I was sprawled out on the roof of the Forks Cullen house, waiting, when Carlisle found me again.
"You are going to lose this one, you know that, right?"
"Don't claim victory just yet, old man."
"Now why shouldn't I?"
"Because," I crawled to the peak of the roof and looked over to other side, "of that." I pointed to the old truck making its way down the path toward the house. "Bella is still visiting old haunts and places that remind her of me. She hasn't given up on me." I hoped she never would. "She's still trying to hear my voice again."
We both became silent and ducked behind the apex of the roof as she scanned the outside of the house. She went inside, and I knew she was taking stock of all that had been there, and all that was left now. There was less than there had been when we were living there, proof positive that we had moved on, as far as mortal eyes could tell.
A few minutes later she emerged from the house and got back into her truck, stifling a sob as she went. There were trails of tears on her cheeks. Excellent; good news for me.
"She sure took off in a hurry. Where do you suppose she's going?"
I knew Carlisle well enough by now to know he knew damn well where she was going, so I didn't even bother trying to lie. "Probably to her puppy boy-toy," I answered glumly.
"She can't have you, so she runs after him. That seems pretty convincing that she doesn't need you anymore. Admit defeat already."
"No. She's still looking for me. If I came back, she would jump right into my arms, I know it."
Carlisle folded his arms and gave me one of his "looks." "At the rate you're going, you won't admit I've won until they're consummating their marriage."
He leaned in to whisper, "And I can tell you I'm not willing to wait that long." He abruptly jumped off the roof and vanished into the forest. His meaning was all too clear: I didn't have very much time left before he declared victory.
And there would be nothing I could do about it.
The next few days were at least a partial relief. Bella had school, so I was able to keep watch on her a good portion of the day, anyway.
J-friend still wouldn't talk to her, something I really didn't blame her for, but two of her friends were willing to forgive and forget, it seemed. Bummer. Her guy friend, who still had a crush on her, tried to ask her out, and she all but turned him down flat. That made me happy to observe. They did plan out a going-to-the-movies-as-friends night, though, so that made me a little wary.
It was when she went home that I was given a horrifying surprise. Puppy's vehicle was in the driveway. He was waiting for her to come home so they could hang, I guess. She invited him inside?! No, don't do it! Oh. How cute. They're study buddies. Bella, how could you? We were never study buddies! Maybe that was the problem. We never did cutesy normal things together, which would have reminded her of me every day. Instead, we mostly had special places and events, like the meadow and the house and that stupid baseball game. Edward, you are a loser.
So, what are you going to do about it?
First, I have to rid her of her obsession with this puppy.
And how are you going to do that?
I have to get her thinking about me again. Wait, she may or may not have heard me in her head before, but either way, she already believes that she heard my voice.
So, if I started actively projecting my voice inside her head, she may think it's just a continuation of the phenomenon, as long as it's sporadic, or at least seems incidental.
That sounds like a good plan. What next?
Next, I'm going to stop having two-person conversations in my own head; I'm pretty sure that's a sign of insanity.
The next day Bella got a call from Jacob the Puppy. It sounded to me like my first death peal, even though I could only hear Bella's side of the conversation.
It took her a second to answer. "They're done? I can't believe it!"
"Jacob, you are absolutely, without a doubt, the most talented and wonderful person I know.You get ten years for this one." Wait, what the hell did that mean? Ten years of what? The thought was already long gone in her mind, and all she could think about was her precious motorcycles. Ten years of what?
Bella laughed. "I'm on my way up!"
"Headed to see Jake?" Charlie said when she ran out the door. It wasn't really a question.
"Yep," she replied as she jumped in her truck.
"I'll be at the station later," Charlie called after her.
"Okay," she yelled back.
Charlie said, "Where's the fire?" as she gunned the engine.
That's what I wanted to know. Even if she was excited about getting the motorcycles, she still seemed way too eager to join puppy-boy and spend time with him. I was starting to fear that Carlisle was right. Maybe I had already lost. Not that I would admit it to him any time soon.
I almost stalked off to sulk in disgust, when I remembered exactly what Bella had said: "They're done." Of course! Today they are going to begin riding lessons!
So I stuck around the edge of the res, waiting for them to emerge. After all, the area around the reservation is not prime motorbike riding ground, at least not for beginners. I was rewarded for my diligence with the sight of Bella and her puppy tag-along taking the bikes south of town in her pickup. Bella was driving slowly along the trail, glancing over at the ocean every now and again, when they came upon some cliff divers poised at the top of the precipice. One of them jumped, and Bella stomped on the brake, causing both in the cab to be thrown forward.
"No!" she shouted.
"What's wrong?" Jacob shouted back, alarmed.
"That guy–he just jumped off the cliff! Why didn't they stop him? We've got to call anambulance!" she threw open her door and started to get out.
Jacob laughed, and she spun to stare at him wildly. "They're just cliff diving, Bella. Recreation. La Push doesn't have a mall, you know."
"Cliff diving?" she repeated. A second figure stepped to the edge, paused, and then very gracefully leaped into space. He fell for what seemed like an eternity, finally cutting smoothly into the dark gray waves below.
"Wow. It's so high. It must be a hundred feet."
"Well, yeah, most of us jump from lower down, that rock that juts out from the cliff abouthalfway." He pointed out his window. "Those guys are insane. Probably showing off how tough they are. I mean, really, it's freezing today. That water can't feel good."
"You jump off the cliff?" she asked, thinking about the "us."
