Evening Falls

Welcome to the first chapter of Evening Falls, my second Twilight fanfic. This story is a sequel to Extraordinary, and while it's not completely necessary to read that one first, I'd strongly recommend it. It's not too long (13 chapters) and it will help you to understand who Elisa is, and why she's part of Bella and Edward's story. This story takes place post Eclipse.

This story is rated T for Teen but...well, let's face it. Teen oriented stuff is pretty harsh these days. Don't expect utter gore and graphic sex scenes (I know; I'm disappointed too :p ) but there are some slight sexual references, mild (almost non-existent) language, and violence. Proceed at your own risk. :)

I think you all know the drill...Stephenie Meyer holds all the Twilight copyrights, created all the characters and storylines, has all the talent, money, and success. I own squat. Wah!

I love reviews. Please let me know what you think. :)

Chapter One: Just A Girl

'I'm just a girl in the world...'

Elisa

"And without thinking, without worrying about the fact that fifty people were watching, Harry kissed her..."

"It's about time, Harry." I muttered, turning the page as I shifted to a more comfortable position in the dining room chair. "She's only been waiting on you to get a clue for five years..."

Somewhere in the distance, there was a click and then a low buzzing noise filled the kitchen, but I was miles away, picturing Harry and Ginny strolling the green grounds of Hogwarts hand in hand.

Brrrriiiing! I jumped a mile as the round timer on the table next to me began to peal. Jumping up, I immediately registered the rich smells filling the kitchen and the sound of the oven timer going off behind me. Dinner was done-no more time for daydreaming. Quickly I tossed my copy of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince on the kitchen counter and turned off my own timer with a grateful click. Buying a back up timer was probably the smartest five bucks I'd ever spent...without it I would have probably burnt the house down by now, lost as I could get in my own head.

By the time I heard the front door open I'd put Mom's potato and fettucine casserole on the stove to cool, gotten the bowl of salad out of the fridge and onto the table, and was setting bowls at everyone's place.

"Take a shower, Colby!" I heard my father yell after my little brother as Colby went tearing up the stairs with barely a hi to me. He must have been dying to check the latest football scores on my computer.

Hey, Elisa." My father's voice was cautious as he made his way from the front room into the dining room. I saw him relax as he saw the nearly set table. "Looks good...do you need any help?"

"Hmmm..." I looked around. "It's about done but if you can get me a stack of plates..."

Agreeably, my father went over to the cupboard and got the plates for everyone as I quickly got the bottles of salad dressing from the fridge. He put the stack on the table and then went back to get the casserole for me, probably so I wouldn't drop it all over the kitchen floor and spoil what was looking more and more like a completely accident free night.

I was just about to sit down, my father and brother already at the table, when Dad reached behind him, picked up my Harry Potter book off the counter, and handed it to me.

"Harry Potter again?" he asked with a smile, his blue eyes crinkled at the corner. "Haven't you memorized that series by now?"

I smiled sheepishly as I put the book near my glass of Sprite. "Pretty much." I admitted.

"Hmm." Dad looked at me with that perplexed expression he so often got these days, the look that said he was trying his hardest to think of something to say to keep the conversation going. I supressed a smile. Really, it was nice to see him make the effort. A few months ago, he wouldn't have bothered-back then he had apparently accepted that we did not, nor would we ever have anything in common. But that was before... I shook my head. So much had happened these last few months...more than I had energy to remember at the moment.

"Whatever happened to those Moonlight books you used to like so much?" Dad's voice brought me out of my own thoughts again.

"Twilight, Dad." I corrected automatically, then swallowed. What happened to Twilight indeed...he had no idea what he was asking. The books that I had once loved so much, that had been my escape from everything, were still locked in a trunk upstairs in my closet, where they had been for months. There had been many, many times that I had been tempted to just forget everything that had happened and get them out once more. I missed them like I missed a vital body part...like I had lost something that had been such a big part of me that I would never be quite the same without it. But I couldn't go back there...Twilight was more than a book series to me. Far, far more. Getting lost in those books again could mean losing myself for real, and I couldn't take that chance.

"Elisa?" Dad was still looking at me. "Everything ok?" His eyes were a little worried now.

"Oh yeah." I forced a smile and picked up my fork. "Um, I guess I just..." I couldn't bring myself to say that I got tired of the Twilight series. It was such an enormous lie I just couldn't force the words past my lips.

Dad shrugged, assuming what I was going to say. "Outgrew them, did you? You know, Elisa, if you're running out of things to read you should go to the bookstore this weekend, use that credit card Mom and I got you and stock up."

Colby scowled and slumped in his seat, folding his arms across his unimpressive twelve-year old chest. "So unfair that Elisa gets a credit card and I don't." He grumbled loudly for about the millionth time.

I rolled my eyes. "Hello, Colby, how many times do we have to remind you that the only reason that I have enough money in my account to pay for a credit card is because of the accident settlement? Believe me, if some Valium popping idiot runs over you someday and breaks half the bones in your body, you'll definitely deserve the comfort only Visa can bring you. Until then, remember that I'll be using that card to do your Christmas shopping and be grateful."

Colby brightened. "Elisa, have I told you lately that you're the best sister ever?" he grinned sweetly at me.

I sighed. I was so going to get snowed into buying him an X-Box, I just knew it.

"Speaking of the idiot..." My dad's voice was a growl now. He hated talking about the guy who had hit me the previous March. It still galled him beyond belief that he'd never been able to get the man alone and deal his own justice, the legal kind being far too lenient for his taste. "I got the monthly report from his probation officer, saying he's doing well, still drug free, all that crap. Bastard almost killed my little girl and that's supposed to make me feel better. Should be in jail the rest of his useless, stinking life."

I nodded in agreement. As far as my whole family was concerned, the only redeeming quality that the driver of the car that had hit me possessed was the fact that he'd had had really good insurance. Most of the money from the fairly large settlement he'd been forced to pay my family went into my college fund and to pay off the medical bills that our health insurance didn't cover, but there had still been enough for my parents to set up my own bank account and get me a credit card. I guess they felt I'd deserved something for all the pain I went through and I had to agree.

It had been weeks of suffering and agony as I tried to recover from my numerous injuries. I'd broken both my right arm and my right leg in the accident, plus several ribs. I'd also ruptured my spleen, which had to be removed. Scariest of all for my parents were the head injuries that had left me unresponsive for over eleven hours while the doctors told them that I might never wake up. To this day, I didn't remember most of what had happened the day of my accident. At least nothing that had happened here, anyway. What had been going on in my head while I lay between life and death was a whole different story...

I shook my head, determined to get off that dangerous road before my memories became too vivid. Luckily, my mother chose that moment to make her entrance.

"Hello, everyone!" She sang out as she came through the front door, shrugging out of her light overcoat. "Elisa, everything looks wonderful!" She came into the dining room, eyeing the table and then patting my hair fondly. "You're such a help to me...what would I do without you?"

"Hi sweetheart!" Dad jumped up to kiss my mother lightly. "Sorry, Anne, I thought you'd be later or we would have waited."

