4. Be ME
The roads were slick, and the weather conditions felt hazardous to be outside, let alone driving a motorcycle. He had had to take it slowly, and two-wheeled vehicles, while okay in his vampire form, were not Edward's preference. The rain was coming down steadily as he reached the rustic barn-style house, and in the darkness, Edward could hardly make out its red color. Judging purely by the boy's directions, this must have been Jacob's home. It was late, and to prevent disturbing Jacob's father, Edward pushed the bike into their garage. His body felt heavy and tired, and his eyes were bleary. The front door was unlocked as Jacob had said it would be, and Edward had just stepped through the threshold when he heard a voice behind him.
"Hey. Where've you been?"
Edward turned around to face a man, dressed in cutoff shorts and tank top just like he was, not disturbed at all by the drops that spilled onto him. With dark eyes and short dark hair, the man appeared less than twenty years old, but there was an air of authority about him. Jacob had mentioned the wolf pack and its members to him, and now, Edward was having trouble keeping straight all the names Jacob had given him.
Sam Uley laughed. "When are you gonna learn, Jake? You need to let Bella go. She's like poison for your brain," he told him, pointing toward his head with a dark index finger.
Good advice, Edward thought. "I know." There had been times when Edward felt that way as well. Bella was like poison, the sweetest, deadliest kind – her scent, her smile, her essence was like a narcotic that possessed him.
The leader of the pack chuckled and leaned forward to tousle Edward's hair. "We're going to meet tomorrow evening. You look like hell. Get some sleep."
Sleep. Edward had longed for sleep for nearly ninety years – a break from eternity, the beautiful release from his immortality if only for a short while. Though he had not felt this way in close to a century, the tiredness was digging deep and settling in his bones. Sam was already leaving, and Edward closed the door behind him as another yawn escaped him, long and insistent. He longed to get out of these wet clothes that seemed now to be pasted to his body, and his fingers moved to brush the wetness from the corners of his eyes as he surveyed the interior.
Jacob had told him that his room was toward the back of the house, but Edward paused in the kitchen at the sight of the faucet. Thirsty. His mouth was so dry he felt like he had swallowed dirt. The heel of his palm pushed up on the faucet handle, and to his delight, a stream of cool water poured out. Although Edward was civilized, he had no desire to pore through every cupboard in search of a glass. He bent down, parting his lips in rapt anticipation, and as the refreshing flow filled his mouth like the most sacred waterfall, he drank and drank, lavishing the dryness of his throat with several gulps, not caring how the collar of his tank top had become saturated or that drops of liquid gold were spilling from the corners of his lips. Water – it was a miracle in itself.
"Jake, is that you?"
Edward looked up, sated and out of breath. That voice had to belong to Jacob's father coming from the other room. Bobby? No, no, Billy. Billy Black.
"Yeah, it's me," he replied, pushing back on the handle and shutting off the water. He hoped that Billy did not want to engage in a discussion with him. Besides the fact that he was trying to live another person's life, his mental acuity was suffering from exhaustion.
"No luck with Bella?"
That was an understatement. "No." Edward wondered now how Jacob addressed him. Father, dad, daddy, Billy, what? "I'm tired. I'm going to bed."
"Alright. Goodnight, Jake."
"Goodnight," Edward said with relief. Room at the end, Edward recalled, his belly sloshing loudly as he made his sluggish way toward the back rooms. Deciding that Jacob's was the small one on the end with the disheveled bed, Edward wasn't bothered that there were clothes on the floor and a mass of clutter on the shelves and dresser. The modest bed with its crumpled blankets looked like heaven with a pillow.
In the darkness, he found a dry pair of shorts, peeled off his wet clothes, and threw them into the overflowing hamper. His skin was still damp as he dressed and afterward, his long body plopped onto the small mattress. And before he could think one more thought, Edward was encompassed by a blissful slumber.
Seated in the drivers' seat of Edward's Volvo, Jacob kept closing his eyes as though he would open them to find that this was all a nightmare. It couldn't be a nightmare, though, his mind reasoned. It was too lucid. He could hear the drops of rain as they pattered against the earth, the bustle of the tiny animals scurrying about inside the forest, the whispers of voices inside the houses a block down, and the harried sloshing of tires along wet pavement.
What a mess, he thought.
Maybe he didn't have to go anywhere. He could just sit here, his sense of smell dulled by the enclosure. Here he would be safe until Edward called, Jacob told himself. Safe from dangerous scents and unreasonable urges. Safe from encounters with other leeches. A car door slammed, yet Jacob ignored it, certain that whoever it was would go away. Nobody knew he was here.
Jacob could hear the thoughts in the distance. What he didn't hear were footsteps, and when there was a sudden knock at his window, he was startled by the pale female face that stared back at him.
