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A Different Path

Summary:
How would the story have progressed if Bella, instead of Jacob, had answered the phone on the day of Harry's funeral?


Notes:


7. Chapter 7

Rating 5/5   Word Count 2050   Review this Chapter

The night was no more or less than Bella expected, but she didn’t open her window; not to whisper to Jake in the dark, and not for any other reason, either. She made it into bed, after assuring Charlie her homework had been finished at Jake’s, but without any effort to undress or prepare for the next day.

Instead, she curled up on her bed, kicking off her shoes, and wrapping her arms around herself tightly. She let the tears come, and the sobs afterward. By the time her breathing eased, and her tears were quiet again, she was exhausted.

A weak approximation of Edward’s voice replayed in her head. I was an idiot, thinking I could live without you....I love you. She hadn’t believed him, but her closed eyes saw again the sincerity in his. Still, she recalled the look in his eyes at the beginning of the year, too. He’d not wavered for an instant as he explained that he didn’t want her anymore. Which was the truth? She couldn’t be sure.

And did it matter? Even if he loved her, how could he ask her to come back to him, now? Didn’t he realize what it would do to her the next time he left her because he thought she was ‘safer’ without him? And what about Jacob? Could she leave him, now, as he risked his life to protect her from Victoria – not even a danger he had been involved in creating? He had been so good to her. Her sun in an otherwise dark time. How could she justify leaving him, even if Edward DID want her again? She couldn’t, and knowing it tore at the wound in her chest.

There was no answer to the riddle she was puzzling over. When dawn broke, she went to the window, resigned to her fate. It was sure to be an awful day, since she’d not managed to sleep at all. Her eyes caught a glimpse of something at the edge of the woods, and she squinted in the half-light, just able to make out a massive shape among the underbrush. She wondered if he could see the tear tracks on her face, and waved hesitantly.

The russet-brown wolf, looking shaggier than she remembered, took a single step out from under the trees, held her eyes for a moment, and then disappeared again. Bella swallowed hard, and went to get started on her day.




Most of the week passed quietly. Bella talked more during her short afternoons in La Push than she did all day long at school, or at work. A few words with Alice here and there, assuring her she was fine. A whispered conversation with Angela, reassuring her that she’d still be helping to address graduation announcements. She kept her conversations to a minimum, aware of Edward’s tendency to listen to those around her, and not having any desire to make the situation harder for either of them. Edward didn’t speak to her.

Jacob came by after school late in the week, a pile of books in his arms and a sheepish expression on his face as she opened the door. But his face quickly turned sour, and his nose crinkled in distaste. He looked around worriedly. “Someone’s been here,” he commented quietly, aware of Charlie, already parked in front of the TV. He set his books down quickly.

“What do you mean? No one’s been over. Not even Alice,” Bella replied.

“No, it’s no one I recognize,” he answered distractedly, already headed for the stairs.

“Jake!” Bella hissed, gesturing to Charlie’s back, her expression alarmed, now.

“Oh, right,” he said, frowning.

“That you, Jake?” Charlie called from the other room. Bella and Jacob exchanged a glance.

“Yeah. Thought I’d break the pattern a bit, and study here for once,” Jacob said, forcing a laugh. Bella stepped in quickly.

“Actually, before we get started, I need to see if there’s any e-mail from mom,” she said, sounding apologetic. “I forgot to check yesterday.” She’d forgotten to check all week, actually, but she wasn’t going to let that slip in front of Charlie. “Come up with me for a minute, while I see if she’s written,” she said, taking Jacob by the hand and pulling him up the stairs. She could feel Charlie’s disapproving stare, and she smiled down at him. “I’ve got to be back down to take dinner out of the oven in ten minutes,” she reminded him, with just a twinge of annoyance in her voice. His face relaxed.

“Right, then. Tell her I said hello.”

Jacob closed the door to her room behind them, his face already anxious again. “Definitely not one of them. Someone I’ve never met.” He scowled, then opened the window. “Still stinks, though,” he commented. Bella crossed the room and reached past him to close the window.

“I’ll get an air freshener. But what could it mean? Who would have come here, if not one of the Cullens, or Victoria?” She sat down at her computer and turned it on, not bothering to watch as it booted slowly.

Jacob didn’t answer. After a few moments, he turned away from her expectant eyes. “I need to use the phone, and then I’ve got to let Sam know about this. I’ll be back,” he said, opening the window again before letting himself out the door. Bella’s felt her brow furrow, and smoothed it, turning back to the computer, which was still booting.

Jacob trotted down the stairs. “Okay if I use your phone, Charlie?” he asked.

“Sure, whatever you need.”

Jacob smiled tightly, registering the relief in the older man’s voice. Apparently it made him uncomfortable to have Jake in Bella’s room. If he only knew, Jake thought to himself, as he dialed the number of the Cullen residence, thankful he even remembered it. The talk between Sam and Carlisle, which he’d sat through impatiently, had been worth that much at least.

An unfamiliar voice answered. “Carlisle Cullen, please,” he said tightly into the phone, keeping his voice low. “It’s Jacob Black.”

On the other end of the line, Jasper held the phone away from his ear, staring at it for a second in distaste. “Carlisle’s out,” he responded shortly.

