Chapter 13: Present Day
I heard the brakes on Carlisle's XK coming to halt just before the garage door opened. As I slid out from underneath my Ferrari, Emmett and Edward pulled in next to me. I cleaned most of the oil and residue off my hands before throwing my arms around Em's shoulders for a kiss. For some reason, Edward hung around to witness the moment and even cleared his throat a couple of times. I looked up for a moment from Emmett and forced a pause to look at Edward.
"Edward, do you mind? I'm sure Bella is in distress somewhere, go find her."
Emmett chuckled and Edward smiled, closing his eyes – Even though I knew they had just delivered Bella to the airport, and I did not mean for my comment to be humorous, I'm glad he found it so amusing. He should really go find something else to do, though.
"Actually," he said. "I was hoping I could have a word with you,"
"Sure," I replied, serious now. Conversations didn't occur with much frequency between Edward and I, so when the occasion arose it was usually something of importance. I was not really used to talking to him – it's not something we did often. We understood each other better through quick banter; that was just our way, much like him and Alice had their one-way response exchange.
Emmett put my back on my feet and gifted me another quick kiss before taking the elevator up to the flat. Edward leaned on the side of the XK and waited for us to be alone.
"Rose, I know we don't always see eye to eye," Edward started. I had somewhat of a feeling what this was about, so instead of just accepting what I knew deserved I waited until he finished. "But I want to thank you,"
I played innocent, as if I didn't know. "For what?"
He caught my glance and had a small smirk grew from his lips. I knew that he was reading my thoughts by now and that I knew what the appreciation was for. I absolutely loathe when he does that.
"Rosalie, you know what I'm talking about," he replied. "Don't try to drag it out of me."
"Actually, I think I'd like that," I said glaring at him. "After all, I was forced to stand in the rain to convince her. And not to mention that horrid American rental car…"
Yes, I did think a proper 'thank you' was in order for my sacrifices. It seemed not enough now that Bella had essentially returned. Edward laughed again – I knew as well as he did that I was being childish.
"Okay, then. Thank you,Rosalie. Thank you for doing…what I never thought you would do for me," he answered with sincere gratitude. For the first time, I took in measure of exactly how much my actions meant to him; how much he needed someone – anyone – to have done this for him sooner, because he would have never had the courage to. I actually felt warmth in his words, as if he was subliminally telling me how I had saved his life without realizing it.
I decided to rupture the shy tension that floated in the space between us as I smiled at him as I slapped his crossed arms with the car rag. I turned back to my car and found something under the hood to keep my eyes focused on while I spoke.
"I'm…glad I was able to help. It felt like something had to be done, I guess."
"I am curious to know, though," Edward mused. I kept my attention converged, pretending to only entertain his conversation. "What was your motivation? I…always thought you did not really like Bella all that much?"
I was somewhat annoyed with the second part of his question. It was never a matter of not liking Bella – I envied her. I envied that chance she had at being human and normal - an opportunity that I did not have within my reach.
"It's not that I have a dislike for her, Edward, I…"
"…just don't want this life for her. When she could have so much more," he finished for me. When I met his eyes, I knew he shared that same thought – no one should be doomed to this life – but if this condemnation is what she wanted, I saw that Edward no longer had the strength to stay away from her. I spoke out loud a second after I had shared the thought.
"If Bella asks you to…will you turn her?"
He remained silent for a moment.
"Part of me wants to be self-less and tell her that she doesn't need to change for me. I want to tell her that her life as a human is much more worth living than sacrificing it for an eternity with me; mostly, I just feel just the opposite – selfish. Now that I've found her, and lost her, this reunion only strengthens that avaricious feeling of wanting to keep her forever," Edward explained. He obviously had not discussed this with anyone else, I could tell by his tone of uncertainty. I was confused about how that felt, him opening up to me, but I was glad it was happening – it somehow made us feel a closeness we had never experienced. "So I guess it is up to her – I'll do whatever she wants."
"You are risking her life by trying to turn her, Edward," I reminded him.
"I trust that Carlisle will be there to help. Whether Bella decides to be changed or not, I wouldn't be able to deny her either choice," Edward muttered, looking down. "I cannot live without her. I'll give Bella what she wants as long as I can be near her."
Although his vulnerability sparked an unusual anger in me, I equally as well understood that Edward could not control the obsessive way he loved Bella. It was difficult to create a change in creatures like us, and when that change happened – especially love – it was a permanent bond, unbreakable. I, for one, for as long as this eternity lasts would never be able to love anyone else but Emmett – and I can say with certainty that I would never find a reason to feel otherwise. I would do anything to remain near him no matter how desperate.
"When is she set to return?" I asked in a nonchalant tone.
"Tomorrow," Edward replied, a positive glint in his voice. "Bella said she didn't need much time, that it was just a matter of…talking to Jacob, apologizing formally I suppose."
My disgusted expression must have given my thoughts away before Edward even got to them because he let out a laugh I hardly ever hear from him.
What is so funny? You know well I have no regard for that mongrel, Edward, I thought as he composed himself.
