Sitting on the couch, I idly strummed my guitar as I let my mind wander. I was supposed to be getting ready to head to dinner at Esme and Carlisle’s place, but my thoughts kept whirling as they’d been wont to do of late. Not surprising, really. The two weeks or so after Momma’s visit had been kind of surreal. I’d tried to concentrate on my class work, but wasn’t as successful as I’d have liked. Edward and I spent a lot of time talking about what had happened – both between ourselves, with his parents, and with Carmen.
And Rose, of course. She was shocked when I’d called her after Momma had left to tell her what had happened. She couldn’t believe Momma had risked Daddy’s wrath by meeting with me – with us. She’d been thrilled, though, that Momma had done it, happy to know that she at least wanted her son in her life. That Momma loved and accepted me – and Edward.
She’d promised me she’d try to contact Momma herself as soon as possible, meaning she’d wait to make sure Daddy was nowhere around. In the past two weeks, both Rose and I had been in contact with Momma, though only for very short periods of time and always on the sly.
I wasn’t sure how I felt about that. Part of me was thrilled to have her back in my life – and to know Rose hadn’t lost Momma either. Yet the very idea that she was risking… I wasn’t even sure what. Her life? No, that didn’t sit well with me at all. I understood, albeit barely, Momma’s need to stay with Daddy. To try to convince him of the error of his ways, but the more I thought about it and talked to Carmen about it, the more afraid I became for her.
If, after all this time, she hadn’t been able to make any changes in her husband, had in fact only ever deferred to his wishes… then how could she even hope to get anywhere with him now – especially on this issue, something he felt so strongly about?
I knew from Esme that Momma had called her a couple of times and that they’d even had a chance to meet in person over coffee. Esme had refused to tell me much beyond the fact it was clear to her how much my mother loved me, and that she would do everything in her power to make sure she had support. I was obviously grateful for that, even if I was very curious what they’d discussed. I could respect Esme’s decision not to betray my mother’s confidence, though.
Edward squeezed my shoulder as he kissed my temple, startling me out of my thoughts. I cringed at the false note escaping my guitar.
“Sorry,” he whispered. “I didn’t mean to startle you, baby, but you need to get ready or we’ll be late.”
Sighing, I ran my fingers through my hair. “Yeah, yeah, you’re right. Sorry, I just….”
I shrugged. Edward put a finger under my chin and tilted my head up, kissing my lips tenderly before pulling away with a small smile. “I know. It’s okay, sweetheart. We need to get going, though. Mom’s expecting us.”
Nodding, I got up to put my guitar back in its place. I couldn’t help smiling as I did, still marveling at the fact this was home now – and how right that felt, even after living with Edward for about two months.
After glancing at the clock, I hurried through my shower and changed into my faded jeans and navy-blue button down. Esme had wanted to have a nice family dinner with us, and Rose and Emmett. Esme felt that as Rose was my sister, and Emmett was as good as her son anyway, they were family, too. It warmed me to see how Rosalie had been taken in by the Cullens, that we’d always have a family no matter what. That Momma was in our lives again (even in a severely diminished capacity) only made things better.
The drive to the Cullens’ home was quiet. I was sure Edward was lost in his own thoughts, or else he was respecting my need for contemplation as I looked outside at the passing houses. Almost everywhere I looked, there were gardens filled to varying degrees with Halloween decorations. There was even one house completely done up as an old haunted house, with a graveyard in the garden and several ghouls and mummies and whatever else you could think of.
I wasn’t sure why, but the thought occurred to me that certain areas of my life very much resembled a haunted house, ghouls and ghosts and all. As we drove onto the Cullens’ street, I had to force those thoughts away and work on putting a smile on my face. As much as I loved them, I wasn’t really in the mood to be around people right then. I felt too melancholy and wished I could just shake it off.
Edward turned to me as he shut the car off. “Are you okay, baby?”
“Yeah, I’m alright. Just a lot on my mind, I guess, but what else is new?” I said, giving him a small, crooked smile.
He leaned across the console and kissed me chastely, murmuring, “I love you, you know that?”
I nodded, reaching for his hand and squeezing it lightly. “I do. I love you, too. And I love your mom, so if I want to stay in her good graces, I suppose we’d better get inside, huh?”