Mom shook her head, still smiling as she sat down next to me. "I managed to duck out a bit early and I also wrangled a long weeked off." She beamed at us. "I think we should all go somewhere together, before the weather turns too dismal."

"Sounds good. We'll talk about it tonight." Dad turned back to his plate.

I stood up to take my own empty plate to the sink and Mom looked up. "Are you finished already, Elisa?"

I nodded. "I think I'm going to go upstairs and get ready for bed."

Mom's face immediately turned concerned. "This early? Are you feeling alright? Is your arm bothering you, or your head? We can take you to the doctor's-"

"Relax, Mom." I laughed, and then swung my arm in a circle so she could see how easily it moved. "I'm all healed, remember? I'm just a little tired, plus I have a lot of homework." I groaned softly as I realized the truth of that statement.

"Well, OK, then if you're sure..." Mom still looked doubtful, so I flashed her my best 'all is well' grin as I left the kitchen and then hurried up the stairs to my room.

It was a relief to be alone once again. It seemed like I didn't get much time any more to sit down with my own thoughts. My life was so crammed...it was September and I was starting my sophomore year still a bit behind after all I'd missed last school year thanks to my weeks in the hospital and at home on bed rest. Plus a million new activities were popping up...I'd had to give up my spot on the cheerleading squad since my doctors didn't want me doing stunts, but I'd been taking dance classes since summer and we had recital auditions soon. I'd also joined the drama club at school and was trying to talk myself out of taking a creative writing elective as well next semester. On top of all that, my friend Vanessa was trying to get me to run for Student Council, which had to be her craziest idea ever, considering my utter lack of any type of organizational or leadership skills. Plus I had to schedule in two study sessions a week with my math tutor on top of everything else and I just didn't know where I was going to find the time for everything.

I had to admit though, that I did have an ulterior motive to keeping so crazy-busy, and it wasn't just because I was trying to catch up on everything I'd missed during my convalescence. It was because when I was quiet, relaxed and alone, like now, the memories came back. Memories...or were they fantasies? All those crazy dreams I'd had, before my accident, dreams where I went into another world, a world where my favorite story characters from Twilight actually lived, and I was part of their lives. I changed their lives...with some totally disastrous consequences.

Still, for that short time that I'd had them, I lived for those dreams. I loved being part of another world, even as frightening and dangerous as it had been for me. It was the world I'd always wanted to be a part of. It was so much more than I could ever imagine, and I missed it. I missed them. But I couldn't let myself think like that, like it had all been real. It couldn't have been. No one else remembered the way things had changed because of my actions. Of course I'd changed it back, so they wouldn't remember but...no. It was crazy. OK, crazy wasn't the right word. I hadn't even realized, until I was able to look back on it later, how depressed I had been then. My friend Nancy had suggested that maybe I'd made it all up in my head to escape my life and I'd accepted she was right. I'd moved on. I hardly ever even thought about it anymore.

OK, that was such a lie. It was true that for a long time, I had been able to keep myself occupied enough to not linger on it, but lately, the forbidden thoughts had been creeping in on me more and more, filling me with a longing for something I knew I could never have again. I couldn't deny it-I wanted to go back, at least one more time, see them again, Bella, Edward, Carlisle...everyone. I couldn't. It was completely selfish and irrational of me to want to get lost in fantasyland again. I had a really good life now. Everything had been going so well, and I couldn't risk it for a bunch of daydreams.

My mind firmly made up once more, I hurried through my homework, setting the hated math aside for my tutor to go over the next day, showered, and got ready for bed. Once I was in my pajama bottoms and tank top, I carefully cleared off my night table except for the well used oil burner that was always there. Then I poured a small amount of lavender oil into the burner and lit the candle at the bottom, frowning as I realized how low my oil supply was getting. Not that oil was essential for meditation, but I liked it. I'd have to stop at Nancy's shop soon and pick up some more. Then I turned my CD player on low, hopped onto my bed, crossed my legs and closed my eyes, inhaling deeply as the melodious voice sounded from the speakers.

It was my nightly ritual before bed, meditation. I'd started way back when I was still in the hospital, after Nancy had sent me a gift basket replacing all of my supplies that had been destroyed in the accident. I'd come to rely on it, although my parents had been convinced for weeks that it was just some New Age phase that I was going through. They had no idea how badly I needed the relaxation and control it helped me achieve. I couldn't be 100% sure that it was responsible for the fact that my Twilight dreams had never returned. Maybe they just hadn't come back because I had finally convinced myself that I didn't need them any more. Still, it was better to be safe than sorry.

Once my CD had ended I blew out the candle, clicked off the light, and settled back against my pillows, looking out the window at the moon in the dark sky as my eyelids got heavier and heavier, finally sending me off into a peaceful, dreamless sleep.

Bella

"You're not paying attention, Bella!" Alice's voice drilled into my ears and I sighed, tearing my eyes away from the window and focusing back on her.

"Sorry." I mumbled untruthfully. "Um..." I tried to concentrate and remember what she had been going on about, but my mind was blank. "Um...what were we talking about again?"

"The invitations, Bella." Alice nearly growled, exasperated. She tapped her brilliantly red nails next to several squares of paper on the dining room table in front of me. "Pick one. Please."

I sighed and forced myself to look at the sample invitations that had been done up for us. "Alice, they all look the same!"

"They are not the same!" Alice snapped. "Bella, come on. The first one is cream colored, with the Sutton script. The second is icebone, with the Vivaldi font. The third is beige, and the font is Scriptina. I narrowed it down for you...now please just pick one!"

"Alice, you do know that cream, beige, and icebone are all just fancy, over-priced ways of saying 'white', don't you?" I raised my eyebrows at her.

Alice exhaled loudly. "Bella..."

"OK, fine, fine, I'm picking!" I threw my hands up in surrender and looked at the invitations again. They remained stubbornly similiar, just small squares of white paper in slightly different hues, and the only differences in the fancy script that I could really see was the some letters slanted in different angles. I screwed my eyes shut for a moment in concentration and then opened them again.

"OK, I got it." I looked at the invitations and began to point at each in turn. "Eeny, meny, miney, mo..."

"Bella!" Alice slapped her hands over her eyes. "You can't eeny meny miney mo a decision like this!"

I ignored her as I continued. "...my mom told me to pick the very best and you...are...not...IT!" I pointed at the first one, the one she'd described as cream colored. "That one." I sat back, satisfied. Now maybe she'd get off my back for a while.

"Bella, you are completely hopeless." Alice groaned as she resignedly put the rejected invitations away. "How can you be so cavalier about this? It's your wedding day!"

"Which I thought you were going to take care of." I gave her a pointed look. "And yet I have been over here just about every single day since graduation, looking at sample books and hors d'oeuvres menus for hours. Alice, I don't care about this stuff! I told you, I just wanted a simple, quick ceremony, preferably in a Las Vegas drive-thru. You're the one who wanted a big production."

Alice was pouting now, slumped back in her chair. She still looked like a pixie princess come to life, even with her lower lip nearly hitting the floor. "I guess I just thought you'd get more excited as time went on. It's just not natural, not caring about your own wedding. C'mon, Bella, aren't you excited at all? Don't you want to marry my brother?"

