Story Title: Breathe Again by ysar
Chapter: 3. Perceptions
Genre: Twilight – Romance / Hurt/Comfort
Warnings: Strong Language, Violence,
Post Word Count: 6481
Status: Work In Progress
Summary: “If Alice hadn’t seen Bella cliff-dive, what would have happened? Would Bella have given in to her feelings for Jacob? Was she even capable of moving on? Victoria’s hunting, Edward’s coming back—and that’s just the beginning!”
3. Perceptions: Bella
Charlie wasn’t home, so that was a plus. At least I didn’t have to explain why my face was red and my eyes were all puffy. I drew a bath, unsure what to do with my time and hoping that the hot water would relax me.What had just happened? Jacob was supposed to be my best friend. He was supposed to love me. He most certainly was not supposed to turn a kiss into an excuse to cop a feel! And then laugh about it? With Embry? My tears had started out angry but now I was just humiliated. I hated Jacob. I hated Sam for taking my Jacob away and replacing him with that…that smirking, pompous, self-absorbed monster! I hated Edward for abandoning me to a pack of adolescent hormone-crazed wolves. I hated myself for being so gullible and stupid. I was seething with hatred for everything and everyone.
Edward and I had never really ventured beyond kissing. But I’d been with Edward for months. And I’d wanted a lot more than kissing. I’d even asked him about sex once—not because I planned on jumping in bed with him right then, but because I wanted to know if it was an option later on. I didn’t really think I was going to wait until I was married. To be honest, I wasn’t too sure about marriage at all. But I was at least going to wait until I was ready. At the rate Jacob had been taking things, the wait would have been about ten more minutes.
It had been so hard for me to find the courage to turn to Jacob, to kiss him, to hope he really could be more than my best friend. I couldn’t understand how it had gone so wrong. My Jacob had always been so patient with me. The Jake I’d seen today was completely different. What had happened wasn’t even a first date kind of thing-at least not as far as I was concerned. It was maybe a third or fourth date kind of thing. If you were in love. If you had come to an understanding. And it had seemed like Jacob had wanted to take it to a ninety-ninth date kind of thing. What was he thinking? Was it the werewolf thing? Was this the kind of person he had become? Was that what he thought love was? Maybe I didn’t really know him at all.
I shivered. The warm water had faded to uncomfortably cool, and I was dismayed to find I hadn’t relaxed one bit. Now what was I supposed to do? Just about everything reminded me of Edward, and for months I’d had Jacob to help me escape the pain. Now the thought of Jake just made my blood boil. I toweled off quickly and grabbed my jeans again. But I left the offending blouse on the floor and opted for a sweatshirt instead. Much warmer, much more comfortable, and much less associated with anything distressing. I was considering taking a walk in the woods, hoping that bit of recklessness might bring Edward’s voice back to me, that hearing him might ground me, when the phone rang. That had better not be Jake!
“Bella?” It was Angela.
“Hi,” I said, unable to hide the surprise in my voice. No one ever called for me anymore. Well, except Jake, and that was probably going to change now.
“Hey, Mike’s having a beach party tonight, and a bunch of us are going. I know you don’t really like…doing things, so much, anymore–,” She was trying so hard to be nice about it. “–but it would be so nice to have you there. Ben and I can pick you up if you want.”
I answered too quickly, “Sure. That sounds great.”
“Really?” She sounded surprised, and for a moment I wondered if she’d just invited me to be polite, hoping I’d say no. But this was Angela. She didn’t have a manipulative bone in her body.
“Yeah, Ang, I could use a change.” I could use a whole new life, but that wasn’t going to happen.
“Ok, we’ll be there at six. See you then!” she said excitedly.
I immediately regretted my decision. Angela had always been kind, even when everyone else decided I was crazy. And though I’d barely spoken to her for months while I was in my ‘zombie phase,’ she never held it against me. And Ben was nice, too. I mean, he was dating Angela, after all. While I was sure Mike would wonder when I’d rejoined the living, he’d never actually been rude to me. But then there was Jessica. And Lauren. (Groan) And any number of other people who would treat me like a leper. I resisted the urge to call Angela back and cancel, reminding myself that it was better than staying at home alone with my thoughts.
