Disclaimer: Like A War in My Mind, this isn't a happy story. (And if you haven't read A War in My Mind yet, you probably should; it's way shorter than this, though I say this fanfic gives AWIMM a run for its money.) This just an extension of that story, and about five times as long. Told in Bella's perspective. Rated T for some language and sexual content. Also a lil' angsty. Post-BD AU. Un-Beta'd and it shows. Anything you recognize isn't mine. Heavily inspired by "Ride" by Lana Del Rey. I'm rambling now. Enjoy.

UPDATE: Thanks to the lovely people at Project Team Beta, this has now been beta-read. When I was looking at all the mistakes I made, I had to think, "Was I high when I wrote this!?" I knew I was rushing, because I distinctly remember wanting to have enough time to get ready for a New Year's Eve party, but gosh. How this used to be was ridiculous. But now it's a little prettier. :) Enjoy.


A Nomadic Point of Madness


x

"Happy Birthday, Renesmee!"

Jacob Black, my (former) best friend, couldn't be more ecstatic to celebrate my daughter's birthday. I wanted to feel his excitement, and be as happy as he was. I couldn't bring myself to that, though. Not genuinely, at least.

Renesmee, who was turning five in actuality but looked fifteen physically, was surrounded by the people who loved her. She should have been happy. She had myself and my husband Edward, for loving parents; Alice, Jasper, Rosalie, and Emmett for loving aunts and uncles; and Carlisle and Esme for loving grandparents. She had my father, Charlie, for another grandfather. An actual grandfather. A biological one. The one normal family member she had.

Nothing is normal.

Added on to all of that love, though, was the love of Jacob, in which was most likely stronger than everyone else's love for anyone in the room combined. Jacob's words from such a long time ago, back when he loved me almost this much, echoed in my head.

"Imprinting on someone is like when you see her. Everything changes. All of a sudden, it's not gravity holding you to the planet. It's her. Nothing else matters. You would do anything—be anything—for her."

Jacob had never been one to lie.

He looked at Renesmee like she'd hung the moon herself, and she had, in his book. I remembered vaguely back when Jacob had loved me like that, almost. But I knew from the beginning of the imprint that Jacob would always be with Renesmee. Imprinting was tightly bound. I shouldn't be the one to try to tamper with it. I couldn't, anyway. The only thing that can break an imprint is death.

Jacob loved Renesmee. Even if he didn't, he was supposed to. He would have to. How he felt wasn't romantic or sexual or anything like that; Edward would have told me. Jacob and Renesmee were close friends. Utter confidants. Renesmee cherished Jacob more than anything else. She didn't have to tell me. I knew.

Was it fair to say that it broke my heart every single day to realize this? Every hour, even? Every moment?

But I have my forever, I reminded myself. I'd wanted a forever since I'd met Edward. He was it. Forever. That was still my favorite word. It was quickly turning into Renesmee's.

Edward held me at the waist and reminded me that I had him for the rest of eternity. I had him, and I had my family, and I had Jacob and Renesmee until the end of time, too.

And to think that I could still have Jacob, only in a different way, if I had made a different choice.

Forever sounds like paradise… until you start living it.

Forever isn't normal.

Edward continued to hold me tightly, and I thanked the heavens that I had a mental shield. Edward wouldn't be sucked into my terrible thoughts, and I was appreciative of that. My heart couldn't afford to be hated by him.

Renesmee smiled and blew out the fifteen candles that stood atop her birthday cake. Jacob kissed her forehead softly and murmured, "Happy Birthday, honey" to her.

I wondered if he remembered that he had called me honey first. That would have been normal.

xXx

I lounged with Edward in our cottage's living room that night. I felt exhausted, mentally. I'd been feeling like this for days now. Or was it weeks? Months? I couldn't remember. Maybe I'd always been this way.

"You're stressed, love," Edward told me.

I sighed. "I am," I agreed. "Where's Renesmee?"

"Didn't you know? She went for a walk with Jacob. She's fine. She'll be back soon."

I shook my head. "I'm not worried about her," I explained.

"Then what are you worried about?" he asked, his golden eyes smoldering into mine.

I sighed again. "Everything."

"Tell me, Bella."

Always Bella, never Bells. Never normal.

I made up a lie. One of the biggest lies I could have told. "I'm concerned with Renesmee's happiness," I admitted. I wasn't really concerned with her happiness. I knew she was happy. She had just about everything, and the things she didn't have were replaced. No friends, but plenty of family. No typical romantic life for a teenager, but a man that loved her more than anything in the universe.

"Why?" Edward asked quietly. "She has everything."

"Maybe that's why she's not happy. She's spoiled, Edward. Spoiled rotten."

"So?"

That was it. Just a So?

"What do you mean, so?" I asked. "She shouldn't be spoiled. Imagine how she's going to act when she's older."

"She'll be fine," Edward countered. "And she deserves everything she has and more."

No, she doesn't! I wanted to yell. I wanted to take this shield down and show Edward everything. I wanted to show him my thoughts and prove to him how unhappy I was. There was something wrong with me. There had to be. Vampires never got so bored so quickly. It had only been five years since I'd changed. I wasn't supposed to be so… so… unsatisfied with life.

But maybe it wasn't my life—or the idea of life—that was the problem.

Maybe it was Edward, and that wasn't a normal thing.

I quickly got up and walked to the front door of the cottage.

Edward didn't seem too bothered. "Where are you going?" he asked me, not moving from where he sat on the couch.

"Somewhere," I responded without looking back at him. "Don't follow me."

xXx

I ended up in the woods. I was far, far away from the cottage, but still not far enough. Nothing was ever enough.

I needed to think. I needed to get all these rattling thoughts together. I had this… this war in my mind that was whirring around, not looking for a place to settle or just stop altogether. My inner indecisiveness was also humming around. Or was it really moving? Had it ever gone anywhere? It was as wide and unwavering as the ocean. That hadn't changed since I'd become a vampire.

That. Hadn't. Changed.

I was so angry with everything. Mostly myself, though. I had taken what was supposed to be a calm, easy night with Edward and turned it into a near fight—or the closest that we could get, anyway. And here I was, pacing around in the woods.

I was angry. I was confused. I hated to admit it, but I was jealous. I was jealous of Edward for being able to take things so easily now. I was jealous of Jacob for being happy with life, even as it was a bad, false, blinded happiness. I was even jealous of—

What is that?

