Title: Since Feeling Is First
Disclaimer: I do not own Twilight, Bella, Jasper or any other mentioned characters; they belong to Stephanie Meyer. I do not own the lines of poetry in the first part of the story or the title, they belong to E.E. Cummings. I do not own the song lyrics in this chapter, they are from ''Rebels'' by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, off the album ''Southern Accents.''
It was very rare anymore that I had a few moments alone; to be calm. Serenity was, I figured, by now something that I would have to do without. My life had become one hectic misadventure after the next, a strange Gothic novella spiraling out of control. I had grown, over time I suppose, to believe that this was simply to be the natural ebb and flow of my existence: life and death, the frailty of humanity, the frightening, exhilarating, finite understanding that what most people on earth believed to be absolute fantastic, was, without a doubt, absolutely, blindingly real. And while I was grateful to have firsthand proof of that, it was still—though I hated to admit it—a bit of a burden. Being still and calm and enjoying the simple things that occupied the lives of most people, the things that they took for granted, felt like an alien task to me, after all I had been swept up in.
It was a late Tuesday afternoon, and I was sitting in the Cullen's living room, watching the patterns of the shadows as the sun set outside the window, absently twirling my hair. Edward, Emmett, Alice, and Rosalie were out hunting. Esme and Carlisle had gone off somewhere on another errand. I was not alone in the house—Edward wouldn't allow that; he was terribly reluctant about letting me out of his sight even for a short time. Jasper was here, somewhere. He must have been selected for Bella-sitting detail. I rolled my eyes slightly at the thought. I had the sense that he was trying to give me some privacy, but somehow I could almost feel him listening. Jasper didn't listen the normal, human way, of course, and he didn't listen the way Edward could—there was no mind reading there. But Jasper could read the emotions of others almost like a thermometer, and also control them, which, if you really thought about it was almost more dangerous a talent. Thinking and feeling were two entirely different things altogether.
Then, cutting the silence and making my heart shudder a bit, a soft voice came from the doorway behind me.
''Since feeling is first,who pays any attention to the syntax of things will never wholly kiss you.''
I whipped my head around and saw Jasper, lean and golden-eyed, propped lazily against the doorframe, watching me.
''Jesus!'' I swore, and he laughed. His laugh felt like warmth sliding over me. I was briefly reminded of Phoenix. Of sun. Of the desert that seemed to last forever.
''Nah,'' he drawled, still chuckling a bit. ''Just Jasper, I'm afraid, ma'am.''
I turned myself around to face him completely. ''What was that you said before?'' I asked. ''It sounded like…gibberish.''
Jasper feigned a look of utter shock. ''Why Ms. Swan…I can't believe someone as smart as you would dare think such a thing. It's poetry.'' The corners of his mouth twitched lightly, as though he were desperately trying to fight back a smile.
I shrugged. ''I didn't really hear what you said,'' I offered.
Jasper nodded. ''I know. That's the point.''
''Huh?'' I asked, slightly confused. But not annoyed. Curious, almost.
He moved closer, sitting down on the edge of the couch beside me. ''Let me repeat for you then, if I may.''
But his lips didn't move. There was no sound, no unfamiliar lines of poetry. Instead, there was just a feeling. As deep and warm as my happiest memory, as my love for my family—both of my families, as the first time I ever heard the melody of my favorite song send my spirit swirling. And then the feeling grew, expanded like a slowly building supernova—an indescribable emotion, so deep and so vast that it felt like my heart was being cut apart. It was longing, sorrow, but also, inexplicably—joy.
I felt like such an idiot when I realized that there were tears on my face. I looked at Jasper, confused and furious. His eyes bothered me. They weren't like Edward's. When I looked in Jasper's eyes, that strange golden space seemed to go on forever, down roads that I did not want to go. Eyes that had seen too much. Or, more likely, felt too much.
''Did you do that somehow?'' I demanded, feeling slightly naked. ''What was the point—some weird kind of power trip?''
He didn't answer. We both looked out the window for a moment. He seemed mesmerized by the encroaching night. Neither of us spoke. The strength of the sudden wave of emotion in me was ebbing, not nearly as tremendous and tear-inducing, but still there, somehow, like a faint heartbeat.
