The black waters churned and bashed their way at the rocks at the foot of the cliff. They clawed their way half up the craggy walls, licking at the brambles of partially grown, dead shrubs. Bella stood at the edge of the cliff, toes curled slightly over the edge of the high precipice. Her eyes were closed; arms spread slightly wide, palms raised toward the heavens.
"You wanted me to be human," she said, "well watch me."
And she jumped, hurtling toward the ebony waves below. Her scream broke through the air.
"Alice!" the voice I would have known anywhere broke me from my vision. His hands were grasping my elbows, and I blinked twice, Jasper's face coming into vision.
"Oh," I breathed in despair.
"Alice, what is it?" he demanded, ochre eyes scorching into my face.
"Oh, no," I moaned, sidling closer to him. I rested my head against his collarbone.
"Alice," he begged, his arms pulling me closer.
"Bella," I whispered. I pulled back to look him in the face. "She… she jumped."
Jasper's eyebrows knit in confusion. "Jumped?"
"Off of a cliff," I elaborated, spinning away so that his arms fell from around me. I rushed across the empty sitting room, toward the computer. I dropped into the swivelling chair, pulling up a webpage.
"What are you doing?" Jasper asked, striding toward me.
I leaned across the desk to retrieve my bag from the end of it. I'd left it there from my recent online shopping spree. I pulled my American Express from my wallet and feverishly typed in the number.
"I have to go." I told him, pressing print.
The printer hummed to life, and I spun toward him in the chair. His face was blank as he stared down at me.
"But," he started slowly, "if Bella's—"
"No," I cut him off, "I'm going for Charlie. Or, maybe there's a chance. Maybe someone saved her…" I snatched the ticket from the printer tray and folded it neatly in half so it would slide easily into my passport which I grabbed from the shelf above the computer.
"Wait," he pleaded as I brushed past him.
I turned back to look into his face once more. Immediately, I wrapped my arms around his waist, burying my face in his chest. I felt his lips press to my hair.
"I love you," he whispered, "and come back soon."
"I love you too, Jazz," I murmured.
Then I leaned up on my tip toes to kiss him. He returned the kiss hungrily, his hands twisting into my hair.
When I pulled away I rushed back to the desk to retrieve my cell phone. I held it up as I slipped my shoes on.
"I'll call you," I promised, and then slipped out the door.
Four promising cars sat in the driveway. They were all fast, and they were all flashy—therefore adding to the promise of getting to the airport faster. But Carlisle's Mercedes was the only one with the tinted windows, and I hadn't checked to see about the weather.
I ducked inside, slamming the door behind me.
I just hoped Carlisle wouldn't hate me.
Bella's house was oddly dark. It was overcast, but it was not raining. The leaves of the weeping willow off to the side of her porch were dripping with leftover rain water and the roads were still damp.
It had just finished raining.
I climbed the porch steps, hoping Charlie would be home.
But after knocking twice and ringing the doorbell three times—with no answer—I concluded that he wasn't.
So I let myself in.
True to my suspicions, the house was dead. I shuddered, not wanting to think about where Charlie could possibly be.
I was in the middle of the living room when I heard the familiar rumble of Bella's truck. Was it Charlie? Why would he be driving Bella's truck?
Terse whispers were heard outside, and I strained my ears to hear more.
It was a male and a female. Had Charlie brought someone else along?
Then there was the shattering slam of a door, feet against pavement, they were retreating. And then after a moment the engine started up again.
When whoever was driving cut the engine off, silence filled the air. It draped a chilling blanket of suspension over me.
Something hit me.
Bella tread up the sidewalk toward the house, head bent. Her fingers fumbled along the eaves of the house, searching for the key. The door swung open, and she stepped inside.
Confusion clouded my mind when the vision left me. Bella was alive? How? The door clicked, and it swung open.
I could see her silhouette against the moonlight filtering in through the weak clouds. Her hand fluttered over the wall, probably searching for the light switch.
The brushing of flesh against the wall stopped—which only told me she'd frozen where she was.
Fed up with waiting, I stalked toward her and flicked the light on myself.
She blinked in the sudden brightness, staring with shock into my face.
Her knees shook, and I feared she was going to fall over. Her face had blanched and her eyes had widened.
"Alice!" she suddenly cried, flinging herself at me, "Oh, Alice!" Her body crashed against mine, warm, and full of blood. I felt my throat flare. Going without hunting for a very long time was a very wrong idea.
"Bella?" I questioned, still utterly confused. Why was she here?
She was crying then, and I pulled her into the living room and dropped onto the couch. I tugged her into my lap, pressing her against me, just happy to see her again.
"I'm sorry," she apologized through her streaming tears, "I'm just so happy to see you!"
