Disclaimer: As much as I'd like to say I do, I don't own any of the Twilight characters. They belong to that lucky Stephanie Meyer.
Come on. Not now, not here, I think to myself as my car's ancient engine sputters. I pull over on the shoulder, put it in park, and gently rev the engine. It flairs to a healthy roar, clunks, and turns off. I curse quietly and try to restart it. Nothing. Sighing, I pop the hood, climb out into the almost scorching heat of the day and open the front. What am I doing? It's not like I have clue about cars anyway.
I let out a frustrated growl and slam the hood shut. Glancing up, I guess the time to be around noon, maybe a little later. What did the last sign say? Seven miles to...somewhere. I guess that's where I'm headed. Reaching through the open window, I grab my duffel bag, my keys, and scrounge around in the backseat for a full bottle of water. If I'm going to be walking into town, I'd need it.
With my bag flung over my shoulder, bottle stuffed into the top, I walk away from my now worthless car. Before I'm out of site of the car, my white tank top is drenched in sweat. I briefly contemplate cutting my jeans into shorts with my pocketknife, but decide against it. With my pale skin, and the fact that my legs never see the sun, that was asking for a sunburn. So I trudge on through the dry heat.
As I walk, my mind wanders.
It's been four months now. Four months since my dad had been shot and killed in a routine traffic stop. He died on the scene, in his partner's arms, gasping for breath. His partner cried when he came to our house to tell me and my mother. He sobbed into our hair while the three of us held each other, my mother and I soaking his shirt with our tears. He'd loved my dad like a brother. They'd been partner's on the force for over a decade. The funeral was two days later, and a week after we buried my dad, I left home.
A pang of guilt hits me, bringing a wave of sadness over me. I'd left my mother in our driveway crying.
"I have to do this, Mom. I can't be here right now." I threw my bag in my car, turning to hug her.
Gripping me as tight as she can, gasping out her words, she cried, "But I need you!"
I pried myself away from her, fighting back my own tears, trying to put on a brave face. "I'll call you often. I love you, Mom."
I slid into my car, started it, and pulled out, speeding down the road, away from my broken-hearted mother.
Swallowing against the lump in my throat, I stop and toss my bag on the ground, pulling out my water and taking a drink. My eyes are filled with tears threatening to fall and I angrily wipe them away. I promised myself that I was done, that I wouldn't let anyone see me hurt anymore.
No one is around, a voice in my head argued.
Then, almost as if to prove me wrong, I hear car approaching. I grab my bag off the ground, turn back toward the sound and stick my thumb out. I'd only made it a couple miles from the car and honestly, I had no desire to walk the rest of the way.
As the sound grew louder, I realized it wasn't a car, but a motorcycle. By the time I realized and dropped my thumb, it was slowly and pulling up next to me.
"That your car back there?" a husky voice asks over the grumble of the motorcycle's angry sounding engine. I nod, trying to see his face through the shield of his helmet. "Run out of gas?" he guesses.
"Broke down," I say. "I was trying to get to town. I'll wait for the next car." I turn and start walking.
He walks his bike along beside me. "I'll take you in. I'm headed home, anyway." He sees me eye his motorcycle. "Not scared, are you?" I can hear the laughter in his voice. He reaches up, pulling the helmet off then. His deep, russet colored skin surprises me. His black hair is a little shaggy, very disheveled from the helmet, which he was now offering me. His wide smile puts me at ease immediately, but I'm still unsure of the motorcycle. I'd never been on one. My dad had hated them. He sees the reluctance. "Come on, I'll go slow. You'd be lucky if anyone else came down this road for another day or so."
I sigh, taking the helmet. "Are you sure? Should I leave my bag?"
He continues to smile. "It's fine. Hop on, and just try to keep the weight of the bag balanced."
I strap on the helmet. I can smell him in it, but it's not unpleasant. Sort of reminds me of camping. I carefully climb on the motorcycle behind him, finally taking note of his size. He's enormous! My head is barely at the bottom of his shoulder blades, which are as wide as a football player's. I secure the bag on both shoulders, still in awe of his size. He grins over his shoulder.
"You're gonna wanna hold on. And if you're scared, try not to look 'till we get there."
I quickly wrap my arms around his waist as he twists the throttle, making the bike snarl beneath us. I pull myself closer to him and close my eyes as we take off, slowly at first, but quickly gaining speed. I'm terrified by the speed.
I keep my eyes squeezed shut until I feel us slow down, and then stop. My arms are still clamped around his waist when he turns the bike off. I feel his body shake a little as he laughs.
"You okay back there?" he asks, looking over his shoulder.
"Yeah...great," I gasp, unable to make my arms release him.