''Wholly to be a fool,while spring is in the world,'' Jasper murmured softly, almost, I thought, bitterly. He gave me one last strange, lingering golden glance and then got up and moved out of the room without making a sound.
For whatever reason, after my strange ''conversation'' with Jasper, I began to consider things a little more—simple things. I found myself being drawn to the subtle patterns in the petals of a flower, of the lines on my own palm. It felt silly, but these small things seemed to me suddenly large and important—they yelled, almost, with a voice all their own.
I suppose I found myself daydreaming more, also. This daydreaming seemed more like, well, revisiting if that made any sense. They were all very much like memories. And the strangest things seemed to bring on these daydreams; for example, I'd catch the faint smell of pecan pie while walking past the bakery in town. And then I'd become oddly nostalgic, thinking of when I was young and Renee had one of those fancy scented candles that smelled just like it. I'd feel safe, like being wrapped in a sweet, sugary cocoon of fall weather and candles and warm blankets and cinnamon. It didn't make any sense, but it made me…happy. So happy that the moment I smelled it I almost started to cry again, the way I had the other day. Embarrassed, I hurried past the bakery, urging my feet to move faster as I headed toward the Cullen's house, trying desperately to think of something else, something like…calculus, something without a memory, or feeling, scent or flavor. Something cold and hard like stone; finite and absolute. A law. A set of rules. Something controlled.
When I got to the Cullen's house the next day, Edward wasn't there. This was strange to me; there hadn't been a hint of any danger in the air, but still he typically hovered around me like a hawk. Not that I minded his presence, of course, I depended upon it, but at times his protectiveness bordered on the obsessive. The house was virtually empty. I shivered, standing in the middle of the silent living room.
''They'll all be back soon,'' came a voice from the staircase, a very recognizable Southern drawl. Ugh, my newly appointed babysitter.
''Jasper…'' I said, through gritted teeth, ''you really need to stop doing that.''
He smirked. Somehow, it felt odd that I wasn't at all frightened being alone with him. He had wanted to kill me at one point, turned feral by the scent of my blood. No, I wasn't frightened. Just slightly…unsettled, perhaps. Not in an uncomfortable sense, but something felt a little topsy-turvy, like the disorientation that you feel after stepping off of a boat, before your legs re-adjust to solid ground.
''My apologies, Bella,'' Jasper said, inclining his head towards me in a slight bow. ''I'm sorry if I bothered you yesterday. I hadn't meant to intrude, you just looked a little lonesome. Sorry you got stuck here with me again. Everyone will be back in a few hours.'' Then he raised his eyes up to stare at me, flashing a sudden, almost silly grin.
''Do you want to listen to music?'' he asked.
I laughed, but wound up coughing and sputtering, having literally choked on my own laughter. I really was the world's greatest klutz. ''Uh,'' I gasped out, ''sure.'' I wasn't certain what I found so hysterical about Jasper's offer. Perhaps it was the earnest, nearly childlike look on his face.
''It's too quiet in here,'' he explained. ''And I thought that you could use some real music. It might make you more comfortable. Unless you'd rather just leave and have Edward come see you later.'' Jasper's face fell a little, and a brief but rather ugly look swiftly passed over his features.
I shook my head and smiled at him, trying to make him feel more at ease. It struck me as a little absurd. Nothing was really at ease here; there was an almost palpable electricity in the air. But it shouldn't. Aside from that one fateful and unfortunate incident at my birthday party, there was no reason that I should feel strange about being alone with Jasper. I chided myself for being so silly. Still, something had happened the other day, something that I could not describe in words, and it had begun to slowly…change me. This made me excited, but also wary. And sick to death of this sudden overabundance of emotion in general.
I looked at Jasper's face. His expression was nearly blank, but I could detect something soft underneath. Something like…pleading. It made me want suddenly to stay.
''Real music?'' I echoed incredulously, eyebrows raised. ''I thought I knew real music.''
Jasper shrugged, but his eyes laughed. He seemed relieved. ''Well, you know certain kinds. All that maudlin piano, classical stuff that Edward makes you feel but…I think that you need to broaden your horizons a little bit.''
