13. Two Feet
Emmett had kept careful watch over the house, leaving the car at times to circle the property. He had not picked up any unfamiliar scents – other than the wolf boy – who was supposed to have been on his own watch. The boy's snoring was not very loud, but Emmett's sensitive hearing picked it up from down the street. So much for being on guard, he thought wryly. Earlier that night when he had spied him climbing up the tree, he had phoned Edward to inform him of Jacob's presence. Since it did not bother Edward that he was there, Emmett let him be. Despite their attitudes toward each other, Emmett carried no personal grudge against the wolves and even thought it was cool to be working in cooperation.
The Cullens had been keeping him up to date via cell phone throughout the night as they discussed the possibilities, and Emmett found himself hungry for some excitement. It appeared that for over a week many killings had been reported, and now the action was moving south. Carlisle had voiced his concerns to Jasper, who, in turn, had suggested this may be the work of newborns. They deliberated if this could have all begun with Victoria – if she may be trying to raise her own army. Emmett agreed with Jasper's speculation about newborns. Though he was the youngest member of the family to enter the vampire world, he had seen and heard enough to know that any nomad who was determined to live their way of life had to guard the secret. The Volturi had no tolerance for carelessness, and this spree of killings plaguing the Pacific Northwest appeared to be just that. And the last thing the Cullens wanted was for the Volturi to pay them a visit.
To Bella, it seemed to be the only possible solution.
She tossed and turned in her bed.
As she had mentioned to Jacob, she was heavily considering going to Carlisle. She had not told him that it would be tonight; tonight she could sway him into changing her. With Edward's vulnerability to her blood, he could not possibly fight as hard against her reasoning. Being changed to a vampire seemed to be the only thing that made sense…except that there was something holding her back.
There was a tiny nagging feeling inside her; it urged her to stay and wait it out. She liked to believe that the change was inevitable. But, for now, there was too much uncertainty. Edward already understood how she felt about him, and if this was the only way for them to be together, Bella liked to think that he should have initiated this himself…why put himself through this all over again? Unless this was not what he had wanted…or had never wanted it.
He had submitted an application to Dartmouth for her, even with the ridiculous notion of paying the tuition – Edward seemed intent on keeping her human, no matter what. For Bella, it was becoming more and more difficult to judge Edward's fine line between what was right and what was the truth.
What was the truth? Edward could hardly handle himself around her. For no apparent reason, a year's worth of restraint had come and gone like the passing of a storm. And now, Bella wondered if her truth, her own immediate motivation for becoming a vampire was now inspired by her fear of him.
It was well past midnight when she rose from her bed. On another night when things were normal, Edward would have snuck in through the window to greet her, would have held her in his arms as she lay there wrapped in a thick blanket to shield herself from the chill of his body. She peered out the window into the night. It was clear, and a light breeze blew in, chilling her entire body. Before she could close the window, she spotted a figure on a branch, and for just a second, her heart skipped a beat. The light of the moon reflected the dark cut off jeans, the familiar blank tank top, the choppy black hair.
"Jake," she called out. "What are you doing out there? Go home."
Edward, who had been inadvertently slipping in and out of sleep, had not meant for her to see him. "I can't."
"I am duty bound to stay and guard you," he told her, rubbing his eyes. He knew that Bella would not question Sam's orders. Edward had been fortunate on past occasions to have read some of the wolf's policies in Jacob's thoughts.
"From dangerous vampires," he said, knowing that she was not aware of the real danger.
She shook her head, and a smirk came over her lips. "I don't think Edward will be back tonight."
"Go back to bed. You'll be safe."
"Jake…I can't just let you stay out there. I'm fine." She wrapped her arms around herself and began pressing down the arising goose bumps from her skin.
"Duty bound," he said again. "Unless you want to have it out with Sam…."
Bella hated this rivalry between the wolves and the vampires. She wished they could all just get along. "Just tell Sam that I kicked you out."
Edward crossed his arms over his chest. "You're stuck with me here, Bella, so you might as well go to bed."
In the darkness, she could not see if he was serious, but she was well aware of Jacob's stubbornness. "Fine," she said. "But if you catch your death out there, don't blame me."
He laughed, and she was eased by the low huskiness of his voice. "Good night, Bella. And close your window."
Her hands braced the top edge of the window. "Good night, Jake," she said, still irked by the fact that he had to be out there.
"Stupid Sam Uley. Stupid treaty, stupid rivalry," Bella grumbled. Though bitterness swept through her at the unfairness of it all, she closed the window shut and climbed into bed, still grumbling to herself. She would not have admitted it out loud as she imagined her best friend out on guard on the tree branch, his body too large to be comfortable there, but a wave of security enveloped her. Too tired now to be upset and safely tucked into her blankets, she drifted off to sleep.
Bella froze in her tracks, holding her textbooks tightly against her chest. She couldn't believe that she was there, on the sidewalk, peering across the lush green lawn at the live image of the historical white three story building she had only seen before in the catalog. As other students buzzed across the campus, Dartmouth Hall was within reach, steps away, larger than life.
"Let's go," he urged. "You don't want to be late on your first day."
"I know, but…what if…I don't belong here?" Bella asked him, her gaze on the clock tower. She focused on the large numbers – seventeen eighty- four. The clock face was sandwiched between the four digits.
"Of course you belong here. This is your future."
Taking a deep breath, she felt the warm weight of his hand on her shoulder gently leading her forward.
"I just want you to know. I could never do this without you, Jake," she said, turning to meet the light in his eyes and the whiteness of his teeth as he smiled.
"Thank God you don't have to. Now, let's get you inside before your sparkles begin drawing people's attention."
