I was at my garage with the hood of the Rabbit opened. The soft hum distracted me from my task. I turned to the side, where Bella was sitting on the old couch with her legs crossed under her, reading some school book. She had her hair held up with a pencil and her face had a small frown of concentration, she looked so incredibly cute when she did that. I stared at her unable to turn my eyes from her beautiful face, she looked up feeling my eyes on her.
She smiled her sweet smile and my heart jumped “Was I humming?”
“Yeap” I answered amused.
“Sorry” she said looking at her book again.
“Don´t! It is kind of nice” I said “You are completely out of tune, of course, but it´s nice to see you happy”.
She stuck her tongue at me and got back to her reading.
I resumed my work in the car, enjoying having her there. All of a sudden the hairs on the back of my neck stood up and the scent I hated the most hit my nose. There was a leech there. I reacted in a second all my thoughts focused on protecting her.
I ran next to her, and tried to pull her behind me, away from the danger, but when I reached and touched her arm her hard cold skin burned my hand. I looked down confused and she looked at me with awful red eyes instead of her pretty chocolate brown.
“I´m sorry, Jacob. It has always been him” she said in an unnatural leech´s voice.
She stepped out of the garage where Edward Cullen was waiting for her. She took his hand and walked away without looking back.
I woke up startled. My heart was racing so fast I could feel it in my throat. I had that same nightmare hundreds of times before. Every time felt how my chest reaped in two.
My phone rang loudly and I took it from my nightstand. I checked the number and took a deep breath “Anna, hi”.
“Hi honey! I was wondering if you wanted to have breakfast” She said “I just got to campus and my exam was delayed until noon”.
“Sure! I´ll take a shower and see you at the dinner in twenty minutes” I said trying to sound normal, I knew what I needed to do.
“Jake, dude, did you seriously break up with her? She´s perfect for you, man!” Embry said that night while I packed my last box after the last final I had. I was sure I nailed it, and now I wanted to visit Billy and to see the pack and my sister.
“Yeah, I know she is. I just…don´t feel it” I said “Is not fair for her”.
I was at UDub, so it was close to home, but far enough to keep the shitty memories at bay. I shared an apartment with Embry, and now that we finally had finished college we wanted to open our own shop. Quil stayed at La Push because he wasn´t able to be separated from Claire for too long. And Rachel was living there since she married Paul and they kept an eye on Billy.
Charlie and Sue were close too, they were great help with my dad. When he had the heart attack a few years back, I went home for a couple of weeks, but Rachel and my dad insisted that I had to get back to school or I was going to fail the semester, Charlie and Sue helped Rachel to take care of him when I had to go back to school. Sue was a registered nurse and she was married to Charlie now, so both were close to my dad.
“You said the same thing with the last three! You date them a couple of months and run. I don´t know if you´re really trying, Jake” he said tiredly.
“Em, common, that´s not fair! You know perfectly well I´m trying! What do you want me to tell you, man? I just can´t!”
“Listen, Jake, maybe if you finally accept the fact that any of those girls can be Bella Swan you could move on,” He said looking at me warily.
“Don´t go there, Embry,” I said through clenched teeth. I never talked about her. And nobody ever talked about her with me, not even Charlie by my request. They all knew that was not a subject I liked to visit.
“I´m sorry! But we have spent four years walking on eggshells around you about this! She married him! She is a leech by now, assuming she survived the change”. He spat at me.
“Embry…” I shook my head my hands shaking slightly.
“Jake,” he said in a nicer tone “We´re just worried about you. You know we care, we´re a family and we don´t want to see you suffering like this. Anna is a good girl, she´s pretty and funny and smart and she´s crazy about you”.
“And that´s why I can´t stay with her. She deserves a person who can give her what she deserves and I´m not that person. I´ll probably never be able to be that person. I…appreciate that you care, but there´s not much I can do about it and you know it. And I know… she´s not a possibility, she never was” I said bitterly “Even then when she was still human…She never saw me that way. I was just fooling myself thinking I was more than a friend for her”. I said sitting at the coffee table and kicking a box. I hated to talk about this, hell I hated to think about this.
