Bella often dreamt of bare feet leaving imprints into red clay as she walked through the reeds of the small Pylos stream that brushed past her silk dress as she bent to collect water from the stream. A catfish would drag and gulp past her muddy ankles and stones turned to dust. It looked at her and asked something, but she could not understand. A white raven would approach the stream to drink the sweet, cool water and tell the catfish to pray to the sun. During the sunset, the catfish would lift its large head from the water and speak to the sun in its language asking for love and become burned. The catfish wept and the stream became deeper. A bear would come later as the sun slipped under the earth and tell the catfish in its tongue to pray to the moon. When sun became the moon, she would stand still as the catfish lifted its head once more and ask the moon for love. She would tell the catfish, as she did every time she dreamt about the poor little catfish that she would give it what it needed. The catfish gulped and gasped and wade through the silt to her feet, grooved into the clay, and rose up to become a man, seven-feet tall, dark skinned, adorned in only a silver repoussé bull-shaped helmet with gold horns.
"To my love, I give you the world, and all shall love you."
"Charlie said he wanted to go to California again this summer."
Bella rested her chin grumpily on her fist as she leaned back against the powder blue armchair at the Cullen house. Edward sat on the arm of the little sofa, his index curled around hers. His touch left goosebumps up her arms to the back of her neck but Bella managed to find comfort in feel of his marble finger.
"I think it's a good idea, Bella," Edward said. "It'll be nice for you to go on a vacation where it's warm.
"But that means I won't be with you," she huffed.
He chuckled, amusement shining in his citrine eyes. "It'll only be a week. Besides, we take up enough of your time as it is. I'm sure your father would like some more quality time with you."
He was right, like always. She was quick to think that her housework and daily meal-prep was enough interaction with Charlie but there was always a little niggle in the back of her mind that said it wasn't right. "A whole week," she whined, bottom lip jutting out in a comical pout.
A smile stretched on his face. He used his other hand to smoothen out her bottom lip lovingly, leaving her to taste his cool, sweet touch. His hand settled on the curve of her chin as he pulled her gently for a short kiss. Bella's heart raced when their lips met, and fireworks went off in her brain. She sighed and leaned into his palm.
The peace between them didn't last long. She immediately went back to worrying about her trip with Charlie. She hated being far away from Edward for too long. It made her antsy. The last time she had parted with Edward, a cruel vampire had tricked her to meet at her old ballet studio in Phoenix which she left with a crescent moon scar on her wrist. She fingered the scar, cool to the touch, but also gave the sensation of touching a sunburn.
A cold white hand gently touched the hand she was looking at.
Bella jumped from the cool touch of his hand. Her body immediately relaxed, a wave of calm washing over her head to toe. She smiled sheepishly and said, "Thanks." Jasper nodded and drew his hand back. She hadn't seen him enter the room but then again, that was normalcy in a house full of vampires, but she was still thankful that he was kind enough to give her a heads-up before using his pathokinesis on her.
Edward chuckled quietly beside her.
She looked at him quizzically,
"It's just strange. Him using his ability on you rebounds back to him and makes him calm too."
"What does that mean? That I'm using my 'weird' brain to block his abilities like it blocks yours?"
"Not necessarily. It's like you are aware that he was using his ability to calm you, so you took some of his abilities are used it back on him." He pursed his lips in thought. "Or at least that's what it looks like."
Bella shrugged awkwardly, not really believing him. "So how come I can't read your mind when you tried to read mine?
"Maybe you've never tried," he smiled crookedly. "Or maybe you have but it's not obvious. You have always been astute at reading people and predicting things. And I always thought that maybe that was your ability -blocking psychic powers, but I'm starting to suspect that's something you borrowed from Charlie." Bella must have looked incredulous because Edward chuckled again and said, "Like I said, you father has always been one of the hardest humans to read, other than you, of course, and you have been around him for quite a few years. It could be something that you took a little from him and never gave back."
"You mean there was a possibility you were never supposed to be able to read Charlie's thoughts at all?" Bella wanted to laugh a little at the prospect. Sure, Charlie was never very vocal about what went on his head, but his expressions were neon signs that told everyone exactly what he was thinking.
"It's a possibility," Jasper drawled from the couch. "But if it's true, it also means that if Edward turns you, you'll be one of the most powerful vampires in the world."
This time Bella did laugh out loud, causing Jasper to smile too. Edward looked a little miffed that Jasper said that.
"Edward, we have a really great hypothesis. Wouldn't it be just splendid to find out the conclusion?" Bella sat up straighter to look behind Edward to see Alice sauntering into the room. She quickly went to Jasper's side, the one closer to Bella, and she rested her cheek against his before grinning at Bella and Edward. "You're going to Shasta Lake. Bella, you ready to do some shopping for camping outfits?"
Bella laughed. "T-shirts, jeans, and sneakers don't cut it?"
Alice bounced where she sat, excitement on her face. It looked like her short hairs were raising in enthusiasm too. "Oh honey, there's so much to teach you. There is no reason you can't go camping and look super cute too! I have to show you how to pair accessories, come on."
Alice grabbed Bella's hand and dragged her off the couch towards the stairs. Bella continued to laugh and looked backwards at her beautiful boyfriend and mouthed "Help me!" and saw his amused mouthed response "I'll be there soon."
This was going to be the best year of her life.
