A/N- Thank you to my wonderful beta, Tanya and thank you to Helina and Amanda for pre reading this.
Thank you to everyone who rec'd this one shot, because of you it's now a two shot.
This is dedicated to all the wonderful readers that wanted to hear what happened to Alice. I hope it's all you wanted.
Alice Brandon was a woman of mistakes; the girl could not make a good decision to save her life. Because of one of these said mistakes, she had spent the last seven years of her life on the street, and now at the age of twenty two, she'd had enough, she just didn't know what to do about it. Her daily schedule meant seeing her best friend, which for most people would be nice, but the problem was that her best friend lived in a different world now. Alice felt like she was holding Bella back and the guilt became worse with every donation Bella placed in her hands, whether it was a sandwich or cash.
There was no way that Alice would ever be able to pay Bella back for all she had done, and she knew that Bella would never ask her to. The only thing Bella would ever ask of her friend would be to stay; Alice no longer felt that was an option. She needed to try for her own happily ever after and that wasn't happening where she was.
The first of Alice's many mistakes began when she ran away from the home. She had been placed there at birth but because of her tiny size, most potential parents were worried about her health and she ended up being one of the few babies that didn't get adopted.
The abuse started early as other kids would pick on her as an example of their superiority. By the time she was ten, she feared more than the kicks and punches. The older boys had started to leer at her and although she wasn't sure they would step over the line that far, she wasn't about to take the chance.
Even though her life was terrible there, she unwittingly left the day before a nice young couple had come with intentions of offering her a spot in their foster home. If she would have stayed at the home, she would now have been officially Bella's sister-in-law. Luckily, Alice would never learn this information.
This wasn't the only time that Alice ran away. When she was eighteen, she had found a place to stay under a bridge with some other homeless people. Most of them were older but there was one man who was in his late thirties that gave Alice the creeps. His eyes were shifty and he was always adjusting things in his oversized jacket. Alice ran before he got any ideas. This runaway was also a mistake; the creepy man in the oversized jacket was a news man, doing an undercover story about the young homeless people. He had been following Alice, but when she left, he had to look elsewhere. The young girl he ended up doing a story on became a symbol to the community and the people of their fair city donated over thirty thousand dollars to the homeless girl. She used that money to get a fresh start and now works in a clerical position at a dentist's office. As Alice didn't have a television, she would never learn of this either.
So when she decided to run away again, she had no idea whether or not it was a mistake. The only regret she had about leaving was how she said goodbye to her dearest friend.
Sorry, I gotta blow. I wish you all the happiness in the world, and I think you have it. Now I gotta go find mine.
Catch you on the flip side.
The letter said nothing of the easy friendship they'd had on the street but Alice couldn't afford to be emotional. She couldn't even stomach seeing Bella in person one more time. She convinced Crazy Carlisle to deliver the message to her friend where she would normally wait every day for her peanut butter sandwich. He was reluctant at first, even when she said he'd receive a lunch, so Alice sweetened the deal by offering to show him her boobs when he got back. Of course by then she'd be long gone.
She watched the blonde nut job walk off with the last communication to her friend and willed herself not to cry. She was barely successful. Packing all her things into a small Holt Renfrew bag and taking off. Alice took the forty-three dollars and sixty-seven cents she had been able to save from Bella's kind donations and bought a bus ticket for as far away as she could get.
Looking out the window of the bus, Alice said goodbye to the city that had been her home for so long. Things were going to be better, of that she was sure.
Carlisle was only disappointed for a few moments when he returned to find Alice had left for good, because shortly after that, he found a wonderful girl in the shower that the other boys had nicknamed Easy Esme. Turned out the two were a match made in heaven. He liked to watch, and she liked to be watched.
It took Alice a year and a half to admit to herself that things were not better. This new city was bigger and brighter than the last, but in that, people like her became even more anonymous. Alice had gotten lazy, with Bella's donations she had been eating regularly and now the infrequent meals were not enough to sustain her energy.
The subways were not as friendly to her and she was shoved out of the way more than once while she was trying to sing and dance for money. The bruises on her body were multiplying daily and Alice knew that she needed to figure out something different, and quick.
It took Alice another eight months to break down and do what she said she would never do.
Jasper Whitlock was a successful business man. Straight out of university, he had secured a job in one of the top companies in his profession. It took him relatively no time at all to rise up through the ranks and in just a short five years, he was CEO of the most successful ad agency in the country.