"Your expression was truly priceless," he answered through final chuckles. Once again, we settled to a comfortable quiet. The idea of Bella leaving to return home continued to spin around in my mind.
"I really do not see why Bella would have to fly home to see him, much less apologize. The dog could have settled for a phone call. If he is into the dramatic, a letter would have sufficed," I rambled. My brother gave me a warning look, but one that showed that somewhere in his mind he felt slightly uncomfortable by her return visit, too.
"It was important to her," Edward replied. "Like I said, I can't deny her things – especially when this decision is implicating Jacob as well. He is already enduring a loss, just so that I can gain. I had no right to take her away from him, really."
"Please stop playing the martyr, Edward, especially not for a wolf. You're making me sick."
We both fell silent again and I felt Edward sigh.
You know that I am right. I said in my mind without glancing up from where I was working under the hood. When I looked back seconds later, he smiled and pushed himself off of his leaning position on the car and headed toward the elevator.
"I'll send Emmett down," he said slyly as he pushed the up button. "Oh, and stay off the XK. I'm sure Carlisle would be unhappy if you two dent it."
In a matter of hours, I was back at San Diego International Airport.
Rachel had insisted on coming with me to the airport and staying with me until we reached the final terminal – one last goodbye, she called it – because she knew that I wouldn't want to come back to San Diego "after what Jake had done to me." This delusion had been spun so far out of control, I was no one to try to defend Jacob anymore even if I wanted to. I kept my composure and played my part well as she promised to keep in touch when we hugged one last time before I boarded the plane.
I was now on the seventh hour of my eleven-hour flight, and if the time elapsed served as any indication, the last four hours were going to be just as haunting. I couldn't help but replay the day over and over in my mind: Rachel's obliviousness and her rant about how she'd kill Jake for breaking off the wedding if he weren't her brother; I thought about how excited my co-workers were for my impromptu relocation to London (not that I wasn't excited, but they obviously did not know the whole story); about the painful way that Jacob treated me that forever put an end to everything.
Mostly everything was effortless. I decided to start with the easy farewells, thinking it would help me prepare for what was coming; or possibly I was just trying to put off the inevitable as much as I could. As soon as I arrived, I visited the publishing house I had only worked at for a couple of months and spoke to my editor, letting her know I had made a transition to live out of the country. She congratulated me, and when she asked if Jacob was eager to live in London, I just lied. "He's thrilled," I had said. They all wished me luck, and then I headed home – well, what had been considered home until a couple of days ago – to speak to Jake.
When I arrived, I slid my key in the door knob, but it wouldn't turn. I closed my eyes and, with a sigh, realized that the lock had been changed.
This was not going to be easy.
I knocked the door to what was obviously no longer my apartment. Jake unlocked it after a few seconds and slightly opened up, walking away from the door without caring to check who was behind it. He made his way back to the kitchen as I came in slowly to stand in the doorway, slightly stunned; there were no signs of acknowledgement for my arrival as I saw him reach into the refrigerator to find something to eat.
"Did you ask the landlord to change the locks?" I questioned. No answer from Jacob.
No, this wasn't going to be easy at all. He was going to make this very, very hard.
I stood in silence, looking around to find that Jacob had not spent much time in the living room since he came back. Everything remained untouched with one exception – every picture that used to occupy a place on a table, on the ledge over the television set – all traces in still photographic form of Jake and I as a couple were gone. The empty spaces where the frames used to be screamed at me the realization that he was as much done with me as I was with him when I took that first plane for London.
I remember his first words after the long and uncomfortable silence.
"Rebecca left town. She doesn't even want to talk to me, so you don't have to worry about running into her and playing the sacrificial victim," he said. His voice sounded worn, like he had been doing a lot of screaming; or crying. I didn't want to know either way. "Rach is just dying to see you before you go, though, so I suggest you don't let her down."
"Why did you throw this on yourself?" I demanded, my tone letting out the buildup I had developed from the lock, the missing pictures…his attitude. "You are the first person to have every reason in the world for blaming everything on me,"
"You don't have to thank me. I gave you the easy way out," Jake replied. He looked at me for the first time since I stepped through the door, glaring from under his lashes.
I imagined he would be upset, but I wasn't expecting him to act anything close to this.
"I never wanted the easy way out, Jake! I was ready to face my consequences—"
"The consequences of ending up with me instead of with the leech, I know; it was a tough choice," I winced as I heard his first blow. "I always thought that the voices in my head telling me I was second best were just there to mess with my sanity – except now I know they had been right all along." Jacob's words were subdued and not overly responsive. He'd already given this thought, he'd fought himself about it by now. The words hurt just as much as if he was yelling them at me, and his approach made me more impatient. He continued to rummage around the kitchen without directing his glance at me.
"I deserve this," I said hastily. "It just makes things a million times more difficult to have you spitting these things back at me when I know this hurts you, too."
"Bella, I did this to myself. I should have never pretended you were mine to begin with. You never have been," Jake finally looked up to meet my eyes. His face was stern – it didn't look like him at all. "Part of what I told Billy and your parents was true – I was fooling myself in proposing to you."
