AN: Hello, lovies! Major props this chapter to Jenn, Kelly & Tanya for their pre-reading awesomeness!
Also, I apologize to those couple of people who received their review replies late, FFn wass still holding my alerts hostage for two days before it sent them my way. I switched to another email and it's all good now.
Chapter 7: The Cave
So make your siren's call
And sing all you want
I will not hear what you have to say
Cause I need freedom now
And I need to know how
To live my life as it's meant to be
The Cave by Mumford & Sons
The next week passed by quietly. Bella fell into a comfortable routine of hanging out with Edward in the morning and going through her Dad's boxes, before separating after lunch. It was during those hours, while Edward was working either at Mac's or on his own house, that she felt discontent seep into her bones. Back in L.A., Izzy Dwyer barely had one moment to herself. Here in Forks, time was all she had. She tried different activities to keep her occupied, such as jogging or working out in the gym a few blocks from the bar, but none of them stopped her mind from running actively.
She knew that she couldn't hide here forever, but trying to figure out how to mesh her two lives was getting messier by the day. She could simply go back to being Izzy once the threat passed and come back to visit Forks occasionally. Or she could give up her music all together and make a life in Forks. Neither option appealed to her. In fact, both made her heart ache in one way or another. In the first scenario, she'd mourn the loss of the companionship that she'd come to cherish with her family and friends. In addition to... whatever it was that was happening between her and Edward. She didn't want to lose any of that. In the second one, she'd mourn the loss of her music. Even though it had been a profession that Renee thrust upon her, she'd fallen in love with it.
Writing and singing had been her only source of comfort for so many years. It was a part of her, as familiar to her as breathing was. Sighing heavily, she stopped her jog right outside of the big house, as they were prone to calling Mac's house to differentiate it from the bar. She slowly climbed the stairs and set about showering and changing for work, her mind still refusing to shut off.
An hour later, she found herself entering the tavern, only to find most of her friends glued to the big screen t.v. She glanced up and felt bile rise in her throat. A female reporter was standing outside of her house, a flurry of activity going on behind her and a picture of herself as Izzy in a little frame at the top of the picture.
"We're here at the Beverly Hills home of rockstar, Izzy Dwyer, which was broken into and vandalized late last night. Police assured us that the singer wasn't home at the time of the attack. In fact, when we tried to contact her publicist, Tanya Denali would give us nothing more than 'No comment.' Sources close to the rockstar say that she's been MIA for the past two weeks, not having been seen since Christmas Eve. Ms Dwyer's long time companion, James Tillman was also unavailable for comment. We'll keep you up-to-date as more information comes in."
Bella dropped her bag on the floor and covered her mouth with both hands, attempting to hold back a sob. All four sets of eyes turned in her direction. Emmett and Rose rushed to her side and held her comfortingly. Edward and Jasper stayed back, taking in the scene before them.
Jasper glanced at his brother-in-law from the corner of his eye and could tell that Edward was holding himself back from intruding on their family moment. His greens eyes were filled with concern and something else that Jasper couldn't quite put his finger on, but it was something he'd never seen when his best friend looked at Angela. He slid his gaze back over to Bella, who was trying hard to be strong and fight back tears in face of what he figured was a pretty scary moment. His respect for the girl increased and he started to formulate an idea of how to make her feel better.
Bella took a few deep breaths and leaned on Emmett as Rosalie rubbed her back in comfort. She didn't truly start to feel at ease until she looked up and found Edward's gaze. He smiled sadly at her and she swallowed thickly. For the first time since she'd been welcomed back with open arms, she wondered if being here was a good idea. She tore her gaze away from Edward and felt panic rise up in her chest. She reached down, picked up her bag and stumbled backwards toward the door.
"Bells?" Emmett asked, his voice laden with concern. "Where are you going?"
"I- I need to leave. I c-can't stay here," she stuttered out, fresh tears attacking her eyes.
Edward realized what was happening before anyone else and didn't stop himself from moving forward this time. He strode forward and cupped her cheeks, forcing her to meet his gaze. The other three were frozen in bewilderment, until his words cut through the air like a knife.
"Don't do this, Bella. Don't run. Don't pull away from us," he pleaded, with both his voice and his wide green eyes.
"Edward, I- I can't. I sh-shouldn't be here," she half-hiccuped, half-sobbed. "It's too dangerous! What if he f-follows me and one of you get hurt?"
He pulled her into his chest and held her tightly.
"Ssh, honey. Let us worry about that. We can take care of ourselves."
