Solstice

Empty

My mother opened the door as soon as my last sob had subsided. I didn't look up from the spot where I knelt on the damaged wooden floor in the centre of the room. She didn't even pause to survey the havoc I'd wreaked in my tantrum. She pulled me into her arms and held me for a long time. I buried my face in her rock-like shoulder and exhaled shakily. When we finally drew apart, I rose to see Aunt Rose standing in the doorway, sobbing in the tearless vampire way. She flitted to Mom's side, completely indifferent to the harm that the wreckage was causing her silver stilettos. I hoped that she had the good sense to dispose of them before Aunt Alice saw what she'd done to them. She drew me into her arms and stroked my hair. I wasn't entirely sure who she was trying to calm, me or herself.

I realized now that Mom was crying too. I felt my searing heart throb slightly. I hadn't realized how much pain I was causing everyone.

Aunt Rose held me for a moment, and then she and Mom tucked me back into bed and kissed my forehead. “I’m sorry, honey. I wish I could make this better.”

I huddled deeper into the blankets and stared at the wall. You don’t deserve pity, not after what you said to him.

“I agree with Edward,” Aunt Rose whispered.

“No, Rose,” I heard my mother reply as they walked to the door. “He needs time.”

“I don’t care what he needs! I can’t stand to see her like this!”

“Neither can I, but we’ve got to think about him, too.” There was a beat of silence and then I heard them pause. “I know you don’t like him, Rosalie, but he’s important to Nessie and to me, and I don’t think it’s fair to expect him to come back yet.”

I pulled the blankets up around my ears, not wishing to hear anymore.

I awoke the following morning feeling determined. I would find a way to get through the day. I would find a way to breathe. I wasn’t sure how many days I’d missed since…No, I decided. I can do this. I will do this. But the key is to not think about…that. I nodded determinedly and rushed through my morning routine. I went to the kitchen for breakfast and tried to ignore the dead silence that set in the moment I stepped through the door. I slid into a seat at the breakfast bar and poured myself a bowl of cereal. I added milk and tried to ignore everyone’s stares.

I’d nearly finished eating when Tara very hesitantly murmured, “Good morning, Nessie.”

I looked at her and smiled. Yes. Tara would be a good person to spend time with. She was nice, and most importantly, she didn’t talk a lot. And I knew she’d be smart enough not to bring up… “Good morning,” I replied pleasantly.

“Are you coming to school today?” Dad asked.

“Yeah, of course,” I said. “I have to keep up with my studies.”

He nodded, but made no comment. I could tell that he’d been hoping that this would be enough to deter me from continuing with mainstream education. But I wasn’t about to give him that satisfaction. If I gave in now, he’d never let me do anything again. I had to prove that I could handle this.

“I do not doubt you,” he muttered.

Oh, but you do.

He sighed.

I finished my food and then placed my dishes in the sink. I’d tackle the hunting issue later. I wasn’t sure if the restriction was still in place, but either way, I wasn’t ready to try to wage that particular battle just yet.

I stared outside as we drove to school. The sky was particularly dark. We were halfway there when it began to rain. I looked up at the grey-black sky and wished for a sunny day for one of the first times in my life. But I knew where my sun was; I’d sent it away and it wasn’t coming back any time soon.

Stop, I ordered myself. You’ve had days to wallow. Besides, this is your own doing

“So,” Mom said. “Alice wants to go into town after school to run some errands. Want to come along? We can hit a book store.”

I hesitated as I took a moment to consider. I’d been counting on going straight home after school. Could I hold it together for that long? Yes, I decided. I can and I will. “Sure,” I told her.

She smiled. “Great.”

I stared out the window and wondered where he was, what he was doing. Did he ever think of me? If not, I couldn’t blame him.

English was brutal. I tried very hard to focus on Mr. Wickham’s poetry lecture, but it wasn’t capturing my interest, not today. Aunt Alice was eerily silent throughout the morning. I almost wished that she would say something. The more she talked, the less time I had to dwell on Jacob’s absence. The silence, however, seemed to punctuate my loneliness.

I took my usual seat at the lunch table and picked at the sandwich which my grandmother had prepared for me.

“Not hungry?” Tara asked, glancing at my plate, which was still full.

I glanced at her and shook my head. “Not really.”

She nodded, but said nothing. She was definitely going to be a good person to hang out with.

“My mom – er, Bella – and I are going to a bookstore after school,” I told her. “Want to come?”

She seemed surprised by the request. “Uh…well, sure.”

“Yes,” Ian encouraged. “We’ll have more than enough help as it is. Ade’s got most of it organized already.”

I looked at him in confusion.

“We’re moving the rest of our things into your house today,” Ian reminded me.

“Oh. Right,” I replied. I could vaguely remember hearing Adelaide talking (well, arguing) with Rob about it. Over the month that they’d been with us, they’d been gradually bringing some of their things into our house. Mostly what they’d brought was their clothes and personal effects, but Mom and I had warmly welcomed Tara’s books while Uncle Emmett and Uncle Jasper had been all too happy to add Ian’s gaming systems to our own collection.

