Disclaimer: I do not own nor make profit off of Twilight. It belongs to Stephenie Meyer and Summit Entertainment, etc.
A/N: I don't see this as changing Stephenie Meyer's canon storyline really, so I wouldn't call it AU, per se. The events might conflict with a few minorplot details from SM's universe, such as Charlie's house-arrest of Bella, which I totally forgot about when I started this series. Whoops! Characters may be a touch OOC at times.
This is the sequel to Damages I: Carlisle. To understand this story, please read that first.
Also, please read the companion story Intangible Sentiment.
Chapter 1: Ridiculous
For a seemingly average, everyday human being, I certainly had my fair share of odd situations that I'd been forced to face.
Enough to display a rather alarming tendency towards fatality and impending doom, at least. After a four-day period teeming with emotional roller coasters, domestic near-misses, and inter-species squabbling, it seemed life was trying to prove that point to me very forcefully.
Yet, when I headed out the door with Alice after having a very slow, sleepy, and uninteresting Wednesday morning, commonplace seemed the word of the day. Well, aside from the fact I walked beside a girl who could see the future and was one of a family of seven 'vegetarian' vampires, that is. In the back of my mind, I acknowledged the good luck I'd been graced with. How many slow and uninteresting mornings did I have on a daily basis, after all?
Oh, but how rapidly my luck could change.
When we tried to get the windows of my Chevy down, they got stuck somewhere at half-mast and Alice gave up trying to pull them back without shattering them. Sensing that I would have to break them to even get them out, and then obviously I would have to get them replaced, I warned Alice not to buy them for me. I still had money left in my tiny 'college fund' and I wasn't about to accept any more gifts from her. Maybe she listened, maybe she didn't, but the threat was there at least.
Upon arriving at the high school, we found that almost everyone arrived early for some ungodly reason. That left fewer parking spaces and frustratingly rude drivers in their little cars who kept cutting me off to get better places. Luckily I was not one to get very angry in return and wouldn't ram into them (not intentionally), but I couldn't fathom why they were willing to cut in front of a monster truck with a solid, come-and-get-me-if-you-dare frame. Edward might have done that if he was of a mind to, but it would be in a teasing way that would probably make me laugh in the end. And I knew he would never do that without ensuring that an adjoining space was free.
To make the morning worse, Alice and I became stuck behind Tyler Crowley, who was trying unsuccessfully to park his vehicle in a spot partially taken up by another car; one over the line enough to cause a parking problem. It was one of the last spots available, aside from three free spaces that were then behind us, and another spot further ahead (that was the one I currently aimed for). Tyler certainly wasn't vying for the last place; it was the spot beside the silver Volvo, Edward and Jasper leaning up against it holding a conversation.
The honey-blond vampire mentioned something his bronze-haired brother would have heard in his mind a second before he said it. Edward said something with a look of interest, tilting his head so minutely towards Ben and Angela, who walked past a moment later, that no one would have seen it. Ben stopped tentatively to offer a word or two, to which Edward seemed to smile almost imperceptibly (or at least to Ben's thoughts). Angela looked very encouraging, though quite hesitant herself. Then she glanced towards where Alice and I still sat, growing more impatient as Tyler persisted in conquering the trouble-spot he'd found, and waved at us. She eyed the Sentra with a raised brow, before turning back to Ben, Edward, and Jasper.
Ben actually made more than a brief remark or two with the two brothers, as his renewed energy proved. The three of them seemed to be any normal group of teenage boys, discussing the latest homework they'd been assigned. Even Jasper seemed more talkative than usual with whatever Ben was saying, which of course made me wonder just how much help the southern vampire gave the human boy in the courage department.
"Does Tyler think his stupidity is attractive or was he just born slow?" Alice suddenly asked through a scowl, rhythmically tapping her nails on the seat between us at a loud, inhuman pace. Until I saw through my own eyes she was moving her fingers, I almost thought the sound was from a malfunctioning mixer… or more alarmingly, maybe my truck finally breaking down. It would be just my luck.
At any rate, seeing as I would bet on a mixture of both Tyler theories, it didn't seem likely my answer would satisfy Alice, but I decided to answer for lack of better conversation. The night before, we talked quite a while about our plans for the coming days and pretty much exhausted our disappointingly small list of ideas. Even during the few hours I slept, Alice hadn't thought of anything new. Today, we didn't have any better luck. Theories about Tyler Crowley's lack of mental aptitude were, sadly, about the limit of our talking points right about then.
