With a trembling hand, Alice smoothed her hair and replaced the hood of her parka, though she wasn’t covering up against the frigid chill. “Edward, I can’t see a way to fix this. I’ve been so worried.”
“I know you have.” The lanky youth smiled kindly at her. “We’ve all been concerned about Jasper.” He brushed the powdery snow from a large, flat boulder, and offered his sister a seat. “Go ahead and ask. You didn’t lead me all the way out here just to hunt.”
Gracefully, Alice sat and folded her hands in her lap. “Ever since we left … you know.”
An instant of anguish crossed Edward’s face as he joined her, bowing his head. “Yes.” He sighed forlornly. “Ever since we left Forks.”
“I’m sorry, Edward. I know you miss her.” Alice gave his arm a sympathetic squeeze. “But, Jasper has been distant ever since we came to Alaska. At first, I thought it was just guilt even though it wasn’t really his fault. And I told him, over and over again, it wasn’t.” Her wide eyes grew bright with tears. “A few months after that, he became worse. It was like he shut down completely.”
Edward patted her hand. “I remember. Since then, he stays in his study most of the time.”
“Yes.” Alice lowered her head, staring at, but not seeing, the snow at their feet. “He rarely comes out to hunt. He hasn’t been to my room since—” She quickly turned away, embarrassed, bringing her fingers up to stifle a sob.
“Five years,” Edward finished sadly.
She pushed the hood from her head again and tugged at the fur trim with agitated movements. “What … what has he been thinking?”
“It’s been very indistinct. It would honestly be helpful if he would project his emotions. Like you said, he’s been completely closed off.” Edward leaned back, crossing one ankle over the other. He looked absently at the dense cloud cover above the evergreen forest surrounding them, searching his memories. “Otherwise, he hears what is said around him and it seems to repeat. If someone is listening to music, he thinks about the lyrics, and so on. I would suspect he’s been doing that to block me from reading him, but it doesn’t seem so. It’s very like a muffled echo.”
“Does he … has he thought about me?”
Her dejected tone caused another aching twist in Edward’s chest. “No. Not that I’ve heard, Alice. I’m very sorry.”
The petite woman studied her twisting fingers for several long moments as the cracks in her heart broke open a little wider. Edward had only confirmed what she already knew to be true. “I-I’ve seen no future with him in it,” she admitted, her words barely audible. “I’ve seen nothing with—”
Hastily, she stood from the lichen-covered rock and brushed at the back of her pants. “He’s so unhappy. I don’t know what else to do. I-I think I have to let him go.”
Edward hurried to her side and clasped her hand in both of his. “Are you certain?”
Alice inhaled a deep breath of the frosty air and let it out bit by bit. “Yes. He’s already gone.”