If this is your first viewing of Sublimation, please don't just read Chapter 1 and dismiss it if you were expecting drama and lemons right away. This is a story about more than just one relationship and, I hope, far more interesting.
I'd like to give a huge, huge thank you to the wonderful Diamondheart for reading and beta'ing this little story. She's the author of the award-winning Moonshadow and other stories.
Based on the characters and world created and owned by Stephanie Meyer. No copyright infringement intended, this story was written strictly for entertainment purposes.
Bella Jacob ch 1
Nightmare. Sheer nightmare. If this pissing contest goes on much longer I'm going to go get rulers and they can settle this the way they obviously want to. At least the movie sucks, which just rounds this peachy night right out.
Their hands just sat there at attention on the armrests, the open palms a declaration of war, seeking territory and ready to stake a claim. They stayed that way for most of the movie until Mike, a bit green around the gills, retreated his forces and tucked his arms deep into his ribcage taking a posture that reminded me of myself when my chest was being flayed apart by the cold razor blades embedded there. About an hour or so into the waste of film known as the movie, Mike abruptly stood and lurched toward the exit. Jake started laughing as I stood to follow Mike out.
"Bells, you sure can pick a winner!" Jake's tone was teasing but had weight.
"Are you referring to the movie? Or Mike?" I may not like Mike much, and he wasn't a bad guy: just annoyingly persistent and unable to take a hint.
"Maybe," Jake replied enigmatically.
"We need to check on him. He looked bad, Jake."
"Okay, let's go check on Shirley." Jake's teasing tone was restored and we walked out of the dark theater, leaving the ludicrous bloodbath of a movie behind. I want that hour of my life back.
Mike was nowhere in the lobby, but our searching tipped off a kid sweeping up in the lobby who pointed us toward the nearest men's room. I sat on the bench outside while Jake walked toward the open angled entrance. He was about to venture in when the unmistakable sound of violent purging echoed out of the concrete lined bathroom. Jake paused, let out a sigh andlooked at me with a very disturbed expression.
"Please, Jake! He came with us!" I pleaded.
He took a deep breath, let it out and walked in.
A few minutes later, Jake came back out, chuckling a little and grinning.
"Suzie is going to be a little while. I'm not putting him in my car until his system is empty. Seriously, who eats like that when they're coming down with a stomach bug?" He flopped down next to me and held my hand. We just sat quietly, trying not to hear Mike's struggle against himself. I closed my eyes a few moments and wondered how Mike ended up with us in the first place. Why had I been so insistent that others come with us? Would it have been so bad to just have come with Jake? It's what he wanted anyway. Was it what I wanted?
Jake was so natural to be with; why couldn't I just be okay with it? I had no good answer anymore.
Things had changed since that day I had impulsively shown up at the Blacks' house with the bikes. What had started as a diversion had become something like an obsession, and maybe it still was, but now I genuinely looked forward to sitting in the garage just watching Jake work. He didn't demand conversation, happy to chat at me or describe what he was doing while I just sat there or looked at his collection of tools, sipping the warm soda he would hand me.
I'd been doing marginally better: I was able to eat a little and while I still slept like crap, I did get some sleep in before the screaming nightmares began. At least I no longer unconsciously sought death; at one point Charlie had become aware that I was failing to dress warmly enough for winter when my neglected skin cracked and bled from the bitter winds. He started leaving later for work and putting my jacket and gloves on me with a certain determined grimness.
"Hey, Bells? You okay?" Jake nudged my shoulder with his and gave my hand a little squeeze. I opened my eyes and his brows were knit together, eyes full of worry.
"Yeah, fine, just zoned out for a sec there. Sorry"
"What were you thinking about? Anything you can tell me about?"
I thought about it. What do I say? Am I honest and tell him? Or do I lie and feel like crap? Could I possibly deserve him, or would I be condemning him to go down in flames with me? Can I split the difference?
