What would have happened if Jasper had gotten a hold of Bella at her birthday party? **Note: This is co-written with 'sweetishbubble.'
6. Chapter 6
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Jasper had finally returned home, after two long weeks away. During that time, it was more of the same for me - endless days of desperation. A few days ago, Charlie had called Esme and asked her to help him clean out Bella's room. He felt like it was time, but that he didn't feel comfortable doing it himself, and Renee had already returned to Florida. Esme boxed up her clothes and planned to drop them off at a shelter. She brought her books, CD's, and DVD's home for Alice and I to sort through; whatever we didn't want would go to the shelter as well. We kept everything, and before Esme could leave with Bella's clothes, I managed to retrieve her blue blouse - the one she wore the first time she met my family - the one that I had loved her in so much. It still carried her scent; I spent hours just sitting in my room, intoxicating myself with her memory.
Renee had sent more pictures, as well. There was one that stood out from the others - it was from Renee and Phil's wedding. In it, Bella was standing in a garden, wearing a lovely, knee-length dark green satin slip dress. The sun was shining down on her and she was smiling - she looked blissfully happy. Every picture I had of her was now either in a frame resting upon my dresser, or hanging on my wall. My room had become a shrine to the woman I loved.
Jasper's return had somewhat calmed the house. Obviously, it impacted Alice the most - she was beginning to show signs of her old self, which meant she went on her first shopping trip since the accident. She didn't buy much, and didn't stay away long, but it was good for her. She said it had been somewhat enjoyable, but her thoughts revealed to me that she had seen a few outfits that she would have bought for Bella. Anyone that knew Alice would never expect her to describe shopping of any kind as 'somewhat enjoyable,' but at least she was making progress, however small it was. It was Jasper leaving that opened her eyes to not what she had lost, but what she could still lose. I was happy for her - if she could find peace in this somehow, I wanted that for her. She deserved it, and she still had eternity to spend with Jasper.
Jasper never leaves her side now, unless he's hanging out with Emmett, who has also shown improvement upon Jasper's return. Their thoughts were becoming more optimistic, focusing on moving past this tragedy. I envied them; something so seemingly normal, like playing video games, or wrestling, seemed so utterly unnatural to me these days. Those carefree moments they shared were now something unfathomable to me. Nonetheless, I was happy for them as well, as I had begun to understand that my family would, and should, move on...it wasn't their other half they had lost. Bella had been dear to them, but not like she had been to me - I accepted that now.
They worried about me, but for the most part, they let me be, as I still kept to myself, continuing to shut them out. Alice still made trips to my room, where she would hold my hand and sit in silence with me, looking over all of Bella’s beautiful photographs. She was getting visions of nothing changing with my mental state, which made her comfortable and uneasy at the same time, but she was being patient, not wanting to push me away even further. She had also accepted that her previous vision of one of us leaving had obviously been Jasper, and not actually me after all, so her level of concern for that particular matter was less prevalent in her thoughts, which allowed her to relax a bit more, now that he had returned. She was more distracted, too - although she was thrilled Jasper was home, she scanned his future every few hours, still worried about how he was adjusting.
Carlisle and Esme had started to go back to their old ways as well. Carlisle spent his time at the hospital, while Esme kept the house up, tended to her garden, and dabbled in her painting. Their thoughts revealed their concern for me, especially Esme’s, as well as their sympathy - they still missed Bella, but they had each other, as well as us, their children. They just didn’t know how to help me. It was only me now that was truly unable to move on.
One afternoon, like most others, I was sitting on my floor, with my head resting on my knees. As usual, I was concentrating on nothing other than Bella’s photos, keeping my thoughts limited, refusing to let my mind wander. My Metallica CD was blaring, for the fifth time that day, when I heard the thoughts, combined with footsteps, coming towards my room. Just as I expected, there was a knock on the door, and my mother paused in the doorframe.
"Edward?" Esme said softly, as she entered my room.
"Yes?" I replied quietly, as I turned down my music.
"I was wondering if you would do something for me?" she inquired hesitantly.
I sighed, knowing what she wanted. "I'm not leaving the house, Esme."
"Edward," she stood in front of me full of concern, her fingers rubbing her temple, for no other reason other than stress. "You haven't left this house - this room - since the funeral."
"There's no reason to," I replied bluntly.
