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Conversations with Jasper
Dark Side of the Moon
It was so quiet in the house.
My girls had taken Bella on a weekend shopping trip to Portland. I had asked Chief Swan’s permission for Bella. He had seemed quite skeptical that Bella would really enjoy an entire weekend of shopping. He had even looked at her, ready to say no if she wanted him to do that. But she wanted to go and he readily agreed when I mentioned that Alice would be going. That girl could charm anyone she so much as blinked at.
Two of my boys had gone with my husband on a weekend hunt in Montana. Emmett was excited about the bears he might find. Edward was eager to fill up before his five day trip to Jacksonville with Bella to visit her mother. And Carlisle looked forward to spending time with the men he considered his sons, though his disappointment that Jasper had decided to remain at home was clear to everyone.
I was on my way to my bedroom, intending to finish Gone with the Wind again while the house was quiet, when I saw my newest son seated on the thick branch outside of the picture window that he and Alice seemed to prefer as a means of coming and going far more than any old door. He sat perfectly still, the moonlight reflecting off his curly blond hair, giving him a sort of halo. The moonlight had a darker side, though, as it highlighted each and every scar that dotted the top of his chest and his neck. I didn’t need to be Edward or even Jasper himself to know that it was the darker side of the moon that bothered him tonight.
“Jasper?” I whispered softly, not wanting to startle him, as I leaned out of the window. “Are you alright?”
He turned to me and smiled sadly. “I’m fine. You worry too much, you know that?”
I shrugged, trying to suppress my worry and keep my emotions lighter. “It can be hard to remember to just pretend that you have five children.”
“Was Carlisle upset that I didn’t go on that trip?”
“No, not upset,” I said confidently. “He’s…worried. Sorry, but its true.”
“I just needed some time alone. That’s all. I’ll hunt with Alice before we go to Paris.”
I stepped back from the window, ready to give him his time.
“You can sit here, with me, if you’d like,” he said quietly, his Southern accent far more pronounced when he was nervous.
Not wanting to let this opportunity pass by, I deftly climbed out the window and perched on the branch next to him, though I was careful not to touch him. It seemed that Alice was the only one allowed to touch him without permission or a purpose, like the fighting he did with his brothers. I didn’t know if he wanted to talk, so I did say anything.
“I shouldn’t have said I needed time alone,” he said, surprising me that he wanted to talk at all. “I really meant that I needed to be the only one hearing my thoughts. And I needed to be able to be frustrated, angry, confused, even weak. Just for a few days.”
I nodded slowly. Something didn’t make sense. “Should I be feeling those emotions coming from you now?” I asked, focusing on the clear stars in the Olympic sky, just as he was. “Because that isn’t what I feel.”
He turned and looked at me in honest surprise. “What do you feel?”
“Sadness, fear, worry. That’s what is distinct. I suppose the rest could be there.”
He laughed hollowly. “Apparently I’m not as good at this as I thought.”
“What are you worried about, Jasper?” I tried to carefully control my own worry that he would stop talking, as he often did. I didn’t want him to feel that.
He was silent for what seemed an eternity. “I still feel like an outsider sometimes,” he said, more bluntly than I expected. “Sometimes I find myself thinking that I’m only welcome here because of Alice. That’s silly, I know. Isn’t it?”
“Of course it is silly! Incredibly silly. One of the silliest things you have ever said.” I was entirely confident in my statements. “Alice is absolutely wonderful. I don’t know how I lived without her smile and her personality. But you are just as wonderful, in very different ways. You belong here too. More than Edward and Emmett, I feel like you need to be here. I need you here.”
My son moved closer to me and put his hand on top of mine. “Thank you, Esme. You don’t know how much it helps to hear that.”
“Anytime that you need to hear it, you just ask me.” I turned my hand up and linked my fingers through his. He didn’t pull away. “But we still have two more emotions to figure out. What are you afraid of?”
He chewed on his bottom lip, a habit he had picked up from his wife when she was searching for the right words to say. “I guess I’m afraid that I’ll make a mistake. That all I’ve worked so hard for, all that you have all worked so hard for, will come crashing down. Because of me. I don’t want disappoint you and Carlisle. I don’t want to make Rosalie and Emmett move again. I don’t want Edward to feel nervous about bringing his girlfriend here. I don’t want Alice to have to watch my future more than she watches her own.”
“I’ll give you that Alice watches your future more than her own,” I said with a small smile. “Other than that, Jasper, you haven’t done any of those things. Not once in the half century you’ve been my son. Sure, Edward feels nervous. He’s a vampire dating a human. He’s not nervous just because of you but because of the decisions he’s made and what they might lead to.”
“Are you saying that I don’t give myself enough credit?”
“That’s exactly what I’m saying.” As I looked at my son, only three human years younger than me, I didn’t see the battle hardened, tough, stoic man that many people saw. I saw, deep within him, a scared little boy who need love and support more than the man he pretended to be would ever allow him to say. “You are good, Jasper. You are strong. And courageous. More courageous than any of us, I think. Carlisle and I have talked many times about the courage it took, and must still take, to give up a century of doing things one way at the drop of a hat.”
He swallowed hard and blinked furiously. “I think I’d be crying, if that were possible,” he said, the shock clear in his voice. “I don’t if that’s ever happened before. May I hug you?”
It was my turn to swallow hard and blink furiously. “You don’t know how much long I’ve waited to hear you ask me that,” I whispered as I wrapped my arms his strong shoulders. “You may hug me any time you want.”
Suddenly, I was held in an even tighter embrace as he buried his face in my neck. “I don’t remember my human mother at all,” he confided softly. “I don’t remember if she hugged me and held me like this. If she knew my thoughts and feelings better than I did.”
“Is that why you’re sad?” I asked gently, hoping he would still open up more. “Because you can’t remember her?”
“Sometimes that has made me sad, but not tonight. And never again, anyway. I knew it, deep down, before but I fully realize it now. I have a mother. I couldn’t possibly ask for anything more in her.”
I didn’t say it out loud. I somehow knew that it might push things too far. But I knew then that, had my baby boy lived, I could have asked nothing more than for him to be like Jasper.
“You didn’t ask me why I’m sad tonight,” he said, breaking the silence, his head still on my shoulder.
“Do you want to tell me?”
“Yes,” he said, chuckling softly. “Otherwise you’ll drive me crazy with your worry about it.”
“Fair enough,” I said, returning his laugh.
“Since I became a Cullen, almost all of my wishes have come true. Except one. And it can’t ever come true.” He paused, collecting his thoughts and staring into the moonlight. “I want to sleep.”
I hadn’t expected that in the slightest. “Sleep?” I repeated, confused. “Your wish is to sleep?”
“Mm-hm. Maybe, if I could sleep, I could forget who I used to be for a while. I could have good, happy dreams, instead of this waking nightmare. Every time I let my mind lapse, for even a second, I see the man I used to be. It terrifies me sometimes, when I think about it and how easy it could be to go back to that. So I want to sleep. To escape. I don’t know of any other way.”
“I could tell you that you are strong and that I know you won’t go back to that. That there isn’t any sense in worry about it. But I know that won’t help. You’ll never completely forget, we both know that. What I can offer you is this,” I stopped and gently lifted his head with my fingers, staring into his beautiful golden eyes and making sure that he looked into mine, “you don’t have to bear that burden alone anymore. We are a family. And when one member of the family struggles, we help them keep going. That’s how it works. And it will make it easier to bear. I promise.”
“Promise?” he said, his eyes skeptical.
“Promise,” I repeated. “I think about my baby every day. And when I see him losing the fight for life, I want to throw myself off another cliff. But one day, I told Carlisle about it. He listened to me so patiently, for hours, even though the story is so short compared to yours. And I felt better. I knew that I wasn’t alone, even in my pain and grief. I still get sad about it sometimes, though far less often. And when I get sad, I talk to Carlisle, or sometimes Rosalie. It still makes me feel better. Freer.”
He shook his head, dropping his gaze to the moonlit grass below. “I can’t do that to you. I can’t.”
I pushed his chin back up. “I know, I know. You’re a Southern gentleman. You can’t burden ladies with such grisly details. That’s okay. Talk to Carlisle. He wants you to talk to him. And he know that he won’t judge you. You can start your story at the very beginning. Or, if you don’t want to do that, talk to Edward. I know it bothers you sometimes, but he has seen much of who you were already. I think he wants to talk about it almost as much as I know that you do.”
“He hasn’t told you and Carlisle anything?” Jasper did seem honestly surprised by the idea.
“Not a word. And we did try at first, but he vowed then that it was your story to tell and, unless you were in danger because of it, he would not speak a word.”