"I was just thinking about the bikes. Are you going to be working on them tomorrow?" I tried to sound light but interested.
Jake looked at me speculatively before responding. "Maybe, but I might have another idea. What do you say to a picnic on the beach? To kick off Spring Break?"
"I'll bring you a cooler packed with lunch. Sound good?"
I reached over to pat his shoulder, perhaps letting my hand linger a beat longer than just a friend would. It was a little thing, but it was seismic for me. Jake sensed the shift, but didn't push. But then...
"Jake, you're burning up! Are you getting sick, too?" My hand felt like I'd brushed it against a stove.
"Bells, I've never been better..." He started to lean toward me.
Right then, Mike came stumbling out of the bathroom. He looked awful and just staggered toward the bench where we were sitting. I hopped up, leaving Jake hanging and looking a little annoyed.
"God, Mike! Are you okay? Do you need to go home or the hospital?" I put my hand on his elbow, more for moral support than stability because there was no way I could really support him. I glanced over and saw Jake striding from the concession stand, having requested a large popcorn bucket from a horrified looking kid overfilling a soda cup at the sight of Mike.
"Um kay. Uhhhgh. Juss get me home?" Mike mumbled out at us. He could barely get his eyes halfway open and was pale and sweaty looking. His hair and collars were wet from splashing water on his face repeatedly.
"C'mon. Let's get to the car. Here..." Jake said with a fair amount of compassion considering how much Mike annoyed him. As Jake handed Mike the bucket he gave him a significant look.
"Dude, the car may not be much, but I just rebuilt it and I don't want to strip down the whole interior. Keep the bucket close." Mike nodded and dry heaved into a bush. Jake sighed with a touch of defeat and unlocked Mike's door, helping him in.
Jake and I piled in, bracing ourselves for a potentially rough ride back to Forks. Mike laid down in the backseat and hugged the bucket. He dozed off after only a few blocks, leaving Jake and me to chat.
"So, how was your evening?" Jake prompted sarcastically, reaching to hold my hand again. "Jeez Bells, are you cold? Your hand is frigid! At least... is that a scar? The one you got in Phoenix?" His brows knit again, asking me.
"Yeah. There's, uh, something up with the circulation now. My hand got really cut up." I tried to sound sure of my answer.
"Well, it looks like it's sore, too. Have you had it looked at lately?"
"No, it feels fine. It's just a deep scar is all." That happens to be partially vampiric tissue grafted on my human body. Nothing at all to concern yourself with. I shoved my hand deep in the pocket of my hoodie and wondered if I would ever be able to explain what really happened in Phoenix to anyone.
We drove in silence the rest of the way to Mike's house, Jake respecting my aversion to car stereos and music in general. I may be in the midst of stitching my flayed soul, but there are some things that still hurt too damn much.
As soon as Mike's mom saw Jake giving Mike a hand out of the car, she burst out of the front door and immediately barraged us with questions about the evening and when he started getting ill. She started informing us of all the remedies and medications she'd be subjecting Mike to in the next 10 minutes. Poor Mike. At least she didn't call him her baby. He was tottering on the brink and that might have just killed him. As it was she fluttered about him and thanked us for bringing him home quickly, looking after him, and being such good friends. We watched in stunned silence as she looped Mike's arm over her shoulders and half assisted, half-dragged him into the house.
Jake and I loaded ourselves back in the Rabbit, still shocked at the whirlwind we had just witnessed.
"Can we now?" (He) he whispered with a completely straight face after I closed my door.
"Not yet," I admonished.
We pulled out of the driveway and got halfway down the street.
"Now?" he asked, his mouth twitching.
We puttered up to the stop sign at the end of Mike's street. Jake sighed and turned to face me, his eyes pleading and sparkling.
