Jasper held Bella for a good twenty minutes before she started feeling embarrassed and wiggled out of his lap. Standing up, she looked around and realized that while she was sobbing for her losses, the wolves had retreated.
"Where'd everyone go?" She asked.
The stench of Alice's burning embers remained in the air, hanging like a thick fog and Bella wrinkled her nose as more tears fell from her eyes unbidden. Jasper wiped them away before picking up his deceased companion's phone and wallet and pocketed them.
"They had to report back to their elders but Jake said he'd be back later to check on you. I promised to get you home safely." Jasper's mellifluous tones soothed her for reasons unknown. She followed him back out to the road where Carlisle's mercedes was still idling and watched from the yard as he quickly and expertly reversed it into the driveway, turning it off.
It was later than she figured it would be by the time they stepped into the kitchen, the morose atmosphere following them like a swarm of biting black flies. She knew she looked a blotchy, puffy mess but that didn't matter right now. Pouring herself a tall glass of milk, Bella sat at the kitchen table and sighed heavily while Jasper just watched her silently. His intense gaze bored into her and Bella kept her eyes off of the quiet vampire while her brain worked through everything she'd learned tonight.
Edward was never her mate, he was Alice's but he didn't want her.
Alice allowed herself to become friends with Bella, even knowing that she was an unaware accomplice in the tragedy that was her love life.
She wondered if all of the Cullens knew the dynamics of the three vampires they called family and if not...why? If so, was she just a pawn? A game to see if Edward could continue to thwart his own mate? Alice had claimed that she was impure. Was it simply a virginity thing for Edward or was it more than that? He had preferred Bella to be a docile little lamb, adhering to his demands and wishes, pinching the bridge of his nose if she pushed him in any fashion.
Jasper stood in the entryway of the kitchen, soaking up the myriad of emotions that swept through Bella. She sipped at her milk occasionally and let out little sighs of confusion. Figuring correctly that she wanted answers, he finally moved to sit in the chair that Charlie normally occupied across from her. Moving so quietly that Bella didn't notice he was across from her until she lifted her milk again, he chuckled when she jerked, causing some of the cool white liquid to spill over the lip of the glass. Throwing him a half-hearted glare, she pulled her dark green shirt down over her wrist to wipe up the mess on the table.
"You've got questions." He said as he leveled her with the same intense stare he'd been giving her since they entered the house.
Folding her hands on the table in front of her, Bella nodded. "I do. Do you want to bother with all of this tonight? I'm sure you've got better things to do." She tried to keep the waver from her voice but scowled at herself when it didn't happen.
Knowing she meant taking care of Alice and contacting the Cullens, Jasper just shook his head. There was nothing to do with Alice's ashes as the wind and damp ground will have already made them almost impossible to gather. The Cullens would be explained to Bella when she asked. Just as she opened her mouth to speak though, a knock sounded from the front door and Jasper's nostrils flared, alerting Bella to the person on the other side.
"Hey Jake." She greeted with a tight hug when she opened the door.
Pressing a kiss to the top of her head, wrinkling his nose at the scent of vampire all over her, he faked a grin. "Heya Bells. How are you holding up?" He asked, following her into the kitchen.
Jasper and Jake eyed each other as Bella poured the wolf a glass of milk and handed it to him with a quiet 'behave'. Jake snorted into the glass and then licked the milk mustache off of his lip, tilting the glass in thanks.
"I'm holding up fine. It's a lot to process though." She trailed off unsurely as her eyes swept between vampire and wolf. She sat down at the table and drank more of her own milk.
"You were going to ask me something?" Jasper prodded.
Bella nodded her head, thankful that he was still willing to speak even though they had company. "You and Alice weren't mates." She said.
Jasper waited a beat before realizing she meant that as an opener. "That wasn't a question."
Smiling slightly, Bella shook her head. "I know that." She raised her eyebrows and twirled her wrist, making an up-lilting hum sound.
Sitting back in the kitchen chair, looking for all the world as if he were relaxed, Jasper shook his own head. "No, we never were. Companions, best friends, and for a time, lovers. Not mates. She had had visions of her copper haired mate living with the Cullens but when we met up with the family, Edward hadn't been there. He'd been spending a few decades with the Denali clan simply because he was bored of the school routine.
