Author's Note: This is my take on Edward's version of the some of the events that take place in Stephenie Meyer's "Eclipse". It is a retelling of portions of the book, albeit from Edward's POV. Due to this, all dialogue and conversations from the book, for which Edward and Bella are present together, have been faithfully incorporated exactly the way they appear in Stephenie Meyer's brilliant work of fiction.
By the way, I truly appreciate the feedback I have received on my previous story. Please keep it up. I especially do want to know if you read anything in my chapters that you feel is out of character. I'm trying to get into Edward's head, and live his emotions, understand what makes him tick.
This 1st Chapter is called "Menace". I can't seem to get my chapters short anymore. There is just so much to say! I chose the name for this chapter as an allusion to both the newborn(s) that are ravaging Seattle, and Jacob Black. In my opinion, Edward considers both of them a menace to Bella, though at first he views Jacob as the larger threat. The chapter contains a large portion of actual conversation/dialogue of the 1st Chapter in "Eclipse", but I tried to expand into explanations for Edward's actions and feelings, as I imagined them. I considered a lot of emotions as they are described by Bella, though I thought that perhaps her perception of Edward's feelings, and reasons for doing something, may not always be accurate. So, if you read something in this story that doesn't make sense - please remember, it could be because that's how I see him. I may be completely wrong!! I also used other information gleaned from Stephenie's novels, her website, and additional data readily available on many websites dedicated to the Twilight series.
Please, let's all be very clear on this: This story is simply fan fiction. All rights to the Twilight series, the books, the characters, and anything related to Twilight, are exclusively owned by Stephenie Meyer. No copyright infringement is intended. I have nothing but the utmost respect for this undeniably brilliant writer, whose amazing stories have completely and irrevocably sucked me into the Twilight Universe. I cannot even hope to come anywhere near her incomparable talent for story writing. On the off-chance that Stephenie, or someone in direct contact with her, reads this - Please know (or tell her) how extraordinarily grateful I am to you/her for writing her books. THANK YOU!!!
Thank you for reading. The songs for this story are Starlight and Map of the Problematique by Muse.
For me, afternoons signified the longest hours of the day; the hours between school and seven p.m., at which time I was allowed, officially, to visit Bella at her home, always under her father's supervision. At exactly nine-thirty p.m., Charlie, gleefully, showed me the door. He only spoke to me when it was absolutely necessary, his thoughts about me even more sullen than usual during those times. Not that I blamed him for his bitter feelings towards me, so I was unfailingly polite, day after day. Of course, I still spent almost every night in Bella's room, and we sat next to each other in school every day. But I longed for her during those hours we were apart, and I anxiously counted the minutes until I would see her again.
I was driving through Forks, probably a little too fast, on my way to her house.
My official visiting hours had become more restricted after Jacob Black had turned traitor, and told Charlie about Bella's motorcycle. I still hadn't forgiven the dog for his betrayal of the girl I loved. After our first, and last, at least so far, confrontation in the woods behind Bella's house, Jacob and the rest of the pack had kept to their lands, and hadn't come anywhere near Bella. This was just fine with me, but his treachery had upset Bella, and she missed her former best friend. It pained me to see her hurting this way, and I was forever trying to think of new things with which to distract her. So far, nothing had helped much.
College was still a priority, and one that I enthusiastically encouraged Bella in pursuing. Most deadlines to submit student applications had passed, but there were still some of them open; and many colleges were also motivated to make exceptions. At least those, that any of us had previously, under various other names, graduated from, and which we still generously supported with yearly alumni donations. I hadn't mentioned this to Bella. Her aversion to any kind of gift from me was exacerbated when it came to the subject of money. I'd offered to pay for her college tuition, but she had adamantly refused. I'd considered roundabout ways – an unexpected, winning lottery ticket, for example – but I knew that, in all likelihood, Bella would see right through my scheming, and be very angry with me, so I had dropped that particular idea. At this time, we were waiting for acceptance letters from the University of Alaska Southeast in Juneau. I had received mine that morning, and I was curious to find out if Bella had gotten hers. Not that her acceptance was really in question – this was yet another college that still had an open deadline, and her excellent grades almost guaranteed Bella's acceptance. I was going to attempt convincing her to give Dartmouth a try next. She'd probably laugh at me, but I would try nonetheless.
There were other worries on my mind. Alice was keeping watch for Victoria's return, as well as the remote possibility of a Volturi visit. Neither had happened yet, and of the two, I considered Victoria the more urgent threat. It didn't seem in her nature to give up, and I could only imagine the schemes she would devise to get to Bella. But I trusted Alice – she would see if Victoria made any plans for another visit to Forks. And when that happened, I would stand in her way, and Victoria would die.
