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Ether

Summary:
Bella and Jacob literally step through the looking-glass. Here they find themselves in a world as it could have been and, in the end, it’s up to them whether to stay there or somehow find their way back to the world as it is.


Notes:


1. part one

Rating 5/5   Word Count 5014   Review this Chapter

etherptone


ETHER

Perhaps the feelings that we experience when we are in
love represent a normal state. Being in love shows a person
who he should be.

Anton Chekhov (1860 - 1904)



>>>




The stories all start like this, or at least this is the interim, or the ending.

(they all blend.)

But it doesn’t matter. See the girl? She’s a faded pink and the wedding glow is disguised by the painted veil she clutches close. Eyes, mouth, the whole face is obscured, she’s the picture of modesty. A true Penelope, the ancient Greeks would have regaled this child bride that stands so still in the middle of the chaos around her.

She doesn’t move and only gazes down at her lily-white hands. It’s like she’s trying to imitate the statuesque frame of her soon-to-be-family. But it has such an ill effect on her (normal girl).

The canopy is filled with the women from her all too short life. It’s like a reunion special, a season finale of her human life that casts back the characters that filtered from some interspersed episode to the next.

But there is someone missing, the most recent one (the one that matters) and she doubts he’s here or down at the main attraction where everything will begin.

(or end.)

She’s too lost in this tiny tent that touches the beginnings of a patch of forest that surrounds the Cullen household.

So she remains ramrod-straight and tries to breathe, a human trait soon to be forfeit.

>>>



One hour, only an hour left.

The clock has been tricked upon and it’s the reverse of a Salvador Dali painting. Everything seems to be moving too fast. But at least the tent has relinquished the guests that wanted a peek at her before she legally leaves behind her last name.

Rosalie throws a look at her and she blinks fast. She’s grateful for the shroud for the first time because it holds back her fears to her only. But the blonde beauty pauses and tells Alice something in a hurried whisper before she takes her leave.

It’s just the two of them left.

The maid of honor tosses tales of her first marriage with Jasper. It was at a beach, bright (he liked the southern sun) and blah blah. The words mesh and her chest rises and falls too rapidly.

(it’s not normal.)

But the other doesn’t notice, she doesn’t possess the ability to recognize a change in the wind instantly. Only after images blind her will she then pause and gasp a second too late. So she tries her hardest to fixate on what she’s soon going to do, what’s she’s planned on for the past month, to not throw her off.

She always sticks to her decisions once they’re made. Hasn’t that always been the case?

(don’tdeviatedon’tdeviatedon’tdeviate.)

The reminder is a cassette recorder. A clicking in her mind telling her she has yet to pass out. The noise is so constant that she doesn’t hear herself say her deathly wish until it’s out in the open.

“I want to be alone.” She betrays her very self.

Hair swirls as Alice turns around in confusion. She’s holding her bouquet of all too perfect orchids.

“What?” she asks, bemused.

There’s no avoiding it. It has to be addressed.

“For a bit,” she manages to say. An artificial chuckle from her eases Alice’s frown and the girl eventually consents because this is her day.

A little white lie, this is where all the stories begin to stray.


>>>



The gown weighs too much, that’s the only thing she can concentrate on. The only thing she’ll allow herself to think as she exits her confinement.

Shoes that pinch her toes carry her further in to a wilderness she never cast a second thought on, until now. Now it’s all that sustains her as she buries herself deeper and deeper in its waiting wings.

Every step means a steadier heart rate.

It’s just a short walk, a little breather, she tells herself. It’s nothing.

But the minutes pass and she’s not turning back. Instead she tires and toes off the pumps, leaving the slippers to be found.

So she’ll find her way back, like Hansel and Gretel, she convinces herself. Nevermind another fabled lore tells it otherwise. But will the prince find her?

As long as the light is still out. The gnarled trees pose no threat to this creature that dares to seek refuge. Temporary asylum.

She stumbles along a queer meadow though. A ring of fire bleached of human interruption, until he comes along.

>>>



He doesn’t know if it was coincidence or his uncanny sense of knowing where she is all the time that causes him to be face-front with her.

Either way, it takes him back to watch the covered bride with dirty feet turn towards him as if she was expecting him.

He’s not ready for this, his hands shake, and he clenches them in response. He doesn’t know what possessed him to take the invitation and actually comply with coming, just that he had to see her one last time. Before... before it happened and she left him forever.

But what he didn’t guess was that it would be like rubbing salt on an already infested wound. He’s starting to think he’s a sadist, a masochist.

