One Last Candle

Disclaimer: S. Meyer owns Twilight.

Bella was feeling so guilty. He was her best friend for crying out loud. Just because she was engaged to Edward, did that mean that she shouldn't see him anymore? She had complied with her fiancée's wishes and didn't get Jacob a gift, but knowing him the way she did, that wouldn't matter as long as she was there to celebrate with him. He would be eighteen years old today; she needed to be there for that milestone.

She feigned a headache so she could leave the Cullen's abode. Waiting until after 8:00 to get in her truck and head to La Push, she keyed the ignition only to find that the stupid truck wouldn't start. All she got for her efforts was a sickening click. She looked under the hood—for what she didn't know. It was however, plainly obvious even to her eyes that the battery was mysteriously missing. Edward!

This was the last straw. She slammed down the hood, huffed out loud, and marched into the house. The grossly ostentatious engagement ring got ripped from her finger and the bauble attached to Jacob's bracelet got yanked off as well. She placed them both in an envelope along with a scathing letter to Edward, breaking off their relationship. It's not like this was a split second decision either. Edward's possessive and over protective ways were smothering her.

She needed air to breathe again, and let's face it; Jacob was that air. For the last two months little things were piling up. Ignoring all those compounding sums was no longer the right choice. She should have had her head examined when she let him take control of her life. Tonight was the night. Edward had his opportunity and he blew it. Bella breathed a sigh of relief, glad that she made this decision before she was trapped in a suffocating marriage.

Bella licked the envelope shut, and left it on the kitchen table. She would have Charlie deliver it in the morning. Getting out her cell, she put in a call to Jacob, but no one picked up. He probably couldn't hear it with all the guests in his home.

She scribbled a few notes on some scratch paper, and putting them in a small box, wrapped it in some brown paper and tied it with string. She took it with her as she sauntered into the living room, where her father was sitting in his lazy boy watching the ASU/UofA game.

"Hey, Dad, I'm heading off to bed. I left a letter for Edward on the table. Do you think you could drop it off at the Cullen's tomorrow on your way to work?"

"Charlie lifted his head from the game on TV, and muttered, "Sure thing, kiddo. See you tomor—" His eyes reverted back to the screen. "Hey! That was definitely pass interference. ASU had the ball. What's the matter with those refs?"

Bella sat on her bed with legs folded under her, and wrote in her journal while she waited for Charlie to hit the sack. Then she snuck out of the house and did something she had never done before. Throwing the box onto the passenger seat, she started up the cruiser and drove to La Push, hoping none of Charlie's deputies would catch her or there would be hell to pay. Explanations would come forth tomorrow; right now she was desperate to see the other boy—the more deserving boy—that she was in love with.

It was January 11th, his eighteenth birthday. Everyone on the rez said he was a man now. Jacob didn't feel any different though. He didn't care so much about that as he did about seeing Bella before she became one of the undead. She promised long ago that she would be there for his big day.

The party started at 7:00. The front door was swinging open about every five minutes. Each time he heard the hinges creak, his head would anxiously turn in that direction. By 8:00 the house was packed tight, and the noise was enough to wake the dead.

Embry battled his way through the crowd and clapped his friend on the shoulder. "Did she show yet?"

Jacob tried to maintain his dignity by saying, "Not yet, but there's still time."

"You might as well face it, man, she's probably not coming."

If looks could kill, then Embry would have been dead where he stood. "Thanks, Embry, you've really made this day special for me."

"I'm your friend, Jake. I just don't want you waiting around for something that might not ever happen. She's one person. Look at all these people here to celebrate with you. Let it go, and enjoy yourself for once." He patted Jacob's arm and headed for the spread of party food.

What if she didn't make it? Was it such a big deal? Life would still go on.

Who was he fooling? Nobody but himself. Why was she doing this to him? She promised.

It was hard to keep that smile on his face when all he wanted to do was curl up in a ball and die. Friends and family all greeted him with fond wishes. He hardly heard a word that they said. His warm brown eyes were constantly scanning the room, searching every nook and corner for her. Maybe she just slipped by him unnoticed. He knew that wasn't true. But, damn, she just had to come—she just had to.

Ten o'clock sailed by, and it was time to set the cake on the table. All eighteen candles were lit as the guests all sang happy birthday. It was getting harder for him to continue this charade. He would be glad when everyone went home so he could stop pretending to be happy and surrender to the misery surrounding his heart.

