Hope Springs Eternal Contest

Number of Prompt Chosen: 24

Pen-name: XXX

Title: The Monster in My Room

Word Count: 2380

Rating: T

Pairing: Jasper/Bella

Summary: After two years apart, Jasper has finally returned home from Afghanistan. But even though the war is over, for him, the battle has just begun.

Disclaimer: I don't own Twilight. No copyright infringement is intended.


"Mommy, Mommy, Mommy," Jasmine shouted as she ran down the hall of the crowded Dallas/Fort Worth Airport. "Hurry up, Mommy. You're walking too slow."

"Jazzy, get back here," Bella called, running to catch up to her.

"Jazmín Esperanza Whitlock. Viene aquí. Ahorra," Emily said sternly.

Jasmine froze.

"Pero, mí papí," she said, looking down the hall and back at Emily.

Bella shook her head in wonder at how Emily was able to put a rein on Jasmine. She was like the horse whisperer for kids. Ever since Jasper was deployed to Afghanistan and Bella had to work double shifts at the Wide-Lite factory, Emily volunteered to take care of Jasmine. Bella told her that Jasmine came with a warning label. As much as she loved her six-year-old, she was precocious and stubborn. Jasper had said that she inherited the stubborn part from her uncle Edward. Yeah, that sounded about right.

Nevertheless, Emily swooped in and took care of everything, the housework, Jasmine, even teaching Jasmine Spanish. When Bella asked her about it, Emily just rolled her eyes and said, "There are three requirements to being a Texan: guns, God, and speaking Spanish so you can order descent tamales."

Someone should have told her that before they moved from Forks, Washington to Fort Hood, Texas.

"Mamí, cuando está Papí estar aquí?" Jasmine said, bouncing from one foot to the other.

"English, Jazzy. You know I don't understand Spanish that well." She guessed they were just going to have to revoke her Texan card.

"When is Daddy going to be here?" Jasmine crossed one leg in front of the other, squeezing them together.

Oh, no. I know what that pose means.

"His plane will land in a few minutes. Why don't we get you to the Ladies' room first?"

"I'll take care of it," Emily said as she took a hold of Jasmine's hand. "You can have a few minutes to yourself to . . . prepare."

"Prepare?"

"Yeah, Mommy. Make yourself look pretty for Daddy." Jasmine started hopping as she bit down on her lip.

Emily opened her purse and pulled out a makeup bag. "I figured you wouldn't have time to make yourself up . . . coming straight out of your shift and all."

"Gee, thanks . . . I think." Leave it to Emily find a subtle way to say she looked like crap.

Bella walked to Gate 22 and found a seat. The area was packed with families anxiously awaiting the arrival of their loved ones. She pulled out a compact mirror and started to powder her nose. She couldn't remember the last time she even looked in a mirror. It was as if the past two years was a whirlwind: take Jasmine to school, work, pick up Jasmine from school, work another shift, sleep four hours, and then start the next day all over again. She couldn't recognize the face staring back at her. Dark shadows lay beneath her eyes. A line was etched in between her brows, and she wasn't even scowling.

Oh, God. I'm old.

She dug into the bag, searching for concealer, when she heard a loud shriek. She looked up and a few men in fatigues walked out of the gate entrance. She stood, trying to see over the crowd. One by one, men in fatigues stepped out and were embraced by women and children surrounding the gate. With each one that stepped out, her heart dropped a little.

Where is he? She feared that maybe he wasn't able to leave after all. As a military psychologist, Jasper was needed more now that the troops were coming back home. He had told her that his superiors could decide to send him elsewhere. Many of the returning troops needed assistance in adapting to civilian life, especially those with posttraumatic stress. He spent five years in graduate school developing an expertise in how to help families deal with the traumatic stress symptoms that many soldiers experienced. It was his way of giving back to the soldiers who had given up a lot for our country's freedom. Although she understood and admired his passion and dedication, there were many times over the last two years that she lay alone in my bed, longing for his touch and wondering, what about our family?

The crowds started to leave and the airline crew walked out of the gate. The lump in her throat began to swell.

He didn't come. She swallowed hard, desperately holding back the tears that threatened to spill over. She dropped back into the seat, wondering how she was going to explain it to Jasmine.

She dropped her head in her hands, praying for strength.