"Maybe both have some merit," I said absently. With a sigh of irritation, I spied Lauren arriving on the scene and leaning against the hood of the car in front of the spot Tyler aimed for. She encouraged his idiocy with alternating usage of giggles, coy smiles, waving in false shyness, and a come-hither look that was practically indecent for everyday use. I knew she liked him, but really? Was it necessary to stoop this low for the attention of a guy who clearly couldn't even park for himself? And it was really working beautifully, I admitted to myself with some disgust. Tyler looked so gratified at her attention he even stopped trying to realign his car to fit the parking space. He simply stopped, less than halfway into the spot and completely blocking my passage, so Lauren could move to his window and talk to him with the same sickly false gestures.
"Although," I commented abruptly through gritted teeth, "theory number one seems the more likely of the two."
At least half the students in the parking lot now stared, pointed, and snickered. A rare few outright mocked the exchange, though Tyler and Lauren could not see that from where they were. By this point I turned almost burgundy from embarrassment and Alice ground her teeth quite audibly. A guy sitting in his still-running green Oldsmobile looked up startled and worried at the latter; he seemed to think his car caused the gritty metallic scraping noise.
I was fairly itching to knock some sense of reality into Tyler's thick skull. I settled for tapping my left foot impatiently against the floor of the truck rather than egging on my violent side.
"They're going to make us late if they continue these ridiculous shenanigans," my best friend remarked darkly and more assuredly than I was happy with. Checking the clock questioningly, I felt dismay wash over me; we only had about twenty minutes before first period. Tyler and Lauren didn't seem to care and at this rate, Alice was going to end up right; we would definitely not be on time for class. As if in answer to this thought, my tiny psychic friend leveled a glare at Tyler through his back window. If he'd been looking, I doubted he would have continued his parking excursion; his life was probably much more valuable to him. I didn't feel much kinder than Alice now, considering our potential tardiness. And whatever the outcome of that tardiness was, Edward's visionary sister didn't look at all pleased about it. The idea of giving Tyler a good, solid thwack on the back of his head felt much more viable now. In fact, I unthinkingly began to plan it out in my mind. I could just stroll by in the cafeteria or the hallway and… whack! It would be easy and I highly doubted anyone would believe such a stunt from me, of all people. Besides, no one else looked all that pleased by the scene either, especially the two cars behind us; they weren't likely to tell if they saw me do it.
A shock of laughter, both a muted one from Edward several spaces down the lot and one from Alice, made me jump and turn to stare in bewilderment.
"What?" I asked dumbly. Down the way a bit, I noticed Ben and Angela looking a little strangely at Edward, as well.
"You…" Alice was shaking from her laughing fit, "Tyler… In the cafeteria."
My cheeks headed straight back to burgundy without pausing to even consider pink first. Somehow, I forgot about Alice seeing my plan.
"Hey, wait!" I responded in an anxious whisper. It just struck me that Edward saw that vision, too. "You're not blocking Edward."
The pixielike vampire abruptly stopped laughing. "Yes, I am," she whispered urgently back. "I just allowed him to see that particular one. It's not easy, but it's not impossible to do."
"Why that one, though?"
"He was getting a little lost in his thoughts, a little too dark," she confessed tightly. "I thought it would brighten his outlook."
"Oh," I breathed a sigh of relief.
Not a second later, Alice just couldn't bottle up her sarcasm. "Maybe you should have totaled Tyler's Sentra last year."
"Maybe I will this year." I agreed with an annoyed sigh and an equally vivid, if less effective, glare at Tyler.
"You won't," Alice rolled her eyes at me, but the gesture was strangely affectionate. "You'll feel guilty the moment you start planning it. I know you."
"Maybe," I stubbornly refuted her assumption, "but I can imagine it, can't I? And I did plan to hit him today, didn't I?"
"Oh, fine," she rolled her eyes a second time.
Edward said something quiet to Angela and Ben suddenly, and then with a parting pat on Jasper's shoulder, headed over to us. I shared a vague grin with my spiky-haired best friend when Ben enthusiastically picked right back up with whatever he was saying to Jasper.
Edward did not come directly to my old Chevy, as I had assumed he would. Instead, with a sly wink in my direction, he walked casually up to the Sentra with a friendly smile and a low wave for our two schoolmates. Lauren looked like Christmas had come early and Tyler was near enough to glaring that I could have laughed. Alice already started giggling at whatever her brother had planned, so I settled in for a little show.
