Thank you for reading and for the many encouraging reviews. I love you guise.

This chapter is unbeta'd - all mistakes are more mine than usual. I'll let you get to it.

Disclaimer: I do not own twilight.


Chapter 32

Come shush-hush
"Silent Spring" – Massive Attack

"How do you feel about seafood chowder for dinner?"

I poked my head around the freezer door when my dad stayed silent. He was sitting at the kitchen table, sifting through piles of paper spread over the tabletop, clearly deep in thought; he made no sign of having heard me at all.

"Dad?" I laid the package of trout I was holding on the counter and closed the freezer door before walking across the kitchen. "Hello? Um … Charlie?"

That got his attention; his mustache twitched and he scowled. "Bella, you may be growing up, but I'm still your father. Call me Dad, or you and I are gonna talk."

"Sorry." I chewed the inside of my cheek to keep from smiling. "You were pretty zoned out; that's why I called your name."

Charlie's face fell. "Oh. Sorry, baby. Do you need something?"

"I was asking if seafood chowder would be okay for dinner."

"Sure, sure, that sounds great." He smiled apologetically. "Aren't you tired of fish at this point?"

"I wouldn't say tired—"

"What would you say?"

I sighed and sat down beside him. "I'd say I'm almost tired of fish ... but I don't mind eating it again tonight."

Charlie grinned and sipped his coffee. "You don't have to cook fish if you don't want to Bells; I do eat other things."

"We need to make room in the freezer," I said dryly, making him laugh before I turned my attention to the papers on the table. "What's all this?"

"I'm applying for a bank loan. To help you pay for school next fall."

My mouth dropped open in shock. We were silent for several long moments, until I forced myself to clear my throat. "You don't have to do that, Dad."

"I know I don't have to do it, Bells; I want to. Your mom and Phil want to help, too; they're applying for a loan from their bank."

"Oh, no," I said weakly, my face growing hot with embarrassment. "I'm not sure that's a good idea—"

Charlie's frown made me blush harder. "Why wouldn't it be a good idea for parents to help out their daughter? Did you think you were going to have to pay for everything on your own?"

"I don't know," I mumbled, looking at my hands folded in my lap. "I guess I thought I'd get a part-time job or apply for a work-study program. I'll figure something out, Dad."

"Of course you will." He waited until I looked at him again before speaking. "A part-time job isn't a bad idea, as long as it's just one or two days a week. You need time to study and do your school work, too, Bells."

I nodded and tried to look positive, but Chief Swan wasn't fooled.

"Why are you fighting me on this?"

"I don't want to be a bother," I said with a groan. "I don't want you guys doing this out of some sense of guilt or anything—"

"Bella; you're our daughter." Charlie rubbed his chin with his hand before he began gathering up the piles of paper. "You're not a bother. We're doing this because we love you, not out of guilt."

He stopped abruptly, rubbing the back of his neck with one hand while his cheeks flushed red. I swallowed hard against the lump in my throat and was about to speak again when he reached across the table to pat my hand.

"Look, Bells, we don't even know where you're going to school yet. You'll probably have to apply for a loan or two of your own, but with your mom and Phil, and me helping, it shouldn't be so bad. We are going to help you, so you may as well get used to the idea. For now … just think it over, and we can talk about it again at dinner. Okay?"

I nodded, eager to put off our discussion for even a little while longer. "That's fine, but can we talk tomorrow instead? I'm hanging out with Jake today and I don't want you to have to wait to eat if I'm late."

"You've got the day off?"

"Yeah. The Newtons are out of town for a family wedding, and they closed the store for the weekend. I thought I'd go down to La Push and see Jake because it's been a while since we hung out."

Charlie smiled approvingly. "Good for you, kid. You are coming home for dinner though, right?"

"Yeah, absolutely. I'll make the chowder and leave it in the fridge with some garlic bread ... maybe you could heat dinner up on your own ...?"

"Uh, sure, I can probably manage that. What about your boyfriend? Is he coming for dinner, too?" Charlie grimaced slightly, and I forced myself not to roll my eyes.

