Ding. Frowning, I looked at the popup notifier and clicked to open chat. It was a little before the time we usually chatted, so I was curious. It felt strange to be back at work without all the distractions of the holidays – never mind the days off we’d been able to spend together.
EACullen: Hey, yourself. Everything okay?
When there was no immediate reply, I toggled back to the screen I’d been working on, wondering what was going on. It was silly, really, that just that one word had me on edge, but it did the same as if I’d heard him speak. The tone just felt… off, somehow. Another ding alerted me to a response.
Jazzman: I guess? Got a call a little bit ago from the DA’s office. Apparently they pushed through my case and it’s going to trial next month.
I sat back in my chair and took several deep, steadying breaths. Ever since the attack on Jasper, we’d had calls from the DA’s office and detectives asking questions. Not very often, since it was fairly cut-and-dried, but still. We’d done our best to live our lives around it, mostly because Jasper had maintained that he wasn’t sure what he wanted to do, though there was no question that there would be a trial.
Guess the holidays are officially over, then. We’d been able to push everything aside regarding the upcoming trial for the most part, with the distractions of first Thanksgiving and then Christmas. This seemed like a rude reminder that life went on, though.
Biting my lip, I leaned forward again and began typing.
EACullen: When, exactly?
They hadn’t called me yet, though I knew it was only a matter of time. Still, I’d rather take care of time off sooner rather than later, because there was no way I’d leave Jasper to go through the trial alone if he decided to go. The DA had assured us he didn’t have to, due to the eye witnesses, but still.
Jazzman: 2-15 of all days. 🙁
Shaking my head, I huffed. Figures it’d be around Valentine’s Day. Way to ruin any plans we might have had. Before I could say anything about the timing, Jasper wrote again.
Jazzman: they want me there, Ed. She tried to talk me into going, but I don’t know… I just…
I could imagine his frustration, the way he’d run his fingers through his hair and groan.
EACullen: I know, baby. I’m sorry. Are you going? It might help get these idiots behind bars for sure so they can’t do to anyone else what they did to you.
Biting my lip, I waited for his response. This was by now an old argument and one we could go ’round and ’round on. Either way you cut it, there were no easy answers here and I hated it. I hated that it made Jasper hurt every time – that it brought back the horror of that night.
Jazzman: *sigh* I know, I know. It’s just… if I never see those… guys… again, it’ll be too soon. I really don’t want to, but I suppose you’re right.
There was a pause in which neither of us said anything and I simply stared at the screen in surprise. After a minute or two, he continued.
Jazzman: Bright side, I guess if I go, it shows them they didn’t beat me. Right?
Smiling, I murmured, “That’s my man,” and told him as much. We talked for a few minutes more before I reluctantly signed off in order to get back to work, but not until after shooting Carlisle an e-mail about the trial and requesting time off. They’d told Jasper it shouldn’t last more than a week, considering the evidence. It took less than five minutes before I had a reply from him.
Consider it taken care of. You’ll have the entire week, and if the trial lasts beyond that, we can figure it out. Just clear your desk as much as possible. We have an intern coming next week who should be able to help, if needed.
Give Jasper our love and let us know if you two need anything, okay?
Even as I typed a quick thank you, I smiled. It never ceased to amaze me how supportive my parents were of us. I chuckled as I read his answer again. Even after years of working with him, whenever it was just between him and me, he always was Dad. He only ever kept things professional if someone else was CC’ed within the company.
By the time I was ready to clock out I’d received my summons to appear in court as a witness. The idea of rehashing it all made my stomach twist, but there wasn’t much I could do about it. All the way home, I wondered what state I’d find Jasper in. He’d sounded okay when we’d chatted later in the afternoon, but I knew he was still unhappy about the idea of having to relive the experience.
As soon as I walked through the door, I was taken by surprise at the sight of my mother sitting at the dinner table, talking quietly with Jasper as they looked over what appeared to be magazines. “Mom? What are you doing here?” I asked as I closed the door behind me.
She looked up with a smile, quirked her brow and said, “Hello, dear, it’s good to see you, too. I’m fine, thank you for asking.”
Rolling my eyes, I leaned down to kiss her on the cheek, resting my hand on Jasper’s shoulder. “It’s good to see you, Mom. Sorry. Seriously, though, what brings you here? Did we have plans that I forgot?” I asked, looking between her and Jasper questioningly.
Jasper shook his head, grinning as he took my hand and pulled me down for a kiss. “No, darlin’. Your mom just called earlier to see if she could come over to discuss renovating your office, finally. To quote her, ‘The holidays are over so you’re out of excuses.’”
Esme chuckled. “I even offered to supply dinner. Or rather, I volunteered your father to get some pizza. He should be here shortly,” she said, glancing at her watch.
“Dad’s coming? He didn’t say anything,” I said quietly, frowning.
