A Life Worth Living
I could hear them thundering through the house, running again. They were going to hear it from their Nana for sure, she never put up with running.
“We walk in the house kids, you know that,” Esme called from the living room. I chuckled.
“Sorry Nana.” They echoed together.
I heard their steps getting closer and I knew what was coming, the same as every year.
Adrianna and Jackson came straight to me, both settling down beside me and with pleading eyes begged, “Can we hear the story again? Please.” Their angelic faces too hard to turn down.
“Are you sure you want to hear it again? I tell you two this story every year; you know it by heart.” I was so amazed that they still wanted to hear it, touched by their love for this particular story.
“We never get tired of it. We love it,” Adrianna said with unshed tears in her little eyes. At almost ten years old, she was an exact copy of her mother, with enough of her father in her that we never forgot him. Sometimes, it still hurt my heart to watch her; it reminded me too much of him.
“Yeah Momma, we love to hear it. Please.” Jackson begged. He had me wrapped around his finger, and at times, he exploited this fact.
I gave in easily, because to tell the truth, I loved to tell this story as well. It felt good to say his name and remember his face.
“Okay, come a little closer and I will tell you the story.” Their eyes lit up and they slid so close you couldn’t see any light between us.
I closed my eyes and allowed the memories to flow through me.
I began slowly. It was a beautiful April day, and I took my time getting to the diner. It was so rare that we had a day that was not raining. Yet today was one that was not rainy and warm. I walked in to find several customers were waiting for help, so I jumped right in. I waited on the two ladies that lived across the street from me. They always came in on Thursdays, ordered the same thing each time. They always tipped well.
Then I headed to the corner booth. I stopped short when I realized it was Jasper Hale. He was the adopted son of Dr. Cullen. He was three years older than I was, so we had never met. I knew who he was though, everyone knew who he was. He was a Cullen for crying out loud, the name alone made you a superstar in Forks. His brother Edward was my age, we had two classes together. He never spoke to me, but he didn’t speak to many people so I didn’t take it personally.
“What can I get you today?” I tried to sound casual.
“Cheeseburger with no lettuce and a coke, please.” He was casual.
“Sure.” I walked away. I wondered why he was alone, Jasper was never alone. He was always with one of his family. The whole family seemed to always be together. Lots of kids at school made jokes about the way they seemed to be ‘together’ together. They made it sound creepy, and I guess it would have been had they not all been adopted. If you ask me, Jasper and Alice were perfect for each other. They seemed to be anyway, I didn’t really know either of them, so it is hard to tell.
I took Jasper his coke and then delivered his food when it was ready. He ate slowly, taking his time. I helped and cleared several tables, but he still sat there. I stopped by his table again to refill his coke.
“Would you like any dessert?” Maybe this would explain why he was still sitting here, with no ambition to move.
He glanced up at me and shook his head. I started to walk away, but something in his eyes begged me to stay, to ask something else.
“Are you okay today? You seem a little, I don’t know, in shock maybe.”
He chuckled at me. “I guess you could say that. I leave for boot camp in the morning, and I guess it’s all catching up to me.” He glanced back up at me and his eyes seemed lighter now. Like this was the topic he wanted to talk about, so I asked more.
“Boot camp, wow, I guess you do kind of look like a military man. What made you decide to enlist?” I hoped I was asking the right questions.
“I have always been interested in military strategy. It’s in my blood. My father’s family have all been military men. I don’t really know, I guess I just felt like it was what I was supposed to do,” he answered, and I noticed his accent for the first time. His words were slow and drew out, with a hint of southern flare added on to them. His smile took me by surprise. It fit his face nicely but didn’t reflect in his eyes. Like he was only partially happy about his decision, something was holding him back.
“What does Alice think of you being gone for so long at boot camp?” Suddenly, I wanted to know all the details of his life.
He flinched a minute amount when I mentioned her name. Maybe I had found the reason for his indecision.
“She’s not happy that I’ll be gone so long, but she knows this is the career that will make me happy. She made me promise that I would get stationed somewhere overseas, she wants to live somewhere in Europe.” He chuckled again. I knew Alice about as well as I knew Jasper, but I could see that she would want something as exciting as living overseas.
“So you leave tomorrow?”
“Yeah, at o’dark thirty.”
“What kind of time is that?” He laughed at my lack of understanding.
“It’s a military term for the butt crack of dawn. Anything that happens when it’s still dark, you know, way too early.”
“Oh. Where are you heading off to when you leave tomorrow?” I sat down in the booth across from him. It was a little after two in the afternoon and the diner usually died down about this time. We wouldn’t get busy again until after five, when the dinner rush came in. I was glad Jasper was here to help occupy my time until then.
“I’m going to California for boot camp, then who knows.” He shrugged. He was playing with the wrapper from his straw. He looked old, but somehow still young, too young to be heading off to train to kill people.
“Does it bother you to know you may have to kill people?” I didn’t mean any nastiness by the question; I truly wanted to know what someone thinks when they agree to that life.
