Winner of the Twilight Anniversary Challenge, hosted by edward-bella-harry-ginny, Justine Lark and Gleena. Yay!
A/N: In My Brother's First Date, I wrote in a ridiculous backstory in which Alice saw Bella sixty seven years before she was born. Here, I attempt to justify that backstory and make it plausible. Never underestimate fate. This is all from Alice's POV, and can be read without reading MBFD.
It was the second thing I ever saw.
I had yet to open my eyes after first becoming conscious, not that I would have used those words. Not that I would have used any words at all, since the notion of language had yet to occur to me. Soon it would: I would hear my first words and suddenly realised that I could use these different articulations to communicate, but right then the only thing I knew was a glorious, scarred face with the most beautiful glowing golden eyes. Not that either he or I had gold eyes yet.
I haven't moved since I first became aware, didn't twitch when I was assailed with my first vision of Jasper, didn't even take my first breath before I saw it, the second thing I ever saw.
A family. A man with golden hair, seated on a sofa, reading a hefty tome. His arm casually around a woman, though his fingers curled in to hold her to him. She with hair like toffee, gentle waves resting on his shoulder as she sketched in a notepad, her legs tucked up on the sofa, her weight resting entirely on him. Across from them, a stunning young woman with cherry red lips and a waterfall of light cascading from her head. Beside her a young man like a giant. Her legs were flung over his and he stroked her feet with loving moments. They were supposedly watching television, something that I wouldn't fully comprehend for another three decades, but he in particular didn't shift his eyes from her face. And behind them all, another man, little more than a boy, playing the piano. Even though I had never seen anyone play before, I was impressed. His fingers seemed to fly.
A figure watched the pianist, leaning on the piano. I thought perhaps she was feminine. Beyond that, I saw nothing. She was like a shadow, a patch of blurred darkness where there should be sharp light.
The pianist looked up at her, his hands never pausing, and smiled at her.
I opened my eyes and saw them no more.
The years went by as I searched for them, Jasper and our family alike, and I saw more and more. I learnt their names, their traits, their hobbies and quite a few things that I'd really rather not have known at all. I had no control in those days. I saw Jasper the most, obviously, followed by Edward, followed by everyone else. I didn't know what to make of that discrepancy at first until I realised that I would be closer to these two, for hugely different reasons, of course.
I saw their near futures more than their far futures after that one, tantalising glimpse. Carlisle and Esme's wedding, Rosalie and Royce, Emmett and the bear, Rosalie and Emmett's first wedding, plus a thousand little things from every day. Edward playing the piano, Rosalie brushing her hair, Jasper hunting, Carlisle at work, Esme directing the whereabouts of furniture. Every time I learnt something new.
The only person I didn't see was the figure that I had christened 'the blurred girl'. I never caught another glimpse of her, even once I learnt how to actively seek out portions of the future. She was, truly, a ghost.
As years stretched into decades I came up with scores of theories as to her nature. Did she have a protective gift? Was she not fated to join the Cullen family, as the others so clearly were? Was she from the distant future? Was someone or something trying to avert the possibility that she should be there, watching Edward play?
The answers to my questions were sadly lacking.
I didn't mention her to Jasper, though goodness knows I didn't shut up about the others. To tell the truth I didn't think of her often; why would I when I had so much in the here-and-now? Even if I had thought of her I wouldn't have told him: I had begun to wonder if perhaps she were Edward's secret and together they were somehow hiding her from the family and from me. Rather an improbable probability...
In any case I saw less and less of the Cullens as I taught Jazz their humane lifestyle. My mind's eye was generally caught up too much in him to see anything else, though in a way that became frustrating as we tried to find them. Only the most meagre of clues led us to them, and it took far too long a time for my liking. In the meantime, I learnt to live in the present, something necessary when you spent all your time with another person.
The blurred girl slipped away.
Upon seeing Edward in the flesh for the first time two years later, it all came rushing back to me. I couldn't mention her then, though. For one thing everyone else was there, and even I, the eternal voyeur, understood that he'd probably want to keep this—her—private.
