"I love you Bella."
"I love you too Jake. I'll miss you…" I replied, leaning in to the large hand pressed against my cheek.
It was the end of August and the humidity was stifling. The tall coniferous trees which mark the Olympic Peninsula did little to block out the heat of the summer. Although the small town of Forks was often overcast, today's appearance of the sun did nothing to quell the nervous feelings rising in Bella's stomach as her boyfriend and lifelong friend, Jacob, bid her farewell.
Jacob's grandfather, Ephraim Black, had just passed away. The entire tribe would spend the next sixty days in seclusion on the reserve to honour the passing of their chief. No outsiders were allowed to participate in the mourning rituals, which included Bella.
As Jacob walked away and got into his old beat-up VW Rabbit to head back to La Push, Bella watched him go with tears in her eyes. She had been absolutely determined that she would not show Jacob how much he would be missed and how much she needed him. Once the car was out of sight Bella turned to go back into the small two story house where she lived with her father, Charlie Swan, Forks' Chief of Police, and her younger brother Jasper. As she walked through the door she could hear the phone ringing and rushed to answer.
"Bella! You'll never guess what I just heard! Rumour has it that Emmett's aunt and uncle just died in some horrible car crash and their kids will be coming here to live with Emmett's family. Isn't that amazing?!" Bella cringed and held the phone away from her ear as her friend Jessica squealed out her gossip in one long breath.
"Jess, I would hardly consider two people dying in a car accident 'amazing' news," Bella admonished. This did nothing to quell her friend's enthusiasm.
"Oh of course not, but what I mean is they're our age. You know what this means? We'll get new students at the smallest and most boring high school in all of America! And one of them is a boy. AND they're both from Chicago. Can you imagine all the wild stories they must have to tell…" As Jessica droned on, Bella's mind inevitably wandered.
Jessica Stanley was one of Forks High's biggest gossips. She was always calling Bella to deliver the latest news on scandals in the area. Most of the time Bella was indifferent toward Jessica's propensity for gossip, but today she could not stop thinking about Jacob and was not in the mood to placate her friend.
"That's great Jess, but I have to get going now. If I don't start dinner soon then none of us will be eating tonight."
Jessica sighed audibly. "Alright Bella, I'll just have to call someone who cares. I wonder what Lauren is doing!" Bella rolled her eyes and bid her farewells. Lauren Mallory was not on her list of favourite people.
As she hung up the phone, Bella turned around and jumped. Sitting on the kitchen counter with a big goofy grin on his face was Jasper.
"Hey Bells, what's mega mouth got to say today?" His grin got wider.
Bella was not in the mood for this conversation, so she curtly replied, "Nothing of consequence. And I'd really appreciate you not putting your butt where I'm going to be making our family meal." She gently but firmly nudged Jasper on the shoulder to show him she wasn't in the mood for his banter. Jasper's face changed from amused to concerned.
"Sorry Bells, I know this is a rough time for you. Can I help with anything?" He waved his arms toward the fridge indicating his offer to help prepare dinner. Bella had to smile at that; the last time she recruited Jasper's help in the kitchen, they had spent two hours cleaning up the mess.
"Thanks but no thanks. I'm not making anything complicated anyway. Just some pasta and garden salad. You'd be better off getting started on the lawn before Charlie gets back." Bella replied.
Jasper grimaced uncomfortably. "Yeah you're probably right. Wouldn't want the old man to have heart failure." Jasper walked out of the kitchen and out the back door. Bella smiled in spite of herself and shook her head.
Jasper had been under house arrest for most of the summer ever since the incident where his pellet gun had been the one responsible for ruining the town church's stained glass window. All his pleading that it had been an attempted civil war reenactment could not help Charlie overlook his son's raised blood alcohol level. Jasper's only salvation from legal repercussions had been that his father was the Chief of Police and promised the citizens that he would personally oversee Jasper's punishment. This included a total lack of freedom from leaving the Swan property with the exception of Jasper's shifts working at Newton's outdoor supply store, breaking up with his girlfriend Maria who had been deemed a bad influence, and indentured servitude to completing all the 'men's work' around the house while Charlie had to work. It had been a trying summer for all of them.
As Bella went through the motions of preparing dinner, her mind wandered toward Jacob. She remembered their first date…
They had just finished dinner at a little Italian restaurant in Port Angeles when Bella spotted an old bookstore down the street with its lights still on.
"Oh look, I want to check it out!" She exclaimed enthusiastically.
"Anything you want, Bella. Let's go have a look" Jacob replied as he tenderly placed an arm around her shoulders. Bella looked up into his dark brown eyes and smiled.
When they got into the store, Bella was delighted to see so many of her favourite titles mixed in with other classics she had always wanted to read. She ran for the nearest display shelf and picked up different volumes, flipping through pages, relishing the feel of each book in her hands. Jacob stood just behind her, mesmerized by her enthusiasm.
"Bella, what is it you love so much about old used books?" He inquired with genuine interest.
Slowly her body turned toward him, holding a copy of Wuthering Heights, and as her eyes met his she explained, "It's as much an interest in the story itself as the story of that book. Who held this? Did they like it? What did they get out of reading it? Was it a gift to a loved one, or was it found on a bus? You never know what kind of history each book has seen in its time."
Jacob smiled and wrapped his arms around her, holding her petite figure close to his. He lowered his lips to hers, pressing gently, trying to show her how he found her endearing. Bella's lips moved with his for a time before they broke apart at the sound of someone coughing behind them. Embarassed, Bella turned back to the book shelf while Jacob wandered around behind her.
They left the bookstore a few minutes later and got back into Jacob's car to head back to Forks. Once they were parked in the Swan's driveway, Jacob turned to Bella and removed a bag from inside his coat. He handed it to Bella with a big grin on his face.
Questioningly searching his eyes, Bella accepted the gift with trepidation. "Jake, what's this?" She said.
Unwavering in his excitement, Jake replied "It's a gift. I saw it in the book store and I couldn't say no." Slowly Bella opened the bag, reached in, and pulled out a brand new copy of Quileute Myths & Legends.
"Jake, what's this?" She repeated as she held up the book excitedly, glancing at the table of contents.
"I saw this and thought that maybe you could make your own history for this book. Like us it has no past, only a future full of possibilities. That's kinda cheesy I know, but it will also help you to understand more about who I am and where I come from…" Jacob trailed off as Bella sat in silence. He wondered if maybe this had been a bad idea for a first date. He was surprised when Bella turned to him with a big grin on her face and glassy eyes.
"Oh Jake, it's absolutely perfect! Thank you so much. I will always treasure this," She sniffled as she lunged at him, pulling him into a tight embrace.
Bella's eyes got watery as she set out the food on the table, relishing that memory as though it had happened yesterday instead of six months ago. Since that night she had never gone a single day without talking to or seeing Jacob. The next two months would be absolute hell.
When Charlie arrived home, the three of them sat around the table eating in silence. Bella's despondency was infectious and neither Jasper nor Charlie wanted to address the rather large elephant hanging around the room, although for different reasons. Charlie was not a man who handled emotions well, whereas Jasper knew that Bella would come to him when she was ready to talk. They each gave her the space she so desperately needed right now.
Once the dishes had been washed and put away, Bella retired to her bedroom for the night. She tidied up a bit, putting away her clean clothes and sweeping the floor. She reorganized her small CD collection, checked her e-mail, and finally lay down in bed. The last thing she saw before sleep finally claimed her was the framed photograph of her and Jacob on her bedside table, taken just a few months ago at the Junior prom. Humming to herself, Bella fell into a fitful sleep filled with nightmares.