Note: As always, thanks for reading and all the encouraging comments. I know I'm terribly inconsistent posting but my ever thanks for sticking with it.
Disclaimer: I own nothing Twilight. I merely play with the characters for entertainment. No copyright infringement intended.
I had been standing out behind the house facing the dark woods in the damp, cold night for a while when I heard rustling near me.
I knew it was him. And I knew he made a noise on purpose to let me know he was here.
I turned to my side and I saw him stepping slowly closer to me. The light from the house illuminated his tall figure and then his features as he neared me.
He stopped just a few feet from me and we stared at each other.
Just a few hours of not seeing him or knowing where he was felt like an eternity I realized as my body unconsciously relaxed in his presence. Had it always been like this? How had I survived months without him?
He finally broke the silence. "It's cold out tonight. And you're still recovering."
"I'll live," I said, then smiled realizing my own little joke.
He didn't seem to find it as funny. Edward took a step forward toward me.
A cool breeze blew by and I instinctively wrapped my arms around myself.
Edward looked at me with an expression of helplessness and my heart broke for him. I didn't know if he felt that way because he could offer me no warmth or because he could offer me no happily ever after.
I ran to him and instantly closed the gap between us. I embraced him and his body faltered slightly back from my force, almost as if he had the strength of a living man. And for a moment, I let myself believe he was. He wrapped his arms around me and under the cloudy night sky, we were just a boy and a girl.
I woke up in my bed in my new room. I washed and changed into the outfit Alice had laid out for me and grabbed my backpack and made it out to the kitchen where Esme had prepared breakfast.
The whole family was nearby.
"Ready for school?" Alice chirped.
I sat at the kitchen island eating my food. "I'm ready. Are you ready? You guys are the ones coming back after a long absence."
Edward shifted his eyes uncomfortably and I realized what I said still stung.
I stopped eating and cleared my throat. "I mean, I guess you guys have been to so many schools, you must be old pros at this by now."
"I think the only upside is that you'll be there," Edward said with a shy grin. I thought I saw Rosalie roll her eyes.
"Oh, it's not that bad, is it?" I asked.
"You don't have to hear their thoughts all day."
"There must be some interesting and creative thoughts out there," I offered.
"Nope. Not a single original thought," he joked.
I laughed. "So no juicy gossip?"
"Oh, plenty of nasty tidbits. Nothing I'd like to sully your mind with. Even at that age, some of the depraved things they think up," he shook his head.
I furrowed my brows at the dark turn. It couldn't be that bad, I thought. I mean, this school seemed pretty tame compared to some of the others I'd attended. Well, maybe except for recent events...
I gasped. Everyone turned to look at me. I searched their faces wide-eyed till I found Edward's again.
"What is it?" he asked with deep concern. He rested his hand on my arm to comfort me. It was me who should be comforting him for the news I was about to give him. The others stepped closer around me, too.
"Promise not to blow this out of proportion?" I prefaced.
"That usually means it's something significant with you," he said.
"No, it doesn't. Does it?" I questioned myself. I saw Alice nodding. I tried to think back to some examples when Edward interrupted my thoughts.
"Bella, you're getting me worried now."
I let out an exasperated breath. "Jasper, can you please keep Edward calm while I tell him?" Jasper gave a conflicted look but he nodded. "You know, I wouldn't even tell you except you're probably going to hear it on everyone's minds and I don't want you doing anything stupid. And I'm saying it's totally not a big deal because it's not even true."
"What's not true, Bella?" I could hear the impatience in his voice.
"Some people might possibly think that maybe perhaps," I drew out, "I'm a slut."
I also heard some laughter from Alice and Emmett.
"Jasper, please," I pleaded to him.
"I'm trying," he responded through gritted teeth. "But frankly, I feel the same way and I'd like to unleash his rage."
"You're not helping," I gritted back.
Emmett slowed his laughing enough to speak. "Why would anyone think that of you? Did you finally find someone willing to give it up when Eddie left?"
There was sudden movement and a breeze in the house and Jasper disappeared from where he was standing to reappear behind Edward holding him back. Emmett just burst out laughing again.
