AU: A year later and Bella is still living in Forks with Charlie, alternating her time between the Newton's store and spending time with her best friend, Jacob. She didn't jump from the cliff. Alice had no vision. Edward never returned. But now, tired of having to endure her family's suffering, Alice schemes to solve the one problem at the center of all the turmoil: the burning question of Bella's mortality; the ultimatum that's divided the entire Cullen household. Edward won't do it. Carlisle won't do it. Alice can't do it. So who does that leave...? But when things start to take a turn for the worst, Bella and Edward come to face a grueling decision. It's not easy to pick your battles when you're intent on winning them all...
3. Continuing Complications
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Midnight Waltz: Chapter 3
‘The heart was made to be broken,
You shall wound many in your lifetime,
And for that your own too shall crack,
For that is the consequence of loving-
Losing the one thing you'll never get back.'
-- Oscar Wilde
x x x
My mind was suddenly working very hard and very fast - a side effect of the weather, I was sure. If I wanted out of this horrible, freezing storm, then I was going to have to do some very quick talking to get away from Embry. That and I didn't like how he was looking at Alice; as if he was going to pounce on her and rip her to shreds in a matter of seconds. Alice herself didn't seem at all bothered, though. In fact, her expression was almost smug for some reason that I couldn't possibly imagine. The only visible sign that she was anxious about the situation at all were her fingers-balled into tiny, tense fists at her side. They both looked positively ferocious as they stood their ground in the rain, lightening crashing violently overhead. I seemed to be the only one who felt like a drowned cat.
"Move, Embry," I asserted, the authority in my voice marred by the fact that I shacking with the cold. "I don't want this to be difficult."
The furious expression melted from his face as he turned to face me in shock. "You actually want to go with her? She isn't trying to kidnap you?"
"Where is she taking you?!" he bellowed, the familiar bitter mask unfolding over his features. "If it's at two am in the morning, I doubt it'll be anywhere safe! I won't let you go with her-Jake would kill me if I did."
"It's none of your business, dog!" Alice snarled, her lips curling back over her incredibly sharp teeth. "She wants to go with me and so she will!"
"Not if I can help it! What are you doing back, anyway? You're a Cullen, aren't you? How do I know that after all this time, you just want a little snack, eh? Tired of having to abstain are we?" Embry swiftly shook his head, his large brown eyes burning with anger. "Bella's too important to us for that, so I'm afraid you're going to have to cancel your midnight snack time."
"I don't want to eat her, you fool!" she scoffed. "I would never hurt her!"
"Well, you're too late for that one-you've already hurt her pretty badly from what I can tell and I'm not about to let you do it again!" I hadn't realized before how much Embry was shaking - almost as much as I was. He was on the verge of losing it. Alice flexed her legs and arms on the spot, getting ready to pounce...
"Stop it!" I screamed. They both instantaneously froze where they were and turned to look at me. I turned to Alice. "Shouldn't we be going?" I asked hurriedly. She nodded stiffly once, reaching for my hand. "Let's go...my car's a fair way from here, we're going to have to run." She turned around and began helping me onto her back when she suddenly stiffened, growling softly.
When I turned around, sure enough Embry was there looking right at me, face pained. I sighed and hopped down from Alice's back. I knew this conversation would be inevitable. Alice turned to give me a disapproving look. "Just a few minutes okay? Why don't you go and get the car and as soon as you drive up, I swear I'll come straight over. I promise."
She hesitated, obviously not liking the idea at all of leaving me alone for even one second with Embry. Her eyes flashed up to his in rage - finally seeing that she didn't really have a choice - before she disappeared down the street, lost in the rain. I turned my attention back to Embry once again. Naturally, he was livid. "You weren't planning on telling anyone you were taking off, were you?" he snapped, running a hand nervously over his drenched head.
"No," I muttered and although I couldn't hear my own voice, I knew he could hear me. "I thought it was the best thing to do."