(talk to her and know your killer.)

Foolhardy boy that he is can’t stop his most basic needs. So he doesn’t turn around and run the opposite direction (neither does she).

He does the contrary and comes closer.

>>>



She remembers as a little kid that her skin would tan rather than burn. Kid of the 90’s she was and she thrived in the outdoors.

Until she figured out that Forks was never going to be the Californian beach that was displayed in every teen sitcom she revered.

She would cry and whine a fit until Renee told her the rainy days protected her. Staring at the sun too long will surely blind her.

Too bad she forgets all of that when Jacob Black plants his feet in her path and lifts her veil.

>>>



He’s not supposed to do this.

There are roles to be fulfilled and he was too late to steal the girl away with social rituals befit of a turn-of-the-century gentlemen (He was born on the cusp of modern decadence). Not the groom, but The Other Man that’s spoken about in hushed tones because it’s scandalous and he is a mystery in human form.

But he’s not logical and he goes by his instincts. Plus, it’s better to speak to Bella instead of a girl defaced by lace.

His excuse.

>>>



His hand brushes along her cheek, unintentional thing. The heat brands something in her and her face is naked to him (hasn’t it always been like that though?).

“You weren’t supposed to see me,” his greeting.

“Too late, you fail as a spy.” Exchanges are easy with him, too easy.

“This ruins everything,” he huffs out, “I was supposed to hang about the shadows and brood. I thought the woods would be quintessential for that aspect.”

Let him be the one to make light of the situation. Well, the challenge presents itself within her.

“Shall I depart so you can have a soliloquy to yourself? Or can you come by again because I was just about to start mine. You interrupted.”

He chuckles and -- oh! Wasn’t this how the whole love triangle started? With his smiles meant for only her?

>>>



Unexpected turn of events, she has a knack of including herself in every one of them.

Trouble always finds me, she told him long ago. Little did he know that would be him essentially. Another role, something to mark his resume with. She’d probably sign her name (a loopy script) as her personal recommendation of him.

He is topnotch material for that part.

He shouldn’t even be here with her, especially alone. But when has he ever followed the rules? If there’s such a thing as werewolves and vampires surely there’s magic out there to grant him a wish? Flimsy desire of the heart, can it be acquired?

Well, he’ll do the best of grabbing at what he can.

>>>



Jacob knows when it’s necessary to employ the hums and drones of idle chatter and when to shut up and enjoy their company. Small talk is used and he talks about school work and the fact that an eclipse will soon be on the horizon. Will she be able to see it?

But she knows he’s itching to ask it. Why are you here with me?

His look says it all. (Their silent communication.)

“I don’t know.” she answers him.

The gloves come off. “It didn’t hit me until I was drenched in cloth. This is it, this is really happening, I panicked.”

He lays down beside her. “Pre-wedding jitters, cold feet?”

“It’s normal,” she snaps because she knows where this is headed. They had closed that discussion, no more. She likes to ignore things until they blow up in her face. It’s a bad habit she can’t drop, one that gets worse as the years mark themselves up.

“Not when you’re here and your wedding is about to start in five minutes.”

It doesn’t even startle her out of her seat.

“I still have time.”

He stares hard at her. “You weren’t surprised to see me. At all.”

There is no response from her and he reads her like a large-print book. The first-edition in his firm grasp tickles down every detail she can’t deny.

“You aren’t ready for it Bella. How can you commit yourself to something when you’re not sure about what you’re doing?”

(on who you’re hurting more, me or you?)

She bristles at the seams. “And you? What makes you an authority on this?”

Jacob’s hand closes in on her. Big engulfs small and the warmth can’t be escaped. “I’ve thought long and hard about this, it’s practically the only thing I do think about and... Bella, what if you’re giving up on a better future? What if you regret this?”

(just voice my fears, lay them out one-by-one.)

Tears prick at her eyes, mascara is going to be ruined. The meadow provides no relief anymore, instead it’s the sight of her interrogation. Emotions bluster and make her sway (the chemical reaction).

“What future! Nothing is so sure anymore.”

Like her wedding, what a joke to be here still. She tries to pull away but the efforts aren’t up to par.

“Listen!” Desperation coats his voice and his eyes are crazed. Jake, Jake, Jake, what had she done to him?

“I know I told you I was giving in. But I can’t when you haven’t thrown the towel in either, Bells.”

Her chest repeats the symptoms of hyperventilation. The air is static and deep down she knows this is a turning point. Let her fingers clutch the chord that takes her from one chapter to the next.