I heard quiet whimpering. Sniffling and deep breathing. Stomping feet. I'd heard these noises altogether before. Not often, since the person making those sounds had a perfect life, but I had heard them.

I ran in the direction of the sound, and I nearly bumped into my own daughter. As she stood at my own height, she didn't even seem like my daughter. Just a near copy of me. She was wordless as she looked at me, with tears stinging in her brown eyes—an exact duplicate of my human ones—and blood stained all throughout her pink top. She hadn't worn that shirt all day. She'd been wearing a much more modest one, but this current top was low-cut and very tight.

"What are you even…?" I asked, not able to finish my question.

"Jacob said no," was what she whispered to me. Then she stomped past me and went back to the cottage.

I didn't go with her.

xXx

I didn't go back to the cottage until way later that night. When you have forever, you don't want to think about going home to wind down. I couldn't sleep. I didn't want to read. All the sex in the world with Edward wouldn't—it couldn't—fill this strange void in my chest.

Jacob could, though. He could try. Maybe I'd let him. That wouldn't be normal, but I didn't want it to be.

I found him in his garage, all the way in La Push. (I didn't have a problem being there anymore—the treaty was long dissolved.) He never really went to his old house anymore, but here he was. He always stayed in the big house—the family house. Jacob was a part of the family. It was what I'd wanted from the beginning.

Was it bad, though, that I'd recently realized that I'd become part of the wrong family?

"Hey, Jake," I greeted him quietly, entering the garage like I had only a thousand times before. It felt like I hadn't been in here in a thousand years, though.

He wasn't building or tweaking anything. His hands weren't even moving. He wasn't even moving. "Hey, Bella," he murmured.

I can never be his Bells again, I thought. Is it bad that I want to be?

"You're not fixing anything," I observed, sitting on a sturdy toolbox across from him. "What's wrong?"

He sighed and looked up at me. "Have you ever…?" he began.

"Have I ever what?" I prompted.

"Have you ever felt like things are just… in the wrong places? Like you're living in an alternate reality?"

I thought on this for a second. "Kind of," I finally answered. "Why?"

"I just… I feel like I'm living the wrong kind of life."

I knew what he meant. "Why?" I asked again.

"If I was living the right kind of life," he said, looking at me straight in the eyes, "I'd feel different about Renesmee."

"What do you mean?" I asked. "Come on, Jake, I wanna understand."

"You wouldn't," he said quickly. "We haven't understood each other in years."

And he was right. We'd grown apart. I'd thought that his imprinting would keep us close. It had done just the opposite.

"Jacob," I said firmly. "Just tell me. Please."

His eyes—those beautiful, honest, normal eyes—stayed on mine. "I… I… I told Renesmee no."

"I know that," I said. "But you have to tell me what you told her no to."

He sighed again. "She wanted to have sex with me, and I denied her."

xXx

"I mean, what was I supposed to say?" Jake asked. "She's a child!"

We'd had a moment of silence. Absolute silence. And then he'd started to defend himself.

"Jake, I'm not mad at you," I said. "I mean… what am I supposed to tell you? 'Have at it'?"

"Exactly!" he agreed, his thick eyebrows shooting up. "She was really upset, though. I didn't mean to make her sad. Fuck. I mean, I told her no. That's the equivalent of a punch in the face for her."

"She gets what she wants," I sighed. "Always. Except this time."

"What if she tells Edward?" he suddenly asked.

"She won't," I assured him. "I promise. I'll tell her not to."

"Thanks, Bella."

Still Bella. Always Bella.

"You're welcome, Jacob. Can you promise me something, though?"

"What?"

"Keep her happy," I whispered. "I don't care if she doesn't deserve it or if it's false or anything like that. Just… keep her happy. You're the most important thing she has."

"That's my job, Bella."

"Right. Stick to it."

Jacob had always been one to keep his promises.

xXx

I went back to the cottage much more composed than I'd left it, but I couldn't help but worry. My daughter wanted to be sexually active? With Jacob? I couldn't let her, for whichever reasons others would like to believe.

As I passed him on my way to Renesmee's room, Edward greeted me as if nothing happened, like he wasn't mad at me or Renesmee at all. I knocked once on her door, then called to her, "Ness, can I come in?"

I heard some noises of rummaging and shuffling, but eventually she replied with, "Yes."

I twisted the doorknob and let myself into her bedroom. No longer a child's room, the wide area was decked in typical teenage girl items: posters of boy bands, DVDs, CDs, lotions and perfumes, clothes, books and magazines, and everything else. It was the usual. Characteristic. Normal. Edward and I had done everything in our power to make her feel like a normal teenage girl, but it hadn't worked. Renesmee wasn't a normal teenage girl.

A normal teenage girl would not be sitting here, crying because she was loved so dearly by a werewolf, but couldn't have sex with him.

Renesmee sat cross-legged on her bed, wearing her clean, satin, white pajamas. Her bronze hair, the same color as her father's, was up in a messy bun. She no longer smelled of blood, which was good because she always bathed after her hunting trips, anyway.

She would have looked fine—content, even—if her face wasn't so heartbreaking. Tears were pouring out of her Bambi-like eyes, and she still tried to wipe them away.

"Don't cry, sweetie," I told her softly, bringing my own fingers up to her cheeks, wiping the tears away. "It's your birthday. You don't deserve to be sad today."

She sniffled. "I'm just… so… pissed."

"I know, I know. Jacob told me what happened."

Her eyes widened. "You're not mad at me, are you?"

"I—"

"I mean, you can't be mad at me. Nobody gets mad at me, Mom."

"Renesmee, I'm not mad," I told her. "I just… I just wanna know why."

She shook her head. "I can't answer that, Mom. I can't. I mean, why did you want Dad? God, I feel so stupid."

"Don't feel stupid," I said. "You're not stupid. Don't show your thoughts to your dad, though. Okay?"

"Do you think I'm an idiot?" she demanded. "I haven't shown my thoughts to him in years."

"Okay," I said. "Calm down."

"Mom," she whispered, "don't hate me, but…"

"But what, Renesmee?"

"I don't know if I love Jacob anymore. I don't know if I can love him anymore."

xXx

For ten months, Renesmee spent less and less time with Edward, Jacob, and I. She spent more time alone.

Renesmee was starting to change.

I noticed the first (if you exclude the Jacob incident on her fifteenth birthday) when during one of her piano lessons with Edward, in October, she said something that shocked everyone.