“I think I’m convinced,” he admitted with a sigh. “I’ll talk to one of them. But not to you, Rosalie, or even Alice. Not for at least another century.”
“I can wait,” I said, hugging my son to me again. “And while I wait, please remember, Jasper, that I will hug you in complete silence whenever you need a hug. And if you need to me to tell you how proud I am of you, how proud I am to have you as my son, I will tell you a thousand times a day.”
“I’ll remember that,” he promised quietly as we watched dawn begin to break over the treetops. “Thank you.”
I squeezed him once more as a gust of wind blew the scents of our family over us. “I guess our quiet weekend is over,” I said, both happy and sad, as I saw Alice dance to a stop below us. “I think someone missed you.”
When he saw her, he changed completely. I felt happiness, passion, love, and hope radiate from his body. And, for the first time in a very long time, I knew that he felt worthy of the hope and love that surely radiated from her.
“I’d better help her bring in the four dozen or so bags she surely has in the car,” he said, smiling broadly as he downplayed, as was right for them, the yearning they had for each other. He stood up on the branch and crouched, to jump down, I thought, when suddenly he kissed my cheek and leaned in to my ear. “I love you, Mom.”
My mind swirled and my cold heart, even unmoving, seemed to skip a beat as I watched him deftly land next to his wife, taking her hand and smiling up at me. I heard her ask if everything went as well as she expected. I saw him ruffle her spiky hair and heard him tell her to stop that. I heard her tinkling laughter as she darted toward the garage, rattling off a list of what she had bought.
“Is he alright?” my husband whispered in my ear, settling onto the branch next to me.
“He will be,” I answered, absolutely certain that he would. “Do you know what he said? He said I love you, Mom. Only he and Alice have ever said that to me.”
Carlisle leaned against the trunk of the tree and angled me so that I was leaning on his chest. “They need you more than the others, I think. You’re doing something right.”
“We are doing something right, Carlisle Cullen,” I corrected him, turning my head to look up at his face as it sparkled in the morning sun.
I closed my umbrella and slid into the driver’s seat of my BMW. “We are certainly going to irritate some poor car salesman today,” I chuckled as I started the car and pulled down our winding driveway.
“I’ll make sure that they’re more than happy to be out in the rain,” Jasper laughed from the passenger seat. “Though I didn’t think that luxury cars were kept outside as a general rule.”
“They aren’t,” I confirmed as I increased my speed on the empty highway. “But luxury car salesmen tend to run out to greet me when they see cars like this pull up.”
“I see. Thanks for helping me find a car, Rosalie,” he said as the trees flew past the window.
“Who else would you ask?” I said with a smile. “Alice didn’t tell you which one you pick, did she?”
He shook his head. “She told me that all she saw was me looking at cars. Maybe I don’t pick one today.”
“You’ll pick one,” I assured him. “It is truly impossible not to pick one when money is not an issue. Sometimes I have a hard time picking just the one.”
“Then I’m the perfect man for you. I haven’t got any specific idea what I want other than a car of my own.”
“Why don’t you have a car yet, Jasper?” I asked, my curiosity completely getting the better of me. “It’s been sixty years, you know.”
“I know it’s been sixty years. But I don’t really know why I never bought one before.”
I looked over at him, considering things. “I have a theory.”
“Of course you do,” he said with a lopsided grin. “What’s your theory?”
“I think you were afraid of having your own car.” As was my nature, I put it bluntly.
“Do go on,” he pressed, exaggerating his accent. “Why was I afraid of having my own car?”
“You were afraid that having your own car, one you didn’t have to ask to borrow, would make it too easy to leave and go back to the life Peter and Charlotte lead. If it got to be too much, you could just get in your car and go, never looking back.”
Jasper drummed his fingers on the door and chewed on his bottom lip. “Edward is going to be thrilled when I tell him that you’ve been able to read minds all this time.”
“Ha! I was right! But please don’t put dents in my door.” I hadn’t been at all sure that I was. “In any case, I’m glad that you’re finally ready.”
“It will be nice to finally have the freedom of not having to borrow cars,” he agreed rather wistfully.
“Yep. Is Alice excited?”
Jasper laughed as I pulled into the lane that would take us to Seattle. “Very much. She kept showing me pictures of Porsches, Maseratis, Ferraris and Aston Martins.”
I looked him out of the corner of my eye as I passed three 18-wheelers. “I didn’t think that you wanted a car like that.”
“I don’t,” he answered quickly. “I want something that I can drive, all the time. Not a bright yellow Porsche while we live in the Pacific Northwest. Something between Edward’s Volvo and Carlisle’s Mercedes.”
“That’s what I thought. But you can’t have a Volvo or a Mercedes,” I said firmly. “Like Alice and her rules about clothes, I have rules about the cars of the family. The first and most important being that we do not have more than one of a brand name at a time.”
“Do you realize that neither Carlisle, Edward, Emmett or I have rules about things the way Esme has antiques, you have cars and Alice has clothes?”
“You boys just don’t have passion for things like we girls do,” I said, waving off the playfully placed insult. “Though Edward does have Bella and his rules about her can be irritating. Then again, he might border more on obsession than passion.”
“Is it safe to assume that you’d rather I try not to think about that last comment around our brother?” he guessed, smiling wickedly.
“If you could,” I allowed, smiling back. “Not that I mind what he hears. Come to think of it, I’ve probably thought just that around him a time or two. But I wouldn’t want you to get in trouble.”
“What happens in the BMW stays in the BMW.”
“Unfortunately, we must not stay in the BMW,” I announced as I pulled into a Lexus dealership. “I thought we’d look at Lexus for sportier cars like mine, Land Rover for cars like Emmett’s and Audi for cars more like Carlisle and Edward’s. Sound good?”
“Sounds perfect,” he agreed as he got out and came around to open my door.
“Teach Emmett how to do that, will you?” I said, relishing the courtesy. “He’s got all the chivalry of a hockey stick.”
“I promise to try,” he said as he gallantly held my umbrella over our heads. “He doesn’t seem to have much interest in manners.”
“Oh well,” I sighed as he held the door open for me and closed the umbrella. “I love my country boy. Opposites attract, right? Me and my country boy, Alice and her proper southern gentleman, Bella and a vampire.”
We didn’t stay long at the Lexus dealership. Jasper didn’t want a sports car which was fine with me because I didn’t think any of their other models were a good fit for him. So we moved on to the Land Rover dealership.
That was an entirely different experience. The dealer, Ronald, seemed absolutely desperate for us to buy something. He lied through his teeth about the costs. He hit on me quite blatantly. When Jasper politely told him off for hitting on me, he switched teams completely and started hitting on Jasper. I was nearly doubled over in laughter; if I had needed air, I would have been wheezing.
When Ronald excused himself to take care of “business” and made a beeline for the men’s room, we made our getaway.
“Did you do that on purpose?” I choked out as I staggered back to my car.
“Only the end,” he admittedly guiltily with a mischievous twinkle in his eyes. “I figured if he was willing to switch from you to me, he could easily take care of himself.”
“Esme would be so disappointed in you,” I scolded, trying to maintain a straight face.
“Esme isn’t here,” he challenged, laughing out loud.
We had calmed down enough by the time we reached the Audi dealership to be serious about the task at hand once again. The dealer there, Carol, was charmed by Jasper’s golden eyes and curls but not the point that she lost control.
Jasper, as I had predicted without needing Alice, fell in love with the Audi A8. When Carol began asking about custom orders and Jasper clarified that all he wanted was a black A8 with a black leather interior and tinted windows, as much as the law allowed, I could almost see the dollar signs dance in front of her eyes.
It turned out that someone had ordered a car with just those specifications but fallen victim to the economy and could not buy the car. So, in a very rare occurrence, Jasper was able to drive away in his brand new car.
Racing each other, within the boundaries of the law, of course, we arrived back home in just under two and a half hours. Alice was literally dancing on the porch.
“A phantom black pearl effect A8! Four doors and plenty of trunk space for shopping! With massage seats!” she squealed as she darted into the passenger side. “It isn’t as good as my Porsche, but I love it!”
“Your Porsche doesn’t have massage seats,” Jasper reminded her as he set her seat to massage. “And you can’t drive it anywhere.”
“Be quiet, you,” she giggled, pecking him on the cheek with a kiss. “And take me for a drive.”
“Wait!” I called out, leaning in Alice’s window. “Did you happen to see anything else that we did today?”
Alice narrowed her eyes at her husband. “That wasn’t a very nice thing to do to Ronald,” she admonished him. “Oh, and I accidentally thought about it when Edward was around. He was surprised enough to let it slip near Esme. So you might want to see if your new car will get you all the way to Denali.”
“Alice!” he growled as he began to pull down the driveway before stopping and looking at me. “Thank you, Rosalie.”
