"How are you?" Mike asks. Bella had texted him yesterday that she was fine. And she was. She felt much better today, in body and in mind.
"Better. So much better. I'm a survivor!" she cheered happily and his own smile reflected his joy at her being okay too. But Bella could see more questions brewing on the horizon.
"Why didn't you tell me you liked her?" Mike asked.
"W-what?" Bella blinked, eyes wide.
"Hope. You like her, don't you." It's not a question. It should be, but it's not. Mike knows.
"I-why-that's-!" Bella flusters, not knowing what to say.
Mike laughs, shaking his head. "You don't have to hide this from me. I saw the way the two of you interacted yesterday at the library and after the incident. The way she takes care of you, and the way you get jealous when others talk about her or to her is enough to know. You, like, her. So, spill. What are you going to do about it?"
Bella turns red as a beet and gives Mike a good long stare before punching him in the arm. "Ow!" he holds onto it. "What was that for?"
"You're so annoying." She huffs and walks off.
She doesn't want to talk about this with him. At all. What she is feeling for Hope is tentative and new and she doesn't want to tarnish it by speaking about it. Besides, her feelings don't matter. She can't have them for Hope. For Hope who doesn't even belong to this town or to her name. Hope might be leaving soon, especially since her nightmares seem to become more frequent. She's remembering things, unpleasant things, and she has to go down to the station with Charlie to go over any new details she has, so they can finally get her home.
Where even is that for Hope?
And what will happen when she finally goes there?
Bella bites down on her bottom lip and tries not to think about things that hurt her.
"Rosalie," Hope greets when Bella comes in one day from school at the end of the week.
Bella pauses, eyes going wide. "Um, did I change my name or-"
"No," Hope shakes her head, a small smile on her lips. "I finally remembered my name. It's Rosalie."
"Oh," Bella's relax. "Well, it's a beautiful name. I kinda prefer it more than Hope."
Rosalie laughs and yes, she looks like a Rosalie. A pretty rose in bloom. "I only picked that name because I wanted to be Hopeful things would return back to normal for me."
"And what is normal for you?"
Bella can see a cloud go over Rosalie's face. "I...I don't know." It almost seems like she does, but Bella decides not to press her more on it. Rosalie's not telling her something and maybe she doesn't want to know what it is.
Maybe the less Bella knows the more she can pretend Rosalie won't leave them, and that she will stay here.
Mike won't stop pestering Bella about her crush and she's starting to get annoyed with it. Doesn't he have anything better to do than focus on her non existent love life? Ugh, she regrets ever taking him with her to the library.
Instead, she goes there by herself, sitting at a table and sometimes looking up to see Rosalie darting by with some books in hand. Just being around Rosalie makes Bella feel calmer. It also makes Bella realize she's being idiotic, maybe even borderline stalkerish for doing this. But it's not really stalking if you're friends with the person and they know you're here, is it?
Bella has also noticed something has changed about Rosalie too. She's not as happy anymore. Bella thinks this might have to do with the nightmares. They definitely have left Rosalie on high alert. She's always looking over her shoulder, checking the locks on the house, or looking through the windows. It's not like her. Bella feels sorry for her, reduced to being this paranoid thing. She wants to tell Rosalie it'll be fine. But Bella doesn't know if it'll be fine, and she doesn't want to lie.
Bella has also noticed that Rosalie looks a lot at her when she thinks Bella doesn't notice. The staring makes Bella's stomach do flips. What does it mean? Rosalie stares at her as if Bella has the answer to everything. Which she doesn't. She's just a regular girl. A regular girl who has a crush on a mysterious and beautiful woman.
Bella feels her chest throb when she thinks about kissing Rosalie. How would those lips feel on her own? How would her skin feel under Bella's touch? Would she have a six pack underneath? Bella's thoughts were getting more and more ridiculous. More wanting. More needy. It was becoming harder to control them and keep them to herself.
She'd never been in love with anyone before and it was such a deep emotion, she sometimes wondered if not having Rosalie could break her.
"Want to go somewhere after I get out from work?" Rosalie asks, startling Bella who was in the middle of chewing on her pencil eraser.
