The Jukebox Contest Entry
Song choice: Gravity by Sara Bareilles
Disclaimer: It's not mine—any Twilight quotes, characters, or Sara Bareilles song usage.
Spring cleaning was always such a pain in the neck. I always seemed to have a hard time getting rid of things, and I was worried that soon my friends would submit my name into consideration for that TV show Hoarders. So it was with this fear that I had pulled down a dozen boxes out of my attic that I'd been holding onto for quite awhile. I laughed as I came across a box filled with knick-knacks from my Grandparent's beach house, and I quietly cried when I found another box with pictures from my parents' wedding and how happy they once looked together. After through box after box for hours and decided to tackle one more before taking a break for the day. I opened the last box and coughed as the dust flew up into my face. As I peeked in, I fell back on my butt as that familiar and haunting scent assaulted me, making me almost sick to my stomach.
They say you never get over your first love, and I'm beginning to realize how true that statement really was. No matter how hard I tried, I just couldn't seem to move on. It'd been quite a few years now since the last time I'd seen his face, but if I closed my eyes I could still see him clear as day. He was standing there in front of me while I cried, begging him not to go. He leaned forward and kissed my forehead, whispering promises that he loved me.
I picked up a photograph in a rusted frame and cracked glass. It felt like it was only moments since I'd last seen him, touched him, and loved him. In the picture we were sitting on a couch together. His arm was wrapped around my shoulder tightly, tucking me against his body. His eyes were sparkling and my cheeks were flushed. It was a good memory and I was secretly ecstatic when Bella gave me a copy of the photo.
I set it back in the box and closed my eyes. I wasn't sure I had the strength to look through the rest. Not that I needed to look in it to know exactly what was inside—I was a glutton for punishment, saving mementos and pictures of those days. told myself that one day I'd look back in that box and smile, but perhaps today was not that day.
My eyes began to water and that sick feeling in my stomach returned—it'd been haunting me for years, ever since the last time I saw him.
"Don't worry, baby, I'll find a way back to you. I'll always find my way back to you. You're my everything."
I suddenly found myself running to the bathroom and throwing up that morning's breakfast. I ran some cool water across my face as I heard a knock at the door. I opened it and Bella was standing there with a stupid grin on her face and a paper bag in her hands.
"Hey! I was just downtown and they re-opened that cupcake shop we loved back in college so I grabbed us some. I got Red Velvet, your favorite," she rambled on as she walked past me and into the kitchen. She started rustling around in the fridge for some milk and came back with two glasses for us. I unwrapped my cupcake and put a bite in my mouth when she started talking again.
"You'll never guess who owns the shop now—the Hales. Rosalie was at the front counter when I walked in and—"
I could barely swallow the cupcake and immediately wanted to throw it back up. Bella looked at me for a second before realizing her slip up and her face turned apologetic.
"Oh my God, Alice, I am so sorry! I shouldn't have brought it up, I just thought—"
I waved a hand at her and I choked down the bite in my mouth. "It's fine. I'm fine."
She gave me a pointed look. "You don't look fine."
"I'm fine," I reassured her. We both knew I wasn't.
She stared down at her cupcake and the silence was so thick you could cut it with a knife.
"Did she say anything—" I started to ask, knowing she'd finish the question for me.
She looked up at me and my heart wanted to break. "He's been around once or twice. Things have settled down and he's talking to the family again."
I nodded and stared down at my lap. He had been back in town—and more than once—and he hadn't thought to look for me or ask anyone about me? It hurt to feel so insignificant to a boy who I'd once thought was "the one."
But I'd been wrong about other things before, so this revelation shouldn't have surprised me at all.
We were pretty silent after that and I looked over at Bella who was gingerly picking at her cupcake wrapper. I slammed my hand down on the table in frustration.
"Enough! I don't want you walking around on eggshells now because of this! I'm grown up—it's been years since this happened, and I don't want my best friend being all weird and awkward around me!"
She closed her eyes slowly and opened them back up. "You know what? You're right. I'm sorry, and it won't happen again."
I nodded stiffly as I stood up and took the trash and threw it in the can. My mind was wandering with all the possibilities but I forced it out of my mind. I was not going to let his return upset my whole life.
