AN: Thank you all for reading this story. Also, to my the wonderful cutestkidsmom for recommending it for The Lemonade Stand poll. Read all of her stories. She is simply an amazing storyteller.
Mauigirl60, thank you for ALL your help with this chapter!
Dedicated to Mandi. Stay strong, because you are wonderful!
"What the hell did you do that for?" Jacob yelled.
For a minute, Isabella just stared at him. He was the same, but so very different. His black hair was still the color of night, but it was shorn into a buzz cut. There was a new paunch sticking out from the old Budweiser t-shirt he'd gotten free in the mail when they were young. His eyes were still the familiar color of bark, but they were harder. This wasn't the boy she gave her heart to long ago.
"Go back to Forks, Jacob. You don't need to be here," Isabella stated coldly. "How far do I need to travel to get away from all of you? Timbuktu?"
Jacob's eyes narrowed, "You shouldn't have left in the first place like a chicken-shit, Bells. Things didn't work out between us, but you have a nephew now. We're your family whether you like it or not, so stop whoring around with this . . ."
Her blood began to boil as the words came out of Jacob's mouth. The heat of the summer air was nothing compared to her anger. A whore? She was finally in a real loving relationship and she was the whore? Isabella wanted to punch him in his nose so, with a livid expression, she made a fist.
She darted toward him, but Edward grabbed Isabella's waist as she tried to pummel Jacob. "Darlin', calm down now! No need to get Sheriff Jones over here. I'd love ta see ya beat 'im to a pulp, but I'd like you to be at home tonight and not in the county jail."
As the carnival-goers around them stopped and gawked, Isabella still struggled like a wildcat to get loose from Edward's embrace. She wanted Jacob's blood on the grass, Leah's head on a stake, Sue to burst into flames and her father to . . .
Charlie tried to get close to her, as Edward pulled her back. "Bells, we just want to make things right!"
A few tears managed to escape from her eyes. As Isabella looked at her father, she could see his face was etched with more wrinkles and his eyes were tired. A moment of pity rushed through her, but was quickly replaced with disdain. She was the tired one — the one who was walking through this world alone without parents. Charlie might as well be six feet under with Renee.
"You're full of shit, Dad! If you wanted a meaningful conversation about our relationship, you could have come here yourself. Did you do that? No! Instead, you brought along the despicable trio to rub what they did in my face. No, thank you!"
"They want to make amends," Charlie stated. His eyes were misty. The man had been delusional for such a long time when it came to Sue Clearwater. He loved his daughter. He really did, but he was lonely without Renee. Sue came into his life with a casserole dish and a way to flame his desire. Her coloring was similar to Renee's, but her cold disposition made Isabella cringe. Charlie had been looking through rose-colored glasses ever since.
Isabella muttered, "Bullshit!"
"Isabella Marie, how dare you speak to your father that way!" Sue approached Isabella with a glare, as she turned to Charlie. "Your daughter takes after Renee. She's ungrateful, little . . ."
"Bitch!" Leah spat.
Isabella stilled a moment, glaring at the woman she'd once called sister, then renewed her struggles to be let go.
Edward had heard enough. They just wanted to make trouble and Isabella's father was a clueless dope. He gave Isabella her wish, letting her loose. "Go get her, darlin'!"
Bella pounced on Leah and they both ended up on the ground. The women rolled around the dirt, each trying to get the upper hand. Leah bit into Isabella's shoulder, as Isabella pulled Leah's black hair so hard that a clump of it came off in her hand. The dry dust made a cloud as it swirled in the air around them.
Meanwhile, Jacob turned to Edward and growled, "Who the fuck are you?"
"Boy, I'm Bella's fiancé! I should be thankin' ya for settin' her free to be with me. Instead, I wanna beat ya so hard for hurtin' my gal that ya won't know yer own name!" Edward tightened his fists.
Jacob just laughed and punched Edward in the jaw. A trickle of blood came out of the side of his mouth and onto his shirt, staining it with crimson.
Isabella glanced over and screamed, as Edward landed face-down on the ground. She didn't see Leah take a tree branch and aim it at her face, its sharp fingers making a dangerous weapon.
It was mere inches from Isabella's eye when Rosalie plucked it out of Leah's hand. She proceeded to step on Leah's chest, saying with sickly-sweet southern charm, "Ma'am, I'd highly suggest that ya rethink hurtin' Miss Bella. We don't do that trashy fightin' 'round these parts."
"But I do!" Alice yelled, as she came over and pulled out more of Leah's hair. Isabella rolled out from underneath her and was able to stand up.
Her only thought was of Jacob hurting Edward, but she was surprised to see James and Emmett holding Jacob's arms back, allowing Edward to punch him in the gut. Jasper held Charlie back from trying to help Jacob. It didn't look like the old man was able to put up much of a fight, his face the color of a beet and his heavy breathing making him appear on the verge of passing out.
"I'm not one for fightin', Bella girl, but my boy loves ya and he's gonna fight for ya." Mama Esme hugged Isabella close.
"That's enough, Edward!" Isabella pleaded, as she noticed a small child wailing near Sue, sitting in a faded umbrella stroller. The child had wild dark hair like his parents, with huge brown eyes and a t-shirt stained with jelly. His parents may have been jerks, but the child didn't need to witness this. "There's a child watching!"
"Look, Boss lady! We're helpin' your boy out!" James crowed. "Damn, Em, this has been the most excitin' rodeo weekend since two years ago!"