Realization washed over Emmett like a tidal wave and fear struck him square in the chest. Not for some asshole, who was a coward for preying on his pseudo-sister, but at the thought of losing her. He didn't think that he could go through that again. Rosalie reached out and touched her husband's arm, knowing exactly what he was thinking as she felt the same way. Although she'd only just begun getting to know Bella, she didn't want to lose her so soon.
Bella breathed deeply, trying to settle down. Edward pulled back and bent to look into her eyes once again.
"Please don't run away from us. I just found you, I can't lose you," he whispered imploringly, creating a crack in her armor.
The pain in his gaze was enough to make her heart skip a beat. She nodded slowly and released her hold on him. She ran both hands through her hair and gripped it tightly. She sighed deeply and dropped her arms to her sides, before turning to face everyone again.
"That bastard vandalized my house. What the fuck more do they want from me?" she spit out in anger.
"Maybe they're sending you a message?"
All eyes turned to Jasper, who merely shrugged in response to his previous statement.
"I mean, if they've been following you on a regular basis, they must've figured out by now that you've skipped town." He nodded towards the television for emphasis. "This might just be their way of letting you know that they're on to you. It might be a ploy to bring you out of hiding."
Emmett crossed his arms and frowned. "Well," he spoke, his eyes catching Bella's. "That settles it then. You're not going back there."
Even though she agreed with him at the moment, Bella still bristled at his over-protectiveness. "Emmett," she responded in a warning tone.
He sighed. "I know, I know. I can't help it. It's my first instinct to protect you, Scrappy."
She felt tears prick her eyes and before she knew it, she was in Emmett's arms, hugging him tightly.
"I love you, Em. So fucking much," she whispered brokenly.
"I love you, too, Bella. So fucking much," he whispered in return.
After pulling themselves together, it was decided that they would hold a group meeting to discuss the stalker issue at more length on Sunday, before heading to dinner at the Cullens. Soon, the others dispersed and wandered off to complete their own tasks, leaving Bella and Jasper alone in the bar. After a few minutes of silence, he casually leaned against the bar and smirked. Bella stopped what she was doing and looked at him.
"What?" she asked in confusion.
The smirk turned into a smile. "Well, I just thought of something that was pretty amusing."
"Ohhkay," she drawled out slowly, waiting patiently for him to finish his thought.
"I was just wondering how Alice would have reacted to that scene earlier."
She stiffened and shot him a glare, knowing exactly what he meant. "I have no idea what you're talking about," she lied.
The smirk returned to his face. "For the record, I think she was wrong to say what she did before. And she realizes it, too, but Edward is her twin and she's very... protective of him. I'd honestly fear for Angela's life if my wife had any kind of super power."
He straightened up and began checking the liquor stock. "But, I think she'd have been happy to see his reaction today."
Bella quirked an eyebrow. "How do you figure that? She all but pissed on his leg and told me to stay away."
Jasper barked out a laugh and shook his head. "Sounds about right," he muttered, before turning to look Bella in the eye. "Look, she messed up, no doubt about it. She over-stepped her bounds, but she still wants to see her brother happy. You do that and even though she may not come out and say it, she'll be grateful."
"Honestly, Whit," Bella replied, "she's the one who should be telling me this."
He smiled and nodded. "You're right and I'm sure she will at some point. I'm just smoothing the way."
Bella rolled her eyes and bumped his shoulder playfully. "Does she know how lucky she is to have you?"
His blue eyes twinkled happily. "Sure does."
She nodded in reply. "Good, I'd hate to have to kick some sense into her ass."
He laughed again, shaking his head. "I don't know about that, Bella-Bee. My Allie's a spitfire."
"Oh, I'm sure she is."
A comfortable silence filled the air as they set about setting the bar up for the night's business. Unease settle back into Bella's stomach and she replayed the news broadcast in her mind, multiple times.
"Ms Dwyer's long time companion, James Tillman was also unavailable for comment."
Her heart ached to be able to talk to her friend. For the past four years, he'd always been there for her and she for him. She wondered if he was worried and remaining silent to the media about her absence because of the letter she left him. The more she thought about it, the greater her anxiety became.
The night moved on in relative normalcy, except for the turmoil that swirled in Bella's head. When Emmett asked if she'd like to take a break at quarter after nine that evening, her thoughts flew to the pay phone on the sidewalk across the street. She quickly agreed and let him know that she was just going out for some air.
As soon as the door shut out the sounds of the bar behind her. She breathed in the cold night air deeply. Her eyes focused on her destination and she walked determinedly over to the phone located outside the closed convenience store.