Somehow, against my better judgment, I found myself a few days later walking down the street towards the Post Office. The downtown parking was full so I parked in a lot a few blocks away. Of course I'd have to pass the little cupcake shop on my way, but I figured I could distract myself with the large box in my arms. Edward's birthday was coming up and I'd been gathering a care package to send along with his gift.
I stumbled into the tiny little storefront and dropped the box on the counter with a heavy sigh. "I need to ship this to Phoenix, Arizona."
The post office lady nodded and took the box and began typing into the computer. I anxiously fiddled with my purse string while I waited.
"Is that Alice Brandon?"
Shit. Shit. Shit.
I turned around and gave a fake smile. "Hello, Mrs. Hale."
She instantly pulled me into a hug and began talking over my head. "It's been so long—I didn't know you were still in town. Last time I talked to your mom she said you were in Georgia for school. Are you back here now or just visiting?"
I toyed with the idea of lying, I really did. As much as I wanted to cry into Mrs. Hale's shirt and beg her to tell me that she didn't own the cupcake shop and that…he…wasn't here, I also wanted her to think I wasn't around so I wouldn't come up as a topic of dinner conversation.
To lie or not to lie, that is the question.
"Oh, I'm just visiting—I live in Arizona with Edward Cullen and Angela Weber now. I work as a Registered Nurse and Edward and Angela are in Medical School." The lies just kept coming out one after the other. "It's really great there. My boyfriend and I are really serious—maybe even close to marriage."
She stood there with a shocked look on her face but never pushed me. "Well that sounds wonderful! We've just opened a cupcake shop down the street and Rosie's running the business—you should stop in while you're in town, I'm sure she'd love to see you."
"That sounds—" I started before I was interrupted by the postal worker.
"It's 22.50 for overnight and $15.42 for three-day delivery."
I turned to swipe my card and snatched up the receipt. I turned to Mrs. Hale. "It was nice to see you." See what I mean? The lies just kept coming.
"You too, dear-I hope to see you again before you head back out of town. Maybe you could come over for dinner for one night?"
I fought back my gag reflex at the thought of being at the same table as…
"I'm leaving tomorrow afternoon and have plans tonight, but thank you."
She smiled. "Anytime, sweetheart. You're always welcome at our house."
I wanted to scream at her and smack her down with my purse. Was she blind to all the heartache I went through with her son? She had some nerve to invite me to her house. Now. After all this time.
My heart was racing and I walked as quickly as I could past the cupcake shop, quaintly named Mr. Frosting's. The door was wide open and people were chatting inside although it sounded so loud to my ears. I wanted nothing more than to load up my car and leave this town in the dust.
Once I reached my car I jumped into the front seat and exhaled loudly. I was safe now. I looked up and saw a flier under my windshield wiper and got out to see what it was.
"Mr. Frosting's is back in business and we'd love to see you again! Half price on orders of two dozen or more opening week," I read aloud as a growl ripped into my chest and I started shredding the poor piece of paper into a thousand bits before throwing it up in the air like confetti.
"Fuck my life, seriously. It's time for me to get the hell out of this place," I mumbled to myself as I drove home and went immediately to my room, collapsing on my bed and holding back the strangled cry that threatened to erupt in my throat.
And it was at that moment that a brilliant plan came to mind. I grabbed up my cell phone and began to dial. "Pick up, pick up, pick up," I chanted.
I couldn't fight the grin. "Eddie," I whispered out thankfully.
"Oh no, what's wrong? Whose tail do I need to kick?"
"Mine, I guess."
"Is this about who I think this is about?" He asked sneakily.
"Bella called me. I'm sorry, Al. But you know what? This could be the best chance at closure you're gonna get. And if he even touches one hair on your head I am personally going to fly there and take him out with Chief Swan's gun."
I giggled. There were benefits to having Edward as my best guy friend. "I'm just—part of me wants to see him and part of me doesn't. It's been so long and I've grown up but it's just…something always brings me back to him."
"I know, but you've got to be strong. What he did to you was unforgivable—I know it's really up to you what you do with your life, but I'm not going to let him hurt you again if I can help it. He's a dead man walking in my eyes."
"What if I came out to visit you for a little while?" I begged.
He sighed. "That will only buy you time. As much as I'd love to see you, I'm really swamped right now with my classes—I'm taking this computer coding class that keeps me up at night."
I chuckled, picking at my fingernails as I sat there. "By the way, I ran into Mrs. Hale downtown and I sorta told her I was living with you in Arizona and that I was a nurse and you were a doctor."