My dad had come a long way toward being reasonably okay with my dating. He was pleasant and even friendly toward Edward when we were all together, though my dad still hovered too much for my liking. The fact that Edward was a great boyfriend helped, of course. He never kept me out late, never overstayed his welcome, and was always polite and respectful toward Charlie. In fact, Edward played the part of the perfect boyfriend so well, I found myself wishing that he'd rebel just a little ... or at least when we had a few minutes alone. After the weekend in Montana, time alone with Edward didn't happen nearly enough.

What I wouldn't give for another night with him, I thought. His lips on mine … our bodies pressed together, his warmed skin against my own … our breaths mixing while our hands explored … his breathless groan when he was about to—

"Bells." Charlie's deep voice pulled me from my thoughts with a snap.

My face burned again, and I fidgeted when his brows furrowed. "Um, right, sorry. What were you saying, Dad?"

"Can I expect to see the Cullen kid tonight?"

"Yes, I think so; we talked about it last night before Edward went home. Probably not for dinner, but afterward; you know his family always, ah, tries to eat together." I cleared my throat hastily to cover my awkward pause.

"I'm surprised he's not here today, considering you've got the day off."

"Edward's helping his brother with something this afternoon. Something about a camping trip."

I stood and walked back to the fridge, hoping my dad would drop the subject; I certainly couldn't tell him that my boyfriend was hunting game in Olympic Park with his siblings. After a long pause, Charlie turned his attention back to the papers on the table, and I set to work gathering the ingredients for the chowder.

aDc

The skies were mostly clear over La Push, so Jake suggested we go for a walk on the beach near his house. I borrowed an extra jacket to bundle up against the fall wind and we set off over the sand, talking about school and catching up.

"You seem different," Jacob said after we'd walked about half a mile.

"What do you mean?"

"I'm not sure," he said tentatively, "I guess you seem … I don't know. Maybe … happy?"

We stared at each other for a long moment before we both burst out laughing.

"You sure about that answer, Jake?" I asked once I had recovered.

He chuckled again and stuck his hands in his jacket pockets. "Yeah, I'm sure. Sorry. It's not like you seemed really miserable before …." he trailed off when I raised an eyebrow at him.

"Oh, come on; we both know I seemed very miserable."

"No, I wouldn't say that, Bells," he insisted, "at least not all the time. You were always fun to hang out with. You're right, though; I knew you weren't happy. Anyone who knew you well could see that."

Everyone except my mom, I guess, I thought grimly.

I blew out a long breath. "Yeah, you're right; I wasn't."

"Are you now?"

"Sometimes." I smiled. "I have crappy days too, just like everyone. But it's ... things are getting better."

"That's great," Jacob said with genuine happiness. "Is it the thing with the counselor?"

"Carmen," I supplied when he looked hesitant. "Talking to her helps. There's Edward, too," I said, ducking my head bashfully.

"Oh, reeeally. What's that about?" Jacob's voice was smug but still gentle.

"Forget it. It's hard enough getting any privacy with Charlie around."

Jacob's happy laughter made me grin. "Oh, man, I'll bet!"

I made a face, though we both knew I was only half-serious. "Charlie's been pretty cool, actually. He's trying. I guess he can't help being a dad, even now."

"It's nice to see you having fun, Bells."

"Thanks." I smiled, grateful to my friend for the patience and understanding he'd shown me for so many years, even when he had no idea why I was struggling so much.

"And things with this guy, Edward; they're serious?"

"I think so. Yeah." Though I was glad to be able to Jacob a little about Edward, I knew I had to be careful; it was up to me to protect Edward's secret, for everyone's sake.

"What about you?" I asked, quickly changing the subject. "What's going on with the girl you met over the summer ... Sharon?"

"Oh, yeah, that," Jacob said heavily. "Nothing is what's up with Sharon; nothing at all."

"Why? What happened?"

