'When should you stop trying? Until.'
-- Jim Rohn
x x x
The rain's light staccato on the tin roof seemed to produce a comforting hum in the background as I listened closely to Edward's beautiful piano solo's lull me to sleep. I tried my best to cling to the notes, trying as hard as I could to imprint them permanently in my memory. I could feel the smile on my face as I slowly slipped off into unconsciousness, welcoming any wonderful hallucinations my mind could conjure into existence.
I must admit that at first, I seemed to be having trouble producing a clear image. So far all I'd managed was a dark, intimidating and shadowy figure floating about in the centre of my room. I wondered if that had anything to do with the fact that I was so used to spending time with the real Edward, that my mind knew there was no comparison. The small corner of mind that was still awake also picked up on a muffled crash that sounded like it had come from pretty far away. Whether or not it wasn't anywhere close by—or I was just about to fall asleep sleep so everything sounded like an echo—I couldn't be sure. I just figured the storm was getting worse.
I could however still see the shadow in front of me, and as he came to lean over my bed, I felt the muscles at the corner of my mouth pull up into a small grin. I was always happy to see him. I saw a long, broad arm break away from the black mass and reach out to cup my cheek. The temperature of his skin alarmed me, but not the way it usually did. It was warm…hot even. I stiffened against his palm, and so he pulled away and I heard him sigh heavily in disappointment.
"Edward, I'm sorry…" I mumbled pathetically. Even though I knew I was dreaming and that none of this was real, I still didn't want my dream Edward to be angry with me. After all, I planned to be spending a lot more time with him when my real Edward couldn't stay with me. Better to make up quickly.
"Stop!" he hissed, and I felt myself shrink away from the venom in his voice. Why was he being so horrible?
"Bella…just wake up," he pleaded in a rough, but still beautiful voice. I watched him slouch over to the other side of the room, obviously irritated.
"Why?" I grumbled, rolling back up securely in my blankets. I could feel my own agitation bubbling up through my skin at his foul mood. "I was having such a nice dream with you before—"
Before I could even blink, I found myself hoisted roughly into the air, his strong, stone-like arms holding me so tightly it hurt. His fingers felt like searing hot pokers that literally melted my flesh, and I found that it took everything I had not to scream. You weren't supposed to feel pain in a dream…
That was when I realized I wasn't dreaming anymore and just how real this situation was. As soon as I had come to that conclusion, Edward's angel face disintegrated in front of my eyes and morphed into another familiar expression. His dark eyes and smooth tanned skin were all contorted into a mask of utter fury…I could feel his arms shaking as he held me.
"Jake?" I squeaked. My eyes widened in disbelief.
As soon as I said his name, his features instantly softened and he released me carefully onto the floor beside my bed. "Sorry," he murmured sourly.
Once the initial shock wore off, I realized how…livid I was. I wanted to hurl so many accusations at him. About why he had turned me in to Charlie, (for which, by the way, I was now officially grounded for years) and why he had insisted that our friendship was over. About why he never returned my phone calls…about why he was neglecting me…but I was groggy with exhaustion and apparently, I couldn't find my tongue either.
"What the hell are you doing here?" I whispered harshly after a few minutes of awkwardness. It was lucky that we were whispering, otherwise I think my voice would have broken. He was so tall…taller than I ever remembered him to be. It was like trying to stare down a haunted skyscraper.
"Oh, God…turn it off already!" He groaned while ignoring my demand and eying my CD player distastefully. The song that I recognized as my lullaby was reaching its crescendo. "I think I'm going to be sick…"
I stormed over and stopped it with a swift click of a button. Now I was the one in a foul mood…and he some serious explaining to do. I waited at the door for a moment, and sure enough I could hear Charlie's jagged snores wafting past my ears. I whirled around on the spot, fuming. "What do you want?"
He looked surprised by my anger, and that only made me frustrated. I scowled at him, but he simply smiled. "I needed to talk to you," he said softly and after a moment's hesitation, "I've missed you."
I laughed. It was forced and sarcastic. "You missed me? That's rich—considering you were the one who had grounded for the rest of my life! You who told me we can't be friends anymore; you who hasn't cared enough to call me in a month—a month Jacob! And now you expect me to just be okay with everything when you sneak into my house in the middle of the night? How dare you!"
He had no idea how much it had hurt me when he fed our friendship to the flames, watching it blacken, curl, and finally poof into dust. I knew it hurt him…I had seen his tortured expression as Edward dragged me away. I felt the salty tears burning at the back of eyes, but I blinked to keep them at bay.
"I know," he said finally. But his apathetic gaze upset me…in more ways than one.
"Why are you here?"
"I want to know why." As soon as the words came out, his expression abruptly changed—he was suddenly defensive and in the pale moonlight beaming through my window, his eyes clouded with some undistinguishable emotion.
"Why…what, exactly?" I spat.
"Why you would want to become one of them."