“Sure it does. I’m not a monster, but I don’t want anyone else to suffer because of my actions. Those people will probably have families and people they love, just like me. But I will say this, I will kill them if it keeps my family safe.” He looked me straight in the eyes, and I could see that this was not something he took lightly. He had put some thought into this particular subject.
Someone else came in to the diner so I stood and turned to leave his table. He began to gather his stuff, preparing to leave also.
“You want anything else before you go?” I asked him. Sadness taking over my heart, I felt like I could sit for hours and talk to him. I felt like we should be friends, and now we may not ever get that chance.
“Nah, I’m good. I guess I had better get going anyway. The family is throwing me a going away party this evening. If you’re free, you can stop by.” He smiled at me as he pulled on his jacket.
“I would love to but I have something else down at the reservation tonight. One of my best friends is turning sixteen and he is having a birthday party. I’m sorry.”
He shrugged at me. “No big deal, Bella. I just thought you would like to come and meet my family, another time perhaps.” I was shocked, he knew my name.
“How did you know my name?” I asked.
“This is Forks; we live in Bella. We should have the theme song to “Cheers” playing in the background.” My face must have shown my confusion clearly. “You know ‘where everybody knows your name’.” He sang to me.
“Oh, yeah. I remember.” He threw some money down on the table and turned to walk away. I felt lonely just watching him walk out. I rushed to the door of the diner and called to him across the parking lot.
“Hey, do you think I could write to you while you’re gone? I know you have plenty of family, but I would like to know how you’re doing. If that’s okay with you?” I asked, suddenly feeling foolish.
“Why, Bella Swan, are you hitting on me?” A big grin pulled at the corners of his mouth.
“No, of course not! You’re engaged to Alice. Why would I hit on you? Besides, you’re leaving the state; I would have to be stupid to try to start something with you now.” I rushed the words out of my mouth, all the while blushing furiously. I hated myself for even thinking of asking that stupid question.
He rushed back over to me. “Whoa, slow your roll. It was just a joke. I was teasing you. I didn’t mean to rile you up.” Smirking, he seemed to be enjoying the fact that I was embarrassed. His face relaxed from the smirk and took on a totally different look. His eyes softened and they finally matched the emotion portrayed by the rest of his face. Joy. “I would love it if you wrote to me. I don’t have my address with me, though, it’s on a piece of paper at home. Can I call you this evening and give it to you?”
“Sure. I’ll be gone but you can leave it on my answering machine at home. Nobody checks that thing except for me anyway.” I rolled my eyes at him and then shrugged. “Charlie figures that if anybody important needs him they know how to reach him. They don’t need to leave no message.” I tried to mimic his voice when reciting the speech I always heard about that answering machine. Funny thing was he was right; no one had ever left him a message on that thing. Well, no one other than telemarketers, that is.
Jasper stepped a little closer and gave me a quick hug. I threw my arms around him at the last second before he stepped away.
“Thanks for caring enough about me to offer to write. That’s cool,” he said as he walked backwards to his car and jumped in.
I finished my shift and dressed to go to the reservation to celebrate Jacob’s birthday. Sure enough when I arrived home, one message was blinking on my machine. I pressed the button and wrote down Jasper’s address.
It was the middle of June, and I was enjoying my last summer before senior year. Now was the time to get serious and make sure my grades were going to get me out of Forks and to a great school. I had to get out of Forks, anywhere was better than here. The rain sucked and it got really cold. Neither of those were my favorite things. I wouldn’t worry about this now because I got Jasper’s weekly letter four days ago.
He was coming home today! Boot camp was over and he had three weeks before he had to report for duty. I was excited to see him again. I felt like we knew each other so well after the weekly letters we sent back and forth. Every so often, he would add in an email here and there. Usually funny jokes or the normal forwards that people send you. I didn’t mind, I liked the jokes. They were always from his brother Emmett. I mostly told him about life in Forks and he usually told me about his family.
I felt like I knew them all by this time. It was obvious that they were all close and really enjoyed each other’s company.
I finished up my shift and rushed to my truck so I could get home. Jasper promised to call when he got in. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to see him tonight. I didn’t want to intrude on his time with his family. I was hoping to see him soon. It was perfect timing, since I was out for summer break. My schedule was free, except for the few hours that I worked at the diner that is.
I quickly took a shower and dried my hair. I chose my best looking pair of jeans and a pretty new shirt. I put on a little makeup and tried not to fidget. I was nervous, going to the Cullen’s house was making me nervous. I mean, they were the Cullens. Everyone in town liked them and wanted to be them. I was comfortable with Jasper but the rest of them made me well…nervous.
I jumped when the phone rang. I dashed across the living room and yanked it off of the hook.
“Hello.” I tried to sound unaffected and normal.
“Bella, it’s mom. I have bad news.” Shit, this couldn’t be good. I tried to rack my brain to figure out what Renee could deem bad news. I came up empty.
“What is it, mom? Do I need to sit down?” Dread filled me, what if it really was bad news?
