Chapter Ten: Freak Storm
"My dad is a fucking douche bag who think he knows everything. I get that he's trying to help me, but I swear to fucking God, I just want him to leave me alone sometimes. Hell, a lot of the time."
I look down to my lap as Rosalie's words filter in through everyone's ears in the room. Carmen offers her words of encouragement to continue.
"My dad's a psychiatrist," Rosalie explains. "He tried to classify my fears, give my reactions to what Royce did a name. He didn't see that while it helped him, it didn't help me."
Rosalie speaks for a while longer, and Carmen gives her some great advice about what to do in regards to her father afterwards. Carmen speaks from experience of parents who didn't really understand.
Rose's admissions make me squirm. I don't know what I would have done without Charlie's support and understanding. Or even Billy and Jake's, who are like my second family.
I try to convey this to her as we sit next to the sweets table after the meeting has finished for the week. It doesn't go down well.
"That's the point. You had it easy, in that regard. I mean, sure people say bullshit about you. But you weren't locked in a room. You're guy didn't deny it all happened," she says bitterly as she sips her too-hot coffee.
I let Rosalie's comment slide as I can see she's in a bad mood. I watch her somewhat warily. Rose looks like the type of girl that used to be nice. She probably did cheerleading at school, or was the leader of the environment committee in her grade, or helped out at a soup kitchen on the weekend. But this Royce guy obviously fucked her up pretty bad. Ahe's hard and mean, and while I know from experience just how cruel it would be to say she's a better person for what happened, I can't help but wonder if her laugh sounded anything but bitter.
I try to change the subject. "Rose? Edward said Emmett asked you out on a date."
This makes the corners of her mouth lift a little – a ghost of a smile. "Yeah." She sighs before looking me dead in the eye. "I let him know straight away what he had to compete with: my worst nightmare haunting me every day. He said it wasn't a problem; he'd seen Ghostbusters a fair few times."
We laugh together at this.
"Sounds like Emmett," I confirm.
"He seems really sweet."
"Mmm. He looks like he'd be a player, but he's a serious relationship kind of guy. I think you guys would be good together."
"Yeah, well, we'll see. He's cooking us dinner at my place tomorrow night – nice, neutral ground, where I feel like he couldn't take advantage of me, y'know? Not that I think he would." Her smile grows wider. "He really does seem genuine."
I grab my backpack – today, school was in textbook overdrive and therefore I needed something more heavy duty that my usual fake Chanel – and sling it over my right shoulder. I say goodbye to Rosalie, Carmen, and the few other group members that are still lingering around and head home.
Friday – the day of Jake's party – can't come soon enough. When it finally arrives, I can barely contain my excitement. I haven't been out in so long and I haven't felt like going out in forever. It's a big accomplishment, and I can't wait to party.
I drive Alice home after school so she can pick up her stuff before we get ready at my house. Her mom approved Alice coming over to my house once she learned that my father was the chief of police and that we'd just be having an Austen-film-adaptation marathon.
Oh, Bella, you're so bad.
Alice's house on the inside is as grand as it looks on the outside. We sneak up to her room, stealthily stuff her party things into a big bag, and welcome her mother home from work downstairs.
Mary Brandon is the opposite of Alice. She has long, curly hair, and her real estate work uniform is a horrible orange colour. She's not at all chirpy, or fashionable, but she's polite, at least. She asks me all about my life and doesn't make mention of the incident, which I'm sure she sees more as a scandal.
She manages to critique every aspect of Alice's life through finding out stuff about mine while she puts the kettle on for a spot of tea. "Alice, I always said you should have picked Modern History over that dreary Ancient class." "Oh, Bella, I simply adore your jeans. Alice is more of a mini-skirt girl." "You cook for you and your father? Why, Alice won't set foot in the kitchen."