"Dad," she began as he sat at the piano, waiting for her. "I don't want to play the piano anymore."

Everybody in the room paused. Edward's eyebrows knit together in confusion. "Why, Renesmee?"

She shrugged. "I want to play the electric bass instead. Is that a crime?"

"No, it's not," Edward replied, "but—"

"What's next, Nessie?" Emmett asked with a smirk. "Rock bands and tattoos?"

She smiled back. "No. But I really want to play the electric bass." She turned to her father. "Please, Daddy?"

Renesmee always got what she wanted.

They left a music store later that night with a shiny, purple-and-white bass guitar. She played for two weeks, and then quit.

She never returned to the piano.

xXx

Another change I noticed was that she didn't like to read anymore. I always bought her books—a large selection of everything from young adult, to adult crime, to the classics—but she'd started putting them away.

One day in December, as I watched her stow away the books into a cardboard box, as if she was planning on leaving almost, I asked, "Why are you putting all your books away? Are you moving out? Running away?"

She turned to me and rolled her eyes. "You know that nobody would let me."

"You don't know that, Renesmee. Then again, you wouldn't really find a reason to leave. You have everything here."

"Maybe I do," she replied simply. "Maybe I'll find a reason."

I laughed. "Good luck, darling." I started to leave her room, but she stopped me.

"Hey, Mom?" she asked.

It was still hard to believe that I was actually her mother. And to think how things would have been so different if I had just changed a simple thing…

"Yes?" I responded.

"Can I have some paint?"

"Do you need someone to paint your walls?" I asked.

"No. I mean, I want to paint. Like, on a canvas," she clarified.

"Are you sure?" I asked.

She nodded.

"Okay. You can wait until Christmas," I replied.

"Christmas?" she repeated. "Why not today?"

I sighed. "Christmas is in two weeks, Ness. You can wait. I'll wrap up some paint stuff and put them under the tree."

She pouted. "Please, Mommy?"

I stared into her big brown eyes and by then, I knew I couldn't say no.

Renesmee always got what she wanted.

We came home with new, rich paints, paintbrushes, and blank canvases an hour later. By the time Christmas arrived, she was so occupied by her new gifts that she didn't use the paint again.

xXx

By August, just a month before her physically-sixteen-years-old birthday, Renesmee felt like a different person to me. Quieter. More insightful. Secretive.

Definitely not normal.

She didn't show Edward her thoughts. Not even once. She barely talked to me, except to ask for money for something, which I would gladly fork over to her. She still didn't know how to drive yet. I wondered why.

But her being less present (to me, at least) gave me some time to rekindle an old relationship. One that had dashed and divided away like everything else since I'd made my choice.

I started to see Jacob again.

I was like… this hybrid. Ironic, since that was what my daughter was. But I was like this mix of a being that couldn't contain myself. I wanted my forever. I had my forever. But I still wanted normality. I wanted what could have been. My indecisiveness was raging, but I couldn't hold it in. I wanted to be a beautiful Cullen. I was. But I was also a Swan. Hell, I was practically a Black. I was still the human persona that I'd known for about nineteen years. Jacob brought that out in me. I wasn't Bella when I was with him. I was so much more than that. I was Bells. He was Jake. We were normal, and we were friends again. I was still a Cullen, too, though. I wanted to be one.

And I always got what I wanted. Renesmee had become just like me.

Jacob and I started out very innocent—that's how all broken relationships start up again. At least, for me. Things were sort of awkward, since he only wanted to be around Renesmee, but that faded. After about a month since I'd started talking to him again in July, we were actually friends. Genuine, real, honest-to-God friends. It felt normal.

The routine was the same: I would go to La Push in the mornings (since he stayed more and more away from the big house); we would sit in his garage and he would drink sodas all day as I would casually hold a warm can in my hands, like things were actually normal; we would talk like old friends until dark; I would go home to Edward for the night; and the process was continued the next day. Edward didn't really mind—or at least, he never told me—because he seemed to be too wrapped up in his own thoughts. Or he was concerned with Renesmee. His daughter was becoming more and more distant. Wasn't it his job to worry?

But isn't he supposed to worry about me more?

Every time I thought that, I would immediately try to shove the thought to the back of my mind. Sometimes it worked.

xXx

I couldn't ignore being a Cullen for too long. Jacob had gone patrolling with the pack as I went on a big, weeklong hunting trip with my family—my venom family. Renesmee had stayed back. She'd promised everyone she'd be okay. I'd believed her. Edward had, too, for once. He'd thought he knew her. We'd all been fooled in the end.

Upon returning, we discovered that Renesmee wasn't in the cottage, where she'd been when we'd left. She wasn't in the big house, she wasn't at Sue's, and she wasn't anywhere else.

Renesmee was missing.

Everybody panicked. Everybody—the packs, too—had met up at the big house. Chaos had ensued, yet I, in all my selfish glory, was as calm as the ocean. Wordless.

"What are you waiting for!?" Edward yelled at Sam. "Find her! Can't you smell her or something?"

"Edward, she probably didn't make it far," Rosalie echoed. "We'll find her."

"She could be anywhere," Edward snapped at her. "She could be on the other side of the world by now!"

"Edward," Alice called worriedly, rushing into the room, "I found her scent. It's fresh. But I can't find her tracks. I think they've been covered."

"Well, follow them!" This time, it wasn't Edward giving out orders to find Renesmee—it was Jacob. He had stepped into the middle of the room. "I'm gonna find her," he announced.

That was when I spoke. "No!" I yelled to everybody, though I was looking in Edward and Jacob's general direction. "Don't go after her."

"Bella, your daughter—our daughter—is missing," Edward hissed at me. "Aren't you in the least bit concerned?"

"I am," I said. It was a lie. Another lie. "But going after her isn't going to make her come home. She's not stupid, Edward. She's going to come home when she needs to. She wasn't kidnapped. She left on her own. She'll be fine."

Esme emerged into the room. "She didn't run away, either," she proclaimed. Everyone in the room turned to her. "Nothing has been replaced or moved. She didn't even bring her cell phone with her."

"She'll be back soon," I told Edward and Jacob. "Trust me."

"And what if she won't?" Edward demanded, his eyes ablaze. I hadn't seen him this angry in years. "What are you going to do then, Bella?"

"Trust me," I said again. "She'll be fine. I promise."