“Honey, I will probably need your help for the rest of the summer. I fell today and broke my leg in two places. I don’t need surgery but I do have to stay off of it. Phil won’t be home for any length of time. That will leave me here struggling to get around. So I was wondering if you could come and help me out?” She sounded worn down and sleepy.
This was my mother how could I say no, but right now that is all I wanted to do was say no. How would I be able to see Jasper if I left and went to Jacksonville? I pushed my own selfish feelings aside, Jasper would be back often. I would have other chances to see him.
“Sure, mom. I’ll pack some stuff and book a flight. Are you okay for now? Do you have someone to take you home?”
“Yeah, Phil is here now and will be tomorrow. But Monday he has to fly out to start a ten day road trip.” She was slurring her words a little, I giggled. I had never seen my mom under the influence of anything. I wondered what kind of a drunk person she was.
“Okay, I’ll call you back when I get the info for my flight. I love you, mom. You get some rest.” I figured I had better let her go for now.
“Bye baby, you know I always thought your eyes were so pretty,” she began. Phil must have taken the phone from her realizing that this conversation was getting out of hand.
“Bella, just call me and I’ll pick you up at the airport. I really appreciate this. I didn’t want to leave her alone.” Gratitude was clear in his voice.
“No problem, she is my mom. I would do it no matter what.” I did owe her and Phil a lot. Phil’s career allowed me to get the new clothes and books that I wanted. The clothes I didn’t care about but the books, yeah, I spent a fortune in books each month. Mom and Phil made sure I had everything I wanted, so the least I could do was help her out when she was hurt.
“Bella, put the ticket on the credit card we sent you. Don’t pay for this okay?”
“Okay, I’ll call you later. I love you both.”
I went up stairs to pack and call my dad. He wasn’t surprised at my trip; mom must have called him to let him know. I checked the airlines and booked a flight for later tonight. Then I called Jasper’s house to tell him.
“Hello.” The voice that answered sounded sweet and seductive, almost shy.
“May I please speak to Jasper?”
“I’m sorry, he isn’t here. May I take a message?” The more he talked, the more I wanted him to say.
“Yes, please. This is Bella Swan, and I wanted to let him know that I had to go to Jacksonville. My mom broke her leg and I need to help take care of her. Please, tell him I’m really sorry that I won’t be there. I really wanted to see him, but I have to go. I promise that I will be there the next time he comes home.” I answered, wondering what his family thought of our friendship. I wondered what Alice thought of our friendship.
Fear struck me. I hoped Jasper told his family about me. I hoped I wasn’t springing this on them without their knowledge. I didn’t want to cause any problems between Jasper and Alice. He really loved her; I didn’t want them to fight because of me.
“Sure, I’ll tell him. Do you have a number where he can reach you?” The silky voice asked.
“My cell number is 360-747-9949. I’ll have that with me in Jacksonville, he can call anytime. Thanks.”
“No problem, I’ll let him know.” The line went dead and I felt alone.
Charlie rushed in as I was dragging my bags downstairs. He grabbed both of them, and we headed out to the car. The drive was fairly quiet with the only conversation about calling the diner for me to let them know I would be back before school started.
In fact the whole next month was quiet. Renee was subdued by her cast and bed rest, so even she didn’t have much to say. Jasper called me several times and we would talk. Nothing too deep and I didn’t want to keep him from his family for long. So I would usually hang up after a few minutes.
We continued with our weekly letters and postcards while I was in Jacksonville. He loved the funny ones, once even Alice wrote a small paragraph at the bottom of one of his letters. She said she wanted to meet me when I came home and spend some girl time together. She said thanks for writing to Jasper and helping him feel like he had a piece of home with him. I felt better knowing how she felt about me, that I wasn’t coming in between them. I made sure and put a small note to her on the bottom of the next letter I wrote. I also sent him some pictures of the sunshine and the ocean. He drew some stick figures in the ocean and sent it back to me. His caption was “We’re too pale to swim in these waters. People will think we’re vampires.” Alice and I had on funny looking bikinis, and he had on a pair of long board shorts. I laughed at his silliness.
It was funny but somehow in all the cards and letters, Jasper had become my best friend. Sure he wasn’t here for me to talk to everyday, but we told each other stuff in our letters that I hadn’t shared with anyone. We shared our dreams, plans, worries and, most of all, about our loves. He told me everything about Alice. How they met, how he knew he was in love with her, and all of her habits. He admitted that she had a way of balancing him out and keeping him from being too much of an introvert. He told me of his plans for their future. It made me a little sad to see that kind of love. A love that runs so deep that it touches your soul and leaves you forever changed. I wanted that for myself and was doubtful that I would ever find it. I joked with Jasper that all the good men are gone or gay. He told me to be patient, that one day I would find the right person. Don’t look for him; just allow fate to send me the right one.
By the end of July, Renee’s full leg cast finally came off and now she was down to a big old boot to wear while walking. Her therapy was going well, and she was given the okay to drive again. So I headed home, three days after Jasper left. I only had less than a month of summer break before I started school again.