"Edward! What are you doing here?" Alice demanded.
He couldn't help but be taken aback by the distinct bell pitch to her voice. Alice. Oh crap, he thought, a wave of dread crashing over him like a tsunami. Instantly he recognized her from that encounter at Bella's house close to a year before. He wondered how old she really was; she looked the same, he mused, pleased by his perfect recall. Petite, young, choppy dark hair. "Hi, Alice," Jacob greeted, faking a pleased smile. Jacob was anything but pleased.
I was worried sick! And my head still hurts! And I still can't see you!
She wasn't speaking, but her thoughts were charging at him like a bullet. And she wasn't making any sense. Be Edward, he told himself.
"I'm right here."
Alice rolled her eyes. Of course you're right there. I'm not blind, Edward. What I'm saying is that, I… can't… see… you! She was holding up her palms in frustration.
Jacob's brows drew together, confused. From what he could see from this female vampire, he wondered if the other Cullens were lunatics as well. It didn't matter that as she stood there with raindrops sliding down her face, he pondered starting the car and driving as far from her as possible…but then she would probably still catch him. Sighing, he tried to calculate the best way to handle this.
Open the window.
He could tell she was becoming upset as she tugged her hoodie over her head. The last thing he wanted was to deal with an irrational bloodsucker. Instead of doing anything, he remained as still as a statue.
Are you ignoring me? Edward Anthony Masen Cullen! Open the window or…or…so help me, I will tear open this door!
It was slightly difficult for Jacob to imagine a fashionable petite girl like this wrenching a car door off a vehicle, but judging by the crazed expression on her face, he was convinced that she was capable.
"Okay," he said grudgingly, although he could hear her just fine with the window closed. His finger moved to push the little switch to lower the windows, but Alice had whipped around already to the passenger side and was tugging on the handle.
Freak, he thought, but then wondered if any of the others could read minds as well. No sooner had he pushed the button to unlock the doors than she was sitting right beside him, straightening out the wet beige ruffles of her designer blouse. This was very odd for Jacob because here he was sitting next to a vampire, and the fume of her scent didn't burn his nostrils like the last time. In fact, this little vampire fashionista had a somewhat floral scent to her, a little strong, but not unpleasant.
"Now, do you mind telling me what is going on?" she hissed, freeing her locks from the hoodie.
Jacob wondered if he should tell her the truth, if he could trust her. Or if he should bother…he was counting on the fact that Edward would speak to Emily's neighbor and by tomorrow night they would be back in their own bodies - zip boom bam! But then, what if they didn't change back? Edward had mentioned speaking to Carlisle about it, so rather than confiding in this deranged pixie woman, Jacob resolved to do that instead.
"Nothing is wrong, Alice," Jacob told her innocently.
"Why are you sitting here in your car? Bella said that you had to go, that I called you for help."
Be Edward. Be Edward. Jacob had to think very quickly. "Her scent was too strong," he told her dramatically and pushed his face into the steering wheel, causing a loud honking sound. Startled, he leaned his head back against the headrest and turned his face away from Alice. "I couldn't stand to be around Bella, so I made up a reason to leave."
It was the truth…sort of.
"I wanted to kill her, Alice! Oh, the shame!"
Alice's eyebrows knit together. Very strange. Are you feeling alright?
"I'm just not feeling like myself," Jacob admitted, considering the irony of it all. He brought the back of his hand to his forehead. "I don't deserve to live!"
Now, now, Edward. Calm down. She set her hand on his and squeezed it.
For having the reputation of being a "cold one", her skin wasn't cold to the touch as he expected, and Jacob wondered if his own was.
"Let's get you home. Everything's going to be okay."
Jacob wasn't exactly convinced of that as he drove behind the crazy girl in the shiny yellow Porsche. He was thrilled by the speed on the odometer that was ticking past one hundred miles per hour, grinning widely at the power of Edward's vehicle even as it swerved onto the unpaved road, embracing the twists and turns deep into the thick forest. It didn't matter that he had never driven quite so fast before; Jacob had never felt so alive, wanting to push the pedal to the metal, escalating the speed to its limit. His reflexes were astonishingly sharp, and he couldn't help feeling indestructible.
The three story house that seemed unlikely to be found in such a remote location appeared like a faded white mansion against a backdrop of rich green surroundings. Surprised to find such a home amidst the ancient cedars, Jacob pulled the Volvo into the garage beside Alice. It was no secret that the Cullens had money, and a look in every direction confirmed this as he exited the vehicle into the oversized garage that already housed a Humvee and a cherry red Ferrari. As though it was not bad enough that they were a group of wretched vampires, they had to flaunt their wealth as well. A stab of bitterness tore into him as he entered to find the abnormally beautiful furnishings.