"Sure, sure." He shrugged and grinned. "It's fun. A little scary, kind of a rush."
She looked back at the cliffs, where the third figure was pacing the edge. Her eyes widened, and she smiled. Uh-oh… "Jake, you have to take me cliff diving."
Oh, fabulous. Now she wanted to fling herself off a sea cliff into the dubious landing pad of the ocean. That wasn't reckless at all. I was starting to believe that she was actually trying to find creative ways to kill herself.
To my great relief, Jacob managed to convince her to forget cliff-diving, at least for the present, by drawing her attention back to their original plans.
"Are we going to try out the bikes or not?" he demanded.
"Okay, okay," she said, and put her seat belt back on and closed the door. The engine was still running, roaring as it idled. They started down the road again.
Jacob started talking about "the La Push gang" and how the leader was starting to freak him out with all the special attention. Hm…sounds very homo-erotic to me. These wolves might be more entertaining than I first believed. All in all , not very interesting, though. They're all becoming weird, he doesn't know them anymore, yada yada, don't worry, young pup, you'll understand soon enough when you join their ranks.
Soon Bella was perched on the bike, nervously gripping the clutch and trying to remember how everything worked-brakes, clutch, throttle. She didn't get it at first. I guess she finally did, because puppy was backing away. I couldn't let this go on. She was liable to get herself killed, at this rate.
This is reckless and childish and idiotic, Bella, I projected angrily at her.
She gasped and cried out. The bike jerked forward and tipped over, trapping Bella underneath.
"Bella! Are you hurt?" He went over to lift the bike off her.
I told you so.
Oh no. It looked like she was more obsessed with me than I thought. Hearing my voice in her head had given her insane inspiration: she wanted to do crazy, stupid, reckless things just to hear me tell her not to. This surveillance was turning into a full-time job. No, even worse than that. People working full-time could at least clock out at the end of the day.
"Let's try again," she demanded.
"Are you sure?"
This time she tried to get the kick-start herself. It was complicated; she had to jump a little to slamdown on the pedal with enough force, and every time she did that, the bike became unbalanced.
Jacob's hand hovered over the handlebars, ready to catch her if needed.
It took several good tries, and even more poor tries, before the engine caught and roared tolife. She revved the throttle experimentally. It snarled at the slightest touch. Her smile mirrored puppy-boy's now.
"Easy on the clutch," he reminded her.
This was going too far; I had to do whatever I could to put a stop to it. Do you want to kill yourself, then? Is that what this is about? I projected again, in what I hoped was a severe tone. She wasn't about to listen to me, it seemed. Go home to Charlie, I tried again, hoping that a direct order might get my message across.
"I will." Whether she was answering me, or something the other guy had just said, quickly became irrelevant. At that moment, Bella found the right combination of clutch release and gas, first gear caught, and she surged forward. Once she caught that first burst of speed, she wanted to go even faster. Bella was an adrenaline-junkie; who knew?
She was approaching a curve in the road. She didn't know how to turn; it was different on a motorcycle, and she wasn't even paying attention! No, Bella! Watch what you're doing! My plea brought her attention to the road ahead, and she applied the brakes, but with too much force. The bike went into a skid, sliding across the pavement with Bella trapped beneath it. That would leave some impressive road rash. She was pretty beaten up, had a sizable head gash, and needed medical attention.
Bella insisted she was fine and wanted to try again.
WHAT?! You are far from fine and are bleeding from a head wound! That needs to be looked at! Now be a good girl and let Jacob take care of you. Wait, had I seriously just thought that? Ugh. This girl might just run me ragged before this is all over. I needed to hunt, I needed fresh blood, but I didn't dare take my eyes off her for a second!
Lucky for me, puppy was as adamant as I was about getting her some help, and he drove her into town to get her patched up.
The next day Bella had yet another inspiration, and this time it was one I agreed with: if putting herself in danger had sparked the "hallucinations" as she called them, might another special familiar place do the same thing as well? She recruited her puppy to help her hike out to the meadow where we had first made love.*
All they really had to go on was what Bella remembered from the last time, so their first day efforts were basically fruitless. So were subsequent searches, unsurprisingly-after all, there were a lot of miles between the meadow and where we parked, and also a lot of miles of forest to be scoured between them.
Valentine's Day arrived. We were so caught up in our own problems, Bella and I both missed it; or would have, if Puppy-boy hadn't shown up at her house with a small box of …conversation hearts. How…cute, I thought despondently. I never did anything cute. All we had was…I wanted her, and she wanted to jump my bones, so to speak. I'll need to remember this for the future. I haven't given up yet. Not yet.
It was an additional relief when she made a date to go to a movie with a group of friends one night. The meant a couple hours where she couldn't possibly get into trouble; or at least, the possibility of it was drastically increased. If Bella had her way, they would watch some graphic "gore-porn" flick. Amusing. Nice.
Yet, with all of my optimism over making it through this, I couldn't help thinking, in spite of that, this cannot end well. Especially with "Jacob" hanging on her every word and wanting so much to please her like-well, like a puppy dog. In this case, the word was surprisingly perfect. As of now, Bella was all but unresponsive to his advances, but that couldn't last forever. She already did practically everything with him in her spare time. She felt close to him, but still just friends. I only hoped that arrangement would last long enough for me to officially return.
*In the archaic sense of the word, which is relatively chaste compared with the modern, understood definition. Edward can say it like that because technically he's old.