I'm so tired. Tired of working two jobs. Tired of having to depend on her best friend to take care of her daughter. Tired of laying alone at night. All she wanted was her husband back.

She stared down at the stained carpet, trying to collect herself, when a pair of brown boots appeared.

"Excuse me, ma'am. Is this seat taken?"

He sounded just like Jasper. Great. She'd finally lost it. She was hallucinating now. She could see it in the headlines. Military Psychologist's Wife Sent to Looney Bin . . . News at 11.

"Ma'am?" A warm hand touched her shoulder, and she smelled a familiar scent of leather and sandalwood.

Her head shot up, and she gazed into the most beautiful blue eyes that she had ever seen. It was the same eyes that twinkled teasingly when she was dared to go out on a date that consisted of drinking Shriner beer and bull riding; the same eyes that she lost herself in when vows were made to love and cherish each other for better or for worse; the very eyes that grew red and wet when Jasmine was born. Those same eyes locked with hers, glowing with mischief. So much like Jasmine.

"Jasper," she whispered, afraid to believe that he was really there. Fearing that if she touched him, he would disappear like a mirage.

"Bella," he said, his voice deep and thick with desire.

"Daddy!" A high-pitched squeal shrieked.

Bella turned and saw a tiny blonde-haired bullet running toward them.

Jasper crouched with his arms wide open, and Jasmine threw herself into them.

"Daddy, I miss you. I love you." She sniffled. "Don't go away again." She planted kisses all over his face and cried.

Yes, don't go away again. I don't think I could bear it. Bella pressed a hand against her chest as she watched the two loves of her life.

"I love you too, my Jazzy girl," he croaked.

He turned to Bella, looking apologetic. "Sorry, I scared you there for a moment. I snuck out of the plane first because I wanted to get you something." His hand caressed her cheek.

"You did?" The lump in her throat started to grow again.

"Yeah, it's right here." Jasper wedged his hand underneath Jasmine, trying to pull something out of his front pocket. "Sorry. They're a little smooshed." He handed her a small heart-shaped box with chocolates."

"Jasper, you. . . . you . . ." She laughed and threw her arms around him and Jasmine. "You're all the gift I need."

Jasper pulled back a little. He cupped Bella's face in his hands and gazed into her eyes. "How is it possible that you are even more beautiful than the last time we were together."

"Oh, Jasper." She sobbed, tears streaming down her face.

He drew her to him, his lips crushing down onto hers. At that moment, it was as if they were the only two people in the world as their warm lips moved in synchrony.

Bella's body began to tingle in a way that she hadn't felt in months. He was back and he was hers, all hers.

"Mommy, I can't breathe!" Jasmine squeaked from between them.

"I'm sorry, honey," she said as she released him.

"Jasper, it's good to have you back," Emily said, walking to us. She tapped on Jasmine's shoulder. "Esperanza, venga con migo."

"No," Jasmine tightened her hold.

"Give your mother a chance to hug your father."

"That's okay, Emily. Let's head back home. It's getting late, and we have a long drive back." Bella placed her hand into Jasper's. "She can sleep in the back seat. It's close to her bedtime."

"I'm not sleepy," Jasmine said as she opened her mouth wide, yawning.

Jasper laughed and started to rub Jasmine's back as they headed out of the airport. "Don't worry, my little Esperanza. I'll be by your side when you wake up." Jasper leaned to Bella and whispered, "And you, mi amor, will be in my arms all night."

o.O.o

"No!"

Bella woke up to Jasper's screams, his body thrashing in the bed, covered in sweat.

"Jasper, wake up," she said softly, trying not to startle him. "You're dreaming."

His breathing came faster and he started to moan." No, don't. I can help you. Please, let me help you."

"Jasper." Bella placed her hand on his bare chest.

He suddenly sat up in bed, his eyes looking wild. His chest rose and fell as he gasped for air.

"Jasper, what's wrong?" It had been over a month since he had come home, and each night he had woken up screaming in a cold sweat. Bella was at a loss, not knowing what to do. What was worse was that he refused to talk to her about what was happening to him. Ironic. The helper couldn't see that he needed help.

He turned to Bella, a light of recognition coming to his eyes, before he sighed. "Bella."

"Yes, it's me. You're safe at home." She stroked his back soothingly. "Jasper, you have to let it out. Your dreams won't go away until you face them."

