We were halfway to Edward's car, his arm around my shoulders, my arm around his waist – we were being stared at again, but I didn't care – when my text message ringtone started going off.
My first thought was that it was Jessica. Possibly Angela. But, no.
"It's from my mom," I said, a bit bewildered. Mom knew how to text? Since when?
I quickly pulled up the message.
'We're home now. Come straight to the house. We'll get your stuff from the Cullens later.'
I felt a pang of sadness, and then a huge surge of guilt.
I should want to see my parents, right? And I did, but them being home signified an ending. An end I didn't want.
I wouldn't be able to see Edward nearly as often. I wouldn't get to fall asleep in his arms, or wake up against him.
"She wants me to go straight home," I told him as he opened my door for me. "I'll have to go back to your house later to get my stuff."
He gave a nod, then brushed the back of his fingers across my cheek. He could tell I was sad. I could see it in his eyes. Or maybe he was sad, too.
"It won't be so very different, I promise."
I sighed as I leaned into him. I wanted to believe that, but…
"At least I know I'll get to see you every day at school."
He shushed me consolingly, as his arms wrapped tightly around me. Time and space shifted.
I was conflicted between wanting to stay in Edward's world and returning to my own. My world seemed distant. Like it was a lifetime ago.
But school was also a part of my world. So were my friends. Edward had been able to integrate into that area of my life. Maybe I just needed to find a way to integrate him into my home life as well. Maybe then it wouldn't seem so devastating.
I needed to face it. Hiding in Edward's arms wouldn't be productive to anything long term.
"Okay, let's go," I whispered.
He inched away just a little and locked eyes with me. I was still in his arms. His compassionate expression urged the planet back into rotation.
"We love each other, that's the important thing."
I recognized my own words that I'd said to him on Monday being repeated back to me. They had clearly meant something to him. He seemed to be hoping that they would mean something to me now.
"I know. I'm okay. Or I will be," I added. I forced a slight yet determined smile onto my face as a way of proving that.
He smiled back, in that amused way I knew so well. "My brave little Bella."
He wasn't exactly teasing me, but I rolled my eyes anyway. Then I gave his lips a quick peck before climbing into the car.
We held hands for the entire trip to my house. The closer we got, the more anxious I became. The more anxious I became, the tighter his hold on my hand was.
He seemed tense, too, especially once we were minutes away. His jaw set. His form locked. His grip on the steering wheel tightened.
Clearly, my mood was rubbing off on him.
Or maybe not.
"I'm so sorry, Bella."
Huh? "What are you apologizing for?"
"Your parents know we spent a few days alone at your house. Jacob is there now. He depicted the situation negatively."
I didn't even have time to wrap my brain around that. We pulled up in front of the house, and sure enough, there was Jacob's bike.
Edward cut the engine and turned towards me. "I'm coming with you, to help explain."
I nodded, still confused. "What did he tell them?"
He sighed. "They're waiting for you."
That didn't answer my question. And apparently, he wasn't planning to. He left the car, rounded it, then opened my door and helped me out. I wanted to ask again, but I didn't. I would find out soon enough.
My parents looked both happy to see me and upset. With maybe a little bit of worried thrown in. Jacob looked a little guilty, but also pissed, though that seemed to be directed at Edward. His eyes narrowed when they flickered to mine and Edward's clasped hands.
"What's going on?" I asked.
My mom sighed heavily. "Jacob says that you and Edward spent a few days here? Alone?"
Was she asking me? Looking for me to confirm it?
Best to stick with the same lie. Consistency. "Yeah. His brother came down with the flu. Carlisle— um, Dr. Cullen, didn't want me to catch it."
I heard Jake scoff a little.
"Bells…" Dad pulled up his disciplinarian tone. He also seemed uncomfortable in his own skin. "We've never had to deal with this before… I mean, you've never had a boyfriend before…"
Wait. What? How did they know…?