“If you know that, why don´t you give Anna a chance?” he said patting my shoulder.
“I did. I really did. I wanted so badly to feel something for her… is better this way, for her, for me, for everyone.” I said in a final tone.
He could tell by my tone that was a closed subject. “Are you sure you want to drive home today?” He said after a minute “Is late and you´re exhausted after hitting the books nonstop the last few weeks. I only have one more final and I´ll be going home the day after tomorrow” He said changing the subject resigned.
“Yeah, I want to take my car anyway. Is more comfortable for Billy than the small excuse of a car Paul and Rachel drive”. I said standing up. “I´ll stop for a big dose of caffeine and sugar on my way there”. Now we didn´t phase anymore we were more susceptible to coffee and alcohol than we were in the past. The rest of our senses and our body temperature were the same, but it was nice to have a metabolism that didn´t force me to eat the enormous amount of food I was used to.
We still ate way more than the average human, Sam believed it was our bodies keeping sharp in case we need to phase back. I didn´t think it was necessary, since the…Cullens left and… took her with them, the visits from bloodsuckers lessened a lot, just a nomad or two every once in a while. Sam stepped out after the fight with the newborns to start a family with Emily and I stayed leading the pack reluctantly for the next two years. I was still considered the Alpha despite I didn´t phase anymore because of my bloodline. But Seth was in charge now, only him, Colin and Brady kept phasing, and Quil who wanted to stay young for Claire.
The Starbucks near our apartment was filled with people. We lived near campus, no wonder why so many people needed coffee in the finals week. There was another one on the way out of town, I decided to stop there.
On my way there I felt really tired, these past few weeks I had slept about four hours per night, maybe Embry was right and I should drive home with him. I parked my car half a block from the Starbucks and stayed seated in my car for a while. The nightmare was still fresh on my mind and the conversation with Embry only fueled the uneasy feeling I had all day.
The image of Bella with red eyes taking her fucking husband´s hand and leaving me was in my mind often. That same dream began the night she left for her honeymoon. I never heard from her again, I didn´t want to. I didn´t even know what excuse the Cullens gave to Charlie when they changed her. I guessed he believed she was still alive because if they had told him that she died I would have heard it at some point.
Maybe it was masochist of me, but I forced my brain to remember her human. The only way to erase the image of her with red eyes was to put another one in my head. It was always the same, the loving look she gave me after our kiss before the battle. It was the only time I saw the love for me that I wanted to see so badly.
I knew my dad and the pack worried, Embry´s words resounded in my mind. I tried so hard to stop thinking about her, but it was not just the fact I lose her that killed me. It was the fact that I was made to protect humans from vampires and I couldn´t protect the person that meant the most to me.
The guilt had been eating me inside. I knew she chose that future, she chose to be one of them, but part of me kept thinking that if I would have been good enough she would have stayed with me and remained human.
I shook my head and exited the car. I ordered my coffee trying to decide if I should keep driving home or if I should return to the apartment and sleep. I felt restless, since I put my foot in that cafeteria something felt off, even more than before and that was to say a lot. The conversation with Embry and the nightmare hit me harder than I thought, apparently.
I sad smile crossed my face when I ordered, I used to go there with her, every time we went to Port Angeles. We always have the same, a Caramel Frappuccino, hers small, mine large with extra caramel, extra coffee, and extra whipped cream.
I shook my head again, I tried my best to not think about her, damn Embry, and the conversation we had earlier that brought her back to my mind! During these four years, I did my best to keep her out of my mind and failed miserably, of course. But it was a bit easier when I ignored all that happen back then. Only my subconscious betrayed me often making me dream about her. Not always the same dream, but usually they were good dreams at first, I feel happy with her and then wake up to reality.
