Disclaimer: I own nothing.

Summary: what if Charlie had confronted Bella two months earlier? What if Bella had taken Jacob to the movies instead of Jessica? Would Bella still choose Edward or would Jacob win her heart? Featuring a more involved Charlie, a nicer Leah, and more!


Sometimes being a friend means mastering the art of timing. There is a time for silence. A time to let go and allow people to hurl themselves into their own destiny. And a time to prepare to pick up the pieces when it's all over.

-Octavia Butler

Time Passes. Even When It Seems Impossible. Even When Each Tick Of The Second Hand Aches Like The Pulse Of Blood Behind A Bruise. It Passes Unevenly, In Strange Lurches And Dragging Lulls, But Pass It Does. Even For Me.

Charlie's fist came down on the table.

"THAT'S IT, BELLA! I'm Sending You Home!"

I looked up from my cereal, which I was pondering rather than eating, and stared at Charlie in shock. I hadn't been following the conversation—actually, I hadn't been aware that we were having a conversation—and I wasn't sure what he meant.

"I am home," I mumbled, confused.

"I'm sending you to Renee, to Jacksonville," he clarified.

Charlie watched with exasperation as I slowly grasped the meaning of his words.

"What did I do?" I felt my face crumple.

It was so unfair. My behavior had been above reproach for the past four months. After that first week, which neither of us ever mentioned, I hadn't missed a day of school or work. My grades were perfect. I never broke curfew—I never went anywhere from which to break curfew in the first place. I only very rarely served leftovers. Charlie was scowling.

"You didn't do anything. That's the problem. You never do anything." he said.

"You want me to get into trouble?" I wondered, my eyebrows pulling together in mystification.

I made an effort to pay attention. It wasn't easy. I was so used to tuning everything out, my ears felt stopped up.

"Trouble would be better than this… this moping around all the time!" he shouted.

That stung a bit. I'd been careful to avoid all forms of moroseness, moping included.

"I am not moping around." I said.

"Wrong word," he grudgingly conceded.

"Moping would be better—that would be doing something. You're just… lifeless, Bella. I think that's the word I want."

This accusation struck home. I sighed and tried to put some animation into my response.

"I'm sorry, Dad." My apology sounded a little flat, even to me.

I'd thought I'd been fooling him.

Keeping Charlie from suffering was the whole point of all this effort. How depressing to think that the effort had been wasted.

"I don't want you to apologize." He said sounding frustrated.

I sighed.

"Then tell me what you do want me to do." I asked.

"Bella," he hesitated, scrutinizing my reaction to his next words.

"Honey, you're not the first person to go through this kind of thing, you know." He said sympathetically.

"I know that." My accompanying grimace was limp and unimpressive.

"Listen, honey, I think that—that maybe you need some help." He said quickly.

"Help?" I questioned.

He paused, searching for the words again.

"When your mother left," he began, frowning, "and took you with her."

He inhaled deeply.

"Well, that was a really bad time for me."

"I know, Dad," I mumbled.

"But I handled it," he pointed out.

"Honey, you're not handling it. I waited; I hoped it would get better."

He stared at me and I looked down quickly.

"I think we both know it's not getting better." He said.

"I'm fine." I said putting emphasizes on the last word.

He ignored me.

"Maybe, well, maybe if you talked to someone about it. A professional." He explained.

"You want me to see a shrink?" My voice was a shade sharper as I realized what he was getting at.

"Maybe it would help." He said softly.

"And maybe it wouldn't help one little bit." I said angrily.

I didn't know much about psychoanalysis, but I was pretty sure that it didn't work unless the subject was relatively honest. Sure, I could tell the truth—if I wanted to spend the rest of my life in a padded cell. He examined my obstinate expression, and switched to another line of attack.

"It's beyond me, Bella. Maybe your mother—" he started.

"Look," I said in a flat voice.

"I'll go out tonight, if you want. I'll call Jacob or Angela." I said impulsively.

"That's not what I want," he argued, frustrated.

"I don't think I can live through seeing you try harder. I've never seen anyone trying so hard. It hurts to watch." He said pained.

