"For the Love of Jasper" One-Shot Contest
Pen name: socact
Existing work: N/A
Primary Players: Jasper, Bella, Rosalie, Emmett
Disclaimer: The Twilight characters do not belong to me.
To see other entries in the "For the Love of Jasper" contest, please visit the C2:
A/N: I love hearing from you, so please review. Thank you. :)
I've been standing on this gravel driveway for twenty-four seconds in a violent, torrential downpour. My clothes are soaked, and I can already feel the rain turning into pelts of ice. But I don't care. I don't even notice. I've waited ninety-eight days to do this; for ninety-eight days, I called her every day at noon, each time hearing the sound of her voicemail, or the gruff tone of her father's voice. I expected her to change her number, but she never did. And I think that tenuous connection between us—if you could even call it that—is my only reason for standing here now. This is our ending.
Or, if that cruel fucker of a God takes pity on me, our beginning.
Ninety-eight Days Earlier
"Is this really the last day of college? We're so old," Bella whined. She studied her diploma for the eighth time, and couldn't seem to decide if she liked it or hated it.
"You're 22, Bella. Hell, you're just getting started," Edward said, that familiar crooked smile on his face. We all noticed it, all associated it with that day he kissed Bella under the slide on the last day of kindergarten, but that smile was always meant just for her. We joked that he was the only five-year-old on the planet to fall in love, and to stay that way for almost twenty years. But it wasn't a joke. It was true, and even though I would never have called myself a sap, I had to admit it was the truest, most beautiful love I'd ever seen.
Alice and I had met in college, and ours wasn't the epic, fairy tale kind of love Edward and Bella had. But I loved the hell out of her, and she loved me back. I was lucky, and I knew it. I had everything: amazing friends, an incredible woman, a college degree. Life shouldn't be this good.
The waiter came by with the check, and with a final toast to the last four incredible years, we downed the last of our cheap champagne. I had only had a glass, but I wished we could sit here all night and drink the last of our college years away. I liked the college bubble. I didn't want to leave it.
"Time to hit the road, kiddies?" I asked, smirking in Alice's direction. She smirked back, her eyes hooded with a little bit of booze, and a little bit of lust.
"I don't want to go," Bella said. "I've glimpsed the real world, and it sucks."
"How do you know?" I asked, but I had the same fear. Tomorrow I would drive back to Forks, Alice would spend the summer at home in Chicago, and Edward and Bella would move to Seattle for grad school. Our lives were headed in completely separate directions for the first time ever.
"I'll miss you, Jasper," Bella said. "And Alice, what am I going to do when I want to complain about Edward's late-night cravings for fish sticks—"
"That happened once, Bella," Edward said, jabbing her teasingly in the side.
"It was still weird," she said.
"I can't wait for your weird cravings."
"Don't get ahead of yourself," she teased, rolling her eyes.
Edward would marry her someday; everyone knew that, expected it. We had all taken bets on the wedding date, the honeymoon destination, even the number of kids. But Edward wouldn't propose until he could give her the world, and as a broke college grad, he didn't want to rush it. But when it happened—and it would—I'd be prepared with the Best Man Speech of the Century. Edward had already asked me eight times, and I'd already said yes eight times.
"We'll visit, Bella," Alice said, her eyes a deep, rich charcoal in the dim light of the patio. "And you guys have to come to Chicago."
"Oh we will," Bella said. "I already booked our tickets."
"You did?" Edward asked, quirking an eyebrow.
"Shit, I ruined the surprise," she said. "Well, sorry, Jasper. I just thought it would be so cool if we visited you guys for your birthday in August."
I smiled, shook my head. Bella always ruined her own surprises, and it was kind of a running joke between the four of us. She could never keep things to herself for very long; Bella just liked to make people happy, and she always put everyone else first. She and Alice were the two most loving, most generous people I'd ever met.
"We'd love that!" Alice exclaimed, her voice shrieking with the excitement we knew all too well. Edward pretended to cringe, and she ignored him.
"We really would, Bella. Now we have something to look forward to," I said.
"So do we," she said, as she reached for Edward's hand. He smiled that crooked smile of his, and kissed her forehead.
And just like that, college was over.