Bella wasn't sure how long she had been in the forest. It was impossibly dark and any movement she attempted to make emotionally and physically hurt. All feeling disappeared if she was still enough, but it didn't really help her fight the cold. Rain drops splashed on her face and in her eyes and soaked her to the bone. She peered through her hair often to look up at the sky to find some source of light, but none appeared, and she remained in darkness for a long time.
Every now and then, she would hear someone faraway calling her name. Even rarer, she would see a flit of light past where she laid as they continued to call her name. When she heard them calling, she tried to lift her head and respond but all she could croak out was a soft "help."
Eventually, the voices calling her name didn't sound real anymore. It was like her mind was replaying memories of them yelling her name -sometimes it was Charlie, other times it was an eerily familiar voice calling her "Bells." At one point, she even heard her own voice calling out her name and that was the one that felt the most real. She felt a cold hand on her shoulder trying to catch her attention. She glanced up to see herself with crystal skin and amber eyes. She would say, "Wake up, Bella. It's time to go." As soon as she appeared, she disappeared, but not taking the coldness away with her. A little while later, she heard the scurry of something small like a mouse or a squirrel and the padding of animal. She couldn't see past the tree root she laid on, so she couldn't tell whether the animal was as large as it sounded. She heard snuffling near her head and she closed her eyes and tried to stop breathing, hoping it would go away.
The snuffling stopped. She heard a scuffle behind her and the ruffle of leaves and cloth.
Bella's eyes fluttered open at the silky baritone voice. Something was wrong, but so right. She heard this voice call her name a hundred thousand times but never at all. It was a sound that perked her ears for music and one she tilted her chin downward for submission. Everything and nothing made sense.
"Have you been hurt?"
Bella tried to move her leg, but a sharp pain shot up through her ankle. She moaned into the collar of her jacket. She heard him come closer and crouch beside her. A warm hand rested on the back of the thigh of her injured leg and moved downwards past her knee. It stopped right before her injury. The warmth seeped through her clothes.
"My name is Sam Uley. Charlie sent me to look for you."
Bella suddenly remembered a summer several years ago when Charlie brought home a flyer with a young boy's face on it, large, red, and bold words bordering it "MISSING: HAVE YOU SEEN ME?" Charlie had looked distressed, lamenting over what a poor kid he was. She had taken the sheet of paper from the breakfast table where Charlie had left it and looked at the boy's sullen face, feeling sad at the thought of him alone and scared.
"I'm going to take you home," he said.
His face was closer now and she could see him a little better. Black eyes assessed her before he scooped her up from the ground. Warmth surrounded her body and she snuggled closer to him, her arms lacing around his neck. She looked up at his face and saw him looking back down at her, concern setting his mouth in a straight line. For a second, she saw bright gold in the back of his eyes and a younger naked boy sitting there by a tree with tears streaming down his face, clutching a scrap of cloth.
"Sam, we found you," she heard herself say. "Everyone's been looking. Charlie will be so happy to see you. You'll get to go home."
She felt something warm and wet under her nose. Her eyes rolled to the back of her head and she went limp in his arms.
Bella woke up on Charlie's sofa gasping for air.
"Oh, thank god," she heard Charlie say beside her. His voice sounded muffled. She thought she heard him ask, "Is the ambulance here yet?"
She felt so groggy as she tried to balance herself on her elbows. She looked around the yellow-lit room at the group of men fanned around the couch. She recognized Mike Newton and Mr. Weber but her eyes quickly passed over them and set on the three hulking men standing in the back of the room, their eyes trained on her. A short, grey-haired man approached her and laid the back of his hand on her forehead. "Bella, are you hurt anywhere else? We'll get your leg fixed up as soon as we get to the hospital."
"Dr. Gerandy?" Bella mumbled.
Dr. Gerandy nodded, the crinkles at the corners of his eyes deepening with a smile. "You had a bad fall and broke your foot. I just want to make sure you're not hurting anywhere else. Do you have a headache?" She saw Charlie in the corner of her eye lean in to listen to her answer.
"No, Dr. Gerandy," she shook her head. "I'm okay."
"Okay, dear, I'm happy to hear that. You had a small nosebleed after we found you. Do you get those often?"
She shook her head again.
"Can you tell us what happened?"
"I went for a walk and I got…lost.
Bella looked at the group of men again. Sam stood tallest at the center. Their arms were crossed tightly over their chests. One of the men flanking Sam's right had a look of absolute hate which made Bella cringe. Her vision blurred for a second, so Bella blinked it away. Now there were four men. Bella pushed off the couch so that she was sitting up and continued to stare at them. Four? No, there were three. Bella blinked again and there were five. The fifth one she recognized quickly. Jacob Black. But not the Jacob Black she knew. The fourth and fifth men's outlines wavered like static and they disappeared. Suddenly, Jacob stood where Sam was, looking nothing like he did earlier this year -short hair and larger than she could have ever imagined.
"Jacob?" She felt the same wetness under her nose again.
Everyone in the room turned to look at the men. Jacob was gone, and Sam stood where had been the whole time, looking a little drained.
"Honey, that's Sam Uley," Charlie said, concern lacing his voice. He handed her a tissue paper and glanced at Dr. Gerandy. "Jacob's back at the Rez." He quickly walked out of the living room. She heard him pick up kitchen phone and ask, "Where's the goddamn ambulance?"
Just as he said that, there was a loud siren and bright blue and red lights flashed into the house. Bella relaxed down into the couch again and let sleep take over again.