Disclaimer: Twilight is owned by Stephenie Meyer. I am only borrowing a few of her characters. The remainder of the story is my own. No reproduction is permitted without my written consent.


Chapter 17 – Third Wheel (Double Date)

EPOV

With a grunt, Anthony heaved the shutter in place next to Isabella's second story window. He didn't even spare a glance for the car that pulled up behind him in the driveway.

I had all the time in the world while Anthony did my job fixing my girl's house, but after the fiasco with Mike Newton I wasn't about to let my emotions run out of control again. I was doing a much better job of keeping myself in check, so I just watched as Jasper stepped out of his truck in Isabella's driveway. He headed toward the house but on catching site of Anthony he paused. His eyes glanced quickly toward the door and windows looking for any sign of Isabella. Satisfied that she wasn't around, he dropped his bag next to the door and walked over to the base of the ladder where Anthony worked.

"Anthony," he demanded, "I want a word with you."

Anthony continued to ignore him as he balanced precariously on the latter while tightening the screws on the bracket holding the shutter in place. He took his good old time with it while Jasper waited impatiently below. Finally satisfied that everything was secure, he climbed quickly down the ladder and backed up to admire his work.

"I said I want a word with you," Jasper repeated angrily.

"I'm listening," said Anthony.

Satisfied with his work, he turned and started gathering his tools lying next to the house.

"Just what do you think you're doing here?" Jasper said to Anthony's back.

"I'm building a treehouse," he replied sarcastically. "What the hell does it look like I'm doing? I just hung up the fucking shutter."

Anthony stepped around Jasper and heaved his toolbox into the bed of his pickup truck.

"What do you think you're doing hanging around Bella?"

Leaning against his truck as if the conversation already worn him out, Anthony said, "I'm not hanging around Bella. She asked me to fix her shutter so I fixed it. What's so fucking complicated about that?"

"I'll tell you what's so complicated. I know your type. Bella's been through a lot and she doesn't need someone like you hanging around."

Surprisingly, Anthony ignored the jab.

"Look man, I get that you're worried about Bella but it's not like that. She's kinda like the little sister I never had."

"Bella doesn't need you. She's got me. I'm her brother. I'll take care of her."

"Yeah, you've done a hell of a job so far." He slammed his tailgate shut. "I can tell there's something messed up about that girl. Some days I think she's running and some days I think she's looking for home."

"I will do whatever it takes to make sure Bella is happy. And as for Alice," he said before Anthony interrupted.

"As for Alice, we may have our issues, but it's all in the family, and I aim to keep it there. And if anyone outside the family should hurt her I will end them. Do I make myself clear?"

Jasper eyed him up for a moment, then grudgingly held out his hand. "I think we've reached an understanding."

Anthony glared but shook hands before jumping into his truck and starting the engine. Luckily, Jasper was smart enough to step away because Anthony made no attempt to avoid him as he peeled out of the driveway.

Jasper just shook his head before grabbing the bag he had dropped and walking in the door. Isabella wasn't around, so he dropped his things in the corner and helped himself to a cup of coffee like he owned the place.

Not a minute later Alice popped in the door.

"Hey, baby." Jasper greeted her with a kiss. I was getting ready to fling a piece of fruit at his head to get them to break it up when Alice pulled away.

"Is Bella ready?"

"I just heard the shower turn off. She should be down soon."

He poured a second cup of coffee for Alice.

"Hey, what did you do to piss off Anthony?" she asked. "He almost ran me off the road coming around the curve a minute ago."

"He what?"

"Don't worry, he swerved back into his lane with plenty of room to spare. But his aura, I caught a quick glimpse and I could tell that somebody said something to piss him off, so it was either you or..."

She looked straight at me. I put on my best innocent face, though I wasn't quite sure how it looked to her.

Isabella poked her head around the corner, hair still damp from her shower. "Jasper, don't be mean to Anthony."

"Hello to you too, sis," he replied sarcastically.

She rolled her eyes. "He's doing a great job with the house and his rates are cheap. This place would be a wreck if I didn't have him."

"Don't worry about it. I just told him to watch himself and that I was looking out for you. If it makes you feel any better, he told me pretty much the same thing regarding Alice."

Alice smiled sweetly.

Jasper realized that he wasn't going to win and changed the subject.

"Are we ready to go, or what?

"My backpack is by the door. I just need to find my creek walking shoes." Isabella disappeared back up the stairs.