Twenty minutes later, we piled into my piece-of-shit Honda, and headed through town to the interstate. We had splurged on a fancy dinner in LoDo, the trendy area of Denver. The ride back to our apartment in Boulder wouldn't take long, especially at this hour of the night. The highway was deserted, an infinite stretch of night through the suburbs. Alice was asleep in the front seat, and Bella was dozing on Edward's shoulder in the back. I heard the familiar beep of a text message, and felt around the console for my phone.
I couldn't find it, not at first, so I ignored it. But then it beeped again, and I didn't want my parents thinking I'd gone on a post-graduation rager. So I reached across the console, my right hand fumbling in the darkness.
I don't remember the impact.
The phone, somehow, was still in my hand when I woke up. I was gripping it so hard that the display had shattered, and the keys were sticky with blood. I don't know how long I thought about the damn phone—maybe seconds, maybe more.
But those few seconds of uncertainty, or respite, or whatever the fuck it was, ended with the sound of Bella's voice. It was faint, breathy, but undeniably hers. And the name falling from her lips was a desperate, relentless refrain, like the angel of death, calling someone home.
"Bella," I said, forcing the word from my throat. It didn't sound right, more like a sob than an actual word. I tried to turn around, but I could feel the bones in my back splintering with the slightest movement.
But fuck, I didn't care. I ignored the pain, the searing, white-hot burn of shattered bone coursing down my legs to the tips of my toes, as I reached over my seat to get to her. She looked up then, her eyes wide with pure, unadulterated fear. There was blood everywhere—on her face, her shirt, her hair. She was hardly recognizable, covered in so much fucking blood. At first I couldn't believe she was actually breathing—how the hell could a person survive such a bloodbath?
My mind, though, was still a few seconds behind the reality. I didn't even think about anyone else, since I hadn't heard any other voices. But it dawned on me then that it wasn't Bella's blood masking her beautiful face. It was Edward's. And he was crushed against the door, his eyes closed, his body completely still. Unlike Bella, he looked almost peaceful, and I wondered with unspeakable envy if death had come for him, and spared him so much horror.
As my mind continued to piece everything together with slow, torturous precision, I noticed the empty passenger seat. I swallowed the blood in my throat, but felt a tightening in my chest. Alice wasn't even in the fucking car.
All at once, my muscles were screaming at me to get out. Grab Bella, get out of the car, find Alice. And so I reached for her, my hands grasping her slender shoulders. But she pushed me away, her little hands on Edward's chest, her tears soaking his already bloodstained shirt.
"Bella," I said, unable to mask the desperation in my voice. "Bella, please."
She reached for him again, and swatted me away. I should have forced her—I could have, if I'd just fucking done it. But I couldn't separate Bella from Edward; I couldn't tear her away from the one person in this world who made her whole.
So I climbed out of the car, somehow, and reached through Edward's window to lift him out of the back seat. It took me a few minutes, and Bella never stopped screaming, but I finally did it. I lifted him onto the cool, wet grass, and dragged him far enough away from the wreckage so that I didn't have to look at it anymore.
Bella's screams had dissolved into choked, raspy sobs, but she wouldn't let go. She kept calling his name, in a language of love and regret and utter despair. I stood up, tried to stumble over to the side of the road, tried to salvage one more life in this perfect nightmare.
I woke up five days later in the ICU, alone and in pain. I noticed my parents' things on the makeshift cot, but didn't feel any comfort that they were here somewhere. I didn't know where my friends were, but my subconscious refused to believe that they were dead. How could they be? They were young, healthy, invincible. I had known Edward and Bella since birth, and friends didn't just die and leave you behind. Shit like that happened to other people. It never happened to you.
I don't know how long I might have suspended my mind in this kind of disbelief—maybe a few seconds, a few hours. But it ended as soon as my mother walked in the room, her face a ghastly, bloodless white, her eyes rimmed in red. I leaned over the bed, and threw up all over the linoleum floors.
"No!" I screamed, and it was a guttural, raw, inhuman sound I didn't recognize. "Don't you fucking look at me like that!"
"Jasper," she said, but she was already crying, and my own name sounded like a strangled moan in her throat.
"Fuck you!" I spat at my own mother, because she was the only one standing there, the only human with whom I could share my rage.
She took two steps back toward the door, buried her face in her hands. I had never seen my mother like this, had never wanted to see anyone like this.