The guests were all shouting, "Blow out the candles and make a wish."

Make a wish—what a laugh. For the past three years, he'd wished one thing—that the girl he adored would return his love. And what good did it do? Bella had chosen a cold, moody vampire over him.

Jacob closed his eyes and made a wish. He didn't wish for money or fame, he just pleaded for the same wish as always. I wish that Bella will leave Edward and choose me.

He blew out the candles, but for some reason, one remained with the flame still flickering. He stared at the last candle and thought, I know it's hopeless, but here's my last chance. Bella, please . . . please say you'll be mine.

Laughter and clapping filled the air as the last candle was extinguished. He felt like the candle, his light was gone, up in a trail of black smoke. The flame inside of him was barely an ember as it was slowly being snuffed out by the rain in his soul.

After the cake was eaten, his friends and family all congratulated him as they left one by one to their own homes. Rachel and Paul helped Billy to his room; the mess would wait 'til morning.

Jacob trudged heavily to his own small bed and plopped down on top of it. His heart weighed a ton. He stared up at the ceiling wondering what he had done to deserve such pain. Why couldn't he deal with the facts? It was over before it even started.

The real question was why couldn't he be man enough to let her go? He vowed the day of the newborn battle that he would be good, then again, he never said that he would, or even could stop loving her. This all consuming love was eating him up; consuming what was left of Jacob Black. His head sunk deeper into the pillow as he closed his tear filled eyes.

Bella parked the cruiser on the side of the little red house. All the lights were out except the one in Jacob's room. She boldly walked to the backyard and stood outside his bedroom window. He was lying on his bed with one arm draped across his forehead; his breath hitching with soft sobs. It was clear to her who was responsible for this torturous display.

She got closer to the window, and leaning over the sill, whispered, "Jake, can I come in?"

Jacob sat up abruptly, and facing away from her, wiped away his tears with both hands.

He tried so hard to control his emotions, but his voice broke as he said, "What do you want, Bella?"

"I promised to see you on your birthday, and as far as I can tell, it's still January 11th."

His sadness was quickly being replaced with anger at her for making him feel so abandoned and unloved. "Yeah, well the party's over; the cake's all gone. You missed it by about four and a half hours, so you can go home. You did your duty now, stopping by to see your pathetic ex-friend, okay?"

She hoisted herself up, trying to climb over the windowsill, and failing miserably. The little box was flung onto his bed. "I'm not leaving here until you've opened your present."

Jacob turned and pitched it back in her direction. "I don't want it. Just take it and leave."

She scowled right in his face. "And you call me stubborn!"

"Dammit, Bella, go home."

Once again, she attempted to scale over the window casement and into his room. This time she fell, landing on a bush, and let out a whimper.

Jacob sighed in frustration, and crawling across his bed, jumped over the sill, touching down beside her. He managed to pick her up bodily and push her through the window and onto his bed.

He sat down again and Bella leaned against him, close to his side. "You know you don't really want me to leave."

"Yes, I do," he snarled at her. "And don't be touching me. I can't stand it."

Bella pulled his chin toward her so he would have to face her. "Liar . . . I saw you crying. You were crying over me—don't deny it. Besides, why did you sit me on your bed if you didn't want me here? And . . . I'll touch you if I feel like it and I know you like it too. So there . . . Now open your present."

She shoved the little wrapped box onto his lap. Looking down at her wrist, he couldn't help but notice that Edward's rock was no longer attached to the bracelet he had given her for graduation. Did she lose it? He glared at her for a second, then picked up the box. He hefted it, and rattled it around.

"What's in it, a pile of cotton balls?"

Tearing off the wrapping and string, Jacob lifted the lid. Inside were five pieces of paper, numbered consecutively. The first one read: "I've left Edward, and returned his ring." The second: "I'm in love with you, Jacob." The third: "Do you still want me?" The fourth: "If you do, I'm yours." The fifth: "Happy Birthday."

Jacob's eyes got all misty again. He covered his mouth with his hand, and finally dropping it, mumbled, "It was that one last candle."

Bella cocked her head to one side and asked, "What?"

"Never mind, just c'mere girl." He pulled her toward him and as their lips met, a flame was ignited inside of them, one that no one could extinguish, not even the Big Bad Wolf himself.