(Twilight theme by Stephanie Meyer)
Alice dropped Bella at home after a silent breakfast. Bella claimed that she was alright and I expected her to pick up with the conversation we started last night; she didn't.
I had done some thinking and planning of my own while on the hunting trip. My brothers and I analyzed my options and we were certain that there would be no reason for the Volturi to check on Bella for at least a couple decades. I had the opportunity to give her the life she deserved, and I was determined to do so. I knew that no matter what they thought my family would stand behind my decisions.
As soon as we were able to track down Victoria that threat would be taken care of and the wolves' protection would be unnecessary. I was hoping that the relationship between Bella and Jacob would dissolve with distance and time. We were planning on attending Dartmouth in the fall and with the extra incentive I had arranged with the University bursar's office, I was sure that Bella would be accepted. The wolves were tied to their ancestral land and I knew he would not be able follow her across the country. Each night when I left her house I knew she would call him. My jealousy and insecurity about our now fragile relationship made me feel insane.
I had no way of explaining to her what I felt. I went from feeling nothing for eighty years to the polar opposite; I now feel everything. Each reaction is strained and intense, my control is being tested with each breath she takes. I feel like each second I am not with her she could be in danger or I am that much closer to losing her. I've ended up smothering her and her natural independence is pushing against me and we are walking a delicate line. I find myself wondering if our love is enough to keep us together.
She was fine when Alice took her home, she smiled and hugged me the same way she had before I left all those months ago. Now, here I am staring at her curtains behind her locked bedroom window. I hear her heartbeat adding percussion to the music that is playing from her speakers.
Charlie stopped knocking at her door after the third ignored phone message he relayed. Jacob and I have both tried, but she has ignored all phone calls, and attempts to gain access to her room.
Every couple hours I hear a huge sigh escape from her lips and the secrecy is killing me. I know she is awake as I hear the music replay certain verses. Unlike me or Jacob, Bella had no one to speak to about this. No one to help her sort her feelings out. Kate Nash is currently whining out of her speakers and again she replays a verse.
"My fingertips are holding onto the cracks in our foundation.
And I know that I should let go, but I can't.
And every time we fight I know it is not right…"
Her bedroom light turns off and I am left alone in the dark outside. Tomorrow would be different, it has to be.
I woke up really early the next morning and I was glad to see that my face was wrinkle free and my father was just down the hall. I heard the shower free up, but it would be another 20 minutes until there was enough hot water for a proper morning shower. I organized my backpack and picked out an outfit. I was worried about what Edward would say when he came to pick me up. I ignored all his attempts to see me yesterday, but I couldn't see him right after the ultimatum I was presented with.
"It would break Jacob's heart"
I kept hearing Emily's words in my head, like a broken record. Jacob had brought me back to life after Edward left. The idea that he was in pain was devastating. I wonder if he knew about Emily's visit, and Sam's message. I needed to talk to him, but I wouldn't have the chance until after Edward left tonight and even then I was not sure if he would be at home, or in human form for that matter. My alarm broke me out of my train of thought and I went to perform my morning routine. Edward was waiting outside for me when I was ready and he looked worried. I gave him a hug and smiled to try and get him to relax a little. He is a much better actor than I am, so I am not sure if it helped or if he was just playing along for my sake. While in the shower this morning, I decided to bring a distraction to help me avoid the inevitable conversation about my disappearing act yesterday. As soon as we were in the car I inserted a CD Phil had sent me recently. I talked about the songs I liked and why. Edward initially remained quiet, but in the end he threw his opinion in and I caught him bobbing his head to the songs. We were laughing at some of the lyrics when the school's parking lot came into view. I was sad to let this moment end, it was the lightest our mood had been in so long.
We parked and grudgingly walked towards our first period class. Our reluctant behavior was shared by the rest of the sleepy student population dragging their feet on this extra grey Monday morning. I had homeroom for fourth period before lunch and this was the only class that Edward and I did not share. He had been so great this morning; he was present, but not smothering and I had missed this side of him. I smiled as I felt the familiar butterflies in my stomach at the thought. Mr. Banner allowed me to take my homework assignments to the office so I could stuff them in the appropriate teacher's boxes. I passed by the front desk and Mrs. Cope stopped me.
"Isabella! What great timing you have, I was just about to send a pass for you."
"What for?" I asked confused.
"You have a phone call; you can take it in the councilor's office." She smiled warmly at me, but usually phone calls at school were not good things. They were bad news, like when my Nana died.