It was exactly as bad as I’d imagined. Lauren and Jessica didn’t even try to hide the fact that they were talking about me, and when I sat down on a big log serving as a bench by the fire, a few people actually got up and walked away. Angela kept me company at first, but before long she was sitting off to the side with Ben, completely unaware of anyone else. I couldn’t blame her. I’d have done exactly the same thing if I had someone there who truly cared about me…
This was a terrible idea. Not only was I alone, but my thoughts were now drifting back to the last time I’d come to one of Mike’s parties. The one where I’d met Jacob and flirted with him until he told me the truth about the Cullens. I was in my own personal hell.
“Hey, Bella.” Mike mercifully interrupted my depressing train of thought and I gave him a wan smile. “I would have invited you.”
You’re a bad liar, Mike.
“But I didn’t think you’d be interested.”
I guess I see your point. “Its okay, Mike. I’m starting to think this wasn’t such a good idea.” I gestured toward everyone else, then myself, pointing out the obvious.
“Well, I’m glad you’re here,” he said as he sat down beside me, a little closer than I expected. “I’ve missed you.” He looked like he was about to reach for my hand, so I quickly pulled it up to push my hair behind my ear. He smiled brightly and didn’t seem to catch the rejection.
Mike made small-talk with me for what seemed like years, all the while throwing small rocks and twigs at Eric, who was trying to impress Katie-and was not thrilled with the constant interruptions. We discussed classes and homework, sports (I just nodded and agreed with whatever he said, since I really had no clue), and working at his parents store. The conversation was shallow, but at least it distracted me for a while. Mostly I just concentrated on avoiding his not-so-subtle attempts to hold my hand or put his arm around me.
After his tenth (or was it his twentieth?) story about football practice, he reached behind my back to toss something in Eric’s direction and slipped his arm around my shoulders before I could stop him. Oh, well, I thought, at least someone isn’t avoiding me like the plague. I was trying to find a non-obvious way to wriggle out of his grasp when I saw them approach. Just like last time, the Quileute boys had decided to join us. Wonderful.
Sam was in the lead, of course. He didn’t look happy, but that was nothing unusual. Behind him were Paul, Jared, Embry…and Jacob. They were a sight to see, all of them tall and muscular, much bigger than any of the boys from school.
Maybe I should have just drowned myself in the bathtub when I had the chance.
It only took a second for Jacob to notice me, and, upon glimpsing Mike, his mouth immediately drew down into a tight line. My dismay must have been apparent because Mike looked at me curiously then leaned close to say something I assume was supposed to be reassuring. I didn’t hear a word he said. I was too busy watching Jacob’s reaction. For a second I was thrilled. Jacob’s roaming hands had ruined everything, and now he would see that not only would I not be used that way, but I had a life that didn’t include him. Then the hole in my chest opened up and my brief satisfaction was ruined.
Mike was still talking, and I nodded a few times, hoping it looked like I was listening. Jacob sat as far away from me as possible and Lauren wasted no time in turning all her attention to him. And why shouldn’t she? He was perfect. His skin glowed in the firelight and when he laughed it sent his muscles into ripples across his flawless chest. It didn’t hurt that, as always, he wasn’t wearing a shirt. She was laughing a little too loudly at his jokes and finding lots of excuses to touch his arm or brush his knee. He seemed to be eating it up. From what I’d heard of her escapades, she was perfect for him, too. I felt like I was going to be sick.
Mike finally got up to get a drink and, realizing no one was paying attention to me, I took the chance to slip away. I walked down the beach for a while, tripping a few times. When I was tired of picking myself back up, I perched myself on the edge of a large rock and stared out at the water. I half-hoped I would see Victoria’s flaming hair in the distance. At least then Edward would talk to me and I wouldn’t be so alone. Well, not completely alone…I always had my thoughts to torture me.
I wished I was back in Phoenix, where the sun was always shining and my friends weren’t monsters capable of killing me. I wished I could sleep without nightmares, without waking up screaming at the top of my lungs. I wished I had better sense than to fall for boys who thought nothing of abandoning me. I wished I knew how to fill the hole that was ripping me apart. I drew my arms tightly around my chest and tried fiercely to hold myself together.
“There you are,” said Sam.
I jumped at the sound of his voice. How long have I been sitting here?
“Your friends are worried about you.”
“I don’t have any friends,” I sighed.
“You shouldn’t be out here by yourself.” Why did he care? He was probably just glad I wasn’t with Jacob.