"It's okay, Bella, everything's okay," I assured her—and myself.
"Yes," she agreed, blinking more tears from her eyes.
I exhaled heavily, trying to clear the hunger haze from my mind. "I've forgotten how exuberant you are," I admitted.
Her eyes raised to my face, taking in my strained position.
"Oh!" she said suddenly, realizing her affect on me. "Sorry." She pulled away slightly.
"It's my own fault," I muttered, "It's been too long since I hunted. I shouldn't let myself get so thirsty." You never know when you're going to have to catch a flight nearly halfway around the world spontaneously. "But I was in a hurry today," I told her. Then I glared at her, suddenly upset toward my rush toward Charlie when Bella had been alive the whole time. "Speaking of which," I snapped, unable to hide it, "would you like to explain to me how you're alive?"
Immediately, Bella's sobs caught in her throat. She swallowed, the sound filling the room. "You saw me fall," she murmured.
"No," I corrected, "I saw you jump."
Her lips pursed as she contemplated.
I shook my head back and forth. "I told him this would happen," I said to her, "but he didn't believe me. 'Bella promised, don't be looking for her future either,'" I quoted him, "'We've done enough damage'.
"But just because I'm not looking, doesn't mean I don't see. I wasn't keeping tabs on you, I swear, Bella," I assured her, now locking her gaze with mine, "It's just that I'm already attuned to you… when I saw you jumping, I didn't think, I just got on a plane. I knew I would be too late, but I couldn't do nothing. And then I get here, thinking maybe I could help Charlie somehow, and you drive up." I shook my head again, attempting to peer through the thick cloud of confusion, "I saw you go into the water and I waited and waited for you to come up, but you didn't. What happened? And how could you do that to Charlie? Did you stop to think what this would do to him? And my brother? Do you have any idea what Edward—"
She winced, and that stopped my words, but also because she began to talk.
"Alice, I wasn't committing suicide."
With true doubt, I stared into her face. "Are you saying you didn't jump off a cliff?" I demanded sceptically.
"No, but… It was for recreational purposes only," she told me.
How could she lie to me like this? I felt my already stone features harden.
"I'd seen some of Jacob's friends cliff diving," she further attempted to elaborate, "It looked like… fun, and I was… bored anyway, so…"
I didn't say a word.
"I didn't think about how the storm would affect the currents. Actually, I didn't think about the water much at all." She rushed to explain further.
I didn't buy any of it. Not even a little bit.
"So, if you saw me go in, why didn't you see Jacob?" she asked.
That caught my attention. I cocked my head. Maybe he had something to do with it.
"It's true that I probably would have drowned if Jacob hadn't jumped in after me," Bella admitted, "Well, okay, there's no 'probably' about it. But he did, and he pulled me out, and I guess he towed me back to the shore, though I was kind of out for that part. It couldn't have been more than a minute that I was under before he grabbed me. How come you didn't see that?" She rushed through her words, but I caught them all.
I frowned, frustrated and more confused than ever. "Someone pulled you out?" I repeated.
"Yes. Jacob saved me," Bella confirmed.
Could Jacob have the gene?
I leaned in to sniff Bella's shoulder.
"Don't be ridiculous," I murmured, sniffing some more. I definitely detected some sort of wet dog smell.
"What are you doing?" Bella demanded.
"Who was with you out there just now? It sounded like you were arguing," I said, changing the subject.
"Jacob Black. He's sort of my best friend. I guess. At least, he was…" She trailed off, eyes drifting.
I nodded, trying to remember the treaty.
"What?" Bella's voice demanded.
"I don't know," I admitted slowly, "I'm not sure what it means."
"Well, I'm not dead, at least," she pointed out.
I rolled my eyes in exasperation. "He was a fool to think you could survive alone," I said, thinking of Edward now, "I've never seen someone so prone to life-threatening idiocy."
"I survived," Bella said.
"So… if the currents were too much for you, how did this Jacob manage?" I demanded, jumping from topic to topic with no control. I wasn't used to not knowing things, and I was trying to take in as much information as quickly and as efficiently as I could.
"Jacob is… strong," Bella answered hesitantly.
My eyebrows shot up. She was hiding something.
Her teeth went down over her bottom lip. "See, well," she finally said, "he's… sort of a werewolf. The Quileutes turn into wolves when there are vampires around. They know Carlisle from a long time ago. Were you with Carlisle back then?"
Surprise flitted blatantly over my face, parting my lips. I recovered myself. "Well, I guess that explains the smell," I said to myself, "But does it explain what I didn't see?" I frowned again, frustration indenting in my forehead.
"You smell God-awful. Like wet dog," I absently told her. "A werewolf? Are you sure about that?" I asked then.