"What on earth are you thinking, Bella! Running off with a vampire without telling anyone...what if she hurt you, huh? We couldn't help you because we wouldn't know where you were! Do you have any idea how stupid you're acting? Do you have any idea how upset Jake would be?" he asked me incredulously. He was trembling violently, his eyes dark.
"Calm down, Embry," I soothed.
"I don't want to calm down! I just want know what the hell you think you're doing? God, you weren't even going to tell Jake, were you? You're leaving - and don't deny it, Bella, I know you are-and you weren't even going to tell him! Or Charlie, for that matter. Don't you care about them at all? Who do you think you are?!"
I started massaging the sides of my head in frustration. I couldn't have this conversation anymore. The guilt swirling in the pit of my stomach was already making me sick and I was freezing cold - a very bad combination. Explaining my motives to this boy wouldn't help either; I would just be wasting my breath. I'd already made my decision and once I had, there was nothing to do but to follow through with it, I reminded myself. That had always been my way, and there would be no changing it now. Even though I knew I was being absolutely horrible by throwing all of Jacob and Sam's effort back at them. All their hard work to protect me...and I was slamming it back in their faces...Embry, Paul, Jared and Quil, too. They had just spent the better part of a year protecting me from vampires, and here I was now about to run off with one. I was choosing the vampires over them.
But I had wanted this, hadn't I? Even when Edward was with me, I had still asked to make me a vampire and I knew then what I knew now - that part had never changed. I would have to give up my family, my friends...my entire human existence to be with him.
I realized then and there that it didn't matter when I did this. It wouldn't lessen Charlie or Jacob's suffering. Or even mine. Pain was an inevitable part of immortality - both physical and emotional. And there was nothing I could do to make it any more bearable for anyone.
Just then, a black Mercedes came screaming around the corner and onto the curb, the driver looking murderously angry as she glared out the window. I got the message. "Listen, Embry...I'm sorry for putting you through this. Just tell Jake that I'll be okay, alright? And tell him sorry for me. I know he'll be angry."
"Don't do this, Bella," he pleaded once more, tightly gripping my shoulders. "Please don't make me tell Jacob..."
"I'm sorry...I've got to go," I tore myself away from him and focused on the car, trying desperately to fight back the tears already pooling in the corners of my eyes. "And thanks for everything, Embry!" I choked out over my shoulder, but when I looked, he was already gone. I threw myself in the back seat and as soon as I shut the door, Alice slammed down the accelerator, the tires screeching on the roads as we sped away.
I didn't bother trying to fight back the tears now and allowed them to gush miserably down my cheeks. I heard Alice ruffling around in a bag up front and was momentarily shocked when she pulled out a blanket and tossed it over to me. "I came prepared," she said, her voice strangely loud in my ears after the roar of the storm. I wrapped it securely around my shoulders as I lay down, curling up for more warmth. Alice noticed and turned up the heater.
"We'll be at the airport soon, Bella. You can sleep on the plane. I have a fresh change of clothes here for you, as well as a few other things." Her voice sounded a tad raw; a result of our rather dangerous encounter, I assumed.
"Okay," I mumbled dejectedly.
"I know it hurts, Bella," she whispered. "And I won't lie to you - it'll hurt for a long time to come. You can see why we like to wait until a person is dying before we change them-taking humans away from their family, however willing, is still wrong." Something flickered in her eyes in the rear vision mirror, too fast for me to see what it was. I was caught very much by surprise when she suddenly fishtailed around, the car gliding on the slippery roads until we came to a complete stop.
"What happened?" I croaked frantically, and I winced. My throat was still sore from yelling over the storm. "What did you see?"
"Nothing," Alice told me...but then she whirled around to face me from the driver's seat, her honey eyes intense. "You can still back out, Bella. I can drive right now and take you back home to bed. You could wake up tomorrow and pretend that all of this never happened." That concept seemed to bother her immensley, though she tried very hard not to show it. "Really. You don't have to do this."
"Yes I do..." - flinch - "...especially after that whole episode with Embry. I don't think I could say no - not now. Not even if I wanted to. You yourself told me how much danger I'm in if I stay here. The Volturi will come for me eventually." I reminded her.