We all piled into Isabella's truck. It wasn't too crowded with the four of us, since I didn't actually take up any space. Jasper drove, Alice sat in the middle, calling out directions, and Bella sat on the right, looking like she wanted to be somewhere else. I wanted to ask her why, but there was no way for us to communicate on the bumpy ride.

After about 20 minutes, we turned down a gravel road into the woods and stopped in a small clearing. Once everyone was ready with their packs, Alice led the way down a steep trail that ended in a wide creek bed.

"This is beautiful, Alice. How did you know where to find it?" Isabella asked.

"Oh, I spent many summer days here as a kid. A bunch of us would pack a lunch, hitch a ride out here and spend the day in the cool water."

The three of them plunged into the creek and began walking downstream. There hadn't been much rain the last few weeks, so the water level was low.

"So I hear Alice is keeping you entertained," Jasper said.

Isabella snorted. "Oh, it's been highly entertaining. Did she tell you about our night at the hippie commune?"

"No, that must have slipped her mind," he said looking pointedly at Alice.

"Yes I did! I told you all about Ravenwood," Alice protested.

"Oh yeah, she said you went to a bonfire. I figured it was roasted marshmallows and campfire songs."

"Oh, there was a bonfire and singing, or maybe chanting is a better term for it. There were fire twirlers, and dancers, and naked people! Did she tell you about the naked people, Jasper?"

Jasper gave her an exasperated look. "Are you trying to corrupt my kid sister?"

Alice wasn't going to take it lightly. She turned and said pointedly, "Absolutely not. I was trying to cleanse her aura. There was nothing of a corrupting nature happening at all, at least, not that early in the evening."

"My aura was didn't need cleansing."

"It totally did," she said to Jasper. "You should have seen how it lit up when we were finished."

Jasper just shook his head. He was head over heels for Alice, but he still didn't quite believe in everything she said.

"Well, what about my aura? If you're nice to me I'll let you cleanse it tonight," flirted Jasper, taking the conversation to a place neither Isabella nor I wanted to tag along.

Slowly, Alice stalked back to him. "Baby, your aura is so clean it sparkles," she said in a low voice before engaging him in a tight lip lock.

Isabella rolled her eyes and continued down the creek a few yards where she settled on a low rock by the edge. She pulled out her lunch from her backpack and took a bite from her sandwich. Spying a patch of sand next to her, she scooted over and reached out to smooth it with her hand.

"Edward?" she whispered.

"Yes, Love," I wrote in the sand in front of her.

She smiled. "I knew you were here with me. I can feel you."

"I wouldn't be anywhere else." It was surprisingly easy to write in the soft sand.

"Thank goodness. It would be awkward to be alone with those two."

"Feeling like a third wheel?"

She smiled. "No. Not as long as you're here."

Jasper and Alice hadn't let up. He now both hands squeezing her backside. We both looked away again. Bella's cheeks were pink, but the smirk on her face told me she wasn't unhappy about it. I thought I was doing a splendid job of repressing my desire to launch a rock at his head. Alice was my niece, after all, and if someone other than her husband had tried that when I was alive, I would have no choice but to defend her honor.

"That should be illegal," I wrote. "They aren't even married."

Bella giggled, but covered her mouth quickly, trying to be quiet. She didn't want to draw Jasper's attention to our strange behavior. Glancing back up the creek, I saw that it was ok. Alice now had him pinned to the ground and kept his attention fully occupied. I had to look away again because I didn't want to watch as his hands headed further into restricted territory.

"You're such a prude," she whispered. "This is the twenty first century. Alice is right. We need to educate you on women's lib."

"?"

"You don't think women stopped once they won the right to vote, did you?"

"No," I wrote, dragging out the tail of the 'o'. Her tone made me think this was not necessarily a safe topic. It was clear that a lot of things had changed, but I wasn't sure how, or why, or how far those changes had gone.

"Oh, Edward," she said in what I had come to think of as her school teacher voice. "Women today can do anything men can do. They can be doctors and lawyers, they can fight in the military, and someday we will even have a woman president."

"Women had to fight hard for all those things, and more. The right to have access to birth control was a big one."

"Birth control?" I asked. "They needed to control the birth of their children?" I was being a bit of a goof. I knew what birth control was. Heck, every soldier in Europe knew how to use a condom. In fact, they had just become legal in the United States in 1918. Still, it wasn't really a topic for polite company.

Bella shook her head and plodded on.

"Birth control gives women some measure of control over whether or not they become pregnant. But the important thing was the freedom it gave to women. For the first time, women could sleep with anyone they wanted without having to worry about an unplanned pregnancy. It was truly liberating."