The girl called my name with my coffee in her hand, her fingers brushed mine when she gave me the cup, and her name and phone number were written on the side next to my name. I rolled my eyes and turned back walking to the door. I finally decided to go back to the apartment and sleep that night and leave for La Push the next day early, there was no sense to wake Billy getting home after midnight and I was really tired.
I took only two steps from the counter to the door when it hit me. It felt like a wrecking ball right to my face, I had been punched on the face by bloodsuckers several times and it didn´t feel as hard as this. It was THE SCENT. I knew it was impossible, it was absurd, but my heart was beating so fast that I felt dizzy and short of air.
I turned to the back of the cafeteria where the scent was coming from, two girls were looking at me, and they giggled and waved at me. Was the scent coming from them? It could be the combination of both of theirs? Or was I too tired and the conversation with Embry and the nightmare triggered the memories? No, I was too attuned with that particular scent. The girls walked to the door still giggling, and there she was… the source of the scent. Everything else disappeared around me, like in those movies when all sounds turn in back round sounds and you can´t make sense at any of them, your whole focus is that person in front of you, there´s nothing else in the world for you in that second and in that place.
Suddenly I was the fifteen-year-old boy at First Beach, looking at the most beautiful girl he has ever seen in his entire life. I was the teenager in love like crazy with a girl who never considered he was good enough.
She was sitting at the corner table with an open laptop, completely focused on the screen in front of her, her forehead had a small cute frown of concentration and she was biting her bottom lip absently, in the gesture I remembered so well. Her hair was held up loosely with a pen behind her head, exactly like she used to do when we studied in my living room or hers all those years back. She had a small Caramel Frappuccino next to her.
My feet moved without my permission as if her body were calling mine even if my mind wasn´t on board with the decision. She was typing fast on her laptop, I was completely numb, I heard my own voice calling her name, the name I hadn´t said aloud in over four years “Bella?”
Her hands froze over the keyboard for half a second and began shaking. She gasped softly and I could hear the reaction of her heart, it was racing at least as fast as mine.
She looked up slowly, so slowly, with a look of sheer terror on her beautiful face “Oh my God!” she muttered so soft I could only hear it because of my enhanced senses. “Jacob” she sighed. To hear my name on her lips again made me feel all the things I couldn´t feel in years. After four years, just seeing her in front of me was enough to make me feel complete, and I totally hated it! God! I felt angry at myself. I wasn´t a child anymore! How in hell could she have this kind of power over me after all this fucking time? “What…what are you doing here?” she asked in a shaky voice.
“Bella, you…you´re still…human” I put my hands on the chair in front of her feeling afraid that my knees would fail me.
“Yes, I´m still…” she looked down blushing. I had to force my hand to obey me when it wanted so badly to reach her and touch her blushed cheek. She looked so incredibly beautiful, even more than before, and that is saying a lot. Any shadow of the teenage girl was gone, she was a young woman and she was stunning. “I´m sorry, Jacob! I never imagined I could find you here. I chose a place away from campus, I didn´t mean for you to… I´m so sorry”. She babbled standing up and closing her laptop in a hurry “I…I got to go”.
I put my hand on her arm to stop her when she walked by my side, she froze and looked at my hand, her heart speeded even more, along with my own, I removed my hand immediately. God! What I felt when I touched her skin…It was nothing like it, never like this, never like her “You can´t go. I need to know…why? How? What are you doing here? What did you mean that you find a place away from campus?” She looked at my face, and she seemed terrified. “Please!” She doubt for a second looking at my face, she was so close I could smell her strawberry shampoo. “Please” I repeated.
She thought about it for a second and nodded slightly sitting back on her chair “I´m so sorry” she repeated softly “You are right, you deserve an explanation” it sounded as she was talking to herself instead of me.
I sat on the chair in front of her and crossed my hands over the table. “You knew I was at UDub?” I asked making an effort to keep my voice even.
