Special thanks to SunflowerFran as always.
I hope you enjoy the chapter. This one was difficult for me to write.
Read and review.
CHAPTER 13 : STORM
"Could you stop driving like a maniac?" I ask irately, clutching onto the sides of my seat as he swivels his way through traffic.
"I know you're not afraid of a little fast driving." He says tauntingly, proceeding with his reckless driving as if my increasing anxiety means nothing to him. "You welcome every other type of thrill."
I guess he is still distraught over last night. This is why I wanted to say something to him so the negativity would disappear. I see that it's too late now. He's already in one of those moods that annoy me, the self-righteous mood where he likes to challenge people and can't let things go.
I try not to roll my eyes before my reply. "Oh, whatever."
"No, I'm being serious." He states, pulling his eyes away from the road to look at me for a brief second. "You're down, right?"
It only takes that short glance to start those shivering chills down my spine. "Down with what?"
"Apparently, the suburban life is too stressful for you, Bella. You want to break away from all of that shit. You're tired of people controlling you and not having the ability to use your voice. The best place to be your own person is in Kirkland."
"Yeah, and that's also the best place to be mugged and beat up." I state wryly, trying not to fall into whatever trap he's hidden within his words.
"But you're not afraid of that. You think this lifestyle is all just some movie type shit." His tone grows hard against the soft volume of his voice, and there is no mistaking that all of this is stemming from that incident from yesterday. "You think we ride around with drugs in our cars for the hell of it. You think if we get robbed or shot we can just wipe the blood off and walk away."
I sigh and shake my head. "I don't think that."
"Yes, you do. It just hasn't fucking dawned on you yet." His voice is a sneer if anything else. "We're not doing this for fun. We're doing it because we have to."
I do not calculate the swiftness of my reply; the words leave my mouth almost too quickly to be believable. "I know that."
"You like you don't. You act as if you're pretty fucking clueless."
I'm staring out the front window because if I don't I know I will be staring at him. There are houses coming up on each side of the road. It looks like a quiet neighborhood. In fact, it reminds me of where I live. "Where are we going?"
"Somewhere that'll probably open your eyes." He replies, voice grim.
My eyebrows knit together, and they stay like that in confusion. I have to turn to look at him because I don't like the threat in his tone. "Where?"
He doesn't say anything back. He feels me staring at him, but he doesn't fidget under my intensity. He keeps his eyes forward, focused on the destination that is unbeknownst to me. I notice the longer we are driving, the smaller the houses become, and the more unkempt the streets appear.
Everything that looked warm and friendly about the neighborhood is now turning into tarnished dust. I no longer see a vision of my neighborhood. I see Kirkland within these streets, and it makes my nerves stand up on the back of my neck.
I'm tired of playing this game with him, I slam my fist down onto the dashboard maddeningly. "Where the fuck are you taking me, Cullen?"
"Did you just call me Cullen?" He actually has the gall to chuckle at my reaction. There is nothing in his demeanor that indicates my discomfort is a factor of consideration inside of his head. "Reverting back to your previous tendencies?"
"Tell me where you're taking me." I say this just as we are pulling up to a curb.
Edward turns the key in the ignition and looks at me for the first time in ten minutes. His lips are pursed and his apathy is evident in the way that he regards me. "Carlisle needs me to make one more sell before we leave."
My anger trails away into fear, as I begin to digest how much control I lack in this situation. I shake my head adamantly. "You're not taking me with you to make a drug deal."
"Oh yes I am." He replies. "You like how the outside of this lifestyle looks." His voice darkens. "Let's see how much you like the inside."
My face is hard with refusal. I can't even feel my mouth as it twists and mars. Edward must have gone completely crazy or something. There is no way I'm giving in to his taunts. I get the point he's trying to make. I learned my lesson yesterday. "I'm not going in there."
"You'd rather try your luck sitting in the car by yourself?" He cocks his eyebrows, sending a pointed glance towards the house.
The house is actually not small, but the size doesn't make it look any less decrepit. This is the first time I realize how much déjà vu is flowing through my system. This is an exact reenactment of the night I'd ended up in Kirkland with Alice and Jasper. Instead of people just looking out on the porch, there are also people leaning against the cars in the driveway, and people peering out from the front door too.
They're all looking at us the same way. Their eyes are scrutinizing our every move. I feel it on every inch of my body. It's almost as if they can see me shivering through the tinted windows. Edward doesn't seem to be bothered. In fact, there's a sense of triumph radiating off his body.
"I'll lock the doors." I insist, tearing my eyes away from the inquisitive people outside.
"Those thugs can smell your fear from a mile away." He looks at me easily, reaching out to tug a strand of my hair. "You're just the type they like."
