Home Is Wherever You Are
She stood in the ridiculous gown, staring at her reflection in the mirror. None of this felt right. Taking a deep breath, she tried to tell herself it was just nerves, cold feet, that it was normal to feel this way. Marriage was a big step. Even bigger was the transformation she was supposed to go through. After today, she was leaving it all behind. Family, friends... Jacob.
She swallowed hard thinking of her best friend. She'd miss him so much. For so long he'd been the one person she could count on, the one person she could depend on. Jacob was the one person who knew everything... and didn't want her to change anything about herself. He loved her just as she was. Plain, ordinary and clumsy. The little nagging voice in her head kept telling her to run, get as far away from here as she can. Stubbornly, she refused. That damn voice in her head had been getting louder lately, and even harder to dismiss.
That's because you know I'm right.
She shook her head, trying desperately to shut it off and concentrate on other things. Like getting married in a few minutes. "Ok, Swan, you can do this", she told herself. Maybe if she said it enough, she'd actually believe it.
A small knock sounded from the door, and Alice's musical voice floated through the room. She cringed. Right now it sounded like nails on a chalkboard. "Bella? Charlie wants to see you."
Bella took a deep breath. "Sure, sure. Send him in."
Charlie's head peeked around the corner. "Bells?" He looked almost as uncomfortable as she felt. He hated dressing up, and that tux was a far cry from his usual jeans and flannel shirt.
"Hi Daddy." He didn't miss the confusion in her voice. She'd called him Daddy. That alone was enough to tell him something was wrong. She never did that unless she was sad. Damn, he wanted to put a stop to all this bullshit. He wasn't sure how it happened, but he was pretty certain his daughter had somehow been conned into the Goddamn thing. Charlie Swan was no fan of Edward Cullen or this marriage. Nothing about it seemed like his daughter. It was all too over the top for his shy little girl. Not to mention that he had some serious doubts about whether or not the little pansy would even take care of her properly. Bastard had abandoned her once already. He'd watched as she turned in on herself from the first day she met the little weasel. Letting him make choices for her, keeping her from her friends. Charlie had even gone so far as to talk to the police department psychologist about it, trying to get some advice. She'd called Edward's behavior manipulative. Damn good word for it.
He sighed in frustration. None of this was right, but there was no way to make Bella see that. If there was one thing his daughter was, it was stubborn. Right now, if he said black, she'd say white. Charlie hoped to God that Billy would have more luck. He was pretty sure that the old man wanted to talk to Bella about Jacob, and that was sure as hell one way to get her attention. Kid had worried obsessively over him when he was gone. She wasn't much more than a ghost of herself. Hell, it was almost as bad as when Cullen left her. Except this time, she was stronger. Jake had made sure of that. He'd turned her into a survivor.
Jake. Charlie sighed. It was so obvious to him that the two kids belonged together. Not that he wanted to rush them into anything. That wasn't the case. It was just that everyone could see it. If that punk ass Cullen hadn't decided to waltz back into her life, arrogant prick that he was, then she and Jake would have naturally ended up together. It was as plain as the nose on your face. She loved Jake, but she was obsessed with pretty boy. Edward. He snorted. Damn punk reminded him of a third rate mobster with all his expensive clothes and fancy cars.
"Dad?" Charlie shook himself from his thoughts. Bella was staring at him expectantly. He took a deep breath, and prayed that whatever Billy had planned worked. "Bells, honey, Billy is here, and he hoped to see you before the wedding. Do you have time?" Charlie crossed his fingers.
"Of course, Dad. Billy's family. Everyone else can wait, time or not", she stated firmly, just knowing Alice was listening in. Truth be told, there really was no time, but what were they going to do? Start without her? This was her wedding day, and they'd start when she was damn well ready. The little voice in her head nagged at her.
You'll never be ready.
