Solstice

Mistakes

They were gone three horrendously long days. I forced myself to go through the motions of each day in keeping with my normal act, but the moment I was alone, I gave way to pacing. However, these times were few and far between due to Aunt Rose’s nearly constant presence. She not only assumed the roles of my parents, but also took it upon herself to attempt to distract me as much as possible by teaming up with Aunt Alice to suggest various outings and “girly” activities. As much as I appreciated their efforts, all I truly wanted was to be left alone.

In my rare moments to myself, I considered four possible scenarios: Scenario A (and decidedly the worst of the four) was that Jacob would refuse to return and would want nothing more to do with me. I still had not been able to formulate a satisfying response to that situation. Scenario B was that Jacob would not return, but would continue to keep in contact with me. I had decided in that case that I would go to him, even if it meant leaving everyone else behind. I was practically grown anyway. If my parents had known that he’d imprinted on me from my birth, they must have realized that we would inevitably be together, and presumably out from under their roof at some point. This solution would not be an easy one, as the idea of being without my family was almost as scary as the idea of being without him, but it was one that I would be able to live with if I were forced to. Scenario C was Jacob returning to Vancouver but not feeling for me the way I felt for him. If that was the case, I decided that I would still be all right. I would take Jacob however I could get him, in whatever form that that required. I had screwed things up too much to get to be choosy. The last scenario, Scenario D, and the one that I was hoping for with every fibre of my being, was that Jacob would return and things would go back to normal. Of course, things wouldn’t be exactly as they had been; I would be much more grateful for him. But while this was the one that I desperately wanted, I also realized that of the four, this was the least likely.

It was late on Monday night when they returned. I was sitting in the living room, trying to amuse myself with the latest chick flick that Aunt Rose had put on for me. Adelaide and Aunt Alice sat on the floor in front of me, flipping through magazines and comparing notes. Just as I decided that I would go to bed and give up for yet another day, I heard the sound of car tires on asphalt.

My heart stopped for a moment, and then became frenzied. “They’re home,” I breathed. I bounded over the back of the couch and sprinted to the door. I threw it open and watched as my dad’s car pulled into the garage. I counted the shadows in the car once, and then twice more.

My heart plummeted. There were only two.

My parents got out of the car and ascended the stairs with matching expressions of grave solemnity.

I grasped the railing to keep myself from collapsing. No, I told myself. No. This could still be okay. We could still be looking at Scenario B here. Things might not be that bad, I tried to tell myself as the pain slowly crept through me and systematically wiped out each tendril of hope to which I had been so earnestly clinging.

“Let’s go inside,” Dad said.

I nodded numbly and forced myself to move my frozen limbs. We returned to the living room. The television had been turned off, the room vacated. I sank onto the couch and waited for someone to begin.

“Nessie, Jacob isn’t coming back,” Mom said after a moment.

I sucked in a shaky breath. Scenario B…Scenario B… I chanted to myself. “Why?” I asked.

She looked at Dad and then said, “He has a responsibility to the pack. He feels that he’s been ignoring that for a long time, and that his place is in La Push.”

I bit my lip to keep it from quivering. I would accept that. I would never like it, but I would accept it. After all, that’s what I’d told him. That’s what he thought I believed, too.

“He’s their Alpha. He wants to start acting like one,” Mom said. “Sam’s had to pick up a lot of slack in his absence, and it’s led to more than a few disputes between his pack and Jake’s. They really do need him there.” She looked at Dad again.

“Also, Billy’s diabetes has flared up and he has become very ill,” Dad continued.

I blanched. “How ill?”

“Ill enough that he is dependent upon Jacob now more than ever before.”

“But…Grandpa Carlisle’s a doctor,” I breathed.

“Carlisle works full-time at the hospital,” Dad reminded me. “Even if Billy would allow him to treat him, Carlisle simply doesn’t have the time to give Billy the permanent, constant care that he requires.”

I forced myself to keep breathing. I could do that much. “How is he?”

Both were silent.

The pain grew worse. “That bad?” I whispered.

“He’s…well, he’s exhausted. He has a lot on his plate. He misses you,” Mom said. “And I don’t just mean a little bit. He misses you more than you can imagine.”

He didn’t hate me?

“No,” Dad said. “He would never.”

After all I’d said, after all I’d put him through, he really didn’t hate me?

“No,” Dad said again.

He wasn’t even indifferent?

“Quite the opposite.”

