Solstice

The Game

"No, Alice! No shopping trip!"

I sighed as we entered the second hour of the argument. Aunt Alice wanted to plan a shopping trip for Saturday morning. She'd had a vision of Jeff inviting us (well, inviting Tara, to be more specific) to a hockey game on Saturday afternoon, and Adelaide desperately wanted to go, to Tara's horror. It had been almost three weeks since they'd come to live with us, and she was beginning to return to her normal self, but she was still quieter than usual, more serious. However, today was one of her good days.

"I thought you loved me, Bella!" Aunt Alice said.

"Don't even try that one on me!" Mom said shortly.

"Come on, Bella," Adelaide coaxed. "It'll be fun. Besides, this way we might actually be able to keep Ian from being charged with murder."

"Ian wouldn't kill Jeff," she scoffed.

Adelaide chuckled. "You don't know Ian."

"What's so bad about a hockey game?" Mom asked.

Aunt Alice and Adelaide rolled their eyes in perfect unison.

"Come on, Mom, just go so they'll stop talking about it," I muttered. I was already tired of this conversation.

"Thank you, I think," Aunt Alice said, raising an eyebrow.

"But a shopping trip?" Mom said with disgust. "Is there nothing else we could do?"

"What else are we going to do, Bella? Bake cookies?" asked Aunt Alice sarcastically.

"Sounds good to me!" added Jacob, who was stuffing his face in the corner. To my shock, Aunt Rose made no comment.

"Baking cookies would be less torturous," Mom complained.

"Well you'd better get used to this, because I have the rest of eternity to convert you," Aunt Alice said with a diabolical grin.

Mom sighed and stabbed the raw steak she was dicing for the steak salad she was making for Jacob's and my dinner.

"Yes! Thank you, Bella," Aunt Alice said. She and Adelaide began to tango around the kitchen in celebration.

Rob appeared then. "Adelaide," he said coldly. "I need to speak with you."

She stopped dancing. Her shoulders slumped slightly, and I saw guilt flash through her eyes. She sighed quietly.

I winced and began to glance towards my exit options, and noticed Tara doing the same. Rob and Adelaide had been fighting almost constantly since he'd found out she'd been planning to stay behind.

"Then speak," she said, her tone frosty.

"In private."

"You can speak here, or you can keep whichever petty little speech you've been preparing to yourself." She folded her arms, her expression daring him to object.

His eyes flashed. "I'll speak to you outside. Now."

"Excuse me?"

The sound of the clock ticking on the wall suddenly sounded like a bomb counting down to detonation.

"Run," Tara said, covering her warning with a cough.

We left quickly.

"Are they always like that?" I asked in amazement. I'd seen my parents fight, but never like those two.

"A lot of the time," Tara said, sighing.

"That's terrible," Mom said quietly.

"Nah, you just get a good pair of ear plugs and get used to it. They love each other, but they also both love to win," she said. "On the bright side, sometimes it gets me out of shopping."

* * *

Unfortunately, we had no such luck this time. The shopping trip passed quickly enough - thankfully - but Adelaide decided to torture Tara anyway and told Jeff that we would be attending the hockey game. We arrived at school on Friday morning early. Jacob was skipping today, as the pack had come up the previous night, which had taken the lustre from my day. I glanced at Tara and Ian as Jeff began to saunter across the parking lot in their direction. Tara was blushing already, and Ian looked ready to kill something…more specifically, someone. Someone named Jeff.

I looked at Adelaide and Rob now, who walked beside him. There was a sizable gap between them, each completely ignoring the other. Apparently they were currently in one of their arguments. Lovely. That would make for a pleasant day.

"A little pessimistic today, are we?" Dad asked me.

I smiled sarcastically. Jeff reached us before I could make the snappy reply I'd been planning. Not that it mattered, though. He'd hear it whether I verbalized it or not. "Hey, guys. Hey, Tara."

Ian stiffened instantly. He wrapped a protective arm around Tara. Jeff seemed to take no notice. This human just couldn't take the hint, and judging by the look Ian's face, he was ready to give him more than a hint.

"So, uh, look, I was wondering…there's a hockey game…this Saturday, down at Thomson's Rink, and Adelaide said she was coming, so I was thinking maybe we...like, you and I...could…go?" His voice cracked on the last word.

"Tara will not be–" Ian started to say.

