For the first time in weeks, maybe months, the sun was warming the bare skin on the back of my neck. There was a gentle breeze, and it was quite warm for December. Rene had been firmly against an outdoor funeral, but my Bella would have wanted it that way. Especially on a day like this. The beautiful weather was mocking me. Of all the rainy days that I had endured here, the sun chose to show itself today. How ironic...
A delegation of the local law enforcement workers had gathered in the shade of a willow tree, and some of Bella's school friends were whispering with each other towards the back of the procession. Phil was standing next to me, trying to stifle his shivering. My ex-wife and her new husband had always hated the cold, and their constant complaining was provoking me. There were much worse things that 40° weather. But they knew that, of course. We all did now.
I could hear them muttering. People were patting my shoulder, kissing my cheek... They were all just a breeze in the grass, however. Just the meaningless wind. I paid them no attention.
I had experienced the denial, though that had only lasted for a minute or so. And then the acceptance. That had been the worst. The dreadful truth, more completely undeniable than anything else in the whole goddamn planet...
"Chief Swan!" a voice called, forcing me to unwillingly turn around. I had had it with the well-wishers, sobbing with their remorse. But it was Seth Clearwater calling my name, and he was a nice boy worthy of my attention.
"Seth," I muttered, bowing my head politely. Seth returned the gesture, rubbing his arm awkwardly.
"I'm sorry about everything," he offered, his warm honey eyes coated with fresh tears. "Bella was a great friend to all of us." I nodded, gulping down my tears. I would not cry. Not today.
"She was, m'boy," I murmured, letting my eyelids drop for a second too long. "Go talk to Jacob for me. He's not doing as well as he says." It was true. Poor Jacob wasn't Jacob anymore. No- he was vacant and unmoving, like the evergreen trees behind him. Seth did not budge.
"Actually, sir," he began tentatively, "That's what I have to talk to you about. I was just talking to Jake, sir, and he isn't up to giving the eulogy." I sighed, frustrated. Why couldn't things just go smoothly for once? But things never did.
"Bella wouldn't have needed one anyway," I retorted bitterly. In fact, she would have despised all of the attention. Maybe it was a good thing that she didn't have to bare witness to all of this. I choked back that thought.
"But sir, she deserves one," Seth reminded me, and I had to agree. "I'd be willing to read what Jake wrote down. I know that we weren't great friends, but she always paid attention to me down at the rez. Jake said you didn't want to say anything..." I scoffed at the idea of speaking. I was not a man to wear my emotions on my sleeves. Not now, when everything that I lived for was gone...
Seth and I were interrupted by a light tap on the shoulder. It was Rene, with her tear-stricken face and her sad blue eyes.
"The sermon, Charlie," she whispered hoarsely, jerking her head to the front of the ceremony where the priest had begun to drone on and on about things that certainly did not do my daughter justice.
"We gather here on this sad day to remember the life of Isabella Swan, daughter of Charlie and Rene, step-daughter of Phil, and friend of many. Bella was born in 1989 and died suddenly, and sadly, by her own hand, this previous Sunday. In the last two and a half days you who are her family and friends have been struggling with the sad mystery that surrounds her death. In the light of this I cannot emphasize enough that this is not your fault. Perhaps there was a straw that broke the camels back, but there is always a previous burden of pain and anguish. For whatever reason, her pain was too great, too heavy for her to bear. I know that you would have done everything in your power if you had known.
"No matter what we say here today, we cannot bring her back, but in the hopes that we can do her memory justice, a short eulogy from a good friend Jacob Black will be given." Jacob cast me a foreboding look. He did not stir from his spot in the back of the procession, so I threw Seth a silent plea. Tactful as ever, the young boy ambled to the front of the gathering and shook the clergyman's hand. I watched apprehensively as he began to speak.
"Good morning," he began routinely. His dark eyes fell on Jacob, though he was perfectly at ease speaking. "I will be giving the eulogy in place of my good friend. I did not have the pleasure of knowing Bella Swan as well as many of you did, but I knew her well enough to know that she was one of a kind. The Bella that many of you know- a daughter, a stepdaughter, a neighbor- was different than the Bella that Jacob and I knew, yet she was completely the same. She was kind and thoughtful, never missing a beat when she sensed that something was wrong..."
Though I was grateful that the young boy had taken the place of myself or somebody better-suited to read the eulogy, I could not restrain my attention as it began to wonder... Ah. The forest... How she had loved the forest... My Bella had been thoroughly an indoors-girl, yet I couldn't forget those long walks that she took in the forest, sometimes with- with that boy.
As if I had called his wretched name, he was suddenly there. He was half-hidden behind a tree, and there was a vacant sadness in his golden eyes, yet he was there. Edward. I had anticipated this moment for the past two and a half days. Naturally, I would rip his throat out, pry off each finger nail with bamboo splinters and then place a bullet in his ridiculously sculpted chest... He would die painfully, though no where near painfully enough. If only he knew what he had put my daughter through.
But there was comprehension in his ochre eyes. He knew everything, and he accepted the fact that it was his fault. Due to the gloomy forest lighting, I could only see half of his face. Now, I was comfortable enough with my masculinity to admit that the boy was good-looking, but there was nothing handsome about his features now. His eyes bore the sadness of a Holocaust survivor, and his jaw was contorted into an uncomfortable grimace.
Yes, he had been the reason for my Bella's death. But he had also been the reason for my Bella's life.