Disclaimer: The Twilight universe and all of its characters belong to Stephenie Meyer. I am not making any money off this work. No copyright infringement is intended.
Many thanks to my beta reader, Fearlee!
"Bella, love, we're here."
"Mmm?" I had heard the velvety voice, but in my drowsy state, I didn't quite register the words it had murmured. The cool lips pressed to my forehead a second later, however, did much more to capture my attention. I opened my eyes and raised my head off his shoulder, sitting up to get a better look at my surroundings.
Carlisle had parked the car right near the entrance, and he and Esme were both turned around in their seats, smiling as Edward smoothed my hair and kissed my forehead. I saw that the sky was gray and the air foggy and just caught a glimpse of a train whooshing down a barely-visible track before Edward's kisses became so distracting that all my attention became focused on him.
Before long, however, he laughed and pulled away, looking over his shoulder out of his window. "The others are nearly here."
Sure enough, in a few minutes, Rosalie had pulled the convertible neatly into the space next to ours. Emmett was the first one out, bounding out of the passenger side with a gleeful look on his face. "Oooooh! I wanna ride that one first!" He pointed at the towering roller coaster just visible through the fog.
I moaned and buried my face into Edward's shoulder, but he rubbed my back soothingly and opened the door, pulling me out into the cool morning air.
Next to us, Alice had leaped gracefully onto the pavement and was looking happily up at the sky. She skipped around the car to meet Jasper while Rosalie climbed stiffly out of the driver's seat, her expression sour.
For the first time, I got a good look at the amusement park. We were parked at the front of an enormous, mostly empty parking lot near a large, obnoxiously-colored arch that welcomed us to Tacoma Amusement Park. Through the fog, I could just make out several more roller coaster tracks, twisting and looping and making sharp dives, and just looking at the tracks made my stomach feel like it was dropping and twisting, too. Trains swooped up and down the tracks, but they were all empty. They must still be testing out the rides before the park opened for the day.
I had one hope, though. "Are the rides safe with all this fog?" I asked dubiously. "Maybe they'll have to shut the park for the day," I said, trying to disguise the hope in my voice.
"Nope, not a chance!" trilled Alice. "It'll start drizzling around two and then they'll shut down the rides for about an hour, but other than that, the whole day's free!" Hand in hand with Jasper, she began moving towards the archway. I heard two more car doors open and slam before Esme and Carlisle joined us in the parking lot.
"This should be fun, shouldn't it?" said Esme happily, looking around. I didn't think she would want to hear my answer to that, so I pretended to still be drowsy and let Edward lead me under the archway to the ticket window.
Ever since the incident with James, he had been determined that I have every possible human experience, that I do all the things I would be doing if he had never entered my life. First the prom, then all the fancy dinners. On cloudy days or in secluded places, we had had picnics or trips to the beach. Admittedly, some of those were fun. Especially the ones where he didn't spend any money and it was just the two of us, alone with each other.
But then, worried that I wasn't having a "normal" enough summer, he had taken to snooping around Facebook to see what other humans my age were doing with their vacations. The thought of a 108-year-old vampire on Facebook would have been very funny if it hadn't been so annoying. He quickly picked up on several trends and insisted that we do all the things my friends were doing. Never mind that I hated the mall or that I couldn't stay on an innertube for more than five seconds. At least Emmett had gotten a good laugh out of watching me fly five feet in the air before splashing gracelessly into the ocean, getting a mouthful of saltwater in the process.
And now this. Apparently, this amusement park was a popular destination for the teenagers of Forks High. They would take trips here and spend the whole day riding the coasters, eating obscenely expensive ice cream and pretzels, and paying to play the obscenely expensive games. Some of them even had obscenely expensive season passes so that they could come over and over again.
When Edward had first told me of this idea, I had felt a surge of relief. This was one human experience he couldn't force me to have. If it was too rainy, the roller coasters would all be closed, and there would be no point in coming. If it was sunny, he couldn't come with. And it wasn't like he could build me my own theme park in a secluded part of the forest.
Actually, he probably could. Maybe I should consider myself lucky that instead, he had colluded with Alice, plotting and planning to see if there was one day it could possibly work. And after weeks of trying, she had seen this day in the literally cloudy future: a day that would be overcast nearly the whole time, but not rainy. A perfect day for a vampire family to enjoy a day in the park.
Now, we were all lined up at the ticket window. It was still a few minutes until the park opened. To make the most of the day, Alice had insisted that we leave Forks extra-early so we would get to the park before it opened. But behind us, the parking lot was quickly filling up.
Emmett was bouncing impatiently on the balls of his feet, leaning around me so he could crane his neck up at the monstrous coaster nearest us, until finally Rosalie snapped at him to quit acting like a child. He slid back to his place in line, but his grin hadn't faltered, and the impatient bouncing continued.
I peeked back at Rosalie, but when I met her icy eyes, I quickly turned my head back around. It couldn't be more obvious that she didn't want to be here and that, moreover, she blamed me for the fact that she was missing an entire day of her summer. I didn't know why they were all here. I suspected it was because she and Emmett were leaving for Africa in a few days and Esme had wanted a last outing with the whole family. Someone must have suggested turning Edward's plans for the amusement park into a trip for everyone.
The cheery girl behind the window was now accepting our money and giving us tickets. Normally, I would have objected to Edward's paying so much for mine, but I was so angry that he was forcing me into this that I let him do it without complaint. I wasn't getting on any of these rides. If he wanted to waste his money, that was his business.
When he handed me my ticket, I pressed my lips together and marched towards the turnstile, refusing to look at him.
My silent protest came to an abrupt end when I marched straight into the turnstile. Instead of rotating, it stayed locked in place. My stomach slammed into the top spoke, knocking the air out of my lungs. I overbalanced, and the only thing that stopped me from tumbling headfirst over the top was Edward, who suddenly appeared at my side.
"Oops!" said the girl behind the window. "I'm sorry, that one isn't working. There's supposed to be a sign…." She darted out and picked an "Out of Order" sign off the ground and re-taped it to the top spoke, glancing up nervously at us. "It keeps falling down. Sorry about that."
Carlisle gave the girl a reassuring smile and promised her that no harm was done. I massaged my ribs and tried to get my breath back. Edward rubbed my shoulder and glared at Emmett, whose guffaws seemed to be frightening the ticket girl more than Carlisle's assurances were calming her. I avoided everyone's eyes as I walked through the adjacent turnstile instead, because without looking, I knew that Jasper was snickering and that Rosalie was fighting a smirk.
Edward began to ask if I was all right, but I cut him off before he could finish. "I'm fine, really, Edward." I wanted to put the whole embarrassing incident behind me. Our day had barely started and already I was making a fool of myself.
By now, everyone was inside the park and looking around. The fog had cleared a bit, and it was easier to make out the colorful roller coaster tracks overhead.
Edward must have sensed my discomfort, because he squeezed my shoulders and promised me, for the hundredth time, "You don't have to ride anything you don't want to, Bella."
I nodded against his shoulder, slightly comforted by this promise.
"But Edward," whined Emmett, "We can't miss out on the Barracuda!" He pointed at the set of tracks he had zeroed in on when he had first gotten out of the car. With the fog lifting, I could now see that they were colored black and electric green. The tracks twisted and dove in and around each other, but the salient feature was a terrifying, near-vertical drop near the beginning. "Come on, Bella, it doesn't even go upside-down!"
"It gets up to speeds of eighty-five miles per hour," said Jasper with interest, reading his copy of a pamphlet that Alice was passing out to everyone. "And the top of that drop is 175 feet high. It says that it's the third highest attraction in the park, besides the Ferris wheel and the viewing tower." Jasper raised his eyes from the little booklet, looking speculatively up at the roller coaster. The train was just beginning the massive dive, and this time, there were a few passengers in it. Their screams pierced the air as the train flew down the track.