For another thing, he was kind of mad at me for taking his room and moving all his music into the garage, unwittingly taking it all out of order.
I decided to leave it for then.
Oddly enough, it was the music collection that let me have that conversation with him.
Everyone else was going out to hunt. It was only two or three hours since Edward and Emmett had first returned but Jazz was visibly thirsty and Carlisle had proposed showing us their customary hunting grounds round the area.
"I'm going to stay behind and put all my things in the spare room," Edward announced, a little sullenly, in my opinion.
Really, I was just trying to be friendly.
He shook his head, looking annoyed now. "It's the music that will take the longest."
Rosalie butted in. "It wouldn't if you just ordered it logically," she pointed out acerbically. "I can't work out how on earth you find anything."
Edward rolled his eyes, and I grinned at a gesture I'd seen so many times before. "It's by—"
"Year and then personal preference?"
He looked at me again, reappraising me after his altogether negative first impression. "You saw that?"
"When you first decided on it in 1937," I confirmed.
He smiled back at me. "Impressive."
"So can I help?"
His smile faded slightly. "And persistent."
Jazz smiled lazily, surprised at how quickly we'd been accepted. "Don't I know it."
"Would you not like to have a look around too, Alice?" Carlisle asked.
My eyes slid out of focus, and then back again.
"Wow," Edward murmured.
"I already know where you'll go," I told Carlisle. Turning to Edward, I commented, "Impressive."
"What?" asked Emmett, by now thoroughly confused.
"He just saw what I saw."
"I just saw what she saw."
We said this simultaneously, causing even Rosalie to blink in disbelief.
"And she just did that for effect," Jasper added.
I elbowed him, and he sent a wave of relaxed happiness at me.
"Mind if I stay?" I asked him in a whisper.
He looked me in the eye. "Of course not."
Knowing Jasper, he probably did mind. He probably wanted me by his side as we integrated ourselves into this new coven. He probably also knew that I had my reasons, and he certainly knew that Edward and I were going to be as thick as thieves.
I beamed at him. "Go swap Civil War stories with Carlisle."
And so I ended up retrieving pile after pile of records from the garage whilst Edward marvelled that I knew exactly where to put each one.
"It's not exactly seeing," I explained. "Not always, anyway."
"I know," he cut in. "I saw too, for want of a better word."
Is it like that with thoughts?
He grinned at my open use of his gift. "Exactly. Words, images, sensations, even emotion to an extent. It took me years to become accustomed to having more than one other person within a mile's radius." He paused. "Yes, I think it was easier for you, not knowing." Another pause. "I think both our gifts could be quite amusing."
"Especially when used together."
He laughed. "Did you always know we would be friends?"
"I saw you more than the others," I confessed. "I worked it out."
"When did you first see us?"
I showed him. Carlisle reading, Esme sketching, Rosalie and Emmett together, him playing the piano...
The blurred girl.
"What?" he asked faintly.
I didn't speak. I took him through the very first time I had seen her, them, and then through the years as I thought about her, them.
"She doesn't exist," he told me flatly.
"Distant future?" I theorised aloud.
I looked up from the music of 1938 to meet his gaze. "Sorry," I said quietly.
He sighed. "This is where I hate mindreading. No, I didn't lose someone when I was human, no, it's not unbearable living with two, now three couples though yes, it can make me feel slightly left out. No, don't feel sorry for me, and what I really meant was just don't tell the family. Can you imagine what Emmett would say?"
I was sure he was lying. I was absolutely certain that it affected him more than he let on.
"You're wrong," he said simply.
I don't think so.
"Alice," he warned me.
"Shall we agree to differ?" I proposed.
"There is no way you'll ever play matchmaker for me."
I pouted. I can see where this mindreading could become annoying.
"If you're intending to stay, you'll find that out very quickly," he informed me, but the glimmer of a smile had returned.
"You're not getting rid of me," I promised.
Well, he certainly didn't get rid of me. Before the week was out, the others were complaining about the two of us. I couldn't get over how brilliant it was to be part of a family. I couldn't stop smiling, Jasper couldn't stop smiling because I couldn't stop smiling and no one could stop smiling because Jasper couldn't stop smiling. It was everything I had ever seen or hoped or dreamed.