We both burst into teary eyed laughter, incapable of wiping the completely awful vision of Mike's mother, like a bad sitcom mom, flitting about her green faced and embarrassed son. The poor guy had hoped to lay claim to a new girlfriend and instead got thwarted romantically and covered in vomit in the same half hour. Not to mention subjected to a god awful waste of screen time and fussed over by his mother. Not that Mrs. Newton was a bad lady or boss for that matter, but the mental image of her doing her mama-bear act was just priceless.
"Wow, Bells, and to think I felt kind of bad for him at the theater! He's about to get fed half a bottle of pepto followed by an alka seltzer-chicken soup cocktail! I feel like nominating him for sainthood!"
"If I think about that too hard, I think I'm going to need that bucket!" The descriptions of the family remedies was more than my ears could take.
"Well, we can laugh now, we've got a good chance of catching that crap, so we'd better watch it. Besides, the first bonfire of Spring Break is tomorrow night. You wanna come after we picnic? That is if you aren't vomiting?"
He caught me off guard there. So far nearly every time we'd been around each other had been kept to the garage, the dinner table, beach or textbook. Nothing we had done was really social or known to anyone but his couple of close friends. Granted, word could be out. La Push was a fishbowl and everyone knew everyone else, but maybe since I was just an outsider I'd slip through the cracks.
"Uh, who'll be there?"
"Well, Quil, Embry, and a bunch of the other guys from school. Some kids from Forks usually show up and it turns into a regular party." His voice lowered a bit. "Sam and his guys will probably be there, especially if I am. They've been…watching me. It kinda freaks me out. I'd really like it if you came, I'd have someone to talk to who was outside of it." Jake squirmed his shoulders almost as if a chill had overcome him.
How could someone do this to him? Over the past few weeks, ever since we saw them at the cliffs, they had given Jake these annoying looks, watching him over their shoulders.
I whispered, "Of course I'll go. That really sucks, Jake. I'm sorry"
He took the car out of park, laughter having robbed him earlier of the ability to control the car. Laughter that had been sucked out of the car at the mention of Sam. Jake was subdued, but after a few minutes his mood lightened as we approached my house.
It was still fairly early, so Charlie would be pretty happy. Then again, I was out, and I was out with Jake. He would probably have allowed us some leeway. The lights were still on in a few parts of the house, so he was still up and moving around.
"Um, I'd say thanks for a great, fun evening but..."
Jake cut me off with a rumble of deep wonderful laughter. I couldn't remember when his voice had gotten so deep. I could practically feel his laugh in my own chest.
"Don't worry Bells, if everything went to plan, it wouldn't be us, would it?"
"Sure, sure. But at least this time I wasn't the one who might need medical attention, right?" Jake gave me a look of mock disapproval before rolling his eyes at me good-naturedly, snorting agreement. We both snickered at the memory of my last round of stitches and fell into easy silence.
We got out of the car and he walked me up toward the house. His hand came to mine in a motion that was as natural for him as breathing, but still always amazed me with the casual affection it implied. I wasn't sure even now what I thought of that.
Jake slowed his pace and turned to face me.
"So, Bells. I can pick you up tomorrow afternoon. It's no trouble." He shifted his weight slightly from one foot to the other. Was Jake actually nervous about asking me this?
"It's okay, I can drive myself." I hastily reassured him.
"Well, the bonfire might go late, and your dad might prefer if you weren't driving."
A light bulb moment. "Jake, I do believe you're… being a bit bashful! Are you asking me on a date?" Was I okay with this? The empty space inside me protested a little bit but somehow was not screaming.
"Uh, maybe." His face took on an undeniable pinkish hue even in the glaring yard light as he looked down at me through his eyelashes, wincing a little at being called out.
I felt the corners of my mouth twitch into a half smile. He gave a toothy grin in return and squeezed my hand a little too hard.
"I'll pick you up around noon, okay? Pack a change of clothes, we sometimes play on the beach!"