I knew what he meant immediately. "That is none of your business," I warned him in an uncomfortably calm voice.
Despite his eager and protective façade, I could tell that my words really had hit home. I heard his breath hitch in his throat, and the unexpected hint of vulnerability that flashed in his glorious brown eyes. I absolutely loathed hurting Jacob, but he just didn't understand. He never would understand. And I knew that part of that reason was my fault. I had allowed him to blur the lines in our relationship so I could feed my selfish craving for his company and prevent him from leaving me when I had needed him the most. I knew there would be consequences; I just never planned on how I would deal with them.
"Yeah…" he whispered gruffly, his voice rougher than normal. "That's what you told me last time as well."
"It's the truth," I stated, taking the opportunity to avert my gaze and stumble quietly back to sit down on my bed. The fatigue was starting to wash in.
"But don't you see what you're losing?" he pleaded, and I saw as his hands balled into fists at his side. He was beginning to shake again. I watched him warily.
"Calm down, Jacob," I soothed. The tone felt unnatural in my throat, but I knew he couldn't afford to lose control.
"What about Charlie…Renee…your school friends…me?" I physically winced as he finished. His voice was barely audible, but the pain saturating it was all too clear. It hurt me, too.
"Don't you feel anything for me at all?" His shaking hadn't calmed at all, but at least it wasn't getting worse. His eyes were frantic as they searched my face for…something of substance.
I knew this was coming. I just wasn't expecting it to happen at 3 o'clock on a Saturday morning. Edward would be here in three hours…
'No.' I scolded myself, biting down on my lip to stop myself from smiling. Now was not the time to think about that. I had a more pressing issue at hand. I still didn't know how to answer him though…
When I refused t speak, he growled. "You stand there accusing me of destroying our friendship, when you're wiling to throw it away in a millisecond to be with that stupid bloodsucker—the one that left you for dead for eight months and then just prances back into your life and you take him without a second thought!"
That sent my train of thought flying off the track, and I increased my teeth's pressure on my lip to stop me from saying anything that could anger him any further, close to drawing blood. I wanted to defend Edward to him. Desperately so. But I knew I couldn't without taking the extreme risk of him transforming. If he did, I'd die…then Edward would kill himself…
I stopped there, shuddering. I didn't want to think about what would happen after…
Of course he noticed my reaction, and his stance instantly tensed. "What is it?"
"Nothing," I said meekly. I knew he didn't buy it. I could hear his fierce breathing as I remained trapped under his petulant stare.
"Listen, Jake," I suddenly began improvising my conversation…anything to avert his eyes boring into mine. It worked. "I need you to understand…"—I took a deep breath before continuing—"I do love you. I always have and I always will. Just…not in that way." This was hard for me to say out loud. I closed my eyes so I couldn't see how much pain he must be in. I didn't see it, but certainly felt it. After all, I was connected with Jacob in a special way. When he hurt…so did I. It was unavoidable.
I opened my eyes for the next part. He really needed to hear this…especially from my eyes. "You're my best friend. I need you. You're the only one I feel I can truly talk with. You seem to be one of the very few who understand the way I am."
He smiled, but it was a melancholy smile. His eyes were strained and distant and at that I felt a strong pang in my heart. He was suffering for my careless and needy behavior and because he was hurting, I was too. I was the one who encouraged him after all…anything to stop him from leaving me alone during those hellish months when Edward wasn't a part of my life. Even though I think he knew the question was pointless, he seemed to feel compelled to ask it of me anyway. "But that's all I am to you, isn't it?"
I managed a small smirk with a lot of effort. It probably looked awkward and out of place. "Yes," I breathed, but then I hesitated. "Is that okay? Are you still going to keep your promise, or do you have to break it?"
"Hmmm…" he wondered dubiously, a hard look on his face.
It was strange. I seemed to have this idea in my head that if I could just see Jacob smile—really smile—then it would be enough. I wouldn't feel bad about hurting him anymore…that he would keep his promise…and that was selfish, I knew.
He startled me by speaking. "Where did you run off to all those weeks ago?" he asked, his voice guarded.
I didn't want to bring this topic up because I knew it would just make him angry, but I didn't want to lose Jacob, either. If I didn't tell him where I went, that would be shattering our opened-minded friendship.
"Italy," I sighed, defeated.
"Italy?" he voice was full of disbelief. I wondered if it had anything to with the fact that he'd never left Forks his entire life. "That's where those…"—he struggled for a minute—"Voltari live?"
"Volturi," I corrected with another resigned sigh. Remembering that day was not something I wanted to do right now. Not ever again if I could help it. Those poor people's screams still echoed hauntingly in my head whenever I recalled those events. Jacob seemed to notice my reluctance to expand on the subject so he changed it.
