Here is a little surprise for all you wonderful IS fans. :) I don't know if you'll approve of this ending, but I'm not doing this for approval. (lies, all lies)
I've added bits from chapter four in Jasper's pov and chapter three in Bella's pov to let you know where this ending deviates from the story. In 2004, they hadn't seen each other in nearly 4 years.
So... without further ado, the alternate ending.
"Bella? Is that you?" I asked. I couldn't stop myself. She was three feet away. What a stupid idea it was to come here. It's been too long and it was bound to happen eventually. It was stupid to raise my voice up. She could have stayed in my peripheral; I should have left her there. It isn't that I don't need to see her; need to hear her voice. I need it all. I just can't stand wanting it.
The screeching guitar made me cringe. The blue stage light was panning over the crowd and it stopped on her. The memory flashed through my mind before I had time to shut it off. Perfect and sweaty; naked and mine under the blue light in my bedroom. I could still smell her and everyday I was without it haunted me. She was my ghost and she was translucent. I could not touch her, even if I wanted to. I was desperate and ravenous. She turned and ran as soon as her eyes met mine. She was gone again and I couldn't bring myself to even breathe.
As many times as I swore I would, I knew that I was too much of a coward to follow her. She forged a path, but I was too weak and scared to take it, too unsure if my own well being to trust her.
It was always my excuse and by doing nothing, I was ruining everything.
And so, that night like many others, I watched her go. Always turning my head and looking to the floor, never admitting to myself that I was doing anything wrong. I wanted to, but it was easy to dismiss the whole situation as a poorly timed tryst that probably never should have happened. Unable to put forth any effort, because I didn't think I was getting any in return, I let her slip through and I just walked away. I didn't know that each time I left her I was making the biggest mistake of my life.
There came a time when I didn't care as much. After years of lonely roaming, moving here and there, I settled back in the same town. I found a girl, had a baby, got married, grew up.
The love I had for Bella never went anywhere, it never grew or lessened, it just remained and I tried to give it out, give it to my wife, my babies, my job, anywhere I could when the image of her would penetrate my thoughts, seeping into my very soul, drawing the misery out slowly like a stubborn poison. I could never fill the hole she made in me.
It was paralyzing. Living in a net of unresolved circumstances, of disappearances in place of goodbyes, made me fear each step I took, afraid it would again look like her path. She was inescapable.
How could we not understand? Couldn't we see how evil it was? How all we did was leech and destroy? We never even attempted to build new relationships, never wanted the happiness that kept trying to taint our misery. How dare it? How dare those around us show us anything other than the passion and contempt we so obviously deserved?
No longer could I go a week without some reminder of that time with her. They nagged and ate and then suddenly she would be gone from my head, only to slowly creep back in again.
I made a lot of mistakes. I was only now realizing just how terrible they were.
Often I thought about contacting her. Nothing I could fathom would make me happier than to see her again, but nothing else scared me more. Imagine my surprise, ten years after running the final time, my telephone rang and all the longing and hope I'd kept hidden, the voice I now only ever heard in my dreams, burst through the line and shattered my lonely world.
His apologies never meant a thing... Iron corrodes and stone eventually turns to dust. He'd seen too much, felt too much. He was weary and needed rest. He wouldn't seek it and I could do nothing but stand by and watch as he crumbled to pieces all around me. I didn't want him in pieces. I wasn't sure how much longer there would be anything at all left to want.
An hour passed as I sat at that off-kilter table waiting... Instinctively, I knew he wasn't going to show. I almost hadn't, and that was the one glaring difference between us. He ran. I stayed. Always. I'd lost count of all the no-shows and unreturned phone calls. Promises that Jasper made were broken nine times out of ten... We did nothing but fight and fuck anymore. As guilty as I knew I should feel, it didn't stop the depraved cycle we had started.
It didn't seem possible to stop. I craved him like air and water—suffocating when it ebbed and choking when it flowed. So, I hid, smiled and pretended. Once again, he let me down. Once again, I thought I wouldn't care, but the tears would come, eventually, and there would be no end to us—even if this was it.
Pieces of him followed me everywhere I went. They were nothing I could see or feel. I couldn't hold them, squeeze them, or even reject them. They remained in the air, beautiful and hot, morphing as the years went by into cold monsters fueled by regret.