I groaned. "That's a trick question and you know it."

"Well?" Alice persisted, leaning towards me now, her dark eyes wide. "Don't you?"

I sighed. "If you're asking whether I want to spend the rest of eternity committed to Edward, yes. A thousand times yes. Whether I think it's necessary to have an over the top ceremony and a wedding certificate in order to do that...no. I think it's silly and pretentious and...human."

Alice opened her mouth to object and I silenced her with a look. "I'm still going through with it. I know what it means to Edward. And I'm fully committed to having the very best wedding ceremony too. Isn't that enough? Do I really have to sit here day after day and be tortured with inconsequentials?"

Alice frowned. "I suppose you've been a good sport about everything." She admitted after a moment of thought. "Alright, let's compromise. You have to be part of the big decisions and you have to take them seriously. I know it's not your thing but I don't want you to look back on this day years from now and regret that it wasn't really yours. But all the little stuff...napkin colors, place settings, menu options, etc...I'll take of those decisions and I promise not to make you crazy over every little thing. Deal?"

I thought about for a minute, then smiled, reaching out to take her small hand. "Deal." We shook firmly.

Alice's smile faded almost instantly as I climbed to my feet. "Where do you think you're going?" she demanded.

"I thought we were done for today!" I wailed as I took in her stern expression. "Didn't we just come to an agreement?"

"Yes, we did." Alice gave me a 'sit back down or be eaten' look and I reluctantly complied. "We do still have some major decisions to make, Bella, and we have less than two months to do it. For instance, we have five bridesmaids' dresses that still need to be made, and we haven't even picked the colors yet. We definitely need to get moving on that as soon as possible."

I shot her a puzzled look. "Five bridesmaid dresses?" I counted silently in my head. "There are only four bridesmaids, Alice. You, Rosalie, Angela, and Jessica."

Alice looked confused for a minute and then her face cleared. "That's right. I keep forgetting that the fifth bridesmaid was a longshot." She shook her head and then frowned again. "I still can't believe you asked Jessica. This is too special of a day to have it shared with people you barely even like."

I shrugged. "She was my first friend in Forks. Maybe it was not the most lasting, deepest friendship I've ever had, but I guess I was feeling nostalgic. Anyway, she's thrilled about it...you know, I'll bet she'd LOVE to spend hours pouring over all the minute details with you if you need company."

Alice's curled lip told me exactly what she thought of that suggestion, and I hurried to change the subject before she started complaining again. "Wait a second...who did you think was going to be the fifth bridesmaid? There isn't anyone else I would have seriously considered, except Esme, and she's taking care of all the mother of the bride duties since Renee..." I broke off with a pang as I thought of my mother. "That's it, isn't it? You thought maybe Renee would participate? Can mothers of the bride even be bridesmaids?" I sighed and shook my head. "Not that it would ever happen now anyway."

"Oh, Bella." Alice's face was soft and sympathetic now. "She's still not taking your calls?"

I shook my head dully, my face grim as I recalled the showdown with my parents over my marriage plans. Charlie had pretty much taken the news the way I'd expected-with a lot of red faced shouting, name-calling, and a few thinly veiled threats aimed in Edward's direction. Still, the whole ordeal hadn't been nearly as bad as I'd expected. Beneath all the screaming, there had been a definite note of resignation in Charlie's voice, almost like he'd expected it all along. Maybe he had-he'd surprised me with his intuition on more than one occasion. Anyway, he wasn't happy about the fact that Edward and I were getting married, something he made clear on a near hourly basis, but he was going along with it, however reluctantly.

Renee was a whole other story. After telling my father, breaking the news to her had almost seemed easy. Sure, she had never been big on the idea of me marrying young after what she'd been through with my father, but she knew I wasn't her, that I was more mature and level-headed. Plus she'd seen me and Edward together-she knew we had more then the typical high school romance. I had been certain that even if she was upset, she'd swallow her disappointment and accept our plans with good grace.

Boy, had I ever been wrong. Renee had become absolutely furious with me when I told her I was engaged. No amount of explaining, crying, and pleading could get through to her. She told me over and over that I was making a mistake, that I was too young, that I needed to wait. When that didn't work, she flat out asked me why we couldn't wait a few years, at least until I was finished with college. There was no explanation that I could give her. I couldn't tell her the truth, of course, and anything else sounded shallow and lame, even to me. That was enough to convince her that I was being unforgivably stupid and stubborn. When she told me that she couldn't condone my decision and she wouldn't be a part of it, it was a crushing blow. I never thought that my own mother wouldn't be there on one of the most important days of my life. Renee had no idea how much more I was choosing by marrying Edward. Another world, another life...one that she couldn't be a part of. I thought at least I'd get the chance to say goodbye...

A hopeful thought struck me and I looked up at Alice, brightening slightly. "Alice, have you seen something? Is Renee going to change her mind? Will she be there after all?"

Alice raised her eyebrow and her lips curved into a playful smile. "Bella, are you asking me to tell you the future? Because that would be cheating." She crossed her arms across her chest and grinned smugly.

"You cheat all the time!" I burst out. "Come on, Alice, give me a hint. It would make me feel so much better if I knew what to do to make things right with her. Please? Pretty please?"

Alice hopped off the chair and to her feet, still smiling. "Nope, sorry, Bella. This is one situation you really need to figure out yourself. I'm going to go upstairs and get the fabric samples for you to look over. Be right back!" Giggling fiendishly, she streaked out of the room, leaving me fuming. Vampires...they could be so freaking annoying.

Alice was back before I'd had time to work up to a full-fledged temper tantrum. "Here you go!" she sang, tossing a small board with dozens of swaths of fabric towards me. "Why don't you start by eliminating the ones that you absolutely can't stand? That should be easy enough. While you do that, I'm going to narrow down the guest list. I need you to approve it when I'm done, but I am going to leave some open space for unexpected guests. You just never know who might drop by out of the blue."

"Actually, you do." I pointed out, my eyes narrowing. "And I expect advance warning of any surprises."

Alice's face was unexpectedly serious. "I'll do my best, Bella, but I don't see everything. For instance, our trans-dimensional hitchhiker definitely caught me off guard. I keep waiting for her to show up again, maybe just fall through the ceiling and land at our feet when we least expect it."

"Elisa." I smiled at the memory. "She was definitely...interesting. I really don't think she's coming back though. She seemed pretty determined when she said she wasn't."

Alice sighed. "I know. It's just that...Elisa was so excited about your wedding." She started to laugh. "And I thought I was happy about it...you should have seen your face when she looked at your ring and started screaming. I just can't believe she's not the least bit tempted to come back for it."

I shrugged. "I wouldn't mind if she did, but I think Elisa's more than aware of the risks of coming back again. Last time she almost got stuck here forever. I wouldn't get your hopes up if I were you."

Alice exhaled again. "You're right. It's too bad though. Most of the things that surprise me are sinister and disturbing. At least she was fun."

I nodded. "True." My voice trailed off as my gaze wandered outside once again.

