The air, though cold, burns my face. Edward's arms in front of me glimmer slightly in the half-sunny day. The vampires' red eyes gleam. I drink in the sight of Edward, my angel, because I know I will die. His perfectly messy bronze hair, his face, godly, and the liquid topaz eyes, dazzling.
The circle of red-eyed monsters, of what I had hoped for so long to become, come closer, as Edward prepares to defend me, hopelessly. I try to talk him into running, but I will slow him down and he will not think of leaving me. As glad and elated as I once was, and still am, that the world turned upside down and he loved me, now I am desperate, because that love will be his end.
The ring comes closer. Edward tenses, more than he already has. I whimper, desperate, frustrated to death by my helplessness. I will let him die. I will be the reason why such an angel ceases to exist.
I black out. I wonder if I am dying. Is this dying?
"Bella?" And anxious voice says softly, and a burning hand strokes my hair. "Bells?" I open my eyes slowly, painfully, the sun striking my eyelids like needles and pins.
"Bella! She's awake!" I see its Jacob, hovering over me. Another figure comes and I see Charlie's shadow in the sunlight streaming from the window. Something's wrong. I see it right away in his face.
He must see...that I see. He turns away and I turn to Jacob, searching his eyes. They are happy, but sad. Unbelievably sad.
"Jake?" I ask, and he smiles. But it is a sad smile.
"What's...what's wrong?" And the smile fades.
"What." I demand.
"Oh, Bella, I would be happy, but...but..." It looks like he is going to cry.
"Jacob Black. Tell me what happened right this instant."
He hesitates, and grips my hand tighter.
In that one word I know. It all comes back to me, the vampires, Edward's futile attempts at saving me...and everything going black.
"Oh, Bella." Jacob said, and his forehead creased with worry. "Are you okay? No, that's a stupid question."
"No—it's okay—" I break off. And it sinks in.
Jacob said his name, not bloodsucker, not leech, parasite. His name.
The vampires...so many...ten or twelve at least...and from the Volturi nonetheless. Powerful, bloodthirsty, and pitiless.
Edward. He had no chance.
So how did I?
I can't move. I can't breathe. I can't cry.
"Bella? Bells, breathe. I won't let anything happen to you." But I don't. Why should I? The reason for my existence is gone. My life. Meaningless.
I don't want to know.
"He...a hero, Bella...no, that's wrong." Jacob fumbles with his words. "He...saved you. Breathe."
My instincts take over, and I have no strength left to fight them. The air rushes out of my lungs. In. Out. Jacob sighs.
And the tears pour down my face. Suddenly I just can't, but then...I try to fight them but its futile, like Edward's...his...I can't think it. It burns, ice and fire, and I think of the hole in my chest, but this is...it's like I don't have a chest to have a hole in it. It's all gone. Everything. I can't feel. It's numb.
It's on fire. Cold. Cold hurts too much. Heat is better, fire is better. Fire's next to me, alive. Cold is dead. Ice, burned in flames.
I dig my nails in my palms and fresh blood blooms out. I stare at it, I don't get dizzy.
I cry out when Jacob sees and stares before pulling my hands apart gently. The reminder burns. He breathes. Effortlessly around the blood, the temptation.
I sob harder, and now the tears don't stop, won't stop, I can't stop them. I bury my head in the cushions and soak them with my tears.
I will never...
Don't think about that. Don't. I focus on my breathing, to stay alive. Match it with Jacob's. In, out. Steady. Hot. Breath. Breathe. Ocean, pine. Dirt, forest.
But why? Why stay alive? He's dead. Gone. In Heaven where he belongs. Where I will never be. Dirt, pine. Ocean, salt. Sugar, sweet, heavenly, honey, indescribable. Tan sweater, coated with his scent. Diamonds...
I lie there for...I don't know how long. Considering suicide. Attempting, with my nails and teeth and hair. Jacob stops me. I have to. He doesn't understand.
A while later, while I try to focus on my breathing into the cushion, breathing with Jacob, he says, "Bella? The blo—Alice is coming...she's..." He trails off.
I jerk up.
"I guess she's already here." Jacob sighs. Tries to hold his breath. Wrinkles his nose, but at my blank stare, stops.
I look at Alice. Her eyes are black. At least they're not gold. I wouldn't be able to stand it if they were gold. With the black, the hot tears and soaking cushion is enough. With the gold, it would have to be some dramatic knife, or gun, or poison.
She carries a wooden box. It has an ornate design, of something, on the lid. I don't care. She sets it down, by my head. I don't want to think about what it is. I stop myself from thinking.
"What do you remember, Bella?" Alice asks, a whisper.
I shake my head, she sighs.
"It...black...their eyes, red."
Her own pitch black eyes widen. "Did he think..." She stops.
"I...blacked out. I don't know. What happened." My voice is a flat monotone, no emotion. Zombie.
Zombie? At that word, at its significance, I shudder.
Hysterical. That's the word. Jacob's eyes, wild, Alice beside him, holding me down.
I guess it goes through phases.
The next few days pass in a cloudy haze of Jacob's heat and concern, Charlie's worry and fear, and Alice and the rest of the Cullens' grief, for him and for me. Even Rosalie squeezes my hand, and then stands close to Emmett. I can't watch them.