I wasn't as concerned about the Volturi, but the promise they had obtained from Alice in Italy weighed heavily on my mind. Bella fully intended to become one of us, and Alice had promised the same to the Volturi. I still was uncertain whether my decision to allow Bella's conversion was really in her best interest. I struggled most with my belief that by doing so, I would, in essence, allow her soul to be destroyed and she would be forever barred from heaven.
I'd been reluctantly questioning that belief lately, after Bella pointed out something I hadn't thought of. Subconsciously, it seemed, I did have hope that there would be a shot at heaven for me, after all. That, perhaps, I hadn't lost my soul. Bella certainly believed that, and my reactions when she found me in Volterra, gave her proof that I was, possibly, more optimistic than I'd originally thought. But there were other rules I had broken. The ones that humans believed in. No matter how I conducted myself now, I wasn't sure I would be forgiven for the sins I had committed.
I was also worried by my suspicion that Bella had not completely thought through her choice, and the sacrifices she'd have to make, the things she'd be giving up. There were human experiences she should be able to make, and human options she should have. There were experiences that I wouldn't be able to give her. Children, for example. Growing old. It always felt like Bella deserved so much better.
None of my family members had been given a choice in the matter of our own transformations from human to vampire, but we had made the best of the given situation, and adjusted, after time, to this half-life, some of us easier than the others.
Rosalie struggled the most – not because of our choice to abstain from the normal vampiric diet and only hunt animals instead – but because of the limitations this existence burdened us with. She had found true love with Emmett, but she knew there would always be just the two of them, and she resented that more than anything. Jasper was more of the opposite – he fought mostly against the temptation of human blood, and hadn't been denying himself as long as the rest of us. His early years as a vampire had also been quite different.
Carlisle had over the centuries perfected his self-control, and had made peace with this life long ago. His work at the hospital brought him a great deal of comfort. Esme's compassion for all people had helped her, after the wild newborn period, to control her thirst. Alice had woken up to this existence without any memories of her previous life, and only her visions of Carlisle and my family had prevented her from becoming a bloodthirsty savage. Emmett – well, Emmett wasn't usually bothered by anything. He took to his new life without complaint, and after the first few years, hadn't slipped up again.
As for myself, after a few years of rebellion, I had long gotten used to curbing my appetite and denying my thirst. Bella's arrival in Forks had made that slightly more difficult; her scent had been the sweetest blood I'd ever smelled. My love for her had altered me, and given me the strength to resist. After the events leading up to our adventure in Italy, however, Bella's scent no longer engendered the fiery flash burns it previously had. When I thought I had lost her forever, my reactions changed completely – the thought of losing her, and feeling this unbearable, overpowering grief and anguish I had lived through, had nearly obliterated the temptation of her blood. It had been three very enlightening days.
And then, of course, there was the proximity of the wolves to worry about. Even though Jacob Black had kept his distance, the pack's existence was of concern. The treaty was still in effect, but with Bella's conversion on the horizon, a breach was coming, and we didn't know how the wolves would react. We'd probably have to leave for good, but no decision had been made. And Alice couldn't see the wolves, and that made things more dangerous for us.
I didn't like to admit that my jealousy of Bella's friendship with Jacob Black exacerbated my aversion to the wolves in general, and Jacob in particular. The green-eyed monster reared its ugly head often, and while I was usually able to smother the less civilized thoughts, on occasion they broke through. My absolute disapproval of Bella making any excursions onto their land would be a point of great disagreement, and I didn't like the way it threatened to drive a wedge between us. Thankfully, under her current restrictions, she wasn't allowed to go visit Jacob anyway, so this conversation hadn't really come up. Yet.
I had stopped the car in front of her house, grabbing the new stack of college applications from the passenger seat, when I picked up the sounds from inside the house. I put the car in park, and was about to get out when I heard the muffled thoughts in Charlie's head. Bella and Charlie were in the kitchen, eating dinner, if the sound of silverware hitting plates was any indication. I didn't usually eavesdrop, but today Charlie's thoughts surprised me. He had lifted his restrictions, and Bella was no longer grounded. This was unexpected, but very much appreciated. I was getting excited about taking her to a movie, or dinner, or just playing the piano for her at my house. She'd been locked up inside for so long.
He was talking to her about finding balance, seeing her other friends, and reconnecting with Jacob. My jealousy flared up. I froze with my hand on the door handle, and listened intently.
"...particularly Jacob," Charlie was saying.
"Jacob might be... difficult," Bella replied. That was an understatement if I'd ever heard one. Difficult was not quite the word I would have used. Impossible, perhaps.