He called me before he left, and we talked for hours. He told me about his time at home, and how he and Alice decided to go and get married while he was there. He wanted to be able to bring her with him when he got settled, so they got married. A small ceremony in their back yard, it sounded beautiful. He joked that Alice was in planning withdrawals. Because the ceremony was simple, she didn’t get to pull out all of the stops, so she would need something soon to plan or her head would explode. I laughed at him and marveled at the way he really loved her. I cried when we hung up, afraid of how long it would be before we got to see each other again.
In mid August I started school, my senior year. I had two classes with Edward, Jasper’s brother, this year. I never got the nerve up to go and speak to him. I was sure that my friendship with his brother wasn’t enough to make us friends, so I just left him alone. I did notice him looking in my direction every so often, with a confused look on his face. It always made me blush, I’m sure he was not pleased at our strange friendship. This made me even more determined to stay away.
Jasper wrote from Fort Ord, California. He sent me pictures of his sunshine and his ocean. I drew silly stick figures on them and sent them back. Our letters never stopped, weekly they arrived. One going and one coming, just like clockwork.
We talked more about my life recently, what I was doing, where I was going to college and how I was doing. I mentioned the classes with his brother and he tried to encourage me to talk to him. He said that Edward would think that our friendship was enough of a reason to be friends with me as well. But I didn’t want him to feel trapped, so I still kept my distance.
I will never forget the date, it was May 20. I know because my weekly letter wasn’t in the mailbox. I put mine in and lifted the flag. I stood and wondered about it. I placed the blame on Forks Post Office. I vented at my mirror that night, didn’t they know how much I had come to love my weekly letters? What if they were delaying mine to Jasper as well. I didn’t want him to think that I had forgotten about him. I called his cell phone but got his voice mail. I left him a message, explaining about his missing letter and hoping that mine weren’t missing as well.
One week later, I got a letter from Jasper, he joked with me about the voicemail I left him. He explained that it was his fault, not the Post Office of Forks. He chastised me for placing blame on innocent people. Then he explained that his letters might not be so regular for a while. They were moving his entire platoon to another base. His company had to take over for one that being deployed over to Afghanistan. Fear clinched itself around my heart, the dreaded word Afghanistan. I threw the letter down and called him.
“Hello.” I could hear him chuckling as he answered.
“Afghanistan? I thought you said you wouldn’t have to go!” I rushed to say.
“Whoa, slow down there, hoss. I’m not going to Afghanistan, I’m moving to Virginia to take over for another platoon that is going to Afghanistan. So no biggie, I promise.”
We talked for awhile. He told me that Alice was pregnant, and since this was a really short duty assignment, she was moving back home while he went to Virginia. When he finished up there, he was going to have two whole months off to come home as well. He should be there somewhere around Christmas. He talked about his little “kidney bean” and how he hoped it was a boy. He told me that he wanted to name him Jackson. That was his grandfather’s name, and he loved his grandfather. He had to hang up and help Alice pack some more stuff so she could ship it back to Forks.
June finally arrived and Charlie and I attended graduation. It was over quickly and that was fine by me. I didn’t have any real ties to this high school. My only friend here was Angela Webber, and we would both be attending college in Seattle together. So I had no real reason to linger and say any goodbyes. Charlie was wearing a suit and tie, so he was just as ready as I was to go home. I saw a brief glimpse of Alice in the parking lot. Edward had graduated this year as well. She looked beautiful in her long flowing maternity dress. She had a small baby bump; it matched her tiny body perfectly. I could see why Jasper fell in love with her at first sight. She turned and our eyes met, hers lit up. She raised her hand to wave and someone called her name. When she turned to look at them, I got into Charlie’s cruiser. I didn’t want her to think that we had to be friends because of my friendship with Jasper. I heard a small tap on the window and turned to see Alice standing beside the car.
I asked Charlie to hold on and he nodded. I cautiously opened the door and stepped out. I closed it completely, not wanting Charlie to hear if she came to ask me to stop writing Jasper. I couldn’t handle that humiliation in front of him. Nervously, I held out my hand and tried to introduce myself.
“Hi, I’m Bella Swan.” I glanced up afraid to meet her eyes.
She giggled and pushed my hand away, she pulled me into a full body hug. Her little baby bump pressing into me.
“We are well past a hand shake, Bella. I wanted to say thanks for sticking by Jasper. He loves your letters. It makes it easier for him and I appreciate it.”
I was shocked, “It doesn’t bother you that we write each other?”
“No, I know Jasper loves me and what he has with you is friendship. I don’t worry about it at all. He trusts you, so I trust you. Besides, he lets me read all of his letters.” I broke into a large smile, this fact made me feel so much better to know she knew what I wrote and was not trying to make a pass at the love of her life.
Someone called her name again and waved at her when she caught their eye. She held up one finger and turned back to me.
“Promise me the next time Jasper is home, you’ll come to the house. We have so much to talk about. You know, Bella, I have a feeling you and I are going to be great friends.” She hugged me again and flitted off to be with her family. I opened the door and climbed back in the car with Charlie. Jasper told me that Alice had feelings about the future and such, but it still shocked me that she was able to convince me with one sentence about them as well. I looked forward to the day when her feeling came true.