I waved as they disappeared and then hurried in to find my country boy.
You’re A Peach
Boredom, thy name is Renesmee.
Everybody was busy. Except me. Momma and Dad were on a trip to Argentina for a second honeymoon or something. Jacob was taking the SATs at the reservation school. Aunt Rosalie and Aunt Alice were on a shopping trip in Seattle. I was supposed to go with them but then I sneezed. Everyone looked at me like I had suddenly sprouted a second head. Grandpa Carlisle insisted that I stay home, in case I was actually sick, which I was not! Then Grandpa Carlisle went to work. Grandma Esme was busy making blueprints for a new house and told me to sit quietly on the couch and watch movies or read.
That got boring fast! And Uncle Emmett, my usual go-to guy for distractions, had just left for Seattle to pick up Momma and Dad at the airport.
“Uncle Jasper!” I called out in my sweetest sing-song voice, staying put on the couch in case Grandma Esme caught me.
“You called, peach?” he said, appearing at my side.
“What are you doing up there?”
“Grown-up stuff,” he replied with a mischievous grin. “In the library.”
“I’m the size of a seven year old,” I argued, getting up on my knees. “And Dad says I think like a teenager.”
“All this is very true, peach,” Uncle Jasper allowed as he swung me into the air and sat down under me. “But the fact remains that you weren’t even born a whole year ago. Therefore, you are still not a grown-up.”
“Why do you call me peach?” He wasn’t going to tell me what happened in the library that I wasn’t allowed in, so I moved on. “It’s been bugging me.”
“I’m sorry, darlin’, would you like me to stop?”
“No, don’t stop. I like it,” I sighed impatiently. “I just want you to tell me why you do it.”
“When I was a little boy, your size, there was nothing I loved more in the world than peach pie. Peach pie was just the sweetest, juiciest, most delicious treat a boy could ask for. And peaches don’t grow well in Texas. My family had the only peach trees in town. I spent hours in that orchard, tending to the trees and making sure that lots and lots of peaches grew nice and ripe. Then, when I picked more baskets of peaches than I could count, I’d help my Ma and my Grandma make the pies. The messes I made when I helped were almost as much fun as the eating the pie itself.” He turned me around so we were face to face. “So you see, peach, I call you that because you are just the sweetest, juiciest, most delicious treat a man like me could ask for. So you’re my little peach.”
“I bet peach pie isn’t as a good as blood,” I argued, snuggling up to him.
“There you’re wrong, little miss. Peach pie is better than blood. If there were one thing I wish I could eat again, it would be peach pie.”
I sighed and looked the stack of books on the table and DVDs by the television. Boring. I could do that anytime. “I have an idea!” I squeaked suddenly. I touched Uncle Jasper’s cheek and showed him a show about making pies that I had watched on the Food Network at Grandpa Charlie’s.
“You want to make a pie?” he asked doubtfully.
“Yes, please,” I said as I started to bounce up and down. “A peach one. Can we, Uncle Jasper? Can we?”
“You don’t like human food,” he reminded me gently.
“Grandpa Carlisle keeps telling me that I should try more of it,” I said as I kept on bouncing. “And Jacob sure seems to like it enough. So, if you say that peach pie is better than blood, I want to try it. Please? Please? Please?”
“Stop bouncing, peach,” he groaned, standing up with me in his arms. “You’re getting to be worse than your Aunt Alice when she gets excited.”
“So we’re going to make the pie?” I demanded, making a note to show Aunt Alice just what he said later.
“Yes, we’ll make the pie. If Grandma Esme says that you aren’t too sick.”
“I couldn’t be sick if I wanted to,” I protested. “I only sneezed because I sniffed the potpourri too closely. You’d think Grandpa Carlisle would know that!”
“You’d think!” he agreed as Grandma Esme came out of her office.
“What’s all this noise out here?” she said with a smile. “You haven’t convinced Nessie to eat human food, have you, Jasper?”
“I do believe I have. Do you mind?”
“Not at all,” Grandma laughed. “I just restocked the kitchen so you should have what you need. It’s a good thing I bought peaches. Clean up any mess you make, Nessie.”
“Of course, Grandma Esme,” I giggled as I touched Uncle Jasper’s cheek and reminded him about the messes he told me about.
“Shh,” he whispered as he carried me into the kitchen and set me on a stool. “What Grandma doesn’t know, won’t hurt her. And don’t tell your father I said that.”
I giggled harder as I flipped though an cookbook with just old fashioned American recipes. “Look, Uncle Jasper!” I shouted in excitement. “A recipe for a butter pastry shell and peach pie right in the Texas section of the book!”
He read the recipes over my shoulder and nodded. “That’s pretty much what I remember my Grandma’s recipe to be. Read me the ingredients and I’ll get them out.”
I rattled off the list and he moved at vampire speed to set them all on the island.
“Renesmee,” he said, his eyes narrowed at me. “This looks like a rather large amount of ingredients for a pie. Why, peach, did you triple the amounts of each ingredient?”
I smiled sweetly at him and batted my eyelashes, just like I had seen Aunt Alice do. “Well, I have to have one pie. And I thought we could make one for Jacob and one for Grandpa Charlie. All of this would go to waste if we don’t use it. You wouldn’t want that, would you?”
He pursed his lips together in frustration, just like I had seen when he was about to give in to Aunt Alice, and sighed. “You know that the food would not go to waste, Nessie. You know that we donate it to the needy before it goes bad. But fine,” he conceded, putting three pie tins on the island in front of me. “Three peach pies it is. But you need to spend less time with Aunt Alice.”
“I’m telling her you said that!” I sang out as I measured out the flour, salt and sugar for the crust into a bowl.
“No, you’re not,” he said as he cut the butter into small pieces and started to mix it all together. “Or I’ll tell her it wasn’t just Uncle Emmett that used her pink silk dress to make a kite last weekend.”
“It was his idea!” I yelped as I carried the huge ball of dough, now wrapped in plastic to the refrigerator where it had to chill for an hour.
“Perhaps. But who was it that went into her closet and got the dress?”
I scowled at him. “How do you even know what happened? You were out of town with Aunt Alice.”
Uncle Jasper grinned at me and shrugged his shoulders. “When we got back and caught the two of you flying the kite, Emmett only felt annoyed, as he always does when Alice catches him doing something. You, on the other, my little peach, were feeling rather a lot of guilt for someone who didn’t do anything wrong.”
I scowled harder and stuck my hand on his cheek, leaving a doughy handprint. I showed him Dad taking me to the store and making me pick out a dress in the junior’s section. Then I showed him me, emptying my piggy bank and giving Dad the money. Finally, I showed him me feeling guilty as Aunt Alice showered me with kisses over her present.
Apparently, all that was very funny to Uncle Jasper. “I know that your father knows, Nessie. He heard you thinking about it. And I know he took you to buy the dress. But we both agreed not to tell Alice until you were ready to do it yourself.”
“I’ll tell her when she gets home,” I promised solemnly. “But can we get back to the pie until then?”
“Yes, peach, we can. Why don’t you measure out the flour, sugar and cinnamon and mix it together while I peel and slice the peaches?”
“I could peel and slice,” I boasted proudly. “Momma lets me use a knife even though Dad says she shouldn’t because she’s still a newborn and I have blood. So I compromise and only use one when Dad and Jacob are around.”
“That’s very smart of you,” Uncle Jasper said as he carefully peeled the fuzzy skin off the peaches. “And, if you don’t mind, I’ll just take care of the knife this time.”
“That’s fine,” I giggled as a puff of flour exploded over my head as I tore open the new bag. “My ingredients make better messes.”
“You’ve gotten old, Ness,” he laughed as the flour settled over both of us. “You’re hair has gone white. But that does not mean that I will tell you about the library. You’ll just have to ask your parents about that.”
“Oh, be quiet you,” I sighed as I wiped my arm across my forehead, smearing flour and cinnamon across my face.
We stirred the peach slices in and folded it in to put the sugar and flour mixture on as a coating. Then Uncle Jasper got the dough out of the refrigerator.
He broke the ball of dough into three even pieces and set them in the flour that I had spilled all over the island. “I think you’re supposed to spread flour before you roll out dough, but I think you’ve got that under control, don’t you?”
I brandished the wooden rolling pin at him, almost toppling off my stool.
“A vampire that can’t swing a rolling pin and stay on her stool at the same time,” Uncle Jasper said sadly as he steadied me. “What is the world coming to?”
“Half vampire,” I corrected him as I pressed the now flat dough into the pie tins. “Dad and Uncle Emmett told me that Momma was very clumsy when she was human, so maybe I’m just a little clumsy.”
