After working two full time jobs, holidays, being sick, and starting school again I am back. Sorry for the delay! As always- nothing is mine.
In a matter of days I'd managed to empty the majority of my mother's heirlooms from the shelves and cabinets they'd been hidden in for the past decade. The historical society was all too eager to take her china, jewelry, most of the silver, and even a few paintings of my great grandparents that had creeped me out since childhood. What items remained, along with the furniture, would be auctioned off and sold to the highest bidder. I didn't need the money, or want it, but Sue had made a point when she'd mentioned giving it to charity. An antique end table and love seat wouldn't do anybody any good, but the money it sold for would.
By the time I'd managed to work up the determination to call Jasper and set up a time to meet with him, the majority of my mother's house was empty. He walked through the front doors, his eyes taking inventory of what was missing, and then nodded his head before saying, "I'd figured you would get rid of everything."
Shutting the front door, I leaned back against it and shrugged. "Well, what else was I going to do with five sterling silver tea services?"
Jasper didn't answer my rhetorical question. Instead, he awkwardly shifted his weight back and forth on his feet before speaking. "I owe you an apology, don't I?"
"It doesn't matt-"
"No," he said, interrupting me. "It does. I shouldn't have… I didn't have a right to talk to you like that. And I am sorry, Bella."
A very bitter and callous part of me wanted to tell him I didn't accept his apology because he was right; he had no right to say the things he did, or judge me because of a situation he knew nothing about. But that wasn't who I was. There was enough anger and resentment in my heart directed towards my mother and the situation she'd put me in; I didn't need to add to it. Instead, I nodded at Jasper's apology before walking towards the kitchen; knowing he would follow behind me.
At the only table left in the house, I sat down and waited as he pulled a stack of files out of his briefcase and spread them out for me to see. It didn't escape my notice that the biggest file, the one marked Hope House, was shoved towards the back. But I wasn't looking forward to dealing with that either, so I didn't saying anything.
"Basically," he said, sliding the first file towards me, "the only things left to decide on are the larger assets that your mother had. She still held the family's portion of the lumber yard's ownership, the house-"
Jasper looked up but hesitated before asking me if I was sure. When I nodded, he tried to reason with me. "Bella, the lumber yard has been in your family for-"
"I don't care, Jasper. Sell it. I don't want it."
Again, he tried to convince me that I was making a mistake. His hands flipped through paperwork in front of me, pointing out various graphs and bank statements that showed how much profit my mother had made from her involvement. "The money you could make, just off of this alone, would be enough for you to retire on, Bella. Do you understand that?"
"I understand, Jasper." I closed the file and handed it to him. In a softer voice, trying very hard not to lose my temper, I said, "And I don't want it."
"What are you doing?" He asked, shaking his head. "Bella, this… this could take care of you for the rest of your life."
"And the other money she left won't?" I countered. "The money from her estate alone, not including anything I'll make from selling off all this shit, will be more than enough. I can take care of myself, of Dad and Sue, and none of that comes with strings attached to it. I can take it, leave, and not have anything tying me back to Forks."
Without dropping his gaze from mine, his hand instinctively reached for the last folder on the table and held it up for me to see. "And this?" he asked.
Slowly, I shook my head. "I can't, Jasper."
He sat it down before leaning back in his chair. "Alice and I… we thought that…" His voice drifted off and he looked like he was keeping himself from saying something. His eyes looked down at the table and his head slowly shook.
"What?" I prompted him.
It took a minute for him to finally look up at me again, and when he did, he looked incredibly sad. "We thought that… you and Edward had worked things out, that you'd at least agreed to remain friends. At the funeral…"
"No," I said, interrupting him. "No. Edward and I… we're…" I tried to think of a word that would work, that would make Jasper understand that things weren't ever going to be anything remotely close to what we'd been before. "We're finished, Jasper. We said what we had to, what we needed to, but… we can't go back to what it was. Ever."
"And Alice?" He asked, quietly. "What about her? Or Emmett? What about those of us that you aren't finished with, Bella?"
This time, it was my eyes that dropped to the table.
"I can't ever understand what happened between you and Edward, but I do know that he isn't the only person who missed you when you left. And he won't be the only person you hurt if you leave again. Your best friend's children have no idea who you are, Bella. You have no idea how much that hurts Alice."
"I don't want to hurt her. You know that." I whispered, looking up at him. "But you have to understand that I can't stay here, Jasper. I can't be here."