"There are lots of different methods, condoms, diaphrams, sponges, the pill." She paused, no doubt wondering how much detail to go into.

"I know what the birth control pill is," I cut in, desperate to redirect the conversation.

"Oh really?" she asked.

"Alice explained after Mike..." I stopped, realizing that I had gone in an even worse direction. We had slowly been patching our relationship and I didn't want to remind her about the incident with Mike Newton.

"Oh, I wasn't there for that part of the conversation." She blushed again.

"You are beautiful when you blush like that." She turned an even deeper shade of red.

"Yeah, look at me. I'm supposed to be a liberated woman, and I can't even talk about sex without turning red."

"So that's why you have them? You want to..." I didn't know why I even asked. It was none of my business.

"Well, yeah, someday," she said shyly. A shadow crossed her face. "Though now that I think about it, maybe I won't be needing them after all."

It was like a knife to the gut. I wanted her to be happy, to have a life, but the thought of her and some bonehead like Newton got me steamed.

"You should," I wrote, though it nearly killed me to do it.

"Should what?" she asked with a touch of confusion.

"Find someone."

"What?"

"Someone who will make you happy. Someone you can... be with."

"Be with?" she asked skeptically. "Like who?"

This woman was going to be the death of me, but I was determined to put her happiness first, and if she wanted ..., well, I wasn't going to stand in her way.

"Newton."

Isabella fell over cackling in laughter. It took a full minute for her to pull herself together again?

"You think I want Mike Newton?" she asked. "And how does that make you feel."

I didn't answer.

"Edward?" she asked again.

"I'm jealous okay!"

Isabella sat straight up, but her eyes never left the words on the ground.

"Jealous?" she repeated.

I gave a mental sigh. I hadn't intended to write that word.

"Yes, jealous. I want to be the one to..."

"How I wish…" I scratched in the sand again.

"What do you wish? Just what does a ghost wish for exactly?" she asked.

"A body. Lips to kiss you like Alice is kissing Jasper." I peeked back at Alice and Jasper again. Jasper was on top now, with Alice writhing under him. "Hands to touch your body, feel the smoothness of your skin as I run my fingers up your side."

She closed her eyes, as if she was imagining the scene I described. I could almost feel it, my lips on her neck, my fingers tracing the skin on her sides under her shirt.

"I'd love to be able to just..."

"Just what?"

"Tickle you." She squealed the instant the words appeared as if she could actually feel my fingers dig into her sides.

"Edward!" she whispered, "Behave yourself!"

She jumped as she felt a hand touch her shoulder. "Bella, I think we need to talk."

We both spun around on the ground to see Jasper who had somehow disengaged himself from Alice. She sat back on the rock where they had been making out just a moment ago, her knees pulled up to her chest, and an apologetic look on her face.

"What's wrong Jasper? If it's about you and Alice, I'm okay with it, though you guys need to get a room," Isabella said.

"It's not about Alice, it's about you. I'm worried about you. I think living alone out here is going to your head." There was a look of true concern on his face.

"Jasper, I'm fine here. I really like it, and I've made some friends already," she assured him.

"Friends like this Edward?"

Her breath caught in her chest. "What do you know about Edward?" she gasped.

"Alice said that he's your ghost, but she wouldn't say anything else. And don't blame her. I heard you say his name a minute ago."

We looked up at Alice. She had her face down in her hands now. She clearly hadn't intended to spill the beans this way.

"Bella, I think you need to talk to someone about this." Jasper sat down on the rock next to her and put his arm around her back. "You are not dealing with Jake's death. I know its hard to live without someone you loved and cared about, but you can't invent a companion. Jake wouldn't want to see you like this."

"Ha. That's for sure," she mumbled. Something in her tone must have surprised him because he turned and looked at her, really looked into her eyes.

"I don't understand you, Bella. It's like you are repressing your emotions. I haven't seen you shed a tear over his death since the day you told Billy about it. I think you need to talk to a professional."

Something clicked in Isabella's head at his words, and a look of angry determination spread over her face.

"You think I'm crazy because I'm not crying my eyes out over my husband's death? My husband who blamed me for the death of my unborn baby?" She jumped to my feet.

"The same husband who told me every day for the last year of our marriage how useless I was? How I was holding him back? How he never should have married a fucking prude like me!" She was screaming and sobbing now.

"Jasper, you don't know anything about my marriage and you don't know anything about me!"