"I'm sorry," she sobbed, backing up into my father's chest. He appeared at the door like a goddamn apparition, his face utterly devoid of all emotion. My father was a doctor, and he knew death; he understood it.
But he didn't understand this. He was lost—as lost as the both of us. He wrapped his arms around her shoulders, and stroked her hair. The simple gesture made me sick, made me realize all I had destroyed, and all I had lost.
"Jasper…" he started, but his voice died in his throat. My own fury, just like that, had dissolved into pure, unfathomable pain. I felt it in my chest, crushing me like dead weight. Right then, death would have been a welcome, glorious release.
"Don't," I whispered.
"Edward and Alice…I'm sorry, Jasper," he said, his voice wavering now. I had never seen vulnerability in my father; for twenty-two years, I had just believed it didn't exist for him.
In two seconds, he had proven me wrong.
"I have to see them—"
"They're gone, Jasper. Their funerals were yesterday."
I shook my head, tried to get up. A welcome kind of pain surged through me, but my dad put his hand on my shoulder before I could break my own back getting out of bed.
"All three?" I asked. "Together?"
He hesitated, cleared his throat. I didn't notice the difference at first, the way his voice lifted—ever so slightly—when he spoke.
"No," he said. "Bella survived."
My muscles tensed, as every fiber of my being responded to the sound of those two words. Bella survived. Survived that horrific crash…all that blood…Edward's blood…
"She's all right?" I croaked.
"Yes…just minor injuries."
"Can I see her?"
He swallowed hard, tightened his grip on the bedrail.
"She went home, Jasper," he said.
"Home to Forks. Her dad took her home for Edward's funeral."
I sighed, felt my world—or whatever was left of it—fall out from under me. Of course she left. She blamed me for taking him away from her, and leaving her behind. She blamed me for her own survival, which she didn't want now that Edward was gone.
She left me for dead, and after what I had done, I couldn't blame her. If I had died that night, she might have forgiven me.
"I'm sorry, Jasper," my mother said, taking my hand in hers. I didn't deserve her comfort, nor her sympathy, but I took it anyway.
For the next six days, I woke up wishing I were dead. I thought about doing it—overdosing on morphine, throwing myself out the window, hanging myself by a bed sheet. But each time I thought about it, I found a reason not to. I thought of Bella at home in Forks, surviving. In that way, she wasn't alone.
So on the seventh day, I started to think about the present. Forget the past, forget the future; I focused on the here and now, on starting over.
But I never got anywhere. I stalled.
I couldn't move—couldn't take a single fucking step—without her.
So I started simple. I borrowed my mom's cell phone, and called the number I had committed to memory. Bella's cell phone went straight to voice mail, so I tried Charlie's number. I don't know how the hell I remembered those seven digits, but I did, somehow.
And I heard, after three rings, his deep, gravelly voice on the other end.
"Hello?" he said.
I cleared my throat. "Hi, uh, Chief Swan. This is Jasper Whitlock—"
I heard a deep sigh on the other end, cutting me off. My heart was racing with the prospect of actually talking to her, and hearing her voice.
"I don't think this is a good time," he said.
And just like that, every hope I had—every shred of motivation for living one more day—vanished.
"Okay," I said, disgusted by the tears blurring my vision. I wiped them away with the back of my hand, and twisted the white sheets in my fingers.
"I'm sorry, son," he said, and seemed to make a move to hang up. But I stopped him, my voice reeking of desperation.
"Is there…is there a time that might be better?"
"I don't think so," he said. "I'm sorry."
The sound of the click in my ear was deafening. But that flicker of hope returned as I hung up the phone, thought of her voice, and decided to try again tomorrow.
We went home to Forks two weeks later, loaded with painkillers and a shitload of anti-depressants. My parents' house was just outside of town, a few miles from Bella's house off Main Street. I called the Swan household each day at noon, and sometimes Charlie picked up, and sometimes it went to voice mail. Charlie never hung up on me, as I thought he might. But our conversations never lasted longer than a few seconds: usually just a hello, a request to talk to Bella, a denial, and then a good-bye. I never heard Bella in the background, and I never pressed him for information. But I knew she was there, because this was a small town, and everyone knew everything.