He gestured for me to follow him up the stairs and I did so, curiously, but….Jasper had said ''all that maudlin piano, classical stuff that Edward makes you feel ''. Surely he'd meant to say, ''makes you hear,'' or ''makes you listen to.'' I shrugged idly as I walked behind him, trying not to make too much of it. I was trying to keep everything in my head very neutral.
I followed Jasper down the hallway, until we reached a room upstairs that I hadn't really taken notice of before. ''Is this, uh, your room?'' I asked hesitantly as he pushed the door open.
Again, that lopsided half-smile briefly danced over his features, before he said ''Not exactly. It's sort of a library. We all share it.''
The room was beautiful. There were books everywhere: old, rare volumes and newer novels with fresh dust jackets. There were also thousands of CDs and older vinyl records, all arranged in neat rows. A state of the art stereo system sat against the wall: speakers, CD player, record player…it reminded me a little of Edward's room, but there was a certain aura of warmth in the room. Maybe it was the décor—a little less modern than the rest of the Cullen's house, more…well, cozy was probably the best word. There were a few armchairs and couches for lounging on, and the bookshelves were a beautiful deep polished mahogany. I felt instantly comfortable.
As I stood there, taking it all in, Jasper walked over to one side of the room and started thumbing through the records there. ''See, I know that now there's all this digitized music and that's great,'' he explained as he searched for something, ''because you have a more eclectic variety of music at your disposal...but,'' Jasper turned around to face me with a goofy, endearingly wide and out of place smile, ''there is nothin' like the sound of one of these.'' He held up a vinyl LP record. ''There is just this warm, big sound that all the technology in the world can't improve upon.''
Jasper walked over to the record player, and with very smooth and dexterous motions that I knew I couldn't manage, set the record down and moved the needle so that it found its way into one of the small grooves. ''Ready, Bella?'' he asked, gold eyes inquiring. Before I even had the chance to answer, music filled the room.
It wasn't what I'd expected. The song started out, mournful and angry. The singer's voice sounded like a nasal, gravelly snarl but was somehow beautiful and relentless,
''Honey,don't walk out
I'm too drunk to follow…
you know you won't feel this way tomorrow…
maybe a little rough around the edges
or inside a little hollow…
I get faced with some things, sometimes,
that are so hard to swallow…''
I stood there as the song raged on, burning through my blood. Damn, I had hoped this wouldn't happen again. Come on Bella, I told myself. Get a grip, girl! But I couldn't help it. I felt like being punched right through the soul. And I wasn't even sure if the concept of a soul was something I absolutely believed in, but if mine really was there, then it had been kicked awake. Jasper's eyes danced and he began to softly sing along with this wild, weary dirge about a wild and weary southern man, trying to balance the weight of the past with the present.
''Even before my father's father
they called us all rebels
while they burned our cornfields
and left our cities leveled
I can still feel the eyes of those blue-bellied devils
when I'm walkin' round at night through the concrete and metal…''
Against my will, again, I felt tears come to my eyes. But this time it was when I looked at Jasper, who I knew must have seen and felt more of this song than any living person. It must be dreadful to carry around so much, I thought, and I pitied him, but at the same time, I envied him, somehow, because I too wanted to feel that beautiful weight, the weight of so many memories….and yet I didn't. Jasper suddenly looked different to me, and I didn't want to admit what I saw. His eyes went on forever. There was sky there, sun, ground that ran and ran on. The wind. The mountains. The desert. War. Life. Death. I didn't want to feel these surges, these unstoppable waves of emotion because they were slowly changing the way I saw my world. And because for one frightening moment, as I stared there and looked at Jasper, surrounded by music, he was the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen.
The tears would not stop, and I could not force them away, so I mumbled something like ''I'm sorry, I have to go,'' then turned and ran, down the steps and out the front door of the Cullen's house, trying to force from my mind the smell of fire, the sound of hoof beats, the sound of memory. I let the cold night air sting my skin and I did not look back, somehow afraid that I would see Jasper standing there, knowing too much, feeling too much.
I could still feel his eyes.