And here is the last chapter...

CHAPTER 24

I woke up trembling, my heart pounding too fast against my chest. I breathed deeply, trying to calm myself down as I remembered my dream. It had felt so real and I had been so scared. All the people I knew so well had been in my dream, throwing rocks at me while I was on stage delivering my speech. I was bleeding and hurting but their attacks were relentless. They screamed horrendous slurs at me, stoning me until I crumbled. And once I lay on the floor in pain, the crowd rushed to me. They kicked and spat and hissed some more crude words. And I remembered seeing him appear in my dream. Jasper had suddenly been here, kneeling next to me. He was crying as he whimpered: "I told you so."

His words echoed in my head as I felt my heartbeat slow down. My room was still dark and I reached for my phone to look at the time. I noticed I had a few text messages but ignored them. It was only six in the morning and I groaned, pulling the cover over my face.

I tried to go back to sleep but the dream left a weird feeling behind. I felt restless and filled with angst and worries. Even though I had felt relief in delivering the truth on stage, I now felt an eerie apprehension that someone, or a group of people, would attack me for my words.

As I lay in bed, I recalled what happened after I had made my speech. There had been unease and nasty malice in the air after graduation. Teachers, parents, and classmates had muttered insults and scowled at me. Glares had been thrown my way and neighbors had avoided my parents and me.

As the fear crept in, I thought about Jasper and about how he had tried to protect me, and to warn me, about the traitorous hate of others. I wondered how he would react to my words if he could have heard them. Would he be proud? Would he be mad that I talked so freely, so openly, about myself? Would he be angry that I had put myself at risk of harm?

The words from my dream came back to me: "I told you so."

My phone beeped and I peeked to see who it was. I was surprised to see so many messages awaiting me. The crazy, nonsensical result of my speech suddenly became utterly clear as I read my texts.

I hurried out of bed and grabbed my laptop. Once I logged on to Facebook, I was met with hundreds of messages and tags on my page. It seemed to be the only thing people of Forks were talking about. And after longer examination, even people beyond the town were commenting and sharing links. Somebody had even posted my full speech on youtube, and there were already more than a thousand views.

I felt overwhelmed and yet hopeful. Because most of the comments were positive. People were supportive and encouraging.

I wondered if Jasper would hear about my speech too.

In the following days, I felt a whirlwind of frenzy and excitement as my speech became the catalyst for a whole national outburst. The video was played over and over again, and it had reached extraordinarily high numbers of views. Gay bashing, hate crimes, bullying, school safety, and the fairness of today's justice system. Politicians, psychologists and educators discussed these topics on tv and in the press, mentioning my name as an example. People in the news quoted my speech and found other teenagers who suddenly wanted to share their own stories to support my views.

I couldn't wrap my mind around the idea that my speech had reached so many people. It was completely unbelievable.

My speech had been personal. It had been to help myself. I had written it as a need to free myself, an urge to start becoming the Edward I knew I should be. I did it because I felt ashamed for not having stepped up earlier. I did it because I felt guilty for not defending my Jasper soon enough. I did it because I needed to be able to sleep again at night, with no regrets and no shame. I had to speak out so I could start hoping again. It was supposed to be about my experiences and about what I'd learned from Jasper's friendship. It was about moving forward and learning from your past. It was about wishing a better future.

I never thought my words would touch so many people. I never even fathomed that so many people would relate. I never imagined that they were so many more like Jasper. And I was utterly baffled by the responses to my speech, all these people who shared their own struggles and pains.

A few days later, I got a visitor. I remembered him from last year, but had never talked to him before. His name was Garrett. He was a year older than me so we had never interacted in school. He came to see me to confess to being the one who posted the video on youtube. He had been at graduation with his parents to see his sister graduate. He explained to me how my words had touched him. Him and his friends had always been picked on in school. Him for being gay, Alice for being crazy and weird, and Maria for being chubby and having an accent. They had suffered a lot during high school, and he had been beaten a few times in the parking lot by James and Laurent.

The stories from people kept on pouring in. I couldn't believe that they were so many. It made me sad and yet it was a cathartic experience. It almost made me feel powerful.

So as I drove to La Push for the party Bella forced me to attend, I couldn't help but feel optimistic and lighthearted. I could, indeed, feel the beginning of new chapter in my life.

