The phone rang, and other than a look between Carlisle and Edward, no one acknowledged it. Bella's guilt and sadness, originating from Seth's sporadic cringes as Carlisle set broken bones throughout the wolf's body, spiked as she realized it was Charlie calling. Although an almost silent sigh escaped her lips, she otherwise pretended she didn't hear the phone ring.
Another intake of breath from Seth took Bella's mind off of the phone call, her guilt changing to concern for a moment. "Are you okay?" she asked worriedly.
"Yeah, that was just a bit…uncomfortable." Seeing Bella's face, he smiled bravely. "I don't think I have it nearly as bad as Jake did when he was crushed by that other newborn. That was bad, especially when they weren't sure if he had been bitten. And at least Dr. Cullen is a little more experienced at treating newborn attacks," he added with a chuckle. Carlisle smiled at him.
"Worried that he had been bitten…" Bella's eyebrows creased as she thought. "What would happen if Jake had been bitten? Would he have been turned?" she murmured almost to herself. Jacob snorted outside, paying attention now that he heard his name. "No, that doesn't sound right." She turned and looked at Edward.
"What happens if a wolf is bitten? Do we know? Has a wolf ever been bitten when the vampire has not killed the wolf?" She turned back to Seth. "I don't remember anything like that from your stories."
"Before the newborn fight last spring, Billy and the other elders spent time with Sam, passing down every detail and fighting strategy they could recall their fathers telling them," Seth told Bella. "One piece of information was about vampire venom. They believe that it is a poison to our system. When Dr. Cullen was treating Jake, Billy and Sam told him that so that he could check for any bites on Jake."
Bella looked at Carlisle who glanced at Edward and then nodded. "As far as I can conclude from the information I gathered when treating Jacob, that legend seems to be correct. The venom works in a similar way on werewolves as humans, poisoning their system, attacking the muscles and organs in a systematic fashion. However, unlike the crystallization and preservation process that initiates the transformation from human into vampire, the tissues in a werewolf appear to react in a defensive way, fighting the venom, but in the process, dying without the preservation process in humans. In many ways, it is similar to a severely accelerated case of full-body cancer."
Bella looked stunned, but horror and guilt crashed off of her in waves. She looked at Seth and her eyes closed very slowly. "Seth, I am so sorry. If I had—"
"Bella, you didn't—" Edward interrupted.
Both of them were interrupted by the phone ringing again.
Edward glanced at Bella and hissed, "Jasper, just turn the ringer off, please."
I hesitated, waiting on Bella's reaction. I didn't want to make a quick movement to upset her.
"No," Bella said defeatedly, but not angrily. "We can't ignore Charlie or pawn him off on Esme any more. I need to talk to him."
Edward and Carlisle shared a glance. Edward turned slightly to Bella and took her hand. "Bella, love, we aren't so sure that's a good idea. Let's think about the long-term ramifications. If he talks to you, and he knows you are here, he is going to want to come and see you."
"Why is that a problem?" Bella asked Edward.
Bella was always an intelligent human, and now with her vampire mind she should be able to comprehend the folly of her statement. But her pure innocence in asking her question was hard to deny.
"There are numerous reasons, love," Edward explained patiently to her. "First, and most important, it is very, very unwise to be around any humans for many, many months. The situation in the woods shows that you have extraordinary restraint, but—"
Bella interrupted impatiently. "I know I can't see him now—I was just thinking, you know…one day. Someday." She paused. "If I could talk to him on the phone, perhaps I could put that day off until I could handle it, and then see him a few times before he…" she trailed off, uncertain.
Carlisle paused in his examination of Seth and took Bella's hand. "Bella, what you are feeling is not uncommon. For Edward and I, the people we loved were gone before we were changed, and there was no one left to mourn us. But for Rosalie and Emmett, they had people they loved that they had to leave behind. They didn't get to say good-bye to their families. Even Esme was unable to see her parents again. Each had their own unique way of achieving closure, and Rosalie and Emmett were eventually able to see people they cared about from a distance, although I am not sure it aided their grieving process. In fact, we have to be careful with Emmett, as some of his family is still alive. You are very lucky to have many people from your former life as a part of your immortal life—all of us as well as Jake and Seth and your Quillute friends."
Bella smiled a little, although her sadness did not alleviate. "Thanks, Carlisle. It's a lot to think about. And you are right, I am thankful for my friends who I am able to keep." She smiled at Seth and then threw a doubtful look at the front door toward where Jacob was outside with Nessie.
Carlisle turned back to Seth. "Almost finished," he said. He was setting another bone, getting ready to brace it, when Seth moaned softly.
"I'm so sorry, Seth. I should have been closer." This was Edward apologizing this time, trying to feel repentant but mostly just feeling smug. He could afford such emotions since the situation was over, although we were all lucky that a newborn vampire's snap had such a peaceful ending.
"Don't worry about it, Bella, I am totally fine" Seth interrupted patiently.
"Bella, love, no one is judging you, you are doing so well." The anger coming from Leah outside was in contrast to his statement—or perhaps, his statement could have been in response to her angry thoughts.
Carlisle finished putting the brace on Seth, causing him to cringe. "Sorry, sorry," Bella whimpered.
"Don't freak, Bella," Seth said, and I could feel exhaustion flowing from him. Between the morphine and his own adrenaline wearing off, he was going to crash hard very soon. Sleep would help him heal faster than he would heal on his own. "I'll be back to normal in half an hour. Anyone would've done the same, what with Jake and Ness-er….I mean, at least you didn't bite me or anything. That would've sucked."