He was right. Though she was wearing long sleeves and pants, the diamond-like shimmer of her bare hands was as obvious as the glare of two mirrors shining in the sunlight. She took another deep breath, turning her books so that her fingers were gripping the underside and only a small part of her thumb was gripping the spine.
Determined now, she nodded her head. "Let's do this."
Edward opened his eyes when he heard her screaming, and from the branch where he was sitting he could see the figure of himself through Bella's window. And to his horror, the Edward inside was holding her down on the bed.
"Let her go! Do you hear me?" Edward called out from the tree branch, alarmed by barking sounds that were coming from his mouth. No matter how hard he tried to articulate, his words still emerged as a clamor that was distinctly canine.
The figure with his face and body moved away from her, allowing Bella to rise from the bed and make her way to the window. Her expression was disturbed, her brows furrowed as she met Edward's eyes through the window, and he noticed the left side of her neck stained with bright spots of crimson.
"What are you doing there? You go away!" she called out, gesturing Edward away with the wave of her hand.
"Bella! Get away from him!" Again, nothing but a bellow of aggressive woofs sounded out.
"Didn't you hear me? Go now! Shoo!"
Since Bella could not understand him, Edward directed his howls to the figure inside who stood behind her. With one arm he had shoved her aside, and to Edward's disgust, droplets of her blood ran down the corners of his lips.
"Didn't you hear her, mongrel?"
Edward had never before hated the sound of his voice as much as he did now.
"Get down!" Bella shouted again.
"Get down, Fido!"
That was it. Edward felt a vein burst in his forehead, and his whole body shook, stretching and expanding. Muscles and swollen flesh burst through his shorts and tank top. And as his body grew, his weight pressed down on the branch.
"Bad Hulk!" Bella exclaimed. "You get down now!"
Hulk? Edward found that in addition to his new girth and height, his skin was also an unattractive lime color. At least now, he rationalized, his reach could extend as far as the window, and he could hardly wait to grasp onto his evil twin and crush him like a cockroach.
"Get down!" the voice called out from the window, sounding oddly similar to Jacob's.
"Jake, get down," it called out again. Only the voice was not Jacob's…it was Sam's.
Edward sat up in surprise, almost losing his balance as his consciousness fought with the haze of lethargy. Sam's voice was calling out to him, waking him from his nightmare. Wiping his eyes, he realized that he had fallen asleep. Oops.
"Good morning, sleepyhead," Sam greeted.
The sunlight was peeking out from the horizon, and Edward's gaze turned back toward Bella's window. Unlike in his nightmare, she was safe and sleeping in her bed…alone.
"Do you smell that?" Sam asked, looking around. His voice had been tight but unalarmed.
Wiping his eyes again, Edward leapt down to the ground, landing evenly on his feet. He could not help be impressed by his increased agility. "That's one of the Cullens."
Sam nodded and then led Edward away from the Swan residence into the forest. He was quiet, and Edward wondered what the pack leader was thinking. The air was cool as their shoes crunched the leaves in their path, making their way toward the boundary. His face felt warm from the sun, and almost out of habit, he sought to take cover from the rays, but then remembered he was not in a vampire's body. Or in a hulk's…
Sam's mood had been tense this morning, and he felt like a bomb waiting to go off. The whole res had been buzzing about Leah's fever, though not to Sam's face. This would complicate things, and now imagining his former lover as a part of this close knit pack, Sam could not figure out how he was going to keep order among the wolves. Things between him and Leah had already been strained, and though she remained close to Emily, it did not ease the relationship between Leah and Sam.
For now, Sam struggled to keep his anxiety under wraps. He was hesitant about phasing; he liked the idea of putting it off until necessary. Being the leader, he had an image to uphold and did not need his fears and insecurities about Leah joining the pack undermining his authority.
"You're quiet," Sam remarked. "Was there any suspicious activity?" he asked, knowing that the scent of a foreign vampire would have ripped him from sleep.
Edward yawned. "No. Bella was completely safe."
More silence, more walking through the dense brush, both hesitant to speak.
"I wanted to thank you for sticking up for the Cullens at the meeting…."
Sam stopped before the trunk of a spruce, closed his eyes, and gritted his teeth. "Let's get something straight. I did it for Bella. I couldn't care less about those bloodsuckers."
This admission of Sam's was like a punch to his throat. "The Cullens…they're not so bad, you know," Edward told him, meeting his face. His posture was defensive, and his hands curled into fists.
Sam's eyes opened, narrowing into dark, angry slits. "Need I remind you, Jake, that you are the way you are because of those leeches? All of us – Jared, Paul, Quil, and Embry, and now…." Sam was about to say her name, but couldn't. For the life of him, he could not understand why Jacob looked surprised. He shook his head, wondering how deeply Bella's influence was affecting Jacob and then stormed ahead of him. This was the last thing Sam needed right now – he felt like anything would set him off.
Dizzy from Sam's words, it took Edward a moment to process it. He had not been able to help being what he was. Was he to understand now that his existence had altered their lives as well? Could this be true? Sam's pace had picked up, and feeling as though a dark cloud was hovering over him, Edward began moving toward him.
"I'm going to relieve Paul on the northwest end. Go relieve Jared, stay on the southeast end and patrol."
Fortunately, Edward had run with the group the evening before, becoming somewhat familiar with the location of the revised borders. "Okay, are we running…or…?" Edward had not known how literal he was meant to take Sam's instructions.
"We're just running today. Two feet. You still remember how to do that?" Sam teased, finding humor in Jacob's recent passiveness. However, he did not want to push him either.
Two feet. As he ran to meet Jared at the mark over five miles away, Edward had never realized how beautiful those two words were.