Uncle Jasper laughed again, hard, before we set to quietly filling each of the pies with peaches. Then we carefully laid strips of dough in crisscross patterns over the top before Uncle Jasper held me up so I could cautiously, with oven mitts, slip the pies into the oven.
I set the timer for 45 minutes and looked up at Uncle Jasper. “What are we going to do for 45 minutes?” I demanded with an impish grin.
“What do you want to do?”
“Let’s watch the Food Network.” I didn’t want to have to clean up until I had some pie so leaving the kitchen was not an option.
Uncle Jasper turned on the television and sat down on the stool next to me.
“Oh my kitchen,” Grandma Esme groaned as she came in half an hour later. “Do the pies look neater than the kitchen?”
“Yep,” I chirped happily. “And I’ll clean up after I have pie.”
“Good girl,” she said, blowing me a kiss instead of kissing my floury head. “But you should know that I just received five phone calls in five minutes. Your parents, Emmett, Alice, Rosalie, Jacob and Grandpa Carlisle will be here within fifteen minutes.”
“Can I still wait to clean up?”
“So long as my kitchen is clean before you go to bed, you and your uncle may clean up whenever you wish,” Grandma Esme said, patting Uncle Jasper on the back and leaving the messy kitchen.
“Thank you for baking pie with me, Uncle Jasper.” I stood on my stool and kissed his cheek.
“You’re very welcome, peach,” he said, catching me and pulling me into a hug. “I really do like spending time with you.”
“Once a week then,” I declared grandly as the timer went off on the oven, “we’ll have a date to do something. You can pick next time.”
“It’s a date,” he declared, sealing it with a kiss on my cheek. “Do you want to try a piece before everyone gets here? Just to see how it is without an audience?”
I very much did and, since I made a whole pie just for me, I didn’t even feel too guilty about it.
It was delicious! “You were right, Uncle Jasper!” I squealed, before I almost choked as I watched him put a bite of pie in his mouth. “It is better than blood!”
“I told you,” he said as he slowly chewed his bite and then stuck his tongue out at me. “I don’t know why people always doubt me.”
“Maybe because you’re eating human food?” Aunt Alice said warily at vampire speed as everybody came into the kitchen. “Why are you eating human food, Jasper?”
“He’s eating peach pie with his little peach,” I grinned with peach juice dribbling down my chin. “Is it as good as you remember, Uncle Jasper?”
“Definitely,” he said with a smile as he wrapped his arms around Aunt Alice. “Just like my Grandma’s.”
“Been baking, Nessie love?” Dad asked as he swung me into his arms, my plate in one hand. “Is there more flour in the pie or on you?”
I held my fork in my mouth and put one hand on each of my parents cheeks. I showed them every detail of how the pies came to be.
“Didn’t you go shopping in Seattle?” Momma asked as she kissed my cheek.
I touched her cheek and showed myself sneezing after I sniffed the potpourri and everybody completely overreacting. “But I had a good time with Uncle Jasper,” I declared happily, reaching down for more pie.
“One of those pies for me, Nessie?” Jacob asked as he inched closer.
“Yep. One for you, one for me and one for Grandpa Charlie,” I said happily. “Momma? Can we take Grandpa Charlie’s pie to him now?”
“Sure, baby,” she said as Dad nodded. “I actually called Grandpa Charlie on the way from the airport and he’s expecting us. Maybe Jake wants to come along.”
“Sure, sure,” my Jacob said through a mouthful of pie. “This is really good, Nessie. Vamps really can cook. Very nice, Nessie, Jasper.”
“Thank you, Jacob,” Uncle Jasper said politely as Aunt Alice dragged him from the room. “Have a good time at Grandpa Charlie’s, peach!”
“Bye!” I shouted as Dad carried me to the garage and buckled me into my booster seat where I quickly had an uncontrollable urge to yawn. I let myself yawn and caught Momma’s eye in the rearview mirror. “Wake me up when we there, please.”
That’s the Christmas Spirit
“Emmett, we look like idiots in here,” Jasper hissed at me. “Pick something out and let’s go.”
“We do not look like idiots,” I argued, looking longingly at the racks upon racks of naughty lingerie that made up the Port Angeles Victoria’s Secret store. “We are simply two guys shopping for presents for their girlfriends.”
“Guys do not shop together at Victoria’s Secret for their girlfriends. I’m not even sure that guys are supposed to buy lingerie for their girlfriends.”
“Let’s ask that girl behind the counter,” I suggested, taking a step forward only to nearly topple over when Jasper grabbed my elbow almost hard enough to crack it. “Jazz, it isn’t anything bad. I’d just ask her how many guys come in here.”
“Let’s not ask her and pretend that we did,” he growled. “I’m going to leave if you don’t hurry up and pick something for Rosalie.”
“Alright, alright. Calm down, man.” I made my way to the back of the store, wear the most lace was on display. “Don’t you want to get something for Alice? We are Christmas shopping, after all.”
“Alice doesn’t want lingerie,” he snapped shortly.
“Stick in the mud. You, not her,” I muttered as I began sorting through a rack of something called the Water Bra of the Angels. “How do you know she doesn’t want lingerie?”
“Because I know Alice,” he said with a sigh. “And because I now realize why she had an incredible case of the giggles this morning when you asked me to come with you. I’m going to kill her for not telling me you wanted to go here.”
“Nah,” I scoffed as I moved on to the bustier section; Rose always looked delicious in black but I was looking for something spicier. “You wouldn’t hurt Alice for anything.”
“Fine,” he snapped again. “Then I’ll kill you. Fair enough?”
“You wouldn’t do that either,” I argued with a sigh and a mischievous grin. “Alice likes me too much.”
“Can I help you gentlemen find anything?” the hot redhead from behind the counter said as she walked seductively toward us. “Are you shopping for each other or girlfriends?”
“You have got to be kidding me,” Jasper groaned under his breath.
“We’re just looking,” I said, elbowing Jasper. “For our girlfriends. Thanks, though.”
“I told you that we look like idiots,” Jasper growled at me.
“Look, dude, will you be in a better mood if I take you to the bookstore and then we come back here?”
“No, I do not want to leave and then come back,” he said through clenched teeth. “That would make us look all the more like creepy idiots. Just shop, please.”
“Suit yourself,” I said as I turned to the lace garters. “I still think you should get Alice something.”
“You get Alice something if you want her to have something so bad. Why didn’t you make Edward go shopping with you instead of me?”
“Don’t think I didn’t try. But it’s cloudy so it was the perfect day to spend watching Bella breathe or something equally cheesy.”
“As opposed to when its sunny and you spend the entire day doing more than just staring at Rosalie?” Jasper countered as he squirmed and fidgeted as the redhead clerk batted her eyelashes at him.
“Sometimes Rose and I think you and Alice need to spice up your amorous activities,” I said, turning to look at him with my very best serious face.
“Nice of you two to discuss our sex life.”
“Like you and Alice don’t discuss me and Rose.”
Jasper failed miserably at stifling a snicker. “Emmett, there’s a difference between expressing general disgust of what you do and the two of you discussing how we should be more like you. Big difference, brother.”
“Eh, as Cicero said to each his own, I suppose,” I said, happily admitting defeat at as we wandered to the lotions and body oils. “Now this is what I’m talking about!”
“Only you would quote Cicero in Victoria’s Secret,” Jasper said with a dramatic roll of his eyes. “Didn’t she hear you say that we are shopping for our girlfriends?”
I glanced over at the curvy clerk, who was clearly busy undressing Jasper with her eyes. “Course she did. But you aren’t looking at anything, much less buying. What’s she supposed to think?”
“Fine,” he grudgingly grumbled as he reached out to pluck a deep red shimmery lace babydoll nightdress from the closest rack. “I’ll get this.”
I stifled a laugh with a cough and continued to peruse the shelves of lotions and oils. When I heard Jasper’s phone buzz the arrival of a text, I turned quickly to read over his shoulder. It was from Alice.
Thank you, but, no. I don’t want that.
“I told you she didn’t want anything from this store,” Jasper muttered as his fingers flew over the keypad. I know, but Em won’t leave until I buy something and I look like an idiot wandering around with him.
Her reply was quick. I know you do! But Rose wants what you picked for me in silver. Along with any coconut oil and lotion Em can find. And the red bustier and garter set.
“Got it?” he said, holding up the phone in case I couldn’t see, which I could. “Go find those things. Now.”
I shrugged my shoulders and turned back around, picking every coconut related thing I could find off the shelves before moving back to the lingerie section.
Jasper was waiting outside of the store for me when the redhead finally got around to ringing up all of my purchases. He certainly was impatient.
“You can pick the next store, bro,” I offered as he stuffed his purchase inside my bag. “Books?”
“Books,” he repeated, probably because he knew I would be the most bored at a bookstore.