"No, thank you, Emmett," I said firmly.
"Awww, but Bella –"
"Leave her alone, Emmett," Edward cut in. Then to me, in a more pleasant voice, "What would you like to do first, love?"
I wanted to answer that I wanted to go back to the car and go home. But when I looked up to answer, his golden eyes were warm and hopeful, and I couldn't bring myself to disappoint him.
"Well," I said hesitantly, "I guess the merry-go-round doesn't look too bad."
Emmett groaned loudly. "Are you kidding me, Bella? The merry-go-round? Don't tell me we drove all this way just to go on the wimpiest rides in the entire –"
This time it was Carlisle who cut him off. "Why don't we split up?" he suggested. "That way everyone can go on the rides they want to. We can meet back here in two hours." He pointed to a spot on the map in his little pamphlet, where the enormous Ferris wheel was marked.
There were general murmurs of assent, and we drifted off in pairs to various parts of the park.
As soon as the others were out of earshot, I looked up at Edward. He smiled my favorite smile and brushed a lock of hair behind my ear. I went up on my tip-toes to kiss him, and he pulled me close against his chest and kissed me back until I was slightly dizzy.
Too soon, though, he pulled away. "Are you ready?" he asked, with another dazzling smile.
"Um, sure?" I answered breathlessly, having half-forgotten what he was asking me.
He chuckled and pulled me to his side, and we began walking towards the merry-go-round.
"Hey, Edward?" I asked, once my head had cleared.
"Can I ask you a question?"
"How is a human amusement park fun for you guys? I mean, you can run at like a hundred miles an hour. And you all drive your cars way faster than these rides go. Aren't the roller coasters boring for you guys?"
His topaz eyes sparkled with amusement. "Well, they certainly aren't as thrilling as they are for humans." As he spoke, screams sounded from above our heads and to the right, from a group of people just entering a loop-the-loop on a bright blue roller coaster, accentuating his words ominously. "But they can still be exciting for us. Some vestiges of our human instincts remain, so it can still be exciting to make sharp dives, to flip upside-down, and to go fast, even if we can run just as quickly on our own."
Suddenly, his head jerked to the left, and he appeared to listen for a moment before letting out a sigh. "Of course, the roller coasters aren't the only way some of us can have fun here." He shook his head exasperatedly.
When I just looked confused, he explained, "Rosalie is at the 'Guess my age, weight, or birthday' booth right now, tormenting the poor boy running it."
"Really?" I looked around to my left until I spotted her. She was leaning seductively against the frame of the booth. The metal supports had colorful stuffed animals and blow-up toys dangling from them. In the middle of the booth was a large scale. The sign above the booth read, "If I can't guess your age, weight, or birthday, you win a prize!"
I felt pity for the boy working the booth. He was a skinny, gawky teenager who was plainly terrified by whatever Rosalie was saying to him, leaning in flirtatiously as she did so.
"How does this work?" I murmured to Edward.
"The player picks whether he or she wants the booth attendant to guess their age, weight, or birthday. If they guess within two years, five pounds, or two months, the player gets nothing. But if they fail, the player gets to pick a prize," he murmured back.
"Ah." I understood now. Of course it would be humiliating for the boy to be asked to guess the age or weight of someone as attractive as Rosalie and risk being too far off the mark in either direction, and she was making it all the more difficult for him by posing seductively right in his face. I could practically see the sweat rolling down the boy's face, even at this distance.
"So what's she asking him to guess? I'm guessing it's not her birth month."
Edward made a disgusted noise. "Of course not. She's asked him to guess her age. She's going to ask him to guess her weight next."
I winced as I watched the boy stutter, gulp, and then squeak out his answer.
Edward sighed again. "Poor boy." Then he looked down at me and, with an effort, pulled a more cheerful expression onto his face. "Did you still want to go on the merry-go-round?"
I nodded and let him lead me forward again, catching one last glimpse of the beet-red attendant, rooted to the spot as Rosalie flipped her hair angrily over her shoulder, shaking her finger at him.
The line for the merry-go-round was short. I could see that we were only going to have to wait for one cycle.
I eyed the ride with sudden amusement. Most of the seats were on colorful unicorns, horses, or giraffes, bobbing up and down on twisted gold poles as the ride spun around, playing cheery music. I couldn't imagine dignified, proper Edward sitting on one of the childish, girly monstrosities. As the attendant opened the gate to admit us, I suppressed a giggle.
However, after Edward led me up the steps, he pulled me towards some benches that I hadn't noticed and sat me down next to him. The benches were painted in garish bright colors, but at least they weren't unicorns. And, I realized, the benches meant we could sit next to each other. Smiling, I snuggled closer to Edward as the ride began to light up and spin around.
Edward smiled down at me. "Are you having fun?" he asked hopefully.
"Yes," I answered, surprising myself. "This is actually…kind of nice."
Edward's smile widened, turning into the crooked grin I loved best. "Good," he said, relaxing and pulling me closer.
After the ride was over, there were so few people in line that the attendant let us stay for another cycle. After that, though, a large crowd of people queued up, and we had to exit the carousel.
"Where would you like to go next?" he asked me with a patient smile.
"Umm…how about the Ferris wheel?" I suggested.
"It's the second-highest ride in the park," he reminded me. "Are you certain the height won't bother you?"
"Nah, I'm fine with heights," I assured him. "I just don't want to go on anything too fast. Or anything upside-down. But the Ferris wheel looks like it's slow enough."
We made our way over to the Ferris wheel. I liked this ride even better than the merry-go-round. Edward and I got our own cart, and I sat in his lap as the ride climbed higher and higher. The view really was spectacular, especially now that the fog was almost entirely gone. As our cart rounded the crest of its route, I sighed contentedly and snuggled into Edward's chest while his cool lips kissed my hair.
The Ferris wheel lasted longer than the carousel, too. It was eight and a half minutes of pure bliss. When it was over, I hoped that we would be allowed to stay on, like with the merry-go-round, but by then, a large line had formed, and we had to climb off.
But it was nice just walking hand-in-hand with Edward, people-watching and looking at the various attractions as we wandered through the park.
"Hey, guys!" Emmett bounded up to us. "You have got to try the Barracuda. I just went on twice in a row. Bella, you would love it. When I went on, the humans in the row behind me screamed bloody murder the whole time!"
"Was that because of the ride, or because you were sitting in front of them?" Edward asked drily, while I looked up at the plunging green tracks and shuddered.
"Huh," Emmett mused, tapping his fingers on his chin as if the thought had only just occurred to him. "I thought it was the ride. But, come to think of it, it could have had something to do with the fact that while we were going up that big hill, I passed the time by holding up this screw and asking, 'Hey, where did this come from?'" With a wicked grin, he held up a large screw for us to see. "Took it off of Rose's work bench," he said with a wink at me.
"Careful," Edward warned, but there was a faint smirk on his lips as he gazed to our right.
I turned around to see Esme and Carlisle walking toward us hand-in-hand, both of their expressions disapproving. Clearly, Edward's warning hadn't come soon enough, and they had heard what Emmett had said.
"Hello Mom, Dad," Emmett greeted them, hoisting a falsely innocent smile onto his face that I was sure would not fool even people who hadn't known Emmett for years.
"Emmett McCarty Cullen," Esme scolded, while Carlisle looked pointedly at the screw and raised an eyebrow.
"I found it," said Emmett earnestly, eyes wide. "Right on the roller coaster, just as we were going up the big—"
"I was looking for that!" Emmett tried to stuff the screw back in his pocket, but Rosalie, who had suddenly appeared behind him, forced his hand up and snatched the screw away, inspecting it. She raised her eyes to glare at Emmett. "I spent half an hour yesterday looking for this. Do you know I had to order more from Germany because I thought I'd lost this?"