Her heart beat furiously as she hesitantly reached out, tentatively touching the phone as if it were a snake ready to strike. Bella swallowed thickly and picked up the receiver, cradling it between her ear and her shoulder as she inserted coins and dialed the familiar numbers. She could barely hear the ringing over the staccato of her pulse in her ears.
"Hey, I'm not around to answer your call. Leave me a message and I'll get back to you."
"James?" she muttered in the mouthpiece. "Hey, it's me. I- I'm doing fine, in case you're worried about me. I saw the news today and it scared the hell out of me, so I'll be gone for awhile longer."
She breathed deeply and cleared her throat before continuing. "Calling you is probably risky, but I just needed to hear your voice. Even if it is a recording. I love you and I miss you. Bye."
She hung up the phone quickly, pulling her hand away as if it had been burned. She turned and quickly strode across the street, back to the low din of the weeknight barflies and background music from the jukebox. With each new song that played, need and desire filled the spaces in her soul. She began to fear that she'd drown in her own emotions if she didn't pick up her guitar soon.
Sunday came sooner than expected and Bella sat on her little bed, fingers caressing the worn carvings on her father's acoustic guitar, a treasure found in the attic of her house on Friday. When Edward had brought it down from the attic, instead of another box, her heart had almost burst with joy. She immediately pulled it to her chest and began tuning it, noting how the strings were old and frayed. It was nothing compared to the vibrant blue Gibson Les Paul that currently took up residence in her guitar case, but this was even more valuable to her heart.
The sound of Joey scratching and yipping at her door pulled Bella out of the trance she was in. Rosalie and Emmett were downstairs with Mac already, waiting on Jasper, Alice and Edward to arrive, rounding out their group pow-wow. She sighed and threw on her sneakers, figuring that she'd have to face the music at some point and why not get it over with. She wasn't sure how much this discussion would accomplish, if anything.
As she hit the bottom stair, heated voices pulled her into the living room. She was surprised to see that everyone was already here and they'd started without her. Both Edward and Emmett were glaring at Jasper, while Mac, Rosalie and Alice watched on from the sidelines.
"That's bullshit," Emmett hissed, his voice laced with anger.
Jasper shrugged. "I didn't say it was a good idea, just that it was viable option."
Edward shook his head vehemently. "No, absolutely not. It's too dangerous."
Jasper nodded. "Look, I understand you guys are worried about her safety, but what happens if she's found out? Or when she goes back to L.A.? You won't be there to protect her then."
Her heart hurt a little as she watched both of their faces fall with the reality of what their friend was saying.
"What's a viable option?" she spoke up, causing everyone's eyes to turn towards her.
The girls and Jasper gave her welcoming smiles, while Mac, Edward and Emmett's remained grim. When silence echoed throughout the room, Alice sighed.
"Jasper suggested that something be done to draw the stalker out into the open, in hopes of catching him."
Bella pursed her lips and let the idea roll around in her brain for a moment, before responding.
"That's actually a good idea," she murmured.
Edward shot her an incredulous look. "You can't be serious?"
"Why not? As long as it's in a controlled environment, I can't see what it would hurt."
Emmett clenched his hand and shook his head. "What it would hurt? Worst case scenario, you could get killed, Bella. This is not an option."
Jasper rolled his eyes and plopped down on the couch. "You make it sound as if I'm leaving her to the wolves, Em."
"Isn't that what you're doing? Nothing like that can be done without involving the authorities, or hiring security at the very least." Emmett turned to face her. "Can't we just move on and forget about everything?"
Her brow furrowed in confusion. "I don't understand what you mean."
Rosalie sighed in frustration and hid her face in her hands, knowing what was about to come out of her husband's mouth.
He waved his hands in an arc in her direction. "All of the L.A. talk- the Izzy Dwyer life- can't we just drop it and move on? Start a new life and forget that one?"
She blinked and felt her nose burn as tears pricked her eyes. "Forget the Izzy Dwyer life? Just like that?" she asked, her voice rising with annoyance.
Completely oblivious to the emotional hurricane brewing, Emmett shrugged his shoulders slightly. "Yeah. I don't see the problem."
Bella stalked over to him, barely noticing Edward backing away. "My mother may have changed my name and shoved me into a spotlight that I never wanted, but. It. Is. My. Life." She punctuated each word with a poke to his chest. "I love you all. So help me God, I love you. But I'm not running away from my life permanently. I love singing and writing and performing. It's the rest of the bullshit I can do without. I can't just up and drop everything to pretend to be someone I'm not."
Emmett sneered in annoyance. "Someone you're not? That's rich. You're Bella Swan. Isabella Marie Swan," he spoke in a hard voice, emphasizing the Swan each time, "not Izzy Dwyer. Or has the fame gone to your head?"