"Bella..." Alice poked my chair with her foot. "You're a million miles away again. What's going on?"

I frowned. "I'm just thinking about not so fun things. Like what Edward's going through right now." I sighed heavily. "Alice, are you sure we can't cut this short? I really don't think I should leave him on his own in this."

Alice folded her slender hands together primly. "There are some things you have to let Edward face by himself, Bella, no matter how difficult. This is something he has to do alone."

I groaned. "Alice, do you have any idea what he's probably suffering right now? For me?" I shook my head, then stood up. "I can't stand this anymore. I have to go see if he's alright!"

Alice was quicker, as always...she was in front of me in a flash, grabbing my hands. "Bella, please. We cannot interfere." She exhaled a deep, shaky breath, and I was alarmed by the trembling of her lips. "It's fate...meant to be. You have to be strong now. Edward will survive this latest horrible ordeal...well, probably." she sighed again, looking out the window now, her face haunted and foreboding.

I dropped her hands, glaring at her. "Alice, that is not funny! Will you stop freaking me out like that?"

Alice's lips were trembling harder now as she fought to supress her giggles. Giving up, her bell-like laughter sounded loudly and I glared furiously at her. "I couldn't help it, Bella. You and Edward just overreact to everything concerning each other...it's so tempting to mess with you two."

"Ooooooh!" I was boiling now, although a part of me had to admit her dramatic show had been just the teensiest bit funny. "Alice, I think it's time for us to find out just how well your immortality holds up because I am going to kill you!"

"Gotta catch me first!" Alice laughed merrily and with that she was gone in a blur of motion, with me in hot pursuit.

Edward

Lisa Hoover, proprieter of After Hours Formal Wear in Port Angeles, took what she thought was a discreet peek at the clock on the wall, then looked back at me and sighed.

"Mr. Cullen, are you sure your party is coming?" She smiled thinly, revealing a pink lipstick stain on her large white teeth. "It has been nearly forty-five minutes past your appointment time and he hasn't called..."

I braced myself to do what I needed to do and leaned forward, capturing her watery blue eyes with my own. "I'm positive he will be here, Ms. Hoover, but if it is inconvenient in any way for you to wait, we can, of course, reschedule." I widened my eyes deliberately as I held her gaze and her face flushed, her eyes going unfocused.

"Oh n-no, Mr. Cullen. Of course that won't be necessary...we'll take all the time you need." She stood up from the small table where we were sitting in the back of the shop, bumping it as she tried to steady herself. "Would you like more coffee?" She looked at my untouched cup questioningly.

"No thank you, Ms. Hoover." I smiled blandly and she drew in her breath.

I know I could use something stronger than caffeine myself. I heard her thinking as she stumbled towards the coffee maker in the corner. I just can't believe that beautiful boy is tying himself down already. He must have gotten some lucky girl in trouble. I wonder how he'd react if I offered to take him home for a test drive, let him sow his wild oats a bit before he shackles himself for life...

As her planned advances became more and more detailed, I stopped myself from shuddering...barely. Lisa Hoover's thoughts had been similarly licentious since I'd set foot in her shop nearly an hour earlier. She gave new meaning to the term 'cougar'.

My attention was caught by a far away sound...the familiar rev of the engine I'd been waiting for. Quickly I stood up and made my way through the crammed clothing racks to the front of the store, looking out the window. As I knew it would, Charlie's cruiser pulled around the corner and into view a moment later. I opened the front door and hurried down the steps to greet my future father-in-law, my welcoming smile perfectly in place although I knew it was a pointless gesture. I could already see -and hear- that he was in a foul mood.

"I know I'm late." Charlie snapped as he got out of the police cruiser, ignoring my outstretched hand. "Got hung up on police business. Sorry." He added reluctantly, making a small stab at politeness.

"It's not a problem, Charlie." I said, gracefully withdrawing my rejected palm. "We're ready to begin any time you are."

"Fine. Let's get this over with then." Charlie stomped up the steps of the formalwear shop, his face set in a deep scowl. I held back a sigh as I followed him inside, wincing slightly as the glass door banged shut behind us. Perhaps I should have accepted Carlisle's suggestion of taking Charlie for his tuxedo fitting instead, but there were so few chances left to smooth things over with Bella's father. He'd accepted our plans to marry only because he feared losing his daughter for good if he withheld his acceptance. I knew it would make her so much happier if he could truly come to accept me as his daughter's husband, especially with Renee being so stubborn. Bella had wanted to end her mortal life on the best note possible and I would do anything in my power to make that happen for her. It was quickly becoming clear that my attempts to win over Charlie were completely useless, but I would try anyway. It was the least I could do before I took Bella away from everything in her human life forever.

Within a few minutes, the over eager Ms. Hoover, despite being put off by Charlie's chilly attitude, had gotten her measuring tape out and was busily making notes on a pad as she took Charlie's measurements. His scowl was even more deeply set as he stared at me over her bushy, dyed blond head.

"This isn't necessary, you know. I have a perfectly good suit at home. Of course it's not new or anything...guess I can't embarrass the Cullens by showing up in shoddy duds." he grumbled as Ms. Hoover coaxed him to take off his bulky police coat so she could try a suit jacket on him.

"It's not like that at all, Charlie. It's just that Alice really had her heart set on seeing you dressed in something top of the line." I hoped that bringing up the one Cullen that Charlie was genuinely fond of might soften him a bit.

It worked. Charlie's face brightened minutely. "Ah, that Alice. What is she up to lately? I never see her anymore...or my daughter either, for that matter." He shot me a black look.

I shrugged. He knew perfectly well that Alice and Bella were busy planning the wedding-there was no reason to point out the obvious. I changed the subject. "So what was the police business that kept you? I hope everything is alright."

Charlie grimaced and I hid a smile as I listened to the direction his thoughts were turning in. I'd just asked him out of politeness but it looked like he might actually have a rather amusing tale to tell.

"I was trying to get Mrs. Haversham's damn cat out of her tree." Charlie grumbled, impatiently holding out his arm as Ms. Hoover made adjustments and notes.

"Really?" I was unable to suppress my amusement now. "I had no idea that police officers still did such things. Chivalry apparently is not dead after all."

Charlie rolled his eyes impatiently...it was amazing how much he suddenly resembled his daughter. "It's not the fact that the stupid cat ran up the tree that brought me out there. It's what he did before he ran up the tree, which was eat one of the next door neighbor's 'prize-winning' parakeets. Who the hell actually goes to bird shows and gives those things awards anyway? Damn waste of time if you ask me. Anyway the Marshes, who owned the parakeet, were screaming bloody murder over it, and Mrs. Haversham was in hysterics, saying they were trying to kill her cat in retaliation. I spent the morning trying to keep George Marsh from shooting the stupid cat out of the tree and the two missus's from scratching each other's eyes out. The whole street turned out to see the show, and there was a big screamfest over who was in the right. Seems the Marshes' birds are always kicking up a racket...half of the neighborhood was all in favor of throwing the cat a parade. It was a mess."

My lips quirked. "So did you rescue the cat and smooth everything over?"