"Er …I don't know what you're talking about, Rose," said Emmett, looking slightly cowed under the glowers coming from his wife and his mother, while Carlisle gave an exasperated sigh. "I found this on the roller coaster…."
He looked around to Edward for support, but Edward just rolled his eyes and shook his head, a small smile playing at his lips.
"Okay, okay, I won't do it again," Emmett relented, and Esme's expression softened. "And I'll make it up to you, Rose. Look, I'll win you a prize!" He pointed to a nearby game with large stuffed animals dangling from the metal frame. "Do you want a giant dragon or a giant monkey?"
Rosalie eyed the prizes contemptuously. "I don't want any of them. Look how tacky they are!"
"I'll win you a monkey," Emmett decided, oblivious. He planted a kiss on Rosalie's forehead, and, with a cocky wink at the rest of us, swaggered over to the attendant.
The game consisted of three ladders suspended almost horizontally over a large, inflated blue mat. On each ladder, a rung near the top was painted red.
"So how do I win this thing?" Emmett asked the attendant in a booming voice.
"Um," the attendant squeaked, and then cleared his throat. Hastily backing several feet away from the enormous vampire, he answered, "Um, y-you have to climb up one of the ladders. You have to stay on top of the ladder the whole time, and you can only touch the rungs. If your feet touch the red rung, you can pick any prize. F-four dollars for each attempt."
"Piece of cake," Emmett boasted, slapping the money into the attendant's hand. Or, he tried to, except the attendant was leaning fearfully away from him, and only gingerly took the bills when Emmett shoved them eagerly at him again.
Emmett strutted over to the base of one of the ladders, and, after looking over his shoulder to make sure we were watching, leapt onto it and started scrambling up.
Less than a second later, the ladder had twisted over, depositing Emmett unceremoniously onto the mat below.
Emmett sat up, stunned. Then he leapt off the mat and roared, "This thing is rigged!" at the attendant.
The gawky young teenager, at least a foot shorter than Emmett and barely thicker than his biceps, hastily moved back several steps. But then he seemed to regain his composure. He squared his scrawny shoulders and, a touch of defiance entering his voice, retorted, "It is not! Watch."
He marched over to the same ladder Emmett had fallen off of, took a breath, then nimbly scampered to the top of the ladder and back down.
Once he was back on the ground, he looked at the ladder with a small self-satisfied nod, and turned back to Emmett. Some of the nervousness seeped back into his voice. "See? Anyone can do it. You just have to get the hang of it."
Emmett, who had been staring open-mouthed, snapped his mouth closed, jammed his hand into his pocket, and thrust another four dollars at the boy.
Five seconds later, he was on his back again.
Edward laughed quietly beside me as Emmett swore and threw another four dollars at the attendant.
"Hey guys!" Alice chirped from beside me. I jumped, not having noticed them walk up. Both Alice and Jasper were right beside me, Jasper carrying an enormous stuffed panda bear.
"How did you win that?" asked Emmett indignantly, having picked himself up off the mat for the third time.
"I didn't," Jasper called over, smiling down at Alice.
"I did," Alice said. "It was a roulette game. We had to predict which color the ball would land in on a huge wheel spinning around. I guessed right three times in a row!"
Emmett grumbled angrily, but I was too far away to catch more than "cheater" and "not fair." He shoved another four dollars at the attendant.
"How long has he been at this?" Jasper asked, amused.
"This is attempt number four," Carlisle informed him. "Make that five," he amended, as Emmett fell off yet again and pushed more money at the attendant. "He's just lucky there's no one else in line for this game."
"Is he going to make it soon?" I asked with a sideways look at Alice.
Her face went blank, and when her eyes came back into focus, a wicked grin formed on her face.
"Nope," she answered. "But there's no point in trying to stop him."
We all watched as Emmett attempted again and again to climb the ladder, varying his approach with everything from trying to move speedily up the ladder before it could twist over to moving very slowly while trying to keep his balance. No matter what he did, it ended with him landing with a wumph! on the blue mat below. His mounting frustration was not improved when Alice, having observed him for several attempts, skipped over to the game and beat it after two attempts, winning a stuffed dragon a foot taller than she was.
She carried it over to Jasper, who added it to his burden with difficulty.
"You're not going to keep those, are you?" Rosalie sniffed, eyeing Alice's prizes with disgust. "They're so cheap. That one is already tearing at the seam."
"She can always donate them to charity," Esme suggested. "We can fix the tear up first."
Meanwhile, Emmett had exited the gaming area and was stomping back over to us.
"Calling it quits?" asked Jasper, fighting to hide his grin.
"No," Emmett snarled vehemently. Then turning to Carlisle, in a more pleasant voice, "Carlisle, can I borrow four dollars?"
Carlisle rolled his eyes, but took out his wallet and extracted some bills for his largest son.
"He's going to need more than that," advised Alice, and Emmett glared at her. "What? Just calling it like I see it," she said, unabashed, tapping the side of her head significantly.
Carlisle sighed and handed more money to Emmett.
"Now, son, I know you hate to turn down a challenge, but I don't want you to spend the whole day trying to—"
"Thanks, Dad!" Emmett called over his shoulder, already halfway back to the game.
"Would you like to do something else?" Edward murmured in my ear. "According to Alice's visions, this is going to take quite some time."
I nodded, and after bidding goodbye to the rest of the Cullens, we split off from the group.
Edward and I spent an enjoyable couple of hours ambling around the park. At one point, he bought me a cotton candy, and I savored it slowly as we looked at the different sights. He patiently sat beside me on several of the tamer rides, including the viewing tower, which brought us high above the park and spun around slowly so that we could take in the surrounding area. We also caught a train ride that rode on tracks that wound through the park while a tour guide at the front recited the histories of the different attractions.
At two o'clock, it started drizzling, just as Alice had predicted, and Edward and I took shelter in an auditorium where an acrobatic performance was being given.
"Are you enjoying yourself?" Edward asked once again as we emerged from the auditorium. The sky was still cloudy, but the rain had stopped.
"Yes," I answered truthfully. "Yes, this has actually…been…been…nice…." My voice trailed off as Edward lowered his face to mine, his breath cool on my cheek.
"I'm glad," he whispered, his lips just brushing my jawbone.
I took the opportunity to pull myself closer to him, standing on the tips of my toes to wrap my arms around his shoulders. He began trailing deliciously slow kisses along my jawbone and up my cheek. I was dizzy and breathless before he even reached my mouth, and when he did, my knees nearly collapsed beneath me. A small moan escaped me, and I pressed myself tighter against his chest.
His lips moved slowly against mine, and I responded eagerly, quickly forgetting the reminder I had just given myself that if I got too carried away, Edward would pull back.
But he didn't pull away. It was bliss, pure heaven, with his cold lips moving hungrily against mine, less cautious now –
"Hey guys! Look what I won!"
With a feeling in my stomach much like the unpleasant jolt I had felt earlier on one of the older rides as it had jerked to a halt, Edward and I broke apart. It took a few moments for my mind to clear, but once I had gotten my bearings, I scowled at Emmett.
He was standing a few feet away from us, a broad grin on his face, his chest thrown out proudly as he held out an enormous stuffed monkey for us to see.
Apparently, I wasn't the only one who was annoyed at the interruption. Edward said in an irritated voice, "That's wonderful, Emmett. Why don't you go accompany Rosalie or one of the others?"
"I don't know where Jasper and Alice are. Esme keeps reprimanding me for spending 'nearly an entire semester's worth of tuition just to play that foolish game' – which, by the way, is a blatant exaggeration. I didn't spend more than a couple hundred dollars, tops," he said defensively, as Edward rolled his eyes. "And Rosie said she wouldn't be seen in my company as long as I'm carrying Jerry," Emmett finished with a pout.