"Hello, Lauren, Tyler," I heard Edward say in that alluring velvet voice of his. "Lovely morning, don't you think? I've heard there's even going to be a sliver of sunshine this afternoon. Too bad we won't be spending any time in it."
As I had expected, he oozed out charm from head to toe, even when he talked about the mundane and predictable weather of Forks. Tyler looked a little less resentful of the intrusion now that Edward pulled out all the stops on his vampire charm. I was amused and annoyed in equal measure when I noted he exhaled rather near to Lauren, close enough to keep her partially dazed from the scent of his breath.
"Y-yes, too bad we… won't be… spending time." Lauren's face was stark, a bit slack, but there was an edge of meaning in her gaze and she licked her lips almost like a hungry cat. My eyes narrowed to slits. I prayed I was imagining the subtle phrasing in her words. No way did she get to insinuate spending 'quality time' with my Edward.
Tyler didn't miss the insinuation, either, if his face was anything to go by. A wicked scowl took up residence on his features. "Yeah, sunshine, great. Listen, I gotta go find a spot to park. We only got ten minutes before class starts. See ya, Lauren. Cullen."
Edward nodded once at the hostile farewell, but clearly wasn't disturbed by it. In fact, he looked like he enjoyed himself immensely.
"Oh, yeah," the blonde replied dazedly without any real concern for Tyler. Without a seemingly conscious plan, Lauren moved to mindlessly follow a few paces away from the Sentra and after my boyfriend, who now backpedaled to my truck.
Poker face in position, Edward turned and went around to the passenger side, where Alice had already scooted over into the middle to make room for him. Her face was pinched in an effort to reign in laughter. As Tyler backed the Sentra out of his almost-conquest, Lauren remained staring wantonly and unashamedly, making cow eyes at my vampire. Every ounce of blood in my body boiled with possessive fury. My first thought was admittedly violent and irrational. Let's just say I had the urge to leave a red mark across Lauren's powdered-up face. It was really a very powerful feeling, the possessiveness and jealousy flowing through me. I'd never felt quite so keyed up over it before. But then Lauren had never acted so brazenly before, either.
Edward barely checked his grin as Alice rapidly shoved her foot under mine about three inches from the pedal, presumably to keep me from hitting the accelerator for a little nudge at the Sentra. Surely Lauren was near enough to be startled, but not get injured… That had been my plan through the red haze I was looking out of, at least.
Standing outside my rusty Chevy two minutes later, I was able to think more clearly. Lauren's absence may have had a very big hand in that, as well as Jasper's special assistance (littered with snickering though it was), but I didn't care. I was just glad she'd headed inside – er – away from Edward, whose attention was solely on me now. It wasn't a vanity thing; I didn't care if his attention strayed to other people… just that some people didn't deserve his attention in the first place.
"Edward," I said quietly, with enforced calm, to his glittering amusement. "If you don't kiss me in about thirty seconds, I won't be held responsible for my actions."
Laughing richly, my bronze-haired angel pulled me into his arms and attached his icy lips to my heated ones. My hands fluttered up against his messy hair, holding him tightly to myself, and then I was floating in bliss – in absolutely divine bliss – and forgot all about whatever had made me jealous and possessive in the first place. Such was the risk of being kissed by your own personal Greek god.
He pulled away too soon – always too soon – and left me gasping for air against his granite chest.
"Well, that was interesting," he spoke, grinning against my hair, and I let out an airy laugh as the situation finally made its good humor known to me.
"Yeah, interesting," I agreed breathlessly.
"Bella, can you forgive me?" Edward spoke abruptly within a second of my remark, confusing me.
"What for this time?" was my curious reply.
"I don't think I can be there tonight," he sighed sadly, but determinedly. "I just… I still need to wrap my head around some things first…"
"It's okay," I interrupted him with a finger to his granite lips. "I understand, I really do. This is very important and I want you to take as much time as you need. Will you go out with Jasper and Emmett again?"
"That's what we were thinking," he admitted with a compliant nod. "It seems to clear my head when we've had a good spar session."
"Then you should definitely go," I confirmed decisively.
"All right," he complied, wearing a more cheerful smile. "We'll be leaving at midnight tonight. I'll see you tomorrow morning, of course… I do wish I was staying with you, though."
"We'll survive," I told him with nonchalance, in spite of my mild apprehension.
To that he just kissed my forehead apologetically.
"So was Alice right about Tyler's ego," I couldn't help asking quietly, hoping to distract him, "or was he just born stupid?"
