Author's Note: I hope I made you fall in love with this Edward, because he is still going to be a total $$hat and break up with Bella in the next book. The good news? That hot piece of man-flesh known as Jacob Black shows up, and he, too must authentically engage with this fumbling, fat Bella. Running With Wolves is my favorite of the stories and I hope you read on to see why!
Part the eighth: Epilogue
Edward was sitting at the Swan's kitchen table. Though he couldn't clearly read Chief Swan's thoughts, he was keenly aware of the animosity and menace emanating from the frail human. Regardless, Edward felt real fear in the presence of this man.
They heard a familiar arrhythmic clumping sound. Bella, with a heavy cast on her leg, was coming down the stairs. Edward stood too abruptly and knocked his chair backward. He was at the bottom of the stairs, then scaling them two at a time to offer her a hand as she made her way down.
Her time in the wheelchair had been shorter than anticipated. It was only by her own insistence that she got out of that wheelchair—until she was on crutches she couldn't sleep in her own room but had to make do on the living room recliner. That meant long stretches of time without the crucial privacy she needed with Edward. Charlie wouldn't let her out of sight anymore, and he often slept on the couch in case she needed help in the night. Alice had offered her services as a caretaker—being the only person besides Bella's doctor to see the giant girl completely naked.
Charlie was extremely grateful to Alice for that. He was also grateful to Carlisle who had treated Bella's break after her exceptionally clumsy fall off a fire escape. Between Alice and Carlisle, Charlie had managed to give Edward another shot, though the air was always tense. The Blacks also hadn't been around since she returned, even though Bella had jokingly mentioned having a wheelchair race with Billy. Despite Bella's pretending, nothing had returned to normal.
Still, she did her best to play down the shock and drama of that cursed Spring break. In the past few weeks she had been fitted for a cast. Just in time for prom! the doctor had told her cheerily. This was part of the act, part of their attempts to cover-up a complicated trauma. Bella, against her better intentions, had to slough off responsibility of her own actions. She cloaked herself in the dizzy-hormone excuse of being a teenager in love: Sorry, Dad. I don't know what came over me. It was pretty lame, and it made her feel shallow. She had never been that irrational adolescent, and she knew Charlie didn't fully buy it. Edward told her that Charlie had searched her room for mind-altering drugs.
Tonight she was wearing a dress designed by Alice. It had capped sleeves and a scooped, open neckline which showcased her frail clavicle—only her wrists, ankles and collar bones were delicate. Alice's designs often tried to feature these elements, alway complimenting Bella's better attributes. Like most of Alice's designs for Bella it had a defined waist with a ribbon sash. It was slimming dark green with black trim. Black also matched the boot on her cast. She wore a flower corsage over the scar on her arm and her jet hair tumbled Rapunzel-like down her open back.
"You're looking lovely, Bella," Charlie allowed. "You call me if you need a ride home."
"I'll take care of her, Chief Swan," Edward said warmly. Charlie ignored him, having heard this line before. "Is Dr. Cullen going to be chaperoning the prom?" He asked Bella.
"No, but it would be a good idea for next year," she said kindly. She was antsy to leave so she could shrill at Edward. He forced her to go through with this senseless ritual, not just for their cover but because he honestly believed she needed it. He insisted on picking her up, going through the American traditions of corsage, limousine, watching her descent from a staircase, etc. She managed to talk him out of the limo.
She had been confined to the Phoenix hospital for a few days before returning to Forks. Carlisle made a good impression on the hospital staff and had treated and dressed Bella's bite wound until it more resembled an older injury. The vampire venom made the mark scar prematurely, and the doctors regarded Bella as a suicidal runaway. They were sure to call Renee back to Phoenix as quickly as possible. Charlie was bound by work to remain in Forks for that week, but Bella guessed he was also afraid of Bella, especially in the presence of Renee. Her mother chatted daily by her bedside, completely understanding Bella's impulsive emotions. She mentioned that she was worried by the arson to the dance studio nearby and she and Phil were thinking of leaving Phoenix due to the recent crime. Edward and Carlisle met Renee at the hospital and successfully charmed her, but his magic was useless on Charlie.
"I'll be home early, Dad," she added warmly. Despite all that she had been though, she knew she had to treat Charlie gingerly. A trust had been breached and it would take her a long time to earn it back. She only hoped he would forgive Edward. She still planned on spending her life with him.
