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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2. Alice Explains Herself
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“I think I was human once. I’m pretty sure, because I can’t remember anything before the change, but obviously I existed before it. I had grown up somewhere.” Alice paced around the small motel room, her lithe body suddenly tense with the well-known confusion.
“I’m pretty sure I wasn’t a vampire before,” she noted, and Jasper breathed out. Finally, that word hung in the air. He had known, obviously, had not doubted Alice when she said like you, had not doubted his senses, but all the same he felt lighter hearing her say it back to him. A kind of reassurance that she was not something else entirely. “I’m pretty sure my memory stops because of the change.”
He nodded. It wasn’t unheard of for the change to cause amnesia, and he had renamed newborns before.
Alice paused, once more examining him where he sat too stiffly on the side of the bed. He didn’t look at her, his eyes carefully trained on empty space. His blond hair fell thickly around his ears and she fought the urge to tuck it back for him. She had known, waiting in that diner, what he would mean to her, but she had not realized that it would be so immediate. Or maybe it was a false feeling, fueled by the promise of what eventually would be. She must be careful.
“When I woke up I was alone, and even though now it’s been more than twenty years I still don’t know a whole lot. I guess I didn’t prepare myself very well,” she said, abashed, and Jasper imagined that if she could she would have blushed. Thirst lingered warily at the back of his mouth and he tried, unsuccessfully, to swallow it away.
“Prepare yourself for what?” It was as though she were apologizing to him, trying to justify herself. Almost as though she were offering herself up, the nervous giggle translating into the plea for him to accept her. The question back was the reassurance she had done nothing wrong.
The dimness of the hotel room threw her eyes into shadow. The reassurance was denied. “For being with another person. Taking care of more than just myself. Protecting another person. I’m still learning how to play the game, I’m still learning all the rules.”
“You were waiting for me,” he said abruptly, realizing. As he spoke the words, he could feel her muscles latching around a secret, and he could feel the way she wanted to tell him but didn’t quite have the nerve.
“Yes,” she breathed, staring. “I was.”
There was a long silence.
“Are…” she started, as he reached to calm the anxiety spilling through her. Her fingers were shaking. He twisted imaginary knobs within her, thinking about calm and serenity and even a little of that hope he felt rising beneath his breastbone. She began again.
“Are visions very common in the vampire world?”
Jasper thought, looking pensive where Alice expected shock and surprise. But he thought about the others he had known, others with special gifts. “I don’t know about pre-cognition,” he decided slowly, still twisting the knobs of peacefulness, “but gifts are not unheard of.”
She sat on the bed, nerves so calm the need to pace had gone. “What kinds of gifts?”
“Gifts that only exist in stories, and some gifts that don’t even exist there,” he answered.
“Do you have one?”
Ah, the loaded question. He would have liked, very much, to answer truthfully. Strangely compelled to trust and believe and share, he wanted to tell her yes. But, on the other hand, he irrationally wanted to protect and help and comfort. People who know their feelings are being toyed with often don’t appreciate it when it could be most helpful to them. People usually resent not having such personal control over their bodies.
“No,” he said quietly, and wondered if she would see his lie in a vision. He sneaked a look over at her, and wondered what she had already seen. What had she seen in him?
Alice sighed and threw herself back across the bed. Jasper reached immediately, grasping the sadness where it started and pressed his thumb down over it, extinguishing it. This girl had a plethora of emotions, terribly complex, confusion and loneliness weaved around the thin line of hope and happiness he had known from her before. Something inside him ached to brighten that line, strengthen and thicken and it was inexplicable.
“I’ve had a hard time finding you,” she went on, as though eager not to let the silence set in. “The visions, they’re not for certain. It’s only true for as long as your mind is set that way. When you change your mind, you change your future.” She looked over at him, a mock frustrated look on her face. “You have been pretty indecisive recently.”
He didn’t know what to say. “I’m sorry.”
She shrugged, long and slow. “It’s all right.”
This time she allowed the silence, and Jasper stiffly lay back across the bed next to her, his legs hanging over the edge, feet firmly planted on the floor. When she shook herself, violently, it startled him.
“I like Chicago,” she said vaguely.
He raised his eyebrows. “Do you?”
“Yes. I like the night there.”
“All right. You can tell me the rest of the story on the way.”
“What makes you think there’s more to the story?”
He turned to face her, studying her deliberately passive face. The corners of her eyes crinkled, the only hint of the smile she was trying to hide. “Oh, I’m willing to bet that with you, there will always be more to the story. Why Chicago?"
The smile spreading across her face was infectious. “Well, you already have the bus ticket, so why not?”
He grinned back, closing his eyes and letting the ride take him.