Edward's grin lit up the parking lot as he replied, "I believe his mother may have dropped him a few times, but I have no conclusive evidence of that."
We snorted with laughter, the addition of two others reminding me that Alice and Jasper were still present.
"We have four minutes and six seconds to get to class," Alice replied calmly. "Jasper will be a little late, but it won't be a problem."
"Thanks a lot," the vampire in question grinned lazily at his wife, winking mischievously. "I know how I rank now."
"Oh, you know you're tops, Jazz," she giggled in return, dragging him gracefully along towards their class while Edward and I took up behind them.
The hours went by much smoother than the previous day had, Edward even holding my hand throughout lessons. He was mostly at ease, but there were moments when he would look off into space with a frown of concentration and I could tell his mind was still on what we'd argued about and the conflicting emotions he felt towards Carlisle's behavior. Working out the trouble spots took up a majority of Edward's focus, leaving little talking between us. It was comfortable, though (in a weird way), because after all we'd thrown at each other the previous morning we were able to move to a reasonable comfort zone within a day or less. Knowing we could forgive each other in such a way was a point of pride for me.
Lunchtime found us still holding hands when we walked in the food line, and then again when waiting awkwardly with Jasper for Alice to join us at the table. He hadn't seen his mate exiting her classroom nor on his way to lunch and was a tad bothered by that fact. She didn't normally come late, so I was a little worried, but not overtly so. Besides, almost immediately a feeling of ease and reassurance flooded me, so I didn't have time to feel any worry at all after that. Jasper was clearly working hard to control any anxiety, even while he became seemingly engrossed in what I realized was a thick, hardback book on the Civil War.
"Sorry, Jasper," I muttered, guilt creeping in that I caused him even a little bit more worry than he already felt. It had only been a few minutes since the lunch bell rang anyway. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed Edward roll his eyes discreetly.
"Bella, stop feeling guilty," he murmured from the side of his mouth, "Jasper isn't upset with you for being worried. He's used to reorganizing our emotions. It's just something he does."
"Doesn't mean I can't try to make it easier on him," I frowned at Edward. He should know me better than that by now. "Like I try to do for you."
That stumped him enough that he didn't respond. Jasper, on the other hand, nearly smirked at the rejoinder and sent me a little nudge of gratitude.
"No problem," I muttered with a wry smile. Edward actually cracked a smile.
The good humor fled after another ten minutes passed by with no Alice. Jasper worked harder now to undermine the nerves, but he wasn't especially successful since he felt most of the worry himself. I wasn't worried so much as anxious; that struck me as being very insensitive, but I couldn't help it. I felt as though I was missing something about the whole situation; suspicion took precedence.
"You can't find her?" Jasper barely mumbled to Edward, who looked furiously consternated by his inability to find his sister's mind. That was the first tactic they tried whenever they were faced with this kind of situation, as Edward had explained a moment previous. Edward would search out their thoughts first, and then if that failed they would call. If that failed, then they went out to search the old-fashioned way.
"She's not in the school," Edward almost growled in frustration, scaring students nearby into thinking there was some kind of small animal beneath their table. "But Alice isn't capable of emptying her mind completely. She has to be thinking something, even if she's blocking me. I don't understand."
That only made me more suspicious, yet it did make me realize something very important.
"Well, that's it then," I breathed to both of them, bringing them to look at me. "Alice might not be in Forks at all. I mean, you'd hear her mind up to seven miles away, right? If you were focusing on her?"
"Unfortunately, Bella has a point," Jasper admitted, frowning deeply at this announcement. "Well, I'll call her. See if she picks up."
He left his tray and book on the table as he slipped out the back doors to call Alice.
"But where on earth would Alice go?" I asked my bronze-haired boyfriend curiously.
"I don't know," Edward sighed.
Jasper came back two minutes after he'd left, looking disappointed.
"No answer," he said unnecessarily; it was obvious from his face he had been unable to make contact.
"Maybe we should go look for her," was Edward's next remark, to which Jasper seemed keen to agree.
"And miss classes?" I practically hissed at him. "Alice said that would be really bad."
"Yes, she did see it turning badly," Edward confessed reluctantly, Jasper barely nodding his agreement. Clearly the two of them were raring to go after their wife and sister. I almost wished they would. Yet I didn't think something was exactly wrong about this, at least not in the typical sense of the word. I had a distinct feeling Alice knew full well where she was going and had not meant for anyone to come with her.
