A/N #1: I know this is incredibly long for a one-shot, but it would have been too short to split into chapters.
Also, some warning, this is a bit angsty for a "Holiday" fic...but if you hang in until the end you may or may not be rewarded with some fluff. :)
Please forgive any errors, I've been furiously writing this to get it done in time for posting on New Year's, and my tired eyes may have missed some things.
All characters belong to Stephenie Meyer; lyrics to David Gray : All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
Epically long A/N at the end if you're interested...
I quickly scanned the beer choices in the freezer case in front of me. The little dive bar we were playing at tonight was too cheap to provide free booze to its bands and we certainly couldn't afford their prices. Shit we'd probably barely make enough to pay for gas to get us to the next town. If we're lucky maybe we'll get enough to pay for a cheap hotel for the night. Anyway, I drew the short straw this time and so I had been the one dispatched to pick up our supply of beer for the night.
That was how I ended up in a tiny liquor store in the middle of Seattle on New Year's Eve. I was distracted, my mind already on the show later tonight–thinking about the set list and hopeful about the money we might make tonight, being that it was New Year's. More people out to have a good time meant more money at the door, which meant more money for us. I was not paying attention to the fact that someone had come up behind me until I felt a small tug on my shoulder. And then a familiar voice:
I turned around and saw the last person I ever would have expected. In fact it took me a minute to register that it was really her, standing in front of me.
It had to have been what? 4-5 years now since I had last seen her? Her face broke out into a relieved smile when I said her name. She always had such a beautiful smile–it lit up her whole face. Her dark brown eyes would get this glint in them. Making her smile like that for me used to be my whole reason for being.
"A long time," she finished for me softly.
We both laughed, nervously.
"You look…amazing. So…adult." Ugh…she could still render me speechless. She did look so grown-up though. I mean, we were the same age but here was I in well-worn ragged jeans, a faded T-shirt that hadn't been washed since God knows when and a leather jacket that had definitely seen better days. Not to mention my dirty blonde hair that literally looked…well, dirty and desperately in need of a haircut. And she–she had her hair pinned up, demure silver hoops hanging from her ear lobes, a gray trench coat hiding a skirt or dress, and–emerging from the hem of the trench coat–trim, shapely legs tapering down to a plain pair of sensible black pumps.
She laughed again and rolled her eyes. I stammered on, "I mean…you look great, just…different. I'm not sure I'd have recognized you if you hadn't said anything. What are you doing in Seattle?"
"Well as you know, after school I went to UDub of course and now I'm teaching at one of the public schools here in Seattle," she flung her hand out and down, gesturing at herself. "So I kind of have to at least pretend to look like a grown-up."
"Well…you still look beautiful." And she did–I couldn't stop staring at her.
Her smile deflated a little. She always got embarrassed by compliments…but I couldn't help but sense there was something more she was masking behind that change of expression.
She changed the subject. "So what are you doing in Seattle, J?"
A twinge went through my heart when she called me by my nickname. Lots of people called me by "J," but it always felt a little more special when hearing it from her lips.
"Um, the band…we're playing at this little bar a few blocks up the street for New Year's." I motioned with my thumb towards the freezer case. "I was dispatched to pick up the beer."
She nodded, knowingly. "Yeah I just stopped in to pick up a couple extra bottles of champagne for tonight."
We stood there awkwardly for a minute or two…or three. Staring at each other, shifting restlessly, not really sure what to say to the other next. I finally reached in and grabbed the first case I set my hand on, and we walked up to the register together. Normally I would insist on 'ladies first' but I stepped toward the counter first, letting the cashier ring me up. This way I could wait on her while she paid for her champagne. I wasn't sure what more we had to say to each other but I found myself not wanting to let her go just yet.
We stepped outside the store and turned to look at each other once again. It was only snowing lightly but it was enough that I knew she wouldn't want to stand out here long.
"So…" we both spoke at the same time and we both laughed at ourselves.
"Do you have time to sit for a while, have a beer with me?" I held up the case of beer. "I've got plenty, the guys won't miss a couple."
"Well…um…" she bit her lip, hesitating, and I almost thought she was going to refuse.
I tried again. "Come on, B…catch up on old times?"
And there was that smile again.
We walked over to the van and got in. I tore open the case and handed her a beer. We sat there for about an hour nursing our beers and talking about what we'd both been up to for the past five years.
She knew all the guys in the band so I caught her up on what their lives were like. I entertained her with some of our more humorous stories of life on the road with five guys in a van and struggling from show to show–trying to keep the van together and drivable, our stupid little fights, the quirky towns we'd played. I had her laughing so hard at some points she had tears streaming down her face. She got more subdued when telling her story. She was married, had been for a couple of years now, to a guy she'd met during college, Edward. He was studying to be a doctor and in his last year of med school. He was good to her, attentive (when he wasn't consumed with his studies) and made sure she had everything she could possibly want. I couldn't help but notice she never met my eyes while she talked about him and she never once uttered the word love. I was dying to know more, to know why she had seemed to "settle," but I had given up any rights I had to question what she did with her life when we split up all those years ago.
Eventually we seemed to run out of words and the air in the van was silent. She looked over at me.
"I'd better get going…Edward's probably home by now and wondering where I'm at. We're having some people over and they'll be arriving soon."
Even in the semi-darkness of the van I could see she looked reluctant.
"Yeah I need to get back too…the guys probably don't miss me but they'll be missing their beer."
She smiled at my words. "Tell them all I said 'hey.' "
We still just sat there, looking into each others' eyes, both of us lost in our thoughts of our past, thoughts of our present…and all of the "what ifs."
"It's been great seeing you again B."
"You too J."
I lifted my beer can. "To great futures and much happiness…for both of us."
She clinked her can against mine to complete the toast. "Yes…for both of us," she whispered, almost inaudibly. We took one last drink of our beers, and then she sat her can down on the dashboard. She leaned over and lightly kissed my cheek. "Goodbye Jasper." And then she opened the door of the van and was gone.
The snow had turned to rain while we were in the van, much more typical Seattle weather. I watched her walk a few yards away and get into a silver Volvo and drive off…and out of my life once again.
I didn't make a move to leave as I was no longer in present-day Seattle. I was lost…in the past, transported back to our high school days. Bella had moved to Forks to live with her dad at the beginning of junior year. She took my breath away the first moment I saw her. She had such a natural beauty about her. She never hid behind a lot of make-up or weird hairstyles. She was so refreshingly genuine, no false pretenses about her. And she was smart and she knew all my favorite bands, which to a sixteen-year-old boy was akin to finding the holy grail. And she was sexy…God was she sexy, hell she never even had to try, she just was–I couldn't keep my hands off of her and we spent hours in the backseat of my car and in my bedroom. But as senior year wound down we found ourselves facing different goals and plans. Me and the other guys had formed our band the year before she moved to town. After awhile we eventually became good enough to get some regular gigs at a couple local bars in Forks and nearby Port Angeles. As school finished, we'd all come to the same conclusion that we'd rather forego college and instead try to make something of the band. Bella had always supported my love of music and my playing with the band but she just assumed it would end when we graduated. She didn't begrudge me my chance to go after my dream but she wanted to go to college. We talked about the whole band moving to Seattle and then she could go to college and we could try to break into the local music scene. We got a few gigs in Seattle the summer after graduation and caught the eye of a manager of a local Seattle band who was "on the verge," as they say. They were getting ready to hit the road for a national tour and the manager asked us to come along as the opening band. It was a huge chance and we had to take it. I was torn…I wanted to go with the band but I also wanted Bella. I didn't have any problem with staying together long-distance but I knew it was unfair to force it upon her. We talked and fought and cried and try to figure out how we could make this work. And in the end we couldn't get past the impasse. She wanted me to stay and I had to go. The last time I saw her was, ironically, a perfect deja-vu replay of tonight. The van was packed and ready to go and she had come to say a last goodbye. We were sitting in the van, all talked out, just staring sadly at each other. It was raining out and the only sound was the raindrops hitting the roof of the van. She finally leaned over, kissed my cheek and without a word, got out of the van and kept walking, never looking back. I watched her small huddled figure getting even smaller the farther away she got, until the other guys jumped in and we put the van in gear and sputtered off.