Alice clicked her tongue impatiently when Bella came out on her fathers arm, and walked down the stairs to go see Billy Black. She didn't like her schedule being thrown off, not one bit. She'd planned for the sun to be sinking over the horizon when the "I Do's" were spoken. The timetable was precise. They had to start in the next five minutes or everything would be off. Rose glared at her sister from across the room, ecstatic that Bella had finally exerted a little independence over her family. The whole wedding was an overblown fiasco in her mind, and if Isabella Swan had half a brain she'd run like hell while she still had the chance.
Bella made her way out onto the terrace, finding Billy waiting for her, Seth standing in close proximity. Of course Sam wouldn't let Billy come to the wedding without a guard. There were tons of vampires here. Honestly, she didn't like it. Why did she have to have a bunch of people she didn't even know watch her walk down the aisle? Hell, she was probably going to face plant wearing the damn death traps Alice called shoes. Low heel, my ass, she thought. Yup, she was ninety-nine percent certain that she was going to trip and break something. Then perfect strangers could laugh at her clumsiness. The voice in her head started nagging her again as she carefully picked her way over the stone terrace to Billy, wishing like hell for her comfy old chucks.
Jake would never let you fall.
The truth of it smacked her in the face. She really didn't didn't want this. None of it. Not the wedding, not becoming a vampire, and if she were really honest... not even Edward. But, how could she get out of it? Everyone was here. She'd embarrass the Cullen's, and be a laughingstock.
So what? The voice whispered at her in irritation.
Seth jolted forward, a happy smile on his face, his big arms wrapping her into a warm hug. "You look beautiful Bella."
Bella melted in his touch, allowing his heat to seep into her bones. So big, so warm, so protective and loving.
So much like her Jacob.
She sighed, silently agreeing with the little voice in her head. She wanted Jacob today, and wondered where he was. He'd never not been there for her before. Never once had he disappointed her.
Seth linked his arm with hers, steadying her last few steps to Billy.
Billy Black. By all rights he should hate her. She knew she'd broken Jacob's heart. She was about to marry his mortal enemy. It was the ultimate sin in his world. A crime against nature, an abomination. In doing so, she was going against every single thing Billy stood for. She was forcing him to lie to her father, his best friend, to boot. She'd lain awake in bed for hours the night before, wondering how the Cullen's would fake her death, and if Billy would break down and tell Charlie the truth. It was all so screwed up. If that day ever came, she knew Charlie would hate her. She'd been a terrible daughter to him. Silently she vowed that if she could somehow get out of this mess, she'd make it up to him. She'd do more than just feed him meals. She'd laugh, she'd hug, she'd let him in her life. She'd love him the way a daughter should.
Bella stood before Billy. He looked her over appraisingly. She felt more than uncomfortable. She was ashamed. The damn dress Alice put her in could have fed Billy and Jacob for two months. The flowers alone could have food on a dozen different tables for weeks. It was too extravagant, too showy. She liked simple. For all of her claiming to be Bella's best friend, Alice never listened to her, her opinions never counted.
Emily listens to you. She likes hearing your opinions.
That nagging voice was right. Bella found herself blushing with new found anger.
She drew herself up as tall as she could, managing a small smile. "Charlie said you wanted to see me?" she asked. Might as well cut to the chase. Billy was always pretty blunt. She appreciated that about him. He didn't sugarcoat anything for her.
Billy didn't compliment her on her dress, or tell her she how beautiful she looked. Instead he handed her a letter, along with an explanation. "Bella, Jacob didn't come today. He asked me to give you this." Billy's voice was stern. "I don't know what it says, Bells. All I know is that boy of mine never writes anything down on paper. So, whatever's in this envelope is important. I think you should read it now." He wasn't asking. He was telling.
Bella shifted nervously in place. Her feet were killing her already, and she was starting to get sick to her stomach. Billy noticed, jerking his head towards a patio chair. Seth grabbed it, and Bella sank down gratefully. "Thank you." She felt like a damn child.
Billy chuckled. "Can't have you falling down and cracking your head open. Half your guests would think it's time for dinner."