Esme took a deep breath. "Edward, it's necessary. Perhaps it will help you - sitting here all alone isn't going to help you heal at all. Please, for me. It won't take long, it's only an errand - I need you to run to Mora to the local art store to pick up my special order. If it's that horrible, then when you return you can go back to sitting up here for as long as you like, and I won’t bother you. I'm hoping you'll feel differently - perhaps you will even decide to hunt before you go. It’s been a while, and I think it would be a good idea. Your eyes are pitch black, Edward," she added softly.
"This isolation is scaring me, Edward. Please, I only want what's best for you...even if that means forcing you out of the house," Esme thought to me, her expression full of concern. She was the epitome of kindness, expressing what she thought might be embarrassing to me in silent communication, instead of speaking it aloud - with our hearing, surely half the house would overhear us. She was so troubled, it made me feel even worse, knowing what I had been putting her through. Such pain, such worry...I would do this one thing for her, only because she did not deserve to go through this, and I had the ability to ease her distress, even if it was only momentarily.
After stepping into the woods behind the house briefly, and mindlessly killing the first animal I came upon, I found myself in my Volvo, with Esme's list in my pocket. It was easier just to go along with her, rather than fight her. Since I had agreed to go, she decided to have me pick up a few other things as well - she was trying to prolong my venture in the outside world for as long as she could, before I resumed my isolation.
The art store was easy to find, located just one block from the town square. It was just prior to Halloween, so the entire store was full of decorations and costumes. It had been one of Bella's favorite holidays. I walked directly up to one of the counters at the front of the store. The faster I got Esme's list completed, the faster I could return to my solitude.
"Can I help you?" a young girl asked from behind the counter.
"Yes, I'm here to pick up a special order," my monotone voice replied.
"What name is it listed under?" she pressed on.
"Esme Cullen," I replied, sighing.
"Sure. Let me get it from the back." The clerk hurried off to collect Esme's items.
After a few moments passed, she returned. "I'm sorry, it will be just a few minutes more - it's a fairly large order. One of the other clerks is bagging everything up. If you would like to go ahead and pay while you wait, I can help you with that," she offered politely.
"Certainly, thank you," I said, passing her my credit card. She finished the transaction, and told me I could wait in one of the chairs off to the side. A few minutes later, another clerk brought the contents of Esme’s order up front, which I loaded into the car, eager to finish this charade and return home.
After I reached Forks again, I made my way to the dry cleaners to pick up some of Carlisle’s suits. As I drove through the quiet town, every landmark practically jumped out at me, reminding me of another memory of Bella. The streets we’d driven through, the school we’d attended, the police station her father worked at, the grocery store she’d loved to shop at, the woods we’d walked through. The entire town was mocking me, taunting me.
It was more the reminder that I would never set sights of my Bella again...that we’d never share any of these things again. It would no longer be ‘us’ or ‘we’ - it would be me, alone, forever. Of course I'd realized this for some time, but this experience was affecting me differently somehow...being outside of the house and actually seeing these memories come to life, only to disappear into nothingness - it was one last slap in the face that I simply couldn't handle.
A new sense of urgency was surrounding me; the dull throbbing in the back of my psyche had doubled in pace. What had once been something of an itch I couldn’t scratch had suddenly become a rapidly spreading rash which demanded attention. While still controlling my thoughts of the future, I couldn’t manage to deny that something had to change - I just wouldn’t allow myself to focus on what that change would be, or make any definite decisions...not yet. I forced myself to hurry through the rest of the errands so that I could escape this new hell.
When I reached our house, I made sure everything was where Esme wanted it, then retreated back to my room. The anxiety I felt in town melted away when my eyes set upon Bella's beautiful image. I found my favorite picture of her, and traced the outline of her face with my finger and looked into her eyes. When agreeing to Esme's request earlier, I hadn’t prepared myself for the onslaught of memories the outside world would bring...it made me mourn for Bella all the more. It hadn’t seemed possible that the depth of my despair could deepen...I had already hit the bottom, or so I thought. I never wanted to leave this room again, but Esme wouldn't let that happen. She would continue to find some new way to try to coax my out of my room, and back into the world. Of course she meant well, but it didn’t make it any easier. I was tired of hurting her, as well as Carlisle.
It wasn't long before I heard Alice approaching my door, her thoughts hesitant, perplexed.
"Come in," I sighed.
She entered quickly, and sat down next to me. Something was wrong, but she was blocking her thoughts from me.
"Are you alright? I’m sorry I wasn’t here when you left to run the errands. I saw what happened. I couldn’t reach you in time to warn you - you didn’t have your cell on. I’m sorry," she finished, looking ashamed.