"Hello?" I said cautiously
"You have 5 minutes to get to the parking lot or I am leaving without you." A familiar husky voice said from the other side of receiver.
"Okay." I said so as not to let any super hearing eavesdroppers in on the spontaneous rendezvous.
"Is everything alright Isabella?" Mrs. Cope asked as I passed her desk.
"Yes, it was just a random question." I said and returned her smile. I left the office and once her eyes were back on the stack of paperwork I hurried towards the parking lot. Edward and I were okay for now, but the idea of leaving school and spending some time with Jacob felt like a necessity. I needed to talk to him and the fact that he was not angry at me was amazing. On my way to the lot I saw Mike and he stopped me, "Where are you going?"
"Hey Mike, would you do me a huge favor?"
"Can you cover for me? If anyone asks, please tell them I got really sick and went home."
"Sure." He seemed excited by the chance to aid my escape.
"Thanks." I hugged him and he held on a little too long. I pulled away from him as I heard a bike pull up and I ran for the lot to a waiting shiny black motorcycle. I jumped on the back and we were gone as quickly as he had arrived. We sped through the afternoon mist and I couldn't help myself I arched my back and held my arms out at my sides letting the free air fill my lungs and whip through my hair. I felt Jacob laugh and as soon as we passed onto the reservation he decelerated.
"Hi Bells." He said turning his head to look at me. I hugged his waist tightly and we arrived in the lot where he taught me how to ride. My red bike was waiting for me in the middle of the open space. I got down from the bike and walked around to face Jake. I didn't look at him, but somehow I knew our expression was the same.
"Edward!" Alice said getting my attention immediately. "Where's Bella?" she asked as I sat down next to her. I scanned the room and couldn't find Bella, but I did hear one person thinking about her. Mike sat at the other end of the table and once I made eye contact he made an effort to look away. "Mike, have you seen Bella?" I said as I walked to his side of the table. "Um, yeah, she wasn't feeling well, so she went home." He lied convincingly, but his thoughts betrayed his well meant deception. He recapped his conversation with Bella in his head and I had to work hard to control my temper. "Thanks, Mike." I said failing to control the anger in my voice. He noticed, but did not comment.
I exited the crowded cafeteria and Alice followed me out. My emotions were threatening to take over me and I punched the brick wall on the way to the car leaving a huge dent in the side of the building.
"Stop it Edward. You will only make the situation worse." Alice scolded, but the white hot anger I felt would not let me listen to reason. We reached the Volvo and Alice took the keys as I retrieved them from my pocket.
"Talk through it, you need to calm down, or this will not end well for US." She emphasized the words so that I would think about the big picture, but I couldn't right now. The second I let my guard down she took the opportunity to run away from me.
"Did she plan this?" I asked Alice, not knowing if I would get a clear answer.
"No, until you walked into the cafeteria I was seeing her coming home with us after school. It was not her idea." Alice tried to placate me.
"Where are we going?" I said trying to control my tone with Alice.
"Carlisle." She said and in that split second I knew what choice I was making, who cares about the consequences. I opened the passenger door and stepped out onto the fast moving pavement. Alice hit the break; but she was too late, I was already on my way to La Push. I did not have much time, she would send Emmett and Jasper after me any minute now.
Our words came out as a fluid sentence and we stopped as we realized we had just said the same thing.
"I really don't want to talk about it right now, let's just hang out." Same words, same inflection, same rhythm.
We laughed nervously and I said, "No outside stuff, just the two of us." His answer was just a simple smile and he revved his bike.
"So, do you remember how to ride your bike? I mean without a trip to the emergency room."
"Let's find out." I said and I hopped onto my bike kick starting it to life in one smooth motion.
"Impressive, now try and keep up." Jake said and he smiled his familiar smile before taking off down the dirt road. I steadied myself and followed after him. The feeling of the wind in my hair and muscle memory put me into a state of mind that I missed. The last few weeks had been so stressful that I had forgotten what it was like to just be myself and have fun. I pulled up next to Jacob and we followed the road until it narrowed and the tree line gradually ended it. We hid our bikes behind some overgrowth and I was glad I wore my boots today; the eternally soft earth would have swallowed my tennis shoes on this path. Jacob perfunctorily took my hand and helped me over a fallen tree and his hand lingered on mine as if waiting for permission. I laced our fingers together and we walked through the trees. Neither of us had many new stories since we last hung out, but we were careful to stay away from any topic supernatural.