"Edward please...can we leave?"
"Yeah, after I make this sell." He tosses my softness to the ground and stomps on it. "Are you coming or not?"
I try to locate some kind of understanding within his facial expression, but I find nothing close to it during my search. He's taking this game of his way too far now. I already know what he's trying to prove. It isn't funny anymore, and I'm done trying to challenge him. I know I'm not bad enough to deal with his lifestyle. I won't try to fool him into believing it, and I certainly won't try to fool myself.
The parties, the blithe atmosphere, and the freedom of restrictions are things that look appealing from my side of the tracks. I won't lie and say I don't envy their ability to do whatever their hearts desire. I like sitting close to the edge of their destruction. It's fun to get away from my world and recreate myself into a new person when I try to coexist with people like them.
But when I get too close to the edge, and realize that there are scary things waiting behind those boundary lines, I'm able to snap back into a distinct reality and relate to the people who are more like me again.
The real shit frightens me. The drug life, the turf wars, the burglaries, and the vengeance are what I know are too heavy to carry on my fragile shoulders. Edward has shown me evidence that there are two sides of the Kirkland world, but he has also made it very clear that one side can't be picked without the other.
Despite the fact that I hate his know-it-all demeanor, I think he does get who I genuinely am on the inside. I don't want to be treated like a child, but I want and need someone when things get too hard for me. I don't want to be denied the thrill, but I don't want to be present when more unpleasant things follow the thrill. I don't want to be overlooked by the bad boy, but I'm not willing to engage in the acts that'll keep him attracted to me.
Edward's getting to the point where he's trying to make me realize that there's no time to sit on the fence and contemplate which side I truly want to be on. It's not that I can't enjoy both sides while I take my time pondering, it's just the simple truth that he won't let me.
He gets tired of waiting for a response from me. I see the impatience flare up across his face before he's turning away from me and exiting out his door. I'm only frozen for a half of a second and then I'm rushing out of the car to follow close behind him.
The trek up the driveway is the single, most excruciating passage of time I've ever moved through. Especially since we have to walk so intimately close to the guys who are leaning against their cars. They're parked haphazardly, right where the chipped gravel makes its untimely meeting with the grass. I'm surprised that my body doesn't brush against theirs when I pass them by because the proximity is near enough for me to feel the heat that expels from their bodies.
None of the eyes around this yard are shy. The guys leaning against the cars, the guys on the porch, and the ones standing behind the screen door are the most intense speculators I've ever encountered. They've been watching us since we pulled up in front of the house. I feel accusations, scrutiny, and gruff admiration branding its way into my itching skin.
This is awkward since Edward purposely refuses to offer me any comfort. He watches them as they watch me with hungry eyes, and he says absolutely nothing to stop it.
We're edging up the stairs to the roundabout porch. It's not creaky like the one at his house. This one is made of rugged stone … still, my feet feel heavy and bogged down. I glance down at them to see if they are leaving shaky indents from the jarring strides I'm taking. The anxiety in my chest is weighing me down enough to have me sinking through the ground.
"Who are you?"
The sound of a deep voice has my attention flitting away from my feet in a matter of seconds. I find a boy with eyes that are almost as intimidating as his burly body staring Edward down. He's looking the same way Rosalie did when she felt I was treading in her territory. I'm not the only unwelcome one this time, but that doesn't make me feel any more secure.
"I'm here to see Jenks." Edward says firmly, offering the boy a brief portion of interest before he's making a move to proceed past him.
Edward's insolence is immediately reprimanded with a shove to the chest. He almost loses his balance. He stumbles backwards a few paces and just barely misses the dip in the stone that would have sent him tumbling. My heart rate skyrockets into a frenzy. The fear that swallows me is thick. It has my body fidgeting and my facial expression crumbling.
I force myself to glance away from the threat that this boy has written across his face for Edward to read. Instead, I assess the bronzed-haired boy beside me and pray that he has enough self-control not to react belligerently. If there was ever a time for Edward to be humble, it is undoubtedly now.
I see that he is put-out from the rough greeting he just received. The tight ticking of his jaw alerts me to this fact before the darkness behind his eyes does. Terror ripples up the back of my throat because I'm sure that Edward is about to do something stupid, and I am completely bewildered when the hint of a smile plays across his lips.
"You must be the prodigy brother that Jenks tells Carlisle so much about." It's hard not to notice the disdain Edward is able to hide underneath his tone, but he's otherwise able to stay in his place.
He's not irrational like Mike. Of course, I should have known that he'd never willingly put himself into a tight situation. He's calculated just like Carlisle; however, it doesn't take a calculated person to figure out that returning this guy's violence wouldn't have ended well for him. He's extremely outnumbered in this situation, and the boys at the far end of the porch were straightening their stances as soon as Edward bounced back from that unexpected shove.