So it was just his responsibilities that were separating us?

Dad made no reply.

“Dad?” I asked.

“It’s not quite that simple,” he said reluctantly. “He truly and wholeheartedly believes that you no longer care for him and want him gone.”

Breathing was becoming a struggle. “But…but didn’t you tell him I was sorry?”

“He didn’t believe us,” Mom said softly.

That was the most painful wound of all. Was I really so awful that he even doubted my attempts to make amends?

Of course he does, a voice nagged. Look at all the reasons you’ve given him to doubt you. You have no grounds to feel sorry for yourself, so don’t you dare start.

“No, it wasn’t like that,” Dad said. “He simply thought that we were lying to him in order to convince him to return. He would never think so little of you.”

I wanted to believe that. How I longed to believe that. But why shouldn’t he? He was right. He was entirely right. I looked at Dad again and immediately felt worse. The concern and compassion with which they looked at me made me that much more painfully aware of how undeserving I was of their sympathy. I knew Mom was at least slightly upset with me for what I’d done. Jacob really wasn’t just my Jacob. He never had been. He’d known her long before me. Of course, I hadn’t imagined that he’d loved her long before me. But that was still no excuse.

* * *

“Hey, Nessie,” Melina said the following day as I walked to the back of the room to take up my place across from her on the volleyball court. Her voice was particularly irritating today.

“Melina,” I nodded, my voice thinly veiling my disdain. My tone earned me a warning glance from Aunt Alice, who stood on Melina’s other side.

“Be nice,” she mouthed.

I rolled my eyes.

“Where’s Jacob? I didn’t see him this morning,” she said. “He’s not sick, is he?”

I paused and counted to ten to fight the annoyance that her presence always brought “He’s gone,” I replied with as much cordiality as I could muster – it wasn’t much.

“Gone where?”

I took a breath and then tersely replied, “Away.”

She raised her eyebrows, and then chuckled. “So you finally scared him off, did you?”

Anger shot through my body like a wildfire. I was nearly trembling with rage as I tossed the ball in the air and shot it straight at her face with extreme force. The moment the ball left my hands, I realized the gravity of my mistake. I gasped in horror. It could have easily crushed her skull with the force with which I’d hit the ball (not that I would have minded that at that particular moment, but it would probably raise some question marks).

Melina crashed into the floor and became perfectly still.

I froze for a moment, and then caught my breath when I heard her heart beating. I clapped a hand over my mouth. What if you'd killed her, you idiot? Gees, Nessie, you never think!

What was that?” Aunt Alice snarled at me. “What’s the matter with you?!”

“I’m sorry!” I said quickly. “I lost it for a second!”

“I can see that!” she snarled. “Call Edward! We’re going to have to take her to Carlisle ourselves.”

“Why?”

“Because he’s the only one that’s not going to question the force with which you smacked her in the face!” she hissed.

“Okay, okay!”

“It’s not even close to being okay! Now go get Edward!”

“I have medical training,” Adelaide said, flashing to us. “Let me handle this until we can get her to Carlisle.”

Tara and Aunt Alice rushed to dazzle the gym teacher while I hurried out of the gym and made my way to Dad’s advanced functions class. I was nearly there when he strode out of the classroom, his honey coloured eyes blazing. “What in heaven’s name possessed you to do that?” he demanded, grabbing my arm and towing me back towards the gym. “Renesmee, maintaining our anonymity is not a joke. It’s not optional. Every time you allow your anger to overpower you, you are putting not only this entire family, but our entire race in very grave danger, do you understand me? Humans are different now. They want explanations for everything, and you have given them far too many reasons to ask questions lately.”

“I’m sorry,” I said. “I know I messed up.”

“Do you?” he demanded. “I understand that you’re upset about Jacob, but that does not give you license to act like a petulant child.”

I pursed my lips. When we reached the gym, he released my arm and hurried over to Adelaide, who was hovering over Melina. Aunt Alice and Tara were still busy dazzling Mr. Wilkes.

"Is it serious?” he murmured to Adelaide.

“At worst, a mild concussion,” she said softly. “And well within the range of explanation.”

He relaxed slightly, but I didn’t feel any better. I stood there, gazing around the gym. After a moment, I returned to the change room. I gathered up my things, and then left.

Rob was pulling into the parking lot as I arrived. He got out of the car. “I heard what happened. Where are you going?”