He paused and let go of my hand, starting to turn toward the car. Then he turned back and gave me a big bear hug and spun me around. I swear I could feel my ribcage compress and my inner organs jockeying for position in whatever space was left.
"Sorry Bells! I'll see you tomorrow!"
He hopped back to the car and fired up the engine. As he left the driveway he waved enthusiastically and I felt my face open almost painfully in the first real, genuine big smile I'd had in months. I waved back a little before heading in the house. I announced my presence to Charlie by stumbling on the threshold on my way in.
"Bells? That you?" As if a burglar would be such a klutz
"Yep, Dad. It's me."
"Did you have a good time? How many kids went again? "
"It was just Mike, Jake, and me. Everyone else got sick. Actually Mike got sick during the movie so we left a little early. The movie stunk anyway."
Charlie followed me into the kitchen and I could feel his searching gaze on me as I hung up my jacket. He must have been satisfied with what her saw; his relaxation was almost palpable.
"You look nice, Bells. Better." He gave me a half smile that was pretty scarce these days and I felt a pang of guilt that my father's face had been so drawn and pained because of me.
" Um, thanks. Jake's picking me up for a picnic and then we're going to the bonfire tomorrow night."
"Sounds like fun, but don't you have work tomorrow?"
Oh crap. I wasn't scheduled to work until Sunday, but now with Mike sick all bets might be off.
"I need to call Mrs. Newton. She might be short tomorrow."
"Don't stay up late, tomorrow might be busy. I'm meeting Billy to watch the basketball playoffs and maybe some hockey if there's anything good. We might drop by the bonfire early for a burger." This was a heads up somewhere in there, but I think it had more to do with the wilder guys than me.
As luck would have it, Mrs. Newton did need me in the morning, but only for a couple hours to open. After that they'd only be one hand short, so they'd be busy, but not swamped. The big season was starting and since some of her old employees were in college now, and back in town for the break, she was trying to offer a few shifts so they could make a little money. It meant I was going with only this and one other shift all break long, but I guess it was a pretty nice gesture. One I may have to remember now that my plans seemed to have changed.
I showered to get the last memories of Mike's unfortunate moments out of my senses and slid into bed.
And into my usual batch of nightmares. There was vengeance in them tonight, my chest cracking open and filling with ice that burned my lungs and seared the insides of my ribs. I awoke screaming just once though. I lay on my side, with images of Him pinging in me. Sometimes sad, topaz-eyed, gently abandoning me to my fate and watching with soft pity as my limbs started to painfully frost over among the leaves and moss I was laying on. I was moldering, moss and slime putrefying my body that had become too stiff to move and knock it off in protest. I was a frigid and hardened feature on the forest floor, screaming silently in anguish.
Other times he was red eyed, the stuff of nightmares, like James. He stood there while my bones cracked and I was engulfed by the fire of James's venom. I begged him to help me, to take away the pain, to come back and say it was all a mistake. But he just smiled and watched as my leg broke, blood pouring from my mouth threatening to drown out my screams of pain and agony, pleading for him. His eyes just flared red, perfect teeth glinting.
Then he would lunge.
And I would scream, and wake.
This night it was his annoyance that seeped through. He was jealous and cold, an uncomfortable edge to his features. He was watching me. What right he had, I don't know, but I would have done anything to have him smile and murmur his love in my dreams, sit at the piano and play my lullaby and hold me in the cool marble of his embrace while I slept.
When I finally deemed it late enough to get up without Charlie asking too many questions, I dragged myself out and drank a big glass of OJ to clear my head. I dressed for work and made my dad some breakfast. Charlie was mostly quiet at as he ate, no doubt owing to my nocturnal screaming. He never quite knew how to deal with that.
I finished getting ready to go, and headed to work with my keys in hand, prepared for the drudgery of opening up the store. It wasn't hard or taxing like dealing with customers and actually was kind of nice to just ratchet through the checklist without having others around. After remarking some specialty basketball pants that weren't moving I was joined by Mrs. Newton, who looked a bit tired and worn at the edges.