“Oh, he wouldn’t have, dear. I called him on his way out the office.” Esme grinned.
“O-kay… Well… thanks, Mom. I’m going to go change, and then I guess we’ll go over everything?”
After assuring me that was fine, I left to get more comfortable. I’d kind of hoped to lounge around in sleep pants with Jasper, but with my parents here I decided jeans and a shirt’d be the better option. I was just walking out of the bedroom when I heard Dad say, “—These are alright. I got a pepperoni, an all-meat with added mushrooms, and some cheesy breadsticks with marinara.”
Jasper was putting the pizzas in the middle of the table and I smiled when I saw Mom and Dad greet each other. Even after all these years it was obvious how much they loved each other. “Thanks, Dad, that sounds great, actually,” I said as I slipped an arm around Jasper’s waist as he straightened up.
We sat down to eat, during which time Mom explained what she’d been thinking of with regards to our office, and asking questions to find out what we had in mind ourselves. Every now and then, Dad even chimed in with an idea which always earned him a proud and pleased look from Esme, which in turn amused both Jasper and me. By the time we were done eating, Esme had a much better idea of where to go with the room and started to look around the living room with an almost wistful look in her eyes.
Jasper nudged my arm and rolled his eyes, smiling. Clearing my throat, I fought a grin as I quirked an eyebrow at Esme. “Mom… lets just get the office done first, okay? Then maybe we can revisit the idea of doing other rooms.”
All of us laughed at the excitement that shone on her face and the gleam in her eyes that assured us all that she felt she’d win her case. I had a feeling she well might, but I’d leave that up to Jasper.
“When did you want to start,” asked Jasper.
“Oh, well, that’s up to you, hon. I’ve got a clear agenda for a while now that the holidays are over and I finished my last project.”
Jasper and I shared a look and I shrugged. “It’s up to you, babe. As far as I’m concerned she could start tomorrow, but…”
He looked down at the table briefly, thinking. Then with a smile, he looked at Esme. “Tomorrow works for me. I’ve got a paper due Friday, but I’ve got time to give a hand if you need it.”
She patted his hand, smiling. “Tomorrow it is, then. We’re going to have fun with this, Jasper. You’ll see.”
Mom and Dad stayed for a couple of hours and ended up helping us pack up books and put things we wanted to keep away, since Esme so kindly had brought a stack of boxes with her. As we were working, I felt a flicker of excitement at the idea of the office officially being ours by the time Mom was done with it. When I glanced at Jasper, I could see he felt the same.
By the time we had everything packed and stored, I was tired and more than ready to call it a night. Thankfully, my parents felt the same as they bade us good night. Mom promised Jasper she’d be back around nine the following morning to take him to the paint store she preferred.
“Hey, Ed,” Jasper murmured after we’d finally crawled into bed and he was spooned behind me.
I covered his hand with mine, squeezing gently. “Yeah, baby?”
He nuzzled the back of my neck, his breath tickling my skin as he whispered, “Nothing. Just wanted to thank you again and tell you I love you.”
I half-turned to look at him. “Thank me? For what, sweetheart?”
He shrugged. “Being you, I guess,” he said quietly, lifting his head to kiss me.
“I love you, too, Jazz.” I said sleepily. I was out not long after.
The weeks that followed had me feeling a little frazzled. I’d forgotten how much effort it took to fix up a room, and our study was no exception. It didn’t help that we had to work around three schedules this time. While I was glad to see Mom and Jasper were becoming closer – since they were the primary ones taking care of business, so to speak – I definitely missed having the place to ourselves.
Still, it was nice to see the office transformed into a space that reflected both Jasper and me. Mom seemed to enjoy the process of making over the room, which was no big surprise. What did surprise me, a little, at least, was how much Jasper seemed to enjoy it. He took pride in the work they were doing, and every day when I’d come home, he would show me their progress or tell me about the stores they’d visited to find just the right furniture.
They didn’t work every day, of course, and it was on a rare day off for Jasper, that we decided to just get away for a couple of hours. Since water polo was on break, we still had our kids’ classes, but we missed being active in the water ourselves. It was Jasper’s idea to go to the swimming hall for public swimming. No class, just fun.
It felt great to be in the water again. After swimming a couple of laps – which turned more into a race than a leisurely warm up – we goofed off, throwing a ball around with a couple of kids. It was easily the most fun I’d had in awhile. When I looked at Jasper, I was warmed by the sight of him being so carefree and happy. These past few months had been hard on him, but he really seemed to be getting past it all.
As the kids drifted off to go play with some other friends, I went over to Jasper and pulled him in my arms. He quirked a brow, smiling as we both tread water. It thrilled me that we both felt comfortable doing this now. We’d come so far. Kissing his cheek, I murmured, “Do you have any idea how much I love you? How proud I am of you?”
His eyebrows raised, but his smile remained in place as he replied in a soft voice, “I love you, too, darlin’.”