I pretended to be dense, looking down at the table.

"I don't understand, Dad. First you're mad because I'm not doing anything, and then you say you don't want me to go out." I was confused.

"I want you to be happy—no, not even that much. I just want you not to be miserable. I think you'll have a better chance if you get out of Forks." He explained.

My eyes flashed up with the first small spark of feeling I'd had in too long to contemplate.

"I'm not leaving," I said.

"Why not?" he demanded.

"I'm in my last semester of school—it would screw everything up." I explained.

"You're a good student—you'll figure it out." He reasoned.

"I don't want to crowd Mom and Phil." I tried.

"Your mother's been dying to have you back." He said shooting that down.

"Florida is too hot." I lied quickly.

His fist came down on the table again.

"We both know what's really going on here, Bella, and it's not good for you." He snapped.

He took a deep breath.

"It's been months. No calls, no letters, no contact. You can't keep waiting for him."

I glowered at him.

The heat almost, but not quite, reached my face. It had been a long time since I'd blushed with any emotion. This whole subject was utterly forbidden, as he was well aware.

"I'm not waiting for anything. I don't expect anything," I said in a low monotone.

"Bella—," Charlie began, his voice thick.

"I have to get to school," I interrupted, standing up and yanking my untouched breakfast from the table.

I dumped my bowl in the sink without pausing to wash it out. I couldn't deal with any more conversation.

"I'll make plans with Jacob," I called over my shoulder as I strapped on my school bag, not meeting his eyes.

"Maybe I won't be home for dinner. We'll go to Port Angeles and watch a movie." And I was out the front door before he could react.

In my haste to get away from Charlie, I ended up being one of the first ones to school. The plus side was that I got a really good parking spot. The downside was that I had free time on my hands, and I tried to avoid free time at all costs.

Quickly, before I could start thinking about Charlie's accusations I changed my thoughts to my plans with Jacob. It had been weeks, maybe months, since I talked to Jacob. I knew he came over a couple of times with Billy after he left. I felt a sharp pain in my chest at that thought. I don't remember whether I spoke back. I hope I hadn't offended him with my anti-social behavior. I weighed my options carefully as I loitered outside.

I wasn't about to face Charlie again without some kind of social interaction to report. I knew I couldn't lie, though the thought of driving to Port Angeles and back alone—being sure my odometer reflected the correct mileage, just in case he checked—was very tempting. Jacob's dad was my dad's best friend, and Charlie was bound to talk to him sooner or later. When he did he would no doubt mention the trip so lying was out. With a sigh I pulled out my cell phone that Charlie bought me.

After that incident in the woods he didn't want to take any chances.

"Hello?" Jacob said.

"Hey Jacob" I said nervously.

"Bella?" he asked confused.

"I wanted to know if you would like to go to the movies with me tonight." The words were stiff like a badly delivered line from a script.

"Sure Bella" he said happily.

"What movie do you want to see?" he asked.

"I'm not sure, what's playing?" I hedged.

This was the tricky part.

"Is there anything you'd like to see?" I asked.

"Well, there is this zombie movie out 'Dead end' that I want to see. There is also a new romantic comedy that's out." He said.

"Dead end sounds perfect" I'd rather deal with real zombies than watch a romance.

"Okay" he said surprised.

I tried to remember if I liked scary movies, but I wasn't sure.

"Do you want me to pick you up around 7:00?" I asked remembering Jacob's car wasn't up and running yet.

"Sure" he said then we hung up.

Realizing that school still hadn't started I pulled out my Calculus book. I flipped it open to the section we should be starting today, and tried to make sense of it. Reading math was even worse than listening to it, but I was getting better at it. In the last several months, I'd spent ten times the amount of time on Calculus than I'd ever spent on math before. As a result, I was managing to keep in the range of a low A. I knew Mr. Varner felt my improvement was all due to his superior teaching methods. And if that made him happy, I wasn't going to burst his bubble.

I forced myself to keep at it until the parking lot was full, and I ended up rushing to English. We were working on Animal Farm, an easy subject matter. I didn't mind communism; it was a welcome change from the exhausting romances that made up most of the curriculum.

