**All characters within this story belong to Stephenie Meyer. I own nothing. This story is Bella/Jacob centric, but Jacob will not be making an appearance until Chapter 3, at which time I will try to make up for his late arrival with some juicy lemons. hehe
The first thing I notice every time? I'm beautiful. It hits me directly first thing going in, and I swell with pride as if beauty is a redeeming quality. I'm always disgusted by my vanity later. But it is what it is; I'm beautiful and that makes me insanely happy. And even though it appears to be dark I can see that my hair is richer and glossier, my skin is luminescent and pale as porcelain perfection, my lips fuller and pinker. Even my eyes, which shine bright crimson, seem to make the whites of my eyes whiter and bring a faint rose blush to my cheeks.
The second thing I notice is the grace with which I move. I flow down the long hallway as if walking upon air, despite the stiletto heels on my feet. Alice must be dressing me floats through my conscious thoughts as I note the classic black fitted dress that drapes over my lithe body.
The home is unfamiliar and changes every time. Tonight I'm gliding down a long hallway, headed for the door at the very end; quiet and stealthy as a panther. I silently push the door open and a young blonde haired woman in a pink robe is standing just at the other side, her blues eyes widened in surprise.
There's a dizzying blur and I'm holding the woman, my arms wrapped around her waist and back. At first I think I'm embracing her; I must know her I think. But then I hear the awful crunching and I know; the crunch of teeth ripping flesh and cartilage and tendons. And then suddenly I'm not watching anymore, I'm in that beautiful body and I feel the hot, liquid torrent spurting with every heartbeat through her carotid artery and I can taste the sweet throat-quenching fluid as I gulp it down hungrily. More, more, I'm so thirsty and the flow is slowing and I'm sucking at her, slurping as I drain her dry.
I turn in surprise and annoyance at being interrupted, and she's looking up at me questioningly. I release my hold on the woman and her body drops to the ground in a heap. The child; the little girl is looking at the corpse on the floor and I can feel her warmth emanating from her little body in front of me. I can smell the sweet almost vanilla scent of her skin and I'm thirsty. I'm still so thirsty. Just a little more. Just a little-
I hear someone screaming and open my eyes and it's dark and I'm shaking and I'm alone. I touch my face, I touch my skin and it's cool, but not cold, not like theirs; and it's soft not hard. I'm okay, I'm okay; it was just a dream. I'm glad Charlie is working a second shift tonight so I'm not waking him up again. It's been three weeks; three weeks of constant nightmares every night. Different places, different people, but the same inevitable ending. Me killing, me murdering, me sucking their blood dry.
The nightmares had stopped when Edward and I returned from Italy months ago. But since the fight with Victoria and the newborns, I haven't had a night of peace since. I tell myself it's because of the stress of that day. I mean, who wouldn't be affected? Luckily no one was killed, but it could have happened; we didn't know going in that we would be so lucky.
But I know the real reason has nothing to do with the fight. It has to do with what happened after the fight. My decision; my final decision. The choice that had to be made that I can't undo now. I shut my eyes and I can see his face; the anguish from my words. His body had been crushed; the bones on one side almost all completely broken and yet my words had caused him more pain than his wounds. And I could never take that back.
I force my eyes open and shakily get up from my bed and make my way to the window. It's locked, but just to be sure, I unlock it, re-open it, slam it shut and re-lock it with all my strength.
I know a locked window couldn't keep Edward away if he really wanted to be here, but he has respected my wishes and stays away at night now. I told him it had to do with the wedding; I made up a lame story about wanting our first married night together to feel like the very first time we've spent the night together. I know it makes no sense, but he doesn't question my logic. He just gets a pained, unsure look on his face and nods briefly in agreement. He's made no attempt since to talk me out of it. He knows I'm nothing if not stubborn.
But I know if he witnessed one of my nightmares, if he couldn't figure out for himself what I was dreaming (damn my sleep talking), he wouldn't rest until he'd gotten it out of me himself. And I've never lied to Edward. But I don't want to hurt him either. So it was just best if he stayed away.
Until the dreams become a reality…..
I checked the window one more time.
"So we have an appointment to view some dresses next Friday at 2:00; make sure to keep your calendar clear, Bella."
I smiled at Edward across the table as he rolled his eyes at me. He knew I didn't care if I wore a potato sack and Emmett married us in Charlie's backyard.
"Did you hear me Bella?" Alice didn't even wait for me to answer her before she continued. "I really think we should focus on traditional gowns, it will save us a lot of time if we can narrow it down and –"
All I heard was "blah, blah, blah, blah, blah."
Edward's hand reached for mine under the table and we both tuned Alice out while we gazed into each other's eyes. I couldn't understand what was going on at night. In the light of day, when Edward was sitting across from me and his butterscotch gaze conveyed so clearly that I was the only girl in the world that mattered, it just seemed so right. I wanted to be right here, right in this moment forever.
"Ah, forget it; I give up. You two aren't even listening to me! I'm doing all this for the two of you!" Alice got up from the table abruptly and stalked from the room. I put my hand over my mouth and giggled while Edward made a face and laughed along with me.
He glanced at the clock on the wall in the steely immense Cullen kitchen. "Are you getting hungry, love? We could go and get you something to eat?"
I looked at the time and pulled my hand away to get up from the table. I didn't know it had gotten so late.
"No, that's okay. I have pork chops in the fridge at home for Charlie and my dinner. I'd better get going."
"Alright, let me walk you out."
