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Jasper and I followed the owner of the orphanage through the halls of the tall, old building.
"If you could wait in here, I will get her for you," the owner told us.
We stood in the doorway to the little conference room, and watched the owner–a small, kindly woman–hurry down the hall to the last door on the right. She knocked and the door opened. A girl stepped into the doorway to her room. She had long, wavy–almost curly–honey-blond hair that matched Jasper's. I looked up at him, and he was staring at her. I swear, if he could have cried, he would have been balling. She looked down the hall at us, smiled, and then turned back to the owner. The girl disappeared into her room again, only to come back moments later, pulling a sweatshirt over her head.
This was his niece–a great-something niece at that–but his niece all the same.
The owner and the girl walked down the hall together, and I noticed that the girl was barefoot. As they neared us, the girl smiled again. Her soft brown eyes melted us in place. She held a kind of maturity that girls her age couldn't possibly fathom. Her eyes showed that she'd seen things that no one ever should see; I was determined to know these things.
"This is Joanna. Joanna, this is Alice and Jasper," the owner introduced us.
Joanna smiled shyly, but never said anything. Children that were shy were my favorite. They were so quiet, but when you got to know them better, they were the best children in the world.
The owner ushered us into the small room, and quickly spoke to Joanna before leaving. Joanna moved to the opposite side of the table–across from Jasper and I–and settled in the one seat on that side.
"So, Joanna," I started. "What kind of things are you interested in?"
Jasper laid his hand on my knee soothingly; he squeezed it softly–reassuringly.
"Um...I like to write. And, I like art–like painting and using clay. I know a lot of stuff about the Civil War. Um...I can't remember anything else," she mumbled.
She was painfully shy. Oh, the poor thing.
"Well, tell us more about yourself; anything." Jasper proposed.
I watched as Joanna's eyes widened at the sound of Jasper's deep, bass voice. She recovered herself and thought hard.
"I don't like liars. I like long stories. I don't like cold weather. I will however live in cold weather, as long as I don't have to go outside much. I'm working on getting my GED this year. Oh–I guess I should have told you that I'm really smart. But, that's what usually sends the people away. They don't want a super smart kid. But then again, most of them would want me just to use me for fame. I'm unusually–no! creepily–smart. But I can read people easily, so that's pretty much the reason I'm still here. But, you probably don't care about my life story. No one seems to anyway."
My dead heart shattered at hearing how people only wanted to use her brains, or how they didn't want someone as smart as she was as their child.
"Jasper, go talk to the owner. We need to get her out of here, now," I spoke too low for Joanna to hear...
or so I thought.
"Thank you," she muttered.
We both looked at her in surprise. How had she heard me?
"Don't look so shocked. I told you–I'm a freak. I have very good hearing. Through the roof good hearing. That's why I heard you. I've already had vampires come in and ask about me. Something about me is special to your species. I have no idea what it is, or why it is special. It just is," she explained, almost angrily.
"Joanna," Jasper murmured soothingly. "You are my niece. You are a great-something niece, but you are still my family."
Joanna's eyes watered, and she covered her mouth with her sweatshirt sleeve. Today was a rough day for her apparently. Jasper stood and moved over to her. Crouching down by her, he hesitantly laid his hand on her back, rubbing it comfortingly. She sobbed into her arm, overwhelmed by everything that has happened to her. She turned to Jasper, and stared at him for a moment, before throwing herself into his arms. She sobbed into his shoulder, and I saw him tense. He closed his eyes for a moment, and his future changed abruptly.
Jasper took a deep breath, his mouth inches from Joanna's warm neck, but it was a steadying and calming breath. He let it out in a sigh, and hugged his niece tighter against his chest. Alice watched them, smiling fondly, as her husband found the missing piece in his family.
Jasper was just finishing his sigh of contentment when I snapped back. He hugged Joanna close, and kissed her on the top of her head. She sniffled and pulled away. Her face was flushed and she looked ashamed.
"I'm sorry. I shouldn't ha–"
Jasper cut her off. "Joanna, do not apologize for something you haven't done. My shirt will dry, and you shouldn't worry about it anyway. All you need to worry about is packing your room. Alice and I will handle everything else."
"But, adopting is a three-month process. You–"
"We've got it under control, Joanna. I promise," I told her.
She nodded, sniffling again. She wiped her nose on the sleeve of her sweatshirt.
"Good girl. Now, come with us, and we'll go talk to the owner," Jasper persuaded.
Joanna nodded again, and followed us out.
Twelve hours later, we were on a plane, heading home, with Joanna sleeping peacefully in between us. She'd been apprehensive about sitting in between us, not wanting to keep us away from each other. But we both assured her that she was the biggest priority.
While I pretended to look out the window at the dark sky, Jasper leaned closer to Joanna. He pressed a kiss to her temple, stroking her hair away from her face. I smiled to myself. I'd never seen him this protective and tender with a human before. But then again, this human was something special.
