Jasper sat at his wide desk with a yellow-paged tome lying open in front him. Sometimes he sat in the wingback chair by the south-facing window, cradling an unread book in his large hands. Other times, he ignored the words on the pages while seated on the leather sofa.
He got up from the desk, moving as if every one of his one hundred and sixty-six years had caught up with him, and made his way to the window again—yet another heavy volume resting on the wide sill.
Alaska was renowned for its untamed beauty. He’d always admired the majestically rugged mountains, the snow-frosted pines, the crystalline waters, but all had lost its appeal. He gazed out at the pristine landscape, not actively searching for anything but always looking, not knowing what he hoped to find there. All he saw were a multitude of greys and white—all color had been leached from his world.
A timid knock sounded behind him. He knew it was Alice from the veil of sorrow that drifted over him. Oddly, a tendril of conviction wove throughout it.
“Come in, Alice,” he called softly to her.
As the thick wooden door swung open, he didn’t turn to face her, sure that she was only going to ask him to go hunting with her. He couldn’t remember the last time she had. One day had blurred into the next, and they all had been the same—one was indistinguishable from another.
“Jasper, I know you’ve been … out of sorts for a while, and I’ve tried—” Halting her own words, she took a steadying breath. “That’s not what I came to say. I came to tell you—”
Again, tears welled in her eyes and the words clogged her throat. Convinced she was doing the right thing, she carried on—the last resort after everything else had failed. He’d kept his emotions from everyone, but they had all been aware he was suffering.
She took another step into the dim room and examined the tall form of the man she had spent the last half century with—his golden blond hair, the wide strong shoulders, well-formed hands that were hard and roughened from his time as a human, but somehow always so gentle with her. He hadn’t even been so disconnected—from everything—when she’d first met him in that little diner in Philadelphia.
She didn’t need a vision to know he was lost to her.
The reluctant words left her in a rush. “I’ve tried everything I can think of to help you. I don’t know what else to do. You can’t or won’t tell me …” She paused for another quick breath. “I think you don’t even know what’s wrong. I don’t blame you for our leaving Forks, Jasper. I never have. But something changed. I can’t see what I, or any of us, can do to ease the obvious pain you must be feeling. All I can do now is let you go. You don’t have to leave, but if you want to, you can. If you want to come back, you can do that. If you want to call, or write, or email … or … or come back …”
Jasper shifted only enough to look over his shoulder at her. “It’s not pain, Alice, it’s … emptiness. It’s … there’s nothing.” He finally turned to face the bright, colorful, hope-filled woman who had miraculously pulled him from the edge of a bottomless abyss, and he felt nothing. She was as delicately beautiful as she had always been, but it had no effect on him, didn’t stir him any longer. He couldn’t even find it within himself to feel the guilt he thought he should.
He was … empty.
“I’ll leave,” he finally stated, his deep voice flat and devoid of all inflection. “I never wanted to hurt you, Alice. I’ve caused you, and the rest of the family, enough heartache.”
“Where will you go?”
“I … don’t know.”