"For the Love of Jasper" One-Shot Contest
Pen name: staceygirl aka jackbauer
Existing work: N/A
Primary Players: Jasper and Bella
Disclaimer: Characters are not mine.
see other entries in the "For the Love of Jasper" contest, please
The registration line seemed to go on forever. It was unusually hot for the Northwest, adding to my discomfort. Most of the people looked happy enough to stand there for hours and chat, but it was just making me more nervous. My first day at college was supposed to be exciting and instead I felt out of place and alone. I should have just stayed with most of my friends at Arizona State, but I thought it was time to grow up and forge some sort of relationship with my dad. Midwestern State was a small college not far from where he lived. I wanted to be closer to him, but after living for the last twelve years in Phoenix with my mom, the idea of being so far away from her was starting to really bother me. My excitement and sense of adventure were being replaced with dread and homesickness. I was stupid to think I could do this.
I noticed the guy in front of me kept turning around and glancing at me. I started to worry I had lettuce in my teeth or bird crap on my shoulder. I tried to nonchalantly check but felt completely self-conscious.
"Hey there, I'm Jasper." He finally turned all the way around and held out his hand to me.
"Hi, Bella," I squeaked out and shook his hand. He was beautiful. His blonde hair was wavy, and I wanted to reach out to see if it was as soft as it looked. There was obvious muscle definition in his arms and shoulders, but he wasn't bulky. He was tall and lean, and as I looked past him I noticed he had the attention of all the other girls around us.
"It looks like we're going to be in this line for a long time," he said with a hint of hick in his accent.
"I'd say hours."
We stood there awkwardly for a few seconds. I was trying desperately to think of something to say other than, 'You're pretty,' when he finally broke the silence.
"You want to play a game?"
"What kind of game?" With that smile and those eyes he could get me to play just about anything, Candy Land, Strip Poker, Skip Through the Mine Field.
"You try to guess what I'm thinking of. You can ask yes or no questions, but you can't stop till you guess what it is." I was relieved he didn't want to guess what I was thinking, because it would probably embarrass us both. I wasn't exactly sure why he was proposing this "game," but I decided I had nothing better to do.
"But you could be thinking about anything."
"That's what makes it fun," he shrugged.
"Okay, is it alive?"
"Can I see it?"
"Not right now."
"Is it edible?"
He started cracking up. "Well, I guess so."
We kept playing until we got to the front of the line. By then I was pretty sure the thing was somewhere in the vicinity. It was grayish blue, it was smaller than a bread box, and it was possibly wet.
"Okay you've got to tell me. I'm not going to guess it in time!" I pointed out that he was next in line.
"No way, Bella. I'll wait for you, and we can go to the dining hall together. It's lunch time."
As I watched him walk up to the registration table, I couldn't help but smile. Something told me he'd noticed I was feeling down and had been trying to distract me. It worked. Things weren't looking as bleak as they had been, and I was feeling much more relaxed.
Three hours, one sandwich, and an ice cream cone later, I finally figured it out.
"The lint in your belly button?" I looked utterly disgusted.
"Yes ma'am," Jasper chuckled.
"Gross! You said you could eat it!"
"Well technically you could eat it. Here I'll show you." He started to lift up his shirt, but I grabbed his arm stopping him with a shriek. He laughed and his eyes were shining. I was laughing with him, and suddenly college was looking like exactly where I wanted to be.
I spent the rest of that day with Jasper, unloading my truck and then watching him unload his. He refused to let me carry anything, and I'll admit I don't think I could have handled much more than the sight of his sweaty t-shirt and flexing muscles as he lugged the boxes up the stairs. I learned he was from Texas and came here to study civil engineering. The only people he knew here were me and his weird roommate Yorkie who had a strange fascination with Star Trek and role-playing games. Jasper told me to stop being mean as I looked though his roommate's closet and made fun of his costumes, but I saw him trying not to laugh.
I was in no hurry to get back to my dorm room, and he didn't seem to want to get rid of me either. We sat side by side on his bed and watched a movie, went to dinner together, walked to the campus bookstore and bought matching t-shirts, and drove around to see what was nearby. It was all so much fun, and he was easy to be around. He was just the kind of person that made me feel completely comfortable.