He was ecstatic when he made his first million. He was thrilled when he made his fifth. He was apathetic by the time he made his hundredth. Jasper didn't know what to do with all his money and yet he only ever gave the minimum donation amount that was recommended by his finance manager for tax purposes.
Jasper hated throwing money away and he sometimes wondered if giving to charity wasn't just that. He didn't want his money to go into admin costs; he wanted his money to make a difference, to actually cause some change.
Jasper wished he could say that he researched and found a cause close to his heart, but really, when it came down to it, he just picked up some random charity flyers and threw a dart at them.
When he stared at the New Hope Shelter brochure, he didn't see all the people he could help, he saw a marketing job and one that he could undoubtedly do better. He didn't think this made him a bad person; the end result would be the same. People would be helped.
When Jasper stood next to his assistant and told the board members he was stepping down in order to start a homeless shelter, more than one of them checked their calendars to see if it was April Fool's Day. When the seriousness of the situation finally hit them, they panicked, offering Jasper more money, as if he needed it. He walked out of the office that day with a new excitement in him. He had a new challenge.
Jasper's assistant had followed him out of the building that day; she hadn't been worried about her job. After all, Jasper was her brother and they took care of each other. She had navigated him through his career, and as a result, no one had known about his affliction but her. She prided herself on being his right hand man—er, woman.
It took Jasper ten months to get his shelter up and running, and not only did it provide beds and meals, but it also offered jobs as well. There were positions available as simple as janitorial and some as complex as data entry, depending on the person's qualifications. He ran a small copy shop out of the front of the shelter and that had provided extra income for the shelter along with additional funding from philanthropists.
When Alice walked into the newest homeless shelter, she expected to find the same things she had encountered at all of the other ones. There was a pecking order in those places, and being as small as she was, she tended to be on the bottom, meaning that it was rare that there was food or a bed left for her at the end of the night.
She wasn't surprised when she saw the job board, most places had those, but the positions listed were usually filled quickly and by men with much better strength than her. People who hired for manual labor usually didn't pick a girl who was five feet tall and weighed ninety pounds. She didn't even glance at the listings or she would have been surprised to see clerical and other work that she was better suited for.
There was a small desk set up at the front of the building but it had been abandoned for the night, just as Alice had hoped. Walking into the large room, she could see partitions set up around sections of beds. She smiled at the thought of having a private sleep for once but those thoughts were quashed when she confirmed that there wasn't an empty bed in the place.
Looking for an out of the way spot, Alice curled up by a janitor's closet and quickly slipped into sleep.
Jasper was working late, he had sent Tanya home, telling his sister that he could manage his own way home. She had been reluctant to leave him, but as always, her big brother got his way. He had told her that he could call for a cab and the farthest he would have to go was the curb. She replied that he had better call her as soon as he got home and that she would worry until then. Tanya reminded him so much of his mother.
He ran his fingers along his book before slamming the thing closed. He was too tired to think anymore. Starting the shelter was meant to be another accomplishment, he thought he was going to feel the same fulfillment he did when he succeeded before but he still felt like something was missing.
His cell phone buzzed and he picked it up, answering it. "Jasper Whitlock."
"Hi honey," his mother cooed.
"What are you doing up so late?" she asked.
"You called me," he replied. "How do you know you didn't wake me up?"
"Pish posh, you're always up," she laughed and he joined her. "So, are you going to tell me what's wrong?"
Jasper ran his hand through his curly blonde hair. "How do you do that? It's creepy," he retorted.
"I always know; call it mother's intuition."
"I call it: Tanya."
"Call it what you like, but I would still like an answer. Are you regretting leaving your position?"
"No," he said surely, "I just thought this would give me what I needed, but I still feel like I'm missing something."
"Well of course you are," she stated simply.
"Oh yeah? What's that?"
Jasper laughed, his mother had been trying to set him up over the last couple years and he hadn't had the time or desire for it. He thought that when the right girl came along, he would know, and no amount of blind dates was likely to throw her in his path.
"Mark my words; some day you are going to trip over your perfect woman and you still won't recognize her."
"Yes, mom," he replied, trying to placate her.
"I just worry about you," she answered, leaving him with a guilt trip.
"I know, mom, but you can force it. Look, I'm just about to head out for the night, I'll call you tomorrow."
"Okay, goodnight, son."