“I’m covered in a wedding dress, Jacob. And it’s not for you, isn’t that a hint?”

But he’s relentless. “You can’t stand it. It stifles you. Where are your gloves, the veil, the shoes? You’ve discarded them, what else am I supposed to think?”

Not true, not true. She points at them near her moss-covered feet. Denial is a sweet drug in the form of Edward. Too bad his adversary is the antidote. She’s getting shots full of him and she needs to get away soon before she loses it.

“Just let go, will you.” Words bruise his face and she’s hurt him. This what they do to each other nowadays.

“I - I will,” he stutters. The fake bravado is slipping and let them get to the point. “But not before you answer me this.”

The sky is turning too dark and his face is blackened unexpectedly. Her white attire is soon a shade of gray, it fits the moment.

“Have you ever imagined it? Us? What it could have been like?”

His last request.

Refusing to acknowledge that would be like rejecting a part of herself. (But hasn’t she done that as of late?)

The idle thought leaves a bitter taste on her tongue. The only way to get rid of it is to let her reservations fall. She’ll open the dam for a bit then.

“I started to.” she admits quietly.

>>>



He is tearing her apart. Little by little he makes her address the skeletons in her closet, his bones that collect dust because she’s deep in a well of denial. His murderess.

“How was it?” It’s childish the way he asks it, eyes full of hope.

Light is obscured and only a sliver of her face is not concealed. She doesn’t want to talk about this but he’s frantic.

(plead to the heavens, wolf boy.)

>>>



He is starting to evoke images she had long discarded and deposited in another universe. Because they are taboo to her and the perfect world she had decided on before he carved a place in her heart.

“Imaginary,” she spits out. She has to move away, get going with what her plans dictated. Because once she sets herself on a path she follows it.

(but hasn’t she been walking towards his for a long time?)

He reaches for her hand and the plain flesh against her ignites something. She’s a whirlpool of confusion and he whispers his hopes.

“Indulge me this once.”

Passion is the common theme in their kisses, this time being no exception. Hands are everywhere and maybe this is why she runs away every time from him because it’s impossible to withhold whatever this is when she’s around him for too long. His body that tugs her closer, one that contains all her secrets and the frames of her would-be-life. Mouth that evokes them all and tells her this is how it’s supposed to be.

His very touch sends her back to the images she’s kept secret. There is that white-picket fence, kids with black hair streaming across the lawn and him sipping on a chipped mug.

(do you want this?)

Her lips press the answer. yesyesyes. It’s a reflex.

There are no restraints on this. If she’s committed a sin she might as well do it thoroughly and he’s the jackpot of them all.

The sky pitches itself into complete blackness.

>>>



They pull apart but he has his answer.

She should feel ashamed of this but it’s hard to ignore the pleasant sensations he draws within her. So she’s a caricature of what she’s supposed to be. She weakly pushes him away.

He lets her do this.

(Pick up the pieces, wolf-boy, and watch her walk away.)

It’s their specialty.

>>>



They tread forest ground. Leaving the scene of the crime and going back to the decision she dreads every step she’s closer to it.

But the woods don’t thin. The forest refuses to let her escape.

He looks perplexed and the seconds elongate as he gazes down at his fingers. They brush alongside trees and he’s off in some strange land. It’s probably better that he’s distancing himself from her already. It’s the logical thing to do (but not something that they’ve been prone to).

“We should be there by now,” he voices.

Her wedding was officially an hour ago. She wonders if there are people searching for her. And if the gossip will arrive first before an ally will lead her down the aisle.

“I guess I’ve wandered too far.”

That would be an understatement. Nothing is familiar here and the place has an old feel to it. The air hangs heavy on her chest and this dress is impossible to walk in.

He tugs at it. And he has that Sam-face on (calm, cool, collected). It irritates her that he’s starting to change so soon.

“I’m going to transform. Maybe then we’ll find you home and safe.”

The latter is said sarcastically but she prefers to think it otherwise.

He starts unbuttoning the vest that strains on his formal shirt. His fingers are too graceful for what they appear to be and they bid her. Sins, sins, sins. She closes her eyes and concentrates on anything but them.

“You’re dressed,” slips out.

His cheeks twitch and the old Jacob peeks through. “Only now does it bother you.”

He is about as naked as present decorum dictates and she diverts her eyes. Funny how common sense and modesty return at this precise time when all she wants to do -- is forbidden. Eyes shut and think it away, she’s another’s girl, she will be.

But the leaves rustle and that’s it. She deems it safe and her eyes automatically focus on him. He is already tuned in.