I moved my stuff into the dorm at UW. Angela and I managed to be roommates, and I was glad. I didn’t want to do the awkward dance of getting to know some random stranger. We got along fine and that would make this first year that much easier.
I didn’t hear much from Jasper. He apologized often when he did write; he was really busy. The move had left his platoon in a lurch, and they were doing their work as well as the platoon’s they had taken over for. He was usually working until well after dark. He was glad that Alice had decided to move home to be with her mom since he was gone all of the time. He asked about college and mentioned that Edward was here as well. He again encouraged me to at least try to talk to him. I again declined his offer.
By the end of November, I was back in Forks for Thanksgiving. I ran to the Safeway to grab some more eggs. I saw Alice again, from a distance; she was getting into a beautiful yellow Porsche. She still looked amazing, even pregnant. Her stomach was protruding well outside of her body. She looked like she should fall over on face. She didn’t see me.
Later, Jasper called my cell phone and we talked for a few minutes. He gave me his home phone number again, just in case I wanted to call Alice or Edward. Jasper had encouraged me to form friendships with them, but I just couldn’t. I don’t know why, maybe it was the fear that they didn’t want a friendship with me. I wasn’t ready to put it to words yet, I just knew I wasn’t ready. I had Jasper and Angela. I didn’t need more.
I talked to Jasper for a few minutes, he had just got off of the phone with Alice and his family. He was in great spirits after talking to them. He soaked up all of their words and emotions and allowed it to lift his mood. By the end of the phone call, I was also joyful and looking forward to eating with Charlie.
While I cooked in the kitchen, I imagined the fun that was happening over at the Cullen’s house. By now I knew that Esme, his mother, enjoyed cooking also. So she had probably cooked a big dinner, the same menu each year. None of them ever got tired of it, it was understood that she would make the same things each year; it was part of the tradition. Alice would be flitting from group to group, adding her witty comments to all of the conversations. Somehow she would be perfectly and completely involved with every member of the family in the house at the exact same time. Edward and Emmett would be embroiled in some form of competition. Jasper explained that it really didn’t even have to be a real competition or to make sense; it was just competition for that sake of being called the winner. The trash talking was sure to be at an all time high between the two of them. While, Rosalie would sit in a chair off to the side reading a magazine, not really part of the competition, yet still right in the thick of things. She would provide some stinging sharp comments aimed at both sides every so often. She loved Emmett but enjoyed watching him get his ass handed to him occasionally, just like the rest of the family. Carlisle would sometimes join in on the competitions, and other times just sit with Esme in the kitchen.
They were often together, deeply in love. Jasper aspired to mirror their marriage with Alice. Jasper’s comments were so vivid and in detail that I could almost close my eyes and see the whole scene just like in a movie. Tears of loneliness stung at my eyes, tears that I had not even realized were forming. I wanted a family and all the fun to surround me in my house.
Another day I will never forget, November 29. Jasper called. It turns out he was going to Afghanistan after all. He says he will be there for one month, because he has to train some of the platoon how to use some sort of long range missile guidance device. He will not be in the fighting or anywhere near the fighting. He is there to train them and leave. He pinky swore to me that he was just training and coming home. He was kind of excited about going over there, obviously because he was there to train only. If he had to be there to actually do the fighting then he would have a totally different attitude altogether. He wouldn’t be able to write or call during his time in Afghanistan. He would be able to come home on leave after he was done, so I guess there was an up-side to this trip. He might even be able to make it home in time for Alice’s due date of January 7, 2010. Seven’s were a lucky number for him, so he was hoping his “kidney bean” would actually be born on that day. He wanted to pass along his good luck to him. I prayed nightly that he would make it home in time.
Jasper called again. He was coming home. He was so excited to be on his way already. He had nineteen days before her due date and probably enough time to make it home in time for Christmas, since it was only the twentieth. He was trying to be purposefully vague to Alice, to keep her guessing. Alice, however, had other plans. She just laughed him off and told him his body would definitely be in Forks by Christmas. I told him that I was already in Forks so we would get together and I would finally get to meet everyone. He made me pinky swear to this. So I did. I was happy that we would see each other face to face again for the first since he walked into the diner.
On Christmas Eve, I still hadn’t heard from Jasper yet, but he promised that he would call as soon as he got settled at home. I went to Port Angeles to do some last minute shopping. I bought Jasper a ‘My Daddy Loves Me’ onesie for the ‘kidney bean’. He would love it. I found a crystal picture frame for Alice and headed home. I wanted to be back to Forks in time for the Christmas Eve parade and live Nativity. It was so beautiful to watch. Just to imagine Mary giving birth in a dirty manger without her family to support her, only her husband. Of course, it became all the more special when I looked forward to seeing Jasper and Alice, and ‘kidney bean’. I rushed home and dropped off the packages. I drove to the edge of the square and parked in the Sheriff’s office parking lot. I walked down to the front lawn of the Baptist church to take my position there. I wanted to be close to the live Nativity.