When he walked me to my dorm that night, we made plans to meet for breakfast the next morning.
"Who was that?" my roommate Lauren asked after she watched him hug me goodnight. I'd just met Lauren that morning, but I already knew I didn't like her. She had fake big boobs, the kind that made her look chubby even though she probably weighed much less than I did. Her hair was bleached, and she dressed like a skank. Her attitude of 'I'm little miss perfect' came rolling off her the moment I saw her. My friends and I used to make fun of girls like her. Deep down we were probably jealous that those kinds of girls got the attention we wanted.
"That was Jasper," I said.
"He's so hot. Did he ask you out?" she said sticking her head out into the hallway to watch Jasper walk away.
"No." I was kind of hoping that would come later, but I didn't want to assume anything.
"Hmmm, I didn't think so," she said.
I should have known better than to let her get to me. I'd been putting up with snobs like her my entire life, but I was still a bit vulnerable being away from home for the first time, and her words clung to me. She was right. Jasper would never look at a girl like me like that. He was just a nice guy. Maybe even my friend, but I was pretty sure that was all we would be, in his mind anyway.
I met him for breakfast the next day, and the sight of his perfection made me both happy and sad. I was happy to see him, but sad because I couldn't shake Lauren's words. What was he even doing with me?
In the dining hall, I headed for the omelets, and he went for the cereal. I'd assumed he was smart, because he majored in engineering, but obviously you couldn't look like that and be a genius. Why would he just eat cereal when we'd paid $12 for this meal with our housing fees? At least I was going to get my money's worth.
It happened in slow motion. I heard one hit the ground, then another, then another, then in quicker succession a huge tower of cereal bowls started spilling toward the ground like a slinky. Jasper was standing there, and instead of the sex on legs confidence he'd been walking around with, he looked embarrassed and frantic. People were starting to applaud. Jasper looked at me, and I imagined his eyes were pleading with me to save him.
There was no choice then. I gave my tray a shove off the counter with as much force as I could muster. It went crashing to the ground pulling most of the attention off of Jasper and on to me. I heard even more laughter roar through the cafeteria, and I took a small bow as the applause turned my direction. I winked at Jasper and nodded towards the door. We both ran for our lives away from the mocking that would be sure to follow us for the rest of our college careers.
We walked to Starbucks across the street. As we sat down to enjoy our highly caffeinated breakfast that Jasper paid for even though we'd already bought overpriced meals on campus, Jasper raised his cup in a toast, "Swan, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship." And that's what we were. Friends. Always only and forever friends.
Over the next four years, many things changed, but my one constant was Jasper. I never doubted my luck at being the first person he met at school. Had I not been in line with him that morning, college might have sucked. I also had a sense of pride that Jasper was mine in some form or fashion. He was popular among the ladies, to put it mildly. That first year, Lauren continued to make it abundantly clear to me that she wanted Jasper, and that he couldn't want me. Every time he came over, she laughed too loud and bent over too much. I would make faces at her when she wasn't looking. Jasper acted like she didn't exist, and made fun of her behind her back. I loved him a little bit for it.
Nothing made me happier than the daily sight of him leaning against a building waiting for me after class. He would stand with ankles crossed, arms folded, acting oblivious to the rest of the world until he saw me coming. Then he would stand up straight, smile in my direction, hold out his arm, and I would take it as we walked across campus together. On the weekends when we would go to movies or just get together to work on our homework. Most of the time we would end up ignoring our work and just sit and talk for hours. I loved the jealous looks I got from other girls when Jasper would kiss me goodnight on my forehead or hold my hand as he walked me to my door.
Girls started asking me all the time if we were dating. I would always answer no, that we were just friends, and then they would ask me if I could help them get with him. I would always lie and make up some reason why they wouldn't want to date him – mental problems, sexual identity issues, criminal record. I mean it wasn't like we were in love, but I didn't want to share my best friend with a girlfriend either.
