Bella tried to call her new "boyfriend." Old Man Wolf answered and told her he was bed-ridden, or something similar. Anyway, that was the image I got from Bella. She tried numerous times to speak with Jacob, with no success. She began to grow frantic with worry, and even drove out to the res to see him at home. Bella didn't buy the old man's story about her friend being sick. Didn't know why. I guess when you lie to everyone else all the time, you don't expect others to be truthful to you, either.
She finally bugged her father to call his friend Harry and ask him what was going on. His side of the conversation didn't give me much to work with, just a lot of hmms and yeahs.
Finally, Charlie hung up the phone.
"Harry says there's been some trouble with the phone lines, and that's why you haven't beenable to get through. Billy took Jake to the doc down there, and it looks like he has mono. He's real tired, and Billy said no visitors," he reported.
"No visitors?" she cried.
"Now don't you go making a pest of yourself, Bells. Billy knows what's best for Jake. He'll be up and around soon enough. Be patient."
Bella immediately went upstairs to look up mononucleosis. I sat up on the roof, leaning back on my arms, legs bent in front of me, racking my brains. Something didn't add up here, I agreed with Bella about that. I was no medical specialist, but I was well-aware of the apparent healthy state of everyone in the tribe. The statistics would likely be legendary, if they were made public knowledge. Now a strong, healthy young man from this tribe is laid low by something as common as mono? Nah, I didn't buy it either.
Bella's search revealed that he probably didn't have mono-almost none of his symptoms matched. Except for…except for the fever. Fevers happen for a variety of reasons, but usually they can be boiled down to two reasons. Either the person's brain is working overtime, or their body is. Given what I knew about the puppy…he was about to grow up. In more ways than one. My mission was about to get even more complicated.
A week later, after much moping and feeling very sorry for herself, Bella called Jacob's place.
Someone finally answered.
"Oh, hey, the phone is working again! Hi, Billy. It's Bella. I was just calling to see how Jacob is doing. Is he up for visitors yet? I was thinking about dropping by–"
"I'm sorry, Bella," Billy interrupted, "He's not in."
"Oh. So he's feeling better then?"
"Yeah," Billy hesitated. "Turns out it wasn't mono after all. Just some other virus."
"Oh. So… where is he?"
"He's giving some friends a ride up to Port Angeles–I think they were going to catch a double feature or something. He's gone for the whole day."
"Well, that's a relief. I've been so worried. I'm glad he felt good enough to get out." She was totally lying now.
Jacob was better, but not well enough to call her, so her thoughts went. He was out with friends, and the week apart had not had the same effect on him. I personally doubt that's it, but I like where your thoughts are going, Bella. Keep following that train of thought.
"Is there anything in particular you wanted?" Billy asked politely.
"No, not really."
"Well, I'll tell him that you called," Billy promised. "Bye, Bella."
"Bye," she replied, but he'd already hung up.
Bella sat around in her own pity party for a while longer before deciding she had to get out of the house. The first person she thought of was J-friend, but that was quickly discarded as she decided that her friend had "crossed over to the dark side." What does that mean? You deliberately endanger her well-being and expect her to forget in a couple days? I must say, your ego is definitely vampire-worthy, Bella.
She eventually decided to continue looking for "our" meadow on her own, intending to narrow down the options a little more while Jacob was "otherwise occupied." If she only knew.
She found the vehicle-capable trail I'd taken her on before again, and after studying the compass and her map for several minutes, set off on foot in the direction she'd chosen. All the tramping around the woods she had done with Jacob had paid off, it seemed. She found it, and it didn't take her nearly as long to get there as it had taken to walk there with her the first time I showed it to her.
I could all but tangibly feel the hope rush out of her as she realized that although she had found the right place, she was there alone. She had been building up hope and expectation for this moment, the experience, the possible homecoming, and none of it had panned out. Her face and body simultaneously crumpled; she fell to her knees, and bent over. Her breathing became labored; she was trying not to cry again. Edward, I love you, she thought in despair.
Suddenly I heard something. I whipped my head to the right. What are they doing here? This far out…The implications were not good or reassuring. Maybe I could make this work in my favor. If Bella were to see...
I sent a mental nudge to Bella. Was there a sound, over to the right?
She turned and looked that direction, toward the trees.
A huge black shape burst out of the trees at a loping run. It was enormous–as tall as a horse, but thicker, much more muscular. The long muzzle grimaced, revealing a line of dagger-like incisors. A fierce howl rolled out from between the teeth, rumbling across the clearing like a prolonged crack of thunder. I climbed a tree as silently as I could.
The "bear." Only, it wasn't a bear at all. Still, this gigantic black monster had to be the creature causing all the alarm. From a distance, anyone would assume it was a bear. What else could be so vast, so powerfully built? I wished Bella were lucky enough to see it from a distance. Instead, it padded silently through the grass a mere ten feet from where she stood.