Edward helped her into the Volvo. She had wanted to take the truck, but until she could use her clutch foot again she wasn't driving. Again, the car was the only place where the two of them could be alone. But Edward refused to take advantage of their privacy, keeping himself physically and emotionally distant from Bella.
Even though Edward had proved that he could stop himself he acted as though the opposite had happened. Carlisle hadn't pulled him away, it was Edward who let her live. But Edward had been on edge ever since he'd tasted her blood. He had mangled her, scarred her, broken her, and he took all her pain upon himself. So she she treated him gently as well. Sometimes it pissed her off.
Like right now.
"I'd like to point out that I'm the victim in all of this, yet I still have to suffer through the embarrassment of prom."
"It won't be an embarrassment. You are lovely. Besides, you can finally show those idiots how beautiful you are." Edward said calmly. There was an edge to his voice, cruel and full of hatred forthose idiots.
"They wouldn't see it. They'll just see you and how cumbersome I am attached to you." Edward let out a growl of disapproval. He was tied up in anger, and it took all his strength not to dismember the students who thought ill of Bella.
"How cumbersome I look attached to you," Bella amended.
"It's a rite of passage. You'll thank me later." Edward said stiffly.
"Edward," Bella said gently, wanting to say something deeper. But the moment was all wrong. It had been difficult to talk about what happened and the more time that passed the harder it would get. Well, I'll make him listen, Bella decided. She wasn't planning on having any fun at prom any way, she might as well get something useful out of it.
They pulled up to the high school. In Forks, prom was almost always hosted in the gym. The weather had turned out nice enough that the football field had been acquired for the prom. Dance floors were laid atop the grass and tents with Christmas lights burst with music, food, and non-alcoholic beverages.
Edward was helping Bella out of the car and she put her hand to his face, making him look her in the eyes.
"Edward, look at me." Her voice was gentle, "Thank you." She let the words sink in, even bringing one of his hands to touch the scar on her arm. The scar that was slightly cooler than the rest of her body.
"No," Edward pulled his hand back in disgust, "Don't thank me for putting you in that position."
"I chose it. I still choose you. You have to accept that. Listen to me." She was unrelenting, "I love you. Deal with it." The whole experience had obviously been traumatizing for Bella, but there was no one she could confess in. Edward's weakness made her force a bravado that she didn't fully believe. She did love him, even still, even after all that danger. If anything, she loved him more than she had before—she was more sure that he was the one. But it didn't mean she was glad about anything that happened, only that he had saved her.
Edward was shaking his head, "No," he was muttering.
"You don't believe that I love you?"
"I just don't understand it," he said. They were still beside the car. Bella put her hand up, splaying the fingers. Edward gingerly touched his fingertips to her own, then pressing the palm against her warm hand.
"You just have to trust me," Bella said, putting her forehead against Edward's and whispering. "Remember? Partners. I'll believe you if you believe me. Believe that I know what I am saying when I love you. I have to trust that you love this moldering corpse of mine." She gave a short laugh.
Edward wrinkled his forehead. Bella had been using more derogatory terms for her body since the incident. She was more ashamed of her limits than before. He loved her body and her humanness, to hear her disparage it time and again hurt him.
"Don't say that. You aren't a corpse, Bella," His voice had enough weariness in it that she felt stung.
"But I'm broken," she said, her voice trembling more than she had wanted. Edward soothed her, stroking her hair and bringing her into a warm embrace. They hadn't been allowed to be alone together outside of school since the incident, and this was the first time they'd been able to be open. After she got the cast, Edward sometimes crept into her room at night to help Bella fall asleep, but he felt guilty and resisted anything that made him happy. Still, here together they see-sawed: Bella would pretend to be strong for him, bolstering and solid. Then, once Edward was on his feet again, Bella could confess her own weakness and he would hold her up.
Their embrace, even without a kiss, was so moving that Bella's shoulders shook with a little sob. She was glad that she had turned down Alice's make-up suggestions.
"You aren't broken," Edward whispered, pressing his cheek to hers, letting his fingers trace her spine, "you're just different from me. I envy you, Bella." She choked back tears. Now wasn't the time for crying.
"Kiss me," she asked. Her request was so pathetic, her situation so vulnerable that Edward didn't have the heart to refuse her or his own pleasure. He put his mouth to hers, breathing her in, exhaling his own sweetness against her face. Bella controlled herself better, concentrating too hard on not breaking into tears again. They parted with light, small kisses.