I resist the urge to tell Alice's mom off, knowing it won't help Alice's case. I change the subject and tell Mrs. Brandon how we got top marks for our King Lear research task due to Alice's brilliant ideas. She looks amused by this, until she spots something behind me, and snaps, "Alice Brandon!"
Alice jumps out of her daze – her vision-seeing daze.
"Sorry, Mom," she says meekly.
Mrs. Brandon rolls her eyes, tsks, and goes to pour us some tea. Alice shrieks, "Don't touch it! You'll burn yourself!"
Her mom ignores her, starts to pour the boiling water, only for the lid to come off and spill all over the bench top. It narrowly misses going all over her, but she's still hit with the tiny flecks of scalding water.
Mary Brandon stares at her daughter, wide-eyed with shock. "How did you know that was going to happen?" Her whisper echoes throughout the kitchen.
"Lucky guess," Alice says anxiously. It's obvious that this isn't the first time Alice has been eerily right about something and her mother has noticed.
I decide I should finally jump to the rescue. I bid our goodbyes to Mrs. Brandon, thank her for her hospitality, tell her to wish her husband well from me, and shove Alice out the door before she can catch up. Alice looks glumly out the passenger side window as we drive away from her home.
"Hey, Dad!" I sing out as Alice and I arrive at my house.
Charlie plays the Dad role well and even fixes us an afternoon snack as we talk about our days – aka, I successfully distract Alice from thinking about her mom. He is as pleased as I was that my history teacher let it slip that my Native American essay looks like it might receive full marks.
Alice and I spend the rest of the afternoon lounging around, resting up in anticipation of our big night. I gleefully see a bottle of vodka in the bottom of the kitchen cupboard, next to the lasagne sheets that only I bother to touch. After a while, we head up to my room and chill out. The sun has started to set, and orange glow splaying out through the tree branches haunt my window.
My best girl friend holds up a short, strapless black dress and throws it at me. I pick it up gingerly before stripping and putting it on. It's not as bad as I imagined; the top curves over, making it look like I actually have cleavage. The dress puckers in at the waist and flares out over my hips, ending mid-thigh.
"This is really cute, Alice."
I let Alice dictate what shoes I should wear – bejewelled, silver sandals – and how I should wear my hair – out, straightened with her flat iron – before I call dibs on deciding on my own make up. I go for simple black eye shadow, and make sure to put blush on so I don't resemble a vampire out in the dark with my pale skin. Alice jokingly struts out my bathroom, like she's a catwalk model, in a dark green metallic dress with cat-eye eyeliner adorning her eyes.
"Jasper would die happy if he saw you like that," I tease her quietly, readjusting my dress in the mirror. I'm kinda surprised that it fits both Alice and me, but whatever.
"Well, I'm sure Edward will freak out when he sees you tonight."
We turn up my music and chat about random crap while we finish getting ready. Somehow, the conversation turns to the incident.
"Did Phil go to jail?" Alice asks me tentatively. "I mean, I know you have that restraining order on him…but I just always wondered."
I swallow and shake my head. I fidget with my clothes nervously. "No, he's not in jail. But he lives…somewhere else. I don't actually know, now, but I think it's in another state pretty far away. The protection order we have against him is pretty, uhm, like…big, though. We had a court hearing and everything, so it's effective for the next two years. He can't contact me through third parties, even, like writing to me, or calling me."
I tug the dress down a little bit so it hugs my figure tighter. "Charlie was really the one who made me get the order," I add after a long moment. "Renee didn't want to press charges or anything – which I guess was understandable since she had loved him and didn't want to see him hurt. I was too afraid, at first, to do anything in case that made him angry and he retaliated – or that it was my word against his, and as there wasn't any other proof, he wouldn't be convicted. But Phil ended up admitting to what he did. …I feel a lot safer knowing that he could go to jail if he ever tried to come near me again."
Alice looks like she doesn't really know what to say. I laugh uncomfortably. "It's kind of a conversation-stopper, isn't it?"