I glanced briefly at Jacob. He didn't look guilty anymore. He almost looked smug.
"Please, baby…" Mom sounded both concerned and exasperated. "Just tell me you used protection."
All the blood rushed to my cheeks. I yanked my hand from Edward's reflexively.
"Chief Swan, Mrs. Swan, I promise you, my intentions toward your daughter are strictly honorable."
My parents eyed Edward incredulously. Suspiciously. They were almost glaring at him.
My embarrassment shifted into anger. "Oh my God! Nothing happened! He just didn't want me to be home alone!"
They stared back at me for a long few moments, seemingly shocked by my outburst. I had never once yelled at my parents before. Not since I was two or three years old, at least.
Charlie looked like he wanted to believe me. Renee clearly didn't.
"You're at risk for a lot worse than an unwanted pregnancy these days. There are sexually transmitted diseases—"
"Bah!" I didn't know what to say, but I needed to stop her talking. "Nothing! Happened!" I repeated insistently.
"Okay…" My dad sighed. Heavily. "I think it's time for your friends to leave."
Translated: we're going to keep talking about this, but not while the boy who deflowered you and the boy who told us about it are standing here.
Jacob started heading towards the door. I grabbed Edward's hand, stopping him from doing so.
"I'm going to walk Edward out. I'll be right back."
"I'm sure he can find his way," Charlie said.
His tone was firm. I didn't care.
"What, you think we're going to do something on the way to his car?" Okay, bad joke, in poor taste and timing, but I was mad. "I'll be right back!"
I didn't even wait for a response. I just started dragging Edward behind me.
Jacob was almost to his bike, but I was gaining the ground. Edward continued to allow me to pull him along with.
"What the hell, Jake?"
He spun around to face me. "You might hate me now, but I did it for your own good."
"Oh, please," I scoffed. "That was so not your motivation! You implied we were here having sex!"
His eyes dropped to mine and Edward's hands.
I scoffed again. "Holding hands means we're having sex? I think your school on the rez needs to offer some new Health Ed. classes."
"He's not safe, Bella. If you won't believe me, maybe your parents will be able to talk some sense into you."
"You're being paranoid, Jake. Edward would never hurt me."
Jacob's eyes narrowed on Edward, but he still spoke to me. "You don't know what he's capable of."
Yeah, I did. I couldn't tell Jake that, though. "And you do?"
His eyes were back on mine. They softened. He seemed wounded. "Why didn't you return my messages?"
Huh? What messages? "I didn't get any messages from you."
"I sent you dozens. You never responded. I even came here on Wednesday night, to check up on you, but you were gone."
Edward tightened his hold on my hand.
Okay, yeah, Forks had iffy cell phone service, but that usually meant a dropped call on occasion, or a couple of missed texts here and there. I wouldn't have missed dozens.
I pulled my phone out of my pocket so that I could check the history.
"Bella," Edward whispered, "please don't think too poorly of me." I blinked up at him, confused. "I was trying to protect you. I only did it because I didn't want him to upset you."
Huh? Do what? "What are you talking about?"
He sighed. "I blocked his number."
"What?" I nearly screeched at him, then I pulled up the settings on my phone to try and figure out exactly what he had done. "You had… no right… messing with…" What the hell? How did he do this? "Fix it!" I demanded as I shoved the phone at him.
It took him seconds, then he handed it back.
I waggled it at him before pushing it back into my pocket. "We're going to talk about this!" I snapped. Then I turned back to Jacob. He was smirking. "You can wipe that look off your face! I'm pissed at you, too! At least Edward's intentions were good!"
"And you think mine weren't?" He huffed, then turned his back on me and started for his bike.
I stomped after him. "I'm not done talking to you yet!"
"I have nothing more to say."
"Well I have tons! I was planning to tell my parents what happened! I was just going to do it without the inappropriate implications!"