I settled into my seat, pleased by the distraction of Mr. Berty's lecture. Time moved easily while I was in school. The bell rang all too soon. I started repacking my bag.

"Bella?" someone called from behind me.

I recognized Mike's voice, and I knew what his next words would be before he said them.

"Are you working tomorrow?" he asked.

I looked up.

He was leaning across the aisle with an anxious expression. Every Friday he asked me the same question. Never mind that I hadn't taken as much as a sick day.

Well, with one exception, months ago. But he had no reason to look at me with such concern. I was a model employee.

"Tomorrow is Saturday, isn't it?" I said.

Having just had it pointed out to me by Charlie, I realized how lifeless my voice really sounded.

"Yeah, it is," he agreed.

"See you in Spanish." He waved once before turning his back.

He didn't bother walking me to class anymore. The rest of the day passed quickly, my thoughts focused on tonight but soon the thick haze that blurred my days took over. The thick haze was sometimes confusing. I was surprised when I found myself in my room, not clearly remembering the drive home from school or even opening the front door. But that didn't matter. Losing track of time was the most I asked from life.

I didn't fight the haze as I turned to my closet. The numbness was more essential in some places than in others. I barely registered what I was looking at as I slid the door aside to reveal the pile of rubbish on the left side of my closet, under the clothes I never wore.

My eyes did not stray toward the black garbage bag that held my present from that last birthday, did not see the shape of the stereo where it strained against the black plastic; I didn't think of the bloody mess my nails had been when I'd finished clawing it out of the dashboard.

I yanked the old purse I rarely used off the nail it hung from, and shoved the door. I swiftly transferred my wallet from school to my purse. I glanced in the mirror before I opened the door and headed to my truck.

I called Jacob back before I started my truck.

"Hey Bells" he said answering on the first ring.

"I just wanted directions to your place. I'm not sure I can remember the way." I said.

When Jacob spoke again it was much happier.

"Okay Bells, do you have a pen?" the directions he gave were very simple.

While I drove, I worried a little bit about Billy's reaction to seeing me. He would be too pleased.

In Billy's mind, no doubt, this had all worked out better than he had dared to hope. His pleasure and relief would only remind me of the one I couldn't bear to be reminded of. Not again today, I pleaded silently. I was spent. The Blacks' house was vaguely familiar, a small wooden place with narrow windows, and the dull red paint making it resemble a tiny barn. Jacob's head peered out of the window before I could even get out of the truck. No doubt the familiar roar of the engine had tipped him off to my approach. Jacob had been very grateful when Charlie bought Billy's truck for me, saving Jacob from having to drive it when he came of age.

I liked my truck very much, but Jacob seemed to consider the speed restrictions a shortcoming. He met me halfway to the house.

"Bella!" His excited grin stretched wide across his face, the bright teeth standing in vivid contrast to the deep russet color of his skin.

I'd never seen his hair out of its usual ponytail before. It fell like black satin curtains on either side of his broad face. Jacob had grown into some of his potential in the last six months. He'd passed that point where the soft muscles of childhood hardened into the solid, lanky build of a teenager; the tendons and veins had become prominent under the red-brown skin of his arms, his hands.

His face was still sweet like I remembered it, though it had hardened, too—the planes of his cheekbones sharper, his jaw squared off, all childish roundness gone.

"Hey, Jacob!" I felt an unfamiliar surge of enthusiasm at his smile.

I realized that I was pleased to see him. This knowledge surprised me. I smiled back, and something clicked silently into place, like two corresponding puzzle pieces. I'd forgotten how much I really liked Jacob Black. He stopped a few feet away from me, and I stared up at him in surprise, leaning my head back to stare up at him.

"You grew again!" I accused in amazement.

He laughed, his smile widening impossibly.

"Six five," he announced with self-satisfaction.

His voice was deeper, but it had the husky tone I remembered.

"Is it ever going to stop?" I shook my head in disbelief.

"You're huge." I said.

"Still a beanpole, though." He grimaced.

"You want to come inside for a minute?" he asked.

I shook my head.

"Let's just go." I said.

