(Disclaimer- Stephenie Meyer Owns these characters. I unfortunately do not.)
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Invitations and Accusations
"Look at these ones!" Alice chirped. She was leaning over the back of the passenger seat of the Volvo, looking over my shoulder at the wedding magazine she had just thrown at me. "I really like those crystal ones. They're gorgeous, don't you think so? Or do you like the other ones?"
"Er…" I looked at the picture she was pointing at. One set of cups was taller than the other. There was no other difference. I pursed my lips. "Does it really matter?"
"Of course it matters! This has to be perfect. Come on, you have to pick one." She looked at me with the saddest expression on her angel's face. It was one that I was beginning to know very well. "Don't you want me to be happy Bella? Just pick one itty bitty picture, and I'll be happy. You won't have to do anything else, I promise." She stared at me, her lower lip jutting out, and blinked innocently. I scowled at her and pointed without looking.
"Oh come on Bella, you just pointed at a picture of candles! You have to start taking this a little more seriously! This is your wedding we're talking about!"
"Are you sure? It sure doesn't feel like it." I muttered, looking away from her. Edward squeezed my hand.
"Bella! Do you want me to do this or not?" She snapped.
"Yes, of course I want you to do this, Alice. But is my opinion really necessary?"
She rolled her eyes, sighing dramatically. "Yes, it's necessary. Now pick one!" She ordered, her musical voice unusually loud in my ear. I flinched back from the sound of it before pointing to the taller glasses.
She grinned. "Yes. Now we just have to pick out some more napkins." She sang, flipping eagerly through a different, thicker magazine. I groaned.
"What do you mean more napkins?"
I had spent the whole entire previous night confined in Alice's room surrounded by wedding magazines. After hours of picking out the fanciest silverware and napkins, I couldn't take it any longer. Who would have thought that there were so many different types of napkins? And now she wanted more?
"Yes. I was thinking that we should have different types of napkins for different people. One set for friends, one for family, one for soon-to-be-family, like me," She paused to smile hugely. "And then one for you and Edward, of course."
"That's hardly necessary, Alice." Edward's voice made me jump. He hadn't spoken since we had left the library in Port Angeles. "Bella and I don't need our own napkins, and I don't think anyone else will be upset that all the napkins match." He smirked at his eccentric sister. She made a face at him and went on as if he hadn't spoken.
"Don't even think that you're skipping out on Rosalie and me tomorrow, either, Bella. We want this to be perfect, and you have to incorporate, too." She continued. All of this wedding stuff was really starting to take its toll on me. I sighed, trying feebly to block her out, and contented myself with watching Edward watch me. His probing eyes flickered to Alice's face and turned into a pair of topaz daggers.
"Alice. That's enough." He hissed through clenched teeth. "Bella needs to get home to Charlie. She has some sleeping to catch up on. Now out." He reached back and opened her door for her. I looked around, stunned to realize that we were already in front of their house. Alice stuck her tongue out at him before dancing out of the shiny vehicle and bolting gracefully to the steps of the big white home. His mouth twitched at the corners, fighting a smile. Then she turned around and gave him a strange look. Her eyes narrowed as though in warning and she pursed her lips. His features hardened.
"What was that about?" I asked, curious, watching her disappear through the doorway.
"She wants you to pick out more napkins, that's all." Edward turned back to me and sighed, his expression back to normal, stroking my face with the tips of his fingers. "We could still go to Vegas, you know." He reminded me for the hundredth time. His eyes were intense; they made it very hard to think. Somehow I managed to get my mind working properly enough to respond to him.
"No. I've already made the decision."
"It isn't too late to change your mind." He insisted, taking my hand in his. He was already backing out of the long, hidden drive, on his way back to Charlie's house. I rarely even thought to remind him to keep his eyes on the road anymore. What with his being able to read minds and react faster than any one person in the world can, it was not something that I needed to worry about-especially compared to the many other problems that had been threatening my sanity lately. Sure, the wedding was high on the list of things that were making me mentally decompose, but there were other things that I found to be much more menacing.
There was the Volturi, the huge royal vampire clan in Volterra, Italy, that was intent on making sure that my heart stop beating and my blood run cold one way or the other. And Jacob-the most difficult of my problems. He was the most difficult because, well, it isn't exactly easy trying to be friends with someone you're in love with when you're marrying someone else whom you love more. It didn't help, either, that I missed him. I knew that I shouldn't, and I tried not to, but I did. I tried to avoid the subject with Edward, too, but that also wasn't easy. It was something that was constantly on my mind ever since the last time I'd seen him the day of the fight. The only updates I got on Jacob's recovery came from Charlie, and I hadn't exactly been on the best of terms with him, either, so my information was very limited.