I couldn't even trust my own words.

xXx

"I can't fucking believe it," Jake muttered that night. He was in the big house for the first time in a long time. I sat next to him on the couch in the empty living room. Nothing at all was moving. Nothing except for his heartbeat, steady and paced.

"I know," I whispered, not even moving myself. "I know."

"It's just like last time," he mumbled.

"What are you talking about, Jake?" I asked, now staring at him. He was sitting so uncomfortably. So frigid.

"Years ago, when you were missing," he replied. "Don't you remember? Charlie sent out a huge search party, and Sam found you in the woods. You were crying. Completely lost."

The memories immediately shot back to me, and chills crept down my spine. "I remember that," I whispered.

Jacob exhaled through his nose sharply. "If we can't get her back, I swear I'm gonna—"

"Don't," I told him. "You'll be alright."

"You don't know that."

I sighed and nodded. "I guess I don't. Believe me, though. Trust me."

"I trusted your false hope and you know where I ended up?" he asked rhetorically. "I ended up hurt. Devastated."

"I guess you're still the same old Jacob," I murmured. "Making me feel guilty, of course."

"I'm not the same old Jacob," he replied. "This girl's actually worth it, for once."

xXx

When I arrived home later that night, I was surprised that Edward was still not mad at me. I almost wanted him to be mad at me. I felt guiltier about hurting Jacob more than Edward now.

I was absolutely rotten. A monster, but more harsh than anything I'd been before.

Edward sat in the living room cottage, just as frigid as Jacob had been. I made myself comfortable next to him and wrapped my arm around his shoulder. "Hey," I sighed.

"Hello," he responded weakly. "Where have you been?"

"The main house," I said quietly, "with Jacob."

"Great."

I tried to defend myself. "I didn't mean to sound—"

"I know, love. You know, Jacob's restraint is incredible."

"What do you mean?" I asked. "Of course it is. He's not new to phasing."

"I mean, when she went… missing. He didn't go after her when you told him not to. It's almost like…"

"Like what?" I demanded.

"It's like he didn't imprint on her."

"Edward," I said, "Jacob imprinted on her. And the sky is blue."

"I've read the minds of wolves that have imprinted," he reminded me. "If Sam was in Jacob's place, his thoughts would be much more frantic. He would have gone to find his missing mate."

"Jacob's just different," I said, shrugging my shoulders.

"Jacob's just unaffected," he corrected me. "From what it looks like, there's this… this block between him and the imprint. I don't know how to describe it. It's been there for months now. Since a little while after her fifteenth birthday."

A block... A block between Jacob's mind and the imprint?

"How could something stand between him and the imprint, though?" I wondered. "That doesn't make any sense."

"Bella, imprinted wolves can love more than one person at a time. They can't imprint more than once, and the imprint doesn't go away, but what it looks like for Jacob is that there's someone he loves too much right now—more than the imprint.

"The false imprint would be stopped and forgotten about if it weren't for the fact that it is impossible for Jacob to imprint on this new—or preexisting—fascination. That's blocking me, too. I can't see who Jacob's other love is. The other love is blocking me from the inside out, but it's not blocking Jacob. He knows."

My jaw nearly fell off and hit the ground.

I was Jacob's other love, and inadvertently, I was shielding Jacob's mind from the inside out.

xXx

In my many failures of trying to get over the fact that I'd made the wrong choice, I hadn't meant for Jacob to love me again, if he'd ever stopped. It was selfish, for me to love him but for him to not love me when that was all he ever did, but that was the truth.

Jacob Black still loved me.

Just a glitch, just a glitch was the reasoning I had put into Edward's mind, because he didn't want to believe this either. Another man loving his wife? He wouldn't want to fight that battle again. But what about his wife loving another man?

Edward wouldn't be able to handle it. Me loving Jacob, Jacob loving me. His own daughter being missing. I'd seen Edward crumble before. I could see it happening again.

Jacob and I kept the mind glitch reasoning alive for a while. But I knew that Edward was aware, even as I shielded Jacob's mind later on. That was when things got more complicated, and we were faced with more challenges.

Jacob and I couldn't be considered friends anymore. Definitely not by the New Year. New Year's Eve at the Cullen home wasn't anything to be celebrating; it just meant starting the year without Renesmee. The youngest member of the coven—of the family—was missing. By then, I was really starting to worry. I could only imagine her in the streets, freezing. Or worse: in the arms of a grimy man, being used day after day. She could protect herself, though. Couldn't she?

Anyway, I spent New Year's Eve with Jacob, in his garage. Once again, it had become my safe haven. It was Washington's little Taj Mahal, after all.

"I don't think she's coming back," Jacob said matter-of-factly that night. We were two hours away from midnight. The house was quiet—absolutely quiet—since nobody was there. Billy had gone to Sue's; he couldn't stand to be around his son, since Jake was so absent, anyway. When he wasn't with me, he was just… alone. Discreet.

"Me neither," I admitted.

"Bella, you didn't keep your promise."

I hated when he called me Bella. I pouted. "I'm sorry," I told him.

"Saying 'sorry' isn't going to bring her back," he replied. "You know that."

I nodded and stared into his deep brown eyes. So familiar. So warm. "Jake, you know what Edward told me, that night she left?"

"What?" he asked. "The glitch?"

"Yeah, the glitch. Well, I don't think it's a glitch."

"Bella, there's something wrong with my brain. It was a glitch. Otherwise, I would've gone after her."

"I think," I whispered, "that you didn't imprint."

He was wordless.

"Jake, I…" I put my hand on his. He flinched slightly, but kept it there. What a contrast, my stark white hand on his large russet one. "I don't want to believe it, either. I mean, believing that all those years of waiting on her hand and foot meant nothing? I wouldn't want to allow myself to think that, either. But I don't think you imprinted. I don't think I'm blocking anything. How could I block anything that wasn't there to begin with?"

Jacob shook his head. "I… I understand," he said softly. "I just… wish things weren't like this. I mean, Sam told me the same thing. That the imprint was a fake. I just wanna know why."

"I think it's because you never stopped loving me," I disclosed. "Isn't it obvious?"

"I think that's the truth," he replied.

"I'm sorry," I whispered. "I'm so sorry, Jake. I wish I hadn't taken your choices away."

"No, Bella," he said, his eyes boring into mine with a passion that was almost overwhelming me. "You were my choice. You still are. I can't stop loving you. I don't want to."