Jasper slipped the phone back into his pocket before grabbing his jacket off the chair. He slung it over his shoulder and reached for the door handle. He hated leaving a room without Tanya but he knew that sometimes it was necessary. Everyone in the other room would be sleeping and there wouldn't be anything that hindered him getting out.
Jasper opened his door and took two steps before colliding with something soft and warm. He tumbled over the small object, landing on his chest, his feet still draped over whatever he tripped on.
Jasper reached out and grabbed his glasses that had slid off his face. It took him a minute to find them as they had skidded a couple feet away from him. He now knew he had tripped over a person because he could feel them scurry away.
"How come you aren't in a bed?" Jasper asked, trying to keep the annoyance out of his voice.
"Sorry, they were all taken."
"Well then you can't be here. We have a fire code. We can only keep the amount of people we have beds for."
"I know," she said, defeated.
Jasper heard her sigh before getting up and gathering her things. He didn't know why but there was something in her voice that made him sad to let her go.
"Wait," he called out.
Alice turned around against her better judgment, she knew she could be in big trouble and she didn't want to end up being banned from the shelter, and it really was the nicest one she had seen. She couldn't really make out the man in the dark and that was another thing that should have frightened her, but didn't.
"Come here, please," he said motioning through the door. She could see now that what she thought was a janitor's closet was actually an office. He flicked the light on and she followed him in.
There was a desk, a chair, and a small couch in the room and Alice shifted uncomfortably as the door was closed behind her.
Jasper could tell this girl was like a frightened kitty, one wrong move and she would bolt. So he put on a grin and asked, "Don't you have somewhere else you can be?"
Alice took in the man's cocky grin and saw the face of countless John's asking her for favors. Her retort came sharp, "If I did, I wouldn't be here, would I, blondie?"
While Alice couldn't deny that the man in front of her was attractive, it was too warm a night out for her to sell herself for shelter. Maybe if it had been the middle of winter he might have had a chance.
She watched him as he walked around his office with ease, never sparing her a glance. She wasn't used to treatment like that; usually a person would keep one eye on her the entire time. It went with the homeless territory. She was used to it but it still hurt her feelings, she was sensitive like that. She also noticed something else about the way he regarded her and she had a feeling that he was keeping a secret, and very well at that.
"Touché," he responded. "Look, you can sleep on my couch tonight, but don't tell anyone. And don't think this means you can do it again. One hundred and twelve beds, one hundred and twelve occupants, that's it. Okay?"
Alice nodded warily while studying him. She didn't trust the man, even if she was right about him, and what kind of man wore sunglasses in the middle of the night anyway? He continued to stare at her so she answered out loud, "I said yes, what are you blind or something?"
Jasper gasped at her accusation, even though he had heard the expression before, he knew immediately she was calling him out. He had gone over ten years without anyone finding out he was blind and here, in his homeless shelter in the middle of the night, this young girl had seen right through him.
When Alice saw Jasper's face, she immediately regretted the comment. She knew that she was right before she said it. She was used to being crass and confrontational in order to survive but she had always been that way to people that could handle it. The look on the man's face told her that he had a soft soul. How she wished that she could have hers back as well.
Feeling bad but too vulnerable to apologize, Alice offered a peace offering of another kind. "Thanks," she whispered.
Jasper walked towards the office door, intending on leaving the perceptive girl on his own but stopped just as he reached the door. He was sure his words would fall on deaf ears but he had to try.
"Could you…could you not tell anyone?" he asked, mirroring her exposed tone. The way she sucked in her breath told him he was surprised by his request, as if no one had ever given her the benefit of the doubt to even ask for her trust.
Alice almost made a mistake then and asked what was in it for her. The man was wealthy, she could tell by the polish of his shoes, he probably had a woman who did nothing but shine his shoes. Perhaps it was the way the stars were aligned, perhaps it was finally time for her to make a correct choice, perhaps she was just sick of not being true to herself so instead of demanding hush money, she whispered to him, "I swear."
The words were powerful and clear and there was no waver in the truth behind them. The man took a couple steps towards Alice and even though her defense mechanism told her to back up, she stayed planted where she was. He gave her lots of room, stopping a few steps in front of her.
He lifted the glasses off his face and she saw that his eyes were completely white, but they shone with an inner light that made her nearly fall over. Alice gasped at the beauty behind them. He immediately went to cover them again but Alice found herself rushing forward to grab his arm.
"Don't," she pleaded, "they are beautiful." He scoffed at her but made no motion to cover his eyes again.
