Breaking Up is Hard to Do
Well, everyone but me left. I had to do the whole "let her down easy" thing…or something. I would have to make myself distant.
I was there when she woke the next morning with a truly spectacular headache. I gave her a forehead kiss before darting out her window. No crooked smile this time.
"How do you feel?" I asked, opening the door of her truck for her when she got to school.
"Perfect," she replied, and winced as the sound of the truck door slamming intensified her headache for a moment.
We went through the morning together silently, but I could read that she wanted to talk to Alice, to know what the "seer" saw for us in the future. Too bad she was about to be disappointed. We walked into the lunchroom, and the first thing Bella noticed was that Alice wasn't at our usual table. She talked herself into thinking her class just got out late, until she saw two of Alice's classmates also in the lunchroom. Then she knew.
"Where's Alice?" she asked anxiously.
I looked at the granola bar I was slowly crumbling between my fingertips and answered. "She's with Jasper."
"Oh. Is he okay?"
"He's gone away for a while."
I just shrugged. "Nowhere in particular."
"And Alice, too," I said quietly.
"Yes. She'll be gone for a while. She was trying to convince him to go to Denali." That was one of our cover stories, anyway. It fit in with what happened during the ill-fated "birthday party," and plausible enough to make Bella believe it, and at the same time to ensure that she not tell anyone.
She audibly swallowed, and looked as if she was about to cry. Why-? Oh. A quick skim of her mind revealed all to me. She thought we were leaving because of her; that it was all her fault. Eh, let her think it. Besides, if I even tried to address that, she might get the hint that I can read her better than I led her to believe. Which was not at all.
"Is your arm bothering you?" I asked innocently.
"Who cares about my stupid arm?" she muttered in disgust. She sighed and put her head down on the table, and that ended that discussion.
"You'll come over later tonight?" she asked after school as I walked her silently to her truck. I always came over, after all.
"I have to work. I had to trade with Mrs. Newton to get yesterday off."
"So you'll come over when I'm home, though, right?" She sounded less sure now.
"If you want me to."
"I always want you," she said vehemently, with perhaps a little more intensity than the conversation required, as if stronger emotion would get me to do it.
"All right, then," I said as indifferently as I could manage.
We went our separate ways away from school, and Bella started panicking. It was quite fun to listen to, actually. She worried about when she would see Alice and Jasper again. She thought that Alice wouldn't stay away because she spent so much time over at Bella's—the hell?! Why was Alice spending so much time over there?! I'm supposed to have the claim over this girl, and Alice is poaching in my territory? We were going to have to have a little talk when I saw Alice again.
I got to her house before Bella got home, so Charlie let me in.
"Hi, Edward, Bella's not here yet, but I ordered pizza, and it's only been here a few minutes. Help yourself; the game's on in the TV room."
"Thanks." I went to the kitchen and grabbed a slice. Some kind of meat lovers' or something; a man's pizza; full of protein and delicious. I took it back to the living room and settled on the easy chair. Charlie and I didn't talk much, mostly grunted at each other and commented on the game. It was a deep conversation. It pretty much ended when Bella came home.
"In here," Charlie called.
"Hi," she said weakly.
"Hey, Bella," her father answered, eyes never moving from the screen. "We just had pizza. I think it's still on the table."
"Okay." She left to rummage around in the kitchen. While she was there, she glanced at the pile of presents her parents got her for her birthday. Her eyes lighted on the camera her mom gave her. I could read the notions flitting through her mind. She wasn't planning on being around much longer, anyway, and might want some memories of things from before, so…she ran up to her room. Snap! She came back downstairs and aimed the camera at Charlie and me. Snap! The flash got Charlie's attention.
"What are you doing, Bella?" Charlie complained.
"Oh, come on." She pretended to smile and went to sit on the floor in front of the sofa where Charlie lounged. "You know Mom will be calling soon to ask if I'm using my presents. I have to get to work before she can get her feelings hurt. Hey, Edward," she said brightly, "take one of me and my dad together." She tossed me the camera, and we took some more pictures, mostly of me and Bella. I deliberately kept any contact casual, though Bella clung to me like she was afraid I might evaporate or something if she let go for a second.
When we were done taking pictures, I unwound myself from Bella's embrace and sat in the armchair again, alone. Bella plunked down on the sofa and pulled her knees to her chin. Then we all three watched TV. Occasionally she would glance over at me disconsolately. I ignored her.
Finally the TV show ended. I stood up. "I'd better get home."
"See ya," Charlie said from the sofa.
Bella walked me to the door, but I didn't stay the night this time.
School the next day was pretty much a repeat of the day before, except I did less talking. But then, so did Bella, so thank goodness for small favors. She didn't ask me to come over again that night.
I decided to end this awkwardness the next day. Bella was determined that we would talk about it anyway, so it gave me the opening I needed.
"Do you mind if I come over today?" I asked before we got to the truck, beating her to the punch.
