I’d never been more glad than I was today for the arrangements my dad had made so we could see Carmen. This past weekend had been very hard on Jasper, after his mom had stopped by to see the game last Saturday, only to make a quick exit.
Rose had ended up telling him a few things that he apparently hadn’t been aware of himself, and it had weighed heavily on his mind for the rest of the weekend. He’d been very quiet all of yesterday, and had sat for hours with his guitar in hand, mindlessly strumming it. It made me wonder if the guitar itself held any significance to him, or whether that was how he worked through things.
When he wasn’t sitting with his guitar, he’d snuggled with me on the couch, the TV on low for background noise, though neither of us had paid it any real attention.
This morning as I’d left for work, Jasper had assured me he’d be fine, though he looked exhausted. I knew he hadn’t been sleeping well again, and I was worried. Over the course of the morning, we chatted a few times until it was time for me to pick him up for our appointment with Carmen.
Before we’d ever started counseling, Dad had said that on the days we had joint sessions, I could go home around noon, so that we could have some time at home to decompress before going to the club. It had been nice to have that time together, as it allowed us to talk, and collect ourselves again. Of course, leaving early on those days did mean I was making up for that time over the course of the week, by taking shorter lunches and working a little later.
I didn’t mind. It was worth it to me, and Jasper seemed to appreciate it a lot, judging by how he was more relaxed afterward.
Today’s session with Carmen had been hard on him — on both of us, really – because it killed me to see him hurting like this. Carmen had asked questions about his mother. In the end, we’d gotten nowhere with regards to Mrs. Hale, but both of us were very grateful for what Rose had done. We agreed, however, that it also worried us, for her sake.
We’d covered so many things, I felt as if I was on overload trying to come to terms with it all. I knew it was the same, if not worse, for Jasper.
We were sitting in the kitchen, eating sandwiches and holding hands — both of us needing the comfort.
Jasper sighed softly, took a drink of his milk, then said in a quiet voice, “You know what’s the worst part of all of this?”
He paused a moment, looking up at me with pain clear in his eyes. “I keep wondering what’s going on with Momma. Wondering if she’s okay, if maybe he’s hurting her or…”
He clenched his jaw and closed his eyes, taking a calming breath, and then added in a whisper, “I don’t know what I’d do if he did…”
I nodded, and opened my mouth to say something, though whatever thought passed through my mind disappeared at the sound of the doorbell.
“Well that’s odd,” I murmured.
Normally anyone who wanted to come in, would have to use the buzzer downstairs to be let into the building. The doorbell itself was seldom used, because I’d be standing by the door by the time they came upstairs.
Jasper looked as puzzled as I felt, so I squeezed his hand and said, “I’ll go see who that is.”
I kissed the crown of his head as I walked past him, wondering again who could be ringing the doorbell as it rang out a second time. I thought maybe it was one of my neighbors or something, so I opened the door without checking the peephole.
The sight that met my eyes had me do a double take. I had only seen her once before and though we’d never been introduced, I knew who the woman before me was. There could be no mistake. Jasper’s pained eyes gazing up at me from what could have been Rosalie’s older sister was slightly disconcerting, and I lost my ability to speak for a moment.
“Edward Cullen, I presume?” came the somewhat timid voice that reminded me a little of Rosalie.
I nodded. “Mrs. Hale?”
Several emotions – ranging from anguish to pleasure to everything in between – passed over her face as she tried to smile. She nodded. I cleared my throat, scratching the back of my neck as I tried to collect my thoughts. Keeping my eyes on her, I turned my head slightly and called out, “Jazz, baby? Could you come here a sec?”
“Sure, what’s—” Jasper’s voice stopped abruptly, telling me he’d walked out of the kitchen and laid eyes on our unexpected visitor. I heard him gasp, “Momma?”
Mrs. Hale’s eyes welled up with tears as she caught sight of Jasper. She looked like she wanted to move to him, but was rooted to the spot. I stepped aside, gesturing for her to come in, but she stayed where she was her eyes fixed on her son.
Jasper walked over to us, cautiously, until he stood pressed up against me. I slipped my arm around his waist, offering him the support he seemed to need. His voice was hoarse with emotion. “How did you know…? How did you even get up here?”
I wanted to know the answers to both those questions as well. Mrs. Hale blushed and swallowed several times before she was able to speak. “I followed you home after training a couple of weeks ago. Edward isn’t exactly a common name, so I figured I had the right apartment. As for how I got up here… one of your neighbors was kind enough to let me in as he went out.”
I quirked a brow, even as Jasper nodded. Clearing my throat again, I said, “Mrs. Hale, would you like to come in?”