Alice rolls her eyes. "I'm glad that you got the order – but I'm even gladder – gosh, is 'gladder' a word? Anyways! I'm even more glad that you're wearing this dress. It looks hot."
I shimmy on my faux dark brown leather jacket. "My legs are going to freeze," I tell her dryly.
"That's the price you pay for beauty!" Alice giggles.
We sneak down into the kitchen at seven-thirty after dinner and fill up a six-hundred millilitre bottle with vodka and pineapple juice. It's our shared drink for the night. While I would have preferred orange juice, this was going to be one of Alice's first times drinking, so I wanted her to at least enjoy some of the taste. Charlie is ignoring our antics as well as suffering memory loss in regards to him buying me a bottle of Grey Goose as he sits on the couch with the TV guide as his bible. I figured us sharing a drink would be the best way to go. While the old Bella was used to drinking a whole bottle of La Poire, the new Bella hadn't gotten drunk in over six months. I wanted to take this nice and slow.
Charlie briefs me quickly on the dangers of drink-driving, and tells me that he will be happy to pick us up if we need it during the night. I promise him I won't drive after drinking. I'm not that stupid. We'll probably end up sleeping in my car.
With the police Chief's warning ringing through us, Alice and I grab our handbags, hop in the car and sing along badly to Britney Spears until we reach the La Push beach. It's totally packed, the party well underway at eight pm.
There's a light, chilling breeze blowing the smoke from the bonfire out to sea. Alice and I gravitate towards the warm glow of the flames. Jacob greets us jovially, already drunk, and surprises Alice by giving her such a huge hug that it lifts her into the air. We laugh, joke, and Alice twists open the water bottle of pre-mixed vodka and pineapple juice we'd made earlier as I steal one of Jake's unopened beers when he's too busy making out with Leah Clearwater to notice. Alice and I survey and weave through the party crowd, looking for faces we know and like and say 'hey' to. I'm almost finished with Jake's light beer, and about to ask Alice for a swig of our shared vodka-and-pineapple, when someone calls, "Hey, Bella!"
I swing around, and I think my heart actually skips a beat. It's Edward who called my name, and he's grinning as he trudges through the thick sand towards us. I can feel myself grinning wildly back.
That is, until I see who Edward is dragging with him.
I'd recognize those legs anywhere; the photograph Edward showed me on our non-date comes to mind as I watch her traipse after Edward, her long to-die-for legs barely wrapped up in denim short-shorts. I'm still in shock as Edward comes over and gives me a tight hug. He warmly introduces Tanya as 'his best friend', who flashes me a smile, and says, "Hey, cute dress," to me before resuming downing what looks like a pre-mix can of rum and coke. The defeated look in her eyes is familiar; it's the same look Forks-Bella-Swan tried to cover up with concealer and eyeliner and mascara. Tanya's not rude, but she's not overly-friendly, either. There's a tiny part of me, deep down, begging to know: Why did he bring her when I invited him? I mean, I'd stressed to him that this wasn't a date – but wasn't it kinda rude to bring another girl along?
But Edward's always had girls for friends. The way he acts with Tanya, Lauren and Alice proves he's just being nice. I decide that Tanya isn't worth worrying about. In any case, Alice doesn't seem to be outraged on my behalf, which has always been a good indicator in social situations. I conclude that Tanya's just another one of Edward's friends he's trying to help. Maybe that's Edward's thing – helping people.
Or perhaps distracting them. I get wrenched away from my musings by him slipping a warm hand into my grasp; I look up to see him smiling at me, his head dipped down, the look in his eyes saying I really want to kiss you.
I squeeze his hand and obscure my mouth with my bottle as I drain the last of the beer. The alcohol hasn't hit me, yet. "Having a good time?" I ask Edward nervously in a loud voice over the music. Jake's set up his stereo in the boot of his newly-fixed Rabbit, which Embry and Quil seem to be manning for the night.
