From my perch in the alleyway, I watched as people walked up and down the street. I was on high alert, scanning the people walking by with both my eyes and my gift. A line was forming across the street, I noted. I guessed it had to do with some kind of concert happening at the venue a few buildings down.
Fuck Peter and his all-knowing bullshit, I mentally cursed.
A couple weeks ago, he'd come back from hunting with a shit-eating grin on his face and announced that he just had to see the Red Sox play today. In person. And I just had to go with him. I didn't understand what the big deal was. We're fucking vampires, and baseball is fucking boring. Not to mention, a packed stadium is a horrible place to grab dinner or have a violent, crowd-fueled outburst of bloodlust and take out an entire section. Still, I knew better than to ignore one of Peter's hunches so I'd played along, but not without some attitude. He knew I hated when he pulled this shit. It reminded me far too much of Alice.
Imagine my surprise when we get to the stadium, only to find he'd only bought one ticket, after all his convincing and cajoling. I'd wanted to rip his face off when I felt the amusement and smugness as he told me exactly where to park my ass while he enjoyed his game. Obviously, there was something he wanted me to find out here. I'd been hoping it would have revealed itself by the time he was done having his fun. I was really sick of being lead around by the nose by his ability.
But the game was over now, and he hadn't showed up yet. Fucker had left me standing out here for hours, for what? Frustrated, I moved to go find him, but my phone buzzed in my pocket.
Look up. It said. Motherfucker.
I let out an annoyed sigh, did as the text demanded, and froze.
There, in the line for the concert and directly across the street from me, was Bella. When the hell did she show up? I guessed in my brooding over Peter's antics, I'd missed her arrival. I scanned her emotions and picked up excitement and anticipation. Not unusual, I noted, for a normal human going to an event. It was, however, very different from what I knew of Bella. I took advantage of my position in the shadows to study her.
I watched her chatting animatedly and laughing with her friends. Her hair was long, almost waist-length, and as she moved I noticed long streaks of purple hiding under the curtain of mahogany. She was dressed casually, in jeans and a band t-shirt with a pair of mint green sneakers, but she was wearing some makeup too. Her body had changed to reflect her maturity; her curves were definitely that of a woman and not a teenaged girl, although she was still thin and petite, almost fragile looking. She ran a hand through her hair and I caught a glimpse of some piercings that probably went a little beyond the typical lobes and stray cartilage piercing. On her arms I saw some marks, but it wasn't until she finished her movement and let her arms hang by her sides that I realized they were tattoos.
Interesting. Very interesting. I knew seven years could account for a dramatic change in humans, but I was not prepared for one this drastic, in this particular human. If I'd caught a glimpse from the corner of my eye, I might not have recognized her, vampire brain or no. The Bella I'd known had always downplayed her appearance to avoid attracting attention. This was clearly no longer the case.
I had often wondered what had happened to her since the Cullens had left Forks. The poor girl. When she'd arrived from Phoenix she'd had a normal amount of insecurity for being the new kid, but she also still had a backbone. Over the course of their relationship, Edward had beaten her down. By the time we left she was shy and withdrawn to anyone who wasn't Edward or, to an extent, Alice, and I'd often felt unworthiness and guilt coming from her.
Leading up to her birthday she'd been mostly frustrated and resigned, mixed with some sadness. It wasn't really unusual or unexpected - we all knew she only allowed it to appease Edward and Alice. She didn't want to celebrate and she made it very clear, but they'd just pushed on ahead, like they'd always done. Ignoring her wishes and feelings, just like they did to everyone else. I suspected the sadness had to do with her physical age surpassing Eddie's, and his refusal to change her. I understood where she was coming from.
On her actual birthday though, she'd been different. Her emotions had become tumultuous, flickering back and forth between excitement and irritation. I'd wanted to ask her about it, but there was just no opportunity to catch her alone. And then it was time for presents, and shortly thereafter all hell had broken loose.
I definitely wanted to get some answers for that night. Her emotional state...the way I'd 'attacked' her. I still wasn't positive that I had. I'd actually blacked out when Edward shoved her into the plates, but the scent of the paper cut hadn't really bothered me. It just didn't make any sense. Sure, I was a struggling veggie-vamp at the time, but her blood hadn't bothered me in Phoenix, and there'd been much more of it then. Why hadn't Alice seen it? Wrapping paper isn't even that thin, especially the expensive stuff, which was of course all the Cullens ever had. The questions I'd been asking myself for years swirled around in my head.
I decided I wanted to meet this new Bella. Maybe I'd finally get some of my answers, or at least some closure. And she looked like she'd probably be far more interesting now than she was back then.
