Chapter Four: Howling Wind
A/N: Thanks so much to the angel that is Kisbydog who beta'd this chapter for me. (Check out her fab twific As Long As You're Mine!) Thank you to ttharman and twilightheaded for being awesome reviewers! Soundtrack to this chapter: Crucify by Tori Amos.
I didn't think once of Phil when I kissed Edward.
This is the first rational and well-processed thought that my brain churns out as I drive home.
I try not to analyze what that means and fail miserably. It consumes my whole weekend. It's not like Edward could be the key to accepting and getting over the incident – I had trouble at the start of our previous vacation with touching his hand and kissing him. Besides, that would be the stuff of fairytales, or an inexperienced teenager's musings. Could it be a sign that I was getting closer to getting past it all? Maybe I'd been wrong, and Edward's incessant nagging had done some good.
Or maybe not.
Even though my life relates to nothing in Sense and Sensibility, my mind manages to still find connections as I attempt to distract myself over the weekend.
Charlie comes home late on Friday. It's not until we're halfway through our dinner of lemon chicken, vegetables and rice that he tentatively opens conversation with the admission, "I heard you and that Edward Cullen kid…uhh, kissed at work today."
Mrs Newton, Mike's gossip-whore mom, told Mrs Blah blah blah who came into the police station to report some graffiti defacing her mailbox, and whatdoyouknow, my dad knows I made out with Edward.
Charlie seems pretty relaxed about it – he's met Edward a few times when he's dropped me off or picked me up from vacation. The Cullens have known my parents since before they had broken up, but life got in the way, and it took years for our two families to reunite.
"You know the Cullens have moved here, right?" Charlie spends most of his time at the station, in the cruiser, or at La Push fishing. He doesn't usually get gossip that fast.
Charlie looks at me as though he questions the state of my mental health. "We've talked about them, Bella," he says quietly as he stabs another piece of chicken. Charlie's not big on rice, but he'll eat anything that once had a ticking heart. "Remember, Esme got a council architectural job here, so they all moved? Carlisle was real lucky to find a job at the hospital, there's been quite a number of doctors moving here in the last couple of years."
"We have?" I'm so confused. I didn't even know Charlie knew the Cullens were in town. Fuck. Have I been blacking out, or completely blocking conversations from my mind for the past three weeks? Why the hell would I not remember talking about Edward?
Charlie edges around the topic of the incident. I tell him I'm working on a way to get through it and that I think I'm close. Charlie looks at me with sad, brown eyes. He goes to say something heartfelt in reply, but instead clears his throat. He washes the dishes for the night and lets me watch whatever I want on TV, despite the fact that it's semi-finals night on channel five.
I tell him that I love him and promise to make something involving fish for dinner tomorrow night.
I can't decide whether to talk to Edward or not when I get back to school. Finally, I decide to just talk to him if he wants to in biology, which is on Tuesday.
I get to school on Monday morning, step out of my truck, and I'm immediately assaulted with people shouting things at me and whispering things about me.
I race to English, absolutely anguished and embarrassed. Apparently Edward and I did it doggie style in the back of Newton's store. No, wait, I gave him head in the back of his shiny Volvo. Then Mike took me for a ride. The nicest rumor is that I made out with Edward for an hour.
I'm going to kill Mike Newton. I'm going to march right up to him and beat the shit out of him.
I get to English. Mike is sitting up the back, and when I enter, he and his mates laugh loudly. I don't kill him, and I don't beat him up. I stalk over to my seat in the front row and close my eyes as my school bag falls down with a dull thump onto the floor.
I look over at my English buddy who greets me with a tentative smile. She coaxes me into conversation.
Alice looks like she didn't get much sleep the night before. Her mom got really angry because Alice didn't tell her she was going to the diner for a study break. Alice was already studying in the third week of school and wanted a break – but it caused she and her mom to fight all night. Alice's mom came from a broken home with no money, and only wants the best for her daughter. I think Mrs Brandon has lost sight of something in her life and is determined that her daughter has to be the best. At least, that's what Angela told me once.
