A/N: It's been six months since I have updated this story and I am so sorry for that! Wow time flies. But summer is here and things have calmed down and that means more updates! And more frequent updates too. =D
Chapter 4: To Washington
The next day I was up bright and early and back in my car by 8 A.M. I felt so much better now that it was daytime and that nothing unusual had happened during the night. I was quite cheerful as I continued on I-5 N, eating my hotel muffin and listening to morning talk shows on the radio again.
I had gotten a morning text from Renee, wishing me a good morning and reminding me to be safe and call her at some point. I found comfort in the thought that in around twelve hours I would be at Charlie's, safe at his house and in my very own bed. Perhaps I would even meet Edward Cullen.
An hour passed by peacefully before the breaking news came. After coming back from a commercial break, the radio talk show hosts announced that there had been a third disaster. I almost shut the radio off because I was already so nervous. But I knew I would wonder what the third disaster was and so I listened anxiously.
It was another murder disaster. Three hikers had been found dead in the hills of…Oregon. My stomach did a flip as I listened to the perplexed voices wafting from the speakers. I thought about the sharp bangs and the police sirens I had heard the night before. I reached for my phone and right on cue, it vibrated.
"Bella?" came Renee's nervous voice. "Bella, did you hear?"
"Yes, Mom," I replied, trying not to sound as nervous as I felt. I began to wonder just how much my mother listened to the radio since she always called the second after a new disaster had been announced, but then I remembered that she and Phil were driving to Florida. They had nothing to do but listen to the radio, just like me.
"Are you staying safe?" she asked me. "Are you staying aware?"
"I am," I assured her. "Everything is fine."
"I think I am going to call you again in an hour. Just to make sure."
"Okay Mom. But really, everything is fine. Nothing bad is going to happen."
After repeatedly telling Renee that I wasn't going to be abducted or caught up in any disaster, I hung up and resumed listening to the radio. Around 11 A.M I stopped to find a bathroom and to get something to eat quickly. When I got back to my truck, there was a text message from Edward, saying good morning, to have a good trip, and that if I needed anything, to call him. This made me feel a lot better as I turned back onto the highway.
After awhile I turned the radio off. I wanted to keep listening to the theories and developments in the disasters but they were doing nothing but making me anxious. I drove on in silence for awhile and watched as the sun disappeared, hiding behind gray, miserable clouds. The sky opened up and it began to sprinkle a light rain.
My mother called again to warn me that it was going to rain, and it was during this unnecessary conversation about rain that the unexpected happened.
The large, black van seemed to come out of nowhere. It had been on the other side of the highway, going the opposite direction towards California, when it suddenly veered off of its course and onto my side of the highway.
It was heading towards me and I dropped my phone in fear, ignoring Renee's fretful shouts and unconsciously slowing down and drifting to the side of the road. I don't know what I was thinking – maybe that if I slowed down, the impact of the crash wouldn't be as hard? I froze in terror, gripping the steering wheel and watching the approaching van with wide eyes.
And that's when a silver car came from somewhere behind me and skidded to a stop at an angle at the side of my vehicle. I turned my disbelieving stare onto it to see the bronze-haired stranger watching the same oncoming van with absolutely no fear. I watched as he quickly stuck his hand on the open window, so fast that for a moment I was sure I was seeing things. And as the van was just about to crash into him, it rammed against his open palm instead, coming to an abrupt stop.
It was a jaw dropping moment, but I couldn't even drop my jaw because all I could do was stare, trying to decide if what I seen had even happened. This beautiful, yet creepy, stranger had reached out with only his hand and stopped a large, heavy van…with only his hand.How was that even possible? The van had a large dent in its side, but other than that, there was no damage to anything and nobody was hurt.
I was snapped out of my trance by Renee's frantic voice drifting from my feet. I reached down breathlessly and said in a heavy, shocked voice, "Mom?"
"Bella! Bella, are you all right? What happened?"
"Mom, I'll call you back in a few minutes."
"Wait one moment honey, just tell me what happened."
"I will in a second, I have to go." And I flipped my phone closed and tossed it on the passenger seat, knowing she would not be happy, but I had to deal with what was happening right in front of me.
The stranger smoothly got out of his car and that's when the van suddenly turned sharply and burst forward, its tires screeching against the highway pavement. I watched in disbelief as it disappeared down the highway, going much faster than it should have been going.
I waited uncomfortably as I saw the stranger walk over to my truck. A light rain had begun to fall and it was so cloudy that it seemed like dusk.
"Being on your phone while on the highway is not safe," he told me quietly in a voice that was like velvet. I stared at him, knowing he could not pinpoint the fact that I was on the phone as the reason to what had almost just happened.
"Are you all right?" he demanded.
"I'm fine," I told him, still in a state of shock. So many questions were on the tip of my tongue. I wanted to ask him what had just happened, how he had acted so fast, why he had saved me, and most of all, how did he stop the van?
He ran a hand through his bronze hair. "That's good," he muttered.
"Thank you," I said, glancing up at him and meeting his gaze. I was slightly shocked by the intensity of his eyes, the strange topaz color that I had never seen before on anyone.