Sadly for Edward at least, he was wrong about me never playing matchmaker.
It was 1962, Kennedy was President, and Jasper had 'slipped up'. We knew beyond doubt which had a greater bearing on our lives. Within days we'd covered our tracks and left, heading up to the Denali National Park. Apparently it had been over fifteen years since they'd met up with Tanya and her sisters, and of course Jazz and I had never met them.
Edward was not keen on her destination.
"Tanya and I... don't always see eye to eye," he explained to me cryptically.
Rosalie was more forthcoming. "She's been trying to get him into bed for decades," she informed me disdainfully.
"Come on Edward, she'd see it as soon as we arrived," Emmett reasoned. "Or before."
That much was true. Within seconds of arriving, she'd greeted him with a kiss to each cheek and the most awkward hug I had ever had the misfortune of witnessing.
It didn't stop me going to Kate, with whom I quickly struck up a rapport, and asking her what she thought about the whole situation. Both subjects were out hunting. Predictably, it was Tanya who had followed Edward out.
Kate and I were curled up in the living room, swapping histories when I brought it up.
"So how long have you known the Cullen coven?" I asked.
Kate inclined her head in thought. "Well, we've known Carlisle since forever, or it feels like it. Since the mid-eighteenth century, anyway. It was amazing when he stumbled upon us: he was the first person we'd ever even heard of to live like us."
"There's really no one else?" I asked, surprised.
"If there is, the Volturi don't know of them, that much is for certain. Anyway, we met Edward, Esme, Rosalie and Emmett in the late thirties." She smirked. "Irina desperately wanted Emmett to be the bachelor. She likes her men strong. Rosalie put her straight on that."
"Tanya wasn't disappointed, though," I pointed out.
Kate laughed. "Definitely not. My goodness, how far that girl has gone to get him to see sense!"
"See sense?" I questioned. "I was under the impression that she was the one pursuing impossibilities."
She shook her head. "Contrary to popular belief, she doesn't just want his body," she said, lowering her voice conspiratorially. "I'll admit that she's not exactly averse to his body, but it's him she likes. Not that she'd ever say anything," she hastened to add.
"Why not?" I sat up, getting into the discussion. "If she took the first step..."
"You really think he'd respond?" Kate asked, scepticism lacing her voice. "Pigs will fly first."
Jasper came in to add his two penn'orth, clearly not half as enthusiastic as me.
"They don't love each other," he declared.
Kate raised her hands, as if to say 'I rest my case.'
"Even Tanya's not that besotted with him," he continued. "She feels resigned, but attracted nonetheless. I thought maybe it was the attraction of the challenge more than anything."
"She's a hopeless romantic," agreed Kate.
"But if they just spoke to each other, rather than pretending she's behaving as she would to anyone else!"
"Not in a thousand years, darling," Jasper said with a dampening air.
I refused to be dampened. "I can work with a thousand years," I vowed.
They both laughed. "Good luck," Kate said earnestly. "And may you be the matron of honour at their wedding."
I knew that mindreading was going to be annoying. Edward read the conversation right out of Kate's head as soon as he got back and pulled me aside as soon as he got the chance.
"Don't you dare tell Tanya to talk to me," he warned me.
"It won't happen, Alice. Leave it."
It was quicker to think: You don't give her a chance! You can't want to be alone—
"I'm perfectly happy on my own, thank you."
"Liar." You saw the way you were smiling in my vision.
"Of this mystery figure. Even if she did exist, she's clearly not Tanya!"
"Because you haven't decided!"
"It could be, and you know it!"
"Alice!" He sighed. "At best, that would be a very faint possibility and you know it."
"At best?" So you do want it to be true.
"No! Don't twist my words."
I was running out of room in which to argue.
"Then don't even try," he advised me. "Let it be, and let me be. I'm happy on my own."
He stalked off, and I was left to reflect on how on earth he could claim he was happy when he spoke with such resentment.
Three days later, Tanya spoke to Edward, and however courteously he refused her, he was less than a gentleman when he confronted me.