"You regret proposing to me?" My reaction was unexpected but once it was out, I couldn't take it back. I couldn't believe what he was saying just as much as my aghast retaliation – it should have not bothered me that much; he had every right to feel that way.
"I regret ever believing that your acceptance to marry me was anything other than an excuse to help you forget him! Our whole life together was your attempt to forget that bloodsucker! Can you imagine—"
"No!" he cut me off fiercely as he began moving toward me. Jacob was wearing all of the resentment he held on his sleeve. I backed away from him, not out of fear but out of desperation.
"Can you imagine what it feels like to look back and realize that every time I kissed you…every time I held you…all along you were wishing it was him?"
I felt the wall behind me, and Jake kept approaching. He reached me when I could no longer back away, placing his arms against the wall on either side of me. I knew Jacob wouldn't hurt me, and then I thought about the fact that passion had no limits – it was just him and I, and I felt his warm breath as he spoke just inches from my face. He was hurt – it was evident in every expression, every gesture, in every word.
I felt him slide his hand behind my back, pressing me close to him.
"The few nights – those times when we lay together…our bodies side by side, when the world held nothing else but us – when I could have made you mine…you were thinking of him all along, weren't you?"
The only thing rupturing the silence was my muffled breathing; the tears were silent. Jacob's glare was fixed on me, waiting for an answer. I couldn't speak. I could not tell him what he wanted to know without doing more damage.
"Jacob…I don't need to answer that," I muttered; it was the only thing I could reply.
He put his arms at his sides, releasing the one arm that held me against him and taking the other arm away from the wall as he took a step back.
"You just did."
Jake stepped away, obviously finished with the fight, and took a seat in the living room. I closed my eyes and took a moment to breathe. There was no possible way that I could be granted the chance of this ending well. I had done too much damage. For my own selfish reasons I first hurt Edward, now Jacob. I was back to square one – the empty bottomless feeling in my stomach – the same feeling I had four years ago when I was making the decision to walk away from Edward. But I knew this wasn't as hard as it had been back then – no, it wasn't nearly as heartbreaking, which was all the more reason to know that this was what needed to be done.
"Jacob, I don't know how else to apologize, and I know I shouldn't even be given the chance to,"
"Then spare it. You can't have both of us, Bella."
That I knew. Knowing that once I thought I would be able to balance them both - one as my lover and one as my friend - just seemed silly in retrospect.
"I wish I knew I wouldn't lose you. The problem is I know I already have." I whispered. Jacob looked up from where he was – his head cradled in his hands, looking straight down at the floor – to meet my glazed eyes and slowly got up and walked towards the door. He opened it in a gesture of exit.
"I wish I could say I felt differently…but I don't," he spoke softly as he remained still by the door, his body language hinting that we were done discussing all of this, discussing us. His eyes did not break away from mine.
"There are only so many times a person can die, Bella. I'm out of chances."
There was nothing left to say, nothing left to be done. I had killed him. Nothing I could mend, no pieces I could pick up & no hope for someone to do the job for me. Although he looked like he would have stood there for an infinite amount of time, I didn't wait to compose myself to leave. I stormed out, leaving anything that I may have thought I wanted to take with me behind.
I stood to stretch my legs – sitting becomes uncomfortable and claustrophobic, even in first class. The images were raw and vivid in my mind – there was no such thing as desensitizing from these, even after replying them for the millionth time in my head. I waited until I reached the lavatory to unleash the tears I had been holding back in the aisle. Truly, the last thing I needed was a cheerful stewardess asking me if I was alright.
Resentment - it was all I could feel toward myself. It was all Jacob would ever feel toward me from now on. He could ignore my existence, he would become good at it – no matter how much we cared about each other, the friendship alternative, after everything else between us, seemed not even worth bothering for.
I felt bruised; damaged, overwhelmed by the things that Jacob had said. I had never seen him that hurt, that enraged, and it only served to strengthen the pain of his words. What Jacob has said beat me down, and I felt and ache all over my body. London could not arrive just yet - I needed time to recover. I sat in the lavatory trying to ease the pain, letting time reassemble the pieces of me that were hurting for Jake before I faced the rest of my life with Edward.
One month later…
The note was simple, concise and to the point. There was no need to elaborate, no need for complications.
We are delighted to hear from you! I hope this letter finds you in good spirits, as well as Carlisle and the rest of your extraordinary coven – please send them our fondest regards. Although you wrote to us some time ago, it is with great pleasure that we have received your recent correspondence. We offer you our sincerest apologies for having waited so long to grant you a response but, as always, we have been kept busy by various activities.
Our recent discussions have left us impassive as to your sudden decision to join our elite guard, but all the same, we are pleased to welcome you. Please bear in mind our strict conditions, the same set of circumstances to which you have clearly stated no opposition against with your recent commitment. We are expecting you within a few short days – please accept to arrive as soon as possible, as we have many plans in store for our newest, most gifted affiliate.
With fondest regards,
The letter was sealed and deposited to the out box of the glamorous reception office, ready to be delivered to its recipient at the next advance of the Italian postal mail service.