If you want some mood music for this chapter:
Requiem on Water by Imperial Mammoth- when Nessie and Bella are talking at the end
The small deer stopped at the stream to drink, completely unaware of the danger that lurked in the trees. A pair of dark amber eyes watched it patiently as they silently slid down the tree branch, The deer looked up suddenly, hearing the leaves rustle on the ground from the sudden weight being added on them. A blur roughly the size of a person jumped on the deer, grabbing the struggling animal with an iron grip. With a jerk, the deer's neck was broken and it was dead.
I sunk my teeth into the tender flesh of its neck. The thick, hot liquid ran down my throat, quenching the eternal thirst that could never quite be satisfied. The irony was not lost on me of what I had become. When I was a human, I used to faint at the sight of anyone's blood, even my own. Now it was the one thing I craved more than anything else in the world, the only thing keeping me alive. If only he could see you now, the unwanted thought passed through my head and immediately I shut it down before it could go on further. Once the animal had been fully drained, I pushed the carcass away and wiped any lingering blood off my mouth. Luckily, my clothes had survived this time. It had taken a bit of trial and error, but I finally stopped looking like a wild woman after hunts with torn, bloodstained clothes and tangled hair. It was a major achievement for me. It made me feel more civil, more in control. I looked around and noticed Renesmee had wondered off a little further in her hunt. I sniffed the air and easily caught her unusual scent in the wind. I started heading in that direction at a leisurely pace, giving Renesmee a chance to hunt her prey without any interference and giving myself a chance to calm down the emotions that began to rage inside thanks to that invasive thought.
Normally, I tried not to think about...him...or my past life at all. Five years later and it still hurt like the day they left. When they left, part of me had gone with them, leaving a big, gaping hole in my chest that vampire venom couldn't heal. Whenever I thought about them or hear their names, the ragged, torn edges would pull away from each other even more, trying to get the hole to devour me whole. It seemed to get smaller when Renesmee was born, but it would never heal. There would always be part of me missing. I had come to terms with that and I was working on continuing my now never ending life without it. The number one condition to that was to not think about any of them. But it was hard not to every once and a while, especially since we took up residence in their old house I hated being there but it provided us with the shelter away from humans that we needed while also being free lodging. It's just temporary, I reminded myself. As soon as Renesmee graduated from high school, we could leave again and we should have enough money to buy our own house wherever we ended up. Maybe we'll go back to Chile, I mused to myself, cheering up with thoughts of our friends in South America.
I broke through the trees into another very small clearing and found Renesmee bent over her food. The familiar tug was felt in my chest when I saw her. Nessie looked so much like her father it hurt sometimes, with her reddish hair and slender face. The only physical feature she seemed to have gotten from me was my human eyes- plain and brown. But on her, they were warm, loving, and absolutely beautiful. Renesmee pushed away the deer carcass as I walked up. Not a drop of blood spilled on her as usual. She had learned faster than I had how to keep things neat. "We good to head back?" she asked, brushing off any leaves from her pants as she stood up. "I have some English homework to finish up before tomorrow."
I rose an eyebrow as we made our way back to the house. "I thought you finished your homework before we went out."
Nessie smiled apologetically, which automatically made me soften and relax. Nessie explained, "Most of it. Jake needed an extra hand with the truck so I got a little distracted."
"You helped Jake with the truck?"
"Mostly just holding the flashlight," she admitted. I chuckled.
Jacob Black's presence in our household was still baffling. While I was in Chile Jacob had gone through his own change and was now part of the La Push werewolf pack, furthermore proving that the old Quileute legends were all true. When I had come back a fully changed vampire and with a hybrid daughter, their alpha Sam Uley was ready to go after the ones he assumed had broken the treaty and almost came after Renesmee and I. That all changed when Jacob saw Nessie. The connection between them was instantaneous and undeniable and since he was in wolf form, the others felt it too. Later, I learned it was called an Imprint, a wolf equivalent to soulamtes, and it was the only reason we were able to stay in Forks safely under the treaty. The wolves didn't harm any pack member's Imprint because doing so would hurt the pack member. and, since I posed no threat to humans and had already switched to the vegetarian vampire lifestyle, they decided to include me in their treaty. The had to amend it a tiny bit, however, with Jacob being Imprinted to Nessie. Renesmee and Jacob were the only two allowed to cross the treaty lines to see each other. Eventually, though Sam and Billy didn't like it, Jacob decided to move in with us as soon as he graduated. He hated being so far away from Nessie everyday and as long as he still checked in with Sam when she was at school, he was able to balance everything pretty impressively.
Jacob had everyone agree not to mention the Imprint to Renesmee. She was so young when it happened, she didn't realize what was happening. She just knew she had a new best friend. Jake wanted anything that could possibly happen between them to be as much of her choice as they could manage, not just because of the Imprint. Even though I didn't like his "wolfy claim" on my daughter, I had to admit it was nice having someone else to watch over Nessie and to have my best friend so close.