"Bella? Are you alright?" Edward's voice startled me again and I jumped in my seat, smacking my head on the window.
"Ouch." I muttered, rubbing it. I scowled out the window and was not surprised to find that we were parked in front of Charlie's house. It had started to rain. I sighed, looking at Edward. His copper hair was blowing slightly in the wind that entered through the open window; his golden eyes were fixated on me, his eyebrows pulling together in worry, but his mouth twisted slightly with humor. Even when making faces he was many more degrees beautiful than I could ever hope to be. I stared at him for a minute before answering.
"I'm fine, why?" I asked, somewhat dazed.
"Well first of all, you just smacked your head against the window." He chuckled once and pressed his lips together, trying not to laugh again. "And you've been very quiet." He murmured, a little more sober, his thumb rubbing soothing circles into the back of my hand. "Are you still upset about Alice?"
"No," I shook my head. Alice was the very least of my worries. "I was actually worrying…." I paused, biting my lip. Edward's eyes narrowed slightly. "About Charlie." I concluded. It wasn't exactly what I had been worrying about at the moment, but it was definitely something to think about. It was obvious that Edward didn't need to hear about Jacob.
Charlie had been being very difficult, anyway. I should be worrying about him. If I had thought he didn't like Edward before, he hated him now. I'd never seen him so completely irate before. I'd known he would act this way to an extent, but he pushed the limits. Even Edward was surprised.
"What do you mean, 'married'!?" He'd shouted at me. He continued to harass Edward, pointing a finger in his face and accusing him of corrupting my morals and my intellect. Edward just sat there, politely nodding all the while, his eyes always on my face, measuring my reactions.
"You're so wrapped up in this…this…boy," He spat at me, completely oblivious to the irony of questioning the word. "That you can't even see how blind you're being! Do you honestly think that he'll want to be with you twenty years from now? No! It doesn't work like that. You don't just hop out of high school and get married at eighteen! Be sensible Bella! You're being completely ridiculous!"
Despite the menace in his voice, I also detected the pain and the fear that he kept hidden there beneath it. I knew that he was terrified that I'd wind up like him or Renee. After all, they had been in the same predicament, and Renee had up and left, taking me along with her, and leaving Charlie in the cold, lonely rain that my mother despised so much. I sighed, wondering when he would get over her and move on. He couldn't remain committed only to his work and his fishing pole. It wasn't healthy.
"Don't worry about Charlie, Bella. His thoughts are comparatively calm as to what they were yesterday. I don't think that he'll give us much of a problem. Besides, if he does, you can always stay at my house again." He offered.
I groaned, throwing my head into my hands, trying to block the memory. Though I did enjoy my time spent with the Cullens, I did not want to play the moving-out card again - not so close to the time when I actually would be moving out. It wouldn't be fair to Charlie to do that again. Of course, it had helped, a teensy bit, when I left and stayed at Edward's house for the week last week. When I returned to Charlie's yesterday, at least he'd seemed to have learned that I was not joking about moving away from him. At least I had that much going for me when it came to Charlie.
A cold white hand slipped under my chin, forcing me to look up. I sighed, focusing on Edward's face again. He seemed pretty confident about Charlie not being in too bad of a mood. He smiled at me, coaxing me to smile back. When it didn't work, he reached over with his other hand to pull up the side of my mouth with his index finger.
"Come on, Bella. It'll be alright. I won't let go of you for a second, I promise." He smiled my favorite crooked smile. I blinked, trying to remember the sarcastic remark I had been about to make.
"Yeah, that will really make Charlie happy. Great thinking." I rolled my eyes, secretly rejoicing in the triumph of my memory.
"Fine then. I won't touch you once." He shrugged, his face smug, his hands pulling away from me. I grabbed them quickly and held them in my own.
"You won't let go of me?" I confirmed, leaning toward him.
"Not once." He grinned again, taking back one of his hands. He held my face to his and smiled before kissing me lightly on the mouth.
We got out of the car and walked up the short drive. Charlie's police cruiser was in its usual place next to my rusted red pickup. I sighed. I hadn't seen much of my truck lately. I kind of missed it. I supposed that I could deal with it as long as I was with Edward, though. Just then he squeezed my hand, looking down at me and winking, something he had not done since back when I had first met him. I blinked at him in wonder, but his expression quickly changed to confusion as his eyes flickered back to the house.