I'm not so sure but I think loyalty works the same way no matter what hood you are from.
If anybody knows that it's Edward, and his hesitation to act is my indication to that. "He's teaching you well. That little shoulder tap almost startled me."
"You're one of Carlisle's boys?" The kid looks Edward up and down, making sure to return Edward's disdain with his caramel eyes.
"I'm Edward Cullen." He says pointedly, finding a crooked smirk to plaster across his face. "And like I said...I'm here to see Jenks."
I cringe at Edward's sarcasm. The smirk is enough to send someone's irritation into overdrive, but the deliberate tone of voice is just too much. This is one of those situations where the person who doesn't have the upper hand should say the least amount of words. Both of them are alphas of some sort, and neither one of them wants to give the other the satisfaction of being the inferior one.
Edward may not be so quick to throw down with this boy, but that's definitely not stopping him from being the smart aleck that he was bred to be. From the looks of it, he's not even the slightest bit intimidated. I'd say cautious is a more fitting word to apply. The boy in Edward's face and all of his friends seem to realize that their antics don't work on Edward, and that only makes them dislike him even more.
He's not from around here. That's evident. The fact that he pulled up to their territory and stepped up to them as though he runs it is definitely the equivalent to me popping up in Kirkland uninvited. The only difference between us is that he can handle the consequences of this risky decision.
"What are you here for?" His voice is demanding an answer, eyes trickling with something threatening.
"I have the stuff that Jenks wants, and he has the stuff that I want."
The boy regards Edward with appraising eyes. I think he's just trying to stall time to get on Edward's nerves. "He's expecting you?"
"I thought he was." Edward replies, shoving his hands into his pockets with indifference. "I can't be so sure though. I would think he treated his suppliers with more respect."
The boy crosses his arms across his chest. "All of his suppliers aren't so cocky."
"Can I go in or what?" Edward's mouth twitches but he contains his amusement when the guy gives him a sharp head nod.
We are able to move past him and the others that stand around the porch. Their interest attaches to our trail until we are behind the other side of the screen door.
We're now standing in a living room that is teeming with people. I don't even pay attention to how nice the interior of this house is because I'm too busy soaking in the portentous atmosphere I've suddenly been thrown into.
It's dimly lit inside and I don't know if the lighting is deliberate for the murky mood that is set upon this house, or if it is due to something that relates to faulty electricity. It's not obscure enough for me to miss the reason why those outside had been so reluctant to allow two unfamiliar people to venture through the door.
There are people stumbling in and out of the room. Some of them regard Edward and me with curiosity, and some of them are too disoriented to focus on our presence. The house reeks of fresh cannabis and something even stronger than that. It makes my eyes water and my throat burn. I'm holding my sleeve over my nostrils as I gaze around.
There are more people lounging on the couch … half-naked boys and girls sit practically on top of each other. Most of them look around my age or a little bit older. It's hard to tell when their youthfulness is disguised behind all of this destruction.
I see people crumpled on the floor in the corners. Their eyes are hidden by tangled hair, but their rising chests calm my nerves enough to know that they are alive. I suppose these are the people who have surpassed their limits for the day, but when they wake up tomorrow, they will be ready to start the disparaging cycle once again.
All of this stuff makes my stomach turn. It's not just that it's happening right in front of me. It's mostly how nonchalant the room is about what everyday life inside of a drug house looks like.
While there are plenty of things to widen my eyes, there is one thing that absolutely strikes me still.
There's a crowd of four guys and two girls stationed around a glass coffee table in the center of the room. One of the kids has a small baggie in his hand. I'm used to seeing people with baggies that are filled with a familiar green substance, but what this boy has is chalky and white.
There is a razor blade in his other hand, and a rolled up bill resting on top of the table. I'm not ignorant to what they are in the process of doing, but I've never seen something this gruesome with my own eyes before. He pours the contents of his baggie over the glass surface, and I imagine that I can hear every particle of cocaine crashing as it makes a landing.
"Edward!" A shrill shout takes my attention away from the group that is shuddering with euphoria.
Both of our heads turn, even though it was his name that had been called. There is a girl standing at the top of the staircase that's adjacent to the foyer. She's the type of girl that looks like trouble in it's most reduced form. I see blond hair piled on the top of her head in a messy bun. Her roots are darker than the dilated pupils that stand out against her hazel irises.
She has porcelain skin in a pale pallor that probably once looked healthy and vibrant. There are red blotches underneath her eyes and evidence of detriment. The smeared mascara and bright lipstick are the least of what diminishes her appearance. I can't find a flaw within the symmetry of her bone structure, or the curve of her hips, or the way she smiles down at Edward.
