Disclaimer: I make no assumptions that the characters in these books are of my creation. What I do with them, however, is.
Authors Note: This takes place going on five years after Eclipse. I like to pretend that Breaking Dawn doesn't exist. I think that most of us do. Shame on you, S. Meyers.
Fall had arrived in Forks, and with it a new month of endless downpour. I should be used to it by now, but every time it starts to rain I tuck my chin in my jacket and hope my hair isn't too bad by the time I get back home.
I bring it on myself, really. I came back to Forks after graduating from Columbia University in New York. Cities weren't really my thing…too many people, too much glamour. And the cold. If I had ever thought that Forks was cold, those beliefs were dashed when I spent my first winter in New York.
But the cold was good, at least for a while. The cold reminded me of him…of Edward. I wrapped a scarf around my face and imagined his fingers pulling it back and letting his lips rest on the soft part of the skin on my neck. I pulled on gloves and imagined him curled in bed with me, his fingers always the iciest part of his body.
And yet, a broken heart is mended in time. That's what my Mom kept telling me on phone calls between Phil's games. I braved the streets of New York, my English papers printed on sheets white as the snow, my feet leaving footprints behind in the slush and I tried, I really tried to forget about his existence.
I still haven't.
Which is why I'm back here, honestly, though I've denied it to everyone who has asked. How could I admit that four years had passed and I was still racking my brain for the whereabouts of someone who no longer loved me?
But again, I brought it on myself. I couldn't complain about the rain in Forks because I had come back. I had told Charlie over graduation dinner that he better get a moving truck and he was so happy that I almost felt bad for telling him that it was because I missed Forks.
And so, I rolled down the window of my car, shoving my arm out with my palm turned up, catching the rain.
I had the whole kitchen smelling like lasagna in less than two hours. It was Charlie's favorite, and I considered it rent of some sorts. A twenty-two year old shouldn't be living with her father, not with a college degree in the bag, I thought. She shouldn't be lounging in bed at noon when she could be getting a job somewhere.
"A twenty-two year old is simply too old for acting like a teenager." I told myself.
"What's that, Bella?"
Charlie hadn't been as lucky as I was in the rain. A recent string of burglaries on unsuspecting campers had left him out in the woods this whole miserable and wet week. He almost always came home soaked through.
"Nothing. I mean, I was just thinking aloud that we are too old to pretend we can eat anything and get away with it." I rubbed my belly while sticking it out. Charlie laughed.
"Maybe me, but you could use some skin. I still think you weren't using the money your Mom and I gave you for food back in New York." He chortled.
I stuck out my tongue.
"Don't sass the cook."
He hung his jacket on the hanger near the door and went upstairs. I checked the oven through the glass, careful to not open it and let the heat out.
I had two plates on the table by the time he got downstairs again. Dinner was just the two of us like always. We ate in comfortable silence, aside from chewing and swallowing.
"Did you add spice this time?" he asked and I shook my head. "It tastes spicy."
"Maybe your tolerance is going down, old man." We were snorting quietly in our pasta when the doorbell rang. "I'll get it. Stay, don't move."
My feet hit the floor and I counted the steps it took until I reached the doorknob and opened it.
One, two, three, four….seven, eight, nine-
I slipped and fell on my knees, my elbows hitting the floor at a bad angle.
"Ow, ow, ow. I can't believe I'm still so clumsy, what happened to aging with grace-"
And then I saw who was helping me up and my breath escaped me. I couldn't breathe. It felt like my windpipes were snapped in half.
Warm fingers lingered on my forearm, but only for a minute.
His hair was still cropped short, his skin so tan for the fall. I could tell he had been keeping in shape but his face had lost weight. His cheekbones came out a little more and I was surprised to know immediately why. He's a man now, I thought. How did that happen?
I thought in my head of a couple days ago, when I had been looking in the mirror and noticed for the first time some wrinkles on my forehead. Not prominent and they left as soon as I relaxed my face, but they were there. A few came out around my eyes and mouth, but that was standard.
Oh, I thought. That's how.
"I didn't know you were here." He said solemly. "If I had known I would have…" he trailed off and pushed a hand through his hair.