Bella laughed a little. "It's ridiculous, I don't even know those people", she admitted, making a sweeping gesture to the house. She looked down at her lap, ridiculously huge dress ballooning all over and frowned. "I look like a big frosted marshmallow." She hated feeling this way, and making it worse, she couldn't tell if Billy was looking at her with sympathy or anger. Suddenly she wanted to confess it to him. She needed to. The words fell out of her mouth without conscious thought. "I don't want to do this."
Billy's black old eyes studied the young girl carefully. He'd known and loved her as his own from the day she was born. It took alot for her to admit that. But, admitting and doing were two very different things. Isabella Swan was too used to doing the right thing, even if it wasn't what she wanted, or the right thing for her.
"You don't have to do this", he stated. He covered her small white hands with his large work worn ones. "Bella, this isn't about anyone else's feelings but your own. Marriage, no matter who it's with, should never happen with any doubts." Tears pricked his eyes. "I loved my Sarah with all I had. Looking back, it was the happiest day of my life when I married her. There was never any doubt or regret on my part or hers. Each and every single day I had with her was a gift. She wasn't just my wife, she was my best friend. The one person in the world who loved me and accepted me exactly the way I was." He watched as Bella dropped her head in defeat. "I'm not your father, but I love you like a daughter and I know Charlie would agree with me. If you have any doubts, any hesitation, you should walk away right now. Don't worry about the vampires, the pack will protect you."
She jerked her head upright. The last thing she wanted was for anyone else to die for her. "Billy, I-"
"No arguments, Bella. Just read the letter." She looked up to see Seth standing there resolute. There wasn't going to be any privacy. She knew it. These two were on a mission. Bella's fingers trembled as she slit open the envelope and unfolded the simple lined sheet of paper. Billy and Seth studied her reaction as she read, both pretty sure that it was one last goodbye from Jacob.
I love you. Not that it makes a damn bit of difference. Those three words feel so insignificant right now, and I feel so small. I can't come to your wedding. I'm sorry. I got up today, I got dressed, I planned to go. Then it all hit me. I can't watch you walk away again. Because, that's what it is. You're walking away from me, from this life and everything in it. Seeing will hurt too much, and I know you'll understand, and won't think it's selfish.
I wish things could have been different. I wish that you were walking down that aisle to me. Whether it's a week from now or ten years from now. I love you so much, and god, I feel like I've said that to you so many times, and felt my own heart break each and every time. The worst part of all this is knowing that it's not enough. That life isn't enough. That I'm not enough. Do you know how beautiful our life could be? I do. I can see it, Bells. Long lazy days, full of laughter, friends and family. Our dads bickering like an old married couple while we roll our eyes and shake our heads at them. I dream about it. Each and every night. You, me, a family. We would have had such a beautiful life together.
So, this is my gift to you. I'm letting you go. instead of watching you marry him, I'm going to our place on the beach. I'll watch the sunset, and I'll remember you and I, making sandcastles, holding hands, walking side by side. I'll think of all the times you tripped and I caught you. I'll feel your small hand in mine, and I'll close my eyes and daydream about your blush, your smile, the way you felt in my arms on that mountain. Did you know you have a beautiful smile, Bells? Almost as beautiful as your laugh.
I love you. I will always love you. Five, ten, twenty, fifty years from now, I'll still love the girl who stole a boys heart. It will always be yours.
Bella's gasped for air. The realization hit her like a ton of bricks. She couldn't do this. She couldn't marry Edward. She was in love with Jacob, and it was enough. More than enough. If she got married today, she'd regret it for the rest of her life. If she was turned, she'd live forever, hating herself, hating Edward. She looked up at Billy. "I have to go. I can't do this."
Her meaning was clear. She was not going to marry the leech. He grinned in satisfaction. "I think that's the smartest choice you've ever made."
She bit her lip. "I'm sorry, Billy. I'm so sorry for everything."