"I think Billy misses your cooking the most though… it was such a mess, I found this recipe on Food Network and I must have missed the part where the tell you to lower the heat and keep the pot covered."
I burst into giggles trying to imagine Jacob in the kitchen with an overflowing pot spraying gourmet stew all over the walls of their small kitchen. The fantasy had an 'I love Lucy' feel to it.
"The kitchen smelled of burnt stew for a week. It was pretty bad."
He went on describing how he had to scrape and scrub the oven and he even enlisted Seth to help him. We were pretty deep into the woods when the wind picked up and shivers ran through my body. The only part of me that was not at risk of frostbite was the hand that Jake held in his warm hand. He stopped and said, "Bells, we should turn back you are going to freeze." He placed his hands on my shoulders and rubbed them in an attempt to warm me. It was such an intimate gesture that my eyes were drawn to his face. His expression was concerned and pained. Even after all we had been through his pain set off a pain inside me.
I could make his pain disappear, right now. I had been so selfish. Jacob cared so much about me and here I was breaking his heart because I had to chase an unattainable dream.
This morning the Edward I loved seemed to have returned, but was it too little too late? I wondered if he was relaxing around me because he had made up his mind to keep me human. Last night amongst all the decisions I had yet to make I realized that my staying human was not an option. Not if I was going to stay with Edward.
I had not noticed, until I felt his warm hand against my icy skin wiping away a tear that escaped from the corner of my eye. Instinctively I leaned towards him and his arms wrapped around my waist. The warmth of his body put me at ease.
"Bella, I was not going to talk to you about this yet, but I am not sure when we will be alone again."
I looked into his eyes and he spoke slowly and stressed each word. "I'm in love with you, Bella. Bella, I love you. And I want you to pick me instead of him. I know you don't feel that way, but I need the truth out there so that you know your options. I wouldn't want a miscommunication to stand in our way."
He did not hold back his feelings at all. It was the most exposed I had ever seen Jacob Black.
"You love me, too. Not the same way, I know. But he's not your whole life, either. Not anymore. Maybe he was once, but he left. And now he's just going to have to deal with the consequence of that choice — me."
I thought about the words he had just spoken and a part of me knew he was right. I did love him, but a larger part of me knew that I did not love Edward any less than I had. My life had grown to include more than just Edward now; Jacob had filled the hole that Edward's absence had left.
"Jacob, I – I can't –"
He wouldn't let me turn away from him. He held my body against his and one hand lifted my chin to keep our eyes linked. I don't know what I was thinking, but at this moment everything clicked into place. I rose onto my tip toes and Jacob instinctively bent his head towards me. Our lips met softly at first, but the tension we've been carrying manifested into a passionate, desperate kiss. He lifted my body and I wrapped my legs around his waist. His lips were soft and warm, but had a firm urgency behind them. This kiss would be his chance to show me how desperately he needed me. I began to feel how much I needed him. I felt safe in these arms; he was so sure he would never hurt me. He would never hold back his feelings. Edward never let our kisses get to this point.
Edward's name in my mind was like a cold bucket of water. I pulled my lips from Jacob's and rested my forehead against his. Our breathing was heavy and I wanted to kiss him again. I never wanted him to let go of me, but this could not continue until I confronted Edward. Edward, Edward, Edward… I thought his name over and over until I finally found the strength to pull away from Jacob. I relaxed my legs and he set me down gently on my feet. The cold Washington air was like a slap to the face; confusion and guilt made their way into my head and Jacob looked desperate to keep me from feeling any of it.
"Bella, please just listen to me." He put his hands on each side of my face so I was staring into his eyes. "This is what I have been trying to tell you all along. We love each other, this proves it. I know it is confusing, but just think about it. Think about how happy we make each other. Your face lights up when you see me. I know you better than anyone else and I would never, hurt you. Ever."
I was thinking about it, I was thinking about what would have happened if the phone call never interrupted us. We would have had this amazing kiss and what if I felt for him then what I was feeling now. Would it have been enough to make me move on? To have the life that Edward desperately wanted for me? Each time I thought his name a new pang of guilt ripped through me.
Edward and I were working through this rough patch in our relationship; we would do anything for each other. Our love was all consuming, and the intensity made it hard to breathe. I had so many people pushing me for answers to questions that conflicted. Sam and the pack wanted me to pick a side, the Volturi wanted me to become one of their kind, or immediately take their secret to my grave and Edward just wanted time. I was tired of this, I was being pulled in all directions. Presently I was staring into the hopeful eyes of Jacob Black the boy I loved so much it hurt. The boy who I wasn't sure I could give my heart to fully. He was offering me the world and I knew if I accepted, it would eventually mean death for one or both of us.