She jumps in her seat. "Don't scare me like that!" she hisses, cheeks flooding with embarrassment. Rosalie is leaning over her, hands on either side of Bella, sort of boxing her into the seat. This close up Bella can smell Rosalie's scent, feel her body heat. It was a lot. Especially the way Rosalie's mouth was at ear level to Bella.
"Bella, wanna go somewhere?"
"Uh, where?" Bella tries not to sound raspy, or affected by Rosalie but she doesn't know if she's doing a good job of it. She would get even more stressed out if Rosalie noticed it. She tries to act calm. To take deep breaths.
"A stroll through the woods. I hear there's a spot that's superbly beautiful there at this time of the year."
"Uh, sure. I don't have much homework," Bella says.
"Cool. I'll be done in an hour and a half," Rosalie says and goes to finish up her job.
Bella waits impatiently for the hour and a half to pass, even as she taps her pencil and tries to refocus herself on her work. But it's futile. Her mind keeps wandering to what exactly the stroll will be like and what they'll do on it. Excitement rises in her chest and she attempts to squash it down.
Eventually, the time arrives and Rosalie stands in front of Bella's desk, hands on hips. "Ready?" she asks and Bella nods her head, packing up her things. "Let's leave our stuff at home. No use in carrying bags around for the hike," she says.
They go home first, and then they head out on a stroll through the woods that extend into Bella's expansive backyard. Are they going to the spot that Rosalie was found in? Bella wonders about this briefly. She's never seen the spot. She wonders where it was.
Their stroll is quiet, comfortable. Bella allows herself to get lost in the sights and sounds of the calming woods around them. Rosalie leads the way confidently and Bella is not afraid of getting lost here, or bumping into anything she shouldn't as long as Rosalie is by her side. The path begins to grow steeper and Bella is out of shape. She breathes hard, struggles to find her footing once or twice. But Rosalie is by her side, helping her by, or encouraging her to continue going. Rosalie herself doesn't seem out of shape at all. She's smiling widely, and looks refreshed by this walk, like she's just awoken from a nap.
How does she manage this? Bella wishes she could be like her.
They eventually reach the top, finding themselves on a cliff edge that overlooks most of the wilds in front of them. With the sun setting, it washes the forest in golds and reds and oranges. It's beautiful, seeing a sea of green turn into something else. "Wow," Bella breathes out, looking out as Rosalie stands by her.
"Worth the trip, huh," she states easily, eyes looking at Bella.
"Yea, definitely is going to make up for all those aches and pains I'm going to feel later," Bella half jokes.
Rosalie laughs, and it's loud and boisterous. A sound of pure joy. "You grandma!" she teases and Bella huffs, pretending to be affronted.
"Not all of us can have your stamina. You must teach me the secrets of your trades."
A smile wry smile takes up Rosalie's lips. "I would if I could." Regret laces her voice and Bella swallows harshly. She hadn't meant to bring this up. But she had by accident. She doesn't want Rosalie to think about such sad things. So she changes the topic, flopping down onto the leaf covered rock and ignoring the chill seeping into her jeans.
"This view is beautiful."
"Not as beautiful as you," Rosalie said, almost so softly it was like she was saying it under her breath to herself, not meaning for Bella to hear it. But she had and her heart began to pound in her chest. Was it possible? Could it be...?
She gulped but didn't respond because she was sure she wasn't supposed to. Instead, she sat there and looked out over the cliff. And she dared the feelings in her chest to quiet down. Hope didn't say anything else, just smiled gently to herself.
The next day, Bella goes outside to find Rosalie dressed up in overalls and wearing a trucker hat over her pigtails. "I could fix up your truck for you," Rosalie says, bumping her hip against the truck playfully. She's got her arms crossed against her chest, biceps on display. Bella swallows in a dry throat. "Could you?" her truck really does need a tune up.
"I could. I figure if I could repair the other things in your house, I can do this too."
"How do you do that anyways? Just know how to fix things with your touch. You fixed everything."
Rosalie's face suddenly gets really sad.
"What's wrong?" Bella asks as Rosalie shakes her head. The playful mood is gone and she shoves her hands into her pockets. She licks her lips, looks at Bella uncertainly. "I can't...I can't fix everything."
"Yes, you can."
"What if I made things worse?"
"Rosalie, what is this about?"
