One Hundred Years of Snow
Summary: I wonder if you know what forever feels like, Bella. You don't. Not like I do. Bedward. One-shot.
Spoilers: Takes place after New Moon.
A/N: For everyone on my f-list scouring the fandom for a good Twilight fic, and even those who haven't done much scouring. Not saying that this would fill the void, but it could help. I hope you cream your jeans. Metaphorically (or literally. What do I care? Just read the damn fic).
- - - - - - - - - - -
"What are you so afraid of, Bella?"
I stood, frozen, my head spinning in two different directions. My knees were threatening to buckle underneath me. Somehow my body had turned into a bridge that my feet had suddenly gotten too weak to hold – there was desperation for a connection, a loose link that needed to be found. My thoughts were indistinct and hazy; just wisps floating around an empty skull, uncaring and detached. I looked at the hand extended before me. Long fingers prepared to latch onto me firmly, and a strong palm to make certain I would never slip away. It was a comforting sight, yet it terrified me. There was a strange motion inside my chest, as if my ribs had begun to fan out, turning into beastly claws.
But when I looked up, I found myself staring at a tanned, chiseled face. His jaw was squarely cut, his nose strong and defined. His hair flowed around his face like the night.
No longer a boy.
But his eyes… they were different. They weren't his. They glowed in a familiar way, in a way that I had permanently etched in my soul… Edward.
"I…I can't." It was my voice, but I hadn't moved my mouth. It was distant and soft. Flimsy, and easy to tear.
"It's okay. I won't hurt you." His lips were pleasant. Familiar. Sincere.
"No." The struggle to be firm, to be strong, made my voice tremble. I tried again. "No."
His face crumpled in. The hand closed into a fist, and the glowing eyes began to distort in such a horrible way, accompanied by a sneer that made my stomach violently turn. His teeth began to grow. I heard the shredding of skin, the noisy and nauseating shifting of bones.
No longer just a boy.
And just like that, just as he was about to reach for me with a thunderous howl that ripped through my eardrums and nearly shattered my bones, the ground beneath me began to fall away, and I watched with wide eyes as a large, treacherous claw grabbed nothing but the empty air.
Then I woke up.
I couldn't say exactly what it was that woke me. As I sat up, drenched in my sweat and gasping for air, the room was still. It was still dark and the shadows had crept out of their corners. I looked to the window. It was closed.
"Edward?" I said feebly. I could feel the warm moisture clinging to every inch of my skin, pooling at the nape of my neck, the back of my knees, and above my lip.
"I'm right here."
I looked toward the voice, and there he was, near my closet. He was sitting down, leaning against the wall, with his face turned to me. I could see the faint glitter of his eyes from where I was, but I could tell by his expression that he wasn't pleased. His tone, though velvety as always, was bleak yet still concerned. He meant to be hidden away, but the fickle shadows revealed the furrow he had in his brow. Or maybe he had meant for me to see.
I wondered why he was sitting over there, but felt a spear of guilt pierce through my gut when I realized why. It was painfully obvious. He couldn't stand my nightmares, especially when he knew what it was about – who it was about. He'd only talked about it once, one terse sentence when I'd insisted, but never anything more. "He's got a hold on you," he'd simply said, and that was it. I hadn't asked for more because his tone had been something like venom itself, and it'd stung to hear it. I tried to deny it, to defend myself, but everything that had pushed up my throat and out my mouth had been too weak and too pathetic to even consider. I'd even cringed when I heard it myself – everything that I'd said had obviously not been thought through even in the most remote way possible. When would it stop, I wondered. What did I have to do?
I convinced myself that I didn't have the answer, and that I was searching so furiously for it. But I was just as afraid that it was there, and it'd been there all along, lurking, tucked away into one of the more sinister corners of my mind. I was even more frightened that it would be something that would involve me sacrificing the thing I cared for the most; I wasn't ready for that, not again. And I had a strong feeling that I would never be, not even close.
I sighed, but the output of air barely disturbed the air in front of my lips, focusing on him. He turned away. My heart felt funny, as if it was stuck in the wrong place.
"I'm sorry," I said. It wasn't my fault I had these dreams (I would have taken sweeter dreams of the non-traumatic kind, any day), and we both knew it, but I couldn't help but feel as if for some part, even if it was just a microscopic part, it was.
"Don't be ridiculous, Bella," he said, but the shadows had shifted their places again. I could barely make out his mouth. "Don't ever think this is your fault."
I looked down, my hand wringing the edge of my blanket. The cotton was cool against my skin, but rough against my hands as I twisted it, trying to make it into something else. "You don't have to stay, if you don't want to. I know you can't stand to… see it."
I saw him get up from the corner of my eye, still never ceasing to be amazed at the fluid way he moved, as if he'd been born in water. He sat down in front of me on my bed, before I felt him trace the edge of my jaw with his icy fingers, lingering on my chin. I looked up, and he was looking intently into my eyes now. It amazed me how the darkness could never hide away his eyes. They reminded me of fire. Fire trapped inside ice.
"My presence here should never be questioned." It sounded like a command, but his voice did not abandon its gentleness. He lifted his hand to my hair, and even my scalp tingled. "It only pains me to know that I can only stand by and watch, and never do anything about it."