"My name is Alice," she said, unsure of what else she could offer him for his trust. She stood in front of him, gazing at his face; a small smirk crept onto his lips, and for the first time, a man's smile didn't frighten her.
Jasper enjoyed the feeling of her hand on his arm. From the tiny hand, he could tell the girl was tiny. Of course he knew that she was short from where her voice had been projecting. Barely over five feet, he would guess, but the tiny fingers wrapped around his forearm told him that her features were small as well.
He breathed her in, she smelled fresh even though he knew she had probably not had a shower in a few days. There was something about her that seemed pure and it came pouring out to him through her skin. He wondered what color her hair was, her eyes, her skin. Not that it would mean much to him, he had been blind his whole life and had no idea what colors really looked like.
Tanya had tried to explain it to him once, giving each color a personality. White was pure, Red was vivacious, orange was playful and yellow was innocence. Even though he knew that people weren't yellow, it's how he wanted to think of this strange girl named Alice. Yellow seemed to suit her, even though he knew nothing of her but her name. There was one thing he was sure of, even though he had no way of knowing. He knew her hair was black. Black was one color Tanya did not have to tell him about. He knew that color, and while many people placed it in a negative light, Jasper found black to be comforting.
Jasper could hardly believe that he had shown her his eyes. Usually, he wore colored contacts that made his eyes look normal, but they bothered him so he had taken them out for comfort. He had no idea he would be showing them off less than an hour later.
"You got a name, mister?" she asked when he hadn't responded.
He almost chuckled at his daydreaming; he hadn't been caught doing so since he was a child.
"Jasper," he replied. He wondered if she smiled at it.
Jasper was unsure of what to do next so he found himself slowly moving out of Alice's grasp. When she noticed him move, she dropped his arm right away. He walked over to the door, turning one last time, almost as if he was trying to see her before putting his glasses on and leaving.
Alice wanted to call out to him. To ask him if she would ever see him again, but her pride was one of the only things she had left, and she wasn't about to bid it adieu for the first splash of kindness she'd received in a while.
When Jasper returned to his apartment, he was alarmed by how quiet it was. There was nothing amiss but the usual sound of nothingness no longer comforted him; he never noticed how cold it felt. He knew that his place was decorated stylishly and masculine as per his instructions but as he sat down in his chair, he noticed how uncomfortable it was.
He had spent his drive home thinking about Alice. She seemed so young to him and he wondered just how old she was. He had a feeling her childlike voice was deceptive, because although it was soprano in tone, there was too much wisdom behind it, like the world had been forced upon her before her time. He wondered how she ended up on the street and if she would ever find her way off.
When Jasper's random charity generator; ie, his dart chose a shelter, immediately people like Alice had entered his mind. Alice was the exact type of person that Jasper had set out to help when opening up the shelter, but while his ambition before would have been driven by the success of getting someone like Alice off the street, he suddenly found himself with not only a name but a face—so to speak. From their brief exchange, Jasper knew he could make her truly hirable. It was not only within his grasp to help this girl get off the street but it could almost be easy.
Of course, nothing is ever easy. By the time he arrived at the shelter in the morning, Alice was gone.
Alice, mistress of mistakes, added to her ever-growing list the following evening. When the sun set in the sky, she found herself standing outside of the building she had slept in the night before, thinking fondly of the tiny couch. But 'Summit Shelter' sign shone brightly and taunted her, telling her she was weak, that Jasper had been luring her in the same way as all the other men, just with prettier lies. She didn't want to believe it. The Jasper in her heart had been sweet and vulnerable, but the one in her mind was cruel and calculating. Deciding she couldn't take the risk, Alice turned to her right and walked down the street. Of course, if she would have turned to her left, she would have walked exactly two blocks before running into Jasper and Tanya.
It took Alice over a week to before she returned to the shelter. She had puffed herself up, telling herself that it was a shelter and she was damn well able to use it if she wanted. She hadn't asked Jasper for a handout and she wasn't about to keep risking herself of the street at night if she didn't have to.
Marching into the building like she had something to prove, Alice walked up to the check out desk and asked about the bedding situation. The girl sitting behind the desk looked as if she belonged in a magazine, not working in a homeless shelter. Alice wondered if maybe she was a movie star doing community service for a DUI or something.