The confused look is back on. He looks so bewildered that she has no choice but to grab his hand. It’s almost too cold to touch.

“Bella, something is wrong.”

His russet-colored skin no longer bleeds heat. It’s exhibiting the normal symptoms of a teenage boy, a human.

“You’re cold,” she worries.

He sinks down on the floor and the trees provide him a rest. He cradles her hand in his and with his back pressed against the bark, he gets marked. Small, red streams trickle down and he is as astonished as she is.

Both eyes are open wide. Twilight has come and gone and taken the curse away, for some inexplicable reason. But, no, that notion is ridiculous...

“Maybe it’s a fluke.”

She doesn’t think about it. The bottom part of her dress is torn away and she wipes his blood away with it.

“Doesn’t matter,” she hears herself say.

>>>



Her eyes are averted away. She’s taking strides and is being overly clinical about the situation. Regardless, he revels in this, in her minute attention.

The bottom hem of her gown is streaked a flavor too sour. Greens, browns and now a red stain and he hopes the guests aren’t expecting a pristine image. Not that he’ll see them, he’s gotten what he came for (last glimpses for a dying man).

But he’ll accompany her to the edge and deliver her away. Though it’s looking next to impossible in this stark darkness and her face is too fuzzy in it.

(He feels as if he’s cottoned in at all ends.)

He refuses to think on the little changes in himself that took place as soon as her lips were separated from him.

>>>



It doesn’t seem as if August 13th is a date that agreed with her.

The day is slipping past (especially with him) and there’s no one around for miles, it seems. The trees are too dense but not enough that they provide complete relief from the random downpours Forks is famous for.

Like this one that’s streaking down on them.

Jacob is shaking more and more with his flimsy clothes and she’s drowning in this thing Alice put her in.

“Maybe we should camp out here.” she says the obvious.

He looks at her for the first time since she decided to touch (hurt) him. The conversations of past ghosts play through her mind and she wishes she took some words out. Edit and chop, so she’d get another ending than this Jacob that is trying so hard not to be affected by this whole thing. This Jacob that is trying so hard to accept the hand he’s dealt with (maybe next time) and is putting up a front that collapses every time she can’t control herself.

She tries to ignore these revelations and his blank face.

“What, do you propose I get some leaves and build you a tree house for the night? Despite appearances, I’m not Tarzan, y’know.”

His lips curl a bit and she’s not going to fall into his trap.

She chortles a bit and starts unbuttoning her dress, decadent thing. He is a real contender for the frozen statue thing she was perfection at back at the tent with all the bridesmaids. Simply a wisp of air flows from his lips, teenage guy that he is.

She tries to act nonchalant about the it, about them. Like nothing happened some hours ago (tongue, teeth, his lips) or that something ever did.

Lies, she’s getting to be a great little actress.

>>>




This is the game they play. A script they write together as they ply their tools against each other. Her’s is a mighty pen full of deliberate ignorance and his is the knife that he draws on sand
pebbles (her messages in a bottle). The grains move and converge and sometimes she sees the truth he spells out and sometimes she thinks it never happened.

At least she acknowledged them finally. Too bad it was for naught.

Maybe this is a consequence of him feeling funny then? Of him having the voices in his head dim to nothing but a low, low breeze he can bearly feel?

Either way, his musings are at a standstill as soon as she steps out of that dirty garb. Her hair is matted down and only this slip of a thing keeps her from exposing all. He ogles, after all, deep down, he’s man.

Whatever has changed in him hasn’t been that aspect. He’s reassured by her presence.

>>>



“Perhaps this thing can act as something?”

It sure is big enough to provide itself as a quilt for a queen size mattress, or one Jacob Black all sprawled. And it looks like that would be it’s future occupation since it can no longer be a wedding ensemble.

He only smirks some more and grabs an end as he peeks under.

“It can probably act as a circus tent. Glad you decided to donate it after all.”

She shakes her head of water-logged hair (doglike thing?) and chuckles. “Well, after Salvation Army rejected me I figured you were the only one left that was in desperate need.”

“You mean there was no waiting list for this?” He looks mock-outraged as he tears the gown out-wide.

Good-riddance.

She purses her lips at that quick arriere-pensee.

>>>



They huddle under it’s sheer thickness. The shakings subside from him and at least they won’t catch pneumonia.

There’s about two feet between them though and, as her eyes get drowsy, she thinks of all the books that had their own rendition on this part of the tale. Those bodice-rippers that had companions stranded in these similar settings and their own solutions to the coldness that seeps through.