Nessie and I cleared out of the forest and walked up to the house. We hadn't changed much about the house. From the outside, it looked almost exactly the same, with the exception of a small garden I had tried to start around the side. Inside, the same furniture was being used and we kept things mostly in the same places. We had swapped out a couple of rugs and paintings to put things that fit more of our homey aesthetic instead of the modern, minimalist look. Pictures of the three of us in various places and holidays scattered the tables and walls now too with an attempt to bring some happier memories into the house. It didn't quite work the way I had hoped. There were too many other memories in this house for them to be washed away by a little redecrating. But still, it was home.
Jake came out of the garage when he heard us come in the front door, wiping his dirt hands on an equally dirty rag. He grinned from ear to ear at the two of us and commented, "That was a long ass hunt. What, did Bambi put up too much of a fight?"
Renesmee stuck her tongue out at him and collapsed on the couch with the rest of her notebooks and text books. "Not all of us can have the super speed you were both blessed with," she defended.
"And you can thank your mother for your lowered skill set," Jake joked, going into the kitchen to grab a snack.
I shrugged at Nessie. "Sorry?" Nessie chuckled and opened her books to try and get her remaining homework done. Jake came back in with a bag of chips in hand and went to sit next to Renesmee on the couch. I ran over and blocked his path. "Oh no you don't," I denied, gesturing to his grease stained pants and shirt. "Not until you change clothes." Jacob rolled his eyes but moved away from the clean furniture. I sighed quietly in relief and asked, "How's the truck?"
"Not good, Bells, not good. I can probably piece her together for another mont at best, but I think it's officially time to look for a new car."
I slumped back against the couch and groaned. "This would be so much easier if I could just run everywhere. Getting a new car is really not in the budget."
Jacob shrugged. "I don't know what to tell you, Bells. The truck was old when you got it and it's only gotten older. I'm surprised it's lasted this long."
Nessie put a hand on my shoulder and said dramatically, "You knew this day would come, Mom." I poked Nessie's side playfully and she giggled as she recoiled. Then she said, "What about the car that's in the garage? Can't we use that one?"
I stiffened automatically. The garage was almost completely empty when we arrived at the house, but they left one car behind. The Volvo. Jacob had suggested selling it as payment for all the pain and suffering that had been inflicted. I couldn't, but I sure as hell couldn't stand to see it or drive it. So it sat covered in the garage and I stayed far from it. Too many memories involved that car, too many things I was trying to leave in my human life. Jacob noticed my apprehension and started to tell Renesmee, "I don't think-"
"It's fine, Jake." I turned to my daughter, who was looking between the two of us, confused. "I'll drive my truck or the motorcycle until we can find a replacement. I don't want you two to be in danger if the truck decides to blow up or something," I said slowly. "You and Jake can take the other car."
Renesmee squealed, homework forgotten and she hugged me tight. "Thanks Mom! I have a car!" She jumped up and ran into the garage to inspect the new vehicle.
"Get your license first and then you can call it yours!" I called to her.
Jacob wasn't as thrilled as her. He stepped closer to me and asked, "Bella, are you sure? You can't even look at the thing."
"I...will deal with it," I tried to lie. He caught it easily. "I don't want Renesmee in the truck, it's too dangerous right now. The Volvo is incredibly safe."
He narrowed his eyes and examined me from top to toes. I tried my best to look normal and calm even though my insides were screaming. Jacob frowned, as if he could hear my internal tourment. "You're not doing well."
"What are you talking about? I'm fi-"
"No you're not," he interrupted. "You're my best friend, Bella. I know when you're in pain and right now, in this place, you're already past your limit of what you can handle. You're not going to be able to handle anything else." I wanted to argue, but it was pointless to lie to him. Jacob was right, he knew me better than anyone. I trusted him more than anyone and because of that, he was the only person who knew exactly what happened and what that did to me. "You need to get out of here. This house, quite frankly this town is not good for you.
"We will leave. You know the plan, Jake. We're saving up and letting Nessie finish out her time in high school before we go," I reminded him, making myself busy by tidying up the room and avoiding his observant eyes.
"Nessie will understand if we have to move before she graduates," he said quickly. "Well, she will if you tell her why."
I whirled around to glare at him and he just rose an eyebrow. "She doesn't need to know. It's in the past," I hissed, trying to make sure Renesmee didn't overheard. "We're sticking to the plan- staying here until she graduates. And you are not to say a word to her about them."
Jacob looked like he wanted to keep pushing, but Renesmee called for him. I put my hands on my hips, meeting his disapproving look. He caved first and started walking to the garage. Before he went out, he glanced back and muttered, "I won't say anything. But she needs to know eventually and you need to let them go." He went to join Renesmee in her inspection of the new car.