So I followed him to the closest bookstore and prepared myself for at least two hours of retaliatory boredom. “Who’re you buying books for?” I demanded. “Alice isn’t into books like you are. So you must be here for yourself. How Christmas-y.”
“Just as Christmas-y as what you bought at the last store,” he retorted, eyeing me suspiciously. “That really wasn’t just for Rosalie and we both know it without even asking Edward or Alice.”
“Touché,” I agreed with a guilty chuckle. “Do I have to follow you around?”
“No, Emmett,” he said with a sigh that sounded far too much like a bossy older brother for my liking. “In the stores of my choosing you can feel free to amuse yourself however you like. Unlike, of course, your stores where amusing myself would simply get me arrested.”
“Whine, whine, whine,” I mouthed as I wandered away from the philosophy section in search of more interesting topics. Like Snoopy or Garfield.
And then I saw it. Behind a swinging door, there lay the land of my bookstore dreams. The adult section. With my super eyesight, I spotted a large poster advertising a brand new book to go right along with my Victoria’s Secret purchases. I dashed in and picked it up, paying for it at the cash register in the section where they wrapped it in brown paper and marked it paid. Then I stepped out of that section, sniffed for Jasper and hurried over to the American history section.
“Admit it Jazz, you just can’t get away from it,” I snickered as I tried to keep a straight face. That was not happening.
“Why are you grinning like a Cheshire cat?” he demanded, eyeing me suspiciously. “And what is in that brown paper bag?”
Grinning even wider, I lifted the flap on the bag and secretly showed him my discovery.
“The Kama Sutra in the 21st Century: Your Partner and You.” He read the title with a groan and a defeated sigh. “Fine. You win, Emmett. At shopping. But, mark my words, you will lose our battle tonight. And every night for six months. Just because you won at shopping.”
“You’re on, brother!” I said with a barely controlled bellow of glee.
Building a Bridge
“Jasper?” I was nervous enough that I was sure I hadn’t spoken loud enough for him to hear me. But I was sure that he had smelled the blood that colored my cheeks. He knew I was close by. So I spoke a little louder, trying to make myself less nervous. “Jasper? Will you talk to me for a minute?”
“Edward and Emmett should be back in hour, Bella,” he said softly as he watched the moonlight dance on the water of the Sol Duc River. “You’re early.”
I walked carefully across the rocks that lined the river’s edge, trying not to fall and slash my leg open, and stopped thirty feet from him. “I know,” I admitted shyly. “But I wanted to talk to you before Edward got back. If you don’t mind.”
“I don’t mind,” he said without taking his eyes of the water. “If you don’t.”
“Why are you out here by yourself?” I mentally kicked myself for blurting out that question first.
Jasper’s broad shoulders tensed as he stopped himself from taking a deep breath. “I knew you were coming over and I thought it would be better if I were out here. I thought that you might feel more comfortable. After what happened at the…party.”
I took five careful steps closer. “Did Edward ask, tell, you to stay outside?” I demanded angrily.
He finally turned to look at me, his bright golden eyes curious. “Are you actually angry that he might have told me to stay out of the house when you were there? I don’t understand why that would make you angry.”
“It would make me angry because I can make my own choices,” I insisted as I tried to keep my frustration under control. “I could have not come over at all. I don’t want to kick you out of your home every time I come over. And, before you argue with me, Edward telling you to stay out counts as me kicking you out.”
Jasper laughed quietly as he turned his gaze back to the water. “First of all, Bella, vampires don’t technically require a home so there really isn’t anything odd about me be willing to spend a few hours outside. Second, Edward didn’t say anything at all. Alice told me that you were coming and I chose to leave.”
I took ten steps closer this time. “I don’t have to come over at all,” I said quietly as I tried desperately to keep my balance. “Edward and I can see each other in different places. I really feel horrible about everything that happened and now you can’t even feel safe and comfortable in your own home because of me.”
This time his laugh was filled with disbelief. “You feel horrible because I can’t feel safe because of you?” he repeated incredulously. “Perhaps you don’t understand at all, Bella. I am a vampire. I wanted to kill you at your birthday party. I wouldhave killed you. You did nothing wrong, Bella. I did. I made it unsafe for you. Please try to comprehend that.”
“I do understand all of that, Jasper. Honestly I do. But I don’t see it like you do.” I took another eight steps forward. “Edward told me that the house is the only place you can really be who you are. The only place that you can drop the charade. So I changed your home. I made it hard for you to be there.”
“You shouldn’t come any closer,” he said stiffly. “The rocks are slippery.”
I couldn’t help but huff in frustration.
Jasper’s head snapped to the other direction and he seemed to focus on something in the trees. “Alright already,” he sighed into the darkness before standing up and gesturing to the flat, grassy lawn. “Bella, if you would like to walk to the grass, I’ll follow behind close enough to catch you before you fall.”
I turned carefully and began picking my way to the grass as I realized what had just happened. “Alice is in the woods, isn’t she?” I asked as I focused on my goal of the grass.
“Yes,” he said with a sigh. “Apparently our conversation will finish without a problem.”
“I was going to fall on the rocks, wasn’t I?” I couldn’t help but ask with a grimace.
“No, it isn’t that,” he said as he followed me. “I would apparently be more comfortable if we talked on the grass.”
I silently congratulated myself on making it to the grass with needing to be caught once. “Good,” I said with a small smile. “I want you to be comfortable. Now where were we?”
“You were telling me how you made it hard for me to be in my home,” he reminded me quietly as he stood at the edge of the grass and turned his focus back to the moonlit water.
“Right. I know that you are a vampire, Jasper. I know what that means. I know what that could mean, now more than ever. I should be thanking you. And so should Edward.” I glanced into the darkness of the trees and saw a small, pale hand wave me forward so I took a few steps toward him.
“You are being honest,” he said as though he didn’t quite believe it. “So you must be honestly delusional. Why else would you, or Edward, thank me?”
“Well, Edward should thank you because I saw something that he’s wanted me to see, hoping to scare me away from him,” I explained as the tiny hand waved me further forward. “And I am thanking you because I saw something that night that I needed to see. And I’m still here.”
“You’re welcome, I think,” he said as he slowly turned around, shock briefly registering in his eyes as he saw how close I was. “But listen to me, Bella. Please listen. If what happened at your birthday party were to happen again, and they couldn’t stop me, I wouldn’t be able to stop myself. So if you’re thinking that it would be a way for you to be changed…don’t. And if I killed you, I couldn’t live with myself. I’ve never killed someone that I loved and I don’t want to.”
“You won’t,” I said with a confidence that surprised us both. “I trust you, Jasper.”
He scoffed and kicked a rock across the river, splitting a small tree in half. “I’m glad that one of us trusts me,” he murmured as he examined the toe of his boot.
“I’m going to help you, in any case,” I announced proudly.
“Oh? And how, pray tell, will you do that?”
I smiled warmly at him. “First, Angela and Jessica were signing up for a yoga class so I joined them. That will help my balance issues. Second, when I’m here, no knives, razors, sharp rocks, shoes with heels, forks, or paper. And third, I want you to promise to tell me if you need me to leave.”
“The first two might just work,” he allowed with a glimmer of a smile before he turned serious again. “But I can’t promise you that. I can promise to try, that’s all. But if someone asked Alice to leave me, even for an hour, because she bothered them, I don’t know what I would do. So I can’t ask that of Edward.”
“That’s fair enough, I suppose.”
“I’m glad that Edward found you, Bella,” he said with an air of shyness and sadness that surprised me. “He’s needed you for a very long time. And I hate to think how easy it would be to take that away from him. I put myself in his place and I know what I would do if someone took Alice from me, especially someone that I thought of as a brother…”
I watched him shudder slightly, whether from a memory or thoughts of the future, I didn’t know. “You’ve all told me that you consider me a part of this family, right?” I asked with a quiet resolution.
Jasper nodded solemnly, watching my face closely.
“Well, I consider you all to be part of my family. All of you. I never had any brothers or sisters until I met you. And I wouldn’t change a thing.”
I watched as his tense face slowly melted. Confusion, hope and wonder swirled around me briefly before he pulled them back and focused on me. He didn’t speak.
In an instant, I made my decision. I quickly covered the short distance between us and slowed down, gently wrapping my arms around his muscled chest.
He turned to stone in the same instant. But I didn’t let go. And, after two full minutes, he slowly and gently wrapped his arms around me.
“Thank you, Bella,” he whispered into the night.
“What on earth for?” I couldn’t help but gasp as I kept my gaze focused on the grass.