Then Edward suddenly whipped his head around to look at Alice who stared wide-eyed at her mistake and looked to me in guilt. My own eyes widened in realization and I looked back at Edward whose demeanor changed from rage to a calmer seething.
"Was it him?" He was referring to Jacob.
"What? No, it wasn't anyone. I told you, it's not true. It's just some guy who spread false rumors about me," I explained.
"I'll kill him."
I sighed exasperated. "No, you're not going to kill anyone," I said feeling stupid that I needed to be saying this at all. "Nobody's killing anybody."
"Why would some guy make up something like that?" asked Alice.
I seriously didn't want to rehash this, but I knew Edward would track down Dave's thoughts and it would be better coming from me now than him learning about it himself. "He tried to make a move on me and I turned him down," I mumbled.
"I'll kill him," he repeated calmly. Apparently, Jasper could calm him but not change his mind.
"Please don't be so dramatic, Edward," I said. "I was doing fine by myself before and I can be fine by myself again." It was the only threat I had against him. "Promise you won't do anything about this. Just let it go." He stood stone-faced. "Promise me," I demanded.
After a long pause, he said, "I promise."
"Thank you," I told him softly.
"Did he hurt you?" came a female voice.
Everyone turned their heads to Rosalie. We all had our attention to her when she repeated her question, at which point they all turned their heads to me expecting my answer.
I shook my head and said, "No, but..."
"But what?" demanded Edward.
I lowered my head in embarrassment. "But he did kind of ruin my bike."
I heard a loud crack and saw that Edward had pounded his fist onto the kitchen island counter top and left a cracked dent.
"Edward!" called Esme at her ruined table.
I held my hand to my head. "Is it safe to go to school now? Or do you want to bash in the dining table, too, while you're at it?"
He held his gaze away from me so I made my way to the front door. Alice and eventually Edward followed.
When we made it to school, we were a little late so no one else was in the parking lot. We made our way to the entrance and I grabbed Edward's hand in mine to steady his temper.
I didn't question when Edward and Alice walked me to my first classroom, but when they came in with me, I was as surprised as all the other students who turned to gape at their old classmates.
It turned out that the nosy brother sister duo scheduled their classes to meet mine almost exactly. Except for their languages and extracurriculars, our classes were the same periods.
I didn't know if I liked or disliked this arrangement. I think I would have liked it if not for the particulars of the moment, and for the fact they failed to mention this to me earlier.
When the bell rang for the end of first period, I reluctantly made my way to my locker with the duo in tow.
Edward squeezed me hand so hard I yelped in pain before he instantly let go. It was his reaction to the "slut" scrawled across my locker door.
"Wow, creative," Alice remarked sarcastically.
"I know, right?" I agreed, rubbing my poor, aching hand.
"I'll kill him," Edward deferred to his new credo.
"You promised," I reminded my over-protector.
"Does hiring someone count?" he questioned.
I saw him distracted with the crowd. His eyes flickered across the other students' faces with concentration. He was tracking down the culprits.
I laid my non-sore hand on him and nodded towards the direction of our next class. He followed but with a suspicious eye on everyone.
In our next class, Edward asked to be excused to go to the restroom, and I knew immediately something was up. Vampires did not need to ever use the bathroom.
While he was gone, I sat anxiously looking between the clock and the door. I debated whether to ask to be excused as well and look for him but thought everyone would think it suspicious so instead I just shook my leg nervously.
Edward returned ten minutes later looking nonplussed which didn't relieve my tension. But by the time class ended, I had decided to give him the benefit of the doubt and didn't question what he had done. I would wait until I heard the sounds of an ambulance to reprimand him.
But none came. I didn't understand what he had done during that time, but I didn't hear the cries or gasps of anyone so I let it go for the moment. Perhaps he had laid down some long-term trap.
At lunch, I sat at the Cullen table with a couple of actual Cullens this time. Although it was only the three of us, it still felt good. There was a lot of hushed whispering and stolen glances our way, but Edward paid them no mind. I could only imagine what he was hearing on their minds. I gave him a quick peck on his neck to show him how proud I was of him.
The rest of the school day went by pretty uneventfully. Much better than I had expected.