The similar ping, ping, ping of the rain on the van that echoed what I was hearing in my head, finally registered in my brain and I shook my head, clearing the haze of the past and trying to make myself focus on the here and now. I put the key in the ignition and started up the van, and began to pull out onto the street to get back to the venue. As I did I offered one more silent wish into the universe: have a good life, Bella.
Two years later…
It was still early, (well early for New Year's Eve) and the venue wasn't crammed full of people yet. This was a good thing as it meant I could still easily get to the bar to get another beer. The band had really come a long way in the past year. All of our years and years of struggling, of playing every shithole club in every little town in the country night after night after night…had finally paid off. Every show began to have a few more people than the last, every night we'd sell a few more CDs. We eventually had to hire a manager and booking agent to book our tours. We were doing well enough to start playing some of the larger mid-size venues. That was what brought us here –to playing a New Year's Eve show at the Double Door in Chicago. We'd worked our asses off for so long, it was a little surreal and exciting to be doing so well.
The bartender finally handed me my beer and I took a long drink from the bottle while surveying the crowd one more time before heading backstage again. That was when I saw her. I was sure it had to be someone who just looked like her, I mean we were in Chicago…last I'd seen her was that New Year's Eve in Seattle a couple of years ago.
Her hair was down this time–the long flowing mahogany locks I remembered stroking my hands through so many times. She was sitting at a small table off to the side, all by herself. I finally talked myself into going over and saying something to her, to make sure it was her. If I didn't, I knew I'd be wondering all night long.
I got up and started heading toward the woman and the closer I got, the more I knew for sure that it was her.
She looked up at me and immediately broke into a smile.
"J! I was hoping I'd get to see you!"
I just shook my head incredulously. "What the hell are you doing in Chicago, girl? Last time I saw you, you were in…ah…" I pretended as if I was searching my memory for the last time we'd seen each other but of course I remembered–every detail.
"Seattle," she finished for me. "Yeah we've been in Chicago for almost two years now." She glanced down at the table for a split second with a sad look on her face, then back up at me with a more forced smile. "Edward is doing his residency at the county hospital."
She may have thought her smile hid everything but she didn't fool me, I'd seen the melancholy in her expression. I was dying to know why she seemed so sad but, well…we barely knew each other any more, we were now only old acquaintances who just happened to run into each other. Acquaintances only discussed the surface layer of topics. I felt like I might be intruding by asking anything too personal. But damn if it didn't kill me to see her unhappy.
I made a show of looking around the club. "Is Edward here?"
"No he is working tonight. New Year's Eve is one of the busiest nights of the year at the hospitals so he opted to stay and help out, he felt he was more needed there."
"So…you're here alone?" No wonder she seemed so sad.
She smiled again. "I saw the ad in the entertainment paper announcing that the band was going to be playing here tonight. It's been so long since I've heard you play that I just had to come. You guys are really doing well, aren't you?"
I shrugged my shoulders modestly. "Yeah this year's been quite a ride, things are really taking off."
"I'm so proud of you J," she spoke softly but the look in her eye was sincere and intense. A moment of understanding passed between us as we stared at each other. With her hair down she looked more like the girl I knew from high school than she had the last time I'd seen her. Her face had thinned out a little but she still was as beautiful as ever. She looked so vulnerable sitting alone, staring up at me.
She finally broke our gaze. "Do you have a few minutes J?" She gestured to one of the chairs at the table, "Sit down, tell me what it's been like, I'd love to hear more."
So I sat. We talked and laughed and caught up on the last two years. I told her more stories of the band and some of the new experiences the past year had brought us. She told me a little about what it was like living in Chicago. I noticed whenever I tried to turn the conversation to her she would give me quick answers and then steer the focus back to me and the band.
Finally I noticed the opening band starting to set up. I'd sat here talking to Bella longer than I realized, the guys were probably wondering what happened to me.
I nodded toward the stage. "B, I'm afraid that's my cue to head backstage, the guys probably think I got lost."
"Oh of course…of course J, I certainly didn't mean to keep you this long!" She shooed me away with her hand. "Go…go get ready!" She smiled at me.
I was actually cursing the opening band in my head. I really didn't want to leave the table yet. I gazed at her…drinking in every drop of her, trying to burn her into my memory one last time, knowing I'd probably never see her again. Her brown hair fell softly around her face, her eyes deep and dark and shiny, her skin slightly flushed from the alcohol. She was so beautiful, so vibrant, so…so…married my brain finished for me. I looked down as I got up from my chair, and pushed it back toward the table. Before I left though I turned back to her once more.
"If you can, hang around after the show for a bit…I know the guys would love to see you again."
"Ok…I'll try to, if I can." She smiled again.
"Cool…um, okay. See ya B."
"See ya' J."
Backstage, I made sure my guitar was tuned and the set lists were ready…but it was hard to keep my mind on anything but her. When it was finally our turn on stage, before I even hit the first chords I immediately looked over to where she was sitting. She was still there. We played through the set and I periodically checked up on her. I put all I had into that performance, knowing she was watching. She continually had a big smile on her face and it thrilled me to know I was putting it there. Whatever was wrong in her real life, for tonight, at least, she looked happy.
About two-thirds of the way through our set we had to stop and do the obligatory midnight New Year's Eve countdown. As the clock struck twelve, the place erupted into screams and a unison "Happy New Year" yell from everyone. Streamers and balloons came down and people were tweeting away on their noisemakers, while those that were "coupled" kissed their significant others. I looked over to Bella to see her fidgeting and scanning the room. It was awkward being alone in a room full of revelers and lovers and I knew she probably felt uncomfortable. Finally she looked up at me and I tipped my beer bottle at her in a form of a toast. She smiled and did the same.
The crowd finally calmed down and we finished the set. I continued to keep tabs on Bella but when I looked over one last time as we finished the final song, the table was empty. I scanned the crowd, and even kept watching for her after the show while we met with some fans and got the equipment packed up. But she never showed. For the best my brain told me…my heart though couldn't help feeling a sharp pang of disappointment.
One year later…
Welcome to Forks. As I looked out our bus window there was the sign I had seen every day of my life from about age nine (when we first moved to Forks) through age eighteen. I had last seen it that day eight years ago as we left town, off to play that first tour. After graduation my parents had moved back to Texas, where we were originally from, so this was the first time I'd set foot back in Forks since the day the band left.
We were actually scheduled to have New Year's Eve off this year, a very rare thing for a working band, and I had kind of been looking forward to a quiet evening for a change. Then a couple months ago, Aro had gotten in touch with us. Aro owned the one decent bar in town and often had live bands play. When we were just starting out, in high school, he had given us our very first regular gig, playing on Wednesday nights. Since we were all underage he made us get permission from our parents. I could still remember how excited and nervous we were that first night. We had a whole ten actual audience members and five of them were our friends and girlfriends. All of our parents would have been there too but we convinced them to stay home. It wasn't cool to have your parents in the audience, of course. As we started to get better, Aro would move us on to another night that was populated with more bar patrons until eventually we were playing every other Friday or Saturday night, depending when he had booked another band to come in. We owed him so much, for giving us that first chance and for giving us the performance experience. So when he called us, we couldn't say no.