He laughed really hard. "With stories like that you need to go into the writing business or the acting field. You're too great to fade into the mainstream."
And just like that I felt empowered again. "Thanks, Edward. And for the record, you're too handsome to be a computer techie—you should be out modeling somewhere."
He laughed again. "Oh you and those stories, Al. Anyway, I gotta go—I've got to get this website done for one of my clients. Keep your head up and keep me posted. I love ya."
"I love you, too. Thanks again."
"Anytime, anywhere, anyplace," he said as he hung up. I sat back against my headboard and looked up at the ceiling.
"What do you have planned for me, Big Guy Upstairs?"
I was met with quiet.
A single tear rolled down my face as I realized how alone I was.
Taking Edward's advice, I started going out more and facing the world. I ran errands and went for walks; of course, I never dared to pass Mr. Frosting's, but I don't think I could be shunned for that. Bella and I started going out for drinks and dinners, talking about our days and our jobs. Of course, graduating from college with a degree in Humanities in a town with no major museums got me essentially nowhere, but I'd been lucky enough to snag a part time job at the dentist's office doing medical filing. It paid to have a dad who knew people.
One night we were out at a local dive, having beers and complaining about our annoying co-workers when Bella, a little too tipsy at this point, felt brave enough to bring up bad subjects.
"So have you seen You-Know-Who around town?"
"New subject, please," I said coldly as I took a long swig from my bottle.
"C'mon, Alice, it's been years—you should be able to talk about this by now."
"I said next subject and if you don't shut up the next two words out of my mouth will be check and please."
She looked down at the table and mumbled out an apology. "I just thought…"
"What about you and Edward, hmm?" I pushed, knowing this was her "off limits" subject. Two could play at that game.
Her face reddened. "What about me and Edward? We're friends."
"And he just hangs on your every word. He's so in love with you it's sickening. When are you two gonna get it through your heads that you should be together? It's been like this since middle school. I told you it would happen, but it won't if you keep dancing around it!"
"Well you also thought you were going to be with Jasper Hale forever, too. And guess what, Alice, you were wrong about that. So you might be wrong about this. Let it go."
I huffed angrily and pulled a twenty out of my wallet and slammed it on the table. "Two new words, Bella Swan: fuck and you." I stormed out of the restaurant and wiped at my eyes, willing back the angry tears. I dug in my purse, looking for something to chew on or bite.
"I sure hope you're not looking for a cigarette—those things'll kill you."
My hand stilled in my purse at those words. Of course. I turned around and delivered an icy stare, but as soon as my eyes met his something inside betrayed me and my whole being felt so weak.
He took a step towards me and I started to count my breaths in order to remain calm. His eyes were trained on me and he looked oh so good in jeans and a t-shirt and lightweight jacket. His eyes looked as shockingly blue as the last time I'd seen him. Even though it'd been a few years he still looked as young and gorgeous. His blonde hair was shaggy, longer than I'd remembered, and his face looked a little worn and tired. But deep down inside, he was still the same Jasper Hale who held my heart all those years ago.
His nickname for me snapped me in two. It felt like the wind had been knocked out of me and I was frozen in place, the sharp shooting pains starting at my head and going down to my feet. But one thing that hadn't stayed the same after all these years was me—I was stronger, older, and wiser. Hearing him trying to act like nothing had changed sparked a fire in me.
My eyes narrowed as I stared him down.
"Don't you dare call me that! The nerve of you, Jasper Hale, coming back to my town after all these years, trying to walk back into my life. No. I waited for you. I waited and I loved you every second of every day. And you didn't even call me! I loved you, Jasper! I was willing to stick by you through anything and you…you promised you'd come back for me."
"It wasn't like—"
I held up my hand. "I don't want to hear your excuses. It's too late now. I can't let you break me again. I just want you to set me free." My knees felt shaky and I hoped I could turn around soon and have this whole shitty evening behind me.
"It wasn't my choice to leave—you knew that! It isn't fair for you to sit here and shut me out when you've gotten to say your peace."
"It was your fault, or do you conveniently not remember that part? Must be sucky for you—you messed up and had to leave because of it. While everyone else was stuck here without a word from you, wondering every day if you were dead or not. Sorry if I don't want to hear about what a great time you had after you left." My chest was heaving because I was so angry and my adrenaline was rushing at this point. It took all I had not to step up and slap him right in the face. Lord knows he had it coming.