"Very sure," Bella confirmed, wincing slightly. "I guess you weren't with Carlisle the last time there were werewolves here in Forks."
"No. I hadn't found him yet," I told her, still searching my mind. It kind of knocked me off my feet then. Jacob Black! I knew him. He was only fifteen the year before. I was sure that he wasn't shifting into any other kind of animal when we were still around. I twisted toward her, my eyes widening. "Your best friend is a werewolf?" I demanded.
She nodded, eyelashes draping over her cheekbones.
"How long has this been going on?" I asked.
"Not long," Bella admitted, and her voice picked up a few octaves in defence. "He's only been a werewolf for just a few weeks."
I glared at her furiously. "A young werewolf?!" I cried, "Even worse! Edward was right—you're a magnet for danger. Weren't you supposed to be staying out of trouble?"
"There's nothing wrong with werewolves," Bella grumbled.
"Until they lose their tempers!" I shook my head yet again, my hair flinging across my cheekbones. I shoved it angrily behind my ears. "Leave it to you, Bella. Anyone else would be better off when the vampires left town. But you have to start hanging out with the first monsters you can find."
"No, Alice, the vampires didn't really leave—not all of them, anyway," she argued, "That's the whole trouble. If it weren't for the werewolves, Victoria would have gotten me by now. Well, if it weren't for Jake and his friends, Laurent would have gotten me before she could, I guess, so—"
"Victoria?" I hissed angrily, "Laurent?"
She nodded, and then gestured to herself. "Danger magnet, remember?"
I furiously shook my head. "Tell me everything—start at the beginning."
So she started. Bit by bit, I became more and more alarmed as she told me her adventures, on her mission to forget about Edward and the rest of us.
"Our leaving you didn't do any good at all, did it?" I asked when she was finally finished.
She laughed shortly. "That was never the point, though, was it? It's not like you left for my benefit."
I frowned at the floor momentarily. "Well, I guess I acted impulsively today. I probably shouldn't have intruded."
"Don't go, Alice," Bella pleaded, and the pain in her voice caused me to look up at her. Her fingers locked in the collar of my shirt. "Please don't leave me," she pleaded, breath hitching quickly.
My eyes widened even wider. She really was a mess without us. "All right," I said slowly, "I'm not going anywhere tonight. Take a deep breath." I couldn't leave, not with Bella in this condition.
She sucked in a ragged breath.
"You look like hell, Bella," I finally told her.
"I drowned today."
"It goes deeper than that," I said, trying to ignore the accidental pun, "You're a mess." Inside and out.
She winced, almost shying away from me. "Look," she snapped, "I'm doing my best."
"What do you mean?"
"It hasn't been easy. I'm working on it," she elaborated.
Again fury bubbled in my hollow chest. What on Earth had Edward been thinking? "I told him," I tersely muttered to myself.
"Alice, what did you think you were going to find?" Bella asked, "I mean, besides me dead. Did you expect to find me skipping around and whistling show tunes? You know me better than that."
"I do," I admitted, "But I hoped." I truly hoped she would have been able to move on.
"Then I guess I don't have the corner on the idiocy market."
The phone interrupted our conversation.
"That has to be Charlie," Bella said, clumsily rising to her feet. She grabbed my hand and I followed her into the kitchen.
She picked up the phone. "Charlie?" she paused, and her face brightened. "Jake!"
Okay, a moment ago, she had been telling me that she was a mess without us. So why was she so happy right now?
"I'm fine," she continued into the receiver. "I told you that I wasn't—"
She sighed, and lowered the phone from her ear. I'd bet he'd hung up on her. Some best friend.
"That's going to be a problem," she mumbled, hanging up the phone.
I gently squeezed her hand, assuring her. "They aren't excited I'm here," I guessed.
"Not especially," she confirmed, "But it's none of their business anyway."
I draped my arm around her shoulders. "So what do we do now?" I thought aloud. "Things to do," I mused, "Loose ends to tie."
"What things to do?" Bella asked.
"I don't know for sure…" I lied, composing my face into a careful mask, "I need to see Carlisle."
"Could you stay?" She was begging again. "Please? For just awhile. I've missed you so much." Her voice broke.
"If you think that's a good idea," I mumbled. I knew I should probably leave. Now was better than later. It would just be harder if I waited.
"I do. You can stay here—Charlie would love that," she insisted.
Oh, good idea, bring more people into the picture.
"I do have a house, Bella," I tried to joke.
She nodded, and I could tell my comment didn't make her happy. I studied her face.
"Well, I need to get a suitcase of clothes at the very least," I resigned.
She hugged me, wafting the scent of blood toward my face, up my nostrils. "You're the best Alice!" she cried.
"And I think I'll need to hunt," I added, trying to speak with the remainder of breath that was left in my lungs. "Immediately."