Jacob nodded and he led the way to my truck, twisting his hair in his big hands as he walked. He pulled a rubber band from his hip pocket and wound it around the bundle.

"I'll drive" he said and I shook my head.

"Are you legal yet?" I asked.

Jacob smirked and I realized how that sounded.

"That's not what I meant and you know it!" I said stomping my foot.

Jacob laughed.

"Okay whatever you say Bells, but I will be in two months. January 14." He said with a shrug.

"Well then in two months you can drive my truck." I told him.

He smiled and got in the passenger seat.

"Did the stereo break?" he wondered.

"Yeah," I lied surprised his comment on the gaping hole in my dashboard, didn't send me into a panic like it should have.

He poked around in the cavity.

"Who took it out? There's a lot of damage…" he asked trailing off.

"I did," I admitted.

He laughed.

"Well I can fix it if you want." He offered.

"Okay thanks" I said.

"So how have you been?" he asked.

I didn't want to think about Charlie's accusation again so I turned the conversation around.

"Good, how about you?"

Jacob chattered happily, needing only the lightest of nudges from me to keep the conversation rolling. He updated me on the progress of his sophomore year of school, running on about his classes and his two best friends.

"Quil and Embry?" I interrupted. "Those are unusual names."

Jacob chuckled.

"Quil's is a hand-me-down, and I think Embry got named after a soap opera star. I can't say anything, though. They fight dirty if you start on their names—they'll tag team you." He said.

"Good friends?" I raised one eyebrow.

"No, they are. Just don't mess with their names." He explained.

"No problem." I said.

The movie was playing early so Jacob thought we should hit the twilight showing and eat later. When we got to the theater, Jacob handed me a ten-dollar bill.

"What's this?" I objected.

"I'm not old enough to get into this one," he reminded me.

I laughed out loud.

"I forgot. Is Billy going to kill me if I sneak you in?" I joked.

"No. I told him you were planning to corrupt my youthful innocence." Jacob said smiling.

I snickered as I went to get our tickets. Jacob and I joked around during the previews, so I wasn't bothered. But I got nervous when the movie started.

A young couple was walking along a beach, swinging hands and discussing their mutual affection with gooey falseness. I resisted the urge to cover my ears and start humming.

I had not bargained for a romance.

Jacob seemed to have the same thoughts.

"When is someone going to get eaten?" he asked passing the popcorn he had bought before the show.

Someone shushed us from behind. I nodded in agreement.

"I thought we picked the zombie movie," I said.

Jacob and I spent half of the movie talking about how stupid it was to put romance in scary movies.

When we finally started paying attention almost everyone was zombie. After that, I really watched the show. The rest of the movie was comprised of gruesome zombie attacks and endless screaming from the handful of people left alive, their numbers dwindling quickly. I would have thought there was nothing in that to disturb me. But I felt uneasy, and I wasn't sure why at first. It wasn't until almost the very end, as I watched a haggard zombie shambling after the last shrieking survivor, that I realized what the problem was. The scene kept cutting between the horrified face of the heroine, and the dead, emotionless face of her pursuer, back and forth as it closed the distance.

And I realized which one resembled me the most. I stood up.

"Where are you going?" Jacob asked rising out of his seat.

"I need a drink." I muttered.

"You don't have to come. Get your eight bucks worth of carnage," I insisted as I raced for the exit.

I sat down on the bench outside the theater door and tried very hard not to think of the irony. But it was ironic, all things considered, that, in the end, I would wind up as a zombie.

I hadn't seen that one coming. Not that I hadn't dreamed of becoming a mythical monster once—just never a grotesque, animated corpse.

I shook my head to dislodge that train of thought, feeling panicky. I couldn't afford to think about what I'd once dreamed of. It was depressing to realize that I wasn't the heroine anymore that my story was over.

I hadn't noticed Jacob sitting beside me during my depressing thoughts. He waited patiently for me to notice him then gave me a soft smile.

"Are you okay?" he asked.

I nodded not ready to speak. He wrapped his arm around me and led me away from the theater.

"Let's get something to eat" Jacob suggested.

"Okay" I said.