Jasper turned to her, his eyes narrowing into thin slits. "I know that. Don't you think I know that?"

She shrank back. He never looked at her like that before, so cold and uncaring.

Jasper saw the fear in Bella's eyes. He'd never seen her this way before. It was as his words had broken her spirit. He didn't mean to hurt her. "Look, Bella, I know you're trying to help, but you just don't understand what it's like."

"That doesn't mean I can't help you," she said softly.

"I don't want to worry you."

"You think I'm not worried now?" Bella's voice grew louder.

"Give me some time, Bella. Geez, I just got back home." Jasper jumped out of bed and started to pace.

"I don't have a fancy Ph.D. like you, but I know when someone is having problems."

"Look, Bella. We've been through this before. There are just some things I can't share with you right now. You just need to be patient."

"I am patient!"

"Daddy?" A small voice called from outside the bedroom.

Jasper and Bella looked at each other for a moment, not moving.

"Everything's okay, honey. Go back to bed," Jasper said.

The door opened, and Jasmine poked her head through the doorway. "Are you fighting with Mommy?"

Jasper pulled Jasmine into the room and sat on the bed with her. "No, we're just having a talk."

Jasmine rubbed her eyes. "No, you're not. You're fighting."

"Your daddy and I have a disagreement about something, and we are just trying to talk it out." Bella kissed the top of her head. "You know, like when you and your cousin Alice are trying to decide which dress up dolls to play with."

"Alice wears pull-ups at night," Jasmine said.

Jasper turned to Bella, his lips quivering. The devilish look in his eyes was back, and they both started cracking up. Sometimes, kids say the darndest things.

"Come on, Jazzy girl," Jasper picked her up and placed her on his back. "Off to bed we go."

"Daddy, can you look under my bed? Alice says that she never gets out of bed at night 'cause the monster will get her."

"I'm sure there is no monster under your bed," Jasper replied, as he laid her down and tucked her in.

"Please, Daddy," Jasmine pleaded.

Jasper sighed as he got down on his knees. Damn you, Edward. Scaring your child just to keep her in bed.

"Nope, no monsters here."

"Alice is a liar."

Jasper sat down on the edge of the bed, chuckling. The last thing he needed was Edward complaining that Jasmine was running around yelling, "Liar, liar pants on fire."

"Alice is not a liar. So don't you go running around and saying that." Jasper tapped her nose and she giggled. He smiled before putting a serious look on his face. "Sometimes, we think we see a monster because we're afraid. Sometimes, the monster lives in here." Jasper said, pointing to his head.

"Like 'gination?"

"Yes, darlin', like imagination."

"Oh." Jasmine yawned. "Maybe the monster in your head is making you have bad dreams, Daddy." She turned over, pulling her doll close to her and mumbling, "Mommy is good at chasing away monsters."

Jasper's eyes widened. Sometimes, kids say the darndest things.

Bella closed her book when Jasper walked back into the bedroom. "Did you chase away any monsters?"

"No, but Esperanza says you can."

"What?" Bella furrowed her brow, puzzled.

Jasper got into bed and drew Bella to him, kissing her softly before he spoke. "Bella, I lost two men."

"What do you mean?" Bella noticed that his face had grown somber.

"Two of my patients killed themselves. One shot himself and the other . . . she . . . she hung herself." Jasper choked. "I couldn't . . . I couldn't do anything to stop them."

Bella held Jasper close to her as he continued to talk about what had happened. She kissed away his tears and listened. And when he shared with her his nightmares, she held him close to her chest, feeling his heart beat with hers. They vowed that they would work together to battle any monsters that the war created. It was something they would do for Jasmine, for each other. They knew that it wouldn't be easy, but they had faith that together, they could make it.

Because sometimes all you need is esperanza—hope.


A/N

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Here are the translations for the Spanish phrases used in the story.

Jazmín Esperanza Whitlock. Viene aquí. Ahorra.
Jasmine Hope Whitlock. Come here. Now.

Pero, mí papí.
But, my daddy.

Mamí, cuandoestáPapíestar aquí?
Mommy, when will daddy be here?

Esperanza, venga con migo.
Hope, come with me.

No, but Esperanza says you can.
No, but Hope says you can.