"The Blacks are practically family, Bella," Charlie said in a stern tone of voice. "And Jacob has been a very, very good friend to you."
I supposed he was right. Not only had Jacob Black rescued Bella before she could drown, during her ill-advised cliff jumping stunt, he and his pack of wolves had also kept her safe from other, more menacing threats. Once from Laurent's hands, and many times while Victoria had been stalking her. During the months of our separation, while I'd been gone from her life, Bella had been in very grave danger. But Jacob Black's feelings for Bella transcended mere friendship. He thought himself in love with her, and intended to do what he could to prevent her from going through with her choice.
"I know that," Bella assured him.
Charlie was getting a little frustrated. "Don't you miss him at all?" I held my breath, waiting for her answer, carefully watching her face through his eyes. Bella looked down, and her face was drawn. She cleared her throat twice. "Yes, I do miss him," she said, her voice barely above a whisper. "I miss him a lot."
I had known that, of course, and I felt terrible that she was hurting so, but I couldn't allow her to go near the wolves unprotected. And the treaty prevented me from going with her. Certainly, our mutual hatred of each other was making any kind of relationship between them and us impossible. We couldn't be near each other. And their transformations from man to wolf were often involuntary, and it was highly dangerous if someone stood too close when they shifted shape. Bella seeing Jacob Black by herself was completely out of the question, her safety my number one concern. My jealousy of the dog didn't have anything to do with it, at least that's what I kept telling myself.
Charlie didn't understand her reluctance. "Then why is it difficult?"
"With Jacob, there is a... conflict," Bella explained. "A conflict about the friendship thing, I mean. Friendship doesn't always seem to be enough for Jake."
I was awed. Bella had an extraordinary ability to keep things as close to the truth as possible, without actually revealing the full story. She didn't like to lie, and this secrecy, though necessary, had to be very hard for her. The dog's bitter hatred for my family was actually aggravated by his feelings for Bella, and his knowledge of her intentions to become one of us.
"I'd rather see her with Jake than that Cullen boy..." Charlie's distaste for me was nothing new. I had earned it, leaving Bella like I had, and causing her so much heartache with my actions. My guilt smothered my anger at his words.
"Isn't Edward up for a little competition?" Charlie said, sarcastically.
Bella glared up at him. "There is no competition." Ah, how I loved this girl, and how happy it made me that, for some inexplicable reason, she loved me, too.
"You're hurting his feelings, avoiding him like this. He'd rather just be friends than nothing." Charlie kept trying. He and Billy had talked about this over the phone earlier today.
"I'm pretty sure Jake doesn't want to be friends at all," Bella retorted. "Where'd you get that idea, anyway?"
Charlie was feeling embarrassed and wished he hadn't brought this up. "The subject might have come up today with Billy..."
Bella's face was annoyed. Looking down, she angrily stabbed her fork into her food, and the sound of fork screeching over plate was not pleasant in my ears. "You and Billy gossip like old women."
I chuckled quietly at her analogy. Good one.
"Billy's worried about Jacob," Charlie continued, not appreciating the comparison Bella had just made. "Jake's having a hard time right now... he's depressed."
Bella winced, but kept her eyes down. I was getting annoyed with Charlie. She didn't need this kind of pressure. What she was doing was hard enough.
"And then you were always so happy after spending the day with Jake," Charlie sighed at the memory. Now I was the one wincing. Bella hadn't been happy, but I supposed, in comparison, it was a good description. Jacob Black had made her happi-er during my long absence, when Bella thought I'd stopped loving her. When my leaving her had hurt her so badly, she had gone numb from the pain. Charlie remembered, and his memories were excruciatingly painful to me. I would never be able to make it up to Bella, but I would never stop trying.
"I'm happy now," Bella spit through her clenched teeth. Charlie thought contrast between her words and her tone of voice was hilarious and burst out laughing. After a moment, Bella joined him.
"Okay, okay," she said. "Balance."
Charlie still wouldn't give up. "And Jacob," he asserted.
"I'll try," Bella responded. Over my smoldering heap of ashes!
"Good. Find that balance, Bella."
Having gained her concession, Charlie was anxious to move on to another subject. "And, oh yeah, you've got some mail. It's by the stove." He'd already peeked and opened the letter. It was Bella's acceptance to Alaska Southeast, the one I'd been waiting for.
Charlie was impatient. Bella hadn't moved at his words, still looking like she was deep in thoughts. Again, I wished I could simply hear her. Her facial expressions were often fairly easy to read, but I could never be certain.
Charlie got up from the table, and moved his plate to the sink, while tossing the big envelope at Bella. I heard it slide across the table, before it hit her with a thud.
"Er, thanks," she said. "That was quick. I guess I missed the deadline on that one, too."