“For showing me that I might be as strong as Alice and Carlisle think I can be,” he murmured. “I’ve always doubted myself. And they’ve always told me that I don’t give myself enough credit. And you, even though I came so very close to killing you, still can find the will and the strength to forgive me. Forgive me to the point of hugging me. It doesn’t make a bit of sense, but I’ll take it.”
“You’re very welcome then,” I said as I looked up, startled by a low chuckle that escaped from his throat. “What?”
Jasper nodded toward the tree line where Alice stood in front of Edward, her hands on his chest. “Edward seems concerned by our closeness at the moment,” he said in a voice that I knew Edward could hear.
“I hugged him first, Edward,” I happily called out as I let go of Jasper and opened my arms for Edward. “Now you should both come over here.”
In a second, Jasper and I were both in the arms of those who we loved enough to die for.
To Be A Father
Someone was reciting the Bhagavad-Gita in their thoughts. It was odd. I didn’t understand why someone would be doing that. I reluctantly tore my focus from Bella’s still form and paid closer attention to what I was hearing. It was Jasper. And he was very close.
“It’s about time,” Jasper said quietly from behind me.
I looked up and quickly found him in a rocking chair, which I don’t think had been in the room before, near the window. He was holding my sleeping daughter in the weak rays of the sunlight.
“You’ve begun studying Hindu philosophy?” I asked as I turned back to Bella.
“No, I haven’t,” he replied firmly. “I was merely trying to get your attention. I’ve been sitting here for almost an hour.”
“Why didn’t you say something?”
He shrugged gently enough to not wake Renesmee. “She was asleep and I don’t have anything else to do at the moment. So I thought I’d wait and see how long it took you to notice me. Not to mention your daughter.”
“I thought that Rosalie and Jacob were taking care of her,” I said without paying close attention.
“Esme and I are staging an intervention. We decided that it is past time that you pay attention to your daughter.”
I shook my head and held Bella’s lifeless hand between my cold hands. “I have to be with Bella.”
“Which is why I brought Renesmee to you,” he answered quickly. “You don’t want Bella to be upset with you when she wakes up, do you?”
“If she wakes up, she will have no reason to be upset with me. This is exactly what she wanted. There isn’t anything to upset her.”
“It isn’t exactly what she wanted and I can name one thing that will upset her very much.”
I lifted my eyes and glared at him. “Explain,” I demanded angrily.
“Bella spent the last six weeks struggling to stay alive long enough to bring her daughter into the world. I realize that you were against it for much of that time, and you know I supported you on that, but you let Bella make the choice for herself.
Your daughter is almost three days old and you haven’t held her since you delivered her. Don’t you think that little fact might upset Bella?”
I considered all that he said carefully. It was true that I had been against Bella’s pregnancy from the moment I acknowledged it until I heard the first bits of the child’s, Renesmee’s, thoughts. It was also true that I had let Bella make the choice, perhaps because I was so certain that she would not survive the ordeal and didn’t want to deprive her of anything. And I hadn’t held my daughter since her birth. There wasn’t any doubt in my mind that Bella would be bothered by that fact.
“If she wakes up,” I muttered, finishing my thought aloud.
“I’m not a mind reader but I’ll take that to mean that you can’t argue with what I said,” Jasper smirked. “You need to have confidence that she will wake up. She’s strong, Edward. And she’s wanted this so badly for so long. She’ll fight through it.”
“Has Alice seen anything?” I hadn’t been paying attention; I might have missed something.
“No. She hasn’t,” he admitted quietly. “But this isn’t really something she would see. No conscious decision will be made about whether or not Bella wakes up. She will or she won’t. Besides, Jacob is still here.”
“I can’t live without her, Jasper. I can’t.”
“You would have to,” he said simply. “You have a part of Bella right here in your daughter. You can’t abandon her.”
I didn’t answer because I couldn’t think of anything to say. Not a word.
“How would going back to Italy honor Bella’s memory? What would Bella say if she heard you talking like this? What would she think of the fact that you haven’t held her daughter?”
“Going back to Italy wouldn’t be to honor her memory. It would be to end my life, such as it is, shortly after her life ends,” I argued fiercely.
“Brother, you’re losing your mind,” Jasper murmured as Renesmee stirred in his arms. “If Bella doesn’t make it through this, she dies as a human…with a soul by your calculations, while you would be destroyed as a soulless vampire, condemned to hell. You wouldn’t even get to be with her.”
His words cut through me as no knife ever could or would. “Why are you doing this, Jasper?” I asked hoarsely.
“I don’t mean to hurt you, Edward. But nothing else is getting through to you. So I’m using your own words and feelings to make you open your eyes.” He dropped his voice even further so that it wouldn’t wake Renesmee. I vaguely wondered why he didn’t just think his half of the conversation.
“Tell me what to do, Jasper. If you know so much better than I do, tell me.” My voice was panicked and pleading but I didn’t care.
“Have hope,” he implored me quietly. “Have hope that you will have a beautiful wife and daughter tomorrow. Have hope that you will have twice as much as Carlisle, Emmett and I could ever dream of having.”
I looked at him in an entirely different light. Was he envious of me? Did he regret that he could never give Alice what I hadn’t want to give Bella? I watched as he gazed at my daughter with a softness and awe that wasn’t far from how he looked at Alice.
“You have to hold her, Edward,” he said as he watched Renesmee’s tiny eyelids flicker in response to her dreams. “She isn’t going anywhere and she needs you. Now. Today.”
“I’m a hundred and ten year old vampire,” I muttered feebly, giving in to his logic more with every second that passed. “I don’t know anything about children.”
“Renesmee doesn’t need you to be perfect, Edward, as much as you require that of yourself. She needs you to be her father. To grow and learn with her. Please don’t miss this opportunity.”
Realization of something entirely unrelated to Bella or Renesmee was slowly dawning on me. “You had a child in your human life?” I whispered as I felt myself rise from my chair and move toward the rocking chair. “Didn’t you?”
He didn’t answer. And yet my question was answered.
“You’ve never thought about a child,” I murmured, instantly ashamed at the statement.
“No,” he said thickly as Renesmee’s brown eyes fluttered open in response to the sadness that radiated from him. “It hurts too much. I can’t let myself think about it. But you get to be a father, Edward. I didn’t.
I’ve looked up to you and admired you every moment since I joined your family. Every moment except this conversation. I don’t understand how you can turn away from her, how you can doubt the love you feel for her. I can feel your love for her, Edward. Let her feel it.”
I stood over him and watched my daughter, innocent and pure, squirm playfully in his arms. She smiled tentatively at him, trying to make him happy, and I heard him struggle to hold back a sob. I was more careful than ever to ignore whatever he was thinking.
Suddenly he stood with a effortlessness that Renesmee didn’t even notice the change in position. He held her out and I reached for her. She nuzzled into my arms, watching him curiously.
“The blood is getting to me,” he choked out without meeting my gaze. And then he brushed past me.
I took his place in the rocking chair and watched him leave. Alice had appeared in the doorway and was reaching for his hands. Her golden eyes were wide with worry and sadness.
“You know?” I mouthed to her.
She nodded solemnly. I don’t think I know everything, she thought. But I know.
They left silently, leaping from the window in the hallway. I watched them disappear into the forest and turned my attention to my daughter.
“I love you, Renesmee,” I whispered, lifting her gently and looking into her chocolate eyes. “More than you’ll ever know.”
She smiled at me and yawned, her eyelids drooping.
I settled her back into my arm and reached out for Bella’s hand. This was my family. We were going to be fine. I knew that now.
Renesmee was back asleep before I finished humming the first line of Bella’s lullaby.
I sneaked a peak at Jasper. He seemed completely absorbed in his worn copy of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, just as he was every time we had to fly anywhere. Such strange reading for a vampire. But I didn’t have time to worry about that now. Other things were demanding my undivided attention. So I carefully held the latest issue of Vogue a foot in front of my face and tried to look engrossed in the article on the use of faux fur in the latest haute couture collections. Faux fur, schmaux fur.
Jasper had promised me a gift that required us to fly to Delaware of all places. Sure, I had promised not to look on purpose but we all knew that I would. And I hadn’t been able to see a darn thing! Not even a scrap of wrapping paper or a cute little bow! It was terribly frustrating. I had even tried to bribe Edward to tell me what my present was but his stupid ice cold lips remained sealed.
The idea that I, Alice, could be surprised was unthinkable!
“Would you like anything to drink, miss?”
I squeaked in fright and tossed my magazine into the air.
“We’re fine, ma’am,” Jasper said, leaning over me to smile at the blonde flight attendant; he had caught the magazine before it gave her a paper cut across her now flushed cheek. “Thank you.”
“If you need anything at all, sir,” she giggled girlishly, “just press the button and I’ll be right over. We’ll be landing in about half an hour.”
