Disclaimer: Stephenie Meyer owns any Twilight characters that may appear in this story. The remainder is my original work. No copying or reproduction of this work is permitted without my express written authorization. Please don't steal this. I really like this story and I hope you do, too... Just not enough to steal it :).
Originally written for the Truly Anonymous Twilight O/S PP Contest. Picture Prompt: 23
Warning: This includes subject matter that is mature and not meant for readers under the age of eighteen. Sensitive subject matters include suicide, character death(s), violence and language. Reader's discretion is advised.
Cry to Me
Soon, I could breathe. Soon... Soon.
It was stuffy in the hotel room. A Tuesday evening in June. The sky was blue and clear, as it had been since I had arrived at the Monmouth Hotel three days ago.
I lay in bed, my t-shirt sticking to my chest and back, the sheets twisted around my legs. The funk from my armpits was only bad if I thought about it. Otherwise, I didn't car. This would be the last day I would ever need a shower.
I kicked the sheets off and wiped the sleep from my eyes with the sleeve of my James Brown t-shirt. Taking deep breaths, violent images flashed in my mind. I curled up into a ball, forcing all the terror down, down, down. They couldn't stay down, though. Nightmares could disappear. Memories remained.
Every demon that had haunted me for the last month flared up like a wildfire in my mind. I suffocated in my memories of them, of lives and of deaths. Every day that I had spent at the Monmouth Hotel, I writhed in bed, inflamed by my torturous thoughts. This night, however, would be different. I would douse the fire before the moon rose in the sky. I would breathe. Everything that was and never will be- would end.
I sat up, kicking at the comforter, ashamed that none of this was my own. The starch on these sheets were rough on my skin. The detergent they used left no scent. I missed the scent of Leah's sheets. She used that sweet Downy stuff, the kind in that purple bottle. God, I missed her sheets... once our sheets... and never again.
The lamps in this room, the rugs, the curtains, they were all so pristine, too pristine. They were everything Leah was and I wasn't. I suppose that was why she cheated on me. I wasn't perfect enough for her. I didn't make enough money for her. I sat on the edge of the bed, digging my heels into the plush rug and wondered what it have been like to buy it on a whim. Then, I was thankful that money wouldn't matter as much where I was going.
The evening sunlight hitting my face, warm and bright when I stood up. Squinting, I dragged my feet towards the window. My legs were weak and tingled a bit. I hadn't much use for them over the last three days. I had stayed in bed the entire time.
I tripped over some dirty underwear and almost fell, catching myself just in time.
"Phew... Oh!" My own voice startled me. I hadn't used it since I had convinced Leah to let me stay here last week.
"My boss doesn't know that I'm letting you stay here for free. So three days is the max, Jake. I'm sorry."
"No, it's not. Why won't you go home instead of staying here alone, anyway? Your friends and family will want to see you, especially now."
Forks was the last place I wanted to be. I could never go back, ever. Ever.
I had expected her to be standoffish when I came to the Monmouth to ask the favor. I had admired her cool as ice attitude, in fact. She was a woman who didn't need me. She chose me. Instead, I got the worry. The goddamn worry and the pity.
"I'll leave in three days, no problem."
"Jake, just tell me what's wrong so I can help. Do you need money? A couch to crash on?"
"No, I'm fine. I'll figure it out."
When I told her this, and that worry in her eyes froze over, I got my Leah back: Mr. Freeze with tatas. When she dropped the cool hotel room keys in my hands, I mumbled a thank you. Her couch must've been a joke. I shuddered on my way up the stairs.
There was no way I could stay with her on her couch. Sam was fucking her on that couch.
Standing in front of the window, I peeled off my sweat-stained t-shirt and scratched my chest, taking in the view. Leah did a lot of rotten things to me in the past month but she made up for it with this room. I could see the Pacific Ocean from here. It sparkled from the sun. I leaned against the window, so warm beneath my fingertips. With my face against the glass, I shut my eyes.
This was perhaps what was best about the world: the warmth of the sun.
"Why can't the rest of this world feel this good?"
I opened my eyes, shielding them from the white rays, peering out at the Pacific again. I knew of its depths well. It was where my mom drowned five years ago; in the darkness, deep down in the frigid waters.
Just like the sheets, the drapes smelled of nothing. There was no history in them, no memories. I had to delve deep for my own. As the evening sunlight warmed my face, I remembered my mom. I was fifteen when she drowned, and I remember thinking how much warmer the Pacific should be since she had died in it.
But it remained cold, just like the rest of this world.
I felt so close to her in these moments, with the sunlight warm on my face. My mom would make things right.
At my mom's funeral five years ago, there were so many friends there praying for her and for us. Dozens of them from our church cried all these tears like they knew her. They didn't even like my mom. They thought she was too liberal. My dad was struggling with money and they all 'chipped in' to help us out with the funeral costs. So, instead of a wake praising mom and her dedication to charity, the women complimented each other on their outfits, praising each other for their elegies. Instead of playing her favorite James Brown songs and decorating our home with violets, her favorite flowers, they played Pachelbel's Canon all day and white carnations littered the living room.