He reaches down, his large hands gently gripping mine and pulling them from his waist. His skin is so hot! I wonder how long he was out riding? Must've been forever to get so hot. He laughs again.
"Not that I wouldn't mind your arms around me all day, but I figure we ought to get off." He hops off the bike and at the sudden movement, I start to fall. He catches me before I can hit the ground, lifting me into an upright position. "You alright?"
"Yeah," I mutter. I reach up and pull the helmet off, handing it back to him. I look up into his smiling face. He's so tall! I'm practically gawking at him.
"I'm six foot eight," he says, grinning, answering my unspoken comment.
I blush, feeling so minute. "You make me feel like a midget." I'd never been self-conscious of my five foot four inches before, but he dwarfed me so much, it was hard not to.
He laughs a big, rumbling laugh. Offering me his hand, he says "I'm Jacob Black...Jake."
"Bella," I say, my hand disappearing inside his monstrous grip. "Thanks so much for the ride. I look away from him and finally notice there's nothing here. "I thought you were taking me to town. I need to find a mechanic." I look back at him warily. "Is this your house?" I ask, motioning with my head to the small structure beside us.
"Home, garage, job. This is it." He smiles. "You're looking at the town mechanic. I'll get your car towed here and should have it up and running in no time."
I relax. "Okay. Do you think you can have it running today? I'd like to get back on the road as soon as possible." I drop my duffel bag on the ground, stirring up a small cloud of dust.
"I'll have to wait and see what's wrong with it." He grabs my bag from the ground. "Come on in. It's going to be a bit before I can get it here. Might as well wait out of the sun." He walks in the front door, which is unlocked. I follow him in, looking around.
It's small, definitely, but not uncomfortable. The kitchen, bedroom, and living room are all one big room, with a small door off to one side- the bathroom, I assume. There's a huge bed, an unfinished dresser, a worn love seat, small TV, and a rug. Other than a few photos in cheap frames and some old books lying around, that's it. A ceiling fan creaks overhead, stirring the warm air coming in through the few open windows.
I love it. It seems so homey.
"It's not much, but make yourself at home," he says, stepping over to a phone on the kitchen counter. He dials as I sit on the love seat and watch him. "Em," he says. "Yeah. Hey, look-" He pauses. Laughs. "Did he get into it with them?" Pause. "Well, that'll teach them, How'd he fare?" He laughs again, and glances at me, putting on a more serious face. Back to business. 'Hey, Em, there's an old Chevy Chevelle broke down about six miles out on I-82. I need you to tow it up." Pause. "Soon as possible. She's anxious to get back out there." One more pause. "Alright, see 'ya." He hangs up, turning to me. "It'll be an hour and half at the earliest. He's coming back from out of town, too. I'll have a look at it as soon as he gets here."
I smile and start to say 'thanks' when a yawn cuts me off. I hadn't really realized I was tired until I'd relaxed. "Thanks, Jake," say after the yawn passes, stretching my legs and back.
He laughs. It's such a carefree sound. "You look exhausted. Whens the last time you slept?"
I shrug. "Sometime yesterday in the car. It wasn't dark yet." Truth is, I've been sleeping in my car during the days since leaving home. It's not that I couldn't afford a hotel, I just didn't want to bother with it.
Stepping over and sitting beside me, Jake says, "You want to sleep some while you wait?" His thigh and hip press against the side of my leg and he drapes his arm around the back of the love seat. I start to say something, but then I realize he's just so big he can't help it.
"It's fine," I say. "I'll just wait 'till I get back onto the road."
His perpetually grinning face turns a little more serious. "You sure? You know, it's not safe to sleep out there like that, especially on the roads like the ones around here. No one will be around to help if someone stops and tries to hurt you."
I laugh. "I"ll be fine. I've been doing it for months, no problems."
He stares at me for a minute. "Where are you headed, anyway?" I shrug. "You don't know?" When I shake my head, he frowns. "You're not running from the FBI or something, are you?"
He asks this with such a serious tone that I burst out laughing. I keep laughing harder and harder until I'm bent over, gasping for air. His own laugh, joining mine, shakes the love seat. He's probably shaking the whole tiny house, I think to myself, which just brings on another surge of giggles. Pushing myself into a sitting position, I try to regain control. A few tears have slipped down my cheeks.
Jake reaches over, wiping them away, and says through his laughter, "Alright. You're on the verge of hysterics. I think you ought to get some sleep."
"Really," I say, regaining a modicum of composure, "I'm not tired." No sooner then the words has popped out that another yawn forced it's way out.
He rolls his eyes. "Just take a nap. You're going to be waiting awhile. Make some use of the time. If you want to shower or anything else, go ahead," he says, hitching his thumb at the little door.