It wasn't always easy being best friends with someone so perfect. I was his friend, but I was also a woman. A woman who had desires and dreams of true love and happily ever afters. When I pictured my future, it usually involved Jasper and I in some way or another. I tried not to think of him like that, because I knew I would just end up getting hurt. But he was basically my whole world, so it was hard not to. I considered many times talking to him about my feelings. I worried that if I did, it would make him feel awful to have to hurt me when he didn't feel the same. I was also terrified of losing him if things became awkward after that. So I left the words unspoken.
Our Junior year, much to my horror, Jasper asked out Rachel. She was tall and thin and beautiful. The worst part was I'd known her first. We had classes together, and I introduced her to Jasper after one of our study sessions.
Jasper was waiting for me outside the classroom center. I'd met with Rachel to work on a presentation we were doing for our Communications class, and she was walking with me.
"Hey!" I smiled at him as he walked toward us with his usual smile on his face. He wrapped an arm around my shoulders and hugged me. "This is my friend, Rachel. Rachel, this is my best friend, Jasper."
"Best friend huh?" Rachel said and reached out to shake his hand.
"Yeah, he's like the brother I never had," I teased and elbowed Jasper in the side. "Are you ready, buddy?"
"Yep. I was hoping we might grab some dinner or something tonight. You want to join us, Rachel?"
She smiled at him like he'd just proposed. Ugh. I hated when girls looked at him like that. "Um, thanks. That's really sweet, but I already have plans with some girls from my quad. Maybe next time?"
"Sure thing, it was nice to meet you."
"Bye, Rachel. See you in class," I said resisting the urge to make barfing noises.
Jasper and I headed to the parking lot arm in arm, and Rachel walked back towards the dorms.
"She seemed nice," Jasper said.
"Yeah, and beautiful." As soon as I said it, I mentally slapped myself. Why would I point out other girls' beauty to the guy I wished would make out with me?
"I guess she is," Jasper shrugged.
"She seemed pretty excited about the idea of going to dinner with you." I gave him a teasing nudge.
"Most women would be. You just take it for granted." He winked at me and squeezed my shoulder.
"Would you want to? Go to dinner with her I mean?" What was I doing! Why couldn't I just shut up!
Jasper let out a frustrated sigh and ran his free hand through his hair. "I don't know. I guess I wouldn't mind."
"Well then you should ask her," I said.
"I don't know, maybe." He looked like the whole idea kind of pissed him off, so I didn't worry about it. I didn't expect to come back from winter break and find out they were dating.
He returned to campus early from Christmas for an intersession course and so had she. Before I had a chance to get back and play interference, Jasper asked her out. He could have dated anyone; why did it have to be her? She was nice enough; it was just that she was beautiful. Really beautiful. Seeing him with her just solidified the fact that Jasper would never think twice about someone boring like me. I physically hurt inside every time I saw them together.
Jasper was still careful to spend time with me, but it became less and less frequent. Most of the time when I called him, he was out or busy with Rachel. She had been my friend, but I could tell she didn't really like having my around. One day she very politely confided in me that she felt intimidated by my friendship with Jasper. I told her she had nothing to worry about, and she agreed, but still something felt off about the way she'd been treating me.
Jasper invited Rachel home with him for Spring Break. He told me I was welcome to come too of course. Jasper and I had spent Fall and Spring Break together the previous two years. He went home with me for the Fall Breaks, and I went home with him for the Spring Breaks. My mom adored him, and I pretty sure she would have traded me in for him any day. His family's ranch was like something out of a movie, and I'd really been looking forward to going back. I could tell by the look on Rachel's face that I wasn't really welcome though. So I stayed at school and had a pity party by myself. Angela, my neighbor and friend found me moping one afternoon.
"Bella, what's the matter? I can tell something's the matter."
"Nothing. I just had plans to go with Jasper to Texas, but Rachel didn't want me to go," I griped.
"Oh, that stinks. I can't say I blame her though. She probably didn't want to be the third wheel."
"She's his girlfriend, Angela. I think I would have been the third wheel."
