The Bet by Bella Klinghammer

At first, no one really noticed the quiet. Despite how vocal she had become in the past two years, all of the Cullen family accepted Bella's lapses of silence as common place. Either she was frustrated, confused or curious, but it rarely mattered. Edward could always coax a response out of her later if he so desired. (Usually he did as his inability to read her mind drove him insane on a daily basis.) If anyone paid attention, they might have noticed the slight dimming of the light in her eyes as she sat in the chair, Carlisle carefully applying the brace to her broken hand. Though he asked her several times if she was in pain, all Edward managed from her was a soft shake of her head.

Then the silence grew. Even as Alice bounced around her, throwing out random information about the graduation party, the wedding, how they would decorate, when they needed to go shopping, she remained noiseless. Direct questions that required detailed answers go reduced to a nod, a shake or a lack-luster shrug. Edward began to worry and asked her frequently what was wrong and if she wanted to talk. A shrug and a shake of the head was his response. Esme ran her fingers gently through her hair and asked her what she thought of simple things; an emotionless sigh and a shrug. Carlisle examined her hand more than necessary and even prodded tender areas to evoke a response. Bella didn't even wince.

Jacob came back to her house and apologized in person. At first, he snickered at Edward's obvious discomfort. Then he grew intensely concerned when he realized Bella barely acknowledged him. He hugged her close and kissed her temple, ignoring the vampire who bared his teeth in warning. She simply embraced him back lightly and returned to her seat next to her fiancé. When she went to the bathroom, her best friend and fiancé actually talked about her behavior. They both blamed themselves but couldn't pin-point the exact wrong.

Charlie thought it was nerves about graduation. Maybe even a little fear about no longer being in high school, but he kept to himself. So long as they didn't have a repeat of the last few months, he wouldn't try too hard.

Emmett tried joking around with her, up to and including making straight out mockery of everyone in the house; nothing. Jasper attempted to jolt her locked-up and emotionless demeanor. It worked for about three blinks of an eye then he could feel her slide straight back into her darkness. Even Rosalie, who spent more time trying to ignore her soon-to-be sister-in-law, gave her a pedicure and conversed quietly. Several nods and shrugs later, she stopped talking and finished up painting her toenails.

Alice took it the worst. Although she could see the future, so far all she got was the continuing silence on Bella's part. One afternoon, Alice came home and fled to her room, sobbing tearlessly into her pillows about driving Bella off the deep end. Jasper managed to calm her somewhat but spent most of the night consoling his distraught wife. She began to just talk and talk and talk around Bella, hoping to bring her up and out of this stupor with a random laugh or stunning fact. But it was to no avail. It took the better part of two days for Jasper, Esme and Carlisle to stop Alice's water-free tears.

No one knew what brought this on and didn't know how to fix it. And even with all her mind focused on the future, even Alice could not see how Bella would snap out of it.

Two days before graduation, the senior class was enjoying the lack of required attendance to classes as they took their finals a few days early. Angela managed to cajole the silent Bella into going to the mall with a bunch of other girls in order to pick out outfits for the ceremony. The young Cullens (Alice, Jasper, Edward, Rose and Emmett) also accepted in the invitation, opting to drive themselves and Bella and meet up with everyone. The group ended up splitting in two: girls to the dresses, boys to the electronics. Edward kissed his betrothed on the lips gently, wishing her a good time with her friends. She nodded and walked quietly alongside Angela and Alice.

After absconding the home theater section of the store and monopolizing their video game trials, even the Cullen boys found themselves enjoying the simple rivalry between them and the others. Half way through the morning, and many rounds of GTA and Grand Turismo later, Edward caught the tail end of some very disturbing thoughts. His head snapped up as Alice ran a fast but human pace over to the group. Jasper was at her side in a second, Emmett and Edward right behind him. She looked a cross between terribly frightened and stunned senseless. She went to speak when Ben piped up from the couch. But Edward's eyes already widened when he saw the instant replay in her head.

"Angela said Bella just shattered Lauren's face!"

After managing to get a whiny, sobbing and very bloodied Lauren out of the mall without too much of a scene, they split up to find Bella. The thick scent of blood and various other humans made it harder them to find her. Rose took the lower levels of the mall, Jasper took the top floor. Alice and Edward split up in the department store the girls were in at the time, thinking she might have fled to the dressing rooms or bathroom to hide. Emmett went around the exterior of the mall just for good measure.

Turned out that this measure was actually good.

He found her sitting on the curb just beyond the viewing range of an exit to the mall. Cradling the hand already in a brace, she sat staring at the pavement. Dropping down from the roof top, he paced his way carefully over to her.

"This seat taken?" he asked kindly. She shrugged, than shook her head. Sitting down next to her, he remained quiet for a little while. The bus passed by them and a few groups of people bustled back and forth in the parking lot. Not known for his patience, Emmett finally heaved a sigh and looked at Bella. She didn't respond immediately, still paying far too much attention to the pavement that really needed a patch job. But he tilted his head and realized a thin line of tears made their way down her cheek.


She turned her head to face him and he felt a sting of hurt go through him. Raising up the hand she continued to cradle, she sobbed quietly, "I think I broke it more." Emmett pulled her into a brotherly, one-armed embrace and rocked her to and fro.

"I didn't think you could break it further with that brace on," he teased mildly.

"Lauren has a hard face." His booming laughter shook them both and he felt even happier when she started giggling.

"Well, once they repair that nose, it will be harder. I don't think I've ever seen someone's nasal passage reversed into their head," he said wryly, smiling at her continued laughter. "What did she do?"

"She said I wasn't beautiful enough or smart enough to deserve Edward," Bella sighed. "So I punched her in the face and ruined her favorite Gucci top."

"Eye for an eye. Or should we call that an epic fail for nose?"

"I like the second one."

"C'mon. Edward is probably tearing through half the mall to find you. Alice will be so happy you are talking again—say why did you stop talking?" He groaned inwardly when she froze up under his arm. "I'm sorry, Bella, it's not my business-"

"Jasper's right." Emmett pulled back and looked at her. She shrugged, "He's right. I'm too unstable now; I'm probably going to massacre Forks before my first day of being a newborn is over."

The bet. That's what got her so upset? Then it made sense. Bella always felt uneven around them. It was a natural reaction that she seemed to take personally and personify with her own insecurities. Judging from the expression she wore and the way she'd been acting, she probably thought that this possible occurrence would further drive a wedge between her and the family she was about to join. Correction: the family that already accepted her as their own.

Emmett cringed; he barely knew how to get Rose out of an angry funk. It usually involved sweet kisses and few hours of unconsciously breaking furniture together. That simply would not do in this situation. Thinking it over, he decided on the best methods he had when it came to his little sister.

"Well," he sighed dramatically, watching the fearful worry on her face, "I guess we'll just have to take you out somewhere in the woods and let you loose on a pack of unsuspecting deer."

At first, she didn't react. Then slowly, but surely, the ice melted away from her face. And he began to see the ice around her cheeks melt away. This simple smile on her face must be the one of the many reasons why Edward walks around in daze whenever she wasn't around.

"Or grizzlies."

"Or grizzlies," he agreed readily. "But for right now, I'll get you to Edward and a chocolate brownie something or another." Taking her reinjured hand in his own, he studied the cracked plastic as he guided her toward the mall entrance. "Promise me something, Bella?"

"Yeah?" she asked mildly confused.

"Once you turn, you'll wrestle with me?"