I hesitate. A shower did sound nice. I'd been cleaning up in bathrooms at rest stops for too long. The thought of being able to wash my hair well and feel the hot water won over the thought of the awkwardness of standing naked in this stranger's bathroom.
"Okay, you twisted my arm. I could use a shower." I stand up, stretching again.
"There's towels in there. Take your time. I'll give you your privacy." He flips on the TV, turning the volume up a little.
I grab my bag and go into his bathroom, closing the door behind me. I turn the on the hot water, strip quickly, grab my shampoo, and step into the shower. It feels so good to have the hot water streaming over my face and body that my lips part and I moan a little., then quickly clamp my mouth shut. I hope he didn't hear that.
I was my hair, working the shampoo into a rich lather, the smell of strawberries wafting around me, filling the small room. I massage it into my scalp, working slowly, methodically. Letting the hot water rise the shampoo away, I pour another handful and repeat the process. I scrub down my body, letting the hot water rinse all the soap away, and then just stand there, lavishing in the feeling. Eventually, though, the water begins to get cold. I reluctantly turn it off. I grab a towel from the shelf off to the side and dry myself quickly, reaching for my bag.
I catch glimpse of myself in Jake's full-length mirror and cringe. My normally pale skin is much more sallow than it used to be. There are dark circles under my eyes, which a red-rimmed from lack of decent sleep. I've lost a lot of weight while on the road and my ribs are pretty visible. Even my hip bones are starting to become visible.
I look sick. I look like I might be dying.
A low sob catches in my throat, and tears spring into my eyes. Before I can get my emotions in check, I'm bawling. I cover my face with my hands, not wanting to look at my body. I'm disgusted with myself. I fall to my knees.
I'm sobbing into my hands, crumpled on the floor when a towel drapes around me and strong hands pull me into a warm chest. I'm vaguely aware that I'm nearly nude, in the arms of a stranger and should be upset by this, but I can't stop crying. I pull the towel tighter around myself to hide my body and give into the crying. All the tears I've been holding in come flooding from me. I cry for the loss of my father, I cry for leaving my mother, I cry for what my life has become, wandering aimlessly around the country, looking for something that will make me feel human again.
How long we sat like that, him silent, letting me use him for support, physically and emotionally, I don't know. My tears slow, and my breathing struggles to calm down. We both jump when a horn honks outside.
"Shit," Jake mutters quietly. He pulls back from me a little. "I'll be right back, alright?" He locks eyes with me. "One minute."
I nod. He pulls away and I hear him go outside. I wipe my eyes with the edge of the towel and dig through my bag for something clean to wear. Everything is dirty. It has been almost two weeks since I've taken the time to find a laundromat and wash anything. I settle for pulling on what I was wearing before. It's not clean, but at least I'm not laying in the floor in a towel now.
I splash some cold water on my face and dry it off. I blink hard at myself in the mirror. My eyes are bright red, but I look almost normal again. I shuffle through my bag for my brush, pulling it quickly through my hair. I decide to braid it so that it doesn't tangle, and that's what I'm doing when Jake comes back in. Or, at least, that's what I'm trying to do.
I feeling him watching me with worried eyes and my already clumsy fingers knot my hair. I curse and try to undo the mess I've made.
"Need a hand?" he asks, quietly.
I sigh and drop my hands. "Can you just help me get this knot out? I was trying to brain it to avoid tangles." His fingers are gently untangling to knot. He's oddly delicate with his huge hands, I notice. I keep muttering to myself. "I ought to just cut it all off. It's nothing but a hassle anyway."
"I think the long hair suits you," Jake says. His hands flutter for a moment and then my hair is in a neat braid. "There." He steps back.
I turn my head to see the braid. "Oh. Thanks." He doesn't even have hair long enough to braid and he's better at it than you, a voice in my head taunts. I resist the urge to tell myself to shut up and turn to Jake. "So was that my car?"
"Yeah. Guess I'll go get started on it. Feel free to see what's on TV or poke around." He leaves the bathroom and looks back at me. "I still think you ought to nap."
"I'm fine," I say again. he shrugs and walks out. I hear the garage door rattle open and then the sounds of him tinkering around. I walk around, looking at his photos. One of an older man - his dad, I assume. Several pictures of two beautiful girls. His sisters? They all have that beautiful dark skin and ink-black hair. I move on to look at his books. The titles surprise me. I wouldn't have pegged him the classic literature type. I find a worn copy of Dr. Jeckle/Mr. Hyde and settle into his love seat. Might as well lose myself in a book while he works. My eyes glide over the words, absorbing them, processing them, taking the place in my mind that was determined to remind me of what a fool of myself I'd made in the bathroom.
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