Mrs. Clearwater's apple pie was delicious. The ham was sweet and juicy. She made the best damn dinner. She ran the best damn show. I think I heard her name more than my mom's. Everyone was so appreciative of her help, especially Dad, who was holding on by a thread.
We heard that morning that mom had become so bloated from the drowning, we couldn't open the casket. My dad took it harder than Rachel, Rebecca and I, who had said goodbye to Mom the moment we heard she died. To us, that body was empty.
After a brief stretch, my rank armpits the eighth deadly sin, I glanced at my cell phone. I shouldn't have looked. The last time I accepted a call was two weeks ago.
I shut my eyes, trying to forget the terror. I pulled on the clean gray t-shirt Rebecca had bought me from a Radiohead concert, forcing in the good memories. She loved that damn band, no matter how much my dad and I argued how shitty their music was. We grew up with soul. Dad sung all the classics at home: Cooke, Hathaway, Greene, and Burke, his favorite. Mom loved the funk: Brown, Clinton, even Rufus and Collins. She couldn't sing, though. Reby and dad were the ones who had the chops. They used to harmonize so well.
Humming a bit of Burke, the terror shot up as the sunlight shifted in the sky and lit my cell-phone.
I should have thrown it out after Mrs. Clearwater's message. After the police left messages about the investigation, which I had ignored, I got one despondent call after another from Dad's friends and neighbors. They all asked the same things: where I was and why didn't I attend some goddamn funeral for three caskets that had empty bodies in them.
Those corpses weren't my family. Rebecca, Rachel, and Dad weren't in those coffins. All that was left were empty shells. I didn't have to go to that damn funeral!
"Fuck!" I kicked the bottom drawer to the nightstand, and it rolled open. A worn copy of The Holy Bible was the drawer's only content.
I picked the book up and threw it at the front door.
"Fuck! Fuck! Fuck you, God! Fuck you!"
Dad's, Rachel's, and Rebecca's bodies were empty.
I didn't need a funeral to celebrate them. They were inside me. My memories were celebration enough.
I pulled out my Nano, searching through for anything from OK Computer, Rebecca's favorite album.I listened, straining to remember her husky vocals. If only I had her voice saved in my voicemail, if only. If only I had recorded her singing with dad.
No, all I had left of them was one message and Reby wasn't on it.
I turned off the song, tossing my Nano behind me. My fingers trembling, I picked up my phone, stroking the touch screen, the familiar burning ache rising in my chest. It hurt so much, but I needed to feel it. The ecstasy was coming. I just had to hear their voices one more time before I could finally breathe.
I rubbed my eyes before the tears fell and powered on the phone. Immediately, I got the notification for five new voice messages. I ignored them, going to saved messages.
"Jaaaaaake, where are you?" It was Rach. "Pick up your phone! Dad wants to talk to you about Reby's surprise. Oh! Hold on." There was a brief shuffle with the phone. And in that moment, I had to sit down on the bed because my legs got weak, just like last time.
"Jacob," Dad's raspy voice filled my ear as if he were right here beside me. "As soon as you get this message, call your sister. We miss you, boy. I'll drag you back to Forks tonight if I have to."
There was more shuffling- the final time- and I felt my right arm become numb as I almost dropped the phone. I squeezed it in my hands as Rachel took the phone back from dad.
"Don't scare him, Dad," she said away from the phone. Then, "Come back home, Jake. We haven't seen you in months. Don't worry about Leah's infidelity. You'll get over that slut, find another prettier, smarter, saner girl, marry her, then have lots and lots of babies. You'll be happy, okay? Just come home. Okay... talk to you later, Jake."
But we didn't talk. The three of them got into a car accident on their way to Seattle. They must have been coming here to surprise me instead. I would never learn of their intentions, though. I wouldn't get a voice message from Rachel explaining why she was coming here. Their reasons were now lost on the 101.
When she hung up, the phone slid from my hands just like every time I listened to this message. At impact this time, the screen cracked, the battery fell out, and the light died.
It was as if it were a bad omen, like more shit was headed my way. Well fuck that.
I scarmbled up and kicked the phone to the wall. The sound of shattered glass and plastic against the wall had such a resounding finality to it. I would never use the phone again. I would never have to use it again.
Pushing the window open, I climbed out onto the wide window ledge, the hot air blowing into my face and into my shirt. My fingers squeezed the brick, my feet unsteady on the dirty concrete as I glanced down prematurely.
A tractor trailer passed by a couple it nearly hit. From up here, they were like two dots. I squinted, watching the guy grabbed his girl and pull her across the street. They became one dot.
I gulped and painfully swallowed another breath. Itchy balls and wobbly knees made me shift my position. With a tight grasp of the brick, I slowly sat down on the rough concrete ledge, dodging the bird shit as best as I could... and saw her.