Just as I started to wonder about getting myself into what appeared to be a sold-out show, my phone buzzed again.
Your ticket's at Will Call. Yep. I'm gonna rip his face into little tiny bits. Maybe when it looks like a cheap garden stone mosaic he'll learn to stop doing this shit to me. I snorted to myself. Unlikely.
I waited in the alleyway until the line started to move forward and finally disappeared. I made my way to the desk, gave them my ID and picked up my ticket. General Admission; Floor. I didn't recognize the bands. I suspected there was a reason I should be on the floor for this; the mezzanine section would have made for a much better vantage point if all I was here to do was observe. I made my way inside and ordered a drink from the bar before finding a likely looking spot on the wall.
It was packed in here. So many humans, so close together...it was a good thing I'd fed earlier today. The range of emotions was almost stifling. Almost everything on the spectrum. Thinking back, I couldn't recall ever myself to get into a situation with this many people around at once. I'd been to a couple of shows with the Cullens, but they were always low-volume, intimate affairs. Alice had always insisted I couldn't handle the onslaught of a larger crowd. It appeared to be something else she'd lied about; it took me a minute to get my bearings but I was definitely okay. The liquor certainly helped.
I looked around while I waited, trying to spot Bella in the crowd. The opener played a short set. They were alright, but the crowd was starting to get antsy for the main act to start.
During the intermission, I grabbed another drink from the bar and was headed back to my spot on the wall when I spotted her, weaving her way through the crowd headed for the bar on the opposite side of the venue. I watched as she ordered a couple of drinks and went back to where she'd been standing. Center stage, just a few packed rows away. I was surprised, but then realized I shouldn't be. Bella was proving quickly that she was nothing like the girl I'd known back in Forks.
I felt Peter before I saw him come up next to me with his own drink in hand.
"Sooo…" he lead.
"You're a fucking asshole. You could have just told me, I would have come."
"Nope," he tapped his head with his free hand. "It doesn't work like that and you know it, fucker. I just follow the clues the Yoda in my head gives me. This one felt especially important. And persistent. He gave me a longer bread crumb trail than usual this time. What did you find?"
"The Bella? Hot damn! Where is she?" He was genuinely surprised. Still not forgiven, though.
I gestured toward her general direction, not bothering to hide my irritation. He made a show of stretching himself on tiptoes and lifting his hand above his eyes to look around.
"I can't see her," he whined.
"In the middle, asshole," I growled, then remembered. "You don't even know what she looks like!"
"Let's get closer so you can point her out to me."
I glanced at him from the corner of my eye and said nothing, but made my way into the crowd. We stopped a few rows of people back from where Bella stood. I noticed that she seemed to have found a rare pocket of personal space in the crush of people. That was normal for us, but not for a human. She was alone, too. And her drinks were gone. What exactly was going on here?
I didn't have but a few seconds to think about it before the band took the stage.
As they made their way out, I was hit with a heavy wave of excitement and euphoria from the crowd. I wasn't expecting it, never having been to a concert like this, and I was not prepared. I almost stumbled, and catching Peter's smirk, I decided to hit him with a dose of the crowd's emotions. I'd only meant to wipe the smartass look off his face, but I started laughing when he started jumping up and down and screaming like a rabid fangirl.
My laughter died, however, when Bella suddenly turned around, smirking, and locked eyes with me immediately. She quickly glanced at Peter jumping and whooping, her smirk widening into a smile. She winked and then turned back toward the stage.
She fucking winked at me.
It took a few seconds for my brain to recover from the shock. She knew we were here. She'd known exactly where I was standing. How?
I wasn't given much time to think about it, because I was hit with another wave of the crowd's collective excitement when the band started playing. I would not have called myself a fan of...whatever this was, but it was interesting. Some kind of blend of rock and pop.
What I was enjoying were the overwhelming sensations. The vibration of the music flowing through powerful amplifiers and permeating the entire space. The range of emotions brought forth as the people around me connected their own meanings to the songs played, but all having an almost trancelike current of something else...something I'd never felt before. I was completely swept away, lost in the physical and emotional waves. I glanced at Peter a few times, and it seemed he was feeling something similar, moving like the humans around us with a mix of jumping, dancing, and headbanging.
Well, if we're gonna do this, fuck it. I started intentionally projecting what I was feeling from the crowd, allowing it to flow back and forth across the room, picking it up and pushing it back out. I was sure I'd already been doing it unconsciously anyway. In this crowd, though, it was safe. It was energizing, but also cathartic. Soothing, in a way. Especially since I had the power to remove any negative emotions from the mix. I pulsed the positive, and muted the negative. The lust I left alone - it wasn't unenjoyable, but I didn't want to start an orgy.