"Right. Have you ever tried playing Taboo with you and Jasper? All you have to do is look at him, and he guesses the word in your hand. You finish each other's sentences, you read each other's signals, you are so in synch with each other that it makes everyone else feel invisible when they're with you."
"That's silly. We're best friends. Of course we know each other well." I sighed wistfully at the thought of how connected we really were. I missed my friend.
"You know, a lot of girls are jealous of you," Angela admitted.
"No, we're not friends with benefits. I have not seen him naked. I cannot get you a date with him. He wears boxers," I started listing off the usual answers to the questions that always followed after a statement like that.
"Bella! I mean that every girl wishes she could have a friendship with a guy like you have with Jasper. You guys are so close and you talk about everything. And the reason you guys work so well is because you don't let sex and all the physical stuff to cloud your affection for each other. It's perfect."
It was feeling anything but perfect at that moment. It was feeling messy and hurtful, and I was jealous that Jasper could talk to me about anything, but in the end it was Rachel he wanted to kiss. I ended up crying in my room for two days.
When Jasper and Rachel came back from Spring Break, something was off. Jasper dove head first into his school work. He started eating at our table again in the dining hall instead of with her. He didn't seem as enamored with Rachel as he had before the break. I kept asking him what was wrong, but he told me everything was fine. I knew he was lying.
The next night, I was sitting at my desk studying, when Rachel came barging into my dorm room.
"What did you tell Jasper?" She was furious and had crazy eyes. I would have been afraid if she weren't so skinny.
"I don't know what you're talking about," I said defensively.
"I want to know what you told him about me. I know you've been trying to break us up all along, but I just can't figure out how you finally did it. He's been moping around ever since you didn't come with us on Spring Break, and now he says we're over. I hate you! I hate you!"
She was crying now but still seemed more angry than sad. I didn't really like hearing someone say they hated me, but I wasn't going to cry over their break up either.
"I've barely spoken to Jasper since you started dating. I haven't done anything, so get out of my room right now, before I call him and tell him to get his lunatic ex-girlfriend away from me!" I took a step toward her, and she took a step back.
"I don't know what he sees in you, you fugly little dork," Rachel spat and stormed off down the hall.
Fugly? People really say fugly? I grabbed the phone and dialed Jasper's number. "Hey," he answered. He sounded miserable.
"Rachel just came storming into my room demanding to know what I did to get you to dump her. What's going on?"
"Oh, Bella, I'm so sorry," he moaned. "I told her you had nothing to do with it."
"I know, but what happened?"
"I really don't want to talk about it right now. I need to go."
"You don't get to go. You get to tell me what's going on."
"Jasper, please, I care about you."
He sighed into the phone, and I knew he was going to talk. One of my superpowers was getting Jasper Whitlock to talk.
"It was at my house. Well it was two things really. First I didn't like the way she'd been treating you or talking about you."
"Oh." I wasn't sure if I should be happy he cared or mad she was talking about me.
"And she got a text message from an old boyfriend while she was at my house. She was in the shower when her phone started buzzing. I'm pretty sure she was still with him in some fashion."
"Will you stop saying, oh?"
"Oh, yeah, sorry."
"I'm going to go now, Bella." Jasper sounded irritated and sad.
"No. Sorry, you're not going to go. You're going to meet me at your truck, now."
"I don't feel like going anywhere," he groaned again. "Just leave me alone in my misery."
"No way, and I wasn't asking, I was telling. Now march, soldier!"
"Yes, sir," he finally agreed and hung up the phone.
I met Jasper at his truck, and I instructed him to drive us to the pub down the street. We sat in the corner where no one would bother us, and I ordered us a pitcher of beer. I didn't usually drink, and Jasper looked at me like I'd lost my mind.
"Desperate times call for desperate measures, my friend." I raised my glass. "Here's to never seeing Rachel again, because I'll cut that bitch for hurting you if I do."
Jasper finally laughed, and I felt some of my own tension leave my body at the sight of his smile. We chugged our drinks together. I hated seeing him upset. He was sensitive, and this had the potential to really mess with him. That's what I was there for. I made it my mission to get him happy again. In a way it was hard to have empathy for Jasper, when I really wanted to celebrate that Rachel wouldn't be coming between us anymore.