But she looks lost and I'd hate to think that the majority of her imperfections fester on the inside.
"You came back for me, my love?" Her voice is sultry through her playfulness. I find myself falling into the sweltering tone as she makes her descent. "I thought you forgot about your promise."
"I thought you didn't hang around this place anymore, Gianna." His reply is something soft. "You're too smart for this shit. You know that, right?"
She laughs his compliment away, encasing his torso with frail arms. I can't help but notice the red marks that plague her skin. They're small holes, but they are all that I can see when I look at her. Everyone has their own choice of poison here and none of them are bashful enough to hide the evidence.
Edward wraps one of his arms around the girl's back. I've never seen him do anything like this to anyone besides Tanya. He'd hugged me back when I'd thrown myself at him yesterday, but I hadn't given him a choice to do anything different. This time he offers his affection willingly and there's a look of concern on his face as he peers down at her.
This has me wondering two things.
Who could this girl possibly be to him, and why do I feel so warm all of a sudden?
"Gi, where is your brother?"
"He went to find my mom." She says this casually, as if it's a normal everyday thing. "She ran off again."
Edward's reaction catches her attention, the way his mouth turns downwards at the corner. She reaches up and touches his face with her fingertips. There's something tantalizing about how closely she looks at him. He allows her to feel his warmth for the shortest of seconds, before he's grabbing her hand and setting it back at her side. "You should be at home."
"Yeah, so my dad can take his frustration out on me?" She scowls at the thought, not at him. "I don't like being fucked against my will Edward."
Edward's lips purse at the same time the alarms inside of my head go off. She just said exactly what I thought I'd heard her say. Her eyes drop onto her dirty combat boots and she chuckles bitterly.
"This isn't much better of an alternative." He says, locking his disapproval on her choice of escape.
"At least, if I'm being taken advantage of I can't feel it." She seems uncharacteristically amused by his words, sneering rather dully before her gaze cuts in my direction. "Where's that bitch Tanya?"
Her eyes land on mine, and I feel the opposite of what I thought I'd feel. There's no dirt, no grime, or anything close to it. I experience tenderness through her hazel glare, and it's something that has me struggling to make contact with her enlarged pupils.
"She's at home." He speaks slowly, in volume and tone.
This is something rare from Edward, and I wonder if she knows that she is an exception to his harshness. "Are you still with her?"
"I don't know." His answer has me looking up at him curiously.
"So, you really did come back to finish where we left off."
"Gi..." The sound of him saying her name so dejectedly makes me cringe on the inside, but she doesn't give his dismissal any of her attention.
"I'm just joking with you. What you gave me that night..." Gianna's lips quirk at the sight of his hesitation. "It was just a pity fuck right?"
I feel the snap of my head when I turn to focus my curiosity on Edward. There are just so many questions that need to be answered at this point. I know this is not the right time to be firing them out of the cannon. I probably wouldn't know how to use my voice even if I were given the opportunity. This whole conversation, situation, and circumstance has my body reacting against me.
"I pitied myself more than I pitied you."
"You're beautiful." She ignores his words almost completely, deciding instead to look at me. Her eyes hold something I cannot decipher. "Edward always picks the prettiest girls."
My words are big but the way they come out make them seem very small. "You are too."
"Then why won't my knight in shining armor take me away from here?" Her smile fades towards the end of her sentence, a staggered inhale shakes her body, and I find myself wishing that I knew what to say to take some of that darkness away from her.
If she is talking about Edward, then I know the exact answer to her question. "Because he doesn't even know how to save himself."
She offers a small smile at my effort, but it's one of those smiles that hurt to look at. Her head is shaking slowly, but I don't even think she realizes that she's making the action. "I think maybe he's too busy saving someone else."
"Where's Jenks?" Edward wants to get out of this predicament. It's evident in his prompting. "Is he up in his study?"
She nods her head, grinning at him knowingly. "Yeah, he's expecting you."
"Come on, Bella." He instructs, moving past Gianna to take the flight of stairs up to the second floor.
I'm almost too afraid to move past her. She watches me with lightness to her eyes, but I think I feel her desolation floating in the air that surrounds her. I probably feel it more than she does at the moment. The strings inside of my chest tighten because I am unable to return the smile that she flashes at me.
My eyes drop towards my feet and I watch them as they move automatically behind Edward's. We're meandering down a long corridor. There's noise coming from every which way, but none of the noise is being caused by the two of us. We're silent, and I like it this way. I don't exactly know what to say. Judging by the way Edward's lips are sealed, I don't think he knows what to say either.