Angela’s dad was the minister at the Baptist church. I waved at her family when they went by taking their places as well. The parade came through with all of the lights and sleighs pulled by horses. There was candy, elves and, of course, Santa Claus. I allowed the excitement of the children to seep in and lift my spirits even more.
Mr. Webber, Angela’s dad, stepped up to the make shift podium. A hush fell over the crowd. He began to talk about the wonderful meaning of the season and how we forget as a society to celebrate that reason. We get so caught up in our own lives that we don’t take the time to remember it, we give in to the commercialism of it all. We forget to help each other, and support each other. So often in our own community there is pain and suffering and we look the other way. And then he spoke the words that made my blood run cold.
“We have pain in our midst tonight. We have neighbors that are mourning the loss of a son. Jasper Whitlock Hale was killed four days ago as he was leaving Afghanistan. His wife Alice and their family live here in Forks. Let’s take time to remember our family, our friends, our neighbors and the reason for the holiday. Let’s pray.”
The blood pounded in my ears and sobs choked up into my throat. I was frozen to the spot I stood in. I couldn’t move, paralyzing terror pull me into its wake. I closed my eyes with the rest of those gathered for Mr. Webber’s prayer. I listened to him give Jasper up to God’s care as bile rose from my throat and threatened to spill over. I turned and left the crowd behind. I walked in a daze; I didn’t remember getting the ten blocks from the square to the Sheriff’s office. I yanked the door open and stumbled in to find my father. He would know more details. Details that I didn’t want but knew I would never be satisfied until I heard them.
“Dad, is it true?” I sobbed.
“Bells, why don’t we go sit down in my office?” He put his arm around me and led me towards the back. Towards the privacy of his office, so I could fall apart without an audience.
“Why didn’t you tell me this earlier, you knew I was friends with Jasper,” I cruelly shouted at him. He sat back and allowed me to vent my anger on him. “You knew we had been writing back and forth for months, and you didn’t say a word about it. Don’t give me the ‘I can’t discuss details of the case’ speech. This isn’t your case, you could have told me!” I screamed at him and fell into his arms. He held me and allowed me to cry, sob, yell or whatever made me feel better.
When my body had relaxed and my tears dried, Charlie began to tell me what he knew.
“Bells, Mr. Webber called me and asked me to ride with him to the Cullen’s house. He told me that Carlisle called him and told him that the Army sent its bereavement detail to tell them about Jasper’s accident. He wanted someone there for Alice, for moral support. Mr. Webber asked me along because we would need to discuss some details with the Army detail about the funeral. They were there to take care of most of it, but our local force will help with crowd control and such. I just got back and hadn’t had a chance to find you. Mr. Webber didn’t know you were close friends or I’m sure he wouldn’t have just announced it before I had a chance to tell you. I’m sorry you had to hear like that.”
Charlie still held me close to him. My mind closed down again when he mentioned Alice’s name. I can’t even imagine what she is feeling right now, the excruciating pain I am in and I wasn’t married to him. I wasn’t in love with him, how is she coping? How will she raise the ‘kidney bean’ without him there with her? I knew that I had to go to Alice and help in whatever way I could.
“I got to go to Alice,” I said as I wiped the remaining tears off of my face. “I need to help her and see if she needs anything. I will call you when I get there.” I stood and walked from his office. I had a new purpose, helping Alice Hale get through her husband’s funeral. That was how I would pay my respects to Jasper, my friend.
I got in the truck and started it up. I drove faster than I have ever driven before and arrived in under fifteen minutes. I gripped the steering wheel, suddenly unsure if this was such a great idea after all. I saw the porch light come on, so I turned and slid from the truck.
The distance from the truck to the front porch seemed to take longer for me to span than the drive here. I stepped up and stopped. I started sobbing again. The pain and regrets washed over me one more time. All the times that Jasper begged me to come and do this while he was alive. I just couldn’t do it, fear stopped me. Now I had to face his family, his wife…without him. I sat down on the top step and tried to collect myself.
The front door flew open behind me. I turned to see Alice standing in the open space, the light spilling all around her. She stood, her mouth open in shock with a look of horror contorting her face. Dread filled my heart, she was surely angry at my intrusion. My body shuddering at the thought of causing her more pain than what she was already in. I stood and backed away down the steps. Her hand flew out in front of her. I stopped, frozen in place. She launched herself at me and threw her arms around my neck. Her sobs were racking through her slight body, causing it to shudder against mine.
“Bella, oh God, you came. I was waiting for you.” She sobbed against my shoulder. I wrapped my arms around her and sunk to the top step of the porch, pulling her down with me.
“Of course I came, how could I not? I would have come sooner, but I just found out from Mr. Webber. I’m so sorry, Alice, what can I do?”
“You can just be here with me, help me remember him. I have already found myself talking to him, reaching out for him, trying to keep him here with me. I know that sounds crazy but I just can’t let him go yet. I need him. I just, just can’t.” Her sob over took her and I rocked her against me like Renee did when I was small and needed comfort.
