'Love Actually' Contest

Title: butterflies from boston

Characters: Jasper/Alice

Disclaimer: I don't own Twilight or any of the characters therein.

Image that inspired you: Number 10

The stage lights had never seemed so bright, though I had never been on that particular stage before anyway. I wanted to rush the ending of my set because there was an envelope waiting on the front seat of the bus, carrying specific instructions.

don't you dare open this until after you sing

No capital letters and hardly ever any punctuation- that was just the way Alice always wrote. Like the dresses she wore and the photos she took, her words reflected her style clearly for all to see. And just as she knew they would, those words made me itch even more to rip into the letter and drink in the happiness and sunshine that she always sent.

The guitar was heavy in my hands, but I forced myself to just keep singing. Her letter would be there after I finished. Instead of focusing on just getting through it, I pictured her instead.

She didn't need to be present for me to be sure that she was smiling. Alice always smiled. I didn't need to be near her to know that she was probably humming a silly song while doing the most mundane of things, like shopping for groceries or pumping gas into her ancient VW Beetle. Her gaze would flit from object to object, framing it in her mind before she would mentally click the shutter.

If I was lucky, and I often felt like the luckiest bastard alive, she would send some of the pictures that she took as she traveled the country with just her camera and her car. More often than not, a letter would accompany the photographs, and I had a suspicion that the one awaiting me in the bus was a missive of epic proportions, if the bulky envelope could be believed.

My life changed forever the day she walked into the dark and smoky venue where I was just completing my sound check. Without the blinding stage lights, I could see all the way to the back of the room, where a tiny girl seemed to bend under the weight of the equipment that she carried. I dropped my guitar right in the middle of a verse and leapt from the stage to help her, but by the time I got to the back of the room, she had already relieved herself of the load.

"Hope you didn't damage anything," she said, and her voice was church bells on a clear autumn morning.

With a frown, I glanced back to the stage and saw one of the other singers dusting off my guitar and checking the strings. He saw me looking and flashed me a thumbs up sign to let me know that the instrument would still play.

"Just my pride, it would seem," I said with a shrug.

"I'm Jasper. I'm singing tonight." As the words left my mouth, my hand involuntarily moved to smack my forehead, but I managed to stop myself. If I tried, I couldn't have sounded more like an idiot.

Instead of rolling her eyes, though, the girl stuck out a slender hand in greeting. "I'm Alice. I'll be taking pictures of you singing tonight."

She made me laugh and I fell in love. Alice was nothing like any other girl I had ever met, and no one could have carried herself the way she did. Less than five feet tall, with a cap of ink-black hair, she looked like a dark angel. The black nail polish and kohl liner on her eyes only added to the drama of her tiny features. Any other girl her size would have looked like a kindergartner playing dress up, especially since Alice's clothing of choice was often a ripped tutu and ratty Converse sneakers. Instead of ludicrous, she looked radiant.

She was precious.

She would be mine.

As it often happens, our true love story wouldn't be easy. There was the fact that I traveled ten out the twelve months of the year, singing my songs in various bars and venues around the country. If she stayed put while I was gone, things might have been easier. But easy wasn't meant to be.

Alice was a photojournalist, and she traveled just as often as I did. Most of the time she stayed in the country, but there were times when she had to board a plane for countries halfway around the world. With her photographs gracing the covers of some of the top magazines in the world, her dedication to her craft was obviously worth it.

Though we shared this over the cup of coffee that I insisted that I buy for her, we were not at all discouraged. Instead of shrugging our shoulders and deciding that maybe we weren't meant to be, we determined that we would make it work. There was nothing at all wrong with an old-fashioned love letter, and Alice claimed that she could write the most beautiful love letters I would ever read.

Best of all, she would mean every word.

At long last, the set ended and I relinquished the stage to the next artist. Strapping my guitar to my back, I took off for the front door, because it was closer to the bus where the words of love awaited me. I didn't even take a moment to drop my six-string into the case, choosing instead to prop it in the seat next to me. With shaking hands, I picked up the package and tore through the flap.