Jacob talked about the movie, bringing me out of my depression. Soon we were talking normally again. Jacob didn't bring up my weirdness which was good.

Jacob stopped talking for a minute after he glanced toward something to my right. His eyes darted quickly to the right, across the road, and back again. I glanced around myself for the first time. We were on a short stretch of unlit sidewalk. The little shops lining the street were all locked up for the night, windows black. Half a block ahead, the streetlights started up again, and I could see, farther down, the bright golden arches of the McDonald's she was heading for. Across the street there was one open business.

The windows were covered from inside and there were neon signs, advertisements for different brands of beer, glowing in front of them. The biggest sign, in brilliant green, was the name of the bar—One-Eyed Pete's. I wondered if there was some pirate theme not visible from outside. The metal door was propped open; it was dimly lit inside, and the low murmur of many voices and the sound of ice clinking in glasses floated across the street. Lounging against the wall beside the door were four men. I glanced back at Jacob. He was whistling and holding tightly to my hand.

He didn't look frightened but I could see that he was tense, like he was ready for a fight. I paused without thinking, looking back at the four men with a strong sense of déjà vu. This was a different road, a different night, but the scene was so much the same. One of them was even short and dark.

As I stopped and turned toward them, that one looked up in interest. I stared back at him, frozen on the sidewalk.

"Bella?" Jacob called.

"Are you alright?" he asked concerned.

I shook my head, not sure myself.

"I think I know them…" I muttered.

What was I doing? I should be running from this memory as fast as I could, blocking the image of the four lounging men from my mind, and protecting myself with the numbness I couldn't function without.

Why was I stepping, dazed, into the street? It seemed too coincidental that I should be in Port Angeles with Jacob, on a dark street even.

My eyes focused on the short one, trying to match the features to my memory of the man who had threatened me that night almost a year ago. I wondered if there was any way I would recognize the man, if it was really him. That particular part of that particular evening was just a blur. My body remembered it better than my mind did; the tension in my legs as I tried to decide whether to run or to stand my ground, the dryness in my throat as I struggled to build a decent scream, the tight stretch of skin across my knuckles as I clenched my hands into fists, the chills on the back of my neck when the dark-haired man called me "sugar." There was an indefinite, implied kind of menace to these men that had nothing to do with that other night. It sprung from the fact that they were strangers, and it was dark here, and they outnumbered us—nothing more specific than that.

But it was enough that Jacob's voice calm as he took a glance toward the men and back at me.

"You really know them?" he asked raising an eyebrow.

I nodded, walking slowly forward without ever making the conscious decision to move my feet. I didn't understand why, but the nebulous threat the men presented drew me toward them. It was a senseless impulse, but I hadn't felt any kind of impulse in so long… I followed it. Something unfamiliar beat through my veins. Adrenaline, I realized, long absent from my system, drumming my pulse faster and fighting against the lack of sensation.

It was strange—why the adrenaline when there was no fear? It was almost as if it were an echo of the last time I'd stood like this, on a dark street in Port Angeles with strangers. I saw no reason for fear. I couldn't imagine anything in the world that there was left to be afraid of, not physically at least. One of the few advantages of losing everything.

I was halfway across the street when I realized Jacob was still holding my hand and following me.

"Bella you want to go into a bar?" he asked confused.

"I'm not going in," I told him.

"I just want to see something…" I trailed off.

Jacob nodded looking toward the men narrowing his eyes.

"Okay, if you really want to go talk to those guys I'll go with you." He said.

I looked in his eyes and realized that he was serious. I shook my head.

"Go eat," I encouraged him, waving toward the fast food.

I felt the adrenaline start to fade as fear and worry for Jacob took over.

"I'll catch up in a minute." I turned away from him, back to the men who were watching us with amused, curious eyes.

If those men were dangerous I couldn't let Jacob follow me. He might get hurt.

"No Bella, if you're going over there I'm coming with you" he said.

Looking into Jacob determined eyes I felt a rush of emotion I couldn't name.

"Never mind, let's go get something to eat." I said squeezing Jacob's hand and pulling him toward McDonald's.