If it was possible for me to produce tears, they would have been pouring down my face. "Oh, Jake."

"Oh, Bells."

And for the first time in forever, he kissed me. I was Bells. I was his honey. We were normal. There was no way to go back.

We kissed for hours that night. I didn't let go of him once, not even to wish him a happy new year. We both knew that this year had started out beautifully.

xXx

I never unshielded Jacob's mind in the presence of Edward after that. Jacob never told me that he could stop thinking about us; he never made promises he couldn't keep. So he let me shield his mind. I was glad.

I was less than glad to be hiding this from Edward, though. But at the same time, I didn't want to leave him. He was too important. I didn't want him to leave me, either. Edward was my forever. Without that, I would have no future. No eternity. Jacob couldn't last forever like Edward could.

Edward couldn't have cared less, however. He was in a strange state—this state that made it look like he was dreaming, but kept being pushed back into the harsh reality. He waited every night in the cottage. Every single night. It wasn't normal. He would sit in the living room, as still as a statue, waiting for his little girl to come home. And she didn't.

In February, Edward once went out to find her, ignoring my pleas to not find her. He accused me of not loving her.

"You may not love her," he told me, anger overtaking the love in his black eyes (they'd been black for weeks now), "but I do. I lost you for her, remember? And this is how you repay me? You may not care, but this is my daughter and she's coming home, even if it kills me."

With that, my heart broke. Did I really care? I grabbed Edward's arm. "Edward, don't," I said. "I told you to just give her some time—"

"Well, it's been way more than enough time," he interrupted me. "My daughter is probably out on the streets, freezing to death." My daughter.

"She's not a child anymore!" I yelled. "She'll come home on her own."

"She is my child," he said in a low voice. "I lost everything for her and I was lucky enough to gain it back. Renesmee has to be out there." My child.

"She could be dead," I whispered harshly. "You would never know."

"You can assume she's dead, but I won't have it, Bella," he whispered back. I tightened my grip on his arm. Slowly, he pried my fingers away. I hissed. He stepped away from me and left the cottage, the door slamming behind him tightly.

He was on his way to find his child.

xXx

Edward had been gone for an hour and a half when I left for Jacob's garage. I wasn't at home in the cottage. Home just wasn't home without Edward. I couldn't seek safety in Alice or Esme or Emmett or anybody else in the family. All I had was Edward and Jacob. But Edward had left and not even Jacob wanted me.

When I got to Jake's garage that night, I hugged him so tightly I almost hurt him. Vague memories of back when things were simpler came to my mind. Back then, he'd hugged me this tight. This was almost normal.

"I just need you, Jake," was what I whispered into his ear as he held me in his arms.

"I'm here, Bells," was what he'd whispered back.

xXx

I hadn't meant to get undressed for him or do the things I did with him—like solve a few of the never-ending problems with myself—that night. But there was something about this… something that was so wrong, yet so, so right. If things had been slightly different—if I had made a different choice—then this would have happened, anyway. Just different. Normally.

I also hadn't meant to stay as long as I did. I found myself on the floor of Jacob's garage, breathing hard with his bare body right next to mine. I could feel his heartbeat. How had this even worked? A vampire with a shape-shifter… it was crazy.

But sometimes people do crazy things to get what they want. Sometimes it takes gaining absolutely everything you've ever desired—a husband's love, a child, a steady future, a solid eternity as sweet as sugar—and then losing it to know what true freedom is, to finally figure out who you are in the world.

And what did I figure out?

I was nothing.

I wasn't a damn thing in the real world. I wasn't even half the deal that my family had made about me over the years.

But here I was, being my selfish, terrible self, with Jacob. I wasn't worth a thing without my family, but that didn't mean I couldn't lie to myself.

"I wish we didn't have to hide this, Bells," he told me. "I just feel so…." His sentence trailed off.

"Don't finish that," I said. "You're not supposed to be the worried one. That's my job."

"I don't wanna worry," he clarified. "I just don't want anything to be wrong with…"—he gestured to our bare bodies—"…this."

"There's nothing wrong with this," I told him. "You're just overthinking it."

"Bells, what's right with this?"

"Hmm… Well, let's start with the fact that we love each other."

"That's true," he agreed.

"See?"

"Okay, throw me another."

"Jake, there's no reason for us to not be like this. We were meant to be. You didn't suddenly imprint, did you?"

He sighed. "If I imprinted, I would have told you."

"So there. I mean, with—"

"Edward's still here, though," he countered, interrupting me. "This isn't right. You're taking advantage of him being so… out of it."

"I am not taking advantage of this," I said quickly. "Edward... he left me. Okay?"

Jake's facial expression changed. "How long were you alone until you came here?" he asked.

"An hour and a half," I said pathetically.

"God, Bella..."

"I don't like it when you call me Bella," I told him.

"Fine. God, Bells..."

I sighed. "Yes?"

"You're a trainwreck," he admitted with a small smile. "You are fucking crazy."

I smiled back. "But I am yours."

He tucked a loose strand of hair behind my ear and put his lips to the corner of my mouth. He knew that drove me crazy. I threw my arm around to his back and gripped him as much as I could without hurting him. I got desperate and pressed my lips to his greedily. I did all of that because I could. He was mine.

And he wasn't Renesmee's.

xXx

Edward was gone for two weeks, looking for our daughter. I knew he hadn't been looking for Renesmee for that long. He probably stopped in Denali for a while, though I'd heard our cousins were in a slight depression over Renesmee, too. I didn't know if they'd tried to look for her, though.

When Edward came home, he was in a faintly better state than how he'd left. When he'd left, his eyes were black; now they were a liquid topaz. I was glad he'd gone hunting. As soon as Edward was in our cottage, I pounced on him, my legs wrapping around his waist, my hands in his hair.

"What's the occasion?" he asked, nearly stumbling backward.

"Nothing," I told him. "I just missed you."

He grabbed me by the waist, and I thought he was going to kiss me, but instead, he did something different. He lifted me off of him and set me on the ground.

"Are you okay?" I asked him.

He took a deep breath, as if he really needed to. "No."

"Let me show you something," I told him.

"No, Bella, I—"

"Edward, I haven't shown you my thoughts in years. And I've gotten better at it." Sooo, the last sentence was a lie.

"I don't want to see your thoughts," he told me firmly.

"Why not?" I demanded. "What is it, Edward? First you're a… a vegetable, and then when you come back, you don't want me. What's your deal?"