Confetti rained upon my lap, and I laughed when I got a better look. There were at least two dozen colorful autumn leaves, and each had a word printed on it in black marker. To preserve the leaves, she had covered them all in a clear lacquer, because she always thought of everything.

I crawled into the floor and spread the leaves around, wondering what my message would be. Several words jumped out at me, like aflame, hush, music. I felt as though I had a puzzle, and I set to work assembling the pieces. There was no way to be sure if I had the message just right, but my soul knew hers, and it told me that I was correct.

in the hush of morning, just before the sun touches the leaves and sets them aflame, I still hear your music in my heart

My fingers itched to grab my phone so that I could tell her just how much I loved her. Her letter was, of course, a perfect representative when she couldn't be there with me herself. The rules we made when we decided on the written word stated that a phone call was never an appropriate response. A phone call was easy- impersonal. For words such as these, she deserved to receive my heart on paper in return.

I wished that I could create a letter the way that she did, but she never complained about the lined yellow pages torn straight from the legal pad where I also wrote my songs. If anything, she romanticized the source of the paper more than anyone else would. From the same heart to the same flat yellow sheet, I poured words of love- songs for her, letters for her. Everything for her.

Alice,

I can't imagine a more beautiful way to let me know that you're thinking of me. I obeyed your command and waited until I finished my set, but you had to know how hard that would be for me. As always, the wait was worth it. Every time I arrive to a new city and see the envelope waiting for me at the venue, I wonder just what kind of magic awaits me. And while I love the leaves, your love on paper would make my heart swell just as much.

It's not easy being home in Austin, especially since I know I can't stay. Tomorrow we'll be in Baton Rouge, and the next day in Birmingham. It's almost silly to try to call anywhere home. I do know, though, that my real home is wherever you are. Even if you're sleep in your car on a gravel road in New Hampshire while I'm kicking sand on the beaches of North Carolina, my heart is with you.

There were so many more words that I could have said, though I always tried to save some of my adoration for future letters. She wouldn't care if every note I wrote said the same thing, and she had told me more than once. Just knowing that I was thinking about her, never letting her leave my thoughts, was enough for her.

If I could write songs of love about the butterflies that I felt every time I saw her name on the return address, then I could find new words to give her with every correspondence.

When I finished, I stuffed a new envelope and looked over the itinerary that she had given me. In four days, she was scheduled to check into a hotel in Miami, so I chose that address and put a stamp on the letter. It would be waiting for her when she arrived.

Once the words were on their way to her heart, all I could do was continue the tour, writing my songs on the bus and singing them once we reached the venue. In Nashville, I would part from the group I was with and join Edward Cullen for a trip across the country. The guys that I left would keep on singing in the Southeast while Edward and I moved on to St. Louis, Wichita, and Colorado Springs.

I liked traveling with Edward more than anyone else, though I'd never have made that public knowledge. He was a quiet guy that wrote some pretty profound music, and he had his own long distance love. Not only did he understand me better than the songwriters that enjoyed the girls they met on the road, but he was also really gaining a lot of attention, meaning that we got some serious perks when we were on the road together.

When we met at 3rd and Lindsley, the intimate venue near Downtown Nashville, I could immediately see a change in Edward's demeanor. He had always seemed happy enough before, singing his songs and talking about his girlfriend, but I had never seen him so radiant as he was when he jumped off of the bus in the parking lot.

"Jasper!" he called, jogging across the pavement to grasp my hand in a hearty shake. It was nice to know that he enjoyed my company, as well. "Good to see you, man. I've got a bit of a surprise, and I hope it doesn't bother you."

As he spoke, someone else stepped from the bus. The brunette waves of hair and blushing cheeks told me that I was about to meet the famous Bella, and I grinned. She made her way over slowly to give us a few moments to catch up, but he danced impatiently until she was by his side.

"You've both heard so much about each other, but I'd like to finally introduce you. Jasper, this is Bella. I'd go on and on about both of you, but you've already heard it all."