“I need him to come to the Swan’s, as soon as he’s in, then,” Jacob retorted, already annoyed.

“He’ll be out all night. I’ll send Edward.”

“Wait, can’t the psychic come instead?” Jacob asked, modulating his voice to be a bit less confrontational.

“I wouldn’t have Alice within ten miles of you if I could help it. For that matter, I wouldn’t have Bella – “ Jasper’s angry voice broke off abruptly. Jake heard the phone change hands.

“What’s going on Jacob?” Edward asked after a moment.

Jake gritted his teeth. The last thing he wanted was Edward Cullen in Bella’s room again, but he couldn’t see a way around it. “Someone’s been here. No one I recognize, but you might.”

“I’m on my way.”

“I’ll be right outside,” Jacob growled. Edward paused, but didn’t retort, choosing instead to hang up the phone. It went dead in Jake’s hand, and he hung it up carefully, aware that his urge to slam the receiver down would probably destroy the phone. Not something Charlie would probably appreciate.

Then he stepped out onto the porch and ran for the woods, wishing that he didn’t have quite so many clothes to contend with. Charlie was used to him appearing at the house half-naked, and didn’t seem to care, but he’d come straight from school, so he was stuck with it. He shifted for only a minute, passing the news on to Embry and Jared, before dressing again and pacing the forest and the driveway, trying to pick up a trail, if there was one to be found. He found it, but didn’t want to stray too far from the house, knowing Edward would arrive any minute. He figured just this once, he’d let the bloodsuckers do the tracking.




“He left you alone in the house?” Edward demanded, his velvet voice angry, but quiet. Bella jumped. She’d been intently reading through her mother’s latest exploits and hadn’t heard him enter. She didn’t answer, turning back to what she was doing so quickly that she missed the flicker of pain in his expression. “No one I’ve ever met,” he commented after a moment. “Did he check the rest of the house?”

“No, Charlie is here. It was a stretch to even get him up to my room,” she answered, keeping her eyes on the computer monitor. Something about having Edward in her room made her heart ache, and she wrapped an arm around herself unconsciously. After a moment of silence, she looked up and realized he was gone, but she hardly had time to wonder at it before he was back, pushing her door back into the position it had been in before he’d gone. Fast enough that Charlie wouldn’t have seen him.

“The house is clear.” Edward stared at her for a moment when she didn’t reply. Finally she nodded.

“Thanks.”

“Are you alright?” His eyes seemed to burn into hers and she realized she’d forgotten to look away.

She pulled in a shaky breath and forced her eyes to the window. “Fine. Jake is waiting for you outside,” she whispered. “Thanks,” she said again, when he didn’t move.

“Bella –“

“Don’t.” She turned back to Renee’s e-mail already fighting back tears again. She stared at the screen without seeing, and felt a breeze ruffle her hair. Several minutes passed this way, but she didn’t count them. Finally Jacob came through the door. Bella shut down the computer without replying to her mother, and turned sideways in her chair to look at him. He noticed her expression at once.

Jake knelt down in front of her chair, so tall that he was still almost eye-level with her, and took her hands from where they’d fallen into her lap. “I tried to get Carlisle,” he said, his tone apologetic.

“Edward would have come no matter who you requested,” she replied, her voice shaking a little. She bit her lip, her eyes downcast.

“I’m sorry if he upset you.”

But she was already shaking her head. There wasn’t anyway to avoid it. Every time she had to see Edward, to hear his voice, it hurt. And yet, she couldn’t quite wish him gone. NOT hearing his voice, she knew from experience, would hurt more. “I’m alright,” she said finally, when she was sure it was true. “We should get to that homework,” she added, grimacing.

Jacob reached up with one hand and dragged his fingers through her hair gently, his hand coming to rest on the back of her neck. “Soon enough,” he agreed quietly, pulling her towards him. She met his lips more eagerly than he’d expected, though, and the reassurance he’d meant to offer turned into something more. For several minutes, they held each other; Bella losing herself in the heat of his kiss, and Jacob’s heart soaring with the hope that always accompanied these moments. For now, at least, it seemed like he might be able to make her happy. He pulled away, however, when he heard Charlie on the stairs.

His sudden grin brightening the room, he pulled Bella up out of her chair fluidly. “Charlie?” she guessed, an answering smile already on her lips. Jacob only laughed, taking in her swollen lips, as he opened the door. Charlie was poised to knock.

“Oh!” Jake said, affecting surprise inexpertly. “Sorry.” He slid passed Bella’s dad, still pulling her by the hand. Charlie stepped aside, eyes narrowed suspiciously, but he didn’t comment. Jake and Bella both laughed quietly as they reached the kitchen. Bella took dinner out of the oven, while Jacob cleared their books from the table. Dinner conversation wasn’t what it had been the last time they’d eaten together at Billy’s place, but Charlie did finally get up to see what was on television. As soon as he was out of the room, Jake leaned over the table and kissed Bella again, quickly.

She grinned. “We’d better get to work.” Jacob left late, homework complete, and content. Bella really did seem to be handling Edward better. He thought of the table he’d broken at home, and hoped he’d get better at dealing with the situation as well. He drove home thoughtful, his mind already running ahead to what he would say to the leech at midnight.