That girl left a dent in his mood that's for sure. There's a slight stagger in his movements now, but that doesn't stop him from proceeding. Despite the ugly situation, Edward's mind is still pushing to finish his mission for being here. He's probably used to this type of stuff, but I am not, and it's making my head spin uncontrollably.
We stop in front of a large wooden door. Edward starts to reach out for the knob, but something stops him and makes him knock first. I suppose he's learned that being brash here doesn't work the same way it does back in Forks and Kirkland. Someone orders him to identify himself from the other side of the thick wood and Edward respectfully states his name in compliance.
Our presence is acknowledged by whoever has themselves locked away from the madness downstairs, and the first thing I notice about his voice is the gruffness that sticks to his words. "You may enter."
As we push our way into the room, the first thing I notice is that it's airy and well-lit, in stark contrast to every other part of the house. The atmosphere is quiet and peaceful due to the natural light filtering through the uncovered windows. I find myself appreciating the color schemes. Cold blues and snowy whites stick to the furniture. It defies the warmth of this room, but it links the way I am feeling right now.
The man who sits behind the long mahogany desk is polished. He's a heavyset man, brown haired with specks of gray, and intuitive blue eyes that sparkle when they land on Edward's approach. He has to be in his middle-thirties. Either that or the laugh lines around his eyes are lying about his age.
"Well, it took you long enough." He looks up from the laptop in front of him, fastening a polite sarcasm inside of his greeting.
"You have to thank the bouncers at the front door for that." Edward murmurs, taking the seat crosswise from the man. "They're very impressive if I do say so myself."
Jenks watches me as I follow Edward's suit, but says nothing about my presence. He simply smirks in Edward's direction. "Did James give you a hard time?"
"Yeah." Edward replies cutting his tone short.
I try not to bring attention to myself. I'm out of my comfort zone, and I think they both know that. Surprisingly, Jenks's eyes don't linger on mine the way everyone else I've encountered here have. All his attention is reserved for Edward, and I'm easily made into a non-factor.
His large hands are crossed upon the desk in satisfaction. "Then he's doing his job correctly."
"What happened to his scholarship?" Edward says, his earnest facial expression suggests genuineness, but the tone of his voice makes it clear that he's being cynical. "I was sure he was college bound."
"Things change." Jenks says, lifting his shoulders.
Edward's deadpan is everything sarcastic and spiteful conjoined into one word. "Bummer."
"Did that prick Carlisle send you with my stuff?" He wonders scornfully, but nothing but politeness reaches Edward when Jenks's smile surrounds him. "How's he doing anyway? Is he still a tight ass?"
Edward is unfazed by the distasteful comments, tilting his head to the side with enough acerbity to make an entire room of people feel uncomfortable. "Only on the days your wife doesn't come visit him."
There's a brief clearing of the throat, a gesture that indicates I'm not the only uncomfortable person here. "I see you've acquired his formidable sense of humor."
Edward leans forward, he is more serious now, apparently done with the insincere pleasantries. "Where's the money? This cocaine is getting heavy."
"How much is twenty grams?" Jenks rests back inside of his pricey office chair, shoulders slumping with relaxation. His silent thoughts flit across his face as he observes Edward's neutral expression.
"It's fifty dollars per gram." He says, making sure to add the last part in for measure. "That's the generous price."
"Reasonable enough." His acquiescence is thwarted by a slight suspicion before it has the chance to settle completely. "Let me see it."
"It's pure." Edward assures, pulling the black book bag around to the front of his body. "Well...mostly."
Jenks is nodding his head, watching Edward retrieve a white filled freezer bag from the inside pocket of the Jansport. "Carlisle always has the best quality." Green eyes lock onto blue, and purpose flows between them. "That must be the reason you're such a loyal customer."
"I'll tell you what...send my warmest regards to your uncle." Jenks says suddenly, as if he just now remembers that he has something in his desk for Edward.
Edward is sitting up straighter, with caution and curiosity. We both study Jenks carefully. I'm wondering what he's going to pull out of there beside the grand that he owes to Edward. My mind doesn't let me knock the scary thoughts away. This is a drug deal, and anything can happen.
He's sliding a brown paper bag across the desk, along with a rubberbanded stack of money, and watching Edward's hesitance grow by the seconds that tick by.
"What's in this?" Edward asks, reaching for the cash but leaving the paper bag resting upon the desk until further explanation.
"Oxycodone, Vicodin, Fentanyl pops. It's straight from the pharmacy."
Edward's gaze snaps up to his, meaningful and questioning, but he doesn't say what is actually on his mind. He keeps a wry smile on his face. "Perks of being a crooked pharmacist, huh?"