Tara cut him off. "That would be lovely. But I'd like my friends to come as well."

I winced, waiting for the blood to start flying. When I opened my eyes again, Jeff was still standing there, alive and completely unharmed, and actually seemed to have brightened. The idiot was probably proud of himself for getting her talk. "Sure," he said, glancing at the rest of us. "See you then."

Uncle Jasper and Rob both had to grab Ian to keep him from lunging at Jeff as he turned and walked away.

"Easy, Ian," Rob said.

"Yes, it would be very easy," Ian growled, struggling against their hold on him.

"Stop," Rob commanded as both he and Uncle Jasper pulled him back.

I stared at Uncle Jasper and Rob for a moment, wondering if they'd realized yet that they had actually just helped each other. I looked around to see if anyone else had realized it. Aunt Alice seemed as surprised as I was.

Rob seemed to notice this about the same time. He cleared his throat and moved away from Ian. "We should get to class."

I watched him leave with mild surprise. I had expected at least a snarl.

* * *

"I told you this was a bad idea," Mom hissed as we arrived at the outdoor rink the following day. "What if it gets sunny?"

"You sound like Dad," I told her under my breath.

"It's not going to get sunny," Aunt Alice said, rolling her eyes. "And thank you for your faith in me."

"Are you sure you guys don't want to play?" I asked Seth, Quil and Embry. They'd come with Jacob in his car, although they'd vowed that they would only be spectators. Leah had refused to come at all.

"Definitely," Embry said.

"Don't worry about us, Ness," Seth said, winking at me.

"Besides, we have to try to make it an even game for the vamps," Quil grinned. "If we got in there, they wouldn't have a hope."

I chuckled. "Suit yourselves." I glanced at Jacob. "Shall we?"

"Let's do this," he nodded.

"Hey! You made it!" Jeff grinned. I heard Ian growling softly.

"Yeah," Tara said shyly.

"Well, lace up, and then we'll pick teams."

Mom handed me my skates. "Do you want me to tie yours?"

I gave her a look. "Bella, I'm not three."

"That's right. You're six."

I glared at her. "Seriously, Bella. I'm not a kid." I watched as the humans laced their skates and tried to emulate it. It was easier than I'd expected, given the intricacy of the laces.

Mom and Dad took positions on either side of me as soon as I was on the ice.

"Oh come on, you two!" I began to move backwards when I slammed into someone else. I whirled around to see Aunt Rose gliding along behind me, waiting to catch me with open arms. Now I was really annoyed. "I'm not a child, people. I don't need escorts." I skated past them to prove my point. I flew around the ice with ease, garnering the jealous glares of some girls I recognized from my classes. The guys had stopped dead and were gaping. It was only when I looked to my right that I saw what they were really staring at.

Adelaide and Tara were completing simultaneous triple axels in perfect synchronization. They both landed at exactly the same time, and proceeded to weave with more grace than I'd ever seen in my life between the other skaters on the ice.

I watched in utter awe as Tara circled back to Ian. He tossed Tara into the air easily. She did several complete rotations before dropping back down into his waiting arms, and then moved right into a side-by-side camel spin. They danced over the ice with a graceful elegance that would have made an Olympian jealous. Even for immortals, their poise was remarkable.

Adelaide and Rob, who had managed to overcome their current quarrel around lunchtime yesterday, were currently doing one-foot scratch spins.

"So," said Ian, skating up with a grin. It amazed me how much he had changed from the first time we'd met him. I remember that I'd been amazed the first time he'd spoken. I hadn't imagined that he knew how. "Are you ready to try to beat some Canadians at their own sport?"

"'Try' is the key word," Adelaide grinned tauntingly, sliding up alongside him. She stopped on the side of her skate blade, spraying us with a wide arc of snow.

"We could take you any day, Winter," Uncle Emmett shot back, dusting himself off. Typical Uncle Emmett. I doubted that he'd skated in his entire vampire life, and he was already threatening two Canadian half-breeds that had probably had their entire lives to perfect their ice hockey skills.

"Let's see it," she said, whirling into another axel threateningly. I made a mental note to ask her to teach me how to do that.

"Now, now," said Ian with a teasing grin. "Let's not show off before they've even had a chance to play."

Adelaide glanced at him. "What, that? That was just a preview."

