Chapter summary: February, 1934, unknown forest hours from Ekalaka. Rosalie finally hears reason and lets Bella go. Or something like that. Too bad Bella smells so tasty, and not just to vampires! Oh, and swimming in February? Not such a great idea.
Rosalie continued to run interminably and silently. But, really, what was there to talk about? The weather? The "are you comfortable being kidnapped, and all"? That last one could be an awkward conversation, but it was impossible for me to picture Rosalie ever awkward in any situation. She said she wanted "to learn things from me". But I couldn't believe that: she had accused Edward of smugness. I hadn't seen a smug bone in his (perfect) body. It was she who was smug. She probably just wanted to watch me twist uncomfortably under her gaze as she tortured me with embarrassing questions.
She spoke so comfortably about killing me, but I wondered if that, too, was part of her act. Would she suddenly turn squeamish when she determined it was my "time"? Suddenly, a fear pierced me: I hoped she wasn't planning on reenacting 1001 Nights! My life's story could last all of three minutes, and I was no Scheherazade: I didn't have the creativity to extend my story further than that. That's why my novels were such dear friends to me: my own life had none of the adventure they described. If she didn't supply a good deal of prompting, my "time" was going to come much sooner than she planned it would. Much sooner than I could afford if I were to find any way to escape. I was going to be in trouble.
Wait! I already was in trouble!
It was that very moment we came to a sudden stop. Where we had stopped couldn't properly be called a clearing, but the trees seemed to be a bit thinner. Rosalie unwrapped me from her grasp and held me at arm's length by my own arms pressed against my sides. My feet floated above the ground, and it appeared she exerted no effort holding me thus. "Let me get a good look at you." she said as she scrutinized my face.
Great! I didn't even have time to powder my nose.
"Hmmm." she hummed as she tilted her head to one side, her face blank of any judgement. While I was still puzzling over what she could be thinking, she pulled me to her and planted a kiss on my cheek and set my feet down on the ground at arm's length from her. I fell through the snow's surface with an audible crunch! Before I could even process what happened, she broke into a triumphant smile and sang, "Thank you, thank you, thank you!"
"Wh..." was all I could begin to gasp out before she took two large steps back, still atop the snow's crust, turned and raced in a large circle around me shouting out what she thought to be her explanations.
"Who would have thought it would be you that would free me from that ridiculous prison of that bed and those Cullens with their cloying constraints!" She flashed in and out of the trees around me, too fast for my head to follow.
"Who would have thought it would be you who would get me away from that supercilious and superior Edward with his self-satisfied smirk and his haughty pronouncements!" She raced to a stop right in front of me, regarding me again.
"Finally, I'm free! I'm on my own, and it's all thanks to you — an ordinary girl in every way other than her sweet smell and meddling curiosity! I could just kiss you again!" In fact, she did, grabbing me by the arms, pulling me through the air and planting a cold kiss on my other cheek. She set me back down and positively beamed at me.
I didn't know where this overflowing affection came from, but I figured it was worth a try for a bid on my life: "So, you'll express your gratitude by letting me go, right?"
"Oh, no, no, no!" It was worth a try. "You've earned our conversation and a bit of self-knowledge. Hm. I don't know if you would consider your particularities a blessing or a curse: if you had been a normal girl, you would never have attracted and held Edward's attention, leading to your fate now. But, then, who could ever crave normality?"
"So, you're saying that anything extraordinary leads to death?" Was she implying that what everyone around here, living quiet lives with quiet troubles, were living happy lives? The unquestioned life was the only life worth living?
"Of course not!" She responded scornfully. At least we had something we agreed to, some kind of connection. "Everything leads to death!" Oops! I was too hasty in my assessment. "After all, that's the ultimate end for all mortals. I'm saying everything that leads to us leads to that end much more expeditiously."
"And what exactly are you?" Besides Miss-High-and-Mighty, that is.
She drew herself up straighter, if that was at all possible. "Not 'what' am I, but 'who' am I. And I am Rosalie Lillian Hale. I am not what my parents want me to be. I am not what the Cullens want me to be. I am not what you want me to be, girl. None of you can box me into the confines of your expectations. No, I am strong. I am powerful. I am sufficient unto myself. And I am now free."
During this little speech I began to notice something. It was cold. It was very cold! I could feel the cold from the snow-covered ground begin to seep through my boots and stockings and steel its way up my legs. Nothing made me more irritable. I shivered and pulled the quilt more tightly about me and snapped a response: "That's just great; I'm glad to hear it. A couple of things, though, first, my name isn't 'girl', it's 'Bella', okay?"
"Oh, 'Bella' is already dead ... girl." She was obstinate, but so was I.
