A/N: Thank you to miztrezboo, who swears she will never ride on a ferris wheel with me, and to annanabanana for keeping me right with her pen strokes and corrections.
N.B. This should be read after Chapter 8: Like Old Times of Reinvention of Hope.
Chapter music: Life in Slow Motion by David Gray
:: Bella ::
"I'm not sure. I'm not really...great with heights," I evaded. Truth was, I was terrified, and I always had been. I hated heights. It didn't help that Charlie was already seated and off the ground. Maybe if I'd gone up and around with him…but I couldn't go, not by myself.
"You can go up with Edward," Alice quipped. "He won't let anything happen to you. Will you, Eddie?"
"No one's forcin' anyone, Ally. If Bella doesn't want to…" he trailed off, and I could hear the reluctance to argue with Alice in his voice.
"See? Now you've hurt his feelin's," she said, deliberately misreading the situation, and I covered my mouth to hide a smile as Edward rolled his eyes. "Come on, Bella. Just once around. That's all," Alice begged.
I considered what I'd been through in the last few months, the changes I had already made. The realization that my marriage was finished, leaving Jacob behind in Phoenix, coming home to face friends I had once abhorrently cast aside. Maybe I could face this fear head on. Maybe it was time to start taking control of my life. I could do this.
I took a shaky breath and clenched my fists. "Okay, come on then, before I change my mind." Alice grinned at me and looked briefly over my head toward Edward in triumph. I felt his hands on my shoulders and he began steering me toward the next available car.
"Bella, you don't have to prove anything to anyone," he said quietly.
"Next!" the scruffy dark haired man shouted as he eyed me from head to toe, before picking at his fingernails indifferently.
"Yes, I do." I exhaled slowly and stepped onto the platform of The Big Wheel, waiting for the next car in line. Edward squeezed my shoulders in what, I'm sure, was meant to be a reassuring gesture. A shiver ran down my spine as the terror of stepping into the tiny car began to grip me.
It swung and dipped as our weight settled on the wooden seat, and I gripped the edge, just under my knees, feeling my fingers tighten. The heels of my boots dug into the foot rest as I desperately sought purchase against a steady surface.
"Relax, Bella. We haven't even started movin' yet."
The bar closed down, trapping both of us in the car, and my panic increased a notch. The car lurched forward, sliding my back flush against the seat, and I swallowed the scream as it died in my throat.
"I've always loved the ferris wheel," Edward mused, and I tried to focus on his voice, rather than the ground as it sank further and further away. Emmett waved as Alice disappeared underneath us, dragging Jasper with her.
"Really?" I asked absently, clutching the bar across my lap so firmly that my knuckles where turning white.
"Sure." I could hear the smile in Edward's voice, but I didn't dare turn to look at him. Turning would mean movement, and unnecessary movement would make the car swing. "Feeling the wind on your face, it's like flying. It's exhilarating."
I swallowed hard, my mouth feeling dry. "Please don't." My voice was barely above a whisper.
We climbed higher and higher, and the town below us got smaller and smaller. Kids were running and playing without a care in the world, families were eating and drinking at the picnic benches, and horses were trotting around the square. They were all so wrapped up in their day, so exuberant and full of life. I tried to steady my breathing and focus on the fact that, for the last few hours, I had been one of them. Nothing had fazed me. I was with my friends and my family; even now, I was still with Edward, and although we hadn't been close through school, he had been there for me in my return to Masen.
I felt the tension ease from my body slightly and chanced a glance at Edward. I was safe with him.
"Don't think I didn't feel that, Swan," he teased, his head tilted back against the seat and his eyes closed.
"I don't know what you're talking about," I chuckled lightly.
"Just relax, take in the view. There's no higher point in Masen than right here." His voice spun a melodic rhythm that soothed my staccato heart, and in that instant my entire body surrendered to it. My hands slid from the bar and onto my lap, my lungs filled, taking in the scent of hay and cotton candy in the air, and my head felt heavy on my shoulders.
The stars winked and glistened over fields in the distance, unmarred by the bright lights of the town, and it struck me that I hadn't really seen them like that since I had been in Masen last. Living so close to the center of Phoenix, we had been caught in the omnipresent glow of the city, obscuring any hope of seeing what was right above us.
"It's beautiful," I breathed, losing myself in the moment.
"I hardly noticed before," Edward admitted, a hint of something that sounded like confusion in his voice.
Without warning, just as we neared the top, the metal let out a keening shriek and a groan resonated through the air as our car bounced to a stop.
"Bella…" It was no use, I couldn't hear him. Edward's voice faded, only to be replaced by the rush of blood pounding through my ears. I twisted my head, searching frantically for something familiar—like the ground. It was then that Charlie's voice filtered through my initial alarm.