"You would have not come? Waited until I wasn't in the house?" I smiled. "Ignored some more of my letter?"
"I don't know what you're talking about, I didn't get any letters." He lied.
"Right." I grimaced tightly. "Well then, let's pretend that I'm not here. I assume you need Charlie?" He nodded. "Charlie!" I called and started to walk back to the table in the kitchen. Only seven steps were needed to put space between Jake and I.
"Is it Officer Tupaski again? I shouldn't have left him alone, he's so new." He stood and placed silverware on his empty plate.
"No. Actually…it's Jake." I tried not to let my face betray my discomfort.
"Oh." He responded. "Well I'll just…"
"Yeah, I'll clean up."
I washed dishes in silence, trying my best to clatter everything around loudly enough that I couldn't hear either of them, but Jake's voice rumbled over bubbles that slipped through my fingers.
"Damn it all." I muttered. How did he not know I was here?
Showers were still my favorite ritual. As much as I had tried over the years to cling to the coldness of him, I longed for warmth. For friendship. For home.
Every night I faced tiny needles that came onto my skin and blanketed me temporarily. My hair had used to get in the way, tangling and falling in my face. But before graduation I had hastily chopped it all off, a few inches below my chin. It was a lot to handle, most of the time trying to spring out everywhere, but I was lucky usually and cold run a brush through it until it curled up nicely.
I was combing it out on my bed, feeling the ever-going rain bringing down the temperature more and more. My bare legs were tangled in my sheets but I was barely dressed in a cami and a pair of black bikini underwear. It was cold, but as I kept reminding myself…didn't I like the cold?
There were short little pangs on my window. A light tap-tap-tap. For a moment I was seventeen again and I was afraid that Victoria was back. But she was dead, along with that particular part of my life. I had nothing to fear…right?
Cautiously I untangled myself and came down onto my floor. I slowly walked to my window and peered out. My heart beat faster. It was only Jake.
What is Jake doing here? My inner dialogue continued.
I opened my window and stepped back. I knew he'd be inside within seconds.
"Hey Bella." His feet barely thud on the floor. As big as he was, he was more graceful than I was. Everyone is though.
"We're adults now Jake, and you insist on throwing pebbles and coming in through my window?" I frowned.
"What else am I supposed to do, knock on the door at eleven pm? With the burglaries going on?"
"You know about the burglaries?" I whispered. I felt foolish for being afraid of waking up Charlie. I was a grown woman.
"They originated in La Push. But anyway, that's not why I'm here."
I raised an eyebrow.
"I'd assume not, considering you came here earlier for that." I dangled the bait. He took it.
"Right. Yeah. Sorry for that. I was only surprised."
"Surprises are for people who are usually happy upon getting them."
"And for people who disappear indefinitely."
"I sent you letters." I seethed.
"I didn't come to argue." He touched my shoulder. "I came to see if you were alright."
"I sent you letters letting you know how I was. Or did you not even open them?"
His smile twisted sadly, not complimenting his face at all.
"So you are alright, then? You're…well, you're human, at the very least." He let his fingers graze my cheek. I turned my face and they fell to his side. "I'm going to go now. Glad to see you're back, Bella."
He ran to my window, leaping out and softly falling to the ground. I always expected to hear a splash, as if he were diving in the ocean and swimming far away from me. Usually, he came back. I wasn't so sure this time.
Morning light fell through my window. For once, I was up way before noon. I glanced at my phone and saw that it was about seven am. My eyes traveled to the ceiling and I let my brain fall quiet.
When I sat up, I felt my hair tickle my cheek. It reminded me of last night, of Jacob grazing me gently.
I rubbed my eyes. Might as well make coffee and do something with myself.
"Charlie? I called as I walked down the stairs. It was a Thursday; normally he was awake by now if not already gone.
No answer came and his boots weren't at the door. I looked out the kitchen window and saw fresh tracks going away from the house. I was on my own.
It was amazing how well my old truck had held up over the years that I was gone. Bringing a car, much less an old truck to New York had seemed unnecessary, so I left it with Charlie and expected him to sell it.
When I came home not only was the hunk of junk still here but also it ran just as well.
"I fixed it up a bit when I knew you were returning." Charlie had told me.
