***Companion story for Breathe Again. Goes with Posts #37 & 38: Chapter Nineteen: Questions.***
Food, beer, and sports. That's all anyone really needed to be happy, I was sure. I flipped through the channels with the remote for a while. Infomercial…sitcom…horror movie…Steel Magnolias? ...ah, ESPN News.
I took another bite of pizza and listened to the latest steroid scandal news. One of these days, those idiots were going to realize that true talent takes hard work, determination, and some good old fashioned skill---not a syringe. But apparently it was going to take government hearings and jail sentences to get it through their over-sized heads.
I glanced up at the clock. 9:08. Bella would be home soon. I'd made sure to order enough pizza for her, and I even went so far as to let them put pineapples on half of it, just the way she liked it. God only knows how she could eat that crap. Fruit on pizza? Seriously? Probably something Renee taught her. Damn that crazy woman. And damn me for still loving her. Who the hell's calling this late?
I set down my dinner on the arm of the recliner and went to answer the phone.
"Hello?" I said, making sure to sound official (in case it was the station) and also put out (in case it was one of those damned telemarketers).
"Chief Swan?" a shrill female voice replied. "Chief Swan, it's Miranda Newton. I'm so glad you're home. It's not too late, is it? Good. I was just thinking that as a parent, well, as a responsible parent, I should let you know what's going on…"
I tuned her out for a while and focused on the TV, wishing I'd thought to bring the remote with me. It was hard to hear over her babbling. Maybe I should just break down and buy a cordless phone. Bella always complains about the cord on this one…
" --- they just think they're all grown up---except my Mikey. You know, he's very mature, to tell you the truth. I'll bet he'd be a wonderful influence on Bella---"
"Miranda!"" I finally interrupted. She was verbally barging in on my evening just to talk my ear off. "Is everything okay with Bella?"
"Oh…well, yes, thanks to me. If I hadn't interrupted those two…well, let's just say you're far too young to be a grandfather."
"Oh, now, don't be too upset. I stopped them in time. But really, Chief Swan, that man is just too old for her, if you ask me."
"What man?" I asked, grabbing my gun belt off the wall. Bella was supposed to be dating Jake, and he was only a kid. She wasn't one of those girls that sneaks off with college guys, was she? Unless…well, Jake was over six feet tall, and he could probably buy beer without being carded. I'd have to talk to Billy about that. But first I was going to have to see about this whole procreation thing. And the gun would send the perfect message if Jake really was pushing his luck with my little girl.
"Now, I don't know his name, but I'm sure I could identify him in a lineup. He was really big, Chief Swan. Steroids, probably. You know that's a problem even in these small towns. We can never get too complacent---"
Damn, that woman could talk!
"Oh. Well, he was an Indian man, really big, and he was half-dressed by the time I saw them. They were in the parking lot, for God's sake. And I tell you, he just---"
"Thank you for the call, Miranda," I said. She was still yapping when I hung up.
Well…crap. Bella had told me that I didn't need to worry about…that. And Miranda Newton was certainly not the best source for unembellished facts, but half-dressed and making out in a parking lot? I was in my car and headed to La Push within seconds.
Billy looked a little surprised to see me, but he just motioned me inside and made his way back to the living room. ESPN News. Great minds think alike.
"Beer's in the fridge," he said, gesturing toward the kitchen without taking his eyes off the TV.
"I probably shouldn't," I said. "I'm just here to talk to Jake."
"He in trouble?" Billy asked.
"Well, if the call I got tonight had any truth to it, he's not going to live to see next week."
That got his attention. He muted the TV and turned toward me.
"Now, Charlie, you know there's no gang activity here on the rez."
He was talking about that Sam Uley. Bella had told me she'd been mistaken about him, but her initial reaction still bothered me. Of course, he and his fiancée had looked out for her that night when we lost power. Still… "Actually, it's Jake's other activities I'm here about. Namely my daughter." My fists were clenched just thinking about that boy trying to put his hands on Bella.
For a second, it looked like he was going to laugh, but it was probably my imagination.
"She miss curfew?" he asked.
"Her boss says they were practically having…they were…well…she basically said if we don't do something about those two, we're both gonna be grandpas."
Billy raised an eyebrow skeptically. "Her boss? The Newton lady?"
"Yes. She says she stopped them just in time."
Now he was laughing. "That woman doesn't have a lick of sense. You ask Bella about this?"
"No, she wasn't home yet. Probably still out with your son."
"Well, now, I raised my son to be a responsible man, and---"
"Responsible? I don't care how responsible they are. They are too young to…to—"
I didn't even want to say it, much less think it. Thankfully the roar of Bella's old truck interrupted me. Now to deal with that boy…
He loved her. He loved her?
I'd stood there, ready to tell him he couldn't see my daughter anymore, ready to cuff him or file a restraining order or whatever I needed to do to make sure they weren't…you know… And after that cocky little bastard implied that they were, he just up and said he loved her. And damn if I didn't believe him.
For once, he wasn't laughing. He didn't look like he was trying to pull the wool over my eyes, and he didn't seem to have anything else up his giant sleeve---not that he ever actually wore a shirt. He just looked me in the eye and said he loved her.
As Bella's father, I wanted to strangle him. Love at his age? Well, it made people do stupid things. And if stupid led to my having a pregnant daughter, there wasn't a law I wouldn't bend to make him pay. He got me so flustered I was just throwing random charges at him, anything to keep him from pulling Bella into his mistake. But as his dad's best friend, I was tempted to pull him aside and try to talk some sense into him.
What was it with kids these days? Falling in love, thinking the world was theirs for the taking… I'd thought that once. With Renee. And look where that got me. Sure, I got to fish with my buddies all the time, spend my money on a big TV without anyone telling me it didn't match the decor, and stock my fridge with fish and beer. But I was alone. For all the grand dreams Renee and I had, the only one that came true was Bella.
Bella was smart and sweet, a damn good cook, and I knew the boys thought she was pretty. But she had a future, a chance at something good. I just didn't want to see her throw it away on a teenage crush. I may not have been present for most of her growing up, but I was still her father.
She'd been so caught up in that Cullen boy. Honestly, I didn't know if she'd ever get over him, but Jake seemed to have the answer to that. And I knew Jake. I knew everything about that kid, probably more than he knew about himself. There wasn't a bad bone in his body, even if he was a pain in the ass sometimes.
If five years from now they got engaged, I'd probably be on top of the world. It's not like Jake wasn't already family. Hell, there wouldn't even be any tension with the new in-laws. But right now?
No, he hadn't said a word about marrying her. Come to think of it, I wasn't sure he'd ever taken her on a proper date. And as he so obnoxiously pointed out, he was only sixteen. But age aside, I knew that look, the one in his eye when he said he loved her.