"Guys," I started hesitantly, not wanting to sound callous, "I don't think we should be worried. Don't get me wrong, I don't feel completely comfortable with the fact that she's gone suddenly… but for some reason I think Alice knows exactly what she's doing."
"You do, don't you?" Jasper questioned rhetorically, eyeing me speculatively for a moment and feeling out my emotions. After another minute, he looked satisfied and leaned back in his chair thoughtfully. "Bella might be right. Alice is known for these sorts of things, after all."
"That's true," nodded Edward. "I suppose we should just continue with our day, then?"
"I suppose so," Jasper sighed with great reluctance. "But maybe…"
"Yes," Edward nodded sulkily. "I suppose I'll have to call Carlisle. Just in case."
The look on Edward's face at the mention of his father made me especially indignant and hotheaded. Had he learned nothing from what I'd told him? Ugh!
Jasper gave me an apprehensive glance, as did Edward once he realized my narrowed eyes and huffy gaze were directed at him. Did he really have to kill my buzz today? I'd been so pleased at our progress emotionally, but did that come (once again) at the price of Carlisle's emotional stability? If it did, something was going to change rather quickly and Edward had better watch his words today.
"I'll call Carlisle," I enunciated perfectly and coolly. "Just in case."
Standing from the table and ignoring Edward's knowing expression, I headed outside, throwing my tray out on the way, and stepped into the subdued, early afternoon light to make the call.
"Bella," Carlisle's gentle, yet businesslike tone clued me into the fact he must be busy.
"Um – sorry to interrupt," I told him guiltily, "but Alice didn't show up at lunch and Jasper wanted to let you know about it."
"I see," Carlisle sighed, sounding a bit amused for some odd reason. "The three of you are staying there, then?"
"Yeah, Alice had a vision earlier," I answered in slight confusion, "It would have had a bad outcome if we missed or anything."
"Well, I'll stay alert," he assured me, still sounding in good humor.
"You know something," the accusation left me thoughtlessly, but I just had a feeling, "don't you?"
"Perhaps," I could hear the grin in his smooth voice. "I assure you Alice is not in any trouble. Will that be a suitable explanation?"
"It'll have to be," I groused, "since I doubt you'll give into my whining about it."
"Too true," he chuckled. "You'll have to excuse me, Bella. Thank you for calling me, anyway. I like to be forewarned of things."
"Sure," I grumbled, further chuckling from Carlisle the last sound I heard before he disconnected.
Edward and Jasper were still sitting at the table when I returned, and though I still felt upset about the attitude of the former, it was gratifying for him to stack my stuff together.
"He said he'll stay alert," was all I told them. Clearly Alice wanted to keep her secret from all except Carlisle. I could at least keep it that way for now.
"Thank you, Bella," Jasper nodded his appreciation my way.
"Not a problem," I shrugged with a bit of a blush to my cheeks.
The bell ringing saved me from talking overmuch with Edward about his attitude and my reaction to it, but it seemed he was willing to let his sulky persona go as far as I could see. The day wasn't really awkward after that save the slight twinge of annoyance I still felt, and when we walked out of the doors to the parking lot Alice was leaning against the truck with Jasper, waiting for us. Taking into consideration the calm, cool expression on his face, her husband had already seen her before this moment.
Edward narrowed his eyes fractionally when he saw her, but the rest of his features remained smooth. Absently, I acknowledged this gesture was not because of her absence, but because of her mental blocking. At the sight of us, Jasper embraced his wife and murmured low in her ear. I could guess what worries he was voicing. Alice kissed his face several times in comfort and he left a last lingering one on her mouth before walking over to the Volvo.
"You've been away," Edward spoke first, a little accusingly, as we came alongside the truck, and Alice rolled her eyes at his petulant tone.
"It was for a good cause," his sister replied with a condescending sniff. I had to bite back the upturn of my lips.
"Hmph," was Edward's eloquent response, to which I couldn't hold back an amused smile. Even when he was acting so childishly, he looked like a young God.
"Oh, come on, Edward," Alice whined. "It was only for a little while. You'll see how good a cause it was later on."
Sighing in resignation, my bronze-haired boyfriend turned to kiss me goodbye with a chaste little peck and got to the Volvo before I could do much about it. Harrumphing at his abruptness, I ripped open the driver's side door as Alice went around the other side.
"Rude," I mumbled irritably to no one in particular, though the roar of the engine might have drowned me out completely to anybody all the same. Of course Alice still heard me and laughed like wind chimes, but that was to be expected.