But when school ended, I was met with another obstacle.
Jacob was pulled over by the curb next to his red truck. "Bella!" he called. I also heard barking and spotted Wolfie hanging out the open window from inside the truck.
"Jacob!" I greeted back. I left Edward and Alice's sides to give my friend a hug. He lifted me up and set me down angled slightly away from the vampires.
"Are you all right?" he asked with deep concern on his face.
I smiled. "You can see I'm perfectly fine." I petted Wolfie who seemed happy to see me. But then he let out a low growl directed towards my back. "Wolfie! Be nice!" He seemed to calm down a bit after that. I looked back at Jacob.
He nodded but then looked toward where Edward and Alice were staring back.
"Bella! Jacob!" came an ecstatic girly voice. Nessie came trotting up to where we were standing. She gave me a quick hug.
Jacob opened the passenger side door to his old Chevy and she hopped in unquestioningly. She pushed over Wolfie, making sure he didn't get loose and then held him and pet him lovingly. Jake shut the door for her and asked her to give him a minute to which she nodded.
He walked me back to where Edward and Alice were still standing in wait.
I sighed at the task in front of me. "Jake, this is Edward and Alice. Guys, this is Jacob."
"Nice to finally meet you," said Alice after an awkward silence. "Bella has only good things to say about you."
Jacob and Edward were staring each other down. It was actually making me a bit nervous. I didn't know if a vampire werewolf fight might break out any second.
"Too bad I can't say the same," grunted Jacob.
"Jake!" I scolded, not so harshly. I didn't want to add more fuel to the ex-boyfriends-with-a-grudge fire.
"They left you, Bella! They left you devastated! I know! I was the one there to pick up the pieces! And now they think they can come back and make like none of that happened? And you're going to let them?" Jacob had turned to me and was pleading with me now.
"I'm not letting them do anything!" I said in a harsh whisper. We were off to the side where the dwindling amount of students weren't near, but I still was being careful. "I know you're angry, Jacob! I am, too!" Edward and Alice were witness to the whole thing, but it was too late to care. I collected myself and spoke again in a more calm manner. "I've had a lot of hurt. But I'm not going to dwell on it. What Edward and I had is between him and me. Just like what you and I had is between us. And what Edward and I may or may not have again is something I'm dealing with. But it doesn't involve you anymore." He looked at me with a pained expression. "I'm sorry, Jacob. I will forever be grateful for you, to you, for everything. Truly. And you will always have my friendship." I reached up to him in an embrace. He was slow to receive me, but what he lacked in timing, he made up for in fervor. He held me tight in his strong arms. "Thank you, Jacob," I whispered in his ear. "But I have to do this on my own. And you have Nessie to look after now."
"I love you, Bella Swan," he whispered back into my ear. "I meant what I said." We held each other for a little longer and then we finally let go.
Jacob eyed Edward who eyed him right back. I didn't know what Jacob was thinking or how much Edward was listening. I hadn't told Jacob about Edward's ability, or any of the others' powers, just like I hadn't told the Cullens about the werewolves.
I felt a hand on my arm and I turned to see it was Alice. She gestured towards the car with her head and pulled me gently towards it, leaving Edward and Jacob alone. When we reached the car, we got in.
"Well, that was interesting," she commented. "You failed to mention you dated a werewolf."
My head twisted back to face her. "Ah," I gaped open-mouthed.
"You certainly are good at keeping secrets," she smiled mischievously at me. "But then again, I guess your superb discretion is what's kept you alive."
"How?" I managed to stammer.
"Oh, please, Bella. When will you learn?" she tapped the side of her nose twice. "He stinks to high heavens!"
"He stinks? Like what?" I wondered. I had just been hugging him and I didn't smell anything unusual. He smelled the way he always smelled. Which was good.
"Like dog," she stated.
"He smells like a dog?" I couldn't help chuckling. "No he doesn't. Are you sure you weren't just smelling the actual dog?"
"You mean Wolfie? Yeah, real subtle with the name there, by the way. And yes, I'm sure I wasn't just smelling Wolfie. Werewolf is a very distinct stench." She scrunched up her nose. "Besides, he's a Quileute. It's in their blood. You never said he was Jacob Black. The Blacks have a history with us." She quirked her perfected arched eyebrow at me. "You do attract the most interesting characters. You make life so much more exciting."