My heart warmed when I walked out of the house with my coffee and saw it. It wasn't a conscious decision but I had poured my coffee into a thermos and walked out to my car, knowing there was some place I wanted to be more than by myself at home.
The inside of my car was a pleasant mixture of a pine smell and freshly ground up leaves. I took comfort in the shape and feel of the seats, the texture of the wheel in my hands. I took a sip of decaf before I put it in the cup holder and pulled out of the driveway.
Driving to La Push reminded me so much of riding a bike. When I first learned, I had fallen again and again until I had gotten it right. Then, when my mother had decided we were moving, I didn't get to ride for a long time. I thought that I would forget how to ride a bike and that I'd have to gain cuts and scrapes all over again. But when I got on, I just knew.
It was the same with driving to the reservation.
The roads weren't as twisted as I remembered them, but the trees…I could never stop appreciating the trees. Being in New York, I had forgotten that a world existed where there were trees and grass, slopes and water trickling down rocks embedded deep in the earth.
Coming back had been like opening the door to Narnia that I had imagined as a child. It was open and freeing. I felt…safe, though I was more alone than ever.
My car growled angrily when I parked it in a semi-deep ditch of mud. It would get back out just fine, but I patted it apologetically after I got out and shut the door.
"I'm sorry." I said and looked up at the house n front of me.
Still the same chipped paint and study wood. Still the same homey kitchen smell coming out into the air.
Still the same…Jacob?
I took a deep breath and walked up to the door. I braced myself for rejection, though I hoped that my effort to reach out would be enough. I knocked three times and stepped back. I waited.
It was Billy who opened the door. He smiled wide when he saw my face.
"Well. If it isn't the vampire girl."
I winced, feeling that spot in my heart I tried to keep hidden throb and ebb pain through my veins.
"Yup, I'm back."
I ran my fingers through my hair nervously, feeling them tangle in my curls.
"Well come in, don't be a stranger." He rolled back and away, his wheelchair squeaking a bit.
"Actually, Billy. I was here to see Jake…is he in?"
Billy turned and faced me again.
"Actually, he's down on the beach. He came back late last night in a funny mood. He's been down there since early this morning."
I nodded my appreciation.
"I'll be back." I said and turned.
I counted my steps again, but stopped after fifteen. I loved the feeling of fall wind on the reservation. It rustled my hair like an affectionate father and smoothed down my skin like a lover. I felt both refreshed and weary.
Jacob wasn't on the initial length of the beach. I looked both ways and decided to try left first. I climbed up the rocks that led into the forest and almost fell backwards.
"Bells?" he caught my arm, pulling me back up. "Clumsy as ever, I see."
I shrugged and smiled, feeling the heat of his hand through my sleeve.
"Your style hasn't changed. Hasn't anyone told you that bare skin is so 2005?"
He smiled a little at that and pushed out his chest.
"I stick with what gets the ladies."
I placed my palm on his chest, startling him a little. I ran my hand down his abs, stopping below his jeans. When I looked up, he was watching me curiously. He took my hand in his and placed it down near my thigh.
"So. Are you here to sunbathe?"
"Nah, I got enough sun in New York." I quipped.
"Then what brings you to my beach?"
"Your beach?" I smiled.
"Alpha." He pointed at himself, reminding me. "My beach."
I nodded. I had heard that after the war between the tribe, the Cullen's and the newborns, Jacob had done so well that he accepted his position as Alpha. I had pressed Billy for more during a break home my freshman year, but he had told me to ask Jacob myself. He clearly didn't know the coldness that Jacob had been practicing with me.
"I guess…" I tried to think. "I was just seeing if you were alright."
I thought of last night, of the look on his face before he turned and jumped out my window.
He laughed, a little meanly.
"I was never the one broken. Couldn't be, could I? Always the one fixing."
"Jake, please. Can we talk?"
"I tried. Remember, Bells?"
"But why can't you just listen then? I didn't marry him, did I? I didn't change, did I?" I clenched my hands into fists and tried not to punch him in the face. "I've done nothing to make you mad and yet you've ignored me for four years."
"Nothing?" he looked surprised. "Bella. You broke my heart."