Her eyes flickered to mine as she gave me a small smile. “Carolyn, please.”
As soon as she was inside and I had closed the door behind her, he stepped cautiously up to her and wrapped his arms around her shoulders. I could hear his breath stutter as she hugged him back. They stood like that for a long time, neither of them saying anything.
“Excuse me a moment,” I murmured.
Neither of them noticed when I stepped into the bedroom. Taking several deep breaths, I grabbed my phone from my pocket and dialed Bella’s number. She answered almost at once, and I quickly explained that I needed her to cover for us today. “Bells, his mom just showed up. I can’t leave him, and I won’t deny him this chance to talk to her. Please? And call Em to let him know to cover training?”
“Sure, of course! Don’t worry about it. I’ll let my boss know I need to leave early today. Good luck! Tell Jasper I said to hang in there, okay?”
“I will, Bella. Thank you.”
I sighed in relief, running my fingers through my hair as I thanked her again and wished her good luck, counting myself lucky that Bella had such a relatively flexible schedule. I didn’t want to leave Jasper on his own for too long, so quickly made my way back to the living room, where I found them still standing by the door.
Placing my hand at the small of Jasper’s back, I looked at both of them with a timid smile. So far, things seemed to be okay — maybe there was hope yet. I desperately wanted things to work out for my Jasper, and his mother showing up at our doorstep seemed like a promising sign.
“Mrs. Hale?” She gave me a pointed look, and I corrected myself, “Carolyn, can I get you something to drink?”
I nudged Jasper slightly, hoping he would ask her to sit down. He blinked a couple of times, as if coming out of a daze, and then blushed as he stammered an apology for making her stand around like that. He escorted her to the couch, but she took a seat in the chair-and-a-half instead. I caught the slightly hurt look in Jasper’s eyes as he sat down on the corner of the couch, facing her.
I went to grab a couple of bottles of water. Neither of them appeared to have spoken at all while I’d been out of the room. Once I was settled next to Jasper, though, Carolyn gave a soft sigh and looked at us both with a mixture of sadness and pleasure.
“I am so very sorry we could not have met under more pleasant circumstances, Edward,” she said.
I nodded. “So am I. I know it would have meant a lot to Jasper…”
I didn’t finish my sentence. I couldn’t. Jasper tensed next to me, and I briefly wondered whether he worried she was going to run away again. Somehow, I didn’t think so, but I definitely couldn’t blame him if he did.
Carolyn nodded as well, wiping her eyes quickly as she turned to her son. “Jasper…”
I felt him take a staggering breath even as he straightened up a little. Putting my arm around his shoulders, I gave him an encouraging squeeze. He turned just enough for me to see the small smile on his lips.
“Jasper, can you ever forgive me?” Carolyn asked.
Jasper’s voice was so low even I could hardly hear it when he said, “Tell me why?”
Carolyn turned to look away briefly, and I could see her fighting to keep her emotions in check. I couldn’t even begin to imagine how difficult this must be for her, too, and I wished I knew how to make this all better. After a minute, she turned her attention to Jasper, speaking softly.
“Why I allowed your father to tear us apart the way he did? I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to explain that, sweetheart.” She paused a moment, and looked down at her hands, which were folded in her lap, before adding in a whisper, “I’m not sure I really understand it all, myself.”
She sighed heavily, shook her head, and raised her eyes to meet Jasper’s, who had shifted closer to me. She smiled sadly at him, and the emotions I saw playing behind her eyes made me wonder just what she had been living with all these years — what she was going through now.
“Your daddy and I were raised in different times, Jasper.”
I bit the inside of my cheek to keep myself from scoffing at that. After all, my parents were around the same age as Carolyn, and they had been far more accepting. I suppose it helped that they both grew up in the more liberal northern parts of the States, as opposed to the southern States. Still…
Carolyn continued, “Your daddy was raised by a certain set of rules, a conduct to abide by, even before he entered the military.” She gave him a wan smile, and added, “He wasn’t always as hard as he is now, Jasper. He’s a good man…”
Her voice faded away as she wiped the tears that were flowing freely down her face. I reached under the coffee table for the Kleenex box, and held it out to her. She took one, dabbing at her eyes as she took a wavering breath.
I settled back again, my arm tightening around Jasper’s shoulders – there was so much more I wanted to do to try to comfort him, but I didn’t feel right doing anything beyond this, not knowing how his mother truly felt about everything. I certainly didn’t want to make things any more difficult than they already were.
Carolyn seemed to change tacks, though I couldn’t tell whether that was because she had a hard time convincing even herself, or whether it simply was too difficult for her to talk about things.