"Sure, sweetie," the girl said, and although Alice expected her tone to be demeaning, she couldn't find anything but kindness inside it. "You'll be in cot forty-seven. The numbers are just above the beds, and there is a small cubby there for your personal belongings if you need. Here is a lock, it is to be returned here tomorrow by nine AM or you will forfeit the right to stay here again."
"Sure," Alice said, feeling bored. She had heard a version of this speech many times…don't steal the bedding and watch your own shit.
"If you need anything, I'll be at the desk until ten tonight," she continued, ignoring Alice's tone. Along with the lock, she passed Alice a small bag, which had a toothbrush and a small container of toothpaste. Alice wanted to kiss the girl but decided against it, so as to not get kicked out.
Alice found her bunk immediately, knowing instinctively that it would be the one closest to Jasper's office. The partitions that separated her section of beds gave her a bit of privacy if he did come by, not that he would know she was there.
Two of the beds in Alice's section where already filled with sleeping bodies. Long hair spilled out of both blankets and she assumed that meant her 'roommates' were female. It was nice when a shelter separated for sex but it didn't always happen. There seemed to be far more men and the women tended to get shoved in the empty slots, no matter where they were.
Finding the bathroom, Alice pulled her shoes off. She rinsed the inside of her sandals, using the soap from the container. She considered bathing herself in the sink when she noticed in the mirror a corridor beside the line of stalls. Following it, she discovered the holy grail of bathrooms.
Real frickin' doors!
Alice jumped up and down, unable to contain her joy at the thought of being able to be completely clean. There was one stall in use, so she picked the farthest one from the occupied one and entered. Daintily slipping off her clothes, Alice sighed, wishing she could wash them as well. She couldn't even remember the last time she got to be completely fresh.
Setting the temperature to slightly under scalding, Alice stepped in and let the water wash away the grime from her body. There was a container of soap on the wall and she used it to scrub not only her body but her hair. She knew without conditioner, there would be no way she'd get a comb through it, but clean and knotty trumped dirty any day.
Once her body no longer held the sins of her life, she grabbed the toothbrush off the ledge and brushed her teeth—four times. It felt heavenly and Alice may have moaned as she ran her tongue over her new pearly whites. She pulled her fingers through her hair a few times while the water poured over her, trying to get some of the knots out before shutting the water off.
Alice hadn't even noticed she was without a towel until she realized that she was wet and naked.
"Shit," she muttered out loud.
A laugh came from the other side of the room, and a few seconds later, a towel came flying over her door.
"Get a little excited and forget something, honey?" a jovial voice asked.
"Thanks," Alice shouted back.
She wrapped herself in the towel, it was small but she was smaller. She took her time drying every part of her body, not wanting to change back into her dirty clothes. More showers started up around her and she knew that meant it would be busy soon. She didn't want to start trouble by hogging the heavenly shower. Dressing quickly, Alice thought herself lucky that no one was waiting when she exited the shower, as the other ones were all full now.
The bed was nicer than other ones she had slept in but Alice chalked that up to Summit being a new shelter. As Alice closed her eyes, she heard a voice that made them snap back open.
"Tanya, just put the bell on the desk, I need to talk to you in my office for a minute."
Alice froze as Jasper's voice carried over all the noise of the shelter. There was no way she should have heard him if he was by the front desk but she had, as clear as day. She held her breath as she watched the small space in front of her area, knowing that he would have to pass by her bed to get to his office.
When he finally did, it was so quick she could hardly believe it. She wasn't sure what she was expecting. It's not like he was going to look over and see her there in the bed and…and what? She didn't even know.
The thing that had knotted her stomach was the pretty blonde that followed him. She was as beautiful as him and kind, and that made Alice hate her. But she couldn't hate her because as much as she didn't want to admit it to herself, she wanted Jasper to be taken care of by someone who was worthy. It was clear that this girl was worthy. That fact made Alice want to cry—and that just pissed her off.
Because for just a moment, Alice thought that she could have a happily ever after, and as much as she loved her friend, she cursed Bella for giving her the worse gift of all, hope.
Alice came up with many ideas in her head why the two of them would be alone together in his office; wild imaginings came over her as she wished for platonic dealings. She had no idea how long she stared from her bed but when the two of them reemerged, the blonde was holding Jasper's arm in an overly familiar way.
The blonde girl looked over and made eye contact with Alice, slowing when she saw the look of concern on Alice's face. Jasper leaned in and whispered something in her ear and Alice turned away from the intimate gesture. It was obvious that these two were very comfortable with each other; this was not a new affair.