“Yes, Charlie… told me. I didn´t mean to… I didn´t want to…” She seemed unable to form a coherent sentence.
“You didn´t want to see me” I finished for her feeling a sting on my chest that was so familiar after all this time.
“No! I didn´t want for you to see me!” She said taking a deep breath “I´m at Seattle for work, I knew you were studying here and, I didn´t want to make you…” she shook her head “I didn’t want you to know that I´m still…” she motioned her hand up and down herself.
“Why?” I asked dryly.
“Because…because I didn´t want to upset you. I know what I did, I know how I…I hurt you, and I know you hate me and think I´m a horrible person and you have all the right in the world to do so, so I found a hotel where I thought…I´m so sorry” she repeated with tears running down her cheeks. I had to force my hands to stay still over the table again. It was against everything I was to see Bella crying and not comfort her.
“Bella, why are you still human?” I asked in an empty voice.
“I never changed”. She shrugged weakly.
“Yeah, I could figure out that much,” I said sarcastically “Why?”
“I didn´t want to. I…changed my mind and stayed human”. She was looking at her hands unable to hold my gaze. Me, on the other hand, couldn´t stop looking at her, my eyes were drinking her in as much as they could.
“You changed your mind?” I barked a bitter laugh “You…married the leech, and left… everything and everyone behind, and you just…changed your mind? Just like that?”
“More or less” She whispered.
“And how can the happy marriage work with you getting older every day?” My voice sounded harsher than I intended it “If I recall correctly, you were absolutely terrified of getting older than your…shiny husband”.
“I…Jacob” I flinched when her lips said my name again “I don´t think we should be talking about this.”
“Oh, really? And what do you want to talk about? The weather? The Seahawk's last game? The situation in the Middle East?” She flinched at my words “I think the least I deserve after everything is to know what happened, don’t you think, Mrs. Cullen?”
“Don´t call me that!” She muttered bitterly, anger crossing her eyes.
“Oh, I´m sorry! I assumed you took his last name when you got married.” I said ironically.
“I did, and I took it off when I got divorced” she muttered crossing her arms across her chest in the stubborn gesture I remembered so well and keeping her eyes away from my face. I was speechless for about a minute or so, and then I burst into laughter, she remained seated in the same position waiting for me to finish laughing, it took a while. “If you´re are done making fun of me, can I go now?” she said hurt crossing her face.
“Sorry! I couldn´t help it! I thought you said he was the love of your life and you couldn´t live without him, and you wanted to be with him for all… well, the eternity” the situation may not be funny for her, but certainly, it was funny to me, she broke my heart in a million pieces, I was a mess until this day and she left him! God! I was even more of a pathetic loser than I had thought! She never cared about me, she got divorced and didn´t have the decency of calling even to see if I was still alive. A small part of me thought that if Edward hadn´t been in the picture she would have chosen me, but I didn´t deserve her attention even without the leech in the way, apparently.
“I was wrong,” she said simply.
“You know, I´m really glad I ran into you today, Bella!” Her name burned my tong but I continued “This makes things completely clear for me. I was an idiot! I thought I was at least your friend, but you never cared about me at all!” I said in a light tone, even though my heart was breaking all over again “Thank you for the clarification. I hope you have a nice life” I said motioning for standing up.
Her small hand on mine stopped me. Her skin in mine felt like fire “How can you say that? You know that´s not true!” She said in a sweet pleading tone. Her eyes were so sweet and pained. I looked at her hand and she moved it back.
“Do I? Let´s see…” I said facing her again “You decided to break my heart after the battle where I almost died, you insisted on having me at your wedding to see you…” I blinked fighting the tears. That was, without a doubt, the sadder memory of my life “To see you so unbelievably beautiful giving your life, figuratively and literally to another man. Then you decided to leave your brand new husband and you never bothered to even call me to let me know my worst fear,” Silent tears continued falling from her chocolate brown eyes “the mere thing that gave me nightmares over the past four years didn´t happen. Do you know Bella? I know you really never loved me, but a small part of me found comfort believing I was your best friend” I shook my head sadly “I guess I was mistaken about that too”.