He nodded. "Are you all right to drive?"
I wasn't so sure. I quickly hid my shaking hands between my knees and nodded. His eyes darkened.
Looking unconvinced, he backed away, his eyes never leaving mine. "Be careful, please."
I nodded again. "Thanks," I mumbled, and waited until he was in his car and out of sight before I picked up my phone and called Renee. I sighed. This news was going to frighten her even more, and it would take all of my reasoning to convince her not to come find me.
After twenty minutes, I was finally off the phone with a seething Renee, and ready to continue my journey. A few cars had pulled over as well during the ordeal, some checked to see if I was okay.
I wanted my journey to end. I had had quite enough adventure.
I rode on in silence, trying to piece together what I had just seen. Nothing made sense anymore. Why had the van swerved onto my side of the highway? Was I specifically being targeted? Why? And why hadn't they stopped to see if the stranger was all right, or if I was okay? They had taken off, a hit and runner, scared of something, but what?
And the stranger! He was still everywhere that I happened to be. I tried to remind myself that his license plate said Washington and that he was probably just going the same way I was. But the timing was so strange. It seemed too strange to be just a coincidence.
He had stopped the van with his bare hand, I was sure of it. And I didn't understand how that was possible. He wasn't even hurt. And he had been so abrupt when he had come to see if I was all right. He had seemed almost disapproving, with a hidden layer of concern.
He had told me talking on the phone while driving wasn't safe. But how had he known I was on the phone? There was only one way for him to know. He had been following me and watching me. By the time he had stopped near me and come to see if I was okay, the phone was on the ground. He must have seen me on the phone long before then.
I came upon a rest stop and pulled into the parking lot. It was only around 2 in the afternoon and I still had at least six hours until I arrived at Charlie's. I picked up my phone, wanting to talk to someone, anyone. I had that strange feeling in my stomach, a feeling that something wasn't right. It was making me sick.
I thought about Edward and how kind he had been the night before. I realized I did want to call him, but I didn't want to impose and be annoying. But who could I call? Certainly not Renee and certainly not Charlie. Sighing in defeat, I called Edward.
"Hello?" came his voice, which now seemed so familiar.
"Hi," I said softly.
"Hey Bella," he said pleasantly. "How is your trip going?"
"I don't know," I said uncertainly, suddenly not sure if I wanted to tell anyone else what had happened. But the words were out of my mouth before I could stop them.
"Is everything all right?" Edward asked me slowly.
Deciding to take a leap of faith, I told him everything. I told him about the van that had almost hit me, and the stranger who had saved me. I told him how strange the entire ordeal had been. I told him I was afraid. I told him about the recent murders and how close I had been to them the night before. I told him all of this, not wanting to, but not able to stop. And after I had said it all, I felt so much better.
"Bella," I heard him murmur. "Do you want me to come get you?"
My eyes widened and I felt my stomach jolt nervously. "Oh no," I said quickly. "I mean…thank you so much for offering, I really appreciate that…but I'll be fine."
"I really don't mind," he insisted.
"I'm still six hours away," I pointed out.
"That's all right. I'll come if you want me to, and accompany you back."
The idea was tempting. I didn't want to be alone anymore. But I didn't want to wait six hours in the parking lot for him.
It was almost as if he had read my mind. "Or I could meet you halfway."
I leaned my head against the cool glass window of my truck. I felt hot tears sting my eyes as a wave of homesickness washed over me. I wanted nothing more at that moment than to be home, with Renee, safe and sound. I wanted to sit on the couch with her and be surprised over the murders that we would learn about on the television. I didn't want to be running alongside those murders.
"I'll be okay," I told him, dismayed when I heard my voice. I sounded half-strangled.
"Oh Bella," he said gently. "Everything will be fine. Your trip will end and you will make it here safely. I promise that nothing is going to happen to you."
"It's just so…bizarre," I whispered, wiping a stray tear away. "Everything that has been happening is just…it's scary."
"I know. But you can call me whenever you want to. And my offer still stands. If you want me to come, all you need to do is call."
"Thank you," I said gratefully. "Thank you, so much."
"Anytime," he assured me. He talked to me a few more minutes about random things, probably to ease my mind, and then we hung up. I sat for a few minutes, both hands on the steering wheel.
Six hours. That was all I had to endure and I had to make good time. I turned my key in the ignition and the truck roared to life. I pulled out of the parking lot and back onto the highway.
I began to relax slightly. Six hours, I reminded myself. Six hours.
I happened to look into the rear view mirror at that moment, and see a silver car a few cars behind me. I tore my eyes away quickly and looked back at the road, my fear returning. It was him, I knew it was him. Why was he still where I was? Why was he following me?
He may have been beautiful and he may have been a hero for saving me, but that didn't change the fact that he was a strange guy who I had seen for almost my entire journey. I stuck my hand into my bag and pulled out a pocket knife that Phil had given me, on my mother's insistence.
I held it tightly. I would not be hurt by anyone. I would make it to Forks safely and with my sanity still in check.
I began to think about my burning questions again. And then it hit me.
What if the stranger was the murderer? And what if I was next?