I lost track of time for a few songs, rolling in the waves of feeling enveloping the hall, but I was pulled back to alertness when I felt something odd happening. My projected waves of emotion were not coming back as strong as they had been. They were being dampened. I focused a little more. No, they were being absorbed. Surprised, I concentrated on the flow until I found where the siphon was.
Bella. It was Bella. She appeared to be enjoying herself, like everyone else here - dancing and moving and screaming with the crowd, singing along with the lyrics she knew - but she was also drawing no small amount of the tsunami I'd been creating into herself.
And, unless my vampire super-vision deceived me, she was faintly glowing.
As the song finished, she made her way back to where Peter and I were standing. She looked at me, a smirk still plastered on her face, and spoke.
"I know you have questions for me, Jasper, but for now please do continue to enjoy yourself. I'll meet you two out front after the show. Peter," she nodded, turning back toward her previous spot. She looked back at us, "Oh, and don't worry about riling up the crowd too much, I'll take care of the extra."
She winked at me - again - and pushed her way back forward, right up to the stage this time - a not unimpressive feat considering the dense crush of the crowd closest to the stage. I went completely rigid, staring after her.
"Well fuck me sideways. Was that her? You never told me she was hot!" Peter laughed.
I growled. I needed another source of all-knowing bullshit to tell me what to do like I needed an ineffectual stake in the fucking heart.
He continued, "Look, Major. There are only so many firsts left for us in this existence, and I don't know about you but I've never been to a concert like this before. We might as well do what she said and enjoy ourselves. Yoda says nothing bad's gonna happen."
I didn't have time to respond with anything but a shrug and a nod before the next song started and I was pulled under again. I was still pissed but he had a point.
After the show ended, Peter wandered away to find the merch booth to buy something to commemorate the experience, and I headed out front to wait for Bella.
I guess I shouldn't have been surprised to find her already waiting for me. She stood off to the side, already halfway done with the cigarette that she brought to her lips as our eyes met. Her emotional signature a humming contentment and a deep satisfaction with a hint of mischievous amusement. I couldn't make sense of it.
I dug through my own emotions for a moment. I knew anger I felt was unwarranted and certainly unhelpful, but I felt blindsided. I felt like I was back with the Cullens, being led around by the nose because people with a tap to the mystical knew better.
My tactical mind hated not having all the information needed to properly assess the situation, and therefore, what my response should be. She had the upper hand, the element of surprise, and she knew it. I hated it.
"I have to say, I've never had a concert experience quite like that one before." She smiled before taking a drag.
"Yes, it was quite something," I agreed flatly. I couldn't help it. I didn't want to scare her away, but I was missing something big and I did not like being kept in the dark.
I stood in front of her now, taking the opportunity to get a better look. She was definitely giving off a subtle glow, but it would have been undetectable to humans. She smelled different, too. The freesia scent of her younger self had been replaced by an earthier, more complex scent. I drew a large breath...lavender, rose, bergamot, sandalwood and just a hint of cedar. Floral, earthy, and calming. Still delicious, but no longer appetizing.
She stared back at me. I knew my face was giving nothing away. She tried again.
"Was it good for you too?" She still had that damned smirk on her face as she took a final drag off the cigarette and crushed the butt beneath her shoe, kicking it into the nearby gutter.
I raised an eyebrow at her. Truthfully, it had been. The concert had been one of the most surreal experiences of my existence, and one I'd have never agreed to do if it hadn't been for her presence. But I wasn't about to let her know that yet. Whoever...whatever this girl was, it was clear she was not the Bella I had known in Forks. I couldn't let my guard down just yet.
"Oh, don't be like that!" She exclaimed, but then lowered her voice."You'll get your answers. I certainly have questions of my own. But we can't talk here." Her eyes did a sweep around to the groups of humans in close proximity. I nodded my acceptance.
Peter wandered out the doors then, his arms laden with bags of stuff. He was grinning. I rolled my eyes and held a hand up to stop him just as he was opening his mouth to speak.
"I don't want to know."
Unfazed, he turned to Bella. "Nice to meet you, sugar. Officially, anyway. Seems we already know each other's names." He made a show of arranging his bags so he could hold his hand out for her to shake.
"Likewise." She smiled back. "Alright, let's go catch up. My place is just a few blocks from here."
We nodded. "Lead the way." I gestured.