Charlie chortled, knowing differently. Bella turned the envelope over, and glared at her father. "It's open."
He wasn't chagrined. "I was curious."
"I'm shocked, Sheriff," she teased him. "That's a federal crime."
"Oh, just read it," he retorted. He watched Bella pull the papers out of the envelope, but couldn't contain his excitement. "Congratulations, your first acceptance."
"We should talk about tuition. I got some money saved up..." Charlie started, but Bella interrupted him almost immediately. "Hey, hey, none of that. I'm not touching your retirement, Dad."
Charlie was not stopping. "Some of these places are pretty pricey, Bells. I want to help. You don't have to go all the way to Alaska, because it's cheaper."
I grimaced. Alaska wasn't actually cheaper than the local Community College. To Bella, the whole application process was all pretense anyway, since she wasn't really planning on attending college after the summer. I, on the other hand, was still hoping that she would delay her conversion, hoping that she would take me up on my offer of initiating her transformation myself - as long she was my wife by that time. There was nothing I wanted more than to marry this girl, and make her mine forever.
"I've got it covered," Bella assured Charlie. "Besides, there's lots of financial aid out there. It's easy to get loans." Always so selfless. I would gladly give her the tuition money if she'd but let me. I got out of the car, walking up the sidewalk to her front door.
"Wonder where he will be going. Hope it's on the opposite side of the country..."
"So," Charlie began, but stopped himself. "Don't wanna talk about him..." He looked away.
"So, what?" Bella asked.
"Just wondering what Edward's plans were for next year."
"Oh." It was time to rescue Bella from further interrogation. I knocked on the door, at the same time that Charlie prompted Bella for an answer. "Well?"
I heard her chair moved across the linoleum in the kitchen as she got up to get the door. "Coming," she called out.
"Go away," Charlie grumbled under his breath. I didn't think Bella had heard it.
She opened the door, and there she was, her melted chocolate eyes smiling up at me. I breathed a sigh of pleasure as I took her hand in mine. The feeling of her skin on mine sent tingles up my spine. Her willing touch was like a miracle, every time.
"Hey," Bella murmured. I raised our interlaced fingers to stroke her cheek. "How was your afternoon?" I asked her.
"Slow," she replied. I knew exactly how she felt. "For me, as well."
I moved her hand up to my nose, and gently skimmed along the skin on her wrist, inhaling her scent. My eyes closed. With my throat no longer bursting into flames, I could appreciate the perfume of her blood much so more than before. Her unique fragrance was indescribable. There were no words to do it justice.
Charlie was stomping out of the kitchen towards the hall, wondering what was taking so long, and wanting to interrupt anything that might be – inappropriate.
My eyes flew open before he rounded the corner. "Good evening, Charlie." He just grunted in reply, and crossed his arms over his chest. "Ugh – he's back." It wasn't nothing more than I'd expected. I was used to it by now.
"I brought another set of applications," I smiled down at Bella, holding the stack of papers out to her. Bella groaned. My smile widened. I could guess by the expression on her face what she was thinking. "There are still a few open deadlines. And a few places willing to make exceptions." The skepticism on her face deepened. I laughed. She was adorable.
"Shall we?" I gently pulled her towards the kitchen. Bella was clearing off the table, whilst I organized today's set of applications, when something caught my eye. Was she reading that horrible book again? Wuthering Heights? I simply didn't see the allure this particular story held for her. It was dreadful. I raised an eyebrow, but before I could say anything, Charlie ambled into the kitchen and interrupted me.
"Speaking of college applications, Edward," he said, not looking at me, his tone sullen. He didn't like having to talk to me, and avoided it at all cost. "Bella and I were just talking about next year. Have you decided where you're going to school?"
"'nother country'd be good."
Wherever Bella was going, actually, but that was probably not what he wanted to hear, so I just smiled at him. "Not yet. I've received a few acceptance letters, but I'm still weighing my options."
"Where have you been accepted?" Charlie demanded.
"Syracuse... Harvard... Dartmouth... and I just got accepted to the University of Alaska Southeast today," I replied. I imperceptibly turned my face towards Bella and winked at her. Her eyes flashed with amusement, having picked up on the joke instantly. Charlie didn't catch it. His thoughts weren't completely coherent, as he fumbled through the awe he felt for the choices he thought I had. I suppressed a grin.
"Harvard? Dartmouth?" Charlie was slightly recovered. "Well that's pretty... that's something. Yeah, but the University of Alaska... you wouldn't really consider that when you could go to Ivy League. I mean, your father would want you to..." He still hadn't fully regrouped his thoughts.
