CHAPTER ONE: 711 DAYS
“ Begin at the beginning, and go on until you come to the end: then stop.”
- Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland.
This is a house of collections.
Artwork, books, instruments, albums, sheet music, clothing, exotic plants -- the Cullens have collected a museums’ worth.
In the past few days, I’ve made myself particularly familiar with the clothes. Oh, the clothes! They’ve got closet after closet of coats and shoes and dresses I could only ever dream of wearing -- more than a family of five could ever possibly need.
I’ve concluded that the closet right off the master bedroom is the most fantastic of them all. It’s about the size of the little house Jasper and I shared -- but with higher ceilings, and a nicer paint job.
Every shelf of the master closet is full, every hanger turned in the same direction. There’s every colour, and fabric, and style of clothing imaginable, and each piece is arranged with care and forethought; by season, then by routine. Hats up top. Outfits right below. Shoes on the bottom. Special occasion items are tucked in the back, and their ample jewellery collection is displayed on its own little table.
It’s a room fit for royalty, and I’m desperately jealous.
I’d give anything to have a closet like this.
The first time I saw it, I couldn’t contain my excitement. It poured out of me so loud and so pure, that I was compared to a child on Christmas. In the time since, I’ve longed to spend a full day — maybe longer — lost within that fabric forest.
I’ve managed a quick peek every now and then, but each and every time, my plans to explore further are foiled by a Cullen, curious to find their newest housemate.
I see them coming, and I’m back to something less suspicious before anyone catches me in the midst of my foolish little games.
Today is different. I’ve got ample time to explore, totally unencumbered.
No one is here except Jasper and I. The Cullens have left for a hunt, and we’ve been trusted to care for their big house of belongings in the meantime. And while I miss my new family -- which I truly do -- it’s nice to just be, without Edward in my head, or Rosalie nervously eyeing my every step. I’ve got room to breathe, if I wanted to.
Jasper and I had planned on using our day to venture towards town without the added pressure of prying tawny eyes, but late last night I saw that his mind had changed -- that he was no longer ready for such an important experiment -- and so today has become a day of adventure right here, in the safety of the big house. I don’t mind. We can try again tomorrow. And the next day. And the next. We certainly have the time.
For Jasper, a day in means a day lost in Carlisle’s study, with his nose pressed to the page of a book. He’s happy in there. I can feel it radiating through the whole house, like a sweet cross-breeze, and so I leave him undisturbed. Besides -- when Jasper gets a book in his hands, or any good opportunity to learn, nothing will distract him, not even me. Not unless its got a racing pulse.
Luckily, there’s none of that here.
So, really, it’s just me and the belongings.
I take the opportunity to dig deep into Esme and Carlisle’s regal closet. I peek into garment bags and hat boxes, rifle through scarves and gloves and trays full of accessories, and take the time to scrutinize every single piece of clothing.
A few are so new you can still smell the store on them, others are old as me. Some of Carlisle’s suits might be older than that, still. Jasper’s age, at least, and so well-kept that any untrained eye would think they were fresh from the haberdashery.
The older pieces smell of their owners day to day -- for Esme, it’s a plethora of floral scents. Rosehip. Lavender. Peony. All of which she grows in abundance, in the garden tucked up against the house. Carlisle was harder to make out at first, but after spending a few hours lost in his belongings, I managed to place it. Castile soap and antiseptic. Iodine, I think. It’s strange, at first, almost too clean, but then I notice something underneath all that — something cold, and sort of sweet.
I bury my nose into one of his tweed jackets and inhale deeply. The powerful tangle of scents caught on Carlisle’s jacket waft over me and settle in, but I make the point to take another draw — even deeper this time — to try and distinguish each individual odour. First I make out the rich scent of vanillin that oozes from his study, and then it hits me — mint, from the plant sitting on the kitchen windowsill.
Below all that — rosehip, lavender, and peony, all embedded deep in the fabric of his jacket. I smile, and the tweed tickles my mouth. That’s Esme, lingering on. It makes sense — the two are never more than a foot apart. She’s left her mark on him in more ways than one.
Once I’m satisfied, I tuck Carlisle’s jacket back into place and move on to do the same with a particularly lovely sage green dress.
This one is brand new. It still smells of sweaty human hands and nondescript, chemical perfumes.
I keep on digging, and searching, and enjoying, and eventually I land at the table where Esme keeps her collection of trinkets and jewels. I look at them, all shiny and perfect, and I think how lucky she is to have such beautiful things.