She felt the blood rush out of her face as her heart cracked a little. "How- How could you say that? Do I look or sound like I let fame go to my head, you big jerk? I've been Izzy Dwyer almost as long as I was Bella Swan. I'm not one or the other, Emmett. I'm both. And I need to reconcile that. Me. Not you. You don't get to judge me for that."
She turned and stalked over to the front window and stared unseeing out into the murky skies.
"Guys?" Mac spoke up in his quiet, yet authoritative voice. "Can you give us a moment?"
She reached up and covered her mouth, holding back a sob as she heard the murmured assents and bodies shuffling out of the room.
"You too, son."
"No 'But Dads', Emmett. You've done enough."
Refusing to take her eyes from the window, she heard the sound of the door smack against the wall loudly.
"I don't care how old that boy gets, he can still be put over my knee," Mac muttered as he moved to stand by her side.
She couldn't help but crack a small smile, remembering those same words spoken when they were kids. Back when things were so much simpler.
"Bella, I'm sorr-"
"No," she cut him off. "Don't apologize for anything. His words were his choice."
Mac sighed heavily. "I know, but in all fairness, he was hurt and he lashed out."
She turned her head and gazed at him in astonishment. "Fairness, Mac? What is it with you people? How was that fair to me? How is it fair that he can lash out because he's hurt? How is it fair that Alice can warn me away from becoming close to her brother? But it's okay because they meant well," she added sarcastically. "It doesn't matter who they hurt in the process."
The torrent that she had been holding onto tightly finally snapped and she sunk to her knees.
"It isn't fair. I did nothing wrong and yet I'm the one that's getting lashed out at." She gazed up at him through tears clouding her vision. "Why?"
Mac dropped down beside her and pulled her into his arms.
"Ssh, sweetheart, it's okay," he whispered into her hair.
"No," she sobbed quietly. "It's not okay. Everything is a mess and I feel like I'm drowning, Mac. I don't know what to do."
He pulled back and wiped her cheeks with his thumbs. "You get up, you dry your tears and you live each day one at a time. I know things look like crap at the moment, but things will look up, I promise."
She felt a familiar touch on her back, causing her to stiffen and turn her face towards Emmett. His brown eyes were puffy and red, full of remorse.
"You're a real shit, you know that?" she sniffled.
Emmett tugged her out of his father's arms and engulfed her in his embrace. "I know, but you love me anyway."
"You've always been an ass, I should be used to it by now."
His chest vibrated under her cheek as he chuckled. "Yeah, you should be."
After a moment, he pulled back and met her gaze. "I am so sorry for snapping. I know it's not your fault and I know you're you, no matter what name you go by or what your profession is. You're my Scrappy and I'm your Shaggy, nothing can change that. You know that, right?"
She leaned forward under the pretense of hugging him and wiped her nose on his shirt, nodding. "I know, Em."
"Did you just wipe your nose on my shirt?" he asked in amusement.
"Yes. Yes, I did."
"Fuck, I've missed you so much, little girl."
"Only my husband would grin over the fact that someone just wiped their snot on his shirt."
Bella peaked around his shoulder to find Alice and Rosalie standing just inside of the doorway, smiling softly.
Emmett shifted his body and laid an arm around Bella's shoulders. "It's a right of passage, baby. I know I'm not forgiven until she does something gross. Long story."
Rose shook her head and laughed. "I can only imagine."
Alice caught Bella's eye and smiled apologetically. She walked closer and played with her fingers nervously.
"Spit it out, short stuff," Emmett teased good-naturedly. "Your mom's apple pie is calling my name."
Alice snorted lightly. "Yeah, I hope she made an extra one so you don't cry this time."
Emmett glared at her playfully. "I didn't cry. It was the onions she was chopping."
"She was chopping onions during dessert?"
"Shut it, shorty."
She rolled her eyes and laughed before turning to Bella. "I'm sorry, but I couldn't help overhearing part of what you said earlier. I need to apologize for over-stepping my bounds. While I did mean well, it wasn't fair to you or Edward that I poked my nose into it."
Bella nodded and looked away somewhat awkwardly.
"Plus," Alice continued, "I'm glad you've become friends. I haven't seen him smile this much in years. Thanks for doing that."
She glanced up to judge her sincerity and was met with happy blue eyes. "It's okay, he makes me smile, too."
Alice smirked and her gaze flickered towards the hall. "Oh, I know. Trust me, I know."
She was about to question the girl's cryptic comment when Emmett spoke up and began ushering them out of the room.
"Come on ladies, pie waits for no man."
AN: Chapter song: The Cave by Mumford & Sons