“Please don´t say that! I know I acted horribly with you! I wanted to tell you!” She sobbed.
“And what? You lost my number or something?” I said unyieldingly. “Do you realize that I believed for the last four years that you were either dead or a leech?” The memory of my nightmares of her with red eyes instead of her beautiful chocolate brown, and pale and hard skin made me shudder.
“Jacob, I came home, to tell Charlie I was getting a divorce and…to see you. God! I wanted to see you so badly. But Charlie told me you asked him…never to know anything about me again. He said you were just putting your life back together. I didn´t have the right to come back to your life and mess it up again” She moved her hand over the table to put it on top of mine, I moved mine back.
“When was this?”
“The Christmas of the following year”. I went home for Christmas that year, she was so close!
“So, you only last a year married. May I ask what happened?” I was being a masochist, but a part of me needed to know. Maybe if I could make any sense of the whole situation I could have the closure I needed so desperately.
She nodded “I lasted less than a year” she murmured “About four months after the wedding I realized it was a mistake, I tried to save my marriage because as you said, I left everything for it. And you know me, I´m very stubborn” She smiled weakly “I give up so much because of this! More than you´ll never know” The pain in her face was overwhelming. I wanted more than anything to comfort her, to hug her and kiss her hair and tell her everything would be alright, but I knew it was a bad idea. I was hanging on a threat there, if I had hugged her I never would be able to let her go “But finally I gave up. After a year of struggling with myself I left him and went home for the Holidays. I wanted to look for you, but after what Charlie said I realized it was too late”.
“Charlie was already married to Sue by then, how did you go to their house without anyone on the pack noticing? Leah and Seth still lived home by then” I asked incredulously.
“I haven´t put feet at the Rez since the day…you were…hurt” She sobbed softly again “I didn´t know if I was allowed” I arched my eyebrows questionably “You know, being technically a Cullen” She made quotation marks with her fingers “I stayed at our old house like I did every time I visited Charlie since then”.
“Have you visited after that?” How did she come back without anyone knowing?
“A couple of times. We were very careful about it, only Charlie and Sue knew, and she never told her children. You didn´t want to know about me and you were right, I only brought pain to your life and I understand why you hate me” she said keeping her eyes on the table.
“I don´t hate you,” I said automatically, unable to stop myself.
“You should,” She said.
“I know, but I can´t,” I said honestly. I wanted so many times to be able of hating her, or at least not love her, I never could.
We stay silent for a couple of minutes “I´m visiting Charlie for the Holidays, but I´ll stay at Forks, I´ll stay out of your way”. She said nervously. “Then I´ll leave back to New York and you won´t have to deal with me at all”.
“Are you living in New York now?” I asked surprised, I couldn´t picture her in a big city.
“Yes. I went to Dartmouth with…the Cullens, after the divorce they left and I stayed there finishing my degree. My education was paid for, it was the only thing I accepted from them.”
“And you work there?”
“I do. When I was in college a professor of mine hired me part-time at her publishing house, and they offered me a full-time position as junior editor when I graduated. They sent me to Seattle to meet with several writers we work with”.
“And you thought I wouldn´t find out?” I asked.
“You didn´t the last three times I came and I was closer” she shrugged.
I smiled despite myself “You´re right”.
“I should leave,” she said standing up. A small part of me wanted nothing more than to stop her, but I didn´t. I just nodded instead “Can I say something before I do, please?”