My throat clenched. Again, I felt the sting of guilt. "They're only nightmares." I tried to sound nonchalant, and shrug my shoulders, but I didn't succeed. I couldn't even shrug for fear that he'd pull away. Edward had an uncanny ability to be near me one second and be at the door the next. A master escapist that never really escaped. Well, only once.
He chuckled; dry, and quiet. "The human psyche is a magnificent thing. You shouldn't underestimate it, you know." His hand lowered to my lips, making them tingle. And it was just like that: suddenly, my whole body was awake, buzzing with a liveliness that ceased to surprise me. All I needed was one touch from him, and I was convinced I could be resurrected from the dead.
"I only wish that, from time to time, you'd dream about me."
"I do," I blurted, not very gracefully. I composed myself, quieting my voice. "I do, Edward."
He crooked one eyebrow at me, making my heart flutter.
"Not… not in the same way, of course," I muttered. "My dreams about you are a lot more pleasant, believe me." I was suddenly aware of the warmth creeping over my face and knew that I was blushing. Quite rightfully, at that. Oh, if only he knew what happened when he was in my dreams…. Any boy would have been outrageously flattered, though for Edward, I wasn't so sure. He had girls everywhere falling at his feet, and he could read their minds. So maybe he wouldn't be so impressed at the sinful things my mind conjured up when I was asleep, though for me, I'd never thought I could even think of such things until it'd happened. I'd been shocked, and embarrassed, and highly relieved that my mind was safe from his… special talent.
He smiled. There it went again. My poor little human heart. "Good."
And then he kissed me, his cold burning lips pressing against mine, incensing the pounding in my increasingly crowding chest. His fingers weaved through my hair, keeping my face firmly in place, deepening the kiss. My skin hummed. I could feel it all the way to my toes. His sweet scent filled me, like water poured to the brim of a pitcher, overflowing. His kisses completed me, yet somehow I always wanted more. It was always there, awakened by his touches, this inevitable thirst. I felt it in the same way he lusted for my blood, but I would never tell him so out loud. I imagined he would scoff at me; maybe he'd think I was mocking him. I knew my hunger for him could never rival up to the temptation of my blood to his senses and natural instinct.
Suddenly, he pulled away.
He was good at this. Satisfaction at its most disappointing. He never went all the way. I resented this even though I swore I understood. In the beginning, he had drawn out clear boundaries in our relationship – before it had even been a relationship. Since then, those caution marks had been erased, but new ones had taken its place. Maybe not as serious, but just as real. And just as obvious. I felt childish because every time this happened, I felt a ribbon of frustration unraveling inside, as well as unmistakable humiliation, and he probably knew it, too – not because he had somehow found a way to read my mind, but because I'd never been one who had been good at hiding my emotions from studying eyes. He saw it on my face. Like a map, all drawn out, and it occurred to me that maybe he didn't need to hear what I was thinking. No, it was all just the same. I was still the one with the disadvantage; Edward was a good liar, even when it came to his face. I was not.
I was breathing hard, my pulsing fingers tangled in his soft hair. He hadn't pulled back all the way; his lips were just a mere inch from mine, and the color of his eyes were flickering, as if he didn't know what he was. Exhilarated, or confused. They went from gold to a darker shade, a beautiful distraction from something that had been maddeningly repeated, time and time again. I wondered if he could ever sense the weariness I felt inside every time he pulled away.
Our intimacy was limited, and I hated it. Sometimes I wanted to ask if he hated it too, because it never seemed to show, and that made me feel even worse.
"How often do you think of him?" he asked, still panting from our kiss.
"What?" I asked, shocked, my nerves still frazzled from my senses feeding on his every taste, touch, and smell.
"Just answer the question, Bella. I need to know."
"Think about who?" Stupid question. I already knew.
His face darkened, his moist and swollen lips pressing into a rigid line. I thought he would distance himself again, that he'd let go of me and sit on the other side of the bed, as if in isolation, as if there was an invisible but impenetrable wall between us, but he didn't. Instead, I felt possessiveness in the way the muscles clenched in his arms, and in his jaw. His eyes had turned into a murky color, churning with a fervor I'd recognized before. Suddenly, it hit me. I had never been able to put my finger on what expression this was, or what emotion stood behind it. But now I knew. By some unusual flare of genius, or maybe emotional awareness, I knew.
It was jealousy.
"Him." He spit it out as if he'd had a bug in his teeth, a disgusted scowl taking the place of his pursed lips.
I sighed, looking at him pleadingly. "Edward."
He stiffened. His expression became unfriendly, and angry. Hurt. He turned his face slightly down and the shadow attempted to hide his eyes, but even though they'd been masked by the gloom of his sinister emotions, the darkness never succeeded. When he spoke, his voice was clipped and sharp. "I see."
"I can't just not think about him, you know," I said defensively, determined to make him understand. I could already imagine how this would end. He would have the last word, and then he would leave, his scent lingering behind everywhere in my room. My pillow, my sheets. The air. My skin. "After what happened, it'd just be… impossible. He's my friend, Edward. I…I love him."