"Carlisle's always fine with whatever I choose to do," I told him patiently. It wasn't actually a lie. Carlisle usually supported me in all my choices, knowing that I had weighed the pros and cons thoroughly before making my decision. Except for one time – when he had agreed to Bella's request, in opposition to my resolution to keep her human.
"Hmmph," Charlie grunted in response. He didn't like that answer at all.
"Guess what, Edward?" Bella piped up in a bright voice. She pointed her finger at the envelope on the counter. "I just got my acceptance to the University of Alaska."
"Congratulations!" I grinned at her. "What a coincidence!"
"They're pulling my leg! They're making fun of me!" Charlie glared at both of us for a minute, but he had nothing to prove his suspicion. "Fine," he muttered. "I'm going to watch the game, Bella. Nine-thirty." That little phrase had been his parting comment every night for weeks. He was so used to his ritual by now that he'd forgotten that he had lifted Bella's restrictions.
She hadn't, though. "Er, Dad? Remember the very recent discussion about my freedom...?"
Charlie sighed in resignation. "Right. Okay, ten-thirty. You still have a curfew on school nights."
"Bella's no longer grounded?" I pretended to be surprised, though I'd been getting more excited by the minute about it. She'd been stuck in the house for so long. But I probably shouldn't have said anything because Charlie's teeth clenched at my question. "Conditionally. What's it to you?" I tried to appease him.
"It's just good to know," I replied. "Alice has been itching for a shopping partner, and I'm sure Bella would love to see some city lights." I threw her a smile.
"Too dangerous!" The thought was immediate, and Charlie's anger flared. "No," he growled. "I don't want you going to Seattle right now."
"Huh?" Bella was confused, but I could see Charlie's point. "I told you about that story in the paper – there's some kind of gang on a killing spree in Seattle and I want you to stay clear, okay?"
Bella was unconcerned, rolling her eyes. "Dad, there's a better chance that I get struck by lightning than that the one day I'm in Seattle-," Bella started, but I interrupted her. "No, that's fine, Charlie. I didn't mean Seattle. I was thinking Portland, actually. I wouldn't have Bella in Seattle, either. Of course not." I grabbed the newspaper and started to skim over the report.
Charlie was mollified by my assurance, it seemed. "Fine," he grumbled, and went to the living room to watch the game. I heard the TV turn on.
"What-?" Bella started to ask, but I hadn't quite finished the article yet. "Hold on," I told her, while I gave her the first application. "I think you can recycle your essays for this one. Same questions." Her pen started to scratch over the pages.
I stared out the window, thinking. The murder situation in Seattle wasn't news to me or my family. We'd been keeping an eye on the problem over the last couple of weeks, but hadn't taken any steps. Alice couldn't see yet whether it would be a threat to us. There seemed to be only one at work at this time, so we'd kept our distance. As long as it wasn't getting worse, we'd stay out of it. I was feeling a little uneasy – if the situation escalated further, the Volturi would likely step in, and I didn't want them so close to us. They might decide to check if we had kept our word, and I wasn't ready for that, yet. I was still hoping for more time, and I didn't want Bella to make the irreversible change, because she felt threatened.
We'd also wondered who had created this menace, and then left it to its own devices. It was highly unusual, and it made me apprehensive. I couldn't quite put my finger on why I was feeling that way. Nobody was taking responsibility for this newborn, and that simply wasn't done. The threat of exposure was too high in these situations. There was only one ultimate rule - humans couldn't know that vampires existed.
Bella snorted, interrupting my musings.
I turned my eyes back towards her. "Bella?"
"Be serious, Edward. Dartmouth?"
I softly put the application she had pushed away back in front of her. "I think you'd like New Hampshire," I told her. "There's a full compliment of night courses for me, and the forests are very conveniently located for the avid hiker. Plentiful wildlife." I smiled at her.
Bella inhaled deeply. I knew she was worried about the tuition, and just so stubborn about letting me pay for it. "I'll let you pay me back, if that makes you happy," I assured her. "If you want, I can charge you interest."
She was having none of that. "Like I could even get in without some enormous bribe. Or is that part of the loan? The new Cullen wing of the library? Ugh. Why are we having this discussion again?"
"Will you just fill out the application, please, Bella? It won't hurt you to apply." She actually wasn't far off with her insinuation, though it wasn't going to be the Cullen wing of the library.
She set her jaw, angry now. "You know what? I don't think I will." She started to reach for the papers, but I was just a little faster. Before she could blink, they were already in my pocket.
"What are you doing?" Bella was not pleased, that much was clear from her face.
What I was doing, was sending her application to Dartmouth, whether she liked it or not. "I sign your name better than you do yourself. You've already written the essays."