"She was kind of ugly, wasn't she?" Jasper smiled.
"Hideous. I heard she had a huge wart… you know where."
"Yeah, and she snores," Jasper added.
"Plus, she's a really bad public speaker. Her presentation in my class was horrid. You might have had stupid kids if you'd married her."
"Nothing worse than stupid kids," Jasper nodded.
"Or ugly girlfriends." I raised my glass in another toast.
"God, Bella, you always know just how to handle me. I get so caught up in my emotions, but you can always dig me back out of them. You're nothing like Rachel. She's selfish and shallow and a little stupid, like you said. You're just as beautiful, but none of those other things. How can you be so perfect?"
His words and the way he was looking at me made my heart stop beating. I knew he didn't mean them the way they sounded, but part of me wished he did. "It takes quite a woman to be your best friend," I answered and stared at the ground for fear of my eyes giving away too much.
"Bella…" As soon as my name left his lips, I felt him move my hair out of my face, and lift my chin. Without any warning, he kissed me. It was warm and sweet. His lips moved against mine with such tenderness that I wanted to lose myself in them. His hand moved to my waist as he scooted his chair closer to me to reach me better. His smell and the taste of the beer on his lips were overwhelming me, and he was all I'd really ever wanted.
But I wasn't. I wasn't all he'd ever wanted. He'd just broken up with his girlfriend, he was vulnerable and in pain, and he was kissing me to forget about her, not because he wanted me.
"Jasper, stop." I turned away from him.
"Bella, you're beautiful," he said touching my face with his hand again.
"And you're heartbroken and tipsy," I said. "Let's not ruin our friendship on a rebound."
Jasper buried his head in his hands on the table. I rubbed his back and tried to ignore the throbbing in my chest. I sort of wished he'd argued with me just a little bit.
"It's okay, Jasper. Everything will be just fine."
We never spoke of what happened that night again. We went on like nothing happened. Like we were still just Jasper and Bella, best friends forever. We continued to talk every day, spent most of our time together and went to each other's houses on breaks. Jasper didn't date anyone for the rest of our time together at college, and I was basically never asked out at all. I tried to ignore the fact that I was just plain undesirable, but it bothered me more than I was willing to admit. At least I had Jasper to go with me to functions that required dates or to be my sidekick when we went out with a bunch of couples. To be honest I was perfectly content with the way things were. Jasper was enough for me. I didn't really want anyone else.
After graduation, I stayed in Seattle to go to grad school, and Jasper got an engineering job in Atlanta. We talked all the time at first and would visit each other occasionally, but as the years passed by our talks became less frequent. I still considered him my closest friend, and our growing apart was the natural progression that living so far apart resulted in.
I was truly happy for Jasper when he met Alice. There was love in his voice as he described her. He said it was like they were meant to be, like he'd been waiting for her all his life. I knew that day would come, when I'd get that phone call from Jasper, and I thought it would kill me. Thankfully when it came, I'd also met someone.
I must have just been too much for the college boys, because my problem of being undesirable faded when I entered into adult life. It wasn't like I was beating men off with a stick. I was just turning them down for dates left and right. I got asked out so often, that it started to be nuisance. I was still so caught up with thoughts of Jasper, that no one could even hold a candle to him in my mind. No one but Edward. He was tall and handsome and way too good looking for me. He was tortured, always focusing on his own inadequacies and never feeling good enough. He wallowed, and I would try to pull him out of his dark moods. He was even a little possessive which I thought was hot. I wouldn't quite call our relationship healthy; we were a little too codependent, a little too passionate for our own good, but I loved him, and he loved me. I felt wanted, and it felt so good to feel wanted. I was addicted to the way he looked at me, the way he touched me, and the brilliance of his mind.
So I was truly happy for Jasper when he married Alice. I attended their wedding alone. Edward couldn't get off work to go with me, and our relationship was still too new to vacation together anyway. Alice and I became fast friends, and she seemed genuinely comfortable with how close Jasper and I were. Jasper was good to me, including me in the ceremony even though I refused to be his best man. He made sure Alice threw the bouquet to me, much to the horror of her bridesmaids. He winked at me before, they pulled away, and instead of losing a best friend, I honestly felt like I was gaining another one.
