idea of explaining in more detail, though he reiterated just loud enough for me to hear. "She's been at her aunts the past few days. Haven't heard from her yet. She said she'd call."
I felt the confusion smash into me, like a brick to an innocent bystander near a construction site. He was as attached to his girlfriend just as much as every other kid his age would be, and he had been deteriorating in mood over the past few days, though it hardly wrote it all off. It wasn't enough for him to be acting the way he was; completely un-Emmett at every angle. Not even Edward took it this far when away from Bella for that long, and those two had been joined as best friends since grade school.
"Em," I tried again, though worry for his sake was beginning to ride over patience. "You know you can come to me for anything, right?" I chewed at the inside of my cheek. "If you ever just need to talk…" I mentally kicked myself. Like mundane reassurances would get him to open up.
He flinched when I pressed at a tender spot, digging his body into the bed. The studying he had been working on seemed to be gone from his mind, attention to it lost as my fingers worked at his overly-worn tissues.
Otherwise, he remained stoic and gave no indication of speaking.
I felt the hope draining from me, a part of me, however stupid that part may have been, having expected to just walk in here and coax him into telling me the cause of his recent, depressed disposition. Now, it dawned on me how much more difficult it would be than a mere therapy session, where I could just snap and fix everything like a genie.
I began on a new knot.
"You've just been pushing yourself so much lately. Your mom and I are scared for you."
I had been praying for him to say more, though at the word, my gut dropped. I wasn't helping; all I was doing was making him feel guilty. "You've got nothing to apologize for. We just—" I stumbled for a good enough wording, one that wouldn't make him shut down on me even further. Finally, I went for the best thing that would come, though nonetheless, it was hardly good. "We just want to make sure you're okay."
My fingers slipped just below the hem of his sweatpants, pressing down at the vertebrate near his hipbone. "We know you've been really stressed lately," I continued, silently yet fervently urging him to let his guard down, something he very rarely did. Either he sheltered himself in a cushion of jokes and smiles, or, on the rare occasion, in a simple, introverted prison. I was still debating over which was the better way. One certainly made me feel better, though which one was the healthiest for him, I remained unsure.
He began pulling at a loose thread in the wrinkled quilt beneath us.
"I just want to make sure that you know that you can talk to me about anything. Whatever you say stays between us. And I may be old, but I do know what it's like to be eighteen." My poor attempt at a joke fell flat, not moving him in the least. Slowly, I felt my persistence crumbling in around me.
Don't force it Carlisle. This is about him. You've set the bait. Now let him come to you.
"You've been really quiet lately, that's all."
I didn't get an answer.
"It might help if you took a break from football for a bit." Once more, the sudden apprehension that seemed to hang to him came full force, though still, he was speechless. "You don't have to. I just need you to know that if you need to, we're behind you completely."
Pulling back, I stared at the wall, scratching slightly at my collar.
"I don't want to quit football." His tone was somnolent as before, though there was no question to his statement. It made me smile. The kid liked sports.
"Emmy. Look at me."
Slowly, he pushed himself up from where he was lying, meeting my gaze with the red, puffy eyes of his own.
He had been crying.
Not wanting to embarrass him, I tried not to acknowledge it, though it only made me worry all the more. He wasn't one for showing emotions, and it was scarce that he ever shed any tears. It was cause enough to make my thoughts spin faster. "What's going on?"
He shrugged me off. "Nothing's going on."
Automatically, my arms crossed over my chest, gaze level on him as his own dropped back down. "Nothing? Emmett, you can't really expect me to just believe that, do you?"
"Em." It came out as more of a beg than anything. "Please. Talk to me. Tell me what I can do to help, whatever this is about."
Feeling utterly useless, I nodded, struggling to convince myself that I had done anything. "Let me know if you need anything. You know where to find me." It seemed a rather inadequate end.
I stood, though froze in my steps at his quiet word. "Dad?"
Trying though falling short miserably to not appear to ecstatic that he had talked again, I spun back around, watching him pushing himself up to face me. He wavered for a gruelingly long minute, seeming to pose an internal struggle with himself, before finally giving up. "Never mind."
Disheartened and slightly thwarted in optimism, I left, holding the doorknob as I pulled it shut behind me. I just stood in the dark hallway, feeling the coolness of the metal travel up my wrist and into my torso. "Please. Let me help you. Let me in."
My dead prayer hung in the air.
A/N: Hello all! Thank you for all of you who've been thinking of my mom. She appreciates all you prayers and concerns, and passes on her thanks. :)
And I have a feeling that you're all going to ask due to my first part of this chap, but no, Jasper isn't gay, and yes, Alice will be coming. Later. It'll hopefully give you something to look forward to. Oh, and to make sure that I get full credit for doing my research, the Mr. Hurn I mentioned earlier is the real and genuine football coach at Forks High. Looked it up on their website. Ten points for me.