Now that we were gaining some modest success and a name for ourselves, he was hoping we could come back to Forks and play a show as a charity benefit, to help raise money to keep the after-school program for kids up and running. Forks is such a small town and with the economy, more and more parents were having to commute to some of the larger surrounding towns to find work. The after-school program was started to give the kids a safe place to hang out until their parents could pick them up. It keeps the kids occupied and out of trouble and it gives the parents peace of mind.
So…here we were. Back in Forks. I suddenly realized the bus had stopped and everyone was getting off. We were at Aro's. I forced myself back to the present and followed the rest of the guys out.
We chatted and reminisced with Aro, dealt with setting up the equipment and sound check. The diner had provided us with enough food to feed an an army for us to eat and it turned out to be a good thing–all of the guys' local families had shown up to hang out and see them before the show. I ate quickly and then dutifully chatted with those family members I knew from growing up with the boys in Forks. I was feeling jittery and restless though for some reason and while all the families were catching up, I finally decided to get my bike out of the bus and go for a ride before the show, hoping it would clear my head.
I had bought a secondhand, well-used Ducati last year to bring on the road with me when we toured. It was just the right size to fit in the equipment trailer and it gave me some alone time, some freedom from the constant twenty-four-seven of being around the same people. I'd get it out and take a spin around whatever city we were in for the night.
I took off with no real plan or route. I ended up unwittingly on a trip down memory lane…with all memories naturally leading back to Bella. I drove past the high school, the first place I saw her when she walked into my fourth-period English class. The whole school had been buzzing about her all morning, especially the guys. Apparently she was pretty hot, according to some of their reactions. Every guy it seemed was planning to ask her out. But from the moment we locked eyes when she walked into class we had a connection, a pull to each other. Yes, it turned out she was "hot" but she was so much more–shy and endearing, intelligent, funny. I quickly asked her out and we were pretty much inseparable for the rest of high school after that. A lot of guys were pissed at me for a while afterwards but what can I say? It wasn't my fault that I was the lucky one she chose to say yes to.
I passed the diner where we'd often go for a burger–all the high school kids went there, it was the only restaurant in town. The sporting goods store that she worked at part-time–I spent a lot of time in their parking lot, waiting on her to get off so we could go do whatever. A movie, band practice, studying…more often than not it was to find somewhere we could be alone to make out. I drove past my old house–the setting for a lot of those make-out sessions, and also some "other" sessions. My bedroom was the first place we'd made love. My parents were gone for the weekend to some conference for dad's job. I couldn't believe that she actually wanted to… "go all the way" with me. I tried to make it as special for her as I could, I knew the first time could be painful for girls. And in all honesty I really didn't have that much experience in that department myself. She was my first as well. The first few times were a little awkward…typical teenage sex. But she always had a way of going with the flow, taking anything that happened in stride and even making light of it. She was the one who made me feel comfortable and at ease. Anyway it didn't take us long to figure things out and then oh my God…being with her was like my own heaven on earth. We just fit together so perfectly…in so many ways, like two halves of a whole. I'd never forget the feeling of her warm body under mine, the love and passion and aching desire that flowed back and forth between us. I'd never experienced anything like it before or since.
I had stopped the bike and was parked across the street from her old house, letting these old memories wash over me. I had locked them away for so long, had not allowed myself to go back to that time…but now that I'd threw open the door they just flooded me, filled me up with so much emotion. They were all wonderful memories, but now they only gave me a sharp pain in my chest. Pain…and regret…God, how had I let her walk away that day eight years ago? Why did I give up so easily? There had to have been some way to make it all work. I remembered then that I had tried. We did talk about it a lot…but she had been the one without faith, the one who didn't believe that it could work out. And so I had let her go…to make her happy, anything to make her happy. And she had went on her way, built her own life. I wouldn't say she seemed happy though, those couple of times I ran into her. That saddened me…it was as if letting her go had been wasted.
I looked up at her old bedroom window one more time and sent a silent wish to her, wherever she was…Bella…I hope you find your happiness this year. You deserve it.
I started the bike back up and turned around to head back to the club. Time to get back to the present.
As I pulled the bike up to the back of Aro's I could hear the crowd noise spilling out from the walls of the club. It sounded quite loud already, I must have been gone longer than I realized. I secured the bike and was walking toward the back door when I saw her. You've got to be kidding, I thought to myself, to the Gods above, to whomever was in charge of the fuckery that seemed to be my life at the moment.
Bella. The pain in my heart twisted a little bit more. I sighed but didn't say anything yet. And then she moved a couple steps closer, bringing her out of the shadows and illuminated by the glow from the security light. She smiled. And damn if I didn't stop breathing for a moment–she literally looked like an angel, the way the light lit her dark hair and flawless skin. The pain in my chest was suddenly gone.
"I…I saw all the guys…they haven't changed a bit." She laughed as she shook her head. "They said they thought you had gone off on your bike, so I came out here to wait for you."
I reached up and scratched the back of my head and ran my fingers through my hair. Half of me was thrilled to see her and the other half of me was not so sure it was a good idea.
"Yeah, I, ah…took a ride through town…checked out a lot of the old haunts."
"Not much has changed has it?" she asked as we stared at each other.
"Actually a lot has changed." I was not talking about the town. She cast her eyes downward and neither one of us spoke…until finally I could stand it no more, I had to ask.
"Bella, what are you doing here in Forks? I thought you were living in Chicago?"
She looked up again. "Oh Chicago was only temporary, we were only there until Edward finished his residency. He finished up earlier this year and wanted to get a job back here, near his family in Seattle. Forks just happened to have a job opening so…" She shrugged her shoulders. "I'm back in Forks again."
Of course she was, that would be my luck. "Is Edward inside?"
"Working." We both spoke the word at the same time. Her eyes narrowed a bit at my tone.
"New Year's Eve is one of the…"
"…busiest days of the year at the hospitals, I know," I finished her sentence for her. It was the same thing she'd told me last year.
Her eyes grew wide and her lip started to tremble, and she bit down on it, her trademark move when she was trying to stay strong and not tear up. Aw hell, I didn't want to upset her. It wasn't her fault she had caught me with my emotions all keyed up from my trip through the past, and I shouldn't be taking it out on her. It was just frustration because I couldn't understand she and Edward's situation. Then again, it wasn't my place to understand it.
The breeze had blown some strands of hair into her face and I reached over and gently smoothed them out of the way.
"Edward must be a very noble and unselfish guy, because if it were me, I'd never be able to tear myself away from a wife as beautiful as you on New Year's Eve."
She blushed and looked down again. A loud cheer erupted from inside, breaking up our moment, so I changed the subject.
"Christ, I don't think I've ever heard Aro's this noisy! Did everyone in the whole town show up?"
She looked up again, the sadness replaced with a look of relief, as she smiled. "I was going to warn you–not only is practically the whole town inside, but I think just about every person we went to high school with is in there. Everybody's anxious to see you guys again."
"Gre-at," I drawled out sarcastically. I put an arm around Bella and guided her toward the door. "Sounds like I'm gonna need a bodyguard, you up for the task?" She giggled as we walked in the door and I knew that giggle was the best sound I'd hear all night.