He smiled. "You're entitled to make mistakes, Bella. It's what makes you human." He grasped her hand, imparting just a little more wisdom. "You know what I think? Life is one big road. You choose your path to happiness. You and Jake, you might have travelled different roads, but in the end, they both lead to the same place. Sometimes it just takes awhile to get there."
Billy glanced at Seth. It was time. They came prepared, hoping she would see reason. Seth stepped forward, taking her hand, turning it palm up, dropping something familiar into it. The keys to her motorcycle. A one way ticket to find Jacob. "It's parked out front."
Bella stood, and for the first time in months, she knew exactly what she was going to do. She kissed Billy on the cheek. "Thank you." She turned and made her way back inside to face the music.
Edward was waiting by the door. He'd heard every last word. His heart was breaking, and part of him was angry. He thought that he'd finally been rid of Jacob Black. Forcing her into this marriage was the one way he knew how to hang on to her. "Isabella, love, don't do this."
"I'm sorry, Edward, but I have to." She picked up her skirts, making her way to the front door. She was walking away from him, forever. Edward grabbed her arm tightly. "Love, don't you understand? You belong to me."
She flinched with pain, but she was no longer going to be meek and submissive. This was her decision, not his. "That's the difference between you and Jake. He doesn't think he needs to own me." She tried to wiggle out of his grasp, but he was strong, so much stronger than her. "Let go, Edward. You're hurting me!"
"No." His voice was hard and even.
She gasped, looking up at his face. It wasn't angelic or handsome. It was possessive, dangerous, and deadly. She was getting a glimpse of his true nature. "Please, Edward, don't do this", she begged.
Then a thousand things seemed to happen at once. Charlie came rushing into the room, seeing Edward acting like a thug, and he moved forward to protect his daughter. Before Charlie could reach her, Rosalie came rushing into the room, and from outside, Seth came bursting in, followed closely by Paul, who was ready to spill blood. "Let her go now!"
Bella jumped. She'd never seen or heard sweet, kind hearted Seth so full of righteous anger. Billy wheeled in behind them. "Charlie, get the hell out of the way and come over here!" he demanded.
Charlie shook his head. "NO! Not until he lets go of my daughter!" He stepped forward, reaching for her her arm, but was pushed backwards by Paul. "Stay back, Charlie. We'll handle this." Charlie sat on his ass, eyes wide, feeling like he'd been punched in the chest. When the hell did Paul Lahote get so strong?
Rosalie snarled, ready to pounce. "Let her go, Edward, before I rip that arm from your body."
"Listen to her leech", growled Paul. "DO IT NOW!"
Edward's eyes darted around the room, looking for an escape. Slowly, he started to take a step towards the window, dragging Bella with him. "Don't even think about Edward!" Carlisle had burst into the room, angrier than anyone had ever seen him. "Let her go."
"She's mine!" he screamed. "We're getting married! Isabella, love, I'll give you anything you want. Don't do this!"
Waves of calm fell over everyone as Jasper stepped into the room, closely followed by the rest of the Cullens. Reluctantly, Edward dropped her arm. "Bella, Go! NOW!" shouted Rose.
With uncharacteristic grace, Bella rushed out of the house, weary and desperate to find Jacob. The sun was starting to set, she was running out of time. What if he left before she got there? What if he took off again, and this time, didn't come back? She'd never forgive herself. She looked around at the mess of cars, her eyes quickly falling on her shiny red bike. She hiked her skirts up to her knees, straddled it and stuck the key in the ignition, praying to God and whoever else was listening not to let her tip over halfway to La Push.
She must have looked like a lunatic speeding down the road. The wind ripped the veil from her head, likely landing in the trees somewhere. Her dress kept billowing all around her, threatening to fly up and obscure her face. She wobbled dangerously on the curves, the weight of the silk tipping the motorcycle sideways, as she threw her body in the other direction trying like hell to stay upright. Her legs felt like ice cubes, her face half frozen, and she was pretty certain she'd swallowed a bug or two. It didn't matter. At this point a bird could shit on her head and she wouldn't care. All that mattered was Jacob. The truth of his words, haunting her like a dream. She had to tell him. He needed to know how she felt.