Don't move an inch, I whispered to her mind. I was more than a little concerned that they would overhear me.
She stared at the monstrous creature, her mind boggling as it tried to put a name to it. There was a distinctly canine cast to the shape of it, the way it moved. She could identify the shape, but her mind kept insisting that it must be smaller than it really was; an optical illusion at very least. It paused to look at her, surprised. Obviously no one was supposed to be all the way out here. A low growl rumbled in its throat, and she tried to back away from the sound, stumbling and falling on her butt in the grass.
Then the mammoth wolf was not alone. Flanking it on either side, another two gigantic wolves prowled silently into the meadow. One was a deep gray, the other brown, neither one quite as tall as the first. The gray wolf came through the trees only a few feet from her. Before she could react, two more wolves followed, lined up in a V, like geese flying south. Which meant that the rusty brown monster that appeared from the brush last was close enough for her to touch.
She gasped and jerked back, drawing the attention of all of them. She froze again. I didn't dare send to her now. With this many wolves, it was almost assured at least one would hear me, and I wasn't even sure I could remain concealed with five canine noses sniffing for me, whether they knew I was there or not.
The wolf closest to her, the reddish brown one, turned its head slightly at the sound of her gasp. The wolf's eyes were dark, nearly black. It gazed at her for longer than the others did, considering.
As it stared at her, she suddenly thought of Jacob. She was glad that she'd gone there alone, to this meadow filled with dark monsters. At least Jacob wasn't going to die, too. Far from it, little lady. Then another low growl from the leader caused the russet wolf to whip his head around, back toward the pack that was continuing on their way.
For a few moments all she did was stare after them, then the shock wore off and she collapsed into sobs, nearly hysterical with grief and fear and confusion. I was shocked that I wanted to comfort her at that moment. I wanted to tell her that they wouldn't hurt her, they don't even like human. I guess I just got irritated listening to her. I never knew what to do around a crying girl; I just got all awkward and sounded stupid, so I preferred not to interact with them at all. Yeah; made sense to me.
She managed to stumble back to her truck, still crying and as jumpy as a high-strung cat. Twice she was spooked by harmless wildlife: once some ground bird that she startled from the brush, another time a squirrel that chittered at her from up a tree.
Charlie met her when she finally made it home. "Where have you been?" he thundered.
She hesitated. "I was hiking."
"What happened to going to Jessica's?"
"I didn't feel like Calculus today."
"I thought I asked you to stay out of the forest."
"Yeah, I know. Don't worry, I won't do it again."
He was silent a long moment. "What happened?" Charlie asked, softer this time.
Apparently she was still too shaken up to think of a good lie. "I saw the bear."Her voice was high and shaky. "It's not a bear, though–it's some kind of wolf. And there are five of them. A big black one, and gray, and reddish-brown…"
I heard a clatter as Charlie raced over to Bella. "Are you okay? Tell me what happened."
"They didn't pay any attention to me. But after they were gone, I ran away and I fell down a lot." They were silent for a long time.
"Wolves," he murmured.
"The rangers said the tracks were wrong for a bear–but wolves just don't get that big…"
"These were huge."
"How many did you say you saw?"
"No more hiking."
"No problem," she promised firmly.
Charlie called the station to report what she'd seen, and Bella snuck upstairs to bed. She curled into a ball and shook until she finally drifted off to sleep.
A couple days later she tried to call Jacob again, but again got no answer. Aw, she misses her puppy dog. Be patient, Bella. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, after all.
Then she'll be ready to jump your bones when you make your appearance, won't she?
Shut up, brain!
She worried and racked her brains and finally had it-it was Sam Uley. So close, Bella, and yet so far off the mark. You've just hit the outside ring of the target and claimed yourself a bullseye. As soon as she reached that conclusion, she became determined to drive out to La Push and confront them both herself. Lucky for me, she made a couple phone calls before she left.
The first was to her father.
"Dad, it's Bella."
"I'm worried about Jacob."
"Why?" he asked, surprised by the unexpected topic.
"I think… I think something weird is going on down at the reservation. Jacob told me about some strange stuff happening with the other boys his age. Now he's acting the same way and I'm scared."
"What kind of stuff?" He seemed genuinely concerned, but I couldn't say for sure.
"First he was scared, and then he was avoiding me, and now… I'm afraid he's part of that bizarre gang down there, Sam's gang. Sam Uley's gang."
Charlie's voice was more relaxed when he answered. "I think you've got it wrong, Bells. Sam Uley is a great kid. Well, he's a man now. A good son. You should hear Billy talk about him. He's really doing wonders with the youth on the reservation. He's the one who–" Charlie broke off mid-sentence.
"Dad, it's not like that. Jacob was scared of him," Bella hurriedly interjected.
