Bella

Choking purple columns of smoke curl into the air. My eyes burn, the acrid smell fills my lungs. I fall to my knees, my hands scrap against the blood stained grass. I look down at my hands, crimson streaks across pale trembling fingers.

When I look back up, all I can see is a young girl. Her matted brown hair falls over her face, her red eyes lock on mine. Her face is contorted with bloodlust. The feral scream coming from her throat sends daggers of fear straight to my heart.

I close my eyes and start screaming.

My eyes fly open. I sit straight up in bed, screaming and shaking. My heart thuds violently in my chest. I scan my darkened room, everything seemingly in its place. I close my eyes and shove my fingers into my long brown hair, trying to let the last threads of the dream slip away.

My sheets stick to my bare legs, and I kick them off, placing my feet on the cold wood floor. I can barely breathe with the dizzy rush of memories and fear pumping through my veins much less go back to sleep.

A shower. I need a hot shower.

The steam envelops me, warm and clean. Soothing, caressing. I lean my head against the cool tile, letting the water drum against my spine. The water is hot, almost scalding. The heat reminds me too much of someone I left behind. I reach back and turn the gauge, but the change isn't subtle. Instead of lukewarm water, freezing ice pellets my skin.

I want to scream. I want to cry. I want to rip my hair out in frustration. Guilt is an ugly emotion. I can feel it now, bubbling up in my gut, spilling over my insides with dark thick liquid. Everything that happened was my fault. I did the only thing I could do to make it right—if that's even possible. I left.

But three and a half years later, here I am, still stuck between hot and cold. Still fighting my demons, still feeling both guilty and selfish, still waking up with nightmares at three in the morning. Still wanting him.

I sigh heavily and turn the dial back. As wrong as it is, I stand in the steaming hot water, close my eyes, and for just a minute I allow myself some respite. I let the water wash away my sins, my guilt. I let the steam melt away my fear and heartbreak and stupid stubborn pride.

I know it's wrong, but I picture his arms anyways. Wrapped around me, strong and solid and steadier than any others I've ever known. I don't let my mind wander any farther than that. I don't want to remember his deep dark eyes or warm sunny smile. I don't want to remember his soft lips searing mine.

I step out of the shower before the water runs cold and try to leave all the pain and guilt and heartache behind with the soap and suds slowly circling the drain.

~000~

I don't know what's wrong with me today. After my shower, I changed seven times. Finally, unable to stop myself, I pulled on an old pair of jeans and this faded orange shirt. The shirt was Jake's. Probably from when he was ten or twelve or something. The day I jumped off the cliff and he saved me from my stupid teenage angst ridden self, he let me borrow it since my clothes were soaking wet. I've kept it. It was one of the few things I took with me when I left Forks for Jacksonville.

Normally, despite the occasional nightmares and stray thoughts, I can keep the guilt and sadness, the oppressive memories and the desperation to see him, talk to him, go back to Forks, at bay. But not today. Today, I sit in class and my knee won't stop bouncing. I chew on my pencil. And every time I close my eyes I see a barrage of images I wish I could forget.

I haven't always been so strong though, either. In the three and a half years since I left, I've been back three times.

The first time, was almost a year after I left, and right after my first year in college. My dad, Charlie, was so happy to see me, surprised, but happy. I didn't ask about Jake. I couldn't. My throat closed up every time I thought about it. I left. I broke his heart. I chose someone else. Even though that's not exactly true, it's close enough. So for three days, I stayed with Charlie, ate with Charlie, and went to a movie with Jessica and Angela who were also home on summer break. That night when I got home from the movie he was there, sitting on my front steps.

And he looked exactly the same at first. Tall and tan, bulky biceps and a chiseled jaw. His black hair was shorter and hung in his dark eyes. It was the eyes that were different. He didn't move as I crossed the distance and stood in front of him. I felt beyond ridiculous. What could I say? Nothing's changed. I couldn't stay.

His face was almost like stone; expressionless. His dark eyes, hard and guarded, studied me intently. Finally, after what felt like a century, he exhaled a long deep breath. His face softened, his eyes flickered with a range of emotions. He looked down and ran a shaky hand through his thick black hair.