True to form, Jeff's first draft was Tara. The second draft for the opposite side was Adelaide, not surprisingly. How could anyone not choose them after a little warm-up session like theirs? By the end of the drafting, Tara, Aunt Rose, Dad, Jacob and I were all on Jeff's team along with three girls from our gym class, Melina, Christina and Jade, and three boys from the class, Carter, Landon and Will. On other side, the captain, Jana, clearly saw where the advantage lay. She'd drafted Rob, Uncle Jasper, Aunt Alice, Mom, Ian and Adelaide, with only three human players. The girls, Selene and Eva, were also from my gym class, and the lone human male was one of Jeff's friends, Patrick.

I glanced at Aunt Alice, who was already smirking. I wondered how many goals they were going to be leading by. Adelaide had briefed me on the rules of the game on the way to the rink. Mom had also required the tutorial, seeing as she had spent most of her life in Phoenix, where you'd be hard-pressed to find ice anywhere outside of a drinking glass.

We took offensive positions along the centre line as we waited for the puck to be dropped. "I wouldn't recommend that you check anyone," Tara cautioned as she coasted up alongside me. "They tend to notice that you're reminiscent of a brick wall."

I chuckled. "I'll bet."

The puck dropped, and everyone instantly burst into action. Clearly showing off for Tara, Jeff exploded down the rink with the puck. He turned to look at her over his shoulder when he slammed straight into Uncle Emmett. Uncle Emmett chuckled as Jeff fell back onto the ice, staring up at him in wonder. Now there, truly, was a brick wall.

Adelaide stole the puck from the dazed Jeff and shot it straight into our net. She did a celebratory figure eight as her team cheered.

The puck was dropped from the centre line. When it neared us again, I sprinted forward to meet it when I was blown aside by a speeding Rob. He shot the puck to Adelaide again. The two passed the puck between each other at a dizzying speed. Adelaide did a showy spin in between the defensemen, Will and Dad, and slap-shot it into the net for the second time. I wondered how long I would have to play to be able to move like that.

"Frigging Canadian vamps," muttered Jacob enviously.

I laughed again at the expression on his face.

"Actually, Rob's American," Tara informed us as we took our start positions. "Ian is too, if it's of any consolation."

"It's not," Jacob said. "It's really not."

Tara and I both laughed this time.

As soon as the puck was dropped for the third time, Jeff shot the puck straight to Tara. She passed it to me. My entire body tensed as I flew down the ice as best I could. But I still wasn't fast enough for Ian. He intercepted the puck as I tried desperately to pass it off to Jacob. He growled with fury and chased after Ian.

"Don't check him…don't check him…" I begged Jacob under my breath as I recalled Tara's words about being reminiscent of a brick wall. He'd just managed to get his last injury healed up…

Too late. Jacob threw himself at Ian from the side and reclaimed the puck before sprinting down the ice. I tried to match his pace, in case he needed to pass to someone. With a triumphant howl, he shot it straight into the net. Our team burst into cries of exultation.

Jacob grinned and wrapped an arm around my shoulders as we skated back to our side. "Come on. Did I do it or did I do it?"

"You did it," I giggled as me cheeks lit up like light bulbs. I hoped I would eventually get better about not blushing every time he opened his mouth.

"Come on, mutt, anyone could have done that," Uncle Emmett said from behind us.

"Yeah, because you're such an expert," scoffed Jacob.

By the end of the game, Jana's team had defeated us fourteen to two, with the vampires – and half-vampire – making all fourteen of those goals. Jacob had a sprained wrist, which he reassured me would be healed by dinner, and Ian had a serious case of jealousy. I was amazed that Jeff had survived the game. Rob had had to pull him aside four times to keep him from tearing his throat out. He'd also had to ask Adelaide and Tara to tone their figure-skating tricks down, which had started a whole new argument between him and Adelaide.

"Walk it off, Ian," Rob hissed as he and Ian walked by. Well, Rob was walking, Ian was being dragged, snarling and growling. I glanced over my shoulder to see Jeff struggling to put an arm around Tara's shoulders, but she was several inches taller. I felt bad for the poor girl. She was completely mortified. Adelaide, who walked a few paces behind them, had a hand clapped over her mouth to muffle her laughter.

"What's the deal with that Jeff guy?" Jacob asked as we walked back to the car.

"I don't know," I replied. "But I think Ian's seriously going to kill him."

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