She wasn't kidding about everyone we went to high school with being there. And the whole town. I'd never seen so many people squeezed into Aro's, he had to be breaking the fire code…although I had a feeling the fire marshall was probably in the building too. I knew a lot of people were probably just there to see us, but I was glad there was such a huge turnout for the sake of the after school program. At least if they made a bunch of money, tonight would all be worth it.
Coming in the back door with Bella, I was able to kind of sneak directly into the back room/backstage area. The rest of the guys were in and out, going to mingle with family and friends and then ducking back for a breather. We all were overwhelmed with the turnout. The guys said they were getting a lot of requests to play some of our older songs, the songs we used to play back in the day. We hadn't played most of them in years and our fan base had never even heard a lot of them so we never got requests for any of them at our normal shows. But of course the Forks crowd would remember them. So, we revised the usual set list to throw in a lot of the old songs and then we had to quickly cobble together a mini-rehearsal of sorts in the back room to try and remember most of them. Bella hung out with us for a while then headed back out front when we were rehearsing. We were practically done when I decided to make one last change to the set list. Hell all normal routine was thrown out, it was "anything goes" tonight anyway. During our regular shows, we would start the encore off quietly, with just me and my guitar doing a slow song–usually a cover, but sometimes one of our own songs that worked acoustically. We hadn't planned for me to do a solo song tonight but I added one in…a song that I still knew by heart, that I'd never forgotten and a song that only one other person had ever heard.
Form the minute we hit the stage that show was like no other we'd ever done. It felt more like we were playing a party in a friend's basement because of so many familiar faces there. And they were all so raucous and loud, yelling comments and requests to us in between songs and singing along to many of the older obscure songs we pulled out of our ass to please them. A couple times we forgot lyrics and they would sing them for us.
I kept catching Bella's eye and we would smile or laugh at how crazy and out-of-control everything felt. When we finally got to the encore, I stepped back out onto the stage by myself and started strumming the familiar chords. I sang the lyrics of a young teenage boy in love for the first time…the lyrics that still spoke for the man he now was eight years later. I had written the song for Bella for our first year anniversary. It was hers and hers alone…before tonight I had never performed it for anyone else. She cried the first time she heard it. I desperately wanted to look for her in the crowd, to see what her reaction was…but I was also afraid. Would she be mad that I played such a private song in public? Or would she be sad?
I ended the song and there was a split second of silence and then the room erupted with applause.
We ended our show at ten minutes till midnight. Aro got on stage and gave a short speech, thanking everyone for coming out, thanking us for doing the show and announcing what a wonderful year it was going to be for the kids, thanks to the whole evening. They had raised a lot of money.
Then suddenly there it was, the countdown and then the yells of "Happy New Year" and once again we were beginning a brand new year. I tried to make it across the room to Bella but with so many people here it became impossible. I'd move two steps, run into someone who then wanted to talk and I'd be stuck for at least ten minutes. By the time I finished with that person I'd look, and Bella was in another part of the room talking to someone and so I'd start to make my way in that direction when another person would pop up who wanted to talk. It was a non-stop routine. When I would catch Bella's eye she'd look at me with sympathy. Then the next person that caught me was the devil incarnate (tonight anyway) himself, Mike Newton. He had been kind of a nerdy "wannabe with the cool kids" sniveling little guy in high school and he hadn't really changed much. He was absolutely THRILLED to get the chance to talk to me, and the show was great and WOW he had so many questions. I saw Bella across the crowd and made a frown and nodded slightly toward Mike. Her eyes widened and her mouth formed and "o" and then she started giggling. I mouthed the words "help me." And she nodded and held up her index finger as if to say hold on for a moment and then walked away still giggling.
Unfortunately I never saw her again. Twenty minutes later, after I had finally extricated myself from Mike, the crowd had started to thin out and I tried scanning the room for her but didn't see her. I finally spotted her best friend from high school, Angela, and asked her if she'd seen Bella. She said Bella had gotten a text from Edward and had taken off. Ah-ha. Of course. Husband always trumps ex-boyfriend, I thought to myself bitterly.
I felt disappointed and cheated that we had never gotten a chance to talk tonight after the show. Tired and done with the crowd of people, I headed back to the back room. I started gathering my stuff and was shutting my guitar case when I noticed a white cocktail napkin tucked between the strings and the neck of my guitar. I reached down and pulled it out and read what was written on it in bleeding ink–Thank you for playing my song. I loved it. B.
Another year later:
The benefit show in Forks had been such a success–both financially and for the good of the community–that Aro had immediately decided to make it an annual event. So, once again, it was New Year's Eve and we were back in Forks. Despite the emotional roller coaster last year's show had been for me, I found it was the promise of this gig that kept me going throughout the year. I thought of Bella often, wondering how she was, what she was doing. She had mentioned last year that she was teaching at the Forks Elementary School. I was eager with the anticipation of seeing her again. The rational side of me tried to tell the irrational side that I was only headed for disaster, being this excited to see her again. But the irrational side of me beat down the rational side and instead reveled in some happiness for a change.
This year was going to be different than last year, this year I had a plan.
We were in the back room hanging out, getting ready when she came back. I had my back to the doorway, and was looking through my guitar case when I heard her. "J!" I turned around and immediately felt her small arms wrapped around me and her warm body pressed lightly against me in a quick hug. Somehow I resisted the urge to wrap my arms around her and crush her body to me. She pulled away and I looked down at her.
"Oh sure now you want to be my bodyguard! After you failed so miserably last year, cutting out on me and leaving me with Mike Newton. I don't think so lady, that was just unacceptable!" I tried to look serious as the smirk on my mouth betrayed me.
Her eyes widened, thrown off guard by my teasing. Her hand flew up to cover her open mouth and then she started laughing.
"There's nothing funny about it, that was twenty minutes of my life I'll never get back!"
She fought to get her laughing under control. Her eyes were shiny, her cheeks flushed and she was trying to catch her breath. Her hair was falling softly in waves around her face and I may have stopped breathing myself. She just got more beautiful every time I saw her.
She cleared her throat, "I'm sorry. I…um…had to leave." She cast her eyes down and she got quiet.
"Well can you stick around for a while this time?" I asked quietly.
She looked up at me with those big brown eyes and nodded, her face expressionless.
"Great…During the show try to stay close to the back exit, near the stage."
Bella narrowed her eyes and looked at me with suspicion.
"Mr. Whitlock, do you have something up your sleeve?"
I winked at her. "Stick around and you might find out."
The show went off well, it was almost as wild as last year. As soon as we were done, I slipped off the side of the stage and found Bella. I grabbed her wrist and started pulling her toward the exit before the mob descended on us like last year.
"Perfect!" I said out loud as the door shut behind us and we were outside in the night air. I felt as giddy as a schoolboy who had just gotten away with a huge prank without getting caught. I turned to look at her. "Do you have your car?"
She nodded and started digging in her purse for her keys. We walked out to the front parking lot to her car. She was still driving the silver Volvo I'd seen her get in that first night we ran into each other in Seattle so many years ago.
I let out a snort as I got in on the passenger side. "A Volvo hmm? How…boringly adult of you."
"Edward bought it for me. Volvos are safe and reliable and hold their value well."
I rolled my eyes. "Okay, Grandma."
She laughed and reached across to punch me on the arm. "Stop it! Or I'll let you out on the side of the road!"
"Umm you've already done that."
She looked at me puzzled.
