I've Been Wishing For It
I opened the front door to find Jacob standing in my room. Fresh- faced and dreamy- eyed.
"Bella," he stuttered, eyes widening frantically for a fraction of a second before he caught himself. The way he said my name, wrapped in his thick accent like an over- taped gift, was the most beautiful way I'd ever heard it spoken out loud before. He dropped his gaze to the floor. "Mrs. Hale."
"Jacob," I sighed, stepping into the villa and shutting the door behind me. "You can call me Bella. Please call me Bella."
"I- ," he opened his mouth but paused, eyeing me warily, looking nearly terrified. Caught on a downslide and unable to stop himself. I could commiserate, I hardly knew what to say to the boy. Just as I was about to urge him to continue, or plead with him to stop, caught between reassurance and jealousy, Jasper appeared from the bathroom. Freshly showered and damp- haired. Nearly glowing, something buried beneath his skin that I'd never seen on him before. This was a new Jasper, freshly broken from a fresh mold and I could barely admit it to myself, but he looked like he was in love.
"Hello, Darling." He kissed my cheek and I watched a drop of water fall from the end of one of his curls onto his shirt, staining a dark mark on the light blue fabric.
"We have to talk." I tried to tell him with just my eyes that this was serious but we obviously didn't have quite the connection that Edward and Alice shared, his lighthearted smile feeling too airy for all the weight I was strapped to. "It's about Carlisle," I finished lamely.
Jasper turned away from me and gripped Jacob's hand tight enough to turn his knuckles white, Jacob returning the gesture with one of those blinding, beautiful smiles.
"I'll see you soon," Jasper said softly.
Jacob's eyes darted to mine, the smile still on his face. "Bella," he practically whispered, and I nodded at him, unable to get my mouth to form his name in response before he turned and did more of that silent floating thing toward the door.
"Soon?" I questioned Jasper quietly, watching him go.
"I invited him to go to the Capitol with me, but only because you declined."
"He didn't have to leave. He could have stayed," I said as the door shut behind Jacob, a fleeting glance over his shoulder before he disappeared.
"It's better if he doesn't. I plan to move him up and I'd rather he remain shielded from our upper level drama."
"You're promoting him?" I was worried it would be too obvious, a preference that didn't have an explanation.
"He's quick. Intelligent," Jasper stopped short, looking as though he could continue complimenting Jacob for hours. "We've only got a couple of days to finalize the dock and reconvene the management before we leave. I'd feel better if he had some invested say in this place."
"You're leaving?" I could barely keep up.
"We're leaving," he said blandly, eyeing me as though I'd missed something clearly important.
"Where are we going?"
"Home, of course."
"When?" I stuttered, trying not to sound panicked.
"Two days?" I felt like we'd only been here a matter of hours.
"I have to get back. You have to get back. Esme told me about the Mirabell dinner, you know that you should be there."
"I forgot. It's not that important." Compared to all of this, nothing seemed to matter that much anymore. The very last thing I wanted to do was go to that damned dinner.
"It is important, Bella. Much more important than anything I have to get back for. Besides, your ensemble every year only outshines the year before and I'm looking forward to being your escort."
"I'm sure Rose has something ridiculous planned," I huffed. She hadn't shown me the newest Mirabell dress yet, but from the way that she raved about it, I was in trouble. Last year it was a blue puffed dress that made me feel like a north- shore wave on the day after a hurricane, furiously ruffled fabric too enormous for me to even control. The year before that it was something slinky and far too short, the color of an abused grape. The incarnation outfit had been a green dress that reminded me of something I wore in a ballet recital. When I was four.
"Carlisle knows about you," I said hesitantly. "About us."
"I know. He spoke to me about it this morning." Jasper sat heavily on the sofa and I collapsed next to him, our hands finding one another's out of habit and I leaned on his shoulder for support in case my spine gave out.
"He wants to out you," I whispered.
"Yes, though I can see his point. He promised to protect me, retain me at whatever cost. I haven't asked if this was his plan all along, or something he only recently came up with, but I have the feeling Marcus had something to do with it." Jasper suddenly turned and gripped my chin in his fingers, forcing my eyes to his with his brows furrowed in the middle. "I've been terrible about this. I never even bothered to ask you what you wanted for the rest of your life. Did you want to live on a farm, or near the ocean or in a castle or something else extravagant?"
"Not really." I shook my head in amazement. "Why the sudden worry about me? I'm worried about you."
"Carlisle. He was concerned about you, your involvement with me and what it meant. I think he believed I was keeping you against your will. Am I?"
"Of course not." I shook my head.
"What about children? Did you want to be a mother?" He rubbed his thumb softly across the back of my hand. "There are ways, you know . . . ."
"Are you telling me to have Edward's baby?" I asked, skeptical that I was following the conversation correctly and sure that I was misunderstanding something.
"No," Jasper snorted. "I'm certain I could knock you up if you wanted me to."
I shook my head, babies really the last thing on my mind at the moment and tucked my face into his neck, letting his familiar smell wash over all the other scents that had been tormenting me lately, putting every spare ounce of wishful thinking into the meager chance that I might somehow come out of this intact.
Jasper left a few hours later, feathering my face with kisses before disappearing out the door. He was returning tomorrow and apparently we were leaving after that. I gave him a ten minute head start before I left the villa.
I found Alice in Edward's bed.
Channeling her cartoon characterization and threatening to submerge the room in tears, bed and all. The pillow was damp, her face splotchy red, and she held out her arms with her bottom lip trembling, silently pleading with me. I climbed into the bed, beneath the covers and wrapped my arms around her, letting her hiccup into my neck.
"Where is Edward?" I asked and Alice nearly wailed in response.