"It's nothing," she replied before they walked off again.
Alice's mistake of assuming that they were a couple kept her from approaching Jasper for the next two weeks, even though she had seen him every night. Each time, he had been accompanied by the girl, whose name she now knew was Tanya.
Jasper had searched for the young girl named Alice, but was unable to find her. Of course he couldn't have known that she would sign into the shelter under a false name. If he had asked Tanya to check the register for a Penelope Hale, he would have found that she had indeed been spending her nights just ten feet from the door of his office.
Alice had picked the name Penelope after her neighbor's cat from when she was a child. She remembered the cute, orange fuzzball was tiny but a firecracker, scratching anything in its path. And the last name she borrowed from a golden haired waitress at the diner that she frequented when she had the spare change. They would feed her a peanut butter sandwich for only a dollar and never kicked her out into the cold in the winter.
It was this same waitress that noticed Alice picking at the crust of her sandwich one Thursday afternoon.
"What's the matter, honey?" she asked her smile sad.
"Nothing I shouldn't be used to by now," Alice replied cryptically.
"Ahh, man trouble," the waitress giggled. "Why don't you tell Rosalie all about it?"
Alice almost giggled at the fact that this buxom young girl was speaking in third person like a fifty year old truck stop waitress, but the truth was that she was a little weirded out that Rosalie had hit the nail on the head so quickly. The small glimpses of Jasper throughout the last week had told her everything she needed to know about him. He listened intently no matter who was speaking; when he spoke, he spoke kindly; and he never let any of the female staff leave alone at night. He was the perfect gentleman and she was far from a perfect lady.
"Thanks Rosalie," Alice started, "but it's just a case of wishing I was Cinderella when in fact I'm the ugly stepsister. Metaphorically speaking, of course, 'cause I'm hot."
Rosalie let out a large belly laugh. "I like you, kid. Let me get you some more coffee."
Alice watched the girl walk away before she looked back at her plate, she was zoned out and she barely heard the familiar voice speak.
"That's her; that is the one that has been watching you."
Alice only heard the word "dangerous" but she knew it was Jasper right away. Her head snapped up and she saw Jasper and Tanya sitting in a booth not far from her. Tanya was looking at Alice but speaking to Jasper.
"I don't know, she's pretty tiny."
Alice got the gist of their conversation. Tanya was worried about Alice; she was concerned that Alice was a threat to Jasper's safety. She couldn't blame the girl, if she had that, she'd want to protect what was hers too.
Alice stood up and walked by the table. She stopped and looked at Tanya, knowing that she would falter if she looked at Jasper.
"Don't worry; I'm only a danger if you trip over me."
Alice took two steps before Jasper's voice stopped her. "Alice?" He sounded so excited, maybe even hopeful.
"This is Alice?" Tanya asked, sharing in his excitement.
"Yeah," Alice said slowly.
"We've been looking all over for you!" Tanya exclaimed. "I mean, I've seen you a bunch of times, but I didn't know what you looked like, not really. Although Jasper did say you were little and had black hair so I should have put it together. I mean, Jasper, did you know she had been staying at the shelter for, like, two weeks now?"
"Tanya, calm down," Jasper chuckled and Alice couldn't help but catch his smile. They were contagious, after all.
"How come you've been looking for me?" Alice asked expectantly.
"I think I can help you. I have a wonderful program I'm setting up that I think you'd be perfect for. It's an education program to help get you the employment you need to get off the street." What Jasper didn't tell her was that he set the program up for Alice. He needed to help her; he'd even stopped asking himself why.
It wasn't the words she was hoping for but they promised her something even better, a fresh start, a chance to be her own woman without relying on anyone to provide for her. So it took her less than a second to respond.
"When do I start?"
Alice started classes the next week. They prepared her with necessary skills to land a secretarial job, but Alice didn't want to be on the bottom rung anymore, so she asked Jasper if it would be possible if she could train for a sales position. She had wondered if asking for more was a mistake but that idea was rendered moot when his face lit up like the Fourth of July.
Jasper had Alice come in every week for progress meetings. She wondered how he had time to meet with all of the people in the program on such a regular basis and put the time he did in at the shelter, but she really didn't have any idea that she was the only one in Jasper's program—for now.
Jasper intended on expanding the program but he wanted to make sure Alice was secure and on her way before he added more people to the program. He knew it wouldn't be for everyone but it would make all the difference to the ones that could handle it.