Something clattered on the rocks nearby, and we both turned.
“Bella!” called Mike, hurrying toward us. His eyes narrowed when he saw Sam. “I was looking for you,” he said as he eyed Sam suspiciously.
I almost laughed. This scenario was disturbingly familiar. “Well, you found me,” I said with a weak smile.
Sam stared out into the darkness and slipped away quietly.
“Come on. I’ll take you home.”
“That’s okay, Mike. I came with Angela-I should probably ride with her.”
“Well, I kind of told her to go ahead. So it looks like I’m your ride.” I think he was trying to sound apologetic, but he just sounded really happy. “It’s still early, though. We could find something in town to do for a while…,” he offered hopefully.
“I’m actually pretty tired. Would you mind just taking me home?” I wasn’t looking forward to riding with Mike, but I was definitely ready to leave.
We pulled in behind Charlie’s cruiser.
“Thanks for the ride,” I said quickly, hopping out and stumbling a little in my rush toward the door. Please don’t let him follow me. No such luck.
“I was thinking maybe you’d want to see a movie tomorrow? There are a couple of new ones out,” he said with a bright smile.
“Ah, I’m not really into movies right now, Mike.” Or anything that involves men, supernatural or not, I added silently.
“Oh.” He looked confused, but not ready to back down. “Okay, then, we’ll skip the movie and just go out to eat.”
You have got to be joking! “I can’t. I have to cook for Charlie. He’ll starve without me.” I tried to sound firm. It didn’t work.
“That’s too bad,” he said. “Angela really wanted you to come with us.”
Angela? “So you’re talking about a group thing?” I asked.
“Sure,” he said. Then he grinned. “Except Lauren.”
The mention of her name spun my mind in a whole different direction. Seeing Jake flirt with her all night had been agonizing, and my annoyance with Mike was suddenly replaced by anger at Jacob. The kind of anger that makes you agree to stupid things. “Okay then, I guess I could meet you all there.”
“Actually, since we haven’t exactly decided what to do, we should probably just pick you up. Is seven okay?”
“Alright,” I agreed grudgingly. It would have been so much easier to leave early if I drove myself.
I’d failed to get a good night’s sleep, as usual. I woke up screaming long before Charlie was up, and nothing could get my eyes to close again. The sun wasn’t even out yet, although there was a weak glow in the eastern sky. It had been too long, and I’d been through too much since I’d last heard Edward’s voice. I wandered into the woods in search of it.
I abandoned the trail quickly. It was too safe, and I knew that being safe was not the way to summon his voice. I felt like I’d walked for miles, but I’d probably only been gone an hour or two. With my luck I was just walking in circles. Suddenly I heard something nearby. I studied the forest around me but couldn’t see it. I sat down and smiled to myself, waiting for Edward’s voice. But nothing happened. I heard it again, and I stumbled up and walked toward it. This is suicidal, I thought. But it’s worth it to hear him again, I reminded myself. I was greeted only by silence.
What was happening? Why couldn’t I hear him? I’d roamed aimlessly in what I knew was a very dangerous place to be. I was all alone. Victoria might even be out here. There was no one to help me, no one to even know if anything terrible happened. I probably couldn’t even find my way home. But still there was silence. I slowly spun around, silently begging for danger to leap from behind the trees. I finally just dropped to the ground and cried.
When there were no tears left, I pulled myself up and started walking again. It didn’t matter which direction I was going—I didn’t even care if I never found my way out of the woods. Occasionally I would hear something nearby and move toward it. But it was useless. His voice was gone. After only a few minutes I emerged to find I’d wandered right back into my own yard.
I heard a car pull into the driveway—they were early. I pulled my mouth into what I hoped was a believable smile, and I stepped outside.
“Hey, Bella! You look nice,” Mike said with enthusiasm. Clearly he needed glasses. Then again, maybe I did too, because I couldn’t make out anyone else in his suburban.
“Where’s everyone else? Are they meeting us there?” I asked.
His grin broadened.
Oh, no. This is not a good sign.
“Sorry, but Angela and Ben cancelled. And Eric’s going somewhere with Katie. Oh, and Tyler’s grounded,” he added.
I wondered if it was too late for me to cancel, too.
“So I guess it’s just us!” a little too happily.
Why did I have the feeling this was planned? I couldn’t come up with an excuse fast enough, so I reluctantly got in the passenger seat.