"What's your deal?" he snapped at me. "All of your worries left as soon as Renesmee did. You wanted her, remember? You wanted to keep her so much, and you did. Now that she's gone, you don't care. I tried to find her. Do you know how hard I tried? I checked the Amazon. I went to Alaska. She was nowhere to be found."

"How many times do I have to tell you this?" I asked in a low voice. "She'll come home when she wants to."

"Then I don't think she wants to," he whispered, his voice nearly broken.

"Maybe this house—or this life—just wasn't for her," I suggested. "We pushed her into playing the piano and reading so much literature. We swamped her with her studies. And in the midst of it all, we tried to make her feel normal by getting her the stereotypical teenage girl things. I don't think she liked it all."

"Why are you blaming this on me?" he questioned. "I gave her everything. You never blame yourself."

"I always blame myself!" I protested. "Every single day I find something to blame myself for, and you never let me take it."

"Maybe I should, then," he said curtly. "Or maybe that dog is the blame. Maybe it's both of you. You smell like the mongrel right now."

"Jacob is not a dog!" I yelled. I could feel something shake, and I heard a picture frame somewhere in the hallway drop. I heard glass breaking, too. "And he didn't do anything. He's innocent in this."

"So you're quick to defend him," he said, "but never me. Like always."

"That's not it," I replied.

"Yes it is, Bella. We're supposed to be partners, remember? No, we're supposed to be something better. Something more. We're supposed to be a family. How can we be a family when you don't want our daughter and you don't want me, either?"

"Edward, I want you," I told him. "You know I do."

"It doesn't seem like it."

I reached up to him and locked my fingers into his hair. "I do," I whispered. "I do." I put my lips to his, and that was when I was reminded of how much I missed kissing Edward. I missed it so much that I ached for more of his touch. Even as I'd told Jacob that I was his (many times), I couldn't ignore the fact that I was Edward's. They'd shared me before; couldn't they share me again?

I had Edward under my spell, and within seconds, I had him under my body, too. We were together for the first time since September.

xXx

"Show me your thoughts."

It wasn't a question. It wasn't something he was begging for. It was a commandment.

As I lay with Edward in the heap of our tangled bodies, I tried to take my shield down. I tried to focus, and at one point, I had it, but for only an instant. "I can't," I told him, giving up.

"You wanted to show me your thoughts earlier," he reminded me. "So show me them now."

I sat up and shook my head. "I… I can't. It's too difficult."

He sat up with me and looked at me. I could feel his gaze piercing into me as I looked down at my hands. "Please, Bella," he whispered. "Show me your thoughts."

Reluctantly, I closed my eyes and tried to bend the shield back. It was more like a rubber band these days. Not an umbrella like it used to be. I wondered why.

If it were possible for me to break a sweat, I would have, trying to bring the shield away from my mind, but finally, I did. All the memories—the good, nice ones that Edward liked to see—came flooding out. Memories of us kissing, touching, smiling… Memories of us in a happy, simpler time, right before our wedding. Everything was nice.

Suddenly, other memories began unraveling. The other memories weren't things that Edward liked to see.

The thoughts of me seeing Renesmee upset, Jacob and I kissing back when I was human, me seeing Edward being tortured by Jane, and more thoughts were spinning around like a tornado. So limitless and inexhaustible. I needed to put the shield back up so he wouldn't see—

Oh no.

Memories. These were recent. Jacob and I in the garage, in the woods, in his bed, in my own bed, together. Kissing, touching… making love.

Everything was unraveled.

I'd been able to shield Jacob's mind, but I couldn't contain my own thoughts.

Edward knew.

xXx

He didn't go after Jacob. He didn't touch me once. He didn't even talk to me. For months, Edward was silent. A statue. He didn't even stay in the cottage. He moved back into the main house without taking a thing. He left me in the cottage with everything to remind me of him. Pictures of him, his books, his clothes… He was behaving like a villain.

So was I.

I didn't touch his items, though. I didn't even remove my engagement ring.

I decided that I could play a villain, too, so I spent more time with Jacob. I didn't tell him what had happened. He didn't even care.

Nearly everyday as I kissed Jacob when he met me right outside of the big house, I knew Edward was watching us. On one warm day in July, right before I sat on the back of Jacob's shiny motorcycle, I could clearly hear the sounds of a few sour notes of a piano, and then wood cracking. After that, I heard a few gasps of surprise. I didn't give one of my own. Edward could destroy all the pianos in the world. I wouldn't care.

I felt alive as Jacob drove us on his motorcycle that afternoon. I just rode with him. We had nowhere to be. Nothing to lose and nothing to gain, either. At one point, I tilted back a little and put my arms up to the sky. As I closed my eyes, I felt vibrant. I felt crazy, but I felt free. I heard the birds on a cool summer breeze as Jake drove fast. I felt like I could finally breathe.

This is normal. I am normal.

We rode until dark. I wasn't sure where we'd made it to, but we ended up getting gas and turning around. As we drove back to Forks, we passed a little nightclub. To anyone else, it would have been just any ordinary nightclub with ordinary young adults there.

But then I saw a flash of long, bronze curls. I had seen that exact color only a thousand times. And when the person turned around, the first things I saw were those big, chocolate brown eyes.

Renesmee.

She didn't see me, and I didn't tell Jacob to stop driving.

xXx

Jake and I went to La Push. It was home to me. The Cullens had never really accepted me, anyway; they'd just been glad that Edward had found somebody.

Once we were in the garage, I threw a warm soda at Jacob and sat down on a cardboard box. Trying to forget who I'd recently seen, I started up a new conversation. "So how are things with the pack?" I asked him.

He shrugged. "I wouldn't know. I'm not with them anymore."

"Don't you have to be, though?"

"No. I stopped phasing."

Everything fell silent.

"So you're dying," I implied. "Slowly. Every single day."

"Bells, I'm not dying," he said with a slight smile. "I'm aging. I mean, look at me. I'm as healthy as a horse right now."

I gave Jake a long look, and he was right. He looked healthy. Perfectly fit. He was twenty-one-and-a-half years old now, but he looked at least twenty five. Then again, he never looked his age. Even when he was sixteen, he looked much older. I wondered how long this would last. When he would look his age.

"You're not dying yet," I clarified.

"What, are you anticipating on me dying so soon?" he questioned.

I shook my head. "No, it's not that at all, Jake. I just wanna be sure of how much time we have left."

