Edward left Bella in a misguided attempt to save her. Several years later Bella is an adrenaline junkie that crosses paths with the Cullen family during her University studies. Her world is turned upside down with the potential of Edward's return and danger that threatens to end it all. Will Edward have to save her, or will she manage to save herself?
1) The story starts approximately three years after the day Edward left Bella in the woods. It assumes Alice never saw Bella jump the cliff, and subsequently there was no impetus for the whole suicide-by-Volturi incident.
2) The James incident didn't happen quite the way you think it did. (You'll understand; it's in the story.)
3) This story is written in the first-person point of view, and sometimes switches between characters by scene or chapter. (Please do not panic; I do not repeat each scene from various points of view.) I do not label my chapters with character names, subsequently, your key is thus: Chapter titles that are short & succinct are Bella's, long witticisms are Esme's; song titles are in quotes, belonging to Edward, and Rose's are questions, finished off with an interrobang (‽).
Much love to cookEgawd and Blackjacklily for their betatasticness, and ProjectTeamBeta for even more Beta awesomesauce.
Disclaimer: All recognizable characters, settings and other miscellaneous stuff belong to Stephenie Meyer. Original characters and plot are owned by Her Mighty Ubergeekness. HMU/Her Mighty Ubergeekness is in no way associated with smeyer, and no copyright infringement is intended.
I yanked on my rigging and my wingsuit one final time, then nodded once towards my like-minded companions. We stood at the edge of the bridge, 1000 feet up from water and land. I took a second to settle my mind. It was then that I saw him; the vision was clear and crisp, and only became even more vivid in the moments that followed. I wondered why my memory was only capable of perfect recall when it came to conjuring his face.
Bella! He called to me.
His voice was filled with fear and alarm. Paradoxically, the more fear I heard in his voice, the more it soothed me.
I admit that I reveled in seeing him and all that came with the vision; I was filled with warmth, serenity, elation, and a twinge of desperation to feel his touch again. Then I allowed myself a second to wallow in the second set of emotions that came on the heel of those before—the hurt, the abandonment, the pain of betrayal and my bitterness over it all. I let the flood come and overwhelm me, then I looked down one last time.
"Fuck you, Edward," I whispered. Then I jumped.
That moment of seeing Edward's face was what I used to live for, but the seconds after were truly precious on their own. The inundation of emotion was always followed by half a minute of sheer... nothingness: a complete lack of pain punctuated by pure adrenaline, mental silence, and clarity. I knew I would pay for these moments of oscillating sentiment later if I found myself in my room alone, but for now the clarity is what I bathed in. I used my sight only to determine when I should open my chute. The rest of me took in the feeling of the fall against the wind and registered the fear of not knowing when I would land. The French have a name for the need to do these types of things; they call it l'appel du vide, or the call of the void. I was now deep into the void, and while in it, there was nothing but the force of the atmosphere against my form and the darkness. It was peace.
When I and my two fellow jumpers arrived at the bottom of the Royal Gorge, other fellow adrenaline junkies were there waiting to assist us with gathering our packs and getting us the hell out of dodge before the authorities showed up. I never thought felonious deeds would be a common occurrence for me, but hey, lots of things had changed since he left.
B.A.S.E. jumping and rock climbing had become my activities of choice in the years that I referred to as "After Edward." I knew that might seem silly, but compartmentalizing time that way seemed to have made it easier to forget the parts that it hurt to dwell on. I did eventually realize that my random, haphazard attempts to see and hear Edward had escalated to sheer recklessness, and they were likely to get me killed if I didn't stop sooner rather than later.
After a near-fatal adventure with a cliff dive on the Quileute reservation, I had decided to complete two last death-defying types of feats and let those be my last. Unexpectedly, they kind of stuck. Scaling hundreds of feet of rock and alternately launching myself off hundreds of feet of said rock turned out to be the closest thing I could find to a truly useful therapy session. Best of all, it gave me a controlled opportunity to both see Edward and completely forget about him, albeit for an extremely short period of time. Nonetheless, I found that the thirty seconds of clarity I got from my jumps often helped me make important decisions and they became one of the reasons for my fragmentary return to the world of the living.