We took our time strolling to my truck, prolonging the last few minutes we had together. Edward opened the door for me and pulled me into his arms before I hopped up into the cab. He didn't kiss me and he didn't say anything right away, he just held me close. I sensed he had something he wanted to say and I tensed a little in trepidation. Emoting his feelings was not one of Edward's strong points.
Just as I suspected, he pulled away slightly and brushed my hair from my face and I could see him struggling for the right words.
"I really miss you at night, love," his cool breath tickled my neck and ear.
I know," I said tightly. "I miss you too."
"Then why don't you leave your window open tonight and we can be together?" he smiled gently. "Just like before?"
"Edward." I took a step away from him, looking at the ground. Why did he have to make this difficult? "I told you; I think we should wait. It will be something to look forward to."
He looked at me doubtfully. So I tried another tactic.
"Besides, it's difficult for me to lie next you through the night knowing you won't…." I lingered off in embarrassment.
"Knowing I won't what?" His voice was tight.
"Knowing you won't make love to me," I whispered. I hated having this conversation, but it got the ball out of my court and put the pressure back on him.
"Okay." He kissed my cheek quickly in dismissal. I knew that would work.
We both smiled weakly at each other as I got behind the wheel and he closed my door. He stayed in the same spot watching me drive away down the road until I couldn't see him anymore.
"Hey Dad. Perfect timing," I set the mashed potatoes on the table next to the pork chops and green beans. "Shouldn't you have been home an hour ago though? Late arrest?"
"No," he said washing his hands at the kitchen sink and avoiding looking at me. "I was at the Black's. Sue asked me to check her water heater and while I was in La Push I thought I'd stop and see how Jacob was doing before I came home."
I actually flinched at the mention of Jacob's name.
"How is he?" I tried to sound casual, but my voice came out tight instead.
Charlie sat at the table still avoiding my gaze. "Why don't you go out there after dinner and judge for yourself?"
I scooped some potatoes onto my plate and the bowl slipped from my fingers, banging back down on the table.
"I told you he doesn't want to see me," I said and it felt like there was a lump in my throat. I was surprised when I felt the sting of tears in my eyes.
Charlie sighed and finally looked me in the eyes. "Why don't you just try Bells? Just try."
I shook my head. "Maybe," I mumbled.
The rest of dinner was very quiet.
I emerged from the sleeping bag and crawled toward the tent's entrance, unzipping it just enough for my body to squeeze through. The ground was covered in snow and the path leading from the tent was canopied by snow-laden willows. I walked down the tight path toward an opening in the trees and a vast expanse of meadow in the distance. Once past the trees, I recognized this place; it was our meadow; mine and Edward's meadow. The grass was green and the snow had magically disappeared. In fact the sun was shining now and I could see fresh dew on the daisies strewn throughout.
I just knew Edward must be here waiting for me. I walked quickly through the lush foliage, looking back and forth for him. There was a flock of trees up ahead and I hurried toward them, my feet seeming to know exactly where to go.
Beyond the bushes ran a small creek and at the water's edge were a pair of shoes; very large, black sturdy men's running shoes. Who did they belong to? No one was here. Was someone playing a game with me?
I heard his voice just as I spied the rock up ahead. It was low and hard to understand over the sound of the creek's running water, but I'd know Edward's voice anywhere. I smiled and picked up my pace heading for the rock. I could see the top of his bronze head now and I quieted my step as if I could actually sneak up on him. The side of his face was sparkling in the sunlight and as I drew nearer I saw he was speaking to someone. Someone with long, dark, flowing hair.
"That's right, love, that's right. Isn't that good? Don't make a mess now," he was encouraging them.
Something glinted in the sunlight at my feet and I noticed a necklace lying imperceptibly in the lush grass; a carved wooden wolf attached to a thick silver chain. I knelt and picked it up in my hand, studying it; it was so familiar.
I was just upon the two figures when Edward's companion stood fluidly; her white gown covered in blood. I stared in terror and recognized it was me; my mouth stained red and dripping; my eyes, glowing with the same furious fiery hue and the last thing I saw was the body twisted at an angle at their feet before my screaming woke me from my nightmare.
My door flew open as I sat up, panting, trying to catch my breath and stop the shaking.
"Bella! Bells, honey, are you okay?" Charlie sat on the edge of my bed groggily; reaching up to pet my hair as I tried to nod and calm myself. I hated that I woke him for this yet again.
"I'm okay Dad," I breathed. "Just…you know; the usual." I tried to smile reassuringly but my lips faltered; not cooperating.
Charlie shook his head, still petting my hair. "Bells, what's bothering you honey? What is it?"
"I don't know Dad. I'm okay though. It'll be okay. Just….give me a minute."
He took a deep breath; Edward wasn't the only one who had a hard time with difficult conversations. "Is it the wedding, Bella? Because if you're not ready to get married; there's no shame in postponing it. Or calling it off completely," he added.
"No Dad. That's not it."
Charlie sat there with me till the trembling stopped. My father wasn't a big talker, but he was solid. Reliable. Probably why he was a great Chief of Police. His presence was calming and reassuring. I choked back a sob; I was going to miss him.
I put my hand on his. "I'm okay now Dad. Go ahead and go back to bed."
"Are you sure? I can stay here for a while if you want."
"No," I managed a weak smile. "I'm good; go ahead."
He patted my hand before reluctantly standing up and heading back to his room.
"Dad?" I asked him just before he shut the door.
"How is Jacob?"
He stared at me a long time before he answered.
"He's better. Billy said Dr. Cullen said he'll be just fine. And he looked and sounded pretty good when I saw him today. Okay?"
I nodded and he shut the door. I lay back down and fell back into a dreamless sleep.