"Joanna, it's time to wake up," Jasper murmured softly to her as people started moving around after the plane landed. It was still dark outside, but it was in the early morning. Early morning. Like around one or two. I hated to have to wake her up. But it would look odd for a girl, who looked to be about 14 but was really only 12 almost 13, to be carried around the airport while she slept. Besides, she needed food before our connecting flight in Denver.
Joanna moaned and shoved at Jasper and I. She curled back up in her seat, and fell quiet. Jasper sighed, and touched her back gently where her tank top wasn't covering it. She jerked away from his hand, her eyes snapping open. She whimpered and looked at Jasper like 'why did you do that?'. He smiled and stood up, not saying a word. She whimpered again, and slid her flip-flops on. Jasper got our carry-on bags down from the shelf above us. He, much to his disgruntlement, let Joanna take her backpack from him. Though he was more than capable of carrying both mine and hers.
Both Jasper and I walked smoothly towards our next flight, but poor little Joanna dragged. She stumbled and actually fell three times. Jasper couldn't help but chuckle at this. Joanna scowled up at him, pushing his hand away when he reached for her.
"Oh, come on, Joanna. I was just kidding. I'm sorry, okay? I didn't mean to hurt your feelings," Jasper defended, then apologized.
"Fine," Joanna grumbled.
She was cranky, probably because all she had to eat since lunch yesterday was three tiny bags of pretzels and three tiny bags of peanuts.
"Come on. We need to get you some food," I told her.
She willingly followed us and scarfed down a turkey sandwich and a soda when we gave it to her. She looked a little hesitant to ask us something, but I already knew what she wanted. When I stood and grabbed her empty soda cup from the table, she smiled at me in thanks.
"You can ask us for anything, Joanna. Don't be afraid," Jasper stated.
She nodded silently, ashamed of ever thinking the opposite. Jasper smiled and tucked her hair behind her ear.
Ten hours later, we were pulling up to the house. Bella was on the porch in one of the rocking chairs. Jasper smiled at her as he ducked into the back of the Porsche to unbuckle Joanna. She was pretty much dead to the world in the backseat. I hated having to fly at night and screw up her sleep because of the time change. I motioned for Bella to come over, and for her to be quiet. Bella gasped quietly when Jasper picked up Joanna and cradled her to his chest.
"She looks just like you, Jasper," Bella whispered, amazed. "How did you guys find her?"
I'd already informed the family that we were bringing home another child; orphaned like some of us had been before we were vampires.
We would tell the story once we got inside and settled Joanna somewhere.
After Jasper laid Joanna in our bed and kissed her forehead, we all settled down in the front room to talk.
"We were looking for any living relatives of his in the city hall of Houston, and I had a vision. I saw the paper that you're looking at right now in the vision and read off all the information. We looked up the foster care facility and adopted her. She was happy to say the least," I explained to them.
Jasper smiled, but then his face grew serious. "She's something else."
"What do you mean by that, Jasper?" Esme asked him.
We'd coaxed all the information she had about herself from Joanna in the past day, and the information wasn't something to take lightly. It wasn't pretty either.
"She is...very smart. She's completed everything to get her GED, and whatever school she was working with–or attending–is sending it to her in a few days. When she was seven, she witnessed her parents' murders. The murderer didn't even know she was there. She got lost after she ran to try and find somebody to help. A state trooper found her curled up against a building near the police station and took her inside the station. She stayed there until the foster care people came and got her the next morning. She never told anyone about her parents, and only told them they just left her there.
She's been in foster care since then, but every family either didn't want someone as smart as her, or just wanted her for her smarts. She has very good hearing and vampires have asked about her before. But she knows that they're vampires. She knew we were vampires, but she knew we wouldn't hurt her. Something about her appeals to vampires. She doesn't understand what it is. She reads people easily, and knows what people to stay away from or what people to go to. I guess Alice and I were people that she could trust," Jasper explained her story in as much detail as he could; Joanna was very reluctant to give up information to us.
"Are you talking about me?" A sleepy voice asked from upstairs.
We turned and Joanna was standing at the top of the stairs, supporting herself with the banister. She was shaking, and weak. She must have been exhausted, and probably hungry again.
"We were just telling them your story, Joanna. Go back to sleep," Jasper soothed her.
She shook her head, and staggered down the stairs. She settled hesitantly in the armchair that was open–near the window–and relaxed.
"Do you want something to drink? Or eat?" I asked her.
"Mmmm," she sighed. "I am hungry again."
"That figures. You haven't eaten in what? Ten? Eleven hours?" Jasper retorted, beginning to stand.
"I'll go, Jazz; stay here," I said, standing and darting into the kitchen.
I fixed her a sandwich and a glass of water, flitting back into the front room. She still looked exhausted and worn out, but she took her food and ate quietly.
When she noticed us looking at her, she stopped. And with a mouthful of her sandwich, she asked, "Why are you all looking at me?"
We all couldn't help but smile, and Jasper chuckled.
"We haven't had a full blooded human in our house for a while. It's kind of odd to us again; to see someone eating," Jasper explained to her.
Joanna nodded and continued to eat. She apparently didn't care if we watched her, as long as she had the reason why.
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