"Bella, we'll be fine," he assured me.

I sighed. "You sure?"

"Yup." He walked over to me, dragged a nearby toolbox, and sat down on it.

"So is he out of your life for sure?" he asked me, his eyes down on my wedding ring.

I nodded. "Just about."

"You know, I kinda miss her," he murmured.

"Who, Renesmee?" I asked.

"Yeah."

"But you didn't really imprint on her," I pointed out.

"I spent five years with her," he said. "She was, like, my friend."

"You were forced to," I said quickly. "You didn't want that."

"I know, I know. I didn't. I just—"

I put my lips to his, effectively ending what he was saying. Renesmee being gone was for the better.

Wasn't it?

xXx

I went home later that night. I needed to talk to someone. Someone who wasn't still mourning over a false love. I knew this wouldn't be good for me, but I went straight to the main house.

I liked to think that Edward's family (since Edward and I shared nothing now) would have ordinarily let me in, but that wasn't the case.

Before I even entered the house, Rosalie met me outside. She didn't look angry to see me, but she didn't look happy, either. "Edward's not home right now," she informed me, "so you can visit, for a little while."

I gave her a small smile. "Thanks."

In the living room, I tried to make conversation with Rosalie Hale, Edward's blonde, somewhat loyal adoptive sister. I sat down carefully on the couch, like the guest that I was, since I obviously didn't belong here.

The rest of the family didn't evade me, but they didn't really acknowledge my existence. Emmett gave me a quiet Hey, Bella and went back to whatever he was doing. Esme sat at the dining room table with a sketchpad. Alice and Jasper sat at the bottom of the staircase, talking quietly amongst themselves. Alice's golden eyes sometimes looked up at me, and I could see hatred. It was the strongest emotion I could get out of any of the other vampires. And Jasper didn't even attempt to change her emotions; he let her stay angry.

But I wouldn't have to think about them. I was here to see Rosalie, who didn't entirely hate my presence. I knew I could trust her, after all.

"So how have things been?" I asked her as I sat on the couch, not relaxing.

She shrugged and replied, "Quiet, I guess."

"Where's Carlisle?"

"He's out with Edward. They said they were going out hunting, but I think Carlisle's really just trying to talk some sense into Edward."

I nodded. "How's Edward?"

Rosalie shrugged again.

"He hasn't been hurting anyone or thinking of hurting himself, has he?" I asked, genuinely concerned.

"The only thing he's done so far is demolish a piano," Rose replied. "His loss, I guess. He was the only person who played it, since Renesmee stopped."

"But he's not hurting himself, though?" I asked for clarification.

"I don't know. He avoids me. However, I do think he's going to the Volturi. He's lost everything after all. You would know, Bella, wouldn't you? I mean, with his daughter missing and his wife having sex with a damn werewolf, there's no reason for him to not go to the Volturi. Don't you think?"

"Rose," Esme barked from her spot at the table. "Stop."

"Well, that's what happened," Rosalie, turning around to face her. "Edward's going to the Volturi again. Just ask Alice. She's seen it."

Alice hissed.

"And of course," Rosalie went on, "with the total fluke that's her power, she doesn't even know when." She turned back to me. "Are you happy, Bella? Are you happy that you ruined a family, yet Carlisle won't let us move on yet, because he's still hoping Renesmee will come back? You've turned my brother into a mess—again! All these long trips he's been making to Denali have done nothing. He can't even be with Tanya, as much he wants to, because you ruined his life!"

"Rosalie, shut up," Emmett said. "Leave it already."

"Sorry, Bella," Esme said.

I stood up. "No, it's fine," I murmured. "Don't be sorry. Obviously, I'm not welcome here."

I left the house without batting an eyelash.

xXx

Talking to Rosalie had been a trap. Had I ever not escaped one of her tongue-lashings without being just a little scathed?

So many little heartbreaking details had been thrown my way. Edward would most likely be going to the Volturi again, all because of me. Carlisle wasn't letting his family move on, because of me letting Renesmee leave and even giving her the idea a long time ago. Edward wanted to be with Tanya but he couldn't, because of me. He'd even tried to be with Tanya. And I knew he still had his wedding ring.

But didn't I still have mine?

As I sat in the cottage with reminders of Edward surrounding me, I looked down at my hand. I did have my wedding ring. I never took it off. Edward couldn't make me. It was the last piece of him I had that I didn't hate looking at.

xXx

Carlisle came home that night.

Edward never did.

Every night I waited. I waited and waited, not moving as I sat in the cottage. I was turning into him, becoming a vegetable.

I didn't see Jacob in that waiting time. He had only done bad things for me. He'd ruined everything. His imprint accident had ruined everything. I had ruined everything.

I couldn't find any other way to mend them, though. I had zero ideas.

So I just waited.

In September, Edward came back. He came back the same day that his entire family left. On the night of September tenth, the day before Renesmee's seventh birthday (or seventeenth, depending on how she probably looked), my family—Carlisle, Esme, Jasper, Alice, Emmett, and Rosalie—left. The big house still had their items, since those would probably be delivered later, but it never looked more alone.

Edward entered the cottage, and before he could say anything, I asked, "Why aren't you going with your family? They left without you."

"I don't need a family," he told me.

"Of course you don't," I said bitterly. "You have Tanya, don't you? She's perfect and way prettier than me. I hope you two have a nice future."

"I have no future with Tanya," he said simply. "And even if I did, she wouldn't put me through half the amount of pain that you've put me through."

"Really?" I challenged. "Edward, I'm everything to you. You know this. Without me, you're nothing."

"You were nothing to begin with," he replied.

My nostrils flared as I stared at him. How could I have been so in love with this person a year ago, only to be sickened of the sight of him now? This wasn't how vampirism worked. We were supposed to be mates. We were supposed to love each other until the end of time.

"Give me the ring," he ordered quietly. "Give it back."

I shook my head. "No."

"Bella, please, give me your wedding ring," he said, his voice louder and more annoyed.

"I already told you, Edward. No. Never."

"I need that ring," he explained firmly. "So give it to me." He grabbed my wrist, and I couldn't shake free from his grip. "Don't make me take it myself," he threatened.

"No!" I roared. I tried to break free from his clutch on me, but I couldn't move. I wasn't a newborn anymore. I had just as much power as he had. Only he was winning.

"Isabella Swan, give me the damn wedding ring."

So I was a Swan now.