It had been just over three years since that day he left me wandering in the woods after him, pleading for him not to leave me. Standing in front of a mirror in my dorm room at Carnegie Mellon University, I took in my appearance. Anyone that had known me for any length of time would admit that I look much the same now as I did then; I had rounded out a bit in a general sense, but underneath my new subtle curves was sinew and muscle from regular rock climbing. This firmness softened a bit during the school year since I could only make it out to climb on the weekends, but either way, the net result was that I still generally looked like the same Bella. My face had changed a bit, though, even I had to admit that. I lost a little of the youth in my cheeks and jawline, and in its place was a mild hardness that I couldn't get rid of, no matter how much I tried to alter it by willing it away when I looked at myself in the mirror. My face told the story of a girl that had been wizened by a hard hurt. I learned to consider it my war paint and wore it like a badge of honor. In spite of it all, I was coming up on my twenty-first birthday and I still managed to look like I was eighteen. I wondered how long my arrested aging would last.
I finished checking myself out in the mirror, picked up my backpack, and headed out to the main area of campus. I was anxious to get into the comfort of a rhythm. Once I fell into my school year routine, it settled like concrete; I rarely ever wavered. I talked to my best friend, Jacob, a few times a week, wrote my mom emails twice weekly, and made my customary fifteen minute phone call to my dad every week. Beyond that, my workload and my newfound tendency towards complete introversion kept me singularly focused on my studies. This also paid off financially; my performance in my design coursework helped me land a campus job as the lead teaching assistant for first and second year design classes. Adding teaching and tutoring to my list gave me a full plate. Besides that I ate and slept in my much coveted single dorm room in a converted mansion called Mudge House on the edge of campus. Halfway through my freshman year I was re-assigned into the one-bed dorm room I now adored. There weren't any downsides to this by any means; it meant I didn't have to deal with any obnoxious roommates, and I only had to share my bathroom with the adjoined double that comprised our suite.
The best part of the whole situation was that I had done surprisingly well in my major; my singular focus on my studies resulted in an overloaded schedule for two years straight, so my junior year would also be my last year. I was scheduled to graduate in the spring; it looked like I was really going to make it through the college experience, and I was surprised I had managed to stay focused long enough to do so.
All of this carrying on brings me back to where I wanted to start this story: the first week of classes in my junior year of college. It had only been a week since my jump off the Royal Gorge Bridge in Cañon City, Colorado, and I was already starting to see symptoms of withdrawal. I was also worn out from travel; Colorado was the halfway point in my trip from Forks to school in Pittsburgh, and now that classes had begun, my professors were piling work on quickly. I knew I would really have to focus to pull it together for my first Teaching Assistant session for Design Studio I. My job had somehow morphed within the last two years. It started as it was described on the campus job listings: assisting the professors by making copies and grading papers. By the second semester of my sophomore year, it turned into my running a pseudo-class for an hour each Tuesday and Thursday where I was tasked to help freshmen with their assignments and answer their questions. I was told that my responsibilities were quadrupled simply because I was good at it. I admit that I did get great feedback from the students, but I still think it was more so because I didn't complain about the slave wages they gave me. I was happiest when I was so busy I didn't have time to think, and I had every reason to expect that all my responsibilities this semester would leave me blissfully numb.
On my way to my Studio Q&A session I heard a strident voice call my name.
"Hey, Isa, hold up!"
I reluctantly turned around, and found a tall, sandy haired male staring at me. Kevin was a senior I had met two years back when he was a professor's assistant for one of my freshman year physics classes. Although he had always been polite to me, I had endured two years of turning down his advances. His persistence vaguely reminded me of Mike Newton from high school. I handled guys who approached me much differently now than I did back then. Where I once deftly evaded invitations and suggestions, now I usually replied with a flat,"No," or "I'm sorry, but I don't date...and no, I don't make exceptions." Kevin was the only recipient of my frankness who stuck around, convinced that someday I would change my mind. I frequently reminded him to the contrary, but it was no use. As nice as he was, I had always thought he just couldn't understand why I didn't fawn over his pectorals like other girls did. I wouldn't bother telling him that as someone who had spent years in close proximity of the boys in the wolf pack I was accustomed to far more impressive, regularly half-naked examples of the male physique.