I guess Charlie's pretty lax with my eleven-thirty curfew and his need-to-know-basis attitude to parenting. Alice lets me copy the answers down from our homework. I look at her with glassy-eyed wonder.
"I'll get Charlie to give you a college personal reference," I say, and I mean it. "All the college reps say who gives you a reference doesn't matter, but having a chief of police on your application will definitely put you in good stead."
Alice has to wait a moment before her voice cooperates with her brain. I'm almost thrown off my chair as she pulls me into a tight hug. "Thank you, Bella, thank you!"
Someone behind us coughs Lesbians! I wave my extended middle finger in their general direction as I explain to Alice, "I owe you, majorly. You have shit going on and still manage to function."
Alice doesn't appear to have heard me. "Ohmygod, my mom will love me for this! She wants me to get into a college like Dartmouth or whatever."
"Wow," I reply, interested. "What do you want to study?"
"Something to do with linguistics, or philosophy. College is probably the one thing in my life where my mom doesn't care what I do. She's just happy I want to go. No one in my family's ever been there!"
"Neither of your parents went to college?"
"Nah, dad just did a vocational course to get into real estate, and mom got her job through knowing people. My older sister has rebelled and is in art school at the moment. Of course, Cynthia could do no wrong in mom's eyes."
Alice's voice turns bitter when she mentions her sister. I had no idea that some parents played favorites – and besides, isn't it usually the baby of the family who gets away with murder? Anyways, I'm impressed that Alice already knows what she wants to do. I like the idea of college, but I'm still not sure of what I'd like to study. I like to read, but I'd never be good enough to be an English teacher. The same applies for most of the science-related courses I've checked out.
"Well, you're definitely great at English, so linguistics sounds right up your alley," I reply encouragingly. Then, something clicks in my brain. "Holy shit, Alice, your premonition thing came true!"
Alice's face is painted with a puzzled look.
"You told me, like, two weeks ago to watch out for ladders!" I exclaim excitedly. "And on Friday I kissed Edward and whacked my head on the store ladder, which lead to Mike seeing us and spreading it around school! Are you psychic, or something? Secretly Wiccan?"
Alice gasps. "So it is true, you did make out with Edward Cullen at Newton's store?"
I bit my lip, not willing to talk about it. "Um, yes – but that's not the point!"
I think Alice senses my unease about the topic, because she latches on to the other idea I voiced. "My mom would try to crucify me if I practiced magic," she says with amusement. "But I have always…known things. I just put it down to being very intuitive."
"It's really cool, Alice. You should do something with a gift like that." I say earnestly.
"What, become a superhero?" Alice snorts, and we dissolve into laughter. Our English teacher decides to enter stage left at this point and threaten us with detention if we don't shut up and get out our copies of King Lear. I wish he would do us all a favour and exeunt.
Lunch comes too quickly. When I reach my table with my lunch tray in hand, I find Jess and Angela eyeing me warily. Lauren looks at me as though I've pulled out her hair extensions.
"So, I heard you and Cullen fucked on Friday," she announces viciously. She says it so loud that half the people in the cafeteria turn around.
Pass the popcorn, and get one of those choc-tops, will you? It's the Exorcism of Isabella Swan.
"We didn't fuck, Lauren," I reply in a hushed voice. "We just kissed."
Lauren doesn't match my volume. "Whatever, slut. You think because you can get with your mom's boyfriend that you can just take whatever you want?"
His hands won't let up from their grip around my shoulders -
"It was obvious that he had a thing for Lauren," Jess interjects in a snippy voice. She's probably substituting Lauren for me in her head, but whatever. She's enjoying the show.
"Friends don't steal, Isabella," Lauren adds, her voice hard. I look to Angela for support, but she turns away, and my heart breaks at the gesture.
"Friends don't tell friend's secrets to the entire school, either, Lauren!" I snap back, angry tears pricking at the corners of my eyes. I scream, but he won't let go and I'm shaking with the force of the release of my once-suppressed rage.