"When Edward returned and he read our minds, he told Alice in no uncertain terms that he did not want a mate who had given herself to another. She had been devastated at first of course but with the family's help and reassurance that she could still live within the vicinity of her mate, she had been appeased." He finished matter of factly.
Bella gaped at Jasper's explanation. "That's insane. Why would he react that way? How…?" She wasn't even sure how to phrase that question but thankfully Jasper seemed to understand.
"Edward, as you must know, was born during Victorian times. Men courted women with the supervision of someone else. They weren't even allowed to kiss let alone be in a room alone together. Being seventeen at the time of his change didn't help matters at all. Vampires are unchanging, Bella. We stay the same inside and out. We learn everyday sure, our brains are ever-large, ever-expanding, but that's all. Our bodies, our ideals, our thoughts...They stay the same forever."
"So because of his Victorian values, he expected to find a mate that would be pure and innocent until marriage?" She asked, almost incredulously. It was a strange concept to her -living in the modern century, as it were- that Edward was so stuck in his ways. She supposed she should have known. He'd practically demanded that she not touch him and when they did kiss, they were barely pecks.
Jasper nodded before she was finished her question. "It didn't help that, like I said, he was changed at seventeen years old. He was barely an adult and still had such childlike views on the world, even though at that age in 1918, young men were going off to war and even engaged to be married."
"What a stick in the mud." Jake huffed as he slurped up the rest of the milk in his glass, setting it in the sink without rinsing it out.
An unexpected laugh rose into Bella's throat and erupted before she could stop it. She felt like a tool for laughing at the recently deceased. It shamed her and she ducked her head, a blush on her cheeks.
"None of that now, darlin'. Just because someone died doesn't mean you don't get to live. If something tickles your fancy, you go ahead and laugh. Jake here's a funny man. Laugh it up." Jasper encouraged with a slight twang to his words that Bella had never noticed before.
It could have very well been because Edward never wanted her around Jasper, citing that he had the least amount of control and could snap at the drop of a hat, killing her before she could blink. Or it could have been because the sound of that twang left a swirling heat in her gut that had her blush extending down her chest and up to her ears.
Shaking herself from her distracting thoughts, Bella trudged on with her questions, needing the answers. "Why did Alice want to be my friend so much if I was just taking away the reason for her existence?" She asked.
Jasper thought that was a funny way of wording a question and said as much to Bella.
"That's how Edward explained it to me once. That I was the reason for his existence." She ignored Jake's possessive growl. "Of course, that's also a lie considering he told me he didn't love me." She muttered, only slightly bitter. It was disheartening -to say the least- that her first ever boyfriend, who had told her over and over that he loved her, didn't. Maybe she just didn't know what love was.
It was Jasper who growled this time and Bella's eyes widened in shock. "You see, that's the second time you've mentioned that in as many hours. How about you tell me what he told you when he left, hmm?" Jasper asked calmly, though on the inside he was roiling.
Bella shivered and Jake moved closer to her, standing behind her with his hands on her shoulders to comfort her. She hates talking about that night and Jake didn't blame her. His strong presence lent her support and she told Jasper everything. How he had ignored her for two days in school before suddenly appearing in her yard on the third day. Demanding she go for a walk in the woods.
"He only had me go on a trail, I could see the house right from where I'd stood and knew something was wrong. It wasn't much of a walk." She sighed.
Jake's hands squeezed her shoulders rhythmically in an easy massage. Bella told him all of Edward's cruel words, about how she pleaded with him to let her go with them, stupidly thinking it was only Carlisle's age thing. How she denied that Jasper did anything wrong at all. Tears tracked down her face as she recalled the cold, calculating look on her boyfriend's face as he told her he didn't love her. Never did.
"And then he kissed my forehead and was gone. Poof. Like a puff of air. My dumb ass ran after him. As if I could outrun him." She mimicked bitterly. She was so lost in her own memories that she didn't realize Jasper was angry until the kitchen chair he'd been sitting in didn't exist. Splinters and vinyl from the seat were strewn over the linoleum, chunks of wood still held in the curl of Jasper's clenched fists as he growled angrily where he stood.
Squeaking in shock as Jake picked her up from her underarms, lifting her onto his back piggyback style, she stared at the damage the vampire had done to her dad's kitchen chair before she started laughing. It was hilarious to envisage Charlie getting home, expecting to eat breakfast in the morning only to realize there was nowhere for him to sit. It was even more hilarious to Bella that Jasper wrecked her dad's chair at all! She wasn't sure what had him so upset but the look on his face combined with the angry way he stood and chunks of splintered wood all around him definitely 'tickled her fancy'.