"I’m fine, Alice," I replied monotonously, sighing. There was a moment of silence, with Alice still blocking her thoughts from me. I thought to ask her why, but then I realized it didn’t matter anyway - I didn’t care. She could certainly have all the privacy she wanted; I wished for more privacy on an hourly basis.
"Edward," she eventually began, "Jasper and I are leaving for a little while."
"Oh... Why?" I asked, curious.
"It's just..." she trailed off, struggling to block her thoughts still. She was beginning to slip; she couldn’t effectively recite the Battle Hymn of the Republic in Arabic while carrying on a full conversation, instead of just one word responses. It was too difficult to keep me completely out.
"You can say it, Alice," I murmured truthfully - she hadn’t managed to block everything, and I basically knew their reasons. I didn’t blame them at all - they had their own lives to carry on with.
"It's so hard for the both of us to be here right now. I know how we're affecting you...it's hard for you to see us together, so complete. We don't want to upset you further, and we both really need some time to ourselves," she said quietly. "Jasper’s still feeling horribly guilty, and now that he’s back, I want him to be able to take a step away from that." Her eyes met mine evenly. "You know I love you, Edward. I’m just so afraid of him feeling too overwhelmed, and losing him - I can’t go through that again," she finished quietly. Her thoughts were so mixed - she felt horrible leaving me here, but she knew she had to concentrate on Jasper; she’d experienced the type of loss I feel, and she was unwilling to have it happen again.
"I understand, Alice. It's not exactly pleasant to be around me... I apologize if I've made you feel you shouldn't be happy, it was never my intention. You know I want the best for you," I said, squeezing her tiny hand lightly. "Where will you be going?" I asked, trying to appear interested.
"To our house in New Zealand. Do you remember it?" Alice asked, beginning to smile slightly at the prospect. She was looking forward to this trip immensely.
"The one you two bought after you were married, on Stewart Island?" I questioned, already sure of the answer. Trying to feign interest was so tedious, but if nothing else, I wanted my little pixie of a sister to end up happy.
Actually, I remembered it well...Alice had taken the entire family there, shortly after they had purchased it. She wanted all of us to explore her new wonderland. It really had been an amazing place...the beaches were varied in sand color - from black iron on some beaches, to others white with quartz, or red with garnet. Most beaches were gold, sparkling in the sun; it was quite a sight to see us on this particular type of sand, as we sparkled in the sun just as much. There were lush forests, some even extending all the way to the shore line. Their particular house was located right in the middle of the forest, built to suit. It was incredibly isolated, as were most places on that island - a perfect retreat for our kind. Alice had loved that she could spend time on the shores, not worrying about being seen. Even Jasper had felt free there - it was no wonder they were choosing such a place to return to now, at a time like this.
"Yes. We won't be gone for a long time, though," she answered softly, clearly concerned about leaving me.
"That should be lovely," I said truthfully. She adored that place, and they would have a wonderful time alone together.
She hesitated again. "Will you be alright?" Her thoughts were laced with anxiety. "Edward... I haven’t really been able to see anything about your future other than you sitting in this room, either curled up in a ball, or staring at the photos. Then, while you were out, that image started to become mixed with blank spots...periods of nothing." Her brow furrowed, as she tried to reason with her thoughts. "I don’t understand, and I’m hesitant to leave you, even if it’s only for a little while," she finished, her expression full of concern.
"Well, then you don’t have anything to worry about, do you? Alice, while I was driving around, I was upset, and I immediately thought to myself that I didn’t want to leave the house anymore - that I would do nothing, forever, because I was so severely reminded of her in the outside world. It was as if the hole I’ve been feeling in my chest was ripped wide open, shocking my system. The blank spots in your vision were probably just a reflection of my fleeting thoughts, Alice - my irrational, emotional decisions. This area is encased in memories of Bella - you know that. Don't worry about me, Alice. Things will be just the same when you return. Your relationship with your husband is far more important. I'm sure I will find something to occupy my time. You two go, relax. When do you leave?" I asked, trying to distract her.
"Tomorrow morning," Alice said looking into my eyes. "Edward, everyone's going hunting tonight. You should really go with us - you need to feed more regularly. Please? As a last favor for me before we leave?"