We stared at each other for a while. I couldn’t tell what he was thinking, but the faint tinge of pink on his cheeks told me that my words had struck a chord with him – pleased him, even. After a while, he slipped out from my hold, tilting his head toward the hot tub, which had just been vacated by a group of girls.
I followed him eagerly, and we spent the last few minutes of public swimming soaking up the heat and comfort of both the tub and each other’s company. When the whistle came to announce everyone had to leave, we reluctantly got up and headed to the dressing room.
There was half an hour between public swimming and the first class of the evening, I knew, though I honestly wasn’t sure which class it was that followed, so I was surprised to see little James walk up as we came out of the locker room. His mother was standing by the door to the swimming hall and smiled when she saw us.
“Well hi, James,” said Jasper, kneeling down so he was eye level with the boy. “What brings you here tonight?”
James gave us both a timid smile, half-turning toward his mother as he said, “I’ve got swim lessons, Mr. Jasper.”
Joining them so I was on his level, too, I asked, “What kind?”
He beamed proudly at us. “Competition!”
Jasper and I shared a grin. “That’s awesome, James! I’m sure you’ll do great,” said Jasper.
I looked up at James’s mom who’d walked over to us. “I’m glad you were able to get him in, Mrs. Marsden.”
She put her hand on her son’s shoulder, then spoke quietly, “You go on in, James, or you’ll be late.”
“Yes, ma’am,” James said, and headed off to the dressing room.
Mrs. Marsden smiled timidly at us as we got to our feet. She cleared her throat and murmured, “I wanted to thank you again, Edward, for letting my boy come after… well, after that.”
I nodded, feeling Jasper shift uncomfortably at the reminder of what had happened with Jessica. “Not a problem, Mrs. Marsden. James seems to have learned his lesson, anyway. He’s been on his best behaviour since.”
Her smile widened a little. Then she glanced down, frowning slightly, not speaking again until she looked up with pained eyes. “I’m glad to hear that. Especially… especially with everything that’s been going on.”
Tilting my head, I frowned. “Everything all right?”
She glanced away, her voice so quiet I nearly missed what she said. “I’ve left him, you know. That night… how he treated James… that was the last straw.”
“Oh,” said Jasper quietly.
I peered at Jasper out of the corner of my eye, my hand brushing against his briefly. He flashed me a reassuring smile before we both turned our attention back to the woman in front of us.
She sighed. “Truth is, Edward, I don’t know if I can keep James in the club – let alone in both classes. Things are very… tight… right now, as you can imagine. Still, I can’t bear the thought of taking him out. This is the one place he’s ever been happy… ever excelled at anything. How could I take that away from him?” she asked quietly.
I shared a glance with Jasper, wondering if he was thinking the same thing I was. Regardless, I knew I couldn’t let something like club fees stand in James’ way. Not if I had a choice. Thankfully, I knew there were options available, so I took Mrs. Marsden’s hand in mine and said, “Don’t worry about that, Mrs. Marsden. The club has scholarships available for cases like this. I’ll make sure he gets enrolled, so that’ll be one less thing for you to concern yourself with, okay?”
She stared at me, her free hand clasped over her open mouth, her eyes suddenly brimming with tears as she nodded. Her voice was choked with emotion as she thanked me. I shook my head. “Don’t thank me, Mrs. Marsden. It’s my pleasure. It’s important for kids to have an outlet, especially kids like James. That’s why we have the scholarships.”
To my surprise, she hugged us both in turn, crying silently. We stayed with her, reassuring her time and again that we were sure, that it wasn’t a problem, and that everything would be all right. When she’d finally calmed down enough, she said goodbye, thanking us yet again before going in to see her son swim.
Jasper and I peered into the swimming hall for a moment, both of us smiling when we saw James give it his all on the fifty meter. Out of the five kids in the water, he came in second to last, which was excellent, considering his age and how short a time he’d been in the class.
After a few minutes, Jasper tugged at my sleeve and I followed him outside. When we got to my car and we’d put our bags in the trunk and closed it, he pulled me between his knees as he leaned against it. “Is there really a scholarship?” he asked quietly.
I nodded, brushing the back of my hand against his cheek. “In a manner of speaking, yes. A few of us in the club put some money into a fund for kids like James. Anyone can apply, but it isn’t something we advertise a lot, as you can imagine. There’s a couple of kids in our class that are on it, as a matter of fact. I’ll call the girl in charge of them tomorrow and arrange for James to be added. If needed, I’ll deposit some money to cover it.”
He smiled brightly, pulling me in for a kiss. “You’re really something, you know that?” he murmured against my lips.
I blushed, shrugging. “It’s not a big deal, really.”
“Yes, it is. Let me know if you need anything? I’d like to help, too,” he said, kissing me once more before letting me go.
“I will. Promise.”