Jasper just looked back up at her, stunned.

Bella grabbed her backpack, threw it over her shoulder and ran back up the creek without looking back. Jasper tried to follow her, but Alice held him back.

"Give her a few minutes," she said, folding him into a hug. She nodded at me over his shoulder as I followed Isabella.

She didn't stop running until she had scrambled up the bank back to the clearing where we had left the truck. She pulled on the handle, but it was locked.

"Damn it!" she screamed pounding on the door. "Jasper has the keys."

She leaned against the side of the truck for a moment with her eyes closed. I wanted so badly to hold her, to tell her everything would be okay, but there was nothing I could do. I could only watch over her silently.

With a sigh, she stood up, wiped her eyes and started marching up the lane to the road. We hadn't made it a quarter mile up the road before the familiar rumble of a pickup truck came up behind us.

Isabella glanced over her shoulder, then hung her head as if trying to come to some decision.

Anthony pulled to a stop next to her and rolled down the window.

"Bella, what the hell are you doing out here? You're ten miles from home," he shouted over the rumble of the engine.

"I was hiking in the creek with Alice and Jasper, but Jasper and I got into an argument."

"That son of a bitch! I don't care if he's your brother. If he lays a finger on you or Alice, I swear."

"Alice and I are fine," Isabella said, "and don't you go causing trouble." Isabella shook her finger at him in her best schoolmarm voice, though her eyes were still red from crying.

"Fuck!" Anthony swore again under his breath.

He pushed the passenger door open.

"Get in. I'll give you a ride back to town." Isabella hesitated only a moment before realizing it was either hitch a ride with Anthony, or wait for Alice and Jasper.

They were both quiet for a few moments before Anthony's curiosity got the better of him.

"So what did he do to make you run off like that?" he asked.

Isabella took a deep breath. "He thinks I'm not sufficiently worked up over the loss of my ex-husband."

"Ex-husband?" He glanced over at her with raised eyebrow. "I didn't realize you were divorced."

Isabella gave a small laugh.

"Technically, I'm not. The asshole died in a car crash before I could get him to sign the papers." Anthony and I were both a bit startled by her choice of words, but neither of us was going to argue.

"So, if this guy was such and asshole," Anthony continued, "why does Jasper think you owe him anything?"

Isabella sat for a long minute, staring at the road ahead. Anthony didn't push her.

Finally she answered. "Because I never told him. I never told any of my family about the hell my marriage turned out to be."

Anthony gripped the steering wheel so hard his knuckles turned white, but he didn't give any other reaction.

"I couldn't bear for them to know what kind of man he really was, or for them to know how I failed so spectacularly in my marriage."

They were both quiet for a few more minutes as the truck rumbled down the road.

"Look," Anthony said, "I don't know your brother, but he seems to care about you."

"He does," Bella whispered. "You would think he's a great guy if you took the time to get to know him."

"Then you need to tell him. He would want to know. He's gonna be pissed that too late for him to hurt the asshole. Hell, I'm pissed, and I didn't even know him."

Isabella was quiet again as she thought through everything that he said.

"You're right," she said finally. "I should have told him a long time ago."

Anthony pulled up next to Isabella's house.

"Are you sure you're okay?" he asked.

"Yeah. Jasper will follow me back here. I'll talk to him today. We're way overdue for this, I think." She smiled resolutely and climbed out of the truck.

As soon as he saw her open her door, he backed out of the driveway and tore off down the road.

Isabella set her bag down inside the door and sat down at the kitchen table with her head in her hands. I was dying to talk to her, but I couldn't do anything until she was ready.

We waited only a minute or two before Jasper burst the door open in a panic.

"Thank God," he said. "I had no idea where you had disappeared to."

"I told you she would be fine," Alice said as she followed him inside.

"Sorry." Isabella smiled weakly. "Anthony just happened to be driving by and gave me a lift."

Jasper huffed at the mention of Anthony, but shook it off and sat down at the table across from Isabella.

"Talk to me," he said. "I want to know everything."

"It's a long story. I'm not even sure how I got in so deep, so quickly. Everything was fine while we were dating. But then I got pregnant, and before I knew it, I was married, I lost the baby, and I was stuck in this nightmare."

"He isolated me. Wouldn't let me really talk to any of my friends or my family. You were at school, and when we did go to see Dad, Jake never left me alone with him. We had to keep up this act like we were always the happy couple."

He reached out and held her hand but didn't say anything.

