In the past four months, I had traveled all over the U.S. and Canada. I just wandered. I never knew where I would end up or which direction I would take next. I avoided all contact with humans, traveling at night and hiding during the daytime. I was a renegade, running from the guilt that filled my soul.
I called Alice regularly to let her and the rest of my family know that I was okay. I had been the source of too much pain and disappointment to deny them that bit of solace. Each time, Alice would ask when I was coming home. My answer was always the same—I would come home when I knew that I could live up to the Cullen name.
Living up to the Cullen name was a tall order, to be sure. I loved my family. I loved Alice with all my heart. I would do anything for any one of them, including Bella. I just wasn't sure that I was good enough to belong with them. I had long suspected that I was too damaged to ever completely heal or even to heal enough that I wouldn't put my family at risk.
The incident on Bella's birthday was the final straw. I had been struggling harder than usual to keep my thirst under control, but I still didn't understand how I could ever try to hurt Bella. Bella was as pure-hearted and kind as they came. The joy that she brought to Edward and my whole family was unlike anything I had ever seen.
I left that night. I know that my decision to leave crushed Alice, but I needed some time to get myself together and figure out what to do next. I assured her that I would always love her and that my leaving had nothing to do with my feelings for her. She offered to come with me, but I told her that I needed to go alone—at least for a while.
I missed her every day. She was the light in my life, and, without her, all was dark. I knew that I would return to her. I would do whatever it took to be worthy of her. For her, I would conquer my thirst for human blood. I had tried everything I knew to try, but still couldn't manage to overcome the overwhelming pull that human blood had on me.
I had spent every day during the last three months meditating and using positive visualization techniques to will myself to get control over my need for human blood. I was feeding every evening on herbivores in order to stay away from anything that was remotely similar to the taste of human blood.
I couldn't believe that Edward had demanded that the family leave Forks and abandon Bella. How could he do that to Bella? How could he do that to Alice and the rest of the family? Didn't he realize that the rest of us loved Bella too? She was as much a part of the family as any of the rest of us.
A couple of days after I left Forks, Alice had called to tell me about Edward's decision, and we had argued.
"We are leaving tomorrow. Edward won't even allow us to say goodbye to Bella. It just doesn't seem fair, Jazz. How can he expect me to leave my best friend without even saying goodbye?"
"Ali, what do you mean he won't 'allow' you to say goodbye? Tell him to stick it up his ass. What in the world are the rest of you thinking giving into Edward on this? How can you all turn your back on Bella? It will devastate her. How can you leave her unprotected? What about the dangers to her because of her contact with us?"
"I tried to convince him. I presented all of those points and more. He won't budge. How can I or any of us deny him this? He honestly believes this is what is best for Bella. He loves her, Jazz. You know that. He would never do anything to hurt her.
"I have looked into the future and do not see any harm coming to Bella. Edward has asked me not to look any more. I have promised him that I will do as he wishes."
"Why is he doing this?" I asked, astonished that Edward was capable of hurting Bella to this degree.
"Edward, being Edward, is convinced that it is too dangerous for Bella being around us. I don't agree, but I am reluctantly going along. We are all changing our cell phone numbers tomorrow as well. I will call you with the new number as soon as I have it."
"Alice, this is all my fault. If I hadn't…" I stopped, swallowing a sob. "I just can't believe that Edward was doing this in reaction to my attack on Bella. Tell Edward that he doesn't have to do this. I'll stay away. I won't go near her.
"Bella will be safe with the rest of you. Please, Alice, don't let him do this because of me. I will never be able to forgive myself for this."
"It is not your fault. Edward and I have discussed that point at length. He wants you to know that it is not because of you. He doesn't blame you at all. He believes that it was inevitable that our mere existence is a threat to her. He doesn't believe that there is any other way to reduce that risk short of leaving."
"He has taken his brooding too far this time, Alice. Someone needs to stop him." I said, pausing to try to figure out a way to stop the insanity that was descending upon my family. I came up with nothing. "I still think that this is wrong, but I am probably the last person that Bella wants to hear from. You can tell Edward that I won't contact Bella."
"Thanks, Jazz. I'll tell him."
"What about Carlisle and Esme? Surely, they don't think that Edward's plan is a good idea."
"They both tried to talk him out of it. Esme is absolutely crushed at the idea of abandoning one of her children. She stays in her room most of the time, simply staring out the window.
"Carlisle tried to convince Edward that safety measures could be put in place to protect Bella. Edward is hell bent on following through with the move and cutting off all contact with Bella though.
"Carlisle and Esme are afraid of losing Edward if they do not accede to his wishes. They are having to make Sophie's choice—which child will they lose, Bella or Edward." Alice sobbed the last.
It broke my heart to hear her cry. It broke my heart to think of Esme's loss. But I was unable to wrap my mind around Bella's loss. She was losing the love of her life and her family in one fell swoop.
Sitting under a tree in the woods outside of Seattle, I cringed at the memory and realized that I had crushed the small rock I held in my hands into dust. I wondered how Bella was doing. I hoped that she was recovering from the loss, but feared that was impossible. Bella loved Edward and the rest of the family with all of her being. It was impossible to think that she would get over a loss like that.
I got up and began pacing back and forth between two trees, trying to dispel the nervous energy that accompanied the memories. All of it was my fault. My lack of control over my blood lust was ripping my family apart and doing even worse to Bella. Somehow, someway I knew that I had to find a way to make all of this right. I knew that I could never completely undo the damage that I had done, but I needed to find some way to atone for my sins.
Perhaps, I should go home and talk some sense into Edward. Hell, he is so stubborn once he has made up his mind. I doubt it would do any good.
Perhaps, I should go to Forks and check on Bella. No, Bella doesn't want to see me. Plus, I would scare her half to death if I showed up to check on her. Maybe, I could just check on her from afar.
I was so lost in thought that I didn't hear my phone ring, but heard the tone letting me know that I had voicemail. I looked at my phone and immediately recognized the number as Bella's cell.
I quickly dialed the number to listen to the voicemail, wondering why Bella would be calling me. I listened to the voicemail intently.
"Jasper, thank God your phone is still turned on," Bella said, her voice quivering, the fear obvious. "I need your help. Victoria is coming for me."
Without even forming the conscious thought to do so, I turned and started running for Forks, even before I called her back. I knew that I could be there in about forty minutes. Cursing the fact that it wasn't dark yet and the sun was shining, I realized I would have to waste precious time since I would have to stay off of the roads and avoid people.
I started to push send, but paused, as I remembered Alice's warning the last time we spoke. "Jazz, it is super important that you stay away from Bella. Trust me on this one."
"I'll never bet against you, darlin'. I know better than that." I had added a chuckle at the end in an attempt to lighten her mood. She had seemed intent on warning me.
Damn, I wish I had pressed her harder about the vision. Will I hurt Bella if I go to her now?
I dismissed the thought quickly. Bella was in trouble and no one else could get there in time to help her. I had no choice. I had to go. It was a chance that I had to take, because I knew for sure that Victoria would kill her if given the chance.
I looked at my still open phone and pushed send.
"Hello," I heard her say in a shaky voice, barely above a whisper.
"Jasper, is that really you? Oh, Jasper, I am so scared. Please help me."
My heart broke at the fear and desperation I head in her voice. I just hoped that I wasn't too late.