"I don't know."
"Want to tell me what this is about?" I tried again, holding her close enough that I could feel her heart thumping madly under her chest. She was naked, warm and soft and fit right up against me in ways I couldn't even explain.
"It's Dayo," she spluttered, breaking into a fresh wave of tears.
"Is he ok?" Shit. The very last thing I thought Alice needed was another close- to- home death.
"His fiance is dead," she mumbled into my chest. "I feel so terrible."
Oh, thank god. "Death is a given, Alice. You know this." I held her tight and tried to reason with her. "There's nothing you could have done, even if you had been there."
"I've been wishing for it," she whispered. "Hoping for it. Wanting him to be free and now he is and I'm the worst person in the world." More sobbing. More snotting.
"You couldn't have anything to do with it, Alice. You're halfway around the world."
"You'd be surprised what I can do if I really set my mind to it." Her voice went soft and strong and so sure of herself that I wondered if she really did think she could actually wish someone to death.
"How did you find out?"
"He sent a letter. Esme's housekeeper called. I made her read it to me over the phone."
"I have to go, Bella. Even if we can't be together, I have to be near him." Alice plucked a dog- eared photograph from beneath the pillow. He was beautiful, strikingly exotic with skin of the darkest ebony. Deep set eyes the color of almonds and a wide, soft mouth. Chiseled cheekbones and hair shorn close to his scalp. Regal, even without the adornments. There was an intricate pattern of raised scars framing his eyes like a mask. Curling across those high set cheekbones and dancing along his eyebrows. The scars were just a shade lighter than the rest of his skin and gave him a fearsome quality that his eyes couldn't quite live up to.
It took me forever to peel the details out of her but I finally began to understand why Alice was so torn. Dayo had wanted to break off his engagement, a promise arranged when he was too young to walk, to a girl he had never met in order to be with Alice. Any commoner might have been able to pull it off, but those with genetic responsibilities of chiefdom weren't so lucky.
"I'm not exactly the best match for him, you know?" She wrinkled her nose.
"Because of your tattoos?"
"And my pale skin. Half of them think I'm a witch."
I glanced down at us, fumbled up together in Edward's bed. All my plain skin against her riot of color. Her garter belt leg thrown over mine, bleeding heaven arm draped across my stomach, sparkling diamond jewelry setting tiny star- shaped indentations into my chest. My fingers were absently stroking the words that danced across her rib cage, looking ancient and fanciful.
"Your words . . . what do they say?"
"It's part of a poem," she exhaled, goosebumps rising beneath my fingertips despite the heat.
"Will you tell me?" I gave her the option to decline. Now that I knew her tattoos likely had some heavy sort of meaning attached to them, I was almost afraid to ask. Alice pulled herself off me, sticky skin peeling from sticky skin, and sat up facing the ocean. I lay beside her, setting my fingertips to the words and feeling her bones shift underneath me every time she took a breath, following along as she spoke.
"I won't flinch and I won't blame you. Instead, I will remember the kisses, our lips raw with love. And how you gave me everything you had and how I offered you what was left of me. And I will remember your small room, the feel of you, the light in the window, your records, your books, our morning coffee, our noons, our nights, our bodies spilled together, sleeping, the tiny flowing currents, immediate and forever, your leg, my leg, your arm, my arm, your smile and the warmth of you, who made me laugh again."
My fingers traced the last word as her voice wavered off.
"Bukowski," I exhaled and she nodded. "Why isn't it in English?" I was still tracing the font, scripted text that looked like something pulled off an ancient stone found buried under a sand dune in the desert somewhere. Vaguely recognizable but fully unreadable. Alice shrugged beneath me, huffing under her breath and biting her lip before she spoke.
"So that no one can read it."
I gulped, sure in an instant just who she didn't want reading it. "Edward?" I asked softly, still tracing her ribs and resisting the urge to press my lips to every word, head full of the images they conjured. Heart picking up speed as Edward's elephants found themselves entwined with Alice's peacock feathers. Dandelion seeds dancing together and a cityscape mashed up against mother nature.
A white dove landing softly on the intricately tiled floor of a mosque.
"Don't tell him," she whispered.
"I think he's in love with you," I swallowed painfully. "He won't admit it."
"He's just convinced that he owes me his life. He gets confused." Alice shook her head, a healthy gust of air billowing into the villa, adding a dram of much needed lavender buzz to my clenched stomach and reeling head.
"Does he owe you?" I asked. The way he looked at her with something behind his eyes that bordered on religious reverence was really only explained by a battle over that very thin line between life and death. A moment on the brink that bonded them forever. As though they'd spent centuries with each other, lifetimes rolled over and over and over until they started blending together, and maybe she'd saved his life in each and every one.
"Sort of, though the doctor in him would never admit it."
"How?" I stuttered.
"Malaria. I didn't think he was going to make it, he was practically hallucinating when he finally came- to. He thought I was an angel for almost a week," she chuckled lowly. "I try not to let him live that one down."
He appeared then as though she had summoned him, framed in the doorway like a portrait with his face tight. He was wearing that ratty t- shirt again, jeans stained dark to the knee and I wondered if he'd been standing out in the water. Alice clambered off me, perched on her knees at the edge of the bed with her arms stretched out in front of her, and something in his face changed instantly. He strode to the bed and let her fling herself up against him, arms around her waist, their tattoos bleeding together and his fingers casting shadows where they dug into her skin. Crumpling the words on her ribs in his grip. She was still naked and he was still resolutely keeping his eyes off of her, glancing across the rumpled mess of his bed before finally finding me.
Every inch of my own naked skin flared up in a blistering wave of scorching heat.