"She pretty much disappeared after her family went back to Oregon. I sent her a couple of texts and emails, just wondering how she was, and didn't hear back for a while." He turned his gaze out over the water. "I was ready to write her off when she finally sent me an email saying that she wasn't interested in speaking to anyone from the Black family, and that I should ask my Dad why."

I winced at the rueful look on my friend's face and waited for him to continue.

"I thought about just blowing the whole thing off, to be honest. I mean … she lives in Oregon, you know? It's not like I'd ever see her, really, unless one of us moved, and I don't see that happening."

"Really? You think you'll stay here after high school?" Before that moment, it had never occurred to me that Jacob didn't want to leave La Push someday.

"My dad is here, my tribe … I have roots here, Bells. I like La Push. Maybe I'll go to school in Port Angeles or something, and I won't say I'll never leave ... but this is my home."

I nodded and turned my gaze to my feet. I was almost humbled by Jacob's conviction. No matter how much more comfortable I was with myself, I still had so much to learn about who I was and what I wanted.

"Did you ever ask Billy about what Sharon meant in her email?" I asked quietly.

Jacob sighed. "Yeah. My curiosity got the better of me. Turns out her family used to live in Neah Bay about ten years ago. Sharon's mom and Billy used to … date."

My mouth fell open in surprise when I turned to look at my friend, and I watched a flush warm his tawny skin. Obviously, I was aware that single adults dated; I had just never known the adults in my own life to do it. Neither Billy Black nor my dad had been out on a date in the last fifteen years ... at least that's what I had thought until today.

"Does that mean that you and Sharon met back when you were both kids?"

"No, thank God. My dad didn't want to introduce Sharon's mom to us before he was sure about how they felt about each other. He did meet Sharon's family, though. They were on their way to being serious, I guess. If Sharon's mom hadn't gotten a job in Oregon, I think things would have been really different for all of us.

"She asked my dad if he'd consider moving us all to Oregon, too; my dad said no, and that was that." Jacob looked at the ground. "He said no because of my sisters and me, Bells; he didn't want to risk moving us away from the tribe."

"That sounds like something your dad would do."

"Yeah. I just wonder—" he paused and cleared his throat. "I wonder if he'd have been happier with her, you know? With Sharon's mom. Maybe moving would have been better for him … he wouldn't be alone now."

"You can't think that way, Jake." I nudged him with my elbow until he met my eyes. "Your dad did what he thought was best. If he doesn't have any regrets about his decision, you shouldn't have them for him."

One side of Jacob's lips pulled up in a crooked smile. "When did you get so smart?"

"I've always been smart," I said, narrowing my eyes at him. "You're just finally starting to notice."

"Yeah, yeah." He looked serious again. "I get what you're saying."

I could hear the hesitation in his voice, and prompted him. "But …?"

"But that's kind of oversimplifying things isn't it? Wanting not to regret something doesn't mean you won't." He shrugged when I frowned. "Aren't there things you regret no matter what you tell yourself? Or maybe things your parents did that you'd change if you could?"

I was quiet as we turned to walk back toward Jacob's house, turning his words over in my head. Of course there were things I'd change if I could. Things to do with my parents. Friendships I had made or hadn't made during my life, and the way I'd treated those people. My relationship with my mom. Everything to do with Jimmy … with the exception of Vallejo.

That's not really true though, is it? I asked myself.

It wasn't. In my heart, I knew that I should regret going to Jimmy's house to kill him … but I couldn't bring myself to feel sorry. What did bother me was knowing that my actions had damaged Edward's trust. Though we rarely spoke about Jimmy, I knew Edward often thought about what had happened. He wouldn't leave me, no matter how he felt about what I had done-he was bound to me in ways I couldn't understand- but that knowledge did little to comfort me.

As Jacob and I approached his house, I noticed the slim figure of a girl lingering near the door. My stomach tightened when she swept back a curtain of dark hair, revealing Leah Clearwater's fine features. Her brows drew together briefly in a frown when her eyes met mine, but her expression seemed to lighten again as we drew closer.