He stepped back from me, quickly, and in a flash he had phased and was running away from me, down the beach and home.
I wasn't a teenager anymore and yet I was coping like I was one.
I don't know how long I sat in my room, cross-legged on my bed and staring out the window. I felt the cold settle, saw the leaves fall from the trees and a faint moan began to come from the earth. It was a deep, resigned sigh that seemed to admit defeat in the face of Winter.
I didn't move, except to sleep. In my sleep, my nightmares had managed to return. I tried my best to stifle my screams. I didn't want Charlie to worry about me. I was too old for this. I was so old…so tired.
And yet, he came in anyway. Almost every time.
"Still, Bella?" he asked me. "Again?" his heart sounded broken at these words and I wished I could give him more. A better daughter. One who provided for herself.
I said nothing and it all repeated itself, over and over again.
I managed to come down for dinner at one point, each time Charlie had a whole meal. I wondered when he had learning to cook and then I realized that when I came back he had let me cook for him more for my own sake than his…to make me feel needed.
It was always a warm dinner: soups, pasta, breads. I didn't give much thought to the heat and it often burned my throat.
Soup went down the wrong side and I coughed, reached for my milk but Charlie stopped me.
"Bella, how long is this going to go on? It's been a month and a half."
"What month is it?" I mumbled, a poor conversation starter.
"December. That doesn't answer my question."
"Dad, I don't know." I whispered. And I didn't.
How long does it take to fix a broken heart? I had broken Jake's and he seemed to be just fine. I, on the other hand, was barely a functioning member of society.
"Why did you come back if it's only going to make you miserable?"
"I'm not miserable."
"I can…stay home more? I can have the case files sent to me instead of leaving the house?"
"No." I shook my head. "No, Dad, it's ok. You need a life."
"Bella, you're family. You are my life."
You are my world now, Bella.
My heart couldn't possibly take in more pain. I had kept the pain at bay for so long, why was it coming back now?
"Thank you." I reached across the table and took his hand. I squeezed it and stood up. "I think…I think I'm going to bed."
But I didn't go to bed. I stay on my bed, awake, my legs no longer cramping but accepting being folded for hours. I was amazed that I hadn't gotten bedsores.
Snow was falling outside. I had missed all of fall…my favorite season in Forks, all things considering. What had I to show for it?
But it was an emptiness that couldn't compare to the one inside.
This time when the pebbles hit my window, I wasn't scared. I hoped it was Victoria back from the dead.
It was only Jacob.
"Go away." I hissed and tried to shut the window.
He was too quick, his hand catching the blow. He winced but managed to show it back up and hop inside.
"I'm sick of you coming and going whenever you want, Jake."
But I was happy to see him, regardless; a hollow happy, but a happy nonetheless.
I fell back on my bed and resumed staring out the window. He'd get it and leave eventually.
"Bells…I'm sorry. I've broken my promise again, haven't I?"
His promise. I remember a time similar to this, when Jacob had lifted me up from the depths. When he had warmed me from the inside out. He promised he'd never hurt me…he'd never leave me.
Everyone breaks his or her promises, it seems.
I shrugged. I refused to make eye contact.
"Bella, say something."
I looked up. Jacob came over and knelt on the bed, staring straight at me.
He shrugged and grinned.
"I promise Bella…I won't break it again. We can fix this, whatever it is that's wrong."
"I'm not a kid anymore, Jake. You don't need to save me."
"Why are you so fixated on how old you are? It's ridiculous."
"I'm twenty two years old, Jacob."
"So? And I'm twenty-one. We're still young, Bella. We make mistakes, all of us. And we all need fixing sometimes."
I looked up at him. He was smiling so earnestly. I couldn't deny him anything. Though time had passed, he was still my best friend.
"Stay." I didn't ask. I hoped he understood.
He took off his shirt and pulled up the covers. In a swift motion he had curled up behind me and pulled the sheets down on top of us. I felt his breath behind my ear. My head was tucked under his chin.
His arm wrapped around me and pulled me closer. I felt myself get pleasantly warm.
For the first time in awhile…I felt….
A/N: I can't even tell you how much I'd appreciate reviews. It takes five seconds to leave me what you think.