I commit myself to just looking — that is, until I notice the glimmer of a pearl tucked beneath the edge of a satin headscarf.
I’ve always loved pearls.
Before I know it, the most pleasing peal-adorned hairpin is resting in my hands.
My heart doesn’t beat, but it does squeeze at the sight.
It feels familiar, like it’s already been mine. Maybe I’ve seen it before, in a vision, or a store, or at some point in the indistinguishable fog that was my human life. It’s small and simple and delicate, and I just know that it’s an antique, too -- maybe a family heirloom!
Oh, I love it.
I really, truly love it.
It’d look so swell pinning back Esme’s caramel coloured waves, or tucked into one of Rosalie’s elaborately braided creations.
Me, on the other hand? With hair so spiky, and unyielding, and awful, I’ve always tried to draw attention away from it, not towards. I’ve never bothered with such precious things.
Disappointed for the billionth time over the permanence of my choppy locks, I glance into the little mirror situated beside the jewellery tray and take a good, hard look at my boyish appearance.
Maybe if I twist that piece of hair just so, and stick the pin right there --
My vision goes out of focus, and I come to spinning in a room. I’m tucked against Jasper’s chest, feeling warm and good and happy. I can see the floor, and my feet, and the hem of a blue skirt.
Jasper touches something atop my head. “I like this,” he mutters, “it’s pretty. Reminds me of your skin, whenever I can get you out in the sun.”
I blink and I’m back in Esme’s closet.
He likes it.
I look to the mirror again, to check once more if I might find the right spot for such a pin, and in my reflection, just behind me, I spot something very familiar.
That’s all the confirmation I need.
The grin that splits my face in two is an unstoppable force.
Visions like this are my favourite.
When I’m in-tune enough to catch a glimpse into my own future — one that confirms a question or leads me left or right — I know to listen. To pay close attention. If I catch all the details and follow all the clues, I’m more often than not led to a picture perfect moment. One that I would have otherwise missed, if left to nothing but luck.
It’s these self-fulfilling-prophecies that brought me to Jasper. They brought me here.
I tuck the pin into the pocket I’ve sewn into my dress -- I’ll have it back before Esme notices! -- and turn on my heel to march towards the most beautiful thing I’ve found yet.
A dress, pale-blue, and made of tulle, with a tea-length skirt and a ruched bodice. It’s magnificent!
The most tantalizing part? I already know that this particular dress would fit me just right. I've seen it, after all.
Still, I hesitate to touch it. It’s not mine.
The same vision flashes before my eyes, like the future calling directly out to me, saying, I already told you, you must! So I must. Who am I to argue an inevitability? This particular future is set in stone.
I lurch forward and curl my fingers into the ample skirt, gasping out in utter delight when I do. This here is no common frock. This is a work of art.
My simple, curtain-fabric dress seems almost disgraceful now. I want out of it, and into this.
Esme won’t mind. I’m sure of it. She’s been so insistent that I use whatever I need, after all. And what Esme doesn’t know won’t hurt her.
I make quick work of the change.
The inside of the blue dress is lined with silk. It slides deliciously over my marble skin, like butter melting in a warm pan. I take extra care with the line of buttons running up its back, snapping each one closed as delicately as my fingers will allow. I flatten out the skirt, careful not to pull, and float towards the full body mirror leaned in the far corner.
The dress’ shoulders hang off mine just right. Its bodice hugs my waist like it was tailored just for me. The skirt -- well, the tulle hits just past my knees, and tickles them every time I move. I look beautiful. I look so happy and bright that I swear there’s colour in my cheeks.
I look like one of them. A human.
Not just any old human. One of the fantastic ones. Straight from sunny, golden Hollywood.
I admire myself for another second, but refuse to rest before my outfit is complete.
Somewhere in the mess of ugly dress I’d discarded on the floor, I find the pearl pin. I bring it with me back over to the mirror, and start fiddling away with my hair. I struggle for awhile, but just when I’m about to give up, my hair submits, and I find the perfect spot to showcase the singular shining pearl.
It even manages to hold down a particularly formidable cowlick in the process.
I want to be content standing here in the closet, where Esme’s dress is out of harm’s way, but my heart aches to find that simple and tooth-achingly-sweet moment I saw minutes ago. I want to find Jasper.
So, armed with the courage only a perfect dress could give you, I venture out into the house.
I wander around in Esme’s blue dress, my head held high. I swoosh down the stairs and dance my way through every hall, with no need for music or party-goers with this magnificent, twirly thing to entertain me. I could go on all night, twisting, and turning, and gliding around.