Edward's breath smells like vodka as he replies to me. "Yeah. Your friend definitely knows how to throw a party!"
Alice seems to have gotten Tanya talking, because when I look around Edward, I see that they're engaged in a conversation – or, rather, Tanya is delivering a drunken monologue. I smile as I see Alice take tentative sips of our vodka-and-pineapple while Tanya is espousing for shots to be poured. Alice notices I'm looking, and I wave her over. While making out with Edward would make for a fantastic night, I want him to know that if we….do…go further, which I've come to accept that I'm almost ready to do, that it won't just be about the physical stuff. We can still be cute together and just talk, goof off and stuff. Adding Alice to the conversation should give Edward the hint.
But before Alice can make her way over, Edward ducks his head and his lips press lightly against mine. His lips are warm and sandy from the grains that whip around us in the wind. I pull away immediately. "Not tonight," I say softly, determinedly. We are more than tipsy kisses. He is more than drunken gropes. I deserve sober.
"Hey, Edward!" I can hear Alice beam as she awkwardly walks around the small group surrounding Tanya, who is screaming, "Shots! Shots!" I think Alice is a little tipsy, but she seems content to not really drink much more tonight.
She passes me our drink and I take a small sip. Ack. I'd forgotten I loved to hate to drink you, Grey Goose.
"Alice," Edward acknowledges her happily. Our eyes meet, and I understand that he's begrudgingly going to let that moment – that kiss – slide. He notices Alice looking amusedly at his friend from Florida and he laughs. "We pre-drank before we got here," he explains.
"Hey, where's Emmett?" I ask, his comment triggering the question. "You did invite him, right?"
"Yeah, I think he was talking to your friend, Rosalie, over there," Edward replies, pointing back towards the grassy expanse where everyone illegally parked their cars. "Emmett's Sober Steve tonight. Rose's brother dropped her off, I think."
Edward gets Alice's full attention at this announcement. "Did he leave? Her, uh, brother?" she asks quickly.
Edward frowns, and ruffles his hair as he thinks. "Nah, I think he was going to stick around and 'keep an eye on her' or some shit. He said something about maybe skulking around, grabbing a few beers?"
Alice and I turn to each other and practically squeal in excitement. "Oh my god, Alice, you have to go talk to him!" I encourage her excitedly.
"Yeah, I totally should…" Alice starts to reply, but it's like she can't finish. She stares into the fire, unseeing. Edward laughs and waves a hand up and down in front of Alice's face until she snaps out of it.
"Sorry," she says, her eyes snapping up to meet mine, but sounding a bit dazed. "I just have a bad feeling about a phone."
Jacob seemingly stumbles out of nowhere, slaps Edward on the back in what is probably meant to be a brotherly hurt Bella and I'll slaughter you gesture, and laughs heartedly at Alice's words. "You had a vision?" he crows. "That's so f-freaking awesome!"
I snort and pull Jake back by his shirt as he grabs for one of the many rows of shots that Tanya has managed to pour. She's stuck them all out on someone's beach towel in the sand; lines of vodka in little plastic pink shot glasses set out like an army of alcohol. Jake must have gotten the shot glasses on special; they certainly look cheap enough.
"That's enough for you, Jake," I tell him sternly. He whines in protest, but appropriately takes a seat down on one of the long logs surrounding the bonfire – which has steadily been growing larger during the past hour – and stares drunkenly into the distance. I recognize one of Sam Uley's little punks lazing about on the log next to Jake, toking up. I roll my eyes and order Jake to go sit on the opposite side of the fire. This isn't the city, so the hardest drug most students can afford around in Forks is backyard-grown weed. Despite it being relatively harmless considering the alternatives Edward said were passed around at Florida parties, I don't want Jake getting passively high on top of being totally trashed.
I finish my motherly duties for the night and trudge through the sand back to Edward and Alice. I shake out my right foot, trying to get the sand to come out of my sandal, but it's no use. I find Edward taking a shot with Tanya, and Alice looking really upset as she talks into her cell.