"Did you talk to Billy about this?" He was trying to calm her now.
"Billy's not concerned."
"Well, Bella, then I'm sure it's okay. Jacob's a kid; he was probably just messing around. I'm sure he's fine. He can't spend every waking minute with you, after all."
"This isn't about me," she insisted. Bella, you're not fooling anyone. You think everything is about you, and you're only fooling yourself when you insist that it's not. You don't have me, so yes you do want him around every free moment of every day, and quite frankly it's annoying me.
"I don't think you need to worry about this. Let Billy take care of Jacob."
"Bells, I got a lot on my plate right now. Two tourists have gone missing off a trail outside crescent lake." There was an anxious edge to his voice. "This wolf problem is getting out of hand."
"Are you sure that's what happened to them?"
"Afraid so, honey. There was–" He hesitated. "There were tracks again, and… some blood this time."
"Oh!" She imagined that we had come back, but didn't dare think the thought, afraid of the pain that was sure to follow.
"Look, I really have to go. Don't worry about Jake, Bella. I'm sure it's nothing."
"Fine," she said curtly, frustrated. "Bye." She hung up.
The second call was to Jacob's father.
"Hey, Billy," she growled. She tried to sound more friendly and continued. "Can I talk to Jacob, please?"
"Jake's not here."
"Do you know where he is?"
"He's out with his friends."
"Oh yeah? Anyone I know? Quil?"She was trying to be subtle, and failing miserably.
"No," Billy said slowly. "I don't think he's with Quil today."
She carefully avoided mentioning Sam.
Billy seemed happier to answer this one. "Yeah, he's with Embry."
That was enough for her. "Well, have him call me when he gets in, all right?"
"Sure, sure. No problem." Click. "See you soon, Billy," she muttered into the dead phone.
Then she jumped in her truck and drove out to the res for answers. I couldn't help but be concerned about her at this point. Those people were as protective of their secrets we Cullens were, and I didn't know how they would react to this girl trying to pry them open. I needed her alive, after all; preferably unharmed, but I wasn't holding out much hope on that.
She came home in a fury, frustrated with her exchange with Jacob. Guess he finally rejected her. Good.
The phone rang, Charlie and the old wolf yelled at each other through the phone for a while, and Bella eavesdropped and went to bed. The overheard conversation only gave her more to be miserable about. Basically it was the old guy saying Bella was ruining Jacob or some such for stringing him along like she was, and Bella agonized over whether to keep doing so, or drop him like a bad habit.
It was a new dream tonight. Rain was falling and she and Jacob were walking soundlessly side by side over dry gravel. But he wasn't "her" Jacob; he was the new, bitter, graceful Jacob. I gave her a mental nudge again. This was so easy, playing with her dreams. As we both watched (me through her), his features started to change. The russet color of his skin leached away, leaving his face pale white like bone. His eyes turned gold, and then crimson, and then back to gold again. His shorn hair twisted in the breeze, turning bronze where the wind touched it. And his face became so beautiful that it broke her heart. She reached for my image, but it took a step away, raising its hands like a shield. And then "Edward" vanished.
I became so absorbed in her dream I almost gave myself away by being visible when puppy-boy showed up. The rustling as he climbed the tree near the house got my attention, and I moved as silently as I could out of sight but near enough to hear what they said. I think my only saving grace was that he had just changed, and wasn't familiar with the nuances of scent yet.
"Bella!" he hissed. "Ouch! Damn it, open the window! OUCH!"
She hurried to the window and shoved the glass out of the way.
"What are you doing?" she gasped.
He was clinging precariously to the top of the spruce that grew in the middle of Charlie's front yard. His weight had bowed the tree toward the house and he now swung–his legs dangling twenty feet above the ground. The thin branches at the tip of the tree scraped against the side of the house again with a grating squeal.
"I'm trying to keep"–he huffed, shifting his weight as the treetop bounced him–"my promise!"
What's this? What promise?
"When did you ever promise to kill yourself falling out of Charlie's tree?" No, wait! That's a promise I can get behind.
He snorted, unamused, swinging his legs to improve his balance. "Get out of the way," heordered.
With a grunt, he launched himself toward the open window. He landed safe and sound inside, unfortunately.
"Get out!" she hissed angrily.
"No," he protested. "I came to apologize."
"I don't accept!" Yeah, she doesn't accept! So go away already! She tried to push him out, but he was immovable. Bella noticed then that he was topless, and in spite of that the chill air didn't make him cold. She chalked it up to still being feverish. Then all the stress of the last couple days caught up to her, and she abruptly collapsed.
Jacob swooped over and caught her just before she hit the floor. "Bella? Hey, are you okay?" he asked.
"Why in the world would I be okay, Jacob?"
He paused. "Right," he agreed, and took a deep breath. "Crap. Well… I–I'm so sorry, Bella." The apology seemed sincere, (damn it) but his voice was tinged with anger.