"You look a lot better," he said casually, and I met his gaze then. I was startled by the warm smile lighting his lips, and I felt mine return the simple gesture. "You still do seem a little…worried though," he observed. It was amazing on how he always seemed to be on the same wave length as me when it came to my thoughts. Perhaps something in posture gave away my defenselessness. I wasn't sure.
"He won't leave you." His voice carried the seal of a promise in it. A promise that I could tell he disagreed strongly with, but seemed to believe, regardless.
"Thanks," I whispered, smiling timidly.
"'Cause he knows that the minute he leaves, I'll sneak in on his turf again and take you before he could even blink," he laughed quietly without humor while walking over to sit at my side on my bed. I laughed too…and, like him, I was more uncomfortable with that thought then I cared to let on. No doubt Jacob would come on especially strong in that situation. A situation that was impossible, but I humored him all the same, secretly thanking him for the mood lift.
His chuckling died away, and I allowed him to collect my hands in his huge ones as he ran his warm fingertips along my pale skin. It felt…nice. Just like it always did. But that was the difference between him and Edward. Jacob was nice…Edward was heart-stopping-ly, electrically, can't-get-enough-of-you, can't-stand-to-be-apart-from-you.
"Ugh…you even smell like him!" he groaned. "It's disgusting!" I simply rolled my eyes, ignoring him when he scrunched his nose.
"I know that I'll never be…Edward"—he spat his name, suddenly disgusted—"and that you still don't feel the same way I do, but I'll still keep trying." He turned to me and held my face in his burning hands, his face serious. "I'm very persistent, Bella. Wolves will spend their whole lives chasing a scent if they have to."
"I wish you wouldn't try, Jacob. You know as well as I do that I don't plan to stay human for much—"
His body abruptly jerked in a random spasm, almost as if he'd been attacked by some invisible force. I remembered then the last time he had reacted like this—when I had told him it was "none of his business." I hadn't announced it directly, but I'd hinted strongly enough.
He wasn't taking it well.
"Jake? Are you okay?"
"Fine," he croaked, his voice raw and raspy. He was already recovering. "But about that," he started, and I listened as his bitter and formal tone once again clouded his personality. "You do remember the specifics don't you, Bella? About the treaty?"
My breath hitched in my throat and I watched as Jacob's eyes danced with mischief, his expression hard. "If he bites you…if you become apart of their family…"—his voice faulted for a second and he did his best to shake it off quickly—"he breaks the treaty. And I'll be the first one to rip his throat out for it."
"Jake, no!" I cried, then instantly regretted it because I'd spoken too loud. What if I woke up Charlie? In fact, I was so busy trying to hear my dad's snoring through my door that I didn't even notice Jacob had opened the window until an icy blast of air smacked me in the face.
"Goodbye, Bells," he snapped. "I know now that there is no way we can still be friends as long as you intend to hang out with those volatile bloodsuckers. But remember what happens if you join them." His tone darkened and his blazing eyes shot at my face, "maybe I'll see you in a few months when he decides he doesn't want you again." Heavy sarcasm.
"Jacob, wait a-"
But he was gone.
I ran to the window and leant out over the edge. I felt the light dripping of the rain on the back of my head; sending cold shivers bolting down my spine, but I couldn't see him anywhere.
Then it hit me…the fact that I was hanging out a window looking frantically out over my front yard suddenly brought Romeo and Juliet to mind, and in particular, one stage direction that I had related to Jacob before.
'They fight. Paris falls.'
I was frozen.
"I can control myself, but I doubt he can. He's very young."
"Edward Cullen, were you about to say 'killed him'? Were you?"
"I would try…very hard…not to do that."
"Bella?" a concerned and angelic voice floated past my ears—an angelic voice that was all too familiar.
He was at my side within a second, his marble face pained and worried. His expression grew more and more anxious as he watched me. "Are you okay?"
I nodded. 'They fight. Paris falls.'
"He didn't hurt you did he?"
"No," I answered feebly. Of course Edward knew that Jacob had come. 'They fight. Paris falls.'
He started to draw me into his chest—his palms icy on my still heated skin—but he suddenly stiffened and cringed. "He touched you?"
"Only my hands," I admitted defensively and I felt my eyebrows furrow in irritation. Edward snarled.
'They fight. Paris falls.'
I had my Romeo back, but where was Jacob's fairytale ending?
"It's alright, I'm here now," he soothed, his glass lips brushing the base of my wrists—one of the few places I knew Jacob had touched me. "Stupid, persistent dog…" Edward grumbled under his breath.
"I'm very persistent, Bella. Wolves will spend their whole lives chasing a scent if they have to."
'You can't, Jacob.'
I felt Edward kiss the hollow of my ear. "Ugh…you absolutely reek of werewolf!" he complained, and I felt a soft growl against my skin.
'They fight. Paris falls.'
Edward's stone arms drew me in tightly to his chest and I melted in his embrace. I tried to ignore the fact that he wasn't breathing.
'Jake…your persistence will get you killed.'