"You're going overboard with this, you know," she had dropped her voice to a whisper. "I really don't need to apply anywhere else. I've been accepted in Alaska. I can almost afford the first semester tuition. It's as good an alibi as any. There's no need to throw away a bunch of money, no matter whose it is."
My face tightened in distress at her words. She was so eager to get to the point of transformation. As I often did, I wondered again if she had really thought her choice through. The things, the options she'd be giving up, the human experiences she'd never get to make. The people she wouldn't be able to see anymore. I didn't think she had, and it pained me that she was so willing to give up her humanity. To give up her soul. If I was right in my belief that our souls were lost – destroyed in the searing pain of the change from human to vampire. I wanted her to have more time – time to truly think through the repercussions, and then make an informed choice.
Bella noticed my mood change. "Don't start," she said. "I agree that I need to go through the motions for Charlie's sake, but we both know that I won't be in any condition to go to school next fall. To be anywhere near people." She was only thinking of the mechanics, as before. This seemed to confirm my worry that she hadn't really though it through. She needed more time.
"I thought the timing was still undecided," I quietly replied. "You might enjoy a semester or two of college. There are a lot of human experiences you've never had."
"I'll get to those afterwards."
I suppressed a sigh. She just didn't get it. "They won't be human experiences afterward. You don't get a second chance at humanity, Bella."
"You've got to be reasonable about the timing, Edward. It's just too dangerous to mess around with."
Which was exactly why I wanted her to wait. I did not want her to go through with her decision, just because she was afraid, or felt she had no other option. I wouldn't be able to forgive myself if I'd let that happen.
"There's no danger yet," I insisted. She just glared at me, but was quiet. Her face changed from worry to distress to pain, and I was anxious again. I guessed that she was worried about the threat from Victoria and the Volturi. I tried to reassure her. "Bella," I murmured. "There's no hurry. I won't let anyone hurt you. You can take all the time you need."
Bella smiled, feebly. "I want to hurry," she whispered. "I want to be a monster, too."
Irritation bubbled to the surface, my face was hard. "You have no idea what you're saying," I hissed through my teeth, throwing the newspaper back onto the table. I roughly put my finger on the headline.
"What does that have to do with anything?" I realized she didn't know. She didn't know how to read between the lines.
"Monsters are not a joke, Bella."
She read the headline, and then looked up at me, understanding washing across her features. "A... a vampire is doing this?", she asked, her voice incredulous.
My smile was hard, my voice cold. She needed to understand this truth, once and for all. "You'd be surprised, Bella, how often my kind are the source behind the horrors in your human news. It's easy to recognize, when you know what to look for. The information here indicates that a newborn vampire is loose in Seattle. Bloodthirsty, wild, out of control. The way we all were."
Her eyes dropped back to the headline, she wouldn't look at me. I kept going. "We've been monitoring the situation for a few weeks. All the signs are there – the unlikely disappearances, always in the night, the poorly disposed-of corpses, the lack of other evidence... Yes, someone brand-new. And no one seems to be taking responsibility for the neophyte..." I took a deep breath, my irritation slowly fading. "Well, it's not our problem. We wouldn't even be paying attention to the situation if it wasn't going on so close to home. Like I said, this happens all the time. The existence of monsters results in monstrous consequences."
Bella was quiet, still looking at the front page. "It won't be the same for me," she finally whispered. "You won't let me be like that. We'll live in Antarctica."
She was right, of course. Not much hunting variety in that particular location, but I would take her there if she asked me to. I snickered. "Penguins. Lovely."
She laughed at my flimsy attempt at a joke, but her voice was shaking. "Alaska, then, as planned. Only somewhere much more remote than Juneau – somewhere with grizzlies galore."
I went along. There were tons of hunting possibilities in the cold ice of that region. "Better," I told her, excitedly. "There are polar bears, too. Very fierce. And the wolves get quite large."
Bella's mouth fell open, her breath coming out in a rush. What? What was she thinking now?
"What's wrong?" I asked her, having absolutely no idea what had made her so upset. And then I realized what I'd said. My body went rigid. Wolves. Jacob Black. Of course, Bella wouldn't appreciate that particular kind of prey. I felt chagrined at my faux-pas, but intensely jealous at the same time, and it made my apology formal, stiff. "Oh. Never mind the wolves, then, if the idea is offensive to you."
"He was my best friend, Edward," she muttered. "Of course the idea offends me."
"Please forgive my thoughtlessness," I tried again, fighting the green-eyed monster in my head. "I shouldn't have suggested that."
"Don't worry about it," Bella replied, but she wouldn't meet my eyes. Her hands were clenched tightly. Seeing her distress won out over my jealousy, and my body relaxed. What I'd just done was inexcusable. I had, again, hurt this beautiful girl, who deserved so much better than the loathsome monster that I was. I put my finger under her chin, trying to get her to look at me, so I could apologize again. Properly this time. I gazed into her eyes. "Sorry. Really."