My legs ached and my face was throbbing from all the crying but I would hold Alice for as long as she needed me to. I saw a shadow pass by out of the corner of my eye. Edward leaned down and pulled Alice towards him.
“Ali, let’s take Bella inside, okay?” His tone was gentle and soothing. She nodded and he lifted her away from me. Emmett reached and pulled Alice into his embrace and led her inside. Edward extended his hand for mine, and I took it. He pulled gently to help me up off of the step. My legs were numb from supporting Alice’s and my weight. I wobbled as I tried to take a step, and Edward threw his arms out to steady me. He pulled my hand into his and led me inside with the rest of the family. Alice and I sat on the sofa together. We talked off and on all night. Mostly about Jasper, sometimes she would tell me funny stories about the rest of her family. I laughed with her at these stories. She would tell me stories about Jasper, things he didn’t share with me. She told me her version of how they fell in love. I cried with her during these stories.
I stayed all night, sleeping only when Alice fell into a fitful sleep herself. I woke as the sun was coming up, and I realized that it was Christmas day. I decided to head home, I didn’t want to intrude on their family. I slowly slid myself out of Alice’s arms and tiptoed to the front door. I reached for the doorknob as I heard someone clear their throat behind me. I turned to see Edward standing there.
“Yeah, I thought I would give you some space. I’ll call later and find out the details and all.” I felt awkward telling Edward this, I’m sure he had to think I was a moron.
“Do you have to leave?” He stepped closer to me, I could smell his cologne. His nearness was making me nervous until I looked into his eyes. They showed his vulnerability and sadness.
“I guess I could stay for awhile, Charlie won’t mind; he knows why. Besides I think he has to work today anyway. Let me call him and let him know.” Edward’s body relaxed and he held out his hand to show me the direction of the phone. I followed him.
I called Charlie, he confirmed my previous thoughts, he would be at the station until eleven tonight. I told him I wanted to stay and he agreed with me. I promised to call him later. He wished me a Merry Christmas and we hung up.
I turned to look at Edward again.
“So, looks like I’m here for awhile. Maybe I could run home and change my clothes. It won’t take me that long, I’ll be right back.”
Edward grabbed his keys and I opened my mouth to protest when we heard a scream from upstairs.
I heard shuffling up there, and Edward took off towards the stairs himself. I followed by instinct. We all converged at the landing and saw Alice standing in the doorway. A terrified look on her face and a soaking wet nightgown.
Carlisle approached her and took her by the hand.
“Alice, I think your water has broken. We need to get you to the hospital. Do you have your bags packed?” She nodded her head, still looking from person to person for some kind of an answer. I stepped up and took her hand.
“Alice, I think we need to get you dressed to go. Do you want to put on some pajamas or would you like to get dressed?” I asked her gently, she seemed to snap out of her panic.
“Bella, You don’t know me that well, but let me assure you that there is no way in hell that I will ever leave this house in nothing but my pajamas. Now, get in here so I can go and have Jasper’s baby.” Her comment started out saucy, but ended mild. She lost all of her anger when she got to Jasper’s name. Her face took on the look of terror again. I reached up to touch her face.
“Alice, there is nothing in the world that Jasper wanted more than this little ‘kidney bean’, so let’s go and get him. Okay?” I tried to assure her in my most soothing voice.
Her eyes filled with tears, but she nodded her agreement. We turned to enter her room. Her whole family seemed to snap into movement as we turned. Everyone scattered to prepare to head to the hospital with Alice.
Alice was settled into her hospital room, she had been resting for several hours, but the last few contractions had increased in intensity for her. The doctor came in and checked her, he confirmed Carlisle’s assessment. It’s time to push, Emmett and Rosalie both decided that it was time to wait in the waiting room. Carlisle decided that Alice would probably feel a little more comfortable with him waiting outside as well, so he left with Emmett and Rosalie. Edward and I stepped backwards in unison, attempting to leave. Alice noticed our movement and threw her hand out to stop us.
“Wait, please. Bella, I need you here with me, you’re my connection with Jasper. Edward, you’re Jasper’s stand in. I promise you won’t have to see anything, just be with me. Please.” We couldn’t say no to that plea. I walked around the far side of the bed and held Alice’s hand and Edward took the other hand.
We counted and held her while she pushed. At 3:03 p.m. on Christmas day, Adrianna Whitlock Hale was born. She was tiny like her mother but had a head full of blond hair just like her dad. The nurse wrapped her up and handed her to Alice. She was crying silent tears as she held her daughter. She slowly unwrapped the blanket to inspect every inch of her body. When she was satisfied with Adrianna’s appearance, she wrapped her back up and offered her to me for me to hold. I took her small precious body into my embrace; I cooed and talked to her. She smiled at me and her smile was an exact match to her daddy’s. The tears began to fall as I gazed at her beautiful face. I handed her to Edward and he took her like he had held dozens of babies before. He just stared at her and took her small hand and allowed it to wrap around his large finger. No tears for him, but he had a large smile on his face. It voiced his approval to all of us clearly. Edward handed Adrianna back to Alice, she snuggled her into her. I reached to touch her just as Edward did as well. Our hands met on Adrianna’s back, Alice slid her hand on top and we all stood taking in the moment.