The scent of her long brown hair was captivating, sweet apples. I was mesmerized by the delicate curve of her calf as her leg swung back and forth along the hotel's brick exterior. I could almost feel her skin beneath my fingertips, the heat and softness, like she was made of whipped cream. I wanted so badly to see her face, a mystery since she sat facing away from me.
She pulled off her black vest, letting it slip from her fingers as it made its way down to the ground...twenty stories below us. It rocked this way and that, coasting a bit like a black crow, then landing on the sidewalk. It was so tiny down there, and so still, like an injured baby bird.
She turned to watch the progress and I saw her profile: cute nose and full, pouty lips. Her eyes were hazel and glimmered in the sunlight, tears falling down her face. She turned away again, leaning her head against the window.
My ears perked up as the girl began to sing a familiar song. Her voice was so soft and husky, singing a song I had made my ringtone a couple of weeks ago.
Between her quiet sniffles, the melancholic lyrics carried in the summer breeze to my eager ears:
When you're waiting for a voice to come
In the night and there is no one
Ah don't you feel like crying? (cry to me)
I wanted to reach out to her so badly and caress the pain out of her voice. I had never heard it sung with so much sorrow. Somehow, I would make her feel better. I would get her off the ledge, hold her tight, and tell her there was someone here for her tonight. I wanted to do this for her so badly.
I couldn't, because the next thing I knew, she swung her other dainty leg over the ledge and pushed herself over the edge.
Down she went, fast, like a delicate flower tied to an anvil. The fiery light of the sunset caught the red highlights in her hair. Midway down, I saw her face as she twisted in the wind. It was a mere glimpse as she tumbled, but it was enough to take my breath away. She blinked, her long lashes fluttering, then looked straight into my eyes.
She was gorgeous, too gorgeous to die like this.
Frowning, she furrowed her forehead then mouthed something like, "Let go."
Her brown cowboy boots were the last I saw of her before she hit the concrete.
So much blood. Crimson splatters on the sidewalk. The cries of bystanders rose up from the street. Shrieks from women and orders from an older man to call 911 rose up to me, and I shuddered.
Her neck was twisted like Play-doh.
It was all too much pain. I turned away when the couple who had escaped the trailer knelt down beside her. They bent their heads and looked like they were praying.
The dry summer air on my face, I swallowed as much of it as I could to stop my stomach flips, but couldn't. I shut my eyes and saw blood. I opened them and saw terror. I bent over, clutching my stomach and heaved. Dry, hot air expelled from my empty gut. Then came the agony.
"Oh God." I grabbed the window sill inside, lying down on my side, covering my ears of former sounds and new. The crack of her skull and vertebrae. The screams of more witnesses.
I could feel her tender soul inside of mine as I pulled myself back inside the room and fell to the carpet.
"Shit chick. Shit. Shit. What the fuck!" I got up on my feet and yanked the window closed.
"Fuck." I scratched my balls and armpits and neck, sweating everywhere. I felt like maggots were crawling all over my body. Dropping my shorts to the floor, and throwing my shirt on the bed, I ran into the bathroom for a shower.
The cold sprays hit my chest and I jumped back, shivering.
"Get fucking hot. Get hot!" I growled at the showerhead, tearing the soap out of its white waxy package. I scrubbed my arms hard, harder until I felt I could reach my bones. The maggots reached my scalp and I poured the entire contents of the shampoo bottle on my head. I felt the lather, the hot sharp sprays like acupuncture needles in my brain.
Pain. Too much pain.
I raked my fingers through my scalp, my nails digging in, in, deeper, deeper. But with every blink, her image remained ingrained in my mind.
Hazel eyes pleading for me to jump when she herself was about to die. Crimson death splattered on gray concrete. Ear-shattering shrieks rising up into me.
"Get out of my head. Get out of my head. Get out! Get out."
The hot sprays were like pellets of fire, and I dragged the plastic shower curtain to the side, falling to my knees on the smooth cold tiles.
I took a shallow breath, the tiny white squares on the floor doubling beneath me. Leaning back against the tub, I hugged my knees, willing the room to stop spinning.
Everything would be alright. I was still alive. Everything would be alright. I would forget. In time, I would forget her.
I breathed through my nose, the air stale and wet, and relished it. I still had lungs to breathe! What the fuck was I thinking?
Seeing her broken bones and brain matter was a wake-up call. My life might have been shitty, but nothing was shittier than what that girl looked like on the sidewalk.
The harsh hotel soap dried my skin, making it feel tight, but I relished it. Getting up, I dried off and walked back into the bedroom.
I ran a towel through my hair as I took one last look down at the street, a crowd of people gathering. Some of them pointed up at the window. Some of them pointed at me. I shook my head, throwing my Superman t-shirt on, refusing to believe they pointed at me in an accusatory manner. I didn't know the girl. They couldn't think I had anything to do with her suicide.
I shut the window, shaking off my nerves. I had to figure shit out, now. I crouched down near the wall, picking up my cell phone's battery, the only solid part of my phone left.
Suddenly, the hotel's phone rang, and I dropped the battery.
"Shit!" I stood up, wiping my shaky hands on my shorts. "Calm down, Jacob. It's not the Grim Reaper."