"Jerry?" Edward asked, eyeing the stuffed monkey with a raised eyebrow.
"Yup! Come on, he's totally a Jerry!" he said, as Edward rolled his eyes again. "Look at him! Who could possibly think of a better name for him?"
Emmett wasn't deterred in the slightest when neither Edward nor I answered. Instead, he said cheerfully, "Anyway, since I can't hang out with any of the others, I thought the three of us could go on a ride together!"
"I don't think you'll be allowed to take that on a ride, Emmett," said Edward, looking pointedly at the monkey. "Maybe Bella and I should just—"
"It won't be a problem!" Emmett interrupted cheerfully. "I can leave him at the customer service building, they'll hold him for me. So, Bella, what do you say? I kind of want to do a water ride. I've only been the roller coasters, so I haven't done a water ride yet, but I really want to do a water ride—"
"Emmett, we were sort of in the middle of something…" Edward began in a voice of measured calm, but again, Emmett ignored him and appealed eagerly to me.
"Come on Bella, pleeeeeeeeeeeease? You know you want to. What's the point in coming to an amusement park without a little excitement?"
I glanced sideways at Edward, who was pinching the bridge of his nose with his forefinger and thumb.
"Maybe it would be best if we did one ride," I said quietly to Edward, though I knew Emmett, bouncing up and down on the balls of his feet, could hear me perfectly well. Maybe if we humored him, he would leave us alone for a while.
Edward seemed to understand my line of thinking.
"Emmett, if we do one water ride with you, will you leave us in peace for a little while?"
"Of course," Emmett answered, eyes wide.
"All right, let's go to the customer service building so you can drop off your monkey—"
"Jerry!" cut in Emmett.
"—and then we can get in line for a water ride."
"All right, now you're talking!" Emmett grinned, clapping Edward on the back.
It wasn't far to the customer service building. As Emmett handed his monkey over the counter, Edward looked speculatively at some empty wheelchairs in a corner of the building.
"I should have thought of that," he murmured. He turned to me. "Bella, how is your leg feeling? You just had the cast taken off recently, and we've been doing a lot of walking today…."
"It's fine," I answered, bemused. I didn't understand why he was bringing this up again. We'd discussed it beforehand with Carlisle, and he had said that I should be perfectly fine walking around the park for a day. "I mean, maybe it's a little sore, but I'm fine, really."
Edward's eyes were wide and anxious. "They have those wheelchairs there for people who need them. If your leg is bothering you, I'm sure Carlisle could talk to the people here and give you permission—"
"No, no, no!" I cut in, horrified. I could see where this was going.
"Bella, love, if you're feeling any discomfort—"
"I'm not! I'm completely fine! Anyway, it's probably good for me to get some exercise, start building some strength back up in that leg." It was a flimsy excuse, but I would do anything to escape the mortification of being wheeled around the park by Edward.
"Ooooh, Bella, you should totally get a wheelchair!" Emmett said eagerly, having finished leaving his name with the worker behind the counter. "I'll push you!" he said, looking at the wheelchairs with enthusiasm.
"No," I said firmly, trying to hide my horror. If the thought of Edward pushing me around the park was humiliating, the thought of Emmett pushing me was terrifying. I doubted the wheelchair would be in one piece by the end of the day, and I would probably need a new cast by the time he was done with me.
Edward still looked unconvinced.
"Bella, love, I really don't want you to be uncomfortable…." he faltered as I gave him the most fierce look I could muster. "Okay, how about a compromise? If your leg is bothering you, I could carry you for a while," he suggested.
I shook my head. "No way."
"But Bella, I carry you all the time when we run in the forest," he pointed out, after making sure the attendants weren't listening. "And," he said, lowering his voice still further, "We've seen other couples carrying each other today. It's a perfectly normal thing to do. It might be enjoyable, even. We could be like the normal human couples here today."
"I don't want to be like a normal human couple," I grumbled, but I couldn't deny that he had a point. And I did want to ease the anxiety that was still plain in his eyes. And my leg was a little sore.
"Okay, you can carry me," I allowed. "But only for a little while," I said sternly.
Edward's tension evaporated, and he smiled my favorite crooked grin; the corners of my mouth turned up automatically in response. Really, it was worth agreeing just to see that smile.
Once we were out of the customer service building, Edward swung me easily up onto his back, carrying me piggyback-style.
After a few minutes, I had to admit that it wasn't half bad. It was just like when Edward carried me on his back through the forest, except without the terror that we would crash into a tree or the constant danger of throwing up. In fact, I reflected, moving along at a comfortable pace like this, it was downright enjoyable. I sighed contentedly and laid my head on Edward's cool, hard shoulder, my arms wrapped tightly around his neck.
"All right, Emmett, where's this water ride you wanted to go on?" Edward asked after a few minutes of walking.
"We're going the right way," replied Emmett. "I'll lead the way."
"And what is the name of this ride?"
I was too content to pay attention to Emmett's answer. The motion of Edward's walking was very soothing, as was his velvet voice speaking so close to my ear. I thought I could fall asleep like this if we walked long enough.
But sooner than I was expecting, Edward stopped walking. I raised my head and saw that we were not yet at a water ride, but instead, in front of a large, shallow pool of light blue water, in the middle of which was a fountain. The fountain shot jets of water into the air, where they arched gracefully before falling back into the pool. A multitude of coins glittered at the bottom of the water.
"Bella, would you like to make a wish?" Edward asked, and I could hear the smile in his voice.
"Sure," I said, sliding down from his back.
He handed me a penny, and I looked out over the sparkling water with my lips pursed, trying to decide what to wish for.
"Can I make a wish, too, Edward?" asked Emmett.
"Don't you have your own money?"
"I spent it all winning Jerry."
With a sigh, Edward slipped his hand into his pocket and handed Emmett a penny.
"Thanks, little brother!" said Emmett cheerfully. "Now to decide what to wish for…" He turned his back on the fountain and squeezed his eyes shut tight, evidently thinking hard.
"I've got it!" he cried a few moments later, and threw the penny over his shoulder.
"Can you please attempt to control your thoughts, Emmett?" Edward asked, disgusted.
"What?" said Emmett defensively. "I had to visualize it. How else was I supposed to make my wish?"
"What did he wish for?" I asked curiously.
Edward opened his mouth, but Emmett cut him off indignantly. "Don't tell her my wish, Edward! Otherwise it might not come true!"
"Like I was going to repeat that to her?" he asked, still sounding revolted. Then, turning to me, "It involved Emmett and Rosalie. Believe me, you don't want to hear it in any more detail than that," he said firmly.
I shuddered and went back to deciding what to wish for for myself.
The Ferris wheel was very close to the fountain, and it towered over us as Edward threw his own penny over his shoulder.
I remembered how enjoyable our ride on the Ferris wheel had been, just the two of us together. Old news stories connected to amusement parks floated to the surface of my brain, and it clicked. I knew exactly what I wanted to wish for.
My mind made up, I turned around, made my wish, threw my penny over my shoulder, and turned back around in time to see it plop! into the water.
"Hey, you made it, Bella!" cheered Emmett.
I looked at him questioningly.
"I mean, that pool can't be more than twenty feet wide, and we're standing five whole feet away from it. With your track record, it would have been a miracle to get your penny in the pool throwing it forwards, but throwing it without even looking—"
Edward smacked him on the back of the head.
"What? I didn't even have gym with her, and even I've heard—"
"Do you want us to go on this water ride with you or not, Emmett?" I asked through gritted teeth.
"All right, all right," he relented. "We're almost there."
Sure enough, after a few more minutes of walking, we reached the back of a long queue winding through silver railings that corralled the park-goers into a compact, twisting line. I couldn't see the ride itself from here, but as we joined the back of the line, we passed under a colorful yellow arch from which the words "Mega-Mountain Splash Down!" jumped out at us. To the right of the words, there was a cartoon depiction of a log with seats carved out in the middle splashing head-first into water rapids, sending up huge plumes of water in all directions.