She tried to hide her giggling in the crook of Jake's neck, inhaling great big gulps of his earthy scent as she did so and Jake squirmed where he stood as her lips brushed against his skin with each gasping laugh. Her hands clutched to his shoulders as she continued to hide her face, trying to slow her hysterical amusement but each time she peeked up, she saw Jasper's sheepish shock and would fall over herself with laughter once again. Finally having enough of the torment, Jake slid Bella to the floor and turned to face her with concern.
"You okay there, Bells? Geez, I didn't think it was that funny." Jake said.
Shaking her head, Bella took a deep breath and blew it out slowly as finally, her amusement faded. The mess was already cleaned up and Bella eyed Jasper as he walked back into the kitchen from the back door.
"Thanks for cleaning that up." She offered, glad she didn't have to risk getting a splinter from searching for all the tiny pieces.
"I'm sorry I broke your chair." He said as he pulled a third from behind the table where it was propped against the wall. No one ever used that chair because they never had company.
Bella shrugged as she tried not to smile. "It's Charlie's, not mine."
"Great." Jasper said sarcastically. If Bella told him he was the one to kill the chair, he was sure to be on the Chief's bad side already. Pushing it aside for now, since there was nothing he could do about it anyway, he pushed on. "About Alice wanting to be your friend." He reminded her.
Bella sat back down in her unbroken chair and Jake hopped up onto the counter behind her. She knew he was only there to make sure she was okay and because there was a 'bloodsucker' in her house. One that she hadn't ever really conversed with before and though she knew in her heart that she was going to be okay, she was grateful for the added company. Losing Alice, even after not seeing her for months, was hard. She nodded for Jasper to continue.
"You know Alice. She's a force to be reckoned with. Always wants to be the center of attention." Bella smiled at that extremely apt description and Jasper smiled too. "The family wasn't enough for her, not really. That's why she always threw herself into the stock market or shopping. She loved dancing and chattering away about nothing. When she had the first vision of you." Here, Jasper trailed off and Bella wondered why.
He looked down at the table a moment, giving her the perfect opportunity to watch how the lighting reflected off of his honey golden hair. The silken strands fell in soft waves around his chiseled face and Bella wanted to touch it to see if it felt as soft as it looked.
A smile was on his face when he looked back up again and Bella squashed her oddly lustful feelings with a flush on her cheeks. "Her first vision of you should have been told to the whole family but…" Jasper seemed reluctant to continue, shooting not so sly glances at Jacob.
Holding up his hands in surrender, Jake slipped off the counter and chuckled. "I'm not dumb enough not to know when I'm not wanted." As Bella began to protest, also standing, he shushed her with a gentle smile. "It's okay, Bells. I just wanted to make sure you were alright and you are. Tick number 3 isn't going to drain you dry, I can tell," He paused to glare at him menacingly before smiling brightly again at Bella. "so I'll head out and get some shuteye. Call me tomorrow."
Walking him to the door, Bella hugged him and bid him goodnight before sliding the deadbolt into place. As she entered the kitchen with a yawn, Jasper stood as well.
"You go on to bed, darlin'. I'll be around tomorrow sometime so we can finish this conversation." He knew she would want to be fully awake for it and with the clock striking close to 11pm, he knew she was sleepy even without his empathic abilities.
"Sounds good, Jasper. Thanks for answering some of my questions tonight." She replied with another yawn.
Heading up the stairs after locking Jasper out, Bella fell into bed but her mind wouldn't stop working. What was the first vision Alice had of her? She still didn't understand why the little vampire would allow Bella to get so close to Edward or why the other Cullens seemed to be okay with it as well...Aside from Rosalie, of course. She also wondered, as her eyes slipped closed without her conscious knowledge, if the rest of the Cullens were in the vicinity. It was obvious that Alice's visions led her back to Forks and thus Jasper along with her, but where were the rest of them? Now that Alice and Edward were dead, would they return? Would they come after Bella with a vengeance?
A shiver swept down her spine as goose pimples pricked her skin with that thought. Victoria was enough of a problem, she didn't think she'd need four other vampires on her very fragile ass.