Her last sentence convinced me, possibly out of guilt alone. I didn’t want to go, but if it would allow for her to leave for her trip on a more positive note, able to let go of some of her worry for me, then it was worth it. It would appease the rest of the family as well - they would feel more comfortable, so I agreed to go. It helped to ease her mind; she thought it was a good sign that I was making an effort.
The next morning, everyone gathered to say goodbye to Alice and Jasper. Trying to appear as normal as possible, I even left the confines of my room to join them. Combined with the previous night’s hunting excursion, they were all feeling a bit more hopeful for me, their thoughts more positive.
Knowing how Alice's visions worked, the last twenty-four hours had been incredibly stressful for me, as I knew the next week would be as well. There was something in the back of my mind, an increased restlessness, but I refused to acknowledge it; I couldn’t just yet, I had to remain focused. Listening to music, repeating lyrics over and over again, seemed to help...mostly, I simply ignored myself, if that makes any sense, and thought over and over again how I would never leave this room, how I would sit on the floor and stare at the wall forever.
As everyone said their goodbyes and wishes for a wonderful vacation, Alice came to stand before me, her eyes filled with sadness.
"Edward, are you absolutely sure you're going to be alright while we're gone?" she asked quietly. She believed in her visions, but she was still feeling guilty for leaving me alone, and for being happy with Jasper.
"Alice, everything will work out. I'm already feeling better...just go and enjoy yourselves, and know that I love you." I pulled her to me in a tight embrace, trying to convey my feelings for her. Upon releasing her, I stepped over to Jasper, reaching for his hand. He grasped it, and pulled me into a short hug.
"Take care, Edward. We'll be back before you know it. Just call if you need anything - I know this is stressful for you," he finished quietly. Jasper had picked up on the stress I was experiencing, trying to keep my mind detached from the connection to Alice's visions - but he had no idea that was why.
After they left, I returned to my room for the rest of the day, surrounded by images of my angel. The next couple of days were spent the same way. I was waiting - waiting for Alice and Jasper to get far enough away. It could only help, as I knew once they arrived in their land of paradise, Alice would be somewhat distracted...she was so happy there. Picturing her bouncing around as she inspected their house, running from room to room making sure everything was in perfect condition, almost made me smile...almost, but not quite.
Finally, two days after they'd left, and I’d overheard their phone call to Esme announcing their arrival on Stewart Island, I made my way downstairs to find the rest of my family. They were in the living room, watching a movie. Of course, they were all quite surprised to see me out of my room.
"Edward...would you care to join us?" Esme asked hesitantly, confused, but optimistic. I cringed internally as I realized how much I’d just raised her hopes...her thoughts were so wistful.
Pausing, I glanced around at the four of them. "I've been thinking...ever since Esme encouraged me to get out of the house the other day, I've realized that perhaps she was right...maybe that would help. However, everywhere around here does nothing but remind me of Bella." Taking a deep breath, I forced back the waves of despair. It's a good thing Jasper wasn't here. "The idea of Alice and Jasper’s trip has encouraged me as well... I believe it may be in my best interest to do some traveling. Perhaps a change in scenery is just what I need," I finished, trying to force a half-smile.
No one said anything at first. They all studied me, trying to assess this new thought of mine. Some were more wary than others, but I could tell they wanted to believe me - they’d been waiting for so long for a change in my behavior. After a few moments, it was Esme who spoke first.
"Edward, are you sure about this? I want nothing more than for you to be happy, but the last time I sent you on those errands it did not seem to go very well...you went right back to shutting yourself away in your room..." she trailed off.
"Yes, Esme, I do think this is best, for everyone. As I said before, when I left the house the other day, I was reminded of my life with Bella. This is why I believe I have to do this...I have to get away, see new parts of the world that aren’t related to her. Trust me...it's necessary," I said as earnestly as I could.
Carlisle spoke next, hesitantly. "Where do you plan on going, Edward? And when were you thinking of leaving?" He wanted details - he was still being cautious.
"I haven't completely decided on where yet...here and there. I plan on deciding as I go," I answered. "Maybe France, England, Spain...maybe not - it could be anywhere, really. We'll see. As far as when...I thought I'd make my way to the airport in the morning, and see what sounds appealing," I finished, trying to force another convincing smile.
After some time, and more questions, they all agreed that if I felt it was necessary, they would support my decision. Some of their thoughts were doubting, especially Esme’s - she wanted to keep me close, so she could keep an eye on me. They were remembering my recent willingness to hunt though, as well as my proper effort to see Alice and Jasper off, which was leading them to believe I might be ready for change after all. They wanted to believe it, which made it easier. Carlisle was even thinking to himself that after I’d found a place I was happy with, they could all relocate and join me, so that we would be together as a family again.