"I know," she replied. "I know it's not the same thing. I shouldn't have reacted that way. It's just that... well, I was already thinking about Jacob before you came over." Yes, I would've guessed that she had, her father having brought up the subject earlier. Bella must have seen the annoyance in my eyes, because her voice became imploring.
"Charlie says Jacob's having a hard time. He's hurting right now, and... it's my fault."
My response was immediate. "You've done nothing wrong, Bella." It was all my fault. My fault that I'd so foolishly left her, my fault that she had become involved with a pack of wolves, and Jacob in particular. My fault that she felt she had to go console the dog. The most appalling mistake I'd ever made. And I was paying the price for my inexcusable deed.
Bella took a deep breath. "I need to make it better, Edward. I owe him that. And it's one of Charlie's conditions anyway..."
My face went cold again. No. It was too dangerous. How many times did I have to tell her that?
"You know it's out of the question for you to be around a werewolf unprotected, Bella. And it would break the treaty if any of us cross over onto their land. Do you want us to start a war?"
"Of course not!"
"Then there's really no point in discussing the matter further." I needed a rapid subject change. My eyes fell on the book she'd cleared off the table earlier. I smiled.
"I'm glad Charlie has decided to let you out – you're sadly in need of a visit to the bookstore. I can't believe you're reading Wuthering Heights again. Don't you know it by heart yet?"
"Not all of us have photographic memories," she replied, her voice brusque.
"Photographic memory or not, I don't understand why you like it. The characters are ghastly people who ruin each others' lives. I don't know how Heathcliff and Cathy ended up being ranked with couples like Romeo and Juliet or Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy. It isn't a love story, it's a hate story."
"You have some serious issues with the classics," she mocked me. Did it seem that way to her?
"Perhaps it's because I'm not impressed by antiquity." Pleased that I had distracted her, my smile grew wider. "Honestly, though, why do you read it over and over?" I had unintentionally succeeded in distracting myself, as well. My curiosity erupted. The impenetrable processes of Bella's silent mind were still perplexing to me, and I used any opportunity at a chance to unravel more of the mystery. Reaching for her face across the table, I gazed into her eyes. "What is it that appeals to you?"
"I'm not sure," she replied, leaning her face into my hand. "I think it's something about the inevitability. How nothing can keep them apart – not her selfishness, or his evil, or even death, in the end..."
I hadn't thought of it that way, but that made sense. Inevitability. Hm. Falling in love with Bella had been inevitable. Her tentatively scheduled transformation also seemed inevitable, especially considering Alice's consistent visions of Bella, after the change.
"I still think it would be a better story if either of them had one redeeming quality," I teased her, but Bella had an answer for that, too.
"I think that may be the point," she contradicted me. "Their love is their only redeeming quality."
That was a good point, actually, but it didn't make me appreciate the book's characters any more. "I hope you have better sense than that – to fall in love with someone so... malignant."
"It's a bit late for me to worry about who I will fall in love with," she reminded me pointedly. "But even without the warning, I seemed to have managed fairly well."
I softly laughed. "I'm glad you think so." I still thought she could have done so much better.
"Well, I hope you're smart enough to stay away from someone so selfish. Catherine is really the source of all the trouble, not Heathcliff."
I suppressed another laugh. Bella was the most selfless person I had ever met, so her worries were entirely unnecessary on that point. "I'll be on my guard," I assured her. She put her hand over mine, and stared at me, sighing.
"I have to see Jacob," Bella returned to our previous disagreement.
I closed my eyes, not wanting her to see the renewed pain and anger. "No."
"It's truly not dangerous at all," she continued, pleading with me. "I used to spend the whole day in La Push with the whole lot of them, and nothing ever happened."
Her voice had grown hesistant towards the end, and her heart had sped up. I recognized the lie for what it was. I nodded. "Werewolves are unstable. Sometimes, the people near them get hurt. Sometimes, they get killed."
And that was my, primary at least, reason to not allow any trips to see her friends. I waited for a reply, but her heart rate continued to accelerate. My smile was grim.
"You don't know them," she whispered finally.
"I know them better than you think, Bella. I was here the last time."
She hadn't known that. "The last time?"
I decided that I needed to explain this to her, as well. "We started crossing paths with the wolves about seventy years ago... We had just settled near Hoquiam. That was before Alice and Jasper were with us. We outnumbered them, but that wouldn't have stopped it from turning into a fight, if not for Carlisle. He managed to convince Ephraim Black that coexisting was possible, and eventually we made the truce."