We walked to McDonald's in silence, once inside Jacob led us to the seating area.

"What do you want?" he asked pointing to the counter.

I shrugged.

"You pick." I said.

He nodded and went to get our food. While Jacob made or order I sat quietly and waited for the numbness to return, or the pain. Because the pain must be coming. I'd broken my personal rules.

Instead of shying away from the memories, I'd walked forward and greeted them bring Jacob along for the ride. I felt terrible about that. Jacob came back a few minutes later with two trays of food.

"I got you a double cheese burger, some fries, a milkshake, and an apple pie." He said handing me my tray.

I smiled and began to eat. I was surprised by how hungry I was all of a sudden.

I looked up from my burger and stared at Jacob in amazement. Jacob had double the food on his plate and was already half finished.

"What?" Jacob asked when he noticed my staring.

"How can you eat all that?" I asked.

Jacob shrugged

"For some reason I've been extremely hungry for the last couple of months. Like All the Time." He said shoving more food into his mouth.

I nodded unable to think of a response. Jacob finished his food first and began telling me stories of pranks he pulled on his friends.

Soon we had finished our meal and were heading back to my truck. The drive was enjoyable. I was surprised when we reached Jacob's house.

"You think you'll visit again anytime soon?" he wondered, trying to be casual about it.

"Can I come back tomorrow after work," I asked.

"Sure, sure" he said, trying to disguise his satisfaction.

After he left I went home.

I was nervous when we got to the house. I didn't want to go upstairs. The warmth of Jacob's presence was fading and, in its absence, the anxiety grew stronger.

Charlie was waiting for me in the middle of the hall when I got home.

"Hey Dad," I flashed Charlie a grin as I ducked around him, heading for the stairs.

Shock flitted across his face before he pulled his expression together.

"Hey, honey," he said, his voice uncertain.

"Did you have fun with Jacob?" he asked.

"Yeah, I did." I said smiling.

"Well, that's good." He was still cautious. "What did you two do?"

I looked at my dad, surprised.

"I went to a movie in Port Angeles with Jacob. I told you this morning." I said.

"Alright," he grunted.

"Is that okay?" I asked unsure.

He studied my face, his eyes widening as if he saw something unexpected.

"Yeah, that's fine. Did you have fun?" he asked relaxing.

" Sure," I said.

"We watched zombies eat people. It was great." His eyes narrowed.

"'Night, Dad." I said.

He let me pass.

As I climbed the stairs, I felt the last of the afternoon's abnormal sense of well-being drain from my system, replaced by a dull fear at the thought of what I was going to have to live through now. I wasn't numb anymore. Tonight would, no doubt, be as horrific as last night.

I lay down on my bed and curled into a ball in preparation for the onslaught. I squeezed my eyes shut and… the next thing I next I knew, it was morning. I stared at the pale silver light coming through my window, stunned. For the first time in more than two months, I'd slept without dreaming.

Dreaming or Screaming.

I couldn't tell which emotion was stronger—the relief or the shock. I lay still in my bed for a few minutes, waiting for it to come back.

Because something must be coming. If not the pain, then the numbness.

I waited, but nothing happened. I felt more rested than I had in a long time. I didn't trust this to last.

It was a slippery, precarious edge that I balanced on, and it wouldn't take much to knock me back down. Just glancing around my room with these suddenly clear eyes—noticing how strange it looked, too tidy, like I didn't live here at all—was dangerous.

I decided I needed to redecorate. Maybe I could ask Jacob to help. I pushed that thought from my mind, and concentrated, as I got dressed, on the fact that I was going to see Jacob again today. The thought made me feel almost… hopeful. Maybe it would be the same as yesterday.

Maybe I wouldn't have to remind myself to look interested and to nod or smile at appropriate intervals, the way I had to with everyone else. Maybe… but I wouldn't trust this to last, either. Wouldn't trust it to be the same—so easy—as yesterday. I wasn't going to set myself up for disappointment like that.

AUTHOR'S NOTE: Hi, so I've written yet another twilight story. This is my take on how New Moon should have gone! Please Pm or review your thoughts and ideas! No flames please. Constructive criticism welcome.