A twinge of unease went through me.
"The ride doesn't splash that much, does it?" I asked, jerking my head at the picture on the arch. The air was cool from the earlier mist, and I had no desire to get wet when it was this chilly out.
"Yeah, check it out!" enthused Emmett, pointing.
I turned around in time to see the log-shaped ride dive spectacularly down a steep trail and hit the water below, causing gigantic walls of water to spray up around it. A split-second later, the log surged through the wall of water, and I saw a rider gasp and open her eyes, drenched.
I turned to Edward.
"I'm not going on that," I said firmly, pointing at the girl, who was now pushing sopping hair out of her face, still gasping as the log drifted back to the starting point.
"Aw, come on, Bella," whined Emmett.
"It's cold out! I am not getting that wet."
"Maybe she's right," cut in Edward, following my gaze with a frown. "I don't want Bella to get cold."
"But only the person in front gets wet!" argued Emmett, pointing at the log.
He was right. The girl sitting in the front seat was soaked, but the two people sitting behind her looked pretty dry, with just light splatters across their shirts.
"And you're going to sit in front?" I asked suspiciously.
"Of course! Since you two are too wimpy for it, that is."
Edward turned to me.
"What do you think, Bella?"
"Well," I said, considering, "As long as Emmett sits in front, I guess it's okay."
"That's the spirit, Bella!" cheered Emmett, grinning broadly.
We wound our way slowly through the silver corrals. Edward and Emmett passed the time chatting about the upcoming trip to Africa. I entertained myself by reading the signs that were posted at intervals about the history of the ride and the park.
Finally, it was our turn to climb into a log-shaped car.
Emmett dropped into his seat eagerly, causing the entire cart to rock and water to slosh around the edges. Edward gripped the side to steady it before helping me to take the seat behind his brother. Even with his help, it was awkward stepping into the cart and lowering myself into the seat. But, of course, once I was settled, he was able to slip into the seat behind me fluidly and effortlessly.
I stared at my lap as the ride slowly moved out of the loading area towards the conveyor belt that would carry it up. The fabric of the safety belt was wet, and there were puddles on the floor at my feet.
With a jerk, the conveyor belt caught the log, and suddenly, I was leaning back as we made our way up the incline.
Gravity pulled me back into Edward's chest, and he put his arms around my waist.
This isn't half bad, I thought. Actually, it was refreshing, even, to have the cool air against my face as the ride leveled out, pushing the log into what looked like the bottom half of a tube that twisted and turned above the ground.
We hadn't climbed that high, compared to the roller coasters that towered over the park. In fact, this ride was fairly tame. Even though we'd picked up speed as the log was swept through twists and turns in the tube, it was an enjoyable motion. Twice, we went down small, sudden dips in the track, but they were more exhilarating than frightening, and I laughed out loud as the ride whipped around another corner.
Then, we reached the final drop. We teetered on the crest for a thigh-tingling moment, and then plunged down the track towards the water below.
I shrieked, gripping the metal bars at my side. The drop was steeper and faster than it had looked.
"Emmett, no!" roared Edward behind me.
I had no idea what he meant, even after I saw Emmett duck down at the last second. It didn't hit me until a split-second before the water did: without Emmett's gigantic body to take the brunt of it, as our log splashed into the water, the cold, liquid wall hit me instead.
I just had time to close my eyes before I was completely drenched. Edward instinctively leaned forward to wrap his arms around me protectively, but sitting behind me, he was powerless to truly shield me.
I gasped and spluttered after our log made it through the water, still too stunned to fully grasp what had happened.
All three of us were shaking as the log drifted back to the starting point: Emmett from laughter, me from the cold and the shock, and Edward from fury. Behind me, Edward was snarling, his rage rendering him inarticulate. I knew that the fact that I was sitting between them was the only thing that stopped him from lunging at Emmett, who had looked over his shoulder to observe the effects of his stunt and then redoubled in laughter when he saw my shocked expression.
"Emmett," Edward growled as the log bumped against the platform and Emmett, still laughing, leaped nimbly out. With another impish look at Edward, he began backing away.
Edward climbed onto the platform, then leaned over to unbuckle my safety belt.
"Are you all right?" he asked me softly as he pulled me up onto the platform and steadied me.
"Yes," I said, only slightly out of breath. My shock was fading and quickly giving way to anger.
"Good. Bella, love, I am so sorry. Believe me, he will not get away with this." The last part was a growl.
"You can say that again," I said grimly, pulling out of Edward's arms to pursue Emmett.
Emmett, who had no doubt known that he would have a head-start because Edward would stop to help me, had made it across the platform to the exit and was already trotting down the concrete ramp, still grinning at us.
"I'll take care of him," Edward promised darkly, and we set off together after the enormous vampire.
As we made it back to the main part of the park, Alice and Jasper intercepted us.
"Alice. Excellent. Watch Bella while I—"
"Sorry, Edward. We're on a mission of intervention."
"Get out of my way, Alice," snarled Edward, attempting to dart around her, but she blocked him.
"I'm serious, Edward," she said firmly. "I've seen what'll happen if we let you have your way. You need to cool down."
Edward again tried to get around her, but this time Jasper caught his arm, and a wave of calm stole over us.
Edward, so close to Jasper, caught the most of it; I, however, was standing far enough away that I was able to feel a fresh flicker of irritation underneath the calm as I saw Emmett standing about thirty feet away, no longer even attempting to evade Edward, watching us with obvious entertainment.
He was so busy watching us that he didn't notice Esme and Carlisle come up behind him, Esme looking murderous. Clearly, Alice had tipped them off.
A triumphant satisfaction replaced the irritation as Esme gripped Emmett's arm and began dragging him over to us. It was almost comical, the horror on his face at the wrath of the slender, motherly vampire who was over a head shorter than he was.
They were too far away for me to make out what Esme was saying, but she was shaking her finger at him, and there was no mistaking the scowl on her face.
By the time they reached us, Emmett was hanging his head in obedient shame.
"Sorry, Bella. Sorry, Edward," he said, looking up at us.
But the corner of his mouth was still twitching, and I didn't need Edward's mind-reading gift to know that he wasn't sorry at all; he was just putting on a show for Esme.
The mother figure of the Cullen family released her vice-like grip on Emmett's arm, and he stepped away warily, backing out of both Esme's and Edward's reach.
Esme's face softened as she turned to me.
"Are you all right, dear?" she asked anxiously.
"Yes," I answered again, my answer somewhat undermined by the involuntary shiver that went through me just then. I was cold. Goosebumps were obvious all along my arms and legs. My T-shirt and shorts were drenched, and they clung to my skin. I was only grateful that I hadn't worn white.
"We can help you dry off," said Alice, and she led me to a nearby bathroom, where she instructed me to bend over under one of the hand dryers, then began helping to dry my hair in the warm air.
"I could switch clothes with you again," suggested Esme, who had followed us into the bathroom. "I know my clothes weren't a perfect fit, but they weren't too big, and the cold won't bother me any…."
"It's fine, Esme," I assured her, as Alice repositioned me so that the stream of warm air hit my shirt instead. Actually, it felt quite nice. If it weren't for the fact that Edward couldn't be with me in here, I might ask if I could spend the rest of the afternoon underneath this dryer.
Esme sighed. "I just don't know what gets into him sometimes," she said, shaking her head. "He can be such a handful…."
Alice repositioned me again, and now I could turn my head to look up at Esme.
"I'm so sorry, dear," she said. She hesitated, then asked timidly, "Aside from this, have you been having a nice time today?"
I looked into her wide, anxious golden eyes, and I couldn't bear to tell her no. Besides, I had been having fun with Edward.