"The night of Jessica's birthday party, junior year? Lauren had been following me around all night and you were mad because you thought I wasn't fighting her off enough? You were yelling on the way home and then you just stopped on the side of the road and kicked me out of the car."
Her eyes lit up with recognition then and she started laughing hysterically.
"Yeah it's funny now! I only got out of the car because I didn't think you were really serious. I expected you to drive a few yards ahead and then turn back around and pick me up again. But you never did and I had to walk all the way home. It was January and I about froze my nuts off!"
She was snorting with laughter now. "Oh J…I'd forgotten about that…" she was sputtering her words between the laughing bursts. "I'm sorry…but honestly you weren't exactly dissuading Lauren's efforts."
"She was drunk off her ass. It wasn't worth expending the effort to try and set her straight because she wasn't listening or paying attention to anything I said or did. Besides I already had you, why would you even think that I would want that skank."
Her laughter died down and she smiled at my term of endearment for Lauren.
"Well…teenage girls with raging hormones aren't always the most logical creatures, I'm afraid. Besides…" she got quiet before continuing. "It took me a long time in the beginning to figure out why you wanted to be with plain old me."
I looked over at her darkened profile, lit only by the glow of the lights from the dashboard of the car as she drove. My heart twisted at her words…how she could ever think of herself as plain just killed me.
"Bella…" my voice was a bit husky as I swallowed around the lump in my throat. "You were never ever 'plain.' Especially to me."
She turned her head and our eyes met for as long as they could before she had to pull her eyes back to the road.
"So…" she changed the subject. "You haven't said where we're going?"
I smirked knowingly. "You'll see."
I had her stop at the convenience store and I picked up a six-pack and then I directed her to a small isolated road on the edge of town. It wound up to a flat rock table, that dropped off steeply on one side. Volterra Cliffs, affectionately known as "Inspiration Point" or "Lover's Cliff" by the adults of our time. I knew Bella recognized it as we had spent our fair share of time up here. Tonight it was quiet and empty.
"I'm surprised we're the only ones here."
Bella grinned and rolled her eyes. "The kids today head a little further out of town to the La Push Cliffs. This place is too close to town and too well known for well…the activities that happen here. It's always the first place the parents look because they all went here when they were teenagers. La Push has more "parking" possibilities and they can change it up if parents or the cops start discovering them."
"Hmph!" I snorted my response. "Well at least we have the place to ourselves, old fogies that we are."
She laughed. I opened a beer and handed it to her. It was so wonderful to hear her laugh.
I saw her iPod plugged into her car radio and I picked it up.
"Now, let's see what the Volvo driver has on her iPod…" Before I could get very far she grabbed it from me.
"Oh give me that. I know what you're looking for anyway." She fiddled with it for a few minutes and then as she sat it down again the opening riffs of Wild Horses started playing through the car's sound system.
"The Stones! Yes!" I did a fist pump. I knew my eyes were probably lit up like a kid in a candy store.
She laughed. "Don't get too excited there, Mr. Music Snob, it's just a greatest hits CD, I don't own every friggin' recording they ever made, like some people." She looked pointedly at me.
"Well still, it's good to know I influenced your musical collection in some way," I said cockily.
"Yeah well…they always remind me of high school…and of you." She was looking down at her hands.
My heart swelled a little, to know she thought of me.
"Not that I really need any of their music…I swear every song of theirs is burned into my brain from the way you played their CDs over…and over..and over!" The awkward moment had passed and she was teasing me again.
Now it was my turn to laugh. We ended up talking and joking for hours. It felt great to talk about the old days. In all of our previous run-ins we had carefully avoided talking about the past, and it felt good to finally acknowledge all those memories. Eventually we moved back to the present, talking about everything from the town of Forks and the people we went to school with, to her experiences teaching. I don't know how she keeps a straight face with the little kids, I was cracking up at all the funny stories about her students. She still didn't mention Edward much, but since the conversation was flowing so easily between us tonight, I finally felt like I could ask–no needed to ask–the question I'd wanted to for years.
"Bella…you never really talk about Edward much, and when you do it's always about how good he is to you or how he takes care of you." I watched her carefully and she started biting her lip and fiddling nervously with the tab on her beer can.
"Bella…" I said quietly. "Do you love Edward?"
She didn't answer.
"Are you happy with him?"
She wouldn't look up at me.
"I'm married to him," she whispered so softly I barely heard her.
I reached over and touched her chin, forcing her to turn and look at me. There were tears silently trailing down her face.
"That's not what I asked."
She closed her eyes and pulled away from my hand. "Of course I did…love him…in the beginning…or at least I thought I did."
"Did you love him as much as you loved me?"
"Please, Bella I have to know…"
She let out a huge sigh…and then laughed bitterly. "I tried…oh God how I tried…I dated so many guys, trying to feel the way I felt with you. Edward was the first guy that I even came close to thinking…that maybe…maybe I could grow to love him. He could make me laugh, and he was so attentive. I wanted to love him I really did." Her tears were flowing steadily now. "I wanted to move on."
My heart was hammering in my chest and tears were welling up in my eyes, hearing her finally say what I had always suspected.
"Why did you walk away that day Bella? We could have worked something out, I know we could have…"
She refused to say anymore and we sat there in silence for probably five minutes though it seemed like an eternity. She was sniffling and trying to wipe her wet face with her hands. Suddenly I felt like such a heel for upsetting her and making her cry.
I reached over and cupped my hands around her face, turning her toward me. I stroked her face with my thumbs trying to wipe her tears away myself. "I'm sorry B…I'm so sorry, I didn't mean to upset you."
I didn't realize how close we were leaning toward each other until she reached up and touched my cheek. God, it had been so long…it was amazing how just that light touch from her made me feel. The heat, the tingling sensation radiating over my face. I closed my eyes, and she slowly slid her thumb over my lip, stroking it softly. My heart was racing.
"Bella…" I panted. Suddenly she was there…her lips on mine…so soft…caressing mine, willing them to move. I groaned and reached up to touch the back of her neck, her hair…to pull her closer to me. Her hands moved down to grip my collar. The kiss quickly grew heated, our lips opening, our tongues tangling…I was drowning in the warmth and heaven that was her mouth and I didn't care about anything else in the world but this kiss, this moment. This was what had been missing for so long from my life…
I started to press closer but instead she wrenched herself away and shoved me back into my seat. She was breathing heavily but her eyes were wide with emotion–fear? Sadness? I didn't understand at first. Then she started fumbling with her keys, trying to put them in the ignition.
"I…I can't Jasper…we can't…"
"But B…you just said…"
"No Jasper! It's not right! It…this…can't…" She couldn't even finish her sentence, as she finally got the car started and she peeled out of the empty space and turned onto the road.
My shoulders slumped…in hurt…and disappointment.
Neither one of us said a word as she sped through town, finally pulling into the Forks hotel where the band was staying for the night. She finally stopped the car in front of the entrance and just sat there, staring ahead.
I tried one more time. "Bella…"
"Just go Jasper…please," she spoke quietly but with a determined edge in her voice. So I got out of the car. The slamming of the door echoed in the quiet night and all I could do was stand there watching as she drove away.
Another year passes…
I spent the next couple weeks in a daze, making my way through different emotions. Trying to figure out what had happened that night. What had went wrong. I felt pain, I felt rejection, I felt confusion. I just couldn't figure her out…I knew she still felt something for me, I felt it in that kiss. Maybe she didn't want to admit it but it was all there that night, she couldn't hide it if she wanted to. And she had finally admitted she didn't love Edward…so why was she so determined to stay with him, to stay in a loveless marriage?