"You know what?" I asked, reaching my other hand to slip the ring away from my finger. He let my wrist go, and I crushed the ring in my hand. A tiny pile of crushed metal sat in my palm. "You can keep it," I told him, throwing it all at his face. "See if your precious Tanya wants it now."

He turned around and made his way to the door, cursing under his breath. "It's a piece of shit, anyway," I called to him. He didn't say anything. I grabbed a framed photograph—it was of him, Renesmee, and me—and chucked it at his back. It broke upon contact.

"I hope you burn in hell," I told him. "Jacob and I will be waiting to meet you there."

xXx

I couldn't have been angrier.

I wanted to kill Edward and Jacob and Renesmee and myself. We were all selfish. And I knew—oh, I knew—that Renesmee would grow up to be as terrible as me.

Happy fucking birthday, Nessie.

xXx

I poured gasoline (straight from the Cullens' garage) into every bedroom of the cottage, left it, and then threw in not one match, but five, successfully setting fire to the cottage, burning every last thing in it. Renesmee's items—gone. Edward's items—long gone. My sanity—never stayed in one place, anyway.

From a distance, I watched the house burn without any remorse. Nothing was stopping it. It just took more and more trees down with it. After a while, it just stopped spreading and burned slowly. Almost at a nomadic point of madness. It was both dizzying and dazzling.

I wasn't sure when the fire stopped, but it did, leaving the tiny house blackened, with planks of wood still hanging about.

I took my work to the main house. This would take longer, but it would be even more worth it. They wouldn't get to retrieve their things this time.

As I sauntered through every room, every hallway, and every staircase pouring, gasoline onto the ground, I wondered if Alice had seen this coming. Of course she had. Maybe she wanted this just as much as I did.

Effectively setting the house up, I threw ten matches at the house. By the seventh, the house—or maybe the cars in the garage, or both—exploded, sending me flying backwards more meters than I'd expected to. Once I got up, I walked as close to the house as I could without the flames licking at my marble skin. I wished I wasn't so flammable.

The house burning in front of the night sky was a pretty view, in a way. It was metaphorical. Dazzling and dizzying. It settled into its nomadic point of madness, and since I was such a narcissist, I couldn't help but compare it to myself. I was mad. Absolutely insane. I was also nomadic, moving on to the next target. The last target. This would fix things, once and for all.

xXx

It wasn't hard to find Jacob, knock him into unconsciousness, and take him to Forks. It was so easy it was almost laughable. He woke up when I let go of him, throwing him onto the ground in front of the main house, it was raining now, so the fire was slowly going out. The damage had been done, though it wasn't half the damage that had been done to me.

"Bells, what are you—?" he stammered.

Before he could finish, I grabbed him by the throat, I couldn't lift him into the air because he was so tall, but I was choking him. What I told him only came out as in a raspy voice. "You. Ruined. Everything."

I saw this look in his eyes. This look of fear and loathing. He was afraid of me, and he hated me. Good for him. He could hate me. Love didn't conquer all. Hatred did.

I wasn't a professional at snapping necks, but it was easy enough to snap Jacob's. It was like snapping a twig. Crushing an ant. No feelings came out of it. I didn't want any feelings.

I stripped him of his clothes and carried his dead body to the dying fire of the main house. I waited and waited, and finally, the rain made it go out. I wouldn't have wanted to burn myself in the process of throwing him in there.

Making a murder look like a suicide is easier than most would think. You just get some rope, hang it in a coat closet, tie a knot around the dead person's neck, make it look like their neck wasn't snapped first, and leave the body there.

Easy enough.

Maybe I was turning into Rosalie. Maybe I was being a theatrical, selfish narcissist. I knew this by the time I was scratching something into a board of wood with my fingernails. Also easy enough. I etched LET ME BE FREE, RENESMEE into the wood and set it down on the floor.

Yes, I would fit right in on one of those television shows about crazy, stupid women who killed their families. But Jacob wasn't my family. He was everything. He was the sun. The sun had to go out sometime.

And besides, I wasn't crazy or stupid. You're only crazy or stupid if you get caught.

I looked up at Jacob Black, dead and cold and naked, hanging in the coat closet. I had nothing to lose, nothing to gain. Nothing that I desired anymore, except to make my life into a work of art.

There it was.

xXx

I hid in the woods for the rest of that night, contemplating about when things had gone wrong in my life. When things had taken a turn for the worse. Or maybe everything had just been a component to this.

Meeting Edward was one of them.

Moving to Forks had been a bad decision on its own. Seeing Edward in the cafeteria and wondering who he and his family were had been stupid. Talking to him, being friends with him, dating him, marrying him, having his child, and planning on spending the rest of my existence with him had all been stupid, irrational things. I shouldn't have even given Jacob the time of day. He'd been a sweet kid. I shouldn't have made something more—way more—with him. It hadn't been worth it. Nothing had.

In the midst of all my thinking, with dawn breaking in the sky, I heard footsteps. I couldn't imagine who it would be. The Cullens were gone, completely out of my life now. They had no reason to be back. Nothing to retrieve but ashes and skeletons of the past.

But then I peeked out of the woods.

And oh, I saw the flash of bronze hair. So prominent. So special.

With Edward's hair and my face, my daughter walked up to the main house. It was her sixteenth birthday. She looked older than she had when she'd left. She wasn't supposed to look that much older. That wasn't normal. Then again, what was?

Shock swept across her face as she hurried to the entrance of the house, slabs of wood falling everywhere. She went to the absent staircase, and approached the derelict coat closet. She would find him. I knew she would.

Renesmee gasped and stumbled back, stepping onto the slab of wood. The fake suicide message I'd made myself. I then left the woods and made my way to the house. Happy birthday to you, I thought bitterly.

My daughter looked down at the slab and picked it up. She wasn't crying or making any noise. She was barely reacting at all. She heard my footsteps, though. She reacted to that. She turned around and I stopped walking. I didn't smile at her. I didn't snarl at her, either.

She looked lifeless. It was like looking into a mirror.

A look of hurt brushed her face, and at that moment, I hoped that she thought that Jacob had done this himself. She didn't need to know what I'd done. Not now, at least. If she loved me, she wouldn't have expected me to do this in the first place.

I approached her and stood next to her, looking up at Jacob. Her dead best friend, my dead lover.

I'd practiced my lines in my head only a hundred times.

"He can be free now, Renesmee. Let him."


x