He noticeably flinched at the last three words.
"I need you to understand," I said softly, taking one of my hands and brushing my thumb against his cheek. Hard, solid. Ice. Sometimes I wondered if he missed the warmth of being human, and if he felt cold all the time. I wondered if he felt cold even when he was with me. "Edward."
His voice was stubborn and unrelenting. Resentful and bitter, at its best. "I don't like you dreaming about him."
"They're nightmares, Edward."
"It doesn't matter. He's in your head," he suddenly snarled, startling me. His anger contorted his face in a way I wish I never had to see – he looked menacing, and malicious. My heart felt as if there had been tight cords wrapped around it, layer by layer, and that someone was pulling. At the same time, my throat burned with a determination to make him understand. I didn't know how reckless he was when he was angry, but I didn't want to risk it.
"Anything can occupy the brain," I told him, hoping my voice would soothe him and calm him down. "The heart, however…"
It didn't work. He was still tense, his entire body suddenly acting like a block of stone, but I could tell he was trying to contain his temper. His eyes flashed, dark to light, as he attempted to do so. Finally, the hard lines in his face relaxed a little. His jaw unclenched. But his eyes were still glinting with jealousy.
"I'm sorry," he said. His voice was still a little terse. I didn't know how I could get him off this edge. "I'm… I've never felt this way before. I… I don't know how to handle it, or how to control it." For a brief moment there was agony and confusion that passed through his face, but as fast as it had come, it also went.
I smiled, laughing a little, trying to lighten the mood. "My, my, Edward Cullen. You've never been jealous before."
"No, I haven't. But I've… I've heard the thoughts of people who have been." His eyes darkened again, staring at something behind me. "Just like I've heard the thoughts of him." He directed his icy gaze up to me again. "I wouldn't be so worried, Bella, if I knew there wasn't anything he could offer you. But he's a werewolf, and I've told you that he's dangerous. But you're too kind, and it bothers me."
He stood up, quietly pacing the room. But inside my head, every step he took was booming.
"Too kind?" I echoed. "What's wrong with being too kind?"
"People take advantage of kindness," he snapped. "And he's not just a kid anymore, Bella. He knows how to play this game. He took advantage of the time I was gone, he took advantage of your vulnerability, and he took advantage of you."
"A game?" I said, getting a little angry. "This isn't a game."
"Everything's a game."
His answer had escaped his mouth before his brain had even had time to intercept it, to think it over. Its swiftness only added to the wound it freshly planted on my heart, blinking in disbelief as I stared at him. A terrible silence imprisoned us both. The loudest silence I'd ever heard in my life.
When I spoke, my voice trembled from rage. I wasn't used to this, getting mad at Edward – he'd never really done anything to deserve it. My eyes burned but I refused to let it out. My knuckles turned white from clenching my sheets.
"So I'm a game. First to James and now to you, too."
His scowl deepened even more at the mention of James. "No. I didn't mean it that way." He paced faster. "It's just – he knows he's gotten to you. The last time we saw him… he knew he had a chance with you, Bella. He's confident. And I hate it."
I frowned, thinking about Jacob. I was surprised to hear that he'd been so confident about… us. Especially after I'd so blatantly turned him down. He'd seen how much I loved Edward; I didn't see how he could possibly think there was a… chance. Suddenly, I remembered something he'd told me. I'd never told Edward, but Jacob had snuck to my bedroom one night when Edward had been out hunting (just for one night – he couldn't risk any more time after that). "Love is love, Bella," he'd told me, smirking faintly, after I'd told him that I'd always love him – as a friend. "It doesn't take long for it to turn into something else. You'll see."
I froze, feeling anxiety begin to ricochet all over inside my head. I was grateful Edward didn't catch the alarm on my face, or else he would have known that something had happened. I shuddered to think what Edward would do if he found out that Jacob had been here with me, in my room, alone, when he'd been gone hunting. He would only use it to prove his point, and to find even more reason to forbid me from seeing him. And, possibly, to kill him.
"I had to come at the right time," I remembered Jacob saying once he stepped out of my window. "When the bloodsucker was out."
I stifled a moan of aggravation. What was going on?
"What does it matter, Edward?" I said, making sure my voice didn't get too loud. The worst thing that could possibly happen now was if Charlie woke up. Once this conversation ended, I was sure it would never get started up again, even if it were left unresolved. "I'm yours."
That caught his attention. He stopped pacing, his face turned my way. It was hard to see, but I knew it just the same. I'd never seen Edward this way, so full of doubt, and it was uncomfortable. He'd always been so sure of himself, so smug, and now it had taken a one-eighty. For some reason, although I'd never seen him act like this, there was familiarity…. I froze.
That was it.
He reminded me of me.
Very vaguely, but enough that I noticed, and I sympathized. It was a horrible thing, more than horrible, being convinced that you weren't good enough to hold on to the things you had and so terribly loved. Or that someone might sneak up from right under you and steal it all away.
His words flew to me before his mouth formed them. "For how long?"
I sighed silently, the word lingering on my lips. It always fit, always. "Forever."
