The rumble of an unfamiliar car echoed along the pine needle- dusted road, passing through Clallam County with nothing but the slight displacement of eroded grit to signify that it had ever been there at all. With an Arizonan registration plate and dust encrusted trims, it was plainly clear that this car had never ventured far from its original home; yet the way it was driven through the Olympic Peninsula, directed with a subtle ease and with no fault, it was clear that its owner was not at all foreign to the landscape or even the unnerving, sporadic moments of deluge.
Sweat- slickened hands grasped the worn steering wheel and Converse clad feet moved in tandem with the brake and gas pedal along Route 101. The humidity of the sixties Coupe De Ville was stifling, yet nervous hands remained in their position, only ever moving to swiftly hitch up the threadbare sleeves of a favorite sweater.
Emerald foliage and moss-choked flora streamed past the windows in an endless blur, burning Mother Nature's image into steady, focused retinas. Eventually, the road forked and the tread of the tires gently - if not a little hesitantly- veered left into a bark- laden parking lot. The Coupe De Ville settled next to a burned out Volkswagen Rabbit, the only car in the lot that was recognizable amongst outdated Chevys. A gaudy, yellow lightning bolt faded by time and a low-strength paint stripper caught the driver's eye, and had the engine of the Coupe De Ville been cut, a stifled yet audible sob may have been heard amongst the silence of the surrounding forest.
With difficulty, two swollen feet emerged from the Cadillac along with the rest of Bella Swan; barely twenty three and already exhausted by life's happenstances. The bitter chill of the Forkian wind nipped at her cheeks and she carefully reached into the back of the car to snatch a thicker wool-knit sweater. A few buttons were hard to fasten and the wool stretched unflatteringly in some places but she knew it was a piece for a time long gone- a time that could never be reclaimed.
After slamming the Cadillac door and kicking it for good measure, she twisted the key in the lock - with a struggle she anticipated- and ambled towards the diner that had been a frequent haunt throughout her childhood. The door was held open for her by Old Max - resident caretaker - who looked taken aback by her sudden appearance, his weathered face tinged with surprise and pity.
"It's good to have you back, Darlin'," he murmured, neither seeking recognition nor response.
Bella trudged through the diner and over the silver-specked linoleum towards a corner booth that had forever remained "our spot". She reached for a foot long menu - frayed at the corners - and propped it against the table to shield herself from the watchful gaze of the patrons and barflies. Sorrow and pity seemed to radiate in her every direction; nothing was ever forgotten in the sleepy town of Forks.
Her bottom lip was raw from her habitual biting and she hissed as the metallic taste of blood seeped onto the tip of her tongue. As she fretted with a couple of scratchy napkins, and dabbed frantically at her lip, a broad shadow eclipsed her peripheral vision and she immediately scrunched the remainder of her napkin into her pale fist.
Without thinking, she scrambled to her feet and instinctively closed the gap between herself and the solitary figure who stood unmoving by her table. Had she taken a moment to gather her bearings and taken a long, hard glance at the man she had known since she was a baby, she may have noticed his hesitancy before she engaged herself in an unreciprocated embrace.
Although her heart was stung, she chalked his emotionless state down to stress and grief; everyone was suffering.
"Hi, Jake," she murmured, tilting her head so that she could look at his wearisome face that had once crinkled in mirth. However, her welcome remained neglected and unacknowledged as his gaze settled upon the one aspect of her that had been changing throughout what they called a "healing process".
"It's grown a lot since we last saw each other, I guess," she added. His silence was beginning to unnerve her a little. She gently grazed her fingertips over the taught wool of her midriff and sighed, remembering how only a couple of months ago pity and sorrow were foreign bodies to her.
"Can we sit?"
Bella could and probably would have remained by his side until he was ready to move on his own terms, but at the time, her back ached with the added weight and heartburn radiated in her chest from the liter of orange juice she had consumed on the drive home. With a mere nod in response, she settled against the lipstick-red seats once again and struggled to find a comfortable position as her stomach pressed against the straight edge of the diner table. In the background, someone had dug for loose change in their pants pocket and the gentle echo of coins reverberated from the juke box. A crackling song somewhere from the depths of '77 began and Bella could already hear her father's comment in the back of her mind: "The only song I ever did hear in this god-forsaken place".
Charlie hated the diner, choosing to frequent 'The Lodge' further from town. Still, the diner held a special place in Bella's heart and she could never find the courage to sever ties with it- and admittedly, she never wanted to.
As the pair reacquainted, silently acknowledging the feat that was their meeting, a downtrodden waitress sulking from a reprimand for spilling yet another coffee pot sidled over to the table. She leaned against the side of the booth and readjusted her hair slides before announcing she was ready with a flick of her pencil against her notepad.
"Anything I can get you guys? Juice? Coffee? We make a really mean pot, stuff comes all the way from South America-"
"No coffee for me, thanks," Bella interrupted, palming the side of her abdomen.