Alice worked quickly and I was met not by my brothers but by Esme. She was the one person who I was unable to push aside.
"Edward, please stop and think this through."
"Esme, move aside; if he were to hurt her I would never be able to forgive myself!"
"If you were to hurt him, it would harm all of us." She tried to reason with me. "Could you forgive yourself for that?"
"No." I said, but my mind was on a single track and I was so angry that I had to try and suppress it while Esme was in my path.
"Bella is in a very difficult position right now. She lives between two realities and she is only human. They are ruled by their emotions, you need to understand that."
"What would you have me do?" I threw my arms up as I paced the border that separated Bella and I.
"Edward, you will see her again, and when you do… you'll know what is best for her."
I dropped to my knees and held my head in my hands. "I can't stay away from her, not after last time. I am not strong enough." The last words came out in a pathetic whisper.
"Have you ever considered that maybe you staying away is not what is best for her? That maybe what is best for her is to go through the change?"
I was back on my knees and my anger flared, "I will not end her life!" I was in her face and growling, but she would not back down.
"After all these years you would throw away the one person who made you happy? For what? A theory about right and wrong?" She exhaled and took a softer tone with me. "It's not ending her life, it's giving her a new one; one where she will be strong enough to live this life with you, instead of behind you."
Esme served her purpose and now I was surrounded. Emmett grabbed me and Jasper used his unique ability to immobilize me. I was frozen in a state of such tranquility that Emmett was able to drag me from the border with ease, but a loud snarl kept him from doing so. The trees were vibrating and I heard their thoughts.
"You are very close to the line bloodsuckers." The voice said menacingly. Jasper released me from his spell and I stood up walking towards the trees. In my most antagonistic tone I said, "We were just out for a stroll."
The trees vibrated again and a large boy stood in front of us barely covered by the foliage.
"What do you want?"
"Bella is on your land and I want to know that she is safe." I said through bared teeth.
He was going to push me, his thoughts and those of his comrades in the bushes all wanted us to step over the line so they would have the cause to rip us apart.
"That was quick, we just delivered our ultimatum yesterday and I guess she did not need a lot of time to decide."
He smirked and his pack made noises of approval.
"What ultimatum?" Jasper hissed from beside me. I shifted uneasily and I felt Emmett's hand on the back of my neck, "Calm down." He thought.
Paul stood there smiling and his smug thoughts were agitating me. Their numbers were greater than ours, but that was not all that made him so arrogant.
"She is under our protection now. We never let anything bad happen to one of ours. So yes, she is safe NOW." He emphasized the word now to indicate we dropped the ball, but I ignored him. I dug around in the pack consciousness for any information about her.
"I want to hear that from her lips, or I am not leaving." I countered. That statement got a guttural laugh from Paul. "Her lips are a little busy right now, leech." The whole pack looked to a tiny wolf, I saw the scene from his eyes; a passionate kiss in the middle of the woods. My stomach turned, but I kept my emotions in check and my face emotionless. To my surprise an intimidating growl burst from Emmett's chest.
"Watch your mouth pooch, that's my family you are talking about!" Paul had found the button and he was going to keep pushing it.
"Edward, why aren't you defending her? Did you not like what you saw?"
"That's it! You and me right now. You can step onto my land and I will teach you some respect." Emmett was fuming and even I was intimidated by his display. This was the chance Paul was waiting for, his body began to tremble as he readied for his transformation, but a large black wolf howled in the distance and stopped him. The anger was briefly suppressed as he fell back into formation.
"That's what I thought pup. Sit!" Emmett continued. Jasper sent him a pointed look and he backed down a bit. I was too shocked and hurt by the image of Bella and Jacob that I just stood in brooding silence.
"Where is Bella?" Jasper thought at me demanding.
"She is with Jacob, not too far from here." I managed to say. Sam took my words and howled into the afternoon sky. He called for Jacob to shift and fill him in, Sam was not used to being out of the loop and it angered him. I felt Jacob join the consciousness and I listened.
"Jacob get Bella and bring her to the south border, NOW."