I pondered this again for a moment. Her bad luck was absolutely incredible. "We thought the line had died out with Ephraim..." I glared at her, but only teasingly. "Your bad luck seems to get more potent every day. Do you realize your insatiable pull for all things deadly was strong enough to recover a pack of mutant canines from extinction? If we could bottle your luck, we'd have a weapon of mass destruction on our hands."
"But I didn't bring them back," Bella challenged me. "Don't you know?"
"Know what?" What did she mean? What else could have done that?
"My bad luck had nothing to do with it. The werewolves came back because the vampires did."
Surprise stunned me into silence. All I could do was stare at her, unmoving.
"Jacob told me that your family being here set things into motion."
I bridled at that accusation. "Is that what they think?"
"Edward, look at the facts. Seventy years ago, you came here, and the werewolves showed up. You come back now, and the werewolves show up again. Do you think that's a coincidence?"
I blinked, still in shock. "Carlisle will be interested in that theory."
"Theory," she scoffed.
I looked away, wondering if she was right. I couldn't argue with her logic. It was possible, I decided. Definitely possible. I would discuss this with Carlisle the first chance I got.
It didn't change my point, though. "Interesting, but not exactly relevant. The situation remains the same."
Bella got up and walked around the table to where I was sitting. I opened my arms invitingly, and she curled up in my lap. I reveled for a moment in the feeling of her warm body against mine. In our months apart, I had often imagined feeling the warmth of her skin. Her forgiveness had been unexpected and undeserved, and I was grateful that she had taken me back.
I hoped that, perhaps now, we could move on to a cheerier topic of conversation, but Bella wasn't finished.
"Please just listen for a moment. This is so much more important than just some whim to drop in on an old friend. Jacob is in pain." Bella's voice was rough. "I can't not try to help him – I can't give up on him now, when he needs me. Just because he's not human all the time... Well, he was there for me when I was... not so human myself. You don't know what it was like..."
I'd become tensed again, my arms rigidly curved around her. The unbearable anguish and guilt at having hurt her so badly, so thoroughly, shot through me anew, and I almost couldn't breathe. My eyes closed, knowing full well that it was I who had caused Bella so much pain, when I'd left her the previous fall, so foolishly, so inexcusably. "I'll never forgive myself for leaving you," I managed to choke out. "Not if I live a hundred thousand years." I knew how fortunate I was that Bella had forgiven me.
"You were just trying to do the right thing. And I'm sure it would have worked with anyone less mental than me. Besides, you're here now. That's the part that matters."
I was so irritated with myself at having necessitated the feelings she had for Jacob Black, that my jealousy of him broke through to the surface, and made me choose words I shouldn't have. "If I'd never left, you wouldn't feel the need to go risk your life to comfort a dog."
Bella flinched in my arms. I was instantly chagrined, and tried to soften the blow. I just couldn't allow her to see Jacob. "I don't know how to say this properly," I told her, my voice desolate, because I knew my words would hurt her. "It's going to sound cruel, I suppose. But I've come too close to losing you in the past. I know what it feels like to think I have." Those twenty-four hours had been the worst of my entire existence. The grief and utter anguish I'd felt when I thought Bella had died had been excruciating and unendurable. "I am not going to tolerate anything dangerous."
"You have to trust me on this," Bella said. "I'll be fine."
But I couldn't. I couldn't deal with the worry and anxiety. I wouldn't. I wasn't safe. "Please, Bella."
"Please, for me. Please make a conscious effort to keep yourself safe. I'll do everything I can, but I would appreciate a little help."
"I'll work on it," she murmured.
My love for her overpowered the other emotions, and I tightened my arms around her, pressing her as close as possible to my chest. I rested my chin on top of her head. "Do you really have any idea how important you are to me? Any concept at all of how much I love you?"
Bella kissed my neck, and it felt so marvelous. "I know how much I love you," she replied.
"You compare one small tree to the entire forest," I teased her.
I kissed her hair, and sighed with the elation of being able to actually do so. I tried to finish up our little disagreement. "No werewolves."
Of course, that would have been too easy. "I'm not going along with that," she said immediately. "I have to see Jacob."
Was that right? "Then I'll have to stop you," I promised her.
"We'll see about that," she retorted. "He's still my friend."
There was no point in taking this argument any further. I had gotten a clear picture of Jacob's stance on the continuation of their friendship, and his lack of attempts to make any kind of contact, even avoiding Bella's calls, was indicative of the same. I thought that as long as I kept her from actually going to the reservation, I shouldn't have to worry too much. Bella might be extremely stubborn, but I was, after all, just a little stronger. I shouldn't have any problem preventing any excursions on her part.
I was wrong.