As he had before, Mike spent the evening regaling me with stories I barely listened to. I’m pretty sure he mentioned football a few thousand times, and we might have talked about a class or two, but I wasn’t sure. The restaurant we went to was nice—not fancy nice, but nicer than fast food, so I tried to be gracious. Afterward he insisted on a movie and I was too apathetic to argue. Of course he picked out something romantic. Fortunately I didn’t have a chance to let the saccharine sweet love story depress me even further, as I was too busy leaning away from him, trying to keep my hand away from his. I was so relieved when he finally drove me home.
I knew I couldn’t stop him from walking me to my door. It had been all I could do to jump out of the suburban before he could make it around to my side. I just made sure I had my keys ready, mumbled something about not wanting to wake up Charlie (who probably wasn’t even asleep yet), and moved quickly toward the house. I didn’t even look back at him as I unlocked the door.
Before I could stop him, he spun me around and kissed me full on the mouth. I was too stunned to move. But then I felt his tongue push against my lips and I jumped back, knocking my head against the door.
He grinned and practically ran to his suburban. I just stood there, horrified & rubbing the soon-to-be knot on the back of my head, as he pulled out of the driveway. Before I could even begin to understand what had gone so wrong I saw something move in the shadows.
“I guess you got home safely,” said Jake, scowling as he stepped into the glow of the porch light.
“That was…” I started, but there were no words awful enough to describe what had just happened. Tears welled up in my eyes and I looked down quickly, hoping Jacob didn’t see. I would not cry in front of him.
The door opened behind me and Charlie stepped out. “Where have you been?” he demanded. I guess I’d forgotten to tell him I had been tricked into the date from hell. “Thanks for bringing her home, Jacob, but…Bells? What’s wrong?”
“Mike kissed me!” I blurted out before I could stop myself.
Charlie looked surprised. And pleased! “Well, Mike’s a good kid. You could do a lot worse.”
I knew he was referring to Edward, and I lost it. “Really? A lot worse than being tricked into a date with Mike when he promised me it was a group thing? Worse than him being stupid enough to think I want to go out with him?” My voice was cracking and I couldn’t hold back the tears, but I was too furious to stop. “Worse than him kissing me when I was just trying to get away from him?” I was screaming at him now. “Worse than boys who ruin something wonderful because they’re too oversexed to know when to stop?” Okay, maybe that last part was really about Jacob. “Really, Dad? I could do worse than that? Thanks a lot! I have so much to look forward to!”
I didn’t even look at Jacob and I ignored Charlie’s shocked expression as I pushed past him to get inside. I stormed up to my room and didn’t even bother changing. I just crawled into bed and cried.
3. Perceptions: Jacob
I had no idea what had just happened, but I thought it would be better if she had some time to cool down. Bella had kissed me, and that was enough for now. She hadn’t turned her back on me when she found out I was a werewolf, so whatever happened this morning would be easy to overcome. I just had to get through the next few hours, and then I could go to her.
I phased with Embry and spent the rest of the day with the pack. I did my best not to think of Bella, but every now and then, I’d remember her soft lips, the feel of her body under mine, the taste—
“It’s about time!”
“Ughhh! Can you skip past the mushy stuff and get to the good part?”
“Does this mean we can’t call her Vampire Girl anymore?”
I could always count on Sam.
We spent most of the day searching for Victoria. Her scent was weaker, so we knew she hadn’t been near again. At the end of the day, we decided to split up, the newer pack members would go to Forks to watch near Bella’s house, and the rest of us would meet back at First Beach. Sam wanted someone near Bella’s just in case, but her scent had been strongest yesterday at the beach, so he was pretty sure that would be her route. It made more sense for the stronger pack members to be waiting for her there.
I had one hour before I had to be at the beach, and I was going to make it count.
I knocked on the door and waited, rehearsing all the things I wanted to say to her.
“Hey, Jake.” I hid my disappointment when Charlie answered. “Bella didn’t tell me you were coming over. Come on in.”
“Thanks, Charlie. Is she here?”
He nodded then turned to yell toward the stairs, “Bella! Jake’s here!”
A few minutes passed while Charlie made small talk and I tried to hide my impatience.
“I don’t know what’s keeping her, Jake,” he finally said. “Just go on up. I’m sure she won’t mind.”