I was barely aware of gym and science. I was just grateful when the day was over. Mom, Aunt Alice, Tara and me took Dad’s Volvo into town. Tara was mercifully silent as we drove, and Mom and Aunt Alice kept their conversation to themselves. When we got to the bookstore, Mom and Aunt Alice left to go to another store while Tara and I went inside.

“So,” she said, and then paused, a conflicted look passing over her face as though she were debating with herself internally.

I bit my lip and hoped she wasn’t going to bring Jacob up.

“Do you read much Shakespeare?” she asked finally.

I blinked. “Oh…uh, yeah. He’s my mom’s favourite, so I’ve read quite a bit of it.”

She nodded and turned to browse the shelves.

I glanced at the long row of books, but for the first time in my life, I found not one of them even remotely interesting.

Tara was virtually silent as she made her way through the store, picking out a book here and there. She glanced at me from time to time, but said not a word. When we re-joined Aunt Alice and Mom, Mom asked me why I hadn’t bought any books. I could see that this fact worried her. It probably should have worried me, too. I’d never been able to go into a bookstore and come out empty-handed, not ever. I shrugged and told her that I hadn’t found anything I wanted. This seemed to disturb her even more.

Well, we should probably get going,” Aunt Alice suggested. “Adelaide’s going to be irritated that we skipped out on moving day as it is.”

Tara shuddered slightly. “More than you know.”

The ride home was even quieter than the ride into town had been. Not even Aunt Alice and Mom tried to converse.

When we got home, my family was milling around the front yard, carrying boxes from the cars into the house. Adelaide stood in the epicentre, directing people, as Tara had predicted. She spun around to glare at us as we drove up.

Tara flinched. “Brace yourselves,” she murmured as we climbed out of the car. "She hasn't glared at me like that since 1986."

"What happened in 1986?" Mom said.

"Don't ask," Tara murmured.

The glare on her sister’s face was…well, just plain freaky. She crossed her arms and tapped her foot impatiently as we approached her.

“Adelaide!” Aunt Alice said sheepishly. “I see you’ve got things well underway.”

“Indeed,” she said, her eyes narrowing. “No thanks to you lot. Alice, did you go shopping without me?” she asked, wounded.

“No, of course not!” she exclaimed. “I would never do that to you. I would never even dream of it.”

Adelaide’s expression thawed slightly.

“We uh…had to run some errands in town,” Tara explained.

Adelaide’s glare shifted to her specifically.

Tara cleared her throat. “I uh…sorry. We should’ve told you.”

“Yes. You should have.”

“Well, we’re here now,” Aunt Alice smiled. “What’s there left to do?”

This melted the rest of her glare immediately. Adelaide gave us a brief summary of what remained to be done and then began distributing tasks – to everyone except me. Once everyone had left, I asked quietly, “Um, what do you want me to do?”

She looked at me, sympathy flashing across her face. “Oh. Well um…you don’t really have to…do anything, if you don’t want to.”

I pursed my lips. This was precisely what I’d been afraid of. “Adelaide, really, I’m okay.”

She tilted her head and gave me a knowing smile. “No. You’re not. And no one expects you to be. It’s only been two weeks.” Well, that answered that question. I’d known it had been a while, but I hadn’t realized that it had been two weeks. “Needing time…it’s not a weakness. Trust me." She smiled slightly and touched my arm. "It will get better eventually." Pain and memory played through her ice blue eyes for the briefest of moments before the controlled it. "Anyway, I think Esme has some food ready for you in the kitchen.”

I watched her leave and then walked into the house with a sigh. Food didn’t sound like a bad idea at the moment. I found my grandmother flitting about the kitchen. She paused for a moment to tie her caramel-coloured hair back into a bun and then glanced in my direction. She did a double-take and then smiled. “Oh. Nessie. I didn’t hear you come in. How’re you feeling, hon?”

I slid into my usual seat as she placed a steaming plate of beef and vegetables in front of me. “I’m okay. A little tired, I guess.”

She nodded sympathetically and glanced out the window. “I see Adelaide’s still got everyone hard at work.”

“Yeah,” I said, looking over my shoulder.

Ian appeared in the doorway. “Esme, may I have a blood packet?” he asked.

“Of course, dear,” she said. “What’s ours is yours. Help yourself.”

“Thanks,” he said, smiling at her and then shooting a wink in my direction as he made his way to the fridge.

“Aren’t you supposed to be helping Adelaide?” Grandma Esme asked curiously.

“Yes,” he replied. “And after I grab this, I’m going to go hide, so if she comes in here asking for me, neither of you have any idea where I am.”

I smiled. I marvelled for a moment at the feeling of a natural smile. It felt like it had been ages since I’d had reason to. I kept a casual conversation going with Grandma Esme as I ate my meal and then went up to my room. I frowned as I caught Ian’s scent leading towards the library. I wandered down the hall and opened the door to find him glancing around the room. “Uh…” I said, raising an eyebrow.

He glanced at me and then smiled awkwardly. “Oh. Sorry. I was thinking that this would probably be the last place Adelaide would look for me. I hope you don’t mind. I can find somewhere else if you’d like.”