I spent the summer in physical therapy, which kicked my ass on a daily basis. It hurt like hell, and never got easier. But I savored it, each and every second of such unrelenting pain, because this was my punishment. I thought about Edward and Alice every day, and dreamt of them every night. They never said anything—this wasn't some kind of visitation from the dead bullshit. But they were there, always, and I woke up most mornings with tears streaming down my face.
Alice's parents lived in Chicago, and I talked to them a few times a week. I had met them only once, the day of our graduation, but they saw me as some kind of lingering connection to their only daughter. I didn't mind; I would have done anything to ease their grief. And just talking about Alice, even to her parents, in some ways brought her back to me.
Edward's parents, Carlisle and Esme Cullen, lived just a few houses down from mine. As the months passed, Esme would stop by the house more often, but she rarely stayed very long when I was here. I knew I reminded her of Edward, even though we looked nothing alike. But we had been like brothers, always getting into trouble, growing up, learning lessons the hard way. And when she looked at me now, she thought of him and wondered why I survived, and he had not. I could tell what she was thinking just by looking at her; I could tell by the flash of guilt in her eyes when she looked at me, and thought of Edward.
It was almost July when I saw Charlie Swan for the first time. I was leaving the hospital for another torturous rehab session, and there he was, walking from his car into the ER, his strides brisk and deliberate. He never saw me, and I didn't say anything. But it was significant, in some intangible way. Seeing Charlie Swan didn't really bring me any closer to Bella, but it felt that way. And that was enough.
The next day, when I was actively looking for Charlie again since I had seen him the day before, I collided with someone else instead. I practically bounced off him since he was so huge, just as he had always been. A big, goofy grin spread on his face, and I couldn't help but smile back.
"Jasper, you little shit. How the fuck are you, man?" Emmett asked, squeezing in as many obscenities as possible into a polite greeting. Some things never changed.
"Emmett, jeez. Been a while."
"Yeah, four years. Jeezus. How'd college treat you?"
"Not bad," I said, grateful for the inane conversation. He had undoubtedly heard about the accident—everyone in Forks knew every detail—but I knew Emmett wouldn't bring it up. He didn't like uncomfortable silences, and any mention of the accident would encourage a whole slew of those.
"Yeah, I'm done, too," he said. "Did the football thing, got a degree out of it. I can't complain."
I caught a glimpse of the ring on his finger, which was unavoidable given all the hand-waving. Emmett always gestured a lot with his hands, as if to exaggerate every story he told. But his theatrics never bothered me—the guy could always tell a hell of a story.
"You married?" I asked.
He looked a little confused at first, then broke into a wide grin. "Hell, yes," he said. "You remember Rosalie?"
"Sure," I said, picturing the curvaceous, leggy blonde from our high school days. "You guys tied the knot?"
"A few weeks ago. She just gets better with age, man. I'm lucky as fuck."
His words blindsided me, in a way I hadn't expected. I managed a smile, and hoped he didn't notice the strain behind it.
"That's great, Em. Congrats."
"Thanks," he said. "Hey, you should come by. We're having a barbecue this Sunday."
"Really?" I asked, feeling my heart stutter and stall all over the place. I couldn't come right out and ask if Bella would be there, but I wanted to. Fuck, I wanted to.
"Yeah, Sunday at three. Bring beer."
Rosalie greeted me on Sunday afternoon, her legs just as long and tan as I remembered. To the casual observer, she seemed to fit the stereotype: blonde, kind of flaky, always dressed to the hilt. But she had a warm, genuine smile that made her even more beautiful than she actually was. I had always liked Rosalie, and in high school, the four of us had been close.
"Welcome to the party pit!" Emmett bellowed from across the room, which was crowded with faces I hadn't seen in five years. I scanned them quickly, searching for the one face in this room that occupied my every waking moment, but didn't see her. She wasn't here.
"Thanks," I said, and I hoped he didn't notice the disappointment in my voice. Emmett seemed completely immune to emotional cues, but Rosalie saw right through me. She smiled, and nodded toward the kitchen.
"Can I get you a drink?" she asked.
"Sure," I said, and Emmett did some weird kind of chugging gesture that seemed to suggest what might come later.
We walked into the kitchen, which was overflowing with booze, food, chips, and of course, a keg. Rosalie pumped the thing like a pro, and poured me a cup of something cold and foamy.