Finally the trees of the familiar road gave way to houses, and she could hear the water lapping in the distance. Driving straight onto the sand, she leapt off the motorcycle, letting it crash to the ground. Bella ran the length of the beach, hopping and wrenching the ridiculous shoes from her feet. She was close, so close. Her eyes searched for him, and she could feel her heart sinking. He wasn't there. She collapsed in front of the twisted, bleached out tree, chest heaving, gasping for air. Her dress was torn, dirty, smudged with dirt and grease, her hair a tangled mess of snarls. She was a wreck, and didn't find it in her heart to care.
"Bells?" Her head jerked, hearing the rich, husky voice she loved so much. Her eyes pinched closed. She was imagining things. He wasn't there. "Bells, honey, what are you doing here?"
Slowly her eyes fluttered open. He was standing in front of her, pants rolled to his knees, a loose fitting white shirt untucked, and only halfway buttoned, showing the heavy sculpted muscles of his chest. The sun illuminating his confused face. He looked like a God, and she looked like a damn mess.
Jacob thought he'd never seen something so beautiful in his whole life. Her cheeks were pink from the wind, she was breathless, and there was a determined look on her face that he'd never seen before. Jacob reached a hand out, pulling her upright. She collapsed against his chest, breathing hard and shaking. His heart wrenched with worry. "Honey, what is it?"
His scent washed over her like a warm blanket. This was where she belonged. She'd known it all along, but was so stubborn, so foolish. Yet, she still couldn't find a way to tell him. The words were there, she just couldn't make them come out. All she could do was stand there like an idiot, breathing him in. She couldn't even look him in the eye. Coward. She mumbled against his chest. "I read your letter."
Jacob froze, and she grabbed him tightly. She knew what he must be thinking. That she was just here out of guilt, that she would turn and leave again. Not today. Bella looked up into his eyes. "I love you. I'm not going to marry Edward. I love you."
In that second, in that moment, the floodgates opened, and Jacob Black felt hot tears sliding down his cheeks; crying, laughing and smiling at the same time. "Say it again", he begged, desperate to hear the words once more.
Bella brought her small hands to his face, cradling his cheeks, wiping away his tears. Her voice was strong and clear, her gaze locked onto his. "I love you."
His mouth crashed down on hers, lips warm and soft, kissing her hard, savoring the feel of her of her body pressed against his, the way her heart beat wildly in her chest. It was a long battle, a hard won victory, but now that he had her...
He pulled away from her mouth. She had to know. "Bells, there's no turning back from this. You can't walk away from me again. It would kill me to lose you. You are all I see." Jacob searched her eyes for recognition, waiting for the words to sink in. She gasped, finally understanding the true meaning of his statement. She was his soulmate.
"When?" she asked.
Bella was shocked. "You didn't tell me?" she asked. "Why?"
He shrugged. "I wanted you to be happy."
"You're an idiot."
He smiled brilliantly. "Yeah, but I'm your idiot." He pulled her close, resting his forehead against hers. "I'm never going to let you go, Bells." He kissed her once more, and she could feel the bond strengthening between them. This man was all she would ever need, ever want. Billy had been right, it was a long hard road, but from now on, they'd travel it together. The sun sank down beneath the ocean, and Bella knew she was no longer torn between the moon and the sun. Twilight was over, and a new life was just beginning.
He laced their fingers together, leading her down towards the water. Her foot got tangled up in the mountain of fabric she wore. Jacob steadied her, like had a million times before. It suddenly felt wrong to be wearing the damn thing while she was standing here with him. Bella was ready to go. She wanted to get out of this ridiculous dress, and take a hot shower. Forget the whole day had ever happened. "Jacob, take me home."
He frowned a little, confused. She'd been living at the Cullen's. "Charlie's you mean?"
She smiled up at him. "No. Home is wherever you are."