I walked over to the phone and picked it up before the third ring. "Hello?"
"Jake, it's Leah."
"What's up?" I grumbled. She sure as hell was worse.
"I'm gonna need you to come down to the reception desk. A couple officers wanna talk to you."
"What? Why?" I covered my eyes.
"A girl... died next door, didn't she? They want to ask if you know anything."
"I don't. Tell..." She hung up before I could finish. "...them that." I slammed the receiver down. "Thanks."
Shuffling to the elevator, my hands sweating, my legs were rubbery. The staircase tempted me as a possible escape route, but the elevator doors opened so I decided against it. Resisting them wouldn't make any sense. I would tell them what I saw and hopefully they would believe me. If I ran, I would just look guilty.
My steps hesitant, I approached to the reception desk, my ex frantic and absentminded as she received call after call about the girl's suicide.
"I hope you had a good night's sleep," Leah said, hooking the phone over her shoulder. She took a deep breath. "Because it looks like that'll be the last one you'll ever have." She jutted her chin out to something behind me. When I turned around, I saw one officer in uniform and a detective.
"Thanks, Leah," I muttered, facing her again.
She paid me no mind, retrieving another call as if I didn't exist.
"Are you Jacob Black?" The older officer in uniform asked. He took off his sunglasses, scratching the bald spot on his head.
"Yeah, I am. I heard you were looking for me?"
"We were. I'm Officer Berty. This is Detective Cullen," he said, waving his thumb towards the younger detective checking the perimeter of the lobby. He wrote something on this pocket-sized pad as he approached us.
"Some eyewitnesses outside saw you were sitting on the ledge of an adjacent room to the girl who just died," Officer Berty said. "Is this true?" He had this tinny voice like a mandolin.
"Yeah, but I had nothing to do with any of this, I swear."
"What were you doing on the ledge, Mr. Black?" He leaned in, his dark eyes questioning.
"What I was doing doesn't matter. It had nothing to do with that girl. I don't even know her name. I had never seen her before she jumped.." I rubbed my palms on my jeans, getting peeved. These people were unbelievable!
"Mr. Black," the Detective asked, joining us. He was tall, towering over both Berty and me. Sneering at the crowd outside before facing me, he reached his hand for a handshake. It was solid and assured. "Thank you for meeting with us. We're going to need as much information from you right now as possible. The more you tell us now, the quicker this little interview will be."
I released his hand, embarrassed about the sweat and wiping my jean shorts.This wouldn't be a big deal. Calm down. Tell them the truth and get it over with.
"I got on the window ledge around seven o'clock."
"What were you doing there?"
"What the fuck do you think I was doing on a window ledge? What does anyone do on a window ledge? Fuck!" I kicked the column, the plaster folding and crumbling.
"Alright, Mr. Black. I understand you're having a bad day..." Officer Berty said, his palms up.
"Bad day? Bad day? Try a bad life."
"Okay, we understand. But we have a young girl who died out there tonight. And far as we know, you were the last one with her." He hoisted his pants up, his belly protruding over his belt. "So, it was seven o'clock and..."
I punched the wall. "She was just sitting there singing this sad song."
"What was it?"
"'Cry to Me' by Solomon Burke."
Berty cleared his throat, rubbing his nose. It seemed like he recognized this song, which was interesting. I didn't take him for a guy who was into soul music. His sunglasses looked like something one of those eighties hairbands would wear.
"How did you know the song?" Berty asked.
"It was my ringtone. That's all."
"Did you talk to her?" Detective Cullen interrupted. Berty scratched his moustache, sitting down on the couch.
"No, I didn't have time to talk to her. She jumped right off the ledge after that."
A loud bang echoed from the windows behind him, and we all twisted our necks around to find its source. A mob gawked at us all along the windows. Some glared, pointing at me, leering and just so ugly. The sunset cast them in a reddish glow. The hatred in their faces tinged by the dark light made them seem demonic. It was like looking into a circle of hell.
A burly monster of a guy with black hair all over his chest, back and forearms stood near the doors giving me the finger. I walked up to him and gave that asshole body builder the finger right back. He pounded the glass, and the mob's jeers rose so loudly I could barely hear what was said behind me.
At that moment, another officer in uniform walked in from the revolving doors. He nodded my way, shifting the Ziplock bag from under his left arm to his right. I couldn't see its contents from where I stood.
"Detective Cullen," the new officer said behind me with a slight southern drawl. He raised his voice over the noise. "We found some information about the girl." I looked over my shoulder to catch him hand Cullen a Ziplock bag. There was a wallet inside and a folder.
"Mr. Black!" I heard the Detective's voice boom from behind me, and I whipped around.
"Yeah. Yeah, I'm here."
"I'm gonna need you to focus on these items. Forget the mob."
I faced the three officers. For a split second, they all stood there, the exact same worry marking each of their frowns.
I was exhausted all of a sudden; my hyped state had run its course. The jeers didn't help. Without the half dozen cops outside blocking the mob from the entrance, they would have torn me apart. Plopping down on the couch across from Berty, I dropped my face onto my hands, regretting my decision. I should have run away when I had the chance.
