The vicious wind whipped my hair against my face, stinging my skin as I stood inches away from the edge. I could hear the anger of the ocean beating the rock of the cliff face below me in the background of my consciousness. And his beautiful, yet haunting voice gripped me and refused to let me go.
The voice clung to my heart like a vice, and I was powerless to stop it. I didn't want it to stop. For the longest time, I had done everything in my power to keep it close to me. I was desperate to remain drunk on it, the last remaining shadow of the man who left me behind. He drove me to this place. If he saw what I was doing now, would he care? Did he realize just what he'd done to me by leaving me behind?
"Stop, Bella," he said. There was warning in his voice... It was a familiar tone.
I stepped so close to the cliff's edge that my toes hung off the side of the rock, testing the voice's resolve, and my own. I realized the spitefulness of my actions, but I didn't care.
"Don't do this. Please."
You have no right to ask anything of me now, I thought. The adrenaline pumped through my veins as I steeled myself. Absently, I felt a tear roll down my cheek, a hot contrast against the icy sting of the rain. I rolled onto the balls of my feet and leaned forward, allowing gravity to take hold.
As I fell faster than I could comprehend, my eyes shot open, aware that the voice I just heard had not been from the ghost in my head. It was human... and it was alive with panic.
I only had a split second to register what I had just done, only to be hit by a freight train of freezing water. It stole every ounce of breath from my lungs, and then I was surrounded by nothing but black.
My mind was overwhelmed by the darkness... My senses couldn't register more than one thing at a time. I was absently aware of someone yelling. It sounded fuzzy for some reason, like the noise was insulated and far away from me.
Then I felt the pain.
My throat was raw with salt and ice. I tried to speak, but my vocal cords refused to resonate. It hurts. God, it hurts.
I heard the yelling again. I noticed that my eyelids were glued shut, my skin numb from the cold. I attempted to open them.
"Bella!" I heard it in the distance, echoing.
I tried to answer the voice, still unable to see where it came from. But at least it was a little clearer now. I felt more than heard my own voice call out in a strangled gasp. I winced.
"Bella! Come on, Bella, wake up!" I felt strong, warm hands grasp my shoulders. They shook me firmly, and I could feel their panic. "Dammit, wake up! BELLA!"
My eyes jolted open then. I was suddenly aware of my surroundings... the wet gravel under my back, the oppresive gray skies, and the anguished eyes of my best friend. Jacob's body hovered over mine, acting as shelter from the rain.
"Ja-..." I tried painfully, my voice sounding strained and rough. "...Jacob."
His black eyes widened, and his body shook with lingering panic mixed with palpable relief. He lifted my shoulders from the ground, holding me against his warm body. He was tender, as if he thought I would break. But his words were fierce.
"Bella, what the hell where you thinking? You could have died." He rocked me back and forth, reviving me with his warmth. "What would I have done?" he whispered. "How could I..." he trailed off, his whisper becoming nothing but an unspeakable thought.
As he held me as tightly as he could, as if I was the only precious thing in the world, another feeling washed over me. I was utterly ashamed.
My mind was assaulted with memories of what had just happened minutes ago. I began to sob as the weight of what I had almost done to my best friend relentlessly pounded at my brain and tore at my heart. I saw visions of Jacob on his knees, doubled over in grief. My father, Charlie, the life gone out of his eyes after the death of his only daughter. Renee was crying uncontrollably, her body flung over a cold casket.
How could I have been so seflfish? How could I be so willing to risk my life just to spite a figment of my imagination? My heart felt a searing pain at this admission, but I refused to be easy on myself. Edward... I internally forced his name out through the aching in my chest. Edward was gone.
"I'm sorry," I cried, pleading with my eyes. Jacob deserved an explanation... He certainly deserved more than I was giving him. He had always deserved better. But it was all I could manage at that moment, when there was so much to say and no way to say it. "I'm so sorry."
His body seemed to gradually cease its shaking, and my Jacob picked me up with one effortless motion. "Come on, Bella. You'll be alright, everything will be alright. Let's get you home."
I allowed my eyes to close again as my sobs slowed, and I focused on his warmth and his warmth alone. I could feel the wind biting the left side of my face as he ran, but it didn't bother me. Not with the heat of his protective embrace shielding me from the cold.