“Home,” I said, and hoping he would leave it at that. “They seem to have it under control.”

He nodded slowly. “I see. Well, take my car,” he said, tossing his keys to me.

I caught them and then looked at him in surprise. Rob, of all people, was willing to lend me his car?

He smiled slightly, and then made his way into the school.

“Thanks,” I called after him, and then got into the car and drove away as quickly as I could.

I was almost home when I realized that going home would mean facing Grandma Esme. I knew she wouldn’t be angry, but she would be painfully sympathetic. I didn’t deserve her sympathy. I didn’t deserve anything I had.

I kept driving until I reached the ocean. I sat there for a moment and stared at the grey face of the churning water. What was I doing? I was responsible for what had happened with Jacob. I was responsible for what he was going through. And I would have to find some way to get past it. There was no repairing what I’d done. As much as it hurt, Dad was right. I had been behaving like a petulant child. I had been treating Jacob like a toy that I could play with and then break and throw away when he ceased to amuse me. While I knew I would never be truly happy without him in my life, I would at least have to get better at pretending.

I closed my eyes and leaned back against the leather seat. I realized then how remarkably comfortable it was. Angry and bitter though Rob was, he had truly superb taste in cars.

You have to go back, I realized. You have to face the consequences of what you’ve done.

I opened my eyes again and then drove home. I was surprised to find everyone else’s cars were already in the garage. I glanced at the clock on the dashboard. I blinked and read it again. I had really been at the beach for two hours?

I made my way into the house and immediately headed for my room. As I passed the living room, someone cleared their throat. I glanced into the room to see Grandma Esme, my parents and Aunt Alice looking back at me.

I sighed quietly. And so it begins. “I know I screwed up.”

“Understatement of the millennium,” Aunt Alice snapped. “You gave her a concussion, Renesmee. A concussion! Carlisle’s treating her, but suppose her parents decide to make an issue of this? Suppose they press charges?”

"I have legal training," Ian said. "When we're not pretending to be teenagers, we have grown-up jobs." He smiled slightly. "If it comes to that, I can help you."

"Thanks, Ian," I murmured.

He smiled again.

“She’s at the hospital now,” Mom said. “She’s fine, thanks to Adelaide and Carlisle. Tara's dealing with the school. Jasper’s at the hospital trying to keep everyone in a good mood. We’re hoping we’ll be able to avoid any serious trouble if he keeps them in a good mood."

Dad sighed. “Do you understand what’s at stake?”

“Yes,” I said. “I lost my head for a minute. It won’t happen again.”

“No, it certainly won’t,” Dad said. “You’re not going back to school.”

I looked at him in shock. “What?”

“I took care of it this afternoon,” Grandma Esme said. “It’s clearly a little more than you can handle right now, sweetheart, and there’s nothing wrong with that.”

I pursed my lips. Who could blame them for not trusting me? I couldn’t even trust myself not to be an idiot. “Okay,” I said. “If you think it’s for the best.”

“Listen – wait, what?” Mom said.

“If you think it’d be best this way, then I’ll respect that."

“What’s the angle?” Mom said, frowning slightly as she studied me.

“No angle,” I said.

“Well then…good,” Dad said, clearing his throat.

I sank into a bar chair, guilt piling on top of guilt. Who was this person I’d become? This person who hurt the people around me, even physically?

Stop. Focus on something else. Find something to do.

“Well, I can help with that,” Dad said, sitting down beside me as the family slowly began to disperse except for my mother. “Just because you’re not in school doesn’t mean I’ll let you go uneducated. What if we took a trip? Just the three of us.”

I hesitated and then smiled slightly. “Are you actually advising that I run away from my problems?”

“No,” he said softly. “But I’m a firm believer in the benefits of separation.”

I gave him a look. “You don’t think that’s a bit ironic coming from you?”

He looked at me in surprise.

“Sorry,” I murmured, looking away.

“No, you’re right,” he said. “But I’ve changed since then. We can change, sweetheart,” he said, laying his hand on my back. “And…so can Jacob.”

“A trip sounds good,” I said quickly. “Where are we going?”

“What about Quebec? You can learn French.”

“Sure.”

“Bella?” he said, glancing at Mom.

“Sounds fine to me,” she said, stroking my hair.

He smiled. “Alright. I’ll make the arrangements.”

I nodded and stared at my hands.

He kissed my forehead and then rose and left the room, Mom following, once more leaving me with too much silence.

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