Cullen opened the folder and read its contents quickly.
"Her name was Bella Swan. Does that name ring a bell?"
"No." I rubbed my face, my eyelids heavy.
"Did she say anything else on the ledge before the incident? Or...on the way down?" Berty asked.
"Umm, I don't know. I thought she said something, but I'm not sure."
"What do you think she said?" Berty asked.
I did a double take. His voice wasn't tinny anymore. It was raspy like my dad's. Shit, exactly like my dad's!
"Are you okay?" He walked over and sat down next to me on the couch. He patted my shoulder. "You look a little green, boy."
I jumped, scooting over to the other end of the couch. Berty just patted my shoulder the same way dad used to.
"I think I need to go back to my room..." I groaned, staring up at Cullen as he wrote in his pad. I rubbed my temples, a headache building. I was definitely seeing and hearing things. His pad had Radiohead's OK Computer cover art on it.
What was happening to me? Was I going insane?
"Before you do that, what do you think she said?" Cullen flipped the pages down on the pad, chewing his pencil. "Even a guess might help. We just want to make sure it's not a homicide."
"It wasn't. Only the two of us were there, and no one pushed her." My eyelids heavy, I stifled a yawn. "And she didn't really say anything. Her lips moved in a way that looked like, 'Let go.'"
The three of them gave me that worried look again, and I wanted to slap them.
"Mind telling me what the fuck is going on?"
The Detective flipped up the pages on his pad, writing another note. "Thank you, Mr. Black. This will definitely help."
Cullen shook my hand, thanking me again, his smile genuine. But he left without explaining why they had given me those pitying looks. So, I turned to Berty, who still looked at me like I had a dying baby in my arms. I rolled my eyes.
"I'll be fine. You don't have to worry about me. I didn't even know her."
"It couldn't have been easy watching somebody die right in front of you," Officer Berty said, standing.
He was right. It wasn't. But I didn't need his pity. I didn't need anyone's.
"I'm fine. I'll be fine. So, what happens now?"
"Nothing," Berty said. "We will call you if anything else comes up."
"So you don't think I did it, right? I'm not going to prison?"
"No, you're fine." He patted my shoulder two more times before letting go. Exactly like dad's. I hitched my breath, clutching my right shoulder. Who was this man?
He stood up, hoisting his pants up yet again.
"Yeah, Bella's dead," I whispered. "None of that shit matters to her anymore. Lucky her."
"That's right, boy," he said, heading to the revolving doors. He glanced over his shoulder. "Bella let go."
I hooked my arm over the back of the couch, turning to watch him leave. Clutching my shoulder again, my mind raced with fear and suspicion. Not only did he repeat what Bella mouthed to me as she fell to her death, I felt like my dad was right here with me, and I couldn't shake it.
When I got up to go to my room, humming the Burke song, I saw someone pass the revolving doors outside and banged my knee against the coffee table.
"Fuck!" I bent down to rub it but kept my eye on the door. It was someone who shouldn't have been walking anywhere ever again. She had jumped off a window ledge less than an hour ago for fuck's sake.
Bella's long brown hair bounced behind her, the black vest on her back, and the same cowboy boots. How the fuck was she taking a stroll like this was Cal Anderson Park?
I hobbled to the doors, my heartbeat pulsing in my ears until I opened them and reached the sidewalk. She even smelled the same: sweet apples.
I searched the area, but couldn't find her. Then, I looked across the street and saw Bella standing in line with the mob.
The sidewalk and streets were still pitch black. The only lights came from the police cars, blue and red on my side of the street. I tried crossing the street to get a better look, to touch her, to see if she would feel like whipped cream beneath my fingers. As I got closer, the crowd became rowdy again, shouting obscenities.
"You made her jump, didn't you?" the burly guy who gave me the finger before said in an unnaturally high voice.
Glares and murmurs of my horrible nature spread.
"Officers, he was there! Arrest him!" A huge woman in a red raincoat bellowed, her jowls trembling. "He killed that beautiful girl!"
I took a step to them, their taunts like smoke, suffocating me. I felt like I was choking when Detective Cullen grabbed my arm and held me back.
"Where do you think you're going?" His eyes were so dark and his voice was so loud, I cowered away. "You can't be out here! You're making those people crazy."
"You don't understand. Look!" With a trembling finger, I pointed across the street but suddenly lost her.
"What? What?" The Detective glanced but didn't bother searching. As soon as he turned to face me again, though, I saw her stand right in front of the barricade. Bella stared right at me, her pouty lips forming a frown.
"That's her! Shit dude! That's the girl! Bella Swan!" I tried to cross the street to her, but Cullen pushed me into the brick wall of the hotel. He didn't even check to see if I was telling the truth.
"No, Black. It's not. She's dead, man." Cullen cocked his head towards the other cops who were standing around talking. "They're taking her body now."
