Full Summary: At a pivotal moment in New Moon, a simple choice alters the course of Bella's future, and she is forced to endure several more weeks before Edward's eventual return to Forks. Victoria, a pack of young werewolves, and the blossoming of an undeniable bond become the least of Bella's concerns as she undergoes her own supernatural transformation. It turns out vampires and werewolves aren't the only things that go bump in the night.
This story picks up shortly after Bella's jump off the cliff when Jacob is dropping her off at her house, and Bella is internally debating the morality of attempting to love Jacob. From there, things take on a different course than the novel.
Disclaimer: I do not own Twilight or profit from the use of its content. Stephanie Meyer is its proper owner.
Chapter One - Crutch
Jake pressed his warm cheek against the top of my hair.
If I turned my face to the side—if I pressed my lips against his bare shoulder…I knew without any doubt exactly what would follow. It would be very easy. There would be no need for explanations tonight.
But could I do it? Could I betray my absent heart to save my pathetic life?
Butterflies assaulted my stomach as I thought about turning my head.
And then, as clearly as if I were in immediate danger, Edward's velvet voice whispered in my ear.
"Be happy," he told me.
(New Moon, Page 376)
Happiness, complete happiness, without Edward was an alien concept to me, something practically unfathomable. But the voice was so earnest, as if it sincerely believed me capable of once again attaining such a status of bliss as happiness. I doubted it.
Of course if there were some small chance that the gaping hole in me would one day be filled—or at least scabbed over—then Jacob Black would no doubt be the cause of it.
So I pushed any indecision aside and mechanically turned my head to brush my lips against the dark skin of his shoulder, only allowing my mouth to linger for a moment longer than what could be considered chaste. I prayed the gesture came off with nonchalance rather than the uncertainty that went into making it.
Jake jolted slightly in surprise, and I kept my eyes pointedly on the door handle as I clambered out of the truck. "Don't stay out too late, Jake. You need sleep as much as I do."
He must have recovered from the sort-of kiss, because his amused snort didn't sound forced. "I'm not the one who nearly drowned."
"You're right. Hunting down a psychotically evasive vampire at all hours of the night is so much less taxing."
The thud of a rusty door stiffly closing was the only sound betraying Jacob's pursuit, his steps noiseless as we walked to my front door. But before I could unlock the knob, Jacob's arms were around me, pulling my back against his warm chest, and I allowed my self to briefly enjoy the security I felt there. "I'll be around," he said lightly, "so don't think you'll get away with anything too risky."
Great. Now I had Jacob of all people questioning my responsibility. "I know, I know. No playing with matches and no running with scissors."
His smile was discernible through my hair. "Actually I was thinking more along the lines of no base jumping and no steak knife juggling."
"If you insist."
Chilly Forks air whipped across the back of my now exposed neck as Jacob brushed aside my curtain of hair. "Bella…" His voice, soft and questioning, sent a shiver though me that couldn't be attributed to the day's temperature.
And then his lips were on my skin, first at the base of my neck where my spine began, then up to my hairline, and finally just beneath my ear.
I squished my initial reaction. I didn't pull away or tell him to knock it off. I simply attempted to relax, forcing myself to recall the pleading voice that just moments before had pleaded for my happiness.
A calming breath helped to expel some of the tension from my shoulders. Jacob seemed to be conscience of the effort I was making and allowed himself a small sigh of contentment that warmed my ear. "I'll see you later, Bells. Take care of Charlie."
And he was gone.
I numbly walked into the house and waited for the guilt to consume me. I could go for a good dose of guilt right now. Lord knows I deserved it. How utterly selfish of me to encourage my best friend when I knew my own heart was too battle worn to reciprocate.
But I wanted to be happy sobadly…and Jacob, the sun in my rainstorm of a life, was just as eager to fulfill that desire. It was as if everyone else in Forks was under the impression that I enjoyed being miserable, that I acted like a zombie because I didn't want to make the effort to get better. In actuality it wasn't that I lacked the motivation, just the means. And Jacob recognized that.
He was so willing to be my crutch, and I shamelessly took advantage.
Allowing myself to groan in despair, I set to work preparing Charlie's dinner. Who knew what state he'd be in when he got home from the hospital after talking with Sue? I didn't want him to have to worry about anything when he got home, as I was sure Harry's funeral arrangements would be distracting enough.
Just as I popped my own small piece of refrigerated casserole in the microwave, the phone rang, disrupting the unusually oppressive silence of the near-empty house.
Pressing the start button with one hand, I reached for the phone with the other "Hello?"
I frowned at the lack of response. "Hello? Is anybody…"
The small, tentative voice struck me dumb, and my fingers constricted tightly around the receiver. "Alice," I breathed warily. I was losing it. I had to be. There was no way…
"You're okay?" The statement sounded more like a question, and it was odd to hear that familiar musical voice sound so uncertain.