The questions all swirled around and around my head until it hurt, until I was numb with the uselessness of all of my questions. And then the frustration set in. And finally, the anger. I was angry that she was giving up on us…again. Angry that I wasn't good enough for her. Angry that she had this power over me. Angry that she had worked her way into my psyche again and angry that I had let her. I finally decided that if she could move on, so could I.
I spent most of the next year trying to fuck her out of my system. When we were on tour there were never a shortage of women around and while I had never in all the years on the road taken full advantage of my "rock star" appeal to women, I more than made up for it this year. I had only one requirement–no brunettes, especially with long hair. Blondes, redheads, fuck I didn't care if they had blue or pink or green hair…as long as there was nothing about them that would remind me of her. It was a crash and burn rollercoaster–I pretended to enjoy the high, the pleasure, during the actual act, but afterwards reality would crash down and I realized I still felt empty. No one compared to her. So the next night it would be on to someone else. And the next…and the next. Even after we got off tour, I found myself hitting up a different bar practically every night, still searching…even though I knew I'd never find "it." Because I already had.
I didn't want to go back to Forks for another New Year's Eve show, but of course we were obligated. The guys knew from my behavior all year that I was dealing with something deep, and I'm sure they suspected it had something to do with Bella. So they let me alone. I opted to stay in my hotel room until the absolute last minute possible before I had to be at Aro's. Then I rode over on my bike and slipped in the back and stayed in the back room until it was time to go on stage.
I didn't look for her, I didn't want to see her, I didn't want to know if she was there. I just wanted to do my job and get out.
The show went as usual, but I couldn't feign the typical enthusiasm I usually tried to give during a performance. When it was time for the encore I stepped up again, to do a solo piece. Although everything in my life had been shit this year, the benefactor of my emotional state had been my songwriting. It had probably been the one thing that saved me. I guess it's true what they say about artists having to be tortured to create their best work. I had one song in particular I wanted to play tonight, a new one. If she was here, I wanted her to hear it.
I went looking for someone I left behind
Yeah but no-one just a stranger did I find
I never noticed hadn't seen it as it grew
The void between us where the flame turns blue
Different places yeah but they all look the same…
I'm in collision with every stone I ever threw
And blind ambition where the flame turns blue
Words dismantled …
Conversations though we utter not a sound
I heard a rumor don't know if it's true
That you'd meet me where the flame turns blue…
In the morning I will sing
In the morning I will sing
Through the lemon trees the diamonds of light
Break in splinters on the pages where I write
That if I lost you I don't know what I'd do
Burn forever where the flame turns blue
We finished the rest of the encore set. After the last song I immediately went back to the back room again and started gathering up my stuff, listening to the New Year's celebration going on the other side of the wall.
Happy New Year!
There should be some optimism in the changing of the old year to the new, hope for a new beginning and all that shit. I had no joy, no reason to celebrate anything. I had no grand expectations for this year to be any better than the last. It was just another night like any other.
I slipped out the back door and headed back to the hotel.
A pounding on the door jolted me from a fuzzy sleep. I blinked my eyes and looked at the clock on the bedside table and then around the room. From my appearance I apparently had come in and collapsed on the bed without changing my clothes and had fallen asleep. From the time on the clock I saw that I had only been back a half-hour. Who could be pounding on my door at this hour?
I got up and shuffled to the door still in a sleepy stupor.
My heart plummeted and twisted in anger all at once when I saw who was on the other side.
She just stared up at me, her eyes red, she'd obviously been crying.
"Bella…" I sighed. "What are you doing here?"
She didn't say a word she just launched herself at me. She grasped my face and pressed her lips against mine, greedily pulling at them, sucking them between hers. I fought hard not to move, not to give in to her assault, though every cell in my body was screaming at me otherwise. I grabbed her arms and pulled roughly, trying to push her away but she was stronger than I thought and we struggled in a small tug of war. I turned my face away to escape her lips.
"Bella…why are you…"
She broke one hand free and held it over my mouth. "No words tonight, no questions, no reasons…please…" Her voice was so pleading and thick with emotion. She attacked my lips again and this time my resolve began to crumble. Brick by brick by brick I felt the avalanche from my protective wall crashing down. She threw her arms around my neck and I moved my hands around her back pulling her closer. Our mouths were open, tongues moving, trying to devour each other. She pushed her body tightly to mine and fireworks exploded on my skin at every place our bodies made contact. She ground her hips into mine and it was like an electric shock that went straight to my cock, igniting a fire I knew I wouldn't want to stop.
I pulled away from her kisses again. Our breathing was ragged and we were both panting heavily. She leaned into me again but I stopped her. I was teetering on the edge but I had to know first before I tumbled over. It had to be her decision.
"Bella…are you sure…is this okay?"
She looked up at me, really looked into my eyes, and I saw everything…her desire, her need, her hunger. She still spoke no words but she poured the answer into a passionate, heated kiss. She pressed her body to me again and I groaned, leaping over that edge without a second look back. She started to hitch her leg higher against mine but I was ahead of her already. I hoisted her up and her legs instinctively wrapped around my waist. The door was still open and I slammed it shut with my foot and then carried her over to the bed and laid her down hurriedly. She was wearing a loose skirt with tall leather boots. I unzipped the boots and yanked them off of her feet. The skirt I simply pushed up around her waist and nestled my body in between her legs. I hovered over her and practically ripped her shirt and bra partially off, bending over to kiss and suckle her beautiful breasts. A voice in my head was screaming at me to stop but I was already drowning so deep I didn't care. I couldn't think of anything but here and now and the woman below me. I knew we should take this slower, that I should be more gentle with her but I was too far gone. I needed her and I needed to feel her now. It had been too long.
Her cries and gasps as I grazed my teeth across her hard nipples nearly did me in. She arched her back and was pulling my hair. Her need was clearly just as strong as mine. She grabbed my t-shirt in her fist and pulled it roughly off of me almost before I had a chance to lift my head and arms out of it. Next she grabbed for the button of my jeans, her hands shaking as she finally undid it and yanked the zipper down. I stood up then and made quick work of kicking them off. I knelt down between her legs again and reached for the top of her panties and yanked them down her legs and flung them across the room. I was so hard I was going to explode if I wasn't inside her now. I leaned over her on one elbow and lifted one of her knees with the other, and then plunged deeply into her. She cried out and I stopped, partially to calm myself and also to make sure she was okay. It clearly was a cry of desire from her though as she immediately moved under me and wrapped her legs around me to pull me in even deeper than I thought was possible. I closed my eyes and groaned at the feeling…her warm heat engulfing me, tightening around me. It was beyond anything I'd felt in a long time and it felt so perfect, so right. I couldn't take anymore and I started moving, pulling out, pushing into her as she arched up to meet me, in a perfect rhythm that had always been ours. It didn't matter how long it had been or how many years had passed. Our bodies knew each other even if we had lost ourselves along the way.
The silent room was filled with our desperate moans and heavy breathing. She begged for more and I gave her all I could.
Soon she was crying out my name and I felt her convulsing violently around me. I finally let myself go, exploding in a white-hot heat of ecstasy and relief.
