It's strange how the most normal things can trip a landmine.
The dreamcatcher that hangs in Billy Black's kitchen window has a small prism in it. I sat at the kitchen table reading, when the sun broke through the clouds, shining a shaft of yellow-white down into La Push, and catching on the faceted prism.
The light danced, the prism suddenly inspired by sunlight to spin delicately within its web of strings and beads. The colours trickled across my pages, across my fingers, and I turned to look towards the window.
The prism glittered and I got a sudden feeling like someone had punched me in the gut.
His voice hadn't echoed in my head for weeks, and I actually hadn't given any thought to it, which immediately twisted the stomach-punch with guilt. I knew I wasn't sleeping, I knew I must still be having nightmares, because I felt tired every morning when I woke up. But perhaps it was a gift from the subtler workings of my brain that I stopped remembering my dreams.
I left Billy's house and got into my truck and drove out to the cliffs at First Beach. The cliffs where Jacob had promised to take me cliff-diving. The cliffs where I had stared in awe when I saw the pack diving off them so long ago – when they were still 'Sam's gang' and not yet 'the pack'; the cliffs where I was sure I would hear Edward's voice.
Opening the truck door, a gust of wind blew my hair across my face; chilling the back of my neck and making me shiver. I looked up and saw that that single shaft of sunlight was long gone – now the clouds that gathered were dark and dangerous, thick and heavy instead of light and fluffy.
I wrapped my arms around myself, the door still open, and stood looking out towards the cliffs. If I meant to jump, if I really meant to, he would say something, wouldn't he? I swallowed, and made to step out, but my feet were rooted to the spot.
Instead of Edward's voice, I heard a voice I hadn't heard in even longer – my own. It said: Bella, look at those clouds. Look out at the water, the way it's crested with white. You won't just get a cheap thrill and hear his voice. You'll kill yourself.
And even though that voice was foreign to me, lost for longer than I cared to recollect, it made sense in a way I wasn't sure I really knew. It was a visceral sort of sense, like my body was ready to obey, even though my mind definitely wasn't.
I got back in the truck and slammed the door.
I sat staring out at the cliffs, and the well I thought must've been dry by now overflowed again. The tears stung, they were painful, and because there was no one to hear me, the sobs that came out of my throat felt like they were being ripped up from my chest with ragged fingernails. My mouth burned with them, my nose couldn't keep up with my need for air, and the inside of my sinuses felt raw. But I kept crying. I kept it up for time indeterminate. I kept it up even as the clouds began to rumble and bang, even as the rain started to pelt down, huge fat droplets smacking down on my truck.
I gripped the steering wheel, my face down, my knuckles white, and when I looked up to find a Kleenex because the snot was starting to get annoying, the sobs were cut off abruptly.
She stood there, in the rain, twenty feet in front of my truck, her hair plastered down, soaking wet.
I had barely time to think, and she was at my window; her arm punching through the glass, grabbing my hair, and yanking me towards her.
"Oh how lovely. I suppose wishes are granted after all. I wondered if this would ever be easy, and here you are, without your escort, just waiting for me," she whispered harshly in my ear, tightening her grip in my brown locks, twisting and pulling and bringing tears of an entirely different sort to my eyes.
And a small part of me thought: Okay. Okay.
And that small part took a deep breath, and was calm.
I inhaled, a rattling sound from my sobs, and managed to utter her name.
She yanked me out the window – I hadn't refastened my seat belt. I felt the sharp stings as the broken glass scraped and punctured my skin through my thin clothing.
She pulled me into her, and my body was limp. She hissed, and twisted me again, and I couldn't find the strength to fight her. I struggled fruitlessly, the part of me that wanted to survive this wrestling for control with the part that said, treacherously, Okay.
Into my ear, she chuckled softly, and then turned my head, where there was a cut on my cheek. She grinned, her eyes black, and very slowly stuck out her tongue and licked me from chin to temple.
"Oh," she shivered a little, and I couldn't help but whimper at my hopelessness. "Oh, that is good." She held fast to my hair, and made me look at her. "Not the best I've ever tasted, alas, but I think the fact that you're Edward's bitch makes it a little bit sweeter." She licked her lips, rolling her tongue around in her mouth. "Mmm. Yeah. It does."
She took her hand off my face, and pushed me to fall to my knees. She reached down to my arm, where the protection of my puffy vest had ended at the shoulder and left my bicep vulnerable to the broken glass. There was a piece of glass stuck just an inch and a half below my shoulder. I was already faint from fright and the smell of blood, and seeing that glass jutting out from my skin made my stomach roil just a little more.
She grinned at me, showing me her teeth, and reached for my arm, wrapping her pale fingers gently around the glass and my arm. Then she squeezed, shoving it farther into my muscle.
It hurt so much and all I could come up with was a weak whine. I had no more tears to cry, and the ducts stung a little, even with the fat cold raindrops falling on my tightly closed lids.
I opened my eyes in time to see her put her hand to her mouth and use that same slow motion to lick my blood off her hand as she had to lick it off my face.
The glass burned and it hurt so much that I started to breathe heavily.
Bile rose in the back of my throat, and as I heard her hum in contentment, her grip tightening in my hair with pleasure, I realized this was it. I was going to die.
And self preservation edged out complacency.
I ripped my head to the side and let out a scream I didn't know I was capable of with my throat so raw.
Her right hand dropped my hair and her left, fingers curled slightly in a very loose fist, swept down and cracked me, backhanded, across the face. I felt bones break. I felt cartilage stab the fleshy tissue of my sinuses.
Falling to the sand, I felt instantly that that was the worst thing I could have done. But at the same time, it was the only thing.
Get up. Get up. Get up.
The self-preservation voice, the Bella voice, she told me to get up, to run, to get away.
I struggled to my hand and knees, one hand held over my nose and mouth.
She stomped her foot down in the middle of my back, my limbs shooting out to the sides as my chest pressed into the sand, bits of shell poking my skin.
"Not so fast, little bitch. I'm far from done yet," she seethed.
And then there was a gust of wind across my face, and her foot was gone from my back with a snarl.
I managed to turn my face the other way, and saw a great black wolf wrestling with her. My breath came out in a huff from my mouth, and I wanted to cry Sam's name – Sam Uley, who was rescuing me for a second time.
He was then joined by a brown and a grey and a russet, racing across the sand with guttural sounds of anger.
Paul. Jared. Jacob.
I watched with a sort of horror, as four against one was no fair fight – even for a vampire.
I looked away, and my mind was white-noise.
I heard, as though they were so much farther away, Sam's voice saying "burn it", and then I heard him say Jacob's name. I looked up, dazed, and Jacob had me in his arms.
"Bella," he breathed. "Are you okay?"
"No," I said.
Because it was the truth.