Not an Epilogue, Just a Happily Ever After: A Lesson in Audacity
. . .
For his first day of high school, Jasper had requested to arrive in a limo, Richie Rich-style. Instead, he pulled up in the back seat of Edward's Volvo, accompanied by a brief lecture regarding humility. A stoic reticence had subdued the usually self-assured boy, a side-effect Edward suspected had more to do with nerves than the aforementioned lecture.
"It's about that time," Edward said, tapping his thumbs against the steering wheel.
Jasper didn't budge. "I need a minute."
In the passenger seat was Bella, empathy at the ready when Edward looked to her for help. "Do you want to talk about it?"
Bella clearly had not expected to be rejected outright. "Okay, then."
"Try again," Edward mouthed.
"You try," Bella mouthed back.
"I talked the whole way over here."
Bella sighed and slipped back into her compassionate voice. "Jasper, honey, it's okay to feel insecure on your first day of high school, doubly so when you're younger than everyone else in—"
"Can you guys, like, pretend to talk to each other to keep yourselves busy?"
"If that will make you feel better, sure." Bella turned to Edward and opened her mouth. "Wait a minute. Did you want us to pretend like we're talking, or did you want us to come up with a pretend subject to talk about?"
"Good question," Edward said. "One way, you'll get exaggerated mouthing and wild gesticulation; the other opens you up to a world of endless conversation starters."
"Personally, I'd either go with the probable annihilation of BITE, Inc. under our management," Bella said. "Or the current collection of Greek and Roman antiquities at the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna."
"Your annunciation of Kunsthistorisches was stunning."
"Grazie. Bring your cheek to my face."
Edward did as Bella demanded and was rewarded with a kiss.
"You mock my pain," Jasper grumbled.
"If anyone should be in pain here, it's Edward. His little boy is all grown up and headed to high— Ahhh!" A knock on Bella's window scared the bejesus out of her. Her hand hovered over her heart as she calmed her breathing.
Edward rolled down the rain-spotted window to a petite girl wearing the oddest piece of clothing he'd ever seen: a pink and grey hoodie with cat ears sticking out of the top. The porcelain pale girl looked around Jasper's age and was very pretty, interesting wardrobe and all. "Hi! I'm here to collect Jasper," she said, leaning in.
"Excellent." Edward couldn't quite place it, but there was something oddly familiar about this girl. "And who are you?"
"Hear that, Jasper? Your friend Mary is going to escort you into the school."
Jasper looked bewildered. "I don't know who that is," he whispered.
Bella came to his rescue. "How do you know Jasper?"
"I don't," Mary said in a brazenly chipper cadence. "Word on the Web is that he's the only other freshman my age. I did some digging, and it turns out we both skipped seventh grade, but we went to different middle schools so I haven't met him yet.
"God, no," Edward said under his breath. "Two stalkers does not a good match make."
"Hush, you," Bella warned. "Don't ruin this for Jasper. He can use a friend, and she's a sweetie."
"My mom says I spend more time on the Internet than Vint Cerf. That's the inventor of the Internet, in case you didn't know," Mary prattled on over their whispered conversation. "There is just so much information out there. I know everything there is to know about you two, too. You're Mr. Cullen, the CEO of BITE, Inc. and Jasper's new father. There were literally thousands of search results under your name. And you're Ms. Swan. You wrote an article about Mr. Cullen for The Spectator that I read. It was awesome."
Bella turned back to Edward, and there was fear in her eyes. "Drive. Now."
"I'm taking a poll. Would you like to participate?"
"I thought you were here to pick up Jasper," Edward said, looking behind his shoulder. Jasper vehemently shook his head and gave the universal sign for crazy.
"He'll come when he's ready," Mary said confidently. "While we're waiting, will you help me out with my poll?"
"I guess," Bella said. "What's your poll on?"
"Since high school's about reinvention, I'm debating going by my middle name instead of my first name. I've been going back and forth all summer, but it's really down to the wire now. As soon as the teacher calls out roll in my first class, I have to either stick with Mary or give him my new nickname."
"And the name in question is?" Edward asked.
An eerie silence fell over the car as the amused faces of the front seat occupants transformed to those of perplexity.
"Bye," Jasper said, practically falling over himself to get unbuckled. As soon as he was outside, he one-shouldered his backpack and started laying it on thick. "What search engine do you use? I don't know if your research showed it, but I'm quite handy with a browser, too. I know everyone thinks Google's all the rage, but have you ever tried…"
Long after Jasper and his new friend had disappeared into the hustle and bustle of the student population, Edward turned on the ignition.
"What do you know about reincarnation?" he asked, backing out carefully.
"Only what I learned when my mother went through her Taoism phase."
"Is it possible for a computer to come back as a teenage girl?"
"I would say no, but there's also this sick part of me that wants to go back to your house and dig up Alice's grave to make sure she's still there."
"That is sick."
"As if you aren't thinking the same thing."
"I'm not opposed to going back to the house. But I'd rather do other things."
Bella lifted an eyebrow. "Such as?"
"We can get to That Place."
"I thought we were already at That Place."
"We are, but there's another, more special place I'd like to be in."
Edward's favorite sound in the world, Bella's laughter, filled the Volvo. "Drive fast, Mr. Cullen."
A/N: The idea for this story began about three years ago when xsecretxkeeperx said, "I have a plot bunny I'll never use. Alice is a computer." I jumped on that before she could even finish her thought, and claimed it as mine. She then worked with me to develop the idea into a full-fledged story, solidifying herself in the Beta Hall of Fame. I cannot thank her enough for her devotion to all of my stories. Through the Twi-fandom she has become one of my best friends and an invaluable asset to my writing process.
I also owe a big thank you to MariahajilE for lending an extra pair of beta eyes to make this story perfect and time_lights for creating my gorgeous banner. Lastly, I want to thank all of the reviewers who sent me their thoughts. Loved it or hated it, long or short, Team Jasper or Team Bella, I enjoyed and appreciated every single one.