"I haven't seen you in forever," she said, giving me the hug that Emmett had interrupted. "How are you, Jasper?"
"I'm okay," I said, glancing down at my cup. She said nothing, as if to suggest I hadn't yet answered the question.
"It's been hard," I said. "Harder than I thought."
"Of course it is. You've been to hell and back."
"Not sure I'm back yet," I muttered.
"You're getting there. So is she."
I looked up, felt that familiar flutter in my chest. I didn't know what to say.
"She's having a hard time, Jasper. But she's…getting there."
"I tried calling her, so many times."
"I know," she sighed. "She needs more time. Just be patient."
"She blames me."
"No," she said. "She doesn't blame you. She just doesn't know what to say to you. She's afraid of what she'll feel when she sees you."
"You mean Edward," I said, my stomach churning with those familiar feelings of guilt and grief and loss. And yet, for as bad as it was for me, it was probably a thousand times worse for Bella.
"You remind her of him. How could you not?"
I nodded, because in this case more than any other, I understood.
"But it isn't just about him," she said. "She misses you, too, Jasper. She wants to reach out to you, but she doesn't know how."
"I'll wait," I said. "I'll wait forever, if that's what it takes."
"It won't take forever," she said, a sad, wistful smile gracing her face. "But when it happens, just be there for her, in whatever way she needs you to be."
On the first day of August, in middle of a fucking monsoon, the power went out. At 11:45 am, with no cell phone service and a dead landline, I started to panic. Of course it probably didn't matter—Bella never answered the phone anyway. But I couldn't handle it. I had to call her. I had to find a way.
So I trudged into town, my clothes a wet, sopping mess by the time I reached the police station. There was a woman sitting at the front desk, looking bored out of her eyeballs, and she barely looked up when I walked in.
"Can I help you?" she asked, in a voice as flat as the expression on her face.
"Um, yes," I said. "Can I use the phone?"
"I don't know," I mumbled. "That one on your desk?"
"There's a goddamn hurricane out there. The power's out."
"Yes, but this is the police station. Don't you have an emergency line?"
"Like what? Morris code?" she snorted, a little too amused by her own joke.
"Please," I said, glancing at the watch overhead. 11:58. Fuck. Fuck!
"How much does it mean to you?" she asked.
Jeezus Christ. This was Forks, not the mob. I suppressed an eye-roll and reached into my wallet.
"Seven bucks?" I asked. Damn, should have hit the ATM yesterday.
"Seven?" For a second or two, I thought for sure she was going to laugh me right out of the office.
"Fine," she said instead. "Use the phone in there."
After I recovered from the whole bizarre exchange, I headed into the little cubicle off the main entryway. The phone on the wall wasn't the typical office phone; it was attached to a radio, and when I picked up, there was a dispatcher on the other end.
"Uh, hi," I managed to say. "Can you connect me to Chief Swan's home phone?"
It hadn't even occurred to me that the Swans might also be dealing with the power outage, but it was too late to think about that now. The person on the other end sounded a little surprised, but eventually put me through.
I breathed a sigh of relief when the phone started ringing, and I knew by experience that if Charlie answered, he usually did so on the third ring. If he didn't pick up, it went to voicemail on the ninth ring.
The phone rang once, twice, three times, and my heart sank a little bit at the prospect of another wasted message. But on the eighth ring, there was a little click, and then the sound of empty air. Someone picked up the phone, just long enough to breathe once, and then hung up without a word.
Bella had picked up the phone.
She had fucking answered.
It didn't matter that she didn't say anything, or that she hung up so quickly. Since I called every single day at the exact same time, she knew it was me. I controlled the urge to do a little dance around the office, and replaced the phone on the wall with a shit-eating grin on my face.
Maybe tomorrow, she would wait two seconds, instead of one. And maybe one day soon, instead of a nervous, shaky breath, I would hear her voice.
But the next day, instead of the breathy silence I had waited twenty-four hours to hear again, Charlie answered. I tried not to sound disappointed, especially since he seemed particularly talkative today. 'Talkative' for Charlie meant three questions about my life instead of one, but even so, I couldn't help but over-think his good mood. Had something happened? Was Bella sitting right there in the kitchen, listening to her father talk to me?