He looked back up and stood, towering over me, close enough I could feel his heat. Can he hear my heart beat? His eyes locked on mine and he moved closer. I felt paralyzed. Is this a dream? Should I move away? I can't! I wanted to scream. I wanted to cry. I realized I was when I felt his rough calloused hand cup my cheek and tenderly wipe away my tears. He leaned forward and softly kissed my cheek. He leaned his forehead against the same spot where his lips had briefly been. It took him a full minute before he could pull away.

Before he did he whispered, so softly I would have missed it had I not been so intensely focused on his every breath, "Until your heart stops beating."

And then he was gone. I stood frozen on my doorstep as I watched him straddle his motorcycle and drive away. Again, I let him go.

The memory almost cripples me. The pencil I've been chewing on snaps in half. Great.

Mercifully, my professor dismisses class and I rush to the bathroom, I splash cold water on my face and try to breathe. After five minutes, I'm feeling better. I try to shake my head and stop my thoughts from circling these same tired scenes as I hurry to my next class, which is across campus.

"Bella!" a female voice shouts and I spin around as my friend, Erin, all blond hair and bright blue eyes, comes bouncing up to me. She is out of breath when she catches up to me and grabs my arm for support.

"Erin, you okay? What's wrong?" I can feel the first bubbles of panic rising up inside me and prickling along my skin.

She thrust a piece of paper into my hand. "Here, this guy told me to give this message to you."

My brows knit together in confusion. All of a sudden, I remember how real my nightmares really are. I swallow back the rising fear and panic and take the note.

I need to talk to you. Meet me outside the library at 1:00.

"Erin, what did the guy look like?"

"Tall, pale, messy hair," she scrunches her face. "I've never seen him before. He was kinda...I don't know. He seemed really serious. He said his name was Edward, and then I remembered you said-"

I run off before she can finish.

When I'm a few feet from him, I stop. Same disheveled hair, same crooked smile, and the same handsome beautiful face. The most noticeable difference is how unaffected I am. No fluttering heartbeat, no sweaty palms, or dizzy rush of emotions.

I exhale in relief. My shoulders sag slightly. I can see he sees it too. The corners of his mouth turn up wistfully, but his eyes hold a sadness I know I can't even begin to understand.

"Edward," I breathe, slowly. He smiles again and looks away for a moment before stepping closer. I haven't seen him at all since I left. I told him I couldn't. And I know it's hard for him to see me too.

But I couldn't marry him. I just...I just couldn't. After the battle with the newborn vampires; after seeing that girl, ravaged by bloodlust, in the clearing; after forcing myself to let Jacob go; I just couldn't do it. It wasn't a huge epiphany moment like in the movies. I cried in my room for three days. When Edward finally asked me again, I said no. The next day I packed up everything I owned, said goodbye to Charlie, and came to Jacksonville to live with my mom.

"Bella," Edward says softly. He lifts his hand; his fingers barely skim my cheek before he pulls his hand back. "Sorry."

I swallow hard and shake my head. I attempt to smile. "Why are you here, Edward?"

He closes his eyes at the sound of my voice. Do I sound harsh? I don't mean to. I'm not angry with him. I don't blame him. But at the same time, he represents all the darkness that plaques my subconscious. The dark edges of my life that won't go away.

He opens them again, and I notice the rich buttery hue. He fed recently.

"Bella," he begins softly. "I need you to do something for me."

I furrow my brow and wait for him to continue.

"Go back to Forks."

I suck in a sharp breath. My voice squeaks when I speak. "Why?"

He sighs. Like he's dealing with a small stubborn child who asks too many questions. It makes me angry. I feel it simmering just below the surface, making me flush scarlet.

"Please, Bella. Don't ask me that," he pleads. "Just go."

He shoves a plane ticket in my hand. I'm angry and confused and I want to know why! Although I think I already know. I study Edward's golden eyes; his brows knitted together, his lips pressed into a thin line.

He leans forward, so close I can feel his cool breath hit my face. He whispers, "Bella, love, please go to Forks, where I know you'll be safe. She—"

He cuts off, shakes his head and steps away. "Just go," he says firmly.

And in an instant he's gone. Leaving me standing alone, confused. Again.

~000~

She? She what? She who? I'm shoving clothes and toiletries into my bag. My mind racing. Reeling. Edward killed Victoria. The only other she I can think of is Jane. The childlike member of the Volturi. A shiver of fear races up my spine. I pack faster.