"Ah, right, baby and all that," the girl acknowledged, "how long you got left?"
"Ten weeks," Bella answered, throwing a pointed glance in Jacob's direction, "Ten weeks and I'll be able to drink coffee again."
Jacob neither welcomed the waitress nor ordered once Bella had completed hers, his gaze had now moved from the protrusion of Bella's stomach and out of the diner window towards the Olympic Mountains. Bella's sudden indignation never registered with him as she grabbed several packets of ketchup from the condiment basket, and slammed them onto the tabletop. The waitress, wary of a sudden invasion of privacy, swept from her spot like her apron had caught on fire. Had Bella been in a better mood and under different circumstances, she would have apologized to the poor girl who seemed to be getting it from all angles, but then again- Bella would never have been here under different circumstances.
She hadn't come all this way only to eat a garden burger and listen to some melancholy drivel in a musty diner, suffered endless bouts of heartburn and rested in cheap motels for the sake of it. Lately, her hormones had been driving her wild with so many emotions that she had literally restrained herself from driving up to Forks sooner. All she had waited for was Jake, and to make sure that he was okay and that he was ready for their meet. Now, she realized, there were more important issues than just what he wanted and what was best for his feelings.
"Jake, it's been three months and you haven't called me," Bella snapped, "throw me a damn line here and help me to understand what's going on with you."
Jacob seemed to have registered that.
His infuriated glare granted her wish and finally met her gaze for the first time.
"You can never understand," he hissed.
"She was my sister, Jake. Tia-"
"Don't," he snapped, "don't talk about them."
Silenced by the one person who had always given her a voice, Bella found herself struggling to contain the anger that boiled within her veins. Jacob's refusal to acknowledge the most important issue of their future only served to add salt to the wound that was Bella's life. Everything that surrounded the incident had been dealt with tenderly and discreetly, no one seemed to notice the fact that her shirt size was expanding with each month that passed and that sooner or later someone's life would need to be altered to accommodate the consequences.
"Ten weeks, Jacob, and the baby is here. You've had three months to mull it over, and now I need answers."
He continued to toy with the table utensils, turning a crystalline salt shaker between his fingers. Bella didn't pretend to ignore the fact that he had removed the gold wedding band from his finger, or that he hadn't shaved in what seemed like months. Her help had been readily available all through the turmoil after the accident but she had been refused time and time again.
Suddenly, the salt shaker fell to the tabletop and Jacob hurriedly rose to his feet. His clumsy movement caught the table leg and shoved it further towards Bella who caught it before it caused any damage. The salt shaker rolled over the edge and the lid came loose so that the white powder spattered all over the linoleum.
He tried to place the lid back onto the shaker and swept a shaky hand over the loose salt but it seemed as though his nervousness had taken its toll. The spilled salt remained blanketed upon the floor, now with Jacob's hand-print etched into its accidental display, like a hand-print in the snow.
"I can't do this, Bella," he choked, "don't ask me to do this," his voice trembled along with his hands and instantly, Bella felt the weight of her nightmares fall onto her unprepared shoulders. Her face blanched, and doe eyes searched his own earth-colored orbs for a sign of hope. Jacob, leaden with a cowardice guilt, quickly scrambled to his feet and looked anywhere but the terrified face of the girl he considered his little sister.
"I'm gone, Bella," he grit through the tears that threatened to fall, "I don't want a reminder of her, and I can't be responsible for a life again. Keep it, give it away- I have no use for it anymore, it's not even mine anyway- yours and some guy we chose from an agency- so don't try and make me feel guilty for walking away," he continued to choke, never once looking from his feet that had now trodden in the salt.
"I love you, Bell, I do…I-I got some info for you- numbers and stuff. We kept in contact with the guy over T-T… over her. I'm sorry, Kid…I just can't do it."
His trembling hand dropped a crumpled note onto the table, marred by dirty fingerprints and a coffee ring from an overfilled mug.
"Don't do this Jacob," Bella sobbed at the sight of his retreating back, "don't do this."
However, her whispered pleas found no audience, no willing Jacob ready to comfort her through her pain. Instead, she remained a solitary figure in the booth, rocked by abandonment and a tortuous grief she'd begun to think she was finally learning to overcome. The few napkins she would have used to dry her tears remained in a scrunched ball, bloody and useless.
She had not agreed to this.
In ten weeks there would have been a baby- a baby she had grown and nurtured for her sister and her husband she had considered a brother. She was going to heal, move on, travel and enjoy the love she had brought to the family. Now she was being forced into a corner through the fault of one careless mistake.
Bile rose in her throat and the arrival of her garden burger diminished whatever was left of her appetite.
With another sharp kick to her ribs, Bella finally broke down in the cornered booth with nothing but the bobbled sleeves of her sweater to dry her eyes.
The wound that was her life was quickly ripping back open.
I'm humbled that you're reading my little story, thank you.