"Well now they know," he said. "Go set them straight." He didn't give me a chance to respond. His eyes shifted over to Edward. "We'll be watching you."
It sounded like a threat. Edward just stared back, unconcerned.
After Jake kick-started his bike and took off, I spun around on Edward.
"You had no right! You have to trust me!"
"I do trust you. It's him I don't trust."
He was calm, despite the fact that I was essentially yelling at him. He sounded remorseful. Troubled. Genuinely worried. It softened me.
I closed the gap between us and fell into his arms. "I can handle Jake, Edward."
We both knew what I meant by that. I had often wondered, but now I was sure. Jake liked me, and Edward, being able to read his mind, was sure of that, too. And was jealous.
"Bella, you have to understand, your safety is everything to me."
I sighed. "Jacob's not going to hurt me, Edward."
"Maybe not intentionally. Maybe not physically."
I didn't have time to get into that with him. My parents were waiting. I was surprised they hadn't come out looking for me.
"We're going to have a discussion about this later," I told him, pushing out of his arms. "I don't want to get grounded, and if I don't go in there—"
"Bella, love, wait."
The intensity in his tone and expression made my nerves prickle. "What? What's wrong?"
Something was wrong. I could sense it. My adrenalin spiked.
"I'm so sorry…" I could tell he wasn't apologizing for the phone thing again. "Love, it's time."
Time? Time for what? I didn't think I'd said that out loud, but maybe I had.
"Your mother has decided. That is why they asked Jacob and me to leave."
Wait. What? "Now?"
"Yes. I'm so sorry."
My head started spinning.
I figured it wouldn't be much longer – Edward had said 'soon' – but now? I had been thinking months. Maybe weeks. At least days!
He pulled me into his arms. "I will remain nearby," he whispered, "should you need me."
I felt numb. Detached. In a surreal state of reality.
I nodded against him, then I shifted out of his embrace and headed for the house. I heard his car door open and close as I approached the steps. I heard him start the engine as I climbed them. I heard him drive away as I crossed the threshold.
My parents watched me as I entered the living room. Dad asked me to sit down. Mom was fidgeting. I stared at the floor.
"Baby, your father and I have decided that we… we need some time apart."
What a nice way to say it. That makes everything okay.
Yeah, not so much.
"You're getting a divorce." My voice sounded weird. Not like my voice at all.
"Well… yeah. We tried. We really did. But…"
"You're not happy." I continued to stare at the floor.
"No. We haven't been for a while. We both want you to know, this isn't your fault."
I knew that. "I'm not eight, Mom. I know how divorce works. I know it's not my fault."
There was a tiny hole in the carpet, about six inches in front of the couch. I wondered how it got there.
"We both still love you, is what your mother is trying to say. We will always love you, no matter what."
I knew that, too. "I know."
How had I ever wished for this to happen? I just wanted them to be happy. But no one seemed very happy.
"I know this is hard for you, baby, but, we need— we need to know… who you want to… live with."
I answered without any hesitation. "Dad."
I heard my mom gasp. She wasn't expecting me to answer so quickly. She wasn't expecting me to pick my dad. Or maybe both surprised her.
"You don't have to answer right away. You can sleep on it, and—"
I looked up for the first time since reentering the house. "Where do you plan to live?"
Mom's surprise seemed to grow. Her eyebrows arched a little higher. Her mouth dropped open a little more.
And then a slight, strained, awkward smile showed itself. "I was thinking about Arizona. It's sunny there all the time. We could start fresh. Wouldn't that be nice?"
Nice? "No, Mom, that wouldn't be nice. I don't want to start over someplace new, going into my senior year of high school! My life is here!"
"But, think of the possibilities—"
"I don't want to think about the possibilities!" I snapped, interrupting her. "You're the one who wants to change things! I like things the way they are. I like Forks! I'm staying with Dad! Someone should," I added coldly.
Okay, it was a low a blow, but I was pissed. I never imagined I would be, but I was.