I was hoping to lift the mood a little, and it worked, in a way, because Edward chuckled and shook his head before kissing me once more and then got out of the car. As soon as he rounded the vehicle to my side, he put his arm around me, much like that first time he’d taken me here.
Carlisle opened the door this time, giving us each a warm hug before ushering us inside. He asked how I was holding up, and we chatted for a while until Esme came walking out of the kitchen and we went over everything again — warm hugs included.
Carlisle and Esme shared a glance together, and for some reason I had the impression they were… nervous? Edward, who’d taken a seat next to me on the couch shrugged his shoulders at my silent question. Apparently he’d noticed it, too, and didn’t know the reason for it, either.
The bell rang before I could say anything and Esme hurried to answer the door. When Esme returned, she had Emmett and Rose in tow. Rose’s smile went from apprehensive to happy the moment she saw me, and I couldn’t help but wonder what was going on. I knew that look she was giving me, and I knew she knew something I didn’t.
When I looked at Emmett, he actually blushed a little and quickly turned his head under the pretense of talking to Carlisle. I frowned, glancing from one person to the next with an increasingly sickening feeling. The only one who appeared to be as in the dark as I was, was Edward, and I saw him do the same.
Meeting his eyes, he gave me another shrug as if to say, “I don’t know, either.”
“Would someone please tell me what’s going on?” I said, looking first at Esme, then Rose.
The two women shared a glance, and then Esme sat down on the coffee table in front of me as she said, “Jasper, dear, there’s something I didn’t tell you about tonight. Either of you. I wasn’t sure whether or not you’d… well, if you’d be able to come, if you knew.”
I frowned, leaning instinctively into Edward who wrapped his arm around my shoulders. “What do you mean?” I asked warily.
Esme glanced at Rose again, and then said, “Well… your mother and I have talked quite a bit the past couple of weeks, and we agreed…” she took a deep breath, then rushed on, “that it might be a good idea for them to come here to talk, and for you to be here as well. She felt that seeing you at the hospital like that, with so many people in such a public venue… that it was a large part in why your father reacted the way he did. She – we – hope that in a more private setting, he’d at least be more open to listen. To see.”
Out of the corner of my eye I could see the same stunned look on Edward’s face that I was sure was present on mine. Rose knelt down next to me, taking my hand in hers as she said quietly, “Momma talked to me about it as well. I’m not sure she’s right in this case, but I can see her point. Daddy always was… more… strict when out in public.”
I looked at Rose. “So… what? You thought it was a good idea to have us all in the same room together? And to spring this on me now? Jesus, Rose… I don’t know about this. I—”
Edward had leaned forward, and I could hear him actually hiss at his mother, “Mom! How could you? How could you do this to Jasper? To us? A little warning might have been nice!”
I turned to look at them as Esme straightened, her face determined. “This wasn’t just my idea, Edward Anthony. Carolyn felt it best. She was concerned that Jasper might worry himself sick. She is the one that suggested this get together, though I wholeheartedly agree with it. That man needs some sense talked into him.”
“Esme—” I began, but I got cut off by the doorbell ringing again. I could feel the blood drain from my face as she said quietly, “That’ll be them,” and got up to answer the door.
I shot a panicked look at Edward, who’d turned a little pale himself as he watched me with worried eyes. “Babe,” he murmured, leaning in and cupping my cheek, “say the word, and we’ll go home. I promise. I don’t care what they think, just…”
He stopped, unable to finish, not that I needed him to. Shaking my head, I took a wavering breath, then cleared my throat several times before I was able to speak. “No. If they’re really here, we might as well give this a go.”
“Alright,” he whispered, kissing me quickly. We could hear footsteps and low voices approach and I could recognize Daddy’s clipped tone as he asked what was going on. From the sound of it, Momma had told him they were supposed to have dinner with just the Cullens, under the pretense of a charity meeting or something.
Edward took my hand firmly in his as he settled on the edge of his seat, while I did the same. I felt both hot and cold at once, more scared about what might happen than I’d ever have been willing to admit to anyone – Edward, especially.
The second Esme and my parents rounded the corner, I knew they’d all been wrong. This wasn’t going to be pretty, and Daddy wasn’t about to be any more lenient than he’d been at the ER.
God, that feels like a lifetime ago, now, flit through my mind as I saw the heat rise in both Daddy’s cheeks and his eyes.