I really hope not, I thought, trying to keep from running up the stairs to her room. The door was open and the light was off.
“Bella?” I called, taking one step in. Her room was empty.
Clothes were tossed across the top of her unmade bed, like my sisters used to do when they were trying to decide what to wear. Her books were piled on the desk next to her ancient computer. The curtains were drawn closed over the window, which was open a couple of inches despite the weather. I closed my eyes as her scent drifted to me.
It was coming from the bathroom. When I went to look, I saw damp towels left on the floor. The mirror was still lightly fogged from a recent shower—or did Bella prefer baths? In the air hung the intoxicating floral smell of her hair. And there, balled up in the corner, was the blouse she’d been wearing earlier.
I could still see it on her, the thin fabric gently clinging to her curves, swelling over her rising chest as her breathing accelerated when I’d touched her. I could see the top button give way, the cloth fall back to reveal the tops of her small breasts…
“She’s not in her room, Charlie,” I said, returning downstairs.
“What?” he asked, surprised.
“Ah, it looks like maybe she went out.”
“With who?” he demanded.
That’s exactly what I wanted to know. “She didn’t say anything to you?” It was a dumb question, but I didn’t know what else to say.
He looked thoughtful for a second. “She’s been acting real strange lately. Unhappy, but different from before. You don’t think that Cullen kid is back, do you? You don’t think she’d run away with him?”
She probably would, I thought, but “No, he’s not back. I’m sure she just forgot to tell you she was going. She’s probably just with some friends. Don’t worry, I’ll find her.”
I left quickly, anxious to find Bella. And despite what I’d said to Charlie, I was worried. I knew the Cullens weren’t back—we’d have picked up their scent. But what if she’d heard from them? What if she’d gone to meet them? No, she wouldn’t have just left Charlie without saying anything. And she wouldn’t have just left me…would she?
When I reached the beach, they were waiting for me and we immediately began scouring the area for any sign of the vampire or Bella. I’d phased leaving Bella’s house, but her scent disappeared at the driveway. It occurred to me that Victoria could be behind Bella’s disappearance, but Sam quickly broke into my thoughts and assured me that there was no sign of Victoria making it past our lines. He was right. And Bella’s room had looked like she had been getting ready to go somewhere, not like she’d been taken. That’s when we noticed the fire.
It looked like the typical group of teenagers having a party on the beach, sitting ducks for a hungry vampire. The area appeared to be relatively safe, but Sam thought it best to be cautious, taking our roles as protectors seriously. We decided to abandon our patrol and join them. As we approached, I realized I recognized a few of them. They used to be Bella’s friends, I thought. And then I saw her.
Bella was sitting by the fire with that Newton kid. And he had his arm around her. She looked right at me, but she didn’t even smile. Did she usually sit this close to him? And why was he leaning in so close? Was he going to kiss her? No. And it’s a good thing, too, because I would have killed him.
She turned her attention back to that moron. What kind of game was she playing? Sam put his hand on my shoulder just as my anger was starting to show and led me to sit with him at the opposite side of the fire. At least we had found her. At least she was safe. At least from there I could watch her and make sure no vampire came near her…even if I couldn’t do anything about the blond kid that was dangerously close to having his limbs ripped off.
“Hi! You’re Jake, aren’t you?” someone asked.
“Yeah,” I said.
Bella was just staring at Newton and nodding. She was hanging on every word he said.
“And you have a motorcycle?”
“Uh-huh,” I mumbled.
Newton was brushing Bella’s hair from her face.
“I’d love to go for a ride sometime,” she purred, putting her hand on my knee.
At least Bella wasn’t touching Newton. Yet.
“I’m Lauren,” she said.
I turned to look at her. She was pretty, in a not-as-perfect-as-Bella kind of way. And she was paying attention to me, unlike Bella, who was throwing another guy in my face. Well, two could play that game.
“So you like motorcycles?” I asked, turning my full attention to…what was her name?
“I might. They seem so…dangerous.” Was she trying to be seductive?
I let her go on, overplaying her sultry card as long as I could stand it. Even Paul seemed to fall for my false interest in her, sneaking me a thumbs-up behind her back. It was all I could do not to openly stare at Bella instead. Occasionally Lauren would say something that was supposed to be funny, and when I would laugh, I could sneak a glance from the corner of my eye. Mike never left her side, and Bella never looked away from him.