No I wasn't okay, not at all. "I…"
Her voice was briefly muffled, and I pictured her turning away from the phone towards someone else in the room as she repeated, "She's okay." My traitorous mind immediately imagined it was Edward, and I felt pressure building behind my eyes.
"Alice…" My voice was pleading though I wasn't certain what for. Anything, I realized after a moment of panic. She could tell me anything and it would satisfy me. I just didn't want her to leave, not again.
"Bella, you haven't jumped off any cliffs lately, have you?"
The question along with Alice's concerned yet aggravated tone was unexpected, and I struggled to form a coherent response. "Cliffs…oh, well…" I hadn't seen or talked to Alice in months, and she calls to ask about this? "I was cliff diving earlier today."
"Cliff diving." Alice's voice was flat as she repeated the phrase, and immediately I knew I must have sounded defensive and, it turn, guilty of whatever it was she was attempting to accuse me.
"Yes," I said weakly.
There was a drawn out sigh on the other end. "That still doesn't explain why…" She was clearly talking to herself. "Ugh. This is all so very maddening." There was a long pause and I knew what was coming.
"No," I murmured so quietly I wondered if she'd even heard me.
"I have to go Bella. I really shouldn't have called, but now I'm glad that I did. It saved me a plane trip." I could tell that wasn't the real reason behind her relief.
The calm sincerity in her voice wavered and became reluctant. "Goodbye, Bella. It was nice to hear your voice again."
"NO!" My vehemence was wasted on the quiet click of the line going dead.
I couldn't be certain how long I stood there completely motionless as I clutched the phone to me ear, silently willing for the melodic voice to come back. But by the time I was able to regain enough control of my body to move my feet and lower my hand to place the receiver back in it's cradle, my reheated dinner was no longer warm.
But that was okay because my appetite was overtaken by a sudden need to lie down and die.
I must have fallen asleep on the couch while waiting for Charlie to get back home, because when I opened my eyes it was to the sight of Charlie standing in the kitchen mindlessly staring at an unopened box of cereal.
Guilt immediately began to bubble inside of me.
I hadn't been awake to console him when he came in last night. One of his best friends was dead, gone, never to return, and I couldn't even be bothered to stay awake long enough to make sure he was okay.
Blurry-eyed and stiff, I rose from couch and crossed the room to give him a hug. "I'm so sorry, Dad," I murmured. "I know how close you were to him."
He exhaled heavily and returned my embrace. "I'm not the one to be worrying about, Bells. Leah and Seth…they're just kids."
A shudder traveled down my spine at the mention of Harry's two children, Leah, who was my age, and Seth, who was a few years younger. Losing either Charlie or Renee was an unbearable contemplation, and I felt my heart ache for the surviving Clearwaters.
Charlie gave me a slight squeeze before releasing me to put away the cereal and unused bowl. "I'm going to head over to Sue's. The funeral's tomorrow and there's quite a few details to take care of yet."
"I'll go with you," I said compulsively. The thought of remaining home alone all day long with nothing but the memory of yesterday's phone call to keep me miserable was nauseating, and I found myself considering to take Charlie's lead and skip breakfast all together this morning.
At Charlie's surprised look I hastily corrected myself. "Of course, if you don't think it would be appropriate for me to tag along, then I can stay home and…do something."
"No, no. I'd like it if you came with me. I'm sure Leah and Seth could use all the friends they can get right now."
The edge of my fingernail gave way to the snap of my teeth as I thoughtlessly chewed on my thumbnail—a detestable nervous habit I had acquired during my tweenage years.
I knew Leah…in passing. We'd never really been good friends despite our similarity in age and my frequent past and present visits to La Push. Arriving at her house the day after her father died would probably be an awkward affair for both of us. But backing out now after Charlie's comment would make me heartless, and if on the off chance that I was able to help the Clearwaters, I'd gladly place aside my own discomfort and do what I could.
We took the cruiser, which was good for Charlie who always found getting behind the wheel to be very relaxing; the tension visibly eased from his face and hands as he reversed out of the driveway and then shifted the car into drive.
I, on the other hand, suffered silently in the passenger seat. Without the wet, curvy Fork roads to require my passive attention, my mind was allowed to wander. Seven months ago this wouldn't have been a problem, but now it was dangerous. Especially now.
I couldn't believe Alice had called. I had actually spoken to her. Well, sort of. I hadn't been particularly articulate, but that was hardly the point. Contact, any contact, with the Cullens was a forbidden fantasy I never allowed myself to entertain for very long. After things had ended so cleanly, I never expected to hear from any of them ever again. He'd been so insistent about that.