I stayed inside of her as long as possible before finally pulling out and lying down next to her. The loss of contact felt lonely and cold. We both were caught up in catching our breaths and coming back down to earth. I looked over at her and I immediately felt consumed by her, by her presence. The empty place she filled inside of me wasn't full yet. I felt insatiable–I needed more of her, more of her touch, more of her body. She started to lean up on her elbows but before she could move any farther I leaned over and claimed her lips. They were already red and ravaged but I didn't care. The passion flared again between us but it was slower this time, sweeter. I needed to worship her. First I gently removed her unbuttoned shirt and bra and slipped her skirt from her body. She tried to protest, but I quieted her with a deep kiss. I then placed gentle kisses on her forehead, on her closed eyelids, on her nose, her cheeks…I moved down to trail more kisses down her beautiful creamy neck, licking and nibbling her delicate skin. While my lips were busy my hands were possessed as well. I trailed my fingers up and down her arms, ghosting across her hips and to the tops of her thighs. I knew my kisses and movements were affecting Bella as she wriggled and panted under me. I continued kissing and licking across her collarbone and then down her chest to the swell of her breasts. She began whimpering and moved her hands up to twist in my hair, tugging a little harder with every kiss and nibble. My fingers were still tracing circles and patterns on her thigh. I began to move them higher and her hips started squirming, searching for some relief. I reached her swollen lips and lightly ran my fingers up and down and around, stroking and teasing her. Her hips bucked again and she cried out.
At the same time moment my tongue licked and encircled her nipple, I plunged a finger into her, stroking in and out quickly. She moaned and arched and clutched my back, digging her nails into my shoulders. I hissed around her breast and plunged another finger into her. The feel of her heat around my fingers and the pain and pleasure of her clawing my back was causing me to come unglued and I knew I was going to have to speed things up.
While my fingers continued to stroke her, I moved from her breasts and licked my tongue down her flat stomach, stopping briefly to twirl in and out of her naval. I continued my kissing and licking downward to my fingers. I shifted and withdrew my fingers, causing an impatient whimper from Bella. I pushed her knees up to give me better access, and then I began licking and kissing and thrusting my tongue into her, pulling it back out, moving up and encircling and tugging on her swollen clit. I then moved down and began repeating the routine, kissing and sucking and licking every part of her. Her hands were practically pulling my hair out and she was arching into my lips, screaming and swearing and moaning my name. When she finally trembled and shook and came hard around me , I couldn't help smiling and feeling a little smug. I always knew what she liked, there was no way Edward made her feel like this or she wouldn't be here now, in my bed.
Every sound and scream she made reverberated in my cock and I couldn't wait anymore. I quickly moved up and entered her again, more slowly this time. Still she gasped as she felt me filling her. She'd barely had time to recover but I could feel her responding again. I thrust gently and slowly in and out of her, enjoying the silky slick feeling of being inside her, of being engulfed by her warmth and enveloped by her arms and her legs and her body. She rocked with me, gently stroking my back and my arms and my scalp. Loving me as she always had. I wanted to stay encircled by her forever, and tried to make the moment last as long as I could, but finally my body betrayed me and I shook as I thrust deeply one more time, crying out her name over and over. She continued stroking me as I came down from our high and our breathing returned to normal. I finally withdrew, lying beside her again and pulling her into my arms, still needing her warm body to be touching mine, as my body relaxed from exhaustion.
She may have not wanted any words tonight, but I had to–"Bella…my Bella…I love you…I've always loved you…"–I managed to speak the words I'd wanted to say to her for so many years just before I fell into a peaceful sleep.
I don't know how much later it was when I awakened, the sun shining in faintly through the curtains. I stretched and turned, smiling as I remembered last night. I reached out for Bella…and found the other side of the bed empty. I sat up and frowned as I peered around the room. The bathroom was dark and the door was open so she wasn't in there. As my brain began to clear the sleepiness out I suddenly became aware of what else was missing–Bella's clothes. Bella was gone and so was any remnant that she was ever here. She hadn't even left a note. She was gone.
Six months later…
I crashed hard that morning. I went from the best night of my life and thinking that Bella and I were finally going to have a happy-ever-after to…having nothing. And I had no one to blame but myself. I was the one who opened the door and let her in that night. I knew better. I knew she was never going to leave him and I chose to ignore that reality. I let myself believe and hope…I was the one who let her hurt me. I took the leap and it failed miserably. I didn't think I could recover from this one…worse, I didn't know if I wanted to.
The tour bus took us back home to San Francisco the next morning. I barely said two words to anyone. I just stared out the window the whole trip. As soon as the bus dropped me off, I went up to my apartment, dropped my bags and walked straight to the liquor cabinet and pulled out the bottle of Jack. I poured a drink and slammed it down, feeling the warmth and pain of the initial burn. It was the first thing I'd felt since I woke up alone this morning. So I poured another glass. And another. Then I decided the glass was just unnecessary and I just lifted the whole bottle to my lips and took a long slow drink. And that was what I did for the next five months. I lived in the bottom of a Jack Daniels bottle.
I'd wake with a horrible hangover and swear off the stuff…and then something would spark a memory…of our past, of that night in the hotel room and I'd start to feel the pain again. And back to the bottle I'd go–to make it all go away, to be numb again. Finally I just gave up trying to resist and made sure I had a constant supply of JD on hand.
We went on tour again and the guys were not so fond of my new friend Jack. I barely kept it together for the performances, would forget lyrics. One night I actually passed out before the show even started and they had to cancel. That was the last straw. They stopped the tour and held an "intervention" of sorts and told me I had to get help. At first I told them all to fuck off and I went home to San Francisco. I woke up two days later on my bathroom floor next to the toilet…with no recollection of how I'd got home from the tour (a plane and a cab from the airport I learned later) and what I was doing on the bathroom floor. I stumbled through the apartment to see it littered with empty bottles.
Somewhere inside me there apparently was still someone with a dose of common sense and a will to live. I realized that the alcohol was not helping my situation, and I was no better off now than I was the morning I woke up without Bella. I didn't want to go to a real rehab place though, didn't want to go through all that twelve-step shit. There was no twelve-step program for getting over her. I knew here one person who might be able to help though. So that day I showered, dressed, threw out all the bottles, packed a bag, gassed the bike up and headed off for Texas.
Peter had been in a fairly famous band that we had opened for in the early days. He liked us, liked our sound and when he could, he would try to get his band to take us along on their tours. He had been around for a while in the biz and had pretty much seen and done it all, good and bad. He was heavy into the booze and drugs at the end…and then he met Charlotte. She really turned him around, gave him something to live for and made him realize that he didn't have to live the way he was living if he wasn't happy. He quit the band, quit touring and settled down in a little town in Texas with Char. I still hear from him occasionally and he's still more happy and content than anyone I know.
He and I, especially, had formed a pretty strong bond on those late nights on the bus. He was like a big brother to me, giving me all kinds of advice but never being preachy about anything. That's how I knew I could trust him. He actually is a counselor at a drug rehab place but I know he would never make me admit myself. Besides I knew that the alcohol wasn't really my problem. Peter will know what I'm going through and will pull no bullshit in telling me what I need to hear, whether I want to hear it or not.
I spent the next month at Peter's. He and Charlotte welcomed me with open arms as I knew they would. They lived on the Gulf Coast, and as they say about the south, the pace really is a lot slower. I spent a lot of time with my thoughts in the quiet outdoors, watching the waves of the gulf. He knew something was wrong when I showed up on their doorstep but he didn't press, he didn't pry. He let me come to him when I was ready and when I did he just sat and quietly listened. And he helped me see that I would be okay. I would never have Bella. But he got me to see that I could exist with out her. I couldn't wallow in the past, I couldn't drown in what ifs or whys. I just had to take what I had and make the best of it and move on.