I felt the hole in my chest stretch wider. I knew Jacob was right about everythin. I hadn't meant to keep the truth from Renesmee at first. It had just been too difficult to talk about. Now, I kept Nessie from the truth to keep her safe. I didn't want Renesmee to try and track down her father or his family. I wanted to keep her as far away from that family as possible, so she wouldn't be hurt like I had been. I suppose it all might have been better if I was still human. Now that I was a vampire, I knew humans' memories faded so easily. It would've been hard at first, but I would have gotten there eventually. Maybe even found someone else, a human boy to be with, get married, have kids. I would've been content. That's what was supposed to happen.
But that one night with him changed everything.
I had been promised one thing, the last promise he ever made, and it was broken within two weeks. I was promised it would be a clean break, that it would be like they never existed. It would've helped the healing process if it had just seemed like a figment of my imagination. But then I found out I was pregnant. When Renesmee was born, she looked exactly like him and she had to feed on blood just like he did. All the evidence was there now. Both of us were living proof that everything I had seen, everyone I met, was real and they really just up and left.
I clutched at my chest like I could hold the tattered edges of the hole together, trying not to fall apart. I hurried to the kitchen to busy myself with making Nessie's lunch for school tomorrow, trying to tune out all the waves of emotions threatening to capsizeme. One more year. One more year and we're gone. The thoughts stayed with me, offering a small bit of comfort that we were near the end of our stay. I was glad it was almost over. I'm so tired of living with ghosts.
Once Nessie and Jake had finished in the garage, Nessie went to finish her homework and Jake went to take a shower. I moved back to the living room, sitting in the loveseat near Nessie and reading a book for my own class. Things might have gone slightly awry, but I had decided once Nessie was going to public school that I was going to enroll in online schooling to get a college degree. It was going to be a long road since I could only afford a class or two a semester but I had nothing but time now. We sat in comfortable silence as we worked, the only noise in the house being made from the boy showering upstairs with his music blasting. Life with Renesmee had been easy from the beginning. She seemed to have developed the same way about her that Charlie and I had. We were all perfectly content just being in the same room as each other. There wasn't a need to talk. Much to my surprise, it seemed Nessie did have something on her mind tonight, though. I felt the seat next to me shift as she sat in it. Nessie was biting her lip, looking very unsure and worried. I put my book down and gave her my full attention. "Nessie, baby, what's wrong?"
Nessie didn't answer right away and when she did it wasn't verbal. She took my hand to show rather than tell what happened in the garage. Jacob was sitting in the passenger seat and Nessie was asking him why I had covered this car up for so long when it was such a good car.
It was obvious that Jacob chose his words very carefully as he explained, "The person who used to own this car meant a lot to your mother and they just left her. It really hurt her and she's still not okay. This car reminds her a lot of h-this person."
The scene ended and Renesmee was looking at me with those big, chocolate colored eyes. She asked out loud, "Who's car was it?"
I was as stiff as ice. No, I couldn't tell her. Today had already been a rollercoaster and I was too raw. I can't talk about it today. She would ask too many questions and I wouldn't be able to answer any of them. So, I played into what was already said, "Just what Jacob said. It's someone who hurt me very badly and I'd rather not think or talk about them."
I could tell that answer didn't appease her, but she didn't push or pry. Through our joined hands, I saw myself through Nessie's eyes over the years. Christmas at Charlie's, Nessie was still a toddler and was showing me the new stuffie Charlie had gotten for her. I was smiling, but it never quite reached my eyes. Then, she showed me when we first moved into the house. I was carrying the baby Renesmee up the steps and stopped when we reached the door. I stared at it for a minute before stepping into the house. Renesmee had seen the haunted and pained look in my eyes before I tried smiling at her and announcing this was our home now. Day to day, Nessie saw that I tried to hold it together for her sake, but nothing reached inside. I pulled my hand away, not wanting to see anymore. Renesmee asked out loud, "It's this place too, isn't it? You've looked sad since we moved to Forks."
"This town has a lot of memories for me, honey. Not all of them are good."
"Why don't we leave? I know you want me to finish out school here, but if you're too unhappy, Mom," she offered, looking unsure if she should even suggest it.
I made a mental note to remind Jacob to keep our conversations private from Renesmee. I countered, "What about your friends at school? Or on the reservation? You don't want to leave them yet, do you?"
"Well, no, but I will if it means you'll be happy."
My heart squeezed. She was so selfless. She was always looking out for everyone else, even if it meant a sacrifice on her part. I know that wasn't something Renesmee got from me. I moved my arms and let Nessie lay down in my lap, stroking her hair to calm her down. "It's okay, honey. I'll be okay. It's a little hard, yes, but I can stay here until you're ready to go," I murmured. "You don't need to worry about me."
"Someone has to. You worry about everything else," Nessie joked lightly. She was already relaxing under the calming gestures.
I chuckled. "I love you, love bug. Get some rest."
"I love you too, Momma," Nessie yawed, falling asleep in my lap. I watched Nessie sleep for a while, wishing I could feel the same peace she was feeling right now. Jacob took her upstairs when he was done with his shower and put her to bed before retiring to his own room. I listened to the sounds of both of their erratic heartbeats before turning back to my schoolwork for the night.
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