Charlie frowned even more deeply. "That bird-eating beast wouldn't budge with all the racket going on below, not that I blame him. He was still up there when I left to come here. Deputy Greene took over for me. Guess I'll find out how it all went down when I get back."

A sudden jangling ended any further conversation. Charlie yanked his arm away from the aggrieved tailor, and dug into his pants pocket, pulling out his cell phone.

"Greene? What's going on? You got that cat down yet?"

With my heightened senses, I could plainly hear Deputy Greene's side of the conversation.

"Yeah, Chief, we got Mr. Giggles down all right but things are still pretty bad here. The Marshes are saying the cat's a menace to all the local pets and the Havershams are pitching a bigger fit then ever about keeping him. We called Animal Control but they won't touch him. They said the shelter is full up and they aren't going to get involved. We gotta do something before-"

He was cut off as I heard voices yelling faintly in the background. "I'm telling you Haversham, I see that cat around here and I'm shootin' to kill! He ain't getting any more of our birds, I can guarandamntee you that!"

"Aw, put a sock in it!" Deputy Greene yelled back and then began speaking to Charlie once more. "They'll be fighting all night about this unless we do something with the cat, get him out of here until things calm down and they can come to some sort of agreement."

Charlie groaned. "Fantastic. I guess none of the neighbors can take him...Marsh can walk half a block to shoot him just as easily as aim over the fence. Hey, why don't you take the cat for a couple of days?"

"Hell no!" Deputy Greene's voice was emphatic. "I told you I'm allergic to cats...I've already got hives where the sun don't shine because of him."

"Great." Charlie closed his eyes. "Well, I'm not taking him. I hate cats. Who the hell am I going to find to take this mess off our hands?" Suddenly his eyes popped open again and he looked directly at me. Ever so slowly, a grin...a wide, insidious grin, the kind he only got when he was fantasizing about something truly evil to do to me, spread over his face. Oh no. He wasn't really going to ask...

His thoughts confirmed that he was even before the words were out of his mouth. "Hey Edward...wanna do your pop to be a big favor?"

Just over an hour later, I was pulling up the drive of my home, angling the Volvo as close to the porch as possible so I wouldn't have far to carry the hissing, yowling feline in the carrier next to me. Resignedly, I got out of my seat and reached for it. As soon as I lifted it off the seat, the cat went crazy, crying so loudly its vocals sounded more like a child's scream as it thrashed and bounced off the sides and roof of the carrier, frantically seeking an escape. My mood lightened a bit as I saw Bella's truck parked nearby. Not that I thought she would have gone home without seeing me but still, knowing I was just minutes away from being next to her was a relief after this interminably long day without her.

As soon as I opened the front door, I was greeted by the sound of Bella's laughter sounding from the living room and my own smile echoed in response.

"No fair getting Jasper and Emmett on your side, Bella." I heard Alice grumble. I entered the room to see her holding her side and grimacing.

Bella just grinned. "Turnabout's fair play, Alice. I still can't believe a vampire can be ticklish...how is that possible, anyway?"

Alice turned and shot Jasper a black look. "I can't believe you betrayed me like that. You promised me you'd never tell!"

Jasper just grinned. "I'll make it up to you...later."

Before Alice could respond, the cat let out another earsplitting screech and the four of them turned to me in surprise.

"Edward!" Bella's face lit up and she rushed towards me, then stopped abruptly, staring at the carrier dangling from my fingers. "What is that?"

"A favor I'm doing for Charlie." I said dourly as the carrier swayed back and forth, the cat once more making a futile bid for freedom. "He needed someone to hold onto it for a few days...I'll fill you in once I get cleaned up."

Bella wrinkled her nose as she bent down to look cautiously through the wire mesh at Mr. Giggles. "What's wrong with it?" she demanded as he shrieked loudly enough to make her wince. "Is it sick or something?"

"No." Emmett answered for me as he came closer to take a look. "It knows what we are. Cats, just like any other animal, domestic or otherwise, hate vampires. They sense that we're predators, a threat to them. It's why we've never attempted to keep any type of animals, although at least dogs can be won over with a lot of time and patience. Our friends in Denali have several."

"Well, this is going to be a fun couple of days." Alice grimaced and put her delicate hands over her ears as the cat continued to shriek. "And what is that smell?"

I sighed. "Mr. Giggles is unfortunately male and like any other male cat, he sprays when he feels threatened." I looked down on the dark wet spot on my shirt and groaned silently. "At least I can shower but I don't think the Volvo is ever going to be the same."

"Oh, Edward," Bella put her hand over her mouth, looking torn between sympathy and amusement. "I am so sorry my father conned you into this. I should have never left you alone with him...I knew he was going to pull something."

"It's alright." I grinned at her, my black mood completely gone, and reached out an arm to pull her closer. "If it helps Charlie to look on me the least bit more favorably, it's well worth it."

Bella smiled at me but ducked my arm, stepping back out of reach. I looked at her quizzically, a little hurt, and she began to grin, amusement clearly beating out sympathy. "I'm sorry, Edward but you really, really stink." She clasped her hand over her nose and began to laugh at the consternation on my face.

I sighed, beaten. "I'm showering." I shoved the carrier towards Alice, who took it reluctantly. "Do something with him, will you?"

Alice raised her eyebrows haughtily. You owe me. She sent the thought at me. And believe me, I'm going to expect payment in full. With that, her mind went deliberately blank, leaving me to ponder what she could possibly want from me as I headed up the stairs towards my room...

Elisa

Sweet freedom at last...I bounded down the hallway and out the front door of Patrick Henry High, enjoying the warmth of the sunshine on my face. School had been extra dull and mind-numbing today , but now it was over and for once, I had the rest of the afternoon to do anything I wanted. As I was pondering the possibilities, a voice called out my name.

"Hey, Elisa!"

I turned and my smile brightened as I saw Michelle and Rae making their way down the steps towards me.

"You looked like you were in a hurry." Rae noted as they reached me. "Where are you off to?"

"Haven't decided yet. Anywhere but here." I grinned, and then looked them over, noting that they were both in uniform. "You two have cheerleading practice?"

"Yeah, we're on our way over now. We just wanted to say hi...seems like we haven't really talked in forever." Michelle looked a bit sad.

"Yeah." I felt uncomfortable. "I really wish we could hang out more too. It just seems like we always have something different going on. You two are busy with cheerleading, and I have dance and drama and..."

"Elisa, come here! I need to talk to you!" Another voice was calling my name now. I whirled around to see Vanessa Lawrence standing at the top of the steps, waving at me.

Rae and Michelle had also looked to see who was shouting at me, and now Rae looked back at me, her face suddenly cold. "We'd better go, Elisa. It looks like your real friends are looking for you. Come on, Michelle." With that, they both turned on their heels and marched away without looking back. I swallowed hard as I watched them disappear, feeling angry tears form in my eyes. Rae was so unfair! She spent our whole freshman year trying to crawl up Vanessa Lawrence's ass and now that Vanessa and I were friends, she acted like I was the social climber. It wasn't my fault Vanessa couldn't stand her.