"Okay," Bella swallowed, clearing her throat and trying to put on a smile, "you can finally show me how to waltz." Edward smiled, a genuine smile she hadn't seen in months. He put his arm around her waist and lifted slightly so that she wouldn't have to put as much weight on her foot. She gave a little laugh, still surprised whenever he handled her burden so easily. As they approached the party a figure peeled away from the shadows of the building and blocked their path.
He scared Bella at first, her memory flashing back to the drunk college kids back in Silverdale. Then she laughed, pleasantly surprised,
"Jacob! Did you get a date here?"
He smiled and his eyes flitted to Edward. A warm flush brightened his skin and Edward politely excused himself.
"No, actually my dad paid me to come see you."
"What?" Bella asked, feeling awkward now that she had to stand on her own weight, in a parking lot, in a fancy dress. There was coldness where once there had been Edward.
"I'm sorry, Bella. It's really embarrassing but—"
"You've grown since I last saw you," Bella noted abruptly.
"Yeah, it's called a growth spurt," he laughed, "but seriously, Bella, Dad wants me to pass on a message." Bella had a bad feeling about where this was going.
"Why couldn't he tell me this himself?" Bella asked with a tinge of anger in her voice.
"Can I just get this over with? It's as bad for me as it is for you," he looked ashamed and Bella was angry with Billy for putting Jacob in the middle.
"Is it about Edward?" She asked.
"Yeah, he told me to tell you that you should dump him."
"Next." She said dismissively.
"What?" Jacob was startled by her short tone.
"I said 'next', what's the next part of the message? I'm not leaving Edward. He should know that."
Jacob's eyes dropped away from Bella. She realized that he must have been nearly 6'4 by now. She had grown quickly, but he was growing before her very eyes. He had easily outgrown his parents, and Bella knew how that felt. It softened her a little, but she was still mad at Billy.
"The next part is too ridiculous, I'm sorry," he apologized and moved as if to leave.
"How much is he paying you for the full message?" Bella asked, her tone less acidic.
"Fifty bucks," Jacob murmured abashedly.
"Well, I won't screw you out of new parts for your dream car," she smiled, "Let me have it. I'm sorry, I won't shoot the messenger."
"He said," he shook his head, forcing the words out, "quote: We'll be watching you. Unquote." He forced a laugh.
Bella joined in, letting a giggle rise up. It relaxed Jacob and she smiled.
"Okay, your dad is crazysauce," she said. "Are you staying for the prom?"
"Uh, no," he said even though he was wearing an untucked button-down shirt and black slacks. He had a poorly-tied necktie on as well, but no jacket. He'd carefully pulled his hair into a ponytail, and Bella guessed that this was his best attempt at formal wear.
"I don't have a date," he said softly, "except with my car, I guess." He added lamely. Then he looked past Bella, "Plus, Edward looks like he wants you back."
"Wait," Bella stopped Jacob before he could disappear again, "give me a hug, big guy. I miss you. Next time you stop by, don't bring your dad," She reached forward to hug him and was bewildered when her feet left the ground. What the hell?
"Jesus, Jake!" She had to control the volume of her voice, "What are you eating?" He blushed charmingly, setting her down. "You look nice tonight," He shrugged, as if that was an answer. He was thin and tall, but his broad shoulders belied his skinny frame. Like a puppy with over-sized paws, Bella could see that in a few years Jacob would be filled out and massive: how could he be so shy? She wanted him to stay, to help him relax, but he was insistent upon leaving. He turned and jogged towards Billy's pick-up in the parking lot. Bella was confused by the entire exchange, but Edward was soon by her side again.
"Billy Black telling you to stay away from me again?" He guessed.
"Did you read Jacob's thoughts?" Bella felt defensive for Jacob, Edward didn't seem to like him much, though he remained polite.
"His head's mostly empty anyway," Edward lied. Then, "Come on, I'm going to make you waltz." He shouldered some of her weight and they moved toward the dance floor. He held her delicately, as though she were porcelain. He turned on all his charm and dazzle to keep Bella's focus on him, rather than the gawking peers who clustered by the punch bowl.
She was still just seventeen, and so was Edward. They had time, she told herself. But that is what they had thought before James showed up.
Author's Note: Thank you for reading book one in the Bella Swan is Fat and Ugly tetrology.
Next up: Running with Wolves, a re-hash of New Moon except with a more mature Jacob and a kick-ass Bella.
Following that is Semper Augustus, the re-working of Eclipse and a chance for me to really earn that M rating!