“I’ll never be able to tell you just how bad I feel about all of this. I promise, Jasper, I tried to talk to him after we got home, I did, but your father-.” She stopped abruptly, a look of deep shame and pain crossing her features before she managed to school herself.
I could feel Jasper shaking slightly, and saw that his hands were clenched into tight fists. I reached over, placing my left hand over his, brushing my thumb soothingly over his wrist. Almost at once, he opened his hand to grab hold of mine, lacing our fingers and squeezing gently. His eyes remained on his mother as he said in a rough voice, “Momma, please tell me. I’ve been going crazy wondering if… did he hurt you?”
Even as I prayed the answer would be no, the truth became apparent by her reaction. Her shoulders shook as she turned to look away from us, and I could see fresh tears spill over her cheek. Carolyn’s fingers clutched the Kleenex in her hand tightly. Taking a deep, wavering breath, she shook her head and with a strangled voice, said, “He’s never… he didn’t mean to, I’m sure of it.”
Jasper’s strangled, “Oh God…Momma, no…I’m so sorry, so, so, sorry, please…” broke my heart, for both of them.
He slid off the couch and knelt in front of his mother, hugging her to him as he asked her for forgiveness. Carolyn cradled him back and forth, shushing him as she ran gentle fingers through his hair.
It hurt to see him like this, to hear him take the blame for something that was in no way his fault. This — like so many other things — was something that lay utterly at his father’s feet. As I dropped to my knees next to him, my hand reaching to touch his neck, I heard Carolyn murmur, “Jasper Hale, you stop right now. You bear no blame here. There is nothing – nothing – for me to forgive you for, sweetheart.”
My eyes met hers over Jasper’s shoulder, and I nodded, hoping to convey my appreciation of her words. She closed her eyes briefly, in silent acknowledgment. Taking a deep breath, I said softly, “Your mom is right, baby. What he did isn’t your fault.”
Jasper suddenly sat up, glaring at me with such fury that I actually flinched and moved back, leaning against the couch in surprise. “Not my fault? How the hell is it anything but my fault? My family wouldn’t be torn apart if it hadn’t been for me! Momma wouldn’t have…have…”
The wind seemed to blow bout of his sails as quickly as it’d set in them, and Jasper sagged to the floor, curling in on himself as his body shook. His face was hidden behind his arms, muffling his words, but I caught bits here and there.
“…my fault Bella got hurt… I can’t do this… keep hurting everyone…”
“Why?” Jasper’s voice sounded pained.
My heart started to pound in my chest, afraid of what Jasper might do next. This was so incredibly familiar, so similar to how Alec had been, and I didn’t know if I could stand it if Jasper ended up doing the same thing. Though Alec had blamed me for everything that had gone wrong, and Jasper was taking it all on himself, I couldn’t imagine that it’d take long for that to be turned around.
As he kept up the steady stream of self-flagellation, I snapped. Something Jasper had said a couple of days after his attack came back to me — words he had said to stop me from blaming myself for everything that had happened.
I shifted until I was right in front of him and grabbed his shoulders, shaking him lightly. I could feel Carolyn’s eyes on me, but in that moment I couldn’t find it in me to worry about her. Jasper snapped his head up. Forcing myself to remember that he was hurting, I tried to keep my voice steady, but I couldn’t quite restrain the anger I felt.
“Jasper Hale, you stop right now. Do you remember what you told me a couple of weeks ago? ‘My family is ‘blown apart’, as you put it, because my father can’t get his head out of his ass long enough to see that I’m still his son and that I finally figured out what it’s like to be in love.’ Those were your words, Jazz. This isn’t your fault! You didn’t make your dad be an ass. You didn’t tell your mom she couldn’t talk to you, and you didn’t lay a hand on her. That is all on your father.”
Jasper’s eyes were wide and fixed on mine. He sat perfectly still as he let my words sink in — at least, I hoped he was listening. Carolyn put her hand on Jasper’s shoulder, and I started a little when I felt her other hand on my own shoulder. Both Jasper and I turned to watch her. I blushed when I saw the tears in her eyes, ashamed that my words might have caused her pain.
She squeezed my shoulder and gave me a watery smile before turning her attention back to her son. She took a wavering breath, and then seemed to steel herself as she said, “Jasper, he’s right. Whatever is going on in this family, it doesn’t lie on your shoulders, sweetheart. Please believe that.”
He was silent for a while, looking at us both in turn as our words hung in the air. After a minute or so, he turned his head away from us, closing his eyes, his jaw tight as he let out a huff. Pressing the heels of his hands to his eyes, he shook his head and sighed. I watched him warily, unable to get a read on him.