"Elisa!" Vanessa was beside me now, poking my shoulder gently. "Didn't you hear me? Are you alright?"

I looked up at her, which took considerable effort considering that she was nearly a foot taller than I was, and blinked. "Sorry, Vanessa...it's just Rae. She's getting on my nerves."

Vanessa patted my shoulder sympathetically. "She's jealous of you, Elisa. Ignore her."

"I don't know why she'd be jealous of me." I grumbled, scuffing my shoe on the stone steps.

Vanessa shook her magnificent mane of red hair back impatiently. Clearly, she didn't have time to dissect Rae's mood swings. "Anyway, I just wanted to give you this." She beamed as she pulled a small box out of her shoulder bag and handed it to me. "It's from me and Mark."

Confused, I pulled the box open and pushed the tissue paper aside to reveal a small porcelain figurine. I lifted it out carefully, and then smiled. "It's Cupid...how cute! I think you're a little off on the timing though. Valentine's Day is months away."

"Silly Elisa, don't you get it? Mark and I are having our two month anniversary tomorrow because of you. It's just our way of saying thanks." Vanessa chuckled and patted my head. "I would have let him give it to you tonight, but I knew he'd forget. Anyway, I've got to run...I have a Save Darfur protest strategy meeting to get to." She sighed as she looked at her watch. Of course she did...Vanessa had about a million causes she was completely committed to. Her awe-inspiring goodness was just sickening sometimes.

I sighed as she moved away from me. "Vanessa, don't you ever have a shallow moment?"

"Why do you think I hang out with you?" Vanessa teased and laughed at my glower. "I'll call you tonight if I can. Later!" She waved and dashed down the steps, heading towards the parking lot.

My feet moved slowly as I turned in the opposite direction, towards the street and my bus stop. As I walked, I thought about Vanessa and Mark. It was nice that they both felt I was responsible for getting them together, but it wasn't really true. Mark was my math tutor...a twenty year old college student from the University of San Diego. He was nice, cute, funny, and patient...in fact, for the longest time I'd had the biggest crush on him. It was a harmless infatuation...Mark seemed to like me, but in a friendly, big brother type of way, and it would have been a little creepy if he'd felt differently anyway...I was only fifteen. Still, I nursed my fantasies about him carefully-it helped chase all the Edward Cullen ones out of my head. Until the night that Vanessa stopped by to drop off something I'd left at her house and ran into him. One look at her, and Mark was completely smitten. I couldn't really blame him. Vanessa was beautiful and sweet, and more importantly, she was eighteen...way more his type. So I'd quashed my selfish jealousy and gave him her phone number...they'd been together ever since. The whole thing was really kind of depressing. It reminded me a bit of the pointlessness of drooling over Edward with Bella Swan in the room. I hoped this wasn't going to become a life long pattern of me constantly losing the best guys to girls that were smarter, prettier and just way better than me in every way.

I was so deep in my musing, pondering my future as the lonely single best friend/forever a bridesmaid type, that I didn't register the honking of the horn at first. Finally a familiar voice broke into my reverie.

"Hey daydreamer! Get your head out of the clouds!" I jumped a mile then looked up to see my father's blue car at the curb right next to me. He was grinning at my shocked expression. "Get in, kid."

Still stunned, I opened the passenger side door, tossed my backpack in the backseat, and climbed in. "What are you doing here, Dad? I thought you had football practice with Colby."

My father shrugged. "With the head coach sick and three of our players either indisposed or injured, I decided it was pointless, so I cancelled it. Colby got invited to a friend's house for dinner so I figured, since I had the time off anyway, that I'd come and get you. Maybe we can grab a bite to eat and I can run you over to the bookstore like we were talking about yesterday. You up for it?"

I stared at him in amazement. This was completely out of character for him...the last time we'd done anything together, just me and him was...well, never. Things with my father had been a lot better lately, but there was still a distance and awkwardness to our relationship. Whatever would we talk about? Still, despite my apprehension, I couldn't help but be touched that he was going out of his way to spend time with me. He was really trying...the least I could do was the same.

Dad was still smiling as he drove, waiting for my response. Either he was in a really good mood or aliens had snatched his body and taken over his mind. "Well, you want to go to Borders or what?"

"Hmmm." I thought for a moment. I actually did want to go to the bookstore but we didn't have a lot of time and I preferred to do my book browsing when no one was hurrying me along. Saving that excursion for Saturday was probably better. "Actually, I think I want to go to Horton Plaza, if you don't mind. I need to stop at Nancy's...I'm out of lavender oil and tealights. There's an ice cream parlour nearby...we can always eat there."

"Sure, if that's what you want." Dad didn't seem thrown by the change of plans. Within minutes we were off the freeway and downtown, headed towards Horton Plaza. We didn't talk much on the way there...Dad just asked me some generic questions about my day, but the quiet between us was companionable.

We decided to head to the ice cream parlour first. I'd been there several times with Nancy-when I came to visit her she usually closed the shop for an hour or so while we caught up. So I wasn't surprised by the elaborate flavor and topping menus but Dad was definitely bemused.

"I gotta take your mother here." He muttered to himself, looking the menu over. "They've got a flavor for every single possible craving a person could possibly have. I mean seriously...cheese flavored ice cream?"

In the end, we both stuck with safer choices. He got two scoops of toffee and mocha flavored ice cream and I had a large mint and chocolate chip shake.

"This is totally going to wreck our appetites for dinner." I mused as we sat down at a corner booth.

Dad shrugged. "Don't worry about it. I'm going to pick something up anyway. Probably Chinese. Your mother needs a break from cooking." He was quiet for a moment. "Elisa, I do actually have an ulterior motive for wanting a little alone time with you. I think we need to talk."

My eyes widened in alarm. "What did I do?" I burst out, unable to help myself. Old habits died hard.

Dad laughed, but there was a sudden note of sadness to it. "You didn't do anything, Elisa. In fact, you've been great. It's more something that I did."

That didn't sound any less ominous. I stared at him anxiously, waiting for him to continue.

Dad was definitely looking uncomfortable now. "I think we both know that things weren't too great between us before your accident."

Suddenly feeling self-conscious, I shifted my eyes away from his face to stare down at the shiny table top. "Dad, that was a long time ago. It's OK, really."

"No, it's not." His voice was firm. "The way that I was to you, and the way I was starting to act towards your mother and even to Colby a bit...it wasn't OK. It was..." He stared over my shoulder out the window behind me. "It was my own father, all over again. I always swore I'd never be like him but the road to hell... Anyway, you probably don't remember him that well since you were so young when he died, but Grandpa Todd, well, that was a man with a temper. A man that didn't put up with any nonsense. That's what he called any type of behavior that didn't fall in line with complete obedience to him and his way of thinking. He was quick with a harsh word and quicker with his hands...at least I didn't let myself sink that far."

Dad shook his head. He looked completely miserable now but I couldn't stop staring. I had never heard any of this before and it was fascinating. "Anyway, when we almost lost you, it made me face up to a lot of things. I couldn't stand the idea that you could have died never knowing how much I love you, how proud I am to have you for a daughter. I don't want things to be like that anymore."