Jasper watched her walk away and that glanced quickly at me before turning back to his book. “Isn’t it awful that Karl Lagerfeld is using real fur in the new Chanel collection?” he mused quietly.
“Despicable,” I agreed with a sigh.
“Alice, darlin’,” he sighed, still without looking at me, “Lagerfeld used faux fur. I thought you were reading that article.”
I huffed and crossed my arms over chest. I was caught. But I might be able to wiggle out of it. “I was looking at the pictures,” I suggested weakly.
“The pictures in your pretty little head,” Jasper whispered, leaning so close to me that his lips brushed my ear, making me squirm in delight. “The ones that you promised, on pain of your closet and your Porsche, not to look at.”
“But, Jazz,” I whined, pitifully, I hoped. “I think there’s something wrong with me! I haven’t even accidentally seen anything.”
“Nice try, but no, you aren’t off the hook, darlin’,” he drawled with a mischievous smile that made me sigh. “You lose your Porsche for two weeks and I get another half a shelf in the closet.”
I knew he had me so, now frustrated and antsy, I changed the subject. “Why do you always read that silly book on airplanes?” I demanded, curling close to him.
“It relaxes me,” he said with a shrug as he slipped a bookmark in and closed the book. “Are you excited about your gift?”
“Yes,” I admitted with a deep sigh. “It is very different, exciting different, to not have any idea what you’re going to give me. Especially since we have to go to Delaware. But I don’t like it. It’s too weird.”
“Weird is good with us, isn’t it?” he asked as his lips brushed my ear again.
Forty-five minutes later we were in a car, a perfectly ordinary car that I did not care for, driving across the border into Pennsylvania. I was very confused.
“Why did we fly to Delaware if we were just going to drive to Pennsylvania?” I demanded as Jasper drove along the highway.
“To trick you,” he chuckled as he squeezed my hand. “You don’t mind, do you?”
“This better be some present, Major Whitlock,” I growled menacingly, my eyes narrowed. “Or we will be visiting each and every fashion week around the world next season. Together.”
“Consider me duly warned and completely confident that I will not be seen at any fashion week.”
Jasper drove pulled into a McDonald’s parking lot and pulled a strip of black fabric out of his pocket. “Since you like the idea of a surprise, you won’t mind being blindfolded, will you?”
“Just hurry up,” I groaned. “I feel like a kid who has to eat breakfast and go to church before she gets her Christmas presents.”
“That’s sort of how you’re acting,” Jasper laughed as he tied the blindfold around my head. Then he drove on for six minutes and nine seconds before he parked and came around to lead me out of the car.
We had walked only a few steps when he stopped and opened a door. He steered me through the doorway, a bell tinkled overhead and stopped me. He kept one hand on my shoulder and undid the blindfold with the other.
It was like I had suddenly developed the ability to travel back in time.
Dave’s Diner looked almost exactly as it had that day in 1948 when I waited ever so impatiently on one of the black leather stools for the literal man of my dreams to walk through the door. Eight polished chrome swivel stools with black leather cushions lined the neat black counter. The stainless steel kitchen gleamed brightly through the window in the wall. The black and white squares the stretched across the floor shined brightly under the fluorescent lights. Six small red leather covered booths lined the wall opposite the counter, the black tables polished to an impossible shine. And finally, in the back, was a brightly lit jukebox, the very same jukebox.
“Is this real, Jazz?” I whispered uncertainly, turning slowly around in wonder. “It looks the same as it did in 1948.”
“Completely real,” he assured me, his lips brushing my ear again. “Why don’t you sit down at your stool and I’ll get you the special of the day?”
I did as he suggested for no other reason than curiosity. He disappeared behind the counter and, when he stood back up, he passed an official looking sheet of paper to me. It was a deed of ownership. I looked up at him, my eyes wide and my mind reeling.
“The place was up for sale,” he explained with an unmistakable look of hope in his beautiful golden eyes. “The local historical conservation society gave me permission to buy it on the promise that I keep it exactly as it is now. We also have to hire people to keep it running as a diner. So I bought it for you. Do you like it?”
“Oh, Jazz, I absolutely love it!” I squealed, launching myself off the stool, over the counter and into his waiting arms. “I am so glad that I didn’t see anything. I saw us coming here after the plane landed but I can’t believe this is ours! But how did I not see you buy it?”
“Don’t be mad, but Edward helped,” Jasper laughed as he held me in the air. “You know that he still has the real estate holding company from what he inherited, right? I asked him if he would have the company buy it. He agreed, of course. I didn’t think that you’d be watching his company close enough to see them buy a little diner. So we’re sort of like the trustees for the company. But it is ours.”
“You really have to surprise me more often,” I laughed, losing myself in the love that swirled around us. “It’s very nice.”
“Is that a request or a demand?” he asked with an impish grin.
I chewed the inside of my lip and looked away as I pretended to consider my answer. “Both!” I announced happily.
“Your wish is my command, ma’am,” he drawled, sweeping me up so that he carried me like a bride over the threshold.
He carried me through the kitchen and opened a door in the back that led to a narrow stairwell. Walking sideways, he carried me up the stairs and into an apartment. He set me down and smiled.
“Welcome home, Mrs. Whitlock,” he said, sweeping his hand over the 1940s decorated apartment. “I hope you like it.”
“It is utterly divine,” I sighed happily as I bounced back up into his arms; I was not done being carried and held. “Show me around.”
We went through the living room that looked out over the street, the kitchen that seemed redundant given the diner downstairs and the fact that we didn’t eat, though I did love the 1940s stove and refrigerator, and finally into the bedroom which featured a large, sturdy wrought iron bed frame.
“Not yet, Mrs. Whitlock,” Jasper tsked, catching me as I tried to leap to the bed. “I have one more thing to show you.”
One floor above the apartment was a loft that had clearly been used as an art studio. Easels, paints, brushes, canvases, and yellowed drawings covered almost every available surface in the center. One side of the room contained a small library with shelves of old books. But the best part was the ceiling. It was glass. The walls rose up to just above Jasper’s head but above that was pure glass that rose to a peak in the center. There was no way that anyone in neighboring buildings would be able to see us. We would be able to do whatever we wanted here without worrying about the sun!
“This is all ours?” I whispered as the sun broke through the clouds and Jasper began to sparkle; not like I did but even more brilliantly as his scars sent the light back out in sharp angles that never ceased to mesmerize me.
“All ours,” he breathed huskily, drifting to wrap his arms around me. “It isn’t much, but it is ours. Whenever you want to be here, darlin’.”
“Wanna bet that we’re the only vampires in the world to ever own a restaurant?” I giggled as I saw flashes of us visitng a few times a year, as a secret getaway.
“The smell of the food with take some getting used to,” Jasper agreed with a faux solemnity. “But maybe it will overpower the smell of the diners.”
I had an idea then. I spun away from him, tugging him by the hand back down both flights of stairs and through the kitchen.
“We have three minutes before the sidewalk will be bathed in sunlight,” I said quickly as I pushed him toward the door. “Go out and come in, just like you did that day. But wait thirty seconds.”
He looked skeptical for a fraction of a second. And then he nodded and stepped outside.
I danced to the jukebox, pulling a nickel out of my handbag. I selected the song that had been playing just loud enough to drown out the rain; that I had hummed along with while I waited.
I’m gonna love that guy
Like he’s never been loved before
I’m gonna show that guy
He’s the fella that I adore!
When he’s in my arms again,
The song had become my anthem of sorts from the time I first heard it in 1945. I had seen Jasper come that day in 1948. But I knew it would really come true when the someone selected the song.
I shook myself out of the past and danced to the stool that I had waited so impatiently on for so many days.
Jasper stepped tentatively through the door, the bell jingling just like it had before. I slipped down from my stool and approached him slowly but surely; barely able to keep the smile off my face.
“You’ve kept me waiting a long time,” I said breathlessly.
He ducked his head. “I’m sorry, ma’am,” he drawled shyly.
I held out my small hand. He wrapped his larger hand around mine and pulled me into his chest, crushing his lips against mine.
Our dreams will all come true,
Then the years between
Might never have been,
We’ll be starting our lives anew!
“That’s not something that happened in 1948,” I gasped when he let go of me for a moment.
“We both wanted it to, didn’t we?” he demanded, cupping my chin in his hand. “Do you want me to stop, ma’am?”
“No, sir,” I said as I stood on his feet and leaned up to reach his lips. “Please do continue.”
“Your wish,” he said as we started to dance; too slowly for the slightly more upbeat tempo of the music but I didn’t care, “my command. I love you, Alice Whitlock.”
“And I love you, Jasper Whitlock,” I sighed blissfully as his lips found mine again.
We’ll never part again,
He’ll hold my heart again,
For ever and evermore!
