What's Love? Ch 9
Driving through Forks is Deja Vu at its worst. People are walking their dogs, playing at the park, and I can hear the laughter of children. Almost every house has beautiful landscaping. The town is very proud of itself and it shows. The high school looks different, it must have gotten an upgrade. Every store shop is in perfect condition. They say every town has a bad side, but the bad side of Forks consists of houses without white picket fences.
I find myself on the phone with Jasper letting him know I’m not too far from his house. He’s beyond happy, but
says he has a beef with me. His voice is light, so I assume it’s nothing too serious.
When I arrive, my first thought is that his house is not what I expected for Jasper; it’s more suited for Alice. It has two stories, a light red paint with a white picket fence in the front with a little gate. Pink and red rose bushes flank the front door. It makes me feel at home.
Jasper has aged well, that’s for sure. I haven’t seen him since my third marriage three years ago. He’s tall and lean with his hair still shaggy as it was at 17. His smile lights up his face as he sees me pull into his drive. He turns to the open door and yells something, I assume it’s to let Alice know I am here.
I barely have the car in park when he comes barreling to it. He swings my door open and grabs me out into one of his bear hugs.
“I’m so happy you're home, Bella!” Our hug is so tight and it feels just like home.
“Jeez, Jazz, let the poor girl get into the house before you crush her,” a tinkling voice from the porch calls out to him. The voice brings a memory up of a girl that sat with me in the Forks High Library. I let Jasper go and look to the voice and see a petite woman with dark spiky hair. You can tell by the way she dresses that she knows a lot about shopping and clothing. Her face is older, but it’s the same girl from the library all those years ago.
“Alice, I am so excited for you to meet my sister, Bella.” Jasper grabs my hand and drags me to her. I’m at least a few inches taller than her.
“I think we met once in high school,” she replies before I can.
“Yes.” Not sure how to proceed, she embraces me as well. She and Jasper definitely have some things in common.
“Your stuff arrived yesterday, we took it over to the house. But we have a room all set up for you,” Alice tells me as she shuffles me into the house. I can hear Jasper chuckle as he follows us in.
She shows me the room they are letting me stay in until my old house is ready for me. I set my things down and head back to the living room where Jasper is sitting.
“So, what did you have to do to get us free access to the Marriott?” he asks me before I can even get comfortable.
“Oh, you got us that! Eee!” Alice lunges at me to give me a hug and cause my eardrums to nearly burst. Just as quickly as she had me, she lets me go.
“Nothing illegal,” I assure Jasper. “I did some programs that they bought and I had a clause in my contract. It’s not a big deal, really.” I shrug, not making eye contact with either of them. I feel uncomfortable talking about it now. I really don’t want Alice to think I’m a hardened criminal or something.
“So, you want to head over to the house and take a look at what needs upgrading and replaced?” Jasper asks, changing the subject. I know when we are alone he will drill me for more information.
I like to make him wait, and I really don’t think I’m in the right state of mind to head to the house today. “I’d rather wait until tomorrow. I really need a good meal and some rest before doing that,” I reply quietly.
“Auntie Alice!” I hear a little girl's voice from the front door.
“Miah!” Alice jumps up to greet the little girl, then a man follows them in.
I have never had a man catch my attention quite the way he does. He’s easily six feet tall, with bronze hair that doesn’t look like it can be tamed. His brow is pierced and his arms are covered in tattoos. When his eyes flicker to mine I see he has Alice’s green eyes, but more green if that is possible. His facial structure is familiar, he was sitting there that day, too. But he was smaller in stature then; he has grown in muscle and his features have sharpened. I can feel the attraction, but it's unsettling.
“Hey Alice, Jasper. Sorry, Miah really wanted to come visit and maybe eat dinner here.” He gives his sister a dazzling smile.
Alice rolls her eyes. “Miah wants dinner, or you still haven’t replaced your stove after you killed it?”
“You could be correct on that.”
“Daddy hasn’t replaced it,” his little girl chirps, then spots me and walks over until she is standing right in front of my legs.
“Hi, I’m Miah, are you Jasper’s sister?” She keeps eye contact with me, and I see she shares her father’s eyes but has jet black hair.
“Yes, I’m Bella. I’m pleased to meet you.” I put my hand out to her, unsure what else to do. My circumstances never really had me interact with such young children. She grabs my hand and shakes it in perfect form.
“Jasper talks about you a lot. He’s been really excited that you were coming back.” She turns to her dad. “That’s my daddy, Edward. He works with my uncle Emmett with construction, but he also owns his own tattoo shop. He really doesn’t like me to go in there after a certain time because it becomes adult conversation,” she informs me.
“Miah, don’t overwhelm her.” Edward chuckles awkwardly. “Sorry, she has an adult personality in a small body.” He lifts her up almost to shield me from the little girl.
“It’s okay, it’s nice and now I don’t have to ask the awkward questions later. She’s saved me a step.” I slip into another persona, the typical woman routine.
He gives me a smile. I can feel Jasper’s eyes on me.
“Hey, Edward, where’s Tanya? You didn’t want to eat over there?” he questions in a tone that I’m unfamiliar with. The name Tanya also has some familiarity with it, but I don’t recall much from it. I focus mostly on the tone Jasper uses.
“She’s in Seattle visiting her parents,” Edward replies, ignoring whatever was in Jasper’s voice.
“I don’t like her. She tries to get me to do things with her, like she’s my mom. I am a smart, educated young lady that doesn’t need to be dolled up.” She crosses her arms. I can’t help but chuckle, it sounds like something I would have said at her age.
You could tell Edward has had this disagreement before with his daughter. He sets her back down and looks into her eyes. “I thought you were going to try harder with her. She knows she isn’t your mom, but she wants to be your friend.”
“She doesn’t understand the simple terms I use. She doesn’t like anything I like. I’m trying to learn sign language to speak to that one girl at school. She doesn’t try to help me learn HTML. I had to borrow that notebook Uncle Emmie has.” Her rant ended when she finally looked up to her father who was not happy with her.
“When is Miah testing?” Jasper walks into the kitchen and I get up to follow him and Edward. Miah doesn’t follow but goes over to the tablet in the corner. The tablet is all too familiar to me, and I can’t help but smile.
“Next month. They already said that she has a photographic memory,” Edward answers.
“Photographic? Do you mean eidetic?” It spills out of my mouth before I really give it thought.
“Eidetic, that’s what you have, right?” Edward takes a seat next to me at the kitchen table.
“Yes, I could give you a rough estimate on her IQ if you would like. I have studied the testing techniques and interned at a testing center,” I offer.
Alice starts to make dinner while we’re talking. Edward's eyebrows furrow. “How would that work?”
I quickly explain the method I would use. It consists of questions that determine if she can identify patterns and configurations, and some other standardized test questions. Then I receive a score based on her age, divide that by her mental age, then multiply it by one hundred and that, in theory, is the IQ score.
“Maybe another day, but tonight I would feel bad with all the driving you’ve done the last few days.” He smiles politely and it sends a pleasant chill through my body.
I get up and start helping Alice around the kitchen. She tries to argue that I am a guest, but it's futile, I am very stubborn and set in my ways. I really need to distract myself with a task before I find myself inside my head over-analyzing the look on Edward's face as he talks to Jasper about work, or Miah on the tablet with headphones on. It’s been too long since I was around anyone other than myself, my computer and a husband. And this is a family environment, the likes of which I haven’t found myself in since I was in hell.
I look down to my wrists and the darkened pink scars that wrap around them, always hidden with bracelets and long sleeves. I feel my lungs close off as I grab the counter as an anchor. I should have never stepped back into Washington State, my walls and perfect facade are falling