Lauren smirks. "You've been wanting to say that for ages, haven't you, sweetie? Well, don't worry your ugly little head anymore. We're not friends anymore. You don't talk to us, you don't sit with us."
I feel like ripping Lauren's stupid mouth off.
"Bye-bye, Isabella," Lauren coos with a little wave of her fingers. Jess laughs loudly, and some guys from across the room yell out, Owned! Slut!
I turn away, my heart heavy with humiliation and regret and anger. I walk away from the table fast, keen to drop my tray in the trash and leave campus.
Someone blocks my path, and I try to manoeuvre my way around them.
"Just fuck off," I plead.
"No, Bella." Alice's voice comes from in front of me. I raise my head to see her looking at me determinedly.
"You walk out of here, and they win, Bella. Come sit with me. Show them that you don't need them."
I know in an instant that she's right. She leads me over to her smaller table, which is in the far corner of the cafeteria. I can hear Lauren snicker from across the room.
I sit so that I'm not facing my ex-friends. Alice surveys me, the ferocious look still in her blue eyes.
"Thanks," I mumble, trying to unconsciously wipe away my stupid tears.
Alice pulls out a chocolate bar from her canvas bag, undoes the wrapper, and takes a small bite. I stare at my dull Caesar salad morosely as she replies.
"I owe you. That college thing will be awesome. And besides…you're the first person in a long time to treat me like I'm normal."
I feel like crying again at her words. "That sucks so much, Alice."
Alice gives me a small smile. "I suppose it does."
"I'll tell Charlie about the reference tonight. Anything for a friend."
Alice's eyes are wide. "Friend?" she repeats in a tiny voice.
"Yes. I think you'll be a much better one than they ever were. Your intuition was right about them too."
"…Is Edward Cullen your friend?"
"Why?" I question, frowning.
"He's basically staring at you from across the room."
"Do you know him that well?"
I pause for a moment. She's my friend. I can let her in. "Yes, I do. We met a couple of years ago in Florida…"
Hours later, Jacob Black is tapping a tune out with his large fingers on our marble kitchen bench. He and his dad Billy are over for dinner. Jake goes to the high school over on the Quileute reservation, and is a bit younger than me – although you wouldn't know it from his height. He's like a handsomer version of the BFG.
"Helter Skelter, The Beatles?" I guess as the tune he's teasing me with. Jacob looks at me in mock-disgust.
"God, no." He shudders.
I cry out in exasperation and turn back to making the salad. "I give up."
Jacob stops tapping and rolls his eyes, grinning. "Well, you're no fun."
I stick my tongue out at him in jest. "Cut the tomatoes, will you?"
Jacob pulls a face before grabbing a knife and two tomatoes from beside the green chopping board I'm using.
"It looks like my dream catcher hasn't done much good," Jacob comments after a moment, frowning at me.
I sigh. "Not really, no. But it does look cute above my bed."
"Hmmm. Bells, has the not-sleeping got anything to with Mallory, Stanley and Weber being bitches about you kissing that Cullen guy?"
I almost chop my finger off instead of slicing the purple onion. "People on the rez know about that?"
Jacob nods in reply.
"Jesus fucking Christ."
"Amen to that, sister," Jake jokes. His face falls a little when he sees I'm not laughing.
"Cullen…he's your summerboy, right? The guy from Florida?" he asks slowly, as if unsure he should be asking it in the first place.
I quirk an eyebrow. "Summerboy? Um, yes, he is."
"Have you spoken to him since you made out with him?"
I sigh testily. "We are not going down that path, Jacob Black."
Jacob rolls his eyes in reply before his trademark sunny grin adorns his face once more. "Is he being nice to you?" he questions anyway.
"He's like a skinnier version of you, let's put it that way. We haven't spoken…yet."
"But you plan to?"
"Yes. Maybe. Probably. We have bio together. He's…as nice as you are to me, Jake."
"Oh, well, good. I guess I don't have to beat anybody up then."
Jacob slides the tomato slices onto the bed of lettuce.