He stared at his feet for a second before he turned his eyes back to me. They looked somewhat heavy but I refused to let my guard down in this moment.
"The moment I left town I missed you, Alice. You were the best thing that ever happened in my life. I had to start all over—running all the time and working wherever I could get hired that wouldn't ask too many questions. That's not the life I wanted for you. And I couldn't call you because I was scared—scared they'd find you or scared that I'd ask you to come be with me. I never stopped loving you. Not for one second. But it was never safe for you to be with me. It was never safe for you to love me."
And in that second, I faltered. What if all I had thought was wrong? What if he and I could make it work after all this time? What if he was my destiny and I was right all those years ago?
He took a step closer and I felt my skin reacting like a livewire. There was no doubting our chemistry, and I could feel his breath on my face. If I opened my eyes, I know we'd be mere centimeters from kissing. That couldn't happen—if he kissed me it would be all over. I'd be sucked back into the whole relationship, and as much as my body and heart craved that physical connection to him, I could never ever forget all of the pain and hurt. Just thinking about it transported me back in time and my whole body shuddered.
"She meant nothing to me. You're my one. I make mistakes. I'll always love you alone."
"It was just once. It isn't as bad as it sounds."
"I have to leave town before the police start asking questions."
"We'll be together soon. A love like this could never die."
And just as quickly as he drew me in, his past reminded me of the strength I'd grown since he'd abandoned me. I was no longer the trusting and naïve little girl of 19 who would have followed him like a puppy on his heels. No, now I was Alice Brandon, a grown woman who knew she deserved better than excuses. I swallowed thickly before saying the words that I'd practiced in my head for years. I stared into his eyes for what I imagined would be the last time.
"Leave me be, Jasper. I'm sorry, but you should act like I never existed."
I closed my eyes and waited—waited for him to fight for us, to tell me I was being ridiculous and that we were wasting time being stupid.
But I was met with silence. I opened my eyes to find him gone, and although I didn't want to, I looked around, wondering where he had gone. The sidewalk was empty and suddenly everything had grown still.
It was dark out now, and the street lights were buzzing on for the evening. I took the time to walk home slowly, letting traitorous tears flow freely. This evening had been so heavy for me and I just wanted to go home and eat ice cream until I was ill. My heart was healing and breaking at the same time and I didn't know how to deal with it.
I imagined this moment in my head hundreds of times and I'd practiced in the mirror, but I wasn't prepared for this—for looking him dead in the eye and telling him to leave me alone, for the empty ache in my chest when I opened my eyes and found him gone. I'd always believed in fairy tales and happy endings—that my knight, perhaps in dented armor, would always fight for me and rescue me.
But fairytales didn't always come true—and it definitely didn't happen for me.
Exhausted from the emotional evening and long day, I walked up the steps and caught my breath when I saw a piece of paper stuck in the door handle of the screen door. I pulled it loose and unfolded it.
It was a picture of me and Jasper back in the "good days." He was smiling at me and I was sticking my tongue out and laughing. The edges were worn and the picture was faded in spots, like it'd been carried around in a wallet.
I turned it over to find his handwriting on the back. "You've kept me waiting a long time."
I fought back a sob. I was so strong back at the restaurant. I stood tall and held my ground, doing what was best for me. But it seemed like no matter what I said or did, I was always sucked back in.
I sat down on the steps and slumped my shoulders. I was at a loss about what to do—Jasper was reaching out to me with this picture. But it was too late, right? He'd hurt me more times than I could count; even if they were unintentional, that didn't make the pain hurt any less.
I knew deep down in my heart that part of me would always have feelings for Jasper. A love that strong doesn't just fade away, but right now I had to do what was best for me. It was time for me to live my life for me, and the only way to do that was to let go of the one man who'd been tying me to this town. I needed to set myself free from all the pain and hurt and look forward to a better outlook on life.
No matter how much I loved Jasper Hale, I loved myself more.
"Goodbye," I whispered softly at the picture, taking one final glance at the man who I'd once thought was my destiny.
a/n: thanks to everyone who read, reviewed, and voted for me in the Jukebox Contest Your love is well appreciated!
This was a great writing exercise for me and some parts really hit home. Thanks for the support of my friends and a special thanks to Miss Maggie for being my super speedy beta!