Finally, sober and clearheaded I left Peter's and headed back to San Francisco. I held a meeting with the band, apologized for my behavior and explained a little of what had been going on with me the past couple of years. They were supportive and understanding and glad I was doing better.
And with their blessing, I made one more trip. I drove up to Forks and had a private meeting with Aro. I shouldn't have even set foot in Forks again but I felt bad for what I had to tell him and thought he deserved an explanation in person. I told him that our band would no longer be available for the New Year's benefit show. That had been the only thing Peter had actually had told me I had to do and made me promise that I would do. I just couldn't risk running into her again.
I didn't give Aro all the details but I explained as much as I could. He had always been a smart and observant man, he knew how close Bella and I were and I think he knew what I didn't say. He said it was no problem, he appreciated us coming back the past few years and helping out the after school program, and was grateful for the time we had given.
I let out a big sigh of relief when that was over with. I needed to stop and fill the bike up at the gas station and then I was out of here, and out of Forks for good. I should never have pushed my luck, I should have left Aro's and high-tailed it straight out of town and waited to get gas once I'd crossed the county line. But the tank was practically down to fumes. I was just returning the nozzle to the gas pump when I heard her.
She gasped when I turned around.
"Wha…what are you doing in Forks?"
I looked at her dully. "I was just here to talk to Aro. I'm heading back out now."
"Oh…oh." I could see her grasping for her words, not sure what to say next. So I decided to just tell her.
"We're not coming back to do the New Year's Eve show this year. Or any year."
Her eyes widened. "You're not? Why?"
I laughed bitterly. "Why? Why Bella? Why do you think?"
She started biting her lip.
"I can't do this anymore Bella, I'm done. I just spent the last six months practically trying to drink my self into oblivion and drink you out of my life. You left Bella. I still don't understand why…"
Tears were welling up in her eyes. "It's not that easy Jasper…I made promises, vows…" her voice was so full of emotion she could barely speak above a whisper.
"Fine, then you've made your choice. Live your life however the hell you want. But you don't have the right to keep fucking up mine."
And then I got on the bike and rode off. This time I was the one leaving.
Five months later…
Another New Year's Eve, another show. At the Bowery Ballroom in New York this time. It felt strange not being in Forks. But it was freeing as well. As I stood backstage after the show and heard the countdown, the "3, 2, 1," the shouts and cheers announcing the tick of the clock hands into another new year…for the first time in a long time I actually looked forward to a new year. It was sappy, but I was ready for a new beginning.
One of the Bowery's staff members poked his head around the doorway.
"Hey Jasper, you got a visitor." I turned around, expecting to see a fan.
She was out of breath and her hair was messy, as if she'd been rushing or running. And she had a suitcase in each hand.
One year later…
We finished our last song, waved to the crowd and quickly stepped off the stage. We were doing a radio station's New Year's show this year. There were other bands but we were still given the slot ending just before midnight. The radio DJ was on stage now talking to the crowd and getting ready to do the countdown. I didn't even head backstage I headed straight out into the audience, scanning the room frantically. It had been quite a year, an unexpected year. An amazing year. Last year this time I had been hoping for a new beginning and I had certainly got that…in a way.
Bella was the last person I had expected to see last New Year's. I thought I had finally got her out of my life. But it turned out she had finally decided she wanted a new beginning as well. With me. For good this time. She finally had left Edward. I was wary and unsure at first, after all, I had let her in so easily the last time and it almost killed me. But she was patient and willing to wait however long it took me to let her in again. Slowly we started building a new life…together. I was still grateful and amazed every day that I woke up with her in my bed, in my life.
When the band hit the road again, Bella came with us…as our tour manager. She turned out to be the best one we'd ever had. She always teased that keeping five scruffy musicians in line was no different than wrangling the little kids she used to teach.
I continued to search the crowd, worried that I wouldn't find her before midnight. She was supposed it be hanging out at our merch table but she had promised to come up front and meet me before midnight.
Only five more minutes…still no sign of her. Then I felt two small arms wrap around my waist. She was on her tiptoes to whisper in my ear. "Hey hot stuff are you looking for someone to kiss at midnight?"
I grin as I turn around and wrap my arms around her and lift her into the air so we are at eye level. She lets out a surprised little whoop.
"Why yes, yes I am. Are you propositioning me?" I flirt back.
She laughs and suddenly I notice that her eyes looked red. I frowned a little.
"Your eyes are red babe…is everything okay?"
"You played a new song that wasn't on the set list," she said quietly.
"Oh yeah…that," I smirked. It must have made her cry, she could always shed tears so easily. "So, I take it you liked it?"
"I loved it." We stare into each other's eyes, waiting.
Finally the DJ on stage starts the countdown.
Happy New Year!!
The crowd erupts in cheers and tweets of noisemakers. Confetti is raining down all around us as we both lean in and our lips meet in a sweet but passionate caress. As always I feel the electricity, the spark between us, the same as the very first day we kissed in high school.
The strains of Auld Lang Syne begin to play over the club's sound system.
After all these years, we have finally made our way back to each other, and as I hold her in my arms I make a silent vow to never ever let her go again.
She breaks our kiss and presses her forehead to mine.
"Happy New Year, J."
"Happy New Year, B."
And I know it will be.
This years love had better last
Heaven knows it's high time
And I've been waiting on my own too long
But when you hold me like you do
It feels so right
I start to forget
How my heart gets torn
When that hurt gets thrown
Feeling like you can't go on
Turning circles when time again
It cuts like a knife oh yeah
If you love me got to know for sure
Cos it takes something more this time
Than sweet sweet lies
Before I open up my arms and fall
Losing all control
Every dream inside my soul
And when you kiss me
On that midnight street
Sweep me off my feet
Singing ain't this life so sweet
This years love had better last
This years love had better last
So whose to worry
If our hearts get torn
When that hurt gets thrown
Don't you know this life goes on
And won't you kiss me
On that midnight street
Sweep me off my feet
Singing ain't this life so sweet
This years love had better last
This years love had better last
A/N #2 This story was initially inspired by the song "Another Auld Lang Syne" by Dan Fogelberg. Yeah I know it's an old song and some might think it's cheesy but I'm a sucker for a story song. I hardly ever listen to the radio, except in the car and then I'm switching stations constantly...well I heard this song not once but TWICE on the radio in the space of a few days and both times I was drawn to the feelings of loss and nostalgia. I wondered quite innocently what it would be like to write those feelings and wham this story just started flooding my brain and wouldn't go away, so I finally decided it needed to be written.
I was not intending at all to pass off other song lyrics as Jasper's (hence why the song for Bella that he sings at the first Forks show doesn't have lyrics.) but in another serendipitous moment while writing this I accidentally discovered two songs by David Gray whose lyrics fit their story so perfectly it was freaky. The first song that he sings in Forks is "Flame Turns Blue" and the song he sings at the end is "This Year's Love"
Not included, but a song I listened to a lot while writing the (ahem) lemon was "Bring on the Wonder" by Susan Enan – It is essentially Bella's words and feelings if she had had a POV. I'll try to put song links in my profile.
Lastly, I LOVE New Year's, it's probably my second favorite holiday after Christmas...I love the whole idea of looking back on the past year and all the changes you've gone through, and the great promise starting a new year brings.
Last New Year's Eve I went to see Twilight for the first time...after spending most of my Christmas vacation devouring the 4 books. I could never in a million years have imagined then that I would discover something called FanFiction and that a year later I would be spending this Christmas break writing my own story.
I hope everyone has a happy and safe New Year's Eve.
I wish us all more great fics, more slash, more smut, more lemons in 2010!!