Thankfully, today was the last day of the semester. I was planning on spending Christmas here in Jacksonville with my mom and Phil. I didn't want to face Jake again. Not after the last Christmas I went to Forks two years ago.

It was my sophomore year in college. And I was desperate to see him. I flew home on Christmas Eve and took a cab to Charlie's. Expensive, yes, but I wanted to surprise my dad. When the cab pulled up, I recognized Jacob's dad's truck right away. Excitement and fear coursed through my veins. I was shaking as I paid the cab driver and hauled my bags out.

But when I got inside, and was hugged and passed around, I realized quickly Jake was missing. Unable to stop myself I asked, "Where's Jake?"

My dad and Billy exchanged a look. Billy cleared his throat and gave me a look I couldn't decipher.

"He's spending the holidays with his, uh, girlfriend's family."

The word girlfriend hit me like a bullet to the chest. It shouldn't have, I know. I let him go. I broke his heart. I walked away. But all I could hear was his husky words, whispered so softly, a promise, in my ear the summer before.

I shook my head, trying desperately to clear my thoughts. I smiled. Or at least attempted to.

"Oh, that's nice," I said quietly. But everyone was staring at me like they knew exactly what I was thinking, feeling. I felt like a zoo animal on display. I smiled again. "I'm just going to put my stuff up, okay?"

I raced upstairs and tried not to cry. Of course that was a lost cause. I felt ridiculous and pathetic. After twenty minutes, I gathered myself enough to go back downstairs.

That night, I couldn't sleep. At three in the morning, I went down to the beach. It was freezing. I wrapped my arms around myself and drew my knees to my chest.

"Bella," Jake's voice was directly behind me. I closed my eyes. Am I hearing things?

But no, a minute later I felt him sit down in the sand behind me. He wrapped his arms around me and pulled me against him. He rested his head on my shoulder. He felt warm and strong, safe, amazing. I started to cry.

"Shhh," Jake whispered softly. He cupped my face with his hands, turning me to face him. "What do you want me to do Bella?"

I swallowed hard around the lump in my throat.

"You won't stay—"

"I can't!"

His jaw clenched. I could see the muscle working beneath his tan skin.

"What am I supposed to do Bella? Wait for you forever?" His voice was hard and angry, but it cracked slightly on the last word.

"I don't—"

"You don't what?" he yelled. But he didn't move away. His hands still held my face. His dark eyes were ablaze with anger and desperation. All I couldn't think about was his lips. They were so close. Full, soft, inviting.

I looked up, his eyes changed, soft and black. Like a cloudless night sky. I could feel the tremble in his fingers as he leaned forward. I didn't move. I didn't close my eyes. Neither did he. His lips brushed mine, soft and tentative. But he didn't press, even though the hunger in my belly was gnawing at my insides, desperate with the need to feel his kiss.

He leaned his forehead against mine. He sighed. His fingers slipped back into my hair, gliding through the wind tossed strands. His hands came back to my face, tracing my jaw. I felt his tears drip against my flushed skin.

"Bella," he croaked. "Bella, I can't do this. I love—"

He took a deep breath. A thousand tiny daggers pierced my heart. "I really like her. You have to let me go."

He pulled back. His warm hands, calloused and rough against my soft skin still held my face. His eyes were pleading with me, flickering with unsaid emotions.

"Please Bella," he whispered fiercely. His voice cracked. "I'm not strong enough to walk away from you. I need you to walk away from me."

On the plane now, all I can think about is that night. The cold wind whipping his hair, his long lashes glistening with tears, his eyes dark and desperate, his voice—

I close my eyes and take a deep breath. If I could change everything I would. I should have been strong enough to walk away from Edward. I should have never jumped off that stupid cliff. I shouldn't have saved him. Guilt springs from the dark place in my chest. Ugly and black. I know I couldn't have let Edward die, but—

I shake my head to dispel those thoughts. I can't go back and change anything. I look out the window as the plane starts to descend. Bright green foliage, frosted with white snow covers the landscape.

And just like that, I am home.


A/N: I know, I know. I said I wasn't going to be writing fanfiction. But...what can I say. I missed it. I missed Jake and Bells and this little thing was stuck in my head. More to come, hope you all enjoy!