"Don't let him get to you, Bella." Her attempt to bolster my good side fell a little short.
"It's a little late for that."
"Oh, you finally figured that out?" Alice smirked knowingly.
A good glare out the windshield didn't exactly help me feel better, but I doubted much could unless Edward fixed his attitude. He was just so stubborn about keeping the nitty-gritty details from me that he was alienating his own father. It was driving me crazy in the literal sense of the word because I knew of nothing to help change it. Maybe time, but Edward Cullen was not truly known for his patience. How he and Carlisle lived in the same house on their own for three years was beyond me sometimes. For in patience, they were definitely opposites.
Driving down my street with a slightly less positive feeling than that morning, I was startled out of my wits to find Rosalie's red M3 convertible parked in the street across from Charlie's house and the blonde vampire in question sitting at the wheel with a magazine open in her hands.
"Um… Alice?" My voice trembled with nervousness and trepidation which nothing could disguise. Rosalie Hale was a touchy subject at best, one I was altogether certain would never improve beyond what it was at the moment. Standoffish would be an understatement in that area of my life. The past few weeks she had not been hard on me, but once the situation of her phone call wore off I was exceedingly wary of how her personality would snap back.
"It's all right, Bella," my best friend smiled soothingly at me, patting my hand in reassurance. "I asked her here and she's in a decent mood. Don't worry."
Meekly I replied, "Okay." And if my hands shook like nobody's business while I pulled in the drive, I really couldn't help it.
"Hi Rose." With a dancing step halfway down the driveway Alice greeted her sister, who was rising almost sinuously from her vehicle in dark jeans, sleek track shoes, and a wine-colored belted blouse which must have been from a top designer. Even the basic sweatshirt over her arm looked expensive. All the blonde curls Rosalie was known for were tugged snugly up into an edgy chignon and a heavy bag hung from her other arm.
"Alice, Bella," Rosalie nodded at each of us, and I was again startled by the pleasant way she greeted me.
"H-hi," I managed to squeak past my lips, feeling like an idiot. Thankfully she did not comment. "What brings you here?"
Oh, yes, because that didn't sound foolish, I fumed in my mind.
"Bella," Alice began, nearly jumping up and down in excitement that made me stare, "I have a surprise for you."
"Should I be worried?" I muttered sarcastically, to which Rosalie actually cracked a slight smirk.
Alice, contrarily, glared at me undauntedly. "Don't be ridiculous."
"Well, what is it, then?" I sighed in defeat, knowing she would surprise me no matter what I said.
"Windows!" she cried happily. "For your truck!"
Some of my frustration crept back up on me rather swiftly, along with a pink flush of embarrassment. "Alice, I said no more gifts! You promised!"
"Bella, honestly," she interrupted with a frown, "They were stuck and wouldn't come loose without breaking. You'd have needed new ones anyway."
"I was going to buy them myself," I huffed indignantly.
"And you could have afforded them?" she demanded disbelievingly.
"I have enough," I snapped. Of that I was fairly certain, at least.
Alice threw her hands up into the air. "Well, I have more than enough."
"But Itold you—"
"And you expected me to listen?" she raised a brow in challenge, turning totally serious at my reaction.
"Once in a great while, yes, I did! I figured you might – just possibly – have taken a little hint this time!"
"Well, I didn't," she snapped right back, now thoroughly aggravated with me. "Rosalie offered to install them. You'll just have to deal with it."
This had to be Alice's idea of a prank or something. Yet the perfectly beautiful vampire was standing beside us, waiting with raised brows for our argument to end. Embarrassment infused my cheeks with red. Of all people, Rosalie Hale was not one I wanted to offend and by refusing her assistance I could very well do that. It looked as though Alice was going to get her way. I simply could not risk getting further on Rosalie's bad side than I already had over the last year or so.
"Oh… w-well…" came my quiet, belated, stuttering reply. I was unable to truly look the blonde vampire in the face. Intimidation was no joke with this particular person.
"They're in the back of the truck, Rose," Alice informed her sister, voice cold. I was positive that coldness was directed at me, to my bewilderment. Was Alice normally this hard on me? I didn't think so – I knew so – but she was giving a startlingly good impression of it. "I'm sure if Bella was a little less stubborn and a little more thoughtful, she'd thank you for spending your time on that thing."
With that she stormed out to the M3 without a word of goodbye, slipped inside with her books, and took off a split second afterward. Not once did she look back.