"I didn't tell her to do anything!" I protested.
"No, but it was your stupid idea that made Kate mention it to her!"
It was the harshest he had ever spoken to me.
He realised it, and sighed. "I'm sorry."
"No you're not," I said, genuinely upset.
"Neither are you," he pointed out.
Jasper found me an hour later, being snowed on. He brushed the unmelting crystals from my hair and pulled me onto his lap.
"Tell me," he said simply.
I buried my head in his shoulder. "Edward was rude to me because Tanya spoke to him about their relationship."
He took a moment to consider. I didn't think at all, just existed in his arms. Eventually, he spoke up. "He shouldn't have been rude to you, but I think he's right."
I looked up at him. "I didn't even speak to Tanya! He asked me not to! Told me not to."
"I know." He kissed my forehead. "Like I said, he shouldn't have been rude to you, but I don't think you should have been meddling in the first place, sweetheart."
I tried to feel indignant, but it was impossible.
"It's his life," he reminded me. "And I told you that they didn't love each other."
Finally, I gave up. "I just want him to be happy."
"He is," Jazz asserted. "He's happy with us."
"But I want him to have what we have." I kissed a scar on his neck by way of explanation.
He threw a wave of adoration over me, and smiled at the resulting expression on my face. "It'll happen when it happens, with whoever it's supposed to happen with," he said softly. "No use trying to force it."
"But you think it will happen?" I probed.
He paused, realising what he'd said. "Twenty years ago, I would've said maybe," he decided. "Now, I'm more inclined to say probably."
I beamed and he reacted, amplifying my happiness and love the way only he could, and we stood to make our way back through the blanket of white.
"You know it's a miracle you two haven't fought before," he mused.
"You're so similar. Strong convictions, passionate, artistic, and annoyingly omniscient," he listed.
"Did you just call me annoying?"
"You did! You said I was annoying!"
Any upset was forgotten as we laughed and I chased him through the snow, stopping once to pelt him with a snowball and trying to forget that Edward was still smouldering somewhere, ubiquitous solitude at his side.
On the 20th March 1969, I came tearing into Edward's room where he was reading on his couch.
"You were right, it isn't Tanya."
He looked up. "Alice, what on earth are you talking about?"
I picked up the vision, the same vision I had seen all those years ago, changed for the first time.
She's got brown hair.
Nothing else had changed. Carlisle, Esme, Rosalie and Emmett were in the exact same positions, Edward was still playing the piano and smiling at her, and she was still blurred. Even the exact shade of her hair I couldn't see. I couldn't see the hair's length, for it faded away somewhere where her neck might be. She was now a grey blur with a brown blur added on top. But it had changed, and that made me more excited than anything had in years.
Understandably, then, I expected him to react.
How, I wasn't quite sure. Maybe he would finally do the vision justice and get a bit excited about it. Maybe he would get angry at me for bringing it up. Maybe he would roll his eyes and tease me for my enthusiasm.
What I didn't expect was for him to totally blank me and go back to his book.
"Edward!" I ran over and crouched by his head. "I just showed you something absolutely huge and admitted that you were right about something, and you're not going to say anything?"
Without moving his eyes from the printed page, he answered, "I wasn't planning on it."
But you just said something.
"Check your tenses, oh queen of the perfect continuous."
I scowled. "Now you're just being flippant."
Finally, he looked me in the eye. "And you would have me be...?"
He knew, of course, as soon as he finished the question, but he gave me a few seconds to decide on which option I was going to settle.
"Talk," I decided. "I want you to talk. I want you to tell me honestly how you feel about this."
He surveyed me for a couple of seconds, his expression utterly blank, his eyes serious. Then I cringed an instant before he leapt up and grabbed hold of my arm.
"Come on, then," he almost ordered me.
But I saw it before he had a chance to answer. A little cave that I didn't recognise, empty and dry.
Rather than trust me to follow, he pulled me onto his back, threw wide his window, and jumped. I let him, of course, holding onto his shoulders with my fingers and his waist with my thighs. He took off at a sprint, heading due north.