"Jasper, I took years of abuse from him. Oh, he never laid a finger on me, but he still nearly destroyed me. Do you know what it's like to hear that every day? To hear someone you once loved tell you that you were the biggest mistake of their life? That you don't deserve him? That his life would be so much better without your weight dragging him down?"

Isabella had tried to bury these feelings, but now that she had started, she couldn't seem to stop. She needed to purge it once and for all.

Jasper stood and walked over to her, reaching up to pull her hair back out of her eyes. "Bella, why didn't you say something? Why didn't you tell me or your dad? We would have stopped it."

She couldn't look at him, so she buried her face in his shoulder where the fabric of his shirt absorbed her tears.

"It took me years to recognize it for what it was. I just thought that this was how my life was supposed to be. I didn't want to run out like mom did. I just took it all, until one day when I saw a flyer hanging in a women's restroom that said 'Nobody deserves to be abused'. It was like a revelation. The flyer listed the warning signs. It was like they had written a personality profile of Jake. I pulled a card from the dispenser and called it later that evening after he stormed out of the apartment."

"Oh, Bella," Jasper hugged her to him tightly.

"That was when things started to turn around. They set me up with a counselor who helped me to realize that I was a good person who deserved a happy life. After three months of counseling I finally decided that I couldn't go on living with him. I needed to divorce him.

"For a year I had nightmares about the day I would give him the divorce papers, and he found them before I could work up the courage. He had no idea that I was going to counseling at the women's center. Instead, he accused me of cheating on him. He called me a whore and demanded to know who I was sleeping with. Somehow he got it into his head that it was his friend Tyler Crowley from high school. Tyler used to try to flirt with me, and Jake always hated it."

She wiped another tear from her eye.

"Jake was shaking with rage. I was so frightened that I locked myself in the bathroom. He pounded on the door screaming and raving, but he was torn between punishing me and Tyler. Finally, he must have realized that he could take care of me any time, and decided to go after Tyler. He stormed out of the house, yelling and cursing at him.

"I must have huddled in the bathroom alone for an hour until I was sure he was gone. Finally, I got up the nerve to peek out the door. The house was silent, and Jake's car was gone. I tried to call Tyler to warn him, but he wasn't answering the phone. I hoped to God that Jake couldn't find him either.

"It was strange being in the quiet house all alone. I had no idea how soon Jake would be back, so I ran upstairs and threw a few a few things a bag. I just knew that I could never spend another night under the same roof as Jake. I didn't know where I was going, but it didn't matter.

"I opened the door, ready to bolt outside, and there standing in the doorway was a state policeman. He asked if I was Mrs. Black. I can remember his exact words. He took off his hat, looked me in the eye and said, 'Mrs. Black, I'm sorry to tell you that your husband was killed in a car accident.'"

Jasper hugged her tightly again.

"Oh, Bella, why couldn't you tell me, or Charlie, or anyone? We would have gotten you out of there. You know, I was so worried about you during those years. We hardly saw you. I just assumed that you wanted to put your marriage first and spend time with your husband. I can't believe I let things go on like that!"

"Jasper, listen to me." She pulled back to look him in the eye. "It's not your fault. It's not mine. If it was anyone's fault it was Jake's. Almost two years of counseling has made me see that. Jake was the one who couldn't control himself. He was the one who tried to blame everyone around him for his problems. He got himself killed and freed me in the process."

She rested her head back on his shoulder again.

"I felt so guilty about that at first. Telling Billy was the worst part. His only son was gone and I had to hide my relief at being free. I know I looked like the grieving widow at the funeral, but I was really grieving for Billy and the loss of his son, the boy who was once my friend."

Alice came forward and sat on the chair next to her. I had almost forgotten that she was here.

"Oh Bella," she said, "I had no idea that you had been through something that terrible."

"I thought you were the psychic," Isabella replied, laughing through her tears.

"It doesn't work that way. I only see glimpses of the future, not that the garbled mess of images does me any good."

"You know, moving here was the best thing I could have done. I've found people who make life worth living again."

Jasper looked down, but the sorrow was evident on his face.

"Jasper, you know you have always been important to me, but I hardly saw you while you were away at school. It's been great having you nearby again, and I feel like I've found a true friend in Alice. And …"

She paused, uncertain of whether how much Jasper was ready to hear.

"And Edward?" he asked.

"Jasper, you just don't understand about Edward. He is real," she said pointedly.

Jasper leaned his head down in his hands shaking it vigorously. "Bella, I think you need help."