Was Alice really annoyed enough to make Rosalie think I was a whiny, ungrateful little human and unworthy of her time and patience? What's more… was my best friend really so critical of me? I flushed an even deeper red and wished I could bury myself away for the next decade rather than face Rosalie.
Whether by luck or by design, the vampire in question moved to the bed of my truck and removed the packaged windows. Feeling incredibly awkward, I sort of shuffled my way to the side, towards the house. Rosalie didn't give any sign she noticed, but moved to dig through her bag of what I realized were tools. Taking the opening, I headed inside with some relief that I would not have to spend the day sitting uncomfortably beside Rosalie. Some part of my subconscious tired to convince me I was being ridiculous, but leaving a finely dressed, supermodel vampire who disliked me in the driveway where she was going to be repairing the stuck windows of a truck she hated, along with the harsh words Alice threw back at me, wasn't making me feel happy in the least.
Few though the minutes were that I spent eating a very small snack in the kitchen, it was long enough that Alice's response began to really sting. Now uninterested in eating, I stood abruptly, backpack still on my shoulders, and moved quicker than normal to reach my bedroom, leaving my dishes on the table and tripping along the way upstairs. Barely had I gotten through the door and closed it behind me when the tightness in my eyes made itself known. I was surprised by how much Alice's words hurt me.
Scratch that. I was surprised she said them at all. Was she honestly mad at me for this? I couldn't say, except that her reactions had all been so genuine. Wetness welled up behind my lids, spurring me into dragging out all my homework as a distraction. It was all I could do not to unceremoniously wet the pages of my textbook.
Among the brief reading responses in English, I found a decent deterrent to my hurt feelings, but not a positive cure. My repressed tears, which finally fell over midway through Calculus problems, proved that admirably. Although my tears dried up after a full hour passed, the assignments took far less time than it would take for me to understand my best friend's actions.
At only a quarter to four, I finished the last piece of homework and with a groan of the world-weary, I stood stretching to the ceiling before slowly making my way into the kitchen to start dinner. As much as I needed further distracting from my melancholy, I didn't really have the heart to make anything too complicated. It didn't help for me to have a thorough bout of anxiety going because of the sporadic sounds of metal on metal outside, which kept me informed that Rosalie was still working on my truck windows.
Time played havoc on me again, considering that after only twenty minutes the fish, potatoes, and salad were packed away and ready to be warmed up or served once Charlie arrived.
Five minutes after four o'clock, almost two hours until Charlie came home. Blanching at the thought of so much uninterrupted alone time, I tried to think desperately of something to do. I could call Edward, of course. He would never refuse to come over and I would feel a whole lot better in spite of our current predicament. Then I thought of Rosalie seeing my desperation first-hand and in a sense of self-preservation I knew I couldn't sound so pathetic in front of her.
Sighing with some nervousness, I looked around for something to clean, but once I eyed the kitchen table where my dishes had lain not too long before, I realized the wooden surface was entirely empty. Confusion encapsulated my brain until I checked the cupboards. The dishes I had used were all up there, looking spotlessly clean. Who in the world had come in to do that?
A suspicion formed in my head, but it was so bizarre I tried to dismiss it immediately. Unfortunately, I could think of no other explanation.
Someone had come in silently and washed them for me, as well as thrown away the remnants of my small snack, and then left as stealthily (or perhaps, naturally?) as they came. If it were anyone else, they would have spoken to me. The only one who wouldn't was… Rosalie.
I stepped out of my front door with slightly shaking hands, eyes glued incredulously to the two lengths of denim sticking out from beneath my truck. No way could she have done those. No way would she have done those. But why would any of the others leave without saying hello?
"Is something wrong?" came Rosalie's neutral voice from beneath the vehicle, making me jump.
"No," I quietly answered her, unable to speak much louder. I was still in a bit of shock, fused with the normal trepidation I felt towards this particular member of the Cullen family. She said nothing in return, but continued working. What she was doing I had no idea, since I doubted windows required under-the-body work, but I didn't have the guts to question her.
Feeling a strange compulsion to sit nearby while the blonde vampire worked, I took up a seat on the front steps, wrapping my arms around my knees. There were several feet between us, but she could hear me if I spoke and I was certain I would be able to hear her as well. Not that there would really be a lot of talking going on, but you never know what can happen.
I couldn't possibly have realized how true that sentiment was until Edward's perfectly beautiful sister started speaking to me.
"Does Alice usually behave so abominably?" she questioned suddenly, shaking me from my thoughts.