Jacob hadn't known what to expect - surely not an open floor plan with many windows, homey and not at all as he imagined. He could hear the thoughts already wondering why he was home. It was close to midnight as he followed Alice up the steps, unsure of which level Edward's room would be on. What he really wanted was to curl up in Edward's private quarters and avoid everything and everybody, but as he approached the family room with a television as large as the wall, he was taken aback to find two males and to his dismay, the wicked blonde female, seated casually on the couch.
Their golden eyes turned in unison from the screen to him.
The burliest of the three turned to face him with a smile, but didn't say a word. He was Emmett, Jacob mentally confirmed.
Hey, what are you doing home?
The blond male with curly hair, Jasper, looked puzzled. What's going on?
Rosalie was her name, the she-devil - who should not have had the nerve to cross the treaty line the week before - had the gall to glance his way. Emmett, who had also crossed, had at least had the decency to appear apologetic, but the blond shrew could have cared less for century-old Quileute traditions. As her golden eyes met his own, her expression was impossibly haughty, and the way that her blond brows rose high on her perfect, pale forehead irked Jacob to no end.
Even her thoughts had attitude, Jacob concluded sourly. Unable to control himself, his eyes narrowed threateningly, his lips parted with teeth bared, emitting a low growl that rose unexpectedly from deep inside his throat, and his torso angled toward her as he anticipated following his urge to tear the blond limb from perfect limb…longing to wipe that saucy expression from that chalky wicked face.
Emmett sat up, his palms rising questioningly. Dude, why are you growling at my wife?
What is going on, Edward? Jasper appeared concerned as his posture matched that of Emmett's, and his gaze held tightly onto Jacob's as though he was holding it with his bare hands.
And then for some reason unknown to Jacob, the tight ball of hostility inside him faded like a puff of smoke.
Rosalie's lips parted in surprise, and though her thoughts didn't match her words, she spoke, "What did I do?"
Be Edward, Jacob reminded himself, feeling unreasonably calm and now trying to account for what he had just done. Jacob still did not like the blond, but it was unlikely that Edward would have reacted that way to her presence.
Jacob pointed his finger at her, having no idea what to say. "You know what," he told her.
Befuddled, the three on the couch looked at one another.
What is going on?
What's eating him?
"And besides," Jacob began, instead of keeping his mouth shut, "it's late. Why is everyone still up?" He was beginning to get irritated by their thoughts, but the blanket of calm was pressing on him so hard that Jacob could not feel how he was supposed to be feeling.
That's it. I think he's lost his mind.
Dude, you're just acting weird.
There was a new voice in his mind, and the swell of thoughts around him felt like an unwelcome poke inside his head.
"See?" It was Alice's voice, and Jacob turned to find that now she was beside him, and her small hand was gesturing toward him.
Jacob was not sure at first who exactly Alice was talking to, but soon realized it was the female standing on the steps looking at him with questioning eyes.
Esme – the mother vampire. She stood there, one pale hand resting on the banister and the other casually against the leg of her slacks. As Jacob surveyed her sweet smile, her kind golden eyes, and the gentle fall of caramel curls past her shoulders, he held back the laughter. Hidden behind those angelic features was the soul of a deadly beast…and Jacob was not fooled. He did not trust her any more than the others.
"I see, Alice," Esme confirmed with a slight nod, keeping her gaze focused on Jacob as the rest looked on. "Edward, why don't we go talk upstairs privately?"
This was not what Jacob wanted at all, to be sucked into the mother vampire's private lair as she did god knows what to him. It took everything he had to break through the impossible barrier of calm that weighed down on his emotions like an anchor.
"No! I don't want to talk to you. Take me to Carlisle. I want to talk to Carlisle!"
Calm down, Edward!
You really shouldn't yell at Esme.
Edward, just go upstairs with her.
Edward, please let's be reasonable.
There were too many thoughts bombarding him at once, and out of frustration, he covered his ears with his hands as though that would block them out. Jacob closed his eyes and shouted again, "I demand to talk to Carlisle!"
He felt the gentle grasp of a hand on his arm.
"Please come with me?" Esme requested, and when Jacob opened his eyes, he found an unexpected amount of sympathy in hers. "I promise you will talk to Carlisle, but first you need to come with me."
At first Jacob made no move, allowing Esme to pull his hands away from his ears. It was hard, though, for him to resist the wave of mother ness emanating from her very being. As he zipped up the steps, following behind her, he ignored the thoughts from below and concentrated on the fact that he would have the mother vampire alone…apart from the protection from the rest of the group…and that as soon as he killed her, it would be easier to destroy the rest of the Cullens.