"But the wolves could protect you, I'm sure," she offered in a disgusted tone. "I was watching you with that...Embry. You love them."
"Yes," I agreed. "But it's really not the same."
"I noticed that," she said, a wicked grin playing on her lips. She was enjoying that idea more then she should. What was it with vampires and their superiority complexes?
But then she was abruptly serious. "But there's a difference between having to do something and wanting to do something. The only reason I came to you tonight, Bella was because I was sure you wanted this." She paused for a moment, hesitating. "Was I right?"
It was a loaded question, and even though I felt incredibly nauseated from the guilt and sadness of having to leave behind my family...even though I felt horrible for what I had done to the wolves...even though what I was doing may have seemed selfish and down right cruel to most...even though there was only a miniscule, almost-next-to-impossible-chance that I could be with Edward again...
No. This wasn't helping. I had to look at a different way...
Could I get out of this car right now and walk away from Alice? No. It was downright painful to even consider it. And then there was that word whispering seductively in my ear: Almost...
Even if it was only tiny, was there anything in this world that I wouldn't give up for that chance? For him? It was a question I shouldn't have had to ask myself.
"Of course I want this." The words were out of my mouth before I even knew where they came from. The conviction in my voice was strong. I looked Alice in the eye with a giddy smile. She smiled back.
"That's all I needed to hear." She started the engine quickly, easily turning the car around back in the direction of the airport. It wasn't long before we were speeding down the road at a hundred and ten miles per hour. Alice wouldn't have believed how much I missed this-the one thing that used to terrify me about their habits was now the single most comforting feeling I could've hoped for.
I pulled the blanket from my shoulders-much warmer now despite my damp pajamas-and watched everything go by out the window at an alarming speed. I smiled to myself, the warm air from the heater calming the knots in my stomach and making my skin tingle. I took a deep breath, luxuriating in the scent of Alice's skin as it circulated about the cab. I was happy. Warm. Comfortable. Safe. More so then I felt in a very, very long time.
As Alice slowed the car, I looked out through the rain and fog at the simple, brick building that was Forks Airport. I wasn't really sure how to feel-I was actually leaving Forks...something that I promised myself I never would do because of what I had here...because Charlie needed me...and I had needed Jacob. That's what I'd been telling myself for months-almost to the point where I believed it.
Charlie knew. Renee knew. Heck, I'm sure everybody in Forks knew the real reason-the reason I had buried for so long.
The whole concept of seeing him again was unfathomable. I knew that it probably shouldn't have been-Alice was here, wasn't she? That had been more than I possibly could've hoped for. In the entirety of his two year absence, the sound of his beautiful voice had almost faded from my memory, leaving me with words that no longer held any real significance. I was angry at myself for not being able to remember him clearly; so much so that I cried myself to sleep on occasion. I was angry for forgetting him...but at the same time, I had suppressed the cache that held my memories of my time with Edward-memories that caused me too much pain to recall. It was a horrible catch twenty-two.
A tapping on the glass of my window made me jump. When I looked up, Alice was standing outside, watching me with an impatient expression. "Come on, Bella. We don't have a lot of time." I opened my door and jumped out of the car without another word. "Bring the blanket with you," she insisted. "You'll need something to cover up your wet clothes until you change."
When I looked down at myself, I was still in my holey sweatshirt and sweatpants. We'd be in such a rush to leave, that I didn't even get a chance to get out of my pajamas. Perhaps it wasn't the most sophisticated look when one was traveling overseas. I grimaced, drawing the woolen blanket right across my body to hide my more then wrecked clothes.
Alice lead me through the small car park, her hand resting gently on the small of my back as I scurried-bare foot-across the asphalt. The rain had reduced itself to an annoyingly persistent drizzle. It was still dark, the moon only now just starting to disappear, the parking lot empty. I was thankful. If we'd come any later and there were people here, I was sure someone would recognize me.