"What is going on?" Jacob's mind was angry, but his feelings conflicted with the edict his pack leader just threw at him. A part of him was pulling for obedience, but another part wanted to stay with Bella and finish their conversation. We love each other… He was recalling the conversation and trying to make his decision, but Sam only had to say, "NOW" and Jacob grudgingly shifted and was on his way. They had the small wolf following his moves to keep the pack connected. He picked Bella up and ran through the woods towards the dirt road. I took off down the path and decided to cut them off at the pass. Emmett and Jasper kept the pack from following me.
With young Seth watching Jacob and Bella's every move they were forced to heed the call of Sam Uley. Jacob started his bike and they followed the small wolf towards the border where the Cullens and wolf pack were facing off. Seth's fluid pace slowed as he sensed an intruder in their path and Jacob's instincts took over. He stopped the black motorcycle and placed his trembling body in front of Bella; ready to take on the threat that lay beyond the trees.
Edward casually stepped out from his vantage point and Jacob's growl is heard through the pack mind. Seth is sent back to Sam and Jacob prepares to face Edward.
"Stop, please don't fight." Bella pleaded from behind Jacob. His body was vibrating violently.
"Control yourself Jacob. She is too close to you. Think of Emily and Sam."
"Keep their names out of your mouth leech! I would never hurt her. I have no problems controlling myself around her!"
"Bella…" Edward said in a weak voice.
"Why don't you just leave!" Jacob yelled.
"I'm here until she orders me away." He answered in an even tone.
"Edward…" Bella called and both of them focused on her.
She walked around Jacob and stood between her two possible futures.
"I cannot live like this anymore. I am too fragile. I need a definitive answer to my question."
"You don't know what you are asking. I can't- I won't take your life." His answer came out in a cold hard voice that she did not recognize as belonging to her perfect loving Edward. She shook her head as the last few weeks flashed though her mind.
"That is what you don't understand. You asked me in the car that night coming back from La Push what I meant and I couldn't put it into words until now. You look at it as taking my life from me, but you would be giving me a better one; a life with you. The time you keep requesting of me is what will take my life. The years of my fleeting life that I will waste living in between safety and danger will do more harm than good. It will be torture, for both of us. I refuse to spend my short time on this earth that way."
"What do you want me to say Bella? I only want what is best for you."
"You know what I want." The pain in her eyes affected both the men that stood beside her.
"No! Bella, we could be happy together, we love each other, and I can give you everything you want from him. More, than what he can. You could have Charlie and me and a future, a family." In his desperation Jacob grabbed Bella, his rough touch causes her to yelp and Edward to react.
"Let her go mongrel!" Edward said between barred teeth. Jacob ignored Edward's words, but relaxed his hands and Bella assured him with her eyes that she was fine.
"Jacob, I need to hear his answer. I will never be able to move on, if I think there was a chance. Can you understand that?"
Jacob searched her eyes and saw the pleading look she gave him. He kissed the top of her head and lingered as he prepared for the worst. Reluctantly, he released her and she turned to Edward who was deep in thought.
"You need to give me an answer now." Her voice quivered as she prepared to deliver her ultimatum. The words came out rushed in an attempt to hide the weakness she felt. "Change me or leave me. It is your choice."
Her fear and frustration manifested in a waterfall of silent tears down her pink human cheeks. Edward faced her, as he did that ill-fated September afternoon and took her into his arms. Bella braced herself as the familiar gesture threatened to tear open the scars he left behind in her chest. She readied herself as he brushed his lips against her cheek and their cool touch felt like a goodbye. She hugged him hard, not wanting to let go of the man she loved. She thought about withdrawing her ultimatum, about begging him to stay with her. He leaned his head down and whispered into her ear; his voice filled with sorrow. "I promised that I would never leave you again."
She pulled away to look into his eyes, but was stopped by the feel of his hands restraining her and the feel of his sharp teeth against her neck as he bit.
(A/N: I really fell in love with the idea of an Ultimatum for Edward. When I read the Twilight Saga I felt that he was so oblivious to what he was asking of Bella when he decided to keep her human. I wanted to confront that head on and an extreme like this was the way to go. Jacob's commitment to the pack held him back from fighting for Bella sooner in the books, but the pace Stephanie was going at demanded a more drawn out and involved reaction which I think the majority of us liked. I decided to do away with the forced affection (which I felt was a little extreme) and let her hormones rule a little bit. A huge thanks to those of you who have been reading / reviewing / or have given my other stories a chance because of this one. )
(P. A/N: This is an inevitable question so I am going to go ahead and answer it now. I have no intention of expanding this story, but I would love to hear what you think happened after the bite. Thanks again!)