He shook his head, letting out a foreign, frustrated sound. "You can't say that. You don't mean it. You humans… I've watched you for too long. You throw the word around like it's any other word. Just like you do with love. You throw that around, too, and it disgusts me. I wonder if you know what forever feels like, Bella. You don't. Not like I do."
"I could," I heard myself saying, with rising vindication. My eyes burned with the fever I could feel trickling down my chest, in a slow roast. "If you would just let me."
My heart swelled up, almost to the point that there was no more room left in my chest for it to expand. Maybe it was triumph, or the absolute confidence I felt that he would grant me my wish now, because there was no way he could get around it. Because he had walked right into this one, and because I was so positive that he knew that if he turned me into one of his kind, there was no way I'd ever be with Jacob Black.
For a minute it looked as if he was finally going to give in, to do it right this very second. But his eyes hardened again, like diamonds in the darkness of an underground cave, and I heard the enraged hiss of his voice. "No."
I was angry. "Then you have no right to complain, now, do you, Edward? You want forever, but you won't let me give it to you. How else do you think this is going to play out?" I demanded harshly. "I can't sit here and let time tick by like you can, Edward. I get old. Every single day, I get older and older. Does it torture you to know that?"
I had scrambled up to my feet, letting the ferocity I felt in every single syllable carry me towards him, like leaves in the wind. I stopped just inches from him, well aware of the vicious energy I had billowing around me now. The frustration of waiting, of trying to stave off my impatience with his kisses that were always so infuriatingly incomplete, and the nightmares of Jacob Black had shredded whatever little tolerance I'd had in the first place. Every time I saw Edward with his family, I felt an ache in my heart, wishing with every ounce of my soul that I were one of them – really one of them. Because no matter how much Esme already claimed that I was a part of her family, no matter how much Edward loved me, and no matter how much Alice already considered me her sister… it wasn't enough. They, too, like Edward kept distance where it was needed. And I felt it. Every time I saw them, I was reminded of it.
I continued, fuming. "Do you know that every single day you let me pass like-like this," I seethed, motioning to my body, "the less of a chance you're giving me to give you what you want? What we both want? Every day, Edward… why won't you let me be with you?"
His face – a face I'd willingly memorized, an image that had carved itself into my soul and could never falter – blurred. It smeared in with the rest of the room, vague and empty. My entire existence burned to be with him, while his entire existence – damned, as he had put it – stood in front of me, stoic, unmoving. Like ice. What could make ice yield but fire?
I let the tears fall; it was no use brushing them away now. I was good at crying more than I was at anything else. They rolled down my face, fiery streaks of the excess of my fervor. My hands were clenched at my side. They were itching to reach out to him, to make sure that he was really there, that this wasn't a dream, but I fought against it. Let him listen, my head whispered to me. Your hands won't tell him what he needs to hear.
His voice was soft, not a trace of anger left. "You are," he said. "You are with me."
"No, I'm not." I shook my head. More tears broke free. One of them landed on my bare foot, simmering. Waiting. "Not completely." I was whispering now. "Not in the way I should be."
His hands reached out to take me by the shoulders, crushing me against his broad chest, determined to close the distance between us – but he never could, not in the way we both wanted, and somehow that made all the difference. I choked between my tears, feeling the chill of his entire being hurt me, somewhere deep inside. A little tear. A little rip in my heart every time he refused to answer and instead held me close, as if it would make up for what he would not give me. But it wasn't even close, not even a little, because I knew that one day – if he didn't turn me into one of his kind – it would be gone. All of it. As if he had never even existed.
The edges of my heart crumpled. I felt flimsy, and weak. Just like paper.
"No," I said aloud, my throat feeling strangled. "Edward, no." I tried to pull away, but he wouldn't let me go. Instead, his grip tightened, and my nose was again pervaded by his heavenly aroma. Usually it would soothe me. It would calm me right down, and a thick haziness would fill my head, and I would immediately cease struggling. But my heart was stronger than any vampire's hypnotizing scent. If I knew anything, I knew that.
"Let go of me," I gasped out, before he finally let me go, looking confused as I staggered back, holding myself. I was freely crying now. He took a step toward me; I backed away.
"Bella," he said. "I'm sorry. Please."
"Why are you so afraid of Jacob, Edward?" I asked. "Is it because as long as he can control his temper, he can kiss me for as long as he wants? Because he can walk out into the sunlight with me? Or is it because… because you think I could love him as much as I love you?"
His light eyes flashed. "How about none of the above?"
"How mature," I spat, disgruntled with his answer. If you could even call it that.
"I don't like this conversation, Bella. I think you should go back to sleep."
"So what? So I can wake up the next morning and act as if this never happened? Act as if it doesn't frustrate me every time you have to pull away whenever we get too close? So I can pretend to be happy waiting for you to finally let me give you what I want? Be selfish, for once, Edward," I nearly pleaded. "Please."
"Telling a vampire to be selfish isn't exactly the best thing you can do," he warned me lowly. "Now get back to bed."