I was... Well, I was surprised to say the least. For one thing, I hadn't expected Edward to actually humour me with my rather unrealistic request to talk about my highly controversial vision, and for another, Edward wasn't one for physical contact. Sure, he'd join in wrestling with Emmett and Jasper, and he'd give the occasional hug, usually to Esme, but altogether he tended to maintain his personal space more fiercely than the rest of us.
He didn't comment on this mental observation.
On and on he ran, without speaking or wavering or blinking, and I noticed that we were following a path marked clearly by Edward's scent. It was thickly layered; he must have gone this way often and yet I had never before seen him visit this place.
He didn't comment on that, either.
After twenty miles or so, I started to wonder if he'd planned anything he was going to say and therefore whether I would be able to see it. After toying with the idea of looking for a while, I decided against it. This was a conversation which had to happen naturally. Or at least as naturally as possible when conversing with a mindreader.
Still no comment. Now this was odd.
The cave, it turned out, lay around seventy miles to the north of our current abode. It was very pretty, with a sort of pink-purple tinge to the rock, and shafts of sunlight like spotlights piercing the canopy and dotting the ground in and around the opening. I hopped off Edward's back and looked around, noting details my vision hadn't provided me with.
"I normally come here at night, on a whim. That's why you don't see me."
The sudden explanation, apropos of nothing, made me blink in surprise and turn back to him.
"I usually find somewhere like this wherever we go," he continued. "There was a meadow near Hoquaim, a tiny patch of grass in the woods where the moon would shine perfectly overhead."
To get away from us?
I wasn't really directing the question at him, but he answered anyway.
"Yes and no. Yes, because I'd rather not hear what goes on in your rooms of a night time, and because I'd go mad if I weren't alone in my head for just a little time, no, because I come here for me, only me, not because of you."
I thought I could see the difference.
"I'm not sure you can. What is your first priority at any one time?"
He smiled a half-smile. "Exactly. And you are Jasper's."
And yours is you? I finished.
"I don't have anyone else. Of course it should be family, and I would be lying if I said you weren't important to me, but—"
"We have each other," I interrupted. You don't.
"You're being very... honest," I observed.
"I always am," he said wryly.
"Tell me: what good would it do to lie?" he asked rhetorically. "You wanted the truth and I decided to give it to you. You mean too much to me for me to lie to you when not absolutely necessary, Alice."
He said this last with a completely straight face and even voice. It made it impossible to take his words any other way than as a fact, and I didn't attempt to reply to this particular statement.
Instead, I asked, "So, since we're being utterly honest,"—and I saw him smile when I said 'we'—"what do you really think about the blurred girl?"
"That's not what you want to ask," he said shrewdly.
"You want to ask me how I really feel about her," he said.
I considered. "No, I don't. Well, yes I do, but I want the answers to both questions. Thoughts first, please."
He took that in, either impressed or surprised, I wasn't sure which, and then he sat at the very edge of the cave, looking out. I sat beside him, watching him as though I might need to lip read.
"Thoughts first... I think that she's an enigma, and that whatever theories we may come up with, we won't know until and if she arrives on the scene. I think that you're too enthusiastic about her, whoever she may be. I think that I would rather you'd never seen her.
"Don't feel guilty or sorry about that. You couldn't help it, and I don't blame you. But I'd much rather she remained unknown until she appeared.
"Why? Because if she had to exist, then I'd rather not be left in suspense. You're so sure that she'll be the best thing that could ever happen to me, but I have to wait. Your years before you found Jasper, weren't they terrible? Knowing he was out there, and that one day you might meet, but not knowing where he was or whether that particular future would become reality?
"And you knew him. You saw the journeys he took, the decisions he made. You had some idea of what awaited you. I know nothing about this girl, my supposed future mate, except that she now has brown hair! How do I know if I'll even want to fall in love with her? And yet it seems I have no choice. And neither does she."
Finally, he fell silent. He wasn't looking at me. His gaze focused on the rocks without seeing anything. Perhaps he saw the girl, perhaps he could see only what I saw, lost as he was in his mind which, by necessity, included mine. We sat for a while, absorbing everything that Edward had already admitted, not only to me, but also to himself.