"What's up, Leah?"

Jacob's cheerful tone caught my ear, and I was interested to see a friendly grin cross his face as he looked at his friend. My interest grew when I noticed Leah's pink cheeks and shy smile; the combination made her dark eyes shine, transforming her whole face. She was quite beautiful.

"Hey, Jake," she said before her expression became stony. "Bella."

"Bells and I were just catching up," Jacob cut in before I could say anything, giving me a sly wink. "I don't see her much these days because she'd rather spend time with her boyfriend, I guess."

"Um, I go to school and have a job too, Jake," I muttered, though I more curious about his behavior than truly annoyed. "And so do you."

Leah's gaze was sharp as it moved over my face. "Oh, yeah, Jacob mentioned something about some guy from Port Townsend, right? Ed something?"

"His name is Edward," I said simply. "His family lives in Port Angeles."

"Cool." Leah gathered her long hair together in a ponytail with her hands as she turned back to Jacob. "Mom and I made some pies last night for tomorrow's potluck dinner. There were a couple extra and we thought you and Billy would like them."

"What kind of pies?" Jacob's voice was eager as he pushed open the back door to the house.

"Apple and plum," Leah began and then snorted when Billy's voice rang out from inside the house, calling everyone to the table for coffee.

"You heard the man," Jacob said with a bright smile, gesturing for us to enter. "He'll eat it all if we don't get in there, so let's not keep him waiting."

aDc

Seth Clearwater turned up as we sat down with our plates, followed shortly after by Jacob's friends, Embry and Quil. We spent a few hours sitting in the Blacks' warm kitchen, picking the pie plates clean and telling stories. It was nearly dusk when I got up to leave, and I scolded myself for not having noticed the time.

"You okay to drive, Bells?" Jacob stood and walked around the table to my side.

"She's been drinking coffee, Jake, not beer," Leah said dryly while the others chuckled. "I think she's safe to drive." Jacob rolled his eyes at her playfully, making her smile.

"I'm fine, Jake," I said, and waved over a chorus of goodbyes. "See you later, guys."

Jacob walked me to the door, helping me with my jacket on the way. "Thanks for coming over today, Bells; it was nice to hang out again. We should do it again soon. I was starting to feel like you were avoiding me to hang out with your boyfriend," he teased, though the expression in his eyes was not joking.

"Oh, come on, Jake; you know I'd never do that," I scolded softly. "With work and school, I really have been busy; I only see Edward at dinner time, most nights. Besides, you've been just as hard to get a hold of lately."

He grunted noncommittally, but I looked at him closely as I zipped my jacket. "Does Leah Clearwater have anything to do with you being too busy to call me back?"

I smiled when his eyes went wide.

"No-o-o. I wouldn't say that."

"Oh. So you two aren't hanging out or anything?"

"I wouldn't say that, either."

"Uh-huh. Well, you should say something, Jake, at least to Leah."

"What do you mean?" He looked puzzled.

"If you like her—and I'd say that you do—then make sure she knows." I gave him a serious look as I laid my hand on the doorknob. "Look at what happened with that girl, Sharon. You never even got the chance to tell her you were interested."

Jacob paused for a long moment, clearly thinking about my words before he nodded. He mumbled a thank you before promising to call me sometime the next week, and waved from the door as I left.

I called home as I walked back to the truck and left a message for Charlie to let him know I was on my way. I noticed a smell in the cab as I slid behind the wheel, something sweet and cloying, and slightly acrid, like lightly burnt sugar. The smell was oddly familiar, and I frowned and sniffed, trying to place it. The key was in the ignition when I realized that the smell reminded me of Edward, so much so that I felt unsettled. Had he been in my truck while I was visiting with Jacob? If so, why hadn't he left me a note or waited for me?