"Hello, Cowboy!" I was surprised to see Jasper's name on my caller ID. We hadn't talked in several months.
"Swan, I need to see your face."
"You want me to send you a picture?"
"No. Meet me for dinner tomorrow night."
"I'm flying into Portland to inspect a bridge there, and I want to drive up to have dinner with you and Edward. It's about time I meet that loser."
"Jasper, Edward is not a loser. We'd love to meet you for dinner! I'm so excited!" I literally started bouncing I was so happy to get to see my Jasper.
The next day, Edward got stuck at the hospital and wasn't able to meet Jasper. I was disappointed that the two men in my life wouldn't get to know each other. Things between Edward and I were serious. I had a feeling he was planning to propose, and I was definitely planning to say yes.
I made arrangements to meet Jasper in the restaurant of the hotel where he was spending the night. I saw him standing in the lobby, and I picked up my pace. When our eyes met and I saw his smile, I started running. I ran straight into his arms, and he lifted me up while he hugged me.
"Damn, Swan, you look amazing," he laughed as he set me down.
"You look exactly the same." He'd lost any traces of boyhood and was all man now, but besides that he hadn't changed. He still looked perfect, and my heart still did a little dance at the sight of him. I hugged him again taking my time to breathe him in and smelled the same cologne he had on the day we met. "God, I've missed you."
"Me too." He gave me one final squeeze, and I took his arm as he led us to the restaurant.
"So where is this loser Edward?" he asked.
"He's not a loser, and he got stuck at the hospital so he won't be making it tonight."
"Oh I forgot, it's Dr. Loser."
"Stop!" I slapped his arm and laughed. "I don't know why you act so jealous of Edward. He's a great guy."
"I'd be jealous of any man you felt that way about," Jasper said and looked down at his menu. I stared at him trying to figure out what he meant, but his face gave nothing away.
We ate and caught up and laughed about old times.
"Do you remember when we first met?" he asked.
"Hello, yes bellybutton lint!" I laughed.
"You looked so pitiful, like you were about to cry. I couldn't bear to see anyone looking that pathetic."
"Ahh, so I was your charity case."
"Most rewarding good deed of my life." Jasper reached over and squeezed my shoulder affectionately like he always had. Part of me felt like I'd been away for years and was finally home again.
"I'm still trying to figure out why you've put up with me this long. It couldn't have been easy."
"What's that supposed to mean, Swan?"
"Having a girl for a best friend, putting up with the mood swings, and always having to carry my laundry basket back from the car. You probably could have avoided a lot of the hassle."
"Well, when I first got to school, I met you – a beautiful, funny, intelligent girl and Yorkie – a guy who liked to dress up like aliens and play with is light saber. It wasn't too hard to decide who I wanted to hang out with."
"But why, Jasper? Why did you keep hanging out with me?"
"Do you want the real answer or the easy answer?"
"Let's start with the easy answer."
"You were the coolest person I'd ever met, and I loved your company."
If that wasn't the real answer, I had no idea what he was about to say next. "And the real answer?"
"I was crazy about you, and I thought if I stuck around long enough you'd begin to see me as more than a friend."
I my fork fell from my hand and clattered on my plate. My eyes grew wide, and I stared at him unable to form a thought or reply. That was the last thing I'd expected him to say.
"I can't believe we've never talked about this before. I mean obviously we've both gone our own directions, but for a long time I really believed you were it for me," Jasper said seemingly somewhat amused by my shocked reaction.
"But… but Rachel. You dated Rachel," I mumbled still barely able to speak.
"Well, you kept going on and on about how cool she was. I thought you wanted me to ask her out. Plus, I'd spent over two years waiting for some sign from you that I should make a move, and I figured it was time to try something else. To see if I could be happy with another girl. I never really told you why we broke up."
"What? You mean she didn't really get a message from an old boyfriend?" My head was spinning. I felt like I was going to be sick.