My face reddened and my eyes were rapidly filling with tears. I waved my hands in front of my face, trying to cool off before I was reduced to a blubbering mess. "Dad, stop it. You're making me all weepy." My voice quavered as I caught his eye. For a moment we were both red-faced and silent, then simultaneously, we began to laugh.

"Well, that's it." Dad said once we'd calmed down a bit. "That's pretty much the big speech. I've been meaning to have this talk with you for a while but I'm not so good with words. I just wanted you to understand that this thing where I don't scream at you every second isn't only temporary. It's the way it's going to be from now on. A lot of changes are going to happen in our family, actually."

"Really?" I was intrigued now...his voice hinted at a lot that he wasn't saying. "Like what?"

Dad was grinning now. What was it that he was so completely happy about it? "Well, your mother for instance. You know she's been cutting back her hours at work lately. She's going to be doing that more and more...in fact, there's going to come a point where she's going to be home almost all the time." He looked extremely pleased with himself. "You'll find out more this weekend. We're going away for a few days...all four of us. We have some good news to celebrate."

I was puzzled for a moment, trying to figure out what in the world this big news could be, then I gasped. "Oh. My. God. Omigod! Is Mom-?"

Dad put a finger to his lips, still smirking. "I've said too much already. This is really her news to tell...she'll kill me if she finds out I let anything slip." His eyes were suddenly anxious. "Don't give Colby any hints, alright? We really did want this to be a surprise."

"No, of course I won't-" I couldn't finish my sentence, or my milkshake. I was so excited that I wanted to leap off my seat and run around in circles screaming. I settled for bouncing quietly in my seat as Dad watched me with amused eyes. He hadn't come right out and said Mom was pregnant, but he might as well have. I couldn't believe it! They'd always said they wouldn't have any more kids and now...this was incredible! "Oh my God. This is like the best day ever!" I announced as I stirred my straw around in my rapidly melting ice cream, beaming.

"I'm glad you're having fun." Dad finished the last bite of his ice cream and looked over at me, watching me tear off pieces of my styrofoam cup and shred them. "You look like you're done. Should we go see your New Age/pagan/witch type friend?"

I giggled as I stood up and threw my half-drank milkshake into the trash. "Nancy's not a witch, Dad."

"But she is a New Age pagan or whatever they call them now?" Dad raised his eyebrows as he proceded me out of the ice cream parlour.

I laughed. "I don't know. I guess. You make her sound so weird though, and she's not. For someone who runs the type of place she does, she's actually very down to earth, and she tells the best stories. She's a lot of fun and she's been very nice to me."

Dad shrugged. "Yeah, I remember meeting her when she came to the hospital with your gift basket. She was a little odd, but she seems alright. It's a little weird that she's so buddy-buddy with a fifteen year old though. Don't let her recruit you into any covens."

I rolled my eyes, giggling. "Oh, come on, Dad, it's not like Nancy invites me for sleepovers or anything. I only see her every few weeks. Anyway, I think she's kind of lonely. She doesn't know many people in San Diego...she moved here from some little town in Missouri. She has a daughter but she never talks about her much...I think they're out of touch for some reason. She seems happier lately though...I think she's finding her place here."

I could tell Dad wasn't really interested, but he was making an effort to listen politely. "Good for her." he murmured. "Well, let's go check out the magic shop."

I chuckled and shook my head. "Actually Dad, you really don't have to come. I'll probably hang out for a while and catch up with her, and I know you're not interested in looking at tarot cards and books about spiritual healing. Why don't you just go pick up dinner and head home, make Mom put her feet up or something? I can take the bus."

Dad hesitated for a moment, looking torn. "If you're sure...but I don't want you out too long. If you lose track of time, don't try and catch the bus...call me and I'll come and get you. Don't forget that Mark is coming over at seven. I don't want you to be late for that-these tutoring sessions are costing me a fortune." He winked at me.

"I won't be. I promise." I gave him a mock salute.

"OK then." Dad paused once again, then suddenly patted my cheek. "Love you, kid. See you at home."

I smiled shakily. "You too, Dad. Drive carefully. I won't be too long." I watched him walk back down the sidewalk towards his car. Just before he got in, he waved at me and I waved back, standing there until the blue car was nothing but a dot in the distance. Once it was completely out of sight, I turned and headed down the block to Azalea's Spiritual Emporium.

The familiar bell signaled my arrival as I pushed open the door to Nancy's shop, but there was no one in sight when I stepped inside. I looked around in confusion, wondering if she'd stepped out for a minute and forgotten to lock the door, but then her voice sounded from the back storeroom.

"I'll be right out!" In a minute Nancy appeared, looking a bit harried but breaking into a wide smile when she saw me. "Elisa! This is a nice surprise." She dusted off her long red shirt. "You in the mood for a triple decker sundae?"

I shook my head smiling. "Sorry. My dad already took me out for ice cream."

Nancy shook her head in mock disappointment. "Darn it. There goes my one excuse for blowing off the diet." We both laughed and then Nancy waved me towards her. "Well, why don't you come back here and keep me company for a few minutes? I'm up to my ears in inventory...I have no idea what to do with most of it."

I followed Nancy into the crowded stock room, gasping as I saw how full of boxes it really was. There looked like there was enough stuff to stock the whole shop all over again. "What is all this?"

Nancy groaned as she sat resignedly down on the floor and reached for a box cutter. "All my vendors are sending me their holiday wares. I have at least ten boxes of Christmas stuff and it's not even Halloween yet. If they send me any more, I'm going to have to start taking it home with me." She sighed as she sliced open the box nearest to her. "I'm thinking of having a pre-holiday sale to try and make room."

"Sweet!" My eyes sparkled. "If you do, I'm totally stocking up. By chance, would that gorgeous medieval dress that I've been staring at every time I come in be marked down? Let's say, from $300 down to something much more in my price range...like $40?" I batted my eyes.

Nancy chuckled. "Sorry, Elisa, but the lady that makes those dresses puts a lot of time into them and she doesn't go for discounts. If it ever does go on sale though, I'll make sure you get first crack at it."

"Thanks." I cautiously moved a box out of my way and sat down next to her. "So, anything interesting happen lately?" I asked hopefully.

Nancy smiled as she began to empty the box in front of her. "Funnily enough, yes. I got the craziest woman in here about three days ago. You'll never believe what she wanted." She paused for dramatic emphasis. "She wanted me to find her a spell to -get this- turn her husband into a frog."

I stared. "Are you serious?"

Nancy nodded, smirking. "I tried to explain to her that turning her husband into a frog is just a little on the impossible side, but she wasn't having it. She went on and on about it, ranting and raving about how he was making her life hell and she had to get rid of him somehow. Honestly, she was such a shrew that I felt sorrier for him. It was hard enough listening to that mouth for twenty minutes...I don't know how the poor guy can stand living with it."

"So what did you do?" I asked curiously.