I looked at him. His voice had been harsh, stern and commanding, and I looked to see if he regretted it. He didn't. For a quick second I found myself wondering how this had come to play out the way it had; we'd never had a fight like this before. I'd never stood up to him this way before. What had changed, besides the time that had passed? Had the hours I spent thinking about my future with him roughed me up around the edges, had toughened me up where I knew I was vulnerable? Before I had been so intent on trying to keep him that I would have been glad to settle just for him by my side, but now it wasn't enough. There was more danger now. I needed more.
I needed reassurance.
I needed forever.
The silence that engulfed us was like a blanket of snow, cold but tangible if you held your hands out just right. I wondered if he noticed. Maybe not. He was used to things like the snow. No, he was immune to it. He'd spent one hundred years in snow, and a moment like this would easily be lost in it. It would not matter, and it would not count.
"I think… I think you should leave."
I heard my voice but wasn't aware that my mouth had moved. It was seconds after that I realized that it had – but barely, so barely that my words scarcely made it through the tense air that stifled the both of us. But by some miraculous instance, it did. It fought through the dense fog and made it to his ears, and I knew this because of the dawning that seemed to glance across his face for a fleeting second. Something like regret, then understanding. But in the end I couldn't tell the two apart. They had mixed together in a strange concoction, creating a foreign, pained look in his eyes.
And I didn't know why I'd said it – I hadn't even known I'd meant it. But I did. Suddenly, this new frightening urge to be alone had sprung on me from behind, pulling away the restricting bonds, snapping all of the strings. I realized in a startling moment of clarity that I could live without Edward, but I also realized, in that moment, that I never wanted to. I may be human, I wanted to say to him, but I know the weight of forever.
And I meant it.
I needed to think. Edward's presence was intoxicating and distracting, and also – right now – frustrating. I couldn't spend anymore time trying to fend off his accusations about Jacob, or trying to convince him to lessen the waiting time for my transformation to become one of them. Not tonight.
And, as if he'd known what I was thinking, when I looked back up to where he'd stood before, he was gone. I looked to the window. It was open, with the flimsy curtain billowing in the breeze. In the moonlight, it looked like a ghostly wave.
I stood there for a few minutes, my face in my hands, trying to sort out my thoughts. Uncannily, for a girl who hadn't known her heart's voice a year ago, it was the one that was the loudest now. Shouting and booming, like restless hands reaching up my throat to my ears. Its voice came in all forms: in tugs, in tingles, in gnarls. And it was never quiet.
I wondered if things would be different when I wasn't human anymore. If my heart would stop singing, and if my heart's voice would be abruptly silenced. Forever.
And, as if sensing my muted sorrow, a tiny voice cried out from somewhere inside me.
It doesn't matter, it said. He has your heart now.
I sat down on the edge of my bed, before sliding into my covers. I went through all of the motions to make it look as if I would fall back to sleep before I would have to get up for school in a couple of hours, but I already knew quite clearly that I wouldn't get a wink of sleep tonight.
As I lied in bed, it was just as I'd expected. He was gone, but he was everywhere. He'd even managed to creep into the little corners, the places that seemed insignificant during the day but epitomized the glorious night. I turned over to my side, wondering how different things would be years from now, and how not.
- - - - - - - - - - -
He wasn't at school the next day.
As I entered the school parking lot in my truck, I spotted Alice waiting for me near their car. She motioned to an empty parking space two cars away from her, and I nodded, parking my truck just where she'd gestured. As I took the keys from the ignition and gathered up my things, I could see Alice making her way over to me, as if gliding on air. She was wearing a dark navy blue shirt today, with a trendy skirt, but I caught a glimpse of her face and saw that it was grave. Solemn.
Nevertheless, when she finally reached me, she greeted me with a smile.
"Where's Edward?" I asked, even though I already knew the answer.
"He's not coming." Alice said this in a tone I couldn't pick apart, but her face was calm and impassive. I stared at her for a second, slowly placing my bag strap on my shoulder. I tucked a stray strand of hair behind my ear.
"He told you," I said flatly.
"Yes," she answered, something flickering in her eyes. "Yes, he did. Listen, Bella, you have to know. He's really sensitive about you…well, you know what. It would help things if you didn't… push it." She almost sounded as if she was pleading.
"Right." My voice dripped with bitterness – something that I just couldn't help. "Right."
"Really, Bella, he's… troubled. With this whole Jacob business." When she said Jacob's name, it looked as if she'd swallowed something sour. I could see that she tried not to be so biased about him, but it was hard, because she was both Edward's sister and a vampire. "He feels threatened."
"He shouldn't," I said quietly, as we started to head out of the parking lot. "He knows how much I love him." So much that it hurts, I thought.
Alice looked at me meaningfully. "I know."
After a few minutes of only hearing the quiet scuffle of my shoes against the pavement (Alice had no footsteps), I sighed. I felt it inside me. The ribbon. Unraveling. My mind ricocheted back to last night, and I was suddenly all too aware of the heaviness of my heart. "I'm just tired of waiting, Alice. Is that so terrible?"
"No," she said. "It's not. But look at it this way: Edward's been waiting for more than a decade. Imagine the pain he feels, Bella. As great of a life being a vampire is," Alice said, mildly joking, but sobering up inhumanly fast, "It's incredibly lonely. And no one knows that, I think, more than Edward does. Don't you think he wants to turn you into… one of us?"