One day, about a week after...I stood around the kitchen, doing nothing. Doing nothing meaning barely functioning, focusing to stay alive, to keep breathing. I hated it when I had nothing to do, when Jacob was on patrol. His presence helped a little, just as it had when Edward left, but this time it just kept it numb, kept me from feeling anything, instead of the momentary happiness of before. But I still did. My dreams were nothings, just endless empty days and nights. My window stays open, even when it's raining. It will stay open when it snows. It will...
Alice comes, a few hours later. She's with me a lot, and sometimes Jasper comes over, but he can't stand to be near me and I can't stand to be near him and Alice. It...
She knocks, and I wonder why she even bothers. I don't lock the door. Charlie...
I turn, and stare at her. Her eyes are a light gold, and I quickly look away, the strange ice burns my chest. She sighs.
She walks to the living room and comes out with the box. The box that she laid by my head, on the table, a few days ago. It has a design, and I see freesias, lilies, roses. Flowers, and a faint blue tinge to the wood. I look away. Can't she see I don't want to know? I steer my mind away from the box. To other, less dangerous, things.
"Bella. Bella?" I shake my head. I don't talk. I hardly ever talk, anymore. It...
"Bella." This time her voice is more demanding. "You have to...come on. Please?"
"What." I say, with the voice that, the day I found out, woke up, Charlie looked alarmed at, then resigned, then I don't know what else, because I was too focused on trying to breathe.
She looks almost angry. But then her eyes turn light again. "Bella...you have to face this. I'm sorry. I'm really..." She jerks up the box a little.
"Alice. I don't want to know what that is." She shoves it in my hands, and I almost drop it, but her hands secure it jet-fast. I clutch it, surprised I can't let go.
"Alice." I say desperately, and she sighs again.
"I have to go."
"Bye." The word contains no more feeling than when I said hi, and it scares me.
"I miss you, Bella." She says fast, and I can't be sure if it was, I miss you, or I missed you.
I don't care anymore, it sits on the table, Charlie avoids it, I don't look. It's hurting me, and it's hurting him, I don't want it, but Alice won't take it back. It sits there, and she wants me to take it but I won't.
"Bella, you have to face it eventually." Alice's voice is ruthless, cutting to my empty core.
I don't say anything. I want her to drop it, I am a coward and afraid, she won't.
"What? Why can't I just live, or try to? How would you like it if Jasper...and someone kept bugging you to take a box full of his—" I break off, I won't admit it to myself.
She sighs. I can tell she is tired of my empty, hopeless antics, and I'm tired of them myself, tired of constantly...
"Bella. Please. For me. For him." She begs me, almost out of patience, but not quite.
"But why? Why? It's just going to hurt us both more, that's all it's going to do." Both. Shit.
"Both? Bella...oh, god." She looks up to the ceiling, stares at the beams and off-white flaking paint. "You need to...let go." She looks warily at me, as if I could do anything to her. I just stare at her emotionlessly, and she flinches like it is worse than if I had hit her. "He wouldn't want you to live like this."
"Unfortunately, this is what's going to happen and how it's going to stay, whether he likes it or not. This is because of him."
"He wouldn't want you to remember! He would want you to forget and live!"
"Live? How can I live like this?" I am almost shouting and it feels strange to have some feeling, for a long time I was without it.
"Oh, Bella." I'm tired of her sighs. "I know how hard—no, I actually don't, but—"
"Alice—just...please...I will deal with it when I can. Okay?"
"Can you now? We're all ready. You know his favorite places. More than we do."
I look down, try to remember, but I can't. The image of the meadow hurts more than a few trees and some grass should. Alice looks at me imploringly.
"Okay..." I don't know what I'm getting myself into, and I can feel the empty hole in my chest start to tear, a little more than ever before.
I scatter, but each grain and flake is dearer to me than my own life, or my own anything, other than him. The fine gray sand drifts between my fingers, coating them with gray dust. First the meadow, but then the school, his house, my house, and, because I want everything, the Italian restaurant, because I can't leave anything out.
A strange peace settles on me, a kind of acceptance, although I will never accept. With the Cullens behind me, next to me, and Alice always helping, encouraging, with them all encouraging and strengthening me...well, it is easier. But it is never easy, and it never will be. I won't forget, and I won't...
I get home, the doorbell rings, knocks on the door, it's Jacob, and Jasper behind him. The moment I open the door a feeling of calm serenity rushes, or more like flows over me, and I smile at Jasper, thankful, although I will regret it.
"Hey," Jacob says.
I smile at him, but it's not really a smile. I wonder why he came with Jasper, they hate each other, to the point of violence.
"I—we just came to see how you were doing..." Jake begins uncertainly.
I walk to the sink, set a glass on the counter, and turn on the filtered water. I turn to Jake and Jasper while it fills up.
"I'm fine, really."
"They told me what you did today."
He sighs. "Bells..."
"I really want you to...come on. Quil and Embry want to see you. We can go cliff diving."
I look at him skeptically. "Come on," he pleads. I glance at Jasper, and he's grinning. "Go on, have fun."
Fun? Can I? Can I even dream about it? Apparently I can. I don't know whether to be happy or sad. Happy's impossible, but I can't be...
I turn and walk with Jacob out the door, though my heart is still miles and years and minutes and seconds and memories away, and the glass fills up and spills over on the counter behind me.