Seth was trying to make it better, to distract Bella, but it was only feeding into her already guilty spirit. As I tasted the air around Bella, I could detect a flavor to Bella's guilt that was uncommon. I tasted it, swirling it around like a fine wine, trying to identify the subtle scent to what I was experiencing. I noticed Edward looking at me out of the corner of his eye as I was doing this. I tasted…disappointment? No, that wasn't it. Guilt mixed with a tinge of…failure and disappointment?
I watched Bella, and I was automatically taken back to a moment when I felt something similar from her. Her wedding day, as she spend time with her parents before she and Edward left. I felt a protectiveness coming off of her. Nothing like what I felt from Edward towards her and Renesmee, but more nurturing. Similar to Esme's unique emotional tone.
Pulling my thoughts back to the present, I knew that Bella was disappointed in herself, but it seemed like so much more. Remembering how she took care of her father, I realized that Bella had spent her entire life taking care of others—her mom, her dad, and even attempting to take care of our family in her own sweet, clumsy way. For the first time in Bella's life, she had no one to take care of, and everyone was taking care of her. She was not even able to take care of her own daughter. The enormity of this revelation was enormous to me, and by the tender looks Edward was giving Bella, to him as well.
"I'm a bad person," Bella whispered.
"Of course you aren't. I should've—"
"Stop that," Bella sighed, defeated. She didn't want anyone trying to make her feel better.
Seth's tried to distract Bella again. That seemed to be his method of making the situation less tense—humor and distraction. "Lucky thing Ness—er, Renesmee's not venomous. Cause she bites Jake all the time."
This fact did distract Bella. "She does?"
Seth, happy that he finally succeeded, continued. "Sure. Whenever he and Rose don't get dinner in her mouth fast enough. Rose thinks it's pretty hilarious."
I felt a curious thread of pride coming from Bella. Mothering pride? It seemed she was…proud of Nessie biting Jake? I'll never totally understand women. Edward looked up at me from Bella and winked at me.
"Well, Seth, I think that's as much as I can do. Try to not move for, oh, a few hours, I guess," Carlisle laughed. "I wish treating humans were this instantaneously gratifying." I felt fatherly affection seep into his professional demeanor as he told Seth, "Stay still," before he left to go back to his office.
Exhaustion mounted in Seth as he murmured, "I can probably manage sitting still for a while." Within moments, I felt the relaxed numbness that is the emotional marker of sleep from him.
Drawing that calm from Seth, I sent a small wave to Bella, not meeting Edward's eyes in case he didn't approve. She sighed and got up, wandering over to the window and looking outside. However, the guilt never left her. Her guilt slowly became tinged with thoughtfulness, and then confusion. Moments passed, and instead of feeling better, Bella's guilt continued to mount. I looked at Edward, who was watching Bella with a tender look, but made no move to comfort her. Talk to her, I told him. Tell her that no one is angry with her. Reassure her.
Edward looked at me with a raised eyebrow and I felt amusement coming from him. He cocked his head toward Bella, as if to say, "It's your turn." I stood silently for a moment, unsure. I was not allowed to talk to Bella, usually. I felt the old wall, the imposed boundary, shoot up at even the thought of approaching Bella. I looked back and forth between Bella and Edward, and Edward's emotions shifted from amusement to sadness…He offered me a small smile and nodded toward Bella again. It was time for me to overcome this boundary.
I took a deep breath and closed my eyes, wishing for Alice to be here. "What's the matter, Bella?" I practically whispered. This was hard for me. "No one is angry with you, or even surprised, really." Leah's anger was tangible, as well as Rosalie's annoyance, although I still wasn't sure who she was annoyed at. I drew upon Seth's calm again and spread it around the room. I needed it as much as Bella did. "Well, I suppose we are surprised," I continued. "Surprised that you were able to snap out of it so quickly. You did well. Better than anyone expects of you."
I looked at Bella's sad face, as she turned to me, and felt the tenderness rise up in me. She looked like such a little girl. I could see Renesmee in her, the same innocent eyes staring back at me. She could not be held accountable—by us or by herself—for what had happened with Jacob.
"I was thinking about Charlie, actually."
Pain from Edward was my first sense, as well as sadness from Carlisle and even Jacob and Rosalie. "Ah," I whispered, understanding more about Bella's guilt and disappointment. I looked into Bella's huge red eyes, her perfectly still body, and felt Edward's agitation. I waited for Bella to go to Edward for comfort, as she usually did, but she didn't move and her eyes didn't leave my face.
"We really have to leave, don't we? For a while, as the very least. Pretend we're in Atlanta or something." Despair came from her, as well as trust. Again, she was trusting me and needing something from me. A familial tenderness I never felt for Rosalie welled up inside of me. I would take that trust very seriously.
"Yes. It's the only way to protect your father." Right now, I would tell her the truth.
She mulled over this, a churning mist of emotions. Pain was the strongest as she said, "I'm going to miss him so much. I'll miss everyone here."
The last part of her statement confused me, as I wondered who she would miss. Certainly not the few acquaintances that she had from Forks High School. But as I saw her look at Seth out of the corner of her eye and then a few moments later shoot a glance at the front door, I realized that she meant her Quilute friends. She stood completely still, as he new vampire mind computed the inevitable, something that even the fastest brain would not be able to completely understand. She was going to have to leave her friends.
Happy Eclipse Day!
For dkrainier: we never bet against Alice.