Charlie opened the door before we could get to it.
"Charlie?" I called to him, confused. "Where are you going?" He barely looked at me as he continued on to his car. He had his fishing pole in one hand, cell phone in the other. He was just snapping the phone shut. Since when did Charlie have a cell phone?
"Fishing with Billy. I'll be back later." He replied vaguely. Then he paused, looking at me curiously. "Unless you're here to tell me something." The way he said this was strange, more like a question instead of a statement, and I couldn't quite detect the undercurrent in his voice. I waited before answering, trying to dissect his expression and make sense of his words.
"Not really. Why?" I asked hesitantly, unsure of what he was getting at. He had an odd expression on his face. It was an almost comical combination of doubt, hope, anger, annoyance, and suspicion. He shrugged.
"See ya." He called to us from the window of his car. Then he peeled out of the driveway.
"What was that all about?" I asked Edward. I was thoroughly confused. Sure, fishing was usual for Charlie, but not so much when it was seven thirty at night and raining. I shook my head at the enigmatic behavior my father displayed.
"He called Billy the minute we pulled up. He's decided to give us the silent treatment, sort of. I don't think he'd care if we were smack dab in the middle of a tornado. Nothing could have made him stay here, except of course, you canceling the wedding." He glanced at me hesitantly from the corner of his eye. I gasped.
"What are you talking about? What did you hear?"
He pursed his lips, obviously debating whether or not it was right to tell me. Edward was oddly moral in that he didn't like to share other people's thoughts. He tried not to listen to others thoughts at all. He said that it was a lack of privacy and respect. People's thoughts are in their heads for a reason. They are not meant to be heard, otherwise they would be spoken. I rolled my eyes, tapping my foot impatiently.
"When he… asked if you had something to tell him, he was hoping that you had maybe come to tell him that we were calling off the wedding." He finally told me, smiling reluctantly. My eyes widened.
"How could he be so hopeful?" I asked, more to myself than anything. I shook my head in disbelief. Charlie knew how I felt about Edward. He should know better than to think that I might change my mind.
Edward shrugged, leading me through the door of the house. The lights were still on in the kitchen, the dinner dishes dirty in the sink.
"Wow. He left in a hurry, huh?"
Edward smiled. "Like I said, he is avoiding us like the plague. He wants to show you what its like to be on your own. Or, at least, that is how he justifies his behavior to himself. He is hoping that you will realize how naïve you're being."
I snorted. Yeah, like that would ever happen. Charlie was so clueless sometimes. I went to the sink and began scrubbing at the remainders of scrambled eggs and bacon left on the plate as Edward sat at the table, staring pensively out the window. Something about his expression was off. I scrubbed harder, thinking about any possible causes for his stress.
After several long minutes of silence, I gave up and tried focusing on a different curiosity entirely.
"What did you do last night?" I asked.
"Er…what?" He looked at me suddenly, a slightly shocked expression on his face. My eyebrows pulled together. He was acting funny.
"Last night, when I was looking through magazines with Alice. Where did you sneak off to?" I watched him carefully, looking for clues in his expressions. He must have realized what I was doing, because his face quickly became a serene mask. I pursed my lips and dried the dishes, waiting for his response.
"I was hunting." He answered after a moment. His eyes narrowed, reading my expression like I was reading his. For some reason that I couldn't quite understand, I didn't believe him. Though it would not be the first time he had lied to me, trust had never really been much of an issue before. I wondered why he might lie to me about this as the conversation died and I returned the dishes to their rightful places.
Edward sighed. "So…" He started to say something else, but the phone cut him off. I watched as his eyes flashed quickly to the receiver. Why did he look panicked?
I picked up the phone, still watching Edward carefully. His expression was back to the suspiciously unreadable mask again. "Hello?" I said into the phone.
"Bella?" The voice on the line was not one that I had been expecting. I stared at the phone for a second, startled. "Bella?" The voice repeated.
"Sam?" I gasped. I did not miss the anxious look that came into Edward's eyes as I said this. He was in my face in a second, reaching for the phone. I blinked, handing it to him without thinking.
"Sam." Edward's voice was smooth, alert. He said nothing else as he listened to the reply. I wondered what Sam Uley would be calling Charlie for. Then suddenly, suspicion took over and it all fell into place. Sam was not calling for Charlie; Sam had been calling for me. And whatever it was that Edward had not been telling me, Sam surely knew. I gasped, looking up at Edward accusingly.