I’m gonna love that guy
Like he’s never been loved before!
Forgive Me Father
The nearly nine hour drive from Houston, where Esme and Alice awaited our return, to Santiago de la Monclova, Mexico had been made in absolute silence. Jasper had driven incredibly fast at times and incredibly slow at others. It seemed as though, at times, the was a magnet pulling him to the place where he began this life and, at others, the magnet was repelling him and he had to fight, with everything he had, to return to it.
I had been taken aback when he requested that I accompany him on a trip to Texas and Mexico. There was never any doubt in my mind about whether or not I would go; I would. But the fear and apprehension in his eyes; as though I might learn something that would make me love him any less, broke my heart. I knew that he needed me to be there and I knew that nothing would change how I felt. I would let him tell his story as he wanted to tell it.
It was just past twilight when Jasper parked the car on a street in the center of the town. He silently slipped out of the and began walking. I followed him until we stood in the shadows of the St. Francisco de Asis church. The street was mostly deserted as Jasper stopped and climbed slowly to the third step that led to the church’s entrance.
“Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned,” he whispered into the darkness, his eyes raised to the stained glass window above the door to the church before he turned to face me. “I have destroyed 5327 human beings.”
My breath caught at the number. I had known it would have to be a high number but to hear it said aloud was enough to catch me by surprise. I kept my face as impassive as possible and simply nodded in acknowledgment.
His lips set in a firm line, Jasper returned to the sidewalk and began walking again. He led me quickly through the town and into the semi arid landscape that surrounded the city before stopping again.
“This is where I was when Peter and Charlotte came for me,” he explained, his eyes sweeping back toward the city. “Maria controlled Monclova then and I was destroying the older newborns when they arrived. They told me of the life they had found; no wars, no fighting, no needless killing. They told me to come away with them. I didn’t even think about it. I walked away from 73 years of an existence, into something that I knew nothing about.”
He seemed awed at the idea that he had been strong enough to do that. His eyes flashed back to me; I carefully kept the pride that I felt under control. I knew that showing too much too soon would only make him reluctant to continue.
We ran then, northwest, to the barren Bolson de Mapimi river basin. Hidden under almost a century of desert, the remains of a small desert town stood empty and forgotten.
“We massacred this town,” Jasper said, suddenly angry, kicking a wagon wheel with the toe of his boot; it splintered into a thousand slivers. “Before we took on the army that held San Buenaventura, Castanos and Monclova. Thirty-six men, twenty woman and eleven children. One old woman, a nun of all things, looked into my blazing red eyes just before I bit her neck. Do you know what she said?”
I shook my head quickly and waited, following him as he walked down what must have been the only street.
He stopped in the center of the street and turn to face me again, his eyes burning with the pain of the memory. “She looked into my eyes and said I forgive you, my son. You know no other way. She forgave me! For taking her life. For drinking her blood. So that I could move on and do it all over again!
But I didn’t do it again,” he added with a calm thoughtfulness. “She was the last human that I fed on while I was with Maria. My last ammunition for battle, I guess you could say. I killed again, of course. Two hundred and twenty times between then, 1936 and today. Less all the time.”
And then we were running again, deep into the pine covered mountains of the Sierra Madre Oriental range. It reminded me of home and I knew Jasper felt the same way when I felt him relax considerably.
“I liked it best when Maria made camp here,” he explained quietly, hesitantly. “It was so much more peaceful than the desert, even though I still training, and destroying, the newborns. It was possible to get lost for a few minutes. But never too long. Not for me. The depression from killing was always there. And, if I stopped…killing…for too long it would devastate me. So I kept going. Doing just as she ordered me.”
We stood silently for a full half an hour; doing nothing more than watching the chickadees rise and fall through the valley below us, their lives seeming so purposeful and yet carefree at the same time.
“Strange, isn’t it?” Jasper said softly, finally breaking the silence. “It’s so much like the places that I love now. I never would have thought it then.”
Before I could respond, he was running again; this time back toward Monclova. We stopped briefly in a few places; the stories were the same. Literal bloodbaths in small settlements followed by fierce and deadly battles for territory, a gruesome cycle that repeated itself a hundred times in less than a century.
I was driving this time, back through Texas, as I contemplated all that I had learned in the last thirty-six hours. I knew with, absolute certainty, that I would not have survived the things that Jasper had endured. I had known, when he joined my family, that it would be difficult for him to transition to our way of life. But I knew now that his private struggle had begun a century before I knew of his existence. To chose such a drastic change was akin to a hundred year old man who had never learned to swim choosing to make his home underwater.
He must have felt like he was drowning constantly.
“Stop here, please,” Jasper said abruptly, breaking through my thoughts.
I pulled onto the dusty shoulder of the road and wondered what horror story this barren desert held. Jasper was already walking across the cracked and dry land. I followed him to a gentle rise that was covered in a patch of brilliant bluebonnet flowers that blew in the gentle desert wind. They were the only real color for miles.
“Maria did one kind thing for me,” he said with a wry laugh, pointing to a barren spot six hundred feet to the west. “When a renegade tribe of Comanche and Kiowa warriors slaughtered the entire wagon train that Caroline and Elizabeth were traveling in, she let me bring the newborns to take revenge on the warriors. Maria tried to avoid provoking Indians because she was afraid of their magic.”
I must have accidentally allowed my confusion to escape because he turned to me and smiled sadly. “I’m sorry. Caroline was my wife though I never really loved her as a wife. She was my second cousin and her parents had died so my parents raised her. We grew up together; I was closer to her than to my own sister. When I joined the cavalry, we decided that no man should go to war without a wife waiting for him at home. Something to look forward to, I suppose. So, against my parents wishes; they thought we were too young and had been raised to closely together, we were married two days before I left Houston for Galveston.
Caroline wanted me to experience everything that a man should without having to go to brothels or camp followers. So we consummated our marriage. I got a letter from her a few months later, on the same day that I was promoted to major. We were going to have a child. I hadn’t ever thought much about being a father. I was focused on getting through the war in one piece, even though not much happened in Texas.
I got leave to go home to Houston for Christmas in 1862. Elizabeth was two months old then. Everyone said that she had my blue eyes and curly blond hair.” Jasper paused then as his voice broke and ran his hand through his hair as he stared at something in the distance, in the past. “She was enchantingly beautiful. I had never seen anything quite like her and I never have again.
I had to go back to the cavalry just before New Year’s Eve. Galveston needed to be evacuated and I had been put in charge of the evacuation. I had spent precisely five days, nine hours, and seventeen minutes with my daughter when I met Maria.”
Jasper’s voice was thick emotion as he knelt among the bluebonnets, the blinding Texas sun refracting off his scarred skin. He had pulled a black and white photograph from his pocket and he clutched it as he watched the flowers move in the wind. I looked over his shoulder and saw that it was not one of the carefully posed solemn Civil War era photographs. He held his beautiful daughter in his arms, his smile reaching his eyes in a way that it so rarely did now. Even the little girl, though so young, was smiling into the camera. She had looked like him, that was certain, and her truly happy, carefree smile was something that I often saw Jasper give Alice when they thought no one was watching.
“I found this photograph,” he said as his shoulders shook, “in Caroline’s hand when I found the remains of the wagon train just after the Comanche and Kiowa had been there, in 1866. She had been moving west. I don’t know why. But Elizabeth was dead too. I almost didn’t recognize her, she’d grown so much. But her dress was the same fabric as Caroline’s.
I buried them here. Under these bluebonnets. They were the prettiest thing in the desert and they reminded me of Elizabeth’s eyes. I can’t believe they still grow, just here.”
He fell into silence again and I stood behind him, silently reciting the prayers that I had learned from my father; for my son and for his daughter.
We didn’t stay there long. Traffic had begun to pick up on the deserted highway and we couldn’t be seen in the sun. So I continued the drive back toward Houston until Jasper asked that I stop once again.
I followed him, at a slow human pace, through an overgrown field and past the burned out shell of what once must have been a grand home. Down a small, winding path behind the house I saw the remains of a long abandoned family cemetery. Jasper knew where he was going, wading through the thigh high grass until he come upon an intricately carved but crumbling tombstone. I read the words over his shoulder.
John and Emma Whitlock
And the Soul of Their Son who
Never Came Home
Jasper fell to his knees in front of the stone. Silent, tearless sobs shook his body as he buried his face in his hands.
“Forgive me, Father,” he begged weakly. “Forgive me.”
I could feel the pain and desperation flowing from him in waves.
I knelt next to him and slowly wrapped my arms around his shoulders.
He leaned into me, dropping his hands and burying his face in my chest.
“I forgive you, son,” I whispered as he clung to me, his fingers gripping me tightly as the sobs rolled through him. “I forgive you.”