My vampire companion stopped me short just as we entered the building. Forks airport in all of its two-terminal glory. I saw the pin-up sign outside one of the gates and the earliest flight-the flight I suspected we were on-was not due to bored for another hour and a half: at five-thirty. That made me worry. Ninety minutes was plenty of time for Charlie to notice that I wasn't in bed and then come looking, or for Jacob to come storming in like a raging bull. I would be the red flag in that little scenario. I was absolutely positive that Embry had told Jacob by now...and I could also safely bet that Jake was in a pretty foul mood because of it.
Something in my face must have given me away because I immediately felt Alice's cool palm on my shoulder, rubbing it reassuringly. Her touch chilled my skin through the blanket. "Don't worry. We'll get out of here with no problems."
As infallible as Alice was when it came to this kind of thing, I still worried...what if something changed? I knew she couldn't see a future set in stone. What if Charlie or Jacob did turn up? We'd be powerless to do anything about it. I knew exactly what would happen: I definitely wouldn't be getting on that plane.
I heard Alice sigh in exasperation. "A little faith in me would be good right now, Bella." She gave me a quick shove towards a white hallway, holding up a small backpack for me to take. "There are some fresh clothes, a toothbrush and a hairbrush in there...as well as a few other essentials. The bathroom is the second door on the right. Go and get changed and throw away the blanket after you're done."
I watched her for a moment as she dug one of her tiny hands into the pockets of her jeans. She pulled out a crisp ten dollar bill and held it out in front of her. "After you've changed, go and yourself something to eat-the café will open in half-an-hour. They won't be serving any decent food on the flight until we get to Seattle, so I want you to eat something now. Got it?"
When I tried to protest, she simply shook her head, holding up her hand. "You are going to eat, Bella. Even if I have to force feed you," she warned me. "When I get back, I want to see you sitting at one of those tables over there eating something of substance. Agreed?"
I nodded demurely...but then I realized what she'd said. "Where are you going?"
Her eyes were instantly cautious. "I just have something I have to do. Don't worry. It should only take me twenty minutes at the most and then I'm coming straight back." She spoke slowly, trying to ease the panic bubbling up in my chest. "You'll be fine on your own until then, won't you?" But before she gave me the chance to answer, her eyes glazed over and her body stiffened...and then she blinked, looking at me again. "For half-an-hour at least." She smiled, waving.
"Twenty minutes," she repeated, giggling. "I swear."
"Okay," I muttered, pouting a little. She gave me one last look over, seeming to deliberate about something.
"What is it?"
"On second thought, give me the blanket now. It will be safer that way." She held out her hand expectantly. I could feel the outrage on my face.
She shrugged. "Nobody is around, Bella. They won't see you." I had a quick look around and sure enough the only people here were an old, chubby lady with greasy hair behind the café counter, and a rather bored and grumpy looking security guard with a bald spot. But still...
"Can't you come in with me into the bathroom and then take the stupid blanket?" I asked her indignantly. She sighed resentfully and nodded, already pushing me towards the ladies toilets. "Fine. Just hurry up. We don't have a lot of time."
"You are so pushy!" I grumbled. "Just what are you planning to do anyway, Alice?"
"I'm destroying evidence," she whispered over my shoulder quickly. "We'll talk later on the plane. Now give me that," she pointed to the woolen fabric wrapped around my torso. I grudgingly handed it over. She beamed up at me...and then she was gone.
As I helped myself into some fresh clothes - a simple dark blue shirt, a turtleneck sweater, a pair of jeans and some sneakers - I couldn't help but wonder what Alice meant by ‘destroying evidence.' What evidence? ...But then I remembered the car. I supposed that the license plates could be traced back to her family, so I supposed it was understandable that it had to be destroyed. I still felt a twinge of remorse for the car, though. It was a beautiful vehicle...a pity that it would be going up in flames. Although, it wasn't like the Cullens couldn't afford to replace it. They had all the money in the world.