“Jacob, I´m really sorry for everything I did and how I acted. I was a weak, stupid and selfish teenage girl who didn´t know what was best for her or what she really wanted, and I hope you can forgive me someday even though I know I don´t deserve it. If I could go back I´d change so many things, but I can´t. Sometimes you just have to pay an impossibly high price for your mistakes. But you have to know…” She cleared her throat “you have to know you meant so, so much to me. More than you´ll ever know”. I couldn´t speak, I cleaned the lonely tear rolling down my cheek. “Bye,” she said touching my shoulder and fasting away. My heart broke with every step she took away from me.
I stayed sitting there looking at the table for at least 10 minutes unable to make my feet move. I was feeling so many things. Bella´s scent was still around the table and it felt impossible to leave it behind. I thought the last time I saw her at her wedding was the last time I would ever see her and I had, more or less, made peace with that. But to see her again was too much.
I walked to my car and went back to the apartment. I sat on the couch in the dark living room with my head down holding it with my hands. There were so many things in my mind, I didn´t even know how to process them. I was happy that she was still human, I knew that much. But everything else was a complete mess inside my head.
She left the fucking leech, but she didn´t even call me. I did tell Charlie I didn´t want to know anything about her, but couldn´t she have tried harder? She decided to stay human, she knew how much I worried about that. And what she said to me before she left! Did she really care about me at all back then? A part of me was asking myself desperately to believe her words, but I knew better.
“Jacob?” Embry turned on the light on his way to the kitchen, I looked up “What are you doing here, man? Did something happen? Is Billy alright?” He asked taking in my tortured face.
“I saw her, Em” I said in a hollow voice.
“Saw who?” He sat next to me.
“Her! Bella!” I spat out.
“What? Where? Is she here in Seattle? Did she look for you?” I shook my head “She did survive the change then” he said.
“She´s still human”.
“She´s still human? How can that be? She must be, what? 22? And the leech is 17. Isn´t that illegal or something?”
“23” I corrected automatically “She left him”.
“She did? When?” He said surprised.
“Years ago” My head back in my hands.
“She said she realized it was a mistake just months after the wedding. She didn´t look for me or tell me because Charlie asked her not to. Charlie told her I didn´t want to know anything about her!”
“Well, you did tell him that” He muttered thoughtfully “Do you regret it?” He asked after a minute.
“Yes… No… I don´t know!” It was all so confusing.
“Does this change anything?” he asked warily.
“Of course not! She left me because she didn´t want me. That doesn´t change because her happily ever after with the fucking leech didn´t work out”. I spat at him standing up and walking up and down our small living room.
“But Jake, maybe…”
“Maybe nothing, Embry! I´m not a naive kid anymore”.
“Ok, sorry” he muttered “And how do you feel about all this?”
“I don´t know. I´m happy she decided to stay human. But everything else is just…confusing”.
“Wow! Bella Swan is still human…” He said in awe “How is she?” He asked as an afterthought.
“Beautiful! God, so beautiful! She seemed fine. I mean, she was as surprised as I was. I ran into her at the Starbucks, she´s in town for work and she´s spending the holidays with Charlie, and then she´s going back, to New York. She lives there now”.
“Did she say something about what happened back then?” He asked dryly.
“Yes, she apologized, a lot. She said she´s sorry for how she treated me, and that she really cared about me, and she knows how much she hurt me”. I said rubbing my face tiredly.
“She doesn´t know half of it,” He said bitterly, which was weird in Embry, he was usually a nice guy, but he was a loyal friend and he knew exactly what I had been through.
“And she never will” I looked at him pointedly, he nodded. “Em, I don´t want for the pack to know about this, if it´s possible. She´s staying at Forks, so maybe someone could see her, but I don´t want to talk about this with anyone else if I can avoid it, please!”
“Sure, man! It´s your call”.
“Thank you! I´m going to bed, I beat”.
That night the nightmares were different, usually were about Bella with red eyes and sickly pale skin. These ones were about her leaving me after the battle when I was wounded, that scenario played in my mind again and again. Of her in her wedding gown looking drop-dead beautiful. I woke up even more tired than I was when I went to bed.