She shivers and Jacob doesn’t take this as out of the ordinary. The weather isn’t relenting any and there are new lines she has redrawn since her answer was pushing him away.

This? Them being here at the moment? Only a slight detour.

She has a fiancee.

Even after all this time of knowing that fact, the word is foreign and so is the idea that she will shed all traces of him soon.

Maybe he should had taken French in high school rather than Spanish. Perhaps then he wouldn’t eschew common sense (getting away from her).

>>>




By midmorning the next day, they emerge. Fey children with twigs and such tumble out and assumptions can be placed on the young couple.

She is in fancy lingerie at best and he is a man with formal wear in need of laundry. Both of them.

These are the first reactions of the townsfolk in the Forks town square.

The girl blinks dazedly and the man-boy is slightly apart from her. They seem to have grown out unexpectedly from the trees, unknown bounty, since they are these rare shade of characters.

She is barefoot and the man is only kept slightly better. Despite their drunken appearance, they are taking deliberate strides towards them. Most importantly his shop, the Newton Outfitters.

>>>



She is almost regretting tossing those slippers a day ago. Her feet are something sore and mud coats them. Jacob had offered her his pair but what else would she be but a clumsier version of herself with his Sasquatch shoes?

Either way, the issue of shoes aren’t enough to distract her away from the problem at hand. How after hours of trekking they had come no closer to uncovering a path back at the Cullen household is.

No, instead, they’ve gone circles around to only end up at the Forks center of all activity: the supermarket and her workplace.

She could get some footwear with her employee discount, can’t she?

>>>




If Forks possessed a tabloid, he thinks they’d be front-page.

He wonders why she didn’t shoo him away at the first glance of civilization.

“They’ll think we were having a lover’s tryst, back there.”

They’ll know, more like it.

She simply doesn’t say anything but sighs. Her fingers are combing over her up-do and a strand teases her nose. “Look, as long as someone gives me a ride to a working bathroom, I don’t care what they say.”

He readily agrees with her and as long as they talk like this he’ll forget how about what she chose in the end. He forbids these recurring thoughts, no need to sully the mood.

The doors slide and she enters the quaint recreational store. She forces an easy smile on her face as she approaches the front counter. A man in his thirty’s stands still, curiosity mingling forth on his facial expression.

Baby eyes flit from him to her and he looks a bit like that sucker Bella and him took out to the cinema. He hopes the dad isn’t as quick to turn away from him in distaste like the son.

>>>




“Hi, Mr. Newton,” comes out.

The man tenses at the tone of familiarity Bella eases with. She taps her fingers (manicured) on the desk and this pale girl is only all-too alluring.

“Hello,” he rasps out, unsure.

She takes a step back at the wavering resonance in his voice. She furrows her brow and leans in.

“I know it looks bad, Mr. Newton, but there’s an explanation to it.”

Her hand flits back and forth between the boy and her. The tall one simply leans on the front column and his stance is that of an aloof Marlon Brando. He watches the flicks his wife of two years revers and knows the type.

Mr. Newton doesn’t say anything and the girl is growing to be upset. The boy notices and his hand rubs her back (intimate gesture). He mimics her mood and looks resolute.

“We’re lost.”

(and there’s no way to go.)


>>>




She’s been around this man for a long time and despite some reverse features of his, she thinks they’d be on some neutral terms. The man, though, isn’t on the same page as her.

“Lost? In Forks?” Mr. Newton sounds incredulous.

“Is Mike here?” is her non-sequitor. Jacob gives her a terse glance and the man is confused.

“I’m Mike, did someone recommend me to you?”

Her face is stricken.

>>>



Looks like she took a fall too many.

She’s feeling a bit on a loose end and Jacob better take hold of this situation but he can’t withhold her as she launches herself towards the counter.

“Don’t you recognize me?” her pleads attract the one or two customers at the store.

“Bells,” Jacob whispers but to no avail.

“Don’t you remember Bella? Bella Swan?”

She’s in a frenzied state and Mike only motions to someone behind them. A woman of around Mike’s age walks towards the three, her face turned away.

It’s a series of whispers from Mike Newton’s mouth but the woman has heard it all, apparently. She places a pair of odd gadgets on the desk before she turns around.

“Are you two looking for a Bella Swan?”

(It’s like gazing at their own, personal looking-glass.)

His Bella staggers back into him and he only clutches her as he gulps in the strained air between them.

“That used to be me,” the woman voices out.

It’s unreal but despite the half-moon pinches he gives himself, he’s not waking up from whatever dream-state they are in.

>>>



end, part one

>>>