I rolled my eyes and turned back to look at Edward and Jacob off in the distance. They hadn't killed each other yet. That was a good sign. "Do you know what they're saying to each other?" I asked.
"Bella's mine!" she said in a low, gruff voice. "No, she's mine!" she then said in a slightly higher voice, but still one that wasn't hers. "I love her! I love her more! You left her. I'm back, and I'll bite you if you come near her! I'll flex my beefy muscles until Bella returns to me. Woof, woof!"
"Oh, my God," I cracked up. I couldn't stop laughing. I had to hand it to Alice – she did a great job of lightening up my mood with her fun attitude.
While I was still laughing with Alice, I saw that Edward was making his way back toward us to the car. He sat in the driver's seat next to me.
"Good conversation?" Alice asked, doing a terrible job stifling her laugh.
"We came to an understanding," was his succinct answer.
Edward drove us to Newton's camping store for my shift and he came in to introduce himself properly to Molly. Alice followed, and after her brief greeting set about to browsing in the store.
Naturally, Edward charmed the pants off of Molly. I think she even forgave him for the mess he left of me when I met first her. That boy could work wonders dazzling people.
I even thought I might hear some protests from him about me not having to work while he was around to take care of me, but I didn't hear a peep out of him about it. He was quite accommodating actually. I think he really did mean it about making amends to me.
Alice returned to the counter with an exorbitant amount of items for the time she spent in the store. I rang her up while Molly chatted with her happily.
After Edward told me he would pick me up after my shift and left holding Alice's bags with her tailing, I apologized to Molly about leaving her in the lurch last minute, told her I caught a bad fever, and told her the Cullens happened to return unexpectedly all of a sudden.
"Good timing, too, with you being sick and the good doctor returning, huh?" she offered.
"Oh, yes," I agreed halfheartedly. It was good timing, but there was a bit more to the story than I had disclosed.
When my work day ended, sure enough, Edward was there to collect me. Mike had been noticeably absent from work. Molly informed me that he was going to be taking fewer hours because of his recent off-the-market social status. She seemed happy as any mother would be with her son dating a delightful young lady such as Angela.
When Edward and I returned to the house, I had another surprise waiting for me.
I was working on my homework with Edward and Alice at the living room table. They had waited for me to finish my shift and get back to start on theirs with me. Though, they could still just as easily finish theirs well before me even with a delayed start.
I noticed Esme, Emmett, and Rosalie had come quietly and in their stealthy way had gathered around us in the living room. Carlisle was at the hospital working. I stopped my work to listen to their news.
"The visit is set for this weekend," said Esme.
I blinked and questioned, "The visit?"
They all turned to look at me, but it was Alice who spoke. "The Denalis will be coming to see us."
"Oh," I managed to say. I blinked a few more times while I tried to grasp at something else to say. "That's good, right? They're your friends? Human-friendly? Me-friendly? I hope..." I gulped.
Everyone, except Rosalie, gave me a reassuring smile. Esme stepped to put her hands on my shoulders. "Of course, Bella. They share our lifestyle. Our families are very close and they know of our situation, of you. And they will be checking in with us, as they often do."
I thought I detected her tone trailing off, and I suspected there was more to it than just that. But I deferred from questioning them at the moment. I looked at Edward and he gave me a knowing expression. I would have to talk to him alone, later.
The next day at school, my locker had been repainted. Or should I say, my old locker got repainted. I got reassigned a new locker next to guess who? As if I didn't spend enough time at school with Edward, I was to use the empty locker next to him. I was sure it wasn't difficult at all for him to have arranged this with the school. His family exerted quite the influence over this small town.
It wasn't that I didn't like spending time with Edward, but especially at the moment, I excessively felt the over-protection of Edward. Not that it wasn't warranted, but it felt especially awkward with our romantic situation in a sort of limbo and with their sudden reappearance in the school and town, I was again bombarded with the constant unwanted attention of everyone.
At least it wasn't of pity anymore.