"Of course not."
"Right now?" I asked again, opening the door for her.
"Okay, I'll meet you there."
When she arrived at her house (I beat her there, of course) I reached to take her book bag as she climbed out of her truck, and then threw it back against the seat. "Come for a walk with me," I said, taking her hand. I began to walk, and my unspoken message was clear: 'you can walk, or you can be dragged, but either way you're following.'
She tried to pull away, but my grip was too strong for her. Duh. I hauled her out behind the house into the woods, still in sight of the clearing. By now she was mad.
"Okay, let's talk," she said. It sounded braver than she felt.
"Bella, we're leaving."
"Why now? Another year-"
"Bella, it's time. How much longer could we stay in Forks, after all? Carlisle can barely pass for thirty, and he's claiming thirty-three now. We'd have to start over soon regardless." That was our other cover story, though that one had a ring of truth to it. We could have made Carlisle appear older with makeup, but again, I just needed a plausible tale for Bella.
Huh. She didn't seem as shocked as I'd anticipated. What-? Then it hit me. What Bella thought I meant. I think we both realized at the same time.
"When you say we-," she whispered.
"I mean my family and myself." Each word enunciated and distinct.
"Okay," she said. "I'll come with you."
"You can't, Bella. Where we're going... It's not the right place for you."
"Where you are is the right place for me."
"I'm no good for you, Bella." Whoa. When did I get stuck in a soap opera?
"Don't be ridiculous." She was begging. Delicious. "You're the very best part of my life."
"My world is not for you," I said grimly, at least I hope it was grim.
"You promised! In Phoenix, you promised that you would stay-"
"As long as that was best for you," I interrupted to correct her.
"No! This is about my soul, isn't it?" she shouted, furious, the words exploding out of her mouth, yet somehow still pleading. "Carlisle told me about that, and I don't care, Edward. I don't care! You can have my soul. I don't want it without you-it's yours already!" Aw, thanks, Bella, that's the best gift anyone's ever given me. Too bad I don't want it at the moment. Though the ease with which you're willing to give up your soul is heartening, so buck up, champ.
"Bella, I don't want you to come with me." I spoke the words slowly and precisely, watching as she absorbed what I was really saying.
"You... don't... want me?" She repeated the words, apparently confused by the way they sounded. Lovely bit of editing you did there, sweetie, but not precisely what I said. Still, the main idea's there, so I suppose I can accept it. Now for the death knell:
"Don't." Her voice was just a whisper now. "Don't do this."
"I'm... tired of pretending to be something I'm not, Bella. I am not human. "I looked directly into her eyes. "I've let this go on much too long, and I'm sorry for that."
She swallowed, and said, "If…that's what you want." Aw, she's trying to be strong.
I reached over and cupped her cheek with one hand. "Take care of yourself. Charlie still needs you."
I stepped away. "That's everything, I suppose. We won't bother you again."
She started. "Alice isn't coming back," she realized.
I shook my head slowly.
"No. They're all gone. I stayed behind to tell you goodbye."
"Alice is gone?" she said in disbelief. Hey, lay off Alice already!
"She wanted to say goodbye, but I convinced her that a clean break would be better for you. Goodbye, Bella," I said in the same quiet, peaceful voice.
"Wait!" she choked out the word, reaching for me.
But I was already gone.
Gone and circling back to her house to remove everything that would remind her of me—the pictures, any of my clothing still lying around, and that CD I made for her, before she got back. Poor dear was in shock, would probably go to pieces in the short term. Meh, whatever. I brought everything back to the Cullen house, and then went back to see how Goldilocks was doing in the forest. I expected her to be sitting against a tree or something, numb or perhaps bawling her eyes out. I didn't expect what I found.
Not only had she not gone home, she had wandered into the forest! Honestly, does this girl possess a shred of common sense? Now she was lost in the woods at night. There were all kinds of things that could get her out here, even from the purely natural. A cougar would find her easy pickings, and a hungry bear would make mincemeat out of her! Now I had to spend all night watching out for her, and I couldn't even help when the search parties wandered her way—twice—and she said nothing, because that would have given the game away.
Eventually she was found by—oh, HELL no! Sigh. Some guy from the reservation. No help for it. At least it wasn't that puppy that's always running after her. I didn't know this guy. All I knew was that he was one of the special ones.
He only seemed interested in getting Bella away and safe, so I supposed he was all right. He got Bella safely home, and the doctor was there, and soon Charlie was too, so I was no longer needed.
There was a bonfire over at the reservation tonight, before search parties were requested. I guess they heard we peeled out. Remind me to send them a thank-you bomb someday.
JANUARY: Oh my GOD this is the worst surveillance job ever. This girl hasn't done anything interesting in FOUR SOLID MONTHS!! Carlisle is beginning to talk about calling off our wager altogether on account of SHEER BOREDOM! If she doesn't do something soon, I may have to kick-start her ass somehow.