When I turned around, he began to walk over to me. For a split second something just beyond him caught my attention. There was a woman with her red hair piled up into a loose, messy bun on top of her head, quickly disappearing into the West Wing building. I could have sworn she was looking right at me when I first noticed her. I squinted to get a clearer view of her, but my focus was broken when Kevin tapped me on the shoulder.
"Oh, hey, Kev, good to see you."
"You too! How was your summer?"
"Same old, same old. Hey, I'd love to catch up, but I'm gonna be late—I have to TA 51-102. We'll talk soon?"
"Yeah, that'd be great. I'll email you. I want to talk to you about helping me design a piece of lab equipment I need."
"Oh. Alright, I'll look for your mail. Bye, Kev."
I groaned in response to my discomfort. Since the second I noticed the woman with the red hair, I felt a headache coming on. This wasn't abnormal. Every time I saw a redheaded female I felt a pang of fear in my gut and my anxiety level spiked. It was an instantaneous migraine. I was almost used to it by now. Adding to my dread was the fact that I was scheduled to use a classroom in Margaret Morrison Hall, which had high ceilings and long, gaping halls. Every sound made in the lovingly nicknamed "Maggie-Mo" that wasn't behind a tightly shut lecture hall door reverberated in a way that I knew would kill me if I didn't find something to take for my throbbing head.
I probably forgot to mention that I had changed my byname. It was something that just kind of happened my freshman year. Some orientation counselor yanked me up to my feet and asked me what my name was in the middle of a huge crowd of new students during this cheesy icebreaker exercise, and for whatever reason I told them my name was Isa. It was a spur of the moment kind of thing, but I stuck with it. My subconscious must have known what it was doing, because it ended up making life easier in a lot of ways. It enabled me to keep most of what had happened to me before I started college shoved away in a tight little corner of my brain and not dwell on it. Well, I didn't dwell on it most of the time, anyway. Of course Charlie and Renée still called me Bells, and when Jacob found out I was going by a new moniker now, he just laughed and said, "Yeah, alright Bella, whatever you say." That was pretty much the end of the conversation as far as he was concerned.
Somehow I managed to get myself back in the game by the time students came pouring in at five o'clock. I concentrated on the fact that I really was good at what I did. I knew the material better than any other undergrad at the school, and students found it easy to talk to me and understand concepts as I presented them. I had learned to let these facts bolster my confidence since I had learned a year before that my only other options were to cower in fear or run from the thirty to fourty students that were due to pile into the room in minutes.
Thankfully, my first class session went smoothly. I was able to give the impression of an animated, fully functional human being, I answered everyone's questions succinctly, nobody walked out early, and nobody fell asleep. All in all, I thought it had gone well.
As students began to exit the class I warned them about what the design professors would expect, yelling so that the students halfway out the door would be able to hear.
"Don't forget, I promise you they're going to expect you all to be able to discuss the nature of the relationship between MATERIAL CHOICE AND ASSEMBLY METHOD! BE PREPARED!"
Since students were already leaving the room, the doors were open. I heard my voice reverberate and I cringed. I turned and sighed, dropping my facade and releasing the tension from my shoulders. I grabbed my papers and stuffed them into my bag, then I spun back around to make my way out of the room. I froze. The woman stood at the top of the left stair, blocking my most expedient way out of the room. Lovely as ever, she wore a pencil skirt and billowing blouse, and carried a briefcase in her right hand. When I met her gaze she gently dropped the briefcase onto the floor.
I don't like to post notes at the end of a chapter, and probably won't from here on out, but I'd like to ask you to *please* leave me a little review, and if you have a twitter account, leave me your username and I'll give you a shout-out. I'll send chapter teasers for all reviewers! Thanks so much!