When the fire was dying down Sam stepped in to save me just as Lauren was hinting not-too-subtly that I should give her a ride home. I turned to see that Bella was gone. Even worse, Mike’s suburban was still parked nearby, confirming my fear. She had not only wandered off to be killed by a vampire, she had wandered off with him.
Sam and I quickly slipped away from everyone and phased. Sam wanted to find Bella before the vampire did. I did too, but I had other reasons as well. We split up, following her scent. It was easy to find, but not easy to track. What had she done? Wandered in circles and touched everything on the ground on her way? It seemed as if not a rock or branch or leaf within a two-mile radius was without her scent.
I could see her through Sam’s mind. She was curled up with her arms wrapped tightly around her. My happiness to see her alone, not with Mike, was instantly crushed by the emptiness in her eyes. I’d rather have seen her with anyone than to see her that alone. Sam phased before I could see anything else, and I hurried toward them.
I had just phased back—and dressed—when Sam cut me off. Bella couldn’t have been more than twenty yards ahead of me.
“He’s taking her home,” said Sam.
I began shaking with rage. What the hell is she doing?
“Leave it alone, Jake.”
Despite Sam’s warning, I went straight to Bella’s after we left. He could have stopped me. It’s not like he couldn’t see in my head as I raced through the woods. But he didn’t.
I ran so fast I got there before she did, so I waited, just inside the tree line at the edge of her yard and made a plan. I would stay calm. I would just wait for Newton to leave. I would talk to her. It was that simple.
It wasn’t like she was going to invite him in. It was late, and she’d be too wary of Charlie. All I had to do was catch her before she got inside, and we’d be able to work this out. Maybe I’d said or done something to make her think I wasn’t serious about her. She couldn’t be upset because I’d stopped, could she? She did tell me to. Maybe she’s just gone out with him out of pity. Maybe she just wanted to make me jealous. (It worked). Whatever the reason, I could get past it and we could get back to where we’d been. She would kiss me again and everything would be okay.
His suburban pulled in right behind Charlie’s cruiser. Bella got out and Newton followed her to the door.
I listened as he asked her out again, and breathed a sign of relief as she turned him down. But my relief was short-lived.
“That’s too bad. Angela really wanted you to come with us,” he pressed.
“So you’re talking about a group thing?” she asked him.
“Sure. Except Lauren.”
Crap! Why’d he have to bring her up?
Her eyes narrowed as soon as he said it, and she instantly agreed to another date. I was too busy kicking myself for trying to make her jealous that the door was closed behind her before I realized it. Not only had I missed my chance to work things out with her tonight, but my stupidity had pushed her into a date with Newton. I was too angry to chance talking to her tonight, and I would have to wait even longer now. I forgot to undress before I phased.
I wandered the woods outside Bella’s all night. I didn’t speak to the pack, but they knew why I was there. They left just before dawn, but I stayed behind. Should I confront her? Find out what was going on? Or just give her time and hope she comes around?
I wasn’t exactly decided on leaving her alone, but I thought I should give the patience thing a try. Bella had been mad at me before, but she’d never stayed that way long.
Just as the sun was beginning to rise, I heard Bella screaming. Charlie had mentioned it to Billy once, but I hadn’t been prepared for how disturbing it was when I’d first heard her. I was used to it now, but it still shook me to the core each time. More than anything I wanted to run up to her room and hold her, and tell her everything would be okay, that I would protect her, that I loved her. But breaking down Charlie’s front door and running to Bella’s bedside uninvited wasn’t a good idea, especially now. So I just stood there, waiting for the screams and the sobs to fade, silently cursing the enhanced hearing my new form afforded me.
I was surprised to see Bella emerge from the house a few minutes later. She looked disheveled and unrested. And she headed straight into the woods. At first, she stuck to the narrow path, but she quickly left it, wandering into the forest. She seemed to walk without direction, and I followed her, half wanting to protect her, half just wondering where she was going.
After little more than an hour, I carelessly brushed too closely to a branch, snapping it, and Bella heard. She started in my direction, but I backed silently into the shadows where my fur was well camouflaged, and I stayed hidden. I watched as she looked all around, then crumbled to the ground and cried. Her sobbing wrenched at my heart. It wasn’t fear that was paining her. It was something much, much worse. I wanted to go to her, try to comfort her, try to help her, but I had the strange feeling I would be intruding. Whatever was going on with her, it was intensely private. Even my being there in secret felt wrong.
