Hey, guys! So, I'm starting something new here, something that will probably be short, probably update often, that's sort of a writing challenge to myself.

I hope you all will enjoy this; it's really different and deals with some themes I haven't really seen explored in fanfiction, so hopefully it will be intriguing enough to keep your attention.

Disclaimer: I don't own Twilight.


2006

Trying to be inconspicuous, Bella lets her hair fall over her shoulder, creating a curtain around her face, keeping her straying eyes hidden from her peers.

He's new here; the fact that he carries his guitar with him to this small school immediately sets him apart, let alone his too-long hair and ragged jeans. Flip flops reside on his feet despite the near-freezing temperatures outside. He's so different, so intriguing, and Bella isn't the only one to take notice.

The other thing that makes him unique, at least in this almost atheistic town, is the Bible in his left hand.

She's seen him reading it during class, in between class, over lunch, in his car after school and in the hallway before school. Always reading, sometimes smiling, sometimes closing his eyes, and once, crying.

He looks at those around him like a hunter searching for prey, or perhaps a scientist looking upon his test subjects, a little bittersweet and sympathetic, but ultimately, his experiments will be cast upon them all.

She's already caught in his web.

He shares her biology table in fifth period. He's not terribly smart, or at least he doesn't try, but she doesn't care. He's learned her name and told her he prays for her every night. She wonders what he prays about, what he thinks she needs that she doesn't yet have.

Today she's going to ask him.

The walk to class goes by too quickly. She's terribly nervous, unsure what his slate blue eyes will see when he looks at her, what he'll think of her shaky voice. Why she cares, she doesn't know, but the way his blonde hair glows around his face, like a halo, like her own personal angel sent to save her—it's hypnotizing.

When he reaches their table, he pulls out his stool, perching on it with his perfect posture, but slowly rotating to look at her.

His plain white shirt emphasizes his tan skin, gives golden tones to his hair, and makes his eyes even more piercing. It's like looking into the sun; after she looks away, everything else is dark and spotty, unclear and unformed and just less-than.

"So," she begins, her voice louder than she meant for it to be, but it draws his attention quickly. "When you pray for me . . ."

He smiles. His teeth are so perfect, too perfect, straight and white and big—his smile is almost menacing, like he could take a bite out of her at any moment.

"Yeah?" he asks, settling in, leaning his elbow against the table, his eyes staying locked on hers.

"What do you pray about?"

He watches her, gazing for far too long to be socially acceptable, and she looks away. But when she looks back, he's still looking, and her eyes dart everywhere, her skin heating, her body suddenly feeling too small for her organs, and she can't keep the discomfort from taking her over.

Maybe noticing her blush, or maybe just ready to answer, he puts her out of her misery, both looking away and speaking.

"I pray you find the light—the truth. I pray that you'll ask Jesus into your heart," he says, and she's breathless. Why something usually so trite rings true to her, she can't say. Why something she should laugh at makes her heart tingle and butterflies erupt, she can't say.

What she can say: "Why?"

"Eternity is a long time, Bella," he says, leaning closer, looking deep into her eyes, seeing every thought she's ever had, every word and deed and sin she's ever committed. "Your soul is too good to not go to heaven."

She wants to mock him, tip his precious Bible off the desk and watch it fall to the floor, or slap him; how dare he wax poetic about her soul and her future. But she doesn't do those things, because the thing she really, truly wants to do is fall into him, let him wrap her up and tell her about Jesus and the world and heaven and believe him and have something to live for.

But Mr. Banner interrupts before she can do any of those things.

"Mr. Whitlock!" the teacher shouts, obviously not the first time he's tried to get Jasper's attention. "The answer?"

Jasper looks properly abashed, though Bella suspects he's faking it, and looks up at the front of the class. She's left feeling bereft, wishing for more of his words and light and that truth that he mentioned.

They don't get the chance to talk anymore, but as the bell rings and Jasper rises from his stool, he looks over at her and smiles.

"Come to church with me on Friday night," he tells her, leaving no room to say no, not that she wants to.

She nods, hiding her own smile, something blossoming inside of her, making her feel like she was taking a step down the right path, a step that would lead to the rest of her life.


2012

Bella's shoulders are hunched as the man beside her shows her how to clean the espresso machine. His proximity and his smell and his damn good looks make her nervous; the way he smiles at her is too familiar, though this is a completely different man in a different place. He's a nice, normal guy she tells herself, but her body is a traitor, and alarm bells ring in her head, telling her to run far, far away.

"Got it?" he asks. He's tall and lean, his build so reminiscent of Jasper's she wants to back away, but the small space behind the counter won't let her.

She nods in response, and as her eyes travel up, higher and higher until they reach Edward's face, she realizes he's not Jasper at all. He looks down at her kindly, the corners of his eyes crinkling.

"We can go over it again," he says, misreading the tension in her body, but she lets him. She nods again, still not speaking to him, and watches as he starts the entire process over.

When her shift is finished, her training almost complete, a cup appears in front of her. Edward gives her another sweet smile, the one she both loves and hates, and his fingers brush hers as she takes it from him.

"I noticed you didn't get anything," he points out. "Greg should've told you. You can get anything during your shift you want."

Bella nods, remembering that her boss did tell her that, but she didn't have the time to contemplate it when she was so busy avoiding Edward. She takes a sip of the drink, the warmth and sweetness just perfect.

"Mmm," she hums quietly, eliciting a raised eyebrow from Edward. "What is this?"

He seems delighted to hear her voice, finally, and leans closer to her, speaking conspiratorially. "Something special. A secret recipe."

She thinks about leaning away, but his presence, his low voice, his pretty face paralyze her temporarily.

"I made it just for you," he says, clearly flirting, and it snaps her out of her trance. Her face goes blank, cold, and just like that, she turns to leave, not even saying goodbye to her coworker.

Walking to her car, she feels paranoid, glancing repeatedly over her shoulder, checking the back seat of her vehicle and underneath before getting in. The feeling of being watched is still so strong, and being back out in the real world makes her extra skittish.

As she drives home, her mind wanders. But for the first time in a long time, she doesn't think of her old house or Jasper or the guitar or any of that.

She thinks of Edward and his smile.