I don't exactly know what's going on between the two of them. There is a flare of something resentful sitting on top of the desk that's separating us. It's evident that there are darker things behind their forced smiles. I see it in the way their eyes lock when they're exchanging merchandise for money, and in the way their cordial smiles are melting away before they even reach their eyes.
Edward takes my hand in his when he's standing up to leave. The air is charged with something he's not telling me about. I don't even think I want to know what it is, all I want to do is get far away from this place.
We've just reached the door, one step closer to simplicity, when Jenks's voice rings out. It stops Edward still in his tracks. "Tell Carlisle he'll be hearing from me soon. We need to catch up."
Edward offers him no reply as the door is shutting behind us. The ominous vibes that were floating around that room were as thick as tar. Jenks must be a drug dealer as well, or at least a supplier. It's always hard feelings against the competition. The fact that Carlisle lives hours away and still has a trade here is probably lessening the amount of customers Jenks could have. That probably doesn't sit well with him.
That is why this whole ordeal was entirely dangerous. A number of things could have happened to Edward while he was here—he could have been jumped and his merchandise could have been stolen, or something much worse could have occurred.
It's risky making money this way.
The stack of bills that Edward has to carry that around with him is so tainted. It carries the stench of resentment, violence, and danger, all of which are his world. This is what he does on a daily basis, this is what he has grown used to; this is the part of the thrill that I wanted to stay away from.
I can't process the things that I've just seen as we're walking back towards the front door. I refuse to peer inside of the living room again. I can only imagine how ailing those people around the coffee table look now. They're misplaced in a world of contaminated exhilaration. Drugs do that to them; the same drugs that Edward sells without a second thought does that to them.
I can't deal with this.
I don't have tough skin on the outside, and my insides are still fluffy marshmallows no matter how much anger and bitterness my mother has filled me with. I'm not Edward, I'm not Jake, and I'm definitely not Tanya. I don't know who I am.
I see the porch, the driveway, and Edward's car parked on the curb. His hand is still wrapped around my wrist, and his touch has scorched my skin with his fingertips. James and his boys watch us inconspicuously. This is the same exact event from thirty minutes ago, but from a different angle.
The gazes are like laser beams. I can still feel them through the Volvo's glass windows. I take a chance and turn my head back towards the ranch style house. I would never think anything duplicitous went on inside. Not from just looking at the outside walls. This house and every other one around it actually looks peaceful. It takes a full inspection to notice the harsh reality beyond the screen door.
"Hold on, Bella." Edward's quieted voice snatches me out of my thoughts. I turn to look at him and realize that he's staring back at the house too. "I'll be back."
"What?" I ask with the exasperation of this overdue visit. I'm ready to pull away from this neighborhood and forget that I was even dragged here. "Where are you going?"
He's already back out of the car before I can get out the last of my sentence out. If he heard me, then he pays me no mind. I watch his lanky form rushing back up the driveway, back up the chipped porch stairs, and back past James and his sickening eyes.
I'm trying to figure out what he's doing. I see him standing in the doorway, and it looks like he is talking to someone. The other person is hidden because they're standing near the staircase. His mouth is moving very quickly, and the expression on his face is nothing but serious. After a couple minutes of conversing, he's slinging his backpack around to the front of his body.
At first, I think that he's making another sell, but what he pulls out of the Jansport, however, is the lesser of the two evils. It's one of his rubber banded wads of money. His arm is outstretched towards someone, and the money is gone when he draws it back towards his body. My mind is racing with an overload of questions, and I'm tilting my head in confusion until I see a familiar pair of frail arms wrap themselves around Edward's torso again.
I'm sitting back in my seat, head leaned against the cool window for clarity, when Edward makes his way back to the car. The first fifteen minutes of the car ride is filled with dead silence. I think Edward is satisfied with the point he just proved. I've seen the uglier side of the Kirkland lifestyle, and it intrigues me just as much as it disgusts me. His world is not made into a fairy tale like mine, and I think he wants to make that point because he envies me for it.
"What makes you think she's just not going to go spend it on more drugs?" I finally have to let this reluctance to question him go because my need for answers is killing me slowly.
"I gave her just enough to make one good decision or one bad decision." He replies impersonally. "She knows if she fucks up then she'll be stuck in that shithole."
"Do you have confidence in her?"
He shakes his head, the tone of his voice is lackluster at best. "No."
"Then why'd you do it?" My voice comes out more insistent than I prefer, almost as if I'm demanding a reasonable answer out of him.
I can't help my arduous interrogation. Everything that just happened in the last hour was extremely abnormal for me, and I think I deserve clarification since he forced me into the situation.