"Just hold on, sweetheart. We'll be movin' again in no time." He sounded confident, and I tried to draw strength from that. He'd never lied to me.
"I'm okay, dad," I called back, keeping my voice as steady as I could. "Stop worrying." He always worried.
Edward sat up a little straighter and tried to draw my attention. "You know, this is a great opportunity. I mean, really, how often does the wheel get stuck? Hardly ever. It just means we get more time up here to appreciate the view you were enjoying so much before."
As soon as the words left his mouth, it was like he realized what he had said. We were stuck. Who knew when we'd make it back down? My whole body became rigid again and my hands gripped the bar once more.
"Bella, I'm sorry—"
"Oh, God. I should never have come up here. We're going to fall, I just know it. You hear about it all the time—people falling to their deaths off fair ground rides. It's never dignified, always heinous and graphic. I'll be the small town divorcee who got what she deserved when she left her husband. Oh my God—what was I thinking? This is all Ally's fault; I always let her talk me into the most ridiculous situations.
"The quarters stuck on the counter in McCarty's—that was all Ally! Cutting Lauren's hair in seventh grade—Ally!" I cried, in frustration. "Piercing my ears, dying my hair, ferris wheels—all Ally!" I turned in Edward's direction. I was being irrational, and I knew it, but I couldn't stop the dread that was coursing through my body. "Distract me, please?" I pleaded, closing my eyes and letting my shoulders sag.
"Take a deep breath and just breathe, Bella. We're only about fifty feet off the ground; you're not going to die." Edward paused for a moment and I heard him take a deep breath. "You should see all the lights. The town looks kinda nice." I opened my left eye, peeking out through my eyelashes.
"You can do better than that, Baby Bell. Use both eyes," he teased, and as his warm breath fanned over my cheek, I became acutely aware of Edward's close proximity. Panic rose up my throat as I thought about our positions in the car.
Snapping my head around to meet his eyes, I spoke as quickly as I could. "Stay on your side of the car, Edward. We need to make sure that we stay balanced!" My voice was bordering on hysterical, and Edward's eyes widened in shock before his expression softened.
"Come here. Just to the middle, see?" He slid carefully toward me, keeping his tone buoyant. "The car is perfectly balanced, Bella."
"No, I'm okay right over here. You don't have to…I mean…I'm fine…I just…" A gentle breeze rocked the car and I squeezed my eyes closed again, breathing rapidly. A few seconds later, I felt Edward's arm around me. His fingers grazed my neck and my breath caught in my throat.
Despite the chill in the air, Edward's hand was warm and I felt the tension begin to leave my body. I opened my eyes slowly and was surprised to see Edward's eyes roaming my face as if he were searching for something. His brow crinkled fractionally, and a small bloom of warmth started to spread through my chest as I sat pinned under the heat of his stare. I nervously licked my lips, gripping the safety bar in anticipation, and as I did, Edward ran his tongue over his bottom lip.
His fingers traced small circles on my skin through my hair, trying to keep me relaxed. But as he started to close the gap between us, my heart rate spiked. My lips parted slightly of their own volition and the movement drew Edward's eyes. He hesitated for a moment, an inch from my face, and I watched as the gold flecks in his eyes seemed to brighten. Edward was close enough that I could feel his breath bathe my skin and I felt my body tremble with the uncertainty of what was about to transpire.
He blinked and broke the mesmerizing affect he held over me. At the same time, the wheel lurched and I dropped my hand between us to steady myself. Edward muttered a quick apology and retreated to his side of the car.
"Great distraction," I said, my voice sounding breathier than I would have liked.
"I'm sorry, I—" Edward stopped abruptly, a deep furrow appearing between his eyebrows. What was he sorry for? What had happened exactly? Was he going to…surely not? He couldn't have been. Edward had never been interested in me like that.
The ride back to the ground seemed quicker than the ride to the top. My mind turned over what had happened in the interlude, but I couldn't make heads or tails of it. Simply put, I had asked Edward to distract me, and he had. He'd been a friend when I'd needed one, that was all.
As the car slowed, ready to release us at the bottom, I clutched Edward's arm in renewed panic. Edward's eyes met mine, burning intensely as he again licked his lips.
"What I said before, you know, about the diner?"
Edward let out a relieved sigh. "You mean the quarters?" he laughed.
"Yeah," I replied sheepishly. "That's just between us, right? Emmett still doesn't know who glued them down."
"Sure thing, Baby Bell." Edward smiled softly, and just like that, it was as if nothing had changed.
A/N: This is the first in a series of outtakes that will periodically run alongside Reinvention of Hope. They'll hopefully enhance the main story, but they're not essential to the main plot. Going forward, where appropriate (and possible) I will post these in addition to the normal weekly chapters. To get updates for A Slice of Hope, pop this one on alert too. Thanks for reading.