The Long Road Home, Chapter 10: Boulevard of Broken Dreams (Jasper)

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Chapter 10: Boulevard of Broken Dreams

Freedom.

When you've never really had it before, it's intoxicating. The ability to go where you want, when you want, for whatever reason, or for none at all...Intoxicating is an understatement.

I left Monterrey, Maria and my misery behind me without a moment's hesitation, and have never suffered a single pang of regret for leaving. I count that as one of the best decisions I ever made.

Of course, the very best decision I ever made, and will ever make in the entire long course of my immortality, was waiting for me, six short years later, in Philadelphia.

It was the spring of 1942 and I was a free man.

Peter had told Charlotte to wait for him (and hopefully me, too) a few miles outside of Monterrey, and we found her there, in a little valley, tossing stones into the tiny stream that trickled through the rocks. I felt his excitement at the prospect of seeing her again mount as we ran.

When Charlotte saw us coming she stood up and ran towards us, throwing herself into Peter's waiting arms recklessly, a huge smile on her face.

"I missed you!" she gasped, wrapping her arms around his neck, kicking her heels up like a child.

Peter laughed. "Yes, I know, it was an interminable three hours for me as well." He kissed her soundly, twirling her around a bit, while they both laughed, just happy to be together again.

I had to turn and look away: their joy at being together was almost painful for me to see.

As I tried not to listen to the sounds of their reunion, I thought back for a moment to Maria, and how completely opposite our relationship had been to that of my friend's with his mate. The way Peter had spoken of Charlotte and their new life together had impacted me deeply; he seemed to genuinely like and respect Charlotte as a person, and he hungered for her in every way, I could feel it emanating from him in invisible waves as he'd talked. And now, with them both there before me, I could sense that she felt the same for him, and the combination of their feelings was so powerful, it staggered me.

With Maria it had been passionate and exciting at first: I had been entranced with her exotic beauty and her fiery personality and sensual nature, and had been amazed by the strength of her will. She had taken me in hand like a child, showed me the ropes, so to speak, educated me in so many ways...It hadn't all been unpleasant, that was for sure. In the beginning, at least.

After a few years with Maria, the enticing veneer began to flake away from my image of her, revealing nothing of value beneath it. Her fiery personality was extremely trying to be around for any length of time, but it was even worse for someone such as myself, who could feel every ripple of emotion from her. It was like being caught in a hurricane of feelings, and most of hers were negative, so it was a hurricane of thorny barbs and shards of glass. And I'd certainly never thought of her as my mate, nor did she of me.

And those last few years...They had been agonizing for me. I felt her gloating satisfaction when she thought she'd gotten away with another of her petty, disgusting betrayals. I felt her disgust for my "boring" personality. I felt her hunger for more and more of everything, especially more control over me, and her jealousy of my friendship with Peter. After Peter and Charlotte and the other newborns and yearlings had escaped, she'd been in such a rage that I'd been almost incapacitated by the force of it, I'd escaped her presence gladly to hunt new recruits. That was when I'd begun feeling her growing determination to get rid of me altogether, which had helped in the end: it made my decision to leave completely painless.

Now here I was, responsible to no one but myself. It felt strange, but thrilling at the same time, to know that I didn't have to worry anymore about pleasing Maria or being the perfect warrior. I hoped she wouldn't abuse the newborns I'd left her with too much.

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