Bella's magenta raincoat got caught on stray branches as she struggled to keep up with me. I laughed, playfully jogging a few paces ahead of her. I enjoyed watching her chase me. It was like those ridiculous night classes that Quil's mother used to bring him to; they had to play role reversal, where you stepped into the other person's shoes and looked at life through their perspective. And Bella was certainly in my perspective, even if she did not know it. My life was an endless chase, always staring at the back of her head as she stayed several strides ahead of me.
"Jake!" Bella squealed, jumping as a water snake emerged from under a tree root. "Wait up!" I spun around, chuckling as I found her tangled up in her raincoat, leaning on a tree for support. It was our tree, in a way. The first place that I had ever really talked to her. She had been breath-taking that night, just like always. But I tried to block that conversation out. We had been talking about them. The cold ones. The vampires. The Cullens.
I had received his threats. He had forced Bella to stay away from me ever since he had returned, but my clever Bella had escaped his cold wrath for long enough to walk with me on the beach. She was only half here though. The other half of her was with him. She was always with him in some way or another.
If only Bella could see how good I was for her. He was a drug, and he knew it. That was why he had left her last fall. He had left her and he had left me here to piece her back together again. I had, too. When nobody else could. Stitches like that were supposed to last a lifetime, but they seemed to dissolve the minute he returned. My poor Bella. She had fallen for his tricks again. That was what I loved the most about her, and also the thing that I despised. She trusted much too easily.
"Bella," I muttered, shaking my head as I detangled her sodden mahogany hair from the tree branch. Bella giggled, averting my eyes as I leaned over her.
"I'm sorry!" she laughed, stepping backwards as soon as her hair was untangled. Her clear eyes were wary as I placed both of my hands on either side of her face.
"Don't," she whispered, the smile wiping off of her face as soon as I touched her. Drop your hand, Jacob Black, I hissed internally. It's what she wants. Mustering up all of my will power, I let my hand swing helplessly to my side.
"It's him again, isn't it?" I muttered bitterly, pinching the bridge of my nose as I took a step backwards. Bella frowned, searching my face.
"It's always been him, Jake," she whispered, her voice barely there. I could see it in her eyes; she was trying not to hurt me, yet she needed to make her stance known.
"No, Bella," I corrected her, gritting my teeth. "It hasn't always been him. Last January, February and March. It wasn't him then." I was hitting below the belt, bringing her back to memories that no decent person should ever have to experience. Remorse filled Bella's eyes, and I instantly regretted it. But I had to make my stance clear. I may not deserve Bella, but I deserved that much.
"It was me then, Bella," I pointed out, shocked by the tremors in my voice. Calm down, Jake. You can't phase with her this close. "You know it, and so do I. He wasn't here- he was God knows where. But I was here, Bella. I was always here." Bella shook her head, tears forming in her eyes as she looked away from my intense gaze.
"Stop it, Jake," she gulped, wrapping her pale arms around her chest. "I shouldn't have come here." I laughed skeptically, my idiotic cackle echoing around the desolate beach.
"But you did, Bella," I reminded her. "You always come back."
Bella considered my answer, clearly dumbstruck. If only she could see what I could. If only she could feel what she was doing to me. Then surely she would keep coming back.
But she didn't. She only felt what she was doing to him.
"Jake, you can do so much better than me," she sighed, using the self-pity card as a last resort. "There are a million girls out there who would-"
"And him, Bella?" I interrupted, anger brewing inside of me like boiling water. "He can't do better than you?" Bella froze, stung by my retort. After a second, she regained her shaky composure.
"That's just it, Jake," she replied, her voice trembling. "He can do so much better than me. You both can, yet you insist on fighting over me like two little children. He doesn't want to do better than me. He wants me." Of all the foolish things that she had said tonight, this one stung the deepest. Did she have no conception over how much I wanted her?
"Jesus, Bella," I hissed, leaning in again and placing my hand on the tree next to her face. She recoiled slightly, but I did not hesitate. "I want all of you, forever, you and me, everyday. Will you do something for me, please? Just picture your life with me? A life where you grow old and die, but age doesn't even matter because you're simply with me. Wouldn't that be enough? Jesus, Bella, wouldn't that be enough?" It all came out at once, as if I had lost all of my self-control. Bella was frightened, breathing heavily yet still silently. I couldn't stand her silence. Every second that she was figuring out how to reject me, those seconds lasted a lifetime. I continued, not even bothering to stifle the ridiculous tremors pulsating down my body.
"When will you realize it?" I muttered darkly, looking at her from above my eyelids. Almost two years ago, she had done that to me. I had never forgotten. "You think that it's over that easy, but- but I have something to say. You'll never be completely his, Bella. He can say that you are and- and you can say that you are but you know you're not. You're carrying around a piece of me, and you'll never be his until you give it back." The tears were free-falling now, as if each one was diving out of her eye socket. I reminded myself that I should feel guilty, but the only thing that I could think of was how innocent she looked when she cried.
"What?" she whimpered. "What can I do? If I- If I could give it back, then I would." She glanced up at the sky, as if begging for an answer. "I'm sorry, but- but you know what Embry always says. There is more than one soulmate for every person, and- and it's just my luck that I found both of mine at once." I contemplated this for one short second, frozen with this declaration. She had never before called me her 'soulmate'.
"Then why, Bells?" I whispered, tenderly this time. "Why him? He can't treat you the way I can, because if he could, you wouldn't keep coming back to me." What Bella said next was the equivalent of a jagger being stabbed into my heart repeatedly.
"I'll stop," she replied, shaking her head fervently. "This is the last time that I will speak to you, acknowledge you. Damn it, Jake, I'll try not to think of you." She let out a heavy sob as an equally heavy wave struck the shore.
"It seems a little sad that I was the boy whose only purpose was to help you find out who you're really in love with," I whispered, looking at my shoulder vacantly. Bella shook her head, but she didn't have a rebuttal. Some things did not have a counter-argument.
"I'm sorry, Jake," she whispered, tears flying down her cheek. And then she did the worst thing that anybody could ever do to me. She ducked under my arm and hurried away down the shoreline. This time, I didn't chase her.
I was growing impatient, but I could wait. I could wait for an eternity.