6. Disappearing Future
Bella marched away from me, snatching her coat up. She advanced toward the front door, looking over her shoulder at me, her face showing annoyance and vague disapproval. Once we were safely inside her truck, or out of ear-shot of Charlie, she turned toward me.
"What was that?" she spat. I wanted to sigh at her hostility; it was so…adorable, like a tiny puppy barking in a high-pitched tone. Comical and entirely unthreatening.
This time I decided not to lie, but to tell a truth unrelated to the actual reason for this whole charade. "I know you want to see your mother, Bella - you've been talking about her in your sleep. Worrying actually."
Her facial expression changed instantly from outrage to uncertainty in a blink of the eye. "I have?"
I nodded thoughtfully. "But, clearly, you were too much of a coward to deal with Charlie, so I interceded on your behalf."
"Interceded?" she looked aghast. "You threw me to the sharks!"
I rolled my eyes, keeping with the pretense of nonchalance. "I don't think you were in any danger." But you may have been, possibly, if I hadn't interceded, I mentally added. She may never know the things I would do, or the length I'll go to keep her from ever being harmed in any fashion. Point one: I left her – something I'll always regret.
"I told you I didn't want to fight with Charlie." Her voice had cooled some. Her temper was finally abating.
"Nobody said that you had to." I shrugged.
She scowled, and once again I took in her grimace with light humor. "I can't help myself when he gets all bossy like that - my natural teenage instincts overpower me."
"Well, that's not my fault." But I had been counting on them. I chuckled.
I turned my view toward the windshield, though I could still see Bella reflected there. She was gazing at me, her stare calculating. I wondered, briefly, what she was thinking. It was moments like these, in her truck with her scent touching every surface, like it was a part of her that reminded me of a time before – before I left. And, for the seventh time today, the wolf ran across my mind.
As if she was reading my thoughts – oh the irony – she said, "Does this sudden urge to see Florida have anything to do with the party at Billy's place?"
A muscle in my jaw twitched. A human reaction. "Nothing at all," I answered honestly. "It wouldn't matter if you were here or on the other side of the world, you still wouldn't be going." Even if I had to march across the treaty line and drag her back, killing every wolf in the process. Though, I kept that thought to myself. Sometimes it was better not to bait the sleeping tiger.
Her facial expression changed again. She snapped her teeth together and breathed through them. Maybe I should have kept that to myself, too. Honesty is not always the best policy, apparently. I waited a minute for her to reply, but she seemed to be biting back her retort, which I was extremely thankful for. The last thing I wanted to hear is her love for the puppies down at the reservation.
Finally, I sighed in resignation and kept my tone a soft silky sound. "So what do you want to do tonight?"
She didn't hesitate. "Can we go to your house? I haven't seen Esme in so long."
That was better than the appalling alternative I thought she would recommend. Automatically, I smiled, showing my teeth. "She'll like that. Especially when she hears what we're doing this weekend."
She groaned, but it was not in protest. She'd thank me, subconsciously, if she knew why I was doing this. But just like her hormones helped me out tonight, they could easily turn against me. I feared when that might happen.
The evening went smoothly. Everyone was delighted to see Bella; even Rosalie had a nice thought in her head about the beautiful brown-eyed girl at my side. She would forever be thankful for her bravery in Italy. She knew she made a mistake, and because of that, her jealousy was twice as bad as before. Regardless, she was still appreciative.
Esme was tickled to see her, and squealed when I told her about our weekend trip to Florida. She felt just as bad as me sometimes – about leaving Bella behind – and she was mentally doing cartwheels in her mind at the gift finally being used. When Bella saw the look on Esme's face, I could see how pleased she was to make her so ecstatic.
After a few games of chess, and a couple of witty remarks and snide jokes from Emmett, Bella was in high spirits. Her eyes were even sparkling. My heart melted while watching her, the hollow ache diminished.
But of all of the events, sitting in Bella's driveway was the most entertaining. Charlie was watching a game on TV, which was not unusual. What was unusual were his thoughts. We sat in the truck for a little while, her scent wrapping its complexity around my nose and deep in my lungs.
Okay – it's time. He's sticking around. There's nothing I can do about it. Charlie groaned. She's old enough…and he's going to be with her over night…better safe than sorry, right?
"You'd better not come inside," Bella warned. "It will only make things worse."
Oh, man. How am I going to talk about this? It's Bella! She's an adult now, old enough to make her own decisions. I'll just make sure she's…informed.
"His thoughts are relatively calm," I teased, but secretly agreed with her. I most definitely didn't want to be around for the conversation he's about to have with her.
Informed…how the hell do I do that? 'Bella, I'm sure you've heard your classmates talk about sex…' Right, like that will work. Jeez, this is so embarrassing. Where's Renée when you need her?