I felt an uncomfortable knot form in my throat and tightness in my chest. "No. No, I don't."
She sighed. When she talked again, her tone was imploring. "Oh, Bella. You really don't believe that?"
"He's had too many chances. I've always been more than willing. If he wanted to do it, he would have done it by now."
"He's just waiting. He thinks…" she paused reluctantly, glancing at me. She was nervous. It was obvious she wasn't sure whether it was right thing to do to tell me. "He thinks you might change your mind." She began to talk faster, her words hurried and fast, as if hoping I might not catch them. "He's waiting for you to realize that you don't want this life that we have. He's just worried that if he does turn you… into one of us… after, you'll regret it, and you'll be angry with him. And you won't love him anymore."
I tensed, my hand tightening its grasp. The leather strap cut into my palm, my eyes narrowing into a glower. "That's incredibly stupid of him," I fumed. "For a guy who's been around for more than a hundred years, he sure has some really dumb moments."
Alice laughed weakly. "Yeah. But you must forgive him, Bella. He's never been in love before. He's not used to trying to choose between his mind and his heart."
"And his appetite," I muttered. I was pretty sure Alice heard me, but she said nothing else about it, only launching off into another conversation of the possibility of another shopping trip with her once we entered the school.
- - - - - - - - - - -
It was strange going through my day without Edward, but I made myself believe that it was just another one of those days when he went hunting with the rest of the Cullens. However, no matter how fascinating my classes were, especially with the quirky substitute teacher we had in biology that was making the animal and plant cell displays talk and sing, my mind couldn't help but drift off to what had happened last night – and what could happen to the rest of the nights we had ahead of us. I was quiet for the entire day, even at lunch (which seemed to disturb Alice so she attempted to make me laugh). I wondered where he was. Maybe he was at the meadow, or maybe he was just at home.
He was intoxicating. It didn't even surprise me anymore how he still occupied almost every one of my thoughts even when he wasn't here.
When I got home, however, I was surprised to see a lone figure waiting on my lawn. I squinted, trying to make out who it was, because they were turned around. My heart jumped when I suddenly realized exactly who it was, and I had the sudden urge to make a very hazardous and possibly illegal U-Turn and quickly drive away. As I glimpsed up, the sky was overcast, dark from the weight of the rain. A storm was imminent – I could smell it in the air. And the road was still slick from last night's rainfall. Taking that U-Turn seemed like a very likely chance of death, or at least a large injury, and I figured my truck didn't deserve it. She was too old to pull any Cullenesque type of road trick, and I had to respect that.
I felt my body tense up, however, rigid and glued to the worn and scratchy fabric of my seat as I pulled up the driveway. He turned to look at me, his face pulled into a wide smile.
To say that I was surprised was an understatement – I was also torn between feeling guilty and anxious. I knew this couldn't be good. If Edward were to come by any minute now… this would not be good at all.
I got out of the car, hesitating every other movement or so, wondering whether it would be best to stay in the truck after all. But I was already out, with the keys in my hand, and Jacob was already crossing over to me, his handsome face beaming at me like the ray of sunshine everyone in this town had been forbidden to have since the continuous gloom arrived. I felt antsy, and the inside of my mouth had suddenly gotten prickly and dry. I glanced at the road. No one.
"Hey Bella," he said cheerfully.
"Jacob," I said, trying to smile a little. Hopefully it didn't look too forced, or reveal that I was uncomfortable. "This is a surprise."
"I just wanted to drop by." His grin was put firmly in place. I stared at him, trying to figure out what it was in his eyes that made me feel so awkward… Happiness? No, that wasn't it. It looked almost like… smugness. Confidence. "Where's the boyfriend?"
I shifted my weight between my two feet. I tried not to sound so flustered. "I don't know. He didn't come to school today."
His expression didn't change. "Out hunting?"
"Maybe." I brushed my hair from my face. Even with the danger of Edward finding us poised in the air, like a dark cloud looming overhead, I couldn't help but also feel relieved that things hadn't changed nearly as much as I feared they would. "How'd you get here?"
He grinned. "I ran."
"Ah," I nodded. "Right."
"You'd be surprised at how convenient it is. I was actually just testing myself to see how far I could make it, you know, without… transforming. And I made it here all right. It's only a couple of miles."
"Jacob," I said seriously. "La Push is more than ten miles away."
He stood tall, his face glowing with pride. "I know."
I laughed, shaking my head. Even now, there was just something about Jacob that made me feel at ease. The anxiety and panic began to slowly web away, making me feel light again – normal, almost. He was just too sunny to hide away from. He was exactly what rainy, gloomy Forks needed.
"I was just wondering whether you wanted to go up to the reservation with me today. Sam's been asking about you, and Emily wants to see you again. She's making an entire feast tonight, and she wanted me to invite you."
My heart dropped, my face fighting the instinct to immediately frown. "Jacob, that's really nice of you… and of Sam, and Emily, but I don't think I can go."
His smile fell. "You can do your homework later, Bella. I promise we won't keep you too late."
I sighed, looking away. I saw my reflection in my side view mirror. My plainness. My face looked troubled, and unhappy. There was a furrow in my brow that I hadn't ever noticed before.