"Because at least I gave her a chance." I can hear irritation starting to build its way inside of him. He doesn't like the way I've been flinging these questions in his direction. "She has family members in Oregon, she can catch a bus and go stay with them."
"How do you know her?" His irritation doesn't actually do much to discourage me though. I'm going to push him until he shuts all the way down because I know he hates it when people do that, and he's always making a purposeful effort to do all of the exact things that I hate.
"I spent a summer down here with my grandparents to be closer to my mom's rehab center."
I almost want to stop questioning him right there, the mentioning of his mom propels my sympathy, and I wonder if answering these questions is difficult for him. Still, I remember all of the times he refused to take it easy on me, and I decide against being the empathetic one today. "She lives close to your grandparents?"
"Practically around the corner," he hitches a single shoulder, casually and indifferently, yet filled to the brim with emotions.
"So, you do know what it feels like to live in the suburbs."
He doesn't respond immediately, pale fingers tighten their grip around the steering wheel and a sigh leaves him deflated. "I was twelve."
"How old were you when you started selling drugs?"
"Thirteen." There isn't much of a change to his dull tone. He keeps his eyes forward and his feelings limited.
"Did you and Gianna stay in touch over the years?"
"No, I ran back into her at a crack house I was selling at." He chuckles at the unforgiving irony because he knows no other way to deal with it.
I swallow down the brick in my throat, but witnessing Edward's bitter coping mechanisms just makes it get stuck in the pit of my stomach. "Did she hang out with that type of crowd?"
Messy tendrils fall across his face when he shakes his head, and I want to move the hair out of the way so I can get a better view of his eyes, but I would never have enough nerve to touch him so boldly. "Nah, she was a lot like you."
"Like me?" I am instantly offended that he thinks to compare me to someone like her.
He laughs directly at my displeasure. "Yeah, but obviously she has it a lot worse than you."
"What's her story?" I don't give him the daily fulfillment he receives from insulting me, I contain my composure in the easy deliverance of my next question.
"She had a nice family. It was Gianna, her parents, and her older brother. They were like the brunette version of the Brady Bunch; upper-middle class, nice house, and nice supporting jobs."
"It started with the little thug that caught her eye." He cuts a sideways glance in my direction. "She was a good girl looking for a thrill."
I can see how he's going to try and relate this to me now, and I'm rolling my eyes at his predictability. "I doubt a boy was enough to turn her into what she is now."
"It started with him. He dragged her into his world. It was nothing serious. She started missing school a little, smoking weed, and having sex. Her parents kept her contained enough to not spiral out of control though. She was living the normal teenage life. Then for some reason, her dad was laid off from his job. Things got tight and stressful, her mom started cheating, her dad turned to alcohol to solve his problem, brother had to drop out of school to support his family, and she attached herself to her boyfriend to stay away from the bad situation at home."
I don't think he's so predictable anymore.
I hadn't expected any of that.
Now I feel for her because I think she might actually be the only person who truly knows how I feel. "All she wanted was to take her mind off of things."
"I told you that drugs aren't a good distraction for things like that." He's almost whispering now. "They make you feel good even when there's nothing to feel good about."
"How does it make you feel?" I ask curiously, pondering every extent of what he's just said.
I barely hear his staggered question; my train of thought is blaring and making it difficult for me to focus. "What?"
"You sell the stuff that ruins people's lives."
Now it is his turn to be offended. His mouth is quirking downwards in a matter of seconds. "Drugs don't make themselves addictive. People make drugs addictive."
"It never makes you feel bad?"
"Why should I feel bad?" His defense is striking. The thunder in his voice is the beginning of the storm. "I don't force people to buy drugs from me."
"If drug dealers didn't sell drugs where would people get them from?" I say, matter-of-factly. "There would be a lot less users."
"You don't know what the fuck you're talking about as usual."
"It's just an opinion."
He scoffs angrily. "Well, you're opinion is irrelevant."
"How?" I exclaim, turning to look at him fully.
He turns his head to look at me too, narrowing his gaze in a way that makes me feel very small and foolish. "If people weren't trying to get high then I wouldn't have a reason to sell drugs."
"Do you even care who you sell to? Do you care if they overdose or if they have a family? Is it all about the money and making sure you prosper no matter the cost?"
I manage to catch him off guard; I see this with the way he halts before he thinks of his reply. "It's all about Masen."
It gets quiet for a couple of seconds. I don't know what to say to him. It's one of those times when I'm wondering if he's a bad person with good tendencies, or a good person with bad tendencies. I still haven't figured it out, and my opinions keep fluctuating. Jacob was right, it's not good to be caught in between the two things.
"What happened to it's a lifestyle, not who you are?" He wonders mockingly, putting all of his spite in the whiny, girlish voice, he uses to imitate me.