"No, Jasper. Can't you see that I am finally healing?" He picked up his head and looked at her again. "I had nightmares for a year until I moved here. Edward made them go away. I don't want to live without him. Besides, if anyone in town finds out, they'll think I'm crazy. I could lose my job and my house. And…"

"And Edward," he said with finality.

"Jasper," said Alice quietly, "I think you need to trust Bella on this. She's not crazy."

It was funny to watch Jasper as he stared into Alice's eyes. All the tension seemed to drain from his body. His shoulders relaxed, and he couldn't help but smile at her. They had only known each other a few weeks, but they had developed some connection that allowed her to convince him. I wasn't sure if he really believed her, but he decided to leave it for the moment.

"Bella, does Charlie know? About Jake, I mean," Jasper asked.

She looked down. "No. He was always so fond of Jake. I didn't want to ruin their relationship."

"Bella, he is your dad first. He loves you. He would always choose you over Jake. You need to tell him."

"Yeah, you're right. It's just so hard. I don't know what he'll say."

"I can tell you what he'll say. He'll hit the roof. But he won't be mad at you. Charlie will be sorry Jake went and got himself killed before he could get his hands on him."

"Anthony said the same thing."

Jasper rolled his eyes. "Bella, I may not like him, but he's right."

"I know. I need to tell him. Just, not today, okay? I've had enough emotional turmoil for one day."

Alice stood up and walked to Jasper.

"Come on. Let's go back to my place and let Bella rest."

Reluctantly, Jasper got up. Isabella met him at the door, and he pulled her into a hug.

"Don't ever be afraid to come to me with anything. I just want to see you happy and I'll do everything in my power to help you."

One last tear squeezed from her eye as she clung to him tightly for a moment.

"I love you, Jasper. You are the best brother I could imagine."

Jasper placed a kiss on top of his sister's head and let go.

"Call me, okay?" he said.

Isabella nodded.

Alice gave Isabella a quick hug and followed him out.

Just as the door closed behind her, Isabella's eyes hit the diary sitting on the counter. She yanked the door open again and called, "Alice, can you come back for a second, I have something for you."

Alice motioned to Jasper that she would be right back and followed her back into the kitchen.

Isabella handed Alice the diary. "I found this a few weeks ago and thought you should have it."

Alice studied the book. The plain brown binding gave no hint to the contents.

"Open it," said Isabella.

Alice opened the book and flipped to the first page.

"Diary of Rosalie Masen," she read.

She looks up in shock.

"What? Wh... where did you get this?" she asked.

"It's a long story," said Bella.

Alice looked out the window at Jasper who was waiting for her next to his truck and back down at the book in her hands. She hesitated a moment, torn in multiple directions. Finally, she clutched the book tightly to her chest.

"We are not done with this conversation," she said pointedly, then she turned around and hurried out the door after Jasper.

Isabella watched silently out the window as Alice and Jasper pulled out of the driveway. Once their cars disappeared around the bend, she went to the living room, pulled the Ouija board off its shelf, and placed it in its spot on the floor.

All the words I had bottled up through the afternoon wanted to pour forth, but I held back and only asked her, "Are you okay?"

"I'm fine," she said. "That conversation with Jasper was a long time coming."

"I know how he feels," I replied. "I wish I could have been there for you. I hate that you went through so much alone."

"There was nothing you could have done. I think the fact that I was able to break away myself was a good thing. I mean, if I had to do it over, I would definitely go to Jasper or Dad for help. But it's allowed me to build a lot of confidence in myself that I was missing for a long time."

"You are stronger than you know."

"I just wish Jasper hadn't said those things about you."

"Don't worry about me," I wrote. "Maybe he is right."

"What do you mean?" she asked.

"You have so much of your life still ahead of you. You can marry a nice guy, have a family. You don't need to be tied down to some moldy old ghost."

"I told you, Edward, I don't want that. I just want to be happy. You make me happy."

She thought for a moment.

"Unless you don't want to stay with me," she added.

"Don't think that! I feel like I have been waiting a hundred years to find you. I wish I had a body, but if this is the only way I can be with you, then it is worth it."

"I love you, Edward."

"I love you too. You are my life now."


Author's note:

Again, thanks for being patient with me. This was a difficult chapter to write, due to the heavy subject matter. While Jake's abuse never reached the point of physical contact, it was very real, and debilitating. Bella is not done healing, but she is on the right road.

The next few chapters are some of the most interesting. I've been looking forward to them for a long time. I hope to get them out relatively soon. Reviews and moral support help.