"Is it Charlie?" he asked. "I'm sure he won't mind. I can ask Billie to call him."
I didn't look up at him yet. I knew what he was doing. Playing dumb, so I would have to tell him. It seemed petty, and I wanted to hate him for it, but somehow I couldn't. It was extremely unfair for him, this whole thing, but I couldn't seem to find a way to make it fair for everyone involved – it just wasn't possible. I either had to be the cause of one's sorrow, or be the cause of one's happiness. Only one of them could win.
Maybe Edward was right. Maybe this was just a game.
"Jake," I sighed, looking up at him. "You know it isn't Charlie."
He said nothing. His face was stoic now, his sunniness long gone. His dark eyes took me in, glimmering with something I was afraid to wonder about. I couldn't see his hands, but I already knew they were clenched into fists.
He was waiting for me to say it.
"I can't, Jake. I'm sorry."
He knew. His inky eyes flashed. "You aren't his puppet, you know, Bella," he said, his voice rigid and forceful. It cut through me like a sword. "And he should know that. You should do whatever you want."
My head started to pulsate with a hint of pain. I begged him. "Don't make this difficult."
"So what?" he asked, his voice starting to rise. "Am I supposed to make this easy? Are you asking me not to fight? Because that isn't fair, Bella." He kicked the ground, the veins in his arms starting to bulge. "Nothing about this is fair."
"I'm sorry," I could only say. "I really am. But I really want us to be friends, Jake. Please tell me you're still my friend."
He stopped, looking down at the ground. He took a few moments to compose himself before he looked up at me again, his jaw still slightly clenched. "I'll always be your friend, Bella." His sentence felt incomplete, though. As if there was something else left hanging on the edge of my name – something unsaid, and something blatant but nonetheless hidden away. Then, finally, he said it. It was quiet, and low – almost like a murmur, and I was sure I might have missed it if I had not felt it burn my ears.
The word stung me for reasons I couldn't explain, because for once I realized what Edward had meant by our 'misuse' of it. When Jacob said it, I was struck by the unfathomable depth of it, of its mystery and vagueness. I was almost confused. Yet when I had said it to Edward myself, I felt the word within my every single tendon, every single vessel, and every single cell. My entire body yearned for it, and pulsated with it. It burned not to say it, because it was exactly what I had been dying to say. It epitomized my feelings, even the ones that were kept hidden from me.
But as pained as I was to hear the word slip from Jacob's mouth, I was determined to mask it up with relief – a relief that would be obvious to him. I let out the large puff of air that I'd been holding in. I smiled at him. "Good. I'm glad."
The threat of Edward catching us had, by some strange circumstance, drifted far above my head when Jacob had walked over to me and wrapped me in his arms. I closed my eyes, thankful for a friendly embrace, but stiffened when I felt it. It was in the way he held me firmly, and the way his hands wrapped all the way around my waist, holding on for a staggeringly long amount of time. That was when I started to worry. I heard him smell my hair, and his heart's thunderous beats against his chest, as if it wanted to jump out to me. I began to silently panic.
"Do you feel that, Bella?" he whispered to me, still not letting me go. "Does your vampire's heart beat like that when you're near?"
"Jacob," I grunted, feeling my temper flare up, trying to get away. For a second he allowed me to struggle, knowing that he was far too strong for me to ever even get loose, and then he let me go. I staggered back against my truck's door, breathing hard, scowling at him. I couldn't believe he'd be so underhanded and malicious. "Jacob."
He was smiling smugly at me, as if he'd done no wrong.
Just then, something behind him caught my eye. My heart, just a muffled drum inside my chest, froze completely still.
Edward's car, which had not been there when I'd first arrived, was parked in front of my lawn.
And Edward, standing on the sidewalk, was glaring at us so irately that I could feel his eyes smoldering against my skin. I let out a weak, trembling sound from my lips. "Oh, no."
Seeing my suddenly wide-eyed expression, Jacob turned around. His body stiffened but his expression, I could see (from the way Edward's face intensified), did not change. For a minute I looked between the two, feeling the electricity crackle between them, and it was like watching the arrival of a storm. Or being right in the eye of it. My mind scurried desperately to think of what to do to avoid possible bloodshed, but either it was going too fast for me to comprehend or not fast enough at all, because suddenly I heard Jacob's voice, disgustingly triumphant.
"Watching her every move, eh?"
I didn't hear Edward, or see him, but suddenly he was in front of Jacob, his face looking as if it'd been carved with perfect marble. A look of hate and rage had contorted his features – once beautiful and magnificent – into something sharp and harsh.
"Get away from her," he snarled. "Now."
Jacob narrowed his eyes. He didn't back down. "You forget what you're dealing with, Vamp. I was made to crush you. So I'd be careful if I were you. Really careful."
A noise pierced the air, like the rumbling of a monster truck engine, except more horrifying. It made me flinch, and my heart jump from fright. It was Edward's growl.
I got in-between them, even though it might have not been the smartest thing. A monster sandwich. I put one hand on Edward's chest, facing away from Jacob, but for whom I felt enormous enmity building up with every passing second.