Despite the heat of the day, the sun bearing down on them, it feels chilly when Rosalie speaks next. "I remembered some more. I remembered...I was in trouble. That I did something bad. And I was being punished for it."
"By Edward?" Bella feels that familiar anger at him fill her.
"Not only him. There were...others. Lots of them. I can't remember their names yet. But I know what they called me." She swallows, face becoming drawn. "They called me Rosalie Hale." So, Rosalie's full name finally revealed. Another piece of the puzzle coming together. A grim puzzle.
"It's a pretty name," Bella says because she doesn't know what else to say.
Rosalie gives Bella a wry smile. "Thank you."
"As for the other issue...that wasn't your fault. I've known you for a while now. And I know you're a good person. You truly are. Whatever trouble you were in, was biased against you." Bella reaches for Rosalie's hands, letting their fingers come together. "And we'll find the people who did this to you. Promise."
Rosalie...Bella's so used to calling her Hope. But Rosalie fits her better.
"Maybe it's better if we don't find them," Rosalie says, tugging Bella closer to her and enveloping her in a hug. Bella squeezes back, letting her hands run down Rosalie's sides to rest on the small of her back. She loves her hugs with Rosalie. They always make her feel cherished and taken care of. She hopes they make Rosalie feel the same.
"Why do you say that?" Bella asks after they've slotted their bodies together.
"I...I have a bad feeling about them." Rosalie admits, saying this into Bella's hair, almost as if she's too afraid to say this while looking into Bella's eyes.
"Did you remember something else that makes you say that?"
"No...not yet. But I just have a feeling, it's nothing good." Rosalie pulls away, backing up a good foot from Bella who misses the hug already. "And I think we should stay away from them because if they find us it won't be good."
Rosalie's ominous words make Bella feel bad. "Are they gang members? Are you afraid they'll hurt us?"
"No...not those..." Rosalie shakes her head, biting her bottom lip.
Rosalie doesn't answer for a long time. She's staring down the road, hands in her pockets.
"I think I should leave."
She says this so quietly but it breaks Bella's heart all the same if it had been screamed at her. "What?"
"I don't want to put you in danger."
"You won't. Rosalie, you won't," Bella reaches out to her, to touch her, but Rosalie flinches away right now.
"You don't know that," she insists and this is the first time Bella has seen Rosalie's angelic features twisted into something dark and tormented. Like the idea of Bella and Charlie getting hurt disgusts her, would drive her mad.
Bella lowers her hand, feeling rejected. "No, I don't know that. But you're better off being here with us. If you go off alone you could get hurt badly. Could get into even more trouble."
"Or the trouble could come to you," Rosalie insists.
"Is this why you want to fix up the truck. So you can get away in it?" Bella accuses, hurt.
"No, it's for you. In case anything goes wrong," Rosalie explains in a harsh voice.
"Rosalie, my father is a cop. He has the force on his side-"
"That won't be enough," Rosalie shakes her head. Now she looks scared. "I...I am so worried and scared these people chasing me will do something to you. I just...a deep part of me knows they're powerful. That they shouldn't be messed with. So if they are looking for me and they find you I-" she chokes on her words.
This time Bella runs at Rosalie to wrap her up in another hug. Rosalie stumbles back under the force of it. Bella holds on tight. "Stop it. Stop thinking this way. They won't find you here. They won't. You're safe. We're safe." She breathes this into Rosalie's chest, hoping the woman will listen.
Rosalie inhales sharply, wrapping her fingers in Bella's hair to pull her head up. This close, their noses are a few centimeters apart from touching. Their breaths mingle, their gazes are heavy.
"If they find you, and they hurt you, I don't know what I would do with myself," Rosalie confesses. Bella's heart starts thumping wildly.
"Rosalie..." she breathes out, eyes slowly lidding as her hands slide up to Rosalie's shoulders from behind to hold on as her legs start to grow weak. Rosalie cares about her. Is it possible she feels the same damned feelings that Bella does for her?
She watches, rapt, as Rosalie's eyes slide down to her mouth. But before anything else can happen, the front door swings open and Rosalie stumbles back from Bella so quickly that Bella nearly falls over, her right hand catching onto the side of the truck just in time to prevent herself from nose diving.