My eyes flitted to Carolyn briefly, but she was watching her son intently, seeming to be trying to will him to understand. With another sigh, he turned back to us again and nodded with a look of resignation and sadness in his eyes.
“So now what happens?”
It was barely a whisper, but it was filled with such longing and despair that it cut right through me.
Carolyn looked at him for a long moment, and answered quietly, “Now we try to move forward, son.”
Jasper scoffed slightly. “What does that mean, Momma?”
She sighed, brushing her hair out of her face. Her voice was quiet, and filled with pain again. “It means that before anything else, I need to know if you could ever forgive me for what I’ve done, for what I allowed to happen.”
Jasper’s eyes flickered from his mother to me, and back again several times as he considered her question. I could tell this was hard on them both. I knew that Jasper’d want nothing more than to be able to say yes and have everything be okay again. But he knew that it could never be as simple as that.
Carolyn, on the other hand, was becoming more and more anxious as she waited for his answer. She was wringing her hands together tightly, and I could hear her breathing speed up and stutter. In that moment, I felt so bad for her. No matter what had happened, or what would happen, she was his mother, and it was obvious that she loved her son very much.
I didn’t know whether it would be welcomed, but my need to comfort her was greater than my fear of her rejection. Slowly, I placed my hand on hers, squeezing it gently. Her eyes shot to mine in surprise, and then she gave me a grateful smile – albeit a small one.
Jasper’s breath hitched as he moved to us and wrapped his arms around both Carolyn and me. His voice was strangled with emotion as he said, “Yes, Momma, I think I can. I love you.” He pulled away just far enough to look at me as he added, “Both of you.”
I smiled, nodding slightly as I mouthed, “I love you, too.”
I shifted away from them, allowing mother and son another moment together as they held on tight. Not entirely able to go without contact with Jasper, I rested my palm on his lower back, rubbing it gently. After a minute or so, he let her go, taking her hand in his as he took his seat on the couch again. I followed after him, resuming my place at his side. When I looked at Carolyn, she was smiling at us.
We sat and talked for a little while, and Jasper filled her in on everything that had been going on in his life — now that he finally could do so without having to hide my part in it. She asked questions, wanting to know how we’d met, how things were going between us – both before, and after the attack on her son. The more she heard, the more relaxed she became, though I’d catch her occasionally staring at me with appraising eyes.
When Jasper excused himself and left to go to the bathroom, she turned to me and said, “Thank you, Edward.”
I blinked, not entirely sure what she was thanking me for, so I asked her. She smiled, leaned forward, and patted my knee.
“For being there for Jasper. For making him happier than I’ve ever seen him. You’ve been good for him, I think, and it does my heart good to know that my son has found someone who cares so much for him as you obviously do.”
I could feel my cheeks heat at her words, and ducked my head a little as I said, shrugging, “I love him.”
For me, it was as simple as that. Carolyn nodded, and I frowned when I noticed the look on her face. She looked anxious again as her eyes followed to where Jasper had gone. When she turned her gaze to me again, she spoke with some urgency in her voice. “Promise me you’ll take care of my son. Always.”
To say I was surprised by her words would be an understatement. I nodded. “Of course. But why?”
She shook her head. “I know my son, Edward. He’s a lot like me, in some ways…which is why he’s going to need you. I need to know that he’s going to be okay.”
I leaned forward, taking her hand in mine as I locked eyes with her, trying to figure out exactly what was going on. “I love your son, Carolyn. I give you my word I will always do my best for him, in every way.”
She put her other hand over mine and squeezed it lightly, her eyes shimmering as she whispered, “Thank you.”
Jasper walked back into the room, stopping next to us, frowning as he took in our expressions. He sat down next to me again, his eyes flickering between his mother and me as he demanded, “What’s going on?”
Carolyn let out a shaky laugh, trying – and failing – to hide her emotions as she said, “Nothing, sweetheart. It’s just that I have to get going.”
“Wait, what?” Jasper asked, stiffening slightly as he looked at her.
She smiled apologetically. “I’m sorry. I have to get home, Jasper, before…”
Jasper let out a gust of air. “What? Home? No! Momma, you can’t! What if… no! Please, Momma…stay here, with us? Don’t go back to him…”
He turned to me with pleading eyes. “Edward, she can, can’t she?”
I nodded, and started to tell him that of course she could stay, but never got the chance. Carolyn was shaking her head. “No, Jasper. I have to go home. He’s your father – my husband. My place is there.”
The hurt and anger were apparent as Jasper raised his voice, “How could you say that? How could you even consider going back? He hurt you, Momma!”