Bella and her boyfriend Jacob were sitting on the beach by a fire. Angela and Bree were sitting on a log near them. They were all laughing. A few other guys were playing Frisbee closer to the water. I approached my friends with a smile and was greeted with happy cheers. I sat with them and we easily chatted about the summer and college life. Ben joined us with a few cans of beer.

"So Edward, are you gonna be on Oprah one of these days?" Ben teased my sudden fame.

I rolled my eyes as Jacob joined in. "I could totally see him breaking down with Oprah, both of them crying and hugging. It would be a hit. Better than Tom Cruise jumping on the couch!"

"Yeah, yeah, yeah," I growled, annoyed. "Whatever."

They all laughed.

"But did you know that Ellen really contacted him," Bella announced with excitement. " She wants him to go on the show."

I cringed a little at the disclosed fact. I felt somewhat embarrassed to be gaining attention because of Jasper's suffering.

"Oh my god, really?" Angie exclaimed. "You have to go! I love her!"

I shook my head. "No… I don't have anything to say."

"Being humble is cute for a minute, but stop with that bullshit now. You have tons to say and people are apparently listening to you," Bella retorted, surprisingly bluntly.

My hand unconsciously weaved its way through my tousled hair, my eyes staring at my foot that was digging into the sand.

"I said everything I wanted to. I have nothing more to say. And anyway, I didn't go through any of it. It's not my story to share." I stated.

Nobody answered. The air was strangely quiet. I looked back up at my friends and my breath got stuck in my lungs. My heart tried to jump out of my chest, while wanting to drop low in the pit of my stomach simultaneously, and all the meanwhile unable to resist doing flips and spins against my ribcage.

I stared a long time while he stared back at me. Our eyes were once again connected. And everybody else stared at us too.

I didn't trust my eyes. I couldn't believe that Jasper would be here, standing in front of me, looking at me with more passion and jubilation than ever before.

He raked a hand in his long, wavy locks and then approached closer to me. He was so beautiful.

"Edward," he said. His voice was a mixture of a plea, a question and some kind of reverence.

It didn't matter what he meant by it. My body was already reacting. My name on his lips always affected me so strongly.

I stood as he stepped forward, and just like that we were mere inches from each other. We continued to stare, our gazes locked and intense and healing. I could almost feel his body, but there was still too much space between us.

Suddenly, I smiled. Because he was really here, in front of me. He had come back for me. He had heard my speech and had travelled back from Texas to be with me. And at this instant, there was no doubt that he loved me.

He smiled back at me and leaned a little closer. I felt fire simmer under my skin.

"Edward," he repeated, and there was only adoration in his tone this time.

My arms wrapped around his neck in an instant, and I crashed my lips against his. I kissed him with everything I had. After the initial shock, I felt his hands grab my hips as his tongue came to meet mine. He tasted just the same and yet, he tasted even better without the secrets and the fear and the shame. My hands drifted into his hair and I tugged hard. His fingers dug into my flesh, pulling me against him. We both moaned at the sensation.

He pushed gently away and stared at me with intensity. We were still too close for me to really see his face.

"I love you, Edward. I love you and I trust you, and I am ready." He whispered.

I framed his face with both of my hands and forcefully dragged him back to me so that I could kiss him again. Our lips mashed and danced and reveled in the blissful reunion.

Finally, I pulled back and look at him straight in the eyes.

"I love you too, Jasper. More than you know."

He grinned. "I think I know just how much," he mumbled, his lips already back on mine.

"So, does that mean you wouldn't mind going on the Ellen Show with me?" I teased jokingly, but maybe a little serious too.

"Anything for you, darlin'." He replied in complete candor. "I would fight any evilness to make this place better for you."

"That's my job, my love." I promised before placing my lips against his once more.

The wind blew around us, and the waves crashed loudly further away. Suddenly, our embrace felt like freedom. I could hear the others joke around and chat, and it was amazing to be here, out in the open, surrounded by friends, and to not have to hide my love for Jasper. I felt utterly liberated. And that closet where it had all began became a distant past, a cherished memory that brought us here, today, to this perfect moment. And I couldn't wait to see what tomorrow would bring, because no matter what, it would be great and promising, with Jasper at my side.

THE END

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