“No, no, that’s fine,” I chuckled. “But isn’t she going to be furious when she does find you?”

He shrugged. "Nothing could top the Great Explosion of '86, so I can handle it. Besides, Rob wouldn't let her actually hurt me."

I smiled slightly, and he returned to browsing.

I made my way back to my room slowly, dreading the sight of the disaster I’d inflicted on my room. However, everything had been neatly repaired or replaced. The indent in my wall had even been filled in and painted over. This was clearly Grandma Esme’s work. I felt tears gather in my eyes. My family was so much more than I deserved.

I slid down the back of my door and laid my head on my knees. I was suddenly exhausted. Pretending all day had completely drained me.

I managed to keep up the façade for the rest of the week. But the moment school ended Friday afternoon, I knew that there wasn’t much more that I could take.

“Hey Dad?” I asked as we drove home.

He glanced at me in the rear-view mirror. “Yes?”

“Am I allowed to go hunting now?”

He and my mother exchanged glances. He was silent for a long time, and then replied, “No, I’m afraid not, Nessie. I just want to act with an abundance of caution.” He grimaced as he waited for my reply.

I lowered my eyes. “Okay.”

My father almost drove off the road.

“Whoa! Dad!” I exclaimed. “What’re you doing?”

“‘Okay’?” he asked incredulously. “You’re not going to argue?”

I shook my head. There was no point. I was too tired to fight and too apathetic to care.

His brow furrowed.

When we got home, I went to my room quickly. I lay down on my bed and exhaled. I cracked an eye open and caught sight of my promise bracelet. The sight of that simple, inoffensive object was just enough to send me over the edge. I burst into tears suddenly. I heard my mother come in quietly after several moments. She sat on the bed beside me and stroked my arm. “Oh Nessie,” she sighed.

I sat up and looked at her. The worried and helpless expression on her face made me feel worse. I began to sob harder.

She wrapped her arms around me and sighed again.

It took me a long time to calm myself. When I finally did manage to regain control, I became aware of the sound of my dad pacing on the first floor.

“She’s completely hysterical, Carlisle. I don’t think we have a choice. I can’t watch her like this anymore,” he was saying.

Grandpa Carlisle sighed. “I had hoped Jacob would come back before this, for both of their sakes.”

“But we both know he would never do that,” Dad said hopelessly. “He thinks she truly wants him gone permanently, and he always gives her what she wants. He had absolutely no intention of returning when he left.” He was right about that, and that made it worse.

Grandpa Carlisle was silent for a moment. “This could be dangerous, Edward. Alice won’t be able to see the outcome,” The werewolves had no love for half-breeds, as they’d made so clear. “And with the Volturi soon to be after us, that only increases the danger.”

“I know.”

“Please be careful.” It was Grandma Esme’s sad, tearful voice now. “I need all three of you back.”

“I will, Mom,” Dad said gently.

“When will you leave?” asked Grandpa Carlisle.

“As soon as I can pry Bella away from her.”

I felt a glimmer of hope ignite within me suddenly. It was the first hint of relief that I’d felt in weeks. I knew how selfish it was to want him back after all I’d done, but I couldn’t help myself. Jacob was one of the foundations on which my world was built. No matter how much time passed, I knew that nothing would ever change that. I’d always known that in some part of my mind. But I had managed to forget just long enough to destroy things beyond repair.

Mom, too, seemed to be listening. She looked at me. “I’ll get Rose.” She kissed my forehead and then went downstairs.

I wiped my eyes and nodded. The faster they went, the sooner I’d get him back.

My hope was halted suddenly. What would I do if he wouldn’t come back? What if I’d pushed him too far? What would I do then? I felt terror churn in my stomach. I already knew the answer to that.

“He…He wouldn’t refuse to return, would he?” Adelaide asked, apparently mirroring my thoughts.

“No,” Dad replied in a tone that didn’t sound entirely certain. “She’s his imprint. It’s as painful for him to be away from her as it is for her to be away from him, if not more.” I shuddered at that idea. “He’s completely connected to her.”

I felt a warm glow spreading over me. Jacob was connected to me?

“Please, Edward, get him back for her. She’s starting to give me a headache,” Uncle Jasper said. “I’ve never felt her change emotions this quickly. She’s like a mood ring.”

I bit my lip. I’d have to work on getting that under control.

Aunt Rose came in then. She sat down beside me and brushed my hair out of my eyes. “You’ve been listening, I presume?”

“Yeah.”

She nodded, and then was quiet for a moment. “Nessie, I’m sure he’ll come back.”

And I’d been sure that I’d never be stupid enough to do something like send him away. “I just…don’t want to get my hopes up yet,” I said. Overexcitement left me open to the possibility of crushing disappointment, and I would not, I could not take that risk.

I heard the sound of a car speeding out of the garage and down the driveway, and with that the glimmer of hope became a steadily-smouldering ember. Even if he didn’t return, I would at least be able to know that we’d tried. Nonetheless, the very idea of them failing to bring him back…

I shivered.

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