Carolyn moved to sit on the armrest next to Jasper and cupped his face in her hands, holding it so he was forced to look at her. Her brow was furrowed, her tone gentle, but with an underlying firmness to it that brooked no argument. “Jasper, he is my husband. I vowed to be with him for better or for worse, and I intend to hold to those vows.”
She shook her head sharply as Jasper made to object, talking over him. “If I leave, then there will be no one left to even try to set him straight. No one who will appeal to his sense of family, or right or wrong — skewed as his vision of that may be. Jasper, if I don’t go home, I will truly have lost everything and everyone I hold dear. I will have lost the family I have struggled so hard to keep together over the years. I need to go. I have to try to make this better, baby. For all of us.”
We sat in silence for a while. I could tell this was very difficult for Jasper, so I took his hand in mine, squeezing it lightly to remind him I was here for him. His eyes met mine with a pained look, before focusing back on Carolyn again. “Okay,” he breathed.
She brushed her thumbs over his cheekbones, and smiled sadly. Jasper covered her hands with his own, his eyes shifting between hers. When he spoke, he sounded lost, and I could almost hear his heart breaking again. “Will you come back?”
Carolyn’s eyes shimmered with unshed tears as she leaned in and placed her lips to his forehead before whispering, “I’ll try, sweetheart. But I’ll have to be very careful for now — your father can’t know we’ve spoken.”
Jasper’s eyes closed, his shoulders sagging a little from the weight I knew he’d be feeling. I wanted desperately to fix this for them, but I knew there was no way that I could. I ached knowing that both Carolyn and Jasper were hurting so badly.
And then I thought of something. I tilted my head, wondering whether or not I should offer it, but after a second thought, I knew that if I didn’t, my mom would have my head. I took a deep breath, and offered, “Carolyn… would it be all right if I gave you my parents’ phone number? I know they would both be more than happy to do anything to help out, even if it’s only by lending an ear. They’ve both been in your shoes, well… to some extent at least. It might be good to talk to them. My mom, especially, would welcome the chance to meet you.”
Both Jasper and Carolyn turned to look at me — Jasper with gratitude, and Carolyn with a mixture of emotions – relief, hope, and anxiety. She closed her eyes briefly, and when she opened them again, she nodded. “That might not be a bad idea. Thank you, Edward.”
“Do you have a cell phone?” I asked.
She shook her head no. I got up and went into the office, wrote down the number for my parents, as well as my cell, work, and home phone number, and headed back out into the living room to find Carolyn and Jasper already heading to the door. I handed her the slip of paper and said, “I’ll let them know that you might be calling them. Please, feel free to call any time. If there’s anything we can do…”
Carolyn took both my hands in hers, smiling even though she had tears in her eyes. “Thank you. I’m glad to have gotten the chance to meet you, Edward. I hope we’ll be able to get to know each other better.”
“I hope so, too. It’d mean a lot to both of us if you would be a part of our lives, Carolyn.”
I meant it, too. I knew that having his mother back in his life would mean the world to Jasper, and I wanted him to be happy. That, and I thought that she seemed to be a good woman, and I found that I liked her. I couldn’t say I agreed with everything she had done, but I could understand it, to a degree, at least.
She patted my hand, and then turned to Jasper, hugging him tight. She whispered something in his ear that caused him to smile, his eyes cutting to mine. He was blushing a little, making me wonder just what his mother was saying to him, but I thought it better not to ask. Not right then, anyway.
When she stepped away, I slipped my arm around Jasper’s waist and felt him sigh. Carolyn looked at us both, nodded as if to confirm something for herself. “Be good to each other, boys.”
She glanced at Jasper, and smiled softly. “I love you, son. Please never forget that.”
He shook his head. “I won’t, Momma. I love you, too. Please…please be careful?”
“I will be,” she said, and with one final kiss to his cheek, and a quick squeeze of my hand and a nod to me, she left.
As soon as she was gone, I wrapped Jasper in my arms, holding him close. He burrowed his face into my neck, taking deep, deliberate breaths. He whispered, “I can’t believe she came here.”
He lifted his head to look at me. “Edward?”
He frowned slightly, his voice low as he said, “Do you think she’s gonna be okay?”
Cupping his cheek, I sighed. “I don’t know, Jazz. I hope so. But there really isn’t a lot we can do about it right now. She’s an adult, and makes her own choices. Just like you.”
He nodded, brow still furrowed. Brushing my lips against his briefly, I added, “I do think, though, that there’s every chance she’ll contact you again. She loves you very much, Jasper. Don’t give up hope, okay?”
He gave me a wan smile. “Thanks, babe. I love you, you know that?”
I grinned a half-grin. “I do. I love you, too.”