She laughed and took my hand. Her fingers were tiny and my whole palm engulfed them. The sight made my breath catch because all I could think about was what Alice's hand looked like when I held it. Edward was a lucky bastard to have his heart so close, and I was suddenly so jealous that I couldn't speak.

"Nice to finally meet you," I managed to croak, and I was rewarded with her beautiful smile.

It could have been awkward and uncomfortable around the two lovers, especially since it was abundantly clear just how much love there was between them. Bella was gentle and kind, and when she could see how much her presence made me long for Alice, she would quickly excuse herself so that I could rein in my emotions. Edward was always sad to see her leave for another part of the bus, but he was a good friend that understood exactly what I was going through.

A new letter waited for me in St. Louis, but it was at the hotel instead of the venue. There were no instructions on the envelope, so I immediately tore through the envelope with butterflies in my throat. When I saw the wedding invitation, my heart shattered into a million pieces. I didn't want to pick it up, so I turned it around on the desk with the tip of my finger.

When I realized exactly what I was looking at, excited laughter burst from me. Her good friend, Rosalie, was getting married in Denver the day after our Colorado Springs show. My letter from Alice was an invitation to be her plus one. In just five days, I would be able to see her again- to hold her in my arms. She never ceased to amaze me. I couldn't imagine how hard it had been to keep that little surprise a secret from me.

Quickly, I penned a response to let her know that I would be wherever she wanted me to be the day after the Colorado Springs show. The next days were a blur as I fulfilled obligations without actually being present. I sang my songs, I talked to new fans, and I sold my t-shirts and EP's. My soul was already in Denver, just waiting for her.

Bella's presence didn't bother me at all once I realized that I would see Alice within the week. Instead, we all sat together on the bus while traveling and she listened as I explained our unusual situation. She and Edward looked over some of the letters that Alice had sent in awe, politely avoiding the words of love while appreciating the pure art of the materials used.

There were beer mats with scrawled messages; these told me that she thought of me wherever she was. She had once penned elegant letters on a plain white t-shirt so that I could wear her love at all times. There were crumpled napkins that had been fashioned into flowers and stars, cardboard with rose petals glued down, an old Boston album covered in silver Sharpie words, and even a mix tape or two that featured her singing along to some of her favorite songs.

Though they were all beautiful in their own ways, there was nothing that could compare to holding her. I told Edward and Bella over and over how lucky they were that her job allowed her to travel with him at times. As a writer, her office was anywhere she wanted it to be. Her excitement and joy was easy to see when I mentioned it, and I tried to push away the pang of envy. I had only to finish the show before I could jump into the rental car I had arranged to drive through the night to Denver. With so much happiness in my near future, I could certainly be generous for Bella and Edward.

When the phone rang just as I was getting in the car, I wondered if Alice was so excited that she just couldn't wait. Breaking the "no phone" rule would only happen if the message were important. The butterflies took flight once more as I answered the call.

And with three words, she broke my heart.

"I can't come," she whispered.

I couldn't even respond. Disappointment, yes, but then so much sadness overcame me that there were no other emotions in existence. We had been so close- so close to touching once more.

She gave me excuses- an important meeting in Boston that just couldn't be missed. Last minute, of course, so she didn't know until it was too late. Could bring good news. All I heard was "this love of ours might never be."

With a heavy heart, I hung up the phone. My rental car was left behind as I entered the venue and watched the crowd scream and whistle for my friend. Bella's eyes met mine across the room, and she smiled sadly. I must have been broadcasting my feelings for everyone to see, because bodies moved as I approached, and a path was cleared all the way to her table.

"You're not gone yet," Bella stated, and I shook my head in response.

"Will you be okay?"

How does one answer that when the answer might be no? I could only shrug. She took my hand and held it all the way through Edward's set, occasionally squeezing and giving me hopeful smiles. I didn't hear a word of his songs.

The plan had been to keep traveling on to Los Angeles after the wedding in Denver, but I wasn't even sure if I could sing anymore. Every song I had written over the previous year had been written for her, and she had thrown that away for a meeting. The words would turn to dust in my mouth; of that I was sure. There wasn't even the promise of new songs about heartbreak, since I wasn't even sure where we stood.