"And second!" I was shouting loudly now. "Second, it's pretty hypocritical of you to declare your independence when you've drug me here against my will with the intention of killing me. Last I checked, you're boxing me in pretty tightly, something you just railed against for yourself. You glory in your own freedom, but keep me prisoner! You can't have two sets of standards, one for yourself and one for everybody else. Or if you did, what would that make you? What do you think of that, huh?"
I would call her actions hypocritical, but I wasn't going to call her a hypocrite to her face. I was pretty sure, however, that the picture I drew for her left little to doubt about my thoughts.
"Heh!" She was laughing at me! "You are right! How awful of me!" She blinked a few times and simpered, fooling not even herself in her insincerity. Then a wicked smile slowly spread across her face. "Okay, then, brave girl, you're free to go." She waved vaguely into the darkening forest. I looked about me and swallowed as she spelled my doom. "On one condition, though, if you come back to me, or if I need to rescue you, then it's because it means you can't make it on your own, that you do need me to survive. In that case, you are entirely mine! Your name, your obedience, your very self. Everything!" She leaned in, towering over me, hammering me with the blows of her words. But then she relaxed and smiled easily: "So, off you go, then. Have fun!" She laughed gaily, as if she were sending me off on an adventure, and she couldn't wait for it to start.
"Fine!" I shouted at her, with more bravery than I had and turned away from her to march off into the woods, into my death. Die or stay with that, that, that ... but then I didn't have the words to express my anger, so I became inarticulate, even in my thoughts ... I'd rather die!
"Just one thing before you go," I had planned to storm off, but her words froze me to the spot, "I'd like to have quilt that I lent to you returned. I've grown rather fond of the pattern, don't you know." This just got better and better, didn't it? I was cold already, and the quilt had surrounded me in a layer of my own heat.
But my pride stung too much. I unwrapped myself from it — I could feel the heat dissipating into the evening air; it felt like my life was going with it — turned back around and handed the quilt to her. Or I would have, if she didn't have my basket in her hands, holding it out.
How in the world did she carry that and me all this way?
"Aren't you the least bit hungry or thirsty?" she sang, thoroughly enjoying this moment.
I narrowed my eyes, "No, thank you." I wouldn't give her the satisfaction. "I gave those to you; you enjoy them. Good bye, Rosalie." I spat out her name in an angry hiss. I was livid. And, with that, I turned about and did march off into the woods, boiling.
"Well, at least you're calling me by my name on purpose this time." She was walking alongside me, wrapped in her quilt. She inhaled a breath from the fabric and sighed contentedly. I fumed and turned perpendicular to the direction I had been walking. When one storms off to be by oneself, one doesn't need a gadfly for company. Couldn't she get the hint?
Apparently she couldn't, she turned as well. I tucked my chin into my shirt, wishing I had a hat. Rosalie didn't have a hat. The cold didn't seem to bother her. As I looked down, folding into myself more as I walked, I noticed something terrifying. Well, another something terrifying: she was barefoot. She was walking through the snow without shoes, and she didn't look the least bit affected. Watching us walk along, it was more correct to say that I was walking through the snow as I crunch-crunched, breaking the frozen surface with each footstep. She glided over the top of it, marking, but not breaking, the surface with a feather-touch.
I didn't see how this was possible. She looked like she may have weighed more than me. She was taller, and had a better figure — a much better figure — but she didn't trudge like my plodding footsteps did. No, each placement of her foot was exquisitely cat-like, it was placed purposefully but with such grace as to make a dancer envious. I would have needed to watch my feet to carry off even something halfway to what she was doing, but her carriage was perfection: her shoulders were erect and back, chin raised proudly, and her eyes were on me, not her feet, amused, watching me watching her.
She continued talking, uninterrupted by my change in direction, uninterrupted by my musings, uninterrupted by this damn little breeze blowing right into my eyes. "It was what tipped me off back at the house, you know, you called me 'Rosalie' when you were irritated with me, don't you remember?"
I didn't remember; I had always been careful to think of her and to call her as 'Lillian'. But I didn't see the point of discussing this with the kidnapper I was in the process of walking away from. "D-d-don't you have somewhere to go over in th-th-that d-d-direction?" I jerkily pointed back to where we had come from. I really hated this cold and wished I had a jacket, or a fire, or four walls surrounding me. Or all of those things.
"Oh, you poor thing!" she purred. "You're lost already!" She pointed in a different direction than the one I had pointed. No, she didn't point. I had pointed, but she lifted her arm languidly and gestured with an open hand. "Didn't you mean that way? East-southeast?" she asked innocently.
Every single thing she did crushed my soul into a further spiral of loss in my own insignificance. Part of the reason that I was so desperate to get away from her, besides the whole kidnapping and murdering thing, was not only I was a moth being burnt in her flame, but that everything she did made me aware of this. Being nothing is one thing, knowing it is another, having it brought to your attention, though? I couldn't stand being around her, my own insignificance grating painfully against her ... well, significance. Her magnificence.