Emmett, Rosalie, Carlisle and Esme were ushered back into the room. Edward and I moved to make room for them at the bedside. His eyes followed mine as we moved across the room and closer together. We met at the foot of Alice’s bed.
“You want to go and get some coffee, while the ‘grands’ get a look at their new grandchild?” He offered. I nodded and followed him out of the room.
We made our way down to the coffee shop and talked. We started talking about Adrianna and moved on to Jasper. Edward admitted that he missed him already. We talked about my letters and I promised to let him read what Jasper wrote to me. Edward asked me why I never spoke to him in school. I explained about the look and how I thought he was mad at me for writing Jasper. He glanced up suddenly and met my eyes.
“You thought I was mad at you?” I nodded at him.
“I was so in love with you. I didn’t know how to approach you; I was afraid that you had a crush on Jasper and wouldn’t feel anything for me. I admitted to Jasper how I felt and he promised me he would arrange things so I could meet you. He assured me that you did not have a crush on him and he would prove it.” He just shrugged at me.
“I guess that explains why he always made a point to tell me to call or talk or come by anytime. The little matchmaker!” I laughed and Edward joined in with me. It felt good to know that Jasper was looking out for me, even now.
I glossed over so many details. I never told the kids how hard it was to get through the military funeral. Alice was holding little Adrianna, crying the whole time. How Edward held me when I felt like I wanted to collapse. The long nights of sitting awake with Alice and Adrianna. Trying to keep her focused on her life and not what she had lost. The despair I felt at moving away from her when Edward and I left for college again. How she would call us at all hours of the day trying to find the voice that helped her calm her panic attacks.
I skipped all the dating details, how Edward and I spent almost every waking moment at college together. How we moved in together during our junior year, when Angela moved in with Ben Cheney. How six months after we moved in together, I was pregnant. Charlie wasn’t happy that this happened before we were married. But Edward quickly changed that, we were married before the baby was born. We had a small ceremony in Carlisle and Esme’s back yard, a few friends and family there, nothing big. Alice was too overwhelmed to plan a big wedding and that wasn’t really our style anyway. The love and devotion was so clear in Edward’s eyes. We were so happy.
We were home for the summer when my water broke and we rushed to the hospital. After over twelve hours of contractions and pushing, with Alice and Edward by my side, we welcomed Jackson Anthony Cullen into the world. He was a big baby, so he looked almost as big as sweet little Adrianna. They were best friends from the start, inseparable. They never went anywhere without each other.
They both giggled when I said this part.
“Okay you two; you’ve heard this story every Christmas. You know the rest so go and play. Adrianna, your mommy is looking for you. Jackson, let your mommy rest. She still has to carry this little peanut a few more months, she needs plenty of rest.” Edward silky voice cut into our story time.
The kids ran off and Edward took my hand. He helped me up the stairs to his old bedroom. I lay down and he settled down beside me. His hand rubbing my swollen belly.
“You okay?” he asked solemnly.
“Yeah, I’ll be fine. The kids love hearing that story and I love telling it to them, but sometimes it’s too much to remember. You know?” I turned my body so I could look at him. His eyes showed the mix of emotions that I felt.
“I know, Alice always make herself scarce when they come running to you. It still hurts her to hear it as well. I don’t know if she will ever find someone like Jasper again. I think he was the one and only for her. I hate that she won’t have what we have for the rest of her life. I’m so glad she has Adrianna, she loves her more than life.” His voice was echoing all of my thoughts.
“I know, Edward. It kills me that he’s gone. Even after all of this time, I still hurt when I think of him. But I’m glad for one thing, though.” I hesitated, perhaps saying this out loud made me sound glad for Alice’s pain.
“What’s that love?” he murmured against my hair.
“You, Edward. Jasper gave me you, because of him, I met and fell in love with you. I was ready to leave Forks forever. I wanted to go off to college and never look back. I didn’t think that Forks had anything to offer me. Jasper changed all of that. He gave me a family, he gave me my best friend, he gave me my husband and he gave us Jackson. Edward, he gave me everything that is important in my life. “ I began to cry. Edward held me and allowed me to release my emotions.
Soon, Alice joined us on the bed. I was facing Edward with my head resting against his chest, so Alice slid up against my back. She rubbed my back and rested her head on my shoulder.
“Bella, I love you so much. You help make my life easier. You always know when I want to talk about Jasper and when to tell Adrianna the story. It helps her so much. She loves her daddy and always loves to hear it. And I don’t ever want to hear you say you have guilt because of all you have when he is gone. You had nothing to do with Jasper’s death. He died doing what he loved, taking care of us and his country. He died in love and happy. He would not have regretted his life for one second, so don’t you tarnish that by feeling regret either. Enjoy all that you have, Jasper would have wanted you to.” I couldn’t hear her tears but I knew they were there. I cried my tears as well.
I would spend the rest of my life grateful for the gift that Jasper Hale gave me. He gave me a life that was worth living.