"Edward," I said, trying to make my voice sound firm and commanding. "Don't. It's not worth it."
"Yes," taunted Jacob. "It's only Bella. After all, you bloodsuckers have the rest of your damned life to find someone else. Just think of it as a scavenger hunt, over an extended period of time."
Edward bared his teeth, and that was when I quickly turned around to Jacob. I tried to push him. He wouldn't move. "Get out," I nearly screamed at him, furious. "Go away!"
I'd never wanted to see him gone as much as I did that very second. I also never wanted to slap him as much as I did then, too.
He grabbed my hand. I winced, feeling pain rocket up my arm. "Bella."
"Let go of her!" Edward yelled.
"Bite me, Count Chocula," snapped Jacob.
"Shut up, Jacob! Just leave! Now!" I screamed.
The storm was rolling above us now. The clouds were churning menacingly, and the wind had started to pick up. My hair was beginning to blow around me, and the dry, fallen leaves that were being carried away scraped against the sidewalk. It seemed as if nobody in the world was alive except us. Everywhere around us there was silence.
Finally, he let go. I could see where his nails had dug into my arm – just indentures, he didn't put enough pressure to break the skin. He had an intimidating, dark look in his eyes as he began to back away, slowly – not out of fear, or submission. But his hardened face promised persistence, and it was that – not the cold – that made me shudder.
"She isn't yours yet, Cullen," he said lowly, and I felt Edward grab my arm, pulling me to him protectively, as if Jacob could snatch me away with his words. "I'll see you again, Bella," he said, shifting his gaze to me. "Count on it."
And just like that, he was gone.
Minutes passed, time now a jagged-edged sword from the deafening silence. I tried to mull over what had happened in my head, and compose myself, but I found that I was too disoriented at the moment to think straight. I kept seeing that look in Jacob's eyes, and also Edward's beautifully vicious face. Edward's hand rose up my arm to my sleeve, and I closed my eyes, comforted by his touch. He made lines with his fingertips, gentle against my skin, before I was suddenly aware that he was no longer beside me but in front of me, so soothingly close yet still so painfully far.
A stone appeared in my throat, heavy and distracting.
What I would do to make sure that the distance disappeared.
I opened my eyes, finding myself pooled by dark gold. He was still troubled, and he was still angry, but I could see that he was all too aware now that I was with him. That I was with him, and not with Jacob.
"You weren't at school today," I said.
"I know." His voice was low and quiet.
"Alice talked to me."
He stiffened, his fingers pausing on my skin for a moment. Then they resumed. "I told her not to."
I sighed. "She doesn't want us to mess this up."
"Neither do I."
"Nor I," I agreed.
He smiled. It was a small smile, but it meant everything.
"I'm sorry," I said, wishing our bodies were closer. The distance was eating me alive. "I didn't know he would be here."
"What did he want?"
"Nothing," I said. "Just wanted to invite me to dinner."
"What did you say?" He listened closely for my answer. I think he even halted his breathing.
"I said that I couldn't." He stayed silent, still listening, and I knew what it was he wanted to hear. "I couldn't because I loved you." My voice quieted. "And I know what it would do to you. Especially after last night…"
He nodded, although it still seemed as if he wasn't reassured. I could tell by the furrow in his brow and the way his lips were taut that he was still thinking about Jacob, and what Jacob had said. I felt a twinge of bitterness at the thought of him. I wasn't sure I could be so friendly to him after what he'd done.
"The way he touched you, Bella… I could feel myself, my anger. Like I'd turned into a completely different person. If you'd seen the things I'd had going through my head, the way I saw myself going after him and killing him… you would hate me. And it took everything inside me not to, Bella. I was so close to losing control. But then I saw you, and I knew… I knew I couldn't risk it." There was sadness in his voice, and pain.
"Thank you," I said, trying to pull him closer, but I felt as if my hands were only grabbing air. "I love you, Edward."
He sighed, his face resigned, but still uncommonly tight. He kissed my forehead, his icy lips causing the painful throbbing in my temple to suddenly stop. "I love you too. More than you'll ever know."
And then he leaned in, finally closing the gap that had started to slowly suffocate me, kissing me hard. His hands, though cold, burned wherever he touched me. His kiss was furious, as if trying to show me his fervor and desperation – as if words, as empty as they had ever been, were no longer enough.
He pulled away once he remembered that I still had to breathe. I was gasping for air while he kissed my cheek and my hair, my heart dancing inside my ribcage, rejoicing in the way my softness seemed to mold into his hardness. Velvet to stone.
Seconds later, after I'd composed myself, I looked up at him. I wasn't surprised to hear the slow tinkling of rain, and they began to shower down on me – my eyelashes, my nose, my arms. I smiled as I saw Edward in the rain, and, as if thinking the same thing, he smiled back at me.
"So why did you come?" I asked, tasting the rain on my lips.
His smile faded, his beautiful face turning serious.
"You wanted forever," he finally said. There was finality in his words, so heavy and careful. It hung in the air between us like a mobile of everything I loved, sweetened by his breath. "So I'm going to give it to you."
And just like that, his one hundred years of snow finally came to an end.