Instead of answering her obviously rhetorical question, I saved my breath for more important things. I couldn't actually think of what important things I was saving my breath for, because I had a difficult time thinking at all. I wondered if the cold would freeze the thoughts in my brain.
"The way I see it," she continued. There was just no stopping her. "You have two options. The first obvious one is hypothermia. Remember, keep moving. The moment you stop and lie down, you're dead."
"Th-th-th-th-tha..." nks for the encouragement, but I couldn't get that out.
"You're welcome." She didn't wait for me to finish. "The other option is to be eaten by predators, who, like most animals in winter, are famished. Remember here, that predators like to attack from behind, avoiding their prey's claws and fangs. So, for example, the grey wolves — beautiful animals! — will encircle you to do just that. Don't let that happen! Back yourself against a tree, so you can tear their heads off as they are forced to come to you from the front."
"Grrr!" I extended my arms, claw-like, and attempted a growl, imagining her scenario. The best way to describe my pantomime was 'feeble'.
"Very good! Mountain lions mark their territories here, too. They tend to pounce from above. So keep a sharp look out in all directions." she encouraged. "Okay, I'm going to go scouting around. Remember, keep moving; it keeps the blood flowing. Try to last another twenty minutes for me, okay?"
With that, she bundled me back into the quilt with economical movements. "A present, just for you. Earn it by staying alive for me." And she disappeared before I could refuse it.
I couldn't have refused it, anyway. The quilt was noticeably colder than when I had handed it to her, but the remaining heat from my body that it trapped within its folds was a blessed relief, giving me a bit of strength.
I hadn't been lying to her before: I wasn't 'the least bit hungry', as she had asked, taunting me with the offering of my biscuits: I was starving. I regretted turning down that offer. The cold was sapping my strength, and I was so hungry that I began to cramp up painfully.
Ignore it. Keep moving.
Time passed. Tears trickled down my cheeks from anger and loss. I wasn't going to make it. I didn't even know how to get back now, for, when I risked a look behind me, I saw my footsteps curving away behind me erratically around the trees, but, horribly, disappearing under the lightly falling snow. I began to curse myself for my stupid pride. Pride proceedeth the fall. I wasn't at all religious, but I began to pray that Rosalie would come to get me, of all things, that she would find me. I was going crazy: I was wishing my captor would rescue me.
She wouldn't find me, though. I couldn't find me. I was dead. Keep moving. Please, God, keep moving.
Why? Don't ask that, just keep moving!
The trees started to thin in front of me. Go for the clearing? No trees meant nothing to block a bone-chilling breeze. But I could go forward without thought of running into something as the darkness descended so quickly. I'd be just like me to stumble blindly right into a tree and be covered by a pile of snow that would be shaken free from the branches. I really didn't make a decision, I just plodded forward, beyond thinking or hope.
Then I heard something that froze my blood. That is, froze my blood more. A howl. Something was hungry. It was answered by another howl, and then another.
Correction: Somethings were hungry.
The howling got closer. I found some motivation to pick up speed. I looked behind me, but I didn't see anything. I pressed forward, I was in the clearing now and broke into as fast as a trot as I could manage, but then I was quickly pulled up short. The clearing wasn't all that encouraging. The ground beneath my feet suddenly dropped off into the darkness. I heard the sound of moving water from below. Not a good direction that way! I turned around ...
... and looked death right in the face. Wolves. They were coming out of the trees, not 50 feet from me. I didn't see how many, as there were more than four of them. They were crouched down, slinking forward and growling.
They moved closer, and I took a small step back. I could feel the empty air behind me where there was no more ground. The wolves continued their approach. As they growled and panted, showing their teeth, I could almost see the smiles on their faces.
Somehow, the look reminded me of Rosalie's.
The wolves fanned out around me. I took another baby step back: I had no more ground to give. I looked from wolf to wolf, wondering how I could fend off an attack of even one of them.
As I thought this, the biggest one, facing me at the head of the semicircle coiled and then pounced, neck extended, mouth wide open, teeth glistening, aiming right for my neck.
Three things happened in rapid succession. I screamed and literally fell back, forgetting there was nothing behind me. I had stepped back into nothingness. As my fall began, I heard an oath uttered in an unmistakeable musical tone. Then, immediately following that, the attacking wolf burst apart at the seams to become Rosalie, of all things. I knew then I had lost my mind, dreaming of an impossible rescue from a sure death like that. Smooth, solid hands reached out to me. They were warm? They wrapped me in slick arms. Rosalie's face, covered in blood, above mine, looked down at me in annoyance, and then suddenly the sky twisted around, and I was looking down at her. The blackness raced up to me.
"Hold your breath!" she screamed.
I complied. Then I heard a loud splash and felt water explode away from us. Then I felt cold-wet guillotine me, as the blackness surrounded and then consumed my very being.
Agony! And then I felt no more.