Edward was like a man possessed and punched Jacob again in the stomach, making him groan.
"Stop, Edward!" Isabella wanted to run away.
"Nah, boy, the Boyd twins tusslin' last year with the lead pipe was pretty damn excitin'. Hit him again, brother!" Emmett exclaimed with a laugh, as he watched Edward shake out his hands. "Bessie, you do bring out the animal in these boys, don'tcha?"
"Boy . . ." Mama Esme warned her eldest son. Emmett pouted like a toddler as he and James finally released Jacob, who fell to the ground.
The rotund sheriff waddled his way through the crowd, followed by Carl. The lawman was busy eating a plate of barbecue, his fingers sticky from the sauce. Lazily he asked, "What'cha all doin'?"
"Looks to me like a little western justice," Carl observed, as he chewed on a piece of hay. "Them givin' ya trouble, Miss Bella?"
Edward stomped over and poked Charlie in the chest. "These people are givin' my fiancée a terrible time!"
"Fiancée?" Carl exclaimed loudly, throwing his hat in the air. "Woo hoo! 'Bout time, son!"
There were happy cheers for the couple from the surrounding crowd. Cowboy hats of different shades of black, brown and the occasional white flew into the air like confetti.
"This is ridiculous! That bitch attacked me!" Leah screamed, pointing at Bella.
Rosalie glared at her. "Nice way to talk around a child."
The sheriff held up his fork. "Y'all simmer down! Young lady, Miss Bella is a goddamned treasure in this town. You'd best watch your tongue."
"Marcus!" Mama Esme admonished.
"Excuse my language, Mrs. Esme." He smiled at Bella. "Miss Bella saved this town with her pluck and courage. I see nothin' amiss here."
Charlie looked up from the ground at the sheriff. "Bella saved the town?"
"Yeah, she did, Charlie. Your little girl and Miss Alice found out that a shyster was takin' advantage of the townsfolk and stopped him. Those girls are the bravest I ever met and I'll be proud to call 'em daughters," Carl explained with a smile.
Isabella glance over at Alice who held out a ring-clad finger. Alice said with a giggle, "Me, too! Jasper hid it in a plate of ribs!"
"It's gross, but fitting." Isabella knew that Alice Brandon loved to eat and that the ring would've been found very quickly.
Edward, forgetting about the Swans and Blacks, put his youngest brother in a headlock. "What the hell, Jas!" Way to steal my thunder!"
"Boys!" Mama Esme yelled, as the men were being pulled apart.
Charlie came over to Isabella while the crowd was distracted. Sue, Leah and Jacob were trying to calm the baby. "You did that? What the sheriff said?"
"Yes. I'm the editor of the newspaper and I reported that a crime was being committed," she stated simply, not looking at him.
"I'm proud of you."
She gave him a sideways glance. "Sure."
"I am." He stared at her. "I just wanted to make things right."
Isabella turned and glared at him. "You did? Because, if you really did, you'd have come here by yourself."
"Sue thought we needed to come together as a family and talk you into coming home." He tried to take Isabella's hand.
Edward glanced over at her and started walking over, but Isabella waved him away. This showdown with her father had been years in the making and she needed to do this on her own.
She pulled away. "If she told you to jump off a bridge, would you?"
"Of course not!" His dark brown eyes that mirrored Isabella's own refuted his words. He was a broken man. "Bringing Leah and Jake here was a bad idea, but..."
"You think?" Isabella scoffed. "I will never forgive them and they have no desire for me to do so. I have no idea why they want to be here unless it was to make me miserable."
"They wanted you to meet your nephew," Charlie tried to explain. "Matt..."
Isabella wanted to scream. That was the name she'd always dreamed would be the name of her firstborn son. She'd even named her baby dolls Matthew and now they'd stolen that from her, as well. She looked at Leah, who was smiling smugly at her. Leah would have been considered a lovely woman if she took care of herself. Years of heavy drinking and hard living had marred her so that her looks mirrored her awful personality.
Taking a deep breath, Isabella looked at the child whose tantrum was making everyone cringe. Ruddy-faced, with snot dripping down his small face, the child meant absolutely nothing to her. "He's not my nephew. I don't want to know him. I don't want a relationship with any of you. I'm an adult and this is my home now. I won't be returning to Forks."
"I'm your father!" Charlie yelled. "I'm the only parent you have left."
She shook her head in disagreement. "You were dead to me long before Mom died when you decided to support Leah and Jake over me. It was a simple choice and you chose the wrong one. I have no parents now, but I do have a wonderful family in the Cullens."
It was hard, but she turned to walk away, her head held high.
Charlie called out, "Bella! Please!"
Edward ran over. "Sugar, what can I do?"
"Hold me tight tonight, Eddie." Isabella stroked his face. "You're my everything."
He placed his forehead against hers. "You're mine, my beautiful Bella."
They passed Jacob as they walked away. His wink at Isabella was comically obvious, causing her to shiver as Edward tightened his grip.
"He's not worth it, Edward." She kept on walking.
"You might as well come back home, Bella baby," Jacob called from behind them. "He's just going to get tired of you, too."
Edward started to turn back, but Isabella kept pulling him forward. "Don't let him win."
They heard Jacob give out a scream in anger.
Emmett chuckled. "Ya should watch out, buddy. Looks like ya ran into my fist."
Isabella gave a little smile. Out loud she prayed, "We're going to be okay."
As the stars twinkled above, she sent that wish out to the great beyond.