My one-woman parade ends in the living room, right in front of my second favourite spot. Here are ceiling-high shelves, tirelessly cradling a collection of vinyl records that spans through genres and decades. There are singles, and extended plays, and soundtracks, all lovingly forced into each and every measly inch of storage space. And even that’s not enough to contain this particular collection — down at my feet are more piles, stacking up towards the hem of my dress.
Any second, the weight of it all is going to rip through the floor.
I’ve never known a vampire to accumulate so many things.
Then again --
I’ve never really known any vampire, except for Jasper.
Maybe a penchant for collecting is normal among our kind, if given the chance. It makes sense. An endless life equates to endless things.
I drag my fingers along the spines of albums arranged at my height. I walk, collecting fresh dust on my fingertips, until I’m stopped by the hard corner of the cabinet positioned alongside their glorious collection.
Sitting on top is a brand spanking new record player.
I’ve had little radios of my own, and spent many hours tucked up beside jukebox in Finch’s diner, but I’ve never stayed in one place long enough to justify owning such an extravagance.
Such a thing shouldn’t just sit, collecting dust.
It takes a little investigation — and a little peering into the immediate future — but I eventually figure out how to bring the player to life. I settle on a record by an artist I’ve heard before, almost everywhere I go.
I set the needle down on the record, more gentle than I was with the buttons on my dress, and wait for the thing to crackle to life. Music follows soon after.
The hearty bass of a big band orchestra shakes dust of the speakers, and they go on flexing in time, like a beating heart.
I turn the music louder, hoping the steady beat might distract Jasper from his books.
While I wait, I close my eyes, and I let the joyous sound shake me, too. It brings me to life, starting in my fingers, until I’m moving head to toe.
I let go of everything else for a moment — I leave the future where it is, and my worries at the door, and I focus on how happy I am right now.
Eyes still closed, I wander out into the middle of the living room and spin myself around, hands outstretched to feel the edge of my skirt fly when I do. I spin again, and again, until something stops me.
I’m delightedly surprised -- something I’m not very often -- to find Jasper there, with a big stupid grin on his face. He catches my hand, effectively stopping me in place.
“How long have you been watching me?” I ask through a fit of giddy laughter.
“Didn’t you see me coming?” He teases, staring me down with that feigned-serious look he wears so well.
I hum in response, not interested in explaining how deeply I’ve been enjoying the present. Jasper doesn’t quite get it yet, how big of a burden monitoring the future can be.
He chuckles and lifts his hand to spin me around. I follow his lead, just on time with the beat of the music, and turn until I’m facing him again. Then Jasper pulls me close, right up against his chest, and settles his free hand on my back, just between my shoulders. Each fingertip spreads a calm kind of happy through my being, growing larger and more dominant until all I can feel is what he is.
I understand more of how our powers work now, and how much proximity has to do with it. From afar, Jasper’s emotions might be palpable to me, if he works hard to project them and I work hard to tune him in. Up close, however, it’s all too easy to drown in him. It’s not my doing, and not his. It just is. It was overwhelming at first, feeling enough for two people, but now I’m not sure how I ever existed without this kind of fullness.
We stay quiet and sway for awhile, until Jasper decides to speak. I can feel the finality of his decision coming towards me in the form of a vision, but I push it off, eager to stay right here with him instead. “We should do this more often,” he says, before taking a step back to twirl me again.
I tip myself back into his embrace, and nod fervently at his suggestion. “Any excuse, right?” I ask, turning my gaze towards our tightly clasped hands.
Jasper chuckles, and tightens his arm around my waist. “I don’t think we need an excuse,” he says confidently, like it’s obvious.
I shrug, and smile sweetly up at him. “Well — an opportunity, then.”
He nods, and laughs again.
From where I stand, I can see the floor, and my bare feet, and the baby blue hem of Esme’s dress.
A familiar type of chill rolls up my spine. Here it comes.
Jasper’s hand lifts off my back and reaches up. He touches the pearl tucked into my hair, just as lovingly as I saw he would, and so I lift my eyes to him like I’m meant to do.
“I like this,” he mutters, “it’s pretty. Reminds me of your skin, whenever I can get you out in the sun.”
What’s next hasn’t been plotted out, but my mouth seems to find the words anyways. “I hate to break it to you, but there’s not much sun around here.”
He furrows his brows, like he’s seriously considering this new information. “Probably a good thing,” Jasper notes. He touches the little bobble one more time, and then brings his hand back to my waist. After a moment of deep thought, Jasper speaks again. “We’ll just have to make our own sunshine.”