He rounded on Momma who stood a half-step behind him.”What the hell is going on, Carolyn? What is that piece of filth doing here?”
In the periphery of my eyes, I could see everyone blanch at Daddy’s words. Esme’s mouth popped open in shock even as Momma tried to explain in a stuttering voice. “P-please, Walter, if you’d just l-listen. Try to—”
Daddy pointed in my direction, his back turned to me as if I wasn’t worth any further attention, and spat at Momma, “That is not worth listening to, Carolyn. I thought I forbade you any contact with that. How dare you—”
Every word coming from my father cut like a knife, just as it had done back in the ER that night, but to hear him refer to me as ‘that’ as opposed to a human being, let alone his son… I couldn’t even begin to put into words how that made me feel. My vision swam as I looked at them, and seemingly without my permission, I reached a hand out to them and whispered, “Daddy, please… don’t…”
“No filthy fucking faggot will ever be my son,” he ground out, his fists clenching and unclenching at his sides, though he refused to turn around to face me.
“Daddy!” Rose, started, apparently snapping out of the shock she’d been in, but he turned to her then, his face filled with rage the likes of which I’d never seen before, and hoped to God I’d never witness again.
“And you!” he roared, jabbing a finger in her direction. “I don’t want to hear another word out of that traitorous little mouth of yours, young lady. You made your alliances quite clear when last we spoke. As long as you side with that faggot, you are no daughter of mine. I thought I had made that quite clear last time!”
Edward’s hand tightened around mine to the point of pain, but I merely squeezed back with just as much strength. When I glanced at him, it was to find him staring wide-eyed at my father – pale faced, mouth open in utter shock, he looked incapable of speech.
“At ease, Master Sergeant.”
The words startled all of us. Her voice was familiar, but the way Esme sounded was nothing like I’d ever heard before. Apparently, neither had Edward, as he sat gaping up at his mother, blinking in surprise as she stood a little straighter, squaring her shoulders even as she pointed a finger at Daddy’s chest, her face cold and hard, her eyes practically spitting fire as she bore down on my father.
Daddy actually took a step back and did as she’d said – automatically, it seemed. When he realized it, his face contorted with anger and he opened his mouth to speak. Esme, however, rolled right over him.
“Now you listen to me, Walter Hale, and you listen good! I will not allow such vitriol being spewed in my house! That is your son you’re talking about – your flesh and blood! The same son you’ve loved and been proud of these past twenty-six years.”
“How dare—” he started.
“Be quiet!” Esme spat, one hand going to her hip, the other only barely refraining from jabbing her finger roughly into his chest as she glared up at him. Esme stood about a foot shorter than my father, but you wouldn’t think so by looking at them and how they reacted to one another.
“Jasper is as fine a young man as I have ever met. My son is lucky to have found such a loving soul in him – someone who loves him with everything he has—”
Daddy actually snorted in disgust, and I caught him muttering darkly, “Fucking cock-sucking son-of-a-bitch probably pounced—”
Several gasps mingled together as Esme slapped Daddy across the face with such force, his head jerked sideways, his hand rubbing his cheek as he stared in shock. Rose’s whispered, “Oh, my God,” the only other sound in the room.
Esme hissed, taking a step closer to Daddy. “That is my son you’re talking about. Being gay isn’t something wrong or disgusting. It isn’t even a choice, for crying out loud! Can’t you get it through that thick skull of yours? Love is love, though I’m beginning to wonder whether you ever were capable of feeling it. How could you abandon your child?”
Esme was breathing heavily as she continued to glare at my father. Everyone else was quiet, the silence filling the air felt oppressive. Emmett stood behind Rose, his arms wrapped around her as he rubbed her arms awkwardly.
Carlisle stood off to the side, not a foot from his wife as she bore down on my father. Mother visibly cowered away from him – it killed me to see it, images of what might follow if she went home with him tonight filled my head and I couldn’t bear it anymore. I turned toward Edward, resting my head on his shoulder, even as his arm went around mine. He kissed the top of my head with a heavy sigh.
Daddy’s, “Disgusting,” reached my ears and I cringed.