She hangs up after a moment, looking like she might cry. "My mom rang me. She demanded that I come home."
I wrap an arm around Alice reassuringly. "Do you want to go? We could even call a cab if you don't want me driving, or Emmett could drop us both back home?"
Alice lets out an infuriated sigh. "You know what? No. I'm sick of doing what she tells me all the time. This is, like, the one time I've ever done anything rebellious. I'll stay and party with you."
"You're sure, Alice?"
I smile widely. "Excellent!"
We spin around as our names are slipping out of Tanya and Edward's inebriated mouths. We go and sit with them. Tanya wants to play a drinking game, apparently, even though she looks like one more drink will send her to sleep. She's wobbling when we're all sitting down.
I'm saved from declining, which would result in Tanya whining her head off, I'm sure, by Mike Newton. He jovially crashes in between Alice and me, shakes everyone's hands, and blows cigarette smoke into the middle of our little circle.
Edward coughs. "Poor asthmatic Edward," I tease with a pout over Alice's giggles at Mike's ridiculous behaviour.
"B-Bella." Mike stumbles over my name. He tries to smooth my hair down, but he kind of just whacks me on the head a couple of times. He's pissing Edward and me off, by the looks of it; he just can't tell. "Bella, Bella, Bella! I was right! Jess was sleeping with someone else."
"Dude, stop hitting her on the head," Edward growls.
I push Mike's hand away. "Uhm, yeah, you're kind of hurting me, Newton."
Mike looks so apologetic that his eyes practically bulge. His huge hand is now squeezing my arm. "I'm sorry! I know you don't like being touched-"
And just like that, I'm ice all over again.
"Whhhhhyyy?" Tanya asks in a small, baby-like voice. "Are you a virgin?" She continues on, going for a whisper but instead yelling loudly. She giggles and nudges Edward in the ribs. "Ooops, I know it's not that!"
Alice tries to change the subject and fails horribly. Mike Newton replies, "No, a couple of months ago, her step-dad or whatever felt her up and she freaks out when you like hug her now."
Tanya mumbles something about how that sucks 'major cock'. I can feel everyone's eyes on me. I stand up, throwing Mike away from me, hard, back on to the sand. I hope it fucking hurts him.
"That is NOT your business to tell anyone, Mike, you GOT IT?" I scream at him. I feel so fucking angry. It's my secret; it consumes my life and those words should only leave my lips, not anyone else's.
But that's how I got here, to be this fucked up and judged all the time. Loose lips.
I grab a couple of shots and tell Edward that I'll come find him later when I don't want to murder someone. He lets me go. I think he realizes that he probably will have to look after Tanya. I look at Alice, pained, and she gets up and follows me.
We walk across the sand, the billowing wind hitting us hard as we look around for a place to sit. Away from the fire, the breeze is somewhat refreshingly chilling.
Is this how it's going to be? Every time someone mentions the incident, every time someone makes a pass at me, I freak out? Am I going to be that predictable for the rest of my life?
I take a shot, savouring as it burns down my throat.
I'm sixteen, and I scream like I'm in a horror movie as Edward stands up in our canoe. We're on a nice little river, close to the campsite. We'd both thought it was a brilliant idea to try and go for a 'canoeing adventure' – Edward reasoning that since he could handle a surfboard, balancing a boat-like device couldn't be too hard.
But here we are, wobbling like there's no tomorrow. I shriek at Edward to sit down, and I have to rise up on my knees to tug his arm to pull him back down. The canoe wobbles dangerously, and we tumble over board.
I'm pushed down into the murky brown river, and with my eyes scrunched tightly shut, I vow to kill Edward when I get to the surface. I make my way upwards, pushing through the water. But I don't reach and the break through the surface. My head hits the underside of the upturned canoe. I'm shocked by the pain and scared by the fact that I can't reach the top.
I can barely breathe.