My calm demeanor flinched, my lips trembling under the pressure of a laugh that I was afraid would burst through my lips. She stared at me for a minute, contemplating, probably reading my face. I tried to pull it together.
"I'll see you later," she mumbled under her breath after a second of searching my face for something.
…you know, he's built different than you and when you love someone you will fit together like a puzzle piece…
That time, I couldn't hold in the guffaw, but I kissed the top of her head, as if it were her glum expression causing my laughter rather than a torn Charlie. "I'll be back when Charlie's snoring."
She gave me a look that said, help, before jumping out of truck and walking up the sidewalk. I got out, too, and waited patiently for her to go inside. I walked toward my car, the shiny paint glittering under the street light.
You can do this, Charlie, get your act together, Charlie tried to push himself into it.
What I thought was so hilarious about the whole thing was that he didn't have to worry. There was no way I could ever let myself lose that kind of control with Bella. I could only imagine what would happen if I were to be that intimate with her. A desire I deeply have, but one I know I couldn't fulfill.
"Could you come in here, Bella?" Charlie called out to her.
I laughed and started up the car, not wanting to hear his desperate attempt at trying to explain the birds and the bees. I sped away as I heard Bella say, "What's up, Dad?" Suddenly, I had sympathy for her, too.
When I arrived back at home, Alice was waiting for me in the garage, her sitting on the Mercedes. You know, she thought while tracing her fingers across the glossy paint of the car, I wasn't lying earlier today when I said that I didn't want to wait until Christmas for that delicious Italian sports car.
I sighed. "I owe you my life. I'll get you the car."
Excellent! She automatically pictured herself in the yellow beauty, the wheels hugging the road like a comfortable blanket wrapped around you. Jasper might actually get jealous, she smiled.
"Speaking of the devil," I said as Jasper opened the door to the garage.
"It's true," he grinned, "I am devilishly handsome."
Alice nodded in agreement. "Yup, I just can't seem to keep my fingers off of you," she giggled, tracing her fingers over his chest.
"Don't touch my car," Rosalie said from inside the house. "And you know I'll know if you do."
Jasper walked toward her car, the red paint sparkling beneath the fluorescent lights. He reached his fingers out, just baiting Rosalie.
"Don't even think about it, Jasper." Rosalie warned. Jasper stopped, his fingers only inches from the paint and grinned broadly.
Emmett came bouncing in, like a kitty on cat nip, and pounced on Jasper. His whole palm pressed against the BMW. "It was Emmett's fault," Jasper said, still laughing.
"We're going to go ahead, Edward," Alice said with a wink. Give us a few minutes before you guys come hunting.
I groaned. "Go," I ordered. They both sprinted out the door, their eyes speaking millions of words between the two. I was slightly jealous that they were able to be so intimate.
"Hey, Edward." Emmett patted my shoulder and I might have sunk a little into the ground. "Surprised you aren't outside Bella's house being her vampire stalker. Is she not fulfilling your needs?"
"Ha-ha," I answered sarcastically. "No, I left because Charlie was going to talk to her about sex. I thought I should get the hell out of there before that conversation went down."
"Then maybe you should have stayed," he replied, his smile growing in width. "So tonight, after she knows how 'the sex' works, you'll finally get laid?" He burst into laughter.
"You know I can't."
"What are you so worried about?" he pressed, partially serious.
"Imagine having to restrain yourself while you're with Rosalie, because if you don't, you would kill her." I explained, absolutely serious.
His smile vanished. "Oh…well, how about a little hunting to help alleviate the rich goodness of Bella's blood?" he offered.
"We have to give Alice and Jasper a head start."
"Wrestling match, then?"
I opened my mouth to answer, but my phone rang, stopping me short of speaking. It was Alice. That was a surprise. She only left a minute ago.
"It's gone."She whispered, absolutely frantic. "Edward, I can't see her future."
"What?" I snapped. "Please, try again." I demanded.
It was silent on the other end, the seconds spreading out like years. How could her future just disappear? Her breathing hitched as anxiety crept up my spine. "Run," she ordered.
I was already opening the car door, an annoyance, really. The phone was shut, I didn't remember doing it, but I didn't have time to think about courtesies. As I started the engine and shifted the gears, I thought about just unhinging the door permanently. The car raced down the driveway, then I spun it around to hit the road toward Bella's as I almost tripled and quadrupled the speed limit in some areas. This was no time for prudence. What could have happened between when I dropped her off and now? Surely she didn't run out after talking with Charlie – maybe her hormones caused another fight.