Taking a deep breath, I steeled myself, kissed Edward briefly before standing up and taking a few steps toward my father. It took everything I had in me to not cower under his hateful gaze, but to meet it as levelly as I knew how. My voice shook slightly when I spoke, unable to keep my emotions from filtering through.
“I’m going to say this only once. I’m sorry for disappointing you, Daddy. I’m sorry I’m not what you’d like me to be.”
I heard several protests start from everyone around me, but I held up a hand and they fell quiet again, listening.
“I’ll apologize for those two things, but I will not apologize for being who I am, or who I love. Because I love Edward, Daddy, and he loves me, too. I’m proud of him and I’m proud to love him.”
I felt Edward slip his hand to my hip as he sidled up beside me and I leaned into him, grateful for his support.
“No one’s to blame for this, no one’s in the wrong. I’m not wrong, Daddy. I’m who and how I’m meant to be, and it took me ten years to figure that out. I tried things your way for ten years, though you never even knew it, and it didn’t work for me, Daddy. It never will, because I’m gay.”
Daddy’s jaw clenched several times, his right eye twitching as his temper grew. Taking another shaky breath, I tried one more time. “Please, Daddy. Please try to understand. Try to see…”
“Enough!” he ground out, his chest heaving as he fought to maintain control. “I will not—”
“Walter, please,” came Momma’s soft voice. “He’s our son. My baby… please, Walter.”
Momma touched his arm. Daddy’s reaction was so sudden, it took us all by surprise when he swirled around, his hand raised as if to hit her. Carlisle was closest and somehow managed to stop my father from following through. The two of them stood for a moment, glaring at each other as Carlisle held onto Daddy’s wrist in the air.
With a huff, Daddy jerked his hand back, rolling his shoulders once, his eyes cutting to the rest of us. Carlisle’s voice was calm, if hard, as he said, “I think it’s time you left, Walter. It’s obvious you refuse to see reason, and I will not allow things to escalate any further.”
Daddy nodded and made to grab Momma’s arm, but she slipped past him and hurried to me to hug me tightly. Tears were streaming down her cheeks as she whispered, “I’m sorry, baby, I’m so sorry, I thought… I thought…”
Wrapping my arms around her, I buried my face in her hair, taking deep steadying breaths while simultaneously trying to console my mother.
“Carolyn!” Daddy barked. “We’re leaving. Now.”
Tightening my hold on her, I glanced over her head at Daddy. The icy-cold stare he gave me churned my stomach. My eyes cut to Edward, pleading, but before either of us could say anything, Esme was there, placing a gentle hand on Momma’s shoulder as she spoke in a soft voice not meant for anyone but the three of us to hear.
“Carolyn, please, stay. You don’t have to go back with him. It isn’t safe, I think you know that. You’re welcome to stay here with Carlisle and me. There’s plenty of room and it wouldn’t be any problem. You’d be safe here, I promise.”
Momma trembled in my arms, shaking her head. “I can’t. I have to go. It’s my duty to—”
“Momma, please,” I whispered urgently. “Don’t. There’s nothing you can do. He’s made up his mind and there is no changing it. Even I can see that now. It’s okay. I’ll be okay, Momma, but only if you’re safe and I know you’re not with him. Please, please don’t leave with him. Don’t go back to him.”
Rose stepped up to us, awkwardly sliding between us so she could put her arms around both Momma and me. “Momma, you can’t go back to him. Please,” she said quietly.
From the corner of my eye, I noticed Emmett taking a few steps to position himself between our little group and my father. When I looked up, I saw that Daddy’d moved closer to us, but stopped when both Emmett and Carlisle blocked his way.
Momma’s eyes flitted from one person to the next, taking in all the concerned faces before resting on mine. She cupped my cheek, then took both mine and Rose’s hands in hers as she turned to face Daddy. She tilted her chin up slightly in defiance, though her voice shook as she said, “If you continue to deny my son, Walter, then we are through.”
Daddy’s eyes bulged in shock and rage, and he took another step closer, his hands balled into fists as he hissed, “Woman, don’t you dare defy me. Your place is by my side, as you swore the day you took your vows.”
Momma trembled, her hold on my hand – and Rose’s, I was certain – tightening as she stood her ground for the first time in my life. “I’ve stood by you for far too long, Walter. Taken your side over what I knew was right because it was my duty. No more. My place is by my children’s side, as it should have been from the start.”