Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
I sat in my chair at the kitchen table, pulled my knees up and wrapped my arms around them. I stared at the pizza box and listened to sounds of the TV in the living room. Edward would get up from his place in the armchair and come in here soon. I did not have much time to think this through. Something was very wrong, maybe more wrong than I'd realized. I tried to get control of myself, to reason with myself. Edward's words from last night were playing in my mind. I thought of one part of our conversation because I knew I was missing something important and I needed to find the true meaning of his words.
'Tell me you forgive me."
That brought a flicker of life to his face – a flicker of anger. 'Forgive you? For what?'
'If I'd been more careful, nothing would have happened.'
'Bella, you gave yourself a paper cut – that hardly deserves the death penalty.'
'It's still my fault.'
My words opened up the floodgate.
'Your fault? If you'd cut yourself at Mike Newton's house, with Jessica there and Angela and your other normal friends, the worst that could possibly have happened would be what? Maybe they couldn't find you a bandage? If you'd tripped and knocked over a pile of glass plates on your own – without someone throwing you into them – even then, what's the worst? You'd get blood on the seats when they drove you to the emergency room? Mike Newton could have held your hand while they stitched you up – and he wouldn't be fighting the urge to kill you the whole time he was there. Don't try to take any of this on yourself, Bella, it will only make me more disgusted with myself.'
I had lashed out about bringing Mike Newton into the conversation because I wanted to ignore the meaning of what he said. He blamed himself for what happened. He was the one who pushed me out of the way when Jasper sprang to attack and he felt he was the one responsible for the gash on my arm. There was something else too. He had not reacted this way after the incident with James. Was it because, this time, it wasn't an enemy he'd had to protect me from? Because it was his brother? With that thought the true consequence of what happened at my party, and the reason for Edward's behavior since, came crashing down on me. He was leaving. He would rather give up his chance at normality than risk my life any further by staying. I could not let him or his family sacrifice any more for me.
I ran up to my room without saying a word to my Dad or Edward. I needed to be alone. I needed a plan. Edward would not wait much longer to confess to me that he and his family were leaving and I couldn't give him the chance. I locked my bedroom door and my window. Edward could probably still get in if he wanted but I knew he would not try. He would respect my obvious desire not to be disturbed.
After a few hours, I heard Charlie drudge up the stairs. He knocked lightly on my door but I did not answer. I hoped he would assume I was already asleep. He probably realized I was upset by the fact that I had ignored him and Edward all evening and he was never comfortable dealing with emotions. I counted on this. After a few moments of silence I heard his footsteps continue down the hall to his room. I sighed and relaxed on my bed.
I was lost in the thoughts raging through my mind when I was startled by a noise at my window. In the time that it took my mind to register where the sound was coming from, it had already stopped. I walked over to the window and looked out. I could just barely make out Edward's silhouette as he slowly headed toward the nearby woods. I had to stop myself from flinging open the window and begging him to come back. I would plead with him to stay. But I knew he would not. He had already made his decision. I had seen it in his eyes when I came home from work. There was nothing I could say that could change his plans. Now, I just had to make sure that my plan was put into action before the Cullens had the opportunity to abandon their home.
When morning finally came, I scrawled a quick note, folded it and placed it in my pocket. I would not have the chance to write anything without Edward's notice once I got to school. I grimaced at my appearance when I got dressed and looked in the mirror. I looked as tired as I felt and my hair was a mess. There was no time to fix it so I twisted it up in a bun before heading downstairs. I forced down a granola bar, picked up my bag and headed out the door. This would be my last day at Forks High.
Edward's countenance was blank, just as I expected it to be, when he opened the door to my truck. I fought the tears that I knew I would be battling all day. This was not going to be easy. I bit my lower lip and allowed Edward to lead me toward our first class. I was sure my face was like an open book but Edward was too lost in his own thoughts to notice my fear and sorrow. I allowed the uncomfortable silence to continue between us until he walked me to my truck after school. This was the last time I would see him. I pulled him into a tight embrace and breathed his scent greedily. This would normally cause him to chuckle but not today. I pulled away and stared at his face. Not that I could ever forget even the smallest detail, but I wanted to make sure I had each inch of him committed to memory. The memories were all I'd have after today.
"Edward, I need you to promise me something." I looked up at him and tried to keep my expression as blank as his. Part of me wanted to be angry and yell at him for his intention to desert me, but I understood his motives even if I did not agree with them. I knew if the roles were reversed I would probably make the same decision.
"What would you like me to agree to?" He would not give me an unconditional 'yes'. I fought against the sob that was building in my chest.
"Read this when you get home and don't be angry with me. Just do what it says, okay?" I knew better than to try lie to Edward so I handed him the note I had written this morning asking him to stay away until Saturday. It alleged I needed time to think and requested he not come to the house or try to look for me over the next five days. It also explained that I would not be in school for the rest of the week so he wouldn't be worried when I didn't show up in the morning. I wondered what he would think when he read it. Would he be angry with me? Not that he had a right to be.