The further away I was the more distant the memories became, but it didn't stop me from thinking about him when I finally opened my second coffee shop, when I met a wonderful man that I would do anything for and never hurt. Nothing kept me from thinking about him on my wedding day. It was hard to pretend that the gaping hole I felt wasn't one distinctly marked absence.
There were, of course, no more tears, no more longing, but dreams of him still interrupted my nights and as much as I was over him, over it, over nearly twenty years of friendship, I wasn't.
I knew how it should have ended. I needed to know if he knew it, too.
I needed to find him.
Knowing where he worked helped, as did the support of my husband. I wasn't sure I could have done it without him. I'd never told one person the whole Jasper story. I was pretty sure no one would stick around long enough to hear about all the lies, bullshit, and cruelty we unloaded upon each other. Just thinking of it all, chronologically, made me sick to my stomach, but when it was all out in the open, the air rent with the destruction of two people too in love to admit it, I finally felt free of it.
But I felt only marginally less in love with him. The part of me that was still that girl loved him. The rest of me resented him, but that wasn't healthy either. It was harder to pretend, harder to fake, and it was the only thing in my life that was incomplete. It needed to be finished, one way or another. The truth of the situation was that we'd ruined a friendship because of our own stubborn unwillingness to compromise, and I was just as guilty as he was. As much as I wished he was lonely and miserable, regretting letting me go, letting what could have been pass us by, I hoped that he wasn't. The last thing I wanted to face was him wanting me back.
As I waited for him to pick up the phone I compared my life to one in a movie, one who dances between the worlds of the living and the dead, hung up on some unfinished business, unable to move on until it had been laid to rest.
Jasper was that to me; he always would be unless I did something about it.
It was a tense, yet familiar conversation. Pleasantries were exchanged with the pushed casualness of an immense uncertainty. Plans were made to meet for coffee, nothing too formal or too significant, and rather than put it off, we decided on the very next day.
Why delay it any further? Ten years was long enough, it was about time.
I put a few extra minutes into getting ready, but honestly didn't care. I didn't wear anything too tight or too revealing, opting for the put together, devil-may-care that I wore daily. This man had seen me at my best, my worst, and my everything in between. He wasn't dressing up for coffee and I made it a point never to either.
We didn't meet at my shop. It wasn't neutral enough. The first thing I thought when I walked into the strange cafe was that I hoped he wouldn't show up. I was almost relieved to not see him until I felt him walk in behind me.
I knew it was him and nothing about that seemed strange in the least. It was surreal and we may have hugged but I honestly don't think we did. He motioned to a table in the corner and told me he'd get the coffees. I sat silently, my eyes never quite roaming to where he stood. It seemed like a dream to see him when he sat across from me, like I wasn't actually here. Like I was realizing that he had existed all those years not just in my head, but in real life.
Rain tapped on the windows as we recounted the last decade of our lives, most details left out. We sipped and laughed and talked of nothing significant. It was almost like catching up.
And then the cups were empty and neither one of us wanted another coffee. There was nothing left to talk about except us. We were not a subject fit to discuss over anything with an alcohol content less than ten percent.
Thankfully the rain let up a bit as we quickly walked four blocks to the nearest brewery. My Converse squeaked on the linoleum floor as Jasper held the door and I walked in. Dark and noisy inside, my brain was already foggy from the situation and now I was nervous about mixing alcohol into it. I naively thought that we would somehow skip over the baser aspects of our relationship and maybe just pick up where ever we could. It seemed plausible until the halfway through the first round.
While not avoiding eye contact, we weren't actively seeking it from each other, so when he put on his vulnerable, scared mask I knew that he finally had something important to say. I wasn't sure I wanted to hear it.
The room swelled and shrank. Every familiar second I'd spent with him flooded my memory and I wasn't sure I could listen.
What—what could he say that I wouldn't want to run from? Why did I constantly allow myself to be so vulnerable?
"I'm sorry," he said. No smile, no sparkle in his eye. Only desperate earnestness and a relief that I hadn't seen coming. "I fucked it all up. There's just, there's no way to explain."
Words formed and died over and over in my throat as he affirmed the horrors we'd bestowed upon each other, made excuses, or reasons, for his behavior, and brought every terrible minute screaming back.
He binged, got high, hid. He wasn't sure that he was where he wanted to be in life. He felt like he was drowning. Somehow I managed to find my voice and interrupt him.
"I hated you. I hated that I loved you and you didn't seem to love me."
He just sat there and looked at me. It felt like we were seconds from charging—two bulls too pissed off to see anything but the red flags being waved in front of them. Even his nostrils flared.