Nancy shrugged. "I finally sold her some herbs and oils and a couple of books. She didn't leave very satisfied, but at least she left. I haven't told you the best part yet though." Her eyes sparkled. "The next day, her husband comes into the shop. Turns out he found the receipt in the trash and he was all worried she was trying to hex him or something. He wanted me to sell him some protection spells. I had a better idea. I told him if he wanted a happier marriage, what he should do is go to the nearest pet store, buy the biggest frog he could find, and leave it on his side of the bed early some morning before she wakes up. Then take a long weekend and see what he comes home to after that."

I was laughing so hard my sides hurt. "You didn't!" I gasped. "Did he do it?"

Nancy was laughing too. "I don't know but he was seriously considering it. Oh, I wish I'd asked him to set up a camera so I could see her face if he goes through with it."

I was out of breath as I tried to picture it. "Do you think that would work though?"

Nancy looked smug as she finished emptying the box in front of her and started on another one. "Well, I figure that either she's going to really regret what she thinks she's done and appreciate him far more when he comes back, or she'll be thrilled to be rid of him and hopefully pack up for parts unknown before he returns. Either way, he'll be better off." She winked at me.

My giggles quieted as we both heard the sound of the bell chime again. Nancy hopped up. "Customers!" She said brightly. I got up too, ready to go and replenish my oil supply while she helped whoever had come in. I was half hoping it would be the frog man or his wife...that was one conversation I definitely wanted to overhear.

We were only a step out of the stockroom when Nancy gasped and stiffened. "No!" I barely heard the whisper as it burst from her lips. Suddenly she turned and shoved me back inside the stockroom. I opened my mouth to ask her what was going on but her white, frightened face made the words freeze on my lips as apprehension crawled up my spine. Something was seriously wrong.

"I...see...you." A man's mocking drawl sounded and I shivered at the note of menace in it. "Come on out, Sheila...don't be shy now." Sheila? Who was Sheila?

Nancy knelt down to whisper in my ear, her face stark. "Elisa, I want you to get your cell out and call 911. Please be quiet though...he can't know you're here. Whatever you do, don't come out!"

"Nancy..." I whispered her name.

She just shook her head at me as the man's voice sounded again. "Sheila, if you make me come back there and get you I'm gonna get angry."

With one final, warning look at me Nancy turned and left the stockroom. I pressed myself back against the wall, feeling my breath come in gasps. I didn't know who that man was, or why he was calling Nancy Sheila, but I knew we were in trouble. With shaking hands, I extracted my phone from my purse, dialing 911 and wincing at the low beeps as I pressed the numbers, praying he wouldn't hear.

"911, what is your emergency?" The operator's voice was calm and impersonal.

"Hi, um...I don't really know but there's a man here and I think he's going to hurt my friend." My voice was trembling.

The operator's voice instantly became more human. "Where are you, sweetheart?"

"I'm at Horton Plaza, at a store called Azalea's Spiritual Emporium. I um...I don't know the address."

"That's OK, honey, I've got it. I'm sending a unit your way right now. Are you safe where you are?" The operator asked.

"Yeah, I think. I'm in the back, in the stockroom. He doesn't know I'm here." I whispered.

"Good. I want you to stay where you are. Who is the man?"

"I don't know. The lady that owns the shop, she got scared when she saw him, and she made me hide. She's alone with him right now...please hurry!" My voice was threatening to crack.

"Just stay calm...there is a unit in the area and they're on their way. Did you see if he had any weapons?"

"No...I..." My voice broke off as I heard muffled shouting through the wall. "Wait...something's going on." I put my hand over the receiver and strained my ears.

"I'm going to ask you one last time, Sheila!" The man's voice was no longer calm. "Where is my wife?"

"My daughter is not your wife anymore!" I heard Nancy yell back. "After what you did to her, she never wants to see you again!"

"And whose fault is that, huh?" I heard a crash and flinched. "It's your fault, Sheila! You could never keep your nose out of our business. You're the one who was in her face all the time, on her back to press assault charges, get a restraining order, get a divorce, to take my son and hide from me! Did you really think I'd let either one of you get away that easily?"

"You'll never touch her." Nancy's voice was hard, but bleak. "We knew you'd come after us again, that's why we split up. She's somewhere safe, somewhere far away where you will never hurt her again, and I'll die before I tell you how to find her!"

"That can be arranged." The man's voice was an angry snarl and I gasped and brought the phone back up to my ear.

"Oh my God, he's going to kill her! Please, get someone here!" Tears were beginning to trickle down my face.

"They're almost there." The operator's voice was meant to be reassuring, but it didn't help. "What's your name, honey?"

"Elisa." I whispered.

"What's happening now, can you tell, Elisa?"

"I...hang on." I pulled the phone slightly away from my ear, listening.

"Please, Scott." Nancy's voice was pleading now. "It's over. Just turn around and leave. Do it now and I won't even call the police. If you ever cared about Melissa at all, let her go. She's happy now. Please, just leave us alone!"

There was silence for a moment and my heart swelled hopefully. Maybe he would actually listen. Please, God, don't let him hurt Nancy...just make him leave. My hopes were short-lived though when I heard another horrendous crash and then his laughter sounded through the room.

"What a bunch of superstitious crap you're peddling here, Sheila. What's this? Scented oil?" There was a pause and another barking, half mad laugh. "Smells like cheap ass perfume to me." There was a sudden thud, a cry of pain, and I winced, my hands automatically going over my ears. He was hitting her now...if the police didn't come soon, Nancy would be out of time. My heart was thudding so hard it felt like it was going to fly out of my chest.

"Still, this stuff could be handy." Scott was speaking again and I strained my ears to catch every word. "It's flammable, isn't it? You know, I have a bullet with your name on it, but I think this is more fitting. You want to act like a witch? Fine. You know what they did to witches a couple of centuries ago, Sheila? They burned them, that's what."

There was a splashing noise, and I thought I heard Nancy moan. My breath caught in my throat as I realized what was happening. He'd doused Nancy with oil...he was going to set her on fire.

"No!" I cried. Instincts taking over, I jumped to my feet, the cell phone falling from my numb fingers. As I desperately looked around for a weapon, I vaguely registered the operator's voice coming from the phone at my feet. "Elisa? Elisa! Stay where you are-don't go out there!"

I wasn't listening. There was no way I was going to let this sick bastard murder my friend while I crouched in a corner. My frantic fingers closed on the box cutter Nancy had been using earlier and then I was running out of the stockroom and into the shop.

As I came into sight of the unshaven, red-eyed man who bent over Nancy's crumpled figure, time seemed to slow to a sudden crawl. His head snapped around, staring into my terrified eyes in shock, and then there were three very loud, very distinct noises that happened all at the same time, although I registered them almost as separate events.

First there was Nancy's agonized scream. "Elisa...NO!"

Then there was the welcome sound of the sirens as the police car finally pulled up outside.

And the last thing I heard was the sound of the gun that was pointed directly at me as it went off.

To Be Continued...

Again, I really enjoy your feedback and would very much appreciate knowing what you think. :)

Crap, I almost forgot...you may have noticed that there is a big difference between how much time has passed for Elisa since she last saw Bella, Edward, and Co. and how much time has passed for the Cullen Clan. There is actually a reason for that...(although I don't promise that it will make it any sense. :p )