I think it was fifteen minutes that passed before I asked, "So what do you feel about that?"
His eyes flashed to my face and then away again. "I feel... resentful that I don't have a choice in all this. I feel... unsure as to whether this is really such a good thing. Because I don't know how you feel, you who have your soulmate. I hear what you think of him, I see how you look at him, I know what music and colours and activities and sensations remind you of him, and he for you, but I don't know it feels, how you feel.
"I can't get past the feeling that in falling in love, I'll lose some of myself, of my identity. In a way, I don't want it. You know that I don't regard my existence as being the happiest in the world, but it's mine. Your blurred girl threatens to take that away from me.
"Don't argue with me, Alice. I've already heard on what counts you think I'm wrong, and why."
"Does it help?" I asked, my voice quiet.
He looked at me properly for the first time since he began his confession. "A little. You have such faith in the whole concept of love that it makes it a little more difficult to hold onto my scepticism. At the same time, I'd irrationally like to keep my scepticism. It's like I'm being told how to feel, and I'm enough of a teenager to first think that and then to be offended by it."
I took a breath before asking, "Can you explain why you think falling in love would be bad?" I can't comprehend that.
"I'm not sure you can. You're already there, and I know you have no doubts. But that blind faith you have... I suppose it scares me. You can't look at anything concerning Jasper objectively. I don't want to lose a clear view of the world in favour of a rose tinted version."
I was trying not to argue, I really was. But the way I saw it, he was just plain wrong.
He dropped his arms so they were resting on his knees, bearing his weight. "Perhaps we'll never understand each other."
That made me think. Edward knew me better than anyone, even Jazz. But that didn't necessarily mean he understood me the way Jazz did.
He didn't respond.
"Why now?" I asked eventually. "Why are you telling me all this now? Besides because I asked," I tagged on, sensing the forthcoming answer.
The sun shifted just a little to hit my legs, and I stretched out my hand to watch the light play on my sparkling skin before he spoke.
"So you don't ask again," he replied. "Because I want you to know why I act as I do. And because I want to ask you a favour."
I looked up from my hand, let it drop. "What?"
He turned to face me properly for the first time. "I want you not to look for her," he told me. "And if you see her, don't tell me. If I hear, then that's obviously not your fault, but if I'm not around, don't mention her if you can. Deal?"
I paused. I was constantly looking out for my family, Jasper most, but Edward next.
"You don't see her every time you look for me," he reasoned.
True. But what if we needed my visions to find her?
"Then that's that. I'm happy as I am, honestly Alice. I don't need her."
What if she needs you?
He hissed a breath through his teeth in irritation. "We don't even know who she is! And that's another thing, Alice. Why on earth would she want me, whoever she is?"
I stared at him in blatant shock. "I'm sorry, say that again. You don't understand why someone might fall in love with you."
"Is that such a surprise?" he asked.
"Don't start calling yourself a monster, because I will not react well to being insulted," I warned him, only half teasing.
He looked heavenwards. "You're not. I am. Or I was."
I glared at him. "I've killed too, Edward. Don't forget that. You're no worse than me."
"You didn't know any better," he argued. "I'm the only one of us who actively chose to kill."
I stood up and spun around so I could look down on him. "Do you know when I stopped killing humans? When you did. I woke up in nineteen twenty, Edward! I watched you and Carlisle teach Esme the correct way of doing things. I saw her when she killed that woman, I saw how devastated she was. It didn't make me stop. And I didn't differentiate between my victims, not like you. I didn't have even the semblance of humanity then. It was only when you went back to Carlisle and Esme that I tried for the first time to hunt an animal. In any case, bearing in mind how few of us vegetarians there are, she'll probably be worse than you, Edward."
"But she wouldn't have known better," he insisted.
I threw back my head in frustration. "If she loves you, she won't care what you've done. Jasper's killed... I don't even know how many. But he stopped. And he stopped killing humans for me. And he would have done it a thousand times over if I'd mentioned it only once."
He shook his head. He'd said all he could say on the matter, but still wouldn't accept my arguments.