Was it Victoria? It had been weeks since she had been around, her scent no longer lingering in the forest. Did Jacob come over? Were they sharing time together, alone, upstairs? I growled, deep and throaty. As I squealed tires onto her road, I was slowly becoming aware of my surroundings. Her heart beat in her chest, the speed quickened. I shoved my foot against the brake, coming to a complete stop and ran from the car. There was only one mind I could hear from their house. Charlie was relaxing on the sofa, content at watching his nightly baseball game. Bella was pacing in her room, her heart skipping around. Was something wrong? I could hear her hasty footsteps on the stairs as she barreled down them.
"You care if I go see Jake tonight?" Bella asked Charlie breathlessly. "I won't stay long."
Not on my watch, I thought angrily, but I was so relieved, so grateful that she was okay that this was not the worst alternative to her future disappearing completely. But that didn't matter, she was still not going to La Push. So quickly, not even someone driving by would see, I unhooked the alternator in her truck. Not even her stereo would work without this. It was like the electrical heart of the vehicle.
I can't say no to that, not after my lecture, Charlie thought happily. "Sure, kid. No problem. Stay as long as you like." His voice was smug with pride. Not for long…
I hopped into her truck, waiting. I was livid, and hurt. But so happy she was alive, it was hard to stay so angry.
"Thanks, Dad," Bella said, moving quickly toward the front door.
The door flung open and Bella looked to her left and right, as if she were about to cross traffic. Even after she assessed the area around her, she continued to look over her shoulder. She was expecting me, naturally. But she probably thought she would get away before I would get her. Looks like I'll be buying that car for Alice earlier than I wished. She deserved it after this revelation.
Anger boiled deep inside me, and betrayal was not far behind. Bella's hand ran along the door, trying to find the handle. Watching her do this, continually looking over her shoulder when I was right in front of her, actually helped alleviate some of my bitter disappointment. She jumped into the cab, a rush of her scent hit me. She still didn't notice I was sitting next to her. I was just waiting for her to try and start the truck. She did, and it failed to perform, just like I planned.
I played with the metal piece in my hand and she finally noticed me.
"Gah!" she exclaimed in shock.
Taking a deep breath, trying to bite back the bit anger I said very quietly, "Alice called." Bella's face fell, her look screaming, Oh crap, at her failing plan. "She got nervous when your future rather abruptly disappeared five minutes ago." I got nervous, I added mentally. More than that – I was frightened. Again, her face showed her shock. "Because she can't see the wolves, you know," I continued when she didn't speak. I continued to keep my voice low, velvet. "Had you forgotten that? When you decide to mingle your fate with theirs, you disappear, too. You couldn't know that part, I realize that. But can you understand why that might make me a little . . ." crazy, distressed, absolutely insane… "anxious? Alice saw you disappear, and she couldn't even tell if you'd come home or not. Your future got lost, just like theirs.
"We're not sure why this is. Some natural defense they're born with? That doesn't seem entirely likely, since I haven't had any trouble reading their thoughts. The Blacks' at least. Carlisle theorizes that it's because their lives are so ruled by their transformations. It's more an involuntary reaction than a decision. Utterly unpredictable, and it changes everything about them. In that instant when they shift from one form to the other, they don't really even exist. The future can't hold them. . . ."
She stayed silent, her eyes staring straight forward, her expression unreadable. For a moment, I thought that maybe I went too far. But then I decided that I'd rather know where she was at, knew what her future was, than her be in a situation where she was unsafe. "I'll put your car back together in time for school, in case you'd like to drive yourself," I added, reminding her that it was still her choice.
She shut her eyes for a moment, as if trying to make the image vanish from her eyes, and then opened them, her lips mashed together as if she were holding back a whole lot of nasty things she wanted to say. It was in that moment that I prodded her mind, hitting that same resistance, the same silence. She yanked her protruding key and opened the door without another word. "Shut your window if you want me to stay away tonight. I'll understand," I whispered, trying to keep my voice calm, to not let her hear the hurt in my tone. The door slammed in my face. The last time I had a whole conversation without her saying a single word was when she was in the hospital unconscious.
I watched as she literally stomped up to her front door.
For a moment, I just sat there in the dark, in the now silent vehicle. I listened to Bella and Charlie.
"Truck won't start," Bella hissed.
"Want me to look at it?" Like that would do any good, I thought.
"No. I'll try it in the morning."
"Want to use my car?"
"No. I'm tired," she mumbled. "'Night."
When I could hear her retreating toward her room I exited her truck, shutting the door quietly and began walking towards my car. It was then that I heard the window upstairs slam shut. My heart broke as I silently made my way across the lawn. I'd gone too far this time. As I reached for the door handle I could hear the window sliding open again. I sunk down into my car, leaning against the seat and breathing a sigh of relief.
She still loves me, despite all the things I do to her, she still wants me, loves me, cares about me.
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of Stephenie Meyer. Lolafalana is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of Eclipse. No copyright infringement is intended.