I looked into Edward's golden eyes, which seemed to glow with the sheer intensity of his words. "Bella," he'd said, his once velvety voice now as hard and cold as his vampiric flesh, "I don't want you to come…" I don't honestly remember what else was said after that. My world swayed and tilted as it fall apart around me, my heart squeeze and lurched painfully in my chest. I remember wondering if I were dying, if death really was this painful all the time – as this surely hurt worse even than James's venom coursing through my veins. When I'd finally come back to myself, Edward had gone. Nothing could have made his point that he no longer cared for me – about me – any clearer than leaving me alone in the woods. I would have died there, as I had simply given up on everything, had it not been for a Quileute scout, Sam Uley, who'd found me and carried me back to the house. Days, weeks, months… they all blurred around me as I forced myself to carry on something of a life for my father's sake. Then something happened, I started hanging around Jacob Black, and bit by bit he brought me to life again.
Mono, Billy had said, making it sound for all the world as if Jacob were too sick to get out of bed or even pick up the phone when I called. The squeezing, lurching feeling returned within my chest, and I cried out in my sleep. Charlie was beginning to look pale with grief and worry again, and I… I'd had enough. One day after school, I drove down to the reservation, to Jake's house and refused to leave until I saw him. My stomach flipped when I did, his lips set in a firm frown and his eyes uncaring and cold. I'd seen this expression once before – on Edward in the woods before he left – and everything with in me was begging me to leave before he could say he didn't want me either. I didn't listen; instead I march up to him, demanding answers. "Go away," he'd said. "We can't be friends anymore…" I tried to get him to talk to me, forgive me, anything. I could feel my heart breaking again, a shrill crying sound pounding in my ears that I fought off as best I could. "None of this even matters," he told me, "this is over…"
It was with jerky movements that I got back in my truck and started home. The rain had picked up by this point, so I drove slowly to avoid hitting anything, and ended up pulling over to offer a ride home to a passerby. That passerby turned out to be Quil Ateara, who appeared to be just as forlorn as I was about Jake's sudden turn about concerning Sam Uley. Instead of taking him to his house, I brought him to mine. I offered him the shower and found an old pair of sweats that Charlie had worn a few years after mom left him (back when he'd decided the only thing better than a slice of chocolate cake was two or three whole cakes). I knew they'd be short – more like capris on Quil – but they would be wide enough around his waist. I also found a house coat Charlie never wore at all, and figured those would do until Quil's clothes were done washing. As asked, he threw his soaked clothing out the bathroom door before hopping into the shower, and I immediately took them down and started the washer. Next I heated up some milk in a pan, and got busy making hot chocolate from scratch, only pausing to throw Quil's cloths into the dryer.
"Marshmallows," I asked him when he'd finally made his way to the kitchen. He nodded his head, and slowly sat down. "Jake dump you too," he asked dejectedly. I nodded as I took a sip from my mug. "Man, I just don't get it," he said, cursing under his breath before telling me exactly how he felt – how he'd been feeling since Embry quit being his friend. The strangest part for me, was that I'd felt the same way. First Edward left, ripping my heart to shreds. Jacob takes the time to fix me – to patch me up – and why? Simply to rip me into smaller pieces himself? It didn't sound like my Jacob, but – I realized – he hadn't looked like my Jacob either.
I snapped my eyes up, shocked at what I'd heard. I was about to ask Quil what he meant, but figured by the shocked expression on his face, I'd been the one to say it. "Fuck'em," I said again, stronger this time. "If they don't want us, then we don't need them. How about it, Ateara," I smiled at him, "you and me against the world?"
He laughed. "That would be a sight!" His dark eyes were still hesitant for a moment, but that slowly changed to a look of resolve. "Alright, you're on, Swan. So, what should we do first?"
"What shouldn't we do," I challenged, loving this new, defiant side of me.
"Steal your dad's beer and watch 'R' rated movies?"
"'R'," I teased, "really? No 'hey, Swan, your dad got porn?' No, attempt to get me out of my clothes, like recommending we go streaking or skinning dipping? You sick or something?"
"It's pouring outside," he pointed out. "And no offense but just the knowledge that your dad had watch a porno would make it impossible to get hard – hot chick or not. However, if you're up for the horizontal tango –"
I held up a hand to stop him. "I'm not drunk enough for this conversation," I smiled good naturedly, turning to the fridge and grabbing both of us a beer. "I'll order a pizza, you find something to watch, deal?" And that was the beginning of our short lived friendship…
"It's not that I don't care about you," he started, following me from the beach to where I'd parked my truck, "I do. You know I do."
"You just don't want anything to do with me anymore," I countered, my eyes narrowing. "Is this because we had sex?"
Quil's eyes widened as he whipped his head around quickly. "What, no! Damn girl, don't say shit like that!" He made an attempt to come closer to me, and I snarled at him like a wild, injured animal. It was then that I saw the pain in his eyes he was attempting to hide from me – or maybe it was pity.
"You said you loved me," I spat at him. "You asked me to marry you!"
"And you turned me down," he yelled right back.
"Because I don't believe in marriage, not because I don't want you. I told you that," I cried out exasperated.
"You know what," he countered, all the warmth I loved about him gone from his features. Once again I was looking at the cold, hard eyes of someone who wanted me gone from their life. "You're right, Bella. I don't want you. Fuck, I don't know why anyone ever would. You're so pathetic!"
Even as he said those things, my mind reminded me of every time he'd told me I was amazing, that I was beautiful, that he loved me. 'This is not my Quil,' I told myself. No, just like with Jacob, Sam Uley had taken the man I loved and twisted him into someone who couldn't stand me. "Screw you, Ateara."
"You already did, cupcake."
I got in my truck then, another part of my heart breaking off – just like with Edward and Jacob. I called Renee when I got home and asked her to fill out application forms for me at the local junior college in Jacksonville, I'd be there soon. On the last birthday the Cullens had been with me, they'd gotten me plane tickets to see my mom. I'd noticed a few months ago that they were about to expire, and had called the airport in Seattle and merged two round trip tickets into one one-way ticket, which they'd mailed out to me. Of course, at that time I hadn't thought I'd use it – since I was so happy with Quil…
I'd packed silently until Charlie got home. I told him I didn't know when I'd come back this time, that I loved him but this place held so much heartache for me. "If I was stronger, I guess it wouldn't bother me so much," I'd whispered as he drove me to the airport.
"Don't think like that, Bells," he sighed. "You love with your whole heart, there's no shame in that. I'll come visit when I can, okay, kid?"
I'd nodded, not knowing when that would be.
Married. I was actually planning to say 'I do' to this guy! I screamed, I yelled, I cried, until I felt nothing at all. Two nights before the wedding, and I find out my best friend (my maid of honor for crepes-sake) and my husband-to-be had been hooking up for months – months! The source had not been without suspicion, as it had been Haylie, my former best friend's sister, Alisha, who'd told me.
"Don't believe me," she'd shrugged. "I know Evan (the douche I'd been about to marry), I dated him before you, remember?" And she had, for years in fact. I'd tried to ignore her words, but two days before the wedding, I went to his house unannounced and found them in the kitchen in a position that made me nauseous that I'd ever fixed food there. In a fit of rage, I'd taken the honeymoon tickets and flew off to Maine by myself. I thought about myself, my absolute failure in relationships, and felt something inside me snap. That shrill voice I'd heard when Jacob had left was sounding again within my mind so loudly that I screamed with it. The world spun around me, my heart felt like it was freezing, and soon I grew faint. When I woke the next morning, one look in the mirror told me nothing would ever be the same again.