"Alright, I'll leave it," I said, sitting back down. I think she could do wonders for your self-esteem, though.
"Like I said, Alice, I don't need her."
That's what you think now.
He sighed. "Be that as it may, I'll let things happen as they come. You saw Jasper before either of you had decided to find the other—"
Maybe it's fate. Maybe you'll find her anyway. Maybe she'll find you.
He didn't want to. I could see that in his eyes as he heard my hypothesising.
"Okay," I finally agreed. "No looking, and no telling you if I see her."
Something occurred to him, and alarm became clear on his face. "And can you not tell Esme anything of what I've said today? She worries enough about me as it is."
"She does?" Of course I knew that she tended to concentrate on Edward slightly more than the rest of us, but I thought it was just sympathy and that he was her first 'son'.
"Oh, all the time. She's convinced Carlisle changed me too young to form normal emotional bonds."
I laughed, glad he was lightening up. "Fine, no looking, no mentioning any visions, and no telling Esme. Or Emmett. Or Rosalie, because she'll tell Emmett. Or Carlisle, because he'll tell Esme. And there would be no point telling Jazz about the girl in particular because he doesn't know..." You know what? I've kept that secret from him for almost twenty years. More, if you count the time before we found you. Doesn't that prove that I'm still me? I haven't lost anything in meeting Jasper, only gained. "Sorry, arguing again. I'll be quiet."
"Thanks," he said, slightly sarcastically. I guess when you could hear someone at all times, quiet was a foreign concept.
"No problem," I grinned. Impulsively, I shifted closer and nuzzled into him, and he, almost reflexively, put an arm around my shoulders.
See? I thought, half to myself, half to him. It's natural.
"It's hardly the same," he murmured somewhere above my head.
"More than you'd think," I said aloud.
I didn't know if he could recognise the truth in that statement. Because I was so close to Edward, now more than ever, in every way except the physical and the elementary, basic founding bond that I shared with Jasper. I loved him so much.
"And I you, little sister."
I stuck to my word. I didn't look, not even once. I even felt a vision coming one day in the mid-eighties and pushed it away because I could feel its tenor and Edward was in the vicinity. It nearly killed me to do it—if curiosity was a virtue then I was an angel—but I did it. And the next day Edward had left a new pair of Prada shoes on my bed. He could have just said he was grateful, but really, I wasn't complaining.
The thing about a perfect memory is that you remember things at the oddest times. It was Renesmee's third birthday, and Jacob had complained that her birthday was too close to her mother's. Nessie had admonished him severely for criticising her birth date, and I suddenly realised that the ignored vision of the nineteen eighties had occurred on the date of Bella's birth.
"I hate you, Edward Cullen," I said to him conversationally as Jacob begged for forgiveness.
He was going to ask why this time, so I repeated my random train of thought. Rather than appearing in any way penitent, he laughed.
"Silent conversation ban in full operation," Bella scolded us. "Why do you hate him this time, Alice?"
It was so close to what he would have said that I was tempted to grin as well, but I maintained my insulted façade. "He didn't let me see you seventeen years before we met you."
"Seventeen years? I was seventeen when I met you."
I looked back at Edward. Can I tell them now?
He sighed. "Do you think we have a choice?"
"What's this?" Jasper asked, halting in his exacerbation of Jacob's grovelling for a moment.
"Yeah, what's going on?" Emmett chimed in.
Renesmee turned her back on her soulmate and threw herself onto her father's lap. Putting her hand to his face, I would guess that she demanded to be told what was happening.
"20th March 1969!" I suddenly realised.
"Charlie's birthday!" Edward and I chorused.
"What about it?" Bella and Rosalie asked together.
Esme walked in bearing a birthday cake. "What nonsensical conversation is this, then?"
Carlisle was staring at us with frank curiosity, and I guessed he was only just stopping short of joining the Spanish Inquisition.
Jacob had followed Nessie over. "Totally lost here, guys."
I shared a long look with my brother. "You start," he said.
"You were there," he pointed out.
And so I began.
"This is why you should never have mentioned it," Edward said a couple of hours later.
For once, I had to agree.