What's Love? Ch 7

Chapter 7
Bella POV
Present Day

Trying not to let my delusional ex-husband get to me, I start to gather my items for the movers. They arrive exactly at nine, and it takes them less than an hour to get everything out.

Everything that I’m taking with me on my drive is sitting on the counter in the kitchen. I take in the condo one last time, my eyes stopping at the flowers. They are very gorgeous, but the feeling of emptiness that I get when looking at them is confusing. I realize that I truly have no feelings for James; he was just a mark in my experimental cons. I’m ready to leave a few days earlier than planned, and given the actions of James I think it would be best if I do. I send a quick text to my divorce attorney to make sure my settlement check will be sent to me at my new address.

I leave my key there next to the flowers and walk out. Getting to the garage, I stand there trying to decide which car to take. I have an Aston Martin in sleek black, a shiny grey Volvo, and a rugged black Escalade. I can easily replace any of the cars.
Only one has any special meaning and it would be the Aston Martin, since Jasper was with me in New York when I purchased it. That memory alone makes the decision for me.

I put my bags in the backseat, with the oldest on top. My messenger bag has been through hell with me. I can’t help but stare at it a few seconds longer, allowing all the feelings to run through me. Shaking my head, I close the door and get into the driver's seat.

I take out my tablet and use the automated feature. “Jane, please let the dealers know the Volvo and Escalade are ready to be returned and sold.”

“Yes, Ma'am, I will let them know immediately,” she replies in her automaton voice.

I put the tablet down, not really satisfied with Jane’s voice recognition computer program. I modeled her after Charlie, but its only function is emailing and automating phone calls for me.
Sighing, I start the car and rev the engine to listen to it purr for just a moment before pulling out and hitting the highway heading west.

Roughly 75 miles into Pennsylvania I stop for gas and food, checking my phone and noticing a missed call from Jasper. I immediately return the call, worried about why he would be calling me.

He answers within a few seconds. “Bella.”

“Hey, Jasper, everything okay?” I ask in a worried tone.

“You know I proposed to Alice last Christmas, right?”

“Yeah,” I answer in a questioning tone.

“Well, she picked the date October eleventh. This wedding she wants, it’s too extravagant. I honestly don’t see the point in spending this kind of money for a wedding. It’s too much.”

“Okay,” I say slowly, still not entirely sure what to say.

“Sorry, I just needed to talk to someone that understands. I mean, I grew up with nothing, and what I do have I earned with hard work. Her family, they have money and probably could pay for the whole damn thing. It’s just...” He lets out a frustrated sigh.

“I get it, Jasper. Why don’t you give me all the info about the wedding she wants and let me see what I can do,” I offer to him.

“No.” His answer is firm.

“Jesus, just let me do this. I haven’t been there for you the last few years. I’ve been a terrible sister, please, Jazz.” I close my eyes as I implore him.

“If it’s not illegal, then okay. Also, don’t you be spending a crap ton of money either,” he reluctantly concedes.

“Call it a wedding gift,” I reply cheekily.

“Right,” he deadpans. “Bella, that isn’t why I called you, I really just needed a sounding board.” His voice is soft.

“Jasper, you have never asked for anything, ever. I’m doing this because I love you. I love Alice, too, and I know I can do this for you.” I keep my voice light.

“Don’t go overboard. Nothing illegal, no blackmailing, and do not spend a horrible amount of money,” he lists his restrictions.

“Jazz, I won't do anything illegal, and just to be technical,  blackmailing falls under doing things illegally.”

I can almost see him roll his eyes. “Okay, I’ll email you all the details. On another note, when are you going to be here?”

Thinking about stops and mileage in my head, I give him my best guess. “Um, two days. I’m already on the road.”

“Okay, I guess I'll see you soon.”

I hang up after my quick good-bye, and I feel good that I can help him with this problem. Through all the years the only thing I’d done for him was pay for his college, which he didn’t even agree to.

10 Years Ago

The first day we had been with Mrs. Crowe and her husband had been hectic. I had to talk to the police and give my statement, Jasper had to be withdrawn from school and put into online classes until we could figure out where we were going. Paul called the second day to say he had a permanent place for us and that he would come for us after Christmas. Mrs. Crowe was trying hard to make the day pleasant for us. She and her husband got a few cards for us and she made us dinner.

I couldn’t help but observe Jasper; he seemed to easily transition to the new place, and he was thriving in the other environment as well. It’s as if he adapts to survive, and maybe that is the key to this whole situation. It’s not to fit in, it's to pretend and keep pretending until you get out.

I was sitting in my room contemplating this theory when Mrs. Crowe walked in and sat at the end of the bed.

“I wish I had the energy I used to. My Hubert has the diabetes and I got arthritis, and it’s just too much to foster anymore. But you and Jasper have been very polite and some of the best kids I’ve had. I know it’s been rough and you could be lashing out to everyone. I want you to know there are good people in the world. They might be harder to find, but they are there. I hope you can find them before you shut down too much more.” She patted my knee and smiled. “Dinner is almost done, come use that brain of yours to help with the pie.” She gave me a wink, and I couldn’t help but smile at her.

I followed her out to the kitchen where Jasper was talking with Hubert about college plans.
I was easily able to recall a recipe to make pie, working alongside Mrs. Crowe at the counter. In no time at all, we were having dinner and chatting away. I wanted to test my theory about adapting to the environment in order to survive. I pretended everything was fine, smiling and enjoying sharing tales of my childhood. I detached myself so the pain of the memory wasn’t too hard to bear.

Paul came and got us the next day. I honestly was sad to go. I think that I could have thrived there for years.

“I don’t have any openings with families, but there is a group home that has spots. It should be a good place for you guys for a while.” Paul explained to us on the road.

Neither Jasper nor I responded, staring sullenly out our respective windows. 


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