But what did it mean? Why now after so long? Attempting to recall the specifics of the conversation was hopeless when my mind was so overwhelmed with the incident as a whole, so I resigned myself to leaning against the cool glass of the car window as I clutched at the gaping tear in my middle.
Charlie either didn't notice my agony or was simply pretending to be oblivious as we entered La Push and eventually came to a stop beside the small Clearwater residence. The lack of cars parked outside was surprisingly deceiving, because as Charlie opened the front door without knocking I was greeted not with the silent somberness of a house in mourning, but a bustling hum as a handful of women and a couple of older men moved about the living room and front hall in a calm but steady stream of activity.
The tempting fragrance of baked goods drifted past my nose, and I instantly found myself regretting my decision to forgo breakfast as I followed Charlie into the kitchen where even more women were hard at work kneading dough and stirring a hodgepodge of boiling pots. Charlie made a beeline for a middle-aged woman who sat in the corner shelling beans. From the shaking of her hands and the redness of her eyes I assumed that this was Sue Clearwater, and I dutifully lowered my eyes as she exchanged quiet words with Charlie.
"…of course. This must be Bella."
I looked up at the sound of my name and tried not to notice that her face twitched with the effort of being pleasantly interested. Her voice trembled in time with her hands.
"Leah is just upstairs if you wanted to say hello. Maybe you'll get a better response out of her than her other friends." She sounded doubtful and I couldn't blame her.
Dutifully I turned toward the direction Sue had vaguely gestured to and found the stairs without much difficulty. As I ascended to steps, the dread grew. My experience in consoling was almost completely nonexistent, limited solely to the time Renee's puppy had died just two weeks after she'd rescued it from the local shelter.
She had cried while I rubbed her shoulders, and when she went to bed later that evening I put the nearly new dog bed in the trash out by the curb along with the over sized bag of puppy food. The next morning Renee was somber, but by dinner I had her laughing over bags of popcorn and Gilmore Girls re-runs.
Somehow I doubted this situation called for similar methods of distraction.
There were only three doors on the second floor, one of which was clearly marked with a sign reading "Seth's Room: Stay Out Or Else" and another which was cracked open to reveal dark, mature furniture that clearly belonged to an adult. That left door number three. I stood outside for a moment before working up the courage to lightly tap on the door.
"Leah, it's Bella Swan."
"Do you mind me coming in?"
The thickness of the dull murmurs coming up the stairs prompted me into action, and I slowly opened the door and poked my head inside. Leah sat atop her bed, looking small and unapproachable with her legs folded stiffly beneath her rigid form as she stared unsmilingly down at the bed sheets.
I couldn't take my eyes from her face, which was unnaturally smooth and devoid of emotion. Her usually animated eyes were fixed in an indecipherable gaze that somehow bore into the bed, straight through the floor, and right into the souls of all of the people loyally milling around downstairs. It felt oddly like I was intruding.
"Hello, Bella." The greeting was stale and lacked any real meaning; it sounded more like a random grouping of letters rather than actual words.
More silence ensued, and Leah still didn't look up at me.
"I can leave if you would like to be alone…"
Her shoulders rose and fell in a gesture that I assumed was a shrug, but again it was delivered so detachedly that I was left unsure if she had even meant to move at all.
Despite my offer, I couldn't bring myself to actually move my legs and head for the door. So I just settled for staring at her.
She looked remnant of a vacant body, and I realized that this was most likely some type of coping mechanism, and Leah was just grieving. Waves of compassion rolled through me as I was reminded of the terrible incident that had left her in this state, and I stepped forward so that I could reach out and take her hand in mine. "Leah, I'm so, so very sorry…"
The iciness of her skin caused me to flinch away, and as a result her hand fell limply back to the mattress with a quiet thump. At first Leah didn't even respond, as if she hadn't been touched at all, until with obvious effort she flickered her brown eyes up to meet my own. I gasped at what I saw, or more precisely what I didn't see, and before I could even give a thought to politeness, I was turning on my heel and bolting for the stairs.
AN: It's so great to be back here and finally sharing this with you guys. *dreamy sigh* :)
Okay, so I know what you're all thinking: not another one of thesestories. Well, yes...and no. When I began writing this baby over a year ago, this was a pretty hot plot for J/B stories, but I think you'll find that I've done just about everything I can to make this a unique reading experience. One of the main elements may be a little slow to develop, but I've worked extremely hard on characterization and the the character's development, that I don't think you should be bored. So, give it a few chapters before you jump ship!
Please, leave me some feedback (or scold me for my plethora of unfinished stories from YEARS ago. Oh, middle school how I miss you). If you share your thoughts with me, I promise to reciprocate!