"I don't know." I say, looking away from him.
For a long time, I hope that he's just going to drop it and not respond, but the silence that occurs is only anticipation for the anger that breaks its way out of him.
"You're really fucking pathetic, Bella. One moment you want to be a fucking preacher's daughter and walk around acting as if you're righteous through and through. Now, you're done playing make believe, and you're ready to go back to your life for awhile. But we both know that when you get bored again you're going to come racing back to my side of town. You want a thrill, but you don't want to deal with the consequences of that thrill. You want to be fucked like a slut, but you don't want to be judged like one. You want to get high and party, but you look down on the people who make that possible for you. There's no such thing as being on both sides. That's what you don't get. I thought you were a little bit different, but you're a judgmental hypocrite just like everyone else in Forks."
My lips press into a tight line at his vengeance, but there's one more thing that I need to ask him. "Can I ask you one more question?"
His frown deepens. "I honestly don't even care at this point."
This question has been in the back of my mind since Alice confided in me during the car ride that day. "Do you think your mother would be disappointed in you?"
"You know what I think?" A slow but steady smile rises upon his lips.
I have to look down at my hands. I have to look at anything but him; because that smile on his face is the biggest lie I've ever been told. "What?"
"I think if my mother could even remember what my name is she'd be the first one begging me for a fucking dime bag."
The pain of his voice takes me aback, and I don't know what I've done. If I've opened up his wounds, or crushed his fragile inner feelings, or just simply angered him by challenging his intentions. His body posture is now stiff, and his eyes are low. He's doing all that he can to hold onto his composure. I wonder what's on the underneath of his demeanor this time. Something is telling me that there's more sadness woven through his armor than anger.
I don't know how to feel about what he just said to me. It hurts my feelings to know that he's condemned me like he's done to everyone else on my side of the tracks. I guess it's only fair since I've ultimately done the same thing to him. I don't know why I said those things to him. I think it was the shock of what I'd just seen, or the fact that he was so nonchalant about it.
I have a compelling urge to offer him an apology, but somehow, I know that speaking those words into existence will be futile.
When I say that Edward doesn't speak to me for the entire rest of the ride, I am being nothing but one hundred percent truthful. Three hours of overwrought awareness sit between us, and not even the whisper of a word is uttered. This is way past what tense feels like. I think there's another explosion brewing at any second, but there's nothing but practiced indifference spilling through the hinges of these car doors.
He hates me now.
Either he hates me, or he hates himself, but he hates one of us because I can feel it rolling off him. There are so many instances when I open myself to say something, but none of the words on my tongue seemed sufficient enough to fix this silent war in which we are engaged. Every time I chance a look at his face, the vulnerability I spot there dries up every phrase of sentiment I can think of
I realize that I am too late to settle things when we are back at the curb he'd parked at when I first entered his car, two days ago. I don't take my time getting out of the car, and he doesn't take his time speeding off when the passengers door is shut. The walk home is more dreadful than the walk of shame I had to take from my mother's hotel room. I can see Charlie's cruiser parked in the driveway. It's behind my boisterous truck, and it's waiting for my arrival just like I'm sure he is.
There's not a word to describe how I feel.
Walking up to the porch with this weekend's events replaying in the back of my head is the least of the pain that I can inflict upon myself. The last couple of days have been the rudest awakening I've had, and will have in a lifetime. My chest still hasn't stopped weeping for my mother. I think this is a sensation that I'll have to endure for the rest of my life. My continuous altercations with Edward, the debilitating sight of being so deep in his world, and the thought of having to face Charlie...it only adds to the strain my heart is going through.
I push through the front door, and despite my anxiety, I'm happy to smell something familiarly musky.
Charlie is resting in his reclining chair. His eyes were locked on the television prior to my arrival. When he sees me, he stands to his feet quicker than I thought was possible. I'm expecting to see an angered red face, eyes that are narrowed with the frustration of being disobeyed, and a looming posture that's meant to provoke remorse and a sense of reprimanding.
I am frozen at the doorway when he begins to approach me. I'm not frozen because he's approaching me, I am frozen because of the look that he wears on his face as he approaches. There is no trace of anger there. All I can detect is fear, relief, and understanding. I think he notices me crumbling before I do because he wraps me up in his arms entirely.
This time when I break down it's not just because of my mother. This is for Edward, Masen, all of the Kirkland kids, Gianna, James, all of the lost souls inside of that house, and most importantly Charlie.
"It's okay Bella." He soothes, rubbing love into my back with his caressing hands. "You're home now. You're where you belong."
And then we're all spontaneous combustions. Our lives never blinking away fiery tears...