He looked down at the folded piece of paper and took it from my hand. I felt the familiar blaze from his touch.
"Bella, I'm not…"
"Edward." I interrupted. "Please, Edward." I added the plea to ensure he would consent.
He just nodded without saying another word.
He leaned down to kiss my lips softly before taking a step away from me. I smiled with difficulty, fighting the desire to pull him back to me and kiss him one last time, and turned to climb into the cab of my old Chevy. I concentrated on not looking at him because the tears were now streaming down my cheeks. The sobs became uncontrollable once I drove out of the parking lot and as soon as I was sure he would not see I pulled to the side of the road to allow the sadness to consume me. I leaned my head on the steering wheel and tried to control the agony coursing through to my very soul. My body shook with sorrow until I was too exhausted to cry any more. I wiped at my eyes to clear them so I could see well enough to drive the rest of the way home. There was too much to do to linger in my despair.
I fried fish for dinner hoping to soften the blow of the conversation I would have to have with Charlie. He ate greedily leaving little to clean up after we finished. I washed the dishes and headed into the living room. No point in putting off the inevitable downfall of what I had to do.
"Dad, I need to talk to you about something important." Much to my surprise, Charlie turned off the TV and turned to give me his undivided attention. Maybe he suspected this would be serious because of my behavior last night and Edward's absence tonight. I just hoped he would not get too upset with me. I had grown quite close to him over the last several months and I did not want to risk his disappointment. He was part of the reason I would not be running to my Mom in Jacksonville.
"Dad, I want to move out." Whatever he was expecting me to say it wasn't that. His mouth opened twice and then closed without him saying anything. The vein in his forehead that made its appearance whenever he was extremely angry or upset started to bulge in response to my words. I knew I had to talk fast to make him understand. "I don't want to go far. I just need to…not go back to Forks High. I don't want to go into a detailed explanation but I can't be around Edward anymore."
"You and Edward break up?"
"Not exactly. Dad, please, I can't tell you everything right now, but I need you to trust me. Leaving is best for Edward and for me." I added the last part because I was sure he wouldn't let me go if he thought I was just doing it for Edward.
"Are you going to Jacksonville to live with your mom? Bella, I want you to stay. I don't care what's best for Edward. I want you to stay." Tears filled his eyes but he did not allow them to spill over his lids and onto his face.
"I'm not going to Jacksonville but I want you to tell Edward that's where I went. I know it all seems crazy but I need time away. Dad, please help me with this."
"Did he hurt you? Bella, I swear if he did anything to you…"
"No, Ch-Dad! Edward didn't do anything. It's me…I'm too young to feel what I feel and I want to take a step back for a while." I thought that sounded like something an 18 year old girl who was obviously in love with her first boyfriend would say. Charlie could believe I was being responsible, especially after what had happened with him and Renee. I had to convince him not to be angry with Edward. Despite everything, I could not stand for Charlie to think ill of him.
"Where will you go if not to Jacksonville?" Acceptance. The next part of my plan was still somewhat uncertain. I thought La Push would be the best place to hide because none of the Cullens would even think to look for me there. Certainly there were cheap apartments I could afford with Charlie's help and a part-time job. I hoped the high school on the reservation wouldn't mind me attending despite the fact that I was not Quileute. Everyone on the reservation seemed to know and respect Chief Swan. I hoped they would make an exception and allow my presence.
"I was thinking maybe I could find a place in La Push and finish my senior year at the school on the reservation." I watched Charlie's expression. He was relieved but confused. The wheels were turning quickly as he tried to grasp everything I had just thrown at him without giving him any prior warning. Of course the Cullens' inability to step foot on Quileute land was not my only reason for choosing the reservation. I wanted to be close to Charlie too. He could come visit me every day if he wanted and I could still make him dinner to ensure he continued to eat decently. I worried that he would go back to eating steak and cobbler every night or try to cook on his own. Neither were viable options in my opinion.
"Bella, I'm not real excited about the idea of you living on your own." He held up his hands to stop me from interrupting. "But, I can tell you've made up your mind and there isn't any point in trying to talk sense into you right now. The Clearwaters have an apartment over their garage that they've been looking to rent. I'm sure they won't mind letting you stay there. I'll call them tomorrow, first thing." For the millionth time since moving back to Forks I was grateful to Charlie's hesitance to intrude. I hugged him quickly and ran upstairs to start packing. I hoped to be long gone before Edward showed up looking for me on Saturday.
Thinking of Edward brought a new round of tears. I dashed into the bathroom to rinse away some of the sorrow with hot water and strawberry scented shampoo. I waited until the water started to run cold before I turned off the shower and stepped out of the tub. I dressed in my old sweats and went to bed. I unlocked my window. No point in worrying about Edward. He would keep his promise.