I kept my promises to Edward and finished out his tour with him. To get through the performances, I dug deep into my repertoire and found songs that I had sung before I met her. Every night, I prayed that a new envelope would be waiting- that there would be some kind of explanation that made sense of everything. There was nothing.

When we unloaded the bus before the final show in LA, I took my bags and my music and put them in yet another rental car. A red-eye flight was booked in my name to carry me back home to Texas. California was the end of the itinerary that I had given her, so once I touched down in Austin, she wouldn't know where to find me. Her own schedule had changed since the meeting in Boston, I was sure. There was no way for me to even find her.

Five days I languished in a studio apartment over the busy streets of Austin. Five nights I wondered where she was and how she was doing. The goodbye hadn't really been a goodbye, so I didn't even know if I should start trying to let go. I only had another week before I had to join Edward again for a tour of New England, and I just couldn't muster the strength to pick up my guitar.

There was a whole new schedule of shows that I would have sent her in the past. A whole new list of addresses where she could send her crazy love letters. I had it ready because I hoped I'd have a reason to use it. By the end of my "vacation," though, I still hadn't heard a word. The schedule for her became a terrible reminder to me, so I tossed it in the trash outside the airport terminal.

The miles melted away beneath me as the plane carried me to New York City. Edward planned to meet me at the airport and get me to the hotel where we would rehearse a few songs that we could sing together. Three weeks was not enough time to leave her behind, but I knew I had to start singing my own work again or I'd never be able to sell the EP's at the shows.

By the time the plane touched down at JFK, I had resolved that I would let her go. In the year and a half of our grand love affair, we had only seen each other for a total of five weeks. They were five of the most beautiful weeks that I would ever spend in my life, and I could learn to appreciate them for that reason alone. But there were more weeks to come, and I had to find my own way to make those weeks beautiful.

So determined was I to make things work on my own that I powered through the airport to the luggage carousel, paying no mind to anyone around me. When I had my bag in hand, I turned to look for Edward, straining to catch a glimpse of his familiar mop of hair. Instead of Edward bearing a sheepish grin, there was a huge sign bearing my name.

i love jasper whitlock

The penmanship was easily recognizable, and I felt my heart skip a beat. There was no way that she could know where I was. The only person that I had discussed my new schedule with was Edward.

And yet, there she was. Tiny, beautiful, and dancing on the toes of her worn out sneakers. Her big grey eyes were full of tears that were in direct contrast to the enormous smile that she wore. When she saw that I had spotted her, she pitched the sign away and ran toward me at top speed.

My bags hit the ground to make room for her in my arms. Three weeks with no contact meant nothing at all to me when I could hold her again. She pressed tiny kisses all over my face as our tears mingled together on my cheeks.

"Where have you been?" I asked gruffly, choking back the sobs of joy.

"Boston," she informed me simply before kissing me senseless. "I wanted to tell you. Edward and Bella wanted to tell you, but we just couldn't… In case it didn't work out, you know?"

"Tell me what?" I asked calmly, dropping her gently so that she could stand next to me.

As only she could, she answered me while still ignoring the question. "Disappointing you was so hard, but I had to do it. The bigger disappointment would have been if this didn't work out, and I had all my hopes and all of my past work pinned on this next assignment."

"Alice, I love you and I forgive you. But what the hell are you talking about?"

"The night she met you, Bella contacted me to ask if I was interested in a project that she's been developing. Edward's going to apologize for stealing your phone, by the way. It's a book about the lives of traveling songwriters and the girls that love them. It's about you and Edward. We're going to travel with you and I'll take the photos while she writes the book. I had to meet with her publisher to show him my work and then hammer out a contract with them. I'm yours for the next six months!"

Her spoken words were more beautiful than anything she had ever written. Butterflies from Boston were a damn sight better than leaves from Maine. I took exception to only one thing.

"You're mine forever," I corrected her, but I was really saying 'This love of ours is meant to be.'