"Good morning, Mrs. Newton. How's Mike feeling? Is he okay?"
"Hi Bella. Mike had a rough night, but he's finally sleeping instead of zoning in and out between trips to the toilet. I think the worst is over and now he just needs to rest." I made a face thinking about having a rough night. All my nights were rough. She frowned a little and eyed me.
"Are you feeling okay, Bella?" Her concern was genuine. She really was a nice lady and worked very hard. I really respected that. I felt a little guilty about my answer.
"Yeah, I actually feel fine. I'm sorry about Mike, but I'm glad to hear he's resting." I stopped just short of offering a visit when he was better. Mike may be a nice guy, but a little easy to encourage.
"Well, maybe when he's better you might want to drop by? Lift his spirits a bit?" The buoyancy in her voice was reminding me of her son.
"Maybe!" I gave the noncommittal answer with enthusiasm and prayed she'd forget.
The next two hours slipped by and I was soon punching out. I drove home and started a shower, determined to shake off the nightmares a second time. I threw a daybag together while the water heated up, dove through the shower and dried my hair into soft waves. I yanked on some jeans and dressed in light layers.
I had some fruit, a half dozen sandwiches, a bag of chips, water and juice packed and was about to start glancing out the window for Jake's car when there was a swift rap on the door.
"Hey Bells! It's me!"
"Come on in Jake! I'm packing food!"
The door flew open and Jake wrapped me up in another lung constricting hug. I let out a grunt and he loosened his grip, my vertebrae shifting back into place.
"Sorry Bella. So, where's the food?"
"Well, I'm glad to see I still rank above food. Jake, really! How much are you eating these days?"
"Uh, every two or three hours, actually. Dad says I'm just growing fast, but it's kind of ridiculous."
"Well, then. When did you last eat? I don't want to stunt your growth before we break out the picnic!"
Jake looked sheepish, but there was no mistaking where he was going.
"It's 12:15 now, so it's been about three hours. I'm sorry, I just need a little snack before we go. You mind?" He looked down as he said it.
I reached into the fridge and pulled out a plastic container with sliced meatloaf piled on mashed potatoes. Jake's eyes popped.
"Bells, that looks like something you packed for Charlie. I won't eat his dinner!"
"Silly, he ate pizza last said he's eating at the bonfire tonight and besides, I'd have to throw this away tomorrow anyway. Three day limit on leftovers."
There was no telling Jake twice. As soon as I had the chill off the dish he inhaled it straight out of the microwave container I packed it in. He didn't even reach for ketchup, but his eyes rolled into the back of his head as he shoveled the rich meat into his mouth.
"God, Bells, that's good! Really took the edge off!" He grinned, patting his belly for emphasis.
"Okay, where to? Did you have a spot picked out for a picnic?"
He stalled for a second and cast his eyes down again.
"I was planning on taking you to a pretty clearing in the woods, but Dad doesn't want us going very far. He said there's something in the woods lately. He won't say, but Sam has been by more often lately. I swear they talk about stuff." Part of me wondered if they knew anything about the wandering nomad vampires. I almost laughed out loud.
"Okay, then. What's plan B, Jake?"
"Uh, the beach? Maybe find a spot away from where's they're setting up the bonfire?"
We headed out the door, Jake waiting on the bottom step for me as I locked up. I turned and found that his hand was extended toward me. I blinked a little, startled by the gesture until he looked down at the stairs, a corner of his mouth twitching into a half smile, half smirk.
"Your dad would kill me if you got banged up with me again." His voice was teasing, but I took his hand and allowed myself to be guided to the gravel driveway. He did not let go until he opened the door of the Rabbit for me.
I really hope you enjoyed this. This is my first fic, and I'm having a blast writing it. Please go read anything by Diamondheart and leave her a nice review, then consider leaving me one!
Thanks so much for reading!