I always wondered why Bella was 18 at the beginning of her senior year of high school. This story attempts a theory at explaining that.
Written in various POV's mostly, Bella, Edward and Alice.
All characters belong to the talented Stephenie Meyer.
As I lie here, trying to separate my mind from the pain, I wanted to laugh at the sheer arrogance of myself thinking I could ever defend myself against the monster from my past. God, what did I condemn myself to? What did I condemn Edward to? We would never get our Happily Ever After.
As I clung to the last vestiges of consciousness, I couldn't help but think of the irony. After everything; the vampires, the wolves, the volturi; I should see my end at the hands of a human. A self depracting smile formed on my lips and I could think no more.
2 Weeks Earlier
It was a month before my wedding. A month before I would be Mrs. Edward Cullen. Alice, Esme, Rosalie and Renee were planning things for weeks now. I left them to it. The only thing I cared about was spending eternity with my beautiful Edward. It still eluded me how someone like him, so perfect, so wholly wonderful, could want to be with someone as blatantly plain as I was. I never questioned it in his presence anymore as it only served to make him feel guilty for ever leaving me that one time. But thankfully he couldn't read my thoughts because I often still wondered.
I felt Edward wrap his arms around me and rest his chin on my head. My hands immediately and instinctively came up to hold his arms in place.
"A penny for your thoughts." He said his velvet voice.
"Surely, they are not worth that much." I retorted.
"Bella, your thoughts, could I hear them, would be priceless to me." He had gotten used to not being able to read my mind like he could everyone else's but he still didn't like it. I on the other hand was extremely grateful that my thoughts were mute to him.
"I am just thinking about how much I love you and how I can't wait to be your wife" I answered him.
"It wasn't that long ago that you cringed at the thought of marrying me." He said it like he was kidding but I heard the need for reassurance in his voice.
"Not you, Edward. Just getting married at 18."
He sighed. "Ahh, yes, you didn't want to be 'that' girl. And now?
"Now" I said turning to face him, to hold him against me, "well..let's just say I am happy…well so much more than that really, to get to spend eternity with you."
"And Alice? She's not driving you crazy with wedding plans?" He sounded worried.
"I gave Alice free reign, more or less. It makes her happy and she's a natural at it"
He separated himself from me a little bit so he could look into my eyes. "Bella, I thought we talked about this. It's your day. Do what makes you happy. Not Alice."
"Edward," I said caressing his cheek, "It's our day first of all and it makes me happy to make Alice happy."
"I love you" He said simply as he lowered his lips to mine. As usual, the energy of our lips together made me weak need and wanting more. Edward pulled back first from the embrace. Typical for him when things became too heated.
I sighed, always hating that he was the first to pull away. It was apparent that he didn't trust himself enough to stop. Regardless, I held on to the fact that he would try to have a "normal' wedding night with me. Which brought me to my next statement.
"So…Alice and I are going shopping this weekend for honeymoon stuff."
Now it was his turn to sigh. "I told Alice that our honeymoon was supposed to be a surprise. How is it supposed to be if you know what kind of clothes to bring with you?"
I rolled my eyes. "Relax, Edward. Your secret is safe. We're not shopping for daytime clothes if you know what I mean."
He seemed to take a moment to absorb this. "Ahh", finally understanding. "I promised we would try, Bella."
"I know" I said rubbing the buttons of his shirt with the tip of my finger. 'But that doesn't mean I'm not going to try to please you."
Edward closed his eyes with an expression of almost pain crossing his features. "Bella, you do please me and so much more just by existing…just by being mine."
I still had trouble believing this beautiful, selfless girl was mine. That she had forgiven me for hurting her so dreadfully. She still had nightmares about me leaving her. I knew because I spent nearly every night in her room just to watch her sleep. Being away from her now was too painful and while she may have forgiven me for leaving her what I thought was her best interests, I would never forgive myself. I very nearly destroyed both of us. Never again, I vowed to myself as well as her. I was tired of running. Bella loved me. I wasn't going anywhere.
"Are you sure you don't want to stay at my house while Charlie is away?" I finally asked hearing Charlie's thoughts as he was packing
"Socks? Check. Shirts? Check. Damn, how many pairs of underwear should I bring? I hope Bella doesn't have any parties while I am away. Crap. I'll be out of cell phone range. I hope the fish are biting."
I smirked in amusement. Charlie's thoughts usually made more sense than this. The wedding planning must be getting to him too. No wonder why he was escaping.