"Well, she did, but I didn't really think they were together. We got in a huge fight at my house over my relationship with you and how jealous she was of how close I was to you. She accused me of being in love with you and went ballistic when I didn't deny it. That's when I knew it was all pointless. I broke up with her after we got back to campus."
"I-I- I don't know what to say," I said trying not lose it.
"It's all water under the bridge now. You've got Edward, and I love Alice. I do still feel bad about some of the things I did that you didn't know about."
"What do you mean?" My head snapped up.
"I um, sort of told Mike Newton we were going out… oh and the soccer team. And I kind of sort of told a few other guys who weren't good enough to stay away from you too."
"You what!? You kept guys from asking me out?"
"Sorry. I know. I was awful." He looked like he felt really guilty.
"Well, I um sort of told Jessica you were gay," I admitted.
"What the hell!" Jasper looked like his eyes were going to pop out of his head.
"Um, I also sort of started that rumor that you had a violent temper when Emily was trying to get you to ask her out."
"I always wondered why her behavior toward me changed so drastically. Did you tell anyone else I was gay?"
"Not exactly, I just implied that you were a little feminine."
"Bella! I can't believe you did that. That was wrong on so many levels."
"Oh you can't believe I did that! I spent my entire college career feeling ugly and undesirable because I never got asked out by one single person. Now you tell me several guys were interested, and you ruined it for me all because you were too chicken to do it yourself!"
"I tried once, Bella, and you told me I was ruining our friendship." Jasper looked frustrated and sad. I still felt nauseous. "Besides, why would you need to spread those rumors about me? Why would you care if girls were interested in me?"
"I need to go to the bathroom." I threw my napkin on the table and ran for it. I threw the bathroom door open, forced my body into a stall, sat on the toilet, and cried. Why was he telling me this now! Why couldn't he have told me this five years ago? Even two years ago would have been enough!
I sat there for a long time trying to stop crying. Every time I stopped, the tears started again. Finally I heard Jasper calling from the bathroom door, "Bella, are you still in here?"
"I'm coming." I stood and straightened my dress and wiped my eyes one more time.
I walked out to Jasper. He took one look at me and wrapped his arms around me pulling me into a hug. "Bella, please don't be mad at me. This loser Edward has got to be better than Mike Newton anyway. I paid for our dinner. Do you want to do something else, or do you need to go home?"
"No, no, I'm fine. I don't want to go home. Let's go sit in the bar or something."
"Of course," Jasper wrapped his arm around me and we walked to the bar and sat down at a table out of the way.
"Pitcher of beer?" Jasper asked.
"Just like old times," I smiled. I worried I would start crying again any second, and drinking would probably just make things worse, but what the hell.
"You seemed upset back there, and I don't really understand why. That was a long time ago."
I swallowed and tried to work up the courage to tell him the truth. I wanted him to understand. "I never had any idea about your feelings for me. You weren't alone. I um, I thought I was so stupid for entertaining feelings for you for so long when you only thought of me as a friend. I just wish you told me this sooner."
"What? You had feelings for me? For how long?" he looked almost angry.
"I – I've been in love with you for the last ten years." I buried my head in my hands afraid to see his reaction.
Jasper slammed his body against the back of his chair like someone had punched him.
As I waited to hear his reaction, I pictured us having our first kiss outside of my dorm. I imagined how happy my mom would have been when I introduced Jasper as my boyfriend. I saw images in my mind of us laughing, of piggy back rides, of all the simple little touches we shared that would have turned into more. I pictured him making love to me and how he would slowly kiss every inch of my body until I felt worshiped. I pictured us registering for gifts together and how much simpler our wedding would have been compared to his with Alice. We would have been happy. We would have been so right together. If only I hadn't been so insecure and he hadn't been so stupid. If only one of us would have vocalized our feelings instead of being too afraid to risk our friendship. We would have had babies and grown old together and we would have loved each other completely. I could see it now. It was so obvious that we were always meant to love each other.
"Please, tell me what you're thinking," I finally said to him. The look on his face was almost painful to witness.