Alice enjoyed her weekly meetings with Jasper. While they had started with strictly talk about her classes, progress, and goals, they had morphed into two friends meeting to catch up. Alice hadn't told Jasper a lot of details about her questionable past, but she sensed that he had a good idea of the things she had done in the name of surviving.
Out of all the information that Alice had learned about Jasper, the fact that Tanya was his sister was the most surprising. She was in awe of how he had hid his disability from the world, he had been dealt a hard hand and yet he had thrived while she had failed. She grew to care deeply for Jasper but she no longer held the notion that he could be her knight in shining armor. The only one on a horse defending her honor would be herself. That didn't mean that she didn't fantasize about being with him, she had always done that, but now in the fantasy, they were equals.
Alice suspected that Jasper had feelings for her as well but to be honest, she was glad he hadn't acted on them. She needed to put her life straight before she added anyone else into the mix.
The following fall, Alice finished her classes, paving the way for her to be gainfully employed. Jasper had offered to help her secure a position but Alice declined, saying she wanted to try on her own first. Jasper was beyond proud of her for this and subsequently, that became the day he fell in love with the tiny girl.
Alice found a job in sales quickly and flourished in the competitive environment. Jasper's program had provided her with the clothes she needed on top of the educational resources and because of that, she was confident that she would be able to succeed. She loved the thrill of the sale, finding someone the perfect product for their needs. She never talked anyone into anything that was too much for them and therefore, fast became the top salesperson in her district.
She continued her weekly meetings with Jasper but they held little to no formality anymore. They continued to meet at the little diner, enjoying the stale coffee and greasy fare. It had taken Alice only a few months to save up for a damage deposit on an apartment and although it was modest, it was her own.
Weeks turned to months and Alice began to doubt her notion that Jasper fancied her. She decided that maybe she had made the whole thing up in her head. Sure, Jasper had tucked her hair behind her ear or held a door open for her but maybe he was just a friendly person.
Alice had turned down a lot of suitors at work; they all seemed to be interested in the fresh meat in the office. Truth be told, they scared her a little. Alice still had troubles putting her trust in men, all it seemed to take was one little gesture and they would remind her of one of her John's and she would be turned off dating them for good.
Of course, another reason she had turned down her options at work was because of Jasper. She was holding out on the hope that he would ask her out, but every day, that hope seemed to be dwindling.
When all the hope had been lost, Alice decided that she would tell Jasper that maybe their friendship was too hard on her. She wanted to have Jasper in her life but it wasn't enough being his friend. She knew that she wouldn't be able to stand it if he found another and then gushed about the girl to her. It was easier to end this early before she could really end up hurt.
When Alice arrived at the diner, she was about to make a huge mistake—again. Luckily for Alice, God or karma or whatever it was that controlled the universe decided to give her a break.
Jasper sat nervously at the table, waiting for Alice. He had put this off far too long and he hoped that he hadn't missed his chance. There was no way of knowing for sure what she would say. He couldn't blame his blindness this time on the things he couldn't see.
He thought at first that Alice was interested in him but then she seemed aloof on occasions. He had tried flirting and holding doors open for her but she seemed to take the gestures as friendly ones and not romantic ones. He had never felt so lost with someone in his life; this tiny sprite of a girl had come into his world and shaken it with something that couldn't be measured on the Richter scale.
Jasper took a deep breath in as Alice lowered herself in the seat in front of him. He almost stopped himself what with the loud sigh she let out before joining him. Pushing forward, because he couldn't stand to be still any longer, Jasper spoke quickly.
"Alice, I want you to accompany me out tomorrow…on a date," he stumbled. "If you'd like."
Alice's face beamed, and while Jasper couldn't see it, he recognized the joy in the accompanying squeal.
"You've kept me waiting a long time."
Alice didn't stop making mistakes over night. She fought her road to happiness every step of the way. Jasper had been used to everything going his way, so when Alice came into his life and threw a wrench in his plans, it only made him fight harder to keep the girl of his dreams.
They weren't flawless but together they found a balance, creating not perfection, but a perfect life for them. It was seventeen mistakes later that Jasper proposed and one more before Alice accepted. But by far, their favorite mistake came in the form of a baby boy, delivered exactly nine months after their wedding.
Alice's mistakes had led her the long way around, but they had taken her to where she needed to be. Because of that, she wouldn't have changed a thing.