"Yeah, I'm positive." Bella replied to my question. " Besides, I don't want to get under Rosalie's skin any more than I have. She hasn't come around entirely."
I grimaced. Damn Rosalie. I'd rather have Bella near where I could make sure of her safety.
"Forget Rosalie. Stay for me. Charlie will be gone for 2 weeks and anything could happen to you here by yourself. A loose floor board, a missed place sock at the top of the stairs." I was mainly joking but not entirely off the mark. When it came to Bella any moving or stationary object could be a threat.
Bella laughed and playfully slapped me on the arm. "Edward, me and my clumsiness will be just fine. I have managed for 18 years."
"If your xrays are any indication, I beg to differ."
I smoothed the hair from her face relishing the feel of the silkiness between my cold fingers. "But seriously," It was time to break some news. "While you and Alice are on your shopping spree, Carlisle, Jasper, Emmett and I will be hunting that weekend. It's just 3 days but we want to get as much hunting in as possible before we host all the humans for the wedding."
Bella pulled back and I felt the loss of her embrace. "I'll be fine. Really" She said. I heard the unsurety in her voice and again I was painfully reminded of the damage to our trust that I had caused. She didn't fully believe I was honest when I told her I wasn't and I couldn't leave her.
I took her hand and held it in mine marveling at how the light of her lamp made the diamond of my mother's ringer on her finger glisten and shine in every facet.
"If you don't want me to go, we can always hunt closer to home." I said in all seriousness.
Bella looked thoughtful then with her back straight, she looked right at me so I could not mistake the genuineness of her words.
"No." She said , "As hard as it is to be away from you, I know you will come back….er, mostly. And you are right. You need to go. I don't want you to have to feel like you have to stay for me, for my own unwarranted fears. I am fine with it…really."
Knowing Bella's affinity for putting everyone else's wants and needs before her own, I really wasn't satisfied with her answer. She looked into my eyes and gently squeezed my hand as if knowing I didn't believe her. "Really" she said again.
I searched her eyes with my own looking for some sort of clue as to what was hidden in their chocolate depths. It was frustrating, to say the least, not being able to read her thoughts.
"Okay, then" I nodded in acquiescence.
BELLA POV (the next day)
Charlie left with Billy Black early this morning for their 2 week fishing trip. Why anyone would want to go fishing for 2 weeks in the Washington wilderness was beyond me but I knew Charlie needed to get away, to have this time. Before his 18 year old daughter got married.
I made them both a big breakfast and sent them on their way happy to have some time to myself. My life since moving to Forks seemed to be one dramatic not to mention life threatening event after another and with the wedding a month away and most of the danger passed it was nice to have time to reflect.
What to do? I thought to myself. Since Alice had taken over much of the planning, I felt essentially useless. Not a feeling I was used to having. If I wasn't taking care of Renee, I was taking after Charlie and since both weren't here..well I kind of felt out of sorts. I wasn't used to not having anything to do or not having any decisions to make.
I was quite effectively bored and had only been alone for an hour. Maybe I should have stayed at Edward's. He was home and I could always call him. I picked up the phone and immediately put it back down. No. I was not going to be needy. It seemed like he was always saving me from others or myself. I needed to be self sufficient Bella again.
So I did the only thing I could think of. I went into my room of only 2 years and tried to decide how I was going to pack up my life. Alice already mentioned a new wardrobe, so forget clothes though there were some concert T shirts I definitely wanted to keep and anything else of sentimental value.
Deciding I needed boxes, I drove to the store and picked up boxes of various sizes as well as packing tape all the while hoping some of the more blatantly curious Fork townsfolk wouldn't stop to ask me about my upcoming nuptials. My cell phone rang as I was headed to the register.
It was Alice "Bella, I can see what you are about to buy and I can tell you right now it's too much."
I laughed. It figured. Nothing much gets by Alice. "I just want to be prepared." I told her.
"You won't be packing any clothes, will you? "
"Just some of the ones I really like." Honestly, she was getting to be too much with using me as her living fashion mannequin.
'Okay then. Good luck. You can't get into too much trouble packing, right?" She didn't sound so sure.
"Not unless I manage to pack myself in a box."
She laughed then. "With you, Bella, one never knows. Oh don't forget Edward is taking you out tonight. He'll pick you up at 7. I left a dress hanging in your closet. I've already seen you in it. It looks amazing."
"Alice.." I warned knowing that whatever Alice picked out was guaranteed to be over the top both in looks and in cost.