"You could beat up Mike Newton if you like," I mutter darkly.
"Oooh, sounds tempting."
Charlie and Billy herald my smoked salmon pizzas as the best in the region. Half the salad is left untouched, typically. I spend the rest of the night tormenting Jacob by taking photos of him with the camera Renee got me a couple of birthdays ago; Jacob's super shy when it comes to having his picture taken. His beautiful copper skin even goes pink when I tell him to strike a pose. Photography is more of a hobby than something I'd consider as a career, but I love taking photos. I teach Jacob how to frame a shot, even though he ends up totally sucking. Jacob even manages to screw up my shutter speed settings. We talk about what happened at school, and he tells me that Alice seems nice. He likes the idea that she can see the future.
Jacob and Billy end up going home at ten, and so I stay up until twelve-thirty finishing my English homework. I eventually decide to just lie and say I read chapter thirteen of my modern history textbook. My teacher isn't checking the source questions until Thursday.
I don't have nightmares when I go to sleep, but I lucid dream. When I wake up at seven-thirty it feels as though I haven't slept much at all.
I don't want to get out of bed; I don't want to have to face Lauren and Jess and Angela. However, Alice promised me she'd put some new songs on my iPod if I gave it to her at school – and I need something more to listen to besides eighties crap. I can't just ditch her because I don't feel like going.
I decide to be brave. I get out of bed and open my wardrobe, prepared to not dress as Forks-Bella-Swan, but just me.
I look at the time and freak out. I have ten minutes to get to homeroom. I forget about dressing myself like myself, or wearing something to show Lauren and Jess and Angela that I'm still awesome without them. (Was I ever awesome?) I put on some jeans and a white sweater, shove my make-up in my bag, and race out the door.
I'm five minutes late to homeroom, and my teacher threatens me with detention if I keep up my tardiness. I'm ready to go to P.E. when I remember that I have a theory lesson today and need my textbook – which is sitting on the passenger seat of my chevy. Mike, bizarrely but kindly, offers to explain my absence to Coach Clapp. He loves Mike, and will let me off the hook. I get Newton's trying to make up for the disaster that he caused yesterday.
I snatch the book out of my car, and seize the chance to at least put my haphazard hair back off my face so that I resemble something other than the girl from The Ring. I sigh as I part my hair in the middle, using my dirty window as a mirror. I pull my hair up into a ponytail and put on a thin black headband. I didn't bring any make up, so the blackheads on my chin are visible for the whole world to see.
I look at my reflection in the window and realize that I don't know this scared, withdrawn girl who stares back at me with dark-circled eyes. The girl who has lost her friends, her confidence, and the respect of her teachers. This isn't the Bella you'll find in any of our photo albums.
This isn't the me that I hoped for when I woke up this morning, but she'll have to do. It doesn't look like she's leaving anytime soon.
We are sixteen. Emmett places his hands on his hips and looks towards the far right as I yell, "Strike a pose! Pout for me, baby!"
Edward and I are beside ourselves with laughter. I can't even hold the camera steady as we are sitting on the large rock. Emmett is still holding his pose, but I can see a smile jumping at the corner of his mouth.
A passerby looks at us as though we're crazy. She gives Emmett, who is posing in only his red swim trunks, an even odder look.
"He's too sexy for his shirt," Edward tells the random woman in all seriousness. She walks away quickly, and I get a stitch from laughing so hard.
I finally take the picture. We all look it at on the playback screen. It's totally blurry.
"Nice, Bella," Edward teases. "You should become a photographer or something."
I cry out in indignation and tackle Edward to the ground. I tickle him mercilessly. He screams out for me to stop, and looks to Emmett for help. Emmett holds Edward's arms down so that I'm unstoppable.
We arrive at the tennis court of the caravan park, where our parents are waiting, fifteen minutes late. Renee doesn't care, and Phil teases us about why we three are so late. Esme and Carlisle laugh at our appearance.
I have grass in my hair and my knees are stained with dirt, but I couldn't care less. Edward is worth it.