My phone buzzed as I pulled onto Front Street and headed toward La Push's center, but I knew better than to answer it while driving. I wanted to beat Charlie home, if I could, and was looking forward to seeing Edward again, so I focused on my driving and let the call go to voicemail. The phone was quiet for a moment before it buzzed again, making me bite my lip; whoever was calling was persistent. As I turned right onto Alder Street, a deafening crash from behind me filled the cab. I jerked the wheel hard to the right with a gasp, cringing as a shower of broken glass fell over my head and shoulders. Something cold clamped down over my mouth, smothering my scream before the world around me spun and went black.

~aDc~

Alice and I raced away from the others, taunting each other as we streaked through the trees. My sister's newborn speed allowed her to keep up with me if I kept under a certain speed, and I was having too much fun to spoil the game; even the pull of missing Bella didn't lessen my enjoyment in being free of the constraints of my human disguise for a short while.

The family had been oddly quiet about my weekend in Montana with Bella, though I heard their curious thoughts when I focused my mind; Alice, in particular, wanted details. Other than to thank Esme for the use of the house, I couldn't bring myself to talk about the trip; even acknowledging the most innocuous comments seemed like too much. I treasured that weekend—especially the 'first times' Bella and I had experienced together—and wanted to keep my memories private.

When my siblings had insisted I go hunting with them that day, however, I resigned myself to finally answering some questions. They surprised me by not bringing it up, instead reminding me that it had been weeks since we had hunted together. We had traveled south over the course of the day, stalking an elk herd, and now I was feeling pleased to have dodged a bullet once more. Alice's head snapping in my direction made me groan; my train of thought had affected events to come enough to catch her attention, and I cursed myself for being careless.

"You'll have to tell me sometime," she called out with a grin.

"Forget it," I replied, scowling a bit when she laughed.

"It's only a matter time, Edward. Don't bother trying to hide from me; I already know that you love her."

I narrowed my eyes before sprinting away, Alice's gasp of surprise loud in my ears. I could hear the others' thoughts, both grudging and admiring, and smiled as the trees around me blurred. Pushing deeper into the rainforest, my feet whispered over the earth and my clothes and hair grew damp in the misty air. I slowed my steps when I neared Lake Quinault, and came to a stop just before the trees gave way to a short stretch of beach. The area was remote and the skies overcast, but I was still cautious, scanning the area for signs of human thought. The sound of the others' footfalls caught my ear as I stepped out from among the trees, though I knew it would be a minute before they caught up to me. I took a seat on the shore and admired the expanse of water before me, silent and so very nearly still, like a mirror.

"You didn't have to run off like that," Alice said as she dropped down beside me. Her peevish expression made me laugh.

"I didn't run off. You're just upset that I can run faster than you."

"You can run faster than everyone, apparently." She turned her eyes out over the lake and dragged a hand over her short hair. Her eyes were kind when she looked at me again; despite their unearthly color, I saw the girl I had grown up with in them. "You don't have to tell me anything about Bella, Edward, if that's what you want. I just … tell me you're happy with her and I won't say another word."

"I'm happy with her, Alice." I patted her hand, making her grin. "Incidentally, I don't believe that you won't say another word; you're way too stubborn to give up so easily."

"You're right not to believe me," she retorted. "I'll leave you alone for now, though. I can see that you need to keep your … whatever it is you have with Bella, to yourself. I can respect that, believe it or not. Or I can try to, anyway.

"It's not just you that I want to see happy, by the way." Her voice was quiet. "It's important to me that Bella is happy, too."

"I know, sweetheart. I don't mean to seem selfish. It's just new. I've never felt like this before."

"You two are boring," Emmett said grumpily as he and the others emerged from the woods. "I'm tired of getting my butt kicked by not just one Masen but two. How much longer do we have to put up with Alice's super speed, anyway?"

Jasper chuckled and came to sit on Alice's other side. "You never know, Em; Alice may stay this fast after her first year. Maybe the speed runs in the family."

My sister gave him a gleeful smile before she looked at me again. "I'm right, though," she murmured, her voice as low as she could manage. "About Bella and you ...?"