"Yes, I've been having a wonderful time," I smiled up at her, and she relaxed with relief.
"Good. I'm glad we have a chance to do something as a family before Rosalie and Emmett leave for Africa. They're going to be gone for months, at least…."
Inwardly, I felt a spurt of warmth that had nothing to do with the heated air currently drying my clothes. It would have been easy for the Cullens to do something together before Rosalie and Emmett's trip, but apparently, Esme didn't consider the family to be complete without me. It was reassuring, when I was still so unsure of the family's acceptance of me. After all, Rosalie had still never spoken directly to me, and although Jasper had helped protect me during the James incident, he still kept his distance whenever I came over. And I had the impression that Emmett only liked me because I tripped over things.
"Well, I think that will have to do," sighed Alice. "We could get you a little drier, but you don't want to spend all day in the ladies' room, do you?"
"This is fine," I said. My hair and clothes were still damp, but at least I wasn't soaking wet.
We trooped out of the bathroom and walked a short ways to find Jasper, Edward, and Carlisle waiting for us. Emmett was nowhere to be seen.
"He didn't want to give Esme a chance to punish him when you returned from the restroom," Edward explained to me after we'd departed from the rest of the group. He was a great deal calmer due to Jasper's influence, but it was clear that, in the absence of Jasper's power, he had to make an effort to mask his resurfacing irritation.
"So," he said, pulling an attempt at a smile onto his face. "What would you like to do next, love?"
We spent an enjoyable couple of hours strolling around the park together, and soon, I was able to almost completely forget about Emmett.
In fact, I didn't have to think about him again until I was relaxing on a bench near the end of the line for the Barracuda. Edward had gone to buy me a soft pretzel, but, not wanting me to stand on my leg for too long, had volunteered to wait in line for me while I rested.
"Hey, Bella," greeted Emmett from behind, making me jump.
My eyes narrowed, and I opened my mouth to snap at him, but then closed it and turned my back on him. It was better to ignore him.
"You're not still mad, are you?" he asked, ignoring my frostiness and sliding around the bench to sit at the other end.
I didn't answer him. I scanned the crowd for Edward, but saw no sign of the untidy bronze hair among the park-goers.
"Come on," he wheedled. "I said I was sorry."
I turned to glare at him. "My shoes still squish when I walk," I hissed, doing my best to appear intimidating.
He chuckled, then seemed to catch himself at the look on my face. "Well, your feet would have gotten wet even if I hadn't ducked," he said reasonably. "Only the rest of you got wet because of me. And your clothes look pretty dry now, anyway." He scooted a few inches closer to pluck at my T-shift. I swatted his hand away.
"Aw, don't be like that," he whined. "Anyway, I came here to make it up to you," he said brightly.
I eyed him suspiciously. "I don't want anything from you right now, thank you very much."
"But it'll be fun! I'm going to take you on the Barracuda!" he said, throwing his chest out, clearly proud of himself for having come up with such an ingenious plan.
"Emmett, I said no big roller coasters."
"I know! That's why you're lucky you have me here, so I can make sure your theme park experience isn't boring." He smiled widely, scooting even closer.
"As it happens," I said, trying not to show how much he was wearing on my patience, "I have been having an absolutely wonderful time with Edward. Speaking of which, you should probably get lost before he comes back. He's still angry at you, and this time Jasper and Alice aren't here…."
"Pfft, as if he could take me," scoffed Emmett, before going back to his grin. "But anyway, back to the matter at hand. The Barracuda! You're going to love it, I swear."
He was now right next to me, leaning so close that I pushed back against his chest to get a little breathing room.
"I've told you, I am not going on that ride!"
"Oh, I see," he responded, nodding sagely. "Well, it's normal to be scared before your first time, but—"
"I am not scared!" I said through gritted teeth.
"Suuuuuuure you aren't, Bella," he said, patting my shoulder in an infuriatingly patronizing way. "That's why you haven't gone on anything scarier than the Ferris wheel all day—"
"I am not afraid!"
"—or the viewing tower—"
"That was a really fun ride!"
"—or the mewwy-go-wound—"
"And that's why you screamed bloody murder when we went down the big hill on Mega-Mountain Splash Down. Well, if you say you weren't afraid, I believe—"
"I was not afraid!" I repeated hotly.
"If you say so, Bella. You know, I thought Edward was nuts. He's crazy-overprotective of you, you know, always obsessing about whether you're all right. 'What if lightning hits her?' 'What if a bear walks into town and mauls her?' 'What if she trips in front of a bus and gets run over?' But now that I think about it, maybe he was right. I guess you are kind of fragile—"
"I am not fragile!" I practically shouted, jumping to my feet. Realizing how hysterical I sounded, I made an effort to control my voice. "All right, fine," I said, breathing heavily. "You know what? Fine. I'll go on the stupid ride with you. I am not fragile."
"That's the spirit, Bella!" he whooped, jumping to his feet, too.
As I followed Emmett over to the end of the line, my anger ebbed, and I started to think about what I had just agreed to.
This was the most infamous roller coaster in the park. Craning my neck as we walked along the base of it, I could why. At its highest point, the coaster seemed to shoot all the way up to the sky above. And the dive at the very beginning was so steep that it almost looked vertical. Although there weren't any loop-the-loops, now that I looked closely, I noticed how quickly the tracks swerved in places, going almost completely sideways at points.
Against the background of the ominous gray clouds, the twisting green tracks looked especially sinister.
Well, I reflected, my heartbeat accelerating once more, At least I'll have time to work up to it. The sign posted at the end of the line said that from that point, the wait was forty-five minutes.
When we reached the end of the line, however, Emmett changed course, striding toward a staircase off to the side of the silver rails that defined the line.
"Where are you going? Doesn't the line end here?" I objected.
"Not for me. I got a line-jumper pass!" he said enthusiastically, pulling a small, colorful card out of his pocket with a flourish. "Only forty-five dollars," he boasted, showing me the card. "Every time I go on a ride, I show this pass, they punch out one of the stars, and I get to cut in line! Isn't it great? There are advertisements for them all around the park. I bought a whole bunch of them before I started playing the ladder game."
"Yeah…great…." I said, trying to hide my rising panic.
Well, I had still made the right decision, I thought, as Emmett led me up the staircase, where an attendant punched out two of the stars on his card. Edward was still refusing to make me a vampire. How could I convince him that I was strong enough to join his world if I was too wimpy to go on one measly roller coaster?
This was what I tried to tell myself, but my heartbeat only got faster as the attendant showed us to our place in the line. Emmett's pass didn't let us cut straight to the front; we still had to wait behind about five minutes' worth of people.
But from here, we were close enough to have a good view of the trains as they returned from the ride. By the time they pulled into the station, the riders were chattering and laughing in a relieved, exhilarated fashion.
As the line moved forward, however, something caught my attention.
"Are those the safety belts?" I asked, pointing in horror as the next batch of park-goers left the station with a jolt.
"Yep," said Emmett cheerfully, bouncing on the balls of his feet. "Why, what's wrong with them?"
"I – they're not even real harnesses!" I spluttered. "Look at them! They just go across the lap! There aren't even any shoulder restraints!"
"You don't need them. The ride doesn't go upside down. Why?" he added with a wicked grin. "You're not scared, are you, Bella?"
"No," I retorted. I meant it to sound defiant, but it came out as more of a squeak. Unable to come up with a better comeback, I resorted to looking around the station for something to keep my mind busy.
Unfortunately, the only things I could find were the signs instructing riders to keep legs and arms inside the train at all times, reminding people not to take hats, jewelry, or cameras on the ride, and warnings that people who were pregnant or who had back problems should not go on the ride. These did nothing to calm my nerves.
Another train of people pulled into the station, looking windswept. The riders clambered out, and then the silver gates in front of us opened, and it was our turn to get on.