"Why did you come here? I don't want apologies from you, Jake."
"I know," he whispered. "But I couldn't leave things the way I did this afternoon. That was horrible. I'm sorry." Fabulous. This was going to be a make-up session. You two keep it G-rated, okay?
She sighed. "I don't understand anything."
"I know. I want to explain–" He broke off suddenly, almost like something had cut off his air. Then he sucked in a deep breath. "But I can't explain," he said, still angry. "I wish I could." Interesting. It seemed there was some binding spell on him or something similar.
She must have been speaking through her pillow, because her next utterance was muffled. "Why?"
"What's wrong?" she asked. Whatever she was speaking through was removed now.
He exhaled heavily. "I can't do it," he muttered, frustrated.
He ignored my question. "Look, Bella, haven't you ever had a secret that you couldn't tell anyone? Something you felt like you had to keep from Charlie, from your mom… ?" he pressed.
"Something you won't even talk about with me? Not even now?"
"Can you understand that I might be in the same kind of… situation?" He was struggling again, seeming to fight for the right words. "Sometimes, loyalty gets in the way of what you want to do. Sometimes, it's not your secret to tell."
Bella immediately thought of us-the Cullens, and how she'd promised to keep our nature secret. Poor oblivious idiot didn't realize he wasn't speaking of us at all.
"I don't know why you came here, Jacob, if you were just going to give me riddles instead of answers."
"I'm sorry," he whispered. "This is so frustrating."
"The part that kills me," he said abruptly, "is that you already know. I already told you everything!"
"What are you talking about?" He's a werewolf, Bella.
He sucked in a startled breath, and then said in one single burst, "I think I see a way to make this work out–because you know this, Bella! I can't tell you, but if you guessed it! That would let me right off the hook!"
"You want me to guess? Guess what?"
"My secret! You can do it–you know the answer!" No, she doesn't . She's dumb as a doornail. Haven't you figured that out yet? I debated getting her a book of connect-the-dots pictures for her birthday. I thought it would be intellectually challenging for her.
He was there for at least half an hour, trying to get her to say the magic words-"You're a werewolf," and after much verbal dancing-around on Jacob's side, and more intellectual dimness on the part of Bella, he gave her an awkward farewell and left. Just before he did, though, he caught her in a fierce, desperate embrace. I almost audibly growled at that. Now he was becoming a nuisance.
Bella still didn't know what he was talking about. Does depression make a person stupid? He just did everything but sprout fur on the spot and tell her right out, and she didn't get it.
Eventually Bella fell asleep again, and had another dream. I got my claws into this one, mostly out of frustration. The location was the forest around La Push–near the beach there. Bella hurried forward, following the faint sound of waves in the distance.
And then Jacob was there. He grabbed her hand, pulling her back toward the blackest part of the forest.
"Jacob, what's wrong?" she asked. His face was the frightened face of a boy, and his hair was swept back into a ponytail on the nape of his neck. He yanked with all his strength, but she resisted. "Run, Bella, you have to run!" he whispered, terrified.
This was the dream she'd had the night after she walked with Jacob on the beach, the first night she found that I was a vampire.
Jacob dropped her hand and yelped. Shaking and twitching, he fell to the ground. "Jacob!" she screamed, but he was gone. In his place was an enormous, red-brown wolf with dark, intelligent eyes, courtesy of yours truly.
She woke up the next morning screaming, startling me so much I nearly fell off the roof. Talk about ungraceful. Then she remembered everything she and puppy-boy had talked about that day at the beach, when he told her the Cullens were vampires, and suggested that the tribe were werewolves. Everything made sense to her now. Her first impulse was to go to the reservation and talk to Jacob about it.
When she went downstairs her father told her that there had been another attack-the wolves were apparently stepping up the mauling. It wasn't the wolves, and it wasn't the Cullens, either. Since we officially moved out some other roving vampires had moved in, probably temporarily. The wolves were going after them, and that's where the tracks came from. Not that either of them could have known that.
Bella began thinking about her friend. I interjected with compelling reasons to put her wolf friend aside.
Jacob is my best friend.
But is he a monster too? A real one? A bad one?
Aren't they like the Cullens?
Remember all those attacks? People. Wolf tracks. Cullens don't hunt people, remember?
Obviously the werewolves chose a different path. That last was expressed by both of us at the same time, and was actually the truth. What Bella didn't know was that the "paths" she was imagining were actually reversed. And I didn't intend to enlighten her about that, though she would eventually find out on her own, if she kept company with them much longer.
Can you bear to be with a cold-blooded killer? It didn't matter that the Cullens actually were, and the wolves in fact were not; what mattered was that Bella didn't know that. If I could keep her uncertain and off-balance, she would be with me again when I returned.