"I know, Peach, I hated you, too, and I always loved you. When I saw you that day. God, I panicked. And I just... I wanted to go to you, but you were the hardest thing. The hardest thing I ever did was leave you."
Those words were the words I knew would break me. They seemed so sure coming from his lips. Had he decided a while ago that though worth it in some ways, I was better left alone? Then he chose to stay away, to move on with his life separate from mine? When had he come to the conclusion that he fucked up?
So many things, so many emotions, pulsed through me that I was just as close to killing him as I was to kissing him. Fury like I never thought I could feel threatened to bring the whole building down.
I closed my eyes.
"How dare you?" I was quiet, but I knew he could hear me even over the din of the bar. "How dare you give me everything just to take it away again? I sometimes wish we'd never met." My eyes opened and met his.
Nothing but fear filled them.
"How could you say that to me?"
I could hardly breathe. He heaved with breaths too big for his tightening chest. I could feel him crackling and I looked up to trap the tears but they escaped.
"Don't you even know what you did to me."
I grabbed my purse and jacket and was out of the booth so fast that Jasper barely had time to stop me.
His voice cracked. "Wait! I just... I have nothing. I hate her, I hate my house, I hate food. I taste nothing and nothing has erased this. I never should have done it."
I turned back to him. Two salty tears fell and then dried.
"I'd hoped we could leave those years where they are," I said.
He looked down, behind me.
"I was afraid."
"I know you were, but I didn't want anybody else."
I kept standing, so he did too. We walked silently to my car. He accompanied me at his insistence, though I wasn't parked far away and it wasn't quite 11 pm. He stopped us just outside the fourth floor stairwell. The dim light of the parking structure created a shadowy intimacy perhaps best left to another couple.
He held on to me tighter than he should have.
"I made a mistake," he sobbed, pulling me into a hug. "I made so many mistakes."
I rested my lips and cheek on his neck, breathing him in and opening my mouth to taste his scent on my tongue. Dragging my nose along his jaw, up over his cheek to meet his gaze, I let my upper lip linger on his lower before I stepped out of his embrace.
"We all did, Jasper, but at some point we made our choices."
Alone in this parking garage, with less than a foot between us, there was a magnetism I had not expected to still be there after all these years.
I tried to pull away, but his hands caught my wrists, the tips of his fingers lightly pressing up into the palms of my hands. His eyes begged me. They tore through me and made me feel like I was the only person in the world, his salvation, when that was never the case. It frightened me and turned me on, just like it always had. He trembled, trying to keep himself from making a move he wasn't positive about. That had forever been Jasper's M.O.
He never wanted to make the first move. It was less a competition of wills than it was of courage.
"Bella, please. It should have been us. We can have it..."
I cut him off, breaking out of his grasp, pressing my finger over his lips. "No," I said, holding his face in my hand, pushing my palm against his chin and my fingers against his jaw. His lips opened and he lightly bit the spot between my thumb and first finger. His warm tongue snaked out before I could continue.
"No, we cant have it back, Jasper." My words shook and I breathed in as deeply as I could. Every fiber of my being wanted to be connected to his. Nothing about that had changed. His hands had found my hips and coaxed my body closer. I let him, and reveled in the feel of his body pressed against me for the last time.
"I want to," I said through fear and passion and restraint. He groaned, sucking hard on the fleshy bit of my palm in his mouth.
His eyes were imploring, needy and desperate, and I felt sorry for him. He was still too afraid of what he really wanted. I knew I wanted him, it wasn't like I could hide it, but what I wanted more was back in my apartment, probably snuggling with the dog in my absence.
"But, you still can't make a decision. I've made mine, Jasper." I withdrew my hand, pressing the pad of my thumb lightly to his warm lips. He kissed it quickly before I could stop him.
"I'm leaving her, Peach," he whispered. "I swear. Come with me tonight. We can stay like we used to. No one will find out."
I laughed through my tears. "You know I liked you best when you were lying through your teeth." I smiled. "Goodbye, Jasper."
This time I turned and walked away. I did look back to see him. Curiosity got the better of me and I needed to know what it was like to finally watch him watch me leave. It was satisfying, but only gave me another peek at what Jasper had always kept hidden from me.
Seeing the regret and hurt on his face, I couldn't blame him.
Remembering the night, the last twenty years, fondly, I got into my car and cried, driving home without my ghost.