There were four seats in each row. I looked back questioningly at the people behind us in line; when there were empty seats on a ride, usually other people filled them in. But the people behind me shook their heads in answer to my silent question. Perhaps they were part of a bigger group, and they didn't want to split up. Or maybe Emmett was too intimidating. Or maybe my face looked as green as it felt, and they didn't want to be thrown up on.
Emmett sat down in the far seat, grinning. I made to sit down in the seat on the opposite end. If I was going to get sick, at least I didn't want to do it on Edward's brother. But an attendant stopped me.
"If there are only two people in a row, you have to sit next to each other," she informed me.
Reluctantly, I took the seat next to Emmett. I pulled the harness down on my lap. It was a big piece of thick, hard, triangular foam with two handlebars that I could grasp.
Surely I hadn't pulled it down right. It felt far too inadequate, far too loose.
An attendant came by, pushing down on everyone's harnesses to make sure they were secure. She pushed down on mine and moved on to the next row.
"Um," I cleared my throat. "Are you sure I put it on right? It doesn't feel very tight."
"No, you're okay," she told me, glancing back before moving on.
Having nothing else to do, I swung my legs restlessly, feeling trapped, until a dramatic recorded voice said, "Thank you for challenging the Barracuda!" and with a lurch, the ride jerked forward.
The train went down a slight dip, and then, with another jerk, we began climbing the huge hill that began the ride.
Looking ahead, it seemed impossible that the track could keep extending up for as long as it did. I leaned my head against the back of my seat and squeezed my eyes shut, but I could still hear the clicking of the train as we went higher, and I could feel the upward motion.
I was sure that we would stop going up any second. Any second now…any second…Holy crow, how could we still be going higher?
My stomach squirmed queasily, and I opened my eyes to see that we were almost at the top, but somehow still had a little more track to go.
It wasn't the upward motion itself that scared me. It was the knowledge that, however high we went, we would dive back down the same height after the ride rounded the crest. I was afraid to look back to check how much track was behind us.
Emmett, on the other hand, was leaning over the side with enthusiasm, reminding me of a dog with its head out of a car window, tongue lolling, ears flapping in the wind.
"Hey, Bella!" he said eagerly, twisting around in his seat to look backwards. "Look how high we've come!"
I groaned and closed my eyes again.
"Seriously," he said, now looking at the ground below. "The people look like ants down there!"
My next groan was half-whimper.
"Hey, Bella, why are you holding on to your handlebars? The big drop's coming up! You've got to put your hands in the air!" I risked a glance sideways to see that he had both his arms stretched above his head and was looking at me expectantly.
Too late, I realized that all the other passengers had their hands in the air, too, and suddenly, the ride dropped out from beneath me, and we were plunging to the ground below.
I screamed. There was a second where I was afraid, but bearably so. In the next moment, however, the ride picked up speed, and suddenly we were diving straight down, and then I felt sheer terror. There must have been a mistake; I was surely going to tumble forward out of my harness. We were going too fast, and the drop was too steep.
Then, just as I felt I was going to fall out, the dive flattened out, and the train whooshed back into a level position before its momentum carried it up another hill that was almost as high as the first.
For the next several seconds, I was conscious only of my terror, holding on to the handlebars for dear life as the train rushed around turns, roared up hills, plunged down dives, and jerked abruptly from side to side.
Then, suddenly, just after we climbed a hill that leveled out at the top, a prolonged metallic squeal split the air. If I hadn't been incapable of letting go of my handlebars, I would have clapped my hands over my ears.
The train was groaning to a stop at the crest of the hill. When it finally ground to a halt, there was a moment of silence, and then excited, anxious babble broke out among the riders.
"Awwwww, man!" groaned Emmett. "You've got to be kidding me!"
I was too struck with disbelief to react. After several long moments, I realized that I was still clenching the handlebars, and I forced my fingers to let go.
I surveyed my surroundings. Thankfully, we weren't on one of the highest hills of the coaster. And right along the leveled-out portion of track we were sitting on, there was a maintenance walkway and staircase. Perhaps we would be able to walk out along there instead of having to be rescued by the fire department, like the stories I had read about in the news about people getting stuck on theme park rides.
I lifted my gaze to get a wider view. The Ferris wheel was very close to this ride, and I could see it clearly from here. I could even see the pool of sparkling blue water at its base.
At the sight of the water, I scoffed quietly. "Unbelievable," I muttered under my breath, glaring at the water. "You make my wish come true, on the wrong ride, with the wrong person."
"What?" asked Emmett, following my gaze, which was flickering between the blue water and the Ferris wheel. "Oh, the wishing pool? Why? What'd you wish for?"
"Nothing. It doesn't matter," I said, looking away. I hadn't realizing I was speaking out loud.
I could still sense Emmett eyeing me speculatively, until something on the ground seemed to catch his attention.
"Oh, hey! It's Edward!"
I leaned over as far as my harness would permit to crane my neck at the ground below.
He was right. On the ground, looking up at us, was a tall, bronze-haired figure clutching a pretzel. Even from this distance, I could see that his expression was livid.
"Edward, it's okay. I'm okay," I murmured. I wasn't sure what the limits of his vampire super-hearing were, but I was pretty sure he could hear me from here.
I could just make out his mouth moving, and next to me, Emmett chuckled.
"What?" I asked.
"It's nothing," said Emmett cheerfully. "He just said that the second we're away from all these human witnesses, he's going to reduce me to a pile of ash."
I looked back at Edward's rigid, too-still frame, and couldn't see what Emmett was laughing about. Edward looked plenty furious to me. As his mouth moved again, he didn't seem to be aware that the pretzel was disintegrating into bits in his right hand.
Emmett listened for a moment, then said defensively, "Aw, come on! You can't blame me for this! I didn't even do anything. You know, it was probably her bad luck that broke the ride."
From here, I could just make out Edward's scowl. But actually, there was probably some truth to that statement. Leave it to me and my bad luck that a brand-new ride, which had been working perfectly all day, would freeze up as soon as I got on.
I leaned back into my seat and closed my eyes. As soothing as it was to see Edward's face, the fact that we were suspended so high above that face sort of cancelled out the comfort.
"Edward wants me to make sure you're all right."
I didn't open my eyes. "I just told him I was."
"I know. But he's watching your face through me, and he's worried. Personally, I think he's being overprotective. You were right; you aren't nearly as fragile as I thought you were—"
I suppressed a growl and clenched my hands around the handlebars again, having nothing else on which to take out my anger. He was goading me. He had tricked me into getting on this stupid ride in the first place by pushing exactly the right buttons so that my pride and my temper would get the better of me, and now, he was rubbing it in.
"Emmett," I said, trying to force my voice to be calm for Edward's benefit, "Would you please shut up?"
"Nah," he said cheerfully. "Since we're stuck up here, I think I'm going to spend the whole time ticking you off, since there's nothing Edward can do about it. So, to start off with, what is the deal with you tripping over stuff all the time? I swear…."
Emmett was as bad as his word. For the next twenty minutes, I tried to tune him out, until finally, several people, including a fireman and a policewoman, came up the maintenance stairway and explained that they were going to release our harnesses, and then we were to exit the train in an orderly fashion and walk single-file down the stairway. There would be medical personnel waiting at the bottom in case we needed medical treatment.
As we waited for our turn, Emmett switched from teasing me to lamenting the fact that we had not gotten to finish the ride.
"Ah, well," he sighed, as we made our way down the staircase. "At least we passed the part with the camera before the ride conked out."
This brought me up short.
"You didn't know about the camera?" A wicked grin spread over his face. "It's on the second big downhill. It takes pictures of every row of people, and then you can buy the pictures at the end. Jasper and I took some awesome ones earlier. Of course, I can't wait to see what our picture looks like. This was you when we passed the camera." He made a face grotesquely distorted by terror and mimed clutching at the handlebars for dear life. "I'm going to buy that one for sure…."