I peered over his shoulder to my right. I couldn't see it before, but it was apparent now. Yellow tape sectioned off the part of the sidewalk where Bella had fallen. A white sheet on the ground covered her body. Her right boot jutted out from the end and her brown hair spilled onto the sidewalk surrounded by a puddle of blood.
"Oh God, I'm going crazy." I shook my head. Bella's beautiful face was still across the street.
"You should get some sleep, Black. You had a rough day." He turned and headed to the coroners who were gathering up Bella's corpse. I watched Cullen kneel beside her. The summer breeze waved the sheet to and fro, almost as if it were saying goodbye to me for her.
My feet as heavy as lead, I went back inside. Bella was dead. I was crazy. No big deal. I slapped the button for the twentieth floor. I would figure it all out tomorrow.
When I reached my floor, a faint whisper came from behind me. But when I twisted around, no one was there. I turned back to my room, digging into my pocket for my key card. That was when I heard the song that I had been humming rise and echo around me.
When you're waiting for a voice to come
In the night and there is no one
Ah don't you feel like crying? (cry to me)
I squeezed my eyes shut, my heart and brain feeling like they were about to explode. Bella sang this on the ledge, and now, somehow, she was singing it again.
Running to my room, my legs heavy, and goosebumps rising along my neck, it seemed like her voice came from the walls and ceiling and floor.
"Get the fuck out of my life!" I said up into the ceiling, but the song didn't let up.
I glanced at the yellow tape on her door, her voice deepening, the words becoming harder to understand. Slamming the door behind me, I climbed into bed, pressing my pillows to my ears, the song pounding in my brain.
I could smell her. Her sweet apples filled my nose even as I lay face down in my pillow in a cold sweat.
"Shit." I turned onto my back, checking out the time. It was just after midnight. "Shit." I must have passed out. I pushed the sheets off of me and flicked the switch at the base of the lamp, I rolled over, and saw Bella staring at me from the door.
"How... What are you doing here?" My voice cracked.
She shook her head, her face contorted, as she hugged her middle tight. Turning for the door, she flung it open and ran down the hallway.
"How the fuck? Hey, wait!" I took one step outside and doubled over. The hallway was steeped in the sweet apples. My cock shriveled up as the memory of the blood and the shrieks returned to me. "Fuck no, you're dead! You're... fucking... dead!"
Hearing the door to the staircase click open, I saw her escape me as if she were alive. Why run down twenty flights? The girl had just survived her suicide. She could probably fly like a goddamn wizard from Harry Potter.
I got off the elevator just in time to see her run through the revolving doors.
Outside, her scent enveloped me. The streetlights were on, but the streets were empty. I didn't see one car parked for blocks. Even the yellow tape was gone, as were the barricades. No one walked on the sidewalks. It was blacker than the bottom of the Pacific.
I looked to my left and saw Bella seated Indian style on the spot where she had died. She looked up the moment I opened my eyes, her face wet with tears.
"How did you get down here so fast?"
"How the fuck do you know my name?" I asked, crossing my arms.
"I've known you for years."
I went over to her, grabbing her arms and picking her up from the ground. "That's such bullsh-" Bella was as hot as a furnace. Like I had imagined, her skin was soft and creamy. Her cheeks were flushed pink, like guava. Panicked, I let go of her.
"How are you so warm? You're..." I gulped. "I saw you die. I heard your skull crack when you hit the ground!"
"I'm sorry this is so confusing," she whimpered. "I've tried so hard to make this easier for you but you won't believe."
"What the fuck does that mean?"
"I can't- I can't tell you. I can only show you."
Watching her dig into the pocket of her shorts, she pulled out something flat and black. It looked like a battery.
"Recognize it?" She asked, flipping it over and over in her hand. With a closer look, I realized that I did. It was the battery for my phone.
"It was here, on the spot where... I jumped."
"How did you survive the jump, hunh? How are you alive right now?"
"You shouldn't focus on me..." She walked up to me, reaching up to my face.
"Don't touch me." I growled, slapping her hand away. "Who are you?"
"It doesn't matter." She pressed the battery to my chest. "Please... remember."
Holding the battery to my chest, I couldn't take my eyes off hers. They glittered, much like they did when she jumped, telling me to let go.
"What- What do you want from me?"
"Jake, everything that I have done since the first moment you saw me was to try... try to help you."
"Help me what?"
She walked past me, towards the hotel's revolving doors. When I turned around, her scent intensified, and I closed my eyes, remembering my mom again. I didn't know why I couldn't remember before but she smelled exactly like my mom.
I hurled the battery to the ground, going over to her.
"Hey, help me what? Go crazy?"
"No, you have to understand that I'm here to make things easier for you."
"Really?" I slammed my hand against the window, remembering everything that happened since she jumped, going backwards.
"The song in the hallway... The police... Berty reminded me of my dad. Cullen had a Radiohead pad. And you, you smell like my mom. And-" I wiped my brow, then slammed my hand on the window again. I felt like I was being had. "How is remembering this shit making my life easier, hunh?"