"Then do it right this time. Don't leave the same way you did before," he said, gathering all of the folders together. Before continuing, he'd stacked them neatly together. "You're here, and you will be until all of this is settled. Spend time with your friends, Bella. Then, when you do leave, at least you've shown them that you cared enough to let them back in."
When I didn't say anything in return, his fingers tapped the stack of paperwork. "I can't tell you what to do here, Bella. You know, just as well as I do, how all of this works. But, before I leave, let me say that you need to think about all of this before you write it off. Okay?"
After giving me a wan smile, Jasper left me sitting at my mother's kitchen table. Several minutes after he'd gone, I was still there, looking at everything he'd left for me to go through. But it was odd, because now I didn't know if he'd meant my mother's estate or the people I'd hurt so much in the past. I sat there, taking what he'd said to heart, thinking about the way I'd left all of them before.
Sitting up straight, I pulled the top file off the stack he'd left for me. After a deep breath, I flipped it open and started reading every bit of information he'd given me regarding Hope House.
"Can you say Bella? Bell-uh?"
I smiled while Alice's daughter looked up at me, hoping she'd do as her mother asked and say my name. Instead, she held her hand out and offered me a slobber covered paper stick that had once held a sucker. Taking it, I said thank you, and then watched as he walked away.
"Sorry, she is so shy sometimes," Alice explained, taking the stick away from me, "but she'll warm up to you once she gets to know you. And when Peter wakes up from his nap, I promise you won't have a chance to say two words. That kid talks non-stop. They're complete opposites!"
Following her through their house, I watched as she grabbed empty cups, toys and blankets while magically, and simultaneously, putting things away. While one foot was scooting a toy truck out from the middle of the floor, her hands were scooping away the cluttered mess on the table. It was impressive to say the least.
"I can't believe you're a mom."
"Oh, believe me, I think the same thing some days!" Alice laughed. "Those kids were a complete surprise! We weren't even trying, hadn't even seriously talked about it, and then BAM! I'm pregnant."
I smiled. "With twins."
Sitting down, she nodded her head. "With twins. My mother swears it is payback for me and Edward because the whole twin gene thing is supposed to skip generations, you know?" She stopped talking long enough to pick a stray marker up off of the floor but then started back up again. "But, at least we got it all out of the way with one shot. One boy, one girl, and now we're done."
Alice leaned back in her chair, tilted her head to the side and smiled. "What about you? What do you have going on in Phoenix? I see you in a fabulous apartment in some downtown high rise with a spectacular view of the desert; a big strapping man coming over every night to feed you grapes while you lounge on your patio; having him fan you with one of those absurdly gigantic feathers!"
I laughed quietly. "More like a townhouse with a view of my neighbor tanning naked in her backyard."
"Oh." Alice made a face. "What about the big strapping man part? Did I at least get that right?"
Slowly, I shook my head. An awkward look of surprise crossed across Alice's face before it was replaced with the same grin she'd had from before. It was then that I realized that I hadn't told anyone about what had happened before I'd left to come back here. No one knew about my job, or Jake.
"There was… someone," I quietly said, looking down at the table. For some reason I felt guilty telling her this, like because she was Edward's sister she shouldn't know anything about relationships, or relationship, I'd had since leaving Washington. But it was her wide grin and excited voice that made me realize it was okay to talk to her about it.
"And?" She asked, her voice pitched higher than usual. "What happened with that?"
Again, I laughed. "Well, to be honest with you, he was a jackass."
Her laughter reverberated around the kitchen, making my smile even bigger. And just like that, in the few minutes I'd been at her house, Alice had broken down all the walls I'd had built around my life in Arizona. Just by listening, by asking questions, I realized that Jasper had been right. I didn't have to keep everyone from my past at arm's length. I could be friends with Alice, and Emmett. I could be a part of their lives if I wanted to, if they wanted me to. And to finally tell someone what had happened, with me losing my job and with Jake, was a huge relief. Especially when Alice agreed that I'd done the right thing.
"What were you supposed to do?" She asked. "Let those girls go back to their crack whore mother?"
Holding my hands up, I said, "Right? Like that would even be an option?"
"Well." she swung her legs off the chair and headed for the coffee pot. "I can tell you one thing. You obviously were not supposed to be there, Bella, or none of this would have happened."
She handed me a mug of coffee before sitting back down.
"What do you mean?" I asked, taking a slow and careful sip. "Like all of this is predestined?"
Alice shrugged her shoulders delicately. "You'll find where you're supposed to be; especially with your… personal experience. You'll find somewhere that you fit in, somewhere that you feel like you can make a difference."
I smiled, hoping she was right.
AN: Till we meet again. Hopefully it won't take as long!