Too stunned to dwell on the bothersome behavior of my best friend, I thoughtlessly said, "Not exactly." It was truthful, at least.
"I always thought she was quite cheery with you," Rosalie went on to say, sounding terribly nonchalant despite the seemingly accusatory words. And was it just me or did she emphasize the words 'with you' a little bit? Warning bells might have been going off in my head if I was any less confused.
"Well, she's my best friend." Again I answered without thinking. This conversation was just a little above my typical standard of strange.
"And that means automatic joy?" Sarcasm, though well-masked, laced Rosalie's voice.
"Not necessarily," I replied a bit indignantly, "but I guess after waiting this long to meet your so-called best friend, you get a little over-actively cheerful about them."
That silenced the tinkering vampire for several moments, though I doubted her mind was idle. For me to notice such a thing made me realize I now felt much less intimidated around Rosalie than I did moments prior. The more we talked, the less I came to wholly fear her. Without the same level of fear, my mind began to analyze more and understand deeper.
Silly though it would seem to most people, Rosalie might be (in a tiny way) jealous of my friendship with Alice. Certainly it was not a very large reason for why she disliked me, but it had to play a part in her hostile attitude. Thinking along the lines of my friendship with Alice reminded me of what she had said earlier. It still hurt when I recalled it.
"Although I don't think she was very happy with me today," I muttered to myself, forgetting that vampires had exceptional hearing.
"Obviously not," Rosalie said. I could imagine how she rolled her eyes.
"I don't see why today should be any different," I grumbled, growing a touch careless now I was reasonably comfortable.
There was no reply, so I settled my head on my knees agitatedly. Why was she talking to me if she wasn't going to come to the point? I felt amazingly annoyed by that.
"Any special reason you're so curious?" Rude as it sounded, I was frustrated and still left in the dark about Alice.
After a pause in her work, she lied to me somewhat convincingly, "No."
"Uh-huh," I couldn't stop myself from saying, regretting the apparent snub, but afraid of appearing wishy-washy if I took it back.
"Must one always have a point when asking questions?" The Rosalie I remembered came back a little in that remark, showing her snappish personality and her dislike of me.
"Technically, no," I admitted, pressing forward boldly before she could interrupt, "but generally, pointless curiosity is only used in casual conversation. And you'll have to excuse me if I don't find your question or your attitude casual in the least."
Where in the world all my bravery was coming from, I couldn't have said. It just felt like I had been through enough of Rosalie's rigmarole that I was sick and tired of it. I didn't want to be mean to her, but if I could say what I had to Edward, I could say these things to his icy-tempered sister.
"Finally grown a backbone where I'm concerned, have you?" she almost hissed, sliding out from under the Chevy and popping up into a sitting position so suddenly as to startle me. It wasn't vampire speed, but it was ridiculously close.
Willing my heart back to a slower pace and my face to a less reddish hue, I calmly replied, "I was thinking more along the lines of 'reached an understanding.' But by all means, call it whatever you like. You will anyway, won't you?"
That was not the right thing to say, I realized as her eyes narrowed to dangerous slits. Despite this, I couldn't find it within myself to be afraid anymore. Not today, anyway.
"I should break this piece of junk," she growled low in her throat and gestured to my rusty red truck with a sharp jab of her blonde head.
"Go ahead," I shot back rapidly, satisfied that I had her here. "Edward will just give me a ride. Or he'll buy me a new car."
I didn't wanta new car from Edward (or anyone else for that matter), but Rosalie was driving me up a wall now and I knew that might shut her up. As predicted, the seething vampire threw herself back down on the crawler and slipped back under the Chevy. The tinkering became a bit more vicious, but not so much that I worried for the safety of my vehicle. Rosalie would not be so keen to do anything that would endanger me while on the road; not after what almost happened to her brother in Italy.
"Thanks for the windows," I blurted in a near monotone, jumping up to head inside before she could say anything else to me.
Finding no point to whiling away my time downstairs, I went back up to my room. Perhaps a book would pass the time; perhaps music or randomly searching the internet. Nothing struck me as interesting, however, and so I sat on the bed just thinking for a long while, until I heard Charlie pull up in the cruiser. Unknown to me up to that moment, I had wasted almost an hour and fifteen minutes by sitting around mindlessly. Jumping up to look out the window, I saw no trace of Rosalie or the tools she'd brought with her. The windows looked the same as ever, except for the brand new shine to them, and my father walked past without giving the rusted old monster a second glance.
A/N: Thank you to everyone who read and reviewed Damages I: Carlisle!