She looked wounded. I didn't care.
And I was done talking. I pushed off the chair and stomped dramatically up to my room.
I slammed and locked the door after storming through it, then I spun around and…
You know the saying 'leap out of your own skin'? Yeah…
I didn't care how. I took three long strides and threw myself into Edward's arms.
Anger shifted into grief. I burst into tears.
"Shhh, love, I know."
"I hurt her," I whispered.
"She will forgive you."
I shook my head. "She won't. You didn't see her face."
He held me tighter. "The window. That's how I got in here."
I still didn't care. I clung to him as he stroked my hair. Time froze.
"Charlie is coming."
Fear shot through me. I pushed out of his arms and turned towards the door. Almost immediately, I spun back around. I had planned on telling him to hide, but he wasn't there. Confused, I did two full three-sixties, trying to locate him.
I glanced around the room one last time before opening the door.
He looked horrible. His eyes were glistening and hollow, his mouth was downturned, his body was slumped.
"Yeah?" My voice didn't sound like my own again.
He sighed. He seemed to be searching for the right words to say to me.
He finally decided on, "Are you sure this is what you want?"
No. This wasn't what I wanted. Not at all. But I knew he didn't mean the situation. He meant my choosing to stay with him, instead of going with Mom to Arizona.
I nodded. "When is she leaving?"
"Tonight. Soon. She's staying at the inn, until she makes the arrangements…"
His words choked off. He sighed again. He slumped a little more.
I threw myself into his arms.
I wanted my parents to be happy. Unfortunately, for one to be happy, meant the other would be miserable.
Charlie didn't want this. Renee did.
"I'm sorry," I whispered.
I heard him take in a shaky breath. Then I heard a knock at the door.
Startled, I pushed back and turned towards the sound.
"Mrs. Swan, I apologize for disturbing your family, but with your permission, I would like to take Bella to my house so that she may collect her things."
My mom said something in response, but I ignored it. I looked to my dad.
He gave a nod, then added, "It's a school night. Ten-thirty curfew."
I hugged him again, fiercely, but only for a second, then I ran down the stairs, past my mom and Edward, and straight for his car. I almost died three times, but I recovered. Apparently, death by face-plant was not what the fates had in store for the evening.
I didn't wait for Edward to open my door for me. I yanked the handle and threw myself inside.
I stared at the dashboard, knowing my mom was watching me from the doorway of the house. I didn't even glance at Edward as he slipped in behind the wheel.
He said nothing as he started the car and pulled away from the curb.
"My dad doesn't want this," I said.
"I know. I'm sorry I didn't tell you. I didn't feel it was my place to say."
We remained silent for the entire rest of the trip to his house.
He parked in front, cut the engine, and then we just sat there. I have no idea how much time passed. It didn't feel like minutes. It didn't feel like years. Time was suspended.
"Will you take a trip with me?"
Somehow, I knew where we were going.
To be continued…
Seems you guys like the prologue to the potential fic. Excellent. I appreciate your feedback on that. I'm still struggling to get Edward's 'voice' right, but I'm breezing through Midnight Sun again, hoping it will help. I'm about halfway into chapter one, but I need to get a bit more written before I will feel comfortable posting it. I also need a name and summary for it.
ADarnell: The possible future fic would not be a love triangle story. Jacob 'loves' her like friends and family 'love'. He's not 'in love' with her. I don't care for the love triangle aspect, either. I view all of it as a plot complication, and nothing more. Sorry to all the 'team Jacob' fans out there.
This chapter is a bit small. The next one will be, too. Sorry about that. Trust me, the epilogue chapter will more than make up for that. I'm still toying with cutting that chapter in two. Even if I do, each part will be over six thousand words.
Lostliveson4eva: This fic will be thirty-five chapters (or thirty-six, if I break the epilogue into two chapters).
Thank you so very much for continuing to read and review. I hope everyone is still enjoying it as we near the end.