"Yes, you're right." I looked across the lake, pretending to ignore Alice's exuberant thoughts while she struggled to keep a straight face. "It's love."

aDc

It was nearing dusk as I made my way toward Forks to see Bella. I found myself driving recklessly, and being careless about my speed. The pull I always felt toward her had grown steadily sharper all day and knowing that she had planned to visit the Quileute boy, Jacob, sparked my old insecurities. I missed her, the sound of her voice and her light laugh and the sparkle in her dark eyes. I missed the heat of her her soft, soft skin under mine when I held her close. I craved her sweet smell, and the way it changed in response to her emotions and her body's reactions.

Seeing the police cruiser outside of the Swan's house deflated my spirits when I pulled into the driveway, especially when I realized that Bella's truck was nowhere in sight. I didn't have time to sulk, however; Chief Swan came out of the house almost before I had switched off the ignition. Quickly, I let myself out of the car and crossed the yard toward him, ignoring my phone when it buzzed in my pocket.

"Hello, Chief Swan," I said, climbing the stairs to the porch. "I take it Bella's not home yet?"

"Edward," he said with a minute twitch of his mustache. "She's running a little behind. I expected her to be home by now, but she's been at La Push all day and I guess the time got away from her."

He frowned and I noticed for the first time that he looked a bit weary. I caught a swirl of thoughts about bank loans and college applications before he spoke again. "Bells left a message just before I got home, so she should be here pretty soon."

"All right then." I laid my hand on my still buzzing phone as I turned to go. "I can do a few errands in town and come back after you've had a chance to eat—"

"You don't need to do that." Chief Swan held up a hand as if stop me from moving, but his voice seemed gentle. "You're welcome to eat with us, Edward. Bella made some chowder this morning, and there's more than enough if that's what you're worried about."

I smiled at his obvious gesture of friendliness, thinking how much it would please Bella, too. "I had dinner with my family earlier, but thank you, sir; I appreciate the offer."

"Okay then." The mustache twitched for a moment, followed by a short silence before the man smiled. "Why don't you come on in, son; maybe you can help me heat up the dinner without burning the house down."

aDc

The house phone rang as Chief Swan put a big stew pot smelling strongly of seafood and tomato on the stove. I pulled my own phone out of my pocket when he excused himself to answer and my stomach dropped when I saw the missed calls and texts from Alice and Emmett on the screen. I flipped rapidly through the texts, all from Alice, and my alarm increased with each one.

Alice

5:49 pm Something's wrong

5:51 pm Call me right away

5:53 pm He's here

5:55 pm It's about Bella, please call me

6:58 pm He has her

I moved to call the voicemail when Chief Swan's voice rose dramatically in the other room.

"What? When did this happen? Jesus Christ! I'll be right there."

The normally stoic man I was accustomed to seeing was nowhere in sight when Bella's father rushed back into the kitchen. Chief Swan was pale and clammy looking, and I could hear his heart thundering and smell adrenaline in his sweat. Going to the stove, he wrenched off the burner and whisked the pot into the sink before turning my way. He seemed to almost to freeze when I stepped forward, and I saw that his hands were shaking.

"What is it? What's wrong?" I asked, my voice heavy with dread.

For three long seconds he stared at me, his dark eyes wide. His thoughts struck me like bullets, almost too jumbled to be coherent, and blistering with fear.

Screeching tires.

Twisted metal.

Long hair, streaming and wet.

Screams for help.

Dark water.

Oh, God, where is she? we thought together.

Suddenly the man was pulling me toward the door, his fingers wound tightly around the fabric of my jacket sleeve.

"I have to go," he rasped out. "It's Bella."

"What about Bella?" I couldn't stop myself asking; I only barely managed to keep myself from shaking an answer out of him. "What happened to Bella, Charlie?"

The color drained from Chief Swan's face and his grip on me became desperate; suddenly, he was holding on to me for support. "There's been an accident. Her truck went into the water at the marina in La Push. They're trying to get her out now."


A/N

Soooo … still with me? I'll be back soon, I promise.

Note: Neah Bay is a town located on the Makah Reservation in Northwest Washington.