Goodness, he’s great.
Overflowing with his joy and my own, I stretch up as high as I can, on the very tips of my toes, and press a hard kiss to his smiling mouth. Even then, he bends himself in half to reach me.
We melt into each other, a puddle of his emotions and mine. Jasper’s hand leaves my waist to cradle the side of my face and his touch spreads searing want against my cheek. I welcome everything he has to give me, and curl my fingers into the fabric of his shirt to say, yes, please, more.
I’ve always mourned my humanity, but God, I’m so grateful not to breathe. It means Jasper and I could go on like this indefinitely. Forever.
It’s exactly what I want, and Jasper knows that, but he slides back into the role of proper gentleman before his powers get the best of us and there’s no turning back.
He clears his throat.
My head lands on Jasper’s chest and I close my eyes. The music slows to a stop after a while, and the needle against the inner end of the record, where the grooves in the vinyl cease.
Neither of us bother to do anything about it. We stand there in silence, just holding each other, swaying back and forth to the click, click, click coming from the far end of the room. That’s music enough for us.
I feel Jasper shift. His head turns up and his shoulders lower.
Then, another voice shakes me out of Jasper’s arms. “Chronologically, by year. And then by preference, I guess.”
Surprised twice in one day!
I look past Jasper’s arm to see Edward leaning against the doorframe, smiling at us both with a good and proper grin.
Jasper lets me go and turns around, and I stand and watch as he attempts to match the man’s expression.
“-- since you were wondering,” Edward finishes. He stretches out his smile and stands up straight, then acknowledges me with a solid nod.
Jasper sighs out a nervous laugh. “I was,” he says, forcing his body into a straight line. “I don’t think I’ll ever get used to that,” he says of Edward’s gift.
“Sorry,” Edward says, unapologetically.
“It’s a wonderful collection,” I offer, snaking an arm low around Jasper’s waist. He relaxes, just a little, so I keep throwing calm his way.
Next into the room is Carlisle, followed closely by Rosalie and Emmett. Esme is tucked between them.
Before I can hide my crime behind Jasper’s body, I’m caught. “Alice!” She says, her red-painted lips pulling into a smile.
“Oh, Esme -- I’m sorry, I know you said I could borrow a dress or two, but this! --”
“You look absolutely lovely.”
Three surprises — now that’s absolutely unheard of. What a strange kind of day.
“Oh,” I say, hands flying up to fiddle with the bodice. I smile through my embarrassment and mumble a quiet thank you.
“It’s yours,” Esme quickly assures. “It fits you like a glove.”
No words leave my mouth, but a wonky little gasp of air does.
Carlisle’s smile pulls wider across his face. He closes the distance between himself and his wife, and takes one hand out of his cardigan’s pocket to rest on Esme’s shoulder proudly. “I agree,” he simply states, “like it was made for you.”
“Oh, I could never!” I argue.
Rosalie looks up from Emmett, who’s sat himself down to pull off his muddy shoes, and she huffs a laugh at me. “You’re already wearing it,” she notes, with a surprising amount of sincerity amongst her usual bite.
Esme eyes Rosalie. “You absolutely can,” she insists, ignoring the blonde’s remark. “Please. What’s mine is yours. You’re part of the family now.”
I look down at the dress -- my dress -- and burst into a fit of giddy laughter.
How can I say no to that?
I look at the Cullens one by one -- Esme and Carlisle still embracing, Rosalie and Emmett poised just behind them, and Edward smiling that all-knowing-smile to their left -- and then land my gaze on sweet, dedicated Jasper.
This is my family.
For thirty years, I’ve been searching. I’ve been looking, and looking -- scanning through the future and digging to understand the past -- hoping to find some spot in space and time that suits me right.
For so long I searched alone, with nothing, and no one, and no idea where to go.
That changed when I saw a man, scarred and uncertain and spun of gold. It changed again, when I saw a family put together by choice, and by love.
I started on a path that would lead me across the country and back again, with nothing more than hope and a picture in my mind.
I’ve gained so much since then — pieces of myself, determination stronger than fear, a deep, life-affirming understanding of what it means to love, and be loved, unconditionally, with every inch of your deadened heart — but nothing will ever compare to the satisfaction that I feel right now.
I can stop.
I can stop wanting, and waiting, and searching, because I’m here. I’m finally here, exactly where I’m meant to be.
I’m home, and that is the best thing of all.