Standing on Leah and Embry's front porch, I stared helplessly as the sky opened up and rain came plummeting down, soaking the earth and making the trees greener. I sighed heavily and cursed my bad luck. What was I supposed to do? Run to Quil's? Or maybe I should run to Jake's. Maybe I should just bite the bullet and talk to Jake about this mess.
Something dark and violent twisted in my gut. I was worried that he'd feel betrayed, but angry that he might, too. I mean, he was the one who rejected me. He was the one that needed more time. It seemed like it was never enough-like I could never make up for leaving him all those years ago.
But I should tell him first; I should explain the situation before Quil did. That much I had realized as stood there barefoot with my shoes dangling in my hand, the sun slowly rising, and my eyes blurry and unfocused.
How could it possibly get any worse? I decided to make a run for it. My naked feet hit the soft mud, and I splashed my way down the narrow road that led to Jake's. By the time that little red house came into view, I was huffing and panting, my sides aching and my heart racing.
I stopped to catch my breath a few yards away. I was soaked to the bone and shivering as my wet hair clung to my skin. I walked closer, and I noticed him sitting as still as a statue on his front porch steps. His dark hair was inky black with the rain falling against it; his elbows were propped up on his knees and his head in his hands.
I wasn't sure if he'd heard me as I moved closer, my toes squishing in the rain soaked earth. When I was about ten feet away, he looked up. His eyes were glossy, but something, some indefinable emotion flickered across them as he stared at me for what seemed to be the longest minute of my life. The rain continued to beat against my freezing skin, the risen sun blocked by the threatening gray clouds. He stood up and walked towards me, his large frame towering over me and beads of rainwater tumbling down his face and arms.
"Don't, Bella." His voice was harsh and cold, and it caused a surge of anger to flare in my chest. "Just, don't."
"No, Bella. Quil told me you were kissing some guy at the bar last night. And maybe I have no right to be mad, to get upset and jealous... but I am. I know I've pushed you away, I know I've been hurting you, and it kills me, Bella." His voice cracked and hot, fresh tears trickled down my cheeks, mixing with the rain. He grabbed my shoulders and pulled me close to him. "Dammit, Bella. I just don't know how to fix this."
"Jake," I cried, feeling the defeat in his voice. My voice was pleading. "Please..." His hands dropped from my shoulders, and he shoved his fingers roughly through his inky black hair. He looked at the ground for a minute and then back at me.
"I'm always going to think you might leave again," he said quietly, his voice soft and broken. I swallowed, fighting the tide of emotion that was threatening to take me under.
"Jake, I'm not going to leave. Can't you understand? It almost killed me." I was crying, pleading, my voice hoarse and choked, and my stomach was churning with the mix of last night's alcohol and regret and dread.
"I don't know if I can," he answered after a long minute, his black eyes still locked on mine. We were still standing so close I could feel the rise and fall of his chest, and I shoved away from him, turning my back and clutching my sides as I tried to keep myself together, as I tried to stop the brutal pain from tearing through me.
A moment later, I felt his warm, strong arms wrap around me, and his lips pressed to my ear. "Let me take you home," he whispered. All I could do was nod. He gathered me up in his arms, and I closed my eyes tightly as he sat me in the seat of his car. I laid my head against the cool glass of the window and watched the rain drip down and the green forest pass me by as Jake took me back to Charlie's.
My hand was on the handle, not a second after he pulled into the drive. I wanted nothing more than to get away from him, so I could fall apart alone and let the sadness, defeat, and regret consume me.
"Bella, I—" His hand was on my knee, and the lingering touch made me ache, made my heart splinter and break. My eyes were still turned towards the door, and he moved his hand, seizing my free one and squeezing. "Please look at me."
I shook my head, scrunching my eyes shut as more tears fell. My breathing was ragged and uneven, and I swallowed back the heart-wrenching agony and opened the door. He didn't let go at first. I felt his strong, steady hand grip mine tighter and my soul being ripped apart, my heart bleeding. I wanted to look down to see if my chest really had been ripped open, if my heart was laid there, bare and broken but still beating for him to witness. I felt like this much physical pain should show some evidence; instead, I just felt the cold, shivering, rainwater seeping into my chilled skin.
But after another tense minute, where the air felt thick and suffocating, he let me go. Just like he had before. I froze for the briefest of seconds as memories of that day I left, of the day he let me go, flashed vividly in my mind. I walked up the front steps, through the door, and didn't look back.
Once inside the confines of my room, something inside me broke and fell helplessly against the wooden floor, weeping and sobbing, ugly sounds and wails coming from my throat.
I didn't leave my room for three days. Charlie checked on me, and so did Leah. But I barely heard anything they said. I knew I couldn't stay in bed. I knew I had to keep on living, that it was insane and ridiculous to feel like dying because I had lost Jake. But I just couldn't find the strength.
Late Tuesday night, I peeled myself away from my soaked sheets and took a hot, steamy shower. I let the water work over my tired muscles, wash away the tear tracks, the smell of Jake's skin on mine, and the feelings of regret and pain. I stood there until the water ran cold. When I got out, I wrapped a towel around myself and brushed through my long, tangled hair, removing the knots and feeling kind of numb as I stared at the ghost in the mirror.
When I walked back into my room, lit only by a small, bedside lamp and the glow of a full moon, I nearly dropped my towel at the sight in front of me. There were several dozen roses in shades of red, white, and pink scattered about my room, and a letter in Jake's scrawl sitting on my desk. I opened it with shaking fingers and read the words over and over until my tears landing on the soft paper made the ink bleed.
I'm so sorry. Sorry for hurting you, sorry for breaking your heart. I was scared and blind and still hurting myself. The same way I have been since I let you leave that day. And not just that day when we were eighteen, but that day at my house, the other day in my car. I can't do this again, Bella. I thought it would be better. To not set myself up to lose you again. But I was lying to myself and to you. Please forgive me. I just can't lose you again. I can't live without you again.
I wanted to say all this in person, to see your eyes, to feel your lips, but I wasn't sure if you would even want to see me, and I had to at least tell you. I had to at least try. I love you, Bella. It's always been you. Please come home.
It was only a minute later when I made the decision. I grabbed a bag, stuffed as much of my stuff into it as possible, and then threw on a pair of jeans and a long sleeve t-shirt before running out the door. I was pushing the gas in my ancient truck, and I made it to the reservation in no time at all. He was standing on the porch, with Chase's hand in his, when I pulled up. I grabbed the two suitcases I had managed to pack and stepped out of the truck into the chilly night air.
Our eyes met across the distance, and I shrugged my shoulders. A smile broke out across his face, and in three long strides, I was engulfed in his arms again. I dropped the suitcases, flinging my arms around his neck as he squeezed and twirled me around. He pulled back, his lips finally meeting mine in an intimate embrace.
"I love you," he breathed when we broke apart for air.
"I love you, too." I looked over his shoulder and saw Billy and Chase still standing on the steps. I offered a smile, and Chase broke out into a run.
"Bella!" He reached me, and I picked him up and hugged him close. "Are you staying?"
"Yes," I answered, and it felt so good to say. A feeling of deep contentment and knowing settled deep into my bones. Jake picked up the suitcases in one hand, wrapped his other one around me while I carried Chase, and we walked inside, the soft moonlight illuminating our frames against the black night sky.
A/N: Thanks jkane180!