I tried not to think about it when I called the next day, with lower expectations than the day before. Maybe that first day was just a fluke; maybe she had picked up thinking it was some kind of emergency. That was definitely a possibility, given the rainstorm from hell.
But before I could rationalize whatever had happened that day, that little click on the eighth ring resounded in my ear like a chorus of angels. I expected two breaths this time, or maybe just a longer first one.
But I was wrong.
She was crying.
But she was there.
"Let me go," she whispered.
And hung up.
I didn't expect her to answer the next day, or the next, or any day after that for at least a few weeks. But just as I expected her to ignore me again, at least for a while, I knew she expected me to keep calling.
And so I did, each and every day at noon, as the summer waned into shorter days and cooler nights. The accident had almost left me paralyzed, but my ruthless attitude in physical therapy hastened my recovery. The doctors called it miraculous; I called it penance.
After college, I had planned to take a job in Chicago working at an investment firm, but I had no desire to move there anymore. I had even less of a desire to work in banking, which had seemed appealing at the time because it paid well. Now I couldn't remember what the hell I'd been thinking. Who the fuck worked 100 hours a week just for the money? Plenty of people, apparently. People who hadn't come within inches of death, only to discover later what suffering really was. Alice had tried to talk me out of it, repeatedly, and I should have listened to her. I wished I could go back and grant her every single one of her desires, from the hairless puppy she wanted to adopt (that thing was ugly as sin), to the spring break trip to Australia (why not Florida? I had asked, like a real tool), to the penthouse apartment in Lincoln Park (the fact that we were broke didn't matter to her).
I had heard about people with near-death experiences, whose lives—it seemed—always changed for the better. Mine hadn't changed for the better in every way, because real life just didn't work like that. I still spent most mornings in agony, until my muscles had loosened up and the painkillers kicked in. I rarely partook in social events, unless Emmett came in here and busted my balls. And I was twenty-two, and living with my parents, who were sympathetic but impatient. And I was, too, in some ways. At some point, I would have to find a job, maybe leave Forks. But a part of me was holding on to the familiar.
And a larger part of me was holding on to her.
The only person who knew this, though, was Rosalie. On the last Saturday in August, the night before my twenty-third birthday, she and Emmett busted through my front door with a bottle of two-buck-chuck and a case of Natty Ice.
"Wow, guys, you really went all out. Thanks," I said, attempting a straight face. But I failed, and Rosalie was already laughing when she handed me the bottle of the cheapest wine on the planet.
"It's Rose's favorite," Emmett said, chuckling as he kissed her cheek. I envied them, but in a good way, if that were possible. I envied them for what they had, not for what I lacked.
"So, then," Emmett said. "Where are the parentals?"
"Uh, gone," I said. "Long weekend in Vancouver."
"Just like old times," Emmett smirked. "I'm going to call a few friends."
"Jasper," he said, interrupting me before I had a chance to protest. "You've become old and boring. It is time for us to celebrate your entrance into middle age."
"Well fuck yes, middle age. Look at me, I'm already married!"
Rosalie rolled her eyes, took a swig of the red wine. She opened two cans of Natty Ice, and handed one to Emmett, and one to me.
"He's so good to me," she teased, but within the mocking tone of her voice was the unmistakable grain of truth.
"He is," I said, and fuck, I couldn't help it. I thought of Alice, and the way she talked to me, loved me, believed in me. I had spent my first year of college wandering in and out of so much booze and pot and women that I had almost dropped out. She had saved me once, and I had failed to do the same.
"Jasper," Rosalie said, her voice softer now. "You've waited long enough."
I knew what she meant. Finally, after three months of learning how to live again, I knew exactly what she meant.
I woke up the next day to a cold, grey rain, and a distant hangover. The party had begun here, migrated to the local pub, and ended up in Emmett and Rosalie's backyard. I had come back here, somehow, although I had only made it as far as the kitchen. The alcohol was dulling some of the pain, but I felt as though I had slept on a bed of knives. My back hurt like a bitch, and instead of trying to make it up the stairs for my bottle of Vicodin, I decided to sleep it off.