"I was just thinking about everything we missed. Everything that could have been. Everything that should have been." He looked so sad. I reached out my hand to hold his.
We both knew. We both felt it. We both grieved the loss.
"Damn it! You should have told me!" Jasper slammed his other hand down on the table making the beer slosh out of both our glasses.
"You should have told me!" I said with just as much anger.
Our eyes met and neither of us would look away. What I saw in his eyes made me happy, but it also ripped my heart out in the same instant. He loved me. I knew it now. I guess I'd always known it; I just never let myself believe it.
"Bella," he whispered and leaned toward me. His lips found mine, and they were hungry and needy and sweet at the same time. I found I needed him just as much. That moment was my one sliver of perfection in a lifetime of mediocrity. I didn't just exist, I lived. I didn't question, because I had every answer. I didn't want more, because I was finally enough. We kissed like we were making up for every kiss we lost because of our stupidity. We clung to each other so tightly it hurt, but I didn't care.
Then the moment was over. "Jasper, we can't. We have to stop."
"No, Bella, I love you. I've always loved you."
He leaned in to kiss me again, but I held out a hand, and said, "No. You're married Jasper."
"I didn't know Bella. I swear to God, I didn't know." His moist eyes searched mine offering me an impossible choice. I knew if I asked him to, that he would leave Alice. He would ask me to leave Edward, and I would agree. We would try and make up for lost time, and we might be happy.
But how could I choose between the man I'd always loved, and the man I planned to love forever? The thought of telling Edward I was in love with Jasper was unbearable. I pictured sweet, innocent Alice. She'd been nothing but wonderful to me. Was I really willing to ruin her life? Could I sacrifice the happiness of two people to try and find my own? What I wanted didn't matter. What I wanted was wrong.
"Jasper, please. You love Alice, and I love Edward. We can't. We just can't."
Jasper took a deep breath, looked at the ground, and finally nodded his head in agreement. Part of me wished he would have argued with me just a little bit. But Jasper wasn't the kind of man that leaves his wife for another woman, and I wasn't the kind of woman that wanted to be the other woman.
I would go back to Edward, and I would be happy. I would marry him, and I would try not to think of Jasper every time we kissed or made love. I would try not to always think about him and wonder how my life would have been different. To wonder if it might have been better. Jasper and Alice would start a family soon, and he would be the perfect father and husband. Just not with me.
We sat there in silence for a long time. Neither of us willing to walk away, but both of us afraid of the consequences more words might bring with them. So we left them unspoken. Finally Jasper stood and reached out to me. We walked to my car in the parking lot hand in hand. When we reached the spot where we would part ways, I turned to tell him goodbye, and the anguish in his eyes broke my heart. "Bella, are you sure this is what you want?" he asked one last time.
"I'm sure," I answered with more confidence than I felt. He kissed me softly on the mouth one last time but didn't linger there.
"I love you, Bella. Always have. Always will."
"I love you too," I choked out trying not to break down until I was alone.
That was the last time I saw Jasper Whitlock. I sent him an email letting him know I got engaged, but I didn't invite him to my wedding. I didn't think that would be fair to Edward. He and Alice sent us pictures of their first child, and I called to tell them I was pregnant. I was glad to know he was happy, and I wanted him to know that I was too.
Not a day went by when I didn't think about my friend, and I wondered if he ever thought about me. The ache in my chest never went completely away. I couldn't help but think I'd lost more than I'd gained. I lost being able to talk to him, knowing he'd always listen. I lost the comfort of knowing someone really understood me. I missed the way we could make each other laugh. It was the kind of relationship that could never be replaced. Our mistakes cost us everything.
I was happy. I imagine he was too. But I guess we'll never know what might have been.
A/N: I hope you're crying. I love to make people cry. Sorry it wasn't that funny. I wrote an alternate ending which I will PM to people who review. There's a bit more um – touching involved.
Thanks to the army of people who helped me brainstorm this is and edit it. Daisy, Profmom, Jennde, and Everwondering.
Remember it's for a contest, and I would really like it if you voted for it. Please. PLEASE! PLEASE IM BEGGING YOU PLEASE!!!!