"Jake, I can't say any more, please," she covered her cheeks, rubbing them in circles.
"Why did you jump? How did seeing all your blood on the ground make things easier? I'm gonna be traumatized for the rest of my fucking life. And look at you!" I waved my hand at her, fuming. "Whatever the fuck you are, you're perfectly fine and alive like you didn't kill yourself!"
"Because..." She turned around, facing the street. "I didn't kill myself."
"Jake, please." she said. Facing me again, she took my hands. She pulled me back to the spot where she had jumped. "Look," she said, pointing to the sidewalk around us. Near the curb, I saw my screen broken into a million pieces like it had been in my room. On the street, there were green chips everywhere.
"What..." I gulped, my fingers going numb. "How did this happen?"
She reached out to me, but I flinched. "Oh, Jacob, it's okay. Just let go, please!"
"Why do you keep saying that? Let go of what?"
"Accept the truth and be free. When you are ready to see, let go."
"Stop being so cryptic and tell me the truth! What do I have to see?"
She sniffled, fat tears falling down her pink cheeks. Her lips quivered as a sob escaped her.
"Oh no," I said, stroking her frail shoulder. "Look, don't cry. I'm sorry I've been yelling at you. I'm sorry I've been so cruel. I've just been through a lot today. Not more than you have, of course, but a lot. I tend to turn into an asshole when I get stressed, but I shouldn't take it out on you. Just please stop crying. Please!"
She sniffled, wiping her face and looking up at me with her deep hazel eyes. I turned into a puddle of goo with that look. I couldn't handle girls crying, ever.
"It's okay. I've managed worse." She frowned, taking the battery from me. Then, she said, "I have tried so many other ways to make you see the truth so that you won't have to suffer anymore, but I can't do it."
She stared up at the black sky, closing her eyes.
"Whatever it is, I can handle it. I've gone through a lot in my life, and I will continue to go through more, probably worse things."
"No," she whispered, tears streaking down her temples. "Oh God, Jacob, I'm so sorry. You'll never suffer through anything ever again because you're dead."
She lowered her head, her eyes boring into mine. She took a deep breath.
"I didn't jump off the ledge last night, you did."
"Impossible..." A burning ache filled my chest. I couldn't breathe, and I clutched my stomach, a wave of nausea overtaking me. "I saw you. You jumped and told me to let go. I saw you do that shit!" But as I said it, I remembered bits and pieces of my fall.
The hot air rushing up my back.
"That's because I was trying to make you see things wouldn't be that bad on this side. You see me. You can touch me. See? It's not that scary, Jake."
But no. No, everything that happened since then was too real. No, I was still alive. I could breathe for God's sake!
"Impossible," I backed away into the side of the building. "I've been interacting with people..."
"They-" She paused, biting her lip. "They weren't people. They were hallucinations."
"No. No, the cops were there! Leah was even there! The mob!"
She shook her head, more tears falling steadily. "Officer Berty was your dad. He was trying to get you to see, just like me. He was trying to help you avoid more pain. If you'd just let go."
I gasped. "How did you know about Officer Berty?"
"Because I was there to help your dad help you cross over. He had to use the disguise so he wouldn't scare you. You were scared anyway, and it didn't work. Please, remember now, Jake, before it's too late."
Officer Berty was my dad?
He did pat me on the shoulder... He spoke to me from the other side. The entire time we were in the lobby, he was trying to get me to see the truth, to remember my own death when all I could think of was Bella's. I thought I didn't deserve his worry and pity. I never thought I deserved anyone's.
Her arms opened up for a hug, but I stepped back.
"How could I be dead and feel so much pain? Dead people don't touch things and hurt like this! "
"How do you know? You've never been dead before."
My stomach dropped to my feet. Shit!
"No, I can't be dead." I shook my head, fighting another memory.
The tingle in my fingers as I squeezed my phone in my hands.
"Why the fuck would I still be here if I were? I was the one who wanted to leave this fucked up world. Why am I still here?"
"Because you're afraid. But I'm here to help you. I've been here since you jumped. I've tried to take you back to your family. They miss you." Bella stepped towards me, but I stumbled backwards to the doorway of the Monmouth.
Even now, I felt the smooth glass of the revolving doors against my back. I felt the cool breeze of the evening air on my face. How could I feel these things and be dead? She had to be lying. This was a trick. I wasn't dead.
Then I remembered something else:
The blue sky overhead. There wasn't one cloud in the sky. I had marveled at that the moment I hit the ground.
"This is... it's bullshit."
She took a bold step towards me, taking my hand in hers. They were so warm and tiny around mine. And her eyes were glowing, a light radiating from within. She was so beautiful and so loving, everything I had ever wanted in a girl. I could have found someone as loving if she stopped this foolishness about my death. It wasn't me. For fuck's sakes, I didn't die.
"You keep punishing yourself, Jacob. You've gotta stop. You've gotta let go of all of the pain. You don't deserve it."
"I never said I did..." I said, pulling my hands out of hers, and turning away from her, my eyes watering. "The pain seems to always come to me."