"What is it? What aren't you telling me?" I demanded, grabbing at the phone. Edward spun around quickly, dodging my attack, and I narrowly avoided smacking my face into the counter. I heard Sam's voice get louder and was surprised to hear the new accusatory tone that colored it. He sounded just as angry as I was. I glared at Edward's anxious face. His lips pressed into a tight line as he listened to whatever Sam was yelling at him.
"Let me talk to him!" I shouted at him, my hands curling into fists. Edward only glared back at me.
"No. No, I didn't." He said grudgingly to Sam. There was a pause. "I think that you should be able to connect the dots, don't you think?" The acid in his voice only made me angrier. What was going on? Why was Sam calling? Was Jacob okay?
"Let me talk to him, Edward!" I repeated, my voice now a shrill shrieking. It hurt my ears, but I continued to scream at him anyway. "Edward Cullen! You hand me that phone right this instant! This is not nice!" I stomped my foot again like I had that time with Jacob. If I wasn't so angry, I would have laughed at the memory. Edward raised his eyebrows in surprise. His jaw flexed.
I could still hear Sam yelling on the other end of the phone, but Edward cut him off. "I'll have her call you back." He said, pressing the 'end' button.
My jaw hurt from grinding my teeth so hard, but I waited, teeth clenched, for him to say something to me. He stood there, staring at me with worried, uncertain eyes for a long moment. He didn't say anything.
"What the hell is wrong with you?" I shouted, unable to keep from screaming anymore. I smacked my fist against the counter. It hurt. "Why do you always do this!? Just tell me!" The tears slid from my eyes, the first sign of weakness. I silently cursed the horrible tendency, turning my back on him. Why did I always have to cry?
Cold arms suddenly wrapped around my waist, turning me and pulling me to the body they belonged to. I pushed against him, turning my face away.
"No." I tried to make my voice sound assertive, but the sound that escaped my lips was awfully frail. "Tell me, Edward. Now." I looked up at him. He was looking at the floor, his face crumpled in what appeared to be shame.
"I'm sorry." He murmured. "I didn't think you'd be able to handle it if you knew…" His voice trailed off and his eyes flickered to my face. I was shocked to see the pain in them, but not calm enough to comfort him yet.
"What are you talking about?" I yelled, not in the mood for a long explanation. I just wanted the answer-straight and simple.
"Jac-" He started to explain, but I couldn't stop myself from responding once I heard the first syllable.
"What happened to Jacob?" My heart pounded unevenly and I suddenly felt very dizzy. Not this again. Not Jacob, again.
"Bella," Edward's voice was slightly panicked, like a victim trying to calm down an attacker who was undergoing an episode. "Bella, calm down. Please, calm down."
I closed my eyes, trying to do as he said. Leaning against the counter, I attempted to breathe evenly through my mouth. "What happened to Jacob?" I repeated. My voice was bleak, monotone.
"You're going to be very angry with me, but I need you to stay calm, okay?" His voice sounded nervous. My stomach dropped and I nodded weakly. He sighed, reluctant. "Bella…I sent Jacob a wedding invitation." He started again. My eyes popped open in shock and my jaw dropped. I had not been expecting this. He cautioned me with his eyes before continuing. "I thought that he deserved to have a choice. I would have liked to have had the choice if I were in his position…." He paused. I stared at him, frozen in an inescapable lake of emotions, as he thought.
"Jacob ran away, Bella." He watched me carefully as he said this, afraid, I assumed, that I would have some kind of an outburst. My hands shook.
"What do you mean, he ran away?" My voice sounded different. It didn't sound like me. Edward pursed his lips, his eyebrows pulling together in worry.
"Last night Billy called me." He put his hand over my mouth when I opened it to accuse him. "Yes, I lied. I'm sorry. Billy called me and told me that Jacob was gone. He left as a wolf, so no one had worried about it. They would all know where he was. But…" He stopped to sigh. "They can't hear his thoughts anymore when they're wolves. They don't know whether he has just gone back to his human form again, or if maybe he is too far away for them to be able to hear him anymore."
I blinked. It was all that I was capable of. I couldn't decide who to be angrier with: Edward or myself. I couldn't help but be angry with Edward for sending Jacob that invitation. He should have known that Jacob wouldn't be able to handle it. But even more so I hated myself for having let it come to this. What had I done? I needed to find Jacob.