"Oh Bella, just relax and trust me. Your future sister would not lie."
"That's not the bit I am worried about"
She laughed "Bye Bella."
When I got home, the house phone was ringing. With hands full, I nearly tripped into the house running to catch it before whoever was on the other end hung up.
"Hello." I answered breathlessly.
"Bella? Isabella Swan?" The male voice on the other end of the phone questioned.
"Yes" I said dumping the boxes on the floor before I did anymore damage.
"It's Detective Joe Conner, Phoenix PD. Remember me?"
My mind raced. I knew a lot of cops thanks to Charlie. Then I hit on it, remembering, although when I knew him he still went by Officer. There was only one reason he could be calling me and it was not a good one. Please, I thought. Not this. Not after everything.
Steeling myself for what was to come, I forced myself to be light. "It's Detective now? You've been promoted."
His chuckle sounded forced. "Well, that's mostly thanks to you." He answered.
"What can I do for you?" I asked trying to be optimistic. Maybe he heard I was getting married and wanted to congratulate me.
There was a hesitation in his answer. I closed my eyes and swallowed painfully past the lump that had just formed in my throat.
"It's Will Grady. He's escaped."
Crap, I thought. Not now. This was not happening. Suddenly I was thrown back 5 years to the sick horror of it all. Will Grady's leering smile in my head, taunting me.
"Bella? Bella? Are you still there?"
It took me a moment to find my voice . "Yes, I'm here"
"Look, we don't know how the sonofabitch got out but we are doing everything we can to find him. More than likely he went south across the border to Mexico. In that case it will be a pain in the ass to extradite him but we'll do it. In the off chance he has any inclination to come after you, I wanted to let you know so you can take precautions to protect yourself."
I was still shocked. "yes, yes. Of course"
"Is your dad there? I want to talk to him cop to cop since Forks is out of our jurisdiction."
"He's not here. He's fishing for awhile and is out of cell phone range."
I started to feel a panic attack coming on. The walls were closing in.
"Bella, Bella" Joe said pulling me back to reality. "It's going to be okay. It's doubtful he'll come to you. But to be safe, is there anyone you can stay with?''
"Oh. Uh, my fiancé." I muttered.
"Fiance'? You're getting married? Well, congrats! I hope he's a great guy"
"Good. Okay then. You should stay with him"
"Yeah, yeah. Okay. I'll do that." I said my mind racing. Edward could not know about this. He was finally happy, worrying about my clumsiness aside.
"And Bella, If he contacts you in any way, let me know. Jurisdiction or not, I'll take the next plane there."
"Promise me, Bella"
"Good. Take care of yourself okay? I'll be in touch with any updates."
I hung up the phone with shaking hands chastising myself for complaining about having no decisions to make. Now it seemed, I had nothing but. One thing remained clear. Edward could not find out about this. He would worry himself sick, vampirism aside and then there was the risk of him exposing himself as a vampire should Grady make his way up here and thereby incurring the wrath if the Volturi. Then there was his family, my future family. I had put them through more than enough trying to protect me.
It was time I protected myself and I need to figure out quickly how to do so. Grady was out of prison and even if the police didn't think he would come after me, I knew better. They weren't kept in a filthy hovel wreaking of death with the man for months. Their wills and desire to live weren't broken by this sick and twisted excuse for a human being. As insanely fragmented as Grady's mind was, it was always single minded when it came to me and he would not rest until he had me alive or dead.
I hoped and prayed Alice couldn't see me in one of her visions now. She would question me until she got the truth then Edward would know. Something like this she would not keep from him and I refused to put any of them at risk because of me again.
Leaving the boxes where they were, I ran out of the house and into my truck. Packing was temporarily put on hold. I needed to figure out how to save myself because even if Grady did keep me alive for his sick purposes, I would be praying for death. I needed to prevent him from getting me in the first place and since buying a gun would provoke too many question not to mention a waiting period, self defense class seemed to be a good place to start. I didn't have much time to learn.
"You want to start right now?" The teenage boy behind the counter asked incredulously. I knew his face from school but didn't know his name.
'Yes, right now." I was desperate. "Look, how hard is it. I pay, I start."
"Well, we have a class in 10 minutes. But you don't have the proper clothing."
"Don't you have a spare whatever you call it? I'll wear sweats. I don't care. I need to be in that class."
"Have you ever taken Karate before?"
"White belt then. Okay fill out these forms. I believe we have a spare ghi in the back."
I nodded and released the breathe I didn't know I was holding.