I stalked out of the bathroom and up to the food counter. I was in a foul frame of mind and was in no mood to deal with the old lady's inquisitive glances. I ordered a bran muffin and a bottle of orange juice. I picked at it slowly, taking my time as I waited for Alice to return. I wasn't actually hungry; my appetite had disappeared in wake of the nausea I felt coming back again. Without having Alice in close proximity, it was very hard to stay positive-to not worry that something could go wrong. Especially considering that I had an uncanny ability to attract anything dangerous that was within a ten mile radius.
And so I resigned myself to sitting there and staring at the clock, watching the seconds tick away at an agonizingly slow pace. I groaned, slumping down onto the table. Pushing my unwanted food aside, I rested my head on my arms and watched the grumpy security guard pace back and forth-he seemed just as bored and fed up as I was.
I didn't know when, but sometime while I had been watching him, I had fallen asleep; exhausted from my midnight escape from Forks. And it was only going to get worse, I thought bitterly as I drifted off. My family and friends certainly wouldn't be the last ones I would have to outrun.
As it turned out, I couldn't have been more right.
And I hated that.
x x x
I moaned at the bleary voice to let me sleep, but it only came out as an incoherent garbling sound. Something cold touched my head, and when I tried to shake it off, I heard a silvery little chuckle. "Bella?" they cooed softly again, this time shaking me gently. I guess I wouldn't be left alone. Not today. I forced my eyes open then and I could feel the sleep caked on my eyelashes. I stretched, rubbing my eyes vigorously before I turned to see who had woken me up.
"Alice!" I exclaimed perhaps a little loudly, throwing my arms around her neck. "You're back!"
She giggled, evidently amused by my reaction. "Of course I am, silly. I told you I would be didn't I?"
As I looked around, the airport had gradually become more populated. I noticed several people standing in a line, obviously waiting for the same plane we were about to board. I noticed that sun was just starting to rise outside. I looked at Alice again, puzzled. "How long have I been asleep?"
"Awhile," she admitted with a small grin. "I would have woken you up when I got back, but you seemed like you really needed the rest, so I decided to leave you alone. I wouldn't have woken you up now if I didn't have to; it's just that the plane is starting to board in a few minutes."
"Shall we go?" she asked, her teeth flashing as she smiled.
I nodded, rising to my feet. As we began walking away from the table, several things happened very quickly.
Alice stiffened, her nose wrinkling at an unpleasant scent too faint for me to detect. "What?" she hissed, eyes darting frantically about the terminal. "Where did they come from? Why didn't I see this?" The rest was lost to me when her words sped up. When I got a look at her face, her expression alone was enough to send my heart thudding erratically against my ribs.
I felt my stomach twist uneasily. I knew what this meant. Something had changed.
"Alice? What's happening? What's changed?" I was trying to stay calm, but the only reason Alice would react this way was if it was something bad, and if Alice was worried...then it must be really bad.
"Everything's changed," she muttered distantly, groaning. "It doesn't make any sense! How could I not see this coming?"
"See what?" I asked her frantically, but she ignored me.
"We're out of time. Bella..." - she turned to me, eyes blazing - "...We're going to have to make a run for it, alright? Do you have everything?"
"Yes, but Alice what's-"
"Good, let's go." She grabbed my hand tightly and started running. I trailed behind her, trying my best to keep up but I kept tripping over my feet. Alice's frustration at our slow pace was almost tangible. She pushed her way through the line, ignoring the angry protests of the people around us. As soon as we got to the counter, Alice fumbled through the pockets of her jeans, searching for the tickets. When she eventually found them she practically threw them at a very surprised receptionist.
She grabbed my hand; we were almost home free...
"Too late." Alice shuddered at the voice as she drew me protectively into her chest. I winced. I knew that voice. It was all too familiar...
Grudgingly, I turned to face him. His muscles rippled unnaturally underneath his smooth, tanned skin. He was puffing from running all this way, no doubt and his expression was murderously angry. Beside him, I recognized Embry's sad face as well as Jared and Paul's surprise.
I gulped. I should have known this would happen.