This was the final straw.
"What is the matter with you?" I shouted as we re-entered the park. "Why do you have to be so mean? Why do you get so much pleasure out of making me miserable?"
He looked startled at my outburst. He opened his mouth as if to say something, but I cut him off. I could feel tears welling in my eyes, and I wanted to finish before they started to fall.
"All day, you have been making life hell for me. First, you got me absolutely soaked, even though it was freezing cold and I said I didn't want to get wet."
"Bella…I didn't mean…." He seemed nonplussed and off-guard, his joking manner gone.
"Then, you tricked me into going on a horrible roller coaster that I said from the beginning I didn't want to go on. And then," I continued, my voice getting closer to breaking with every word, "You've been giving me crap all day, about how I can't throw stuff, and I don't like scary rides, and you've been badgering Edward and me the whole time, when we just wanted to come to the park and—"
"I was just—I was only teasing you," he said, looking alarmed and a little ashamed. "I didn't mean...I didn't think you would…."
"You expect me to believe that? You've been making fun of me from the time we've met. Save it," I spat, stalking away from him.
Edward met me a short distance away, his expression a mixture of relief, anxiety, and anger, no doubt at Emmett. I brushed off his attempts to get me to see the medical personnel clustered around the base of the ride.
"I'm fine, Edward, really." I tried to blink back the angry tears in my eyes. They weren't helping my case.
Gradually, I calmed down as we walked around the park together. When my stomach had settled enough from the Barracuda, Edward bought me another pretzel. He was kind and soothing, clearly anxious for me to begin enjoying myself again. But I was tired and a little gloomy from the day's events. I had had more than enough of the theme park, and I was ready to go home.
However, I didn't want to ruin the rest of the family's fun, so I stuck it out until the sky grew dark. As the park dimmed, the lights came on. Thousands and thousands of light bulbs on each building and ride lit up, flashing in dazzling patterns made all the more stunning by the movements of the rides. It was a spectacular sight, and had I been in a better mood, I probably would have enjoyed it.
The Barracuda had been temporarily shut down while they investigated the source of the problem, but when it was discovered that it was a technician who had accidentally applied the emergency brakes instead of a fault with the ride itself, it was reopened. Now, in the darkness, the train was alight with neon green lights that became a bright blur whenever they plummeted down the colossal hill. With the tracks obscured by darkness, the ride looked like the creature for which it was named, a bright, agile body diving, darting, and twisting in its murky surroundings.
Edward made repeated attempts to cheer me up, and even Alice made an appearance, assuring us that the view from the top of the Ferris wheel was magnificent at night and encouraging us to take another ride on it before darting away to rejoin Jasper.
Edward and I made our way back to the Ferris wheel. The ride itself was brilliant, its many light bulbs glowing in patterns that radiated out in spokes as the wheel spun slowly around.
The line was longer than it had been earlier, but finally, Edward and I were admitted into our own car.
As we began our ascent, I began to appreciate anew the reasons I had loved the Ferris wheel the first time we had ridden it. I snuggled closer to Edward. The view was amazing at night. The whole park was lit up, and in the surrounding darkness, it had a breathtaking, otherworldly quality.
As we neared the top, however, I caught sight of a neon-green line making its way up an enormous hill in the darkness near us, and I looked away.
Suddenly, there was a whistling sound in the air below us, and three unknown objects made contact with the Ferris wheel in rapid succession. A trio of metallic clangs rang out as the entire Ferris wheel shuddered and slowed. It creaked out a few more degrees of rotation before coming to a complete stop just as the car carrying Edward and me reached the top.
We straightened up and looked around, Edward gripping me tightly. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the Barracuda make its insane dive, and a triumphant, booming whoop reached our ears.
"Oh," said Edward, apparently listening to something. "Oh." A dazzling smile lit up his face. A few moments later, he turned to me.
"Did you really wish for the Ferris wheel to stop while we were riding it together?" he asked, his topaz eyes glowing.
"Er—yes," I answered truthfully, bewildered. "But I didn't think it would actually come true. What's going on?"
"Emmett," laughed Edward, releasing his grip on me to twist in his seat and look at the Barracuda, which was still whipping around its tracks. "He heard what you said when you got stuck on the roller coaster together, and he guessed what you'd wished for. I think he wanted to make up for everything he'd put you through today. He worked together with Alice to get the timing right, and then they and Jasper went on the Barracuda at just the right time to stop the Ferris wheel."
He seemed to listen some more, and then laughed, "Yes, that's it. When the Barracuda reached the right height, they threw bits of metal at the gears of the Ferris wheel so that it would stop when we were at the top. No wonder Alice was translating "I Just Can't Wait to be King" into Mandarin while she told us to go on the Ferris wheel—she didn't want me to know what she was up to!"
"But is this safe?" I asked anxiously. "What if they broke the ride? What if it crashes down or something?"
"It won't. Emmett's studied physics. He knew exactly what he was doing. Although," he listened for confirmation, and my favorite crooked smile spread across his face, "He did ensure that they won't be able to get us down for a very long time. We should have several hours, at least."
"Really?" I was beginning to feel a joy that matched the expression on Edward's face. All traces of my melancholy mood were rapidly dissipating. "He did that for me?"
Edward's expression softened. "He likes you, you know," he told me seriously. "He likes to have fun, and he can sometimes get a little…carried away. But he truly does enjoy having you around. He didn't mean to hurt you earlier."
"Huh," I said, a little dumbfounded by this revelation. I would have to thank Emmett for this later. And maybe apologize for my earlier outburst. For now, however, my attention was rapidly recaptured by Edward's face, looking glorious in the light of the Ferris wheel.
"I can't believe you wished for this," he whispered. "You could have wished for anything in the entire world, and you wished to get stuck at the top of a theme park ride with me." He shook his head in disbelief.
"Of course I wanted to get stuck on the Ferris wheel with you," I told him, taking his face between my hands. "Being with you is the best part of my life."
The corners of his mouth pulled up into a small smile. "You can't imagine how happy it makes me to hear you say that," he breathed. But his expression was torn. I could tell that, yet again, he was struggling with his joy that I returned his feelings and his guilt at the thought that I would be better off if I felt that way about someone else.
But now, he seemed to push those thoughts away. He pulled me into his lap, and his smile grew as his warm gold eyes stared into mine.
"So," he breathed, brushing a lock of hair behind my ear. "We have several hours with nothing to do but enjoy each other's company. What are we going to do with ourselves?"
"Mmmm," I answered, distracted by the trail of kisses he was planting along my neck, and by the tantalizing prospect of being alone with him for several hours. "I can think of a few things," I whispered, twisting my fingers into his hair.
As we locked ourselves together over the spectacular display of lights of the park below us, enveloped in warm, velvety darkness, I decided that theme parks weren't so bad after all.
Even the roller coasters.
A/N: I hope you enjoyed it! This is the very first fanfiction I've posted, so I would love some feedback. Loved it? Hated it? Thought anyone was out of character? Find a typo? Please drop me a review! I would love to hear from you.
Credit for Emmett's "the people look like ants down there!" line goes to my wonderful Beta reader, Fearlee.
I got the idea for Emmett's pretend-you-found-a-nail-that-came-from-the-ride prank from somewhere online. I can't remember where, but if I think of it later, I'll update with a link. I think it might have been a ragestache comic.
Also, the inspiration for the name "Jerry" for Emmett's monkey came from a comic on Deviantart called "The Cullen Bunch." I don't think the author should have a problem with my using it, since my story has almost nothing to do with the comic. It was just the first name that popped into my head, and I think that comic is the reason why. But if he/she has a problem with it, just let me know, and I'll be happy to change it.
Thanks for reading!