"You've suffered for so long," Bella murmured, holding my face in her hands. She stroked my cheeks, her eyes like butterscotch. "You don't even know what it's like to accept the freedom. Jacob, you don't have to expect it anymore. There will be no more suffering when you let it all go."
"Why should I believe anything you tell me, hunh?" I pointed at the remnants of my phone on the sidewalk. "This is hardly proof. You haven't even told me who you are."
She frowned, shaking her head. "That's because if I tell you or show you who I am, you won't be able to handle it and the transition will be harder for you. I've already told you too much. You have to do the rest."
"No, tell me. Why would a random girl jump off a building for me?"
Bella stood back, bowing her head. More tear drops fell to the ground, darkening the concrete at her feet. I heard her whisper more apologies about my suffering. Then, with her thick brown hair falling over her face, I couldn't see her expression as she said:
"I'm an angel, Jake. I'm your guardian angel."
Her voice was softer than a whisper, and I thought I had been imagining the whole thing when she looked up at me. It was then that I knew she wasn't lying.
"Oh God." I dropped down to the sidewalk, her eyes overtaking my mind, body, and soul. They were a part of the very best of my childhood memories. They were eyes I hadn't seen in five years. They were probably why I was closer to Rachel than Rebecca. Out of the three of us, Rachel was lucky enough to have her eyes.
"Jacob, please don't freak out."
"Why do you have my mother's eyes? Why do you have her eyes?"
Suddenly, Bella's face shone like a beacon. Bright white beams shot out from her mouth and eyes. In a flash, her clothing disappeared, and she was swathed in white light, her dark hair flying up and around her.
A whoosh of wind hit me square in the face, and separated us by several feet. My ears began ringing, and I couldn't hear anything but my heart beating.
"What's happening? What's going on?" I yelled over the swirling wind picking me up from the ground, carrying me away from Bella.
"Jacob, don't be afraid. Just let go," she cried out. Tears streaked her face, now as white as the center of the sun. She radiated a pure energy, a warm energy that I wanted so badly to get close to, but couldn't.
I had to get to that warmth, because it was another thing that reminded me of my mother. My mother was always so warm, even during the coldest winter days in Forks, she was like a furnace. No matter how hard I struggled to rejoin Bella on the ground, I couldn't.
"Why can't I get to you?" The wind speed picked up, and I was twisted up in the middle of the sky. I was as high as the window of my room at the hotel. I peeked inside and saw my Radiohead and James Brown t-shirts in large Ziplock bags strewn on the bed and floor. The cops had been there to investigate if my death had been a homicide.
The wind howled in my ears and twisted me face down to Bella, who stared up at me from the street. She was so bright, I couldn't see the features in her face anymore. I shielded my eyes, beginning to panic as the wind whipped me around and around like a leaf.
"How do you I get back to you? Bella, help me!"
"Let go, Jake!"
I had no other options left but to listen. I let go of my suspicions and fears and self-loathing and hesitations and felt her warmth infuse me. I could feel her in my bones. Oh God, she felt so good.
"You're beginning to see the truth. Come to us and you will be able to breathe."
I took one final look up at the sky as the weight of a thousand men pressed down on my chest and propelled me toward the ground faster than a rocket ship.
Everything hurt. I held my head as I descended, trying to hold it together. It felt like it was swelling and about to explode. "Make it stop!"
"I'm so sorry you have to endure this again," Bella called up to me. "You're re-imagining your suicide. It's gonna hurt, but the pain is nearly over. I promise. It will all be over soon."
I thought I was about to burst into flames I was so hot. I took a deep breath, feeling Bella's comforting embrace wrap around me, trying to ignore the heat, but it was too much.
"Bella, make it stop!"
"Jacob, let go. Let go and you will see your mother's eyes again."
When I shut my eyes, I remembered them.
I closed my eyes and saw my family smiling. I could smell my mom's shampoo: sweet apples. I could see Rachel in her favorite brown, cowboy boots she wore everyday when she was a senior in high school. I could hear Rebecca singing a song that I had made my ringtone after she had died. It was a song Dad had loved and she grew to love, too. Her haunting vocals tore into me, and I wanted so badly to hold her close to me so she wouldn't sound so hurt.
When you're waiting for a voice to come
In the night and there is no one
Ah don't you feel like crying? (cry to me)
Bella knew all about my family. She wanted me to see them in her. She wanted me make the connection in that lobby and even earlier on the window ledge. I just couldn't. I wasn't ready.
I was now, though. Bella was right. I was dead.
And in less than five seconds, I would let go of all of the pain and be with my family again.
"They love you, Jacob, and they can't wait to see you," I heard Bella say so loudly, her voice sounded like it came from within.
Just before I hit the ground, an excruciating pain seized my head. I cried Bella's name and saw red. Through the rush of the wind, I heard her pray:
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want...
I saw all of their love and felt their arms around me. I felt their warmth deep down inside. There was no more pain or terror. Finally, I took a breath.
Every muscle in my body constricting, I rolled up into a tight ball, and hit the pavement.