Two Sides of the Same Coin
It did not seem like the beginning. It seemed like it had always been this way. When Jasper and Alice find each other, they find an extension of their being. The story, from the beginning.
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Smoke curled through the air. Customers laughed and scraped forks against plates, waitresses flitted back and forth from behind the counter to their tables. Greasy burgers were up, apple pies sliced, and cold fries sent back. Glasses were filled, refilled, and finally stacked up beside the sink to be washed.
The petite girl curled around the second stool from the wall had not moved in the three hours she had been there. The cook stole glances at her every few minutes, wondering what such a small girl like her was doing out by herself on a cold night like tonight. The waitresses ignored her coffee cup—it was still as full as when first placed in front of her, if stone cold.
She looked, somehow, wrong. Her hair was too short, her face too set, her eyes too dark. Even the t-shirt and leather jacket boys with cigarettes hanging out of their mouths didn’t dare approach her, although her beauty was undeniable. Something about the way her shoulders were set denied conversation, although her angular face was more angelic than forbidding.
And suddenly, she straightened up, rolled her neck, and turned expectantly toward the door. The cook looked at the clock—2:47 p.m. Outside it was raining. It was the slowest time of the day.
But, sure enough, the door swung open with a ring of the bell. The burger third to the left was nearly done but the cook couldn’t help himself—he craned his neck around the paper orders to see if it was whomever the girl had been waiting for.
The tall, blond man who had just come in through the door was easily the most good-looking fella that the cook had ever seen, and it struck him instantly that this was definitely whom the girl had been waiting for. He was the same pale color, with the same straight features, and the same flat black eyes. The atmosphere in the diner changed so it was almost visible as electricity flew between the man and the girl with the cold coffee cup.
Their eyes met and a waitress who had been approaching the man about that last slice of pie stopped in her tracks. He took a step, looking confused about the intense look she was giving him. The cook almost smiled, knowing that if she had turned around and looked at him that way he’d likely pass out, or at least let that burger burn.
She slid off her stool and went straight for him, and the man retracted his step. His face hardened automatically, almost defensive. The girl moved like the wind was twisting around her limbs, making her smooth and agile. When she spoke, her voice was lilting, strong, and although the defensive look on the man’s face did not fade, there was laughter in her voice.
“You’ve kept me waiting a long time,” she reprimanded smilingly.
He bowed his head in response, and answered in a slow, slightly Southern voice, “I’m sorry, ma’am,” too formal for this half-empty diner on a shady street in Philly, too polite for the hard look he had.
She didn’t answer, but instead held out her hand to him. The look on his face dissolved into a comforted, even hopeful look. He took her hand, and the air in the diner sizzled. They went back out into the rain of the afternoon, leaving the cook, the waitresses and the leather jacket boys stunned in their wake, feeling as though they had just seen something big, something important happen.
“You are…” he could not find the words. The dreary day felt too real, too normal for something like this to be happening. Hope rising in his stomach, his mind racing, he didn’t know how to say what he was thinking. Her form next to his was full of excitement, contentedness, a light and airy personality.
“Like you. Yes,” she finished. “I am like you.”
That was not what he had been going to say. He knew she was like him, he could smell her, feel her granite hand, still in his. But how could he say what he felt?
How could he say that she was for him, that he did not even know her name, but he knew that he wanted to be with her always?
“Who are you?” he asked instead.
“Alice,” she answered firmly. “Hello, Jasper Whitlock.”
He could feel irritation welling up inside himself. Who was this girl, this girl who knew his name, this girl who found him, this girl whom he felt this connection with despite only just having met her? Beside him, he felt a giggle welling up inside her. She was practically playing with him—why?
His grip on her hand tightened suddenly, pulling her to a stop under an awning on the front of a hardware store. Rain drizzled around them.
She only smiled back at him, although he had put on his most intimidating look, a snarl is his voice and on his lips. “Trust me,” she said. “I will explain everything, but in two minutes…” she trailed off. “Well, I should just say, I will explain everything, but it should be in a more private place.”
Alice didn’t need special gifts to feel the rising irritation, even hostility, growing in Jasper. She had a room in a small, out of the way motel three streets down, and she was fairly sure he would go at least that far with her. The awning in front of the hardware store was not safe, because in two minutes three elderly gentlemen would get into an argument just feet away from where they were standing, but she doubted he would believe that if she told him.
Jasper hesitated, but eventually nodded. As if their condition of existence were not enough, their meeting in the diner meant that something else was at work. The feeling of hope, muted under his irritation, and the word soul racing through his head only complicated things.
The small motel room she led him to looked as though there were no one staying there. There were no bags, no personal effects. It was exactly the same way he preferred to travel.
For a few moments, they only looked at one another. Faces still new, they eagerly learned the length of noses, the depth of under-eye shadows, the curve of eyelashes and plane of cheekbones. Alice learned the wine-red tinge to his dark eyes. Jasper learned the scent of her breath, fresh, without traces of human on it.
“What do you eat?” he asked suddenly. Her eyes tilted up towards his, hints of gold where he expected red.
“Animals,” she answered. “I have so much to tell you.”
“You don’t…you don’t hunt?”
“That…works?” Opportunities raced through his mind. He couldn’t feel what animals felt. The pain and horror of feeding had taken its toll on him. Was it so much to ask for, to feed without hating himself? To answer his own survival needs without depression to the point of desperation?
She smiled, sorrow touching at the corners of her lips. “Sit down,” she offered. “It’s a long story.”