As I stood there, torn between giving Bella time and giving her a shoulder to cry on, the tears quieted and she pulled herself up. She immediately started walking again, and it dawned on me that she should probably be heading home, not the direction she was going. Short of revealing myself, which would make her think I was spying on her (and maybe I was, a little), my only option was to somehow lead her back the right direction. She’d walked straight toward me earlier when I’d made a noise. Maybe she would do the same thing again.
I stepped deliberately on a twig and her head snapped around toward the sound. She turned and walked toward me. This is working, I thought, backing into the brush before she spotted me. I kept it up the whole way back to her house, brushing up against something or breaking something, basically going against every instinct I had to be quiet, every time Bella would stray in the wrong direction. When her house was finally in sight I stepped aside and waited, watching to make sure she continued forward. With Bella’s sense of direction, you never could be sure. When she stepped out into her own back yard, she looked disappointed, but I felt nothing but relief. No matter what was going on in her head, she was safe.
I waited until she had gone inside then listened to make sure someone else was around to watch.
“You can go, Jake. I’ll take it from here.” said Jared.
I ran home a little slower than usual—I was exhausted—and went straight to bed.
When I woke, it was dark. I’d overslept! I immediately phased and ran back to Bella’s but she was gone. Jared and Seth had been watching her house while I slept.
“How long?” I asked.
“She’s been gone four hours”
“Who’s she with?”
“She’s on her way back now. Leah’s been following.”
“Who’s she with?” I didn’t like the way they were avoiding my question.
“What about the rest of them?”
“You can go,” I told them both. They left without a word. If a vampire showed up tonight, I was angry enough to handle it on my own.
I didn’t have to wait long before the suburban pulled into the driveway. Leah didn’t bother sticking around, either.
Bella got out quickly and walked toward the door, with Newton on her heels. As soon as they got to the door, they were kissing. It was a good thing I was already phased, or I would have lost another pair of shoes. He stepped back with a proud grin on his face, running to his suburban. I wondered if anyone would notice if he mysteriously disappeared.
The second he was gone, I phased back and stepped into the light. Bella was still standing in the doorway.
“I guess you got home safely,” I said. I couldn’t hide my anger.
“That was…” she said, and then she looked down. She was probably upset that she’d been caught. And she should have been. After what she’d done with me just two days ago, it didn’t say a lot about her to be kissing another guy tonight. I’d never known Bella had it in her to be…like that.
“Where have you been?” Charlie practically yelled, sticking his head out the door.
Good. He was angry too. She deserved it. Then he saw me.
“Thanks for bringing her home, Jacob, but…Bells? What’s wrong?”
“Mike kissed me!” she said. She sounded upset, but not the kind of upset I expected.
“Well, Mike’s a good kid. You could do a lot worse,” said Charlie.
That’s not what you were supposed to say, Charlie!
Then Bella just snapped. “Really? A lot worse than being tricked into a date with Mike when he promised me it was a group thing? Worse than him being stupid enough to think I want to go out with him? Worse than him kissing me when I was just trying to get away from him? Worse than boys who ruin something wonderful because they’re too oversexed to know when to stop? Really, Dad? I could do worse than that? Thanks a lot! I have so much to look forward to!”
I stood there stunned as Bella ran into the house. I’d never seen her yell at her father–or anyone else– like that. Charlie looked no less surprised than I. Bella had started out angry and ended up screaming and in tears. Why is she always doing that?
“Do me a favor, Jake,” Charlie said when the shock wore off. “Figure out what’s going on with her.”
“Sure, Charlie.” What does he think I’ve been trying to do?
“Your sisters ever act like this?”
“Ah, I don’t think so.” Did they? Was this something girls usually did?
Charlie shrugged apologetically then went inside.
There was no way I was going to try talking to her right now.
I stood there in the yard trying to make sense of it. I mulled over what she’d said…well, yelled…, trying to pick it apart. First, Mike had tricked her into a date, so obviously she wasn’t interested in him. Second, she didn’t want to kiss him. Maybe I won’t have to kill him after all. And third, some “oversexed boy” had really pissed her off. But I couldn’t think of anyone else she’d been around lately. She wasn’t making any sense. I sighed, stepping back into the woods.
I don’t understand girls…