I don't know how I managed to sleep in a cloud of so much agony, but when I woke up, I felt surprisingly well-rested. The rain was still falling—even more heavily now, if that were possible—and I was glad it was Sunday. I didn't do physical therapy on Sunday. I didn't do shit on Sundays. I sat on the couch and watched True Blood, because Alice had always dropped everything for that show. And it didn't feel right to stop watching it just because she wasn't here.
I tried to roll over onto my side, and filled the whole house with my howls of pain. How could anyone live like this?
But every time I thought about the pain, I thought about that night, and I never wished it away. The pain was a constant reminder of the fact that I had walked away from that accident with my life, and two people had not.
Finally I managed to get to my feet, but not without toppling a few stools and chairs as I clawed my way to an upright position. I stumbled over to the kitchen sink, and poured myself a glass of water. Sweat was pouring off me, and I could feel my cheeks flush with the exertion of getting over here. I knew I looked like hell, and I was glad there was no one here to see it.
I finished the water in a few swift, fluid gulps, and stood up straight. I looked out the window, expecting to see the usual Sunday activity—the little train of churchgoers, parked outside along our street. But I didn't see a damn thing. No cars, no pious people, no kids in their Sunday best.
At first I thought it was the rain, or maybe some kind of holiday. Like Easter, maybe. No. Shit. Easter was in the spring. Maybe a holy day…did they even have those anymore?
I walked around to the back door, unlocked it, and stepped outside. The little overhang kept me protected from the rain, but there was an angry, swirling wind that penetrated my thin layer of clothes.
So I stepped back inside, still distantly aware of the feeling that something was off. I walked through the foyer, my footsteps slow and heavy on the oak floors, until the sound of the massive grandfather clock shattered the stillness of the early morning.
I stood there, mildly annoyed by the sheer volume of the thing, until I realized what was missing.
There were chimes missing.
One chime means one o'clock.
Every thought of the searing pain in my back was forgotten as I sprinted toward the front door. I threw it open, ran out onto the front lawn. I didn't even think about calling her; hell, I didn't want to, not anymore.
If she didn't see me today, then she would never see me. Our connection would be broken, and I would learn to live with that. This was her choice, not mine. Today our lives would intersect once again, or they would diverge forever.
My parents had taken the car to Vancouver, so fuck, I had to run. And so I did, through the splintering pain in my back, which seemed to radiate to every nerve ending in my broken, battered body. But instead of slowing down, instead of cursing myself for leaving that bottle of pills at home, I ran faster. For the first time in four months, I wasn't holding back.
I don't know how long it took me to get there. I just ran the same route I remembered from the Forks Elementary school bus, which had stopped at my house first, then Edward's, then Bella's. I ran past each of them, witnesses to so many childhoods gone by. At least we had that. We would always have that.
When I turned the corner onto Bella's little street, I recognized her blue tin mailbox with white lettering. I finally slowed down as I stepped over the curb and onto her driveway, which Charlie had never bothered to pave. The gravel shifted underneath my feet, and it took everything I had to keep from calling out her name. So I just stood there for a while, and took a few deep, calming breaths, while the cold rain soaked my skin.
I didn't feel pain as I walked, one step in front of the other, toward her familiar front stoop. An old maple—Edward's favorite climbing tree—sheltered the porch, and I admired it with a wistful, reverent smile.
"This is for you, Edward," I said to myself, my words dying in the cold wind. "All of this was for you."
I took a deep breath, and thought once more of the last four months. Of all the calls, the waiting, the uncertainty. And most of all, the hope I had that she would answer.
I removed my hand from my side, and brought it up to the doorbell. I resisted the urge to look inside, to see if anyone was home.
I just had to do it.
Ring it, Jasper.
Just fucking do it.
But I didn't have to.
Because before I could ring that damn bell, before I could even breathe, the door flew open and there she was.
She didn't say anything as she flew off the porch, and crushed her little body into mine. She hugged me with everything she had, her arms wrapped around my neck, her legs dangling in the air as I lifted her up. I felt her melt into me, her body as soft and slender as I remembered, her hair carrying the faint scent of strawberries, the way it always did.
"I'm so sorry," I said, over and over and over again. "I'm so, so sorry."
"I know," she said, her voice faltering in the violent howls of the wind. And it was as if all of my suffering, all of my brokenness, slipped away at the sound of her voice.
"Thank you," she whispered.
"For not listening to me," she said. "For never letting go."
Thank you for reading!