Emmett grumbled a bit about it, but Rosalie hissed at him to be quiet. She was eager for me to move on, to let Bella go; she thought maybe this was the way for me to start that process. Persistence paid off eventually - somehow, I managed to convince them this was the way to solve my problems, which in reality, wasn’t a lie.
Before returning upstairs with the excuse of collecting the items I would be taking with me, Carlisle stopped me to inform me that I could have full use of the family’s private jet for the extent of my travels. He would make the call tonight, and the plane would be waiting for me at the airport tomorrow morning. The pilot would be waiting for my itinerary with the understanding that I was to have full reign - I could go wherever I chose. He made sure I remembered the location of the area where the private jets were held before letting me retreat to my room.
Only fifteen minutes after I’d finalized my decision, I heard a phone ring in the house. The phone could only belong to one of two people, seeing as how I had discreetly turned off Carlisle’s and Esme’s while they had been working earlier. So which would it be - Emmett or Rosalie? I could only hope it was the latter of the two, although I was betting that either one would dismiss Alice’s concerns as being overprotective. I wouldn’t have been so lucky if one of my parents had received the call. Thankfully, they had stepped out for a walk, wanting to discuss my decision in private.
Luck appeared to be on my side - it was Rosalie’s phone, and Emmett was playing a video game again, completely distracted.
I listened intently to the conversation occurring, as well as Rosalie’s thoughts on what Alice had to say. Alice was worried - she’d seen my decision to go traveling, and without any real concrete decision on where I was going, she instantly became suspicious. She was yelling at Rose, trying to get her to see that something was off, especially since I’d been so unwilling to leave my room for such a time.
Rosalie did not disappoint me. Her thoughts were nothing short of irritable; she thought Alice was being ridiculous. She explained that it was their trip that made me realize I needed a fresh outlook, and that this would help everything. Alice was angry with her, but after hearing the entire conversation that Rosalie recited for her, and after admitting she couldn’t actually see anything happening to me, she begrudgingly agreed that she would let it go - for tonight. She admitted that she knew I’d been frustrated at being surrounded by memories of my life with Bella in this town. She had wanted to speak to me, but Rosalie refused, saying that she wasn’t going to let her ruin my ‘epiphany’ with her paranoid questions. Muttering something I couldn’t catch, Alice hung up, adding that she would be watching my future closely.
The next morning, much as with Alice and Jasper, the remaining family members gathered to say goodbye. Esme took longer than the others, hesitant to let me go. She asked me to promise to stay in touch, and promise to come back soon. I said I'd call as often as I could.
"Please take care, Edward. We'll be thinking of you often," Carlisle said earnestly, hugging me close. "If you need anything, no matter what it is, you know to call me, alright? Are you absolutely sure about this?" he added silently. I nodded once in response.
"Thank you. I appreciate all you've done to help me. You've been very supportive through everything," I said quietly, lowering my gaze to the floor. Carlisle embraced me once more, patting me on the back.
"Of course. I’m very proud of you, Edward. Bella would be too; I know this isn’t easy," Carlisle continued his thoughts to me.
Emmett slapped me on the shoulder, embracing me briefly. "Hey, man...just take your time. We'll be here when you're ready to come home," he said sincerely. Silently he added, "I’m here if you need anything, Edward. Don’t be ashamed to ask for help, got it?"
Again, I nodded in response. Once again, I thought how kind of them it was to try not to embarrass me by speaking such things aloud.
Nodding back, Emmett reached his fist out to me. "Whatever it takes to feel better, you know?" he asked, trying to lighten the mood.
"Exactly," I responded quietly, meeting his fist with mine.
I briefly said goodbye to Rosalie as well, only meeting her gaze for a moment. She wasn’t suspicious...she thought Alice had been overreacting, just as she thought everyone was lately. She thought the sooner I got away to clear my head, the sooner I’d come back, and things could get back to ‘normal.’ I smiled at her as I prepared to leave.
As I started my car, I took one last look at the rest of my family, before turning my car around and speeding down the driveway. Borrowing a trick from Alice, I raised the volume on a complicated piece of music and thought nothing to myself other than "Madrid, London, Paris, Brussels, Frankfort, Budapest," over and over again. Distracting myself was absolutely pertinent...it had to work, it was my only chance to find the peace which I so desperately sought.